Report from the homefront: Axel's Tavern

For Christmas this year V and I took her grandparents (Mapa and Papa) to dinner at Axel's Tavern, a nice, comfortable place just outside of the Minneapolis suburbs, in Loretto. There is a bar area when you come in on the main floor, and upstairs is a quieter dining room with paintings on the walls and warm wood tones. We were hoping that there was a fireplace to sit by, but even without it we enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a perfect place for a nice dinner together—not too stuffy or formal, and not too casual or cheesy either.

I was surprised by the menu—it was much larger than I anticipated, including the wine list. The restaurant is known for its ribs and steaks. We held off on ordering appetizers, because each entree came with soup or salad, plus a vegetable and potato. Being that we were in Minnesota I also figured it would be wise to get some walleye too so I ordered the "land and lake," a portion of fish and a sirloin steak. V had the "steak Oscar" which included two steak medallions and two crab cakes, and a side of mushrooms. Mapa ordered the walleye, and papa had a steak, Ray's sirloin.

Comparing the steaks, I'd say that the sirloin was a bit more flavorful than V's medallions, but hers were more tender. The walleye was pan fried and served with slivered almonds. It was flaky and buttery and the crust and almonds gave it a nice crunch as well.

On the side we had great green beans and three of the different varieties of potatoes. Mapa had the loaded baked potato, which seemed pretty standard, for a baked potato. I had the "Mo Taters" which were mashed potatoes with cheese and caramelized onions. I enjoyed them but thought they could have been a little more flavorful—I couldn't taste any onion flavor. V had the alfredo potatoes, a kind of cheesy scalloped potato that was very good.

Overall it was a great dinner. The dining room was the perfect place for conversation and we were not overwhelmed with too much music or televisions in every corner. The service was friendly and attentive. I'm not sure exactly how to compare Axel's to a New York City restaurant other than to say it was more down to earth on all levels, from the decor to the menu and the service. I think if this restaurant were in New York they would have to really specialize on a few key items on the menu, and get rid of a lot of the other good options. Plus, they'd probably double the price of everything! When we're back in town next, if I can go back, I want to go back on Tuesday night for all you can eat prime rib and all you can eat walleye. And I think we've found a great new Christmas tradition, too.

Restaurant Density Analysis

I am working on a research paper on restaurants in New York and I am quite pleased with this paragraph I wrote, along with its surprising facts:

The New York City Department of Health lists more than 20,000 restaurants on its “Restaurant Inspection Information” web site. In a city of more than 8 million people that amounts to one restaurant for every 400 people. New York City’s area of about 305 square miles gives a restaurant density of 65 restaurants per square mile – greater than the population density per square mile of Vermont, Minnesota and Colorado and 17 other states. This density of dining establishments in the city has created stiff competition and presents many marketing challenges to stand out and succeed but also serves as a hotbed of opportunity for restaurant concepts so unique that they couldn’t take off anywhere else.


Once a meat warehouse in the now hip Meatpacking District, Macelleria offers rustic Italian fare and a wide selection of choice steaks and chops in the most popular neighborhood in NYC. The extended wine list offers hand-selected wines from all regions of Italy.

We went to Macelleria to celebrate a friend's birthday and we definitely went all out. As we walked into the restaurant, whose name means butcher shop in Italian, I got the sense of a formal but trendy restaurant. The dining room seemed warm with dark wood and brick. As we were taken to our table though, we headed downstairs to another dining room that reminded me of a wine cellar with stone walls and a few large tables. It was a little loud with the other tables full, but I really liked the space.

As for the food, it was even better than the space. We started with a "fresh bufala mozzarella." The cheese was delicious and soft and it was served with some of the best tomatoes I've ever had (and I generally don't like tomatoes). For my main dish I went with the pappardelle al cinghiale, a wide noodle pasta with wild boar sauce. The sauce was flavorful, but i couldn't tell it was boar versus another mainstream meat like ground beef. The dish was good, though maybe I should have gone with a steak, as the restaurant was voted the best steakhouse in New York by Citysearch last year.

Our friend Mark had the filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce. It was the largest filet I have ever seen, and it looked amazing. He described the sauce as spicy yet not overbearing.

V and Lauren ordered a special pasta, tagliatelli with porcini mushrooms. The one little taste I had was rich and delicious and V said the mushrooms were very fresh. Other dishes we ordered included eggplant baked with mozzarella and tomatoes. The bitter rind of the eggplant was a nice flavor in the dish and the meat of the eggplant wasn't mushy. The crispy roasted duck with orange sauce was kind of an Italian take on sweet-and-sour.

On top of all these dishes, we ordered a few sides: fried zucchini, shoestring fires, and grilled mushrooms. The mushrooms were very flavorful and almost steak-like. The zucchini was amazing, though I suppose just about anything fried is delicious.

Then to cap off the whole great meal, we ordered desserts and coffee. (Miraculously, V tried the cappuccino--and liked it!) The desserts were all a great cap to the meal - a fluffy and light New York cheesecake, a small but rich chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and a surprisingly delicious (my favorite) apple strudel with cinnamon ice cream.

All in all, this was just a great meal.The service was good, with a friendly waitstaff who were attentive to refilling drinks and keeping our table satisfied. The menu has a range of prices for dishes from a $16 pasta to their $86 porterhouse for two. The wine list has a lot of nice selections from Italy and a few other regions. I think I'll have to go back again for the steak! I definitely had a bite or two too much to eat, but it was worth it--and I'm very grateful to Mark for having a birthday and to Lauren for hosting the party!

Momofuku Noodle Bar

Momofuku means lucky peach. This restaurant is one of three by Chef David Chang who was named chef of the year by GQ and Bon Appétit, among other accolades. The other restaurants, Momofuku Ssam and Momofuku Ko, are increasingly harder to get into. I've walked by Ssam a few times and it looks like a very trendy bar and is always crowded. Ko has just 12 seats and offers a tasting menu by reservation only—I'm still struggling to get reservations. So the noodle bar is the most casual of the three and it is relatively easy to get into. We dropped in not knowing what to expect and were very pleased with the experience.

Our server suggested a few things from the menu for us to try and not knowing any different, we followed his guidance. We started with the most popular item on the menu, steamed buns with pork belly and cucumber. There was some kind of sauce spread on the bun that gave the dish a chocolatey or sweet taste that worked really well with the more salty pork.

