Live Bait

14 E 23rd St. New York, NY 10010(212) 353-2400livebaitnyc.com

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Dressed to look like something born on the bayou, Live Bait is actually the originator of the Flatiron’s recent love affair with Southern cooking, marked by followers such as Blue Smoke, Hill Country, Maysville and Bo’s, all just steps away in a variety of directions. And that’s not even counting the failed attempts such as Gravy (RIP) and J. Gumbo’s (RIP).

That said, while Live Bait most certainly earns the rightful claim to first dibs, I much prefer all four of the previously mentioned. All have better food and better decor. But to be fair, Live Bait is also a bit of a breed all its own, because Bo’s and Maysville are both much nicer. And Hill Country and and Blue Smoke are clearly barbecue. So in truth, Live Bait actually manages to fill a culinary void in the hood, which is down and dirty Cajun. Emphasis on the word “dirty” because that’s kind of the theme here, from the rice to the vibe.

Service is somewhat friendly with a hit of New York bite and the bar is well appointed for benders well into the wee hours. In terms of food, depending on what you order and how tired and/or drunk you are, it can hit the spot quite nicely with a bevy of pleasers (most of them fried) like hush puppies, fried pickles, shrimp and grits, collards and catfish. They also have blackened things and even a pulled pork sandwich, but if you’re going that way I’d strongly urge that you check out Blue Smoke or Hill Country instead.

And while Live Bait definitely has its place, depending on your food mood, budget, or blood-alcohol level, there’s also nothing great about it other than the fact that they are nothing like the other Southern options nearby, kind of in a bad way. But for southern bar food-meets-fish-joint fare, it checks the box. Albeit a very hyper-specific, inebriated box.

2 teeth

EJ’s Luncheonette

1271 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10021(212) 472-0600ejsluncheonette.com

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At one time EJ’s was a solid go-to for diner food at locations all around the city. Sporting one of the better veggie burgers (topped with guac and sprouts) in town and a respectable brunch that had people enduring two hour waits. This is no longer that time. In fact, even back in its hay day I was truthfully unimpressed, baffled by those willing to stand in line for such mediocrity when truly great diner food was only a few blocks up at Googies (RIP). But to give a currently open reference for comparison, it’s on par with Jackson Hole Diners and Stardust. Maybe a quarter of a notch above a Denny’s. Harsh? Perhaps. But truth be truth and there are literally 1000 better places for breakfast/brunch in the city, about 2000 better options for lunch and given adequate time I will eventually have all of them reviewed and posted for your perusal. But in the meantime, please go on trust and do as the police say at a crime scene, which this sort of is, “Keep walking. Nothing to see here!”

If, however, you are a glutton for punishment and are too squeamish to take up cutting, then by all means, enjoy everything from bogus burgers to pedestrian pancakes and forgettable French toast. In fact, not even the veggie burger is what it used to be. Which will go perfectly with your new regimen of self torture.

2 teeth

The Blazer Pub

440 Rt 22 Purdys, NY 10578 • (914) 277-4424theblazerpub.com

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I think legislation needs to be passed to hold Yelpers accountable for gross negligence of opinion. I mean to call this burger the “best burger in Westchester” is criminal. Worse still, some dolt actually went so far as to say “in the world.” Yes, maybe in your tiny little world that stretches from Purdy to Croton to Yorktown Heights, but in the ACTUAL world, this burger is terrorism on a bun.

For starters, the meat itself is egregious. Dry, overworked and overcooked, crumbling apart like Tom Brady’s alibi. Plus, the patty is way too small for the hard roll they serve it on, throwing the balance completely off. Well, that would’ve been the case had there been any semblance of balance to begin with, because all of the proportions are FUBAR on the Blazer Burger (pictured). Too much of everything except the actual burger itself, drowning in caramelized onions, a thick, flavorless beefsteak tomato, jarred pickles, crispy bacon and romaine.

The Celsius Burger might’ve been even worse, because it didn’t even have the benefit of syphoning moisture off of the onions. Luckily I had a plethora, so I shared. Otherwise I think we would’ve eaten even less than we actually did.

