The Spotted Pig

314 W 11th St. New York, NY 10014(212) 620-0393 thespottedpig.com

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I have to applaud Yelp for not buying into the hype hook, line and sinker just because James Beard and Michelin apparently have. That said, I still find Yelp’s 3.5 stars to be a bit overstated as well.

Let me explain by starting with the “spotted” service. Not only do they make it painfully annoying to get a table as a result of not taking reservations, they get so crowded that the wait can grow as steep as an hour and 45 minutes by 6:30pm! So right off the bat, you’re basically going into the experience with a this-better-be-fucking-worth-it mindset, which is never good for anyone. I mean, by that point the only way a restaurant is ever going to fair well is if every bite on the menu is on physiological par with an orgasm. But on the plus side, as ridiculous as the wait is, the hosts handle it well. No attitude and they text you when your table is ready so you can go off and drink at another bar until your table is ready. Which also doesn’t bode well for them, because now you’re an angry drunk waiting far longer than is reasonable, only to be seated in an overcrowded dinning room that is so warm you’d swear you were going through menopause, all for food that simply isn’t worth it (more on that later).

As for the actual waiters, they are slow in both senses of the term, getting us the deviled eggs instead of the devils on horseback and then trying to charge us twice for the devils on horseback. But what was especially annoying was the lack of attention to speed of service. After all, wouldn’t one think, “hey, these people just waited nearly two hours for their table, perhaps I should try to make them wait as little as possible from here on out.” But nooooo, not here. It was the longest burger and beer experience of my life, lasting nearly four hours.

Now for the “spotted menu,” which proved to be so disappointing, starting off with the Spotted Pig Bitter, made with bubbles so infinitesimally small that it comes off as flat. But at least it had good flavor to it. Just pales in comparison to Blue Bird Bitter if you’ve ever had it.

As for the infamous Devils on Horseback, they are definitely good, but a bit too moist through and through, if you ask me. I much prefer the contrasty version, where the crisp bacon gives way to the moist, gooey date, like at Boqueria.

The runaway surprise hit of the night was the Apple Salad. It’s just awesome, but bone simple, hence we made a dead ringer of it at home the very next day without even having to look up a recipe online. It’s comprised of Pink Lady apples cut in large chunks, fresh parsley, a bit of arugula, sharp (aged) cheddar or manchego and a dressing made with apple cider vinegar, red chili infused olive oil, Dijon, honey and red pepper flakes to taste.

The most over-hyped dish of the night was easily the burger (pictured). Hidden beneath a tower of shoestring fries in hopes of masking its inadequacies. Sure, the patty is good, but it was so boring without ketchup and mustard, relying way too heavily on the roquefort cheese to carry it to greatness, toward which it falls miserably short. Instead, I highly suggest you head to Minetta Tavern for the Black Label Burger, which actually lives up to its legend. Or the Bash burger at B&B Wine Pub, which has won the best burger in the city five years running. Or even Élan’s Duck Burger, which few know about, but blows the spots off of this pig.

And finally, there’s the Skirt Steak, which not only skirted around our order of medium rare, but came in horrendously chewy, filled with sinew to the point of almost making it off-putting had it not been for the mushrooms and kale on the plate with it.

Unless you have a bizarre foodie fetish and like the masochistic notion of waiting forever for food that isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I vote that you skip the Pig and just make that apple salad at home. It really is quite something.

2 teeth

Tick Tock Diner

481 8th Ave. New York, NY 10001(212) 268-8444ticktockdinerny.com

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Unofficially, I believe the name is derived from the fact that if you eat here, the clock is running on how much time you have left to live. Okay, so that’s probably not entirely true. It’s probably how much time before you become ill, which for me was only a matter of seconds, stepping in to the sauna-like dining room, which a term way too nice for whatever this was. “Eating area” I will call it.

So, the eating area is actually quite packed during the breakfast rush, for reasons which escape me entirely, because the food is god awful. Granted our career waitress who has been there since the day it opened 17 years ago was very nice. And apparently she squeezed the oranges herself to make the fresh squeezed orange juice I ordered. The issue, however, is that you need to start with good oranges in order to get good juice. After all, it’s not like the process of fresh squeezing miraculously transforms a pile of shit oranges into liquid gold. Thus, the fresh squeezed orange juice was plus rapidly turned minus.

And equally tragic was the Greek omelet, which was so disappointing it almost rivaled the economic issues in Greece as the lowest point in the nation’s modern day history. Filled with feta, spinach, olives and tomatoes it was so flavorless I could’ve closed my eyes and had someone told me it was a plain omelet, I wouldn’t have even questioned it. I guess this place is as terrified of salt as they are of buying fresh produce?

Suffice it to say, this place isn’t going to be raking in the knives, so if you are already sitting in the eating area and are reading this now, get out while you still can! Tick tock!!!!

1 tooth

Sweet Hollow Diner

100 Broadhollow Rd. Melville, NY 11747 • (631) 549-0768

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Ya know those pathetic diners in movies where the criminals are on the run and they stop to get bite? Or the place bad buys meet up to talk over a plan? Or the place where undercover cops meet with informants so as not to draw any attention to either of them? That’s this place. No, you won’t even find Guy Fieri caught dead at this joint, because it’s even below his standards, appealing to the absolute lowest common denominator possible. Granted I’ve eaten there twice, so what does that say about me? Although the pickens are pretty slim in Melville and I was outvoted the second time.

