The Foodies went to New York City for five days in July (yes, we are just now getting around to these posts). We had a fantastic time and have so many places to share with you. Each day will be covered in a post.
Our flight landed about 9 AM. By the time we got to our hotel, it was a little after 11. Cafeteria is our traditional day 1 brunch spot.
Day of the Week: Wednesday, 7/24
Total Bill: $45 (estimated, before tip)
Breakdown: 2 mains, 1 appetizer, 1 coffee, 2 aloe vera lemonades
Pros: Good location, relaxed atmosphere.
Cons: Mediocre service on our last visit
Verdict: We’ll give it another chance.
Hubby had been telling me about Cafeteria for a long time before we actually got to go there. The place is so New York that it’s almost unreal. For starters, it’s open 24/7, like the nicest diner you’ve ever seen. The hostess area is tiny, like a lot of things in the city, and the décor is super modern. Lots of white and dark wood and the whole front wall is made up of glass doors that can roll up like a garage. The bathroom is down a tiny staircase and it’s confusing for a girl from the country like me. You get to the bottom of the stairs and there’s just sinks and individual, fully-enclosed stalls. No separate bathrooms for men and women.
We had a couple of friends with us for part of our trip. A is from Long Island and therefore familiar with the city; her husband, K, is a Florida native who has never been to NYC before. We were eager to share Cafeteria with them. Our previous two experiences have been so positive. Good service, great food. But I must say this time was a little disappointing.
The place was almost empty when we got there, and only a few more tables came in after us, so we were seated promptly. Service started out very strong. Unfortunately, our food took quite a while to come out (I would guess 30 minutes) and I sat with an empty coffee cup for a bit.
My food was only so-so this time, mostly because it was cold. On both previous trips I’ve had the lox and bagel, which was great. But it is a very straightforward plate. This time I had the biscuits and gravy (comes with two eggs and a small side salad, $11), which was cold when it arrived. I feel like the kitchen was struggling with its timing. Hubby had ordered the mac attack sampler (three types of mac & cheese, $14), which was piping hot. Unfortunately, cold gravy is just not that appetizing. The flavor was pretty good (the gravy is a little bit spicy) but it was hard to get past the temperature.
I would definitely give Cafeteria another chance because my other experiences have been so positive but if I had another experience like this I might reconsider.
I like the place, very much. It is a little cramped: small tables, small spaces to walk through, small stairwell and bathrooms. But that is everything in NYC, so you can’t really complain about it. I had the mac and cheese trio and the turkey burger with blue cheese and bacon. The mac and cheese was only so-so, and I am a mac and cheese connoisseur, but the turkey burger was really good. Juicy and the toppings I picked were delicious! I also had a couple of the aloe vera lemonades, which are amazing!!! One of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks. Another bitch that I had on this visit was that the food took forever to come out and they were not busy. At all…
Sightseeing: Midtown Comics
We stopped in at Midtown Comics on our way to The Ginger Man since K is a big geek like us. Midtown Comics is on the second and third floors of a building near Times Square. The first floor of the shop has lots of comics, graphic novels, and art books; upstairs has figures, games, apparel, and more comics. Friendly staff, lots to see in there.
Bar: The Ginger Man
The Ginger Man is one of Manhattan’s most well-known and well-loved craft beer bars, boasting 66 taps and hundreds of bottles. We’ve been here several times before and we absolutely love this place. For Manhattan, it’s quite a large establishment. Getting a seat in the evening can be tough but the afternoons are usually quiet. The four of us got a table across from the bar. Stephani took excellent care of us.
I started with the Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof potato berliner weisse ($9), which was very refreshing and tart with an earthy finish from the potatoes. After that, I shared a couple of large bottles with Hubby and K: Westbrook Gose ($15 for the bottle, deservedly scored a 92 on Beer Advocate) and Westbrook Mexican Cake ($20, with a well-deserved 96 on BA). I highly recommend Westbrook beers. The gose was great; the Mexican Cake is one of my favorite stouts: sweet, spicy, and delicious. We also shared a bottle of The Bruery Bois, which isn’t my usual style of beer (it’s an old ale, which is quite rich and sweet) but enjoyable nonetheless.
