Freight Elevator Restaurants – cheap, delicious and super cool

Freight Elevator Restaurants – cheap, delicious and super cool

SnaxtimeUSA (Justin Ulloa) and I hit up Acuario Café this past Monday and just loved it. The concept is funky and authentic. It’s literally located in the passageway leading to the freight elevator of a garment district building. As you can imagine, it’s no frills with most customers doing take-out but there are some bar stools and ledges for on-location “dining.”

We were there at 1pm and the line was 50 deep out the door. We ordered the chicken and rice with lentils and the cod and rice. The chicken was fabulous, the cod not so much. It’s $5 for a huge portion and no tipping. The majority of customers are garment district laborers although there were also a handful of fashionistas who were clearly regulars!

This is not a place where I would typically go – but it would be an awesome place to have a party – just putting it out there!!

Now on to a more glamorous spot. On Tuesday night I checked out brand new Chinatown hotspot, Chinese Tuxedo. It’s located on Doyers Street, one of the most unusual and iconic streets in Manhattan. This one block long street is home to several of the coolest bars and restaurants in the city including Apotheke and Pulqueria. Chinese Tuxedo fits right in with this vibe – it’s a gorgeous space in a former opera house.

Read on below for my review of Chinese Tuxedo plus photos and a video.

Read More >

Share this post on:

SAVANNAH EATS: The Best – and Coolest – Restaurants in Town

SAVANNAH EATS: The Best – and Coolest – Restaurants in Town

Spent 3 fantastic days in Savannah as a guest of friends from my recent Nat Geo Trip. Will cover the art scene tomorrow (Saturday), followed by my Top 5 things to do when visiting Savannah on Sunday.

First, however, food. Here are the two restaurants that blew me away. Not only the best – but also the hippest and most of-the-moment food destinations in Savannah.

The Grey
109 MLK Blvd

This is an absolute game-changer for Savannah. Opened in late 2014, in a restored 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Station, the Grey is a real stunner. Very difficult to get reservations, so book early. You can also get a feel for the place at their Diner Bar which opens at 4pm and offers an exceptional cocktail program with delicious bar food.

The Grey is owned by a former NYer – Johno Morisano. Savannahians have embraced this newcomer – as they should! The Grey knocks it out of the park! All I could think is, why can’t we have something as fabulous in NYC?

Here’s what I loved most:

The design and the vibe:

Cool, mid-century style, beautiful art deco colors, creative lighting, quirky touches e.g. numbers on the wall correspond to gate stations where buses previously lined up. The tables are also reproductions of what existed in the space back in the day – only change is the removal of the ashtrays that were built in to the center of each table (see photos below). Elegant renovation by Parts and Labor Design.

The inventive food by Chef Mashama Bailey:

Everything is both familiar and yet new. Interestingly, the chef cooked previously for Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in NYC. I am wholeheartedly recommending everything we ordered: the crab and coconut starter with Serrano chili, the coffee roasted beets with ricotta, the country pasta with ragu of braised pork shoulder, bison meatballs with zaatar spice, the smoked collards with maldon salt.

The cocktail and wine program:

I had both the Spanish Caravan with bourbon, vermouth and sfumato amaro as well as a great glass of sancerre with dinner.

LOVE THIS PLACE!

Read on below for my other favorite restaurant – as well as several favorites of my hosts. Unfortunately, we did not get to all during my brief stay. Also, more pictures at the end of the post from The Grey.

Read More >

Share this post on:

BEATRICE INN: Suddenly hot again, in a good way!

BEATRICE INN: Suddenly hot again, in a good way!

My first time at the Beatrice Inn (285W 12th St) for dinner last week. Phenomenal experience – the bone marrow creme brulee (see pic below) blew my mind. SO GOOD!!  But aside from the food, I also loved the ambiance, the service and the overall vibe.

For those of you not familiar, here’s some background:

Paul Sevigny (brother of Chloe) took over the Bea in 2006 and turned it into a super sexy clubhouse for all the cool kids. I never even tried to get in during that period – although I was very curious! Then in 2009, the city shut the place down for debauchery (or overcrowding, or smoking, or sex – Shia LaBeouf was heard loudly begging for sex at the club!). It was reopened in 2012 by Graydon Carter. I continued to avoid it – snooty crowd and awful food (is this because thin fashion people don’t eat?)

Then in August of last year, 34-year-old chef Angie Mar who had been poached from the Spotted Pig by Carter (but had a falling out with him over creative and business differences), bought the Bea and everything changed almost overnight. Suddenly food was front and center and pretentiousness was out. She added several recipes to the menu that had been in her family for generations e.g. the milk-braised pork shoulder which she has been making since she was 15 – DELICIOUS!!

Here’s a roundup of what’s to love at the Bea, and why I will be back often:

  • Beautiful space with an old school Hollywood vibe.
  • Ask to sit in the backroom by the fireplace. (Note: This was ‘social Siberia’ under Graydon Carter- for no-names and D-listers.)
  • Reservations thru OpenTable – and they honor them. Only peeve: they will only seat full parties.
  • Informal and accessible e.g. dress code has been done away with and photography is now allowed. After all ,with so many instagram-worthy menu items, how can you have a ‘no-photography’ rule?
  • Its history: the Bea dates back to the 1920s, when it was a speak-easy.
  • The Food – read on below for recommendations on food, cocktails along with photos.

Read More >

Share this post on:

Taim Guest Chef Series: This is one outstandanding line-up

Taim Guest Chef Series: This is one outstandanding line-up

This poster above, in the window of Taim, caught my attention recently. Very intriguing: every month for a year, a renowned chef creates a recipe to spice up Taim’s classic falafel sandwich. The program started in September with Mario Batali. Other chefs in the line-up include Mads Resflund, Bobby Flay, Floyd Cardoz, Anne Redding & Matt Danzer (Uncle Boon’s!!).

