Rare Bar & Grill

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 On top of the perfect, bottomless iced tea, Spoon and Fork are always in search of perfect burgers. Rare Bar & Grill may be up there near the top of the BEST BURGER category!

During one of our adventures to No. 28 Pizzeria, Spoon passed Rare Bar & Grill at their Greenwich Village location on Bleecker Street. Not being able to pass a burger place without looking at the menu, Spoon immediately emailed me a link to their menus. This is a place we HAD to try!

We picked a date and time. We were meeting at the Bleecker street location. We arrive – CLOSED!! There was a fire at this location and they would be closed for a few days. Now what?

You know when you have your head set on something? No matter what you do, everything else pales by comparison. Where do we go? What do we do? The other location of Rare in Murray Hill just seemed so far away.  Next thing we knew our hands were out and we were shouting “TAXI!” And off we were to the Rare location on 37th and Lexington Avenue.

The 37th Street location is inside the Affinia Hotel and also has a lovely rooftop bar and restaurant. The dining room and bar is plain, but an elegant rustic type feel, if that makes sense. Great black and white photos on the walls. Tables way too tightly together. You know the feeling, you could share what was on the two top two tables down from you without really reaching in front of anyone.

Mango MargaritaIt was early when we arrived so we were able to sit in a corner banquet and have a little more room. After a pretty gruelling day, Fork needed something slightly stronger than an iced to andour very friendly server suggested a mango margarita.  It came in a huge glass with a large wedge of mangoon the side of the glass. I was waiting for a mix tasting margarita with a little mango something thrown in for good measure. Nope, not here! Fresh mango, good tequila, well blended, over ice. YUM!

Iced Tea

As for the iced tea, large glasses, very cold, andfreshly brewed. You can tell by the taste that it hasn’t sat around for a  long period of time andthat they use quality tea. The near empty glass barely touched the table before a server came buy with a pitcher and refilled the glasses. They even took the time to take any visible seeds out of the lemonwedges it was served with. Bravo!

We usually have an idea of what we want to try before we get to a restaurant. We just hoped that the menu on Lexington Avenue was the same as the one on Bleecker Street. And we were again in luck, it was identical!

QuesadillaWe started off with the Shredded Brisket Quesadilla. Crispy torilla on the outside, filled with incredibly tender, fantastically seasoned, melt in your mouthbeef brisket. It is served in wedges witha side of freshly made salsa. This is definitely something you regret ordering to share, hoping that your dining partner decides they want to save room for what’s coming – oh, just kidding Spoon, you know I share everything with you!!

Fry TrioAlong with the quesadilla, we ordered the French Fry Tasting basket. This comes with sweet potato fries, cottage fries and shoestring fries. As if that isn’t enough, it comes with 4 dipping sauces. Dipping Sauces The Honey Maple Dip is fantastic with the sweet potato fries, although it is a bit of sweet on sweet. The New Mexican Chili Ketchup has a nice kick and after burn to it, not too much, but just right. The Chipolte Aioli is nice, but not something you remember much about, and the Roasted Garlic Aioli is just yucky (yes, very mature word, but it’s just yucky).

There are two different types of burgers on the Rare menus – there are the regular ground chuck, beef burgers and there are the steakhouse burgers. One of the burgers on the regular burger menu features Murray’s Cheeses. Each week the team at Murray’s picks a new cheese to pair with a burger. Tempting, very tempting.

 T-BoneWhat is cutlery to do? Naturally, the steakhouse burgers. Okay, they’re $2o plus a burger, that could be a deal breaker. But these burgers are HUGE. First, we ordered the T-Bone burger. This is a combo of sirloin and strip steak, freshly ground, flambeed (Ready? I hope you’re sitting) in tequila, wrapped in apple smoked bacon, topped with cheddar cheese andcrispy onions! What a flavor combination! What an incredibly good taste! I don’t know if it was the very freshly ground beef, the bacon, tequila, cheese or crispy onions, but man oh man was this a good burger! By the way, all the steakhouse burgers are served with yellow tomato slices and pickles.

