Upland

I’m surprised I’ve never been to Upland before. For one, it’s the type of place I categorically love: clean, quasi-modern aesthetic with luxurious green leather booths and jars of fermenting lemons lining the walls. There’s something very charming about the interior, although the facade itself won’t tell you much about what’s inside. But, the other perplexing part of today being my first and only visit to Upland is simply that I worked down the street from it for three years.

Upland’s namesake comes from the California town that “laid the groundwork” for chef Justin Smillie’s love of cooking. Wherever Upland is, whatever it may have in store for discerning palates, I’m extremely pleased that chef Smillie brought his talents and affinity for California cooking to Flatiron, NYC. When I tell you this place is awesome, I surely hope you believe me.

Our smiling waitress brought over a complimentary bottle of sparkling water to us and handed us a few brunch menus. That Upland labels the menus with the current month speaks to its reliance on seasonal cooking–something I admire. Yet, chef Smillie doesn’t go overboard with his consultation of the seasons: there are dishes you’ll actually want to eat and seem “normal.”

upland pastry basket

pastry basket

We started with the pastry basket, which is chock full of sweet and savory treats. The lemon poppyseed muffin, grapefruit poundcake, baguette, and cheddar and bacon (!) scone were true standouts. It’s no error here that I’ve named the majority of what came in the pastry basket–everything was that good. MDP even commented that the grapefruit poundcake had just the right amount of lemon flair, unlike some confections we had recently sampled.

upland eggs in hell

eggs in hell

MDP opted for a dish called “eggs in hell” that tasted very fresh and enticing. The eggs were runny–not my cup of tea–but he was unfazed and gobbled them up. The sauce was rife with fresno chiles, oregano, and truly spectacular tomato. Grilled bread came on the side, the perfect accompaniment for sopping up the delicious tomato goodness.

upland cheeseburger

upland cheeseburger

I’ve been building up to the moment when I would tell you about this burger I had at Upland. Here’s the spoiler: it was one of the best I’ve ever had. New York magazine tipped me off to this gem, and boy am I glad they did. It’s like a Big Mac but oh so much better. Two cheese-topped patties sat upon a fantastic sesame roll whose crust was crisp and yet the body of the bun was soft. And true to California cooking, chef Smillie put delicately sliced avocado slivers on the burger. I didn’t even have to ask. I was in heaven. The combination of flavors–the unique peppers, the ideal bun, the perfect amount of grease, I could go on–made this a memorable dining experience. At $20, the burger costs a pretty penny but is well worth the fee, ounce for ounce. And the matchstick fries that come with the burger are plenty, offering enough bite to be satisfying.

Our lovely waitress asked if we’d like dessert at the end of the meal, but I was already so stuffed we had to decline. But, given my love for both the ambiance and food, I’m sure MDP and I will return to try dinner one night.

Now, be aware that the burger is only served for brunch and lunch. So plan accordingly.

Upland
345 Park Avenue South (at 26th Street)
Flatiron, New York
Take the 6 to 28th Street and walk south a few blocks.

Advertisements

Bo’s

When I first heard about Bo’s from Gothamist, I knew I had to try it. First, it’s located in the neighborhood where I work, which is a definite advantage. Second, and more important, it shares the name of my most wonderful kitten. As soon as I read about Bo’s, I called them up and made a reservation for Friday night.

bo's crispy alligator

crispy alligator

Bo’s is a long narrow restaurant serving up Bayou specialities situated on 24th Street, just beyond the Italian delicacy mecca that is Eataly. In the front, there is a bar frequented by the creatives of the district, all sipping the fine cocktails Bo’s has to offer. When you walk past the bar and into the rear of the restaurant, the place opens up to a wonderful interior, lit with just the right amount of illumination. It’s a beautiful space, for sure.

After a few minutes, we were served monkey bread, which is basically a fantastic white bread with much more salt and butter than your average loaf from the supermarket (or even than what you’d make homemade). We received four pieces, and I ate 3.5 of them. That’s how good it was.

We began our meal with the crispy alligator. Sounds … reptilian, no? It was amazing. Lightly battered pieces of alligator were mixed among chunks of red pepper with a creamy chili aioli on the side. The alligator was not at all what I had imagined. It was chewy and flavorful, and the chili aioli was the perfect accompaniment. You must try the crispy alligator at Bo’s.

bo's buttermilk braised fried chicken

buttermilk braised fried chicken

For my entree, I ordered the perfectly cooked (medium) skirt steak with a French feta sauce drizzled on top and the most perfect mashed potato puree, inflected with hints of bacon, positioned underneath the steak. To round out the dish, I also received a hearty portion of fresh carrots that were roasted with honey-glaze. It was sublime.

