Monday, June 29, 2009

Clinton Street Baking Company

Clinton Street Baking Company
4 Clinton Street (just south of Houston)

After hearing about how awesome Clinton Street Baking Company is from my roommate, and seeing the pancake throwdown on Food Network, I knew I had to try them for myself. Recognizing that the line on weekends stretches to multiple hours, I did what any normal person would do. I took the day off from work to take care of a few errands, namely, to come check out pancakes on a weekday when there would be less of a crowd. 9am. Table for one. Right this way...

I was a bit skeptical of the price, as $13 for pancakes is a bit absurd. The margins have to be pretty crazy, but if it's that good and people are willing to pay it, congrats to them for cashing in on a successful product. After my first bite, I understood.


Pancake Guts:

Sweet, but not too sweet. Tart, but not too tart. Fluffy, filling, fantastic. From what I remember from the episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, they mix the batter, pour it onto the griddle and then sprinkle on the blueberries, such that they don't break apart as they would if they were mixed into the batter. Clinton Street fires on all cylinders:

1. They are fluffy, with plenty of blueberries.
2. The maple butter syrup is incredibly sweet, yet I couldn't stop eating it.
3. So much pancake! Yeah, it's $13 for pancakes, but they could easily be split with another person if you ordered a couple of $2 buttermilk biscuits which looked amazing ($13 + $4 / 2 is $9 per person for a biscuit and a half order of awesome pancakes. That is a steal!)
4. They offer the pancakes for dinner. Let all who are hungry come and partake of the pancakes, regardless of time of day.

Sure, coffee and pancakes cost $20 with tax and tip which is pretty ridiculous. But forgo the java and split it with a friend and pancake nirvana is much more affordable.

Been to Clinton Street? Want to go with me next time? Post a comment!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Bleecker around the corner from MacDougal

Shame on me for the lack up updates. After speaking with some friends about potential food tours, we decided upon a buffalo wing outing. Scheduling and locations have yet to be determined, but if you're interest in attending or have a suggestion on a location, please drop a comment!

Meanwhile, take a gander at what could be the front-runner going into the competition, buffalo wings from 1849 Bar & Grill on Bleecker. $.20 wings during happy hour and all night on Wednesday, make it one of the best wing deals in the city.

Monday, June 22, 2009

HB Burger

HB Burger
43rd between 6th and Broadway

The same crew that brought you Heartland Brewery, an overpriced mediocre establishment with multiple locations, has now re-branded one of their locations as HB Burger, a Times Square restaurant that plays into the times with a menu that prices all choices under $10. Gimmicky? Yes. Was the only reason I wanted to go the coupons they were handing out on the street for a free milkshake? Undoubtedly so. While it may have been my low expectations that played into my experience, HB Burger has earned my support.

What you soon realize upon first looking at the menu, is that they did, in fact keep to their word of pricing items below $10, with specialty burgers priced at $9.00 (well below what Ruby Tuesday's or any other Times Square restaurant would charge for a hamburger). However, HB Burger charges $3.50 extra for fries, normally considered a standard accompaniment, bringing the total bill to $12.50 for a burger and fries, and back on par with any other spot. There goes the value play.

Without the cost sensitive focus, the attention is placed squarely on the product itself, though I will mention that sauteed onions are included at no charge. My buffalo burger ($7.50) was fairly dry, as expected from a buffalo burger, but enjoyable nonetheless, and the fries for $3.50, while good, were grossly overpriced.

Buffalo Burger:


Where HB Burger really flexed its muscles was in the good ole' plain hamburger ($7.50) from a "local, family owned steak purveyor," which they were unable to identify for me. Juicy, salty, and fatty, it's one of the better burgers I've had in midtown.


To top it all off, an addition to the 2009 "Best of" list that came out of nowhere. Tator tots. Not just any tator tots. Tator tots made with smoked bacon and jalapeno jack cheese. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Here's the value proposition for $4. Great bar snack? Or greatest bar snack?

Tator tots:

The coupon included a free milkshake, soda, egg cream or sundae. With two coupons, we got a milkshake and a sundae. They really mean it when they say they have the world's smallest sundae. It's basically a shot glass. The mint milkshake was quite good, though it's hard to mess up a milkshake.



HB Burger, I was pleasently surprised, and if I can order a burger and split an order of tator tots, I can still hit the value play at under $10 for lunch.

Friday, June 12, 2009


59. Cabrito
50 Carmine between Bleecker & Bedford

Marked by its pink goat that hangs above the doorway, Cabrito has become a popular West Village destination for those seeking out traditional Mexican fare since it opened in 2008. Sneaking in at 6:58, I noticed that happy hour ended at 7:00pm, and the bartender was nice enough to let me sneak in a round of Dos Equis on tap ($3/each) and a chorizo taco ($3 - normally $5) before time expired.