Rare Rib EyeThe other burger we ordered was the Rare’s Ribeye. Again gigantic burger, gigantic flavor. This burger was made from freshly ground ribeye, flambeed in bourbon, smoked cheddar, a slice of avocado and a sauteed cipollini onion. Now if you look at this picture, this burger appears to be wearing a little hat, that’s the avocado and onion. It’s seriously awkward and can’t be eaten that way, so there is a bit fiddling with this burger to get ready to eat it. Again, incredible flavor combo, totally forgives the silly avocado and onion!

Fried OreosWas dessert necessary? NO WAY! Did we order something anyway? OH, YES! And besides the waiter said Fried Oreos! Fried Oreos! Can you imagine such a thing? Well, Spoon and Fork could not and so we had to order it!!  The oreos are in a sweet batter, deep fried, andVERY sweet. The combo with ice cream and chocolate syrup is great.  They pile on a ridiculous amount of whipped cream – leave it off, guys! No way this could be finished after everything else we had.

All in all this was a wonderful experience and well worth the cost and all the trouble. Stop by one of their locations, your taste buds will thank you with a resounding YEEEEEEEHAAAAA!!

This is definitely going to need a repeat as there were so many other things we would have liked to try. We’ll keep you posted!

 The Lexington Avenue location is open for breakfast and dinner every day, and for lunch or brunch everyday except Thursday and Friday. They also have a rooftop garden outdoor seating area which is quite lovely on a nice evening.

The Bleecker Street location is open for lunch and dinner every day with brunch on Saturday and Sunday. They also have live jazz on the weekends and some outdoor seating.

Lexington Avenue – 303 Lexington Avenue (at 37th Street) – 212.481.1999

Bleecker Street – 228 Bleecker Street (Bwt. 6th Ave. and Carmine Street) – 212.691.7273

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Fresco by Scotto

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If you are in the New York City area, or will be visiting any weekend over the summer, run don’t walk to Fresco by Scotto.  Fresco is offering a three course Prix Fixe dinner in it’s fabulous midtown location for $29.95. For this price a salad, a choice of pasta and dessert is included.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Fresco is one of the Fork’s all time favorite New York restaurants. And beyond their main restaurant, there are two – yes, two – Fresco On the Go locations for take-out or delivery lunch.

Now, Fork and Spoon planned on going to Fresco by Scotto with all intentions of taking part in the Friday and Saturday Prix Fixe dinner, but we decided to invite Absinthe Spoon along.

teaWhile waiting for Absinthe Spoon, Spoon and I ordered iced tea. Large glass, very fresh, very cold and very surprising – BOTTOMLESS! This would have been one of the last places I would have expected this, but extra points for this small detail!  We sipped our tea and looked over the menu, and Spoon saw all the dishes on the menu that Fork had talked about loving so much on the last visit. We quickly calculated the cost in our heads and were determined to convince Absinthe Spoon that it was better to order  a la carte. Trust me, it wasn’t hard!

Our waiter, though, was harder to convince. I’ll say at the outset that he was the most disappointing part of the evening. He was practically a bully when it came to what we ordered and how we ordered.  Insisting that certian things could not be ordered for three to share, that it wouldn’t be enough. I have never before seen a waiter be so discouraging and bullying to customers. If he had stopped and thought, he would have realized that we were going to spend FAR more ordering our way than if we had ordered the Prix Fixe dinner, and his tip would have been larger. He certainly did not detract from our enjoyment of Fresco, at the end of the day he knew how we felt from our tip and we still enjoyed a wonderful meal.

ChipsWe started off our adventure with potato and zucchini chips baked with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese.  Warm and crunchy with Gorgonzola sprinkled and melty all throughout. These are on the menu both in the restaurant and Fresco on the Go. You simply can’t stop eating them!  They come in a bowl and piled like a potato chip mountain in front of you. You just want to pick and pick. Fortunately as you get 2/3 through they start to get a little soggy, otherwise the entire mountain would be eaten and there would be no room for the excitement that comes next!

