I apologize for paraphrasing you inaccurately Cristina. You were speaking about another restaurant in Oaxaca being “head and shoulders above” Casa Oaxaca, and perhaps you were speaking of in terms of traditional cuisine and not in quality. As a weekend visitor who has only one shot at my meals and who has plenty of both time and inclination for research, “only the best will do” for me, so even if Guzina Oaxaca is exceptional I will not risk being the one to find out! Your not hearing any buzz about Guzina Oaxaca actually speaks volumes.
I have been looking at your amazing blog (the start of a long habit I am sure!) and noticed you also think very highly of El Bajia and their mole de Xico. Is it a relatively sweet mole? The food I ate for several years as a child living in the DF (more than 30 years since I have been back!) was relatively sweet compared to the typical Northern Mexican I find in the US. I have always imagined our cook was from Veracruz. If you have any suggestions for different regional moles, I think it may be worth my effort to track them down as I have taken up the frustrating hobby (in the US at least) of making mole, and should probably taste some varieties to see what I am missing. :-) This may become easier as migrants move in – in Central Florida there is actually an American farmer producing huitlacoche, so who knows if regional peppers are next?
And I see you are not a fan of Pujol. I was interested in tasting their mole “madre.” If there is another place I could get something comparable, I am more than willing to seek that out.
Thanks for the reply, I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog.
We're spending 3 nights in DF in October. I've read through the board and have had most of my questions answered, but have not seen Guzina Oaxaca in Polanco mentioned. Any opinions? I would be trying the black mole, among other dishes. I'm also looking to eat at Nicos, Pujol, Azul Historico, Contramar, Limosneros(?). Thanks.
edit - I note in another thread cristina feels that the chef's place in Oaxaca does not fare well against the local competition, but how about in DF?
OK I've managed to add a Friday evening to the trip, and I am comfortable with Annisa and Betony or similar for Sat/Sun.
Two other places I have been mulling over for Friday are Carbone and NoMad. My friends have told me they would love to return to Minetta; does Carbone compare for atmosphere or food? Would I be doing myself a disservice (never mind them for a moment) by choosing Carbone over NoMad?
Thanks, we found ourselves in Valdosta for the night and made a reservation on your recommendation. We were late in arriving from NC due to bad weather and the restaurant accommodated us on a busy Friday night.
Very highly recommended for the deceptively simple preparations of typical southern dishes. We were wrapping up a 10 day vacation of eating at great Orlando and Asheville restaurants and the menu at Steel Magnolia's impressed us! We all thought it worked better than The Admiral in Asheville and the Ravenous Pig in Orlando, without trying to impress as much. Some of the best pork belly I have had anywhere. The shrimp and grit were ridiculously rich, but what my wife could not eat, my 16 year old devoured. No frou-frou preparations, but compelling updates of Southern classics. Unlike many places we've tried recently, the chef lets the ingredients speak for themselves. I am eager to return.
Thanks, exactly what I needed to know. Nothing a 10 minute drive won't fix then!
Thanks for the suggestions guys. Point taken TT, but I was imaging a snack between Bouley and Annisa, at least for me if not the ladies! (Only half joking here, but is the meal at Bouley that filling that we will still be full 5 hours later?) I’m counting on a good 4 hours of shopping in SoHo between the meals, god help me.
Villainx, I was hoping to ease them into a tasting menu which has a choice for each course, and Bouley has such a low price-point I was thinking they should feel more comfortable trying it even if they are not wowed. Annisa will be ala carte with sharing, and from looking at the menu, Anita Lo seems to have some untroublesome choices, if it comes to that.
Gramercy and Gotham are excellent suggestions and I am absolutely sure our friends would love either of them as would I, never having been to either but having prepared plenty of meals from Portale’s cookbook, but with only two dinners I am in a pickle. I am hoping Perla and Del Posto will settle them down if there is too much froo-froo, but if I had to replace Annisa or Betony with Gramercy, which would you suggest?
I have a feeling Del Posto will fit right in our friends wheelhouse, but will we need reservations for a Monday lunch in October at either Del Posto, Jean-George or any similar place, or can we leave that decision for day–of?
I’m returning to Manhattan in October Sat-Mon, with our good friends (friendly enough to share all our plates), a couple who are not foodies per se but are Italian which makes them natural proto-foodies but on the conservative side, and not too enamored of Asian food. Funny that I consider them conservative even though they are quite liberal in their politics! Last October they relied on me to book with just a few days notice the restaurants, and we wound up at Babbo, Minetta, Maialino, and Hearth (no one liked Hearth). Their favorite restaurant in NY is Palma, and their favorite meal from the short list above was Miailino’s pasta, so this trip I’d like to get them a little bit out of their comfort zone without forcing them to come up with excuses as to why they aren't finishing their dishes.
This is primarily a food weekend. Thinking about:
Sat Lunch at 12: Bouley?
Sun Brunch: Perla
Monday Lunch: Del Posto
All comments warmly welcomed.
Thanks. I've made reservations for Sat at Limones, Sunday Supper at Rhubarb (do any other places have a communal supper concept? I love them on vacations) and Thursday at The Admiral. I'm hoping I can play it by ear on Monday-Wednesday dinners between places like Curate, Chai Pani, Ben's Tune Up, Seven Sows King James and the other board favorites. Do you think any of these need a reservation Mon-Wed?
Btw, Luellas web site says they open at noon on Sunday. Too late for us.
Good tips Helind. Although the Pisgah Inn was beautiful when I went a few years back, there were a few things we ordered that were, if not inedible then worthy of ridicule. Looking back at my photo album I have a cute picture of our friends poking comically at their food. It ranks about in the middle of the National Park concessionaire meals I've experienced, (the best being at Mesa Verde and the worst by a long shot being at the Ahwahnee Dining Room in Yosemite). Besides, I would never inflict the odor of a day hiking on the poor patrons of a restaurant before first cleaning up at our hotel! :-)
Waitress - oddly enough I saw a photo of the steak tartar on The Admiral's website and decided then that I will have to try it just based on the apparent texture. For some reason it is a very hard dish to find in the Fort Lauderdale area (you can find it, but you don't necessarily want to eat it unless you like mush).
