First-Rate Bar Snacks

February 17th, 2009

If your friend is a total boozehound who won’t step foot anywhere that doesn’t visibly look like it can keep him properly imbibed – don’t cringe when he suggests “dinner” at one of his favorite dives. Instead steer him to one of the following bars – that just happen to dish out excellent food as well.

Blind Tiger Ale House
[281 Bleecker St.] [212.462.4682]

This brew pub with a barnyard feel serves a fantastic banh mi, “Bloody Beast” (a neat little roast beef slider with cheddar, red onion, and bloody mary sauce) deviled eggs, and a Murray’s cheese plate. Just as enticing are the 28 beers on tap – and the fact you can pack one up in a growler for home.

Jimmy’s No. 43
[43 E. 7th St.] [212.982.3006]

He will like the beer sausage, mussels in beer, and excellent selection of German, Belgian, and American craft beers. You’ll like that everything is organic, locally sourced, and positively delicious. The menu changes nightly – so try as much as you can… and wash it down with a cold one.

Beer Table
[427 7th Ave.] [718.965.1196]

Delicious and decidedly dedicated to beer – this Park Slope favorite has excellent food as well. Even better, make reservations for this Monday and be there when they partner with Saxelby Cheesemongers. Fifty dollars gets you five brews and five cheeses (all which promise to be superbly curated and delightfully interesting: Italian-made, Belgian-style beer paired with American-made, Italian-style cheese.)

Wilfie & Nell
[228 W. 4th St.] [212.242.2990]

Saddle up with a sidecar and Berkshire pork sliders, scotch and scotch eggs, a beer and a corned-beef sandwich, and assorted bacon-y things with well more assorted bacon-y things. The drinks are well-constructed, the crowd pretty, and the kitchen happily open until 2am.

Learn Something

February 3rd, 2009

You know the quote: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day – teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Well it’s probably not going to work in this case. But by patronizing the following establishments you will indeed learn something about their craft – to appreciate it. And while you may be ready to go home and start pulling your own candy – you’ll be back watching in awe (and popping sweet treats) marveling at how the masters do it.

[380 Broome St.] [212.966.2599]

This delightful laboratory churns out brightly swirled lollipops, teensy hard candies – even fancy ring pops. Best of all you get to watch as the magic happens. Stop in when then the chalkboard outside reads, “making candy” and watch as molten sugar is cut, stretched, pulled, looped, and rolled into marvelous confections. If you’re looking especially mesmerized they may let you try a piece of hot candy.

Saxelby Cheesemongers
[120 Essex St.] [212.228.8204]

In her charming “A Day A-Whey” series Anne Saxelby, the sweetheart of American farmstead cheese, designs fieldtrips to her favorite local farms for an up close look at the cheese making process – and a picnic (of course.) And while the trips certainly gives you the full lesson – frequenting her stand in Essex Market is always a sure way to pick up tips – and wonderful cheese.

A Razor, A Shiny Knife
[Roving.] [No Phone.]

Billing itself as “an educational, social and theatrical culinary experience” – A Razor, A Shiny Knife is a dinner club (of sorts) that takes its form from whatever idea, location, event, or ingredients are closest and most interestingly at hand. The education comes in participation – you can see protein butchered, techniques broken down, masterful meals replicated – and a totally different mix at the next pseudo-secret meal. Sign up for the newsletter to see what’s coming next.

Restaurant Week

January 27th, 2009

Oh Restaurant Week – both a blessing and a curse. At its best it is a time to check out a restaurant at what should be a fraction of the cost. At its worst it is an overworked kitchen pushing out a generic three course menu of salad, salmon, and chocolate cake that you wouldn’t have ordered in the first place. But lovely meals are to be had – and guaranteed any week at these restaurants.

[8 E. 18th St.] [212.691.1300]

Dine with people that don’t mind you sampling their food – as you are going to want to try everything at this fine-dining Indian restaurant. The Manchurian cauliflower and grilled scallops are superb starters – while the Bombay-style halibut, tandoor-grilled lamb chops, and chole bhature will make it hard to decide a main course. Saffron bread pudding rounds out the meal.

[165 Allen St.] [212.253.8840]

Billing his cooking style as “estilo libre latino” (freestyle Latin) Chef Maximo Tejada creates dishes layered with flavor. The huevos rancheros at brunch are otherworldly. And his restaurant week dinner menu is a fantastic first introduction.

