east village


I’ve been to 7A twice the last couple of weeks with my sister. We wanted to squeeze in at least a couple of visits before it closes its doors for the last time on January 31st. I’ve already posted over on Medium just how sad their closing makes me. They’re on the short list of restaurants I automatically link to neighborhoods, almost as if one couldn’t exist without the other.

Friday night though, I think it all set in. Deciding we were going to go all-out with our final visit, my sister kicked off our order, “We’d like to start with the mozzarella cheese sticks.”

Our server paused, seemingly running through a mental list. She shook her head, “We are actually out of those.”

Caught off guard, my sister continued, “Okay, well I’ll have the Austrian … the fried chicken cutlet with sweet potato fries.”

The server looked back up. “I think we still have those. I’ll check. If not, are regular fries okay?” My sister nodded yes.

As our meal continued, I heard similar conversations between patrons and the servers. No, we don’t have that beer. We are out. No, sorry we are out of that menu item. With 7 days to go, it seems as if they’re done. No new supplies. Just there to sell out of their existing kitchen inventory.

The last weekend has come and gone, so no more chance at brunch, but there still are several nights to squeeze in a dinner or lunch. A last hurrah. Might I suggest the Austrian sandwich – of course, assuming it’s in stock.

The intersection of East 7th and Avenue A will never be the same.

Side note, this is this blog’s 1,000th post! I can’t think of anything better to be the focus of this post.

7A Cafe – 109 Avenue A (at East 7th Street) – 212.475.9001
Reservations Not Required

Back in July, I took T to Hearth to celebrate his birthday. I liked the low key feel of the restaurant, which was cozy but not the least bit pretentious. They were celebrating their summer of riesling, and all of the wait staff was wearing t-shirts supporting that fact.

We chose to go with the 7 course tasting menu. They started with a simple lentil salad with fresh pressed extra virgin olive oil. It might have been simple, but the flavors were quite expressive – and the olive oil was noticeably flavorful. This course was followed by a warm summer salad, with purple basil and pickled veggies. I’m not accustomed to warm salads, but this one was a nice contrast to the cool lentil salad that had preceded it,

The next course was Wild Florida Snapper with a bacon consume. There was something almost irreverent about fish and bacon. Is that legal? It was so good! The broth and sprinkling of bacon across the top was such a fun mix of flavors with the snapper. So fish and bacon? I say I’m a believer.

The next dish was basic comfort food done right. Hearth’s homemade macaroni with housemade ricotta was just solid goodness. The thick tubed pasta noodles were a fun variation, and the ricotta versus thick cheese layers made for a lighter, more summery spin on the classic. This was ricotta done right.

Our next course was the heartiest – lamb with a chickpea and feta salad and a chickpea purée. The lamb portion only looked small. It ended up being more than enough. The lamb was perfectly cooked. The sauce was not overwhelmingly heavy, but just enough to make a statement. The chickpea purée might not have photographed wonderfully here, but it was quite tasty in person (I promise).

When I saw dessert come out for course six, I had to smile, since that meant not one but two dessert courses! First up was a marscapone cheesecake with candied sunflower seed and golden raisins. I really liked this one. The marscapone made for a lighter cheesecake and the candied sunflower seed, something I’d never had, was a nice salty contrast to the dish.

I don’t know if it is because I have not been eating much chocolate these days, or if it was the six preceding courses, but I was a bit done by the time the final dish appeared in front of me at the table. It was quite good, though on the heavier side for a dessert. It was a dense Valherona chocolate accompanied by coconut gelato, hazelnuts, and a chocolate mousse. The mousse along with the gelato was my favorite part.

And for T’s finale, there was strawberry shortcake, complete with a happy birthday note.

Overall, the meal made for a wonderful way to celebrate the occasion. I’d wanted to visit for quite some time and was glad to see it lived up to the hype!

Hearth – 403 E 12th St (at 1st Ave) – 646.602.1300
Reservations Required

Figuring out what to do for New Year’s is always involved. Of course, the most intriguing of things always hit the wallet the hardest. There’s always some great options for staying in, but since we stayed in last New Year’s Eve, I was sort of set on heading out for the evening. One option which caught our eye was highlighted in Zagat’s NYE picks on their blogThe Third Man, a new spot that just opened on Avenue C by the team behind Edi and the Wolf. $85 – food, drinks, and an actual seat (something which definitely comes at a premium in NYC). While at home in Alabama for the holidays, I made it my mission to finally connect to book this – as their phone went straight to voicemail and the page the article linked to was not live. After a few days of Facebook stalking, emailing, and the like we were booked.