Also, you mention Limones, which I will definitely try. Another coincidence becasue as I am typing this I am simultaneously texting my hiking-buddy brother, an airline pilot (in San Francisco at the moment) after having directed him to Nopalito's for a solo dinner, one of my favorite Cali-Mex restaurants. He is now texting me back pictures of his dinner. This is how geeky we are!
So Waitress you may be the one to ask - we're staying at a motel just across from Papas and Beer. Is that a good "safety" restaurant if we find we're just too tired to drive the 10 minutes to downtown after a day hike? Is it something totally different than Limones or is it also Cali-Mex except with less fancy ingredients? In my opinion, some of the best Mexican restaurants in the east are near me in Homestead, but I always love to try new places if they are worthwhile. If it is Cali-Mex I'll stick with Limones. I'll be trying Manrique's Mexican Store in Clayton, GA on the way back to Florida.
Breakfast may become the powdered eggs and frozen sausage links at the hotel which I just booked. A compromise for sure but it will help get us on the road earlier. We'll still have at least two good breakfasts including Sunday. Any special places (BBQ?) for Sunday breakfast/brunch?
Thanks for the great info guys. By "rare" beer I mean infrequently brewed, like a triple IPA or barley wine. I agree that local is always best and will be trying as many Asheville brews as I can, and only on tap regardless. I may stop by a bottle shop on our last day though and pick up a case or five of stuff that doesn't easily make it's way to Florida. I'm not worried about the beer because in my experience the first night at a local pub usually leads to new friends willing to share the local secrets.
And thanks Tom, I'll have to hit Wedge too. Your definition of a "stellar" beer list sounds about right! At a restaurant I have no problem with Blue Moon on the menu as long as the cocktails can compensate, but thankfully I am finding that this mentality is coming to an end and I take it in stride kinda like I do with my racist uncle at Thanksgiving - a relic.
Biscuit Head and Homegrown for sure, thanks miss piggy. I chuckled when I saw the prices on the menu - literally half the price I pay in Ft Lauderdale for a good breakfast! I hope the owners aren't reading this. Seven Sows does indeed look like a good place to me, the kind of place that probably has beer-cocktails on the menu. Love it.
It looks like I'll be in Asheville for 6 nights - 4 with just my brother and 2 with our families, eight people altogether. I made reservations for Thursday at The Admiral for 8 people (Saturday in August was a no-go even for just 4), but the others I saw look more sane as far as reservations go and will give me time to think about things some more. I'll be sure to write a trip report and let you know how an outsider feels about Asheville. On paper it looks promising.
I've spent many summers in NC but have always focused on regional and coastal cuisine (which is what I always look forward to). It is exciting to think about what Asheville may offer.
Also: Is there a recommended place for good packed lunches early in the morning? If not, of course trail mix is the meal of choice.
I did see that thread on King James, which is why I am on the fence about it. The second link is great for breakfast ideas and dinner ideas. Thanks! Biscuit Head should provide the calories we need!
Hello Asheville Chowies, I'm getting ready for my favorite kind of vacation, involving exclusively hiking, food, and beer. I've read through the board a bit but know nothing and would love some feedback and ideas.
My brother and I, late 40's, will be arriving on a Sunday afternoon and day hiking in the area Monday-Wednesday 12-18 miles/day. Both of us are foodies, but also home-brewers and backyard BBQers and need to find a happy mix of our vices on this trip. Thinking of a dinner first (as long as the beer selection is good), and then a pub or two. We'll probably hit Wicked Weed at least Sunday night after dinner, but the ideal for the evenings after a day of hiking would be a chef-driven restaurant with a thoughtful beer selection (aged?) where we could get a couple or three beers with dinner, and if needed we could hit a pub afterwards for a rare beer or two.
We need one nice meal for Sunday night (like The Admiral or Bull and Beggar), and then for our hiking days anything goes from comfort food to more fine-ish dining (in jeans) as long as the restaurant is run by a chef or a pit-master. I looked at Curate but beer seems to be completely neglected, so unless we can not get food nearly as good somewhere else, we will pass on Curate this trip.
We'll get to hit 12 bones on Thursday lunch before we head out of town, but we'll otherwise be hiking during the days. If there is an exceptional BBQ joint for dinner I will also be eager to try it - exceptional being defined as better than mine :-) .
A place like King James looks perfect on paper, very trendy, but how is the food underneath the fashion? Are there any places in Asheville you could imagine receiving a Michelin Star?
Lastly, breakfast may be in order depending on how early we get started. Are there any innovative but calorie-rich breakfast places that can be recommended?
Thanks a million!
Thanks everyone. For some reason from what I had read, I thought Hearth was a destination place. Some people really seem to be fans.
For me, Hearth would fit well into an East Village food crawl to sample the gnocchi and grab a glass of beer or wine (they have a small but decent selection of beer too). Keep with the potato theme and hit Pomme Frites after. :-)
Bread Basket (partially eaten)
Death & Co. and Hearth.
Death & Co. drinks
Minetta Tavern brunch.
Desserts at Babbo.
Assortment of Gelati and Sorbetti
Pastas and sweetbreads at Babbo.
Mint Love Letters (split portion)
Our close friends invited my wife and I to join them for a celebratory weekend in Manhattan. When I asked them what their plans were (other than an event on Saturday afternoon), they replied “we’ll leave that up to you,” which to me means: “let’s eat!” We’re in our early 40’s and friends in late 50’s.
Our friends had never been to Babbo or Minetta Tavern, so I was happy to land a last minute reservation at Babbo for Friday night, and easily got a table to Saturday brunch at Minetta Tavern. New places for me were Hearth dinner and Maialino brunch.
A little story first. After going for a morning jog in Central Park I finished up at 5th and 60th and headed for a food cart there to get a bottle of water. Wha . . .? It was the Wafels & Dinges cart! Despite an 11 am brunch reservation at Minetta Tavern, I indulged in a waffle with ice cream. What’s the point of jogging for if I can’t have two breakfasts? Last summer I had to hunt down the this cart, and after visiting Belgium a few months ago and tasting many waffles, I'm happy to say these are right up with the best and may even be my favorite.
Last minute planning was frustrating, but I scored a same day 6:15 at Babbo for Friday so changed our 5:30 reservation for Minetta Tavern to brunch there the next day. We were looking for an early dinner to fit with our plans for the evening, so we showed up at Babbo at 5:45 and were seated immediately in the front corner booth, prime real estate. If there was no table available for us downstairs we were prepared go elsewhere as we were celebrating and the upstairs dining room would have sucked the fun out of us. Downstairs next to the bar and prep-table is a fantastic atmosphere.
