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.
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:
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!