Ruby’s

There’s something very special about Australia. I don’t say this only because a dear friend of mine hails from the land down under. And it’s not their divine accents, either, or Foster’s in the giant can, which is, apparently, an American thing and not how it’s actually served in Australia. I simply love their slang. “Dunny” for bathroom and “chat to you” instead of “chat with you” as a mode of conveying a brief, but intimate talk with someone. But, now I’ve found something else to love about Australia: their take on the hamburger. A thoroughly American dish, the hamburger is something I take very seriously here in NYC, and have a lot of opinions on what matters when it comes to crafting the perfect one. I’ll tell you something: Ruby’s, an adorable Australian cafe in NoLita, has hit the nail right on the head when it comes to serving up a delicious burger.

Bronte burger at Ruby's

bronte burger

I selected Ruby’s out of an array of choices Yelp offered me yesterday morning. I was looking for a good burger somewhere in the vicinity of MDP’s workplace, and came across the little Aussie place on Mulberry Street. In general, people seemed to favor the “Bronte” burger in the reviews, which left me feeling wary as I do not trust devotees of any restaurant on Yelp. One reviewer complained about the poor service at Ruby’s–after 10 p.m. one night. Anyone who thinks they’re going to get good service at a restaurant past 8 p.m. any night is out of their mind, in my humble opinion.

So, I hopped the N train and shuttled down to Prince Street, where I detrained and ambled over to Mulberry. Walking down any street in NoLita/SoHo is a treat, since the cute shops and boutiques take exacting care in articulating their brand in the great wide windows facing the sidewalk. Nestled among a Kiehl’s outlet and obscure clothing stores, Ruby’s sits close to Spring Street. Its welcoming exterior draws you in, and they even have several seats in the foyer for hungry “breakie” (as they call breakfast) patrons to use while waiting for a table in the tiny space.

fried chicken burger at Ruby's

fried chicken burger

The dinner menu is spare, with no appetizers to speak of, and short lists of pastas, salads and burgers to sample. In typical fashion, I ordered the Bronte burger with avocado, and felt very grateful that the fine chefs at Ruby’s elect to thinly slice the great green fruit before placing it on the sandwich. Often, adding the avocado is an afterthought, so it usually comes out in huge chunks or in halves, bulging out from under the bun. The Bronte burger comes with “premium” ground beef (which it clearly is, at first bite), tomato, lettuce, sweet chili, cheese and mayo, all compactly situated on a ciabatta roll. The combination of flavors left me speechless. I have to say, Ruby’s Bronte creation is one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. Re-read the last sentence carefully and take into consideration the gravity of this statement.

MDP opted for the fried chicken burger, which has a misleading name. I wasn’t sure what to expect, honestly, but what came out was a hefty breast of buttermilk fried chicken on a sesame roll, with some coleslaw dripping off the sides. It was perfect, and I highly recommend this dish if you’re not into burgers.

Now, as for the fries that can optionally accompany the burgers: they are saturated in truffle oil and chopped parsley (I think?), and deliver a satisfying flavor. Although I ate all of the fries that were served to me, I felt the repetition of the truffle flavor overwhelmed my taste buds. But, for the truffle fanatic, this is the side to get.

salted caramel pots de creme at Ruby's

salted caramel pots de creme

Like the other menus, the dessert list is rather minimal, but I implore you–do get the salted caramel pots de creme. MDP observed that the split pea color of the substance seemed undesirable, but, after one bite, I was completely sold on their fine dessert. First, the buttery caramel sings as you savor its flavor. Second, the “salted” in the salted caramel description is not in name only; the dish actually has a salty taste, but not in a bad way. I loved this dessert, and suggest you order it when you (inevitably, after reading this review) go to Ruby’s.

You must try this place, and, though the space is small, don’t worry about having a large group–they have a table for six in the back corner. Aside from the fact that they sat our party of two at a table for four (which, as I’ve said before, signals an uncanny level of hospitality), another thing I like about Ruby’s is the authentically Australian waitstaff, who are attentive, cheerful and charming.

