Sarabeth’s

Oh, Sarabeth’s. I’ve wanted to go to you for so long. And I finally did. And I have to say, I have mixed feelings.

sarabeth's lobster roll

lobster roll

When my lady dining partner and I entered Sarabeth’s, we were both struck by the sophisticated atmosphere that the Park Avenue South location exudes: wide open windows, lots of natural day light, an open floor plan with seating in the rear. Because we didn’t have a reservation (for lunch!), we had to sit at the marble countertop bar, which was fine. We parked in a corner spot and chatted for a while, and an accommodating bartender asked us for our drink orders immediately.

I had planned what I was going to order a day in advance: Sarabeth’s lobster roll with coleslaw and housemade potato chips. I like that they say “housemade” instead of “homemade” because, as you may know, I take issue with restaurants claiming their offerings are “homemade” (if they aren’t made in my or your kitchen, they’re simply not homemade). The brioche roll was buttery and the succulent pieces of lobster were perfectly doused in a mayonnaise dressing that delighted the palate. I was pleased with the sandwich. As for the coleslaw, well, it was subpar, in my opinion. But the potato chips definitely made up for the coleslaw–they were well-done and crispy, and had a solid potato flavoring.

sarabeth's turkey burger

turkey burger

My lady dining partner opted for the turkey burger, which was served on a giant bun with guacamole and Sir Kensington ketchup on the side. It also came with limp french fries which were tepid and fair, at best. She found the burger to be juicy and enjoyed its flavor. Much better than Grey Bar’s version, she noted.

For dessert–because at Sarabeth’s, you have to order dessert–we got the cherry crumb pie which was topped with a delicious vanilla ice cream and neatly placed in the center of a large white plate defined by a circle of chocolate-balsamic sauce. While the ice cream was outstanding, the cherry cake left something to be desired. It was sweet and had a nice crust, but it didn’t wow me.

The Park Avenue location is Sarabeth’s latest outpost. I’m happy to see such a restaurant in my work neighborhood, as it offers me a nice place to take a colleague or friend for a special lunch occasion.

sarabeth's cherry crumb pie

cherry crumb pie

All in all, Sarabeth’s is worth visiting, but be sure to bring your credit card or lots of cash–the menu is on the pricey side.

Sarabeth’s

381 Park Avenue South (at 27th Street)

Flatiron/Murray Hill, New York

Take the 6 to 28th Street and walk south one block. 

 

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MoonShine Modern Supper Club (Millburn, NJ)

So, what the heck was I doing in Millburn, NJ, you ask? Well, my mother lives in a nearby town and I wanted to take her somewhere nice for her birthday. She had seen MoonShine Modern Supper Club on TV at one point, and chose it for our outing.

moonshine modern supper club biscuit

biscuit & sausage gravy

I’m not quite sure what constitutes a “modern supper club” and MoonShine’s website doesn’t exactly illuminate the matter, but they do have a reasonable description of their approach: “Opened in November 2011, MoonShine Modern Supper Club presents Contemporary American cooking executed with style, finesse, and an updated comfort-food sensibility.” Yes, yes and yes. MoonShine certainly achieves all aspects of their description.

Thinking the place would be packed at brunch (they were on TV, after all), I made a reservation for noon on what would be a rainy Saturday. When we walked in early, we were the only guests in the whole restaurant. I guess New Jersey people don’t “do” brunch.

MoonShine graciously offers a nice prix fixe brunch menu, with a handful of salads and other types of dishes for appetizers, and delicious options, such as croque monsieur, chicken paillard and salmon, for entrees. We ordered coffee and took in the menu.

moonshine modern supper club omelette

omelette with goat cheese & tomatoes

The extremely accommodating waiter made small talk with us, about the weather and other topics, and brought us three banana muffins, which were exquisite.

For my brunch, I ordered the biscuit with sausage gravy and the omelette with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes. My mother also opted for the biscuit dish, but decided to try the MoonShine burger, which is topped with cheddar and Applewood bacon.