I am a beer and spirits “connoisseur,” but in NY I prefer to drink cocktails as they are usually of very high quality at good restaurants, more so than in Fort Lauderdale. My wife and friends are wine drinkers but they surprised me by ordering cocktails through dinner at Babbo as well (it was an early dinner). The bar at Babbo is limited, but we enjoyed excellent Manhattans, Bellinis. and my wife especially enjoyed a blood-orange Cosmo which tempered her enjoyment of the speakeasies we went to the following evening.
We are close enough with our friends that picking off each other’s plates is not only acceptable but encouraged – “eat! eat! come on I know you want it!” – so I wanted the meal to be as family style as possible. I tried everything; the others tried whatever they chose to. Working with our fantastic waiter (whose name I’ve forgotten unfortunately) we arranged for the food to be brought in four courses. 4 Antipasti, followed by 2 Primi (split between four plates), then 4 Primi and 1 Secondi, then 4 desserts. This way I enjoyed 15 dishes, not bad!
For a table of four:
Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads
Once again the service we enjoyed at Babbo has maintained a standard. Interacting with the staff was a pleasure, even the dour maitre d'. By the way, the maitre d' did give a slight smile and a brief nod in reply to my compliment as we were leaving. I have read complaints about him on this board but I think he is a perfect and professional maitre d' and a welcome contrast to many these days, who seem to be overly animated but vapid. Also, he gave us a great table. :)
A few brief notes. The Salumi was slight split four ways, but memorable. Highly recommended. Both mushroom dishes (Lamb’s Tongue and Garganelli) were relatively flavorless. I believe the Lamb’s Tounge used Brown Beech mushrooms and the Garganelli may have used the same ones, judging by their equal lack of flavor. These two dishes and the Pappardelle Bolognese which was relatively bland fell below the level of all the others in their failure to impress, although they were good in an inoffensive way. (On our prior visit the mushrooms in the Garganelli were a highlight). I ate almost all the Mint Love Letter by myself. After one bite everyone including me thought the mint was overpowering. Not wanting to give up so easily, I discovered the heavy mint flavor recedes after a few bites and I quite enjoyed them.
This time what would tempt me back to Babbo would be the memories of the Salumi, the Goose Liver Ravioli and the Sweetbreads. All I thought were extremely sophisticated. Oddly enough, as I normally enjoy more “impressive” desserts, after this elaborate tasting menu the assorted gelati and sorbetti will be the dessert I’ll most remember. An excellent blend of flavors, and served at a perfect temperature. The cookies were also well above what I was expecting, and I wouldn’t hesitate to order them again. The cheesecake was voted by the table as the best of the desserts and would be at home in a more expensive restaurant. Not to leave out the semifreddo, which was also excellent as was almost everything. A great mellow evening of club/bar hopping ensued.
I loved this restaurant for dinner and was happy that the high standards carry over to brunch. One of my favorites for atmosphere and service. I had a waffle and ice cream about an hour before we arrived so I passed on the oysters and sausage appetizer, which I am still looking forward to eating someday. Pleased to see a cask ale being served, something hard to find in Florida. It is somewhat easy to find an excellent brunch in Fort Lauderdale, (and probably most cities), but Minetta was able to compete. We went with mostly breakfast foods which to me was a mistake, but the quality was consistently great.
We started with the Panier with an assortment of pastries from Balthazar which was tasty, our favorites being the pumpkin donut and chocolate bread. The Black label Burger seems more of a brunch food to me than a dinner food, and it worked better here than I remembered at dinner. It was ordered medium and was still exceptionally tasty. My wife ordered the perfectly serviceable omelet notable for the smoothness of the egg layer. I’ll have to learn how to do that! My Latkes were excellent, but really shouldn’t I be ordering a steak? The rib-eye wasn’t on the menu, but a had thought that was an option for some reason. The Brioche French Toast is also outstanding for a breakfast food. The Duck Hash is delicious, but the others at the table caught on to its richness and I was forced to eat most of it myself. :)
Now I am not a cake person at all, but the Coconut Cake is unbelievable here. This is only the second time I remember having a cake that I would go out of my way for, the other being the Carrot Cake at Palm. I would highly recommend the Coconut Cake, and will order it next time even over the excellent soufflé, normally my go-to desert at any good restaurant. We also tried the assorted chocolates from Jacques Torres, a perfect way to squeeze in one more taste of New York with our limited time, and a great touch to have on the menu.
After our event on Saturday afternoon, we split from our friends and my wife and I headed out for some drinks at Raines Law Room before our 7pm dinner reservations at Hearth, arriving right at the 5pm opening. Great atmosphere, cannot speak to the service as we were so early, but very professional. We had planned on several drinks but ordered just one round before leaving. My wife’s raspberry tequila concoction was OK but one-note, my spicy whatever it was (no reason to remember) was watery and as we watched the bartender make it, it got an “assist” from our server(!) who dashed in 5 or 6 or some random number of drops of Cholula hot sauce since I said I liked a very spicy drink. It was now 5:45 and I figured we could catch a cab to Death and Company and be there by the time it opened at 6, and then walk to Hearth nearby.
Best decision of the day, because Eryn Reece at Death and Company mixed up some real cocktails for us and gave me a proper NY cocktail fix.
We arrived just at 6 behind about 8 other folks, and after a couple of minutes were ushered inside to find the bar seating full. I would have loved to watch Eryn work but that will wait till next time as we will be back. Our server came over and after explaining to her that we had 45 minutes to spare and no time to peruse the menu, she proceeded to “consult” with us on what we wanted, and recommended the three that we had. My wife had an off-menu tequila pineapple pomegranate mix that was perfectly balanced, but a little strong for her (how that can be a complaint I’ll never know). I had a great spicy rum drink that was wonderfully complex but just a little too sweet for me. Our server then steered me to the “Terrible Love,” (Mezcal, Suze, St. Germain and orange bitters). A fantastic cocktail. Very sweet, Very bitter, perfectly balanced.