When we got there, we weren’t sure what to expect. None of us had ever been there – which made sense, as we learned due to delays from Sandy, they’d only been open for about a week beforehand! When we got there, it looked really empty so we thought we might be having an accidental personal party. It ended up being that one large group had booked for the evening, so it would become quite full later in the evening.

They had made a cocktail list just for the evening – one called the past, one the present, and one called bijou (we never figured out why). They were quite good and we were impressed that even though it got busier throughout the evening, the service was still amazing.

We were expecting some light bites, but what we had ended up being so much more. I haven’t seen their usual menu, but I sincerely hope that some of the things from NYE are a part of their regular menu. The first thing we had was a flatbread pizza, which was seemingly simple but the flavor combinations were just amazing. Dates, onion jam, and gruyere… so good.

There was a plate of farmer’s cheese served with a paprika spread as well as a pumpkin seed oil (something we understand to be a bit of a signature offering here). The spreads were so different from each other – the paprika much bolder and the pumpkin subtle yet a wonderful addition to the bread. The dish above – the house cured speck – was a wonderful meat course. It was light, and only slightly salty. The mustard with a touch of spice was a nice addition to the pork, as well as the pickled vegetables.

There was also an autumn salad with roasted pears, hazelnuts, arugula, turnips, camembert cheese, with a cider/sherry vinaigrette. And finally we were each treated with a full-sized dinner plates for us with wiener schnitzel (pictured above), accompanied  by housemade potato salad.

It ended up being a perfect way to ring in the New Year with friends! I think I speak for us all when I say we can’t wait to go back for another visit.

Where’d you ring in 2013?

The Third Man – 116 Avenue C (at East 7th) - 212.598.1040

Peels has been on my list for quite some time. I remember when it first opened that it was too crazy to think of trying it, so I kept waiting and eventually, forgot I could try to go again. My friend A was in town this particular weekend. We’d had an eventful day – sitting front row for Porgy and Bess and then getting to go backstage after the show to meet Audra McDonald herself! She was so warm and friendly. We even wandered through Broadway Barks for a bit before heading for dinner. I made us a reservation, though it wasn’t super necessary since we were going at 6 – on the early side for NYC. I loved the interior of the restaurant. It had an unexpected upstairs area and far more seating than I’d ever anticipated from walking by the building countless times. It felt appropriately Southern.

Hushpuppes - Peels

Hushpuppies

While we waited for another friend of ours to join, we tried out an order of their hushpuppies. I had to try them for comparison purposes. I feel compelled to try them any time they are on a menu, although I’m almost always disappointed (looking at you Bubba Gump – crawfish hushpuppies? Never again). I have to say, the ones at Peels are some of the best I’ve had since leaving the South. Slightly sweet and crumbly. They also have a nice cocktail menu. Some highlights include the watermelon gimlet (tequila, watermelon, opal basil, and lime) and the Kentucky Corpse Reviver (bourbon, curacao, Lillet, lemon, and mint).

Tuna Tartare - Peels

Tuna Tartare

For entrees, we decided to share a couple of dishes. We ordered the fried chicken (cause you just have to) and the tuna tartare. The tuna wasn’t anything extraordinary but was nicely done, especially on a warm summer evening.

Fried Chicken - Peels

Fried Chicken

The fried chicken itself was good. The breading wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t remotely greasy, which is a pretty amazing feat. It was served with one of their biscuits – which was large, fluffy, and something I’d definitely do again if I return for brunch. Where they lost me though was the salad that accompanied the dish. I thought it was a nice touch. Fried chicken and a bit of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese … wait. Blue cheese? Uh uh. Proper dressing would absolutely be ranch. Such a bummer.

Cheeseburger - Peels

Cheeseburger

Another friend opted for their burger, which looked quite good as well.

