A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity along with my friends to check out Ethos, a new restaurant in the East Village. We arrived to find the front sidewalk carpeted in pastel rose petals, balloons, and a smiling hostess greeting us at the door. I quickly realized as we walked into the space that I had been there before to dine at the prior establishment. The space had been brightened, from the open and exposed kitchen to the fabulous enclosed patio space and garden at the rear of the restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

Currently the space in the back features a garden which supplies the produce for the restaurant. The very warm owner was on hand to take us on a tour through the space, including a downstairs spot perfect for accommodating large groups. There’s even a separate bar on hand to complete the event. Having been in a few other East Village locations with basements, I was impressed how warm the space felt. This will be a great addition to restaurant.

Ethos, East Village

While the menu has some heavier options mixed in, it’s very much a place focused on small plates, perfect for sharing with a group of your closest friends (though works equally well for a first date!). You can choose your preference amongst the open bar area you walk through when you first enter the restaurant, the main dining room, or the enclosed patio.

Ethos, East Village

We started the meal with an assortment of appetizers, including the mandatory spreads ranging from tsatziki to hummus, to baba ghanoush. Not typically all that fond of tsatziki, I was surprised to find just how fabulous their rendition is. You could taste all of the layers of it, making it a cool contrast of an addition to their fresh warm pita. Their hummus was nice and smokey and the baba ghanoush was the best I have ever tried. Definitely recommend this assortment for sharing among friends.

Ethos, East Village

Another starter we tried was the baby octopus with mixed organic greens, vine ripened tomatoes and grilled peppers, which was served with a lemon and olive dressing. This clean fresh meal tasted like summer on a plate, complete with tomatoes from their on-premises garden. Their grilled octopus had that nice touch of char stopping just shy of overly crunchy. Perfect. For something with great flavor and a bit of flourish (hello, table-side ouzo-soaked flambé), don’t miss their Saganaki Kefalotiri. Imported greek kefalotyri cheese pan seared in olive oil. Nothing wrong about that.

Ethos, East Village

Of course, we had to try one of their lamb dishes. This here is off the mezes, but there are also other larger portions which come accompanied by side dishes (if that’s more your style).

Ethos, East Village

To finish, we tried a pastry creme tart with berries and their crème brûlée. I was a bit disappointed to not get to give their baklava a taste seeing as it’s such a signature Greek dish, but I figure that’s just yet another reason for a return visit. Great addition to a great neighborhood!

Ethos – 167 Avenue A (b/w E10 & E11) – 646.596.9051
Reservations Suggested

Photos courtesy of Joey Pasion.

I left one day with an ambitious plan – going to bed early. It had been a busy several weeks at work with events and I needed an early night to help offset. My big post-work “plan” was simple – a quick post-work sweet treat at Buttermilk Bakeshop before I turned in. So yes, a pre-dinner dessert. Yolo.

This spot was much more narrow than I was expecting. There’s a thin lane going the width of the store for customers to stand in. There were a few chairs though it was tricky to really hang out. Much more of a grab and go scenario.

Since I came for the cupcakes, I had to give that priority – though I really wanted to try the whoopie pie. Next time…

I went simple. Plain vanilla / vanilla. A friend of mine once mentioned you can really tell a good bakery by something as simple as vanilla / vanilla standing out – and I have to agree. Putting them to the test, I have to say their’s were quite good. Their name is not just to be catchy, as buttermilk was noticeably present in the cake of their cupcakes.

They also have a weekly macron schedule. Amazing. Since I was lucky enough to be there for PB&J (couldn’t have asked for a better flavor) I had to take one of those too.

Buttermilk Bakeshop – 339 7th Avenue (b/w 9th/10th St), Brooklyn – 347.689.4376

Before Lady Gaga’s final show at Roseland Ballroom – the final show ever at the venue – my sister and I met at Don Antonio for dinner. To be honest, I don’t even know what the back part of the restaurant looks like. It was cold and rainy and we were in a bit of a hurry, so we sat instead at the bar (coincidentally, much closer to the door). I opted to start with their Trasteverino – cynar, limoncello, and carpano in a pistachio-rimmed glass. Delicious.

We started with some fried bites – their arancini (Neapolitan rice ball with baked Italian ham) and fritattine (traditional spaghetti cake with baked Italian ham and mozzarella). The arancini was great, but oh the fritattine is where it is at. It’s like a fried mac ‘n cheese ball at it’s finest with only a $3 pricetag.

