Sunday, December 30, 2007

It's all Greek to me

I love Greek food, but there aren't too many options near my apartment. Last night seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a new Greek restaurant in a new neighborhood. After a little research, and remembering my old boss at NYMag mentioning their rave review in the New York Times, I decided on Snack Taverna in the West Village.

We all know New York City has countless incredible restaurants. But, in my experience, it's not often enough to go to a restaurant that gets it all right. Sometimes it's poor service, other times it's mediocre food. I've sure you've all had your fair share of "off" dining experiences. Snack Taverna has managed to avoid all of those potential problems and made for a perfect meal.

First, the location...It's located on one of those quaint West Village streets that could seriously used as a movie set. That is, if you can find it! Those diagonal, named (as opposed to numbered) streets can be a little confusing. So typical though...as I'm working my way west from 6th Avenue hoping to find the restaurant without walking in circles, two older ladies stop to ask me for directions. Good thing Miss Menu had been to the restaurant they were asking about!

But once I walked in the door, it was definitely worth the little detour. The restaurant has a great atmosphere. Greek music was playing but not in that cheesy, "smashing-plates-on-the floor" way. There were only maybe 12 tables, but it somehow doesn't seem cramped the way some small restaurants do. The waiter was really helpful, especially with being patient as I totally botched the names of the dishes I was ordering. I'm sure he was laughing with me though, right?! And it was encouraging to hear that he was actually Greek. I ordered 4 things to share, and every single dish was unbelievable.

So if you're looking for a great place to go with a date, or with a group of friends, I'd definitely recommend Snack Taverna. Great atmosphere, great service, and even greater food. All I have left to say is...Opa!

As always, some suggestions:
- Order the tzatziki. It is hands down the best I have ever had. And with fresh pita...perfection.
- Avoid the wine that mentions hints of pine. I love the way a Christmas tree smells, but I'd really rather not drink something that tastes like it!
- This may sound weird, but for a laugh and an "only in New York" moment, take a visit to the restrooms. They are literally the size of my coffee table.

Snack Taverna
63 Bedford Street
@ Morton Street
Menu Pages listing

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pigalle - c'est pas mal!

Yesterday, my old boss took a group of us out to lunch for the holidays. Earlier last week, he had asked a few of us for suggestions for restaurants. So, of course, I sent him a list of four or five choices near our office that were reasonable. It was to this email that he replied, "Ok since you're being Miss Menu, why don't you make a reservation for us? I'd try for Pigalle, sounds best to me." So, technically, I have him to thank for the original idea for this blog!

Anyway, back to the food. I mostly suggested Pigalle because I am partial to anything French. And, I had been to some of the other restaurants owned by the Tour de France restaurant group (L'Express, French Roast, Nice Matin, and others), and really enjoyed my meals at each. I also look for any opportunity to try a new French onion soup recipe (what I basically lived on when I was in Paris)!

Pigalle has a quaint bistro feel if you are able to look past two things: an overwhelming number of Christmas wreaths and accents that are not French (read Southern and Midwestern tourists). Hopefully, that will no longer be the case come January. We had a few issues with our reservation, but luckily were still seated pretty quickly.

They have a large selection of French and Belgian beers (including my favorite, but hard to find, Kronenbourg 1664), and a very creative cocktail list. Everyone really enjoyed their meals. And in case you were worrying, the French onion soup was great!

Some suggestions:
- If you have the stomach for it, they have Absinthe drinks there...usually hard to find on this side of the pond.
- Les frites (french fries) were really good, and pretty authentic
- Make sure you speak very clearly/slowly when making a reservation, as the hostess doesn't have the best English. I had made a reservation for 12:30 and she had it down as 4:30.

Pigalle
790 8th Avenue
@ 48th Street
website
Menu Pages listing

Ah, tourists...

Last night I decided to brave the mobs of tourists in Times Square for dinner. I work only an avenue away, but that one avenue makes such a difference. After throwing a few elbows and weaving my way through the crowds, I finally made it to Haru.