Along with the chips we ordered the special Fresco Bread. The special part is the grilled flatbread brushed with olive oil, breadgarlic and herbs. This is served with a yummy white bean spread. For good measure they add some of their homemade – or Scotto made – bradsticks. For the price was it worth it? No. Their regular breadbasket has an assortment of fresh breads and the breadsticks, the cost of 4 pieces of grilled flatbread is just silly.

We had planned on ordering the Shaved Raw Artichoke, Celery Heart & Crimini Mushroom Salad on the regular menu. It is a wonderful salad filled with fresh, crunchy ingredients, arugula, grana padano and a light citrus dressing.  It is absolutely well worth ordering, but this night the special salad piqued our interest a bit more!  It was a lovely arugula salad with mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes.  Our waiter, Mr. Pleasant, tried to convince us that he had the salad made specially for us, but as we gazed around the room, other diners had ordered this salad and and it was exactly the same.

SteakThe Fresco menu is quite extensive, and I have tried many things on it. I have never had a bad dish at Fresco, so experiment with your own taste buds. Personally, I love the Pappardelle with Duck & Wild Mushroom Ragu, the special Risotto, Cavatelli with Crumbled Fennel Sausage & Broccoli Rabe, and the Pan Roasted Cotoletta of Chicken Breast.  But I must say, that my all time favorite entree is the Prime Rib Steak Fiorentina.  Fred Flintstone sized steak (oh, yes, our waiter was SO wrong that three could not share this), perfectly seasoned with fresh grilled rosemary, Maldon sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, grilled to perfection, sliced off the bone. The bone is part of the presentation, and if we weren’t in a fancy place we would have fought over who would pick it up and gnaw on it!

polentaThe side dishes at Fresco are fantastic and worth ordering. The Mashed Potato & Fontina Pie and Gratin of Gnocchi with Gorgonzola & Hazelnuts, coupled with the Shaved Artichoke Salad,  would be a meal fit for two princesses. Creamy, yummy, comfort food at its best! Again, my favorite side dish are the Rosemary Polenta Fries. They are served tucked into a napkin as if tucked into a bed, they are fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside, perfectly seasoned and delicious. Fortunately there are only four on the plate – this would be another dish to ruin the rest of your appetite! THe only trouble we had with this dish was the four polenta fires and the three of us – we all sat staring at the last fry. Who will take it? Should I? What if they do? Fortunately one of us – and I shall not say whom – is very diplomatic and cut the last soldier and three and we quickly gobbled it up!

donutsdessertOh, dessert! Dessert is a feast in and of itself! Dessert is one of Marion Scotto’s favorite things in the world and it is reflected in the wonderful desert choices on the menu!  As with every other dish served at Fresco, the presentation of the desserts is spectacular, almost too good to eat – ALMOST!! On this venture to Fresco we tried the Vanilla Bomboloni. Delightful vanilla donuts filled with raspberry preserves. And if you couldn’t improve on that perfection, there’s a warm chocolate sauce to dip the donuts into! The donuts are made to order so they are hot and crispy and rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Sadly, one dessert would simply not do. We also had the Apple Toffee Pudding Cake, a delicious warm apple tart with a toffee sauce on top, fresh fruit (see dessert is healthy!), and whipped cream.   Also not to miss is the Praline Meringue Ice Cream Sandwich. Cinnamon ice cream sandwiched between two meringues studded with pralines, raspberry AND chocolate sauces, andfresh raspberries sprinkled around the dish. Decadent!  Don’t leave Fresco without dessert!

All in all a spectacular adventure, definitely to be had again!

Fresco has two wonderful cookbooks Italian Comfort Food and Fresco:Modern Tuscan Cooking for All Seasons. Well worth owning, great recipes, easy to follow.

Fresco is located at 34 East 52nd Street, 212.935-3436, reservations suggested.