LIC Market

Trying to beat the heat.

Trying to beat the heat and eat someplace fun.

Wanting to try a new place.

Fork and Spoon decided to try LIC Market – now celebrating their 1st anniversary. We had heard wonderful things about LIC Market and decided to begin our exploration of Long Island City with LIC Market.

It is very difficult to park here, so plan on driving around for a bit.

As you walk into LIC Market, you are in the retail area of the business. They sell teas and pickles and jams. They also sell coffee and tea to go. After you walk through this space there is a dining room in back. A very small dining room. So crammed full of tables that diners actually have to get up so you can sit down.

The lunch menu is small, but the most of what is on there is enticing!

Before we start on the food, let’s get the iced tea situation out of the way. The iced tea comes in a large glass, probably 16 ozs. There is maybe – a big maybe – 4 ozs of tea and the rest ice. Now this wouldn’t be bad if the iced were bottomless. It’s not. It’s $2.50 per glass. I don’t know about you, but I resent paying $2.50 for 4 ozs of iced tea and a glass of ice – FOUR TIMES.

Back to the food.

 

Our first sandwich was fresh mozzarella, grilled radicchio, arugula and basil on French bread. This was very good. Fresh Mozzarella was slightly salty. The bitterness of the grilled radicchio was nice with the peppery arugula. It could have used another – something – vinegar, oil, just another layer of flavor.

Our second sandwich was slow cooked pulled pork on souman bread, gruyere, pickles and a mustard dressing. Almost a Cuban and very tasty. The bread alone was fabulous. THe pork melt in your mouth tender. THe gruyere and pickles giving it that homey spin with a touch of salty and sour. 

 

On the side we ordered rapini with roasted tomatoes. Rapini is a cross between broccoli rabe and broccoli. Same shape as a broccoli rabe but not as bitter. This was really delicious. The tomatoes and oil and rapini were GREAT on the mozzarella sandwich!

When asked if we wanted anything else, we asked about dessert. The waitress handed us back the menu. The lunch menu. Did she think we wanted another sandwich? When we mentioned that we were looking for something sweet, she said they might have an oatmeal cookie left, but that they don’t serve sweets.

SIGH …

LIC Market ~ 21-52 44th Drive ~ LIC, NY ~ 718.361.0013
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The Mussel Pot

As you walk along Bleecker Street, you are at no loss for restaurants. Any cuisine you can imagine, any price point, fancy, casual, fast food, good food, not such good food.

Along this stretch of restaurants Fork, and new found friend, Whisk, came across  The Mussel Pot. And the Mussel Pot may be a combination of most of the above descriptions!

We arrived at 6:30 and the restaurant was empty. The garden tables were all full, but the interior tables were completely empty. The restaurant itself is lovely and warm, beautiful mirrors run down one wall and the room is lit by dainty glass chandeliers. The garden has 6 tables around a small waterfall and coy pond. Sadly, they were all taken, but we were able to sit at the table right next to the door.

Our waitress, Jacky, came over and introduced herself to us. Pleasant, warm, and attentive. We asked for the wine list and found a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio. Truthfully, the wine is a bit on the pricey side and this bottle was not chilled enough. THe bus boys were quick with ice, filling water glasses, and whisking plates away. Never once did they approach the table to remove a plate until it appeared both of us were done. HUGE points for that one!

We ordered two appetizers. They took a ridiculously long time to come out of the kitchen. The surprise in this? One of the appetizers was raw.

With or without the long wait, this appetizer was outstanding. Tuna Tartare. Seriously fresh tuna, sitting on a 1/2″ thick disk of guacamole. The guacamole was fresh and chunky and a perfect partner to the tuna. On top of the tuna were some microgreens and a splodge of a citrus miso mayo type condiment. To give the plate a little texture there were some house-made potato chips served alongside. The chips were a really nice addition to the tartare. You could scoop some up on the chip and have all the wonderful flavors at once.

