Larenz Tate has been in Oscar-winning films and critically acclaimed TV shows ("Ray," "Crash," "Rescue Me"), but to his young children, he's just the "blueberry pancake guy." "They have no idea what I do for a living," said the 34-year-old actor, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. "They just know that I make the best pancakes." Tate loves to travel with his family and talks about a recent trip to paradise.
Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?
A: My friend has a really nice place in the Dominican Republic, so we went to visit and had an amazing time! It's a place I look forward to visiting again. I had been working in cold New York City forever and wanted to go somewhere nice and warm. They feed you nonstop in the D.R., and all the food is delicious so you can't resist eating all the time.
People are cooking all day long — fried plantains, deep-fried chicken, black beans, peas, all kinds of rice, vegetables, potatoes and shrimp. ... It can be a starchfest sometimes, but the fresh fruit like the mangoes and papayas are out of this world. I got a kick out of all the coconut trees there and just being able to drink all the fresh coconut milk. It can be paradise there, but there's also a very poor part of the country. I was able to take a helicopter ride to see the terrain, which was beautiful, but you can also see the poverty.
Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A: Mexico is always really nice. Cabo San Lucas is just a two-hour flight from Los Angeles. I love the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, but a quick family trip to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World is always nice and easy for us.
Q: What are your favorite hotels and restaurants?
A: Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic (
) is the best-kept secret. It's its own city. There's a wonderful golf course there that I was admiring, and I don't even golf! There's a great horseback-riding facility there as well. The Mandarin Oriental (
) is a really great hotel in Miami. I'm quite fond of the Peninsula (
) and W (
) in Chicago. I love STK (
) in New York City. It's a great steakhouse with a really nice, cool vibe in the Meatpacking District. But my all-time favorite restaurant is Home Run Inn (
) on 31st Street in Chicago. It's the best pizza ever. I always get a half cheese, half mushroom pizza cut into those little square pieces.
Q: When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A: Computer, iPod, a bunch of DVDs, even though I never watch them. I just like having them.
Q: Where would you like to go that you have never been?
A: Italy and Spain. I'm really looking forward to getting there soon.
Q: What is your worst vacation memory?
A: I was chasing after my kid in the water in the Dominican Republic, and I forgot that I had put my camera in my pocket. We lost all the pictures on it. I say we, but my wife says it was just me. (Laughs.) My wife wanted to know why I hadn't backed any of it up, and I had no good answer for her.