Ginger Man also has a great selection of whiskeys. I like whiskey but don’t know that much about it so I thought I would broaden my horizons with some of their scotch offerings. I started with a one-ounce pour of Bruichladdich Black Art ($13) because I read about Bruichladdich in The New Yorker a while back and became a little obsessed. Because I don’t know anything about scotch, including how I like to drink it, Stephani brought it neat with glasses of water and rocks so I could tart it up to my liking. (Turns out, I like exactly TWO ice cubes in my scotch.) After the Black Art, I had Dalmore 18 year ($12 for one ounce). Black Art is from Islay (known for its peat) and Dalmore is Highland, which Stephani told me has a lot of dark fruits to it. I preferred the Black Art but they were quite similar (Dalmore was just a bit sweeter). I think my scotch palate still needs time to develop (I remember when all beer tasted roughly the same to me, too).
For a total of nine beers (between four people!), two scotches, and a T-shirt, our bill was $143.50. Reasonable for the quality of the beer, service, and locale.
Ginger Man is the best beer place in the city for me because it is big! Really big! They have 70 drafts, which is crazy, and they have a huge bottle list. The bottle list had some rare gems on it this time like Westbrook Mexican Cake and gose. They also had some great sours and Bruery Bois on draft. The service here was awesome! The gal that served us was super sweet and helpful – she even found some off-the-menu bottles for us in the back. This place has a very large selection of whisky as well, which isn’t for me but the wife had a few.
Dinner: Beauty & Essex
We selected Beauty & Essex for dinner because the menu looked good and it seemed like a fun place (the entrance is through an actual working pawn shop).
Day of the Week: Wednesday, 7/24
Total Bill: $295.60 (before tip)
Breakdown: 11 small plates, 4 large plates, 2 beers, 2 drinks, 1 coffee
Pros: Beautiful and unique atmosphere, friendly service.
Cons: Sharing-style menu doesn’t suit cuisine well.
Verdict: Not great for a large party.
The restaurant is on an unimpressive block and you do in fact enter through a small (and very quirky) pawn shop. The restaurant was dark and atmospheric. Hubby, K, A, and I went to the bar to wait for our other friends, H and J, to arrive. The bar was surprisingly relaxed. The bartenders (all female) were wearing jeans and laughing together while they worked. A short hallway with tables leads into the main dining room, which is really spectacular with its central skylight. I hoped we would be seated in the main dining room but alas we were seated at the first table next to the bar.
Our server, Ashley, welcomed us and explained the menu to us: small plates meant for sharing. Well, damn. That wasn’t what we expected (wasn’t on their website), nor is it what we really wanted based on the descriptions of the food. They do offer some larger plates, which can still be shared, but are also more of a traditional entrée size. I ordered a Jack & Blue (“anise infused Jack white rye, grapefruit, honey, blueberry preserve,” $14) and began to scour the menu and negotiate with Hubby about what to order. Ashley brought us a little amuse bouche of tomato soup with an herbed crouton, which was very tasty and made us hopeful about the food.
We decided on “chile relleno” empanadas (“poblano, manchego, jalapeño-lime crema,” $12), tune poke wonton tacos (“micro cilantro, radish, wasabi kewpie,” $16), General Tso’s monkfish ($16), Asian spice rubbed pork ribs (“five spice salt, bok choy, spicy roasted peanuts,”$19 – this is one of the larger plates), salt and vinegar fries ($9), and lobster mac & cheese ($15). I also ordered grilled cheese, smoked bacon and tomato soup dumplings ($14) and a kale and apple salad (“apple cider vinaigrette, pancetta, candied pecans, shaved goat cheese,” $12).
Our friends ordered the balance of the food: another order of empanadas, salmon ceviche (“coconut milk, fresh apple, smoky bacon, crispy plantains,” $12), more soup dumplings, two orders of brick pressed chicken (“creamy mascarpone polenta, blistered tomato, Sicilian style bread crumbs,” $21 each), an order of chicken meatballs ($17), and an eggplant pizza ($14).
