Tag Archives: Gramercy

Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

I’ve used this blog as a forum to sound off on some of my pet peeves in the food industry. And I’m going to do it again right now. So get ready.

The newest thing in the fast casual world of NYC is that they have stopped accepting cash. That’s right – these places will only take credit cards. This infuriates me. It’s at these inexpensive take-out spots where I want to use my cash. When I go to a nice meal, of course the credit card comes out. But if I’m spending less than $15, I generally want to use the green I have in my wallet.

But it is slowly become worthless and this makes me so mad. And I’m going to do what I can to protest it. Call me an old man or tell me to get with the times, but I am mad as hell. And it’s not like these businesses are even doing it to help the customer or to give us more options. No. They’re doing it because it is easier and cheaper for them.

Sadly, this is not what I expect from Danny Meyer restaurants. Yet when I ordered my sandwich at Daily Provisions, his new all-day café next to the re-located Union Square Café, I was told my money was no good here.

And I have decided when I discover a place does not accept currency, I will no longer be a customer there. And in certain cases, like this one, it’s a difficult decision.

I had already ordered my sandwich so I paid (with my credit card) and sat down to try to enjoy it. And I must admit, despite all my frustrations about the payment situation, it was a great sandwich.

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Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

JOE JR. RESTAURANT, 167 Third Avenue (at 16th Street), Gramercy

Most people will be surprised that the city’s best burger might just be hiding at the counter of an ordinary looking old diner in the middle of well-to-do Gramercy.

But that’s where it is. Forget your Shake Shacks or your Burger Joints or your fancy Minetta Tavern. Sure, you can get a good burger at any of those places. And if they’re willing to fight the crowds, I even recommend those spots for some people I meet on my tours.

But now that I have finally tried the respected but under-hyped burger at Joe Junior, I will direct my recommendations over to Third Avenue.

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For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…


We found the most unlikely little gem of a restaurant thanks to Time Out. I had known Millesime existed for a while since I often walk by the old school, glamorous entrance on 29th Street. I even used to gawk at this building and the menu when it was Geoffrey Zakarian’s Country, but I was always intimidated by the demeanor and the price point.

When I finally worked up the courage to enter, I discovered there was a private party and the dramatic entrance to the restaurant was closed. Instead, we had to enter through the Carlton Hotel Lobby and push our way past a dark and romantic bar area and up some stairs to the dining room. Based on all the fanciness, I was expecting to enter a refined room where my sweater and blue jeans would have been drastically out of place.

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I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order. 

20. PICADITAS DE JAIBA at HECHO EN DUMBO

Hecho en Dumbo has nothing to do with a lovable little elephant, but in fact refers to the neighborhood where this Mexican gastropub was first created. They’ve since moved to the East Village, but their philosophy of refined, seasonal Mexican food in a drink-happy setting remains. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had a pretty memorable meal.

We started with these picaditas de jaiba, which are little corncakes of flavor. On top of the firm buttery patties, sits a delicious salad of fresh jumbo lump Dungeness crab meat tossed with a gently biting jalapeño oil and topped with ripe avocados. A squeeze of lime brings out the brightness and lightness. These small bites are too easy to gobble up regardless of the neighborhood. Price: $8

HECHO EN DUMBO
354 Bowery (between 3rd Street and Great Jones Street)
East Village
(212) 937-4245
hechoendumbo.com

19. PASTRAMI RUSS at RUSS & DAUGHTERS

You know I’m a big fan of the pastrami sandwich. I’ve spent months searching for the best version of the deli staple. That meaty, smoky goodness is a heart attack that’s more than worth it. But wait a minute, a pastrami sandwich minus the meat? Why would anybody do that?