Oh, and speaking of not finishing, don’t even get me started on the “French Fries.” Basically a pile of two by fours made of potato with zero seasoning. We ordered a medium plate for four people and after we were finished there was still enough fries to serve our leftovers as a medium portion to four people, and that would’ve still been considered a large portion in my opinion.

The Guinness on tap is bitter, the lemonade is Snapple and the décor is a dump. Granted that’s intended to be part of its charm. It didn’t work (charmed would not be a word I would use to describe how I felt). About the only thing that was working at The Blazer was our waitress. No complaints on service. But why people flock here is beyond me. And flock they did. Gobbling up this dog food as if the antidote was in it. And perhaps it is, because you’d have to be sick to think this place is deserving of four stars.

1 tooth

White Wolf Cafe

1829 N Orange Ave. Orlando, FL 32804(407) 895-9911 whitewolfcafe.com

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It boggles the mind that we had to wait 20 minutes for a table in this shit hole. Almost as if we were in some sort of alternate universe theme park where people flocked to eat garbage. I know I’m laying it on thick right now, but it was so bad I honestly couldn’t wait to get the airport to eat some better food. But on the plus side, I didn’t get botulism, so I suppose I should call it win.

To be fair, there was one other plus, the cinnamon roll was actually very good. Served piping hot and ooey-gooey. But the crap benedict- er, I mean crab benedict (pictured) was inedible. I only had about a quarter of it because it was such a pile of indistinguishable mush. I couldn’t even tell where the crab ended and the home fries began. Much less the egg and the English muffin.

The Galileo salad wasn’t much better. In fact, I want to personally apologize to the historically renown astronomer on behalf of White Wolf, because the salad wasn’t even close to astronomical and thus has no right bearing his name.

On the semi-bad side of things, the chicken salad croissant sandwich was about what you might expect to get at a Cibo.

Worst of all, however, was after waiting those 20 minutes to be seated, the only available table was in the worst possible location in the entire restaurant, right in between the exit from the kitchen and the wait station with mere inches on either side. This was mitigated only slightly by the comfort of knowing that there really isn’t a good table here, because at the end of the day every table here is a loser.

1 tooth

The Billy Goat Tavern

430 N Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60611(312) 222-1525billygoattavern.com

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The best thing about this place by far is the SNL skit with John Belushi long ago. Now it’s just a bar clinging to its 15 minutes of fame way past the expiration date.

It’s located under Michigan Avenue. Yes, under and it reeks of the tourist trap that it is, complete with employees bellowing out “Cheezborger! Cheezborger!” in thick Greek accents every time someone orders a cheeseburger. Which is fun for the first five seconds and after that becomes the verbal equivalent of water droplets in a Chinese torture chamber.

On the plus side, having these burgers at your beckon call while you drink is sort of like having a White Castle that serves booze, so kudos there. Beyond that, there isn’t much else to it apart from the historic novelty of the infamous “Curse.”

As the legend goes, back in 1945 during Game 4 of the World Series, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern went to attend the game at Wrigley Field with his actual pet goat. Shockingly, and by that I mean “not shocking, “ the owners of Wrigley Field turned him away due to the smell of said goat. Insulted, the Billy Goat Owner placed a Greek curse on the Chicago Cubs, barring them from ever returning to the World Series again. And while this may sound like a bunch of malarkey, 70 years later the curse appears to still be standing strong, whereas the Cubs, not so much.

2 teeth

Beehive Restaurant

30 Old Rt 22 Armonk, NY 10504 • (914) 765-0688beehive-restaurant.com

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Dear Yelpers,

Just because a restaurant has a big menu does not make it a four star restaurant. In fact, it’s more often than not means the exact opposite because they can’t focus on making anything great with so much to keep prepped, so nothing is ever fresh and thus nothing winds up good.

Beehive, at its best, is blah diner food with better decor and worse service. Cue the can of whoop-ass opening…

First, when we were seated for lunch, there were about a dozen or more empty tables, yet the hostess first tried to seat us next to the wait station. WTF? Then, the waiter brings me the special fish sandwich, about which nothing was special, and to make matters worse, he fails to even bring me the entire dish. I had to ask where the remaining sides were before he even realized. After eventually returning with the forgotten sides, he brought the fries without ketchup or mustard, and nor did he even bother to ask if I’d like any.

