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a month of eating in new york. i'm stuffed and have some opnions

i live in la, but took an apartment in union square for a month. my once washboard stomach is now a bit jiggly, but i've eaten a lot and would love to share what i've learned. in no particular order:

momofuku ain't as good as it used to be. last night, my friend and i both left our tough glop of ginger noodles practically untouched in their bowls. they were impossible to eat, like a pound of lead, and the waitress, who tried to pick up what she thought were empty dishes about five times, never asked why neither of us touched what we'd ordered.

casa mono. ok, the place was a little cramped and the single man sitting at the tapas bar next to my date and i stared at me all night and the waiter was a bit odd, but the food was spectacular. we had goat and duck egg and rabbit and a delicious bottle of something bubbly and i loved every single bite.

the breslin. i had to laugh when my date, tattooed with full sleeves and wearing a tee shirt asked me if he was dressed appropriately for the breslin. sweetie, i said, i'm going to have a hard time finding you in the crowd. that said, it is a young place. the drinks are fantastic and surprisingly potent. skip the caramel corn bar snack, the caramel isn't caramelized, it is just coked crystalline sugar on popcorn, and a real miss. however, the rest was spectacular. as i said above, i live in LA and until this night, had not had a french fry in twenty years, but i couldn't resist the ones served with our delicious lamb burger. the pork belly was amazing, crisp and rich and, well, salty, as is everything here, so if that scares you, you might want to pass.

cookshop. you gotta love this place. sure, the bar often filled with highline visiting midwestern tourists with prim haircuts and stretchy pants, but the food is simple, good and the crowd is a perfect mix of gay, straight, neighborhood and visitors. it is hard to make a turkey sandwich worthy of a talk on a food board, but i loved mine here enough to rave.

popsicles at brooklyn flea and chelsea market. yum. small, but yum.

dbgb. ehhh. boring bar scene. weird two person upholstered bar benches. personally, i think it is unfair to ask a customer sausage or no sausage when they order pasta and not mention it nearly doubles the price. food was fine, but my visit was tortured when the couple next to me at the bar stared like they'd never scene a woman eating alone before.

shopsins. yea, so we almost got kicked out for approaching the waitress too quickly. we were asked if we were in a hurry and sent back to the lobby to cool our heels. food was fine, but my date, who is a street smart new yorker gasped when the bill came. we still laugh about our sixty dollar pancakes. were they good? in an amusing disney land sort of way, but sixty bucks worth. nahh.

russ and daughters. in the case in the back, hidden behind all the stuff people come here for, they sell baked fruit filled farmer's cheese. buy some. it is that good.

xian xian. loved the noodles. portion way too big for me and i was embarrassed to have to throw more than half my plate away. get the salad with peppers celery and cilantro. it was nice.

milk bar. the guy i dated the whole time i was here buys two pieces of crack pie at a time. as for me, let's just say the young man behind the counter knows me by now. and i wouldn't eat bbq flavored ice cream again if you paid me. but, that creamed corn, yum. potato chip, a bit more of an acquired taste. but all roads lead to milk bar, don't they?

chikalicious. personally, i think she serves the best soft serve in the world, however my caramel loving date insisted on a caramel macarron and it was gritty and sad. stick to cupcakes at the cafe, or the lovely cheesecake across the street at the restaurant and save your meringue calories for the real thing a paris.

num pang, or something like that, a little banh mi joint on 12th street. when i lived in the east village in the heroin filled eighies, you couldn't walk east of avenue a without walking by the impromptu shopfronts where junkies scored their drugs. this place, in the nicest sort of way, reminds me of that: an easy to pass by storefront with a paper menu and little else to tell you what treats lie within. when your sandwich is done, no substitutions please, you grab you little silver tray and crawl up a difficult circular stair to a room art directed to look a bit like a car repair shop unearthed from a time capsule. base-y music blares and there is a repeating pattern of chickens painted on the wired windows. the cute clerk has kept count of how many times i've been there, and announces it loudly when i step up to the window. i love this place.

republic. say you are really hungry, don't have a lot of money to spend and are craving asian food. don't go here. the food sucks, the room is loud, and the bathroom is down a really steep flight of steps.

whole foods. really, why do twenty somethings stand in 200 people deep to buy a fifteen dollar salad that has no taste, when, in any direction, there are dozens of restaurants where, for less, they could have someone wait on them and actually enjoy their meal. however, the two dollar breakfast oatmeal is the best deal in town.

the spotted pig. why oh why do waiters have to be so indifferent. personally, i'd prefer mean and surly to i'm going to play on my blackberry and ignore you. the spectacular burger and mountain of fries made up for the lack of personality fireworks. and the grilled cheese has officially replaced gluttony on the world's list of deadly sins. i was full for two days after this place.

barbuto. yea, it has been around forever and, yea, it has the famous chef who is probably in the kitchen but a tiny fraction of the week and, yea, sometimes the amazing chicken isn't quite as amazing as others, but i gotta hand it to this place. despite being a tourist draw, it is full of neighborhood regulars who seem to stop by for a bite after a long hard day making lots of money doing something that sounds more interesting after a couple glasses of wine. i loved sitting at the bar, mostly because i've met some incredible people here, including the above mentioned tatt guy. no one rushes you, wine glasses sometimes get mysteriously topped off, the food is really good in a solid, no surprises, gotta say it, california kind of way. no fireworks in the kitchen here. just solid food that really tastes good, lots of people having lots of fun. and a great place to go if you don't know anyone in town and are aching for a quality conversation.

