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Clam Roll at the Sea Witch

March 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Believe the hype.  The clam roll at the Sea Witch is damn tasty.  For only $11 (which by NYC standards is a pretty good deal), you get a bun overflowing with tasty fried clams.  Add some delicious, crispy fries as a side, and you’ve got yourself a full meal.

Sea Witch Clam RollNothing pairs better with clam rolls and fries than a good rotating group of draft beers, which the Sea Witch has plenty of.  We heard from other patrons that the burger there is pretty decent.

The atmosphere is laid back — very neighborhood feel even with the nautical theme and giant aquarium.  I hope the quality of the clam roll keeps up as the area becomes more popular.  The backyard is going to be great once it gets warm enough.

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NYC To Food Trucks: Drop Dead

June 29, 2011 1 comment

If you work in midtown, you’ve witnessed them steadily rolling  into the neighborhood and aggressively staking their claim to white collar lunch dollars.  I’m talking about food trucks. Not food carts, which are a different animal entirely, but trucks, which can roll with impunity around the city, appearing at 46th and 6th one day, and in Williamsburgh that evening.  Many lavish praise on these trucks – they are “the next big thing,”  the dream career for hipsters and oppressed  lawyers and bankers alike.  People will line up around the block to buy their lunch at these places, then brag about it in their offices.  Others deride them as “hipster food trucks,” run by slackers who are making a quick buck off the back of the old school street vendors who have been breaking their back for  years to establish their clientele, only to have them stolen by some guy selling waffles off the  back of a truck.  And yet, they have kept rolling into midtown and all over the City, literally lined up on the sides of the street, dispensing waffles, dumplings, desserts, tacos, falafel and weinerschnitzel.  Even truckin’-before-it-was-cool stalwart Mr. Softee has gotten in on the action, sending a veritable fleet of trucks into midtown and offering modern crowd-pleasing flavors like “potato chip chocolate dip” cones.

As shocking as it may seem, this golden age of the food truck has now passed into history.  On May 24, New York State Supreme Court Judge Geoffrey D. Wright issued a decision re-affirming a Transportation Department regulation, decades old, which provides that “No vendor, hawker or huckster shall park a vehicle at a metered parking space” to offer “merchandise for sale from the vehicle.” And apparently, the city is now enforcing the regulation, forcing food trucks out of their metered spots, to wander the city aimlessly, uneaten weinerschnitzel growing cold in the back.  Indeed, the Police Department has officially announced its intent to enforce the law, not just in midtown but throughout the five boroughs.  The end of an era is truly over, as the food trucks languish out of the spotlight, like cretaceous dinosaurs struggling hopelessly in the tar pits that will be their tombs.

Meanwhile, in midtown, life goes on.  The line at Moishe’s Falafel Cart went around the block today, and the only sign of food trucks was some sort of pizza truck parked in front of a hydrant and frantically selling slices before New York’s finest showed up.  Business was risk at the Biryani Cart, and at Kwik Meal across the street.  I did not visit Trini-Paki Boys down the street, but they have some of the most fiercely devoted customers of any cart, so I am sure they were just fine. You see, these carts, as opposed to the trucks, have designated locations on the sidewalk and thus the law does not apply to them.  In fact, the cart owners are probably breathing a sigh of relief that their tech-and-media savvy, well-financed and mobile army of competitors has been defeated by the City.

And frankly, while the food trucks have twitter accounts, top of the line equipment, and good publicists, they are, as group, missing something that is the essence of street food: good food at good value.  Its not that you can’t get good food from a truck, often it can be good (although just as often, not).  But even if it is good, it may be overly expensive.  The fact is, there are very few trucks that deliver good food at good value.

If I have to choose between the trucks and the carts, I’ll take the carts, every time.

But for trucks fans, all is not lost.  The Parks Department has taken a keen interest in mobile foodstuffs, so NYC parks  may soon become a haven for displaced trucks.

