Posts Tagged ‘Bars’

Canada Wrap-Up – Beer, Shawarma, Bagels, and Sugar Pie

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 by virginia

In addition to imbibing on some great wines over the weekend, we tasted a few local brews in both Quebec City and Montreal. At Le Sacrilege in Quebec City, we tried the blonde, red, and white beers. Josh loved the refreshing crispness of the blonde, while I thought the finish on the red was a bit too bland. It did have an interesting coffee flavor component to it that I didn’t expect. The white beer was a hefeweizen with a strong wheat flavor. I enjoyed it a lot, even though it was freezing outside and I typically associate hefeweizens with summertime. It was served with both a lemon and a lime wedge.

In Montreal, our bar of choice, Brutopia on Crescent Street, was way too crowded for us to bring J in, so we settled for Les 3 Brasseurs, which is much bigger and had space for us and J’s stroller at the front of the bar. Les 3 Brasseurs looks like a chain restaurant, but they do brew their own beer (the name translates to The 3 Brewers). We tried the brown and the amber. The amber packed a decent punch, but the brown was slightly disappointing. It had won a few awards so we were expecting a bit more complexity in flavor.

After leaving Les 3 Brasseurs, we walked up Crescent Street towards Amir for a late night snack of shawarma and shish taouk. It was always our post-drinking destination back in college when we would visit Montreal. We got one of each on pita and took it back to our hotel room, where we ate it with the leftover pied de cochon. Sadly, the sandwiches were not as good as I remembered. The beef shawarma was a bit too spiced for my liking, but Josh enjoyed it. The shish taouk (chicken shawarma) was always my favorite, but this time I found it exceedingly dry and under seasoned. The garlic mayo was bland, and the pickled vegetables were sparse. I was disappointed, but I’m sure there are other places to get better shawarma and shish taouk in the city. Amir was just a nostalgic place for us to visit.

Shish taouk and shawarma pitas from Amir

Shish taouk and shawarma pitas from Amir

We finished up our Canadian adventure with a few Montreal-style bagels from two famed locations: St-Viateur Bagel Shop and Fairmount Bagel. The Fairmount Bagel shop had a fairly long line when we were there, though it moved quickly. We were in and out of the store in just a few minutes (even though Josh had to run out and find an ATM since it’s cash only). We picked up an everything, a chocolate chip, and a caraway seed bagel to eat in the car on our way home.


The St-Viateur Bagel Shop, on the other hand, was mostly empty. The production is a bit more impressive there though, as it is easier to watch the bagels being made in the back. Josh ran in and picked up an everything and a rosemary bagel for us to share.


So which bagels did we prefer? Fairmount, hands down. They seemed fresher and chewier, with a better crust. The dough also tasted more seasoned, with good flavor throughout. While I liked the everything bagel the best (it’s our baseline bagel), I was particularly intrigued by the chocolate chip bagel. The chocolate chips added a slight sweetness to the savory dough but it was far from being a dessert. I haven’t seen chocolate chip bagels here in NYC/NJ, and I wish there were some around so I could eat them more frequently! Josh loved the caraway bagel, as he is into anything caraway (particularly caraway-flavored spirits, ie., Brennivin).

Everything bagel, chocolate chip bagel, and caraway seed bagel from Fairmount Bagels

Everything bagel, chocolate chip bagel, and caraway seed bagel from Fairmount Bagels

The St-Viateur bagels were blander, with a drier texture that gave it a stale quality. Even the everything bagel was lacking in taste, as the toppings didn’t do much to help the flavorless dough. The rosemary bagel at least had rosemary running throughout the dough, so I preferred that one. But these bagels were a disappointment compared to Fairmount (although neither place stacked up to our favorite bagel shop in NJ).

Everything bagel and rosemary bagel from St-Viateur Bagel

Everything bagel and rosemary bagel from St-Viateur Bagel

The last item we picked up for our car ride home was sugar pie. I had read about it when researching Quebecois specialties, and I had wanted to try it at Au Pied de Cochon but we ran out of time and stomach room. I googled a place to buy it and came up with La Foumagerie, a specialty cheese shop/cafe in Westmount, just outside the city. Josh ran in to pick some up for us, and came back with two individually wrapped slices. He said the woman behind the counter was reluctant to sell it to him by the slice because it was the last pie left (I guess they mostly sell whole pies), but luckily for us, she eventually acquiesced.