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  1. Great write up. Love that you lived in the East Village in the 80s and still have a washboard stomach now.

    1 Reply
    1. re: princeofpork

      well it was the late 80's and i do a lot of sit-ups.

    2. Great review. I printed it out and plan on hitting some of te place you raved about. Grazie mille!

      1. Momofuku Noodle Bar is undergoing some changes right now, with some chef/staff shuffling, BTW.

        Momofuku Noodle Bar
        171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

        3 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          i've been such a fan since the beginning, but last night was so bad, it might be a bit before i come back. i'd gotten over my disappointment at commercial feeling pre-boxed pie and prepackaged cake balls at milk bar, actually forgiven them for it, but inedible food and a waitress who doesn't notice it, i gotta give my money to someone who deserves it.

          1. re: jrnlmkr

            Have you tried Ssam Bar, Ko, Ma Peche?

            Ma Peche
            15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

            1. re: kathryn

              Just ssam. No need to go uptown and the reservation
              lottery for ko got boring after first twenty tries. I prefer
              a reservationist with my reservations

        2. As a former New Yorker I really enjoyed your write-up. I spent a lot of time near that Whole Foods and I know what you mean...although I admit to being guilty of buying from their salad bar myself a good number of times...

          But I love what you say about Republic. That place always blew my mind, it's just so bad. In general, whenever I see a place described as "Asian cuisine" or "Pan-Asian" or whatever, I'm instantly skeptical.

          1. oops. forgot a couple of important places.

            market table. during my month in new york, it seems i was invited into some sort of secret restaurant network where tables instantly appeared and unordered dishes were placed on already precariously crowded tables. market table was no different. we were about an hour late for our reservation, but ushered to a table that seemingly was plopped in the walkway for us. nice. the wine mojitos were unremarkable, actually watery, but the beef carpaccio complete with french fry scaffolding was delicious. we were given an unordered heirloom tomato salad which was good, but really, how much cheffing does it take to slice a beautiful fruit? my date devoured his branzino and my pan roasted chicken was nice, albeit a bit crispy (if you are one to read between the lines i am trying to say overcooked in the politest of ways.). however i couldn't figure out the mushy broccoli beneath. the last time i had a vegetable so overcooked my grandmother made it and she is long dead. the place was packed and several once strangers, now friends were chatting away together at the tiny bar. with the check, they brought a tiny book where we were supposed to write our impressions. mine said, "the food was almost as fantastic as my date."

            eataly. please. this was possibly the most ridiculous place i've ever been. the night we were there, mario the king was holding pasty puffy chubby court in the pastry area taking pictures with cute midwestern blondes, when he should have been supervising the food. pastries: bad, really bad. or the decor, bad, really bad. it sort of reminded me of otto, where they got the visuals just about almost right, then bought the cheapest, ugliest tables they could find and plopped them into the room with no regard for customer comfort or visual interest. eataly was just like that, a big ugly room filled with stuff plonked down wherever they could make it fit. there was no flow, no sense of visual excitement. and that bad pun, eataly, makes the writer in me want to slash my wrists. how do you say hooker in eatalian?

            Market Table
            54 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014

            200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

            2 Replies
            1. re: jrnlmkr

              Oh god, I feel the same way; eataly sounds like the name of a bad food blog written by an out of work FiDi guy who is looking for a new career path.

              1. re: jrnlmkr

                Agree completely about Eataly! I can't believe people go there to eat. It's a very uncomfortable space. Not only that, but if you wanted to eat there, you have choose the type of food and it in the appropriate space--pizza or meat or fish or pasta are all separate. Todd English's Food Hall under the Plaza Hotel works so much better. You can sit anywhere, order anything, and it's all good. Your writing is very enjoyable, too.

              2. Loved your reviews! Though I've never understood the People's Pop thing. Might as well go all the way with desserts in my opinion. Frozen fruit on a stick isn't as good as the fruit it came from or the gelato I could be having instead!

                People's Pops
                75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                1. Great post! Lots of food for thought there, pun intended.

