Girls on Food

Buffets

The Bountiful Sunday Brunch at Habana in Irvine, CA

Habana, a beloved restaurant among locals to Costa Mesa for over 20 years, just opened a new location in Irvine. This lavish new spot opened its doors to the public a couple months ago and after scoping out the images of the design on Google, I couldn’t turn down an invite to taste their brunch.

Executive Chef Alex Moreno tells me that this has been a 3-year long project to get the second location running, but good things come to those who wait!

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Summer Loves Sunshine Package at SLS Hotel Beverly Hills

I recently checked out The Bazaar by José Andrés, at SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Beverly Hills (read about it here) and I had such a magical experience, I have to share with you the SLS Hotel’s Summer Loves Sunshine package, available today through September 30.

SLS Hotel let me come in for a tour of this fantastic offer. After this tour, I’m dying to escape and seek refuge at the SLS Hotel! I always recommend the SLS to my friends when they come in from out town. But if you’re an LA local looking for leisure, this hotel package is arranged perfectly for those looking to recharge.

Premium Suite

The Summer Loves Sunshine Package includes:

  • Overnight accommodations in a premium Suite – these suites are so luxurious! Everything from the furniture to the lighting to the decorative accents are methodically thought out by designer Philippe Starck.
  • $100 Ciel Spa credit – $100 here can cover a blow-dry, hair treatment, manicure or pedicure, foot or hand massage. This is perfect for a little pick-me-up. 
Altitude Pool Cabana
  • Altitude Pool Cabana (including food & beverage by José Andrés and a welcome bottle of cava) – Swim or tan rooftop with marvelous views of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.

    Altitude Pool Cabana
  • The Pool Menu offers renewing treatments – includes a Chair Massage or a brightening Eye treatment.
  • Sunshine Dreaming Tote packed with:
    • SLS-branded water tumbler
    • SLS-branded hat
    • Sun Bum sunscreen spray
    • Pair of Toms sunglasses
    • Sunshine Dreaming pillow
Tres by José Andrés

This package is priced starting at $2032/night (plus taxes) and subject to availability. Bookings for SLS Beverly Hills’ “Summer Loves Sunshine” Package can be made online or by calling 866-716-8136 (ask for Rate Plan LTPKG1). 

Let me know in the comments below if you book this package!

Megan’s Foodie Tour of Baltimore

I had written about Baltimore previously when I journeyed with my skeeball team in toe to compete in The Skeeball Nationals, but upon my return, I discovered so much more than the magical aquarium. There’s an entire other side of the harbor. Hold onto your crab shells because I’m about to make you fall in love with Fell’s Point.

One of the most exciting stops on my trip this time around was The American Visionary Arts Museum. Lauded by CNN as one of the best museums in the country this quirky, wonderful oasis features creations from self-taught artists and calls upon some of their favorites from all mediums to talk about FOOD!  That’s right; I spent a delicious afternoon navigating the halls of AVAM learning and experiencing unique installations about our favorite topic. NOMS.

American Visionary Arts Museum
800 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD 21230
http://www.avam.org

Upon entering this food phantasm, the walls are lined with some of the cheekiest confessions about how people counteract our cultural relationship with how much we acceptably eat, order, or what we clandestinely desire. If you’re familiar with Post Secret-they offered some of their most bizarre and fun food confessions as the four featured below.

Is this my Uncle? No, seriously, I think this might be a self-portrait.

Willie decked out in corn kernels.

Yes!  The Swedish Chef is really one of my personal heroes THE SWEDISH CHEF made entirely out of The Easter Candy Peeps. He-a’ll nefer cetch oune-a ouff Gunzu’s fefurite-a cheeckens. Bork Bork Bork! Yes, I found a translator. And yes, absolutely waste the next ten minutes of your life using it. (more…)

Say Yes to Busy Nights! Crock-Pot Chicken Enchiladas to the Rescue!

