Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a NYC based food and travel website that views various dining scenes and destinations through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated thirty-something.



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Life's a beach! Elite Traveler's Top 100 Hotels in the World

It's that horrific time of year here in NYC (...the sun sets at 4-something P.M., the forecasted highs don't go above 35 degrees, the air is so dry that the skin on your knuckles cracks open, and everyone is in a generally angry/pissed off mood) when I get the itch to get the hell out of town.  Visions of white sand beaches, frozen drinks crowned with magenta-colored umbrellas, and the smell of sunscreen dance in my head.  Aside from yesterday's snow storm, nothing has gotten me thinking about a winter escape more than Elite Traveler's recent release of their 'Top 100 Hotels in the World.'  


*The Four Seasons New York, US, has the most expensive suite costing $50,000 per night

*Exclusive rental of Cliveden House, a 5 star country house in Berkshire, UK, costs guests $70,000 per night

*List includes hotels frequented by A-List celebs including the hotel George and Amal Clooney spent their wedding night, and the Mexican resort favoured by Justin Bieber, Mick Jagger and Tom Cruise

*USA has the most hotels, with 20 featured on the list

 Elite Traveler, the world’s leading private jet lifestyle magazine, has announced the Top 100 Hotels in the World for 2018.

For the second edition of this list, Elite Traveler presents updated picks of the properties that offer the most opulent hotel experiences. Hand selected by Elite Traveler’s editors, the list feature 14 new entries, including the spectacular Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland.

From basking in the foothills of a Unesco-designated wilderness reserve in British Columbia to rubbing shoulders with A-List celebrities in Mexico, the collection offers a true ‘round the world’ variety of hotels frequented by those who travel by private jet.  


Now, I don't know about you but, when I close my eyes and imagine myself in an exotic, far off land...I am standing on the balcony of my over-the-water bungalow deciding whether to jump in to the crystal clear ocean beneath me for a morning swim, or to call room service and order a crazy-induglent breakfast.  Decisions, decisions.