Blackberry Eton Mess Fool - Peels

Blackberry Eton Mess Fool

For dessert, I had to try the Blackberry Eton Mess Fool. I still don’t know what the heck the name means. All I know is that the dessert was so good. Listen to the mix – blackberries, crunchy meringue, yogurt mousse, and mint ice cream. I’m assuming the “mess” comes from the presentation – everything all crammed into a tall container. Everything was perfectly mixed though that in almost every bite you could try all of the elements together. I wasn’t sure about mixing the mint in, but it worked. And being much more accustomed to the soft nature of meringue I just loved the crunchy meringue.

Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to Peels. I will definitely have to make a return visit for brunch!

Peels – 325 Bowery (at E 2nd Street) – 646.602.7015
Reservations Suggested

Last night I went to Mobster Movie Night with Google Places. It was in an old theater in the East Village – Theater 80 -  that still has an original speakeasy bar in the entry from the time of prohibition. The owner was a fascinating quirky man who explained to us about the history of the theater (connection to Elliott Ness), and even a little about basement smuggling tunnels underneath the theater you can still access today. Sadly, didn’t win the raffle to get to explore those.

Little this, little that

Little this, little that

We watched The Untouchables on the big screen and enjoyed platters on food from Russ and Daughters, a spot I’ve been meaning to try since moving here that I sadly only pass by when it’s closed or I’ve just eaten.

Their salmon was delicious – they had it served on both slices of bagel and on toast. They also had pastrami salmon, something I’d never tried. It was heavier tasting (almost more meaty in flavor than seafood-y) and was a bit smoky. So good. I’ll definitely have to finally make a visit in person to really try all they have to offer.

Russ and Daughters – 179 East Houston Street – 212.475.4880

On Monday, Butter Lane invited me to stop by to taste test possible new icing flavors for the month of August. If you’re new to this blog, you might have missed out of all of the various times I’ve raved about Butter Lane. Let’s say I’ve been a fan for a long time. I love their varied icings, your option to customize the pairing of icing with the cake base (banana, chocolate, or vanilla), and they try to use as little processed items in their baking as possible.

So true...

So true...

The options were interesting – pistachio, peach, and cherry. What I like about icing shots at Butter Lane is that they don’t just give you a plain cup of icing. The shot is topped off with something corresponding to the flavor. Pistachio was topped with actual pistachios. The peach was topped with a peach drizzle. The cherry was topped by a big fresh cherry. And with the peach and cherry, there were little fruit bits throughout all of the icing.

Three August Icing Flavor Contenders

Three August Icing Flavor Contenders

We each voted for which one we thought as the best and they were going to then compile the votes and choose August’s flavor. I had to go with peach, though I wouldn’t be disappointed if cherry came out the winner. So much fun to be able to participate in this with Butter Lane!

Butter Lane – 123 East 7th Street (at Avenue A) – 212.677.2880

The danger of daily specials is that it’s easy to opt away, lose sight of the expiration dates, and end up not saving much of anything. A while back, a friend and I opted in on a Thrillist special which gave you unlimited drinks when visiting Diablo Royale Este in the East Village (the East side outpost of the West Village’s location). Only rules were it had to be after 7pm, you could only at stay until 10pm, it only included certain drinks, and Cinco de Mayo was excluded (naturally). We were worried about needing a reservation, but we were fine on a Monday night. We watched the crowd come and go during the peak dinner hours but it was never crazy crowded. We could see the patio area in the back – it was a tad too chilly that evening, but it was quite a nice set-up. Goodness, we’re close to those warm days staying, now aren’t we? For drinks, we opted to give their Luci a try, which was 3/4 sparkling wine and 1/4 frozen house margarita – and 100% good.

Why hello Luci...

Why hello Luci...

I was torn as to what to try for dinner. Intrigued, I  was eying the croque monseiur chimichanga. Where else have you seen that? It was ham, chihuahua and gruyere cheese, with a roasted poblano sauce. I was deciding between that and my staple – chicken mole enchiladas – and ultimately went with the chicken mole enchiladas based on the recommendation of our server. Not a fan of beans, I asked that he replace them with a salad. I was initially disappointed when he brought me my salad and omitted the rice. However the salad? Amazing! Perfect balance to the enchiladas. It was a chopped salad – fresh and with a light house made vinaigrette. I’m used to Mex/Tex-Mex restauraunts treating a side salad as a waste of effort and that was far from the case here. Not to slight the enchiladas now. They were just the right amount of spicy (I recognize mole isn’t for everyone – I just happen to love it, and Diable Royale Este did it quite nicely – not too heavy).