Our second appetizer was Fried Calamari. Fork is a total sucker for fried calamari. Sadly, this was not so great. The presentation was lovely. We loved the idea of three sauces. And there ends the love fest. Fried calamari consists of 2 parts – the legs and the rings. There were perhaps 3 rings and all the rest legs. Whisk doesn’t mind the legs. Fork really doesn’t like them at all. Really, not at all. And the rings that were there were very chewy – like rubberband chewy – which usually means they were frozen. The coating, while really crispy, was not seasoned anywhere near enough.

Then there were the three sauces. There was a spicy remoulade – spicy here is the key word. I was too spicy to enjoy. The Fork and Whisk like spice in their food but not to the point of inedible. There was also a tomato sauce water. It was flavorless and so thin in consistency that nothing stuck to the calamari when you dipped it in the sauce. The third was a chimichurri. All we can say about that is  – meh! Really disappointing appetizer.

So, the schtick with the with the Mussel Pot is – well, really, it doesn’t need explaining – MUSSELS. There are 5 different cuisine styles and 15 different ways to have mussels. They range from intriguing to what were they thinking. What is glaringly absent from their line-up is Moules Mariniere.

The mussels are all served in individual stainless steel mussel pots. Okay, we get it. mussels, mussel pots. Cute. Problem? They are pretty tall and you are eating peering over the top of your pot, holding your fork or spoon at an odd angle. Really not a comfortable way to eat.

Whisk ordered the Paella style which included clams, chorizo, fennel, tomatoes, peas, white wine, saffron, bay leaf and lemon juice. The clams were unnecessary. The broth was  delicious. There was a background warmth to it that turned out to be cloves.  Really nice combination of flavors. 

Fork ordered the Posillipo style.  A light tomato sauce, garlic, white wine and basil. Very good mingling of Italian flavors.

There are plenty of mussels in each pot. They serve bread with the mussels so you can sop up all the sauce – which is also difficult with the gigantic pots! They bring a small slice of bread each, which seems kind of silly. But they gladly bring more if you ask.

Nothing really struck us for dessert. But we were instantly drawn to the Cheese Plate by the words “a variety of the finest imported cheese accompanied with honey comb, fig chutney and candy hazelnuts.” (They desperately need someone to proofread their menu). Okay. There was Brie. There was, to quote our waitress, some kind of parmigianio. There was Havarti with dill – the least dessert type cheese you could ever find.  There was fig chutney. There were candied pecans which were very soft, which means they have been sitting around a while. There were grapes. Now, if you are missing TWO essential ingredients on a composed plate and are subbing – don’t you think you should tell the patrons and ask if they would still like to have that dessert? We couldn’t recover from the honeycomb, candied hazelnuts and havarti.

Nothing was terrible, but nothing was outstanding beyond the tuna tartare. The staff needs to be better informed of what is in each dish, what is not going to be available and most of all – how to pronounce things on the menu.

Oh, one last thing. If Fork or Whisk had gone downstairs to the restrooms before we ate, we would have left. There is. The worst. Fish. Smell. And (as if you need another thing) they have unisex restrooms. Gross. And the floors are all wet from God only knows what.

Try it. Perhaps your experience will be different. I, for one, am very glad I had a 30% coupon from Blackboard Eats or I would have been far more disappointed.

Mussel Pot ~ 174 Bleecker Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.260.2700
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Nougatine @ JeanGeorges

For Fork and Spoon, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant is love at first bite. The restaurants are beautiful, warm, inviting, staffed with people who are pleased to be there. Everything is perfect. There isn’t really one thing you can put a tine on.

Nougatine is just another piece of our heart that belongs to Jean-Georges.

It is amazing that those dining in Jean-Georges walk so close Nougatine and most never think to stop and dine there. Nougatine is the slightly more casual, slightly less expensive, but absolutely just as enticing as big brother Jean-Goerges. Uncluttered, ultra-modern, bright, light woods,stark even, and yet it is warm and comfortable, beckoning and welcoming. The acoustics are wonderful. 

Nothing is quick. Nothing is rushed. The staff smiles, is friendly, knowledgable and answer any questions you may have.