Photo credit: One & Only Resorts, Maldives


Stay warm out there and dream BIG

The Lunch Belle


List: My Top 10 Favorite Dishes of 2017

In no particular order, I'd like to present you with ten of the absolute BEST new dishes that I had the pleasure of eating in 2017... 
Grandma Val's Meatballs with Smoked DiPalo's Mozzarella - Pig Bleeker, NYC
Everyone knows that New York is home to the best 'red sauce-Italian food' in the universe.  But how about a 'red sauce-Italian' staple on the menu of a Southern/BBQ-bent restaurant in Greenwich Village?  Make no mistake, folks, the best meatballs in Manhattan can be found at Pig Bleeker (the aforementioned Southern/BBQ-bent restaurant in Greenwich Village).  When it comes to the name of the dish: I don't know who this 'Grandma Val' woman is or was, but I want to hug her and give my thanks for making the most fork-tender, perfectly seasoned 'balls this side of Italia.
Crispy Layered Potato, Beef Fat - White Gold Butchers, NYC
Have you ever had a multi-layer crepe cake?  Neither have I.  But I would say that Chef April Bloomfield's 'Crispy Layered Potato' at White Gold Butchers is akin to a savory version.  Imagine, if you will, layer upon carb-y layer of thinly-sliced potatoes cut in to perfect, bite-sized cubes before being plunged in to a pool of piping-hot beef fat and deep-fried.  Prior to service, each morsel is finished with the perfect Salt Bae-esque dusting of, you guessed it, salt.    
Lasagna - Lucciola, NYC
This is, hands down and by far the best lasagna this side of Italy.  Why?  The pasta noodles are MUCH more delicate and thin (as compared to the dry, pre-packaged crap you buy at the grocery store) - you can literally taste the amount of love and 'simmer-hours' which go in to creating that perfect Bolognese sauce that seductively envelopes each savory layer - and the cheese is virtually molten in texture, not dry and clumpy like commercial ricotta. 
Sausage, Egg, and Pimento Cheese Biscuit - Callie's Hot Little Biscuit, Charleston, SC
This was one of the very best sandwiches I've ever had - not just in 2017, either.  We're talking 'ever,' folks. 
The pork sausage was kissed with sage and garlic, among other savory seasonings - the freshly-cooked farm omelette remained warm and intact - and the pimento cheese was nothing short of heavenly.  How could this combination get any better, you ask?  This trinity of ingredients came sandwiched between the flakiest, most buttery buttermilk biscuit on the planet.  
Chicken thigh (meat) - Uncle Gussy's, NYC
When I was knee-deep in the Atkins Diet last year, Uncle Gussy's chicken was my daily go-to for lunch at the office.  Whether you're on a protein-based diet or not, this is the best marinated/char-grilled poultry in town.  Don't waste your time on the breast meat; at Uncle Gussy's, it's all about 'dem thighs!  
Braised Short Rib - Sermet's Southernterranean, Charleston, SC
I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical upon ordering the short rib; historically, I've always found it to be laden with gristle and unevenly cooked.  While dining at Sermet's for New Year's Eve, we felt a bit pressured to order this dish, as it's the restaurant's most prized plate.  To my shock, not only was it outstanding (think fork-tender and gristle-free), this once frowned upon cut quickly rose up the ranks as "one of the best beef entrees I've ever had." 
Tied: (Faux) Cronut - The Donut Pub, NYC and The Flex Donut Collection - Flex Mussels, NYC  
Granted, it's been a good 14-years since I've lived in Texas but, as a native, I can wholeheartedly say that Mighty Quinn's makes the best brisket in NYC.  Perfectly marbled and finished with crunchy flakes of sea salt, this local mini-chain puts everyone else's brisket game to shame.  
Soy-Garlic BJ Wings - Barn Joo, NYC
While being a relatively new chicken wing fan, I can confidently say that the traditional American version pales in comparison to the Korean preparation.  Why?  Because KFC (Korean fried chicken) is cooked twice, resulting in a crust that virtually shatters upon each bite.  The crunch is truly extraordinary and, for someone who's never tried it before and/or is unsuspecting, quite surprising!  Now, pair all of that double-fried excitement with a pre-service plunge in to a pool of soy-garlic glaze, and you've got one hell of an appetizer.     
Cold Sesame Noodles - Hwa Yuan, NYC
Fresh and chewy Chinese egg noodles are lightly tossed with and served atop a shallow pool of a mysteriously delicious sauce that tickles each of the five basic tastes: Sweetness (ginger, sugar, sesame and, perhaps, peanut butter), sourness (tangy, a hint of vinegar), bitterness (subtle heat from chili paste), savoriness (soy sauce, sesame oil, and a mother-load of umami), and saltiness (soy sauce).  
Until we eat again
The Lunch Belle

Recipe: Cranberry/Oatmeal Bliss Bars

After Christmas, we had a rather large amount of Craisins onhand.  Mom suggested topping cereal and oatmeal or adding them to pancake batter.  All great ideas, but I wanted to utilize a bigger quantity - rather than just a handful - of the dried berries all at once.  Having fallen in love with my coworker's "Oatmeal Caramelitas," I decided to tweak the recipe.  Why?  Because when I think of oatmeal and brown sugar as ingredients (both separately and together), my mind automatically goes to fruit and milk, not chocolate and caramel.  In my version, I substitute chocolate chips with Craisins and opt for condensed milk over caramel sauce.  The Maldon Sea Salt Flakes finish these bars with a delightfully savory kick!




  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose or unbleached flour
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups salted butter, softened



  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 13x9-inch pan.  Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off.  In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients, mix at low speed until crumbly, or mix by hand.  Reserve 3 cups of the crumb mixture for the topping.  Press remaining crumb mixture in bottom of the greased pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and flour; blend well.  
  3. Remove partially baked crust from oven; sprinkle evenly with Craisins and, if you opted, the chopped pecans.  Drizzle with condensed milk mixture.  Finish by sprinkling the reserved crumb mixture. 
  4. Return to oven; bake an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Lightly sprinkle with Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.  
  5. Cool 1 hour (or until completely cooled).  Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until filling is set.  Cut in to bars and enjoy!


Until we eat again

The Lunch Belle


South Carolina (Charleston & Mt. Pleasant): Where To Eat/Drink

Below, you will find restaurants/specialty shops that have been categorized by their respective cuisines.  I have only included venues where I have personally either dined-in or ordered-out.  


American (with a Southern bend)

Cocktails & such