Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

The Meatball Shop – Thanksgiving special

I’m skeptical of restaurants that specialize in one particular item, since they tend not be very good. The Meatball Shop is a notable exception. Following the well-deserved acclaim and success of their Lower East Side restaurant, Daniel Holzman (executive chef) and Michael Chernow (general manager) have expanded into two new locations: Williamsburg and the West Village. If you’ve ever been to the original Meatball Shop, you’ll know that noise and tight seating ensured having a casual conversation was nearly impossible. Fortunately, the location in the village, only two weeks old, has the same menu in a slightly more upscale setting.

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DOH closes Di Fara after 67 violation points

It was only a matter of time before the Department of Health shuttered the doors of Di Fara. I noted the disgusting conditions a few weeks ago when I had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing what goes on behind the counter. If you’re unfamiliar with Di Fara, it’s often hailed as having the city’s best pizza, and made by the legendary Dom DeMarco.

For similar reasons (inadequate personal cleanliness, evidence of mice, filth flies, dirty kitchen, etc.) they were also closed in 2007. Di Fara responded on Facebook by stating that the closure was due to “personal matters” and there was a glitch in the “paperwork bureaucracy” of the DOH’s grading system. It’s incredibly entertaining to see how devoted and willfully ignorant the fans are.

And yes, I told you so.

Di Fara (site) ★★★☆☆
1424 Ave J
Brooklyn, NY 11230
Neighborhood: Midwood

Birch Coffee – a cafe to remember

I’ve been to Birch Coffee a few times and considered keeping it a secret. In a neighborhood that could be mistaken for Midtown because of an overwhelming number of chain restaurants, Birch stands out as a rare find. The cafe is connected to the lobby of the swanky Gershwin Hotel, and is hard to miss despite the construction out front. The facade is painted in a vibrant red and outfitted with horns protruding into the street (you read that correctly). While the attached hotel may be new-wave and trendy, Birch Coffee is a well-executed return to what makes a cafe ideal.

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JG Melon – an UES bastion of a dismal burger

My map is pretty weak on Upper East Side locations, so I was eager to add JG Melon, an old school watering hole famous for its burgers. Although it looks much older, JG Melon has occupied the corner of 74th and 3rd since 1972. For almost four decades, this tavern has attracted a loyal following that consists primarily of UES Yuppies and old-money Ivy Leaguers. There was a wait for seats during lunch, but Aaron and I were able to grab a table in the crowded room towards the back.

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BaoHaus – Eddie’s joint

Ever since Eddie Huang closed the original BaoHaus, I’ve been meaning to make a trip to the second location. Eddie, whom I mentioned before, opened up a shack in the Lower East Side after his recipe was a finalist in Food Network’s Ultimate Recipe Showdown. Despite the lack of formal training, the food of this renegade chef quickly garnered a cult-like following. His recipes are original, with influences from Taiwanese parents and growing up in the South.

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Pure Thai Shophouse – a break from mediocrity

Along the 9th Ave. stretch of Hell’s Kitchen, there are more Thai restaurants than you can count on both hands. For the most part they’re mediocre, catering to the Midtown office-worker craving a reliable delivery of pad thai. For the second time, my plans to eat at Totto were hampered by the long wait. Fortunately, Pure Thai Shophouse happened to be around the corner. This is David and Vanida Bank’s fourth restaurant, intended to evoke the charm of a humble shack in Thailand serving street food. The decor alone was a refreshing escape from the trend of Thai restaurants with  excessively lavish furnishings. The rustic wood planks, unevenly painted walls, and plastic stools to squat on created a boldly unpretentious atmosphere. Against the backdrop of softly-playing Thai pop music, Caritas and I perused the menu.

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Otto Enoteca – Batali on a budget

Elegant Italian dining on a budget may seem counter-intuitive, especially at a place owned by superstar chef Mario Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria is Batali’s most casual (read: cheapest) restaurant, and is intended to capture the essence of a bustling train station, rather than a highbrow dining establishment. Despite the boycott inspired by Batali’s recent blunder comparing bankers to Hitler and Stalin, Otto was filled with clumsy tourists and lively families during lunch.

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