[60 Thompson St.] [212.219.2000]

Because $12 Pad Kee Mao delivery is sometimes fantastic – it is hard justifying your limited spending on proper dinner prices for Thai cuisine. That logic fails when the chef is Ian Chalermkittichai of the Four Seasons Bangkok. Enjoy highly inventive dishes and artful presentation. Better yet- the pre-fix dinner menu has been extended through March.

[160 E. 64th St.] [212.223.5656]

This lovely townhouse on the Upper East Side feels worlds away from any of the downtown restaurants in the Vongerichten canon. Treat yourself to a luxurious romantic meal. With two choices for each course it is perfect for a date. And the poached fig dessert with cumin-honey ice cream is splendid.

Featured Situeating restaurants participating in Restaurant Week: Amalia, August, Del Posto, and Park Avenue Winter

Fickle at Heart

January 20th, 2009

You know who you are. You puzzle over everything on the menu. Debate the minutest detail. Ask your companion to choose for you. And then follow the server into the kitchen and change your mind – to only wish later that you went with the sole instead. Give yourself (and your companions) a break and head to one of these fickle-friendly establishments.

Park Avenue Winter
[100 E. 63rd St.] [212.644.1900]

What could be more fitting than a restaurant that changes its name, décor, and menu – as frequently as the seasons? The filet mignon sandwich at lunch is fantastic – and fish dishes are first rate. Plus, it’s a good thing your fickle nature doesn’t lend itself to getting too attached to things because it’ll be entirely different next season.

Tia Pol
[205 Tenth Ave.] [212.675.8805]

Although we certainly miss Chef Alex Raij, her former kitchen is still turning out flawless Basque tapas. Order whatever is on the chalkboard and then supplement it with chorizo, head-on shrimp, croquettes, and several cod dishes. And as these are snacking sizes – your appetite will be able to keep up with your fickleness.

Ping’s Seafood
[22 Mott St.] [212.602.9988]

Try out this concept – carts of food roll by and you point at what you want. Before you even have time to change your mind another cart will be along with a whole slew of new options. At Ping’s the room is smaller – and food better than at some of the larger Chinatown Dim Sum halls. Come on the weekend when the selection is better – and be prepared to approach the steam cart yourself when it’s too crowded to wield it through the aisles.

[77 N. 6th St.] [718.388.8985]

Slip into a curtained booth and order the seasonal omakasi menu for two ($96) and sit back as each carefully constructed course is delivered. The only choice you’ll make is between the Pork Belly Kakuni (magically simmered for three days) or Yellowtail and Daikon – but really, is there actually a choice when pork belly is involved?

New Food Resolutions

January 6th, 2009

Instead of the usual resolutions:

1. Lose 20 lbs because you’ve turned into a Christmas ham.
2. Go to the gym (so #1 can be possible.)
3. Eat out less (because you’re broke and wasted money on yet another gym membership you’ll never use.)
4. Anything to do with “getting” or “keeping” a man.

Why not seek out the holy grail of food? Because really nothing about 1-4 sounds like any fun at all.

Momofuku Ko
[163 First Ave.] [No Phone.]

Because even if your fingers and luck are both on their A-game at 10 am to land you one of the 12 heavily sought after seats – there is still the $100 to pay for it (although with 10 courses and David Chang’s godly inventiveness it is really quite a good deal.) So start packing PB&J, save your lunch money, do some finger crunches (or bribe someone at Time Warner to accidentally shut off internet to everyone save you and Mr. Chang) and then please – take me.

Mister Softee
[Various Locations.] [No Phone.]

After a failed summer ’08 chasing every truck that went through the neighborhood in hopes of the elusive blueberry dipped cone we will not accept defeat in ’09. Having been spotted on a truck at McCarron Pool but never materializing the hunt is on. Keep us posted if you spy the rare creation yourself.

The Waverly Inn
[16 Bank St.] [No Phone.]

Not that I think the mac and cheese could possibly justify a near $50 price tag – or the exclusivity that surrounds the Graydon Carter’s Waverly Inn. But perhaps they could just instate reservations so that we don’t have to read about it so much. And yes, you can just show up early, smile sweetly and hope that they’ll let you in – but is it even possible to enjoy truffle fries wondering if you’ve been seated in less posh “Siberia” section?

