Starbucks is elevating its coffee shops with Starbucks Reserve, an elegant and sophisticated version that opened in NYC last December, right next to Chelsea Market. Already popular amongst New Yorkers, this 23,000 sqft place is amazing: two stories if not counting the downstairs floor where the bathrooms are, where a bar, sandwich and pastry stations feed an hungry crowd with some delicious food still casual but tasty, and Italian inspired. Sandwiches are made with breads from Le Pain Quotidien with a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices like the…
We recently made it to L’Appart, short for L’Appartement (Apartment in French), one of the restaurants of Le District, a French food hall located near the World Trade Center. You may not notice it when going from The District Garden (their supermarket) to The District Market with its stations and bar, as it is tucked in a hallway, like a gem that only the gourmets know. As soon as you open the wooden doors, you are greeted by David Coucke, The Maitre D’, with a house cocktail (it was a lychee, ginger and rose cocktail that was delightfully spicy) and introduced to the team, like when you go to a dinner with some friends and the host makes the introductions.
It’s been a while since we went to Felix and I admit that my motivation to go there was to try their cassoulet that won best cassoulet in 2016 and 2017. Cassoulet is a white bean stew that has gained popularity in the US after D’Artagnan, the purveyor of meat and poultry started to organize and annual cassoulet war in New York. Historically, it is said that cassoulet was created in Castelnaudary (South West of France), with duck confit, pork shoulder and sausage while the city was besieged and people were asked to bring whatever ingredients they had to prepare a stew and feed the soldiers.
Offshoot of Indie Food & Wine, located in the Lincoln Center, Indie Lic is a cool casual place in Long Island City where the owner lives. Yes, there is definitely this cool vibe in this medium sized space that is filled with light, thanks to its large windows and its communal table in the center for people who do not mind eating with their neighbor. I would not go there for a full meal but more for small bites for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the choices being quite diverse between vegetarian and non-vegetarian, salad or sandwiches. For breakfast, I recommend their steel cut oatmeal that is cooked with cinnamon and milk, topped with sliced banana (a good amount), almonds (for some crunch) and maple syrup.
When Rebecca, Jodi’s cousin, asked to find a place with pancakes for brunch, we ended up going to Sugar Factory in the Meatpacking District, a place we wanted to go to for a while now. Yes, there were other places but not with time available on Opentable or Resy. When we arrived, it was clear that a reservation was necessary as people without were turned down and in fact, we got seated in a corner hard to reach for the staff, 30 minutes after our reservation. They were definitely overwhelmed despite the fact that we could see available tables upstairs. Sugar Factory is a big place for sure with a fun decor from candies to big chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling, without forgetting the photos of celebrities who had a meals there or let’s say more what makes them popular: giant crazy milkshakes like the one with a mini cheese burger squeezed on top, or the goblets, these big sugary drinks full of liquid nitrogen to give a dramatic effect.
I do not remember when was the last time I had Udon noodles, probably when ordering Japanese food from a small joint, not as impressed at the time by it and preferring the more classic ramen. Until I discovered Tsurutontan, a Japanese chain that is trying to conquer NY diners’ stomach. They started with a bold move in 2016, by invading the space left vacant by Union Square Café and have now a second location Midtown where we had lunch recently. Big space for sure with the open kitchen in the back.
When we went to Thalia few years ago, it was for brunch as I saw that, at the time, they had a creme brûlée French toast that was really good but that they since ditched, replacing it with a Nutella one (not a bad replacement in fact). At that point, we thought it would be great to go back for dinner and it took us until this last Valentine’s Day...Not that we celebrate but we just wanted to go to a quiet place, far from the crowd and ended up there: good choice because it was not that crowded and I kind of understood why. This new American and sushi place has simply the atmosphere of a restaurant that would be in a hotel, not so surprising as it is in the theater district, but still.
