Recently, I've just come back from a few weeks work and play in North America - San Jose and Vancouver to be specific - where I found some restaurants I really enjoyed which fit some or all of the criteria!
Naglee Park Garage, San Jose
This recommendation came from a colleague who thought I'd love it! Of course I did. I watched a YouTube clip of the feature on Diners, Drive In's and Dives and was really excited to try it. Classic American burger and fries but with a twist! Perfect. Even better was the courtyard out to back of the converted garage in San Jose. We sat on long shared tables and relaxed on the summers evening enjoying the food, wine and music from a jazz band playing at the back. It was a great place to kick back and chill!
I was really excited to go to Wildebeest in Vancouver. The menu looked so interesting when I was scouring websites for where to eat in Vancouver and wow! It delivered. I really enjoy the idea of share plates which are a little bigger than starter size but not as big as a main, so you can try quite a few things. These dishes were delicious with every bite packing a punch. We had a bunch of things including bison tartare, so interesting and flavoursome; delectable quail with the hay still smoking; tender and melt-in-your-mouth beef shortrib. The restaurant had a great vibe contrasting to the quiet Gastown street outside when we left!
Fable Restaurant, Vancouver
Fable is another Vancouver favourite established a few years ago inspired by Top Chef Canada "restaurant wars." For a Monday night I didn't think we'd have trouble getting a table but this is a popular haunt and we just squeezed in for an early sitting! This was another colleague's recommendation (they really know me!) and it was fabulous. The highlight for me was the "canned tuna" - confit (I think) tuna with preserved lemons served in a "can" but the other dishes were delicious - perfectly cooked duck and lamb; clever potato crusted chicken and good old Steak Frites!
Ah, great food really makes a great holiday for me. And really makes me want to return to try some of the other menu items that I didn't pick - makes my travel wishlist that bit longer though!