For today’s installment of One Meal in New York, we turn to Warming Glow list specialist and all around good Twitter follow @joshkurp for his take on Corner Bistro:
When I was in college, my friends and I would often walk the 15 minutes it took to get from The New School to Corner Bistro, in the West Village. One time, attending in a company of five, someone ordered a community plate of French fries. The greasy spuds (great band name) arrived 5 minutes later, and before I had a chance to savor their oily smell, my friend Kyle grabbed a bottle of mustard and poured a huge glob all over the fries. “The fuck?” another friend, Joe, yelled.
That incident happened four years ago, and we’re still talking about it. Kyle broke an unspoken bond: you don’t mess with comfort food. Because that’s what Corner Bistro, in all its dusty, barebones, dive bar glory, serves and provides. There’s nothing spectacular about their $6.75 Bistro Burger (cheese and bacon) with Fries, with a mug of McSorley Ale on the side, other than it’s really, really good. The patty is thick and juicy (medium rare), and served no frills. It’s filling without destroying your wallet (about $12, with the beer). I once ate the $26 Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern, and while the burger was superior to what’s served at Corner Bistro, it wasn’t worth the price tag or the experience of feeling like you don’t belong in a trendy restaurant where “smart, casual attire” is suggested.
Sometimes all you want to do is not worry about what you’re ordering, and choose the simplest meal possible: burger, beer, and fries. I like Corner Bistro and would choose it as my one restaurant, because really, it’s burger or bust (don’t try the chicken), and that’s the easiest decision in the world to make.
Just don’t pour mustard all over the community fries. Dick.
Hey folks, time for another installment of One Meal in New York, with all-around Internet superstar @thecajunboy shilling for a diner that’s 2 blocks from my ex-girlfriend’s place and damn, I should have taken her there while we were together:
I no longer live in New York, but visit frequently, typically once a month for 4-5 days. And when I do there is one place that I invariably visit for a meal within 24 hours of my arrival. It’s not my favorite steakhouse in the world, which happens to be in New York, or my favorite Indian or Ethiopian joints in the city, or one of the city’s many fabulous sushi restaurants. It’s a diner — some would call it a coffee shop like the one Jerry and the gang frequented on Seinfeld: It’s Joe Jr. on the northeast corner of 16th and 3rd.
I’ve been going there for years after discovering it during a particularly downtrodden point in my life. I was living on a friend’s sofa whose apartment at the time was near the restaurant. I don’t recall what first led me in there — I don’t think it was the bad lighting, the 1950s diner decor, or the random senile elderly people that frequent it, but I’m far from having an aversion to any of those things.
In all the times I’ve eaten there, which I now estimate to be well into the hundreds, I have never, not once, deviated from my menu preference — French toast with scrambled eggs and bacon, with a side of bacon and a large glass of orange juice. That’s not because the offerings at Joe Jr. are limited, mind you. On the contrary, the menu at Joe Jr. is, like it is at most New York City diners, comically expansive. I’ve never bothered to check but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if Alaskan snow crabs were available on the menu.
However, in this world there are three types of people: pancakes people, waffles people and French toast people. I will forever and hopelessly be one of the latter, and the French toast at Joe Jr. is just my favorite. There’s is certainly not the most complex or fancy — it comes without any sort of fruit garnish, thankfully — but the way it’s prepared there is just perfect to me. In fact, with the exception of fits of extreme French toast withdrawal in which I’m too geographically challenged to make it there, I all but refuse to order French toast anywhere else.
Now, you may have noticed that I didn’t include coffee in my typical order. That’s because I rarely get coffee at Joe Jr., which I suppose is odd considering that many refer to it as a coffee shop. It’s not that their coffee is bad — it is, for the record, slightly above average — but because I have an peculiar fetish for New York bodega/deli coffee. So I almost always show up with my own coffee, and never have I received any grief about that from the Joe Jr. staff.
About the almost universally Hispanic staff at Joe Jr. I should mention this: though they’ve never been anything but exceedingly polite, professional and courteous, I’ve never come to know any of them by name, nor have they come to know me by name. Instead, we tend to refer to each other as “chief” or “my friend.” Mostly “my friend.”
