Thursday, February 21, 2013
Big Apple bites
What can you say about New York City that hasn't been said or that can truly capture it all? Is there any other place that looms so large in our culture? On every level, New York City is huge. Is it any wonder I was apprehensive about visiting the place?
Turns out, I needn't have worried. Despite its size, NYC is a relatively easy city to traverse. It helps to be hyper-organized and not too worried about seeing every damn thing (a travel trap I've fallen into more than once in the past). All told, I think we did well to balance sightseeing, shopping, museum-visiting and, of course, eating and drinking. On that last score, here are a few highlights.
Shake Shack - Okay, it's burgers and fries and shakes. But this is classic Americana done right. Smashed burgers, crisp fries, thick, creamy shakes. Simple, delicious. We visited the location on the Upper East Side on Lexington, but I'm told the original in Madison Square Park has the best setting, especially in summer. A must visit.
Schiller’s Liquor Bar- Cool haunt in the Lower East Side (our 'hood for this trip) with cuisine that spans the globe and a wine list that is divided into “cheap,” “decent,” and “good.” Nothing too fancy, just good food in a lively atmosphere.Decor is self-consciously unfussy. Be sure to check out the bathrooms.
Pok Pok Phat Thai-Cousin to Portland's Pok Pok and its Brooklyn outpost, Pok Pok NY, this is a literal hole in the wall L.E.S. noodle joint that dishes up cheap and delicious variations of pad thai. Ideal for sopping up many cheap Pabst Blue Ribbons.
The Breslin- I had very high hopes for this April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig) spot in the oh-so-trendy Ace Hotel uptown. Heavy gastropub grub for uptown hipsters is right in my wheelhouse. Perhaps it was due to timing (we visited on Valentine's Day) or our location (right near the kitchen, giving us a good view of Bloomfield herself at work on the line, but also bathing our table in a gloom-piercing glare), but I walked away a little let down. The Caesar salad we shared with local girl Rhianna was outstanding, but my lamb burger (something of a signature dish, I'm told) was a crumbly, underdone (partially my bad for taking the recommended route of ordering medium rare), underflavoured meatwad. D's vinegared poussin also underwhelmed. But the thrice-cooked fries (crispy outside, buttery soft in) were worth the visit on their own.
Talde- Normally, asking me to wait two hours for a table is a sure way to see me pull a quick about face. But when the restaurant in question is a new spot in a red-hot Brooklyn 'hood, I might stick around. And when it comes to Top Chef U.S.A contestant Dale Talde's (for those who care about such things) Asian outpost in Park Slope, the wait was worth it. Family-style pan-Asian from bacon-flecked pad thai to crispy gyoza to Korean fried chicken. Risky, inventive and, on this night, remarkable.
Weather Up- Fancy cocktail place in Prospect Heights Brooklyn. Beautiful people, beautiful drinks. Don't ask me where to find it, though, because things were a little hazy at this point for some reason.
Malt and Mold - I don't know why there aren't more places specializing in craft beer and fine cheese out there. The world would be a better place, I'm sure. A real gem and part of a cluster of neat spots in an otherwise nondescript part of East Broadway (neighbouring coffee shop Pushcart Coffee being another, along with our next entry...)
Cowboy Pizza- New York is famous for its pizza; two buck slices are everywhere. So what's so special about this place? For starters, the toppings are a step beyond the usual pepperoni and mushroom. And for another, the two young dudes who run it will let you bring in beer from the local bodega to have with your pie. I'm not sure what else you really need.
Thanks for everything, New York! We'll see you again soon.