The next dish was the biggest risk: sliced fluke sashimi with pickled pearl onion and charred jalapeno. We're OK with raw fish in sushi, but I've never had fluke in this way before. It was really a very good dish, though it didn't look that good on the plate (kind of plain as the fish was white as was the plate). The fish was tender and not at all fishy. The onion and jalapeno were a nice texture and flavor addition. There was also some kind of oil or other lite sauce that helped to bring everything together.

Finally we shared a bowl of ramen. After our experience at Ippudo, we're getting used to gourmet noodles. The momofuku ramen came with shredded pork and two pieces of pork belly, a poached egg, scallions, and watercress (or something). The broth wasn't too salty and the noodles of course were very good. We really liked the dish.

I think the main focus of our dinner conversation was who we could bring to this restaurant. It's a unique atmosphere, casual and loud, with communal tables. The wait staff was friendly and helpful. The food is definitely good but I'd say some people might be a little afraid to try it. I think the restaurant fits in quite well though in the neighborhood and with the general crowd around here. We'll have to see who we take to momofuku next - and when we can try the other two restaurants!

Dallas BBQ

A New York City apartment does not easily allow for grilling out. To make up for this, and in the spirit of Memorial Day, we headed down the block to Dallas BBQ for "New York's Most Popular Rotisserie." The place is frequently packed when we walk by, and so we had high hopes for good food at a reasonable price. We were greatly disappointed.

Clarkr ordered baby back ribs that came with fries and cornbread. Staple foods at a BBQ restaurant, but the ribs weren't tender enough, and the fries were soft and bland. The cornbread was the best food on the plate, but was still unsatisfying. I ordered a steak and tried to replace the potato choice with a salad, only to be told that there are no substitutions. The steak was over-cooked, too thin, and was served on soggy pita. The highlight of the dish were the crispy onions that accompanied the steak.

The service proved to be as bad as the food, with the waitress bringing us steak sauce and ketchup after we had finished the food, and water after we had asked for the check.

We were less than impressed with this chain restaurant and in the future will stick to Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem when we are craving good BBQ.

Written by V, who is helping me to catch up on all the posts yet to come!

Dessert Truck

DessertTruck is a new mobile food concept based in the heart of New York City at 8th St and University Place. Using great ingredients and the highest standards for execution, we bring desserts from the world of fine-dining into the realm of everyday enjoyment. At our mobile food truck, there's no BS, no pretension. Just really good desserts.

I couldn't agree more with this description of the Dessert Truck. Simple. Quick. Cheap. DELICIOUS. V and I stopped by for a bite after a lite dinner and it was an amazing way to cap off our meal. (Especially for $5.) We ordered the Chocolate Bread Pudding, which is their "take on a classic chocolate custard dessert, topped with vanilla crème anglaise." It was served warm, in a little tinfoil dish that was a perfect size to get the great taste but not overwhelm you with sweetness or richness (or calories). I could have eaten the whole thing myself, but it was nice to share. I'd definitely recommend this, and I'll surely go back. Fortunately it is not that close to our apartment that it will become a regular destination. And next time I'm going to try it with the bacon crème anglaise. It sounds weird but the server told us it is the best thing on the menu!

Grey Dog Coffee

In search of a lighter, healthier, dinner one night, we wound up at Grey Dog Coffee, known in the neighborhood for its friendly service and relaxed atmosphere. Upon entering, we were slightly confused, wondering if we should wait to be seated, seat ourselves, or order at the counter. We eventually ordered at the counter, chose our seat, and then the food was served to us. The people watching was great as the crowd was very diverse. Even the servers had their own eccentricities that made the experience unique.

The food is standard fare, including sandwiches, salads, burgers, and breakfasts. We each tried a salad: the Cobb salad, and the seared tuna steak salad. All of the ingredients were very fresh and combined to make a great dinner salad. The portion was big enough to be a satisfying meal. Each was served with a piece of onion focaccia bread. I liked that they automatically served my dressing on the side, and that they would probably have allowed us to sit there all night if we wanted to.

All in all, a great spot for a light meal or a cup of coffee (except I don't like coffee).

Written by V.

Haru - Wall Street

My brother, John, recently started work at the Wall Street location of Haru. We decided to pay him a visit one night to check out his serving skills and knowledge of Japanese food and culture. It was quite a treat to be greeted by him at the door in Japanese, and to receive stellar service all night long. Really. The best service we've had in New York City. Ever.

We went on a Saturday night, and noted that the restaurant was pretty quiet and had few patrons, although this seems typical of the financial district on weekend evenings. The decor was modern and spacious, and could accommodate large groups of people. The sushi counter was exposed and it was fun to watch the chefs at work.

At John's suggestion, we began with the standard edamame, then went on to crab cakes that were well-seasoned, included big chunks of crab, and were topped with a tasty mango sauce.

Some people are adventurous sushi eaters. Being fairly new to the world of sushi, we are pretty tame, but were very pleased with the rolls we ordered. We shared the Philadelphia, spicy tuna, spicy titanic special roll (which included salmon, avocado and salmon caviar wrapped around spicy tuna and tempura flakes). For dessert, we shared red bean mochi ice cream and tempura cheesecake. Both were fantastic and we left very satisfied.

Did I mention the service was fantastic?

Another post written by V!

Holy Basil

Holy Basil is a Thai place that we've heard about a few blocks from our apartment. We stopped in for a casual dinner and were a bit surprised. It was a rainy Friday night and when we walked in the place wasn't very crowded. We got a table right by the door, that was on a platform a few feet above the bar, overlooking the whole restaurant. As the atmosphere was definitely Thai-themed, but not too ornate or crazy. There were some curtains hanging and mirrors on the walls, with candles on the tables.

As our meal progressed the place got more and more crowded with people going out. I guess we lucked out in getting a table without a wait, as there were lots of groups waiting near the entrance for the rest of the night.

Anyhow, the food was good. We tried to get beyond the usual pad thai; I had a curry called Massa-mun. It had chicken breast meat with sweet red curry, potatoes, peanut, onion, and coconut milk. It was served with rice on the side. I enjoyed it, as I always like peanut/coconut flavors. V had Pad Sea-ew, which has chicken with wide ribbons of rice noodles stir-fried with Asian broccoli and thick soy sauce. It was a little plain, but not too bad. The highlight of the meal was the starter we ordered, vegetable spring rolls, served with plum sauce. We both loved the flavors and textures of the dish.