I unwrapped one and dug in immediately. It was sweet and maple-y, just as I expected. It’s basically a pie filled with soft, crumbly, maple sugar candy. The fresh slice was slightly gooey, dripping out sticky streams of maple syrup. We saved the second slice for later, and by that point, the syrup was more incorporated in the filling and no longer drippy. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed both slices. It was not cloyingly sweet, but had more of a caramelized maple sugar flavor.

Slice of sugar pie

Slice of sugar pie

The drive home went by quickly, and thus ended our little Canadian adventure. The trip was a success overall, as we got to try a lot of great food and we handled Baby J pretty well on our own. Hopefully there will be a lot more travel in our future!

View of Quebec City at sunset

View of Quebec City at sunset

Notre Dame in Montreal

Notre Dame in Montreal

Le Sacrilege
447 Rue Saint-Jean
Quebec City, Canada

Les 3 Brasseurs
1356 St-Catherine St. W.
Montreal, Canada

1333 Boulevard De Maisonneuve Ouest
Montreal, Canada

Fairmount Bagel
74 Avenue Fairmount Ouest
Montreal, Canada

St-Viateur Bagel
263 Rue Saint Viateur Ouest
Montreal, Canada

La Foumagerie
4906 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest

Westmount, Canada

The Frying Pan

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by virginia

The Frying Pan is a historic ship that is docked next to a pier off the Westside Highway near 26th St. The pier features a seasonal bar and grill that opens when the weather is nice, generally from May to mid-October. It’s an extremely popular space, as the views along the Hudson are fantastic, and everyone enjoys the outdoor atmosphere on the pier.

The view from the end of the pier

An old fashioned style ship on the Hudson

Josh and I have been to the Frying Pan several times for drinks, but we never actually had a meal there. I’ve been itching to try their famed burgers and garlic fries, which I’ve heard so many great things about. The burger patty is made from a Pat LaFrieda blend, and Pat LaFrieda is probably the foremost meat purveyor when it comes to burger blends.

We got to the Frying Pan around 1 pm on a sunny Saturday. I was surprised to see that while most of the tables were full, the place wasn’t packed like it usually is. Fortunately that meant less of a crowd to maneuver through, and a short line to place our drink and food orders. They have some pretty good beers on tap (ie., Brooklyn Lager, Captain Lawrence IPA, SixPoint Sweet Action) so we got a pitcher of IPA to share. After you place your food order, they give you a number and you wait for it to show up on the board, indicating that your food is ready. It’s a pretty efficient system, and there are lots of boards around so you can keep an eye out even while you sit and chat with your friends.

After a short while, our number appeared on the board so Josh and his dad went to pick up the food. We had all gotten the burger, though Josh added cheese to his. My burger certainly looked promising, with a huge, thick patty that was slightly charred on the outside, served with a puffy toasted bun, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and pickles.

First look at the burger

Josh burger looked pretty similar, with the addition of a thick draping of melted cheddar cheese.

Josh's cheeseburger

One bite into the burger though, and I was extremely disappointed. This was not the thick, juicy burger that I had been hoping for. It was a hockey puck. The burger was completely cooked through, beyond well done (impressive, considering just how thick the patty was). The meat was crumbly and coarse, and I felt like I was chewing on rubber. Flavor wise it was ok, pretty well seasoned and tasting of the grill, but I couldn’t get over how overcooked it was. I had to drown it with ketchup just to get enough moisture to eat it.

Autopsy shot of the completely overcooked and dried out burger

All of our burgers were cooked the same way. Even though Josh’s had the cheese, he said it didn’t help and failed to add more flavor or moisture. To add insult to injury, the old bay garlic fries were a disappointment as well. There was no garlic flavor at all, and just a light sprinkling of old bay seasoning. The fries were also not very crispy.

Not very flavorful old bay garlic fries

The plain fries also lacked crispiness, but I preferred them to the old bay fries. They just needed a bit of salt to perk up the flavor a bit.

Regular french fries

Overall we were all pretty disappointed with the food at the Frying Pan. The burger was one of the worst ones I’ve ever eaten, simply because it was so overcooked. It had potential though, and I wonder if next time I could request it to be medium rare. Or at least just not well done. I’ve also seen on previous visits that the old bay garlic fries usually have more old bay and garlic on them. Maybe the kitchen was just having an off day? I don’t know. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the Frying Pan is nice, casual but upbeat. It’s a great place to sit back with a few beers and enjoy the views and the breeze. It does get pretty crowded though, so go early to nab a table. By the time we left, the place was packed shoulder to shoulder, and it was hard to even get from our table to the restroom. I’m sure I’ll be back, though I won’t be as eager to eat the food. They do have other things on the menu, however, like sandwiches and salads and even some seafood items. I’ll probably just stick with the drinks.

