Autograph Brasserie

503 W Lancaster Ave. Wayne, PA 19087 • (610) 964-2588autographbrasserie.com

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If you should ever find yourself in or near Wayne, Pennsylvania, perhaps visiting your child at Villanova, you will be delighted to know that I have you covered, because believe it or not, there’s actually a pretty rock solid place for lunch right there on the main drag.

Relatively a newcomer, this remodeled space is a wonderful homage to celeb photography that sprawls through the various interesting rooms. They also have a nice outdoor patio in the summer, but that comes without the photo gallery.

To drink I recommend the special Arnold Palmer and to eat I can’t say there is a miss to be had. Everything is either good or better, starting with the burrata salad appetizer which is a variation on a caprese.

Also nicely done for a place north of the Mason-Dixon are the shrimp and grits. And for all you pus fans out there- no, not Billy Bush and Donald Trump, I’m referring to the one “S,” tentacled variety. The octopus starter is one of the best things I’ve had here, only bested by the mushrooms with faro, which for a vegetarian dish is surprisingly hearty, so don’t order unless you’re borderline ravenous.

Sadly I have yet to partake in the dessert menu here, but my hope is that the third time will in fact be a charm.

3 teeth

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L’Amico

Eventi Hotel • 851 6th Ave. New York, NY 10001 • (212) 201-4065 • lamico.nyc

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The best the Evanti hotel has to offer. Forget Lupulo and Vine, L’Amico is where it’s at. And yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. I’m bat-shit crazy like that.

Apart from the overly sweet Arnie Palmer, there really wasn’t a miss to be had, starting with the special summer appetizer, the zucchini pasta. It was, well, very light and summery. But still fresh and full of flavor.

On the heavier side, the prosciutto and artichoke sandwich with mayo and harissa is L’Awesome! Also on the heavier side, but just not quite as good, is the sopressata pizza. It holds its own, but it just wasn’t that interesting, compared to everything else.

3 teeth

Hai Street Kitchen

230 Park Ave. New York, NY 10169 haistreetkitchen.com

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Have you ever found yourself eating a maki and thought, “hmm, if only this could be 20 times bigger? If the answer is yes, then you are about to go cuckoo for cocoa puffs, because that’s essentially the concept of Hai Street.

For example, the Slammin’ Salmon is not only fun to say, it’s also made with raw salmon tataki, rice, shredded carrots and cucumbers, gouchujong sauce and for two bucks extra wasabi guacamole, all wrapped in seaweed and cut in half so it looks like a pair of maki pieces gone preggers.

But is it any good you ask? Very. As is the lemonade and iced green tea, which I mixed to create, you guessed it, an Arnold Palmer. I’m so damn predictable.

3 teeth

The Picnic Basket

 65 W 37th St. New York, NY10018 • (212) 382-262 • thepicnicbasketnyc.com
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The name is about the only thing charming about this place, so don’t be fooled. It’s nothing more than a galley lined with a few tables on each side that funnel you towards a counter flanked by refrigerator cases and menu boards. So not the place you want to come to for a sit down lunch if you as me. Grab ‘n go is the way to go.

To drink I had the green pear tea and lemonade because as we all know by now I dig on the AP (Arnold Palmer).

As for the sandwiches, I think I preferred the houlumi over the French Goat Cheese, mostly due to the bread. The houlumi being served on a warm, toasty, crunchy ciabatta. Whereas the goat is on a fresh baguette, which has its charms, but in a knife fight against ciabatta, it loses that battle nine times out of ten.

The ingredients on both sammies, however, fails to impress, especially when you have over-achievers like Untamed and No. 7 just blocks away. So, not sure why this place boasts the crowd or reviews that does, but I’m also baffled that Trump is going to be the Republican nominee, so what the hell do I know?

2 teeth

Vine

851 Avenue Of The Americas New York, NY 10001(212) 201-4065 eventihotel.com

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One of the lesser-known gems in the area can be found in the back of the Eventi Hotel, which to be fair is one of the lesser-known hotels in the city. Yet deep within this vortex of obscurity lies an admirably appointed décor with cozy nooks for seating, warm, natural elements and huge windows that open up to a courtyard as opposed to the street (pictured), making for a relatively Zen dining experience.

