Eat uP, Drink uP: Take a walk down Washington Street

14 07 2010

I’m very fortunate to have an incredibly scenic commute to work. Every day I walk up Washington Street, from Christopher to 14th (where I work) and back again, and marvel at how many great bars and restaurants are along this 10-block west side street. As a matter of fact, you can do your own little “pub crawl” without ever stepping off Washington Street.

Begin your descent at 14th Street, and walk one block down to the corner of 13th and Washington. Here you will find one of the original Meatpacking biker bars: Hogs and Heifers (859 Washington Street), aka the “Coyote Ugly” bar. This is basically a disgusting dive bar but hey, beer is beer, right? Plus, it’s always a hoot to see tourists bring their kids here: “Look, Johnny! There are SLUTS dancing on the bar!”

The Biergarten at the Standard: You'll never see it this empty again

Cross the street and you’ll find The Standard Grill (848 Washington Street) and their outdoor Biergarten, serving up beer, German-style snacks and boozed up chicks in 5″ heels. Get there early because it gets packed and it gets loud.

If the scene at the Standard isn’t for you, cross back over Washington and grab some thai food at SEA (835 Washington Street). There’s outside seating with a great view of the High Line and the drunken hooligans at the Biergarten.

Food is served here. Really.

In the mood for diner food, or doing an AM walk down Washington? Grab a breakfast wrap at Hector’s Café (Corner of Little West 12th & Washington Street). It looks like the shadiest diner in the world but it’s inexpensive and delicious. I recommend the Florentine wrap.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more upscale and Italian, Barbuto (775 Washington Street) is a fabulous place with great ambiance. With outdoor seating, daily menus and brunch on the weekends, you can’t go wrong here.

Barbuto. But look out the window: it's Tortilla Flats!

Now if it’s cheap, not really authentic but still delicious Mexican you’re craving, you’re in luck! Everyone’s favorite west side drunkery, Tortilla Flats (767 Washington Street) is just across West 12th Street.  If you’re not in the mood to have your memory erased by a barrage of tequila and bingo, not a problem. There’s a new wine bar next door called Entwine (765 Washington Street) that has an outside garden, wine tasting downstairs and a more loungey, sophisticated vibe.

On the corner of Bank and Washington Streets you’ll find the best happy hour deal on the west side at Automatic Slim’s (733 Washington Street): $3 draft beer, $4 wine. It can get crowded and loud here but there’s always good music and funny bartenders. Oh, and cheap booze.

Continue your trek to The Upholstery Store (713 Washington Street), one of my absolute favorite places in the city to get wine and a snack. From the outside it appears to be a home furnishings store (hence the name) but what’s inside is an intimate space filled with friendly bartendresses, overpriced pretzels and a lovely wine selection.

Last but not least, before hopping onto the PATH train back to the Jerz, we stumble upon Malatesta Vino & Cucina (649 Washington Street), a terrific little Italian restaurant on the corner of Washington and Christopher Streets. There’s plenty to see on Christopher Street so this is perfect even if you just want to sit outside, have a carafe of Chianti and take in the sights.

Happy west side eating and drinking!


Eat uP: The Crooked Knife

15 05 2010

Sometimes it’s plain old annoying trying to go out in the Meatpacking District. Take for example this past Cinco de Mayo. A few coworkers and I wanted a simple margarita, guac and chips optional. We headed over to one of our favorite neighborhood Mexican joints to find an around-the-corner line of drunk people in plastic Coors Light Cinco de Mayo hats and an hour-long wait for a table. Next place, same situation with double the frat boys and double the wait. Disgusted, we took off for the PATH train only to stumble upon the best new bar/restaurant 14th Street has seen in YEARS: The Crooked Knife.

We got our margarita fix that night but in the times we’ve been back, we’ve opted for wine (none of which is more than $9 a glass and it’s not Franzia). The pours are healthy, the bartenders are hilarious and the manager couldn’t be more accommodating.