The Garden Café
[620 Vanderbilt Ave.] [718.857.8863]

Okay- so you have to peer through a window and closed gate to see if this restaurant is open (dinner only and subject to the owners’ vacations) which is slightly intimidating for a restaurant that otherwise is defined by its unassuming grace. Call ahead instead and gain entry to what is rumored to be one of loveliest – and more economical restaurants – at only $32 for three courses.

Get Your Yankee Swap On

December 23rd, 2008

Pack your favorite ladies, some booze (where applicable), and a fight-worthy grab gift to partake in some real holiday fun (not the kind you have been pretending to have with your folks all week.) For a real treat trade up at one of these swap-happy restaurants where you can pass presents, drinks, and food.

Kuma Inn
[113 Ludlow St. - 2nd Fl.] [212.353.8866]

The delicious Asian tapas will keep you from fighting over the gifts (and have you fighting over the food instead!) The lengthy menu (and added specials) means there is no shortage of things to choose from and the drunken shrimp, Chinese sausage, and mussels in coconut curry are all top picks. Bonus- the b.y.o.b. policy will make sure you are passing the wine liberally as well.

[179 Ave. B] [212.529.6490]

Chef Patricio Sandoval devised tacos meant for sharing- agree to each pick a different one (at last count there were ten options plus specials.) Don’t skip the carne, carnitas, or camaron. Top it off with a couple orders of the guacamole sampler and as many rounds of margaritas as you can handle (made strong and with fresh squeezed juice.)

[171 Spring St.] [212.343.4255]

The brand new location and hipper neighborhood will give your friends the wow factor – while chef Seamus Mullen’s (of Suba and Boqueria Flatiron) reputation ensures the food will be divine as well. Take over the large table and order the Paella Valencia and then add on whatever tapas strike your fancy. The Escudella, Txipirones, and Brandada de Bacalao should not be missed.

[126 Front St.] [718.243.9005]

Okay, so the name alone would be reason enough to start a ruckus girl’s night out here. Luckily though the first-rate pork chop, house-made sausage, and well-constructed drinks do not disappoint. The pool table, live music, and cute bartenders mean that your party will continue (and potentially grow) even after you finish dessert.

The Date Debate

December 16th, 2008

You flirt shamelessly. He’s says, “Let’s do dinner Thursday night- you pick the place.” You say, “Great it’s a date” and then cringe- is it really a date? Like a date-date? Why did you have to say the word date? And even though he is the one that did the asking, you’re the one feeling like you are about to be rejected – and you have to pick the place. Choose one of these carefully middling restaurants where you can play cordial until you are comfortably feeding each other dessert at the end.

Al di la
[248 Fifth Ave.] [718.783.4565]

The communal tables here are not the ruckus they are at say, Kampuchea. But they will still grant you the illusion of being out with a group (even if it is a group that has absolutely no interest in talking to you.) Handmade pastas are superb. As are the braised rabbit and hanger steak. By the time you get to the gianduitto (an amazing chocolate gelato with hazelnuts) you’ll have forgotten everyone else in the room.

[328 E. 6th St.] [212.673.3984]

This charming Japanese restaurant is hidden in the midst of curry row. Slip in and feel quite far away while you enjoy braised pork belly, miso cod, fried oysters, and plum pickles straight from Iwaki, Japan (and the Chef’s mother’s garden no less.) By the end of the Omakase Tasting (a terrific value at $30) you will feel the urge to never return to the outside world.

[86 S. Portland Ave.] [718.643.0000]

Yes, it is small. Which means you’ll have no choice but to be up close and personal with your date. The black bean and plantain quesadilla is fantastic – as are the fish tacos. And really- what better test is there than a couple margaritas to discover that you both have secretly wanted to make out for months.

[2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd.] [212.662.0620]

On the one hand sharing your food is quite romantic. On the other, eating with your hands generally is not so much. Zoma magically combines both. The Harlem Ethiopian eatery sports low lights and superbly flavored food. Try one of the samplers for two and feed each other slow cooked stews, lentils, and vegetables with bits of injera- flat bread that here (happily) isn’t as spongy as other Ethiopian joints.

