Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hanging Around St. Marks

Baoguette Cafe (37 St. Marks Place)
Baoguette Cafe is a small cafe on St Marks between 2nd and 3rd ave serving delicious Vietnamese cuisine. The cafe itself is small as it only fits 20 people max. Some friends and I thought it looked pretty unique so we stopped in for a bite. We sat at the 3 seats at the counter, giving us a perfect view of the narrow kitchen. The menu is broken down into three main components: appetizers, sandwiches, and noodles & rice. The menu also has a dessert and drink section, but that seems to be glanced over. Dining here made me feel like I was tucked away in some market in Asia, which was a cool feeling considering we were in NYC. The ambiance and decor really gave way to their concept.

The waitress greeted us with menus, water, and a big smile. She also informed us that the cafe was BYOB, so after placing on order--we got some beers! I immediately knew it was going to be a good meal as soon as I saw the condiments on the bar counter. Every guest had soy sauce, siracha, and a grinder with fresh jalapenos available to them like your typical salt and peppers. Although the menu seemed to offer a bunch of delicious options, I got the Grilled Pork Chop Sandwich and I couldn't have been more happy. The sandwich was made with Vietnamese style pork chop, fried egg, pickled daikon and Carrot, and Jalapeno. The waitress also informed me the sandwich came in mild, medium, or very spicy so she wanted to know my heat preference. I went with medium, which had a nice kick to it. The medium spiced sadnwich allowed you to get the flavors without numbing your mouth with spiciness. Not only was the sandwich aesthetically pleasing, but it was delicious. The combination of fried egg and pork chop went really well, not to mention the pickled daikon and carrots which not only helped with flavor but with texture.

I was also fortunate enough to try the PHO, which is beef noodle soup. and the Spicy Catfish Sandwich. The Catfish Sandwich was tumeric roasted Viet Catfish, cucumber relish, pickled red onion, honey mustard aoili, and jalapeno. Both were good, but my sandwich seemed to top both. I would definitely recommend this place for anyone hanging out in the East Village. The food is delicious and cheap, the atmosphere is authentic, the service is good, and its BYOB!

PDT (113 St. Marks Place)
PDT (Please Don't Tell) is a small, sexy speakeasy offering a variety of specialty cocktails whether classic or seasonal. Jim Meehan, mixology expert, heads the Crift Dog hideout. Enjoying yourself is not the hard part--its getting in. PDT is very well known and respected, but at the same time unknown. Even with reservations you sometimes cannot get in and I think its awesome. The space is a rather small and they do a good job in monitoring how many people are there. The best part of PDT (besides the cocktails) is the going into the phone booth and speaking with the lady on the other side of the wall. If you have reservations or know some1 then she will open up, but many are turned away. Although this seems a bit pretentious, its not. Everyone there is just is just looking to relax and have a good time. The service is a bit slow, but you could appreciate the bartender taking his/her time to create a delicious mixture. Although I cannot recall all the drinks I tasted due to their complex nature, I do remember my first drink which was the Benton Old Fashion. This was bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, and bitters poured over one huge ice cube. You could really appreciate a place that has many different types glasses, but you could really appreciate a place that has several different types of ice. Mixology is a underappreciated craft, but PDT pays homage to the cocktail and how versatile it is. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone looking for a good cocktail and a cool scene. If you bring a girl here on a date you will probably get laid--its that cool. But SHH! Please dont tell!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday Funday

(coming soon...)
Back to Basis: Good Food Festival
Standard Biergarten
Flight 151

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Tre Merli (183 W 10th Street)

Some say Fall is the best season is New York City and I might have to agree. The weather starts to get cool, which is a lot more desirable than the sweltering hot conditions we endured this summer. The air is crisp and cool, but not cold--perfect weather for jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt.

Taking advantage of the beautiful season, my friend Christa and I decided to walk around the West Village in search of some lunch. Not having a particular destination, we took the subway to West 4th and walked around. Christa had in her mind that she wanted to go to a "cute cafe", but after 45 mins of walking in circles, we just decided to pick the next place that looked decent.

I don't know if it was the white "Christmasy" lights that attracted us to this place or if we just gave up on our search. I thought the quaint bistro fit the definition of a "cute cafe" but then again I thought I saw a few of them.