Fork and Spoon met here for dinner before seeing a screening of Toast. If you have not read Nigel Slater’s book Toast, please do. If you can see the film, please do. But, back to Nougatine.

While we were looking through the menu, we ordered iced tea. The tea is fresh, cold, nice sized glasses, and they give you one refill. We didn’t ask for a third to just see what would happen. But while refilling the tea, they remove your glass from the table, place it on a tray, pour and out the glass back. Same with the water, which is constantly refilled.

We ordered. Three appetizers and one main dish. We wanted to experience as many dishes as possible.

While we were waiting for our fist appetizer, our waiter appeared with an Amuse Bouche. A shot glass with a warm carrot and ginger soup, accompanied by a perfect rectangle of rye toast with a tiny dollop of mustard butter, a wedge of radish, and chive. Perfectly assembled. Beautiful to look at. Fork is not a soup fan, but this was warm and creamy, slightly sweet from the carrot and a wonderful smack of ginger was stunning. The perfect amount to win you over. The rye toast was crisp, a wonderful tang coming from the mustard butter with a spicy crunch from the radish. Oh, this was so a sign of what was yet to come.

One of our starters was Asparagus Vinaigrette with Sautéed Mushrooms. Crisp, slim, ultra-fresh asparagus all lined up. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, sitting in a pool of a light vinaigrette. On top of these beauties were sautéed mushrooms. Not sautéed so much that they lost their shape or taste. A variety of different mushrooms. So many tastes in one bite.

Now this second starter could not be passed by. Foie Gras Brulee with Strawberry. The top was really and truly brulee’d (is that even a word?). It was almost as much fun to look at as it was to eat. I love that tapping and cracking sound from a brulee. Soft and rich foie gras wrapped around a strawberry – yes, a fresh strawberry. Fork and Spoon had there doubts about the strawberry with the foie gras, but the combination was delectable.

Our third, and last starter was a Field Mache Salad. You wouldn’t think we could or would get so excited over a salad, but look at it. It’s lovely!  Tender field greens, crispy lardons of bacon, a light dressing, sunnyside up egg and snippets of chives. The crisp bacon gives a little extra texture and a smokiness against the peppery greens. And the egg, oh, the egg, once you cut into the yolk and it swims through the salad and mixes with the dressing, you suddenly have a wonderful richness that would not have been there otherwise. Perfect.

For our main course, Spoon and I decided we would share the Filet.  The filet was served over grilled scallions and mashed potatoes. On top of the filet were crispy, fried onions. I am sure some of you are thinking, a filet, so what. I can tell you so what – the filet was glazed with mirin, soy and sesame oil. When I tell you the flavor combination on this tender steak was over the moon good, I ain’t kidding. The flavors of the glaze with the grilled scallions was great. The little pool of the glaze under and around the garlic-y mashed potatoes made them even better. These were silky, smooth mashed potatoes. Almost more of a puree than a mash. This filet was inhaled at a record pace. We had to resist the urge to pick up the plate and lick it! 

We ordered 2 desserts. You know we had to.

First up was a Hazelnut Dacquoise. On top of the dacquoise was a deep, decadent chocolate mousse. So far so good. the mousse was actually in a cone shape. The inside if the cone was filled with a licorice ice, which was startling, overpowering and terrible. It was so in contrast to the delicate, sensual flavors on the plate that it was almost like skipping down the street and running face first into a wall. We scooped that stuff out quickly and put it on a side plate. There was a lovely berry compote to go along with this. Surprisingly light and delicate, this dessert really aims to please – without the licorice ice, of course!

Our second dessert was a lovely little Rhubarb Tart. Sweet and tart rhubarb sitting inside a crisp, flaky pastry. Perfect. Sitting atop the tart was a small creme brulee. The creaminess was perfect with the rhubarb. Strewn around the tart were tapioca pearls, slivers of strawberry and palm seeds. Beautiful for both the eyes and the palate.

One of the wonderful thing about Jean-Georges restaurants is their pleasant fulfillment of all your senses. Nougatine did not disappoint!

