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Village eats help

j
Jim Regan Sep 3, 1997 01:45 PM

Anyone care to suggest a few fun, not too expensive, interesting places to eat...it's been so long since I've been to Greenwich Village (especially the west side ) that I really need some help. Thanks alot.

Jim

  1. s
    Steve Plotnicki Sep 6, 1997 02:52 PM

    Depending on what your point of view is on reasonably priced, Cornelia Street is the place to be.
    There's Home(American Food), Le Gigot(French) and Po(Italian). All exceptionally good non-pretentious places to eat. I've found that they are less expensive compared to some of the old Village stalwarts like Da Silvano or Cent 'Anni which was mentioned in the previous post.

    1. j
      Jim Leff Sep 4, 1997 08:34 AM

      I like Grange Hall a lot. It's on the nicest block in
      the village, in a little cul de sac. It's elegant but
      not oppressively so, it has the smartest/funniest
      waiters and bartenders of any place I know, and the
      food's real good (midwestern farm food).

      Robert Sietsema, who's FROM the Midwest, insists that
      it's not authentic. But whatever...I like it. don't
      miss the salads and the potato pancakes.

      Expect to spend $20-30 if careful ordering, or else
      $30-35.

      ciao

      6 Replies
      1. re: Jim Leff
        c
        chimera Jul 3, 1999 12:14 PM

        My husband and I ate at Grange Hall for the
        first time last night, and, in all honesty,
        found it to be a mixed bag. The atmosphere
        was lovely, the minty pork chops delicious,
        and the dill-infused Farmer Martini with
        green tomato "olives" a real stand-out treat
        (I was skeptical at first...), but the bread
        was Wonder-bland and less than fresh (even
        difficult to cut) and the special salad (while
        certainly fresh and even satisfyingly seasonal)
        was basically unexciting. Our server was nervous
        and clueless (when I asked what a tomato olive
        was she replied, with thinly-veiled panic,
        "It's an...um...pickled olive"). Some of the
        food was underseasoned to my taste, but the
        biggest disappointment had to be the potato
        pancakes (which, at the risk of offending the
        Alfa-Hound, I'll admit we ordered at Jim L.'s
        recommendation). With all due deference as a
        ChowHound-in-training and newcomer to the
        boards, I submit that we found the fritter-
        shaped "pancakes" fairly flavorless, and worse
        still, their soft interiors had an unpleasantly
        gluey texture, as if the potatoes had been
        pureed in a food processor. I'm curious why Jim
        talks them up.

        But we did enjoy ourselves enough to give it
        another try (it's in the neighborhood, the price
        is right, and the ambiance so appealing). Perhaps
        for brunch next time. Or we might just stop into
        the bar to get a Farmer Martini fix....

        1. re: chimera
          j
          Jim Leff Jul 3, 1999 02:38 PM

          Well, I'm glad it wasn't a total disaster!

          Pardon me while I riff at length here...I promise this
          isn't a harangue; it's just that this is an interesting
          point to discuss. Am interested in what others have to
          say.

          Your posting struck a chord with me as a jazz
          trombonist (my other career), strangely enough!

          Whenever I play, each listener comes away with a
          totally different "take" on how "good" I am. It's one
          of the central confusing dilemmas of art: audience
          members who are passionate about something tend to have
          specific expectations regarding what they're looking
          for from that thing. There are myriad such sets of
          expectations, and they constitute a rocky reef on which
          many an artist's efforts has caught and sunk.

          Some people gauge jazz musicians by their firey
          emotion, others judge by the beauty of a player's
          sound. Some listen only to one musician at a time,
          others focus on group interplay. Some like to be
          impressed with virtuosic technique, others spurn all
          but those with charmingly rough-hewn technique. Some
          concentrate on the line a musician is playing and need
          to be able to predict where he/she is going with that
          line...and prefer players who are predictable but not
          TOO predictable. Some are utterly disgusted and
          distracted by a missed notes or occasional bad
          intonation, others mistrust polished performance. Above
          all, most have severe stylistic likes/dislikes and
          write off any player who cross the line into a style
          they hate.

