Restaurant Review: Phoenicia Diner, Catskills, New York

A few weeks ago I spent a weekend in the Catskills Mountains.  Specifically, Phoenicia.  Phoenicia is a small town (technically a “hamlet”), about 20 minutes from Woodstock (the more well-known town in the area), in the Catskills Mountains.  The town is tiny, with one main road, surrounded by mountains with lots of hiking.  Phoenicia has recently received press by way of a few new business ventures opening in the sleepy town, including the Phoenecia Diner – which is probably the most popular place to eat in the area!  Vouge magazine mentioned it in a piece on travel in the Catskills Mountains a while ago, and it seems to be all the rage with the hipster crowd.

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Finding some culture in Daytona Beach…in 48 hours…

Dan’s grandmother turned 90 in November!  What an accomplishment!  Happy Birthday, Nonni!  To celebrate, we visited her in Daytona Beach, Florida, where she lives.  This was a very quick trip – we left on Friday evening from Newark Airport on a direct flight to Orlando and then flew back early Monday morning from Orlando to Newark Airport, again direct.  While it was a short trip, it did not feel rushed and we had a wonderful time!

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I visited Daytona Beach a few times with my parents when I was a child, but before this November, I had probably not been for nearly 20 years.  In my mind, Daytona Beach was a NASCAR haven mixed with a washed-up 1980s Spring Break destination mixed with a retirement community, and I did not expect to enjoy actually “seeing” the town.  However, and to my surprise, Daytona Beach turned out to be a pleasant weekend getaway from the cold New Jersey weather.  We ended up having a wonderful time and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive weekend trip to Florida!

We stayed at the County Inn & Suites in Port Orange, Florida – about a 10 minute drive from Daytona Beach proper, and the town in which Dan’s grandmother actually lives.  While not on the beach, the hotel was new, clean and inexpensive, it had a pool and lots of free parking and was right off 95.  They also had free chocolate chip cookies around-the-clock!  My favorite!

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As you may know, Dan and I enjoy the beach, but we also like to experience the cultural aspects of the places we travel, and I was determined to find something cultural in Daytona Beach!  Our first day, Saturday, was only in the low 70s (don’t cry for us) so we decided that Saturday would be our “culture” day.  We started the day with lunch at the World of Beer in Port Orange, about a 7 minute drive from our hotel.  This bar had a huge beer selection, including many Southern beers, which we don’t get that often in New Jersey.  We each had a sampler of Florida beers, and they were really good!  The food was pretty good as well, especially for a sports/beer bar.

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After lunch, we set off for the Daytona International Speedway.  Now we are not NASCAR fans (like, not at all, I don’t think Dan has ever even seen a race on TV); however, we wanted to see the Speedway because it is so famous and really is what I think of when I hear Daytona Beach!  Doing a little research, I learned that the Speedway offers daily tours and we signed right up!  We took the 1.5 hour tour, which gave a lot of history on the Speedway and took us all over the Speedway grounds – which are huge – in a tram.  The tour was very informative and focused a lot on the history of the Speedway and the city – not necessarily NASCAR (but of course the two are intertwined).  The Speedway was hosting an antiqute Porshe race on the day of our tour, so we got to see some of that, as well.  All in all, a very interesting look at a Florida icon.

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After, we stopped by the Daytona Beach Brewing Company, which is just a 5 minute drive from the Speedway (and a great way to convince skeptics to come on the tour)!  I expected this brewery to be somewhat “redneck” and NASCAR-based, but I was totally wrong.  DBBC is a brand new brewery that just opened in 2014.  It had a selection of several in-house beers a few guest taps.  They also served wine.  We tried a sampler of their beers, which were all quite good!  The girls working were really knowledgable about the beer and interested in talking to us about it.  I would definitely return.

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For dinner, we dined at a great Honduran restaurant – Chucherias Hondurenas.  Yum!  A welcome change from the mostly chain restaurants in Daytona.  The restaurant was intimate and the food was amazing.

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On Sunday, we had perfect weather – in the 80s and sunny.  We started the day continuing our “racing theme” and lunched at Racing’s North Turn on their deck overlooking the Atlantic.  The food was solid and the view was gorgeous.

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After lunch, we were actually able to lay out on the beach!  So great for a Sunday in November!  In addition to laying out, in Daytona Beach you can actually drive your car on the sand.  Where is a small fee, but any car can go on the sand!  So cool!  We unfortunately went too late to drive on the beach, as the tide was too high, but some cars were still on the beach from earlier and it looked so cool!  Instead, we strolled down the beach.  The beach is long and wide with lots of hard sand.  Very different from many of the European beaches we visit.

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We ended by dining at Stonewood Grill & Tavern and flew back to Newark on Monday morning.  A great warm-weather getaway from the dreary Northeast.