Parents Vs. Childless In Anonymous Internet Smackdown

June 28, 2011 3 comments

A few months ago Eater posted a short blurb to the effect that Dale Levitski, AKA goofy Dale from Top Chef Season 3, will start serving brunch at his Chicago restaurant “Sprout,” with the real news being that no kids are allowed, in an otherwise kid-friendly neighborhood.  “Anyway”, observes Eater “we’re sure the stroller class is going to get up-in-arms about this.”  So, you can see where this is going. 

Flash forward to June when J. Frankfurter is aimlessly clicking around Eater and comes across this seemingly innocuous write-up.  Having two children himself, who he frequently brings to restaurants, J. Frankfurter stops to read the article.  It becomes quite clear that Eater has only bothered to report on this piece of non-news for the purpose of provoking some controversy – and indeed, the comments section has quickly devolved into a full-on flame war.

Some readers are fully supportive of this policy, and seem to have some preconceived notions about parents:

There are more brunch options in chicago than buildings in some suburbs i.e. don’t go to sprout if you have kids. That’s it! Just, don’t, go; the rest of us will have a splendid time while you’re conversing about what new-agey parenting books you just read and if you foresee patronizing a charter school, or tossing your offspring into the CPS.

Other readers seem to feel that having kids around will cramp their style

Do you know how hard it is to have a nice, quiet, brunch without your messy brats SCREECHING in my ear? It’s Sunday. I want quiet. I am hungover. I am going to talk about how hungover I am, graphically. And maybe what drugs my friends did, and who hooked up with whom. No kids, yay!

This draws a swift and decisive reaction:

I think YOU should stay home. You’re the one with the problem, not me. If I want to take my SCREECHING kids out to brunch, not only will I do that, I’ll personally seek your hungover ass out just to piss you off.

Finally, a voice  of reason chimes in:

Nice. Just, nice. What we all need is more confrontation about silly-ass things. All of you, grow up.

But it is ignored:

Why should I be allowed to have one nice, quiet, place where I can enjoy a meal with friends and not have to worry about it being ruined by obnoxious children? You chose to have kids, I chose not to. Don’t force your lifestyle choices on me. And at BRUNCH no less, in front of the EGGS.

And then things just get ugly:

By the way, those of us who /choose/ to continue the human race actually do expect a little thanks from selfish little non-breeding jerks, just like you.

And stupid:

Really? Seriously? I’ll spare you the points here about overpopulation, et. al. So you get no thanks from me for the great service you’re doing to me with your offspring.

And from there things just go downhill:

What a pompous ass. Maybe there should be restaurants where men can’t go? Women? Black people? Chinese?

Then everyone gets all insulted and offended that someone would equate this to racism and sexism, etc.  Then finally someone named “Lynette Spring Baker” chimes in with this:

To all the parents with well-behaved, respectful children who feel slighted, let’s face it: some less-than-stellar parents ruined it for you. Please place your angst where it belongs.

So, time for my rant now that we have gotten through that unpleasantness. 

First of all, I’ll just state the obvious – these people are all idiots. Second of all, I am a parent of two energetic children, ages 4 years and 21 months.  I like to go out and eat in restaurants, and I do so often, with my children.  Here’s where I stand on this issue: more power to Dale Levitski if he wants to keep children out of his restaurant. Frankly, I could care less, and the fact is, most other places are kid-friendly. 

In regard to bringing my own children to restaurants, I follow my own set of guidelines that are intended to prevent them from ruining other people’s meals.  Call it self-policing.  The way I see it, in exchange for me following these guidelines, the other patrons of a restaurant can, in return, STFU and mind their own business. 

Here are my guidelines:

1) I will not take the kids to restaurants that are clearly not kid-friendly, or that are excessively quiet/romantic.

2) I will bring along toys, games and/or art supplies to keep them busy and quiet.

3) I will keep them from running around the restaurant.

4) I will tip very generously if my kids make a big mess, or create lots of extra work for the waitstaff

5) I will remove the kids from the premises if they start screaming or causing a loud disruption

So that’s my end of the deal, and I’ll keep it.  But if you’re hung over and don’t feel comfortable sitting near two little kids, too fucking bad for you. I’ve been up since before 7am and probably had a bad nights sleep, and I could care less if I’m cramping your style.