Overall it was a good experience, and rather inexpensive, coming in at about $15 each (we ordered soda to keep it cheap). The service was OK. I think I'd go back, but maybe try a few different dishes next time.

La Palapa

La Palapa, an authentic Mexican restaurant specializing in "Mexico City style" tacos and quesadillas and regional home cooking is on St. Marks Place in the East Village. The restaurant focuses on authentic Mexican cuisine featuring many specialties from different regions of Mexico. Salsas and sauces are rich and spicy and fresh ingredients are used.

We came to La Palapa while wandering around the East Village, looking for someplace new to try out. The restaurant was busy but there was only a few minutes wait for a table. We also figured it was appropriate cuisine being a few days past Cinco de Mayo.

The restaurant has a definite Mexican atmosphere with stucco and a thatched awning at the entrance. It gave a feel of being near the ocean, though of course it was on a busy Manhattan street. According to their website, this is exactly what La Palapa means:

A palapa is a palm-thatched shelter on a Mexican beach where you can relax with your feet in the sand looking at the ocean while you sip an ice cold cerveza flavored with lime and salt, and eat a spicy shrimp taco with salsa guajillo.

We were seated in a back semi-enclosed courtyard-type space that was less exciting than the main dining room, but the quieter atmosphere was nice. We ordered a few small things from the menu rather than entrees, starting with QUESO FUNDIDO con CHORIZO CASERO a homemade chorizo baked with cotija anejo and monterey jack cheeses served with warm tortillas. It wasn't that large of a portion, but it was pretty good, with a rather mild flavor. I ordered ELOTE del MERCADO PLAZA SAN ANGEL. This is Mexico city plaza style corn on the cob with lime, mayo, chile piquín and queso cotija. I like typical Minnesota corn on the cob with butter and salt better, but this was good too - my first corn of the season! Finally we tried tacos and quesadillas. Sadly, though the restaurant may be known for these, they weren't that good and they were very small. The "shells" were 3 to 4 inches around and the meat (char-grilled marinated skirt steak and chile chipotle barbecued chicken) was fairly dry. This made the quesadillas better, with their melted cheese to keep things a little more moist.

I appreciate the effort at authenticity at La Palapa, but the prices were a bit high and the food didn't quite satisfy my hopes. There are several other good looking dishes on the menu, so maybe we'll check those out if we're in the area, and in the mood.


Sharaku is a sushi place directly across the street from our apartment. We tried it out and weren't blown away but it was good. (Definitely not Haru!) The restaurant was busy but the service was slow. We ordered most of the normal rolls we get, like tuna with avocado, spicy tuna, Philadelphia, and then tried one special roll, called the spider roll. It had fried soft shell crab, cucumber, avocado, sprouts, roe, and spicy mayonnaise. V ordered it, but didn't realize why it is called the spider roll: the crab legs are sticking out the end like a giant spider climbing out of the roll. Needless to say, I got to eat the whole roll. It was good, but I don't know if I'd order it again. I guess we just like to stick with the simple sushi.

Dessert Club, ChikaLicious

I suppose a dessert-only restaurant isn't that unique what with ice cream shops and other similar places, but somehow, "Dessert Club, ChikaLicious" is unique as a one-food-only place. Across the street from its sister restaurant, ChikaLicious Dessert Bar (which is a fancier dessert space that serves a fixed-price menu), the Dessert Club serves only pudding:

Steamed Apple Puddin'
Adult Chocolate Puddin'
Brioche Bread Puddin'

We tried the chocolate and bread puddings. The chocolate pudding was not that unique, but V loved the Brioche Bread Pudding. It was served warm and was rich and delicious. The prices were reasonable, and the atmosphere simple (just a walk-up counter with a few seats, and a great aroma coming from the kitchen. We're waiting until we have some guests in town to try out the dessert bar.

Totally Baked

Yet another restaurant devoted to one food item: baked potatoes. Anyone who is a potato fan should not pass this place up. It is a casual fast food style place, and focuses on the lunch crowd, closing at 6pm many days. It was clean, and the woman who helped us was especially friendly and helpful. There were huge pictures of potatos on the wall, and Mr. Potato Heads for sale. The potatoes are served with small side salads in over-sized cardboard boxes with plastic utensils.

We could not afford the $55 truffle baked potato, so we had to settle for $10 choices. For this amount of money, we still expected a good sized portion of potato. However, the potato was small. There were ample toppings on each. I tried the wild mushroom (of course) which included chanterelle, shitake, oysters and crimini with shallot, chive, and manchego cheese. I wished for more cheese, but was very pleased with the variety of mushrooms and the overall taste of the potato.

Clark enjoyed his potato with grilled rosemary skirt steak, caramelized shallots and blue cheese. The steak was tender and it was a delicious combination.

We'll go back when we can afford the truffled potato (not likely).

Written by V.


"That rare well-done burger restaurant," Stand is a great casual burger place. It has a full bar and somehow manages to combine carry-out convenience and contemporary sit-down table service very well. The place is simply decorated with tall ceilings, white walls, black wooden tables and huge windows open to the street. The space is very large, probably seating 50 tables.

We each ordered a burger, of course. I had a cheese burger which came with onion marmalade, lettuce, and a delicious blue cheese sauce. The burger was juicy and a good size. The (fried) sides, which were ordered separately, included Onion Rings, regular Fries and Shoestring Fries. Each of them was good but I'd probably rate them onion, shoestring, regular. We capped off the meal with a pitcher of local beer.

It was a great meal, and I'd definitely go back. The prices were reasonable for the food and the service. And even with a whole restaurant focused on the simple burger, there is more I'd like to try. I'm sure I'll be back.


I've finished classes for the spring, and though summer classes are imminent, I'm working on catching up on 3 months worth of restaurant reviews. Just 23 to go! We are finding lots of new places in our new neighborhood, but we're also working to keep a budget and eat healthy - ideally, from now on two restaurants a week and sharing an appetizer and main dish to keep a healthy portion. So look forward to more posts to come! There's just a few thousand more restaurants in the city to try, and it seems like about 75 percent of them are at our doorstep.