          Now, all these preferences are quite proper...you pay
          your money, you want to hear something that pleases
          you. As a listener, you'd get more enjoyment from a
          greater range of music if you could be more open, more
          intuitive, and less bound by preconceptions, but,
          again, it's your dime. It's confusing for the musician
          to be lionized by some and despised by others--in both
          cases often for factors they themselves don't give a
          darn about (which is why many have a deep-seated
          mistrust of applause!), but that's show biz. The awful
          thing is that such artificial, narrow distinctions
          drive most music critics, as well.

          It's devilishly difficult for musicians; we get all
          sorts of contradictory feedback in all sorts of ways.
          Almost no one tries to listen deeply to what we're
          TRYING to do and just come along for the ride with an
          open mind. You try to get free, to open up and just
          PLAY, letting the moment move you, but the audience
          (and critics!) are frozen into these static patterns.
          Reviews tend to read like a judgement as to whether
          you've met a given set of narrow personal criteria, few
          of which have anything to do with your actual musical
          intent.

          You use terms like "blandness", "unexciting", and
          "under-seasoned", but Grange Hall isn't TRYING for
          spicy, exciting, and well-seasoned. They serve comfort
          food, but comfort food artfully well-prepared. The
          bread is white bread, yes, but good white bread. If
          you've been eating lots of provocative breads from
          Amy's and Ecce Panis (both of which I love), simple
          white breads can seem bland and boring by comparison
          unless you're careful to recalibrate your perceptions.
          Same for the salad...yes, nothing hits you over the
          head, there's no dizzying catharsis of flavor, no
          interesting or provocative elements. But for salad of
          this type, it's admirably well-prepared. I don't
          concentrate on what's NOT being done, because in any
          given pursuit there must always be a plethora of roads
          NOT taken. Deliciousness is deliciousness, and there
          are many different forms it can take.

          I'm not demanding you follow my lead; I'm a critic, and
          I need to be fair, so I don't indulge my preferences. I
          don't eat a well-made gentile potato pancake and harp
          over its differences with the Eastern European Jewish
          kind. You, on the other hand, CAN eat that way (I envy
          you!), and I'm not trying to upbraid you, but to show
          you why your evaluation differed from mine. A critic
          has to try to faithfully judge and describe a place
          based on the place's own intent.

          But I do work hard to write evocatively enough so that
          readers who seek creative spicy vibrant food won't be
          attracted to, say, a Grange Hall. It sounds like you
          have my book; I suspect you paid more attention to my
          numerical ratings (which don't really say much...I was
          very unhappy about having to assign them, in fact) than
          to my prose. I think I painted an accurate picture of
          the restaurant, and your disappointment could, I think,
          have been anticipated from the review alone.

          As for the potato pancakes (thanks, but NO deference is
          due me, by the way...ich bin eine chowhound!), you're
          probably looking for a coarse grind, the way I myself
          prefer my latkes. But these are more shreddy fritter-
          style German potato pancakes. For what they are,
          they're delicious. I have a lot of trouble judging
          things for what they're not. They're only "gluey" if
          you're expecting coarse-grained. And only "bland" if
          you're expecting spicy. I don't expect, I just eat,
          trying to "reset" myself in each new place. Which is
          something you--eating for fun, not as a job--needn't
          worry about. Anyway, this has been a super long-winded
          attempt to explain that this simply isn't your
          restaurant!

          I understand your mind-frame, I could easily eat at
          Grange Hall with your perspective and see things
          exactly your way. Nothing you wrote was "wrong"; it's
          just a simple failure of the kitchen to meet your
          personal expectations. Others have different
          expectations (which is why it's a much-loved
          restaurant). A very few eaters suspend their
          expectations and eat on the restaurant's terms. Change
          their internal makeup and allow themselves to be
          inspired in different ways by different things, to
          relish rather than to reject alternative routes to
          deliciousness (and to know when there's no
          deliciousness to be gleaned from any perspective, in
          spite of clever attempts by a kitchen to fool you into
          thinking otherwise!).

          As for the waiter, sheesh, give 'em a break! One server
          stumbling over one question on one night says nothing
          about the restaurant...or about the waiter, either, for
          that matter!