“Good to see you, my friend…What can I get for you today, my friend,” is the typical exchange I’ve had there countless times. In some instances, the staff of an establishment not knowing my name after years of patronage might bother me a little, but it never has with Joe Jr. I feel completely secure and comfortable with the relationship that we share, and I think that’s a big reason why I’d choose it as the place to have a meal in New York City if I could only visit one place.
Well, that and the fact that they make French toast I would have sex with if I could.
Today’s review is from David Matthews, who is late of Deadspin but first in our hearts, and on Twitter at @d2thematthews. He chose Crif Dogs, where I recommend the Tsunami Dog:
I had grand ambitions for this. I was going to write this as a short story about a man being transported to a death-match in some dystopian future. A dystopian future where there are death matches and a small hot dog place on St. Mark’s still exists. We wouldn’t know if he was a bad man who deserved the cruel fate he was headed for or if he was innocent, or if he was competing in this death match because he had some reason to: prove worth, save someone else’s life, win honor for his tribe or district, etc. We wouldn’t know anything about this man because he was going to be a man like any other man; namely: one with a survival instinct who is going to try and escape. A man like that who has also been to Crif Dogs before and knows the space’s layout.
It’s a poorly kept secret that Crif Dogs is bar-adjacent. So bar-adjacent that the bar is actually inside Crif Dogs. There’s a fake phone booth on the left side (when you’re facing the counter) that leads into a place called Please Don’t Tell (people have told). I was once refused entry into PDT with a group of friends and a professor with whom who most of us had taken some history courses (we hadn’t all taken the same courses, but I think the overlap occurred in the America Since 1945 and Cold War classes). So, for narrative purposes, our hero was going to make a daring escape through the bar Please Don’t Tell and eventually survive. Except I was going to shamelessly rip off An Occurrence On Owl Creek Bridge.
At one point, I decided to scrap the idea and just write about a different restaurant. Maybe RUB on 23rd. But I realized I only really like that place because they serve Shiner Bock. So defaulted back to Crif Dogs. But I’m glad I did.
I thought about the time my friends and I and our professor were turned away from that fancy bar because none of us were fancy enough and clearly already quite drunk — our next stop was a tattoo parlor. I thought about all the other times I had gone to Crif Dogs and gotten two dogs, with ketchup, tater tots and a PBR either before going out on the Lower East Side or while making our way back to the train station after a night of revelry when we didn’t go home with whatever woman we tried to charm.
I thought about the fun I’ve had making up a game where the trip to Crif Dogs is a failure if we don’t get to sit at the table that is also a Ms. Pac Man machine. Or how it didn’t matter we had to wait for so long because we could just get a beer or two while we waited and play Galaga. Or make more dirty jokes. Or talk up the girls in line who had the same idea (especially if they laughed at our dirty jokes or acknowledged them with anything other than disgust). I thought about the time I went to the location in Williamsburg and it sort of sucked because it just felt different. The Williamsburg spot is missing something. It’s missing a fake phone booth that leads to a mystery. It’s not something you can stumble into before 8 or after 2. It’s not the small spot that serves incredible hot dogs and the best tater tots you’ve had since middle school and the crappy beer you sneaked in high school. A spot that would have been a kooky, convenient setting (narrative-wise) for a shitty short story.
I decided on Crif Dogs because if I was moving out of New York (is that the one meal angle, are we shipping off to fight Gerry in the AM?), I’d go to a dive bar the night before and how that night would probably include a trip to Crif Dogs. I would go there because I already have some great memories of that place and I’d want to add one more.
Jesus, this is the worst Yelp review ever.