Not recommended. There is not a lot of info here on Chowhound, but what there is generally seems positive. Well just for the record I would say the food and service are lacking compared to many other excellent restaurants in the same price range. Overall the four of us had the same opinion of Hearth – “good.” Atmosphere was nice, possibly sit at the bar and order some small plates? Food was hit and miss. I enjoy reading about food and researching restaurants before travel, and Hearth is now in the very small category of “disappointments” in NY (the other being a meal at Lamb’s Club just after it opened). Not to say that it was bad by any means, just that it was no better than good, which is not what the New York dining scene is for a Chowhounder. I’ve taken risks that paid off on mixed-review restaurants before (Sea Grill, see below for Maialino) so I approached Hearth with the highest hopes. We went here instead of Acme, so I’m probably thinking about the greener grass and all.
Service: Three, as in three separate apologies for the delay in our food arriving. Once before we had anything, then twice before the mains came out. 3:15 total meal time. When the charcuterie came some thick-cut toast was brought out that was blackened on the edges, which may have been OK on it’s own but certainly not with delicate spreads. I asked if I could please have some very lightly toasted pieces brought out. A few minutes later another plate of toast appeared that was even more and extremely blackened! We returned to the first set of toast, which after further consideration was very lightly toasted compared to the second set, and pulled the insides away from the crust to eat with the charcuterie. When we were nearly done, our server showed up and saw a huge pile of blackened crusts and asked apologetically if we would still like some lightly toasted bread. No thanks. So, an off day okay I get it. My favorite neighborhood joint I’ve been eating at for years had an off day once, but the 75 times I’ve had attentive service let me overlook that day.
Also, the server seemed to know the ingredients of the dishes but not anything more. I asked how the hanger steak was sliced and she had no idea. That is not such a problem, but later when my friend asked if the steak was OK to order medium instead of medium rare, she did not hesitate to say that would be fine even though I was wincing inside. I didn’t want to be rude by butting-in at this point, but indeed when the steak arrived it was cooked medium and was quite tough.
Food: We started with the Charcuterie plus foie gras and the Lettuce and Vegetables salad. The salad was good, and the foie gras was unusual and sweet, and also “good.” On the charcuterie platter the cured duck breast, duck rillette, and (rabbit?) liver pate were exceptionally good, while the rabbit ballotine and pig’s head terrine were surprisingly mild and uninteresting to me.” Next we paused with a side of gnocchi and hen of the woods. The gnocchi was fantastic and the rest of the table loved the hen of the woods mushrooms, but I thought they were too salty, although I have never had this crispy style before.
For the mains, two of us ordered the cod with muscles, which along with the gnocchi was the highlight and quite interesting and delicious. The other two mains included a hanger steak tough as noted, with an accompaniment of Autumn Vegetable Contadina that tasted for all the world exactly like the home-fries hash I get at my local diner from breakfast. I am not saying this to be mean, I am saying in a blind taste test I would be hard pressed to tell the difference. (I love the home fries with an omelet by the way). I ordered the Colorado Lamb three ways – filet of roasted loin, a small smoked rib, and lamb sausage with a chickpea curry feta and corn. The flavors were fine but boring, and the filet was a little tough and had me looking for sauce, which I found by dipping into my friend’s bagna cauda which accompanied his steak. The rib was excellent and flavorful but was just two small bites. The lamb sausage seemed lost on the plate and went uneaten after a taste.
We ordered three deserts, the Apple Cider Doughnuts, a Pear Spice Cake and the Valrhona Chocolate Cake. The donut had the benefit of being warm but otherwise was wholly unremarkable to us. The chocolate cake also failed to leave an impression and drew comparisons to a Starbucks product, although never having been to Starbucks I hope that is not being too harsh. The Pear Spice Cake was the only “bad” thing we ate all weekend and was unpalatably dry. Each of us had one bite out of curiosity and the rest was left untouched.
Chef Canora was not in the kitchen, if that would have made a difference.
After Hearth, we almost changed our plans for Maialino and went to Public for brunch, as I had also read mixed reviews for Maialino. Well, I happy to say Maialino was a great success, and the one our friends most want to return to.
Service was excellent as expected. We started with the pastry basket and added a couple of toffee brioche buns on to that. All were very close to excellence, maybe they achieved it. Hard to compare to Balthazar’s as they were very different – Maialino’s tended to the sweet, but I thought they were a step up in execution. I enjoyed the chocolate croissant as much as any I’ve had in France, although it is less buttery and more crispy, which I think is a benefit in a filled croissant. The rest of the table swooned over the toffee brioche, but those were too in-your-face sweet for me. The Tomato Risotto Croquettes & Mozzarella were good for fried mozzarella, probably as good as you can get for such a thing.
I think we were all thinking that it would be better to order off the “lunch” side of the menu this time, and we order the Porchetta, the Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe, Garganelli with Braised Oxtail, and the Malfatti with Braised Suckling Pig & Arugula. All three pasta dishes were truly excellent, we all enjoyed them immensely. Did I mention our friends are Italian? They enjoyed these pastas more than Babbo I guess because they are more akin to what they are used to, and it is hard to disagree. I thought the Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe was too rich (but delicious nonetheless), but they disagreed. This was fine because they filled up on that and left more of the Garganelli with Braised Oxtail for me. My favorite (maybe?) was the Malfatti with Braised Suckling Pig & Arugula. The flavor was so intense and the pasta so delicious that I would have just as well done without the actual chunks of pork. Oh by the way the Porchetta was a sandwich, so there’s that.
Deserts were the Panna Cotta with Berries and the Olive Oil Cake. The cake was very good, it could almost have joined the pastry basket but I mean that in a good way – it was not too sweet. The mascarpone cream accompanying it though put it over the top, absolutely delicious. The panna cotta I think was my favorite dessert of the weekend. I hope the recipe is the same one in the Union Square Café cookbook because I would love to be able to recreate that somehow, although the perfectly balanced fresh berry sauce had a lot to do with the success of the dish.
Well, we had a great weekend and were enjoyably stuffed!
These are the antipasti at Babbo.
Pig Foot “Milanese”
Thanks for the recs, I will check those out!
Hi, we're spending three weeks in late July visiting Belgium, France and Germany, with just one day set aside for Paris (July 23). My boys, already foodies, are 13 and 15.