The menu also got off on the right foot with a salmon entrée cooked perfectly, served over a bed of supped up cous cous and tzatziki sauce. It’s clean livin’ and tasty too. Wash that down with a slightly sweet Arnold Palmer and you could do a lot worse. Sure, it’s no Ilili if we’re comparing Middle Eastern/Mediterranean in the area, but it’s way easier to get a table and I find the décor much more inviting as opposed to the ironically more hotel-like vibe at Ilili.

On the guiltier side of things, the gelato is actually quite atrocious. So much so that I feel the need to outwardly shame our server for even recommending it, much less swooning about it as if it were the reincarnation of the Cup of Life.

But, on the alcoholier side, I have to give it up again to the Vine for going big on the spice and not going home in terms of their Bloody Mary. I love when places say fuck all and do what a Bloody Mary was meant to do, regardless of mass appeal. Because as the saying goes, the masses are asses, and greatness seldom lies at the feet of consensus. Okay, things are getting a bit preachy up in here for a food blog. Gonna dial it back and go out on a solid three.

3 teeth

Crimson

2901 Ocean Park Blvd. Ste 127 Santa Monica, CA 90405(310) 396-2400 crimsonla.com

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If you hate Tommy James and the Shondels, the University of Alabama football team and Tom Clancy novels about submarines, then your crimson ship finally came in. In the form of hummus wraps stuffed with fresh tabouleh, bursting with flavor. Dip that in a side of their tzatziki and you’re golden. But speaking of gold, their Turkish style grape leaves drizzled with a harissa yogurt are so good I think they should be made mandatory for all other restaurants to emulate. Even their Arnold Palmer was pretty decent, making this an all around great spot for a grab and go, delivery or a casual bite.

I’d elaborate more, but this one is a solid fastball down the middle. And besides, you have too much work to be sitting around reading lengthy blog posts waxing Hemmingway about a dolma anyway.

3 teeth

The Commoner

458 Strawberry Way • Pittsburgh, PA 15219(412) 230-4800 • thecommonerpgh.com

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Located in the basement of the tastefully done Monaco Hotel, lies an equally tasteful restaurant with an industrial loft vibe about it, cool lighting fixtures and elephant-sized steel beams, showing off the pride of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately the taste doesn’t go much beyond the décor however, serving up some of the worst pancakes I’ve ever had. I know they look cool, stacked high and thick with a huge knife stabbed through the center, but they taste doughy and sad. Equally disappointing is their Arnold palmer which gets too tricky for its own good, yielding floral notes and other hints while leaving behind the flavor of lemon and tea. So what’s the point?

On the plus side, the green juice is made fresh to order and you can really taste it. And I mean really. For better or worse, because if you’re one to like your juice with a little sweetness or chill, you won’t find it in this glass of celery.

But in The Commoner’s defense, they do serve up a few things that aren’t so common (or average). For example the Messi Benny is pretty darn tasti. Made with chorizo, potatoes, peppers, onions and stewed tomatoes, all topped with a pair of perfectly poached eggs. It’s a tad on the oily side, but way on the kickin’ side. Good heat, great flavor and by far the best thing on the menu.

Back on the missy side though, the French Onion Soup Burger does everything right but taste good. Topped as the name suggests with caramelized onions, gruyere and aioli, but then stacked on a brioche bun way too big for its britches, overthrowing the burger and causing you to abandon ship, going open face just to get the balance back in order.

And last but not least, the final nail in the coffin is the painfully slow service. There were only six tables seated in the entire restaurant at the time and yet it took over an hour to get our food. Which I blame mostly on the kitchen, but then again, our server did little more than apologize as opposed to compensate. So I will do little to compensate on their knife count and give them what they deserve, two.

2 teeth

Mexicue

345 7th Ave. New York, NY 10001(212) 244-0002mexicue.com

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Before you delve into this review, a bit of recalibration might be necessary, because from the name you are probably expecting to hear about a burrito or a taco. Maybe a quesadilla. But that’s not entirely how Mexicue rolls. So neither did I. Instead, I got the brisket chili over a salad comprised of blackened Brussels sprouts and kale. And while it sounds amazing, it only truly reached its potential with a healthy dose of Choula on top. Otherwise it was a desperado in need of some kick.