The Frying Pan
Pier 66 Maritime at 26th St.
New York, NY

White Horse Tavern

Monday, January 17th, 2011 by virginia

The White Horse Tavern is another one of those NYC institutions that we’ve heard about but had never tried. It is where the writer Dylan Thomas supposedly drank himself to death after imbibing on 18 glasses of whiskey. We wandered in one afternoon after trying and failing to get into the Spotted Pig for a late lunch. We had heard from several people that the burgers at the White Horse were great, even better than the Corner Bistro, which is a pretty strong claim considering the Corner Bistro is our favorite burger place.

The tavern wasn’t very full when we arrived so we got a nice seat in the corner in view of the bar and next to the window so we could people watch. After ordering mugs of Anchor Steam to start, we looked over the short menu that mostly included bar food. Obviously we were here for the burgers so I got a plain hamburger, medium rare, while Josh opted for a bacon cheeseburger, also medium rare.

Our food arrived fairly quickly, and the burger looked pretty promising. It was a thick patty with a nice dark crust on the outside, and was served on a toasted white bread bun with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. The burger came with a side of steak fries, my least favorite cut of french fries, but they were well fried and crispy, not mealy or soggy.

Plain hamburger with fries

Josh’s burger looked the same, just with the addition of American cheese and bacon. While the cheese probably could have been melted a bit more, the bacon was nice and crispy.

Bacon cheeseburger with fries

While the burger itself was cooked perfectly, perfectly seared on the outside and pink on the inside, it lacked seasoning. The patty had a soft, crumbly texture that I liked, but the meat was really bland. A little salt and pepper would have gone a long way. I sprinkled some on top but because the burger was so thick, it really didn’t make a big difference.

Autopsy shot

Overall we were both a little disappointed with the burger from the White Horse Tavern. It had a lot of potential and is still a pretty decent bar burger, but the lack of seasoning just ruined it for me. Everything worked texturally, and it was cooked perfectly, but the meat was just really bland. It definitely was not as good as the burgers from Corner Bistro. Nevertheless, the tavern is a nice place to hang out and have a drink. It has an old school NYC feel to it, and the historical aspect of the place is also pretty interesting. It’s definitely worth stopping by for a drink or two (maybe just not 18) just for the atmosphere.

White Horse Tavern
567 Hudson St. at 11th St.
New York, NY

Lobby Bar at Tambo del Inka

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 by virginia

After getting caught in the rain and rushing back to the hotel, we ended up staying in for dinner rather then venturing back out into the town of Urubamba. Our options were pretty limited, just the hotel restaurant, Hawa, or the Lobby Bar. We were pretty tired, not very hungry, and not feeling up for a formal dining experience so we opted for grabbing a casual bite to eat at the bar.

Grand mosaic behind the bar

The bar itself was really quite nice, with tall ceilings, interesting lighting pieces, and a beautiful mosaic art piece behind the bar.We had the option of sitting inside or outside but because it was kind of cold out we chose to stay inside where we settled in at one of the many open tables. While there were people drinking and smoking on the terrace, we had the indoor section to ourselves, which I kind of liked because we could chat without bothering anyone.

Cool lighting

We were in the mood for wine so Josh selected a bottle of red from Chile. We found that while wine was definitely not cheap in Peru, the South American wines provided more bang for our buck. We could usually get some sort of gran reserva wine for about US$40 a bottle, which isn’t too bad. We ended up drinking a lot of Argentinean malbecs on our trip, which is just fine by me. The Chilean wine we got that night was a variety we had never heard of, carmenere. Apparently it’s related to the cabernet grape family. This wine had a rich, deep flavor that was fruity but not sweet, and a velvety mouth feel. We both took a sip and looked at each other at the same time and said “wow!” While we love to drink wine, we’re not exactly wine connoisseurs (for example, my standard everyday drinking white wine is 3 buck chuck chardonnay). We just like to drink what tastes good, and this definitely fit the bill. Appropriately, it was a “max reserva”, and I took a picture of the bottle so we can look for it here. (Note to self: look for this wine).

