Tag Archives: New York Deals

Little Town NYC


It’s not often that you’ll find a negative restaurant review on Food E. Most of the time if I go to a restaurant and it’s mediocre or downright terrible, I take it to Yelp. I like to keep this a positive place and one where you can come to scroll and find all amazing things.

Well… consider this a break in tradition.

Last night The BF headlined a show at Caroline’s on Broadway and a friend and I thought we’d get some drinks and snacks pre-show. Finding a bar in midtown is not always easy, so I took to the interwebz for recommendations. I found that Little Town NYC which opened their first shop in Union Square, had opened a sister store in midtown. Being from Rochester, people are always trying to tell me where I can find garbage plates in the city, and Little Town is a name that’s come up more than once. The restaurant features all New-York-State-based foods: Buffalo wings, Rochester garbage plates, Long Island oysters, Binghamton spiedies, etc. I was incredibly excited.

Upon first entering the restaurant, I realized there was no air conditioning. Let me tell you a little something about New York City in the summer: it’s freaking hot. In addition to the steamy temperatures, we walk everywhere. And I was wearing heels. 10 minute walk + 86 degrees + 4 inch heels = 1 sweaty mess. Little Town’s three pathetic fans were barely spinning and the air conditioning must’ve been set to 80 degrees. But I had told my friend this is where we were meeting, and meet there we would.

I looked up at the huge chalkboard over the bar touting all the $5 happy hour beers on tap. I asked the waitress how sweet the sour cherry cider was. “Oh, we’re out of that.” “Okay,” I said, “How about the Checkered Cab?” “Oh… we’re actually out of that, too. The board hasn’t been updated, I guess.” I wiped sweat from my forehead and asked for something, anything, cold and light. My dining partner asked for a vodka cocktail that was also on happy hour special at 2 for 1. The beer arrived semi-cold and the cocktail arrived semi-cocked. “This is all cranberry juice,” my friend said with a grimace. She downed the tiny thing in three gulps. “I guess we know why they’re 2 for 1.”

I took a look at the food menu, searching first for the garbage plate. I didn’t really think I’d order it (let’s face it, fellow Rochesterians, we know those plates are their best when you’re 3 drinks in and hunched over that red tray in the brightly lit “dining room” of a dingy Hots at 2:30 in the morning) but I wanted to know what it was all about. First things first, it costs $18. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS. If you’re not familiar with a garbage plate and you’re too lazy to click that link above, a garbage plate is mac salad, home fries, 2 burgers, onions, hot sauce, and ketchup and mustard. Not a single ingredient in there costs upwards of $.50, and even with markups the plates in Rochester only cost around $8. The Little Town menu says “Feeds 2.”

DUH.

We ordered pretzel crusted chicken fingers and fried oysters. My friend said she was concerned the chicken would be breaded in pretzel dough and I laughed at her. “No, I’m sure it’s coated in hard pretzel crumbs.” Oh… you’re sure, Lauren? You’re SURE. HOW CAN YOU BE SO SUUUURE?

I was wrong. Soft pretzel breading with some kind of bizarro hard pretzel chunks mixed in. The fried oysters, served over “coleslaw”, were on the half shell. The oysters alone were pretty tasty, if not faintly tasting of heavy grease. I just wish those oysters hadn’t been nestled into giant dollops of mayonnaise mixed with wilted cabbage.

During our meal I saw a garbage plate go by on its way to another table. I guess Little Town’s way of giving you your $18’s worth is to use “fancy” pasta instead of plain old elbow macaroni because the mac salad portion of the dish looked like an entree at an Italian restaurant.

Here’s a tangent: street food is street food for a reason. It is cheap and popular because it is simple and accessible. Hometown favorites like garbage plates are not meant to be gussied up and served over fancy pasta on a china plate in a dimly lit bistro. I guess for a lot of people the novelty of a dish is worth eating out and forking over $18 for, but I am not one of those people.

Overall, I would not recommend Little Town NYC based on lackluster service (we had to flag down our waitress for drinks, waited awhile to get said drinks, and flag her down again for the check), uncomfortable dining room, unavailable menu items, overpriced and underwhelming food, and stripping one of my favorite dishes of its charm.

…too harsh? Now you know why I don’t write more negative reviews.

