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

Mexicana Mama Centro

Believe it or not, it’s hard to find good Mexican food in New York City. I’ve searched high and low–from ninth avenue all the way down to the Village–and have rarely come across delicious, reasonably priced Mexican food. But Mexicana Mama Centro has made me a believer that good Mexican food does exist in Manhattan.

mexicana mama centro queso fundido

queso fundido

My dining partner and I had been to Mexicana Mama Centro another time, when we serendipitously came across it on east 12th. Last night, as with our first night, we ordered the Queso Fundido as an appetizer and two classic margaritas to drink. The Queso Fundido was beyond delicious. Accompanied by six small round corn tortillas, it’s a casserole full of melted (chihuahua?) cheese with sauteed onion and bell pepper on top. Wow.

We put huge dollops of the cheese mixture onto our little tortillas and rolled them as we would burritos. Outstanding!

And the margaritas were pretty good, too. I asked for salt on the rim of mine (dining partner did as well) and the salt mixed nicely with the tang of the margarita.

For entrees, my dining partner ordered the special spicy fish tacos while I got the chicken burrito. I know, not taking any risk there, right?

The spicy fish tacos were incredible. I couldn’t tell what kind of fish it was (an expensive one, according to our bill), but the filet was chopped up and mixed with a handful of spices on thin tortillas. Delicious!

mexicana mama centro chicken burrito

chicken burrito

My chicken burrito was nicely plated and quite delectable, too. An interesting addition, the chicken burrito had Mexican potatoes which tasted somewhat sweet within the tortilla. The burrito also had chihuahua cheese and black beans inside. Originally, I was served an enchilada and started eating the Mexican rice that came with it, but found, just a few moments later, that the enchilada belonged to my dining neighbor. Good thing I took a moment to take a photo of the enchilada before diving in!

We didn’t get dessert this time around, but I trust that anything Mexicana Mama Centro serves up is nothing but top-notch.

Do try it if you’re in the area–or even if you’re not!

Mexicana Mama Centro

47 E. 12th Street (by Broadway)

New York, NY

Take the N/Q/R/4/5/6/L to 14th Street-Union Square and walk south two blocks. You can’t miss Mexicana Mama Centro’s high-flying flag outside its facade!

Di Fiore Marquet, Union Square

It sounds like I’m the only one in the universe who didn’t care for Di Fiore Marquet. Yelp has rave reviews, as does New York. What am I missing?

Perhaps the dishes we ordered weren’t their specialty. Then again, shouldn’t the chef be able to competently cook any menu item? I think so.

di fiore marquet omelette

avocado and cheddar omelette

In the mood for eggs, I decided I wanted an omelette with avocado and cheddar cheese. Seems like a reasonable request for brunch, right? Well, the omelette was fine until I discovered, on its underside, that it was runny and barely cooked. In the past month or so, I’ve tried to open my mind to runny-egg dishes, such as Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine. I’m still in the early stages of accepting these foods, so seeing runny eggs in my omelette positively disgusted me. The omelette was accompanied by some toast and roasted potatoes, which were hard and not exactly flavorful.

My dining partner ordered corn pancakes. He’s always trying the new (or weird) things on menus, something that I admire (especially since he always lets me taste his exotic food). Chopped fruit adorned the corn pancakes, a nice touch. When asked what the corn pancakes tasted like, MDP replied, “They tasted like corn.” There you have it.

I ordered a cappuccino, which was delicious and perfectly made. But it took about 10 minutes to get my coffee drink. In other words, the service is slow. I wouldn’t recommend this place if you are in a hurry to catch the big sales at Filene’s Basement.

di fiore corn pancakes

corn pancakes

If you’re in Union Square, you might want to try a different place for brunch. I hear Max Brenner has an outstanding menu. Or, if you’re daring, you could even walk up to the Shake Shack and have a late brunch/lunch instead. In other words, there is a multitude of brunch places for you to try in Manhattan. You might skip Di Fiore Marquet, in that case.

Di Fiore Marquet

15 East 12th Street

New York, NY

Take the 4/5/6 or N/R/Q to Union Square.