burgers & gaga

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

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happy hour at brooklyn fish camp

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

farewell, chicken sandwich

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

catching up with battersby

Perhaps it is a new thing. Or maybe I was just oblivious last year? Whichever the case, it seems countless restaurants have deemed this week their official “summer vacation” week. Fret not. They’ll be back up and running in time for the weekend, which I have to agree is smarter than shuttering for a long weekend. I pulled up the menu for Battersby last Friday and was relieved we’d been planning on going that same day, rather than a few days later where we’d have found them on break. My friend M and I were both very curious to try this unassuming place that many publications speak so highly of.

 I got there at 5:15, just a bit ahead of their 5:30 opening, and watched as groups slowly filed in behind me to form a line trailing down Smith Street. Wow. No wonder it usually looks like a sea of faces when I walk by. We sat in the back patio area, which was nice and open and had about 6-7 tables. We enjoyed a bit of their complimentary rosemary bread and ricotta spread and enjoyed some of their fabulous cocktails as we perused the menu. Their red currant infusion, pictured here, was refreshing.

Red Currant Infusion - Battersby

Red Currant Infusion – Battersby

 To start, we had to try the much discussed crispy kale salad. After reading so much about it, I worried I’d be underwhelmed. I find it intriguing though that kale, a winter veggie, is such a staple dish on their menu. The light crunchy preparation of it along with the light citrus vinagrette and crunchy radish slices make it one to cross seasonal borders effectively.

Crispy Kale Salad - Battersby

Crispy Kale Salad – Battersby

We were tempted to try the tasting menu but ended up just going with an assortment of dishes instead. The tasting menu looked good (we seemed to be the only table in the back who didn’t opt in). The only drawback is you don’t really know what you’re signing on for. It’s a “spontaneous tasting menu”, which is flowery code for “surprise!”.

We did a couple of pasta starters for our second course. The pork tortellini was good, but the flavor of the pork was so subtle you almost couldn’t taste it at all. It was served with cherry tomatoes, pine nuts and a pesto sauce. The flavors were great. I think a bit more pork inside the tortellini would have done it.

Pork Tortellini - Battersby

Pork Tortellini – Battersby

Our other first course was the fettuccine, which had a short rib ragu, Parmesan and tomato. This was so good. The noodles were wider than you typically find with fettuccine. The short rib was noticeable in flavor but the dish wasn’t heavy at all. Recommend this one!

Fettucine - Battersby

Fettucine – Battersby

Finally for the main course, we did the Berkshire pork belly parmigiana, prepared with ricotta gnudi and artichoke. I didn’t think it would – but this dish tasted exactly how you’d think it would. It was eggplant or chicken parmigiana but with pork belly. It’s very different from other pork belly dishes I’ve had. It was nicely cooked so that the pork belly was not too charred. The cheese layer was nice and generous. Warning – this is on the heavy side. Tasty, but be prepared!

Berkshire Pork Belly Parmigiana - Battersby

Berkshire Pork Belly Parmigiana – Battersby

We didn’t get a chance to try dessert, so in my mind there’s no option of whether I’m headed back. Though will have to wait until at least next week…

Battersby – 255 Smith Street (b/w Douglass and Degraw) – 718.852.8321
No Reservations / Closed Mondays

grand finale at alembic

I don’t mean to skip ahead (I will fill in the blanks) but I so enjoyed my meal at The Alembic that I just had to write this one next. Out of all of the meals, this one was a whim. I’d noted it as a great spot in the Haight for cocktails. I hadn’t made much of a note of anything to highlight as far as their food is concerned. Almost a big, big miss. We’d ridden along the periphery of the Haight in our bike ride through San Francisco and over across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Saulsalito, but we hadn’t really gone through the heart of the neighborhood. After doing brunch our final day in North Beach, we decided to wander through this area.

Alembic - The Haight

Alembic – The Haight

I really enjoyed checking out Ambiance as well as several of the vintage stores along Haight Street. In the process, we saw Cha Cha Cha in the distance and walked by the signage for The Alembic. We were intrigued by what we saw and liked the idea of the menu, so we decided to come back and hope to get in. When we arrived, there was a group of people assembled in the front – making it look crowded.

Perusing the menu with a side of seasoned popcorn

Perusing the menu with a side of seasoned popcorn

We were happy to find we could be seated right away. We were amused to look over and realize we recognized the bartender, Daniel Hyatt, from his wonderful whiskey drinks we had enjoyed at Cochon 555. When we saw his hands, we realized that was why he looked  familiar!

Duck Hearts - Alembic

Duck Hearts – Alembic

We decided to start with an order of their appetizer of duck hearts. Actually, it wasn’t an appetizer. It was in their even lighter menu section titled “snacks”. They were jerk spiced and prepared with pickled pineapple and thyme salt. I filed this under the category of adventurous eating while in San Fran and gave it a go. It was only $5 for 5 hearts. The flavor on it was great and I was surprised it had more of a charred than chewy consistency to it. The pineapple was an oddly perfect choice of accompaniment.

Carrot Soup: Dungeness Crab, Cauliflower Mousse, Coriander

Carrot Soup: Dungeness Crab, Cauliflower Mousse, Coriander

For the rest of the meal, we were drawn towards their prix fixe option – $35 for three courses. Great deal. Jaded by too many difficult restaurants in NYC, we figured sharing would be a no go. We figured there’s be some sort of surcharge, “extra plate” fees, or just an outright no. We were surprised when our server said “of course!”.

