Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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Fine Finnish Food, Served With a Story

The small city of Oulu, Finland, seems to be made for walking, and I couldn’t resist the lure of crossing over the little bridges connecting bucolic islands around the historic city center and simply wandering. During that meandering stroll, I ended up on the little island of Pikisaari, in front of Sokeri-Jussin Kievari, an inviting and cozy restaurant housed in an old, red, hand-carved log building that used to be a sugar warehouse — and that was the scene of the owner’s almost comedic near-death. Read more about this Northern Ostrobothnian restaurant that pairs fantastic food with a great history >

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Enjoy a Fine Southern Dinner Amid 400 Years of History

One of the oldest houses in the United States, circa 1737, was almost wiped off the map when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005 and demolished huge swaths of the very vulnerable city of Biloxi, Mississippi. Yet, this venerable building — nearly 400 years old and now the home of Mary Mahoney’s Old French Restaurant — survived, but not without some scars: A line above the fireplace mantle in one of the dining rooms indicates the highest level of the floodwaters, and occasional gusts of wind rattled both the winds and my waitress, who looked apprehensively outside, the roar of Katrina’s locomotive strength permanently etched in her memory. Read more about this unique Southern restaurant >


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Lucas Park Grille’s Marvelous Menu in a Revitalized Area of St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis often gets a bad rap, continuously ranked among the worst U.S. cities for murder rates and overall violence, and suffering a 90-year population plummet. But that should not deter you from visiting the Gateway to the West and exploring more than just its iconic arch. One of the most positive, and under-reported, stories to come out of St. Louis is the successful and ongoing revitalization of the Washington Avenue Historic District. Since the late 1990s, sturdy buildings from the late 1800s through the 1920s have been redeveloped as apartments and condos, prompting a surge of young people to move into this neighborhood and spurring a growth in the number of restaurants. And one of the best places to dine here is Lucas Park Grille. Read more >


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Terrific Food and Beer on Tap at Albany Pump Station

Albany Pump Station, Albany, New YorkFacing the elevated roads of US Route 9 and then Interstate 787 that lead into Albany, New York, Albany Pump Station doesn’t have much of a view. But that won’t matter as you cross the cobblestone parking area and enter the century’s-old buildings that house this brewery and restaurant. This unique venue serves up more than a dozen home-brewed beers that have won awards and both national and international competitions, and plates of food that would satisfy even the most voracious appetites. Read more >


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A Taste of Russia in Finland at Helsinki’s Šašlik Restaurant

Šašlik, Helsinki, FinlandAll around Helsinki, I kept coming across big and small reminders of Russia’s influence in the city and throughout Finland, which was part of its massive neighbor from 1809 until its independence in 1917. You may still hear some Russian conversations, although, even though it’s the third most spoken native language in Finland, Russian now represents only 1 percent of native languages spoken. You’re more likely to see evidence of Russia’s sway in, for instance, the statue of Emperor Alexander II standing before the striking Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square, and the gorgeous Uspenski Cathedral, the largest orthodox church in Western Europe. You’ll also find it in the cuisine, and one of the top Russian restaurants in the Finnish capital, Šašlik, immediately transported me back to the era of the Romanovs. Read more >


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Contemporary Fare in a Victorian Setting at Billy’s in Lincoln, Nebraska

After a guided tour of the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln — one of the top five U.S. state capitols — I headed back to my rental car, parked in the leafy residential neighborhood adjacent to the grounds of the capitol. The dull-green Victorian-style house with a pitched roof, lawn statues, and red, white, and blue bunting caught my attention. On second glance, I noticed the sign that read, Billy’s Restaurant. Intrigued by this location for a restaurant, I made an impromptu decision to lunch here. My choice was rewarded with a terrific meal in a lovely setting, and a new Iranian friend. Read more >


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Sampling Little Italy’s Best at La Scala in Baltimore, Maryland

I had already sampled the surf in Baltimore, Maryland, at Oceanaire Seafood Room, and now I wanted to try the turf. So I crossed over Eastern Avenue Bridge spanning a narrow inlet of the Inner Harbor and entered the city’s Little Italy, where red, white, and green lights stretch across a few streets and the aromas of Italian cooking waft from the neighborhood’s handful of restaurants and cafés. Of these, La Scala Ristorante, consistently rated one of the city’s best Italian restaurants, grabbed my attention with its promise of a delectable meal and possibly a game of bocce. Read more >