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The first time I made these amazing chicken enchiladas was back in February, while covering for a co-worker on maternity leave, and coming right off a week long ski trip to my entire sales team in town! I was extra busy and needed to learn to lean on my Crock-Pot. I have always thought of Crock-Pot meals as 1. Heavy 2. Unhealthy 3. Fat 4. Hokey Midwestern (no offense). In the last 12 months, my opinion on this incredible kitchen appliance has completely shifted, especially after reading this inspiring Instant Pot Chicken Breast recipe. So after eight years of being used solely to make my specialty football season queso, we are now using our crockpot on a regular basis. This recipe is the current favorite in our household.

Crock-Pot Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast per person
  • Can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • Can mexi-corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 1-2 chopped jalapeños
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 cup water
  • 10oz can enchilada sauce
  • 2 tbsp hot chili spice
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • Option- 1 cup dry quinoa

Recipe:

  • Spray Crock-Pot with Pam
  • Put everything (except chicken in Crock-Pot) and stir
  • Add chicken (I would stab it a few times, so it incorporates all the flavors)
  • Cook on low for the 9-5 work day, or on high for 3-4 hours

My 3-year-old was able to pour all the ingredients (except the chicken) into the Crock-Pot this morning. I’m all about empowering kids to cook, and he is so proud when I let him run the show!

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I ran to the market after work to buy Funfetti cake mix for my daughter’s smash cake this weekend and saw a stack of tostadas out of the corner of my eye. So tonight, we have fully branched out. We made…Chicken Enchilada Huevos Rancheros. I mean. Oh. My. Gah. I had to try it. My husband was skeptical but went all in. We did two tostadas stacked (with just a little bit of the deliciousness in between, then more on top; then topped with a salt and peppered egg over easy, diced avocado, pickled jalapeno, and mexi-cheese.

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If you’re ever in a rush or need to bring dinner to a new momma, impress a girl, or feed a group, definitely give this a shot. In taco form or served up fancy, this meal has never let us down, and is always sure to impress! Can’t wait to find our next Crock-Pot favorite!

BOOzy Brunch Bunch: Caramel Apple Sangria

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dessertLike any good toddler mom, I head to Pinterest for basically everything party related! Every month or so, I host a “Boozy Brunch Bunch” because well, if you play with kids all day and never see your friends, there is a chance you will lose your sanity. With “Boozy” in the title, I like to have a couple of options available, so thanks to #itsfallyall and Pinterest, I can bring you today’s concoction!

 

This month, I decided to host a BOOzy Brunch Bunch, because of Halloween. Unfortunately, Raleigh got hit way harder than expected by Hurricane Matthew, and my freezer got wiped out, so I didn’t have most of my normal go-to’s, like all the mini muffins I’ve crafted over the years, or the tiny eggos the kids love so much. (I’m seriously not complaining about this; there are towns in North Carolina that people still can not get into their homes, so my freezer is the least of my worries right now). But since I couldn’t just defrost a handful of muffins and throw eggos in the oven, I started to think about my favorite breakfast foods and realized: toasts are so hot right now!

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My favorite restaurant up in Rhode Island is called Persephone’s Kitchen, and the owner, Persephone, has a delightful selection of toasts every morning that I decided to emulate. So for the guests at my home, there were avocado and cayenne pepper sprinkled with goat cheese toast, goat cheese and mini heirloom tomato toast, and the gold standard of Nutella and banana slices on toast! Of course, I provided mimosas and coffee, but I wanted to have a special beverage on hand as well. My sister-in-law and I had thrown a joint birthday party for our new one-year-olds at the beginning of October, and we tried this recipe for the first time then. I just knew it had to make another appearance this fall!

Caramel Apple Sangria

sangria-1This recipe is super easy and takes 5 minutes to put together! Deceptively sweet, so make sure kids don’t accidentally drink it (a valid concern) and make sure your adult friends know they just got sloshed before you let them hop into a car and drive home! It’s the perfect warm fall day beverage, as the sun is shining and you don’t want anything too heavy! Ideal for a southern fall day, for sure!