I missed Molly Yeh in January but did get there for lunch yesterday. The Jessica Koslow (Sqirl LA) falafel sandwich is so tasty with persimmon and root vegetable slaw – YUM!! Will definitely make sure that I check out each of the upcoming chef creations.

Also love the posters designed by The MP Shift – they created the colorful template and applied it to each guest chef’s handmade illustration.

Read More >

Share this post on:

Here Are 6 Food Trends You Need To Know About

Here Are 6 Food Trends You Need To Know About

1. Burnt sage ice cream dipped in a magic chocolate shell

This newest “savory” creation from Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream is unbelievably delicious.

2. Amaro: the dominant digestif of 2017

One of the best amaros I’ve ever had – Amaro Dell’Erborista. This Italian bittersweet herbal liqueur is absolutely magnificent. On the menu at Babbo in NYC.

3. Everyone talking about Savory

Besides Nick Morgenstern’s new burnt sage ice cream and amazing herbal amaros, bakery owners are also reporting that savory items are some of their biggest sellers e.g. pretzel croissants or spicy cornbread. In some instances, even outpacing sales of sweet baked goods.

Next up in savory: snack bars made with with rosemary or bacon. Also, savory yogurts from Fage. Can’t say I’m optimistic. Savory yogurts from Blue Hill came and went in a nanosecond.

See more below on the very successful Maine Lobster campaign, artisanal butcher shops and the popularity of cauliflower!

Read More >

Share this post on:

Top Drink Trends to Watch in 2017

Top Drink Trends to Watch in 2017

Here are some trends I’m tracking for this year. Wine’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down – something that can’t be said about beer. Craft brews are starting to run out of steam leading to layoffs at many breweries around the country.

WINE:

New Windsor Great Park Sparkling Wine: The Queen turns wine-maker (Source: Daily Mail UK)

  • The Brits are crazy about making their own sparkling wines and the Queen is in on the action.
  • Her new sparkling wine – all 3000 bottles of it – sold out immediately, a second batch is due to be released in the fall.
  • She’s not the first royal to be in the wine business. Henry II cultivated grapes at Windsor Castle in the 12th Century.

Sherry (Source: AV Club)

  • Seeing more sherry wines on menus – and as an ingredient in cocktails – but can’t say I am personally a fan.
  • Interesting aside on the name: “sherry” comes from an English corruption of the pronunciation of Jerez, the oldest wine-producing region in Spain where sherries are made.

Millennials vs. Boomers (Sources: Business Insider and Washington Post)

  • Millennials consumed 42% of all wine drunk in the US last year.
  • Per capita consumption of wine has tripled to 3 gallons per person per year since the 60’s.
  • Quality wines — over $10 a bottle — are growing dramatically, while wines under $5 a bottle are shrinking.
  • Baby boomers are retiring, on fixed incomes, and expected to spend less on wine – both on and off premise.
  • While boomers favored California wines, millennials are receptive to wines from around the world.
  • Generic wine, which many older boomers favored, has permanently lost its appeal not just to consumers but to producers.

Read on below for news on bottled, prepared cocktails and the latest on craft brews.

Read More >

Share this post on:

Restaurant Trends for 2017: Devastating to see the bubble burst

Restaurant Trends for 2017: Devastating to see the bubble burst

Here are 6 major trends that I’m tracking. Will start with the grimmest news.

1. THE RESTAURANT BUBBLE IS BURSTING

Everyone in the restaurant industry is talking about this – and acknowledging that this is indeed happening! The Thrillist post was scariest of all, listing so many popular, high-profile restaurants shuttering around the country.

In NYC, Annisa in the West Village announced it was closing (they raised prices to go the no-tipping route and lost 20% of their customers). Pearl & Ash, sister restaurant to Rebelle on the Bowery, closed in late December. This week I also saw that Peter Hoffman’s Back Forty West (originally Savoy)  is now becoming a Dig Inn.  Says a lot about what people want to eat and how much they are willing to pay.

Bottom line: there are too many restaurants, their overhead is too high and the industry, as a whole, is over-regulated. The recent minimum wage increase was the final nail in the coffin. And our beloved Danny Meyer has a lot to answer for with his pioneering no-tipping stance. Do not be surprised if he ends up shuttering one or more of his restaurants as guests decide that the dining experience he offers no longer justifies the price.

Here are two posts I’ve written before on the subject: December 2015 and December 2, 2016.

Read on below for 5 more – much more lighthearted – trends including Uber’s new restaurant recommendations based on drop offs (fascinating insights!!).

Read More >

Share this post on:

Everything’s Coming Up Dumplings: The Ultimate Comfort Food

Everything’s Coming Up Dumplings: The Ultimate Comfort Food

 

Try as I might, I still haven’t managed to snag a seat at the hottest new dumpling restaurant in NYC, Tim Ho Wan. I will keep at it however because this Michelin-starred restaurant from Hong Kong is getting rave reviews from those lucky enough to make it inside. It’s in soft-opening mode until January 18 – hopefully after that, my persistence will pay off.

Being stymied in my efforts to get into Tim Ho Wan, left me curious as to why dumpling style foods and restaurants have become so incredibly popular.

Here are 5 reasons:

1. It’s the ultimate comfort food

2. They’re ubiquitous! No matter the culture or nationality, you will find a version of the dumpling

3. Dumplings are shareable and affordable.

4. Tremendous variety – both in the fillings and how they are prepared/served e.g. steamed, fried, in soups

5. Younger chefs are putting exciting new spins on authentic old school recipes from their childhoods, often an ethnic mashup of some kind.

Read on below for a sampling of dumplings from around the world.

Read More >

Share this post on: