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

The Original Benito One

For the uninitiated to this blog, I must tell you: I hate Italian restaurants. Yes, it’s true, I am Italian-American, but that may be exactly the root of my disdain. You see, I cook a lot of Italian food at home. And, 9 times out of 10, I find my rendition of a dish is far better than anything I order out.

Case in point: The Original Benito One.

benito one eggplant rollatini

eggplant rollatini

Situated down on Mulberry Street in the heart of Little Italy, Benito One has been around since 1968–and it’s interior shows its age. With plastic grapes hanging from the wine glass rack, Italian flags posted about and a crooning bartender, Benito One is the kind of Italian restaurant you’d see in New Jersey. Or maybe the kind of Italian restaurant I’m used to seeing in New Jersey actually mirrors the likes of Benito One–a classic chicken-and-the-egg dilemma. At any rate, the restaurant’s somewhat tacky decor and fake-Italian waitstaff may enchant the 99% of clientele who are tourists, but it was lost on me.

Don’t get me wrong. Benito One isn’t all bad. But it’s not all good, either.

After about 10 minutes of waiting around, they served us loaf of Italian bread with tiny packets of butter in the basket; true Italian restaurants provide a dish of olive oil. A small detail, sure, but one that reflects the general approach of the restaurant–that is, inauthenticity.

benito one chicken principessa

chicken principessa

The eggplant rollatini we ordered for the appetizer was decent. Thin slabs of eggplant were fried and rolled into mounds covered with mozzarella and marinara sauce. I enjoyed it, mostly because I don’t have the patience to make eggplant rollatini at home, so I have nothing to compare it to. As for the entrees, that was a different story.

I opted for the chicken principessa, which was two chicken breasts covered with asparagus and mozzarella. I liked the way they prepared the chicken, which reminded me of how I make chicken francese: taking a chicken breast, dousing it with flour, dipping it in egg and then putting it immediately in the frying pan. The result is a delicious coating. The gooey mozzarella and crisp, thin asparagus nicely complemented the chicken itself. But I can’t say anything nice about the pasta they served alongside the chicken. The spaghetti was a bit rubbery and the marinara sauce lacked originality. Though I ate it anyway, I wasn’t impressed. I also never understand why Italian restaurants insist on serving a marinara pasta with a dish that clearly requires a cream sauce to accompany it. I digress.

benito one spaghetti alla carbonara

spaghetti alla carbonara

MDP got the spaghetti alla carbonara, which was served to him as a heap of tangled pasta in the center of a dish. He seemed to enjoy it, but I tried it and found the sauce to be too thick and there wasn’t even a hint of prosciutto/pancetta (I’ve seen recipes with either). I was kind of disappointed in his dish, but he ate everything.

For dessert, we tried a cannoli, after about 10 minutes of waiting for the waiter to show us the dessert tray. I just called out “cannoli, please” and he finally brought one over. It tasted as though it had just been taken out of the fridge. I prefer when cannolis are near room temperature, as the shell tastes better when it’s not as cold. The filling was dotted with tiny chocolate chips, as expected, and possibly a bit of candied citrus peel. It was pretty good.

So, if you’re in Little Italy, I recommend not going to any of the Italian restaurants. Benito One is probably the best you can get down there, and that doesn’t say much.

The Original Benito One

174 Mulberry Street

Little Italy, New York

Take a train to Canal Street, or take the 6 to Spring Street.