For the main dish, we had to try their signature dish – a fried pizza, or “Montanara Starita”. This is Antonio Starita’s specialty and is a lightly fried pizza dough topped by their signature Starita tomato sauce and imported smoked buffalo mozzarella. Now I’ve had fried pizza once before and thought it was tasty but, more or less, that it was just pizza.

This though? Was something entirely different. The crust was light and fluffy, but with that interesting slightly oily crispness you get when something is fried. So good. So worth the hype. If you’re in the area looking for a bite (or meeting friends somewhere where the food is … less than desirable), this should be the spot you try.

This is an area which I often have difficulty finding something good for dinner. I think I’ve found a new go to!

And although the weather might have left a bit to be desired, the concert definitely did not. Another fun and fabulous night. Only sad that there are no more to be had at Roseland… Xo.

Don Antonio – 309 W 50th St (@ 8th Avenue) – 646.719.1043
Reservations Suggested

There are so many places I mean to try but never do. Call it home base syndrome. You know it’s here, it’s popular, there’s likely to be a wait, but you’ll go – sometime. The Burger Joint has been on said list for a long time. I’ve listened to Anthony Bourdain wax poetic about their beef patties, confirming they should indeed live up to the hype – but yet I’ve never been.

But thank you, Lady Gaga! I finally was going to be over in the area to work a VIP experience we had connected to her next to last show at Roseland Ballroom. Not sure what the food situation was going to be and knowing I’d be at the venue from 4:30 until likely 11, I thought it was a perfect time for a burger.

When I arrived, it was every bit the out of place venue I’d always heard it was. Plopped right into the glorious lobby of the Parker Meridien over in the back left was a snaking line, corralled by a series of ropes. There was no sign directly in the lobby and it was a kind bellhop who let me that was indeed where I needed to go.

Knowing their policy of making you order immediately, I started scrambling to find the menu on the wall along the long dark hallway that leads to the entrance – the main thing confirming you are indeed in the right place being a large glowing neon burger on the wall.

The family in front of me was from Australia. They were staying in the hotel, so you could say they had the “home court” advantage when it came to the line. And they’d definitely put this advantage to use, having visited the spot three times during their visit. I was looking through the various menu boxes with languages from French to Japanese when they stopped me. “The English menu is inside behind the register. You’ll have time.” Ominous.

When I entered the restaurant, I was surprise by the overwhelming amount of graffiti on the wall. The sign prohibiting graffiti seemed to be a pointless decoration as clearly, no one was reading it.

I went simple on my order. No shake this time, but I went with the cheeseburger, fries, and a Diet Coke. My bill came to around $10.

The room was filled with patrons, but respectfully they all are their burgers quickly, cleaned up, and allowed the next customers to cycle in. No stragglers playing on their phones holding up the process. This is a large part of what helped make my wait a mere 15-20 minutes. Not bad.

And the burger? So good. I was concerned that it would be massive and that I’d end up ruining my outfit for the evening. The patty wasn’t Shake Shack thin, but it wasn’t one of those super thick ones either. Just right. Nice and juicy with great flavor. The fries were on the thinner side and just the right amount of salt (which is key). If you haven’t tried their burger, I highly recommend. And now that it’s almost warm, it’s in the perfect spot too to grab and head into the park!

How was Gaga, you ask? So good. I followed my stop at Burger Joint with a lovely treat yourself session at Drybar (loved it!) before heading to the show.

The soundcheck was awesome. There’s something magical about getting to see a major performer without the stage costumes, just taking the stage for those few songs to get their bearings.

The show itself was a nonstop energetic hour ride, complete with a serenade to the legendary Tony Bennett.

I heard this show was not as choreographed as her typical tours. I’d love to see what the full tour would be!

 

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien – 119 W 56 Street (b/w 6th & 7th Ave) – 212.708.7414
No Reservations

Locanda Verde had been on my “must try” list for over a year before I finally made it there. Now that I’ve been (twice) I’m fairly certain it was my subconscious keeping me away, knowing that once I went, I’d want to keep coming back over and over (and over).

We’ll start with brunch. It was a cold wintry Sunday, one so windy I remember being thankful I made it there since I couldn’t see most of the walk there. I’d managed to secure our reservation thanks to calling directly. The restaurant limits the advance window and overall number of reservations available via OpenTable. For better availability, I suggest calling Locanda.