Play with Fire

December 9th, 2008

For when you are smoking mad and just need to light something on fire. Bypass the felony and release your inner pyromaniac at one of these flame-friendly restaurants. Fantastic food, cocktails and conversation will have you feeling like yourself in no time. And perhaps next time you are feeling burned up inside- you’ll automatically reach for a fork instead of a matchbook.

Bourgeois Pig
[111 E. 7th St.] [212.475.2246]

A pig’s head door knocker and slight host are the only identifiers at this East Village restaurant. Put your name in and head across the street to their former location and current wine and ceviche bar. Once inside antique armchairs and lavish wallpaper set the stage for sweet and savory fondues- including an especially delicious seasonal Pumpkin Raclette. Meticulously concocted champagne punch is served in a silver punch bowl- and a delight.

[23 W. 32nd St.] [212.695.5815]

Charcoal tabletop grills make this the Korean BBQ spot to go to when other neighborhood places have replaced theirs with gas. The smoke filled room and 24 hour policy makes this the perfect retreat for cocktails and DIY grilling that will make you feel very far from home.

[359 Bleecker St.] [212.929.8727]

While you won’t actually get to play with the fire- you can saddle up near enough to it. The wood burning oven is the focus here and turns out first-rate dishes including slow cooked pig, roasted beets, sweetbreads, and an Alsatian onion and bacon tart that is to die for.

[805 3rd Ave.] [212.702.8816]

The Japanese take on Korean BBQ. You pick your meat (including kobe beef, short ribs, skirt steak, and tongue.) And start grilling. Almost everything comes in convenient foiled packets that you throw on the grill (try the garlic mushrooms or asparagus.) There are even s’mores for dessert. Brunch and lunch will get you the best deals.

Get Stuffed (Again.)

November 25th, 2008

Thanksgiving is here! Which does not mean going to a restaurant for your holiday meal (I don’t care how small your apartment is or how well [fill-in-your-own-restaurant] does it- it’s still sad.) However, after you come out of your Thursday turkey coma and think that you need a least a year before you do that to yourself again. Don’t be fooled- head to one of these restaurants and get another fix.

The Little Owl
[90 Bedford St.] [212.741.4695]

If you are feeling slightly cheated by your mother’s assault on Thanksgiving (dry turkey, rehydrated potato flakes, and some limp green beans) call a do-over and enjoy some fancier autumnal eats. Start with a bibb salad dressed with pumpkin seed vinaigrette. And then take comfort in the crispy chicken, brussel sprouts, and side of bourbon, maple squash. Finish with the delightful pear crisp.

[328 Lenox Ave.] [212.996.0660]

This soul food institution, in addition to glorious ribs and fried chicken, doles out thanksgiving staples – candied yams, mashed potatoes and sweet potato pie – all year long. And if you are against baked chicken as a stand in you can always head up on a Thursday for stewed turkey wings and cornbread dressing.

Jive Turkey
[441 Myrtle Ave.] [718.797.1688]

Stop whining that your brother once again stole the turkey leg and head to this turkey factory to get yours. Pick up a combination of fried turkey parts, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing and yam brulee. Better yet- schedule a second Thanksgiving (with people you can actually stand) and choose from fifteen variations on the full bird including: peach bourbon, red wine cranberry and Cajun.

[1272 Amsterdam] [212.531.7600]

While it is certainly recommended that you get your fill of turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, greens, and gravy – it is the pies here that take center stage. Indulge in first-rate berry, chocolate pecan, pumpkin and classic double-crusted apple by the slice… or the pie. And downtowners don’t need to fret- there is a second location at 156 Chambers St..

Morning-After Brunch

November 18th, 2008

Six hours of dancing and god knows how many cocktails find you at someone else’s apartment with a piercing headache and pretty foggy recollection of the last 12 hours. Before embarking on your walk of shame- share some grub and awkward conversation at one of these brunch spots.

[89 Greenwich Ave.] [212.691.8080]

After a night of behaving badly, you are certainly going to need something good. Cheddar cornbread, buttermilk biscuits, and orange sour-cream donuts make it hard to even get past the bread menu. If you do the country frittata, lemon ricotta pancakes, or the goodegg sandwhich will be your reward. And as there is no real chance of you ever making it in before eleven- you can enjoy the brilliant green chili mac and cheese from the lunch menu.