The biscuit appetizer was amazing. I couldn’t get over how delicious the sausage gravy was. MoonShine clearly uses top-notch ingredients, as the sausage had a distinct flavor of fennel and it was evident that it was high quality meat. The biscuit itself was pretty standard, not made with lots o’ lard like Bubby’s, but definitely solid. My mother and I both polished off our plates and felt quite sated following the biscuit course.

moonshine modern supper club burger

burger

Then, the entrees came out. And I’ll tell you, the burger is the entree to get at MoonShine. So do go there for brunch! Because I had eaten a burger last night, I couldn’t order the burger, something I rather regret now. It was, in a word, heavenly. Extremely juicy, the patty had flavors of sirloin, as my mother pointed out, and was cooked to a perfect “medium” level of doneness. The whole package–the bacon, the cheddar, the patty, the bun–made the burger one of the best I’ve ever had. Really. It was that good. And the shoestring fries that accompanied the burger were outstanding–lightly salted, crisp and flavorful. You can’t beat that dish.

As for my omelette, well, it was just okay. I didn’t sense the tomatoes were roasted, but merely diced and tossed into the omelette, disappointing. The egg itself was slightly overcooked, and I ended up only eating about half of it.

I highly recommend MoonShine Supper Club for brunch. It’s pretty easy to get to Millburn from New York. Just take the NJ Transit train to Millburn and walk a few blocks to get to MoonShine. I’d trek a hundred miles for that burger. You might, too. And Millburn has a beautiful downtown area to perambulate, and an adorable park just across the street from the restaurant. Go sometime. You won’t regret it.

MoonShine Modern Supper Club

55 Main Street

Millburn, NJ

Wild Turkey Smokehouse

When My Dining Partner (MDP) received an email about a Groupon for Wild Turkey Smokehouse in Sunnyside, I was skeptical. What exactly is this smokehouse? I wondered. Their website isn’t exactly glamorous. But, I told MDP to get the Groupon anyway–on a whim–and we tried it tonight.

wild turkey smokehouse truffle macaroni and cheese

truffle macaroni and cheese

Situated on a quiet street south of Queens Boulevard, Wild Turkey Smokehouse is easy to miss. Its door is decorated with Seamless and Grub Hub stickers–their website is hooked directly into Grub Hub–and just inside is a long bar  with a handful of tables spread around a pool table in the rear.

Our waitress was also the bartender, and so, was extremely busy with various patrons. She did her best to accommodate everyone, but, truth be told, Wild Turkey needs to hire some waitstaff, especially if they expect to generate a returning-customer crowd.

Their 8.5 x 11 stapled menu expresses the level of sophistication exuded by the restaurant itself, but that’s not a bad thing. I appreciated Wild Turkey’s simple decor and flavor. Comfort favorites like onion rings and beer-battered mozzarella sticks figure prominently on the first page of the menu, and a lengthy list of sandwiches and burgers makes an impression on the second page. On the final page, there’s a short drinks list, that, for some reason, doesn’t include alcoholic drinks (which they have aplenty), but features a San Pellegrino beverage (that they didn’t have) and ginger ale, a crowd favorite according to their website.

We opted for the onion rings and truffle macaroni and cheese to start. While the onion rings were fairly standard, the macaroni and cheese tasted extraordinary. Made with gruyere and a bechemel sauce, the mac and cheese was extremely creamy and delicious.

wild turkey smokehouse mushroom and gruyere burger

mushroom and gruyere burger

For entrees, we ordered the pulled pork sandwich and the mushroom and gruyere (I know, more gruyere) burger, which both came with our choice of fried potato (waffle fries, steak fries or sweet potato fries). Topped with coleslaw–an interesting choice–the pulled pork sandwich featured large, succulent shards of pork that made for a supremely delectable sandwich. I enjoyed my burger, whose char was so strong, I could barely detect the toppings. My steak fries tasted like they were straight out of a bowling alley of my youth, and the sweet potato fries were incredible.

I was so full by the end of the meal that we didn’t get dessert. It’s probably for the better, considering it took us about 15 minutes for the waitress to notice we were finished with our dinners.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Wild Turkey Smokehouse, and will probably order food from there sometime. They are, after all, just a few blocks away from my apartment. But, overall, the experience wasn’t stupendous, not that it should have been. But one can always hope.

Wild Turkey Smokehouse

3935 47th Avenue (between 40th Street and 39th Place)

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 to 40th Street and walk south on 40th Street to 47th Avenue. Turn right.