Up next in our cavalcade of New Yorkers telling out-of-towners where to eat is Mets/sandwich blogger Ted Berg, who you can follow at @OGTedBerg and read the musings of at tedquarters.net. I spent some time trying to come up with a choice less obvious than the Shake Shack location in Madison Square Park for this task. Maybe a cramped locavore spot in the West Village, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place uptown or a West Indian joint in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Anything but Shake Shack, the showpiece and ambassador of Danny Meyer’s burgeoning culinary empire, an option now no longer unique to New York City or even this continent. But why choose otherwise just for the sake of it when the original Shake Shack location offers an experience more enjoyable than any other in the city? Sometimes, as with Chipper Jones and Citizen Kane, the product matches the hype. Every single thing on the simple burger-stand menu is delicious, every ingredient exemplary. The buns are soft, the meat juicy, the vegetables fresh. The Shackburger is constructed to such understated, perfectly proportioned perfection that it could safely be called elegant. The Shack-ago dog boasts a large enough variety of vegetable toppings that it might be excused as healthy eating. And I’m told the fried-portobello burger is incredible, though I’ve never been able to pull myself away from the meat. Though the perpetual long line snaking its way along the south side of the park appears overwhelming, it moves quickly and provides ample time for people- and squirrel-watching, not to mention views of the Flatiron Building and Met Life Tower. Heating lamps keep the outdoor seating comfortable all year round, and the park itself offers a nice place for a traffic-free stroll after you’ve consumed pounds of awesome meat and ice cream.
Up next in our cavalcade of New Yorkers telling out-of-towners where to eat is Mets/sandwich blogger Ted Berg, who you can follow at @OGTedBerg and read the musings of at tedquarters.net.
I spent some time trying to come up with a choice less obvious than the Shake Shack location in Madison Square Park for this task. Maybe a cramped locavore spot in the West Village, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place uptown or a West Indian joint in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Anything but Shake Shack, the showpiece and ambassador of Danny Meyer’s burgeoning culinary empire, an option now no longer unique to New York City or even this continent.
But why choose otherwise just for the sake of it when the original Shake Shack location offers an experience more enjoyable than any other in the city? Sometimes, as with Chipper Jones and Citizen Kane, the product matches the hype. Every single thing on the simple burger-stand menu is delicious, every ingredient exemplary. The buns are soft, the meat juicy, the vegetables fresh.
The Shackburger is constructed to such understated, perfectly proportioned perfection that it could safely be called elegant. The Shack-ago dog boasts a large enough variety of vegetable toppings that it might be excused as healthy eating. And I’m told the fried-portobello burger is incredible, though I’ve never been able to pull myself away from the meat.
Though the perpetual long line snaking its way along the south side of the park appears overwhelming, it moves quickly and provides ample time for people- and squirrel-watching, not to mention views of the Flatiron Building and Met Life Tower. Heating lamps keep the outdoor seating comfortable all year round, and the park itself offers a nice place for a traffic-free stroll after you’ve consumed pounds of awesome meat and ice cream.
Here at One Meal in New York not every review has to be as long as Katie Baker’s tribute to Marea, so here is Drew Magary’s choice for his one place to dine in New York City:
I’ll take the Peking Duck House in Chinatown. We went when I was a kid and it was the first time I had soup dumplings and Peking duck. My parents friend always took us (even one Thanksgiving, which was the best ever), and he died when I was a teenager. So I’d pick that place and gorge myself in his honor.
Me: Anything else you want to add?
Yeah no, that was it. I dunno what else I’d say except that I’d eat a lot. A LOT. And lots of soup dumplings. I’d burn off my hard palate eating them so fast.
So if you’re in town and like to gorge on Peking duck (you can’t smoke in New York but you can have as much duck as you’d like, om nom nom) go to Peking Duck House in Chinatown (at Mott & Pell). And if you’re in town tonight, make sure you see Drew field questions about his awesome new book, The Postmortal, at Book Court in Brooklyn: http://www.bookcourt.org/category/events/
I love food and eating and restaurants, but I’m not someone who spends insane amounts of money at frou-frou places all around town. And while some downtowners joke that they never go above 14th St, I can’t identify with that either — I preferred to remain below 8th. And so my initial recommendation was going to be Torrisi Italian Specialties, home of the best chicken parm in New York, the best turkey sandwich (I’ve had, anyway) in New York, and by FAR the best cauliflower too. And that’s just for lunch — their dinner is one of the most delicious and special around, and at an incredible value. Get there early, put your name in, and go get drinks at one of the zillions of Nolita wine bars. The time will fly by.