In terms of what to get, I recommend getting as far from here as possible. But if you’re like me and find yourself stuck here by reasons beyond your control, than I’ll tell you what not to get, the only two things I’ve ever had here, which are a grilled chicken sandwich and a Greek salad, both of which were like eating a nightmare. Chicken so dry you could use it as chalk to write “Help!” on the menu board, served with your typical, soggy diner plank fries. Or you can opt for the over ripe fruit salad, depending on your mood. And should you go for salad-salad, like the Greek, you can look forward to limp lettuce, bitter grape leaves, canned olives and a dressing that almost makes matters worse.

If you respect yourself, I urge you to learn from my mistakes and avoid this place at all costs. Even jump out of a moving car if you have to and head to the Starbucks down the street. You’ll thank me for it. After the abrasions heal.

1 tooth

Squires

 218 N State Rd. Briarcliff, NY 10510 • (914) 762-3376squiresofbriarcliff.com

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I’ve heard a lot of people swear by this burger, but after the debacle at The Blazer Pub I was very skittish, regardless of the 3-time Best of Westchester crownings. Sorry BOW, but you’re about as reliable as Yelp.

Upon entering, the crowd didn’t make me feel much better, loaded with geriatrics to the point where I could’ve sworn I was on the set of the film Cocoon 3. But as depressing as the fogey-fest was, I was more unnerved by the fact that this place belongs somewhere in the middle of the dessert along Route 66 where drifters sign up for contract killings. So feeling like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, I ordered up a pint of Stella and the Cheese Supreme Burger.

The Stella on tap was on point and the service was very friendly- in fact, even the burger is definitely good on a purist level, but best in Westchester? It’s not even in my top three. The Inn at Pound Ridge, Melts and the Napa Burger at Westchester Burger Co. all trounce the Cheese Supreme, which was a supreme disappointment initially. So much so that I had my server fetch some jalapenos stat, to resuscitate some life back into the mozzarella, cheddar and Swiss trio of tastelessness. Luckily it worked. And perhaps I’m to blame for listening to the recommendations of my waiter and Yelper’s alike, but then again, it’s more fun to blame them. And while I’m at it, the friggin’ bun was about 30% too small for the patty. I hate that. It makes me what to hire a contract killer and take out the reviews that touted this place. Hmmm… Perhaps I am in the right place after all?

2 teeth

Virgil’s

152 W 44th St. New York, NY 10036 • (212) 921-9494virgilsbbq.com

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Located smack dab in the epicenter of touristy hell, there exists a beacon of authenticity. That beacon is Virgil’s, shining bright through the fog of over-stimulation (a.k.a. Times Square) with pleasers like their killer pulled pork sandwich (pictured) piled high with pig parts so moist and delicious they probably don’t even need to top it with their coleslaw, but they do anyways, and I’m okay with that. The crunch of the cabbage against the tenderness of the meat- the cool refreshing milkiness of the slaw against the warm, slightly spiced pork- I’m more than okay with it. I’m in love with it.

But as good as their pulled pork sandwich is, the true headliner is their mac and cheese. Best in the city. Wifey and I honestly dream about it. Sure, we should probably be dreaming about each other, but let’s leave that for couple’s therapy. It’s got a nice hit of pepperiness, a perfect blend of basic, none-too-fancy cheeses like cheddar and American I’m assuming. All topped with an evangelical halo of crunchy, ever-so-slightly burnt cheese. Trust me, you want this bad.

I also dig their jalapeño cornbread. It’s cheesy, a little sweet, and of course spicy. Which reminds me, they also have a healthy selection of hot sauces worth trying if their barbecue sauce isn’t doing enough for you.

As for the ribs, brisket, chicken, etc… There are better to be had in the city. Daisy May’s is my numero uno when it comes to ribs, Hill Country and Blue Smoke for brisket- jury is still out on BBQ chicken. But getting back to Virgil’s, it’s still damn good. Especially when you take into account it’s location.

4 teeth

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

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

Yak-Zies

3710 N Clark St. Chicago, IL 60613(773) 525-9200yakzies.com

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Chicago thin crust pizza is a dicey proposition in general, so I think a grain of salt needs to be taken at the onset of this review. That said, Yak-Zies does manage to shine in a few key places. The first place being Summer. Yes, that shining I spoke of is primarily the sun, and Yak-Zies takes advantage of every last ray with a great outdoor seating vibe that’s filled with energy (code for young people getting inebriated).

The other shiny object to discover is their famous Chicken Tang Pizza. It’s less novel nowanddays, but once upon a time they were one of only a handful nationwide who offered a Buffalo chicken pie. And being the heat-seeker that I am, I do loves me some Buffalo chicken. Unfortunately though, The Tang is not all that spicy hot. It’s more the flavor of Buffalo spices and therein lies my gripe. The failure to commit. I mean the least they could do is offer up varying degrees of torture, but sadly that isn’t the case. But what can you expect from a sports bar? Lucky for them their pitchers of draft beer are so damn affordable it’s hard to stay mad for long.

2 teeth

The Swizzle Inn

3 Blue Hole Hill, Baileys Bay CR 04, Bermuda(441) 293-1854 • swizzleinn.com

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As the slogan states on the door, “Swizzle Inn. Swagger Out.” And that’s pretty much what I did. After two or four “Swizzles” (their namesake cocktail and potent variation on a Rum Punch), I found myself not only losing count of my Swizzles (pictured), but losing a bit of my balance as well. Fortunately I wasn’t driving or I probably would’ve gotten into a Swaccident.

As I recall, they even have food, which I also vaguely recollect eating, but it’s most certainly not the headliner. As a supporting role however, it’s passable. And a bit of a necessity to absorb the alcohol.

If you go, please don’t drive or moped your way there. Be safe and take a cab. Heck, if you want to be really safe, don’t even ride a bike or walk. Have someone carry you.

3 teeth

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