99 Miles to Philly

99 Miles to Philly is a cheese steak place a few blocks from our new apartment. Occasionally I get a deep urge for a good cheese steak, which is exactly what happened today. So I walked over and ordered a steak with provolone and onions. The special includes waffle fries and a can of soda for $10, which wasn't a bad deal. My sandwich wasn't as gooey as I would have liked: I guess I should have gone with the more "authentic" Philly steak, that comes with cheese whiz. It took at least 5 minutes to get my order, which I suppose means it was fresh made, but the wait was definitely a complaint, when I've been to places like Pat's and Gino's in Philadelphia where you can get your sandwich in as much time as it takes to order a "whiz with." I took V back a few hours later, because she was jealous I went without her. Her steak had American cheese, which was definitely more the style I was hoping for. 99 miles to Philly is good, but I think I've had better.

The Crooked Tree

The Crooked Tree is a creperie a few blocks from our new apartment on St. Marks Place between First Ave and Ave A. Since we've moved, we've been looking for a place to replace one of our Astoria favorites, Euro Delights, where we regularly went for crepes.

We each ordered a crepe, me the sopressatta and mozzarella, with red onions, and V the mushroom and goat cheese. Both were (in our opinion) more authentically French - thin and modestly filled. The flavors were unique, I liked the mushroom crepe better, but the salami in mine was good and the cheese was fresh. Were were also served a little salad on the side which was nice.

The restaurant is small (like pretty much everything in the East Village) with a casual and comfortable decor. There are bottles of wine decorating one wall, and random things from a Spider-Man figurine to a giant jar of Nutella decorating the other. You can see the kitchen in back and an angled mirror on the wall enables you to see each crepe being prepared. Really the best thing about the atmosphere is the smell: butter. I don't think The crooked Tree quite matched Euro delights, but it certainly deserves a place on my culinary radar.

Cafe Deville

Cafe Deville is a great looking French bistro on 3rd Avenue. I've walked by it a number of times coming home from work. The street-side tables and the bar seemed rather enticing. Unfortunately it didn't meet our expectations.

V and I dropped in to try it out on a cool Saturday afternoon. Maybe it was the wrong time of day or something because the service was spotty and slow, but the place was fairly crowded, at least around the front windows. Our server honestly could have been high on something; he was twitching and skittery, and only came to our table twice; once to take the drink order and once to take the food order. At the end of the meal we had to flag him down after waiting for quite a while to get our check. We spent that time debating how low to tip.

The food was good, but not great. I ordered the hangar steak, which came with onions (they seemed like they came straight out of a pot of French onion soup) and mashed potatoes. The steak was fairly tender but its flavor was a little off. V had a cheeseburger which was very thick though a little over cooked, it also came with fries. Sadly, perhaps, the best deal of the meal was the $1 oysters we started with. That's one thing I'd go back for. Otherwise, it wasn't that good, and as I mentioned, the service was poor. I think the only other thing I'd attempt if we went back is brunch, which I've read pretty good reviews of.

Cafe Mogador

A good friend introduced us to Cafe Mogador, "Considered a pioneer of Moroccan restaurants in NYC." It's location on St. Mark's adds it to a growing list of restaurants on this street that we have really enjoyed.

The atmosphere was friendly and cozy, and wasn't overdone in Moroccan themes. We began with a bottle of wine recommended by the server, as well as roasted eggplant and tahini with pita bread. The flavor of the eggplant stood out and reminded us of our time spent in China, where eggplant was served more frequently than in the U.S. I also tried the tomato ginger soup, which was creamy and flavorful.

For dinner, I couldn't resist the whole wheat goat cheese ravioli, with butternut squash and sage cream sauce. I had never thought of pasta as Moroccan, but they do it very well! Clark had the bastilla, best described as a dinner pastry. It included filo dough, chicken, almonds, and herbs and spices. It was a unique dish, but could have benefited from some kind of a sauce. Maybe that's the worst thing to be said about a prominent Moroccan dish - what does he know?!

We probably should have followed suit when our friend, who had been there numerous times, ordered the chicken grill, which included skewered chicken with grilled vegetables and basmati rice. It looked and smelled delicious.

We truly enjoyed our entire meal here and will be sure to go back when we are looking for a Moroccan flare!

Written by V!


At goodburger freshness is everything. That’s why in a world where food is often chemically processed, prepackaged and frozen, each and every goodburger is made the old fashioned way.

There are so many different hamburger places in the city, each trying to come at this simple food from a different angle. goodburger's attempt is, in my opinion, high class McDonald's. And I really don't think that even with the hand-made burgers and all-natural ingredients, that it is quite worth the price.

V and I paid about $30 for two burgers with fries and milkshakes. The burgers were good, but I've definitely had better. Same goes for the rest of the food. They also offer beer and wine, which we passed on. The atmosphere is rather fast-food like and there are a few flat-panel TVs showing sports, with music blaring through the restaurant a notch too loud. I'm not sure what else I missed, but it just didn't seem worth it to me. I don't think we'll go back.

Pommes Frites

Upon moving to the East Village, we have noticed a number of restaurants that are able to specialize in one particular item. Pommes Frites is probably the most addicting of these places. I guess it sounds better to call french fries pommes frites, because the line is always out the door at this small restaurant. Even better than the fries are the variety of sauces that they serve to go along with the fries. You can choose from about 20 different flavors to enhance the taste of the already delicious, big, salty fries. We prefer to order our standard sweet mango chutney mayo (sweet AND spicy!), in addition to trying a new sauce. Some other favorites include: parmesan peppercorn, pomegranate teriyaki mayo, peanut satay. Anyone who visits us should be prepared to stop by here at least once.

The Smith

In the heart of the East Village, The Smith serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner every day in a casual upbeat environment.

I really liked this place. I'd compare it to Schiller's Liquor Bar, just on a bigger scale. It even has a funky bathroom and old-school glass bottles for tap water a lá Schiller's. The Smith is a few blocks uptown from our place, on Third Avenue. The restaurant has a lot of street frontage and in warm weather the windows all open up to the street. We took some friends visiting from D.C. there for brunch.

I found the food to be quite good, for what it is. The hit of the meal was the croaker with smoked ham, gruyere cheese, over sourdough rye, with fried eggs drooping over the whole mess. It was a huge portion served in a skillet. I'd say it could easily be shared. Plus, it tasted good - the egg yolk dripping through all the other ingredients made for a good sauce. I had the steak and eggs which came with home fries. It was good, though I felt the meat was a little tough.

