Danish Dogs

89 East 42nd StGrand Central TerminalNew York, NY 10017 • (646) 568-4018 • greatnorthernfood.com

If you commute through Grand Central, you’ve probably already blown past this place at least 1000 times without ever giving it a second glance. But look closer and you will discover some pretty hot dogs.

All very inventive, most good, and one absolutely delicioso! The beef hot dog is nothing you would expect and everything right at the same time. Topped with spiced ketchup, mustard, Danish remoulade sauce, red onion, pickled cucumber and crispy shallots served on a freshly baked bun made from local grains, potato and Meyers Bageri porridge. It’s a mouthful, both figuratively and literally (pictured, second from the left).

They also harbor an interesting array of local beers, almost none of which I’ve ever heard about before and many are hit and miss, so unless you know what you’re getting yourself into, or if you’ve never met a beer you didn’t like, I say stick with the non-alcoholic options, otherwise you’re playing Russian roulette…with beer. Okay, fine. That actually sounds kinda fun. Spin the revolver!

Simit Sarayi

435 5th AveNew York, NY 10016 • (929) 374-3237 • simitsarayi.com

For all intensive purpose the name basically translates to Bagel Palace. And a palace it is not. In Turkey it is essentially a Panera, a local chain of decent baked goods and other dishes. And if I was in Turkey I’d probably only give this place 3 knives, but that’s in Turkey. To have this in New York City on my walk to work, it is a godsend!

About once a month I go butt-wild and buy a double Noah’s Ark- four of everything. The spinach rose borek might just be my favorite thing of all. Warm it up with a dollop of plain yogurt and sliced tomatoes on the side and you’ve got yourself one of the easiest, bestest meals you could wish for.

I also loves me some su boregi, which is sort of like a savory kugel or sauceless, meatless lasagna. It sounds awful the way I’m describing it, but I promise it’s delish. Granted it’s even better at Gulluoglu on the East Side, but since Gulluoglu isn’t on my walk to work, this one is plenty good enough.

Their dill and feta buns are terrific too, which are pseudo pogaça-like. For those of you who don’t find the poaça analogy helpful, it’s a small, savory pastry filled with herbs and cheese.

Ironically the top billing, the simit, can be a bit of a wild card. Sometimes it’s true to the motherland, thin and dense and seeded galore. Other times it tries to masquerade as a wannabe sesame bagel. I prefer the former.

On the sweet side, they also kick some serious ay çöreği, a crescent-shaped, semi-sweet dessert filled with ground hazelnuts that are so dense they almost taste like chocolate. Then, they top it off with sliced almonds.

All of the little cookies are money too. Perfect for çay sati (tea time). They have chocolate chip, Nutella filled, hazelnut and fig. You really can’t go wrong. And that’s what I love about this place. You could throw a dart anywhere in the joint and still be happy with what you got to eat, unless you hit the cashier, of course.

Kaya

Broadway Bites • Herald Sq. Food Stand

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It pains me to write this, because the name is very near and dear to my heart, but sadly, the restaurant couldn’t be further. A booth found at Broadway bites, Kaya offers an unflattering attempt at Taiwanese.

I feel emboldened to levy such harsh criticism because once upon a time I worked at a Taiwanese restaurant. The owner’s were like family and I would often eat meals with them. So I know the real, real, and this ain’t it. Trust me.

My feeble order consisted of a bun trio- pork belly, duck and cow. Everything was dry, miniscule and flavorless. In fact, the only thing that even registered on my tongue as edible was the can of apple soda, which they don’t make. For shame!

1 tooth

R+D Kitchen

1323 Montana Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90403 • (310) 395-3314 • http://rd-kitchen.com/locations/santamonica

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Don’t hold this against RnD, but it’s actually the sister restaurant to Houston’s. I know. I know. But hear me out, because she’s one hot sis and an awesome plan B should you not be able to get a reservation at you’re A. So awesome, in fact, that this might just become your new plan A, if only they took reservations.

The décor is pretty standard, like a contemporary version of a Bennigan’s, with lots of booth seating, wood paneled walls and an open kitchen. And the wait staff runs a tag team method of service, which actually proves very nice, because there’s always someone around to take care of you, so no need to flag any one down like you’re a castaway on Gilligan’s Island.