If you’ve ever been to Russ & Daughters in the Lower East Side, you’ll understand. This is a classy old-time shop that specializes not in smoked meat, but rather smoked fish. If you want the hard stuff, you’ll have to go next door to Katz’s. But they make a pastrami sandwich here that rivals the classic version. You get to pick your bagel of choice for the Pastrami Russ, but trust me when I say you need to order it on pumpernickel. Not only will you get the approval of all the guys behind the counter, but these are the flavor combinations that make the most sense. With a generous schmear of mustard, crisp sauerkraut, and the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever taste, you won’t miss the actual meat for a minute. And you may live a little longer. Price: $10.45

RUSS & DAUGHTERS
179 East Houston Street (between Allen and Orchard Street)
Lower East Side
(212) 475-4880
russanddaughters.com

18. CHIMBORI JALWA at TAMARIND TRIBECA

Crab cakes tend to be the same everywhere you go. Aside from the bread crumb to crab meat ratio, most versions are pan fried, served with citrus and an aioli of sorts. The chimbori jalwa appetizer at fancy Indian restaurant Tamarind Tribeca was unlike any crab cake experience I’ve had before.

The colorful tower of meat was loaded with plenty of sweet lump crab meat and tinged with some Indian spices, ginger, and garlic. It had a restrained hint of curry with lots of balanced sweet (tamarind) and spicy (chile) flavors. Served on a bright spiced tomato sauce with scattered scallions and corn kernels, it was complex and delicious. And made for my new favorite crab cake in the city (just beating out Del Frisco’s baked version from last year’s list). Price: $15

TAMARIND TRIBECA
99 Hudson Street (between Leonard and Franklin Street)
Tribeca
(212) 775-9000
tamarinde22.com

17. PIKE QUENELLES at MILLESIME

Millesime really is a little gem: a hidden, French brasserie that can work as a relaxing cafe or a fine dining seafood restaurant. It’s located above the bar in the Carlton Hotel and it will transport you to Paris. And not just because of the ambiance, but because of the expertly prepared seafood and classic dishes. Take the pike quenelles, which are made in the style of Jean-Louis Dumonet. I don’t know much about this old French chef, but I do know he made some amazing quenelles.

You don’t see quenelles too often in New York, especially not like these. The delicate little dumplings are absolutely delectable, so soft and tender in a rich tomato lobster butter sauce that begged to be sopped up. Reminiscent of an airy seafood sausage, they fell apart like a buttery soft matzo ball of the sea. Très bien! Price: $14

MILLESIME
92 Madison Avenue (between 28th and 29th Street)
Inside the Carlton Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 889-7100
millesimerestaurant.com

16. TOSTA MATRIMONIO at TERTULIA

The new Spanish tapas hotspot Tertulia is more than just a bar for celebrity watching. It’s one of the best restaurants of the year. Truly any of the dishes I tried could have made my Top 100. The fried eggplant was spectacular, as was the sliced acorn-fed Iberico ham, and I haven’t even mentioned the tender as sin ribeye. But the one dish that blew everything out of the water were the little anchovies that inconspicously lay on heavenly toast points.

They’re referred to as both “tosta matrimonio” and “black and white anchovies.” The two meaty fish (the black are cured and the white are pickled) are simply halved and arranged on a toast-bed of sweet roasted tomatoes, creamy tangy sheep’s milk cheese, and a generous drizzle of aged balasamic. The dish is a perfect example of balance and brightness with the sweet cheese and tomato pairing perfectly with the salty, acidic anchovies. And amazingly, the delicate dish don’t even taste fishy. Maybe that’s why so many celebrities come here. Price: $9

TERTULIA
359 Sixth Avenue (between Washington Place and West 4th Street)
Greenwich Village,
(646) 559-9909
tertulianyc.com

I’ve devoured Time Out’s 100 Best dishes and now, once again, I’ve been inspired to create my own list. These are the 100 dishes I have continued to think about since tasting them at some point in 2011. Look for another five dishes every few days. These are in no particular order. 