The bistro itself was empty, so it was kind of nice having the whole restaurant to ourselves. The menu here didn't appeal to me too much, but I figured we'd be walking around for another 45 minutes if we didn't eat here. Not that the menu didn't appeal to me, I just figured we could find a better spot--and from the looks of it; other people must agree with me because no1 is here. The front of the house is ran by 1 lady who acts as the hostess, busser, server, and bartender. For filling all those roles, you would expect her to be busy; but no she had time to play on her laptop as she sat in the corner. Us being her only table, I would have thought she would have treated us like gold, but she didn't provide great service at all.

I originally asked for a big water because these restaurants with the small water glasses really piss me off. If you like small water glasses for some reason, make sure your waitstaff is attentive because I ran out of water about 5 times during the course of lunch. I had to flag the lady down from her corner table so I didn't die from dehydration. Ok...maybe that's a big exaggeration as far as being thirsty, but still--get your shit together!

Christa ordered the French Toast and a cappuccino. She really enjoyed her cappuccino as she mixed in a packet of raw sugar. She also enjoyed the French Toast, but I thought it was ok. I'm a tough fan of French Toast because I've had really great French Toast before. Don't get me wrong, it was ok--but I'm not going back there for the dish. The French Toast was served with fruit which sat in the middle of the plate.

I ordered the Parma Panini, which was Parma prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and arugula. The panini came with a side of mixed green salad that was pretty good. The salad was dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette that was quite tasty. The panini was really good. The panini didn't have a lot going on, but the quality of the product really made this dish a winner. The bread used in the panini was awesome and this is extremely important as we all know bread could make or break a sandwich. I'm not really sure what kind of bread they used, but it was really delicious. Christa also enjoyed the panini as she ordered one to go.

As much as I enjoyed the panini, I will probably not go back to I Tre Merli. The service wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. If we got the same service in a packed restaurant, I'd probably give the waitstaff the benefit of the doubt but this restaurant was empty as there's no excuse for not providing good service when you have one table. Also, the food took awhile to come after we ordered it. I didn't mind because we were having a good conversation, but I was definitely surprised how long it took. We didn't order anything crazy-- a panini and french toast; c'mon. The price point was what one would imagine at a little spot in the West Village. The atmosphere was nice as the doors of the restaurant opened up and let the cool breeze in. Its definitely a nice cozy spot.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Greenwich Street Tavern (399 Greenwich Street)

It was a beautiful day, so my friend Colette and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice brunch. We weren't sure where to go, so we wandered the streets of Tribeca looking for a restaurant with a decent menu and tables outside. This task was as easy as expected as we roamed around Tribeca for awhile. We were kind of looking for a brunch menu, but being a Tuesday--most restaurants were only offering lunch. We almost ended up at Bubby's but it was crowded and Colette wasn't really feeling the menu.

As we continued on our adventure, we came across the Greenwich Street Tavern which didn't offer outside seating, but had a pretty extensive menu. We both agreed that the menu looked good so we sat at a table near the huge open window which made us feel outside. The waitress was very nice as she recommended some dishes from the menu. She seemed very friendly with the two businessmen sitting next to us, so I'm sure the tavern has a lot of loyal customers.

We started off with some cocktails. Colette had the Bloody Mary which monstered over my 007. The drinks actually look awhile to get to the table--hope I didn't stump the bartender with my drink order. Colette's bloody Mary was served in a pint glass with tons of fruit garnishes including lemon and lime slices and a stick of olives. She seemed to enjoy the cocktail untill the very end when there seemed to be too much horseradish. My 007 was alright--pretty standard. Its not like they used freshly squeezed OJ!

After taking the waitress's recommendation, I ordered the pulled pork sandwich. Sometimes I get weary of ordering pulled pork for places not known for their BBQ. The Greenwich Street Tavern impressed me with both the flavor of the pulled pork and the serving size. The sandwich was pretty big and came with fries.

Colette ordered some kind of chicken sandwich that I didn't get to taste because I was so full from my sandwich. She enjoyed it very much whereas she made the busser take it away before she ate anymore. Colette then got a Mimosa as I stuck with another 007.

The server seemed to have a good grasp on the food, but her best characteristic was her charisma. She connected well with her guest and made them feel very comfortable. She even cracked a joke about the bartender when Colette asked what they use in a Bellini. The tavern itself was pretty big and got pretty packed at lunch. I would definitely recommend this place for lunch if in the Tribeca area. The food is good and the prices are too.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Weekend Review 9/10/2010

Coming soon...