Beauty Is In The Eye of The Beholder

June 27, 2011 2 comments

On July 23, 2011, those who have been searching for “Meatopia” all their life can find it in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  What is “Meatopia,” you might ask?  While Plato contemplated his utopia ruled by philosopher kings, Meatopia contemplates a happy hunting ground for carnivores who live within traveling distance of Brooklyn and who enjoy a hot afternoon of drinking beer amongst the unwashed masses, waiting in line and stuffing themselves with the meat and entrails of every 4-legged animal imaginable. Sounds like your idea of a good time?  Your appreciation of such an event will largely hinge on your reaction to the following:

The Meatopia 2011 Menu

Robert Newton
Seersucker
Bacon and Sorghum-Glazed Quail with Watermelon-Sweet Corn Salad

Seamus Mullen
Tertulia
Spit-Roasted Whole Sheep

April Bloomfield
The Breslin Bar & Dining Room
Barbecued Whole Mulefoot Hog

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo
Animal
Grilled Chicken Hearts with Burnt Eggplant Puree

Eddie Huang
Baohaus
“Doomtopia” Stew: Taiwanese-Style Pig Foot, Oxtail, and Beef Cheek Stew

Yuhi Fujinaka
Bar Basque
Hampshire Hog Seven Ways

Naomi Pomeroy
Beast
Braised Beef Cheeks with Sour Cherry Glaze and Rustic Summer Herb Salad

Serafim Ferdeklis
bZgrill
Cypriot-Style Pork Gyro

Aaron Sanchez
Centrico
Whole Goat Monterrey-Style Tacos with Pickled Onion

Nate Appleman
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chorizo Tostada with Tomatillo Salsa and Queso Fresco

Harold Moore
Commerce
Roasted Chicken with Foie Gras Croutons, Potato Puree, and Super Jus

Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban
Edi & The Wolf
Crispy Pig’s Head Torchon with Green Beans and Horseradish

Julia Jaksic
Employees Only
Grilled Cevapi (Croatian Sausage) with Pita, Kajmak, Onions and Tomatoes

Scott Smith
Rub
Double-Smoked Pastrami Burnt Ends

Ron Silver
Bubby’s Pie Company
Sausage and Bacon-Packed Pork Pie

RL King
Hundred Acres
Pork Rilletes, Country Pate, Tongue Salad and an Assortment of Pickles and Spreads

Orhan Yegen
Bi Lokma
Turkish-Style Lamb Breast Stuffed with Fragrant Rice

Jo Ng
RedFarm
Kowloon-Style Beef Short Rib Tart

Floyd Cardoz
North End Grill
Roast Baby Goat with Arugula and Sweet Onion Salad

Anthony Goncalves
42
Lamb Belly with Toasted Couscous, Radish, Piri Piri

Franklin Becker
Abe & Arthur’s
Grilled Kalamansi-Spiced Chicken Thighs Served with Scallion-Tomatillo Salsa

Amanda Freitag
The Food Network’s Chopped
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Thighs with Grilled Green Onion and New York Cornbread

Robbie Richter/David Shuttenberg
Big Apple BBQ/Dickson’s Farmstand Meats
“Meatopia” Sausage

Charles Grund, Jr.
Hill Country Barbecue
Texas-Style Barbecued Mangalitsa Pork Belly

Chris Hastings
Hot And Hot Fish Club
Elk shoulder Crepenettes with Olives, Clementines, Almonds and Frissee Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette

Sean Brock
Husk (Charleston, SC)
Carolina Whole Ossabaw Hog BBQ with Field Pea and Ramp Chow Chow, Cooked Over Wood Embers and Pig Bone Charcoal

Ignacio Mattos
Costillar a las Brasas: Whole Roasted Veal Ribcage and Sweetbreads with Chimichurri

Philippe Massoud
ilili Restaurant
Sumac and Zataar-Spiced Grilled Lamb Ribs with Lebanese Salad

Michael Psilakis
Kefi
Greek Lamb Offal Mixed Grill

Ludo Lefebrve
LudoBites
Korean Marinated Hanger Steak with Goat Cheese Chantilly and Cauliflower Paper