 

 

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The first step is to cut up 2-3 apples and add them to your pitcher! I started this in a juice jar, and realized I needed something bigger midway through and transferred! Next, add a bottle of your favorite chilled white wine (I used chardonnay), a container of apple cider (I prefer Trader Joe’s  version), and then the coup de grace, is one cup of Smirnoff’s Kissed Caramel Vodka.

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Everyone who has tried this loves it! I’m thrilled for the leftovers to share with my neighborhood tonight as the kids are out Trick – or – Treating!

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Ilcha Korean BBQ: Baller Buffet in LA

Very little things in the dining world excite me more than the opportunity to pick and choose what I want on my plate. Nothing makes me happier than slowly deciding what flavors I feel like toying with and having the option to indulge myself in as little or as much as I please.

Ilcha Korean BBQ
3377 W Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019
http://ilchabbq.com/

This place is only two months in and I predict will be a happening spot for years to come!

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Let me start by saying that they have a great parking lot with a valet. For this part of town, this is a huge plus.

Putting the buffet right at the entrance is a bold move! The cleanliness and beautiful display were the first things that I noticed.

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imageAlthough they offer some items a la carte, we chose the all you can eat Korean bbq and buffet. The prices are reasonable considering it is ALL YOU CAN EAT. You can also pay a little more for a larger portion of unique meat selections like Kobe tartare and Kobe tongue! The buffet also has traditional Korean options like kimchi and spicy rice cakes.

The decor of Ilcha is hip, clean and is has an interactive atmosphere. I love cooking, so the Korean style BBQ is enticing to me. Just an FYI for those of you who don’t like to cook your food dining out: the servers are more than happy to do that part for you coming by often to flip the meats!

imageOur waiter River was on hand constantly. On his suggestion, we started with the Bulgogi and prime filet mignon. The Bulgogi was left to boil in its juices on the grill in a cute little brass pot; we slowly ate it throughout dinner. Although I don’t prefer sweeter meat, this has the perfect hint of sweetness that complimented the light slices of meat. Our filet crisped up nicely on the grill and was excellent dipped in sesame oil and salt.

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For our second round of ordering, we had the lobster. The lobster, served in a tin foil container, cooked on the grill and again our excellent server River came to finish it off for us by flaming the outside to perfection!

Before we headed to the buffet for dessert, I had to try the shrimp scampi. It was also served in a tin foil container in the grill and was scrumptious in its buttery garlic yumminess!

 

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Here’s one of my favorite parts… Self-serve! Oh, my! Vanilla and chocolate sauce or chocolate with caramel sauce… Um, both, please!

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There was also melon, chocolate covered strawberries, mini creme brûlée, red bean squares and the most delicious almond cookies!

I’ll be back for sure with more friends and a taste for adventure… Because there’s small intestine and pork neck I need to try!

 

The Buffet at Aria, Las Vegas

With the new arena opening, there is going to be a massive influx of people towards the South end of the Las Vegas Strip. Tourists and locals alike are going to be bombarded with SO MANY choices for places to eat. But ladies (and gents), let me help you make the decision!

In honor of #buffetbitch on our Instagram (a little hashtag we started), I’ve decided to highlight an underrated buffet.

The Buffet at Aria
3730 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109
http://aria.com

Compared to other hotels, it’s not as crowded and not as expensive. Walking in, you would notice that most, if not all, the buffet guests are either locals or guests of the hotel which is not necessarily a bad thing either!

They offer the typical buffet go-to’s which include:

  1. Salad: there are plenty of options for greens, toppings, and dressings
  2. Bread and Cheese: aesthetic AND delicious
  3. Meat: their wish is your command
  4. Seafood: cold or hot, you have your pick
  5. Dessert: sugar, sugar-free, they have it all

They also offer some unique features as well:

  1. Rotating gelato freezer: it seems that the flavors vary each visit, but you are guaranteed to find one you like
  2. DIY Street Taco: what’s better than a street taco? A DIY taco!