The Jack Rabbit was our cocktail of choice for the evening, a tequila and grapefruit combo that was good, but not exactly memorable, hence why I had to ask my friend what the hell the name was again.

For a starter, with resounding praise, I recommend their deviled eggs (pictured) with a heavenly hit of horseradish. But as sinfully good as they were, even better is the Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich, dubbed their best seller and for good reason. It’s an Ultimate, right up there with the one at Son of a Gun, if you ask me, which I assume you are since this is my blog. But beyond the fried chicken, what makes the Ding sing is the wonderfully soft, fresh-baked bread from Bandera, the generous amounts of slaw and the contrast that’s created between all of the crunchy elements and the pillowy goodness of that bun.

The other entrée we tried, the salmon, was also good, but not quite at the same level as the Ding. Served up with a sizable mountain of mashed potatoes and sauteed greens.

Sadly we were so full at this point that we didn’t order dessert. But happily that didn’t matter, because our server wouldn’t hear of it, tapping into her inner Jewish grandmother by bringing us their warm, chocolate chip, oatmeal cookies on the house. Which were hard to resist, because A. they were warm and B. they were free. So that helped a lot. Enough to have me debating between three and four knives. But I lean four because it’s a chain. And for a chain, that’s worth a golf clap right there.

4 teeth

 

BaoHaus

238 E 14th St. New York, NY 10003(646) 669-8889baohausnyc.com

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I didn’t actually dine here. We only ordered take out through Trycaviar.com, which has lost a step as of late, I am sad to report. Taking much longer than their already lengthy estimate and then delivering only three quarters of the order correctly. But to be fair, that’s Trycaviar’s problem, not the Baohaus.

As for Baohaus’ problems, it doesn’t travel well, so I can’t recommend ordering it as take out or delivery. But seeing past the limitations of transit, I can tell there is promise in those buns. The most promise being in the Chairman Bao (a.k.a. pork belly). Even after an hour and a half on a bicycle, riding around the city, it still tasted executive worthy (with the addition of Sriracha of course).

The Birdhaus Bao (fired chicken) was just okay by comparison, but against pork belly that’s to be expected. It was also pretty dry as a result of the city bike tour, again to be expected I suppose. But even as dry as it was, it still bested the fried fish bao, which was disturbingly rubbery and chewy.

Making up for the fish bun, however, were the taro fries. Now I wasn’t exactly sure what the hell taro was, but it sort of looks like the eggplant in a bag of Terra Chips, only in fry form. Turns out, after looking it up, taro is a root vegetable from Asia. And while by themselves the taro fries are quite boring, the haus sauce they serve them with is amazing. So good, in fact, it makes up for the fact that they were soggy as hell.

So, as much as I love the name, not to mention the school of design, Baohaus is teetering on the edge of two and three knives. But because my sampling was tainted by Trycaviar, I am giving them the benefit of the doubt…. on the haus.

3 teeth

Cock & Bull

23 W 45th St. New York, NY 10036(212) 819-1900 • cockandbullnyc.com
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Before I jump right into this review, let’s take a moment to really appreciate the name. I mean really take it in. Cause the way I see it, we’re talking truckloads of confidence (or money… or both) it must’ve taken to name this place what is essentially synonymous with bullshit. A name most people wouldn’t exactly flock to as a draw. But, on the other hand, a brilliant play toward lower expectations, because if you wind up having a shitty meal or terrible service, well what did you expect? It says bullshit right on the door!

Name aside, Bullshit fashions itself quite faithfully after your typical British Pub with its dark wood walls, Guinness on draft, a healthy selection of scotch and rugby on the telly. And contrary to my theory above, the service is pretty attentive and on the ball.

In terms of food, one must first calibrate themselves in reality, after all, it is bar food, and worse still, British food. A culture known for such culinary contributions to the world as shepherd’s pie, pot pie and fish & chips. So, now going in fully calibrated I would like to start with a major shout out to the fish sliders, done “fish & chips style” with batter-fried cod on little buns with slaw and nicely seasoned wedge fries- er, I mean chips on the side. In fact, they were so good I much preferred them over the regular fries which you can also order by the basket or with a burger.