I was thinking along the lines of pastries/breads for breakfast, the main meal at lunch, and a creperie for a late meal. If there is some reason to have the main meal at dinner, that is fine too. We'll be walking all day in the usual tourist spots, so something central to that would be preferred, but not required. Limit for the Lunch is €300 all included with wine (obviously wine for only 2) but I will be more than happy to spend much less as long as the Parisian experience, even if not the food, is equal.
We'll be eating at many "intimate" restaurants during the three weeks, so I think something like Le Train Bleu is the kind of thing I'm looking for even though the food and service may not be on par with other choices, it seems it will be a memorable meal. I was also planning on a lunch later during the trip in Nancy at L'Excelsior, so maybe we don't need another Brasserie?
Any ideas are welcome, and since I'm overwhelmed by the choices in Paris, if I don't get any alternatives, I'm sure we'll be happy at Le Train Bleu.
We happened to walk by Little Owl several times during our stay and no matter the time of day, there was always someone taking a picture of the place from accross the street. Huh?
One day we saw the scene below with this huge crowd taking pictures and it clicked that this restaurant must have been in Sex in the City. I thought that it was kind of funny, or something. I'm not sure. I got it in Boston seeing all the people arriving by tour bus to Cheers because I recognized the iconic (for folks my age) sign and stairway. Was Little Owl featured that prominently in Sex in the City? Weird seeing everybody getting all excited over a little corner restaurant. Wouldn't it be nice if they were excited about the good food instead?
As I mentioned, originally we had hotel reservations near Madison Square Park, thinking this was a good “central” location to see all the tourist things we wanted to see with the kids. This evolved into taking a more laid back approach and we wound up just taking in a smaller part of Manhattan. After spending some time in the West Village, I’m pretty sure on future trips we’ll be looking to stay south of 14th first and foremost.
Overall, the service for the first four restaurants at which we ate, The Breslin, Babbo, Public and Minetta Tavern, was to a very high standard. Of these the service quality award would by a large margin go to Babbo. My children are now going to start noticing deficiencies in service when we eat out at out local places after 4 nights of perfect service. The service at Fatty Cues was excellent but not designed to be comparable to the others. For example, we received a complimentary amuse bouche before our meal but our server didn’t know what it was. The service at Palma was somewhat disorganized but acceptable.
Standouts: atmosphere, cocktails, razor clams, baby octopus
To get this out of the way right up front, overall the food we had at The Breslin was “good.” Billing itself as upscale bar food would make me say it was “very good” bar food. Overall, I loved our meal here but would not consider most of the food memorable in and of itself, although it was expertly prepared and was memorable for that reason. Perhaps I am just not a fan of the cuisine.
We arrived upon opening at 5:30 on a Sunday. (We planned on catching the sunset from Top of the Rock – ugh the crowds). Only a few tables were occupied during our seating and when we left at 7:30 the restaurant was still less than half full. The space was right up my alley and I loved it. Black leather and tartan everywhere and a look like the place had been around for 100 years. Very well done without being “themey.” We sat in a booth with a curtain which we pulled closed occasionally to cocoon.
If the bar food was very good the cocktails were exceptional. To me judging a cocktail is simple but my standards are high in their way. If the flavors develop slowly in the mouth and are complex enough, I’m happy. If I regret not having ordered a nice single-malt instead, I’m not happy.
I followed my usual pattern of tequila to whiskey and tried the Pablo Honey followed by the Liquid Swords, both complex enough to put a smile on my face. Instead of moving onto beer with the meal, on the advice of one of our servers I tried the Beggar’s Banquet with our appetizers. Rarely do I enjoy a beer cocktail (maybe never), but this one was delicious and not overpowered by the ale. Then I moved onto beer and ordered a “Spotted Hen” before our server cocked her head and suggested maybe I was thinking of the Spotted Pig (guilty) and brought me a Speckled Hen. :-) My wife ordered an excellent Long island Iced Tea. I would recommend each of the four drinks we tried.
We started with the Scotch egg, Stilton pie, razor clams, and baby octopus. The octopus and razor clams were wonderful, and my favorite dishes of the meal. I was thinking maybe this was because they were lighter and not too rich or drenched in sauce, but that’s not the case. The clams were prepared with Serrano ham which I was worried would overpower the clams, but the two flavors and textures balanced very well. The octopus likewise was served with a heavy rouille and delicious garlic scapes which complimented each other. In fact when my youngest didn’t care for his garlic scape I was quite happy to snag it off his plate before anyone could get it.
My youngest though was very happy with the Scotch egg, which was one of his favorite dishes of the trip. I have to say it was the first time I’ve enjoyed a Scotch Egg and it was almost light, even though the egg is surrounded by sausage and deep fried in bread crumbs. I am happy we split it into four because while this may be a great food to eat at the bar while working on a few beers, as an appetizer I believe I would grow tired of the rich monotonous flavor before I finished one by myself. The same can be said of the rich Stilton Pie, delicious in the quarter serving I took, but a whole one would make a better accompaniment to some other food than as a serving on its own.
Now I have only myself to blame but we ordered the Pig’s Foot for me and my sons to share while my wife got the vinegared poussin. The poussin looked delicious and I thought it tasted just fine but as I rarely enjoy chicken, I couldn’t judge. My wife on the other hand is a chicken connoisseur, and try as I might I just couldn’t get her to say any more than it was “good,” - faint praise from her.
The pig’s foot was an unusual thing to say the least. Basically prepared I guess like head cheese with the meat from pigs’ feet being made into sausage then stuffed back into the leg and deep fried. Flavor was reminiscent of corned beef. Again, like the stilton pie, this was just too much and too rich for us to make into a meal by itself. I would say in all seriousness that I would have enjoyed 1/20 of a serving with the excellent vegetables as an appetizer. Just too strong of a flavor and too monotonous to make a meal. The testa I had the following night at Babbo was 1/200th the portion size with a similar flavor and was out of this world. Bummer for us and my kids didn’t get to try the burger and fries, nor did I get to try the lamb ribs. My fault but I got a good picture at least.
For desert one son had an excellent rhubarb tart with ice cream and black pepper – recommended. The other ordered the toasted marshmallow ice cream, which had too deep of a burnt sugar flavor for him. After one bite he passed it over to me and I loved it even if it didn’t taste too much like marshmallow, or perhaps because of it. I promised him we’d get some desert for him later in Times Square, as I’ve been to Roxy’s Deli there before and the pastries and cookies are really pretty good. The cream horn, cookies, and Napoleon can be recommended if you stuck in Times Square when the sweet tooth aches.
