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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.

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        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?

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            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?

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            Market Table
            54 Carmine Street, New York, NY 10014

            Eataly
            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.