The only misses for me were the deviled eggs. As in the devil himself was missing. No heat. No spice. No seasoning. No bloody anything other than mayonnaise as far as I could tell, making them way too creamy and not all that tasty. Oh and in case you’re wondering what in the hell that dish is in the picture above, that’s bacon wrapped meatloaf ladies and gentleman. Talk about devilish.

Come drinks, the Guinness was good, poured like it should (look, I’m a poet), nice and smooth. And while the bourbon selection is a little light, the Bulleit Rye is always a crowd pleaser, so box checked on hooch.

In general a solid choice for a drink and a bite with friends before hoping on a train at Grand Central and slipping into a food coma.

3 teeth

Little Drunken Chef

36 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-8800

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Well, the fact that the chef is a self-proclaimed drunk explains a lot. And considering this place got four stars on Yelp, I’d say the chef isn’t the only one who’s plastered, because you’d have to be shit-faced to think this place was even worth three, much less two. And yet both times we have tried to go here there has been a 45 and 20-minute wait respectively. The second time we powered through it with a few drinks at the bar, which also had a wait to be seated. We haven’t had this hard a time getting a table in Westchester since Bedford 234, but at least that meal proved worth it.

So back to the bar, where we were eventually able to squeeze in and get the only highlights of the night, the drinks. Figures when you take into account where you are. The two drinks we had were the sake cucumber concoction and the Drunken Manhattan, which is far less inventive than the sake (my reco), tasting like your run of the mill Manhattan, but served in a martini glass as opposed to a lowball. Oooooh!

Then miracle of miracles happened, our table was ready in under 20 minutes. And lucky us, we scored a drunken, jovial waiter who went on to swoon about roughly 75% of the menu, which is always a worrisome sign, made only more worrisome by the fact that not one single recommendation was even just okay, much less good. I think he was just ecstatic to have a job and someone to talk to.

Starting with the Tossed Goat Salad, the kale is overdressed, the Drunken Goat (that’s the actual name of the cheese, which is available at any Whole Foods, but aptly chosen for its name) is shaved so thin you can’t even taste it and the chunks of peach aren’t even ripe! On the plus side, at least they didn’t screw up the candied pecans. But the rest of the salad should definitely be “tossed.”

Next came the jamon and manchego croquettes four ways. And sadly 75% of them sucked about five different ways by my count. The only one rising to an “eh” was the chutney, but I suppose that’s to be expected since Indian is the closest in to the chef’s comfort zone.

As the night progressed, the losers kept coming and I’m not just referring to the clientele lined up outside still waiting for a table. I’m also talking about the pulled pork buns, served with a hint of chimichurri. Not with actual chimichurri, mind you. Just a hint. That hint being in the description on the menu, yet nowhere to be found in the dish itself.

And for an entrée, I highly recommend the paella for none. I tried the Paella for one and it might very well be the worst form of Spanish torture since the Inquisition. Overcooked rice, overcooked chicken, overcooked scallops, overcooked mussels and a sprig of chorizo- granted I’m not entirely sure it was honestly chorizo, but it was definitely a sausage of some kind.

Now I know I get dramatic sometimes and take things to extremes, but to have had to wait 20 minutes for this performance should be punishable by death. I’d rather wait in line at the DMV! Seriously. And the worst part is that I had to actually pay for the mistreatment of my mouth! But what’s crazy about all of this is that I have actually been a long time fan of the “Little” franchise, going back to its humble beginnings as just a Kebab Station. Then a Spice Market. That said, I’ve noticed that the further they step away from their bailiwick, the more the seams start to show, because Crepe Street is a bit of a pass, especially compared to places like Good Food in Briarcliff. But never has anything been as bad as this place, which if allowed, I would like to rename “Little Big Mistake.”

1 tooth

Grit & Grace

535 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15222 • (412) 281-4748gritandgracepgh.com

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This was the best meal I had in Pittsburgh, not that my time there has been of any impressive duration that you should ever misconstrue my minute sampling as extensive. But in those four short days I managed to pack in a few highs and lows, with Grit and Grace taking pole position.