I guess the half portions are if you want something additional, or for kids. Our server asked my 11 yo if he wanted 3 or 6 slutty cakes. Kind of a weird question to ask an 11 yo come to think of it.
You can order half plates of many dishes. Fine dining no, well prepared with quality ingredients yes. The egs are special and he is a master of the griddle which enables him to prepare food that is difficult to replicate at home.
Breakfasts first. When we didn’t eat family style we at least tried bites of each other’s food so I did try everything.
Doma na rohu
Standouts: Murray’s bagels, Babichka.
Doma is indeed an excellent breakfast place. I don’t know how it compares to other spots in the area, as we all loved it so much for a lightish breakfast that we decided to make it our “regular” spot. What attracted us originally is that they serve Murray’s bagels. That’s really all we need to make us Floridians happy, so we tried it. We did go four times always between 9 and 10am and had every breakfast dish on their small menu (I think) so I guess I can review it.
The bagels come toasted by default, I don’t know if that’s a faux pas, but we liked them that way. Salmon was very good too. Oatmeal with fruit was a small portion and the fruit was apple heavy, but those are quibbles for an excellent dish. The frittata with asparagus was good and well made. Granola with yogurt was fine. The potato brisket hash with fried egg was good too, the meat was stew-y and not my favorite but my kids loved it. One of my favorite dishes of our entire trip (new to me and I can try and make at home) was the Babichka, which I had twice and my son once. A simply prepared French toast stuffed with cream cheese. Amazing. Light and small enough to not induce guilt, but delicate enough to stand out. I love French toast and tried a Shopsins version and Spotted Pig’s, and preferred Doma’s. (Although Shopsins’ wins as a dessert).
However there was inconsistency. The first time I had the Babichka it was carefully prepared, cream cheese evenly spread. The second time I was disappointed to find a few bites had no cream cheese at all and others not enough. My son’s on the third day had huge globs in certain places which hadn’t been properly spread around. We found the same for the bagels. So find out what days the good cheese spreader is working. :-)
Service was fine, although when we were there each day there were only 3 or 4 other people/couples in the place and the single server was a little harried. I hope they have another server when it’s busier.
Standouts: I would guess all 900 things, but slutty cakes and scrambled eggs from what we tried.
Shopsins was Shopsins, probably no more comments need be added to what has been said on Chowhound. It was a real highlight for us all. The contrast of the location, the surly service (the table next to us got asked to leave because both people wanted to order the same thing) and Kenny himself who took cat naps out front between cooking all the orders - god bless him – with the quality of the ingredients and the careful preparations was unforgettable.
I got a little confused ordering for the kids and wound up getting the Last Request, basically a huge pile of food on a plate, sort of a buffet plate that I imagine two of me might fill up on. I forget what all was on it but digging through it I had first rate scrambled eggs, ham, and onions. I helped the kids get and eat the slutty cakes (original) and the pecan banana crème brule French toast. Even though we’ve made the slutty cakes at home, the way Kenny caramelizes them on the griddle made them over the top delicious. The French toast came with syrup but were much better without, as I mentioned they would make a fantastic desert at many restaurants. My wife appropriately enough got the Mommy - scrambled eggs, cinnamon raison French toast and sausage, which was another winner. The French toast was plain bread (I think) and the raisons were added during cooking. Really really good.
I would recommend trying to work in scrambled eggs to your order somehow. In a world where scrambled eggs are scrambled eggs, these have a lot to teach those others.
Standouts: Biscuits, Deep Fried Poached Eggs, Fries
We had brunch at Spotted Pig. As I’ll get to later, we screwed up and ordered the wrong thing at The Breslin so I wanted to give April Bloomfield another try.
We shared the Dutch baby with Bacon to start and while the bacon was good, the Dutch Baby was a soggy thin funnel-cake like contraption bathed in syrup which didn’t add much to the flavors nor the texture of maple and bacon. The plate was not pre-warmed and by the time it was slathered in syrup and brought to the table the paper-tin pancake was room-temperature. Not recommended. Dip some bacon in maple syrup for the same effect.
I had the French Toast with banana and crème fresh, and overall the dish was acceptable but needed a more flavorful fruit than banana. I had seen this online with blueberry and think the tartness of a blueberry sauce would have helped this a great deal. Nothing stood out and the cream fresh was much too cold to meld with the toast. One of the sloppier dishes I had on this trip.
Scrambled eggs with biscuit and bacon. More good bacon and the eggs were fine but fell short of Shopsins’, the biscuit was a highlight, rich and flakey at the same time with deep flavor. No butter needed.
Burger and fries. Good burger I guess, great Roquefort cheese. “Fries from Hell” as my son called the shoestring fries, were excellent, but received the moniker due to their springy nature which caused a few fries in every mouthful to catch on the cheeks upon entry and fly across the table.
Deep Fried Poached Eggs with Chorizo Stew. Two eggs on a bed of well-flavored chorizo stew. I would have liked to see another ingredient for balance/contrast (even bread) but it was very good the way it was. Although my son did love it he got palate fatigue and didn’t finish. I would not say it was a must try but maybe close to it just for its uniqueness and the quality of the preparation.
Standouts: yes, everything although the fresh madeleines did not strike me as notable.
I picked up some early morning breads and the only pastries that had come out that morning – little Frenchie Religieuse - and brought them back to the apartment on Saturday. Pure heaven. The breads were still warm when we ate them and I honestly con not remember eating anything better. The croissant was the lightest I’ve had in a long time with the perfect crispness, and the Kouign-amann (DKA) and Cannele de Bordeax were revelations. We also tried Ceci Cela and I thought there was no comparison, Dominique Ansel was far and away better, so much so that I think I may be missing something at Ceci Cela.
As I pointed out in the first post, Dominique Ansel wins as my favorite food of the trip.
We just visited for a week and unfortunately were able to get to only 1 speakeasy instead of the 4 or 5 we wanted to, but it was Little Branch. We arrived on a Tuesday night around 9:30 and waited for about 5 minutes to get in. Agree the doorman is great. While you may have a sour taste in your mouth at not being told you could get drinks at the bar while waiting for a seat, let me explain a little bit about why I would give Little Branch my highest recommendation, even though after one visit it would be impossible to say if my experience was typical.
