9th Ave Good Eats (40s and 50s)
- Ric Zoon Apr 6, 2000 12:41 PM
I live in the high 50s on 9th Ave and am aware
of a lot of new restaurants and cafes opening
in the area but curious if anyone has tried anything
or knows of any "gems" in the area
quickly- the only things i've tried have been
Route 66 Cafe (55th/9th)
other than that......... you're on!
If you search the archives, you'll find a discussion not too long ago about Puttanesca & Julian's. If I recall correctly (which assumes a lot these days!) both got good comments. I've been to Puttanesca, which is actually at the corner of 56th, and been very pleased. Nothing fancy--just a nice neighborhood or pre-theatre place that's reasonably priced with decent food. BTW, I don't consider it "new."
On the contrary, I live on 56 and 9th and don't bother going there anymore. The horrible service aside, all four visits I made resulted in basic Italian food that I could find absolutely anywhere. Nothing special - and the food is turned out so quickly that I can't imagine there is anything special going on in the kitchen. It's a good place to take grandparents who are picky because they can get spaghetti with meat sauce and be happy.
Ninth Avenue makes me edgy. I know people like us are supposed to really dig it, but I almost always come away with meals there feeling vaguely dissatisfied.
I like Uncle Vanya, but you've got to order VERY carefully and realize that you're there for the charm of the grandmotherly cooking, rather than good ingredients or a particularly deft hand in the kitchen. None of the Italians I've tried are much good. Old San Juan is good, but it's so expensive for what it is. Just almost nothing in the nabe makes it over the hurdle of making me enthusiastic.
Except blessed Rinconcito Peruano (803 Ninth Avenue (between 53 and 54 Streets), 212-333-5685), the city's best all-around Peruvian (though I need to revisit Inti Raymi) and El Papsito (370 West 52nd (near 9th avenue), 212-265-2225), the best downtown Dominican. Actually, I've recently heard less-than-great reports from people eating at both. Sigh.
To be fair, I've not tried all the places around there; not even all the ones you mentioned. The cumulative weight of mediocre meals eaten with high expectations makes me kind of lose my appetite when in that area.
Sorry to be so doom and gloomy...I hope someone can change my mind!
This resturant is the best! Everything is good here. The dishes are so well seasoned that salt & pepper is not offered and is not needed.My personal favorites presently are the cajun catfish, the best mashed potatoes I've ever put into my mouth and the okra that is prepared some magical tasty way. There is a pretty satisfying South African wine offered as well. Hope this encourages you to try it - well worth it.
Our whole family likes this place & every so often one of us will suggest "Jezebels" for a soul food fix.
re: Jim Leff
I had lunch at El Papasito a few Saturdays ago, after reading the rave in Jim's book, and I was very disappointed. The lauded beans--red in my case--were virtually tasteless, though the sauce at the bottom of the bowl did have more flavor. The chicharrones were O.K. at best. I've been disappointed before at places Jim's recommended because I didn't have the transcendent dining experience his prose had led me to expect, but this meal wasn't even good.
I considered posting or emailing Jim at the time, but didn't because of Jim's warnings against judging a restaurant on the basis of one meal, because I have no other experience with Dominican cooking, and because my tastes seem to differ from Jim's anyway. But now that I know my experience wasn't unique, I thought I'd mention it.
re: Adam Stephanides
Adam--that's about the third complaint I've heard about this place in three months.
Last time I was there, they were building a second location (under a different name, if I recall). My speculation is that the chef may have went there. Let me check it out. Trust me, the place was killing a year ago or so.
Sorry you've been having bad experiences...please bear in mind that the book was published well over a year ago, and researched a few months before that. Places WERE as described at the time, I promise you that. But entropy is setting in, places are starting to decline, close, and generally change. The book's still helpful as a general guide (MUCH better than simply walking into random places!), and if you'd like to check with me about specific places before you visit, feel free to post, and I'll make an effort to get back to you (or anyone else) with up to date info...and the others can chime in with even more cumulative reports.
This is the problem with food guidebooks, alas. But this site is the solution!
re: Jim Leff
Well, as I said, this is the only place I've had a "bad" experience. The other meals I've eaten on your recommendation have been good, even when they weren't great. And actually, my other "disappointments" have been at places which you had recommended in recent articles or posts. So I suspect that in those cases it really was a question of divergent tastes, rather than entropy.
Incidentally, I did find the updates page to the Eclectic Gourmet Guide on this site. But I wasn't sure how current that page was, even with regard to closings. ("Downhill Alert" seems to be pretty dormant too.)
re: Adam Stephanides
>>>I considered posting or emailing Jim at the time, but didn't because of Jim's warnings against judging a restaurant on the basis of one meal,<<<
With all the combined posts of "one nite stands" at a particular restaurant I think readers can still get a good idea of how it will fair.
Yep, thanks, Marilayne. While it's essential for a professional reviewer doing a thorough review to do a thorough check-out, the cumulative weight of individual reports on these boards (only because such a high proportion of our users are really smart and dependable) is even more compelling.
This is also why I encourage you all to not be overly polite about disagreeing...if someone posts questionable info and everybody's afraid to be negative, it can lead to dreaded Chowhound Reality Distortion!
It takes lots of divergent opinions to make these boards work, and Adam's experiences are valuable to us even if they were single meal reports.Even if (especially if!) they disagree with my own (though I'm not sure they do...I still suspect it's a case of quality downturns and overall entropy)
I always really enjoy Druids on 10th bet. 50 & 51. It's basically a nice Irish bar with ambitious food. The chef, Frank something (Coe?) is quite a character and worth chatting with for a few minutes. Highly recommended.