Foodwise, The Crooked Knife does not disappoint. It’s standard American fare, reasonably priced, creatively prepared and above all else, delicious. Our favorite dishes have been the Shrimp Scampi appetizer, Fish and Chips, Calamari Salad and Scallops but from what we’ve seen at other tables, the dishes all look wonderfully well thought out. As an added bonus, the homemade bread is a tasty addition to the meal.

The Crooked Knife will hopefully become a beloved neighborhood joint and not an overpriced tourist trap like so many of the other places orbiting 14th street. We’ve only been there three times but we’re already in love.

The Crooked Knife

232 West 14th Street (between 7th and 8th)

New York, NY 10011

Eat uP: Cafe Gitane at the Jane Hotel

29 01 2010

As I’ve said many times before, I have a love-hate relationship with the Meatpacking District restaurants.  I generally find them to be overpriced, Eurotrash pre-game hangouts or crowded mid-week sausage fests, and  I tend to take my culinary business elsewhere. But last week my friend Scott and I went to Cafe Gitane at the Jane Hotel on a recommendation from a neighborhood client and renewed our love for eating on the far west side.

Some may already be familiar with the Cafe Gitane in Nolita–delicious, affordable French-Moroccan cuisine, steps away from SoHo shopping and usually packed to the gills with weary travelers.  The west side location boasts a similar (if not identical) menu and Parisian-chic vibe, but as you enter the somewhat creepy Jane Hotel and walk into the gorgeous cafe space to the left of the lobby, you feel as if you’ve discovered something incredibly special that nobody but the neighbors know about.

Food ranges from breakfast to salads/sandwiches to the house specialty cous cous (vegetarian and meaty, both) with prices pretty much under $15. The wine is completely affordable with most glasses under $10 and they are not chintzy with the pours. Specialty cocktails are also available as well as a wide range of teas, so nobody feels left out.

Reservations are not required…yet.  But I have a feeling that once the word gets out that could change.

Front area of Cafe Gitane. Yes, that IS a Foosball table.

Cafe Gitane @ The Jane Hotel

113 Jane Street

New York, NY 10014


Eat uP: Favorite Meatpacking Dining Spots

31 10 2009


The Meatpacking District is a tricky beast: so trendy you want to hate it but so bare boned you want to love and reminisce about the early 90’s Meatpacking–chock full of bad kids, tranny hookers and meatpacking factories; where the coolest (and only) bars were Hogs and Heifers (still there) and Hell (sadly, not).

I started my career in the Meatpacking District and continue to work there today and I love everything about it except the prices, which in some cases are completely justified and in others, completely not.  Clients ask me all the time about the best dining spots and I’ve compiled a list of my faves.  While they may not be Zagat top rated or Time Out trendy, they are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of tastes.

Bonsignour (35 Jane Street @ 8th Avenue)- Perhaps a bit more West Village than Meatpacking, this small café offers the freshest, most interesting lunch at the most reasonable price. Offering everything from curry chicken salad to jambon et beurre (ham and butter) sandwiches on a delicious baguette, Bonsignour caters to many tastes and budgets. While it’s primarily a takeout place, it does offer limited seating (3 tables). Recommended: timbales, paninis, curry chicken salad, cous cous salad.  Price Range: Under $20. Alcohol: No. Reservations: Not needed.

S’nice (45 8th Ave @ West 4th St)- Do you know how hard it is to plan a meal that includes meat eaters, a vegetarian and two vegans and ensure that everyone is happy with their lunch? Incredibly! Until I found S’nice, which is one of the best vegetarian places in New York, satisfying even the pickiest of meat eaters and vegans alike. Recommended: sesame chicken wrap (aka Thai “chicken” wrap), triple-decker tofu club, quinoa salad. Price Range- Under $20. Alcohol: No. Reservations: Not needed.