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

Chicken Mole Enchiladas

The service was outstanding – they just kept letting us stay and we had to finally wave them over when we were ready to head out. The ambiance was nice – candles throughout, with pervasive red tones against the wood. The chandelier over the bar area was particularly interesting. Sort of made me think of the Bourgeois Pig, not too far around the corner down on East 7th. I still say I’ve yet to find that magic Mexican restaurant, but Diablo Royale Este? Not bad, I say. Not bad at all.

Bar Area - Diablo Royale Este

Bar Area - Diablo Royale Este

Diablo Royale Este – 167 Ave A (at East 11th St) – 212.388.9673
Reservations Optional

Unless they dislike coffee altogether, it’s hard to find someone in New York who cannot quickly respond with their favorite coffee. I have a few favorites, but at the top of my list would be the East Village’s Abraço, down the street from a whole slew of some of my favorite restaurants. If I lived on East 7th, I’d never need to leave that latitude.

Abraço - Outside Looking In

Abraço - Outside Looking In

It’s a little spot. The windows are always open, and there will probably be a line out the door. And that’s ok. The first time I went in, I made the mistake of asking for skim milk. Don’t. They don’t have it. No interest. In their eyes, not worth the trouble. Their coffee has a punch to it – a distinct flavor. Iced… warm… doesn’t matter. Still there. Sweetener? Also don’t bother. They only will give you the real stuff, which they’ve made into a syrup to better blend into your beverage of choice. No sizes here. Choose your drink, pick it up, and you’re back outside.

Baked Goods Selection

Baked Goods Selection

The workers respond with quick answers  – once which might seem terse if it weren’t for the way their eyes seem to dance. I just love everything about this place. And I’ve still yet to try their olive oil cake, which I’ve heard is divine.

Perfect spring accessory

Perfect spring accessory

What’s your coffee place of choice? And if you haven’t visited Abraço, highly recommend.

Abraço – 86 East 7th Street (at 1st Avenue) – 212.388.9731

Saturday was a nice enough of a day to throw on the warm snow boots and head out for a little East Village photo excursion and brunch combo. At the recommendation of both @devintrix and @leslierichin, I’d been wanting to try out brunch at the Brindle Room. I arrived sans reservations but figured that getting there at 11:30, it shouldn’t be a problem. They were great in accommodating me, giving me a heads up that they’d need the table for a large party at 12:30. I always appreciate being warned on the front end, versus getting kicked out on the spot on down the line. Before I’d even sat down, I was already impressed.

The Brindle Room - East Village

The Brindle Room - East Village

They actually regularly serve breakfast during the week, focusing on their speciality – coffee and their changing varieties of donuts. When I was there, there were several varieties of donuts. This particular day they had a chocolate-hazelnut or a chocolate peanut butter donut with toasted coconut. Peanut butter, chocolate, and  toasted coconut? How could I say no to that? And it did not disappoint, paired with a price tag of only $1.50. My coffee was more than that! The donuts are more of the cake-y variety, not the dense chewy variety. More crumbly. I’ve since read they are made by adding mashed potatoes to the dough. Interesting if that is in fact the case – a flavor not clearly noted while eating. Thumbs up overall. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Donut with Toasted Coconut

Chocolate Peanut Butter Donut with Toasted Coconut

I was tempted by several items on the menu. All entrees range between $10-$12. There was the Challah French Toast, served with banana and Nutella (what can I say – I have a weakness for Nutella. A pervasive weakness that necessitates a jar not be in my apartment). I resisted my usual must try shrimp and grits, deciding to save that one for my next visit. Their preparation consists of creamy parmesan grits with shrimp scampi and poached eggs.

In the end, I decided to go with the Potato Chip Frittata basically because for the life of me, I can’t say I’ve ever seen this on a menu anywhere! Sold. The frittata was made with cheddar, scallion, and paprika, all topped off with fresh homemade potato chips. Oh. My. With all of the other comfort food brunch staples, how has this one remained so untapped? Perfect. I was sort of envious of those around me getting the burger until I realized these chips were like my brunch version of their fries. Happy happy happy. It was definitely unique. I’d recommend giving it a go if you’re feeling adventurous.