The Buffet at Aria differentiates itself by consistently maintaining the quality of the food. Since Aria is one of the nicer hotels, their buffet clearly reflects that as well. I noticed the respective chefs of each station were always checking the temperature of the food, as well as wiping any spills caused by the guests.

$25.99 for lunch, I would say that’s a pretty good deal! Go ahead and give it a shot.
The Buffet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The New Way To Buffet – The Atlantis Resort and Casino

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Photo courtesy of Atlantis Casino

As if the Atlantis Resort and Casino weren’t classy enough, they have spent over a million dollars redesigning their Toucan Charlie’s Buffet menu and décor to bring a touch of Las Vegas right here to Reno. Welcome to Reno 2016.

I was invited to a media night last week to get a taste of what the new buffet at the Atlantis had to offer. Upon walking in, the first thing I noticed was all the jungle theme décor was wiped out and replaced with sleek lighting making the buffet brighter, highlighting the food. The color scheme was updated with intense hues of espresso and cream, and the old purple and teal were no longer a thing.

We were sat promptly and quickly grabbed the blank canvases which were the starting point of the evening. Blank canvases? Yeah, I am talking about the warm, lovely white china plates that patiently await your culinary desires.

I noticed all of the lively stations such as the Sauté and Grille, Far East, Asian Wok, Pho, Expansive Carvery, Charcuterie sliced premium meats and cheeses, Custom Salads, Savory Sea Fare and Southwest. As I strolled down what I considered being my version of the Wonka Factory, I noticed that the salad bars were updated with fresh and exotic creations that were eye-teasing and palate pleasing. One salad especially caught my eye which was the mango, shaved fennel and mint salad which was fresh and light.

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As I continued my journey down buffet lane, the ethnic stations also stepped up their game. At the Hispanic counter, giant meatballs were floating around in broth known as Albondigas Soup. Typically at buffets, I stay away from the soups because they are either severely over salted or traumatically bland, but this soup brought the heat, spice and everything nice. Because I was shocked at how tasty the soup was, I indulged in a second bowl.

What I respect and love about the newly redesigned buffet, was there were healthier options available, and clearly something for everyone. From the prime rib carving station to the marinated beet salad and lastly the indulgent dessert island, I am sure you will be pleased with the numerous options available to you.

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I would like to extend a big Thank You to Tracie Barnthouse, publicist for the Atlantis Casino for the invitation to experience an authentic 4 Diamond experience. The Atlantis Resort and Casino new Buffet stepped up their game and are blowing their competitors out of the water. Swing by and taste the experience for yourself,  you will genuinely be satisfied.

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Toucan Charlie's Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday Brunch at Riverwalk Cantina in Gaylord Texan Resort

About seven years ago, while pregnant with Haley, I started having the most fantastic, recurring dream.

I’m in a big box store that looks and feels exactly like Costco. The place is massive, with dozens of racks that stretch from wall to wall, ceiling to floor. Each rack has diagonal shelves like you see in a bakery. On each shelf are rows and rows of trays. On each tray, in perfectly lined rows, are hundreds of teeny, tiny, little desserts. Little fruit tarts. Little chocolate cakes. Little apple crisps. Little cream puff pastries.

I’m not ashamed to admit that when I have trouble sleeping, I lie with my eyes closed and visualize my magical little dessert store. This dream is my happy place.

This Easter, my family, took a break from our usual tradition of a low-key Mexican buffet and decided to get all gussied up and have Easter Brunch at Riverwalk Cantina, nestled in the coziest corner of the atrium in The Gaylord Texan Resort.