 

Blue Collar

The only motivational thing about Blue Collar in Williamsburg is the presence of the phrase “Good job” all over the restaurant. I spotted it on the spare menu board and on one of the condiments containers, I believe. The rest of Blue Collar requires an acquired taste, most notably their poor overhead lighting and sparse seating arrangement. But, the burgers are pretty good.

blue collar burger

burger

Blue Collar’s menu features burgers, hot dogs, shakes and fries. Unofficially, there are also floats and chicken tenders to be had. I noticed a neighboring guest eating chicken tenders, and wondered where they came from until the woman behind the counter mentioned them to a prospective customer on the phone. So, anyway, ordering is pretty simple, since the options are fairly straightforward, and the prices are quite cheap.

MDP and I each ordered a cheeseburger and our very own orders of fries. The cheeseburger was small (1/4 lb.?) and I wish I had ordered the double because it was just that good. The meat is juicy and flavorful, and its special sauce adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dining experience. Blue Collar thoroughly toasts their potato rolls, so you get a bit of a char flavor. If the place were nicer, and in a better neighborhood, I’d suggest you go there every weekend.

blue collar fries

fries

But, one drawback of Blue Collar is the matchstick fries. They’re wooden and flavorless, although I was so in the mood for fried food that I ate my entire bag (and some of MDP’s).

For dessert, we opted for the peanut butter shake which was rich and creamy, and tasted quite like peanut butter, as it should.

I recommend Blue Collar for a weekend lunch or a summer dinner–sometime when the sunshine is still present and you can navigate the neighborhood without the fear of getting mugged.

Blue Collar

160 Havemeyer Street (between 2nd and 3rd streets)

Williamsburg, New York

Take the J/M/Z to Marcy Avenue or G to Metropolitan Avenue, or for the fearful, take the L to Lorimer and walk south.

Gramercy Terrace

gramercy terrace iceberg wedge

iceberg wedge

Wait, do you mean Gramercy Tavern? No, no I don’t. And though they’re both owned by the Union Square Hospitality Group (the brainchild of Danny Meyer [of Shake Shack fame]), Gramercy Terrace is nothing like Gramercy Tavern–except for its supple sophistication.

Located on the roof of the Gramercy Park Hotel–whose feel transports you back a few centuries–Gramercy Terrace is a well-lit space (and surprisingly warm in the winter months) where summer cocktails are often consumed. In fact, it’s been rated one of the best rooftop bars in the city–and I get it. It’s gorgeous and quiet, and you feel like you’re afar from the city, yet of it (as demonstrated by the towering buildings that you can view from your seat).

My lady dining partner and I visited Gramercy Terrace for restaurant week (which I’ve discussed). Just a few blocks from our office, it presented a nice departure from the hum-drum of the neighborhood lunch offerings. We got all gussied up–MLDP wearing her finest fur, me in a cute black dress–and made our way over there, to find a comfortably serene restaurant awaiting us.

gramercy terrace burger

burger

For appetizers, we both ordered the iceberg wedge, drenched in Maytag blue cheese and covered with bacon strips. “I’m not sure how to eat this,” said MLDP, but we both dug in. Before the salad, we were served salt-and-pepper popcorn in a cute tin, which was very good. I thoroughly enjoyed my iceberg wedge, and I believe MLDP would say the same.

I got the cheeseburger for my lunch entree, which came with spicy fries and a tiny milkshake with a red-and-white straw. The milkshake was just so cute, I had to drink it (even though I initially protested–MLDP was supportive in its eventual consumption). The burger was juicy and the hint of “fancy” sauce eluded my palate–I couldn’t place the flavor–but this was, by no means, my favorite burger. The spicy fries were overly spiced, in my humble opinion, but were fine.

MLDP ordered the (gramercy) Waldorf salad, which notably featured slices of celery, but too much of it in MLDP’s opinion. It looked good, but was on the small side, and was accompanied by two slices of sesame-coated French bread–a nice touch.

gramercy terrace apple crisp

apple crisp

For dessert, I opted for the apple crisp, which had cubed apples within and was topped by delectable vanilla ice cream. MLDP got the brownie sundae–a rich, chewy-enough brownie with vanilla ice cream and candied pretzels. Yum! So good.