To drink I had the Arnold Palmero which was also a touch off. Too sweet for my tastes. And I just don’t understand why places do that. Lemonade is inherently tart. Tea is inherently bitter. So sure, maybe you sweeten one or the other to balance things out a touch, but not both! You’re defeating the whole purpose of Arnie Palmer’s invention!

2 teeth

Cheddars

5221 Noggle Way Indianapolis, IN 46237 •  (317) 807-0248

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Please don’t think less of me, but not knowing what a Cheddars was, I was talked into going here by consensus of the group I was with, not that they were huge fans or anything, but they seemed optimistic upon entering, so I went with the flow.

Now, for those of you who already know what Cheddars is, I’m sure you can imagine what’s to follow. But, for those not so up on their casual dining chains, Cheddars is basically a wannabe Applebee’s. Which begs the question, who in the hell would want to be Applebee’s?

Let’s start with their “world famous” onion rings (pictured). A “must” according to our server and Yelper’s alike. Well, first, let’s back up and ask the question, does Cheddars even exist outside of the States? And secondly, the only “must” about these is that you MUST avoid them at all costs. They are terrible. No, they are worse than that. They are terrorism in onion ring form. Oily and flavorless. Like the batter is made monthly. They are easily the worst onion rings I’ve ever had, and that’s taking into account my high school cafeteria food. I can only assume people rave about them because of their impressive symmetrical stacking, which I’m guessing must be a big thing in Indiana.

Equally atrocious was the Arnold Palmer, served in a glass the size of a Super Big Gulp. It was basically tap water accented with vague hints of tea and lemon.

The other starter we shared was the spinach and cheese dip, which wasn’t exactly a total failure, meaning that I managed to swallow. Certainly nothing I would ever recommend, however.

But to be fair, because while I’m ferocious, I’m also honest, therefore I will give props where they are due- and the Buffalo chicken wrap is actually pretty good. I suggest getting extra Buffalo sauce on the side. I also suggest you still never go here, but if you are forced to, lost a bet or you’re playing truth or dare, then get the Buffalo wrap and get out.

1 tooth

Melts

144 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 219-5995meltsny.com

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Melts is on fire. Only three weeks old and this baby is already walking. And by walking I mean kicking- of the ass variety. The brain child of two brothers who obviously loves themselves a good melt, they manage to pack a very tight menu with so many damn good sounding options I  didn’t know which two to split with the wife so I asked one of the owners. He recommended The Heat and The Wisconsin Patty Melt.

He was right. Both were excellent, but apples and oranges apart. The Heat, aptly named, was spot on. Taking it right to that threshold where flavor spicy ends and painful spicy begins, but without crossing it. So what’s in it? Well, first they pickle their own jalapenos specifically so they can control the aforementioned spice. Then there’s cherry peppers and Sriracha mayo- oh and cheese, of course. Munster to be precise.

The Patty Melt on the other hand is basically a burger in disguise, who are we kidding. That said, it’s one bitchin’ burger with smoked Wisconsin cheddar, apple wood bacon, BBQ sauce and crispy fried onions. One of the best burgers- er, melts in the area.

But speaking of superlatives, let’s take a moment to reflect on the tater tots. Yes, this newcomer just dropped an Ultimate like it was nothin’ but a thang. So deceptively simple, yet so unique at the same time. Crispy on the outside, almost creamy-mashed-potato-like on the inside and sprinkled with salty parmesan. So good we devoured them before they even had a chance to cool down from mouth-burning-hot.

The only misses for me, and by that I just mean “eh,” would be the desserts. The kids obviously horked them down, but to the more discerning palate the Rice Crispy Treat, chocolate chip oatmeal cookie and the sugar cookie don’t hold a candle to the rest of the show.

As for décor, it’s in a charming little house just off the main drag in Armonk. And as you step inside, you are instantly hit with even more charm. From the cheese grater light fixtures to the do-it-yourself old-fashioned icebox in the corner for some refreshing Arnold Palmers, you just can’t help love the cheese whiz out of this place.

And what’s especially nice, is that the owners are nice. Two great guys with a great concept on their hands. I sincerely hope they soar. And that I can still get a table.

P.S. Upon return I tried the namesake “Melts” and it is very close third of awesome. Whereas the Philly Cheesesteak, while good, is a distant fourth. Planning to go back several more times, so stay tuned for the rest.

4 teeth