Nougatine ~ 1 Central Park West ~ NYC, NY
Nougatine at Jean-Georges on Urbanspoon

The Breslin

Hello again, everyone! Thank you for the messages and emails of concern about our Adventureless period. No tarnish on these lovely pieces of cutlery, just snow, snow and more snow.

ALL of our Restaurant Week reservations were a bust! We simply could not get to them!

But here we are – Valentine’s Day. Spork and Knork are working. What are a Fork and Spoon to do? Well, we gleefully sadly soldiered on without our beloved Cutlery by our sides. Truthfully, this is our 4th Valentine’s date.  Ssssshhhh, our secret.

We have been dying to get to April Bloomfield’s Breslin Bar & Dining Room for AGES. We have been thwarted by schedules, weather, people thinking the menu is too exotic, kids, spouses, illness, and more silliness than any Fork and Spoon should have to endure.

The Breslin is tucked into the corner of the Ace Hotel on West 29th Street. The hotel is hip and funky. The Breslin is definitely funky – very old New York pub type of feel. All dark paneling, comfy leather banquettes, dark beamed ceilings, fabulous pressed glass partitions, pig and stag art hanging from the walls. There are a few very cozy booths, complete with checkered curtains. There is also upstairs seating, but we didn’t have an opportunity to check it out.

They take no reservations at the Breslin, so if you’re going for dinner, we suggest you get there slightly before 5:30, add your name to the list and wait. They are also open for lunch and brunch. You can wait at the bar, or in the ultrachic lobby of the Ace Hotel.

We were 3rd or 4th on the waiting list. The anticipation was maddening.  In true Fork and Spoon fashion we had the menu memorized and already had an ordering plan ready.

When we reached the top of the list, we asked the host to seat us at a table on the end. Fork is really not comfy in close cutlery drawers. As he was showing us to our table we spied a table for 3 that was also a corner banquette. This was just our style. We gave him our cutest Cutlery shine he looked around and said, okie dokie. By the way, it really and truly does pay to be nice and friendly to the folks you want to seat you – does a smile hurt, no.

Our waiter, Nico G., was terrific. Friendly, knowledgable, attentive, all the things a waiter should be and more. A waiter or waitress’ attitude really sets the tone for how enjoyable the meal is going to be. Although, quite frankly, I don’t think ANYTHING could have changed this tone.

Fork ordered a Rush of Blood to the Head cocktail. Poor Fork needed a drink – and this was some drink. Prosecco, blood orange liquor, hibiscus syrup and lemon zest. Cool, bitter, a little sweet, perfect before dinner.

Both Fork and Spoon ordered iced tea. Not bottomless. They allow one free refill and then charge you for the third. A wee bit silly. Really, if you sat there during your meal and drank tea after tea after tea after tea, you might, after 10, have consumed $1.00’s worth of tea.

So, off to the food …

To start, we ordered Boiled Peanuts Fried in Pork Fat. Just so wrong on so many levels, but how can one pass by anything that involves nuts and pork fat!? The peanuts were boiled in their shells. Once boiled they are thrown in a pan with rendered pork fat and fried. As if that weren’t enough, they are then sprinkled liberally with sea salt. Oh, yum. So good, you wanted to lick the shells. Being the refined cutlery we are, we waited until no one was looking and licked the shells! The peanuts inside were soft and savory. Really made your anticipation of things to come even more heightened.

Our next dish was a Beef and Stilton Pie. Tiny little pie, perhaps 3″ in diameter and 2″ high. We sort of glanced at the pie, tilting our heads to one side like the RCA dog, and made a little face, thinking ‘good thing we ordered other things.’ Cut the little pie in half, peered inside, stuffed full of beef with ribbons of stilton running through. The aroma was breathtaking. The first bite nearly brought tears to our eyes. The pastry was amazing, flaky, tender, but still holding up to the ingredients within. The short ribs were so tender and flavorful chewing was almost unnecessary. The stilton gave it just another layer of lovely flavor and savoriness. This was unctuous to the nth degree. We know why this little tiny tart is so tiny. You couldn’t possibly eat more than that tiny little tart. It is so rich that you would fall into a coma – a happy come, with a smile on your face, but a coma just the same.