There, I got to experience my dream in real life, and it was so much better than my imagination could ever conjure up. In my dream-come-true, I got to have all of the little desserts as well as a sampling of some of the best New American cuisine I’ve ever had.

Riverwalk Cantina at The Gaylord Texan Resort
1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, TX 76051
Riverwalk Cantina on Facebook

The Dorns’ are a buffet loving family, and I consider myself to be a well-qualified connoisseur of the genre. I love a cruise ship buffet, a country club buffet, a cafeteria-style buffet, a well-stocked salad bar I’m all in as long as the food is delicious and well prepared.

Zeb Hartline - Executive Chef Riverwalk Cantina
Zeb Hartline – Executive Chef Riverwalk Cantina

This Easter Buffet was, without a doubt, one of the very best, if not THE best buffet I’ve ever had. I was even able to meet and chat with the Executive Chef, Zeb Hartline and he gave me a personal tour of the whole operation.

Chef Zeb is a brand new Texan, who just moved here a little over a year ago having graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando. It seems that Texas suits Chef Zeb just fine. He’s even part of the Texan Smoke Bandits, an award-winning, Gaylord-Sponsored, competitive BBQ team. Chef Zeb brings a classic and refreshing culinary point of view to Dallas.

His Easter buffet menu is a masterpiece. It is creative and ambitious, delicious and totally relatable. I would love to see more Chefs like him in Dallas.

When it was time to make my first plate my head was spinning. Culinary sensory overload was at a ten. Luckily, I had everything all planned out ahead of time.

 

Jan’s Easter Buffet Action Plan

  • Avoid the bread, pastries and breakfast items. I’m sure they’re all wonderful, but I can’t have a Texas shaped waffle taking up precious space in my stomach.
  • Save desert for last so I can have it with coffee.
  • Eat two bites of everything until my Spanx give out.

Right in the heart of the Cantina were three huge caldrons of shrimp, oysters on the half shell, and crab claws over ice. I decided to start there.

Shrimp, oysters and crab claws
Shrimp, oysters, and crab claws, oh my!

I limited myself to two shrimp and two crab claws. If that’s not self-control than I don’t know what is. Then, just past the seafood, lie a table of awesomeness the likes of which, I’ve never imagined. Stretched across a twelve-foot table, piled up in adorable, “please eat me” pieces were eight different kinds of cheese.

Assorted artisan cheeses
Assorted artisan cheeses

Eight perfect little, deliciously stinky, cheesy mountains interspersed with rustic loaves of bread, jars of house made pickles and hills of Texas chorizo, capicola, and prosciutto.

Heaven, y’all. It was cheese HEAVEN.

My plate of amuse bouches.
My plate of amuse bouche.

I took one piece of each cheese and one slice each of the prosciutto and capicola. I stopped at the soup table, got a ladle-full of the lobster bisque and headed to the table for round one. It was almost impossible not to eat and walk, but I restrained myself.

So, you know how sometimes, you bite into a piece of cheese, and it’s so good that you forget how to think for a few minutes?

No? Just me?

Well, that’s absolutely what happened to me when I tried the Red Dragon whole grain cheddar. This cheese was on another level. If Arsenio had tasted this cheese, he would have been furious.

Arsenio wants to know how good the cheese is, well in advance.
Arsenio wants to know how good the cheese is, well in advance.

The shrimp and crab were cooked perfectly. I’m adding cold crab claws to my party appetizer menu.

The lobster bisque was so rich and creamy that I was mysteriously incapable of eating it without closing my eyes. My bowl should have had a bit more lobster in it, but unfortunately, the gentleman in front of me had fished out all the big lobster chunks before I could get to it.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good and nowhere near full. Main course(s) time.

Scallops and Taco Action Stations
Scallops and Taco Action Stations

In the main courses area, the Chef had different action stations set up. At one station chefs were preparing Pan Seared Scallops with sweet corn puree, brussels sprouts with ghost peppered caviar. At another, he had Braised Chicken Tinga and Rock Shrimp Salad Tacos. Familiar foods with an elevated touch made the place feel so much more lively than your standard, Easter Buffet Snoozefest.