Zampa (306 West 13th St)- Zampa took over our beloved Costantino, which made some of the best salads in New York, so we were immediately skeptical, but three years later, it proves to be a Meatpacking staple for both lunch and dinner, offering the freshest salads and sandwiches, charcuterie and cheese plates, and specialty plates. The wine list is impressive and the coffee is always fresh. Recommended: salmon and lentil plate, chicken and avocado sandwich. Price Range: Under $30. Alcohol: Beer and Wine only. Reservations: No.

Standard Grill (848 Washington St @ West 13th)- God, I wanted to hate the Standard Grill, I really did.  It’s super trendy, super hyped and somewhat annoying but it’s so damn delicious. Situated on the Washington Street side of the Standard Hotel, the Grill offers a reasonable and delicious wine list, scrumptious parmesan and radishes served at every table and the most incredible roast chicken I’ve had in years. The desserts are also not to be missed, in particular the cheesecake with seasonal fruit.  Recommended: oysters, Million Dollar Chicken, cheesecake, white burgundy. Price range: approx $150 for 2. Alcohol: Full bar. Reservations: Recommended.

Fig and Olive (420 West 13th bet 9th and Washington)- I’m not going to lie, they are kind of bitchy and uptight at Fig and Olive, but I love going for wine and crostini. If you can put up with major attitude and a staff that thinks they’re God’s gift to the west side, Fig and Olive definitely offers tapas with a flair. Pretend you’re important, order small plates at the bar and don’t expect your wine glass filled very often. If you’re in for uninterrupted conversation, staring at good looking people and lite fare, this is definitely the place. Recommended: crostini, wine, specialty drinks. Alcohol: Full bar. Price range: $50 for 2. Reservations: Not needed at the bar. Recommended for dinner.

Fatty Crab (643 Hudson Street )- Fatty Crab looks like a total dive from the outside but offers some of the best Southeast Asian food in the city.  I don’t love the wine list, but the short ribs are to die for and the pork buns are the closest I’ve come to Momofuku. Recommended: short ribs, pork buns, watermelon salad. Price Range: Approx $30 per person. Alcohol: Beer and Wine. Reservations: No.

Craftsteak (West 10th @15th Street)- I am a huge fan of Tom Colicchio and his Craft empire, so it’s interesting that I’ve waited until tonight to try out Craftsteak. While it lacks some of the charm and sophistication of Craft and Craftbar, Craftsteak offers front room dining without reservations at half price with their Halfsteak menu. Although I’d recommend skipping the $9 and $10 wine lists and opting instead for a $48 bottle of Languedoc, the half menu is pretty solid and far less formal. Recommended: chicken wings, half steak with fries, lavender-infused Prosecco, pumpkin cheesecake. Price Range: Approximately $120 for 2 with alcohol. Alcohol: Full Bar. Reservations: Not at Front. Recommended for Dinner.

Del Posto (85 10th Avenue)- The crème de la crème of the Meatpacking District, Del Posto is a throwback to old school glamour. Pricey, dressy and completely delicious, Del Posto is not a place to cut corners but to order a little bit of everything. Pastas are hand made and in my opinion trump the secondi menu; the wine list is extensive. Recommended: pastas, lobster salad. Price Range: $25-30 main courses. Alcohol: Full Bar. Reservations: Recommended.

Ara Wine Bar (24 9th Avenue)- Although not technically a restaurant, Ara is one of my favorite places to grab a drink and a few bites after work. The food is limited to cheese plates, charcuterie and tandoori pizza, but the wine selection and ambiance are first rate. Go to the back for ultimate relaxation. Recommended: tandoori pizza, mediterranean plate. Price Range: $8-15 wines/food. Alcohol: Full Bar. Reservations: Not necessary.

Let’s face it, there are hundreds of places to hit in the Meatpacking District, but why deal with places that are overpriced, overhyped and underwhelming when you don’t have to? Happy Dining!