Great wine

In terms of food, I was actually pretty shocked by how expensive the dishes were at this hotel. We looked at both the restaurant menu and the bar menu, and things were pretty much double the most expensive prices we had seen our trip. Lomo saltado, for example, which I found pricey at 35 soles in Puno, was over 70 soles here. I guess it’s understandable considering this was by far the most luxurious hotel we stayed at on our trip, but I found it kind of ironic that it was also the most expensive place even though we were in one of the poorest cities on our trip. The huge difference made me feel a bit guilty. I just hope that our tourist dollars are helping out the people in town!

We really weren’t that hungry so we ended up sharing a shrimp appetizer and a chicken sandwich. After we placed our order, we settled in to snack on the basket of potato chips they brought to us with our wine. Hands down, these were the best potato chips we’ve ever eaten. Freshly cut, sliced super thin, perfectly fried, and well seasoned, these chips were absolutely fantastic. We could see the skin still on the edges, and they were delicately crispy without being greasy. They had the intense potato flavor we found in most Peruvian potatoes, and we could not stop crunching on these awesome chips.

Awesome potato chips

The shrimp appetizer we got was shrimp in a curry, coconut, and cilantro sauce. The shrimp were served three to a skewer, and there were three skewers. We were intrigued by the sauce, which was a great blend of flavors. It was sweet and savory at the same time, and no one component overpowered the others. The shrimp were perfectly cooked so that they were delicate and tender, not tough or chewy. It didn’t seem like a big portion at first but the sauce was rich enough to satisfy our meager appetites.

Shrimp in curry, cocounut, and cilantro sauce

The chicken sandwich was sort of a random selection on our part but I was in the mood for something simple. Nothing else on the menu really appealed to me, plus it gave me an excuse to be able to eat french fries. The chicken was breaded in panko and served with avocado, lettuce, and tomato on a whole wheat roll. Certainly not very Peruvian or exciting, but it was perfectly cooked and perfectly tasty. The avocado added a nice creaminess and richness so that it didn’t need mayo. The fries on the side were made from assorted potatoes, some more starchy than others. I was super excited when I asked for ketchup and got Heinz. The ketchup I had on the trip so far, whenever I could find it, was always fluorescent pink and watery, not tasting very similar to the ketchup I’m used to. Josh laughed at me because I was so thrilled with the Heinz, but he just doesn’t understand the different nuances because he doesn’t eat ketchup. Personally, I don’t understand how anyone can get through life without eating ketchup. He’s just weird like that.

Panko crusted chicken sandwich on a whole wheat roll, with french fries

Overall we both liked the food we got at the Lobby Bar but it was definitely overpriced for what we got. Despite having just an appetizer, a sandwich, and a bottle of wine (albeit a really nice one), the bill was US$70 after tax and tip, or about 200 soles, which made it the third most expensive meal on our whole trip. The shrimp was really tasty though, and the sauce was really an intriguing combination that I wouldn’t mind trying again. The chicken sandwich was standard but well executed. I also loved the fries and potato chips, and the wine was superb. My favorite part though was the company, and the vibe of the bar. We were relaxed and at ease in the low key environment. They kept playing the same music over and over but we didn’t mind, since one of the songs was Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight”, which has special meaning for us. Service was attentive but not overbearing. It could have been easy for them to hover since we were the only people dining inside but they gave us our space and still came promptly whenever we needed anything. I would highly recommend staying at Tambo del Inka, though I’m not sure how expensive (or not) it really is, since everything was booked through our tour company. It’s definitely worth looking into if you plan on staying in the Sacred Valley.

Lobby Bar at Tambo del Inka
Av. Ferrocaril s/n, Valle Sagrado
Urubamba, Peru


Sunday, June 27th, 2010 by virginia

In honor of my last year as a 20-something year old, a large group of us met up for a boozy brunch at Vintage. I’ve walked past the bar/restaurant many times before but had never gone in, but one Saturday I noticed that they offered all you can drink brunch for an additional $8 on top of a brunch entree, which is quite the bargain. It included unlimited mimosas, bellinis, and bloody marys, with no restrictions on time or switching between drinks.

Josh and I arrived first (shocking!) and staked out tables in the front near the bar. There are also lounge areas in the back with couches and low tables, as well as an outdoor garden, but we figured regular tables were more conducive to eating. We started out with a round of bloody marys while we waited for everyone else to arrive.