Since it was so cold, I ended up ordering not one, but eventually two cappuccinos. They weren’t cheap, but fellow cappuccino aficionados would approve of the strength of their espresso and proper foam. Perfection.

To start, we had to order the ricotta toast with honey. I’d had this for dinner on my first visit, the only difference being that the brunch version pairs it with a burnt orange toast instead of plain. Both times I was so blown away by the creamy fresh flavor of their ricotta. I don’t think I will ever be able to come for a meal at Locanda and not order this dish. I’m obsessed.

For my main dish, I couldn’t resist making it a full ricotta brunch, so I went with the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd. While the pancakes were not cheap ($17), I have to say they are some of the best I have had in a long time. The ricotta made the interior almost creamy and the meyer lemon curd was the best I’ve ever had. I think I have found my new go-to brunch spot. I could happily spend hours upon hours here. We actually did this specific Sunday! Highly recommend.

Locanda Verde – 377 Greenwich Street (@ N Moore Street) – 212.925.3797
Reservations Recommended

During my recent trip to Alabama, we decided to take a trip on the last day up to Lynchburg, Tennessee, home to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The tour was amazing. The distillery is much larger than I’d anticipated – so many buildings making up their production (everything is produced in Lynchburg, a town officially with only 361 residents!). Here we are posing with Jack, in front of the caves where they get the cave water that comprises 40% of the whiskey.

On the way back to Huntsville, we made a stop for some high quality BBQ. I’d yet to visit New Hope BBQ but had heard nothing but the best from my parents. There’s not a ton of seating, essentially only a strip of tabletop space running the width of the building. Many people grab it to go or, come warmer temps, will eat outdoors at their picnic tables.

I had to go with my staple Southern fave, pulled pork. Unlike BBQ restaurants in NYC, I love that their BBQ was not about the fancy overall experience. No. It’s all about the food itself. It wasn’t quite a “meat & three”, but I went for two sides – their coleslaw (vinegar based) and mac ‘n cheese. The mac ‘n cheese was nice and creamy – not too heavy. I was excited to see they not only had Milo’s iced tea, a favorite of mine, but they even had a variety with Splenda. The sauces were on the more vinegar side, which I layered with their smokey rib sauce. I have to say, I’m spoiled from being able to have BBQ in NYC any time soon. So good.

We even ended up springing for some dessert, even though we had just had some wonderful complimentary mini Moon Pies from the store in Lynchburg in celebration of Pi Day. That day’s special dessert was lemonade cake, so we decided to give it a try. It was an interesting combination of tart and sweet, managing somehow to truly be both. A nice finish to a wonderful meal.

New Market BBQ – 5601 Winchester Rd, New Market, AL – 256.379.5525
No Reservations / Carryout Available

Friday’s weather seemed like it might be at least working towards spring, making it a perfect day for some seafood. I’d been curious about Brooklyn Fish Camp for a bit and T had heard some great things from friends. Happy hour runs from 12-7pm, at the bar only.

The happy hour food menu is filled with $5 options. Note, when they say bites, they mean it. The salt covered shrimp, while tasty, was only 2 shrimp.

We also started with an order of their hushpuppies ($8 for a side order). I was a bit surprised that they were more like fritters than hushpuppies. They were not savory or crumbly enough to truly be hushpuppies. I’ll admit, I also had a hard time with the $8 charge for three of them, having just been somewhere where a huge plate with them came free with the food.

For main dishes, we knew we wanted to do their Baja Style Fish Tacos. They were served with a habañero lime yogurt and frijoles charros ($17). The flavor was great – I really loved the yogurt sauce. The only thing that would have been an improvement would have been something crunchy – more radish, lettuce, or something – to mix up the texture a bit.

We also ordered the pan fried ‘Hook and Line’ Atlantic cod sandwich with french fries ($17). It was interesting to have the sandwich pan-fried instead of truly thick batter fried. I actually really liked it, as it made it a bit lighter overall yet still having a touch of the fried texture. I really liked their fries – fresh and thin. Just to note, both of the dishes we had were the heavy selections off of the menu. The other dishes were much smaller.

I opted us in for dessert, curious to see what the banana fritters tasted like, opting for vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream. It didn’t cross my mind at the time, but it ended up being the sweet version of the hushpuppies. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Overall, some great flavorful bites, albeit light on portion sizes. I’d come back for happy hour, but not sure for full meal.

Brooklyn Fish Camp – 162 5th Avenue (@ Degraw Street), Brooklyn – 718.783.3254
No Reservations

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