HOWEVER, Blogs With Balls is being held during the Feast of San Gennaro this year, a longstanding tradition in Little Italy that you probably won’t want to set foot near unless you like greasy zeppole stands every few feet, fixed carnival games, and the crush of clueless and belligerent tourists of the Eye-talian type. (No disrespect.) Torrisi, to their credit, is embracing the disgusting festival, providing lots of food and general good charm, as is their wont. But still, you might want to make it there on your next visit.
So I consider this all a sign that I should mention a very different One Meal, one that breaks all of my restaurant rules: it’s expensive, it’s fancy, it’s “an occasion,” it’s usually filled with old wrinkled Upper East Siders … and it’s above 8th Street, FAR above 8th Street, all the way up in the foreign wilds of Central Park South, a block or so from the Time Warner Center.
But despite all these strikes against it, my meals at Marea were some of the most memorable dining experiences I ever had in New York. Now, I should state up front that the first time I went it was with a friend there to write about it, and so we were showered with attention and comped with free food and assigned an amazing waitress I developed an unhealthy girlcrush on. In other words, it was the kind of night that can never be replicated.
But I’ve been back twice since then, all on my own dime, and I’ve found it to be worth every penny (after penny, after penny.) The room is lovely, the tables are spacious, the chairs are amazing, the china is gorgeous — and I’m not someone who EVER notices the china — and the service is professional but not clipped; knowledgeable but not holier-than-thou. If you opt for the wine pairings, you can trust that they will pair the shit out of that wine.
And the food … the food is JUST SO GOOD. I’m looking at the menu now to see what I’d recommend, and the answer is “everything.” I don’t remember not liking a single thing I ate at Marea, and I’ve had most of the things on the menu. Basically, if you see something you think sounds good, rest assured it will taste even better.
I’ll let you do your own math to determine if the price fixe is worth it, but whether you do that or just get food a la carte, here are some recs. Just going down the menu: the Ricci and Zeppole are my two favorite starters. The fresh fish (sorry, “crudo”) is displayed right there in front of you, and mouth-meltingly good. I’m allergic to oysters, but I still feel comfortable endorsing them on faith. As for the antipasti: OH MY GOD THE ASTICE, GET THE ASTICE.
The pastas are all delicious; the fusilli is probably Marea’s most notable; it comes with this rich, deep, delicious bone marrow sauce that sounded terrifying to me until I ate it. The tagliatelle … (kisses fingernails). If it sounds dumb to go to a restaurant like Marea and order ravioli with pesto sauce, maybe it is — but all the same, I liked the pansotti so much the first time I went there that I ordered and paid for it on both subsequent visits. The risottos: I think by now you know what I’m going to say.
(Here’s where I’ll pause to say that you should go down to the bathroom and peek in on the private chef’s table room when you’re down there, and then think about what you need to do in life to get to that room. I’m still coming up with my own plan.)
The fish dishes change a bit but again, get whatever you want. I like the halibut. The brodetto di pesce looks like they went out to some magical maritime kingdom out of the Little Mermaid and dipped a giant bowl into a shallow and organism-rich wading pool, and I say that in the best way. I don’t think I’ve had the sirloin, it’s not really why I think you’d be there, but order away if that’s your thing. And the dover sole I don’t think is included in the price fixe, but man oh man is it good. Get it simply, with a squeeze of lemon. I always get the affogato for dessert.
I like all of Michael White’s restaurants, and if you want something downtownier (read: louder, darker, and more crowded, and I mean none of these in a bad way) and just as delicious (and almost as expensive), get thee to Osteria Morini, which I might even have recommended here except that I’ve only been there once and it was for lunch. I still ate like 5 different pastas during that lunch, though, and they were all delish.
Anyway. Marea. It’s steep, but unlike many similarly steep places in New York you don’t leave feeling let down or spoken down to. You’re not crammed in elbow to elbow with rude diners. It’s not aggressively romantic, and yet I’d like someone to propose to me there. They know how to pace your meal so you won’t leave feeling sick to your stomach. If I’m going to spend lots of money on a restaurant, it’s exactly the kind of restaurant I want it to be. Even if it IS uptown.
Katie Baker is a staff writer for Grantland. She currently lives in San Francisco, which is technically south of 8th Avenue. You can follower on Twitter at @katiebakes.