Welcome to The Lunch Belle, a food website/blog that views the New York City + Los Angeles dining scenes through the lens - and belly - of a highly opinionated, critical, adorably quirky, and culinary-obsessed thirty-something year old.

Just consider me your one-stop NYC - and, most recently, Los Angeles - shop!



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Waikiki: Where to eat and 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 cuisine

Asian cuisine (multi-region)

Mexican cuisine




Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: A fall media supper at 'Thelma on Clinton'

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*

Restaurant: Thelma on Clinton

  • Cuisine: New American
  • Location: 29A Clinton Street - NYC 10002  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Chicken liver mousse, Braised Short Ribs & Bone Marrow, house-made chocolate truffles
  • Perfect for: Neighborhood gems, solo dining, tasting menu, cocktails/craft beer


As soon as I entered Thelma on Clinton (let’s proceed by calling it “Thelma,” for short), I already felt at home.  The interior décor is casually sophisticated, with hardwood flooring throughout, a communal chef's table and banquette seating, white-washed exposed brick walls that are lined with wine (bottle) storage, and overhead lighting that won’t put you to sleep.  Honestly, if I were living in the vicinity, I would make a daily pilgrimage.  Thelma is one of those special boutique restaurants where you can enjoy a solo dinner – likely surrounded by your neighbors - at the fabulous bar that centers the dining room. 

Photo by The Style Gourmande

Photo found on Zagat dot comUpon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by Chef Melissa O’Donnell (I’m mildly obsessed with her, by the way), who offered me a beverage of my choice.  When I explained that I don’t drink alcohol, she suggested one of her signature mocktails: Strawberry Basil (a.k.a. the Stanton Street Spritzer) or Blueberry Ginger (a.k.a. the Clinton Street Cooler), each concocted with Chef’s handmade fruit jams.  “Actually,” Chef playfully prompted, “why not try both?”  Sweet (but certainly not cloying) with a righteous tang at the end, both mocktails were refreshing and delicious. 

Strawberry Basil mocktail: Photo by The Style GourmandePost my mocktail sampling, I had a couple of minutes to chat 1x1 with Chef.  I was super curious about the story behind the restaurant's name and what her inspired her culinarily/in the kitchen.  "Thelma is the name of my grandmother," she said.  "New York City inspires me in the kitchen, and the restaurant draws from the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side without straying from a classic approach to cuisine."  And just like the city in which we live, her offerings are simple (but exceptionally well-executed) and straightforward. 

Of everything our intimate group of eight savored, my three favorite dishes of the evening were as follows:

Chicken Liver Mousse

Chicken Liver Mousse: Photo by The Style GourmandeButtery, rich, and gamey, the chicken liver mousse was the perfect compliment to the salty, crunchy crostini.  This appetizer was so delicious, in fact, that I wanted to grab the whole damn platter and hide in a corner somewhere!

Caramelized Onion Risotto

Caramelized Onion Risotto: Photo by The Style GourmandeI love anything risotto.  Thelma's version was super creamy and cheesy, and the caramelized onions added a fabulous jolt of color, flavor, and texture.  What more could I have asked for? 

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow

Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow: Photo by The Style GourmandeDuring our 1x1 chat, Chef mentioned that she changes her menu on a seasonal basis.  So when she recently removed the Braised Short Ribs with Bone Marrow entree from the summer menu, the restaurant patrons revolted!  Literally.  There were so many complaints, in fact, that she had no choice but to re-add this wildly popular dish!  And after relishing in my first bite, I understood why the clientele went bananas!  The beef was so tender that it virtually melted in my mouth.  The rich broth that served as a pseudo moat around the meat was so outstanding - even on its own - that I almost asked for bread to sop up all of it's savory glory.  Wow!

Perhaps the best surprise of the evening was post the entree course, when Chef treated us to a bowl of her transcendent, homemade chocolate truffles.  And Champagne!  Talk about ending the night on a sweet note...

House-made chocolate truffles: Photo by The Style Gourmande...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle


(NYC) Reviewed: Otto's Tacos' third location sizzles in Hells Kitchen

*This post was written by Edgar A. Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle*

Restaurant: Otto's Tacos

  • Cuisine: Mexican fast-casual
  • Location: 705 9th Avenue - NY, NY 10019  
  • Pricing: $
  • What's delicious: Tacos, horchata, churros
  • Perfect for: Taco cravings, work day lunches, late night cravings


Upon entering Otto’s Tacos’ third location in Hells Kitchen, I immediately noticed three things:

  1. This brand new stunner was at least twice as large as its East and West Village siblings.
  2. That kick ass Star Wars-inspired mural on the back wall (as seen in photo #2, below)!
  3. Twelve seats’ worth of street-side al-fresco dining!