A waiter (or somebody who worked at Gramercy Terrace) came over to ask how our meal was, and we told him it was excellent. He went on to explain that while Gramercy Terrace strives to serve up comfort food, they do it with a flair of sophistication. I must agree. Everything at Gramercy Terrace–from the tiny milkshake to the waitress’ insistence on addressing us by “ma’am”–added up to a highly sophisticated experience.

Though the food is great, Gramercy Terrace is only open for breakfast, brunch and lunch. You’ll have to just go to Gramercy Tavern–have I thoroughly confused you yet?–for your nighttime meal.

Gramercy Terrace

2 Lexington Avenue (between 21st and 22nd streets)

Gramercy, New York

Take the 6 to 23rd Street and walk south. Gramercy Terrace is located in the Gramercy Park Hotel.

Joy Burger Bar

joy burger bar burger and fries

burger and fries

The name conjures warmth, doesn’t it? Joy Burger Bar.

When you walk into the corner burger shop at 100th and Lexington, you’ll see a handful of tables and a literal burger bar where you can order your food. This is another one of those places where you order the food and then sit down–which, as I’ve stated, gives me anxiety about finding a seat to eat.

But, luckily, we got to Joy just in time, before the hungry masses came in about 30 minutes after we sat down.

There are a few nice things about Joy.

First, they offer three different sizes for the hand-packed, fresh ground meat burger you can order: 3 oz., 5, oz. and 8 oz. I chose the 5 oz. burger because I wasn’t extremely hungry that night. MDP got the same.

Second, Joy allows you to put as many toppings on the burger as you want and they have delectable sauces to go around. I chose the garlic mayo, avocado, cheddar and raw onion to top my burger, while MDP got the lettuce, tomato, sauteed onion and chili sauce for his. He ordered a pickle, too, but that came on the side for some reason. My burger was outstanding! Though, MDP said it doesn’t compare to the Shake Shack, his burger must have been pretty good since he put it away fairly quickly.

joy burger bar patatas

patatas

Third, Joy’s beers are only $4! How can you beat that? Maybe they’re priced competitively for the neighborhood. Whatever the reason may be, we were happy to enjoy a Blue Moon and a Sam Adams for the price of one beer anywhere else.

Fourth, Joy offers a number of delicious sides, such as traditional french fries, sweet potato fries or as they term them “patatas,” onion rings and more. I especially enjoyed the patatas, which are accompanied by pure maple syrup–yum! A little sweet, a little salty, a little piece of heaven.

Lastly, Joy gives you a playing card with your meal. When your food is ready, they’ll call “Queen of Hearts” or whatever card you received. I liked this. It’s a cute, quirky touch to the feel of the ambiance.

After dining at Joy, we walked down to 86th Street and went to the Shake Shack for a concrete. Talk about mad house. There were people sitting on every perch they could possibly find to eat their meals. It was insane and exactly the kind of set up that gives me gut-wrenching anxiety.

Do try Joy, whether you’re in the ‘hood or not. It’s just a quick 6 train ride up to 103rd, then a challenging walk up a steep hill to get to the burger shop. Everything is cheap, everything is delicious. Go, tonight!

Joy Burger Bar

1567 Lexington Avenue (at 100th Street)

East Harlem, New York

Take the 6 to 103rd, walk south three blocks. It’s on the east side of the street.

High Heat

burger at high heat

burger

Celebrity chef Waldy Malouf has undertaken a few restaurant ventures in the past decade or so. He’s even written food books. Among the restaurants he’s opened is Waldy’s wood-fired pizzeria, located in the Flatiron district on 6th Avenue. Waldy’s is a hole-in-the-wall with some of the best thin-crust pizza I’ve ever had. I’m lucky enough to work right by there…or is that a curse? I can’t tell. Nonetheless, the wonder of Waldy’s generated certain expectations for High Heat, Malouf’s latest.

Going with the wood-fired oven feature, just as Waldy’s has, High Heat is found down in Greenwich Village, on Bleecker Street, among many bars and Qdobas. It has the same “order at the bar, find a seat” set-up as Waldy’s, which I can’t stand. I feel very insecure in places like this–like, I’m going to order and get all excited about the food, but then I won’t have anywhere to sit. But the food, if you can find a seat to eat it in, makes up for the poor arrangement.