As I mentioned before there are a few funky touches at the restaurant. The bathroom is one large room with a bunch of individual stalls, rather than a men's room and a ladies room. Then, oddly, there is a photo booth in the bathroom too. We'll have to go try that out. We were served both flat and sparkling water at no charge, in clear and green glass bottles, respectively.

Unfortunately, I felt the service could have been a little better and more attentive. We were waiting for a while to get some ketchup and to get a replacement fork after one dropped on the floor. But I suppose that's a consequence of their success - the place was busy! And every time I walk by, weekday, weekend, lunch, dinner, it is crowded. I'd definitely go back. Plus I hear they have free food on Wednesdays!


My dining experience at Ippudo was definitely one of the most unique in recent memory. Perhaps too, it was one of the most ridiculously priced meals as it was ramen, which I gained great expertise in during college. Instead of a 25¢ pack of noodles, it was a $12 bowl. It was definitely better than the old block of noodles and little packet of seasoning. And Ippudo is definitely authentic. Our server barely spoke English, and I'm pretty sure ours was the only table without at least one Japanese diner. After the hour-plus wait, as we were walking in to the restaurant, at least a dozen servers and other staff members stopped to greet us in Japanese.

Ordering was a bit of a struggle but we managed to each try a different ramen and a few appetizers. Each dish came in a unique bowl with noodles, of course, vegetables, and some slices of pork tenderloin (with a fatty rind). We also tried a few dishes of pickled vegetables. With some Japanese beer and sake cocktails, it proved to be a very authentic Japanese meal. I think that the restaurant is probably a popular chain in Japan so maybe we're thinking it's amazing when there it is like TGI Friday's or something. But regardless, it was a great experience.

Village Pour House

The Village Pour House is a causal bar a few blocks up from our apartment. There's nothing too unique about it - lots of TVs, a young college-esque crowd and typical bar food. There is a back room that's a little quieter than the main bar area, though when I was there a group of girls from NYU were playing beer pong back there! The best part of the place is the impressive beer selection with something like 80 beers on tap and in bottles. If I need a place to watch the World Series or something, I think this would be a great choice.


Chop't is a great salad place V and I came upon while walking around midtown. Essentially this is the Coldstone ice cream equivalent of salad: you choose your ingredients and dressing (or choose from their menu of predesigned salads) and they dump everything out on a cutting board and chop it all, mixing it together. You can then have it served as a traditional salad or a "salad sandwich" where everything is put in a wrap making it easy to eat on the go. We ordered the cobb salad which came with iceberg and romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, avocado, smoked bacon, crumbled egg, crumbled blue cheese, tomato and dijon vinaigrette dressing. This one salad, for $9.45 definitely was enough to serve the two of us. It was delicious, and the fact that it was chopped I think added to that - no big chunks of lettuce sticking out of your mouth, and a nice melding of all the flavors. I'd definitely come back here, but probably not for a meal on my own, as the portion was more than enough for one, and the price is a little high for a weekday lunch.

Around the Clock

Around the Clock is a simple restaurant with a simple idea: bar food and breakfast 24-hours a day. The restaurant is across the street from our apartment. I walk by just about every day and usually don't have much reason to stop in, but this weekend with its blazing heat and humidity seemed like a good time to drop in for a cheap pitcher of beer and a snack. We ordered the chicken wings, which were unremarkable and a bit small, but fit the bill especially for $5. The nachos were better and equally cheap. They come with lots of cheese, black beans, sour cream and guacamole. The service is a little slow, but it doesn't cause much of a problem. The decor isn't much either, kind of grungy looking and mismatched. I wouldn't call Around the Clock a bar (though it has a full bar), I'd say it is a great before- or after-bar place. Great for preventing a hangover, or curing one, I'd guess too.


Mercat means market in Catalan, the language spoken in the Spanish region that inspired this restaurant and tapas lounge in Noho. The 90-seat space is equipped with an open kitchen, a ham-and-cheese station, and a basement tapas lounge, and the wine list is all-Spanish, with a selection of cavas, sherries, and seasonal sangrí­as. - New York Magazine

I was really impressed by this restaurant - it has a trendy-yet-undiscovered feel and a great atmosphere, with the open kitchen and racks of wine stored overhead. We were seated near the kitchen, with a good view of the restaurant and bar. I was a little jealous of the poeple sitting behind me at the kitchen's bar seating, but it was still a good table.

We ordered a few starters including Patates Bravas, potatoes with garlic and spicy sauce, and Carxofes artichokes, with fennel alioli. I had seen the potatoes on the bar and thouht they were like peanuts - free for any patron - I guess it is a good thing I didn't try to grab one then - as they were very good and lots of tables had ordered them, I'm sure they are a top seller. The artichokes were basically fried artichoke leaves and were crunchy and salty.

From there, the menu looks amazing. I wish I could remember what I ate, but I have waited too long to write this review. I would definitely go back though, as there are so many good looking dishes to try.


Pinkberry is the new 'hot' frozen yogurt place in New York City. There are a number of locations, with (perhaps unfortunately) one near our new apartment, and one near my office. The menu is pretty simple: frozen yogurt in either original, green tea or coffee flavors. All three are fairly citrusy - more like real yogurt in flavor than most frozen yogurt. Once you order the yogurt you can get any number of different toppings from fruits like strawberry, raspberry and kiwi, to granola and toppings like chocolate chips and sprinkles. I like green tea with raspberries and strawberries. The place has a cool atmosphere with floors made of small stones spread out (I think it was originally a non-slip poolside pavement) and $500 Philippe Starck Victoria Ghost chairs. Really the atmosphere is more of what the place is about. I think I could get pretty much the same thing elsewhere for less than the $5+ I've paid for a cup of frozen yogurt. But it is definitely taking off and promises to be a lot of fun!


S'mac is another restaurant that specializes in just one item: Macaroni & Cheese. Far from your standard homemade Kraft version, this restaurant offers gourmet flavors, and they even deliver! The space is small and you have to use good 'hovering' skills to grab a table when it opens up. The atmosphere is very casual, very easy going, and very yellow. Food comes in three sizes: nosh, major munch, and mongo, fast food style.