Photos courtesy of Otto's TacosAs someone who eats tacos for almost 50% of his meals, I’m quite versed with this territory (in other words, this ain't my first taco rodeo).  Otto’s successfully provides this familiar fare, while also including a handful of newer options, including both shrimp and vegetarian (made with mushroom) tacos, masa fries, and house-made horchata.  And speaking of horchata, Otto's version is absolutely spot-on: Refreshing, sweet (but not too sweet), and blended with the perfect amount of cinnamon and spice.  It's a hands down winner and completely reminiscent of my childhood (minus the piñata swinging back to wallop me on the head).

Horchata: Photo by Edgar A. CastilloOh, and did I mention that they have Dr. Pepper on tap?  They have Dr. Pepper on tap!!!


Here's a run down of what I ate:

Los tacos

  • Shrimp: Plentiful, juicy, and drizzled with an amazing serrano crema
  • Carne asada (marinated beef): Decent amount of spice with incredible succulence.  The beef fell apart in my mouth - not through the tortilla - which was key!  Beyond tender and, without a doubt, my favorite taco of the trio.
  • Carnitas (slow-roasted pork): Crowned with green chile, chopped onions, and fresh cilantro, this taco certainly stood out.

Photos captured by Edgar A. CastilloChips and guac

What is typically one of my favorite aspects of the meal, the guacamole stopped short of its potential, lacking in both spice and flavor.   

Save for room for churros

Save room for churros, I tell you!  There’s no better way to wrap up a wonderful Mexican meal at Otto's than to savor an order of these deliciously sweet and doughy treats.  Served warm (read: hot) and accompanied by a cup of dulce de leche (caramel sauce) for dipping purposes, you'll thank yourself for saving some "tummy room."  Heck, skip the bland chips and guacamole all together and order two rounds of these babies!  They're that good.

Churros: Photo by Edgar A. CastilloI couldn’t finish this recap without giving a shout out to Diomi, the employee who guided me through the ordering process and accommodated me during my visit.  He’s been with Otto’s “pretty much since day one” and does this taqueria much justice!


Until we eat again,

Edgar A. Castillo for The Lunch Belle


Chocolate, peanut butter, and Niman Ranch beef: Recuperating with MUNCHERY

One of the pluses of living in LA is that my folks, who reside in Texas, are just a non-stop flight away.  So when I learned that I had to have surgery, I asked my mom to come in town and take care of me.  #MamasGirl #8GoingOn35

In planning our meals for that week, Mom mentioned that it would be a good idea for us to make a large supermarket run so that we could nosh and nest without having to leave my apartment.   "That's cute and all, Mom," I said, "but you don't even cook!  What are we going to eat for dinner, popcorn?"  She laughed.  "It's true, though!" I exclaimed.  "And it's not like I'll be able to cook."  She agreed.  Granted, there was always Blue Apron (too labor intensive) or Seamless Web (the options in LA suck) and Postmates/Caviar (great selections, but too expensive), but I had a better idea...

Munchery, a meal delivery service that I had already been utilizing for a few weeks leading up to my surgery, could not have been a better option for those first few post-operative days.  And nights.  With meals and snacks created by local chefs (think along the lines of LA's very own Roy Choi) who have worked at some seriously brag-worthy restaurants (ahem, Spago and Providence to name a few), each chilled order is hand-delivered to your door, literally "ready to heat when you want to eat."  Here's the nitty-gritty of how it all works!

With the ability to peruse Munchery's menu for the upcoming week, I ordered the following selections - to be delivered between 6-7PM - for the eve post my procedure:

With the exception of the mediocre tortilla soup, every other dish was, quite literally, life-altering.  I mean, who the hell would have thought that you could savor one of the best burgers YOU'VE EVER HAD IN YOUR LIFE (yes, I really just said that) courtesy of a meal delivery service?  In the comfort of your own home, no less!  Well, when you start with a patty is constructed of sous-vide cooked Niman Ranch ground beef, you already know that you're in for something incredibly special.  Add to that an assortment of crucial "make-your-own-burger" accoutrement: Brioche bun, California cheddar, apple wood-smoked bacon, sliced red onion, caramelized onions, sliced tomato, butter lettuce, mayo, ketchup, and a secret sauce.  And some really, really delicious and salty kettle-cooked potato chips.

Photo courtesy of Munchery

I may have still been high from the anesthesia, but here's one sensation that I will not soon forget: When I took my first bite of the Peanut Butter Chocolate Tart, I had a full-body orgasm.  With a buttery, crumbly, chocolate-cookie crust that gave way to a generous amount of creamy homemade peanut butter suffocated by a layer of chocolate ganache, how could I not??  Oh my fcuking god.  WOW!    