[120 Essex St.] [212.533.9616]

Hair of the dog. Start right back up with this booze brunch. $16 buys you one of their brunch entrees and three drinks (although when you add in mid-glass fillings it is often even more.) Try the crispy potato pancakes, bannas foster French toast, or Mexican Matzo Brei. And don’t worry; even the few people that made it home- are still liable to be wearing their outfit from the night before.

[135 N. 5th St.] [718.302.5151]

Biscuits and gravy, cheese grits, and hash browns will help soak up the alcohol from the night before. And the fact that everything is from local producers will make you feel better about the massive amounts you will consume. Try the Eggs Rothko (a soft cooked egg tucked in brioche and topped with melted cheddar) happily broiled tomatoes make the menu as well.

[156 Tenth Ave.] [212.924.4440]

Don’t even bother trying to remember how you made it to Chelsea. Simply indulge in beignets, skillet eggs, cornmeal pancakes, twice-smoked bacon and even a jelly donut. The Chilaquilles (baked eggs Huevos Rancho style) are top notch. And if you are feeling revitalized head to a nearby gallery for a proper date.

The Ex Factor

November 11th, 2008

Dinner with the Ex. Whether it is for closure (or just to get your damn stuff back) you’re going to need a physical place to meet – and one that:

1. isn’t romantic
2. isn’t in either one of your neighborhoods (to save you from a too-close-to-home accidental hook-up)
3. and certainly no place you used to frequent as a “we”

Make nice and not out at one of these choice restaurants.

[295 Flatbush Ave.] [718.230.0221]

Not that pizza and wine at the ever-charming Franny’s can’t be romantic- but there are enough focus points: the bright room, the presence of families, to remind you that it doesn’t have to be. Concentrate on the pizza – the Tomato, Olio Verde and Sea Salt, and the Mozzarella, Garlic and Basil (unlike your ex) will never let you down.

Barrio Chino
[253 Broome St.] [212.228.6710]

Fantastic salsas, guacamole, tacos, mole and house-infused tequilas will put you in a much better mood – and the lively noise level will help prevent him from launching into a why-did-you-dump-me monologue. An added precaution: if your eyes do start to water- you can always blame it on the spicy habanero-grapefruit margarita.

The Spotted Pig
[314 W. 11th St.] [212.620.0393]

The in between meals meal is the perfect time to meet up with an ex- you have an excuse to look fabulous because of course you have plans after (and to be safe actually make plans so that he doesn’t turn into them.) And thankfully April Bloomfield’s in between meals menu includes the Roquefort burger to provide all the comfort you need.

The Mermaid Inn
[568 Amsterdam Ave.] [212.799.7400]

Hit up their classic New England fish fry on a Wednesday night and indulge in fish and chips, creamed corn, hush puppies and cole slaw. If the $18 price tag doesn’t make you feel better about losing your meal ticket – than the $2 PBRs will.

Stephanie is Allergic to the World

November 4th, 2008

Well maybe not the world… but Stephanie who up until a week ago subsisted off of some combination of bread, cheese, and sugar – discovered due to a yeast & mold allergy that she can no longer eat any of them (as well as no mushrooms, wine, vinegar, and a whole slew of other things that make eating, never mind eating out, seem like a rather impossible task.) Try the following restaurants for some delicious yeast-free eats (with or without Stephanie.)

Better Burger
[587 9th Ave.] [212.629.6622]

With burgers and dogs made with 100% meat there is no chance of yeast-infected fillers in the mix. Skip the bun and top with soy American, red onions and zesty guacamole. Oven baked fries round out the meal- and an ingredient book makes is really easy to check which tempting condiments work for you. Additional locations include Chelsea & Murray Hill.

The Yoghurt Place
[71 Sullivan St.] [212.219.3500]

Greek yogurt! It’s thick, creamy, delicious and due to live cultures – totally acceptable to eat (don’t ask me why yeast running around in one thing is bad and cultures running around in another is good but it works.) Replace your ice cream fix with yogurt topped with nuts and honey. It’s truly lovely. And while you are there pick up some tzatziki for home.