I think our experience of High Heat was tinged by the presence of a bunch of drunken Santas roaming the streets and finding their way into High Heat, just to interrupt our dinner. But the food persevered!

margherita pizza at high heat

margherita pizza

We had a Groupon, which afforded us a hamburger, a pizza, two orders of fries and a carafe of white wine. High Heat serves all of its alcoholic beverages on tap (and the sodas have fountain spigots to pour from), which is a nice feature of the place–no bottles to recycle.

I ordered a cheddar burger and MDP ordered the margherita pizza. We got an order of garlic fries and an order of parmesan fries. And, of course, the carafe of wine was a nice addition to the meal.

All in all, the food was delicious. The pizza was crisp (though not as crisp as Waldy’s pies) with fresh ingredients such as sliced cherry tomatoes and basil sprinkled on top. The burger had a wonderful char on it which infused every bite. I put mayo and the tomato, lettuce and pickles that came with the burger on top. It was a delightful experience. The fries were amazing! So firm and crunchy and crispy were they! Featuring shaved parmesan on top, the parmesan fries were my favorite, while the garlic-inflected fries won over MDP.

fries at high heat

fries

Minus the drunken Santas, our (boozy) experience at High Heat was fantastic. I recommend trying it out, especially if you tend to favor pizza and burgers. High Heat will make it hard for you to choose which to order–but I recommend getting both!

High Heat

154 Bleecker Street (by Thompson Street)

Greenwich Village, New York

Take the 6 to Bleecker Street and walk west.

Clinton Street Baking Company

You don’t want to come here for brunch. What I mean is: you absolutely do want to come here for brunch because it’s to-die-for. But you don’t want to stand in line for an hour (before the place even opens!) to get a table.

fried chicken dinner at clinton street baking company

fried chicken dinner

The Clinton St. omelette is outstanding. The blueberry-drenched pancakes are perfect. Really, you can’t go wrong for brunch. But, little known fact: They serve omelettes and pancakes at dinner time, too.

MDP and I stumbled into Clinton Street Baking Company last night, after being pushed aside at Schiller’s. I had been to Clinton Street many times before–for brunch, of course, but I had heard they also served a mean burger. (Because I was planning to have a burger tonight–I have a one-burger per week rule–I ended up ordering something else, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)

The place was packed but for one tiny table squeezed between two other tables for two. I sidled into the booth and felt instantly comfortable among Clinton Street’s warm ambiance.

On the chalkboard on the wall, they listed the specials for the evening and the day’s fish and the farms where their food came from. MDP and I both ended up ordering two different permutations of fried chicken, and boy, were we pleased.

I opted for the fried chicken dinner, which comes with four pieces of delectable chicken, a honey-Tabasco sauce for dipping, homemade slaw and two sides (I chose the jalapeno-inflected corn bread and the sauteed spinach–both were incredible). The fried chicken is in a category all unto its own. I’ve never had such delicious fried chicken, in fact. It was moist and flavorful, and the flavor seemed to seep deep into the chicken itself rather than just superficially penetrated in the fry batter. In a word, fantastic.

carrot cake at clinton street baking company

cute carrot cake

MDP got the fried chicken sandwich with lemon-pepper mayo, a pickled green tomato and shredded romaine on a pain d’avignon roll, which came with less-than-impressive fries. They were limp and flaccid, and unappetizing to me (but MDP finished them off–so they must have been okay). He enjoyed his sandwich.

Though I was beyond full, I knew we had to order something off the dessert menu. After all, it’s called Clinton Street Baking Company for a reason. We chose the walnut-studded carrot cake, which manifested as an adorable slice of lightly frosted cake situated on a wide white plate. I couldn’t put my finger on the flavor of it, but it was surely different. Quite enjoyable.

Do try Clinton Street Baking Company, even if you go for dinner and order brunch. I highly recommend it.

Clinton Street Baking Company

4 Clinton St. (between East Houston and Stanton)

Lower East Side, NY

Take the F/M to Delancey Street/Essex Street and walk a few blocks over Rivington to Clinton Street, head north two blocks.