NUMBER 85: EGG-IN-A-NEST at TRAIF

I’ve been cooking “eggs in a hole” for many many years. It’s rather simple: butter a piece of bread, cut a hole, and while frying the bread, break an egg in the hole. Flip, and after a few minutes, there you have it. Simple.

Traif takes that simple idea, but turns it up a notch… or three. Chef Jason Marcus takes two pieces of rich brioche toast, stuffs it with brie, béchamel, truffle cream, and meaty portobello mushrooms. All of that is topped with a perfect fried egg that once broken adds another layer of richness. And while all that decadence sounds like it could be too much, it’s incredibly balanced and you’re left craving more. Thankfully it’s served with the actual bread hole on the side (stuffed with more earthy, cheesy goodness). Price: $11

TRAIF
229 South 4th Street (between Havemeyer Street and Roebling Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 844-9578
traifny.com

NUMBER 84: MARIA SIN SANGRE at CLOVER CLUB

While I love the flavor of Bloody Marys, I usually think it’s like drinking a thick spicy tomato sauce. I’d be happy to pour it on some pasta, but I can’t usually swallow an entire glass of it. Mixologist Julie Reiner of Clover Club serves four versions of Bloody Marys at brunch. And I’m so relieved I took the plunge and tried one.

The one I chose, the Maria Sin Sangre, translates to Mary without the Blood. And that’s partly why I liked it so much. It’s a subtle mixture of muddled cherry tomatoes, basil, silver tequila, sherry, and lemon juice. The drink exhibited the perfect balance of sweetness, herbaceousness, and spice. This is a brunch cocktail that Bloody Mary lovers and haters can agree on. And you’d have to be crazy to confuse this light, complex cocktail with something that goes on pizza. It’s meant to be sipped and savored. Price: $10

CLOVER CLUB
210 Smith Street (between Baltic Street and Butler Street)
Cobble Hill
(718) 865-7939
cloverclubny.com

NUMBER 83: CHICKPEA FRIES at PEACEFOOD CAFE

Ok, so technically this was not something I ate at breakfast – although I believe this vegan restaurant on the Upper West Side serves these in the morning. They’re a healthier, more interesting version of french fries. And they reminded me of a wonderfully savory take on french toast.

Imagine the logs of fried chickpeas are the toast (they’re gluten-free) and the tangy, earthy tahini dipping sauce is the maple syrup. They’re seasoned with aromatic Indian spices (cumin, cardamom, chili powder, and cinnamon) that give it a complimentary sweet and spicy flavor. They’re somehow crispy without any excess grease and they give way to a warm, soft center. Combine the concept of falafel, french fries, and french toast and you have a delicious creation any time of the day. Now if only they’d serve it with a side of bacon! Price: $7

PEACEFOOD CAFE
460 Amsterdam Avenue (between 82nd and 83rd Street)
Upper West Side
(212) 362-2266
peacefoodcafe.com

NUMBER 82: CACIO E PEPE at MAIALINO

The brunch at Danny Meyer’s Maialino was the most memorable breakfast I’ve had in a long time. Time Out brought us here to try their take on lox and cream cheese (they use swordfish and robiolina cheese), but every dish we tasted was stellar. I could have included any of them on this list.

But the stand-out was the Cacio e Pepe, which translates to cheese and pepper. This combination is traditionally served on pasta (and Maialino does a version of that at dinner), but it made for one of the most memorable egg dishes I’ve ever had. The porridge-like dish was quite simple, but Chef Nick Anderer’s refined hand and technique was evident in the revelation of textures and flavors. The soft scrambled eggs were creamy and tender, with the rich pecorino cheese and generous fresh cracked black pepper playing up the earthy, spice qualities. I haven’t stopped dreaming about this since.

MAIALINO
2 Lexington Avenue (between North Gramercy Park and 22nd Street)
Inside the Gramercy Park Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 777-2410
maialinonyc.com

NUMBER 81: EGG BAGEL at ABSOLUTE BAGELS

I devoured a lot of bagels this year, but only one was life changing. And it wasn’t at one of the old school Jewish bagelries across the city, but rather at a Thai-owned neighborhood spot near Columbia University.