Photo found on Pinsta.Me

For those of you who don't live in LA, I pity you.  Why?  Because you will never taste these fcuking glorious items.  However, with Munchery available in other US cities - SF, Seattle, and NYC - I'm confident that there are plenty of stellar meals/snacks that I will never get to experience, either.  I suppose it's a fair trade-off!

Want to check out Munchery for $10 off your first two orders?  CLICK HERE!  Oh, and you're welcome in advance ;-)


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle



Hey LA, what are you doing for lunch tomorrow? 

TAKE 2!!

Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water invites the people of Los Angeles to ditch their desks for a midday dance party with Flavorpill presents: Lunch Break, made extraordinary by Perrier!  This unique celebration will transform cubicle dwellers into partygoers at a special 1.5 hour event where guests can groove to the spinning soundtrack of DJ Nadastrom!

Lunch Break attendees will have the chance to:

  • Dance through their lunch hour – Escape the office grind at an extraordinary daytime dance party set to the tune of DJ Nadastrom's live playlist. 
  • Sip signature cocktails by PerrierRecharge and refresh the afternoon with thirst-quenching cocktails guaranteed to kick that end-of-week slump. 
  • Enjoy a classic bagged lunch to bring back to the office – When the power-hour ends, guests will receive a throwback lunch to-go, complete with a Perrier.

Following these complimentary Lunch Break session, guests will be encouraged to donate their unused lunch money to local nonprofits that are part of the Feeding America network.  Proceeds from this particular Los Angeles event will benefit the Westside Food Bank.

Schedule & details

Friday, August 21, 2015

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM

DJ: Nadastrom

Location: Lure 1439 Ivar Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028

**To RSVP for Lunch Break in Los Angeles, click here!**


Until we dance again,

The Lunch Belle



(NYC) Celebrating the holidays - in July - with Champagne Taittinger

*This event and article were attended/captured by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.*


Last Thursday, I attended Champagne Taittinger's exclusive The Art of Celebrating The Holidays event in downtown Manhattan.

Photo courtesy of TaittingerThe world-renowned Grand Marque French Champagne house hosted their very first "winter holiday" party of the year - ahem, in July - at the private townhouse of Pamela Bell (founder of Prinkshop and co-founder of Kate Spade).  To properly "tis the season," I made my way to the soiree in my most festive holiday attire: A sassy lil' red Christian Dior number and my favorite strappy Jimmy Choo's.

Over the course of a two hour "open (town)house," approximately 75 of us very lucky folks had the pleasure of experiencing new interpretations of holiday menus and decor concepts, mouth-watering cuisine courtesy of Chef Sarah Simmons from Birds & Bubbles, plus a selection of four Taittinger Champagnes:

Photo courtesy of TaittingerPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Chef Sarah SimmonsTaittinger's selections were perfectly paired with the evening's three holiday themes: The Champagne Cocktail Party - The Holiday Dinner - New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.  As mentioned above, Chef Sarah Simons (of Birds & Bubbles) created an outstanding array of small bites for this incredibly special evening.

The Champagne Cocktail Party

My first tantalizing bite of the eve was a house-made black pepper cracker topped with creamy shrimp rillettes.  Paired with the Taittinger Prestige Rose NV

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: Shrimp RillettesThe second hors d' oeuvre was a NY cheddar puff pastry with castelvetrano olives + smoked almonds.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

The third bite was a crispy potato latke that was topped with house-cured trout, horseradish, dill, and creme fraiche.  Paired with Taittinger Brut La Francaise NV

And as if the passed hors d'oeuvres weren't enough...we were presented with a bounty of plump oysters on ice.  Tres magnifique!

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

After the Champagne Party, we were escorted to a communal table where we were seated for The Holiday Dinner.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To wrap up the festivities, we toasted in style at a New Year's Eve Moroccan Party.

Inspired by a classic riad, designer Sam Masters invented a Moroccan-themed lounge beneath a white muslin-draped tent.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

Photo courtesy of Taittinger

To end the evening on a sweet note, desserts were presented both passed and served at stations.

Photo courtesy of Taittinger: French macaronsPhoto courtesy of Taittinger: Champagne truffles

Oh what a night!  This was one of the most exclusive, whimsical, delicious, romantic, and fabulous events that I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in recent memory.  I cannot wait to recreate all that I observed, learned, tasted, and sipped courtesy of Taittinger.  But one question remains: Do I have to wait until the holidays?


Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle

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