As I waited for my taco to arrive, our party of 3 was seated at an awkwardly positioned table facing the wall. It's a small space and I understand the need to maximize seating, but this table is kind of ridiculous. Alas, we were only there to sample a few things and move on, so we weren't about to cause a scene...

The taco arrived, and sure, it was good, but it was great, and for $3 there are so many other taco places in the city that offer higher quality at a lower price. Even during happy hour, I think I'll pass next time. Scanning through the menu, we opted for the TONY recommended Cabrito dish ($26), made with sour orange, garlic, and slow-roasted chili rubbed goat, served with flour tortillas, and the pork and purslane stew ($19), made with pork and purslane flower in a spicy tomato broth.


Maybe it's because I'm price sensitive that I had a hard time not comparing the two dishes on taste alone, but the discrepancy in value was so distinct that I couldn't help but let that discrepancy spill over into my overall feeling about the two dishes. The cabrito was moist, spicy, fatty, and whether eaten alone or as part of a taco with chopped onions and cilantro was something that I could see myself eating regularly. That is, if it were half the price. It's the same amount of food as 3 or 4 of their regular tacos, so why is it priced like its 5 or 6?


The pork stew offered the better value play, though at the same price, I'd go with the Cabrito. Sizeable portion, spicy broth and tender meat. On a pure happiness per dollar valuation, I'd have to go with the pork stew, though it's still no bargain.

Pork Stew:

Yeah, it's good. But certainly not worth the price or the cramped atmosphere.

La Superior

58. La Superior
295 Berry Street, Brooklyn

Just around the corner from Marlow & Sons, lies La Superior, a small restaurant offering affordable and unique Mexican cuisine including pig's feet tostadas and fresh made guacamole. The TONY item, however, was ezquites; corn kernels cooked with epazote leaves, served with fresh cheese, lime, and Mexican mayo ($4.00). Cheap, interesting and there's cheese. Sounded like a sure winner. Disclaimer: We got it to go, so your experience may differ. Unfortunately, here's what I think the recipe is: Open up a can of corn and pour it into a plastic cup. Top with a sprinkling of cheese and a dollop of spiced mayo and charge $4.00. Maybe I missed something, but I didn't get it. It's corn and it tastes good, but only to the extent that corn from a can tastes good. This dish left me more confused than any other TONY offering. What's the big deal here guys?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Evan's Creamery

57. Evan's Creamery Yogurt
Purchased at Marlow & Sons 81 Broadway, Brooklyn

I was already knee deep into Williamsburg when I got to Marlow & Sons, a fairly healthy walk from the nearest L train stop, and the opposite direction from my ultimate destination, so I was quite disappointed when I arrived at Marlow & Sons, only to find out that the lemon yogurt from the TONY list was sold out. Not ready to admit total defeat, I substituted the only available flavor, maple delight, and I was quite glad that I did. Disguised as any other cup of yogurt, Evan's Creamery offers a product that tastes like it came fresh, straight from the farm, and into a cup. Slightly lumpy, tart, sweet, and refreshing, its $2 price tag is certainly justified, especially when compared to greek style yogurts and come in at over $3. If I even find the lemon flavor, I'm definitely up for some Evan's Creamery yogurt.

Side View:

Top Shot:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Shake Shack - Lumbershack

Shake Shack (UWS)

Ok, so it's not really fair to review since it was a limited time offering and it's just going to make everyone upset that they didn't have it, but maybe people can spread the word and get it on the menu permanently.

Shake Shack can pretty much already do no wrong. Probably the best burger in the city. Rotating selection of tap beers. Seating in the park. Amazing custards and concretes (frozen custard with toppings mixed in). But I know what you're thinking while waiting in line for your Shackburger. You're thinking about bacon peanut brittle from Redhead. No surprises there. Get excited.

You get to the front of the line at Shake Shack only to find out about a new concrete called, the Lumbershack, an ode to the lumberjack breakfast, traditionally made with eggs, bacon and pancakes or french toast. What's in the lumbershack concrete? Just vanilla ice cream... caramelized bananas... big pieces of belgian waffle...and...peanut bacon brittle from Redhead! That. Just. Happened.

Unfortunately this was only available for a couple of weeks and only at the location on the Upper West Side. For those that made the trip, I congratulate you on your admission into the club that has tasted the very best that frozen desserts have to offer (how many desserts do you know that have meat in them?). For those that did not, I can only offer consolation photos. There's no shame in licking the screen.


