Mario by Mary

2 Pennsylvania Plaza New York, NY 10121 (917) 475-1830thepennsy.nyc/mario-by-mary

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I have to admit I’ve become a bit of a Pennsy groupie, eating from there roughly three or more times a week. But as life-saving as it is to have this treasure trove just a stone’s throw away from my office, the Pennsy is unfortunately not the Solla Sollew I once thought it to be.

But shockers of all shockers, the weak link isn’t either of the two “healthy” options, as Cinnamon Snail and Little Beet both carry their weight like a champion sumo wrestler. No, the disappointment comes from the prodigal son, Mario Batali and his partner in blah, Mary.

Having now had not one, but two different grilled cheeses there, I walked away very unsatisfied both times. The first time going with the honey and truffle sandwich and the second time rolling the dice on the eggplant. As a backhanded compliment, I will say that the pickled veggie salad they give you on the side is actually pretty nice though. But not good enough to make up for the fact that you’d be better off heading a few blocks over to No. 7 Sub. So be warned Mario and Mary, I’m gonna give you one last shot, because I have my eye on that Cubano (pictured), but this is make it or break it time, so if you don’t bring it like a cheerleader on Adderall,  you could very easily slide to a one.

2 teeth

NOLA

24 Market Sq. Pittsburgh, PA 15222(412) 471-9100nolaonthesquare.com

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No, not the one actually in NOLA. The one in Pittsburgh. And sadly there’s no relation. Emeril has nada to do with this one. That said, strangely enough, this one held its own for a place not exactly born on the Bayou.

Inside, the décor is heavily influenced by that Memphis-meets-garish 80’s style with bright blues and purples mixed with vibrant triangular details that seem to make no sense other than to scream “Rules? We don’t need no stinkin’ rules!” Of which I beg to differ. But cutting them some slack, I get the theme. I mean, after all, it’s not like Mardi Gras is laced with subtleties. But apart from the walls and the dated ambiance, the service is friendly and lightning quick having us, a party of five (without the parental tragedy), in and out in under 30 minutes during the height of the lunchtime rush.

And in those 30 minutes they managed to pack in a few head-turners like the kale salad with chunks of cantaloupe, Cajun sunflower seeds and ricotta salata all dressed in a grilled watermelon vinaigrette.

Or better still, the turkey Cubano, piled high with warm roasted turkey breast, home brined pickles, Jarlsberg, sweet pepper jam and creole mustard. I’m not too sure how Cajun a Cubano is, but I’m pretty damn certain it was fabano. And so were the generously seasoned fries served with it, but be sure to ask for their honey mustard to dip them in. It’s homemade and homazing.

But then NOLA pulled a NO-NO when it came to the highly recommended blackened catfish, a dish I normally love the whiskers out of. But this one lacked the true kick any self-respecting blackened dish should have. And while it might’ve been deemed spicy by local standards, it is a true bottom-feeder amongst dishes by the same name.

All in though, I have to give NOLA props. Not necessarily on its Cajun cuisine per se, but for the little creole influences that yielded dishes way better than I ever expected from Steel City.

3 teeth

Sophie’s Cuban

28 E 23rd St. New York, NY 10010(212) 260-8884sophiescuban.com/28e23rd

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This is not the place to go for decor. The service is usually friendly, but this isn’t the place for that either. However, if it’s Cuban fast food you’re in search of, welcome to Havana-gri la. Well, almost. The fact that they don’t nail the cubano is a bone of contention with me. But that rather major ding aside, they have two winners I highly, HIGHLY recommend. So high you’ll get altitude sickness from the height at which these dishes play.

The first is the spicy grilled chicken platter.  It’s basically a hearty version of arroz con pollo served up with a nice helping of marinated peppers and onions, yellow rice, black beans and sweet plantains. Add a little of their green hot sauce and you’ll be doing the Cha-cha-cha.

The second thing might even be better than the first. It’s called the “Pernil with a twist” (pictured), which sounds more like an exotic cocktail or a secret dive performed by Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School,” but regardless of what it sounds like, WOW is it good. It’s served on the same bread as a cubano, topped with huge chunks of roast pork, marinated onions, plantains, mayo and hot sauce. And it is a game changer.

3 teeth

 

Craftbar

900 Broadway New York, NY 10003 • (212) 461-4300 • craftrestaurantsinc.com/craftbar-new-york

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I’ve actually been here at least 3 times prior (probably spanning over 10 years), but for some reason I just assumed I’d already reviewed it. Well, apparently not. So, making up for lost time, let me first say that all three visits were between good and great. But because I don’t even remember what I had the other times, I’m only going to talk about my last visit for lunch.

So, based on a friends resounding commendation of their veal meatball parm (sorta pictured), I found myself once again at Craftbar, prepared to like it, but… That said, the “but” never came. I mean, these meatballs are so moist and delicious you almost want to go around punching every other meatball parm in the face for daring to share its name.

But that was only the half of it, and I mean that because I only had half of the sandwich. Yes, that’s right, I did splitsies. The other sandwich was the Cubano. And ¡Dios Mio! Is it fargin awesome! Haven’t had a Cuban this good since West Branch closed down (RIP).

Even the cheese plate app was a nice beginning (and end) to the meal.

Plus, service was solid. Accommodating and quick. And the décor is nice. Not quite as nice as Craft, but that’s kind of the point, to be a step down from the flagship- which is even more awesome if you’ve never been. One of my favorites in the city for years.

Great to see this place is as solid as ever over a decade later.

4 teeth

The Cannibal

113 E 29th St. New York, NY 10016 • (212) 686-5480
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Cool vibe. Amazing beer selection. And solid meat-lovers’ fare, as the name might imply.

Per the votes of fellow Yelpers, we followed in their footsteps for better and for worse. The better was definitely the lamb tartar. My favorite of the meal.

Next would be the hot dogs. Quite respectable, with a nice twist on toppings.

Third would be the Thai sausage. Unfortunately a little too repetitive to the dogs in flavor, so I would recommend an either/or scenario.

And now for the worse… The cubano (AKA Pig’s Head sammy) was just “eh.” It was woefully lacking in mustard, which threw the whole thing off balance. It just pales in comparison to the likes of Rocket Pig or West Branch. Or even Sophie’s. Wouldn’t even crack my top 100 cubanos.

But all in all, a solid showing. Just not the 4 or 5 stars people are throwing down. So I’m giving it three, knives that is. Just like its sibling Resto.

3 teeth