Spicy bloody mary

The bloody marys were pretty tasty, with lots of horseradish that made it nice and spicy. There was a strong celery flavor as well, and it was perfectly seasoned, with just the right amount of vodka. I ended up having a few of these before moving on to my next batch of drinks. Most everyone else stuck with mimosas, which were slightly heavy on the orange juice but didn’t really skimp in the champagne department either.

Table full of mimosas

The brunch menu is pretty extensive at Vintage, with various egg/omelet options, french toast, burgers, and sandwiches. Josh had classic eggs benedict with the hollandaise sauce on the side. The eggs were well poached and still runny, and it was a perfectly adequate rendition of eggs benedict. The hash browns though were really good. They were made from shredded potatoes, nicely seasoned, and crispy on the outside. Yum!

Eggs benedict with shredded hash browns

I opted for the chicken sandwich with avocado, hardboiled egg, bacon, and mayo. The chicken was tender and not dried out, and the avocado added a nice creaminess to the sandwich. The bacon was extra to add on but provided a crunchy saltiness that balanced out the flavors and textures. The sandwich came with a big pile of shoestring fries that were hot, thin, and crispy. This place really knows how to cook potatoes!

Chicken sandwich with bacon, egg, and avocado, plus shoestring fries

In addition to the bloody marys and mimosas, I also tried the bellinis. They were made with peach juice and champagne and were refreshing, though a tad sweet. I could definitely taste the peach and it was nice and bubbly.

Peach bellini

I really liked the brunch we had at Vintage and thought it was a good deal, especially for all you can drink brunch. Most entrees ranged from $8-$10, and the unlimited drinks were only an additional $8. Our waiter was super friendly and not stingy with the drinks, topping off everyone’s drinks before they even got half empty. It wasn’t crowded at all so it was quiet enough to hear each other talk. I really liked the laid back atmosphere and the great service. We’ve since gone there for after work drinks, and they have an extensive martini list with over 200 concoctions. Everything we had was tasty and appropriately strong, and I’m sure we’ll be going back there more often from now on.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who came out! I had a blast!

753 9th Ave. between 50th and 51st St.
New York, NY


Sunday, January 31st, 2010 by virginia

Poor Josh has really been on the road a lot lately, traveling for work. The day after we got home from San Francisco, he was on an early morning train to Baltimore. After spending one night there, he took the early morning train back from Baltimore and had about two hours to pack before heading to the airport on his way to Colorado. Because he knows how much all the traveling takes on toll on me (hey, it’s hard when you’re husband is away all the time and gets to go to new places and try new foods!), he made sure to grab a quick lunch with me during his two hour window.

We ended up at Social, a bar/restaurant on 8th Ave. that wasn’t too crowded, as we wanted a quiet place where we could sit and talk. There was a special lunch menu that had sandwiches and burgers listed for $7.45 but we opted to split a few things from the regular menu instead. Since it was chilly outside and I was craving comfort food, we got an order of macaroni and cheese.

Macaroni and cheese

It was described on the menu as being covered in a three cheese truffled mornay sauce, but neither of tasted any truffle at all, not even a hint of truffle oil. And even though it had a nicely browned and crispy top, it was more creamy than cheesy, without any of the gooey-ness or stringy-ness that I wanted from the mac and cheese. Flavor-wise it wasn’t bad but it was just too creamy overall.

Creamy mac and cheese innards

We also split an order of sliders, which were really four mini burgers topped with American cheese. They came with lettuce, tomato, and pickles on the side, which were cut into smaller pieces so that they fit the sliders perfectly. I thought that was a nice touch, and very convenient. It also came a pile of fries, which were battered and crispy.

Sliders with fries

We had asked for the sliders to be cooked medium rare but they were closer to medium. I guess it’s hard to cook these to order. At least they weren’t dried out, and had a good amount of seasoning to them.

Autopsy shot

Overall we both enjoyed our quick lunch at Social. It’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the Midtown lunch crowd that it was quiet and we were able to chat and have a relaxed meal. The food is standard bar fare but it was tasty enough and reasonably priced. While we probably wouldn’t get the mac and cheese again, we did like the sliders, and there were lots of sandwiches on the lunch menu that I would go back and try. It’s not too far from my office and is better than some of the other sit down options that we have closer to the heart of Midtown. The bar is multiple levels, and there are lots of flat screen TVs hanging up everywhere, so I think it would also be a good place to hang out after work for happy hour, or on weekends to watch sports.