Flatiron Lounge (37 W 19th Street)

Karavas (164 W 4th Street)

Brother Jimmy's (Union Square)

Black and White (86 E 10th Street)

Five Guys (Fulton Street)
I was so excited for Five Guys to come to the Financial District as I feel the area lacked a spot for a good, price-worthy burger. Well lets just say the area still leaves me hungry for a good burger at a good value. Yeah, The Open Door Gastropub has a pretty good burger but its the type of place where you have to sit and pay for the service of being waited on (its called tipping to all you cheap asses). Zaitzeff also has a decent burger, but nothing that had me rushing back there. I thought Five Guys would satisfy my desire for a delicious burger at a good price. There has been a lot of debate whether Five Guys or Shake Shack has the better burger, but in my mind there is no comparison. Shake Shack is so much better than Five Guys--debate over. But this is a review on Five Guys so I'll just have to wait to review Shake Shack next time I get the craving.

The bright red building sticks out on Fulton Street and attracts many Wall Streeters, but I don't see the big hype. The menu itself is concise as it only offers burgers, hot dogs, fries, water, and coca-cola beverages. The standard burger is two patties while the "little" burgers are only one patty. The menu offers both burgers and hot dogs with as many free toppings as you want whether it be lettuce and tomato or jalapeno peppers and grilled mushrooms.

I ordered a regular bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions and bbq sauce. The burger itself was dry and not particularly flavorful. I don't know if it was because the burger was overcooked or what, but I didn't care for it too much. The grilled onions also lacked flavor. Onions whether grilled or fried could push a burger into burger bliss, but these onions did nothing--much like the burger itself. The fries were pretty decent as they were thick-cut fries cooked in peanut oil.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with Five Guys; especially after hearing its the best burger in the city. I will probably not go back to Five Guys unless they want to use Domino's tactics and show up to my door with a free sample in hopes of winning me back.

Harry's Italian (Gold Street) Financial District
My friend Kristen and I decided to head over to Harry's Italian after rain caused us to skip the Hoboken Italian Festival. After anticipating the Italian Festival for a few days, we were craving Italian food, so we couldn't deprive ourselves a nice Italian meal. I was also craving wine, which was weird because I had been drinking beer earlier while watching football. I even had a few cherry-limeade-vodka concoctions--which were delicious while at Kristens. After snacking on some homemade mac n' cheese and fresh italian bread from the new megaplex Eataly, we finally started our walk to Harry's.

If you look back, I did a review on Harry's once before. I had picked up a chicken parmesan for lunch one day and was definitely impressed. I always try to go somewhere new but the financial district doesn't really give you many options on a late, sunday night. I also thought I could count on Harry's for a nice Italian meal and a good glass of wine to both I was craving.

We sat at the bar as the bartender rattled off some specials. Kristen ordered a glass of wine as I was checking the wine list. As her glass of wine arrived, I was really surprised as the wine was served in a smaller glass. I expted Harry's to serve a glass of wine in appropriate stem-ware--not those cheap standard wine glasses that people have in their dorms. Thats when I decided not to get wine and ordered a Sam Adam's Octoberfest.

The menu was standard old-school Italian which is OK, but I think we were hoping for a little something more as nothing really jumped out at us. We decided to head out. Harry's might not be a place for dinner, but I strongly suggest their lunch!

Cucina Bene Pizzeria (Exchange Place)
Just your average pizza place. Nothing special going on here. I got a chicken roll (chicken and mozzerella) that was pretty good. Its more of a take-out kind of place. A good spot if you need a cheap lunch

Friday, September 3, 2010

Adrienne's Pizza Bar

(coming soon)


23rd Street is a premier spot for quick-serve restaurants (QSR) whether a local pizza shop or a chain like Chipotle. The QSRs mostly compete for lunch business as the area dies down after 5pm. Press is among the QSRs in the flatiron section on 23rd street (close to 5th ave).

I decided to venture around the area as "family meal" at work didn't look all that appetizing. I thought of sitting down and getting something nice, but I finally thought something quick would be best considering I didn't have that much time. As I walked around East on 24th, nothing really jumped out at me. I then turned around and headed to 23rd street as I knew I could find something.

