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Virgil's -- worst restaurant in NYC?

I ate at Virgil's for the first time on Friday. I got an email from a friend suggesting we meet there for lunch, and since the principal objective was to catch up with a former colleague rather than necessarily have a chowish meal, I didn't object. My catfish po'boy was inedible; I couldn't even choak it down. I hate to rush to a conclusion like "worst restaurant in NYC" based on a single experience (especially when NYC has so many contenders for that title), but this meal was so bad I can't imagine giving it a second chance.

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  1. there's worse. i'm not a virgil's defender. i'm not sure anyone is, but i could probably eat there if i had to. i bet the pulled pork is at least edible.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coasts

      I think there's worse too. I like the trainwreck fries and the chicken wings. The ribs and the lamb aren't the best but definitely edible.

    2. Why not get the ribs? Its BBQ not Cajun.

      1. I once had a grilled cheese there. It was fine. Actually, the cole slaw was kind of good. I also liked the vodka lemonade. I don't think it pretends to be anything particularly special; it's not great, but certainly there war worse places.

        1. catfish po boy was definitely an ill advised choice

          1 Reply
          1. I have always found their barbeque to be decent (although there is better BBQ to be had in NYC, there is also far worse). I would not and have not ventured from their BBQ fare.

            3 Replies
            1. re: boccalupo

              I agree. I think that, based on one dish-- the ordering of which is akin to ordering chicken salad at Katz'-- you probably should not make blanket statements about it being "the worst restaurant" in the city.

              1. re: erica

                The "worst" statement was meant to be a little facetious. But I'd bet if you went to Katz's and ordered the chicken salad, it'd be a lot better than the crap they served me at Virgil's.

                (BTW, 25 years ago, when i didn't know to go to Katz's instead of the Carnegie, I sat next to a couple of tourists at the Carnegie who had ordered chicken salad and a burger and listened to them comment to each other that they didn't know what the fuss was all about.)

              2. We used to order there from work and I always got the BBQ brisket sandwich. Not much else appealed to me. I wouldn't bother going there for a meal.

                1. I think it's a decent place. Believe me, there are much, much worse in NYC.

                  1. You go to Virgil's for BBQ. It's well-known to be a BBQ place. You seem to be familiar with Manhattan so I can't understand how you'd go with fish at a BBQ restaurant. You go with what they should do best. Virgil's isn't even close to being the worst restaurant in NYC--all you have to do is walk down a couple of blocks and take a look at the chains in Times Square. THOSE are the worst restaurants in the city.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: MandalayVA

                      Sorry for expecting a BBQ place to be able to make a simple fried fish sandwich. It's not rocket science. What they served was pretty close to inedible.

                      1. re: Blumie

                        What exactly made the catfish sandwich inedible? Maybe that would help everyone understand your displeasure and post?

                          1. re: fourunder

                            My two principal complaints are:

                            (1) It was tough; i.e., it was difficult to bite into the sandwich. Catfish generally is a very light, delicate fish. I'm not sure what they did to it to make it difficult to bite through. I wonder if it really was catfish.

                            (2) It didn't taste good. Catfish is a sweet tasting fish. This tasted like crap.

                            Clearly a more appropriate title to my thread would have been, "If you go to Virgil's, don't get the catfish." But this was not simply the case of a menu item not being as good as some other menu items, which you'll find at every restaurant. This was a case of a restaurant serving an affirmatively bad item, which no customer, or restaurant, should tolerate.

                            By starting a somewhat facetious thread, I've made too big of a deal of this. But the sandwich sucked!

                          2. re: Blumie

                            Did you return it and say how bad it was?

                            1. re: gutsofsteel

                              I've eaten the catfish both as an entree and as a sandwich there and quite enjoyed it. The brisket is also really quite good.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                i think that the brisket at virgil's is great. the pulled pork is ok and the ribs are also fantastic. haven't tried the catfish

                        1. Reporting in from New Orleans, the birthplace of the "poor boy." I wonder whether Virgil's is offering a proper version at all. Their menu touts a "hero roll," but everyone here will tell you that French bread is de rigueur - the New Orleans version, baked by Leidenheimer's and a few other bona fide purveyors. Also, Virgil's says it uses tartar sauce, when the binding condiment in a properly "dressed" poor boy is mayonnaise. As for the catfish, all I can say is that frying fish to perfection is an art not so easily mastered as one might think. For some reason, most of the great talent seems to live in or hail from the Deep South. Virgil's looks to be a place that mostly grills and barbecues. You had better come visit us down here to escape the New York winter and eat some real poor boys. Domilise's, Parkway, Parasol's, Guy's, Liuzza's, Crabby Jack's and all the rest await you!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: erikschwarz

                            i did not like virgil's either. I am a texan and I thought it was pretty bad. Just my opinion.

