Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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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 >


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A Century of Fine Dining at Jack’s Oyster House in Albany, New York

Just a short walk downhill from the gorgeous New York State Capitol and near many of Albany’s top churches, along the city’s main downtown thoroughfare, Jack’s Oyster House has been in business for more than 100 years. Still operated by the same family, this stalwart establishment has remained open for business every day of the year since World War I—with one exception: the day of the founder’s funeral in 1987. That sort of dedication earned Jack’s a certification from the Distinguished Restaurants of North America for achieving the highest distinction in the distinguished dining and hospitality communities. But Jack’s doesn’t rest on its laurels; the head chef, named Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Federation, merges its history with forward-looking creations. Read more >


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Two Italian Brothers Shake Things Up in Glasgow, Scotland

The neon lights spelling out “Il meglio di buono” (basically, the best of good) at the entrance of Fratelli Sarti on Renfield Street in Glasgow, Scotland, tempted me every day from the window of my hotel room across the street. The restaurant looked appealing, but I often found myself passing by it, on the hunt for traditional Scottish haggis, shortbread, and whisky elsewhere. After a few days, however, just like Chaophraya and its outstanding Thai food, Sarti lured me in with the aromas and promise of something non-Scottish for a change of pace. Read more >


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Italian Immigrants Keep It Real at Sorge’s in Corning, New York

I devoted most of my only day in Corning, New York, to the outstanding Corning Museum of Glass, where I admired thousands of fantastic glass objects and took a flameworking class and created my own glass pumpkin pendant. By the time I emerged, the sun had shifted to the opposite end of the sky, and I was ready for a large meal. Just a couple doors down from my lodgings, the wonderful Inn at the Gaffer Grille, I found Sorge’s. This was hardly a discovery — everyone in town seemed to be there already — but it was certainly a stroke of good decision-making when I chose it for dinner. Read more >