The food came out at a good pace. My impressions of the dishes I tried:
• Empanadas – Tasted just like a chile relleno in empanada form. Spicy but not overwhelming. Really delicious.
• Monkfish – The sauce had a good flavor but they tasted like the oil they had been fried in was a little stale. For something as delicate as fish, you need to make sure your oil is really fresh.
• Fries – Really good fries.
• Mac & cheese – Really good mac and cheese.
• Tomato soup dumplings – I wasn’t sure what to expect. How do you make a dumpling with soup? When they came, I thought the presentation was really cute. Each order has six little spoons with a bit of tomato soup and a little grilled cheese sandwich with a bit of bacon on top. And they were SO GOOD. I want more right now.
• Kale and apple salad – This was the surprise hit of the night. Hubby hates green things and he ate two servings of this! The flavors really complemented each other. Very refreshing, and quite a generous portion. Well worth the $12.
We skipped dessert to go to The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the East Village but I did drink a coffee ($3.50) before we left for a little extra oomph.
On our way out, I stopped in the ladies’ room. WOW! It’s like an old-school ladies’ lounge. There is a small bar and some comfy-looking couches in addition to the restroom. Several women were taking advantage of the lounge for a quiet chat since the restaurant is a bit loud (not deafening, but very lively).
At first, I found this dinner to be disappointing. But now that I’m really thinking about the meal I think I just didn’t like the surprise of the “small plates” concept. I had a boss that told me the most important element of professional success was managing expectations. Because we expected one thing from Beauty & Essex and got another, we were disappointed. But the food really was good. That being said, I think their food would work better in a more traditional starter/main arrangement.
Overall, I would go back but would be more likely to stop in with Hubby for a casual dinner at the bar than to go with a group of friends.
For dinner we went to Beauty & Essex. This place was neat. You walk into a pawn shop, a real one, and there is a hidden door that leads you into the restaurant, which is huge! The outside looks like a rundown building and is not very inviting, but the giant bright yellow flashing sign lets you know you are in the right place. The drinks here were awesome! Very tasty.
The menu has a lot of features and some delicious stuff. The only problem I had was that when we arrived they told us it is tapas style or sharing style, which I am not a fan of. People order what they want, and people have dietary restrictions and don’t like other things… but we ordered and things just came out willly nilly. Don’t get me wrong, everything was very, very delicious. The portions were a little small for the price. We didn’t have dessert here, though (see the next section).
The food I enjoyed the most was the chile relleno empanadas. They were delicious. I just wish they were a little spicier. The baby back ribs were awesome, too. Fell off the bone and had a tangy Asian sauce on them, very similar to the ones that are served at Roy’s. The General Tso’s monkfish was really good, but the oil seemed a little old and needed to be changed.
Dessert: The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
I have no recollection of how we found out about The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop but Hubby loves it. I’m not an ice cream eater but I’m happy to go because Hubby likes it. The first time we went they had a guy in drag dressed like a ‘50s housewife controlling the line and keeping us entertained. It was a hoot. (I had a Mexican Coke float that day – very tasty.) There was no one in drag this particular evening at the West Village location (darn – that was part of the fun!) but there was a very nice girl (with awesome orange hair) keeping the line in check. Hubby and K got salty pimps (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, and sea salt dipped in chocolate) and loved them so much they went back for seconds. I had a hibiscus paleta (basically the more awesome Mexican version of a Popsicle) by La Newyorkina that was delicious and refreshing. I recommend both the ice cream shop and the paletas.
Dessert was at BIG GAY ICE CREAM!!! This was my favorite place! Ever! I had a salty pimp, which is vanilla ice cream in a cone with caramel injected into it and then heavily sprinkled with sea salt. The cone is then dipped in chocolate! Holy shit, amazing! And there is a special surprise at the bottom: the end of the cone is filled with salted caramel! So the last bite is just as good as the first.
After dinner: RARE View
Wife and I stopped at RARE VIEW, on the roof of our hotel, to enjoy a drink with beautiful views of the city and the Empire State Building! Awesome, perfect end to the night. The drinks were pretty good, not the best, and they were a little pricey, but the views were worth it.