Little Town NYC, 366 W. 46th St (between 8th Ave and 9th Ave), New York, NY.

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Hot Dog Crawl

Have you ever been like, “Man, I could really go for a hot dog” but you have this weird hang up about all the weird bacteria that might be floating in the street carts? I know. I’ve been there. I feel your pain.

What you might not know is that there are tons options in New York City for “gourmet” hot dogs – and by “gourmet” I mean prepared in a real kitchen and served with top notch ingredients. Below are three of the stand out options, all within walking distance of the others. So… you know, should you choose to do a “hot dog crawl,” you could hit all 3 in one shot. But let me warn you, 3 hot dogs in one sitting is a lot. Some might call it too much. Not that I would know from personal experience… I’m just saying.

Jersey’s Finest at Crif Dogs

Crif Dogs, 113 Saint Marks Place (Between 1st Ave and Ave A), New York, NY. Crif Dogs is a tiny, hole in the wall place that you might walk right by were it not for the GIANT hot dog hanging outside the door. Take a walk down the steps and into hipster heaven: if there was any doubt, a note on the register tells you that they accept tips in the form of Tim and Eric quotes. I knew this was my kind of place. I ordered a PBR and a dog called Jersey’s Finest: taylor ham wrapped house dog smothered in mustard, onions & a secret chili sauce*. This was PERFECTION and my favorite hot dog of the three restaurants. It was a total guilty pleasure and probably had a bajillion calories, but who cares? A hot dog wrapped in ham topped with more meat? Ok!

Sidney at AsiaDog

AsiaDog, 66 Kenmare Street (Between Mulberry St and Mott St), New York, NY. I tasted an AsiaDog when they had a small stall at Madison Square Eats, a gathering of specialty food stalls in Madison Square Park. The line was epic, but I waited 45 minutes because first of all, I wanted that dog and second of all, everyone kept raving about how amazing they were. I purchased a Sidney: a beef hot dog with Thai mango relish (cilantro, red onion, and cucumber) and crushed peanuts, and a sparkling limeade. If a hot dog can be refreshing, this one was. The topping was super fresh and crunchy, and the peanuts added an entirely different element that I wasn’t expecting. I love, love, love foods with drastically different textures and this hot dog was one of the best textured dishes I’ve ever had. Well done meals from high end retailers… in hot dog form? I’m telling you kids, it can be done.

Terimayo at JapaDog

JapaDog, 30 Saint Marks Place (Between 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave), New York, NY. This was the last stop on my hot dog tour and I have to believe it had something to do with the fact that it was my least favorite. I ordered the Terimayo: a beef frank with teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed. I scraped off all the seaweed because it reminded me too much of sushi (raw fish and hot dogs just don’t mix, you know?) and then it was pretty good, but nothing crazy or special. The hot dog did not have that crispy skin that I love and the bun was mediocre.

Overall, my hot dog crawl left me feeling full and like I didn’t want to see another hot dog for quite some time. So while I may not recommend hitting all three of these spots at once, I definitely recommend one (or two…) for a cheapo meal any hour of the day.

*For some reason, this item has disappeared from Crif Dogs’ online menu but you can custom build it if you want. I highly recommend that you do.

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Free Sangria!

There’s a headline that’ll get your attention, am I right? This past weekend I went out for a delicious brunch with my lovely friend, Ben. When he sent me a list of possible new brunch spots, I saw the words “free sangria” and all other information was null and void. If there’s a better way to kick off your Sunday, I have never heard of it.

Combination plate with scrambled eggs, chorizo, and yuca frita

Agozar 326 Bowery and Bleecker St, New York, NY. Agozar is a Cuban-inspired restaurant positioned in a trendy neighborhood but with friendly prices. The brunch can not be beat! For around $15 – $17 you get an entree and two-hour unlimited free sangria.

On the menu:
Eggs benedict, Cuban style (Spanish ham, poached eggs, chipotle hollandaise, and Cuban toast) with salad
Combination plate: scrambled eggs, chorizo, yuca frita, and Cuban toast
Sangria!

Eggs benedict, Cuban style

Verdict: I don’t know, I’m still drunk.