Aaron Israel
Mile End
Bahn Juif – Jewish Bahn Mi – Petcha, Ground Veal and Garlic Chopped Liver

Fred Donnelly
Mo Gridder’s World Famous BBQ
Hand-Pulled Pork with Cherry Smoked and Dry Rubbed Baby Back Ribs

Eric Johnson
Mr. Bobo’s World Famous Traveling Allstars!
Barbecue Braised Beef Ribs with Bourbon-Infused Sweet Potatoes and Cabbage

Floyd Cardoz
North End Grill
Roast Baby Goat with Arugula and Sweet Onion Salad

Michael White/Bill Dorrler
Osteria Morini
Spit-Roasted Hampshire Porchetta with Sage, Rosemary and Lemon

Brad Farmerie
Public
Black Pudding Waffles with Red Wine Poached Pears and Whipped Foie Gras Butter

Bobby Hellen
resto
Veal Belly Gyros with Grilled Radish

Adam Sappington
The Country Cat Dinner House & Bar
Crispy Pig Head Stuffed with Scrapple on a Buttermilk Biscuit with Oregon Chow Chow

Craig Koketsu
The Hurricane Club
Grilled Duck Magret with Green Papaya

Daniel Holzman
The Meatball Shop
Spicy Lamb Sloppy Joes

Sam Barbieri
Waterfront Ale House
Maple-Cured and Smoked Wild Boar Ham and Belly with Home-Made Mustard and Pickles

John Schafer
Wildwood Barbeque
Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Chipotle BBQ Sauce and Creamy Coleslaw

Shane McBride
Balthazar
Whole Smoked Hampshire Hog

Mike Price
Market Table
Nose-to-Tail Ground Veal Hoagies with Pickled Peppers

John Rivers
4 Rivers Smokehouse
Pulled Pork Shooters and Collard-Infused Cheese Grits over a Black-Eyed Pea Puree

At this point you should probably have a good idea of whether “Meatopia” would be your own personal utopia, or your own personal hell.  For those insatiable carnivores, unable to coexist peacefully with your fellow mammals, tickets can be bought here.

Summer Lunchin’

June 22, 2011 1 comment

Here at J. Frankfurter’s Place Of Business, summer is truly here with the arrival of this year’s crop of summer associates, AKA 2nd year law students who work at the firm all summer, pick up a fat paycheck and get efficiently wined and/or dined by  a sampling of lawyers at the firm.  Yes, “Summer Lunchin'” has commenced, and I am reminded of the classic song from one of America’s most beloved musicals

Summer Lunchin’ – had me a blast
Summer Lunchin’ – happened so fast
went to Nobu, ate langoustine
it was free, if you know what I mean

For summer associates, this is a chance to get out and try all those expensive restaurants that you heard were good but could never really afford.  For associates, it is a chance to get out and have a decent meal after shoveling lunch into your mouth while seated at your desk all winter.  In honor of this joyous season, I present a short field guide for summer associates who will be doing lots of summer lunchin’ over the next month or two:

1) “$50 Supp.” means $50 in addition to what the meal costs.  Best to look elsewhere

2) Learn to use chopsticks.  Alternatively, avoid splashing soy sauce all over associates with your poor chopstick skills

3) Don’t sign up for lunch at an all-sushi restaurant if you don’t eat sushi, or sign up for lunch at a steakhouse if you are opposed to eating beef.

4) Don’t insist on ordering dessert and/or coffee when it is clear that no one else at the table is doing so and it will extend the meal by 20+ minutes.

5) Don’t check your Blackberry 50 times during the meal.  It is highly unlikely that something is so pressing that you have to respond to it within minutes.

6) Sweetbreads are neither sweet nor bread

7) if you guzzle ice teas, you will spend the afternoon peeing

8)  if the associate who is taking you out picked the restaurant, keep your opinions to yourself regarding the quality of the food, the size of the portions and service.

9) lunches with partners are more likely to include wine or beer, but correspondingly the odds of awkward and uncomfortable conversations are increased

10) No matter how fancy the restaurant, the ice tea tastes pretty much the same as every other restaurant

11) Just about any 3+ course meal will put you in a food coma, even if you ordered the salad and the fish.

