Monday, August 24, 2009

Take a Chance and Roll Los Dados

To round out a great run of restaurants during DB's visit, we decided to try a Mexican restaurant neither of us had been to before. Los Dados has been open for a few years in the Meat Packing district, and does a great job of combining the best of both worlds. It has the trendy vibe that is necessary to survive in that neighborhood, and has authentic Mexican home cooking to make people come back for more than just the bar scene. Los Dados's corner location allows it to have ample outdoor seating. A new added bonus starting a few months ago is a view of the Highline!

We were seated outside a few minutes after our reservation time. Without a second thought, we ordered guacamole to start. I also decided to order a glass of sangria, and DB went with a margarita. The chips and salsa came out right away, and I have to say, these were seriously the best tortilla chips I have ever had. They were made out the tortillas that are used in many of the entrees, and while they were crunchy, they somehow held on to a little chewiness...and it was fantastic. The salsa was a little bit sweet, but still packed plenty of heat. And as soon as the guacamole arrived, we went ahead and asked for more chips!

I decided to go with the tacos de pollo for my entree, which consisted of three small chicken tacos with a variety of toppings and sauces. One came with an avocado creme, another with pipian (which I learned was made of pumpkin seeds...very nutty), and the third was a chile mecco sauce. All were very delicious, and with the exception of the avocado, were flavors I hadn't tasted before. The chile mecco was insanely spicy (like lip-numbing spicy), but it tasted great. No pain, no gain though, right?!While side dishes were served a la carte, my entree came with a small side of refried beans, topped with queso fresco and diced tomatoes.

DB ordered the Tacos Al Pastor, which was roasted pork served with a charred jalapeno and pineapple salsa. He said the meat was very tender, and the sweet/heat combo of the salsa was great.

We decided to order a side of corn on the cob, which has lately been one of my favorite things on Mexican restaurant menus. The corn was grilled, and then topped with cayenne pepper and cojita cheese. It was a little tricky to share, but it was definitely enough for us both to get a taste. The cojita cheese was so good that I scooped up the remnants with a tortilla chip at the end!

The prices at Los Dados are a little steep for Mexican food, with both of our tacos coming in at $17 each. But, the vibe of the restaurant and neighborhood (especially its location across from a Highline entrance), as well as the food and drinks, makes for a really fun night out. I learned that Los Dados means "dice" in Spanish, and after rolling the dice that night, we definitely came up a winner!

Los Dados
73 Ganservoort Street
@ Washington Street
Menu Pages listing

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

5 Napkins and 2 Thumbs Up

DB and I wanted to grab dinner before going to a show at BB King's, but knew we wanted to avoid eating in Times Square like the plague. So, we knew that our best bet was to head over to 9th Avenue. I kept hearing great things about 5 Napkin Burger, and even recommended it to DB's mom when she was visiting a few weeks earlier. So, now it was time to check it out for ourselves.

We were planning on a late dinner, and didn't think we'd need a reservation, but decided to make one for the OpenTable points anyway! When we arrived to the restaurant, it quickly became clear that was a very good move. There was a 45 minute wait at 9:30pm for a party of 2.

We noticed there were two empty tables right near the door and hostess stand, and I kept saying how bummed I'd be if we were seated there. Apparently the managers and hostess knew other customers felt the same way, and did not seat anyone there all night...maybe any night! Luckily, we were seated after only 5 minutes at a table in the middle of the restaurant.

The owners of 5 Napkin Burger created a very cool atmosphere inside. The walls and floors are covered with black and white tile. And, meat hooks and exposed light bulbs dangle from tracks that line the ceiling.

I glanced over the menu, and definitely did a double-take when I saw a few non burger joint items listed like matzah ball soup, sushi maki rolls, and charred salmon. Interesting. I may not eat red meat, but I knew I was definitely going to order a burger of some sort! We started off with the stack of cornmeal crusted onion rings.
DB was a big fan......and so was I!

I decided to order Italian turkey burger, topped with melted mozzarella, spicy tomato sauce, and vinegar peppers. Usually turkey burgers are pretty average, but with these toppings and plenty of seasoning in the ground turkey, this one impressed me with its great flavor. The burgers come with a large side of delicious fries too. Onion rings AND french fries? Check!

DB considered ordering the lamb kofta burger, but ended up getting the cheddar-bacon burger...10oz of fresh ground chuck, with sharp cheddar, bacon, raw onion, lettuce, and tomato. He really liked the burger a lot, and said it was cooked well and full of flavor.

We both really enjoyed our meal and would definitely go back. The waitress was very friendly and helpful. My only complaint would be that apparently tourists have discovered this great restaurant...contributing to the long wait. But, just remember: make a reservation (even as you're walking out the door) and you'll be good to go!

5 Napkin Burger
630 9th Avenue
@ 45th Street
Menu Pages listing

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Grabbing Grub at Grimaldi's

Whenever I have a visitor in town, there's always one activity that I love doing with them: explore Brooklyn Heights, walk the promenade, eat at Grimaldi's, and then burn off the pizza by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan. Even though I've done that tour at least 10 times, I still always enjoy it.

Even though DB lived in NYC for a few years, he never made it across the BK Bridge or to Grimaldi's. So, when he came to visit a few weeks ago, we definitely to put that on our to do list. I left work early on a Friday, we hopped on the subway, and headed to Brooklyn.

A few things you should know about Grimaldi's:
  • It is a total tourist spot, complete with dozens of foreign languages, double-decker buses, and guide books
  • There will be a line down the block no matter what day of the week you go or what time it is
  • You'll be squeezed into a table on top of the people next to you
  • There is a waiter, but there is no service - rush you in, rush you out
  • The pizza is DAMN good, and worth all of the above
We ordered a plain, large pizza because it's Italian-style with small slices, and because I think it's great even without toppings. Don't get me wrong, toppings on pizza are great, but I think Grimaldi's plain pies are perfect just the way they are!

The pizzas are made in a coal brick-oven that gives them a great smokey flavor and a crisp crust. The tomato sauce is a little sweet and a little tangy, the slices of fresh mozzarella are so much better than shredded, and the basil adds such a great flavor.
We walked over to the water before heading to the bridge path. Always such a great view...and made for a fantastic afternoon and start to his visit!
Grimaldi's Pizzeria
19 Old Fulton Street
b/t Front Street & Water Street
Under the Brooklyn Bridge
Menu Pages