My Dining Partner (MDP) opted for the buttermilk braised fried chicken, which was enormously flavorful and delicately battered. Oddly, Bo’s serves the fried chicken with asparagus, rather than a starch. I suppose the buttermilk biscuit (delicious!) that comes with the dish supplies the right amount of carbs the patron could desire. MDP greatly enjoyed his dish, finishing off the very last bit of it.

I knew we had to order dessert since they had pumpkin beignets on the menu. They were quite good, although not the highlight of the meal (which, though everything was very good, may have been the monkey bread for me). The fried balls of dough were rolled in granulated sugar, and were filled with pumpkin goodness. On the side, we were served a maple sugar ice cream that wasn’t particularly sweet, but had just the right hint of flavor to it. Very good.

I implore you to try Bos’. You certainly won’t be sorry. But bring a good credit card; it’s a tad pricey.

Bo’s

6 W. 24th St. (between Broadway and 6th Avenue)

Flatiron, New York

Take the N/R to 23rd Street. Walk north one block and turn left onto 24th Street. It’s on the south side of the street.

Clarke’s Standard

I’ll admit it: I’ve never been to P.J. Clarke’s. Everyone raves over their hamburger, but I have an inkling that it isn’t really that good. To me, P.J. Clarke’s is in the same camp with Donovan’s, which, in my estimation, never served a decent burger in its existence, yet had “Voted Best Hamburger in New York City” emblazoned on its facade. We all have our opinions.

clarke's standard's burgers

clarke’s standard’s burgers

Yet, when I heard Clarke’s Standards were popping up all around the city, I knew I had to try one. So, I picked the Clarke’s Standard most convenient to me (the one in Flatiron/Union Square) and gave it a go. I wasn’t disappointed.

The interior of Clarke’s Standard is cool, clean and comforting. Black-and-white photos of butchers of yore are plastered onto the walls. Friendly employees greet you and comment on your choices (“The Cadillac is the best burger on the menu,” one told me, when I whispered my selection to MDP). Clarke’s Standard is definitely an upgrade from the goodburger outpost that once stood in its place.

Now, the food. Clarke’s Standard boasts interesting offerings in the burger department. The Standard is, as you may be able to tell, a standard cheeseburger. Then, there’s the Cadillac that comes with white cheddar, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and their special sauce, which is something like Shack sauce, but not quite as thick. They also offer a Brooklyn Au Poivre edition of the burger, accompanied by cracked pepper sauce, gouda, and a few other toppings. There are several additional burgers on the menu, but these mentioned stood out to me as being the ones I’d like to try.

clarke's standard's cheesy tater tots

cheesy tater tots

And I was certainly impressed by the Cadillac. The ground angus beef was obviously fresh and extremely flavorful. Though my burger came out looking a bit disorganized, the delicious bacon and cheese added a hearty touch to the sandwich. I enjoyed the sauce, but felt there could have been more ladled on. MDP opted for the green chiles cheeseburger, which has American cheese, charred green chiles, garlic aioli, and mustard on top. I felt the chiles were apparent and bursting with flavor, but MDP did not see it this way. He experienced the heat of the peppers, but not the flavor–interesting dissonance.

We had to order the cheesy tater tots just because they sounded marvelous, as well as the natural cut fries. But the tots came out rolled in parmesan cheese, as opposed to having melted cheese dripping all over them. This was a minor disappointment. However, the tots were still pretty good–potatoy and crisp. The fries were definitely delicious. I might like these fries better than the Shake Shack’s fresh cut fries. “Might” is an underestimation–I definitely like Clarke’s Standard’s fries better. Unlike the Shack’s, which are flaccid and lacking flavor, Clarke’s Standard fries are medium-cut, rigid (in a good way), and chocked full of potato goodness.

All in all, Clarke’s Standard is pretty good. I’ve read some terrible reviews of it on Yelp, but this doesn’t surprise me. Just an aside: People don’t know what they want, unless it’s to complain, which is all they ever want to do on the Internet–and that’s about all Yelp is good for.

Clarke’s Standard

Multiple locations

New York, NY