The soup was only slightly warm, perfect for summer (albeit a California one with temps in the 60s/maybe 70s). I really liked the addition of the cauliflower mousse rather than just some sort of cream. I liked the additional vegetal layer. The dungeness crab was sprinkled throughout and besides tasting nice and fresh, was a welcomed change in consistency from the liquid soup base.

Grilled Hanger Steak: Freekeh, Smoked Carrot, Date Puree, Grilled Chickpeas, Yogurt

Grilled Hanger Steak: Freekeh, Smoked Carrot, Date Puree, Grilled Chickpeas, Yogurt

There were so many layers to this dish that if you weren’t careful, you might miss some of the possible combinations. The cubes of steak were a tender medium bordering on medium rare. Depending on where you picked up a slice, it might come with a bit of the chickpeas or a bit of the yogurt, but you almost had to hunt down the date purée, which was a sharp sweet contrast to the meat. Each of the combinations would have made for a fantastic dish on their own, but I really liked being able to try a little of it all in one.

Root Beer: Vanilla Sponge, Wintergreen Cream, Ginger Gelee, Sassafras Ice Cream

Root Beer: Vanilla Sponge, Wintergreen Cream, Ginger Gelee, Sassafras Ice Cream

After reading the description of dessert, I think I assumed it would be some sort of float. Isn’t that what’s almost always done with root beer? The beautiful plate which came out was entirely unexpected. You could eat each element on its own, but when combined together the ending flavor was root beer! It was one of the most innovative desserts I’ve had. Nothing gimmicky. Just brilliant.

This was hands down my favorite meal out of our time in San Francisco and it was one of the few that wasn’t previously planned! One of the best meals – both in flavor and creativity – that I’ve had in a long time.

Alembic – 725 Haight Street (b/w Cole and Shrader), San Francisco – 415.666-0822
No Reservations

july 4th at st. francis fountain

Hope you all had a lovely 4th of July! I just got back from a trip to San Francisco filled with sunshine, some relief from the oppressive NYC heat, fabulous company and, of course, some great eats. We were surprised though to find so many places closed the day of the 4th. We walked over to Dynamo Donuts, which was either closed for the holiday or closed due to being out of donuts, as we learned is often the case. We found many stores closed in the Mission (as well as closed when we tried to go back again). We learned store hours are sometimes more goals than absolutes.

St Francis Fountain - The Mission, San Francisco

St Francis Fountain – The Mission, San Francisco

Anyhow, as we made our way back towards where we came from we came across St. Francis Fountain, a spot I’d noted more for ice cream than for food. However, I have to say the food didn’t disappoint. Solid diner style fair with a proper California flair. I had to go with the upside-down hog cakes, which were packed with bacon, cheddar, & green onion. You can get a stack of two or three. I recommend not being so ambitious as to go for three. I couldn’t finish my two! The salty sweet of the bacon/onion/cheese versus the maple syrup works well. Is there anything more American than bacon in pancakes?

Upside-Down Hog Cakes

Upside-Down Hog Cakes

Even better balanced when you add in a milkshake. I went with the espresso milkshake, which was a vanilla milkshake with a shot of espresso. So good. It seemed the perfect brunch option when you just couldn’t seem to pass up some sort of ice cream.

Espresso Milkshake

Espresso Milkshake

My boyfriend went with the Chef’s Mess, which was two eggs scrambled with homefries, bacon & mushrooms, topped with melted cheese, tomatoes, sour cream & green onions. Served with choice of toast or a baked good (he had the banana bread). Serious option. The food just kept coming! Serious quantity of potatoes here lurking underneath the surface. Worth checking out if you’re in the neighborhood. Solid sustenance for wandering a bit through the Mission.

Chef's Mess

Chef’s Mess

St. Francis Fountain – 2801 24th Street (at York) – 415.826.4200
No Reservations

outdoor dinner at beast

Sunday’s weather made for a perfect night to finally try out Beast in Prospect Heights. Their outdoor seating isn’t plentiful, but we managed to catch it at just the right time – the brunch crowd having finished and the dinner crowd just starting to trickle in.

We ordered several things to share – the first no-brainer being their fried manchego cheese. When it came out it was just perfect – not too heavily breaded, nicely seasoned, warm, and gooey in the center. They source their cheeses from Stinky Bklyn and this selection did not disappoint.

Fried Manchego Cheese - Beast

Fried Manchego Cheese – Beast

We also went with their beet carpaccio – thinly sliced oven roasted beets, hearts of palm, and a goat cheese dressing. Fresh and simple, this dish was a perfect spring appetizer. The hearts of palm weren’t super flavorful, but they managed to add a nice crunch to the dish.

Beet Carpaccio - Beast

Beet Carpaccio – Beast

One of the daily specials was broccolini, prepared with crushed red pepper and pecorino cheese. Spicy broccoli is one of my favorites and the cheese sprinkled on top was a nice complement.

Broccolini - Beast

Broccolini – Beast

For our main, we had the marinated skirt steak with corn fritters, baby arugula, and a chipotle aioli. The steak was perfect – nice and pink at the center and nicely sliced into thin slices. The corn fritters were great and paired nicely with the steak. Only improvement would be if they were a bit thinner. I thought the aioli brought a nice flavor to the mix, but there was a lot of it on the meat. A little less and that fabulous steak would have been able to shine through even more!!

Citrus-Marinated Skirt Steak - Beast

Citrus-Marinated Skirt Steak – Beast

I’ve heard great things about their sticky toffee pudding, which I didn’t get to try. I’ve read people say they come here just to get this dessert, so it’s high on my must try list at the moment. Service was super attentive and the food fresh. They change up the menu often so I’ll definitely be returning back to this spot in the future!

Beast – 638 Bergen Street (at Vanderbilt Avenue) – 718.399.6855