Sam Thongkrieng, who has worked at classic spots like Ess-a-Bagel, has trained his staff at Absolute Bagels very well. He wasn’t there the day I tried one of their famous egg bagels with a sweet shmear of strawberry cream cheese. The hot out-of-the-oven bagel was life changing. The yellow-hued dough pulls apart so easily and melts in your mouth as you chew. The rich bread has a sweet and savory flavor that is the perfect foil to the cream cheese. And the fact that they bake their bagels throughout the day means you can have this transcendent experience whenever you want. You just got to get yourself up to 107th Street. Trust me, it’s worth the trip. Price: $1 (without cream cheese)

ABSOLUTE BAGELS
2788 Broadway (between 107th and 108th Street)
Upper West Side
(212) 932-2052

Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.

I’ve been eating a lot of brunch lately. It’s sort of a cliched meal in this town and not one I’m usually attracted to. The lines can be out of control and I’m not willing to wait an hour or more for some eggs and pancakes. Yet in the last few weeks, we’ve discovered going to brunch later (like after 2 or 3) is easier and some modest places out there make tasty, worthy versions of bacon and eggs.

I wouldn’t call Maialino one of those modest places, but I still love it. I had been here a few times for dinner and feel a connection to it since it’s run by Danny Meyer (who owns The Modern, where I used to work). And I’ve read good things about their brunch, but considering they’re a hot spot and attached to a fancy hotel, I figure the odds of getting in speedily for brunch were next to none.

So we made a reservation for a Sunday afternoon. The restaurant was a little slow (it was a holiday weekend) and we were quickly brought to a table in the well-lit back dining room.

The decision was tough, but we erred on the side of having too much food. We started with an incredibly moist Olive Oil muffin, while barely  resisting all the other pastry options.

For eggs, I got the Cacio e Pepe, which is a play on a cheese and pepper pasta dish and these eggs were awesome. They were soft scrambled so they resembled a porridge, with pecorino cheese and loads of fresh cracked black pepper. It was creamy and rich with a wonderful earthy spice. I’m not a big fan of eggs in general, but these are game changing.

The side of bacon is what I always hope bacon to be. It was crispy, salty, and smoky. There was a good layer of fat that added tons of porky flavor, but it wasn’t unctuous in any way. It was like candy. The ricotta pancakes were also a standout. Incredibly fluffy and not too sweet, the ricotta cheese and strawberry rhubarb jam were a perfect complement.

Sadly, our least favorite dish was the Time Out list item. That doesn’t mean it was bad, but it just didn’t live up to the previous masterpieces. The Pesce Spada Affumicato was Chef Nick Anderer’s take on a classic NY breakfast: lox and cream cheese. Instead of the usual salmon or smoked white fish, he used slices of smoked swordfish with some nice crusty bread points and a scoop of creamy robiolina cheese, which puts any cream cheese to shame. The fish (which was lighter than lox) had a mild smoky flavor. The components were all fresh and light, but I thought the fish was sliced a little too thin. It was hard to get much sense of the flavor, especially when loading everything else on the toast.

Regardless, brunch at Maialino was a huge success – just as good, if not better, than the hearty Italian dinners I’ve had there. This is a special afternoon out that is affordable enough to be a habit. No wonder I’ve been eating so much brunch lately. I’ve discovered the best spots.

Would Maialino’s Pesce Spada Affumicato make my Top 100 of the year? Other brunch items most definitely would, but this was an interesting version of smoked fish and cream cheese that just fell short of all the other masterpieces on the table, so it gets a 7 out of 10.

MAIALINO
2 Lexington Avenue (between North Gramercy Park and 22nd Street)
Inside the Gramercy Park Hotel
Gramercy
(212) 777-2410
maialinonyc.com

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