          Anyway, sorry to pontificate at you...welcome to
          chowhound.com, and I hope you'll post more (and maybe
          eat just a bit more open-mindedly!)

          1. re: Jim Leff
            d
            Dave Feldman Jul 4, 1999 02:42 AM

            Can I add one more point to the mix.

            Have all Chowhounds read the NY Times article about
            taste a few weeks back (I think it was in the science
            section rather than in the food section, but it oculd
            have been in either). Essentially, the article
            indicated that scientists are convinced that there are
            very real differences in the level of sensitivities of
            tasters among normal folk (i.e., those without any
            physical problem).

            Roughly 1/4 of the population are called "super-
            tasters." They experience taste more intensely.
            Approximately another quarter of the population has
            relatively dull taste buds. And half are "average."

            There is more than a slight chance that what is
            unbearably bland to one taster is perceived as
            overpowering to another. What scientists don't seem
            to know yet, though, is whether there is a difference
            in PREFERENCE for seasoning or just a difference in
            SENSATION. If it's the latter, then the person who is
            pleased with one shake of the hot sauce bottle might
            like his or her food as much as the one who pours a
            tablespoon full.

            I'm convinced I'm one of those in the middle-range.
            For someone seriously interested in food, I'm more
            likely to complain that something is "tasteless"
            rather than "overpowering," and more likely to
            complain that something is "boring" rather than
            "subtle."

            And this might explain folks who don't seem to be at
            all interested in food as aesthtic properties. If all
            food tastes the same, how could you get excited about
            it?

            1. re: Dave Feldman
              j
              Jim Leff Jul 4, 1999 05:06 PM

              Dave--I'll reply by starting a new thread called "Perceiving Food" in the "general topics" board...either go to that index or use the link
              below to go directly to my message:

              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            2. re: Jim Leff
              c
              chimera Jul 5, 1999 11:49 AM

              "It's devilishly difficult for musicians;
              we get all sorts of contradictory feedback
              in all sorts of ways. Almost no one tries
              to listen deeply to what we're TRYING to do
              and just come along for the ride with an
              open mind.... I'm not demanding you follow
              my lead; I'm a critic, and I need to be fair,
              so I don't indulge my preferences.... You,
              on the other hand, CAN eat that way (I envy
              you!), and I'm not trying to upbraid you, but
              to show you why your evaluation differed from
              mine. A critic has to try to faithfully judge
              and describe a place based on the place's own
              intent.... It sounds like you have my book; I
              suspect you paid more attention to my
              numerical ratings (which don't really say
              much...I was very unhappy about having to
              assign them, in fact) than to my prose.... I
              understand your mind-frame, I could easily eat
              at Grange Hall with your perspective and see
              things exactly your way.... A very few eaters
              suspend their expectations and eat on the
              restaurant's terms. Change their internal
              makeup and allow themselves to be inspired in
              different ways by different things, to relish
              rather than to reject alternative routes to
              deliciousness...."

              Wow. There's something kinda heady about
              enduring so presumptuous and unrelenting an
              onslaught of condescension. Some endorphin
              thing perhaps? Or maybe I'm just reeling from
              the intensity of having my "mind-frame"
              understood so completely.

              I mean, if you consider the distinctions
              between "stale" and "fresh" (and "gluey" and
              "soft") to be "artificial," "narrow," and
              "personal," then I'm chastened. And I'm
              certain I may fairly be accused of "indulging
              my preference" for the former in each case.
              But as sorry as I am for the devilish
              difficulties of your music career, and the
              narrow-mindedness of jazz critics, I'm afraid
              that unless the kitchen at Grange Hall INTENDED
              stale and gluey, I don't think my problems with
              my meal can be chalked up to a lack of
              sensitivity to the artists' intentions, or a
              poverty of "intuition."

              I'm perfectly willing to accept the notion that
              individual idiosycracies of taste and preference
              play a role in anyone's enjoyment of any food,
              and that I brought mine with me to Grange Hall,
              but I submit that when I entered the restaurant
              I was not at all expecting "spicy" or "creative"
              (if, by the latter, you mean some foodie/fusion
              standard of legitimacy). Flavorful, yes, fresh,
              definitely. I was, in fact, expecting exactly
              what you describe as "comfort food artfully
              well-prepared." In some cases, that is most
              assuredly and happily what I got, in others, not.