Then there’s the food. As I already stated, the fried fish sandwich was tasteless. A travesty if you ask me, because if I’m going to poison myself with deep fried food, the least it should be is worth it! And worse still, the sandwich was a recommendation by the waiter- shocker. But the saddest part of all was that the side of tarter sauce did nothing for the dish as it was as equally bland as the fish itself. Like placing mayo on top of oil.

So how about those fries? Even they were atrocious. Completely tasteless. No salt or seasoning of any kind, tasting like the crap you get at a diner along a desolate route somewhere in the sticks.

And then there’s my wife’s Chop Chop Cobb, which should be chop, chopped right off the menu. The “green goddess” dressing was far from god-like and even farther from green. Again, basically just a ramekin of mayo. I swear, in a blind taste test you wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from the tarter sauce.

So Beehive, this is going to sting… but you flat out suck.

1 tooth

Barney’s Beanery

8447 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069(323) 654-2287 • barneysbeanery.com
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If Baskin Robbins decided to serve burgers instead of ice cream and to become a Hell’s Angel, this would be their restaurant. And I use the term “restaurant” loosely. The word “dive” is much more fitting. But the burgers aren’t bad. And the décor is certainly “interesting.” Perhaps a little out of place on the promenade to the point where it feels inauthentic, so if you’re gonna go, I recommend the original in West Hollywood. It’s the real deal. Plus, at that one they used to have live lingerie models on display once in a while as a nice added perk. I’m not a doctor or anything, but I believe it helps with digestion.

And while the novelty of Barney’s certainly has its merits, the burgers only hold up so much. If you truly want a bodacious bite on a bun, head to Father’s Office instead. There’s one in Santa Monica and Culver City.

But if you’re not in the mood for a burger, not to worry, Barney’s has tons of other options on their menu ranging from salads to sandwiches and pizza to Mexican. I can’t vouch for any of them, but they’re on the menu.

3 teeth

Yankee Pier

San Francisco International Airport, Terminal 3 Gate 72
780 S Airport Blvd. San Francisco, CA94128 • (650) 821-8938yankeepier.com

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It’s in an airport, so you can’t obviously walk in expecting Iron Chef, but then again, it also does hit the spot. And it’s better than the shit they serve on planes these days. But if you want to hold them to task, here would be my nits:

The Greek Omelet while good-ish, was a bit over-buttery, which sort of defeated the purpose of my getting it with egg whites. And the home fries were sad and soggy.

Fortunately the service was quick and very friendly. And décor, well, you’re at an airport, so I’ll give them a pass on that one.

Back on the kudos side, I do actually think it’s better than Boudin bakery’s pre-made breakfast crap, but that’s not saying a ton since it’s located in a food court, even if it does bear the name of a Thomas Keller establishment.

2 teeth

Lincoln Square Pancake House

8150 Oaklandon Rd. Indianapolis, IN 46236317-823-5373 • eatatlincolnsquare.com
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With four and a half stars on Yelp and a line out the door you’d think this place was the shit. Well, it’s definitely shit alright. The absolute epitome of what you might expect in the sticks of Indianapolis.

First, let’s start with the Sistine Chapel meets Magritte ceiling art. Yes, fluffy white clouds against a blue sky arch upward into the acoustic tile above, almost like skylights, but so poorly done you almost feel sorry for the paint brush that had to create them.

Feeling sorry was the theme in general here. For the patrons around me. For my co-workers. For myself and my stomach. In fact, the only person I didn’t feel bad for was our server, she was quick and full of spunk- it’s amazing the impression a server can leave when they like their job.

Unfortunately, the impression wasn’t enough to salvage the Cinnamon French tragedy on my plate. Too dry, not soaked through and the fruit on top was GMO city. Topped with a syrup that saw more corn fields than maple trees in its former life. Which brings me back to the 4.5 stars… Sure. Out of 100 maybe.

1 tooth