Top view:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

China 1

China 1
50 Avenue B

After being shutout from China 1 on a busy Saturday night, I had always thought of China 1 as more of a party space than a dining establishment, but after hearing about their weekday drink specials and subsequently reviewing their menu, I reached out to the restaurant to find out more about their chef and cuisine. *Full disclosure: We received a small discount on our food tab but received the same drink specials.

$2 well drinks, sake and beers meant a lot of drinks. The catch was that each person had to buy $15 worth of food. I think of it as 2 drinks and $15 of food for $20. Not a bad deal. The food at China 1 is meant to be shared, and for the five of us we ordered just enough to hit the $15pp minimum.

After placing our order, we were offered a chicken lollipop amuse bouche which was covered in crispy noodles. Love when I get an amuse bouche, but wasn't too thrilled with the taste. The noodles had the "I just grabbed a bag of em off the shelf and through them on some chicken," though the rest of the group enjoyed them.

Chicken lollipop:

We started off with a couple of "dragon soup dumplings" filled with hot and sour soup ($2 each). While it was a pretty good soup dumpling, my expectations were probably unrealistic. Hot and sour soup sounded crazy awesome and it didn't hit that mark. The rest of the food, however, was on target.

Soup dumpling:

The Shanghai belly fried rice ($10) was served with pork belly and a fried quail egg. It was perfect for sharing, with lots of food, garlicky and not greasy. The pan roasted chicken breast with coconut curry ($14) felt clean and refreshing. Cantonese BBQ crispy duck ($22), probably the winner of the entire evening, holds its own with any other top notch peking duck spot. For me, the key is the skin and managing the amount of fat. China 1 got that right. Crispy skin with tender pieces of duck sat atop pancakes (a la Momofuku pork bun?) for sandwiches. If you only order one thing, it's this.

Shanghai fried rice:


The only dishes that weren't really memorable were the yellow flower fish with noodles ($17). It's just difficult to share a noodle soup, and even if I was eating it myself, I would have liked some spicyness to add some punch. Sure, the fortune cookie sundae was good ($8). It's difficult for chocolate and vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge and fortune cookie not to be good, but I was expecting something more.

Yellow flower fish soup:

Fortune cookie sundae:

The verdict? $2 drinks is obviously a good deal. If you go with one other person, each get 2 drinks, the duck and the Shanghai rice, that's $40 for 2. Pretty good deal if you ask me. Definitely will go check it out again. Been to China 1? Want to go with me next time? Post a comment!

Monday, June 1, 2009


56. Pacificana
813 55th Street, Brooklyn

After managing to convince my roommate to wake up in time for dim sum, we braved the 45 minute train ride, thinking of nothing else but trays and trays of carefully crafted shumai, pork and shrimp dumplings and whatever else looked remotely interesting that we could grab as it passed by our table. For the uninitiated, dim sum is not a spectator dining experience. Rather than simply placing an order from a menu, dishes are offered from carts that are pushed inbetween tables, in a seemingly chaotic yet well refined and deliberate dance. Turn your head, and you'll have to wait for that next plate of bean curd to come around. It takes a careful balance to dine successfully with dim sum. Act too aggressively and you'll be stuck with items you didn't want and that seemingly innocuous $3 plate adds up when you start moving into the double digits. Act too passively and you'll never even see what's coming.

We knew Pacificana would be crowded. Since its New York Times review in 2007, and certainly before that, Pacificana has been catering to those looking for one of the top dim sum restaurants. While dim sum is usually meant for larger parties and allows you to share more dishes, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I thought a party of two was perfect for us. First, we waited only about 15 minutes, and given the amount of people waiting with us, I imagine that some of those parties waited an eternity. Second, most of the plates have 2-4 pieces in them. Works for me.

The first server to catch our attention was clearly out to get us. She knew we didn't know what we were up against and we accepted her barrage of food like an unsuspecting tourist buys a cd off the street. Sure, I first felt like a sucker, but what a feast we had for only $2-5 per plate.

Bacon wrapped shrimp (more like shrimp toast than grilled shrimp) was crunchy, salty and fatty. Pork shumai melted in your mouth. Shrimp dumplings made with fresh seafood. Bean curd in a sweet brown sauce. Crisp jumbo shrimp topped with vegetables. Chicken feet. Yes, chicken feet. Gelatinous chicken feet. Not something I'd be quick to order again but definitely worth the novelty and it seemed to be a pretty popular dish. The only real miss was the seafood dumpling whose taste was a bit off.

Top (bacon wrapped shrimp); Left (shumai); Center (seafood dumplings); Right (shrimp dumplings):

Left (shrimp with vegetables); Right (Bean curd)

Chicken feet:

Chicken Feet close-up:

It's certainly not around the corner, but it's still easily accessible from the subway. Great food, awesome experience, just be prepared to wait. Interested in going?