Next came a Miticrema Bruschetta with Chargrilled Greens & Speck. Put the word Speck in a dish and we’re just sold. Speck is a juniper flavored ham – really just a type of prosciutto. The Speck stood alone, but a little bit on the miticrema and toast. Sigh. Miticrema is a Spanish soft cheese, almost like a cream cheese. It’s a tiny bit salty, a little acidic and bitter, and – if you can imagine – a little sweet. It has a wonderful flavor and mouth feel. This was slathered on toast (great bread from Balthazr) with a drizzle of olive oil and pepper.  The chargrilled greens consisted of Radicchio and escarole with pepperoncino thrown in for good measure. This was an amazing dish. all the flavors playing so well together and on their own.

The one dish that had been at the top of our Breslin list from the very beginning was a Chargrilled Lamb Burger. Served on top was feta and red onion slices, tucked on the side was cumin mayonnaise. To pull the entire dish together were thrice cooked fries. Holy McMoly were they good.  All I have to say is duck fat – you get the rest. Crisp on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside – and duck fat. The burger was on one of the best burger buns I have ever had – crispy, crunchy crust, tender inside, held up perfectly to the lamb burger. The burger was seasoned really well and cooked perfectly. What could be better with lamb than feta and red onions.  This totally lives up to our expectations.

DESSERT! There’s always room for dessert, isn’t there. The Cutlery theory is that there is definitely a separate stomach compartment for dessert. You don’t have to believe us, but that’s our theory and we’re sticking to it.

First up – Brioche Doughnuts. Doughnuts. Little perfect spheres of fried dough. Rolled around in sugar until they scream until. Spoon actually expected me to share. Being Valentine’s Day and all, I shared. The doughnuts – which would have been perfect all alone – were served with little ramekins of salted caramel, chocolate, and maple butter. The salted caramel was the best. Buttery caramel, lightly salty, perfect. The chocolate was bitter. Not sweet enough for this. The bitter chocoalte was just a little offensive. The maple butter was pretty good too. There were nice undertones of warm spices in there. They switch around the dipping sauces, so don’t hold us to them!

Dessert No. 2 – not so much. It wasn’t terrible. But after a meal of fireworks this was a dud. We ordered the Brown Butter Hazelnut Tart. THe tart had poached pears on top and is served with a scoop of chocolate ginger ice cream. The flavor of the ice cream was great. The consistency of the ice cream was really strange. It was very dry and chalky. Very weird texture. The tart shell was amazing. It was crisp and yummy. The second you put it into your mouth you could taste the butter. The poached pears on top of the tart were not cooked enough. Fortunately this was a teeny tiny sliver of tart.

The tart was the only unremarkable part of a fabulous meal. We already have our choices made for our next trip back. Go there! Fabulous! Hurry!

The Breslin ~ 16 West 29th Street ~ New York, New York ~ 212.679.1939
Breslin Bar & Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Bubby’s

Fork & Spoon needed a restaurant close enough to an event we were attending to not involve a lot of walking in the rain. Our biggest dilemma always seems to be what to eat. Neither of us ever wants to decide. You pick, no you pick, no you pick. Whining ensues. Not a pretty sound. A zip code and google helps in these situations.  Hmmmm …… southern, BBQ, fried chicken? Oh, Bubby’s, you have won our hearts! The online menu looked great. And Bubby’s is renowned for their pies and desserts.

They have many different menus. There is a breakfast menu, a lunch menu, a brunch menu (they are famous for their brunch menu), a midnight brunch menu, an afternoon menu, and a dinner menu. Our timing was going to be a little off, so the afternoon menu, which is served from 4pm to 6pm and from 11pm to midnight would be perfect. One glitch, the menu online and the afternoon menu didn’t match, so the dishes we wanted to try from the online menu weren’t available at the time we were there. It was 5:30. Would Bubby’s let us wait?