Five Points

Five Points is located on Great Jones Street/Way and Lafayette, just a block or so south of Astor Liquor. The location is neither bustling nor dead, and has an air of magic about it. Lights shine down on you as you enter Five Points, which is symbolized by a bright red star–the restaurant’s namesake.

five points potato pizza

potato pizza

I had been to Five Points before, and, believe me, it is well worth trying more than once. Last time, I had the Wagyu burger, which is outstanding and is among my favorites in the city. Last Monday night, I had made a reservation at Five Points for this past Friday, and all week, I’d been scouting out the menu to see if they would put the burger up for Friday. I even called to check. No dice. So I had to order something else.

The seasonal menu features a number of tasty-sounding offerings, but I selected the scallops with pureed winter squash and brussels sprouts. The scallops were extremely tender and not overcooked, the way scallops are often served. They weren’t tough or chewy, but splitting in half at the mere touch of the fork. The winter squash puree was delicious and the brussels were leafed and strewn around the plate–very good.

MDP ordered, yet again, the potato pizza, which comes drizzled with truffle oil–on both sides of the crust. The potato pizza features fontina cheese, instead of your run-of-the-mill mozzarella blend, and I like what Five Points is doing with this pizza. The cheese soaks up the truffle oil and infuses every bite with it. Yum! It is, in a word, fantastic. And it won’t break the bank–I think the pizza was only $16 or so, and came sliced into eight delectable pieces.

five points apple crisp

apple crisp

We also ordered the giant fried onion rings. Served on a kind of cutting board, the onion rings were slightly greasy and crisp, and quite good.

Though we were both full, we had to order dessert–and drinks for a change. I got the Maker’s 46 bourbon, which tasted caramel-inflected and delicious. MDP ordered the hot mulled apple cider with rum (which rum? I don’t remember). And we opted for the apple crisp with buttermilk ice cream on top. The apple crisp was filled with tender diced apples and topped with a sweet crumble. A nice addition, the large scoop of buttermilk (not-too-sweet) ice cream nicely complemented the crisp.

All in all, Five Points is a wonderful choice. It’s cozy and comforting, and the food is outstanding.

You’ll want a reservation. You’ll also want to try Cookshop and Hundred Acres, which are both outstanding restaurants in their own right and happen to be sisters to Five Points.

Five Points

Great Jones Way and Lafayette

Noho, New York

Take the 6/F/D/M/B to Broadway-Lafayette and walk north a block or so. 

Resto

resto burger

burger w/ frites

It took me a long time, but I finally made it to Resto.

Situated just inside Park Avenue on 29th Street, Resto is a beautiful thing. Many tables for two line the wall and tables for four or more are spread around the restaurant. Tucked inside a novel, the beer list features a number of interesting selections, including a cherry-inflected, bubbly beer that my lady dining partner ordered. (It was filled with vim and vigor, and filled me with the same.)

Resto is known for their meat, but especially for their burger. (Vegetarians, look elsewhere.) And it’s clear why. Topped with a fried egg, the Resto burger (a hefty lunch price of $15) has gruyere cheese, red onion, pickle and mayonnaise on a potato roll. It’s accompanied by cubic frites, which lack flavor and are definitely not the highlight of the dish. No, that would be the burger. With one of the juiciest patties I’ve had in a long time, Resto’s burger sits among the very top of my best burgers of all time–right up there with the Shake Shack. So, is it better than the Shake Shack? Well, the two burgers are not in the same category. It’s apples and oranges, really. Resto’s is a good restaurant burger that can be compared to Saxon + Parole (whose burger is, incidentally, also topped with a fried egg), while the Shake Shack’s burger can only be compared to Burger Joint or the likes of Five Guys.

resto drink

cherry beer

My lady dining partner ordered the Tete de Cochon Po’ Boy, which she said was delightfully delicious. It boasted no adornments or sides, but instead came positioned in the center of a large plate with two homemade toothpicks piercing each half of the sandwich.

We didn’t try dessert, but I’m sure I’ll go back to Resto sometime soon to try their dinner menu on for size.

Even if you’re not in the neighborhood, I recommend making the trip to Resto–especially for that burger (which may or may not be served at dinnertime).

Resto

29th Street and Park Avenue

Take the 6 to 28th Street and walk north one block.