12) if you consider yourself a “foodie,” or something similar, find the associates who share your interests – otherwise, you will end up going to Del Frisco’s again and again.

13) your breadplate is on the left (good advice for anyone)

14) It is not okay to order only a tiny salad and just sit there the rest of the meal. You can do that at your desk, all winter long.

15) Don’t turn up your nose at restaurants that do not get rave reviews – lunch at Mars 2112 could be a lot more fun than a stuffy 3 hour lunch at a 3-star restaurant.

16) Go to the outer boroughs whenever possible.  That is where the real food is, for cheap.

17) finding a live critter in your salad just means it is especially organic and fresh, so don’t freak out about it

Queens Represent!: All’s Well At M. Wells

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Would you travel to a desolate street in Hunter’s Point, Long Island City, to eat at a diner?  I am here to suggest that you should strongly consider doing it.  There, on the corner of 49th Avenue and 21st Street, nestled between the train tracks and the toll plaza for the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, is possibly the best brunch spot in Queens.

Described as a “Quebeco-American Diner,” M. Wells was opened by Hugue Dufour, formerly of Au Pied Du Cochon in Montreal, a restaurant that has been an innovator of contemporary Quebecois cuisine and a veritable temple to foie gras.  Of course, despite its impressive credentials, M. Wells is still just a diner.  That means it looks like a traditional diner (long and thin, with pies and pastries behind glass, virtually the entire kitchen behind the counter) – but more importantly, it is priced like a diner – in fact, I would venture to say that it is less expensive than many diners in Queens (and certainly many diners in Manhattan), with dishes running from $5 up to  a few “high end” entree items at around $15 (there is currently an $18 lobster roll, still a good deal).   M. Wells currently serves brunch Sunday through Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – however, they will soon be adding dinner, and the menu will doubtless expand accordingly.  The dishes described below are all from their current brunch menu.

Here is where M. Wells is different from the typical diner: the food is excellent, made from top quality ingredients, cooked properly and satisfying.   Not to say that “typical diners” cannot turn out tasty and satisfying food, but M. Wells is clearly on another level regarding the care and skill that has gone into selecting and preparing its ingredients.  In addition, it has a small but eclectic menu that will appeal to those seeking a satisfying traditional brunch as well as those who are interested in exploring more of the Quebecois style of cooking.  One the former end of the spectrum are a massive egg and sausage breakfast sandwich served on a “fat” english muffin, a variety of spanish tortillas, as well as a cuban sandwich and, of course, a hamburger.  On the latter end of the spectrum, M. Wells offers dishes such as pickled pig’s tongue and escargot with bone marrow.

I ended up sampling some dishes from both ends of the spectrum.  A tomato salad was simple but tasty, lightly dressed with basil, parmesan and containing several varieties of in-season tomatoes.  Buckwheat crepes had an excellent flavor, but as my wife commented, they could have benefited from some fresh fruit or jam.  My favorite dishes, however, were the more  atypical offerings.  The pickled pig’s tongue (pictured below) was absolutely delicious, very lightly pickled but not briny, perfectly grilled, tender and served with mustard and homemade soda crackers.  The escargot and bone marrow (pictured above) was presented as a large split bone, filled with its marrow, escargot, a red wine sauce and, of course, butter.  Slathered on small toasts, the mixture was decadent and delicious.

Finally, for dessert I sampled a piece of maple pie.  I was a bit hesitant about this choice but I ultimately figured that Canadian cooks know their maple, and everything previously had been so well done I figured I couldn’t go wrong.  It turns out I was right – the pie was delicious – full of maple flavor but not cloyingly sweet as I had feared, and covered in a sort of clotted cream that complemented it well (below, Allegations of Deliciousness’ toughest staff critic samples the maple pie and pronounces it good).

M. Wells is literally steps away from the Hunter’s Point stop on the 7 Train, which is the second stop in Queens and about a 5 minute train ride from Midtown.  I went at 2:30 on a weekday afternoon and it was not crowded, although I imagine weekend brunch at peak times must get quite busy. It is unexpensive and thoroughly unpretentious, and well worth the (very) short trip into Queens.

