Almond

To be honest with you, I’m not even sure how I heard about Almond, a French restaurant located on 22nd Street in Flatiron. Its name may have materialized out of nowhere and landed in my brain, urging me to make a reservation for Friday night. As anyone else would do, I followed my brain’s command and clicked on a 7:30 pm reservation in OpenTable.

Almond grilled thick-cut bacon

grilled thick-cut bacon

MDP and I arrived around 7:10 to Almond. I had been standing outside for about 25 minutes, awaiting his arrival, and I was eager to get inside the restaurant since the polar vortex is once again upon us; I felt a bit cold. We walked through the thick curtain that separates the vestibule from the restaurant’s interior, and a gentleman wearing a V-neck sweater with a button-down shirt underneath stood beside a non-descript female hostess behind a computer. I informed them–since I wasn’t sure who to talk to–that we had a 7:30 reservation. The man with the preppy dress shot back, “Well, you’re early for your reservation.” This was the beginning of the end of Almond in my book. He proceeded to tell us to get a drink at the bar until he summoned us for our table. We stood idly next to a fake display of mollusks on ice for about two minutes, and then, upon noticing that we weren’t inclined to order a drink, he ushered us to our table.

The table itself was unsatisfactory, as well. We were seated against a short divider that separated the dining area from the bar folk and in the middle of a highly trafficked thoroughfare. At least the chairs were comfortable.

MDP considered ordering a bourbon. When the waiter finally came around to ask for our drink orders, he asked, “How much is the bourbon?” The waiter responded, “It’s about five ounces.” First of all, this estimate of drink volume is highly unlikely. Second, it was fairly obvious that MDP was asking for the price, which, after some back and forth, was discovered to be $14. MDP selected a beer off the back of the food menu instead. I ordered a glass of riesling, which is on tap, and it was decent.

almond le grand macaroni and cheese

“le grand” macaroni and cheese

When the waiter sauntered over to take our food order, we requested the grilled thick-cut bacon for an appetizer. I opted for the “le grand” macaroni and cheese and MDP asked for the croque madame for entrees.

Bread was brought over to our table, and we quickly devoured it. I have to say, the bread was excellent. And Almond’s food overall is very good. But, as you’re surely sensing, the service leaves something to be desired.

We waited about 30 minutes for our appetizer. The waiter assured us it was “on its way” and at least 10 minutes passed until it was presented to us. Two thick slabs of bacon sat beneath avocado, grilled red onions and a paprika white-bean stew. The bacon itself tasted fatty to me, but the combination of flavors from the avocado, onions and bean stew was delightful.

I lost track of time waiting for the entrees. The macaroni and cheese was delivered to me in a very hot dish, while MDP’s croque madame was situated in an oval-shaped cast iron pan. The macaroni and cheese is some of the best I’ve ever tried. The aroma of truffles wafted up from the dish and stimulated my taste buds before I even had the chance to take my first bite. Large bits of prosciutto dotted the dish, with the truffle flavor overpowering–in a good way–the entire experience.

The croque madame was okay, but Astoria Bake Shop still wins for best rendition. MDP also ordered french fries, and, as expected, they were very good. Crisp and delicious, the french fries were perfectly salted, as well.

almond french fries

french fries

I had already informed MDP that I wanted the chocolate pot de creme for dessert about an hour before the dessert menus were brought to us. Once the waiter reflexively asked us about dessert, fifteen minutes passed before we saw him again. I decided to pass on my beloved chocolate pot de creme. It was already past 9 pm.

MDP observed that Almond’s service may reflect its French roots. My response? We’re in America–and in New York City, no less. Get with the program and speed up the service, and be more accommodating while you’re at it. MDP also said that the somewhat expensive prices on Almond’s menus must be necessary to offset the lack of quick turnover of tables. I think he’s on to something.

Almond may have good food, but, if you’re looking to spend fewer than two hours on a meal, pass on this place.

Almond

12 E. 22nd Street (between Broadway and Park)

Flatiron, New York

Take the N/R to 23rd Street. Walk south one block and east on 22nd.

Neely’s Barbecue Parlor

You might find Neely’s Barbecue Parlor on Yelp, and, due to so-so reviews, cross it off your list of barbecue options to try. You’d be sorely mistaken. Neely’s is quite good and well worth the trek off the beaten path.

neely's pecan pie

pecan pie

Located on First Avenue and 62nd Street, Neely’s is not what you’d expect in a typical barbecue joint. A few steps up the stairs by the entrance and you’ll find a lounge area near the bar where patrons sip drinks like Dad’s Day Off (an excellent combination of Jim Beam, lemonade and maple syrup) or green tomato sangria, and munch on Neely’s fare. Down a dim corridor where Neely’s staff warmly greet you are a number of break-out dining rooms with ornate furnishings. It’s not the well-lit, basic table-and-chair set-up of Hill Country, by any measure. No, Neely’s is something special.

The menu features standard barbecue options: pulled pork platter, various styles of ribs, and sides such as cole slaw and molasses baked beans. The dishes are decently priced and sized.

I ordered a half rack of the Memphis style baby back ribs, and boy were they good. Tender and succulent, these baby back ribs were easy to polish off. I got Gina’s collard greens as my side dish, a hint of pork in their flavor. I was pleased with my meal and felt quite full afterward.

MDP got the “blue ribbon” chicken, which is a chicken that has been cooked with a can of PBR inside of it. He was served half a chicken with two sides: corn bread and macaroni and cheese. The chicken was supple and flavorful, and MDP had no problem finishing every last bite. I enjoyed the moist corn bread, and the creamy macaroni and cheese tasted delicious.

neely's red velvet cake

red velvet cake

For dessert, we ordered the red velvet cake and pecan pie a la mode. I preferred the red velvet cake topped with a delectable cream cheese frosting. The pecan pie was soupy and too sweet. MDP enjoyed the Haagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream served alongside the pecan pie so much, he gushed that we should get some for home. (Really, the ice cream was kind of basic to my palate, but, sure, let’s get a pint…)

As an aside, you’ve probably noticed that I only have pictures of desserts on this post. The table right next to us had two women who had equally poor manners–the older of the pair, in particular, had a severe staring problem–and I felt uncomfortable photographing my food in front of them. Pretty silly, but they were kind of strange. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Anyway, try Neely’s! Everyone at the restaurant seemed to be having a great time and enjoying their food. I think you would, too.

Neely’s Barbecue Parlor

1125 First Avenue (at 62nd Street)

Upper East Side, Manhattan

Take the 4/5/6/N/Q/R to 59th-Lexington and walk east a few avenues and north a few blocks.