Being from South Florida, Little Branch is to me about 1,000 miles and 1 million light years away from South Beach. As a matter of fact, the place reminded me a great deal of the “wild west” days of South Beach in the late ‘80s before there was any money there and make shift clubs popped up in abandoned theaters like the Cameo (with all the seating ripped out and the entire huge place lit by one desk lamp on a portable bar from Wal-Mart in one corner).
Contrary to your experience, after running into the excellent doorman, everyone from our hostess to our three different servers to our bartender Cervantes Ramirez (pictured) were professional, approachable, and friendly. Descending down into the dark candle-lit cellar we ran into the packed plug of people in the tiny bar space below. Nice thing about being married is teamwork, so with a nod my wife went to the hostess station on the left, while I went to the bar on the right.
A suit and his first date that we had spent some time listening to outside (awkward conversationalists, but the evening seemed pre-ordained to end happily for them) ordered a Diablo and a something-something and I watched Cervantes make their drinks both at the same time which was a treat in itself. He stood head-and-shoulders above the other bartenders in the practiced ease and speed with which he juggled his ingredients. When he was done I mentioned that the Diablo, which contained a little Cholula sauce, sounded right as I love a good spicy cocktail, he let me know if I really liked spicy he’s make me a El Guapo instead. For my wife I take the blame and ordered her the first drink I saw on the menu that sounded good, the Rum Swizzle. What I should have done is asked Cervantes to make her something like a Long Island Iced Tea, which she likes.
My wife had found a little spot to sit opposite the bar and we enjoyed our drinks amongst the small crowd for 10 minutes before being seated. El Guapo was a first class cocktail in every way, complex and well balanced. The Rum Swizzle was less so. I thought it was OK but I don’t like overly fruity drinks. My wife actually hated it – too citrusy. “Keep trying, maybe it will grow on you,” I sagely advised her. Well, she took a couple more sips before we were seated but then could take no more and we told our server she’d like to order something like a Long Island Iced Tea instead. The waitress whisked away the half finished Rum Swizzle and returned a short time later with a Gin-something-something. No more mention of the Rum Swizzle and we were not charged for the new drink.
OK, strike two because my wife took a sip and didn’t like this one either. I took a sip. Fantastic. Perfect. So, I bucked up my courage and said: “Keep trying, maybe it will grow on you.” And this time it worked! After a few more sips my wife overcame the newness of it and really loved it. Also of note was a Tequila Sazerac.
Now the Jazz quartet was setting up in their tiny cubby five feet away from us and we settled in for a couple of hours of great music and interaction with the band. Worried at times about getting a drumstick in my eye. :-) Absolutely what we come to New York for and I’m not good enough of a writer to describe the attraction here. We’ve found other “favorite” spots in the city – intimate and good enough to not have to try too hard to impress. Little Branch has made the list.
Thanks to everyone on the board for making our trip to NY easy. I’m trying to remember back to the dark ages when one would have to walk by restaurants thinking – does this one look good? The following is our trip report. We’re a family of 4 from Fort Lauderdale, FL with two boys 14 and 11. After originally planning to stay in a hotel near Madison Square Park, I had a change of heart and we stayed instead in an apartment near 7th Ave and Bleeker, took it easy, and spent most of our time in and around the West Village. Our first afternoon and evening we saw midtown, and had a morning downtown, but after that we stayed pretty close to “home, and ate mostly within a couple of blocks of our apartment.
Here’s where we ate, with stars by my favorites:
Every place we ate had at least one outstanding dish, with Minetta Tavern coming closest to the fabled perfect meal missing slightly with just one dish, Public missing more obviously with just one, and Babbo coming in a strong third place. The exception is Totonno’s, which mystified us with one-dimensional and bland pies, but this is obviously a matter of style and I’ll make no more mention of our only disappointment.
I took a quick poll of the family and asked what dish would get them to return to NY for a quick meal:
Me: The warm Cannele de Bordeax or DKA from Dominique Ansel
Detailed impressions and photos coming soon.
Well we're leaving tomorrow to Boston and have made a change to our NY leg and we're now staying near Washington Square. As I've read through the board I've realized that staying in the west Village suits us more than at near Madison Square. The extra money spent on the room is somewhat offset by the savings in taxi fare since we it seems we're spending most of our meal times around the area.
Comments have been/are appreciated.
Sunday to The Breslin at 5:30 opening time so that after we can walk to Top of the Rock to see the sunset.
For breakfasts we'll still plan on Shopsins and Clinton Street Baking, but will now round them out with trips to Dominique Ansel, Russ and Daughters and maybe Blue Ribbon Bakery(?) or others(?). Had and canceled reservations at Locanda Verde, probably two full service breakfasts is enough.
Lunches: mostly noshing throughout the day, including the Chinatown crawl mentioned above and if it works out a trip to Ippudo. If we eat our big late lunch (3:30) before a Yankees game near the hotel was thinking of Spotted Pig, but since we are doing Breslin maybe somewhere else? I know wrong board but anywhere comparable within walking of Yankee Stadium?
For Dinners besides Breslin on our first day they'll be Babbo and Minetta Tavern, then two days we'll be more flexible. Tuesday night maybe still at Danji or similar unless we'd be better off somewhere in the West Village as walk-ins. For Thursday thinking Keste for pizza, but if we're in the mood for something nicer I'm kind of at a loss of a good place we could walk-in, however I'm sure we will have no problem finding something in the area. Maybe Kin Shop.
Looking forward to posting a report. It will be the first time I've done extensive dining with an eye on reviewing. It may not be too useful for locals, but as a tourist I find reading other "visiting" opinions to be helpful as locals and tourists often have different priorities.
OK, I know I’m very late with the report, but things can’t have changed that much, right? Plus, the memorable meals are still fresh in my mind, and if the memory is fresh after a year, that is a restaurant worth going to IMO. I hope all these places are still in business!
Thanks to this board, we consistently ate incredible food, or great food in an incredible atmosphere. There were two disappointments, and that was Canteen and L’Osteria del Forno. The stars I’ve given are relative to our expectations, so 5 starts at Torta Gorda is not really comparable to the 5 stars I gave Perbacco, although they were each enjoyed equally for what they deliver.
