Solo Dining at the Bar

March 26, 2017 § Leave a comment

I’m a huge fan of solo bar dining when I get a lazy and quiet Saturday or Sunday. Some people are tentative about dining alone but it can be really enjoyable to take some time to oneself with a good book or even your phone. Usually, I try to go to a restaurant during off hours, around 3pm (assuming the restaurant remains open between lunch and dinner service), so I can take up my little slice of the bar and chat with the bartender or other patrons without having to yell. Below are some places I’ve gone to recently where I really enjoyed my experience:

Via Carota: Spicy shrimp pomodoro atop a super flavorful, slightly cheesy polenta. I also always start with the fried olives wrapped in pork sausage…the perfect bar food.

Aquagrill: Oysters and littlenecks with house cocktail sauce, horseradish and mignonette. This place has been open for 20+ years and tends to get pretty packed during prime lunch, brunch and dinner hours but around 3pm, you can usually snag a seat. My usual approach is ordering 6 west coast and 6 east oysters – I leave the particular details to the awesome shuckers – and then some sparkling white wine and maybe french fries on the side.

Union Square Cafe 2.0: The new space is gorgeous and definitely evocative of the original. Service was, as expected, incredibly friendly, and I really enjoyed my spontaneous lunch here when I took a day off. There’s a small bar on one of the upper levels as well so will definitely want to go back and get a seat there next time.

Fried calamari with peppers and anchovy mayonnaise

Rainbow trout with roe, rye, leafy greens, buttermilk and fingerling potatoes

Babbo: I came here for an early dinner after skipping lunch. Vibe at the bar is super casual and low-key even though the food is a bit more high end than Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s more casual places in the neighborhood like Lupa and OTTO. Here, a fantastic roasted butternut squash with goat cheese and black truffle honey that was the right balance of sweet and savory.

Chianti-stained pappardelle with wild boar ragu. Excellent for the early cold evening.

Augustine: There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this place (it’s Keith McNally’s most recent restaurant) but have to say the food and the ambiance lived up to expectations. It really does feel like you’re in an old school Parisian bistro (also…the way to the bathroom takes you through the incredibly beautiful Beekman Hotel lobby that’s perfect Instagram fodder) and my cheese souffle with cave-aged gruyere and parmesan and horseradish fondue was absolutely insane. Rich and cloud light at the same time.

I also ordered the sea urchin spaghettini with king crab and pickled jalapenos with my main and they did not skimp on the ingredients. So damned good, and at 3:30p on a Wednesday, so quiet compared to what I’m sure is a madhouse on a Friday night!

The lobby inside the Beekman Hotel

Finally, the NoMad Hotel: Excellent cocktails and a sandwich version of their famous roasted chicken dish, with black truffle and foie gras on brioche and a side salad (because I guess you need some green every once in a while). The cocktail was called the Start Me Up, a super tasty concoction of bourbon, rum, strega, honey, ginger, lemon bitters. A great Saturday afternoon.

So even if you’re tentative about dining alone at the bar, I really do think it’s one of the most relaxing and stress-releasing things you can do for yourself. It’s probably easiest to go to a restaurant you’re already familiar with so you feel comfortable and just remember to bring a good book (or your iPad) and open yourself up to conversation with the bartenders or other customers. Sometimes you meeting really fascinating people!

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Misc. Eats

June 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

Remembering when I still had it easy at work and weekends were free…just need to make it through June 30. Here – a lazy Sunday lunch at the Via Carota bar, starting with fried green olives with pork sausage and a superb negroni

A huge, hands-only kamayan feast featuring banana ketchup ribs, longanisa sausage, whole head-on shrimp, braised lamb, etc. at Filipino gastropub, Jeepney, in East Village with Cahill friends. Total gut bomb.

The Macho Man sandwich from a new favorite, Court Street Grocers – heritage pork shoulder, cabot cheddar, coleslaw, pickled jalapenos and duck sauce on garlic bread. Between this, the Delight and the Cubano, I can order from here about 4 times a week. So dangerous.

Dinner with Artemis at Mario Batali’s new restaurant, La Sirena, in the Meatpacking District. Bucatini with braised octopus in spicy pomodoro sauce and then ravioli all’amatriciana with spring onion butter…quite tasty but wasn’t crazy about the atmosphere, the service or the scene

Lunch at Legend near Washington Square Park with the family. We ordered our usual dishes – spicy lamb with cumin, spicy beef tendon with chili vinaigrette and a seriously delicious whole braised fish with spicy bean sauce – and went for a really long walk afterwards to recover

Sunday night shellfish bake at North End Grill – half a Maine lobster, head-on prawns, clams, new potatoes and corn in an addictive garlic butter and then sweet gem lettuce and blue cheese dressing on the side. Not pictured: duck fat fries and a lot of white wine.

The famous, substantial duck carnitas at Cosme…’nuff said.

Late night eats at Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken…my ultimate weakness.

Eats around town

January 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

A delicious brunch with Bohee at Claudette, right by Washington Square Park, consisting of their chicken liver mousse with soft, squishy pain Tunisien and a super juicy lamb burger

Another solo visit to Via Carota in the middle of a day of errands. The bartender highly recommended the lemon grilled chicken and though it didn’t sound particularly thrilling on the menu, I was impressed (and it’s so cute!)