I couldn't resist the Parisienne, which includes creamy brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms, and rosemary. I could have personally done without the figs, but otherwise I enjoyed the rich and creamy flavors. Of course, I like anything with mushroom... Clark enjoyed the Alpine, which features Gruyere and slab bacon. We were pleased with our experience there, and plan to take any true Mac & Cheese lovers in the future.

Another post written by V!


After working in some of NYC's finest restaurants, including Jean Georges and Compass, chef Jehangir Mehta has recently opened a humble, 18-seat savory/sweet eatery of his own. Located in the East Village, Graffiti is a visual scrapbook of his life; the menu a culinary scrapbook of both his Mumbai upbringing and expansive training. His unique cuisine subtly marries contemporary Asian cuisine with Indian seasonings. - restaurantgirl

Graffiti is a tiny restaurant that to me epitomizes the East Village life: trendy, cool and tiny (jam packed with people, providing no personal space). I'd read about it online and was intrigued. It was a bit of a surprise when I walked in with V for dinner one evening: the restaurant has three tables.

Even more confusing is that though there were two open tables, we were seated at the one table with guests already dining and the server asked them to get up to put us back the the far corner of the table. We definitely weren't ready for that. But after a bit, it began to make sense: the other tables were reserved for larger parties, and the communal style is part of the experience. It was a little tight to fit together on one side of the table, but it wasn't too bad overall.

The food is served tapas style with simple pricing: each dish is either $7, $12 or $15. The wine is all $8 by the glass or $25 for bottle. The prices are reasonable but they definitely can add up. Our total for the meal was about $100 (including a bottle of wine)

We ordered a handful of different small plates including the cheese flat-bread, chili pork dumplings with grapefruit confit, pickled ginger scallops, and the braised pork bun which was probably our favorite dish. It had a puffy and soft little "shell" with the braised pork inside. For dessert we had the Hazelnut chocolate caviar cupcake after seeing our neighbors try it, and it definitely didn't disappoint.

By the time we were at dessert, the restaurant was packed. I needed to get up to go to the bathroom, so I had to have the people next to me get up, and then make my way through the kitchen (which is smaller than the kitchen in my apartment. Edging behind the two cooks, I got to the bathroom, which itself it about the size of a toilet (in fact the sink is mounted above the toilet to save space). It made me feel at last like I have a large apartment! Hooray.

I'm not sure who else I'd bring to Graffiti, it's a place that definitely caters to a certain type of customer - one that fits well here in the Village. In fact one group of older people came in on a reservation but decided it wasn't quite right for them and left. It worked for me, and I think by the time we finished the dinner V had been turned too.

Cafe Centosette

Following our big move into Manhattan, we felt we deserved a big meal after all of our hard work. Cafe Centosette, an Italian cafe was recommended by two friends, and was the closest in proximity to our apartment. It is a small, cozy place with tables very close together. Our server had issues with getting our meals ordered and served properly, but was nice enough about it. We each ordered pasta, and the dishes were all quite delicious. The side of spinach was perfectly cooked and seasoned well. The most bizarre part of the meal was getting a carafe of white wine with ice cubes in it. I've never seen that at a restaurant before... We have heard since that this restaurant is even better for brunch, so we'll have to head back there to try it.


Our last weekend living in Astoria, we tried out a Greek restaurant that we had heard great things about, but had never been to. Stamatis is one of many Greek restaurants located on 23rd Avenue but it has repeatedly gotten good reviews and was recommended through word of mouth many friends. We went on a Saturday night and were able to get a table pretty quickly. The atmosphere was relatively plain, and maybe reminiscent of a church fellowship hall, but the tables stayed full all night, and it seemed authentic because there were a large number of Greek groups and families there (I'm pretty sure some Greek Orthodox ministers came in at one point). The service became more friendly as the evening went on, largely due to our group's efforts and jokes and willingness to adapt.

We started with the spread sampler, that included three dips with pita bread. We liked the tabouli, tajzihki and eggplant spreads. These were a hit with our group, and we easily went through two servings of pita bread. We had some difficulty ordering our main course, as it seemed they were 'out' of many of the dishes we ordered. They were even out of the moussaka. Clark and I ended up ordering pastitsio, a baked pasta dish with a filling of ground meat and a bechamel sauce top. We both agreed that it was good, but pretty plain. It came with lemon potatoes, salad, and bread on the side. We were also given a complimentary dessert: custard wrapped in filo dough and topped with cinnamon for dessert. Delicious!

For the price, we got a lot of food, and it was a good culmination of Greek food in Astoria. -V

Buddakan New York

I really liked the New York Times' description of Buddakan:
Buddakan is the apotheosis, at least for the next 60 seconds, of a distinct genre: the post-millennial urban mess hall as supersize cocktail lounge with superstylized dishes, which chart a far-out trip to the Far East.

The specific cuisine in its sights is Chinese, and the real surprise is how good many of Buddakan's alternately faithful and fanciful interpretations of it are. A restaurant this sexy doesn't need to be smart.

V and I joined her brother, John, for dinner here to celebrate our birthdays. It was the second time I'd been to Buddakan, but my first time actually eating in the dining room. The restaurant has an amazing atmosphere; the main dining room is downstairs but open two stories up with huge chandeliers hanging overhead and wax-caked candlesticks on the tabletops. The side area in which we ate has pictures of Buddha heads randomly lit on the walls, and a dark environment that gives a sense of privacy.

Our server was very good and well informed about the food on the menu and made some excellent suggestions. The food is served family style, which was a great way to get tastes of several different dishes. Though the serving sizes and presentations seemed generally like a standard one-person entrees.

We started with a few appetizers, including the General Tso’s Dumpling, which was stuffed with chicken, ginger and garlic, which were served right from the steamer basket. I found the Crispy Calamari Salad with green apples, cashews, and a miso vinaigrette also to be very good. I was tempted to order the frog legs, but we shied away. The steamed sea bass roll with cabbage, ginger, sizzling scallion oil was good, tender and buttery, but a little forgettable.