                  1. Loved this report, now if you had a restaurant blog I would actually want to read it!

                    1. Loved your take on local spots. Thanks.

                      1. Never write a review on an iPhone or you get
                        a bunch of auto filled words and typos. Sorry folks I do know
                        how to spell

                        another addition

                        Hudson hall at the Hudson hotel

                        I'm pretty sure the only thing I ever ate T my junior
                        high cafeteria was the Maurice salad on alternating Fridays
                        so what would make a hotel restaurant think that
                        hungry biz travellers would want to eat overcooked
                        tasteless food from a plastic tray and pay ainim of eight bucks
                        for each tiny bite? Funny, the old restaurant there called cafeteria
                        was so bad my sister and I didn't eat more than one bite when we ate there years ago and I found myself almost wishing for that meal instead

                        diner. I'd had a bad meal at marlow and sons a few trips ago but thought I owed
                        them another shot. I sat at the bar for brunch and ordered a blt and a beer from a handwritten
                        menu scrawled on cash register tape. The barkeep warnede the sandwich was small and I told that would be fine despite the warning was astonished to get 1/2 piece of toast slathered withsome tasty green mayo a half slice of mayo a couple chunks of bacon perhaps equal to
                        half a slice and a forkful of delicious geen salad with a bite of nectarine perched on top
                        the menu had no prices, what's the deal with that, and it turns out the amuse bouche and the beer came to nearly teeny five dollars. Bummer since i'd had to leaveost of the beer behind. No food to
                        soak up a mid day drink would have left me wondering drunk
                        in Brooklyn and I might have found myself tempted to ask one of the many local hipsters what's the deal with all the Amish style beards?

                        1. one last addition:

                          breakfast at the standard grill. i was meeting some friends and the standard grill seemed the right place. i arrived early and was shown to a big, comfortable horseshoe shaped booth. i ordered iced tea and toast to stave off my huge hunger, took a deep breath and took in the lovely surroundings. my first batch of toast came slathered in olive oil, good for a dinner app, but not what i want to start my day with. sent it back and was brought another, unoiled batch. i was hacking at it with the side of my knife, trying to chip off all the charred bits when the waiter came by to see what i was doing. after a bite i told him it was just too burnt to eat and he took it away. when my friends arrived, i ordered oatmeal, they egg sandwiches. the oatmeal arrived watery and undercooked topped with a tasteless raisin, i don't know, compote? I asked for brown sugar, but our terrible waiter forgot to bring it. My friends seemed to enjoy their sandwiches, but to me, it is pretty hard to mess up toast and oatmeal, so i'd probably not give this place a second chance.

                          Walking home from one of my many dinners at Barbuto, I passed the standard in the late night and it was swinging, swinging hard, so if you are looking for a party, this is your place.

                          1. Great write-up, though one thing is confusing me:

                            You make it sound as if you spent $60 on one or two orders of pancakes at Shopsin's, but the most expensive pancakes on the menu at are $16. Maybe that's a lot more than a plate of pancakes would normally be at an average diner, but on average they're around the same price you'd pay at Clinton Street Baking Co, Essex, or any other better-than-average brunch joint on the LES. And, more to the point, you had at least FOUR orders of them. So, $60 isn't really that shocking when you consider how much you ordered.

                            And really, that's a lot of pancakes.

                            Clinton Street Baking Co.
                            4 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: sgordon

                              we ordered an omelet, pancakes, coffee and iced tea. with tip, our breakfast was $60 which i found to be a bit high for the quality of the food. yes, i had $60 brunches at cookshop, several of them in fact, but the food was chef quality with every detail attended to including sophisticated plating. you say tomato i say tomato, but for my sixty bucks, i'd rather sit at the bar under the highline and eat a delicious whitefish salad served with a tumble of greenmarket lettuce by a bartender who refills my iced tea without asking. i'm not saying shopsins was bad, just pricey for the atmosphere. i'm glad i went, but once was, for sure, enough.

                              1. re: jrnlmkr

                                Not to belabor it, but I can't see how it cost that much. The most expensive pancakes and omelet would have been $16/each, plus $2/each for coffee and iced tea. Unless you left a really exorbitant tip or something, with t/t it should have come to the mid-40s at the highest.

                                But I guess my point was, 1. there were no "sixty dollar pancakes," and 2. the price per order - which ranges from $8 to $16 - isn't terribly odd for the city.

                                Is Cookshop serving better food? It's serving more "refined" food, certainly. I think they fill different needs, I like them both, and I find the price point appropriate for each.

                                1. re: sgordon

                                  not sure what to say, it was a diner, an uncomfortable one at that, the food was fine, but nothing to scream about and the atmosphere kitschy, not worth the $57 plus change we spent.

                                  for the same money, i'll take the refined food any day.

                                  1. re: sgordon

                                    >Is Cookshop serving better food? It's serving more "refined" food, certainly. I think they fill different needs, I like them both, and I find the price point appropriate for each.

                                    I agree w/ this.

                              2. thanks and . . a reminder to everyone, her original thread asking for recs:

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bigjeff

                                  Interesting to read both threads - thanks!

                                2. Great report!

                                  i loathe Republic, as well as all David Chang and Batali places...

                                  i'm newly back living in Union Square after a long time abroad, and i haven't hit the Breslin yet, but that lamb burger is on my list to try...

                                  Sorry that you didn't like DBGB though...some of my female friends particularly like it for bar dining so i was surprised by your experience...i go there for oysters and wine at least once a week...

                                  37 Union Sq W, New York, NY 10003

                                  299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

                                  The Breslin
                                  20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001