Potato Chip Frittata

Potato Chip Frittata

I will definitely be back – probably more for brunch just based on the menu options. Very impressed! Oh, and if you’re curious about my photo excursion, here are some fun East Village snow photos (and yes, I realize you have likely seen so much snow – but snow squirrels?).

The Brindle Room – 277 E 10th St (at Avenue A) – 212.529.9702

Momofoku Milk Bar

Momofoku Milk Bar

I had been to Momofoku Ssäm Bar several times before I realized Milk Bar was tucked in the back, or outside and around the corner if you prefer that option. There’s usually a bit of a line, but not to fret. It moves quickly and, in my opinion, is well worth the wait and, these days, the additional time spent out in the cold. Anything like this which pops up in so many different places and endorsed by many big names (such as Martha Stewart and the Silver Fox, ehem, I mean Anderson Cooper) is something I’m curious to try if only to say no, so not worth the hype. I actually ended up back there at one point waiting to be seated for Ssäm Bar and (for shame) thought it was just their to-go/waiting area. So wrong! And yet I come back and continue to do so. I fear this one’s a keeper.

The first time I went, I felt compelled to have their crack pie, the selection which seems to be referenced in interviews everywhere. The tiny slices (when compared to the other pies) of which go for $5.25 closest resemble a Southern Chess Pie and not too far from an Ooey Butter cake a la Paula Dean. Don’t cringe, now. I’m agreeing that this is much better. It’s denser, yet not overwhelmingly buttery. I really like the toasted oat crust, just a slight variation in taste from the standard graham cracker option. If you’ve never been, it’s where you’ve gotta start.

Crack Pie - Momofoku Milk Bar

Crack Pie - Momofoku Milk Bar

On subsequent trips back, I have branched out. Their soft serve is outstanding and the offerings change up regularly. One of their staples, cereal milk, is my favorite. Add cornflake crunch on top and you are set. I tried their pumpkin pie soft serve around Thanksgiving time and found it too be too pumpkin and almost not taste sweet enough. Lesson learned – back to cereal milk I go. I also tried their cinnamon bun pie, which to me feels like breakfast. It’s like a reconstructed cinnamon roll, with the icing layer falling in the middle and incorporating a generous helping of cream cheese. Warm it up, and it’s a dash of breakfast at any time of the day.

Cinnamon Bun Pie - Momofoku Milk Bar

Cinnamon Bun Pie - Momofoku Milk Bar

Recently @Catty was in town from London and showed up for brunch with some extra Milk Bar cookies, all which were new to me. My favorite was probably the Blueberry & Cream Cookie, which had dried blueberries and milk crumbs. It’s to the cookie selection what the cinnamon bun pie is to the pies. To me, it was like a cookie version of a blueberry muffin, and managed to somehow taste freshly baked even though it was several days old at that point. I was also a fan of their trademarked compost cookie, made of pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, and chocolate chips. A perfect balance of sweet and savory landing just a tad to the savory side.

Cookie Assortment - Momofoku Milk Bar

Cookie Assortment - Momofoku Milk Bar

Finally, my current favorite (and probably most dangerous find) would be the birthday cake truffles. There are certain cakes Milk Bar makes which you cannot buy slices of. The chances of my needing a full cake? Slim to none. However, fear not! For just $3, you can get 3 truffles of each of the cakes. It’s sort of like an option to try. A snack in the grocery aisle. Just a bit of dessert – not enough to ruin your dinner, yet enough sweet to satisfy the cravings of your sweet tooth. It’s crumbled up rainbow cake, sprinkles, and vanilla frosting. If you have to get the Crack Pie on your first visit, okay, fine. If so, get the birthday cake truffles to go. Trust me!

Birthday Cake Truffles - Momofoku Milk Bar

Birthday Cake Truffles - Momofoku Milk Bar

Momofoku Milk Bar
East Village: 207 2nd Avenue @ E 13th Street
Midtown: 15 W 56th Street (between 5/6 Avenue)

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