Craftbar with co-workers – delicious burrata, kale (meh) and winter squash salad, duck hearts and dumplings and of course, the oozy pecorino fonduta, my favorite item on the menu

Lunch at old reliable, Charlie Bird – diver scallops with brown butter and Sicilian lemon and mezze paccherie with suckling pig and saffron ragu (and their addictive house-made chili oil). I should probably start trying more new places but am a huge creature of habit.

Out and about

October 11, 2015 § Leave a comment

Family dim sum at Chinatown classic, Jing Fong:

Drinks at Dead Rabbit right by the office:

More dim sum, this time while working from home and ordered from Nom Wah:

A lunch of white wine and fresh, grilled seafood at Via Carota before my trip to Croatia:

Square pizza at Harry’s Italian as my first meal back in the U.S. after Yacht Week:

Simple summer meal at home with tomatoes and basil from the Union Square Greenmarket, Murray’s Cheese ricotta and Blue Ribbon country bread:

Late-night drunken eats at Crif Dogs on St. Mark’s:

Ordering in Xi’an Famous Foods for Laura’s birthday meal:

The #1 at Black Seed Bagels in Nolita (so good):

Via Carota in Late Summer

September 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

From an impromptu dinner at the Via Carota bar sometime in late summer:

Juicy, fresh heirloom tomatoes with bottarga and scallions; thinly sliced beef carpaccio with porcini mushrooms, sharp parmesan and black truffles

Garlic scapes with grilled polenta and pancetta, something that would be equally great for breakfast (maybe with the addition of a fried egg)

Two classics – the fried rabbit with rosemary and garlic and the pappardelle with wild boar ragu, a killer pasta dish

Beautifully set panna cotta with olive oil, sea salt and macerated sour cherries – a perfect dessert with great texture and not too much sugar

Our view from the beautiful bar

 

Recently…

December 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Xi’an Famous Foods hand pulled noodles with pork for the 25th birthday, thanks to sister Laura (in Chinese culture, noodles symbolize a long and prosperous life when you eat them on your birthday)…

Another hearty dinner at Via Carota with Cindy, including a cheesy cauliflower gratin and a ridiculously large slab of pork belly with almost candy-like cipollini onions…

Cauliflower gratin and brussels sprouts with parmesan

Fried rabbit, Berkshire pork belly with cipollini onions and pappardelle with wild boar ragu

Willamette Valley pinot noir and Bluepoint oysters with a college friend at 8th Street Wine Cellar right by Washington Square Park…always so nice to catch up over some vino…

Belated birthday dinner at Do Hwa, an old favorite in the West Village for Korean food, with my sisters. We always order the same thing here – the salmon sashimi and avocado salad, seafood pancake and the spicy pork BBQ ssam…

Escaping the office for an impromptu pasta-filled dinner at Andrew Carmellini’s Bar Primi in the East Village…

roasted beets gorgonzola, walnut, frisee and truffled mushroom crostino

octopus alla griglia patate, red hots, oregano

bucatini lamb amatriciana; short rib raviolini tomato sauce, basil; fiore di carciofi smoked bacon, pecorino

Late night drinks and steak tartare with roasted tomato mayonnaise at Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar

Via Carota

November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

A first look at the new West Village, Italian-French bistro-esque eatery by Jody Williams of Buvette and Rita Sodi of I Sodi. The new place is definitely much roomier than Buvette, except they crammed as many tables into the space as they possibly could, and though the fluorescent lighting is a bit strange, the food, friendly and attentive service and casual, neighborhood atmosphere more than make up for it. We started with a bottle of reasonably priced, toasty and surprisingly, slightly funky, Montepulciano, the black kale + pork sausage (always good to get some roughage) and winter vegetable lasagna, which tasted like a delicious cross between a potato gratin and a lasagna and really hit the spot for a cooler night.

Black kale with pork sausage and winter vegetable lasagna

On the mains, we’d already heard great things about the chopped steak, or svizzerina, which Grub Street described as a bunless burger, but it seemed to both of us to be more like a beautifully seared beef tartare, basted in softened garlic (which you can also rub all over the grilled bread that comes to the table), rosemary and olive oil. Pure, unadulterated beef flavor and definitely straight up rare on the inside (as a warning to those who are a bit on the squeamish side). My mussels over grilled bread were just this side of over-salted but again, exactly what I was craving from the brisk weather. Comforting, saucy and a great balance of sweet and acid over lovely charred crusty bread. It was also refreshing to see that the entrees were decent sized portions and from what I remember of the menu, all under $20 (more in the $15-$16 range). I will definitely be going back to sample more of the pastas, vegetable dishes and a fried rabbit that looks ridiculously tasty.

Mussels with tomato, oregano and grilled bread; chopped steak and a bottle of Montepulciano

There’s no website for Via Carota (53 Grove Street between Bleecker and 7th Avenue) just yet and they don’t take reservations, but if you happen to be walking around the West Village on a cold winter night, it’s a great place to stop by, sit at the bar, order a couple dishes and just dig in.

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