If you’re not yet an Aussie fan, you will be after trying Ruby’s.

Ruby’s

219 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring streets)

NoLita/SoHo, New York

Take the N to Prince and walk along Prince to Mulberry, turn right and walk toward Spring. Or, take the 6 to Spring Street, walk toward Mulberry, turn left and you’ve arrived!

P.S. Below is what my view was of Times Square last night around 6 p.m. I know what you’re thinking: where’s Grover?

IMG_0473

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La Flor

Legend has it that La Flor, a beautiful restaurant on a less-than-beautiful corner in Woodside, was meant to only offer coffee and pastries from the start. Chef Viko Ortega, master of the art of pastry, opened La Flor with this intention in mind. Fate took the reins and soon Ortega began serving Mexican-inspired culinary creations to eager patrons, many of whom had traveled from as far away as Manhattan (can you believe it?). The rest is history. La Flor has been reviewed and highly rated by all the important critics in the land, and yours truly joins the chorus of positivity in celebrating this unique establishment.

When you approach La Flor, the first thing you’ll notice are the gorgeous mosaics decorating the restaurant’s exterior. The echo of the charging 7 train urges you inside where you’ll find a minimally lit space and minimal decor, with the mosaics forming accents near the kitchen.

la flor pastry basket housemade

pastry basket

Unlike some places, La Flor is a very comfortable, casual environment. The staff are even willing to allow your party of two to sit at a table for four. Some may argue this is inefficient, but I say it reflects the level of hospitality deep-seated in La Flor’s approach to business.

The menu itself is a thing of beauty. It’s handmade and features the list of dishes in delicate handwriting. I’ve been to La Flor many times, and I have to say, anything you order will be some of the best food you’ve tried.

Most recently (i.e. this morning), I stopped in for brunch. The helpful waitress handed us our menus and a list of specials. La Flor uses the same menu for every meal, so we turned to the very first page to find the breakfast and brunch options. My eyes were immediately drawn to the basket of housemade pastries listed at the top of the page. A true bang for your buck, this basket contains some of the most delicious pastries I’ve tried to date: chocolate chip brioche, tiny rolls, a selection of muffins, scones and more. I nibbled on just about every pastry and found them to be categorically superb. In particular, I enjoyed the lone berry scone. Reluctantly, I broke off a piece to share with MDP.

For my entree, I ordered the huevos Mexicana, while MDP opted for the roasted butternut squash frittata from the specials list.

la flor huevos mexicana

huevos mexicana

Rife with jalapenos, tomatoes, onions and red peppers, the scrambled eggs sat upon a bed of beans and warmed tortillas. The eggs were perfectly cooked, with no dense or crisp parts to speak of. My only complaint is that I wish the tortillas were not underneath the rest of the food; you know how I love to make sandwiches. However, this is a small qualm in the grand scheme of this delightful breakfast.

MDP’s perfectly round frittata contained sweet potato and manchego cheese (my favorite), in addition to the butternut squash. It was a well-crafted dish, although MDP argued that the flavor of the butternut squash was not as pronounced as he may have liked.

la flor butternut squash frittata

butternut squash frittata

The waitress offered us hot sauce. I expected her to bring over a bottle of Tabasco or another brand, but she surprised me. Instead, she put on the table two adorable dishes of sauces: one green (mild) and one red (hot). This detail demonstrates the thorough authenticity of La Flor.

I recommend you try this restaurant for brunch or dinner (the pasta dish on the menu is surprisingly good), but remember to stop at the ATM before you go. La Flor is cash only, which is probably its only drawback.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a landmark to help you remember where La Flor is found, see below.

lucky hair

La Flor

53-02 Roosevelt Avenue (on the corner)

Woodside, NY

Take the 7 to 52nd Street. Walk to the very end of the platform (toward 53rd Street) and take the stairs. La Flor will be at the bottom of the steps.