We tried three main courses, and my favorite was the rich and flavorful Sizzling Short Rib with mushroom chow fun (noodles), and Asian pear. The meat was tender and a little fatty, the pear was refreshing, and the mushrooms and noodles were a great compliment. Next on my list was the Glazed Alaskan black cod with chili eggplant, black bean relish. The fish was light and flaky and the black bean relish was a nice flavor to go with it. The last dish served was a seared pork tenderloin with wild mushrooms, lotus scented rice, Chinese bacon. This was good, but I think we were all starting to get full and so it wasn't a favorite. I also felt like the rice, was a bit strong, but the tea-like flavor was good. We also ordered a side of charred asparagus that was amazing (for asparagus), it was not stringy, and had a great flavor with a "black bean foam."

Capping off the meal was a great cup of cappuccino and a Tempura Apple Fritter (essentially fried apple rings) with Saigon cinnamon anglaise (a white, creamy sauce) and salt and pepper caramel (a sauce that I found to be a little too peppery, or perhaps too dark of a caramel). Overall it was a great meal, with lots more on the menu I'd like to try. Combine that with top-notch service and it made for an excellent way to celebrate our birthdays!

Return to food!

I'm sure there is great concern out there that I am not eating because I have not posted an update to the blog recently. Do not fear. I have eaten. In fact I may have put on a pound or three (but I am going to the gym, so I'm going to argue that it is muscle weight). Really, I'd say that my academic and work schedule this spring has kept me from writing much while instead I'm reading lots and doing homework. Now, its spring break, so I'm going to try to catch up, and we'll see what i remember from any of the last 11 meals I've had that are yet to be blogged. So the posts may be shorter, but at least you'll know I was eating.


'wichcraft is a great little sandwich place in the village. I went there with Matt, a friend visiting from out of town. The restaurant is part of the "Craft" collection of restaurants (recently we also went to CraftBar). The menu is pretty simple with about a dozen sandwich choices including hot and cold sandwiches. I ordered the grilled gruyère with caramelized onions on peasant bread. It was grilled on a panini press and was quite crunchy on the outside but not to hard to bite through. The cheese was flavorful, though I thought it could have been a little stronger or saltier.

There are several more sandwiches on the menu that I'd like to try. Overall this is a great place for a great but quick and casual lunch. You walk though a line to order but your order is brought to your table once you find your seat. The prices are a little high for a sandwich, but the quality equals or exceeds the price. (now that I live nearby) I'll definitely go back!


Bubby's is the top place to get home cooking and great pie in lower Manhattan. On a Saturday night, we had to wait about ten minutes for a table, and it was easily worth it. The atmosphere was fun and family oriented. It was decorated as an old farm house might be with lots of trinkets and old photographs. The service was friendly though it wasn't always prompt.

We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we sat down. Clark just had to try the chicken and waffles, and his only complaint is that it wasn't greasy enough. I tried the macaroni and cheese, and a side of spinach, and my only complaint was that it was too much food. Everything we tried met our standards for great home cooking. Due to the huge portions, we didn't have any room left for dessert, but someday will try Bubby's out just for the pie.

Written by V

Spring Street Natural

Spring Street Natural Restaurant was founded in 1973 in the heart of SoHo. The Restaurant quickly became a neighborhood fixture, serving up fresh, healthy cuisine at affordable prices to local denizens.

We went to Spring Street Natural because we couldn't get in at nearby Balthazar. It was a cool space, very open and light and also very crowded. Unfortunately we weren't that impressed with the food. I ordered a shrimp and mushroom risotto which seemed more watery than creamy. V had the Mayan eggs which included two eggs on a yellow corn tortilla with black beans, Monterrey Jack cheese, guacamole, lettuce, and ranchero sauce. She was disappointed because it wasn't as salad-like as she expected. I guess that doesn't mean it was bad, it just didn't meet her expectations.

Overall it is a really cool restaurant, with pretty reasonable prices and a neat atmosphere. Maybe we'll try a something else next time, because there's a lot of good looking stuff on the menu.

Café Gray

A world of elegance, gracious hospitality and superior food
— the world of Café Gray

After our dining experience at Café Gray, I'd say this description on their website is apt. V and I went to a fancy dinner here at the Time Warner Center to celebrate Valentine's Day. That saddest part of the experience is knowing now that the restaurant is closing.

Our meal was amazing, and the culinary highlight was the house specialty mushroom risotto. It was just so creamy and with a great mushroomy flavor. The second course that really amazed us was the short rib, which was served with grits and a mustard sauce.

Besides the food, the service was great, with a very formal dining style. The wine list was impressively pricey, I think we picked one of the cheapest bottles - at around $60! But it was a very good bottle of wine.

Finally, the other amazing thing about the restaurant was the view: windows looking out over Central Park and Columbus Circle. And before that is the kitchen - out in the open in the restaurant. So through the meal I was able to see the chefs preparing dishes, with a backdrop of the city at night. It was really a treat. At the end of our meal we also got a private tour of the chef's table, which is tucked in a corner of the kitchen. I think it too would be a bit pricey to reserve, but if I ever had a chance...

It was a great meal, and though the restaurant is closing, there are rumors that a new location will open soon near Times Square, which may be a good move, as I'd say Café Gray is a great pre-theatre choice.


PDT stands for Please Don't Tell. It is a speakeasy hidden away on St. Marks Place. You have to get in by going into a hidden phone booth with a secret door. Generally reservations are required, but if you get there early enough and you're a small party (e.g. 2) you can generally get a seat at the bar.

Really the place is all about the cocktails which run from $12 to $22 and are created by a mixologist. The food on the other hand is served on paper plates $6 for a hot dog and $3 for tater tots or waffle-cut fries. I guess you can see where their priorities are. The place is next door to Crif-Dogs, a hot-dogs-only restaurant (which contains the secret entrance) and which also provides the food, through a secret pass-through window at the back of the bar.

Sitting at the bar is the best place to be as far as I'm concerned because the process of making each cocktail is fairly elaborate. I've been to PDT two or three times and my favorite cocktail is the Bacon-Infused Old Fashioned. It has a great taste and is nice to sip.

The hot dogs aren't anything plain either - there is a specialty hot dog called the Chang Dog (named in honor of the chef David Chang - whose restaurants I have yet to go to, though they are about a block away). It is a deep-fried hot dog wrapped in bacon and smothered with Chang’s own Momofuku Ssäm Bar red kimchee purée. I was a little afraid of that though I hear it is amazing. I went for the everything bagel hot dog which has cream cheese and the everything bagel seasoning mix. Very good. And I'd say it went well with my twice-as-expensive cocktail.