I'm sure many of you are aware that there are a handful of Haru locations around the city. I think I have been to almost every location, and have to say that the Times Square one is my least favorite. The reason is two-fold...a lot of tourists decide to dine there, and also the atmosphere feels a lot more cramped and a little dingier than the others. Regardless, the food was still really good. And so was the hot sake. I'm not the most adventurous sushi eater, but the rolls I ordered were very fresh.

I also went there for lunch with co-workers a while ago. It's a nice change of pace from the run-of-the-mill lunch options in Midtown, and they have great lunch specials too.

Some suggestions:
- Ask for the spicy mayo and tempura sauces on the side. Both taste great with many rolls.
- Request a table away from the door. It's really drafty and cold.
- Avoid going during the pre-theater dinner rush. It'll make for a much more pleasant experience.

Haru
205 West 43rd Street
b/t 7th & 8th Avenue
website
Menu Pages listing

Blast from the past

If you've lived in or visited NYC, you most likely have been to or heard of 2nd Avenue Deli. It's one of those iconic New York Delis...like Katz's or Carnegie. Sadly though, they were forced to close over a year ago because of an outrageous rent increase. Fortunately for all of us, they decided to re-open in a new location, and even better (at least for me), they opened in my neighborhood: good ol' Murray Hill! How can you go wrong with 2nd Avenue Deli being open 24/7 only 3 blocks away...even if it is on 3rd Avenue now?!

I went for dinner on its second day. I was prepared for a lengthy wait, but never thought it would have been as long as it was. While lined up on the sidewalk on E. 33rd St., the host came out to say that there was a private party taking up a large portion of the restaurant, and that the wait would be around an hour. Who could possibly be important enough to take over all these tables and force all of us to wait in the cold for hours? Tony Bennett...a New York icon himself. Seeing him walk in for his birthday, along with guests like Michael Stipe of REM made the wait slightly more bearable.

After 2 hours, we were finally seated, and the pickles and coleslaw quickly followed. OK, it was SO worth the wait now! I already knew what I was going to order, and could not wait for the matzah ball soup to arrive to help me thaw out. After a few more deli staples and a shot of chocolate egg cream on the house, I was definitely a happy camper.

So, a few suggestions:
- Go at off-peak hours. 2nd Ave Deli is open all day, every day, so instead of grabbing a slice at Pizza 33 at 4am, go for a pastrami on rye or a potato latke instead!
- Avoid the fried chicken skin they bring out. Despite the rule that anything fried is delicious, I am pretty sure the exception may be fried chicken skin that still has feathers on it. Yuck.
- The coleslaw they automatically bring out is vinegar-based. If you like it with more dressing, just ask. That's available too.
- The cheese blintzes (even though it's really tofu) are fantastic.

2nd Avenue Deli
162 East 33rd Street
b/t 3rd & Lexington Ave
Menu Pages listing

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Year, New Blog

This is my first time blogging, so here goes nothin'!

I'm not quite sure what I really envision for this blog, but for now, I'm excited to share with you all of my NYC restaurant experiences...both the good and the not so good. Some may say I dine out way too often, but I just think life is too short to be spent eating at home all the time when we live in one of the greatest culinary cities in the world!

I think my interest in (and sometimes disdain for) searching out great restaurants began when I was studying in Paris six years ago. Before my new friends and I learned the ins and outs of the city and its many neighborhoods, we'd often take the Metro to a popular area, and hope to stumble upon a restaurant that would make everyone happy. Between picky eaters (mainly me, but not anymore), others with food allergies, and menus in a foreign language, this almost always turned into a huge headache.

After a few months, we all realized that we needed to do a little research before meeting up for dinner. This is where my Zagat-like skills really came in handy. Now, after almost five years in New York and hundreds of meals out, these skills are even more fine-tuned...especially with the ease of menus in my native tongue, and great websites like Menu Pages and Yelp. Friends and co-workers come to me all the time for recommendations for birthday dinners, business lunches, and even dates. And now, so can you!

My goal is to write many posts on here featuring all sorts of restaurants...different neighborhoods, different ethnicities, even different atmospheres. That way, the next time you need an idea for a dinner with your parents at a French restaurant on the Upper West Side, you can log onto Miss Menu and find some great ideas!

Stay tuned for more...and Bon Appetit!!