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LOGISTICS & NOTES

Where we stayed: Country Inn & Suites, Port Orange

Where we ate:

World of Beer, Port Orange

Chucherias Hondurenas, Holly Hill, Daytona Beach, Florida

Stonewood Grill & Tavern – Port Orange, Florida

Racing’s North Turn, Ponce Inlet, Florida

What we did:

Daytona Beach Brewing Company, Daytona Beach Florida

Daytona International Speedway

Notes – We flew into the Orlando Airport, which is about an hour and a half drive from Daytona Beach.  Dan’s family graciously chauffeured us to and from the airport.  Alternatively, there are car rental outfits at the airport and I believe there is a shuttle between Daytona Beach and Orlando.

Racing’s North Turn – A beach bar with good food.

Upon recommendation from Dan’s Aunt Di, we ate lunch at Racing’s North Turn on Sunday – and to continue our “racing theme.”

According to their website, the restaurant  sits on the exact location where racing history began in Daytona Beach. Car races apparently took place right on the beach outside the door of Racing’s North Turn from 1936 until 1958, when NASCAR relocated to the international raceway.  There is no racing today, but the view is lovely!

The restaurant is located in Ponce Inlet, a few minutes drive from “downtown” Daytona Beach.  It kind of has a “dive bar” vibe, with a few seats side around some pool tables and a large open air deck outside with lots of tables.  The open-air deck is right on the beach and has ocean views.

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When we were there, the restaurant had recently sustained a fire and all the food was prepared in a food truck outside, but they were working on getting the kitchen up and running.  Despite the lack of a proper kitchen, our food was really good!

I ordered the fish tacos.  The order included three tacos with mahi mahi, pico salsa, lettuce and a slightly spicy tatar sauce.  Each taco included plenty of fish.  They were really yummy!  I also ordered a side of their spicy sauce – I forget the name, but something to do with cars.  In any case, it was very good on the tacos!

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We also ordered their pecan tart, which apparently comes from a local bakery.  It was ok, tasting kind of like frozen cheesecake.

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Finally, we tried their Caribbean Moonshine cocktail.  According to the menu, it included vodka, rum, SoCo, Malibu, pineapple, Sprite and sour.   It was strong and really sweet.  Not really recommended, but festive!

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I enjoyed my lunch here and would certainly return for the food and views.  Again, it was nice to find a local, non-chain restaurant in Daytona Beach!

LOGISTICS

Racing’s North Turn

4511 S. Atlantic Avenue, Ponce Inlet, FL 32127

386.322.3258.

A yummy, independent find in Daytona Beach – Chucherias Hondureñas

Chucherias Hondureñas is an adorable little restaurant in the Holly Hill section of Daytona Beach, Florida, and an excellent find, as many of the restaurants in the area of national chains…

Chucherias Hondureñas is extremely small.  We called and made a reservation the day before and got a table for four at 7:00 with no problem.  While the restaurant is small, it has a lot of charm and feels a world away from Daytona Beach.  The setting is intimate.  The waitstaff was attentive.  A guitarist played during our dinner.  Verrrry charming!  Not the chain restaurants!

The menu is small and heavily seafood based, but there were meat and vegetarian options, as well.  There was a lengthy special-of-the-day menu.

In addition, the restaurant has a fancy cocktail list, which we started with.  Loving the straw-wrapped detail!

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Dan and I started by splitting the curry conch soup, and it was so delicious!  The “serving size” is plenty to split between two people.  They will even put it in two separate bowls.  The soup-base was very flavorful and there was plenty of conch.

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Next, we ordered the ham croquettes.  Also excellent!  The croquettes came with a yummy spicy mustard sauce.  Call me plain, but these were my favorite!

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For mains, I ordered El Cubano – or the cuban sandwich, which I had read about online.  The reviews were correct – it was so, so, so good!  The cuban is made with seasoned roast pork, sliced ham, swiss cheese and an amazing garlic sauce.  It was also huge, and I ate almost the entire sandwich!  It came with a side salad and a few fried plantains.  Plenty of food.  While it was not the most exciting thing on the menu, I would absolutely order this again!

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Dan ordered a shrimp dish, but for the life of me, I cannot remember its name.  He really enjoyed it and it was made with coconut milk.  Dan’s plate was also large and he loved it!

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We finished with the Crema Catalana.  A delicious creme brûlée-type dish made with spanish custard, caramelized sugar and fresh fruit.  This was similar to creme brûlée, but decidedly different.  Much smoother and not as heavy.  Dan’s aunt and I loved it!

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In sum, I absolutely loved this restaurant!  The food was high quality and it was nice to find a non-chain restaurant in Daytona Beach.  Recommended!

LOGISTICS

Chucherias Hondureñas

The Market, 101 2nd Street, Holly Hill, FL 32117

Note – While the address states “Holly Hill,” this is right in Daytona Beach.