The Buffet at Monte Carlo

In Vegas, they say it’s all about the buffets. Indeed most casinos on the strip have one, and you can walk right in and eat without gambling. In fact many are comped right to your room. Such is the case with The Buffet at Monte Carlo. Most used by the guests of the hotel itself the place has a plethora of options it serves for lunch and dinner. Of course, this casino was created by MGM as more of a budget option for the strip. You’ll find the buffet matches. In quality, not price.

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Edley’s BBQ

Now with three locations around Nashville, Edley’s brings the classic barbecue counter a little bit of new dimension with a modern bar and a nice selection of drinks for evening groups. But the main reason people come to this place remains the same: the barbecue! This spot has that classic, sticky and smoky meats cooked top-notch. I like the spot for that nice, welcoming feeling and a very convenient system that prioritizes good food over everything.

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Fork Chicago

An American gastropub that serves the northern Chicago neighborhoods around Lincoln Square, Fork Chicago specializes in farm to table cuisine. A combination bar, kitchen and tasting room the spot offers a seasonal menu of cheeses, small plates and charcuterie and is wonderful as a place to bring a friend or a small group for a pleasant evening out. I like this spot for its small plates and for its place in town, an experimental kitchen that has a few different modern interpretations on long-time favorites.

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Pontiac BBQ & Bourbon Bar

A definite modern take on a very beloved Midwestern cooking style can be found in the middle of Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine neighborhood in Pointiac BBQ and Bourbon Bar. The street has brought forth many interesting concepts in the past few years with a contemporary flare, but one with a special focus on something as dear to the city as barbecue is rarer and more ambitious. This spot is great for its bevy of good drinks and the food deserves a definite tasting.

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Old Canal Smokehouse

A historic joint in downtown Chillicothe, Old Canal Smokehouse is a historic building that sits in a historic town and offers a casual atmosphere with some great Midwestern barbecue. In spite of all of the years that this building has, the smokehouse has a very approachable, friendly appeal. It’s a small-town hangout with some good barbecue, and there’s a reason this spot is known outside of town. It’s a nice representation of the appeal that drives Chillicothe; casual in spite of its many stories.

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Doc Crow’s

Right along the Whiskey Row area of downtown Louisville, Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar is a modern take on a southern favorite — big barbecue. With an enormous oyster bar greeting you as you walk in, and sandwiches so big that they’re served on metal cookie sheets, this bar is larger than life. Over-the-top food is always easy to like, and seeing how this spot has quickly established itself as a southern food destination in the middle of the city.

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Flip Side Burger Bar

A new concept in finer burgers, Flip Side specializes in nicer burgers, milkshakes and craft beer. It’s a concept borne out of Ohio and totes Ohio-raised, grass-fed beef. With a minimalist concept inside and a menu that espouses quality, it’s here to challenge the finer burger standard with a localized take. All in all, the food and experience aren’t too bad, but the spot is a bit pricier. It’s the cost to be paid for good local cuisine.

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Pine Junction

A remote bar evoking a mountain lodge hideaway along the New York border, Pine Junction is popular both with locals and with the guests of the nearby resort areas like Findley Lake and skiing resorts of the nearby mountains. This bar is a bit off the beaten path, but its specialty is all about good hearty food and good drinks to keep you warm in the winter months or the chilly New York fall. Come to this getaway and you’ll quickly be filled with good food and good memories.

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Hickory River Smokehouse

What originally started as a pretty simple barbecue chain in Illinois has evolved into a unique Midwestern experience known as Hickory River Smokehouse. This barbecue chain, which has eight locations across the country, including Ohio and Florida, draws in major crowds with its unique brand of smoked barbecue. The Midwestern palette has a very specific taste for barbecue, and even as many more chains look to dominate the market, Hickory River finds its way to the popular forefront. Among its accolades, the 2012 Ohio State Fair Pork Rib Off — which I had the great pleasure of judging.

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Steel Cactus

While the South Side in Pittsburgh has traditionally been beat known for its nightlife, many of those popular bars crowded during the weekend also have some of the most interesting restaurant concepts emerging in the city. Steel Cactus, a colorful Tex Mex concept, brings simple, high quality dishes like tacos and burritos to play with excellent ingredients for a delicious result. Steel Cactus might look like a spot you’d only frequent for a drink when the game is on, but it’s got an interesting set of foods to try that should not be ignored.

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