                            1. re: hungryinmanhattan

                              What does being Texan have to do with the makings and enjoyment of a Catfish Po Boy Sandwich...

                            2. re: erikschwarz

                              I am sure Virgil's, packed every night, is not interested in researching the history of po'boy sandwiches. I am sure the place can serve a bad one, but the earlier poster had it right: "although there is better BBQ to be had in NYC, there is also far worse.." And I've had worse brisket at Blue Smoke, Decent for what it is - and what do you expect?, it's beating Bubba Gump, isn't it?.

                              1. re: erikschwarz

                                I'm very familiar with New Orleans po'boys, having been to most of the places you list. What made it bad was not that it was not a traditional New Orleans po'boy -- which is very difficult to find in New York -- but that it was tough and tasted bad!

                                1. re: Blumie

                                  All I can think since my experience is to the contrary (flaky, moist, just the way I wanted it - catfish eater from way back in the midwest) was that it was an old piece fried too hard. No excuse for serving it, did you ask them to take it back?

                              2. I haven't eaten anything from Virgil's in at least a year and a half. But, assuming they haven't completely changed, their bbq lamb was often very good, and I would often go to Virgil's for that. That and the cornbread. Some of the other bbq was ok, but no great shakes.

                                Service always sucked. I would get takeout usually to avoid the crowds and the noise and the waiting.

                                Never had their po'boy sandwich, which isn't something I'd order in most places anyway, so can't comment on that.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: racer x

                                  Yes, the Owensboro lamb sandwich is good, the brisket sandwich is good, I never had a problem choking down the catfish. Is it an excellent restaurant? No. Is it terrible because someone got a bad dish. Of course not.

                                2. I always raise an eyebrow (the left one) when I hear the words "Best" or "Worst".
                                  Personally I prefer to say "Great" or "Awful" because somewhere down the very short road there will be a better burger, pizza, creme brulee etc. or one that is less good.
                                  Apparently, Virgil's is still in business. With so many other options in NYC they have to be doing something right if not the catfish Po Boy.
                                  I have to ask, did you complain and send it back?
                                  Never been there. For BBQ or Po Boys I've got my druthers.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Motosport

                                    The "they have to be doing something right" argument is total BS IMHO; there are plenty of atrociously bad restaurants that stay in business year after year, too.

                                    1. re: Blumie

                                      The point I was making is that they are still in business and somewhat popular.
                                      The same can be said for McD's who are "doing something right" since they appeal to the masses especially families with kids that love that "Happy Meal" It can be daunting for the un-enlightened family family of 4 from Omaha that are wandering Times Sq when the kids say "I'm hungry!!" The idea of walking over to 9th Ave to check out Vinyl or Eatery never occors to them. The Golden Arches are Mecca for some. Safe and familiar all over the word. While in Roma last February I slipped into a 3 story McD's to use the "terlet" (I'm a Brooklyn boy) and it was absolutely packed!! Go figure? They have their corpoarte finger on someone's pulse, fortunately not mine.
                                      Gotta love Chowhound. It should be mandatory reading for tourists.

                                  2. Despite 4 people asking, the OP never responded to if she ever sent it back.

                                    8 Replies
                                      1. re: Blumie

                                        Actually, he did send it back in the sense that when they cleared the table, there was an uneaten sandwich on the plate. I had eaten the fries, which, while not great, were ok, and the fries and a Bombay Sapphire comprised an ok lunch.

                                          1. re: princeofpork

                                            Because it wasn't that big of a deal. It was a live-and-learn experience. Next time Frank invites me to meet him at Virgil's, either suggest some place else or don't get the catfish!

                                            My usual lunch spots in that area are bistro moderne, aureole, and sushi zen. What's good among the more casual choices? How's the Irish pub next to Town Hall?

                                            1. re: Blumie

                                              The Irish Pub? You mean BXL the Belgian Bar?

                                              BXL Cafe
                                              125 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036

                                              1. re: funniduck

                                                Yes, you're right. I was thinking they had a Guinness sign out front, but it's a Duvel sign, isn't it? How's their food?

                                                1. re: Blumie

                                                  It's nothing to write home about. I didn't like my burger there last time. The beer is good (I like leffe brune, which is hard to find, and they have on tap seasonally). The fries are good and I remember liking their mussels. But like I said, nothing exceptional.

                                                  Are you within walking distance to Hell's Kitchen for a leisurely lunch? That's what I would do.

                                                  1. re: funniduck

                                                    For Belgian food and beer, Markt is a great option.

                                                    My office is on 6th, so Hells Kitchen is a bit of a hike.

                                                    676 6th Ave, New York, NY 10010