Fork was early. Spoon was running late. Would they even let Fork sit and wait? Well, yes, of course, you can sit and wait. Iced tea, menus, a discussion with Dominick – our wonderful waiter – about the menus. Yes, we had to wait for 6pm for the dinner menu, but we were welcome to wait. Iced tea was in huge glasses, fresh and most importantly bottomless.

Once Spoon arrived, and more iced tea ordered, we went to work on the menu.  Dominick listened to what we were thinking of ordering, and knew what was on both the afternoon and dinner menu so we could begin ordering. Dominick, you are the best! What a great waiter, interested in the customer, knowledgable about the menu, and attentive.

Our first choice was on both the afternoon menu and the dinner menu, so that was easy. Warm Hand Cut Potato Chips with Maytag Blue Cheese. There isn’t a single word in that title that doesn’t make you drool and isn’t decadent and amazing. The chips are amazing. Thick cut potato chips with just the right amount of crispy and chewy. The chips are city in a pool of melty blue cheesey goodness with large chunks of Maytag blue cheese swimming around. There is  just a bit of the sauce and cheese drizzled on top of the chips. It kept the chips from becoming too soggy and icky. This dish of fabulousness gave us time to get close enough to 6:00pm to put in our dinner order.

We had originally intended on ordering the BBQ Pork Sliders. They’re on the dinner online menu, but they were not on the restaurant dinner menu! After a bit of a discussion – and trying to overcome our severe disappointment – and with Dominick’s help – about what we were planning on ordering, he came up with a simple solution: The Red Wattle Pulled Pork Plate. This let us try the 2 sides we were going to order as appetizers and have BBQ pork at the same time. Sheer genius!

What arrives is this gigantic platter of goodness. Fork and Spoon are never quite sure that the white bread is about. But, white bread aside, on our fabulous platter was BBQ pulled pork, hush puppies, mac & cheese, pickles and cole slaw. The pickles are crispy and tangy and sweet. The cole slaw? Take a page from the Daily News, soak it, shred it, put it in a ramekin, voila, cole slaw. It was just plain awful. The crusty mac & cheese was really yummy. The crust was – well, as the name implies, crusty! There was a wonderful smokiness about the dish. Very cheesy, pasta not mushy. The hush puppies were so good! Free form in shape, flecks of herbs throughout, great flavor, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The pork was totally the star. It’s seasoned really well, but dry rubbed, not in sauce. Don’t th ink for a minute this means it was dry! Not by any stretch of the imagination. The pork was tender and falling about and very moist. There was a terrific vinegary tang to it.  On each table is a trio of sauces that are made in-house at Bubby’s. One is vinegar based, one is spicy tangy and one is mustard based. The spicy and mustard were our favorites. These sauces were good on everything!

One of the sides that we had to try, but couldn’t include in our platter was Cauliflower James Beard Style. Lightly sautéed, herbs, breadcrumbs. Needed a little salt. We needed a vegetable! And this totally fit the bill. Mostly healthy, very good.

As we were sitting and happily sipping iced tea and munching away on our s, Spoon spied Dominick bringing a biscuit to a table behind us. Tines spun around so quickly to see the biscuit it’s a wonder we weren’t permanently damaged. Spoon called over our dear Dominick and merely pointed. He winked, turned and when he reappeared he had 2 of the most beautiful biscuits we had ever seen. They were so tall and golden – popover sized. You could see how flakey they were just by looking at them. They were piping hot. When you broke them open the insides were tender, just beckoning for butter! The outside was crispy with a slight saltiness to it. Dominick told us there was a new gal as the pastry chef and she had just made the biscuits. We would have run into the kitchen and kissed her had we been allowed!

And of course dessert. It can’t be a true adventure without dessert. We were still reeling from the deliciousness of the biscuit and wanted to try and blankly staring at the spinning dessert display. Every single pie and cupcake and cookie looked amazing. We couldn’t decide. We looked to Dominick and he simply said ‘Sour Cherry’. SOLD! Michigan sour cherries tucked into a flaky and crisp crust. Not too sour, not too sweet, just enough of both elements to satisfy your palate. A little whipped cream on the side and Bob’s your uncle.