795 8th Ave. between 48th and 49th St.
New York, NY

Chelsea Grill of Hell’s Kitchen

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010 by virginia

On the Saturday of the first snowfall in NYC this season (not the huge storm we had), Josh and I hunkered down in our apartment watching the large chunks of snow fly by our window. It was only when we could no longer ignore our growling bellies that we left the warmth of our apartment to venture out in search for food. By this time it was late afternoon, much too late for breakfast or brunch, so I suggested going to the Chelsea Grill, which was a bit of a hike but not too far. However, we both failed to bring umbrellas with us so when the snowflakes soon turned into a wet, sleeting rain, we were both totally soaked by the time we got to the restaurant.

The space is kind of a mix between a restaurant and a bar. There is a large bar in the middle of the room where plenty of people were hanging out, but there were also lots of tables where people were sitting down to what looked like very nice meals. Despite the awkward hour, the restaurant was actually pretty full. The room is spacious but looks cozy, with exposed brick walls and rich brown colors. Luckily it was warm and toasty in the restaurant so we snagged a two top in the front next to the window where we could watch the wet snow coming down and people passing by.

The first thing I noticed after sitting down was that they have cloth napkins, which immediately brings it up a notch from a normal bar/grill. We ordered pints of Blue Point Toasted Lager from our waitress and set about looking through the menu. As soon as he opened it up, Josh immediately knew why I suggested this place – the waffle fries. I had read somewhere that it was touted “the best in Manhattan”, a claim that I always take with a grain of salt, but you know I can’t resist waffle fries.

Josh and I both ordered burgers, which came with a side of those famed waffle fries. I just got the plain Chelsea burger (burgers start at around $10), and added on lettuce, tomato, and onion, which cost $1 extra (or 50 cents each, all 3/$1). Seriously? A leaf of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a slice of onion should not cost you an extra $1. If they really want to charge you for the stuff, just build it into the price of the burger. I think it’s simply ridiculous to pay for add ons that should be standard at this type of place. I like onions and tomato on my burger, so I sucked it up and paid for the extras.

Chelsea burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, cole slaw, and waffle fries

But how was the burger? The patty is 10 oz, which sounds good in theory but totally failed in execution. The burger was cooked medium rare as requested but the meat was completely unseasoned, and it was mushy. I cut my burger in half because I wanted the autopsy shot, but also because there was no way for me to hold that entire burger in my hands. Half a burger was unwieldy enough. After two difficult bites, the patty fell apart and the bun pretty much disintegrated into a soggy pile of mush. The entire thing was messy, and even worse, there was no flavor. It was quite possibly one of the worst burgers that I’ve had in recent memory.

Autopsy shot - medium rare but very bland

Josh fared a bit better in taste with his bacon cheeseburger. But that’s only because you could taste bacon and cheddar cheese. The patty itself was again worthless, and because he also added on lettuce, tomato, and onion, his burger was even more massive than mine. He didn’t cut his in half but he basically had to eat the whole thing in one shot, because if he put that sucker down, there was no way he would be able to pick it up again. That’s not exactly a relaxing way to eat.

Burger with bacon and cheddar

I was hugely dissatisfied with the burgers here, but the waffle fries were actually pretty spectacular. They were nicely seasoned and delicately crispy on the outside, with good soft potato texture on the inside. They were undoubtedly the best waffle fries that I’ve eaten so far in the city. But would I come back here just for those fries? No.

Delicious waffle fries in all their glory

Overall I really was disappointed by the burgers at the Chelsea Grill. They looked so big and appetizing when they arrived but they ended up being totally tasteless and sloppy. It just goes to show that bigger is not always better. I would have preferred a smaller, more manageable patty that was properly seasoned and charred, rather than the big balls of mush that we received. Yes, the waffles fries were really good, but they weren’t enough to make me want to come back. I wouldn’t even want to order a basket of them and have drinks by the bar, since our pints of the Toasted Lager cost $7 each. Kind of steep, especially for this neighborhood where there are plenty of other bar/grills serving up better food and cheaper drinks. At least service was good. And to be fair, I can’t really speak about the rest of the menu, but it wasn’t really the kind of place where I would order a pasta dish or a full on three course meal. Maybe that’s where they excel food-wise, but I’m just looking for a nice place that serves really good casual bar food. In that regard, I don’t think I’ll be back.