Eating In and Around D.C.: Nava Thai

As with NYC, to get the good Asian food you have to voyage to the outskirts of the D.C. metro area.  The good Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. places are not likely to be found in lavish digs in the District, but rather in unassuming strip malls in Montgomery County, MD or Falls Church, VA.   Keeping this in mind,  last night I ate at Nava Thai, in Wheaton, MD, with my brother-in-law and his wife (who we will refer to as Max and Ruby), to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday.

Although I have lived in D.C. for the past year, this is the only restaurant review I have posted.  It seemed fitting, however, since today is my last day in D.C. and I will be speeding home on the Acela this evening to resume my civilian life.  It is not that I haven’t eaten in some good restaurants here, because I have (shoutouts go to the Greek Deli on 19th St) – but I have never worked up sufficient motivation to post about them, particularly since (it is my impression that) the majority of our regular readers are NYC-based.  However, they will have to humor me on this one:

Nava Thai is located in a mini-strip of Asian restaurants and businesses just off of Georgia Avenue, near the Wheaton Metro station.   It is not a “hole-in-the-wall” type place, but rather clean and fairly spacious.  Tonight they were featuring musical entertainment, a Thai performer who sang and strummed proficiently through (English) versions of songs like “Moondance,” “Hotel California,” “Piano Man,” (with harmonica) and, interestingly, “My Funny Valentine.”  Max and Ruby became big fans of this guy during the course of the evening and Max was heard to remark that he intended to hire him out for a party.

On to the food:  To start with, we ordered Twice-Cooked Duck Salad, Larb Gai and some steamed dumplings.  The Duck Salad was tart and favorful, sort of “sweet and sour” without being cloyingly sweet, with big juicy pieces of fried duck.  The Larb was spicy (Ruby deemed it too spicy), with a hefty dose of ground toasted rice to give it some character, and a good balance of the classic thai flavors. The dumplings were robust and filled with an assortment of creatures – no veggie dumplings here!

On to the second course.  Based on my snooping around the internet, I learned that the dish to order here, apparently, is the “Floating Market Soup.”  So we ordered that, along with Crispy Duck Kaprow and Drunken Noodles (also both recommended). Fortunately, these recommendations did not disappoint.  The Floating Market Soup is a noodle soup in a spicy reddish broth, with three kinds of pork – sliced pork, pork meatballs and pork rinds.   The broth is notoriously spicy, and gets even more so as you progress to the bottom of the bowl, where all the chili pieces have sunk.  The broth is also delicious, slightly sweet and tart and with a flavor that we couldn’t quite place.  Later, I learned on the internet that the secret ingredient is pig’s blood.

Next up: Crispy Duck Kaprow.  I wouldn’t call the duck crispy per se, at least not Colonel Sanders crispy – but it was tender, not too fatty and smothered in a pile of thai basil.  Also, it came with rice and was not particularly spicy so it made a nice contrast to the fiery soup.

Finally, the Drunken Noodles.  We ordered these with vegetables and tofu and they were delicious, easily some of the best drunken noodles I have eaten. The dish came chock full of a variety of grilled veggies, as well as giant pieces of tofu which were also “drunken,” i.e. steeped in the same sauce as the noodles.  Here, there was an equal ration of noodles to other ingredients, unlike other versions I have eaten where you get a giant pile of flabby brown noodles with a few specks of meat or vegetables.

In short, everyone left satisfied.  Max, a fan of all that is spicy, seemed satisfied with the level of heat that the meal had delivered.   Our thai waiter confessed to us that he can’t handle the spiciness unless it is mild, which I thought was honest of him – I had assumed that the staff were secretly amused when we constantly blew our noses and reached for our water.  As far as your humble J. Frankfurter was concerned, the meal confirmed my opinion that Nava Thai is capable of holding its own when compared to NYC’s better thai places.  For those D.C. residents who love thai food, it is probably well worth the trip up to Wheaton to try it out.

So long, D.C.!