I discovered Sticky’s Finger Joint in 2012 on the Food Network when they participated to the show 3 Days to open with Chef Bobby Flay. I still remember that the main discussion was how to make their menu appealing, having chicken fingers on the menu not being enough and encouraging them to showcase their sauces. It makes sense: you can get chicken fingers that are as good in lots of places, MacDonald’s included, but Schnipper’s being better, but what could make a difference and entice you to go there? So they listened, developed their sauces and have now 7 locations, the last one being on 41st between 6th and Broadway that I recently visited.
Is Times Square changing, with the addition of better restaurants? I admit that I have food some good and bad ones there and was curious to check out Dos Caminos, located next to the W hotel, that has been there for a while now. located in the heart of the busiest tourist place in New York, Dos Caminos is a two floors restaurant: the first floor looks very casual, but the room downstairs looks much better, with its large bar serving more than 100 sorts of tequila and cocktails like margarita (I prefer the classic, not frozen, especially in winter) that you can sip while sharing a delicious guacamole made to order.
Taking its name from an Island in the Southern coast of Korean and also meaning skills, talent and ability, Jeju Noodle Bar was awarded this year a coveted Michelin Star. So I had to visit it. We went on a Tuesday and that place was packed, so I was glad that we got a reservation otherwise we would have waited a while.
We recently discovered Blend, a restaurant serving Latin cuisine in Long Island City (LIC). The first time we went there was for brunch and we surely had to go back for dinner. I like this place which is quite big, because of the variety its menu proposes, with dishes from Latin America, like a puzzle made of specialties from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba or Peru. Varied and well executed. Here is what we had:
When Porter Collins, the new venture from Chef Pino who gave us Bin 14 and the amazing Anthony David’s opened on the corner of 15th and Willow in Hoboken, it seemed to be a sign of a reviving industrial area. Unfortunately the place closed several months after and it could have given a black mark to this location, until Orale, a Mexican joint apparently popular in Jersey City opened. With its beautiful space covered in colorful street art and its wall of fluorescent Jarritos bottles, it seems so far that it is the perfect theme for the Hoboken crowd.
It’s been a while since I wanted to go to Esca, an Italian restaurant located in Hell’s Kitchen, few steps from Port Authority. There, Chef Pasternak serves an incredible menu that is seafood focused and with limited choices if you are vegetarian, odd for an Italian restaurant as you can make a great vegetarian pasta dish quite easily.
When you think about a Beer Garden, you think about that particular smell in the dining room that is a mix of beer and sausage, and the heavy comforting food with a giant pretzel as a must have. That is what Hoboken’s Pilsener Haus and Biergarten has to offer. The best time to go? Before 6pm when families are the main crowd, the place not being that crowded and still with an acceptable noise level. Hoboken’s Pilsener Haus and Biergarten is very big and kind of stands out in an area still evolving from the industrial era to a more residential neighborhood.
We finally made it to Jungsik, the 2 Michelin stars restaurant in TriBeCa. Yes, we booked few times but had to cancel for various reasons, but this time we were set to go, the cold not scaring us. Beautiful place with a modern and elegant decor not stuffy at all.
As we were looking for a place to eat after a solo exhibit from one of Jodi’s friends, Patty, trying to go back home before the announced storm that fortunately did not happen, we stumbled upon Empire Diner, an upscale retro diner serving an elevated fare. For sure, the mural on top of it from Eduardo Kobra called "Mount Rushmore of Art" and representing famed artists Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat attractedour eyes as we walked on 10th avenue.
If you step in Tuscany Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan, you would never guess that it is a Steakhouse and would more be inclined to think that it is an Italian restaurant, the masculine decor of classic steakhouses being totally absent. But it will stop there: as soon as you get the menu, you understand where you are but cannot not help but notice some Italian dishes here and there that set the tone. But then you are not sure what to do: Italian? Steak? Both?