Kidding! The food was DELICIOUS. An unlimited brunch drink special is no good if the food isn’t worth going for alone, and Agozar did not disappoint. Most would tell you I have an eggs benedict addiction and while they may be borderline correct, I just love trying out a new take on my favorite dish. My only criticism is that I like a thick slab of ham and you can see that this was sliced deli thin. In my opinion, when you have a hearty dish like eggs benedict you need the meat to stand out on its own. The chipotle hollandaise was a slightly spicy take on your standard hollandaise and while not a fan of anything spicy myself, I was putting this stuff on my lettuce and debating licking the plate clean. The chorizo was also perfectly done, crispy and hot off the grill and served in link form, which I prefer to the chorizo crumble you get in a lot of restaurants.

It should also be said that while the sangria was free, it was also very tasty. And they are not shy about refilling your glass! I highly recommend it.

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Midtown Reprieve

If I had a nickel for every time I complained about midtown lunch, I could quit my job. I could quit my job and send myself to culinary school… and then I could open my own bakery in San Francisco and buy a houseboat and sit on the porch every night and look out over the water with my trusty Bernese Mountain Dog by my side…

Ahem.

So. Midtown lunch. A welcome break in the form of burgers, coming at you September 7.

4food East 40th St and Madison Avenue, New York, NY. I was lucky enough (thanks, Shannon!!) to attend a special pre-opening event at 4food, a brand new spot in Manhattan that offers a high-tech atmosphere with endless burger options. Their slogan is “De-junking fast food” and with a dizzying array of burger options. I won’t bore you with a list here, but you should check out their “build a burger” website and let the drooling commence.

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On the menu:
Pork burger on a pumpernickel roll with avocado chili mango and gruyere cheese
Square roots: crispy sweet potato, Idaho potato, and purple potato squares with sweet chili sauce
Peach and rosehip iced tea with fresh peaches

Verdict: Ahhhh SO good! The space is warehouse-like with a giant screen on the first floor that scrolls with a live Twitter feed. The staff walks around the restaurant with iPads to ask how you’re doing, help you order, and offer up suggestions. It’s like a diner of the future! My pork burger was moist and flavorful, and the toppings were a nice complement to the spicy pork. The packaging of the burger and the Square Roots (a take on French fries) boasts that nothing in the place is deep fried. The Roots are baked and then probably pan fried in oil, but “nothing deep fried” makes me feel like I could be eating carrots, and same diff, right? At least that’s what I will tell myself when I visit 4food every other Monday.

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Braving the Rain

You know you’re a dedicated food writer (or just fat) when you brave torrential downpours and hurricane winds for an ice cream festival at South Street Seaport.

A tiny cone of lemon verbena

The New Amsterdam Market is one of many markets in New York City that offers locally grown produce and other local edible goodies, such as wine, maple syrup, ice cream, and cheese. All the vendors come from the North East each weekend and bring their delicious stuff with them. They host special events and festivals all the time, so it’s worth checking back to their website to find out what’s on the menu for the fall.

Sunday’s ice cream festival featured New York staples such as Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream and MilkMade (mentioned here!), as well as Early Bird Cookery, Roberta’s, The Bent Spoon, and Marlow & Daughters. $20 got me 6 tiny cones of incredibly innovative flavors, some better than others.

Some bizarro but incredible flavors from Early Bird Cookery

Roasted peach with black pepper (by far the day’s winner! who knew sweet peaches with a spicy after taste of black pepper would be so divine?!)
Beet
Hay (yes… HAY) with local honey
Ginger and blackberry
Bourbon vanilla with sea salt caramel (more than 1 cone of this and I would’ve been drunk)
Fresh ricotta
Nectarine sorbet
Lemon verbena

The stand out flavors were the roasted peach with black pepper, as mentioned, the nectarine sorbet, and the fresh ricotta with an incredibly thick and creamy texture and perfect cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice blend. The rain was pouring down but I was radiating sunshine from within. See? That’s a happy face.

Double fisting!

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Hot Time, Summer in the City

As I mentioned, I am never one to be up on new hot spots in the city. If I’m raving to a friend about an amazing “new” place I stumbled upon, it’s usually followed by an eye roll and a, “Yeah, that opened three years ago.” But this time it’s different! A ha. I am finally in the know.

The bar at Reunion Surf Bar, complete with giant-sized bartender. Cowabunga, indeed.