On 9th, I really like Chimichurri Grill in the low 40s. Pietrasanta and Amarone do pretty decent Italian to my taste. On 8th, Trattoria Rino does pretty good Italian at rock-bottom prices (also good for takeout).
That's what I've got off the top of my head.
You might try Wondee Siam, between 52nd and 53rd. I friend of mine, who travels to Thailand often and who introduced me to Sripraphai, swears by it. I'm not quite as enthusiastic, though the food is definitely good (and cheap); but I'm not an expert on Thai food.
Other places in the area I've had good meals at are Africa Restaurant, a Senegalese restaurant on 53rd Street east of 9th Ave (though I recall Robert Sietsema saying that the Harlem branch is better), and Meskerem, an Ethiopean restaurant on 47th Street off 10th Avenue.
re: Adam Stephanides
A couple of cautions to anyone who wants to check out Wondee Siam:
1) The place is tiny--only a few tables--and pretty popular; when I went there last Saturday around 7:30, it was full up.
2) My friend tells me that the main chef told him she was returning to Thailand in a month. According to him, she's said this before, but this time she sounded more serious.
Here are some quick impressions for 9th Ave:
Vynl: Funky food, and odd (retro) diner decor. I'd
only rate their Soup worth trying.
Georgio's: Non-descript greek fare. (I'd still give
it a chance)
Indians: Most indian restaurants are mediocre in this
Rice & Beans: They have moved within the block. Good
Uncle Nicks Ouseria: Uncle Nick's opened a greek tapas
place next door, a year or so ago. You cannot
go wrong with their mixed cold appetizer which comes with four selections. I also happen to like their sausage in wine sauce.
For Afghan food, I like the Ariana Afghan Kebab House, on the west side of 9th Av., but I forget exactly where (somewhere between 52nd and 54th, I think). My only caution about them is that I would suggest asking for the salad which accompanies your main dish to be served WITHOUT DRESSING. Then put the delicious hot green or/and red sauces already in containers on the table on your salad. (the house dressing with mayonnaise is neither authentic nor good, IMO)
For Thai food, I like the Pongsri Thai branch on 48 St. just east of 8th Av. - but I'm a little leery of repeating myself on this, so if anyone has a lousy meal there, please post it! FWIW, I will be in the area around dinnertime on Friday and may see about going there again for a "checkup."
There are some good Latin places which look like nothing, for example a Peruvian (or was it Ecuadorian?) diner I ate in on 11th Av. somewhere like 51 St., though that was about a year ago, I guess. I also remember having a good lunch in a really rough-and-ready Puerto Rican place in the low 50s or high 40s on 9th, around last winter or so. Couldn't remember the name if you told me, but a map of Puerto Rico was on the wall.
I love 9th ave so much that I won't move anywhere else because I would miss it. My suggestions are:
Route 66 Cafe - much better and fresher than any diner anywhere. Also made to order fruit and vegetable juices.
Pietrasanta - flavorful Italian, huge menu - good prices
Rice & Beans - Their "Chicken Ipanema" is amazing, as is of course, the rice and beans.
Ta Cocina - fresh mexican food (I know it is a chain, but I can overlook that due to the fresh food and preparation)
POSEIDON BAKERY - the Best greek bakery there is - amazingly flaky spinach pies served hot, too.
Los Dos Rancheros Mexicanos - My husband and I have been enjoying this extremely authentic (music, decor and people) Mexican restaurant for years. The NY Times wrote it up recently and changed the makeup of the visitors a little (we died when we saw baby strollers in there on a recent Friday night!), but the food is still good nonetheless. Be prepared for absolutely NO decor, but excellent, truly authentic food.
Africa - down by Port Authority - delicious African Food - really cheap.
AMISH MARKET - great market for all fresh foods
SPICE MARKET - I don't know what it's name is, but it is across the street from the Port Authority on 9th ave, and they have every ingredient you would ever need from across the world.
There are more, I just can't think of it off the top of my head. Enjoy!!
If you're willing to walk down a few blocks, MARKET CAFE (37th & 9th) is amazing. Food is incredibly inexpensive, open for lunch & dinner -- I recently had a tasty salmon dish for $9.95 that rivals $25 salmons in much fancier spots. Homemade pizzas for lunch, interesting sandwiches (curried chicken salad on fresh bread). Definitely try it!
I'm new to this website - what a great resource!
I too live in the high 50's on 9th - I'd love input on these and other suggestions:
Here's my quick run down.
-Island Burger is a favorite of mine. For the price, I don't think you can get a better cheeseburger.
-Route 66 has suprisingly good salads, but it's a little expensive for a glorified diner
-Wondee Siam I like a lot. The Pad Crow Paw (I know I got that wrong, but hopefully it's close enough to figure out what it is - garlic, oyster sauce..) really good. This one is for takeout - no atmosphere.
-Druids looks like a handsome old bar, and is, but has very good (and fairly expensive) new American/French-infuenced food.
-Jimmy Armstrong's on 10th and 57th is another odd duck of the area. It has an almost illegible menu, looks like an Irish bar and serves Carribean food. The 2 meals I've had there - A sausage dish and a Grouper and avocado burrito were pretty good and well-priced, but not great. The combination of the warm atmosphere and interesting-food-instead-of-bar-food makes this worth checking out.
-Vinyl is well priced and has an atmosphere you would expect from a place further downtown. The food is not particularly good though - I've had several meals and really like their chicken club sandwich. The more ambitious choices fall flat and their idea of comfort items (meatloaf, for example) was not very good.
I'd love to talk more about these and other places in the area. Any other recommendations?