As Jodi was part of an exhibit in Henry street in Brooklyn, I proposed to have dinner nearby and found Sociale, an Italian restaurant that has been opened since 2013 and serves a contemporary cuisine. The place is not big and has the kind of atmosphere that makes you think it is your typical neighborhood restaurant, an atmosphere that I love. Food wise, we were there for a treat; here is what we had:
We recently ate at Saju Bistro, a French restaurant located in Times Square. Nice decor, warm, I truly appreciated that some of the tables have space in between so you do not have the impression to dine with the neighboring table, even if I would not mind if they would pick up our check.
Hoboken has great places for brunch. The last one we discovered in December was Grand Vin Kitchen and Bar. It was the same day as Santa Con and we were glad to see that they barred people participating in this annual pub crawl event, making this place quiet and enjoyable. Serving Italian and American fare, Grand Vin has a very interesting menu for brunch that makes it interesting and the kind of place I would go back to for sure!
Named after a popular shopping street in Singapore, Bugis Street serves pan-Asian cuisine as well as some classic American dishes. Located in the Millennium Hotel in Times Square, it was our destination as we were looking for a restaurant not to far from Port Authority.
Named after the famous Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, Mifune is a Japanese restaurant located Midtown East that serves an interesting menu. Yes you can get sushi and sashimi there, but I encourage you to try their other dishes that show a certain creativity.
We were walking on Jackson avenue in Long Island City, on our way to a restaurant when we noticed Bierocracy, a Central European beer hall. As it started to rain hard, we changed our plan and thought it could be nice to go there for lunch, dinner being probably packed and noisy. And we were half right: the place started empty but they had two parties: one on one side of the bar room and another one in the back, where they have a private room.
Our last meal in San Diego was at Salud! By San Diego Taco Company, a popular Mexican restaurant located in Barrio Logan. Crowded inside with a long line outside, I was really excited to try it. And I was even more when inside, the decor being really beautiful with its murals that are tattoo inspired and the car hoods on the wall.
For our last lunch in San Diego, we decided to go light as we planned an early dinner with our friends Ciara and David, before our flight home. So I found this seafood place that had a couple of vegetarian options for Jodi called Ironside Fish and Oysters. Located in Little Italy, this restaurant is quite big and has a beautiful sea themed decor, especially the wall full of piranhas…
We were really excited to be able to get a reservation at Juniper and Ivy, the restaurant of Top Chef alum Richard Blais where Executive Chef Anthony Wells creates a very creative menu that would for sure excite the culinary curious...unless vegetarian. I wish restaurants were keeping their menu online up to date because Jodi was excited to try their pasta with truffle, but unfortunately it was not there, their menu changing on a regular basis and the waiter did not really come back with options besides what was there written. So I left glad I got to try that place; Jodi was less enthusiastic than I was...Here is what we had:
The Donut Bar was our first target for sweets in San Diego, but, at 4:15pm on the Thursday we arrived there, they were already closed. A quick check on the hours mentioned 8am to sold out. What? First time I saw that besides at food trucks. Is it a way to create some sort of demand? I do not know, but what was sure was that we would go back as their menu looked really good, made of classic and innovative donuts. So we went back on our last day, at 8:45am thinking that, being a Sunday, lots of people would still be asleep. Wrong: there was a line from the moment we arrived to the moment we left.
Our next stop during our trip to San Diego was Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop simply called Lucha Libre by the locals. This restaurant that has 3 locations was opened in 2008 by the Rojanos brothers who celebrate Mexican wrestling in their colorful restaurants.
We were looking for a Mexican restaurant on Opentable, when we stumbled upon Puesto at The Headquarters. Little did I know that the Headquarters referred to The San Diego Police Headquarters (some of the cells are still there), that has been transformed to a shopping and restaurant area.
In-N-Out burger is not new to me as tried it few years ago in San Francisco. At the end of the post, I even wrote at the time: “If I went back to California, I would definitely go get a good burger there!”. So here we were with our friends David and Ciara. When we arrived, the place was packed, but, lucky for us, people right next to us left and so we got a table, granted that we could have sat outside.