Reunion Surf Bar 44th Street between 8th Avenue and 9th Avenue, New York, NY. Reunion is an almost-hidden bar in Hell’s Kitchen (aka Culinary Wasteland) that is, for now, a spacious, dimly lit, surf-themed bar with potent cocktails and a creative bar menu that highlights the cuisine of Madagascar (Reunion island is off the coast of Madagascar). Videos of skaters and surfers play on the flat screen TVs as a “Gidget” vibe hangs heavy in the air. It isn’t fake or overtly kitschy – it’s just genuine and laid back and a welcomed oasis in the center of midtown Manhattan.

On the menu:
Hang Ten cocktail
Mai Thai
Le Americain sandwich

The Hang Ten and the Mai Thai

Verdict: YUMMM OH THANK YOU JESUS YUM! I can’t tell you what a relief it is to now have a delicious cocktail bar with incredible food situated a few short avenues from my office. Or maybe it’s not a relief to my ever shrinking bank account. Whatever.

The cocktails at Reunion are the perfect blend of potent and smooth. I hate when a bartender feels like they need to put enough alcohol in your drink to make you drunk after three sips. I’m not 19… I mean, 21 anymore, Bar Man. Make me a nice-tasting cocktail. Becca and I started out with $3 grapefruit/vanilla shots (yeah, Happy Hour til 8!) and swiftly moved on to cocktails: the Hang Ten was exceptionally delicious, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t traditionally enjoy a sweet drink.

The standout of the evening, however, was a sandwich called Le Americain: a baguette split open and stuffed with won ton meatballs, a sweet-mustard chutney, melted gruyere, and FRENCH FRIES. Did you hear me? I said a SANDWICH stuffed with FRENCH FRIES. The waitress told us it was “huge” and easily split between two people but truth be told… we could have each eaten our own. It’s just that delicious.

Or we’re just fat.

I can’t recommend this bar enough, so hit it before it fills up with suits and Bridge-and-Tunnelers. Because you know that it will.

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Crazy Deal Comin’ At Ya!

I’ll be out of town this weekend (dog-sitting! I’m more excited than I should be…) and while I’m stoked to get away, I can’t BELIEVE I’m missing this!

Prix Fixe Brunch and Oyster Lesson
What:
Chef Nick Korbee gives a shucking tutorial, followed by brunch in the quaint former carriage house.
Why: Penn Cove oysters with Rainier cherries, grapefruit brulee with lemon mascarpone, Broad St. Benedict (poached egg, Bluepoint oyster fritter, roasted potatoes, choron sauce), and a Bloody Mary or champagne cocktail for $18.
When: Saturday at 11:15 a.m.
Where:
Smith & Mills, 71 N. Moore St., b/t Greenwich & Hudson Sts. (212-226-2515).

Someone please, please go to this and then tell me all about it.

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Blue Smoke

This week I participated in my second Restaurant Week venture, with a delicious pay off (every once in awhile you get a RW dud where it’s clear you’re getting the establishment’s dregs… cough SMITH & WOLLENSKY cough).

Blue Smoke East 27th St, between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue, New York, NY. Blue Smoke specializes in barbeque, with regional specialties from across the country. In the basement of the restaurant is Jazz Standard, a renowned jazz club with live music every night of the week.

Grilled octopus over wild rice

On the menu:
Grilled octopus over wild rice with hazelnuts and cherry tomatoes
Chicken wings with blue cheese sauce
Kansas City Spareribs with coleslaw and pit beans
Peach and raspberry crisp with buttermilk ice cream
Sour cream cheesecake with blackberries and mint

Peach and raspberry crisp with buttermilk ice cream

Verdict: I should preface by telling you that I am a BBQ snob. I know… shocking. The best ribs I’ve ever had are the face-meltingly good babyback ribs at Kirsty’s Red Dog Tavern in Inlet, NY way up north in the Adirondacks, and at Black-eyed Sally’s BBQ and Blues in Hartford, CT. Everything else pales in comparison.

So while the ribs at Blue Smoke were good, it was the pit beans that became the star of the show. They had a beautiful smoky-sweet flavor and were nestled between delicately tender shreds of pulled pork. I could’ve eaten a bowl of the beans alone. The octopus was also surprisingly delicious for a BBQ joint, and proves that the kitchen is much more skilled than BBQ diners might anticipate.