The winning performance of which I speak takes place in a narrow, subway car-shaped dining room decorated with a minimal contemporary touches so as not to distract you from the small plate army about to descend on your table. From dim sum to sandwiches and then sum, Grit & Grace fills your plate with anything goes. But that’s what makes this place a blast, especially for larger parties so you get to try a little of everything. And per the list below, you will soon see, I truly mean everything.

So, listing them in hierarchical fashion, here we go…

The Brisket Sandwich: It’s all you could ever hope for in a sandwich. Moist. Beefy. Contrasting textures and brightness from the kohlrabi slaw and pickled red onions. A little kick from the horseradish cream and thousand island sabayon. All on a wonderfully fresh baguette that would make any Frenchy proud.

The Mortadella Bun: No. Not a sandwich. A bun. As in dim sum. As in get some. Because this is definitely the best Mortadella sand- er, “bun” I’ve ever had. Loaded with the additions of chicken thigh meat, kimchi and bread & butter pickles, then sauced with coriander mustard and chili aioli. It’s definitely not your usual suspect, but hot damn does the road less travelled taste good!

Pot du crème: I’m normally not a huge fan of the Pot, but then again, I had never eaten at Grit & Grace before. And now I’m a changed man. Probably an Ultimate in the category since the competition is all but non-existent in my eyes. And note to Crème brulée, eat your crème out, ‘cause you’ve got nothing on this.

Lettuce Wraps: Okay, not exactly the sexiest of names, nor is it much of a looker to be honest, but look deeper… and open wide, because the duck confit piled on top of these leaves is loaded with flavor, along with even more kohlrabi (of the fermented persuasion), peanuts and cilantro.

Pork belly bites: Anything that starts with the words “pork belly” is already halfway to the promised land by default. Which can be both a blessing and a curse, because it’s that much harder to stand out in land where the bar is pre-set to high. Nonetheless, these “bites” had a favorable showing, glazed with orange, chili, garlic and a nice kiss of ginger.

Roasted octopus and mussels: This was the most conflicted dish of the night, being both good and bad at the same time. The octopus itself being the good, done nice and tender, as are the potatoes, which soak up the lemongrass broth like a champ. On the flip side, the mussels are the Bad. Tiny and overcooked, tasting like shriveled up wads of mollusk.

Carrot salad: In the midst of such culinary wizardry, it’s a bit hard for salads to make a lasting impression, but I do have to say that this one has a nice Asian kick to it.

Tomato salad: Conversely to the Carrot Salad, this one takes a decidedly Mexican approach to its flavors, which, while good, didn’t fare quite as well with the overall theme of cuisine.

Kimchi: It’s fine, but to present it as its own dish is a bit remiss. It’s a gloried condiment to be fair and that’s all you should use it for, to add some nice kick to the other dishes you find lacking.

Meatballs: I’m not sure if these were the ones normally served with ramen, but perhaps they should’ve been, because by themselves they were a tad underwhelming.

Pastrami sandwich: I wanted to love this one so much more than I did, but compared to the Mortadella bun or the Brisket Sandwich it’s an ugly stepsister. But not for a lack of trying, with accouterments like broccoli rabe, roasted garlic aioli and provolone cheese whiz you’d think it was Philly’s second coming. Sadly though, it’s just a false alarm.

Short ribs: Like the pork belly, this is another one of those dishes that usually has me at “hello.” And when you place it on a biscuit smothered with friggin’ béchamel, you’re definitely going for broke. But that’s what happened. It broke. They pushed this little dish so far, it overshot decadent and landed right splat on the face of “I wish I hadn’t done this.”

Soba noodles with crab: Remember that kimchi I mentioned? Save it for this dish. It’s crazy bland and in dire need of some kimchi lovin’, which is the worst name ever for a Korean porno.

Peach cake: Speaking of worsts, this was the most unfortunate of recommendations from our server and easily the lowest point of the meal. Dry, bland and unworthy of the term “dessert,” bringing no joy and only caloric guilt in its wake.

Other than that final transgression, the service really was excellent and the wine choices by the glass, while minimal, were fantastic. I had one white and one red and both were much better than your average bear.

So now that you’re done reading my novel about Grit & Grace (I told you we tried everything) you can certainly see that there are some land mines to be avoided. But with so many highs and two Ultimates, I find it hard to dole out anything lower than a quad.

4 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