Café Viva
[2578 Broadway] [212.663.8482]

Pizza. Yes, Pizza. Luckily for Stephanie their Pizza Pura is made with a yeast free, dairy free & wheat free crust and is available “Naturale” topped with organic tomato sauce, miso tofu, eggplant, zucchini, red pepper & spinach or “Vegetarian” topped with organic tomato sauce, onions, broccoli, and soy cheese (hold the mushrooms.) And luckily for you, it’s quite tasty as well.

Chai Home Kitchen
[124 N. 6th St.] [718.599.5889]

Forget Stephanie- head here for fantastic peanut dumplings, curries, and an excellent duck tamarind. And because most Thai dishes are rice based and soy sauce free it just happens to be generally yeast-free (but double check with your server to make sure!)

B.Y.O. Book Club (& Booze!)

October 28th, 2008

Not that booze makes talking about books better- but a large table, a leisurely meal, and the b.y.o. policy at these restaurants offers the perfect environment for a book club date. So finish up those last couple chapters, pick up a bottle of wine, and head on over and join the discussion.

A Casa Fox
[173 Orchard St.] [212.253.1900]

Claim the large wooden table and then order one of everything on the menu. The empanadas are phenomenal- order the full size versions and split them rather than the sampler (the filling to crust ratio works better.) Try the pulled pork, spiced beef, or chorizo. The fried manchego, risotto croquettes, and crab cakes serve well to round the meal. Bring a bottle of rum and buy a mojito start-up.

Ivo & Lulu
[558 Broome St.] [212.226.4399]

Enjoy French-Caribbean fare at this budget bistro (with entrees around $15 and no corkage fee.) Don’t be surprised if they bring your party back outside to the storefront next door- it will give you more room (and fill up by the time you are ready to leave.) Pack a few bottles of wine and indulge in duck confit, boar and sage sausage, and smoked mussels.

La Superior
[295 Berry St.] [718.388.5988]

Pick up beers on the corner, push a couple tables together, and start ordering mouth-watering Mexican street food. Street style quesadillas, tacos, gorditas and awesome salsas will have you totally addicted. And the super-friendly staff is more likely to pull up a chair and join the discussion than try and rush you out the door.

[575 Henry St.] [718.858.4086]

Superb thin-crust pies make the at times lengthy wait worth it. Put your name in and head around the block to pick up a couple bottles of wine. Or use the time to jump-start the book talk- or accept that once the pizza comes all responses will be reduced to “mmmmm.”

Dine With Strangers

October 21st, 2008

If you’re in a more-the-merrier mood, saddle up with strangers at one of these communal tables. The environment is noisy, casual, and full of unpredictable encounters. And with diners in all stages of their meal you can conveniently check out their food (or ask how it is) without the awkward neck craning.

[78 Rivington St.] [212.529.3901]

Start with a few of their Cambodian small plates (the pork belly and baby back ribs are both stellar) and if you are a pair split the Num Pang sandwich tasting for two. The sandwiches are served on a toasted baguette and topped with pickled carrots, cilantro and chili mayo – pulled oxtail, catfish, and coconut tiger shrimp are favorites. And happily, pickled vegetables pack a punch and accompany most dishes.

Bon Appétit Supper Club & Café
[221 W. 57th St.]

Give Chipotle a break, for two weeks only (October 23-31) Bon Appétit will open a restaurant to cure your midtown lunch woes (the suppers are by invitation only). So grab a seat with a co-worker at one of the large communal tables brought in just for this occasion and enjoy Charlie Trotter’s leek soup, Mario Batali’s chorizo empanda, and Michael Psilakis’ greek salad (check out the full menu). As if you needed an additional draw there will be chef demos, Q&A’s, and book signings.

[37 Union Square West] [212.627.7172]

The super-sized communal tables and quick turn over allows this trendy Thai restaurant to keep their prices low (with nearly everything around $10). The cold beef noodles, pad thai, and curry duck noodles are all sure bets. And the fried wontons and coconut shrimp are fantastic accompaniments.

DuMont Burger
[314 Bedford Ave.] [718.384.6127]

Head to the offshoot of DuMont for a good burger, a beer, and 30 new friends- grab a seat where you can and enjoy some tasty comfort food. The burger is solid, and if you aren’t in the mood the pulled pork and mac & cheese are more than suitable substitutions.