Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The TONY List


Time Out New York wrote up a list of the “Top 100 best things we ate and drank this year.” I noticed that I had been to a handful of them, wanted to try others and hadn’t heard of many of them. After reading an article about someone who tried to go to all 100 of the places mentioned in the 2007 list, I decided to go on my own quest to take down the list. Restaurants that are part of the list will be entered with a number before the name of the restaurant. The following 5 items represent the locations that I had previously been to before the beginning of the quest:

1. Artichoke Basille’s Pizza & Brewery

328 E 14th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue

When people think about pizza, they think about NY and Chicago. When people think about NY pizza, they think about Lombardi’s and Grimaldi’s. I’ve been to Lombardi’s. I’ve been to Grimaldi’s. I’ve been to Otto, John’s and Patsy’s and I would not hesitate for a minute to say that Artichoke is the best slice of pizza in NYC (Note: I have not tried Di Fara’s which I hear serves an incredibly good slice). Artichoke serves 4 kinds of slices: (1) Margherita ($3.50) – a traditional round pizza slice made with homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella and sliced at around 1.5x the usual size of a slice; (2) Sicilian ($3.50)– square slice with slightly burned ends that is crispy, garlicky, and represents the contender for best slice despite its size relative to the round slice; (3) Artichoke ($4.00) – a round slice topped with a creamy spinach artichoke that is rich, filling and made with clumps of cheese; (4) Crab slice ($4.00) which I have yet to try but have heard good things about.

Usually there is a line at Artichoke (20 minutes+) so whenever I pass at an off-peak time I feel slightly obliged to order a slice simply because there is no line. The place does serve beer but there are no tables and only enough room for 2-3 people to stand by the counter. They are open late and serve as a staple option for those on their way back from the bar.

2. Momofuku Noodle Bar

171 First Avenue between 10th and 11th

The restaurant deserves its own review on its own merits but for the sake of the list I will try to describe the crispy pigs’ tails appetizer ($14) that is suggested. This item was not on the menu and served as a special that night but given that it is on the TONY list, I imagine that it is served often. If it has pork it in, I’m interested. If it has something unusual, I’m interested. Pig’s tails? Sold. The restaurant serves a healthy appetizer portion (about 8 or so). The tails are fried and glazed with a sweet/sour sauce and are gummy in texture, very similar to oxtail. For $14 I expected a bit more and with so many other strong options at the restaurant I don’t think I would order it again.

3. McSorley’s Old Ale House

15 E 7th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue

It doesn’t seem right to write up a review about McSorley’s at is such a NY institution, but for those that have not yet experienced its majesty, McSorley’s is the oldest bar in New York and serves only McSorley’s dark ale and McSorley’s light ale (Two ½ pints for $4.50). The dark ale is caramel flavored and creamy while the light is more of a pale ale. The line can get quite long and the bar very crowded so go early.

4. Indus Express

48 W 48th Street between 5th and 6th Ave

Chaat is an Indian snack food made up of potatoes, yogurt, spices, chick peas, and chilis that is normally topped with samosa pieces (samosa chaat) or fried crispy strings (papri chaat) and is served warm or cold. After searching for an Indian restaurant that served it as an appetizer, midtownlunch directed me to Taj Delhi Chat that serves generous portions for $5-6 and is spicy and filling. Indus Express serves as competition though the portions are a little smaller at Indus and the samosa chaat ($5) has more flavor at Taj. For those not willing to make the trek from their offices in the low 50’s to 38th street to go to Taj, Indus Express is definitely recommended for inexpensive chaat. Additionally, Indus sells Indian sweets such as Burfi, has a buffet and a fairly nice dining area for a small fast food Indian restaurant.

5. Porchetta

110 E 7th Street between 1st and A

Porchetta has been named one of the top new places for 2008. Numerous critics and restaurant chefs have been vocal about their adoration for the porchetta (pork) sandwiches that this fast food stand sells. For me, the sandwich did not live up to the hype. Maybe I had too high expectations. Maybe it was an off night. Maybe it wasn’t enough of a sample size (Full disclosure: I sampled some of my friend’s sandwich). Don’t get me wrong, it was a good sandwich. I just have a hard time spending $9 on a sandwich when there are a number of other great spots in the area where $9 buys more food of equal or better quality (Nicky’s Vietnamese for example). I am certainly interested in returning for the platter which comes with roasted potatoes with burnt ends.

Just a quick comment should anyone want to try it for themselves. The place is quite small, with room for only about 5 people on stools so should the line be long you may be shivering in the cold for quite a bit. I would suggest taking the sandwich to nearby Tomkins Square Park to enjoy without the crowd.


  1. Adam Platt agrees with you about the superiority of the sicilian slice.