I wish I could remember the pastry chef’s name. I know she was knew when we were there for dinner, I am pretty sure her name began with a K, maybe Spoon will remember. If you see this – YOU ROCK!

If you’re jonesing for good BBQ, Bubby’s will satisfy you! While we ate in Tribeca, there’s also a location in Brooklyn.

Bubby’s ~ 120 Hudson Street ~ New York, New York ~ 212.219.0666
Bubby’s ~ 1 Main Street ~ DUMBO ~ Brooklyn, NY ~ 718.222.0666
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Virgil’s BBQ ~ Birthday Celebration 4

Are you tired of my birthday yet? By this time, Fork needed sleep and an Alka Seltzer! But forge on we must!

As a birthday treat, Knife treated Fork to dinner and the theatre. We were both working, wanted a place for a quick bite and that was relatively close to the theatre. At the outset, I must tell you that Knife is a sucker for BBQ – which, I must say is surprising as Knife is allergic to tomatoes!

So when asked the question “Do you mind BBQ?” the answer was heck no, I don’t mind BBQ.

Virgil’s is one of those annoying places that does not let part of a reservation sit. Everyone must be present and accounted for before they let you sit. It isn’t as if there is anyplace for you to hang out and wait either. Your choice is the bar or the bathroom. 

The iced tea is bottomless, but the service was so slow we could not get a quick refill.

While Knife is a BBQ hound, Fork would go to the ends of the earth for Hush Puppies, so it was natural that our quick bite started with Hush Puppies with maple syrup butter. These were really strangely shaped! Fork is sued to little round spheres of hush puppy delight, but these seemed to be piped and cut into the oil. Nice and crisp and golden on the outside. The hush puppies themselves were full of flavor, lots of herbs flecked throughout, more dense than your usual hush puppy, but still addictively good.

Fork ordered the Kansas Fried Chicken. HUGE portion – well half of a very large chicken portion. You can 2 from the sides and you get a corn (SAHARA) bread muffin. Fork chose the Memphis Barbeque Beans and Cole Slaw.  The chicken was better than I had expected. Crispy, crunchy, slightly salty, flavorful outside, and still very juicy and tender inside.  The beans were smokey and tangy. I expected them to be mushy, but they weren’t. Pleasantly surprised at the flavor. The coleslaw was just generic. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Be VERY careful about the BBQ sauces on the table. After I tried one and burned my mouth to pieces, our dopey waitress came over and said ‘oh, no one came to explain the sauces to you?’ Hmmm, no, you didn’t. I suppose it isn’t HER job to explain anything, just to take the order and collect the tip. The bottles weren’t even labeled. So sauce user beware!

I did ask to substitute a biscuit for the corn bread. Nope. No can do. I can’t imagine it makes one bit of difference whether you have their yucky corn bread or biscuit, but nope, no can do. So I ordered a biscuit anyway. Seriously, what is BBQ without a biscuit. The biscuit was huge and so delicious. very crisp outer shell, and very tender and moist inside. The biscuit is served with more maple syrup butter. So much better than their dried out, sticky corn muffin.

Knife ordered the Memphis Pork Ribs. First, before we talk about the ribs, let’s talk about Virgil’s only serving Memphis style ribs (dry rub only, no sauce) and only pork ribs (not even a baby back to be found). Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Glad you think so too! That being said, the ribs are terrific. Moist, tender, smokey, spicy, packed with flavor.  The meat falls off the bone. You can try the BBQ sauces on the table if you like your ribs saucy – but try very little first or you will be unable to speak for hours! Knife ordered the pickled beets and coleslaw to go with. The beets were very good. They said they were house cured. Fork isn’t sure she’d bet the farm on that one!

