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

Cafe Gitane (Nolita)

One of my coworkers recently recommended Cafe Gitane to me. “You’ve got to get the avocado toast. It’s what I get every time I go there,” she raved. So, this morning, we arrived at Cafe Gitane in Nolita, just north of Prince Street on Mott, around 9:30 am.

cafe gitane baked eggs sandwich

baked eggs sandwich

In preparation for our trip, I scoured the Internet for reviews and menus and general ideas about Cafe Gitane. It’s a French restaurant with Moroccan flavors infused in their dishes. Or, perhaps, it’s a Moroccan restaurant with remnants of French cooking. I can’t tell. And maybe the difference is small and insignificant.

I noticed that their website only lists the two locations (the other is in the Jane Hotel, way west, in the West Village), with no hint at their hours, their menu, or their policy on credit cards, which varies from location to location. Yelp provided some insight into their menu, and reviewers lauded the avocado toast as the “must-get” dish at Cafe Gitane.

So, with all this in mind, we trekked down to Nolita, ambled up to Cafe Gitane, and took a seat at one of about a dozen tables in the restaurant. A handful of tables line the simple exterior, providing prime people-watching positioning for patrons, while roughly six stools crowd around a clean counter inside. In the corner, a barista handles all the coffee–which is pretty expensive for a “cafe americano,” yet good–and two chefs man the counter, cooking and creating dishes as they chatter away the morning. When we walked in, The Smiths were playing over the speakers and, when we left, some remixed 50s tune filled my ears.

The breakfast menu is limited. A few eggs dishes dot the menu, with a waffle and some pastries rounding it out. An indifferent waitress took our order. I opted for the baguette filled with baked eggs and merguez sausage, covered with shaved parmesan and chipotle mayo. To accompany the sandwich, they offered a side salad with a fruity (possibly apple) vinaigrette that alienated me. The sandwich itself was good, but I wasn’t blown away. While the eggs and sausage provided a nice flavor, the chipotle mayo was unevenly dressed, and so was the parmesan. I enjoyed the baguette, however, which was crusty and flavorful.

cafe gitane avocado toast

avocado toast

MDP ordered the baked eggs with smoked salmon, potato, and cream, served to him in a quaint dish with three slices of baguette on the side. After allowing his dish to cool for several minutes, he chowed down and polished off the dish. It seemed like he greatly enjoyed his meal.

And, of course, we got the avocado toast, which is something I will definitely make (better) at home. For $7, you’re really not getting a lot with this dish. Smooth avocado is smeared across the upper crust of a piece of multigrain toast. Roasted red pepper flakes are shaken onto the top of the avocado, with some (too much, really) lemon juice and olive oil forming a sheen layer that drips onto the plate and possibly down your sleeve if you’re not careful. It was definitely good, but, as I said, I can make this myself.

I like Cafe Gitane, but, as I told MDP, I’m not over the moon about it. I might recommend trying their couscous for dinner. If you go, remember to bring loads of cash, since Cafe Gitane in Nolita is cash-only. (And they prohibit cell phones, for what it’s worth).

Cafe Gitane

242 Mott Street (by Prince Street)

Nolita, New York

Take the N/R to Prince, walk east to Mott. 

And, I’ll leave you with a bit of fun art from a sidewalk in SoHo. Whatever it means, it’s true.

loveis