Prior to our New York trip I took food planning to a new level. Inside the depths of my iPhone were each district of the city, marked out with places to eat for each budget and every plausible occasion. Want somewhere to eat on the cheap in Little Italy? I have it covered. Breakfast in Mid Town? I’m your man. Except I’m not. Even the best made plans go to waste. It transpires that not everyone wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at 10am, or that even I care where we eat after drinking all day. After already posting on our experiences at Gramercy Tavern and Momofuku Noodle Bar, here is a snapshot of the rest of our eating in the Big Apple.
I have been dreaming about Dos Toros ever since we came back. I don’t care that it is a chain – for me they have the perfect business model. It’s fairly priced, they have real ethics about meat sourcing, and, most importantly, a product that works. The burritos are absolutely the best I have ever had and make the UK’s efforts look pathetic in comparison. The braised meat (we tried both the pork and the chicken), the guacamole, the black beans, even the bloody tortilla. Even single element was handmade and delicious. Add a hot sauce with enough raw heat to induce tears and beer which is almost as cheap as water and you have one of my favourite places in the world.
This can not be said about a couple of other places. We ended up at The Sugar Factory on the recommendation of a server in a bar whilst on the hunt for Americana in The Meat Packing district. I can only assume she hated the Brits. Its the stuff of nightmares; TGI Fridays seen through the eyes of Heat magazine. The walls are plastered with pictures of awful celebrities whist awful staff serve awful food. I never took photos as I was too busy looking in disbelief at the dead fly on the rim of my cocktail glass. The scariest part was not the bone dry chicken, or the heart attack inflicting deep fried mac and cheese, but that the place was full.
The Jintan ended up our default diner when the queue at Momofuku Noodle Bar defeated us first time around. In premise, its a great neighbourhood Japanese restaurant; low stools, dim lighting, a big sake list and a menu with some things in soup, some raw things, and other things battered and deep fried. The reality is it wasn’t very good, with vegetable tempura that bordered on raw and a notably bad chicken katsu curry, which tasted a bit like my mothers stew did, only not as nice. Add staff who were up there with some of the rudest I am yet to encounter and you have somewhere with no real redeeming feature other than it serving ramen across the road from somewhere where people may get fed up of queuing at for ramen.
That same evening we had a table booked at PDT, an achingly cool speak-easy through the phone box at Crif Dogs in the East Village. Still hungry and getting drunker by the minute, I try a hotdog wrapped in bacon and loaded with kimchi spicy enough to make you question your choice the following day. It was good, but then I live within walking distance of Chilli Dog Hotdogs, so perhaps I’m spoilt when it comes to sausages in a bun.
We finish our trip with an eating challenge at The Pullman Kitchen because my friend Phil and I would rather eat 5lbs of food than walk around Bloomingdales handbag shopping all day. The Beast of Midtown East is just that; some deep-fried chicken, waffles, cheese, peppers, bacon, ham and the kitchen sink. Did we finish it? Of course not. But we had a great time trying, partially because the girl behind the bar exhuded the sort of charismatic service that we had stupidly hoped was standard in NYC, and partially because the sandwich was very nice. It would make a great lunch for 2-3 people, but for one it was just daft. The Pullman Kitchen is a lovely neighbourhood bar-restaurant, which just happens to house a stupendous sandwich. Here is Phil with The Beast of the Midtown East:
So, a mixed bag in this grand city, with unsurprisingly the researched places coming out better than those left to chance. Not that this is a shock; look to any major city with a large foot-flow of tourists and you’ll have to search hard for the good ‘uns amongst those looking to make a fast buck from a good location. But none of this has detracted from New York – its one of the finest places in the world. It will take more than one or two dodgy meals to stop me going back.
Dos Toros 8/10
Sugar Factory 0/10
The Jintan NYC 3/10
The Pullman Kitchen 8/10