              I never complained of the bread's whiteness (some
              of my best friends are white bread), nor that it
              was "simple," but, rather, that it was neither
              very "good" nor very fresh. And by "good" (to use
              your own term), I'm afraid I do mean flavorful,
              and, I hasten to add, NOT rosemary-chipotle-
              caraway flavorful, nor even salty, but flavorful
              as white bread. How else do we determine any
              bread's goodness if not by flavor and texture? I
              can safely say that I've never entered a
              restaurant in the hopes of being "hit over the
              head," and I'm certain I don't harbor a
              prejudicing desire to be provoked or made dizzy
              by my bread. I do, however, take exception to the
              suggestion that "simple" fare cannot be
              interesting or even "exciting." In truth, what
              excites me about food is precisely that it
              succeeds on its own terms, which in most cases
              my meal at Grange Hall did, and for that reason
              (along with the fact of it's very charming
              location) I can understand why Grange Hall is a
              "much loved restaurant." A salad comprising
              nothing but a single, simply dressed green can,
              perhaps (if the greens themselves are fresh and
              flavorful, and the dressing well-balanced) even
              be fairly described as "cathartic." Mucilaginous
              potatoes, however, cannot--no matter how
              "careful[ly]" I "recalibrate my perceptions." I
              appreciate your efforts to "show [me] why [your]
              evaluation differed from [mine]," but I am quite
              certain that I'm not confusing gluey with gentile
              (though it's an amusing proposition). If it is
              because I'm not a critic like yourself that I may
              recklessly entertain my distaste for glue without
              endangering my journalistic integrity, then I can
              well understand your "envy." And, I'm sorry, but
              it certainly does say something about a server if
              they do not realize that there's nothing unusual
              about an olive's being pickled, particularly when
              it's a tomato. I'm no stranger to the strains of
              waiting table (having done it myself), but if you
              don't know what something is, you say so, and then
              you find out. Incidentally, when I said I'd ordered
              the pancakes on your recommendation, I was
              referring only to your message posted on the
              ChowHound boards; I'm afraid I don't have your
              book and have been influenced neither by the
              numerical ratings nor the prose contained therein.
              Perhaps it was an off-night for bread and potatoes
              in the Grange Hall kitchen, but I've eaten
              deep-fried potatoes many ways in my life
              (coarsely chopped, shredded, mashed, pureed) and
              by many names (latkes, pancakes, fritters,
              croquettes) and found them delicious in their
              many incarnations (on their myriad "routes to
              deliciousness"). These, I simply did not.

              I thank you for welcoming me to chowhound.com,
              even if it did come with the admonition to "maybe
              eat just a bit more open-mindedly!" I think the
              site is fantastic, and an invaluable resource, and
              I'll try therein always to give as good as I get.

              1. re: chimera
                j
                Jim Leff Jul 5, 1999 12:38 PM

                Argh. Chimera, my point was that every one of your criticisms MIGHT be explained by a patterned way of viewing food. "Heavy and bland" can describe even good white bread (when described by someone who likes more interesting breads than old-fashioned white). "Unexciting" can describe even a good simple salad (when described by someone who dislikes simple salads). "Gluey" is a bit overboard, but can refer to a good non-coarse-ground potato pancake (when described by someone who likes 'em coarse). From my past experience at Grange Hall, I could see every one of your complaints (as stated in that first message...not your more strongly-worded complaints in this one!) applying to the food I know and love there.

                It may be that you did encounter stale bread, cheap salad, and icky potato pancakes. Grange Hall might have become the worst restaurant in the world, and you might be the most open-minded of eaters. But there was a pattern to your comments; I'm surprised that you can't see that pattern and why it inspired me to go off on a digression about similar patterns in others, a digression that I tried to explain wasn't directed straight at you. Even if what I wrote totally doesn't apply to you or your eating habits, it's still a halfway interesting point, no? Remember, others are reading along...