Now for the REALLY annoying part. Our service was SO slow we didn’t have time for dessert. We barely had time to get to the theatre! If you are going pre-theatre, leave yourself PLENTY of time!

Virgil’s Real BBQ ~ 152 West 44th Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.921.9494
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5 Napkin Burger

Those of you who follow along with the Cutlery know that our last trip to 5 Napkin Burger was les than stellar. But here we were in Astoria, attending a concert at the Frank Sinatra School, on a dark and stormy night – it was as if fate stepped in, placed 5 Napkin Burger across the street and said, ‘Come, give us another try.’ Like the Lemmings we can all be at times, we took the easy way out and walked across the street to 5 Napkin Burger.

The space is great. Larger than the space on 9th Avenue. Basically the same decor. Far less harried. Far less claustrophobic. Much nicer staff. Now, that could be from Spoon’s becoming a fixture there, or it could be just a more relaxed atmosphere, or just nicer staff. So far so good.

Iced tea bottomless and plentiful. Water glases and iced teas are refilled before the empty glass is set back on the table.

Our waiter came over and presented us with both the regular menu and the Queens Restaurant Week menu. Here is where our dilemma began. Knork wanted only the appetizer from the special menu, Fork wanted only the entree from the special menu, Spoon wanted everything on the special menu. Sigh. The solution turned out to be simple though. Fork ordered the special menu, but Knork had the appetizer. And Knork order the main course from the regular menu and had the dessert from the special menu.

To start, because we were ‘Starvin’ like Marvin’, we ordered the Pork Taquitos. Slow cooked pork, tender as anything, nestled inside crispy little tacos shells. So good. Piled on top of the pork is salsa, lettuce and queso fresco. The only thing that seemed to be lacking in this dish was lime. It needed copious amounts of lime. But a simple request was all it took for the lime to arrive within seconds.

We also ordered a stack of Cornmeal Crusted Onion Rings. Seriously crispy. Almost a cross between a batter and a coating. The corn meal makes them so crunchy.  Fresh onions, but cooked long enough for them to not be raw, and short enough for them to still be crisp. Great dipping sauces.

For a starter, Spoon and Knork both had the Corn and Potato Chowder from the Restaurant Week menu. It looked delicious. It was perfect for the cold, rainy night we had yet to face. The chowder was thick. Nice sized pieces of tender potato, lots of fresh corn. Very fresh, very good. The tiny sprinkling of bacon on the top didn’t hurt either!

Spoon and Fork both had the Short Rib Sliders from the special menu. These sliders were slammin’! They were OMG good. The short ribs were unbelievably moist and tender. On top of the short ribs was a chowchow that was both spicy and sweet. Giving the perfect amount of OOMPH to the short ribs – like they needed any! The House Cured Pickles were amazing, so much so that we asked for more. It couldn’t be helped. They cut the richness of the short ribs and were just so good on their own! Anyone out there in 5 Napkin land who reads this – please, oh please, put these on the menu permanently!

Knork, who always has to be different, ordered the Italian Turkey Burger. Put all of your thoughts about turkey burgers aside. This turkey burger was amazing. Very moist. Smothered in mozzarella cheese and a spicy tomato sauce, this burger was the total pacakge. The burger was served on a sesame egg roll with vinegar peppers on top. The aromas wafting across the table from the burger were stirring food envy in the Spoon and Fork. THe burger was served with a side of fries. Their fries are great too. Thinly cut, very cruspy, could have used a touch of salt, but that isn’t something that’s really a problem.

For dessert, Knork had a Black & White Shake. No picture, it was gone in a flash! But according to Knork it  was thick and perfect.

Spoon and Fork shared the Brownie Sundae that was on the special menu. Gooey caramel, chunks of brownies, vanilla ice cream, nuts. Does anything else really need to be said? We didn’t think so!

What a totally different experience 5 Napkin Burger in Astoria was. We can’t wait to go back again and again! Great service, great staff, great food, great everything!

5 Napkin Burger ~ 35-01 36th Street ~ Astoria, NY ~ 718.433.2727
Five Napkin Burger on Urbanspoon