Chelsea Grill of Hell’s Kitchen
675 9th Ave. between 46th and 47th St.
New York, NY

Tahoe Day 4 – The Brewery at Lake Tahoe

Thursday, January 7th, 2010 by virginia

No, I didn’t forget about Day 3. On the evening of our third day in Tahoe, we decided to stay in and finish up all of the leftovers from the previous night. There was still lots of spaghetti and meat sauce, as well as a few of the appetizers and tons of dessert. On our last night in Tahoe, however, we were too tired to cook so we decided to go out and grab some casual/comfort food. We ended up at The Brewery, which is a local brewpub that produces its own handcrafted beers.

We called ahead since there were eight of us going out and they told us it would be an hour wait, first come first serve. We ended up hanging out at the bar while we waited and enjoyed some of their specialty brews. I tried the IPA, which was hoppy as expected, but not too bitter. Josh had the porter, which he wasn’t a big fan of because he thought it was too watery and thin and didn’t pack enough flavor. He ended up switching to the IPA, while I went with the Killibrew Brown Ale, which was not too light and not too dark – just right.

The beer vats behind the bar

The wait wasn’t short but it wasn’t terrible, as we were all deep in conversation. We were seated soon enough and ordered a bunch of appetizers to share. First up was the spinach artichoke dip, which was served with garlic/parmesan toasts. The dip was cheesy and creamy, and though it could have used a tad bit more seasoning, it was a very good version.

Creamy spinach and artichoke dip

We also got a vegetarian version of the nachos, which were a huge pile of tortilla chips covered in cheese, refried beans, tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, and scallions. The nachos were pretty standard but still tasty to snack on.

Vegetarian nachos

Lastly, we got an order of chicken wings with “Hot” sauce, which was in the middle on the mild to hottest options. The funniest comment of the night was from Claire’s friend S, a chemist, who upon reading the hierarchy of spicy wing sauces questioned: “Why is ‘Nitro’ hotter than ‘TNT’? TNT is TRI-nitro!!” Fortunately the Hot sauce wasn’t too spicy, though it did have a nice kick at the end that lingered on our lips. The order came with a pound of wings, which turned out to be a lot of pieces since these were the tiniest wings I’ve ever seen. They were almost half the size of wings that I usually see but they were still pretty meaty and much less messy to eat.

Hot chicken wings

For my main course, I got a Bad Ass® Burger, which is a half pound burger topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions simmered in their Bad Ass® Ale, served with lettuce, tomato, and pickle. I added swiss cheese to the burger, as well as raw red onion (I love raw onion on my burgers).

Bad Ass® Burger + swiss and red onion

Unfortunately, my burger was cooked way past my requested medium rare, so it was a tad dry despite all the toppings. Was it Bad Ass®? No, but it was pretty well seasoned and very filling. I also liked the beer battered fries that came on the side, which were nice and crispy.

Autopsy shot

Josh had a “BYOB” (build your own burger). He requested Bad Ass® onions, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and swiss cheese. His burger came out without bacon, but at least it was more medium rare than my burger though it was still overcooked. I think the waitress forgot to write down bacon because she didn’t seem to notice that it was missing.

An almost Bad Ass® burger

Claire also had a burger while Sean went with the BBQ Combo, which included half a rack of St. Louis ribs and a grilled chicken breast. His combo came with a side of fries and his choice of soup or salad. He requested the soup but our waitress also forgot to bring that out and had to be reminded. He enjoyed the bbq a lot though, and the bite of ribs that I snagged was moist, tender, and flavorful.

BBQ Combo

Overall I didn’t think the food at The Brewery was spectacular (it’s mostly basic bar food after all), but it was pretty good and I liked the atmosphere a lot. It’s very casual and lively, and from the outside, it looks like somebody’s house. I liked the variety of beers on tap and prices were very reasonable, especially for a ski resort town. The specialty brews were only $4.50 a pint, which isn’t too shabby especially compared to NYC prices. Service was a bit lacklaster but maybe that was because they were so busy that night. I think it would be a great place to hang out over a few pitchers of beer, order a bunch of appetizers, and watch sports games on the TVs all around the room. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone visiting the area, and I would definitely come back here next time we’re in town. And maybe next time I’ll actually try the Bad Ass® Ale!

The Brewery at Lake Tahoe
3542 Lake Tahoe Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA

Samuel Adams Brew Club

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by virginia

We arrived earlier than usual for our evening flight to San Francisco from Newark Airport so we decided to grab a quick snack before getting on the plane. It turned out to be a good idea since the snack they served us on the plane was kind of gross. The closest restaurant to our gate in Terminal C was the Samnuel Adams Brew Club. We ordered some pints of beer from the bar (Winter seasonal for me, regular lager for Josh) and sat down at a table to look over the menu.

