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On the Cheap

April 2, 2010

So for the longest time I’ve wanted to add music here. For those of you that know me, you’re aware that I’m somewhat of a music junkie, and also quite opinionated as to quality, haha. My friend, who will be named here as Ron Mexico, kind of coined a three sentence phrase describing how I speak to other people regarding the matter; “Your music sucks. Your food sucks. You suck?” (“?” appearing here because I’m unsure as to whether or not the third phrase is correct. Ron, thoughts?) Anyways, back to my point…now they’ll be music at the top of every post. Push play and enjoy!

Blakroc – Dollaz & Sense by TheBitchFactory
Onward with some new shiz.

I think recently I’ve decided that the best thing, hands down, about the restaurant scene in New York City is that you don’t have to break the bank to have an excellent meal. Lately, I’ve been gorging myself at a lot of restaurants where it is essentially their mantra to serve food of the most superior quality, while still maintaining a very reasonable price point.  Here are a few of my favorites.

 

dell'anima: Where soulful magic happens. (gastrogirls.wordpress.com)

 

dell’anima – I’m still kind of on the fence, but this place is close to being flat-out, my favorite restaurant in Manhattan. It’s about the size of a larger matchbox, and they turn out some of THE best neo-Italian food I’ve ever had. They make all or most of their pastas fresh in house (except risotto, of course. Growing rice in NYC could prove to be slightly problematic). Their menu also changes daily depending upon what’s good. Gabe Thompson runs the kitchen…and this guy really RUNS the kitchen. Remember, I said this place was tiny; and every time I’ve gone there it’s been a madhouse. Their kitchen staff work their asses off, so if you get a chance when you’re there, try and sit at the counter

 

dell'anima carbonara's centerfold from Playboy's 40th Anniversary Issue. Kelly Ben-who?

 

Their entrees are not, by any stretch, inexpensive. For this reason, I’ve never had one. I guess it’s kind of odd this place might be my favorite restaurant and I’ve never actually ordered an entrée there. Whatever…their pastas and appetizers (and I’m sure entrées as well) are a prime example of how, exactly, to cook food and make it taste really, really, really damn good. Their bruschette have been top-notch every time. You can get three flavors for $10 that come with pieces of perfectly charred bread. The avocado is so good it’s just silly. They also offer a few affetatti…their chicken liver and fig creation is bonkers.  It’s just great; that’s really all I can say.  I also think I had the best pasta I’ve ever had there. It was squid ink noodles with sea urchin, chilis, mint, olive oil; my jowls are vibrating. Their risotto with housemade sausage, salumi, and Pecorino Romano is so good that I couldn’t stop eating mine even though I already had a full tank…kind of like at the gas station where you may give the pump an extra squeeze after it pops even though you know it’s really not that great an idea? Also, their carbonara is a fantastic riff (they use speck, not pancetta) on an old Roman classic.

dell’anima certainly is “of the soul.”  Eat here…the next time you pay for someone to cook for you. SERIOUSLY.

 

Interior of The Smith. All the fixtures and lighting are made from old pipes. (lucosgroup.com)

 

The Smith – Went here last weekend, and for those of us who watch “How to Make it in America” on HBO, you may remember the show referencing the restaurant in last week’s episode, and then again, you very well may not. Anyways, I went here last Saturday night for a late dinner around 10:00; absolutely packed with young people sipping on Blue Point Toasted Lager (thankyousirmayIhaveanother) and specialty house drinks. NY Mag nailed it in calling this place a “sort-of faux Odeon.”  It is exactly that, except I’d say the food is slightly more American, and maybe even updated. (But better?  Not likely.  The Odeon has quickly become another favorite of mine, and their execution is consistently well above average.  Next time your parents are visiting from out of town, take them to The Odeon.)  The crowd is also younger. So what’s good at The Smith?

 

The Smith Burger with "the works:" disappointed. (seriouseats.com)

 

Crawfish hush puppies with Old Bay aioli. Let’s dissect this sentence; crawfish – delicious, inexpensive jewel the Gulf region. There’s a HUGE chunk in the middle of each pup. Next word, hush puppies – if you don’t know what hush puppies are…I mean, c’mon. You have to know. I’m not explaining. Old Bay aioli – good with more than just crabcakes and football! They also make, what is supposed to be, a pretty good burger. Mine was just, I dunno, kind of odd. It had this overwhelming earthiness going on, an almost overpowering richness to it. I could only eat half. The burger, I believe, was $15 and the silenced young dogs were around $11 or $12. Main courses run from $17 to $23, so the prices are pretty reasonable when stacked up against other places.

 

Interior of Wilfie & Nell (thelmagazine.com)

 

Wilfie & Nell – Had breakfast here last weekend and it was the best part of waking up without any Folgers in sight. Wilfie & Nell is a bar first. Seating is sparse with most of it being taken up by large tables that are communal. No reservations, no waiting list…their website says they want people to come in and squeeze wherever there is room. One could say that it is quite bohemian.

 

Berkshire pork sliders with McClure's pickles and wholegrain mustard. Sounds like something I'd be interested in trying. (flickr.com)

 

Their menu is pretty small, but they try to focus on locally sourcing their ingredients, so that’s pretty cool. Nothing on the menu costs more than $12, and the fare is heavily influenced by the British Isles.  I also read that Joaquin Baca, former sidekick to David Chang, and now of The Brooklyn Star (since closed due to a fire and re-opening as a pizzeria with a different name) in Williamsburg, consulted on the menu and demoed all the dishes for the kitchen.  Well, this paid off, because the corned beef hash I had last weekend was the cats pajamas AND the bees knees all at the same time.  The hash consisted of onions, grape tomatoes, potatoes, maybe a pepper or two, and of course, corned beef.  It was topped with two poached eggs and came with a side of pickled cabbage; “Oh yes, it will be mine.” (Name the quote if you can). It was so good it hurts me to think about now.  The eggs were poached with skill, and the yolks ran all over the place.  I love eggs…I think they’re a very sexy food.  They also make AWESOME drinks.  They do a bloody mary with McClure’s pickle juice in the mix and a few beer cocktails.  I had one that was Lagunitas IPA with grapefruit juice and ginger syrup…fantastic.  The other is Lagunita’s IPA with grapefruit and Campari…sounds like another winner I think.

Well, I wanted to talk about a couple more places, but I guess things got a little long-winded ooorrrrrr I got excited. These are some of my favorite among THE favorites…the creme de la creme.  I’ll do this again soon and write about hmm…let’s see…Torrisi Italian Specialties, Spotted Pig, and Company.

Enjoy your hams this weekend!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 2, 2010 11:48 am

    wow… really nice blog…. wonderfully written….Outstanding….
    i like it….

    Balance of lines…. really awsum…

    visit mine… & plz plz plz put your comments…. Thank you…
    i’ll be in touch

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