The atmosphere is really cool, dark and manly, with wood paneling and mounted animals on the walls, and dark red leather booths. I think it only seats about 20 people and they don't allow anyone to stand around the bar. All together it comes together well. I feel a little embarrassed going into the phone booth, kind of like a tourist, even though I'm 'in on the secret' but I'll definitely bring people back to PDT, and keep it at the top of my list for special occasions.


Gastronomically, you are in an area where goose and duck dominate, often cooked over wood smoke, where fresh river salmon and trout grace the tables of the open air café culture. Dishes from South West France that make use of ingredients which the region has in abundance, such as wild mushrooms, truffles, duck, foie gras, walnuts, chestnuts, hams, cheeses and wines and armagnac.

This is Pigalle, a French restaurant in the theatre district. I've been twice, and definitely enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. The description above, from Pigalle's website, may be a little over the top, but the food is definitely well considered and prepared. Perhaps it is victim of the culture/neighborhood to which the restaurant must cater being one block from dozens of theaters means the restaurant is inundated from six to eight each evening with a diverse-but-casual crowd who may not even know what they're walking in to when the step inside. Unfortunately, this leads the servers to focus more on getting the food out on time and less on other aspects of service. I can say though that V and I came in at practically the last minute before a show, and were able to enjoy soup and appetizers with time to spare to head over and find our seats at Grease.

I can't say that I've actually had much French food, besides my semester abroad in Belgium (and of course lots of French fries). Still, I was duly impressed with the food at Pigalle. The Pigalle Cassoulet, a white bean stew with confit of duck, pork, garlic sausage and smoked bacon, was rich and flavorful, and just made me happy. Appetizers including escargots, an "olive cake" with goat cheese fondue, and crab cakes with a pimento mayo are rich and unique, while not being too large as to spoil the diner. The French onion soup was classic: delicious, cheesy, salty. V had the black bean soup that was also very good (in fact it inspired me to make black bean soup of my own).

Overall Pigalle is a nice pre-theatre restaurant, and a great choice for reasonably priced (good) French cuisine. I liked it well enough that I went back, and I would again, too. There's one thing on the menu I really want to try too: absinthe!

Patsys Pizzeria

After church one Sunday, V and I stopped by Patsys Pizzeria on the Upper East Side (we intended to go to California Pizza Kitchen, across the street, but it was closed). So Patsy's had to do. The pizza was probably more authentic than CPK, or at least a more authentic style. The atmosphere was warm and inviting, with brick walls and a crowded dining room filled with a wide range of people - couples, families, groups, parties, etc. We started with an appetizer of fried zucchini and squash. It was well seasoned and not overly breaded. The pizza we shared was good, not too big. We chose toppings to make our own pizza, they didn't offer any special/particular combinations. Onions, mushrooms, sausage made for a good combination. I don't have much else to say, except that Patsys was reasonable, comfortable and affordable. I'd probably not go out of my way to eat there, but, if I was in the neighborhood, it would definitely be a good choice.


Lure is a pretty cool restaurant in SoHo. V and I met up there with some friends the night we got engaged for drinks and a bite to eat. The restaurant has a cool decor that reminded me of a cruise ship (though I've never been on one). The restaurant is below street level with large porthole windows at about the sidewalk level. It is dimly lit with somewhat of a lounge feel. Of course, following from the name, Lure, the menu focuses on lots of seafood. We ordered a variety of things, from sushi to calamari to oysters. Service was adequate, for a late Sunday night, though it did occasionally take us a while to get the server's attention. The food was good, though a little expensive (along with the drinks). In the end the bill for four of us was about equal to the bill from earlier in the day at Jean Georges, and while there were more of us there I don't quite think we got as good of a value. In the end, it's a cool location and a trendy spot for a drink.

Jean Georges: Nougatine

Possibly the least heralded and most overlooked restaurant in town. The city's haughtiest dining snobs pass it by nightly. How does this happen? Before one can enter the cubist temple to gastronomy that is Jean-Georges, it is necessary to stroll through an engagingly uncluttered space of blonde-wood modernity. - New York Magazine

Jean-GeorgesI had a special reason to make reservations at Jean-Geogres, V's favorite restaurant, for Sunday brunch: I wanted to take her there to celebrate our engagement! Technically, Jean-Georges doesn't serve Sunday brunch, but the "bar area" outside the main dining room, Nougatine, serves food from the same kitchen, and with equally impeccable quality and service.

I had proposed earlier in the day, at Central Park's Belvedere Castle and continued the surprise with our brunch reservations. Of course, we started our meal with a bottle of champagne - the most modest on the wine list - which was still very good (and much much better that whatever I bought for New Years).

We started off with appetizers. Being that it was such a special occasion, I chose foie gras. This was the biggest piece of foie gras I've ever had, and it was different that I expected, being bruleed on top rather than cooked through, meaning it wasn't very soft or warm through the whole piece. Still it was super rich, certainly a bit extravagant, but a great start to the meal. I really could have shared it with several people, but V had her own great appetizer, a squash soup with cremini mushrooms. We were confused when the soup was served, originally thinking it was a very unique take on 'soup' as the bowl came with some chunks of squash and pieces of mushroom, but no liquid. A moment later, the server brought a little pot of the soup and poured it in the bowl. The dish was not overly sweet and it was great for a cool winter lunch.

For our main course, V tried a black bean and avocado dish with cod. It was light and almost tangy with a bit of lime in the sauce. The fish was tender and flaky. I had a grilled pork chop that was a very unique preparation. Poured over the top was a strong rosemary honey sauce, that eaten on its own was just about overpowering, but when eaten with the chunky "papaya mustard" and mini brussel sprouts was a perfect combination. Definitely a well conceived meal and preparation.

Nougatine definitely excels in its level of service, which helped to make this meal worth its high price. Our server was knowledgeable and friendly, and very attentive, refilling our champagne flutes and timing the food service. Really this didn't all come down to just one server either, there is probably a greater than 1:1 ratio of staff to guests at the restaurant. I counted 4 or 5 staff just in the entry area! Plus, beyond the service, the location is great, on the south west corner of Central Park at Columbus Circle. We got a great table at the window, to enjoy the view, that really enhanced this "New York moment." This was certainly a wonderful meal and a great place to celebrate our engagement. My only problem now, is that I have a lot to live up to for Valentines, our birthday, our anniversary...