Imperial pints of beer

Unfortunately, this particular branch of the Brew Club didn’t really have full kitchen capabilties. There were mostly sandwiches and salads on the menu, and also soup and chili. The sandwiches can be heated in a panini press, which is what we opted to do. They were out of the sandwich we wanted though (they’re premade and you pick them out from a refridgerator case in the front) so we ended up with a turkey club panini.

Turkey club panini

The bread was focaccia and formed a nice crispy outer crust when pressed in the panini but the fillings were lackluster. There were only a few slices of turkey and bacon, plus some severely wilted greens. There was also swiss cheese on the sandwich that melted all over everything and was kind of greasy. Not the worst airport sandwich you can get I suppose, but still not that great. I’d suggest sticking with the drinks and getting food from elsewhere.

Samuel Adams Brew Club
At Newark Airport
Newark, NJ

Gossip Bar & Restaurant

Saturday, August 29th, 2009 by virginia


On this warm Saturday morning, Josh and I ventured along 9th Ave. in search of a good brunch. I had read about Robert Passon’s all you can drink brunch on Wined and Dined where it said that an additional $8 can get you a variety of unlimited alcoholic brunch drinks such as bloody marys, bellinis, mimosas, and more. When we passed the restaurant, however, we saw that the price for the drink add-on had risen to $13. Boo. With entrees averaging around $8, $21 is not outrageously expensive for all you can drink brunch, but $5 is still a pretty hefty increase percentage-wise.

Nevertheless, we were still prepared to go in but we overheard the hostess telling the couple in front of us that the credit card machine was broken so they were only accepting cash. Not having cash on hand, we left the restaurant and continued down the street looking for another place to brunch.

We walked by Gossip Bar, which from the outside looked like a fairly standard bar/grill. It didn’t seem like a typical brunch place but they had a sign out front advertising their brunch specials, including $4 bloody marys. Sold!

The bar was pretty empty so Josh and I snagged a comfy leather booth in the front and promptly ordered two bloody marys while we perused the menu. Their brunch offerings aren’t extensive but they also have burgers/sandwiches/salads available from their lunch menu. Our drinks arrived shortly and we placed our food order with the bartender who was also functioning as the waitress. The bloody marys were terrific – well seasoned, spicy, and packing a nice alcoholic punch. I liked that there were visible pieces of grated horseradish floating around, as that is my favorite part of a bloody mary.

Spicy and strong bloody marys

Spicy and strong bloody marys

While we waited for our food we watched some of the Little League World Series and parts of Ted Kennedy’s funeral procession on the big screen TVs behind the bar. A runner brought by a basket of mini corn muffins that we nibbled on. They were sweet and warm but fairly standard. It was more of a nice gesture than anything else, since you usually don’t expect to get any kind of bread basket at a bar.

Warm mini corn muffins

Warm mini corn muffins

Our food arrived a short while later and we got another round of bloody marys. I opted for the Gossip Eggs, which were smoked salmon eggs benedict with spinach on english muffins topped with hollandaise sauce. The smoked salmon was delicious, not too salty or oily, and the spinach was a nice addition that worked well with both the salmon and the hollandaise, and pulled everything together. The eggs were perfectly poached and the english muffins were toasted and crunchy. There were also roasted potato home fries on the side that were nicely seasoned but a bit too mushy in texture.

Gossip Eggs with smoked salmon and spinach

Gossip Eggs with smoked salmon and spinach

Josh had two eggs over easy with grilled tomato, bacon, sausage, home fries, and white toast. It was a huge plate of food and all very tasty and well cooked, though his home fries had the same texture issues as mine. Maybe next time we’ll ask if they’ll let us substitute French fries instead.

Eggs over easy with bacon, sausage, toast, and home fries

Eggs over easy with bacon, sausage, toast, and home fries

The Gossip Bar really was a surprisingly good find. Like I said, it doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside it’s open and airy and elegantly decorated. It’s definitely a more upscale bar than the standard dives and pubs that we’re used to. The food was really delicious and the drinks were strong and tasty. I’ll definitely be back here for brunch, and maybe lunch or dinner. I saw a few sandwiches passing by us with huge piles of freshly cut skin-on fries that I’m eager to try out. The atmosphere was just really mellow and I could absolutely see myself hanging out here in the future.

Gossip Bar & Restaurant
733 9th Ave. between 49th and 50th St.
New York, NY