I was actually on my way to try out Energy Kitchen as its based off a similar concept of Muscle Maker Grill--one of my favorite lunch spots. I figured I could use a healthy meal and its close to work. As I'm walking I came across Press, which always caught my eye when walking on 23rd street. I figured Energy Kitchen could wait, so I went in and tried it out.

I was impressed by the idea that you build your own wrap, but more impressed with the whole idea of fresh dough being pressed into a tortilla wrap. They break down the process of creating a wrap much like Chipotle, but they have different options for fillers.

So I started by picking the rosemary wrap. The guy behind the counter pressed the fresh dough into a wrap then we started. The first step to making your wrap was picking the fillings. I thought this was a bit strange as I thought the protein would be the first step. How could I pick the fillings if I didn't decide on a protein? Anyway, I decided to get some fried onions and mozzerella cheese. On my next step, I picked steak as my protein. The guy at the counter yelled to the man at the grill, instructing him to throw on some steak. The last step was to pick a sauce, so I decided on BBQ. I grabbed a Orange Cream Soda to wash down my customized steak wrap.

I wasn't very impressed with the wrap. I thought the dough to make the wrap was chewy to eat. The steak was fresh and the onions were good, but the wrap itself killed it for me. I was a bit taken back because I figured the "fresh" pressed wrap would be the best part. The bottled orange cream soda that I got was pretty good, but not good enough to go back. Good thing 23rd has more options!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Breslin

An earlier post had a brief review on The Ace Hotel--home of The Breslin, Stumptown Coffee, and Sandwich No. 7. On my first visit, I went to Sandwich No. 7 which is right outside the ACE hotel. This sandwich shop is not like any sandwich shop you've been to as they have some of the weirdest sandwiches I've ever heard of. If you are an adventurous eater, definitely stop by and let the mad scientist of Sandwich No. 7 make you something delicious.

Unlike my first visit to The Ace Hotel, my second visit happened at night . A co-worker and myself decided to check out The Breslin for a drink after our shift. One of our managers had recently left Tabla to take on the GM position at The Breslin so we thought we'd go say hello and grab a drink.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see our old manager, but we got to grab a drink and experience a great hangout. The Breslin was developed by the same people who brought you The Spotted Pig. I was very impressed by The Breslin as it gave you that pub feel, but you also felt like you were dealing with professionals who really knew the business. For example: the bartenders were wearing vintage t-shirts, which gave off the impression of laid back; but they mixed you a great drink. The cocktail menu featured around ten choices which were all made with fresh juices and homemade syrups. They definitely had some interesting combinations and all cocktails were $12. The Breslin also offered two types of cask-conditioned beers: The Spotted Pig Bitter and The Breslin Aberdeen. The Breslin also offered 5 different beers on tap and another 6 in the bottle. Most of the beer was from local breweries like Captain Lawrence and Brooklyn Brewery although they kept some traditional beer like Guiness and Stella. A lot of people seemed to go for the Mexican beer, Tecate which was only $6 and came in a can.

I opted to try the Liquid Swords cocktail which is rye whiskey, orange curacao, aperol, green chartreuse, and topped with an orange peel. I was very interested as to see how whiskey and chartreuse blended together as I thought it was an unusual combo, but it came together very well. The cocktail was very well crafted and I appreciate that especially because the bar gives back a casual feel. Its refreshing to know you could grab a well-crafted cocktail without going to a fine dining establishment. Normally the cocktail is served in a martini glass, but I decided to change it up and enjoy it like a Sazerac in a rocks glass with no ice. The orange peel contributed a great aromatic touch to the cocktail.

The architecture of the bar restaurant went very well with the concept. The 130-seat restaurant had leather-clad, curtained-off booths which I thought was quite unusual, but definite unique. The curtained-off booths and the overall architecture gave off a certain sense of intimacy if wanted.

Outside the bar/restaurant is the lobby of The Ace hotel where a crowd of people gathered to hang out and listen to a DJ spin. I would have liked to hang out here, but security was pretty tight as the hotel lobby was "at capacity". The security guard assured me I'd get in within 15 minutes if I put my name on the list. I only stayed for one drink so putting my name on the list was unnecessary.

I will definitely be back at The Ace Hotel whether its to party in the lobby or enjoy another cocktail at The Breslin. I also look forward to eating at The Breslin as their menu seems to focus around meat! You will definitely hear more about this spot so stay tuned!