Here’s a rundown:
Breakfast at Dottie’s – Well we got there on a Thursday about a half hour before opening and no one was waiting in line, so we took a little stroll for about 10 minutes and returned to be the 3rd group in line. By opening time there were 2 groups over capacity and those folks had to wait about 50min or so to eat. The time spent in line was especially entertaining for my children as we had front row seats for a dramatic shout-off between a pimp and his employee. Lots of colorful language and graphic depictions concerning “getting my money” and “not working hard enough” went on for a couple of minutes about 8 feet away from the line for Dottie’s. I admired them for their un-self-consciousness in attending to their personal business in such a public forum. Dottie’s is located next door to a shelter/hotel of sorts, and our table in the corner was under a window leading to the lobby of the hotel. During our meal we were privy to intimate details of the residents of said hotel as they discussed their concerns of the day, seemingly quite passionately. When we closed the window so as to afford the hotel residents more privacy, we were immediately told by our waitress that the window needed to stay fully open for proper air-flow. So, we were further entertained with interesting tales of San Francisco street living throughout or meal. As for the food, my son rated the buttermilk pancakes the “best ever” and the rest of us likewise aggressively pounded on our own food, of which so much has been said on the forum I feel I have little add here. This was a perfect introduction to SanFransisco! Food 4*, Atmosphere 5*+ (assuming it’s what you find entertaining).
Lunch at Naked Lunch – Good atmosphere and service, the food is sandwiches with not too much thought to them, it seems. We ate outside in a little space they have (or share) off the street. The location is a little off the hustle and bustle, so we probably should have gone to Jai Yun, but we wanted quick. The duck liver pate sandwich was the most memorable, but even that didn’t rise above an average sandwich, it just had an unusual ingredient. Food: 2*, Atmosphere 4* (for a take-out sandwich place).
Dinner Perbacco – We had an early reservation at 6:30, but with us on east coast time my 10 yo still fell asleep during the meal, and unfortunately missed the best Italian he ever would have had. The setting was expense-account dinner and was impressive. We ate down stairs by the kitchen and so were entertained by the steady stream of well crafted plates passing our table all night. We ordered family style trying the excellent cured meats and sampling 4 pastas, all of which were of the highest quality in taste and texture, with none standing out from the others in quality but the tagliatelle with pork sugo being the one I remember most fondly. After the pasta we had mains of duck with a fruit sauce and an excellent rabbit which were both very fine but have not left the impression that the pasta dishes have. The semifreddo of fresh fruits we shared was one of the very best I’ve had anywhere. Food 5*, Service 5*, Atmosphere 4* (5* for business meals)
Breakfast: Eagle Café - A perfect compliment to Dottie’s. We arrived early and were entertained this time by the seals. The wharf is really quite beautiful at 6am and we were nearly alone. Listening to the seals bark at each other all morning was a poignant contrast to the previous day’s barking by the differently medicated. The food was up to snuff and just as decedent as Dottie’s. I had the peanut butter banana French toast, which was really well done and has been replicated at our house many times since then, and my children had the crab eggs Benedict and omelet, which were both excellent. My wife got something a little more sensible so of course that didn’t leave much of an impression on me. There were only two other tables occupied during our meal. Between the quiet atmosphere, amazing view during our meal, unhurried service, and delicious food, I would unhesitatingly recommend Eagle Café as an alternative to Dottie’s. The two could not be more different in atmosphere and the food at both is swell. (Swell is actually high praise for over-the-top breakfast food). Food 4*, Atmosphere 5*
Lunch – L’Osteria del Forno. This is a tough one to review, as it is more of a neighborhood place that needs to stand up to repeated visits and I wouldn’t want to judge by our one meal there. That said, we were disappointed in our one meal. I had the special of the day which was a pumpkin ravioli in a cream sauce. Woefully under salted with nothing to bring out or compliment the very mild pumpkin flavor. Two of us split an adequate pizza and one of us had the penne bolognesse which was the best of the four but not something I would order again. Based on the reviews this was our biggest disappointment of the trip. Food 2*, Atmosphere 3*.
Dinner – Canteen. Another disappointment. Between the four of us we ordered all four appetizers and all four entrees, and nothing was above the ordinary save for my wife’s vegetarian casserole, which was good but not great. Fish overcooked, pork bland. I was confounded as to how such a small, timed seating can be served overcooked fish. The flavors textures left no impression. Food 2*, Atmosphere 4*.
Breakfast/lunch – Hit the farmers market and had wonderful breakfasts with everyone choosing a booth. Wrap, Mexican breakfast, pastries were all wonderful. Picked up sandwiches from Roli Roti for lunch with cheese from Cowgirl. The Roli Roti sandwiches were fantastic.
Dinner – Colibri Mexican Bistro, after a long day of bike riding our plans changed and the kids had a burger and my wife and I managed a seat at the bar of Colibri. We had great cocktails and very well prepared pork and fish. We got to see a good three act drama played out next to us as the woman seated next us was approached by an out of town businessman who sat next to her and spent an hour talking her up until they ultimately left to go to her place together. A very well paced and played out love story even though we had to imagine the last act where the inevitable falling out occurs. Loved this place for a casual dinner. Food 4*, Atmosphere 5*.
No breakfast to speak of, but Lunch at Torta Gorda. I wish I had time to sample many more of the places in the neighborhood, but Torta Gorda served excellent dishes prepared with care. As good as it gets. Food 5*, Atmosphere 5*.
A little 2 week break in between day 4 lunch and dinner as we returned to the city and stayed on the west side at Seal Rock Inn.
Dinner – Nopalito. Another favorite. What I think of now when I think of a perfect neighborhood restaurant. The carnitas were moist and packed with flavor, the cheeses were a step above the usual Mexican, and the veggies were expertly prepared and fresh. The popsicles may be the only time I remember enjoying a desert at a Mexican restaurant. Perfect end to a filling meal. Such a friendly vibe I wanted to buy a house around the corner. Food 5*, Atmosphere 5*+
Breakfast: Seal Rock Inn. Typical café breakfast. Totally forgettable service and food.
Lunch: Shanghai House, ordered 8 dishes, the dry fried chicken wings, xiolong bao and pan-cut noodles were standouts, the green onion pancakes were just OK. The only problem was we enjoyed the lunch too much and stuffed our faces thereby becoming too full to eat dinner at Aziza as planned. Oh well! Food 5* (on some dishes), Atmosphere - there is an atmosphere?