Another point worth mentioning is the outstanding Blue Smoke Original Ale. Just give me a pint of Blue Smoke, a bowl of pit beans, and I’m happy.

I’m a simple girl, folks.

Sour cream cheesecake with berries and mint

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Classy Ladies

That is one giant shaker of Old Bay, but we're not complaining

In addition to my incredible birthday lunch, I was treated to an equally delicious birthday dinner. I got an e-mail a few weeks ago about a special deal at Choptank in Manhattan from Tasting Table (on a side note, if you live in New York and you don’t get these e-mails, you are SERIOUSLY missing out). For $36 you get half a dozen crabs and a growler of beer. I said, a GROWLER of beer. That’s a half gallon, people. One half gallon of beer.

Please don’t judge me.

Anyway, I knew this was what I wanted for my birthday. When the waitress laid out the newspaper, handed us little wooden hammers, and set down a roll of paper towels, I knew I made the right choice.

They pour those crabs out on the table in front of you from a paper bag! Love it.

Choptank 308 Bleecker Street between Grove Street and Barrow Street, New York, NY. Choptank is named after the Choptank River in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay. The food is mid-Atlantic inspired and seafood-centric, and just down-home enough to make me want to go back again and again.

On the menu:
Homemade potato chips with Old Bay, served with crab dip (a free starter!)
Middleneck Clams with garlic Butter, herbs, and country toast
Tasting Table special: 6 crabs plus a growler of Lionshead Deluxe Pilsner, served with red potatoes and fresh corn
Thousand layer cake with fudge frosting
Hamburger cookies with frosting and vanilla ice cream

Thousand layer cake

Verdict: The clams! The clams! Oh lord, the clams! The crabs were a lot of work (a LOT of work) and not really worth the effort, but oh man, the clams. I could’ve eaten three dozen. They were served in a steam pot full of melted butter with just a pinch of red pepper flakes and a hint of garlic. Becca and I both agreed we’d like to pour that sauce on everything from steak to cardboard. It was that good. Choptank gets its seafood from a New York fish market, but their baked goods are imported: the cake from a local bakery, and the cookies are delivered straight from Maryland where hamburger cookies are a local specialty.

Hamburger cookies - essentially black and white cookies but amaaaaazing

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Oui, Oui Baby

Marinated fingerling potatoes

French food is my favorite cuisine. Hands down. And for my birthday, my parents took me to Gordon Ramsay’s Maze at The London where Monsieur Ramsay has created quite the menu. This $26 pre-fixe lunch is available year round, but right now it’s Restaurant Week and there is an additional pre-fixe menu for only $24.07. So… there’s really no reason not to go. Have you left yet? Okay, read the review first. And then go.

Tortellini of beef short rib

Maze by Gordon Ramsay at The London 54th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue, New York, NY. Maze offers a standard 3-course pre-fixe meal for lunch with tapas-sized offerings. The food is French-inspired but in true Gordon Ramsay style, there is an element of comfort food and Asian fusion.

Pan seared halibut

On the menu:

Marinated fingerling potatoes with Holland leeks, poached quail’s egg, and prosciutto
Tortellini of beef short rib with escarole, trumpette royale and dashi
Cobb salad with free-range eggs and blue cheese
Pan-seared halibut with butternut squash and brown butter vinegar sauce
Boulliabaisse
Chocolate pudding with stout ice cream, pretzel, peanut butter powder
Vanilla custard with citrus fruits, brown sugar oats and mandarin sorbet

Cobb salad (minus the bacon for my veg mom)

Verdict: DEEEEELICIOUS! I read very mixed reviews of this restaurant online, but I was so impressed, as were my parents, and that’s saying something. I won’t try to run through every dish for you, but let me tell you that the sauces made these plates. My gorgeous halibut was set down in front of me and then the waiter poured the brown butter sauce over and I almost dove in head first. The chocolate pudding was also a stand out dish, and I don’t know what peanut butter powder is but I know I need more of it in my life. I went back to work in a food coma and was effectively useless for the rest of the day. In my book: success.

Boulliabaisse

Chocolate pudding

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