                I'm very sorry you took it as a personal dressing-down. I was just taking an opportunity to talk about some issues I find interesting; I can understand why the intensity of my writing (and, in some cases, my phrasing, I now see) may have made you interpret it as a personal attack. Again, I was just riffing. If we were speaking in person, and you interrupted to say "Nah, I LIKE simple food, I don't need everything to be cooked socko", I'd have shrugged and said "Oh, ok!", and we could have discussed those other issues without referring to you personally (and, less stung, you might have found the discussion more stimulating). I was just using webmaster perogative to talk to the bleachers on a guess.

                Maybe I should have written it as an article elsewhere on the site. But I haven't posted to the boards in a while, and figured this might be an interesting discussion-starter. Oh, well!

                In any case, I AM glad you got over your "deferential" phase!

        2. j
          Josh Mittleman Sep 3, 1997 02:20 PM

          I haven't been eating in the Village nearly as much as I used to do, so I can't offer many suggestions. Here are a few.

          Andalusia (or whatever it happens to be called now), the Moroccan place on the south side of the middle of Cornelia St., roughly across from the Cornelia Street Cafe.

          For that matter, the Cornelia Street Cafe.

          An old favorite is the Gran Ticino, on Sullivan near 3rd St. The pasta dishes are wonderful and quite reasonably priced if you have them as main dishes.

          A _wonderful_ Italian place is Cent'Anni at 50 Carmine. I don't know if $20-$30 per person is in your range, but if so, try it out.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Josh Mittleman
            d
            Dave Feldman Sep 4, 1997 02:54 AM

            I happen to love Cent'anni, too (it's one of the closest restaurants in NYC to a real trattoria), but I'm afraid even $20-30 is too optimistic. A full meal is likely to cost a little more -- $40-50 is more like it for an appetizer, entree, dessert, and a glass of wine and coffee.

            DF

            1. re: Dave Feldman
              m
              maya rutherford Sep 24, 1997 02:43 PM

              my favorite restaurants in the west village are:
              Bar Pitti on 6th Ave. near Bleeker--great trattoria,
              delicious pasta, sauteed spinach, and other trattoria
              staples--plus their panna cotta is amazing for
              dessert--very good people watching, too

              try drover's on Jones St., opened by the couple who own
              home. it's more spacious than Home, and has a great
              bar where they serve local beers on tap and their own
              mixed drinks, which are very good and not cloyingly
              sweet. the fried chicken and macaroni in a skillet are
              great; as is the dandelion green salad with beets and
              maytag blue cheese.

              john's pizza on bleecker is always good and cheap.
              they use real mushrooms on their pizza. try extra
              garlic on the pizza. it's subtle and delicious.

              the Bistro Burger at The Corner Bistro at W. 4th and
              Jane has the best hamburger in NYC. and cheap good beer
              (Killian's)

              1. re: maya rutherford
                s
                Sage Oct 29, 1997 10:19 AM

                Don't drink Killian's! It's one of the earliest of
                those fake microbrews and it's made by COORS! Uhhg!

                1. re: Sage
                  m
                  maya rutherford Oct 29, 1997 01:59 PM

                  but if you're broke and dying for a beer, you can't
                  beat that pint of Killian's at the Corner Bistro!

              2. re: Dave Feldman
                d
                Deirdre Cullen Sep 24, 1998 02:12 PM

                For a downright bargain and good wholesome food
                try the Sazerac HOuse on Hudson & Charles St
                This place is the equal to Tartine in quality,
                less expensive and definitely more comfortable.

              3. re: Josh Mittleman
                s
                Steve Schwartz Sep 25, 1997 12:26 PM

                I remember a great Moroccan meal at The Magic Carpet in
                the Village, can't remember the street. I don't
                remember what the dish was called, maybe "stuffed
                chicken". It was sliced chicken breast over flavored
                rice with raisins and pine nuts and cubed chicken all
                turned out in a mound on the plate so the sliced
                chicken was on the outside and the rest of the mixture
                inside, so to speak.They even had a belly dancer.
                Anyone know the address?
                Steve

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