Chef Zeb had the basics very well represented. The ham, prime rib and lamb were perfect, and this is not an overstatement. All of it was perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked. Perfect sauce pairings. I was beyond impressed.

Oven Roasted Airline Chicken with fingerling potatoes, balsamic, onion, smoked gouda
Oven Roasted Airline Chicken with
fingerling potatoes, balsamic, onion, smoked gouda

Of all the main dishes, the Pan Seared Salmon with farro, fava bean, rainbow chard and the vegetable mole was my favorite; I ate every last bit of it. I’ve never eaten or cooked with fava beans before, and Chef told me of the painstaking process involved in double peeling the beans for close to one thousand diners. Well bless the man’s heart, I sure do appreciate the effort. I can’t wait to incorporate them into my recipes.

Finally, finally, finally, it was desert time. The Executive Pastry Chef at The Riverwalk Cantina is Chef Arthur Surman. This man made my dream a reality.

I almost died when I saw these.
I almost died when I saw these.
Strawberry mouse
Strawberry Mousse

Little mango mousse tarts. Little key lime pie. Little chocolate brownie. Little cream puff. Little chocolate eclair. Next to my wedding day and the birth of my two children, this was the greatest day of my life. I put one of everything on my plate. I got some funny looks from folks on the way back to the table, but I didn’t care. I was about to enjoy 15 different deserts, and my Spanx were holding up beautifully.

IChef Art's Assorted Mini Deserts.
Chef Art’s Assorted Mini Deserts.
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Kid’s Buffet

Chef Zeb couldn’t have been kinder, and he is a talent that I will be watching closely from now on. I can’t wait to see how he grows in the future, and I will be back to The Riverwalk Cantina. I also want to thank him for going the extra mile for us parents by setting out a very impressive kids buffet. I appreciated the consideration so much as did my kids, Chloe and Haley.

Also, thanks, Mom and Dad, for deciding to do something different and special with us this year. xoxo

 
Riverwalk Cantina - The Gaylord Texan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boozy Brunch: Polo Steakhouse in Garden City, NY

I am no stranger to a boozy brunch.  Some may say that I am a bit of an aficionado.  Between the amazing unlimited sangria of Calle Ocho and the monster glasses of mimosa at Uptown Bar & Grill, I’ve had a chance to survey some of the best options the city has.  However, one of the most amazing spots isn’t even in Manhattan but a stone’s throw away.

So last month when I had a birthday, an offertory trip to The Garden City Hotel’s Sunday extravaganza was definitely in order.  This all inclusive wonderland of unlimited champagne and cake pops. It does run a bit on the pricy side but if you’re celebrating a special occasion it is definitely worth it.
The Garden City Hotel (Polo Steakhouse)
45 Seventh Street
Garden City Long Island, NY, 11530
Toll Free: 877-549-0400
http://www.gardencityhotel.com

I piled as much on my plate as humanly possible.  Mingling cuisines that should not share the same space anywhere from sushi to hummus and succulent prime rib.  This brunch buffet has it all.

 
What would a Sunday morning be without a rainbow cookie?
  The self serve chocolate fountain with a wide array of options to dip and enjoy!A tuna slider. The mini brioche buns were a delectable treat.
     
And of course champagne!  They refill repeatedly and when your glass is nearing completion.  There is no begging for that extra serving of boozy brunch goodness here.
  
And finally after two hours of unlimited delicacies I was brought an elegant plate of bite sized dessert options with a massive sparkler. Full, satisfied, I reemerged into the world a happy clam. If you’re looking to impress that special someone or just need a place to show off to mom and dad this is a definite must. Located in my hometown of Garden City, New York it’s worth the trip….just reserve time for an afternoon lie down after all of that champagne.

Polo Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato