R+D Kitchen

1323 Montana Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90403 • (310) 395-3314 • http://rd-kitchen.com/locations/santamonica

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Don’t hold this against RnD, but it’s actually the sister restaurant to Houston’s. I know. I know. But hear me out, because she’s one hot sis and an awesome plan B should you not be able to get a reservation at you’re A. So awesome, in fact, that this might just become your new plan A, if only they took reservations.

The décor is pretty standard, like a contemporary version of a Bennigan’s, with lots of booth seating, wood paneled walls and an open kitchen. And the wait staff runs a tag team method of service, which actually proves very nice, because there’s always someone around to take care of you, so no need to flag any one down like you’re a castaway on Gilligan’s Island.

The Jack Rabbit was our cocktail of choice for the evening, a tequila and grapefruit combo that was good, but not exactly memorable, hence why I had to ask my friend what the hell the name was again.

For a starter, with resounding praise, I recommend their deviled eggs (pictured) with a heavenly hit of horseradish. But as sinfully good as they were, even better is the Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich, dubbed their best seller and for good reason. It’s an Ultimate, right up there with the one at Son of a Gun, if you ask me, which I assume you are since this is my blog. But beyond the fried chicken, what makes the Ding sing is the wonderfully soft, fresh-baked bread from Bandera, the generous amounts of slaw and the contrast that’s created between all of the crunchy elements and the pillowy goodness of that bun.

The other entrée we tried, the salmon, was also good, but not quite at the same level as the Ding. Served up with a sizable mountain of mashed potatoes and sauteed greens.

Sadly we were so full at this point that we didn’t order dessert. But happily that didn’t matter, because our server wouldn’t hear of it, tapping into her inner Jewish grandmother by bringing us their warm, chocolate chip, oatmeal cookies on the house. Which were hard to resist, because A. they were warm and B. they were free. So that helped a lot. Enough to have me debating between three and four knives. But I lean four because it’s a chain. And for a chain, that’s worth a golf clap right there.

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Melts

144 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 219-5995meltsny.com

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Melts is on fire. Only three weeks old and this baby is already walking. And by walking I mean kicking- of the ass variety. The brain child of two brothers who obviously loves themselves a good melt, they manage to pack a very tight menu with so many damn good sounding options I  didn’t know which two to split with the wife so I asked one of the owners. He recommended The Heat and The Wisconsin Patty Melt.

He was right. Both were excellent, but apples and oranges apart. The Heat, aptly named, was spot on. Taking it right to that threshold where flavor spicy ends and painful spicy begins, but without crossing it. So what’s in it? Well, first they pickle their own jalapenos specifically so they can control the aforementioned spice. Then there’s cherry peppers and Sriracha mayo- oh and cheese, of course. Munster to be precise.

The Patty Melt on the other hand is basically a burger in disguise, who are we kidding. That said, it’s one bitchin’ burger with smoked Wisconsin cheddar, apple wood bacon, BBQ sauce and crispy fried onions. One of the best burgers- er, melts in the area.

But speaking of superlatives, let’s take a moment to reflect on the tater tots. Yes, this newcomer just dropped an Ultimate like it was nothin’ but a thang. So deceptively simple, yet so unique at the same time. Crispy on the outside, almost creamy-mashed-potato-like on the inside and sprinkled with salty parmesan. So good we devoured them before they even had a chance to cool down from mouth-burning-hot.

The only misses for me, and by that I just mean “eh,” would be the desserts. The kids obviously horked them down, but to the more discerning palate the Rice Crispy Treat, chocolate chip oatmeal cookie and the sugar cookie don’t hold a candle to the rest of the show.

As for décor, it’s in a charming little house just off the main drag in Armonk. And as you step inside, you are instantly hit with even more charm. From the cheese grater light fixtures to the do-it-yourself old-fashioned icebox in the corner for some refreshing Arnold Palmers, you just can’t help love the cheese whiz out of this place.

And what’s especially nice, is that the owners are nice. Two great guys with a great concept on their hands. I sincerely hope they soar. And that I can still get a table.

P.S. Upon return I tried the namesake “Melts” and it is very close third of awesome. Whereas the Philly Cheesesteak, while good, is a distant fourth. Planning to go back several more times, so stay tuned for the rest.

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