Galli

Situated down on quaint, cobble-stoned Mercer Street in SoHo, Galli is an Italian restaurant that markets itself as the haven for Italian “comfort food,” whatever that means. According to its “About Us” page, the recipes for the dishes found on Galli’s menu have been passed down from Sicilian family members of yore to the Gallos, who are the restaurant’s founders. A menu filled with “typical” Italian dishes, such as penne a la vodka and meatball parmesan, does not scream “authentic Sicilian” to me, but perhaps I’m only quibbling over semantics.

Or not.

Galli’s website will have you believe that it’s a comfortable, casual environment. While the main dining room certainly is striking, with black-and-white photos adorning the exposed-brick walls, the seating arrangement is anything but cozy. The words “strangling” and “anxiety-inducing” come to mind, rather.

galli calamari

calamari

When we arrived at Galli for our 7 p.m. reservation, we were greeted and briskly whisked away to the large dining room in the back of the space. Of the 20 to 25 tables that were nearly touching each other, about three were occupied. Still, the hostess carelessly sat us in the corner, directly beside a couple of women. I requested to change our table, as I was already legitimately concerned for how I would escape from this setup, and the waiter informed me he had to ask the hostess if we could move. Instead of putting us somewhere else, the hostess sat another two women to our right. So now I was blocked in. Forever.

MDP and I were not amused.

With all this said, I should inform you that Galli’s food is pretty good. For those of you who have been reading this blog for some time, you are aware of my usual loathing for Italian restaurants. However, Galli served up delectable fare, which is probably the biggest compliment I could give it.

galli veal milanese

veal milanese

We started our meal with the “mad” calamari. Galli offers three types of calamari, and we went with the rather standard one, which was tossed in a spicy marinara sauce. The small dish that emerged from the kitchen was a plate, rather than a bowl, and it was covered with tiny fried rings (and things) that were drenched in the sauce. It was fantastic. The marinara sauce lived up to its spicy description, making each bite resonate like a ringing bell in my mouth.

Moving on, we each ordered off the mains section of the dinner menu, avoiding the 20 or so pasta dishes listed at the top. This was a wise move. I opted for the chicken parmesan, because, as I’ve said before, how can you screw up this dish? MDP got the veal milanese, which comes with an arugula salad on top. While the milanese was good, it did not compare to Palma’s whose intricately constructed arugula salad is mind-blowing and delicious. The veal was tender, though, so Galli gets points for that. My chicken was dressed with ample mozzarella and a too-sweet-for-my-liking marinara sauce, with a side of pasta that was overcooked (this is why I’m glad I didn’t order a pasta for the main dish). I can’t say I can forgive Galli for overcooked pasta – after all, isn’t pasta the very meal that Italians have perfected over the past millennium?

galli tiramisu

tiramisu

After the staff cleared our table, I promptly signaled for the waiter to come over and bring us a dessert menu. The space was filling up, and my level of anxiety about getting out of there was directly proportional to the number of bodies in the room. I was disappointed to see that Galli does not serve ricotta cheesecake, but “cheesecake a la Americano” instead. Why bother putting cheesecake on the menu at all, if it’s not going to be Italian? We ordered the tiramisu, and I was delightfully surprised both by the size of the portion and the creaminess of the dish. The whipped cream served on the side tasted like Reddi-wip, which is not a knock against Reddi-wip, but against the restaurant’s best judgment.

All in all, I was pleased with the food. Yet, I would not return to Galli and do not recommend that you bother with it. The only reason why I selected this restaurant was because it received high reviews on Yelp–always a mistake to trust this website. As you know by now, you should always consult Taylor’s Ham when making reservations.

Galli

45 Mercer Street (between Grand and Broome)

SoHo, New York

Take the N/Q/J/Z/6 to Canal Street and walk about six minutes.