Here’s a not totally thorough review of our consumption during our DC/NYC trip. Enjoy; we certainly did!!!
Best bagel? Well, why don’t we piss off a bunch of people early? (Nothing like a good fight about whose bagels are best!) Cate and I were big, big fans of Black Seed Bagels. Nothing else really compared. By the way, the Mile End delicatessen people own Black Seed. They focus on Montreal-style deli. We skipped deli—I love salted meats, but they hate me—but, for a future trip, there will be a stop at Mile End.
Sorry about the lack of bagel pics. The best I can do? Share with you my photos of the Super Heebster from Russ & Daughters. The sandwich includes whitefish and baked salmon salad, horseradish cream cheese, and wasabi flying fish roe. Very tasty!
Bialys? Kossar’s is the place to go. Unfortunately, we were not wowed, either by the bialy—or its cousin, the pletzel—from Kossar’s. We had already tried the same products from Russ & Daughters. Turns out, I think, that Kossar’s supplies Russ & Daughters. Cate tells me mine are better! (Every dad needs to travel with his daughter. Huge ego booster!!!)
Pizza? With apologies to Phillip3325, who “only need[s] the Pizza-Pics,” we got a D on pizza. Slices from Prince St. Pizza and Sullivan St. Bakery, and a pie from Graffiato. Graffiato comments below. Prince St. Pizza was excellent, and came from a bucket list prepared by a NY food blogger who’s moving. Sullivan St. Bakery makes excellent bread and pizzas, and is owned by Jim Lahey, who advances the no-knead method of making bread dough. The mushroom slice I had was lukewarm, from a bakery shelf. Nice crust, and I suspect it needed heat to crisp up the bottom and bring out the flavor. (I hope the Sullivan St. Bakery pizza picture turns up; I know one was taken.)
Other food? Here it is, mostly all good:
Dinners? I ate six restaurant dinners, while Cate—who arrived the morning after I did—had five. Brunch with our relatives and our last meal, staying with friends, were the best. In both cases the food was very good, and in both cases we were with great people and in exceptional surroundings. Here are my restaurant dinners, some with photos, in reverse preferential order:
No. 6. Hank’s Oyster Bar is a hot place on Capitol Hill. I arrived at about 8:30 on a Wednesday night and managed to snag the one open seat at the bar. Tables all full, and when I left at about 10 the bar was still pretty busy and tables were still being filled.
I had three or four oysters, mussels, and a side of fries. Nothing—but for the martini—was bad, but nothing was special either. So-so service from the kitchen, which is how a meal at the bar ended up taking 90 minutes. Kingfisher in Tucson beats this joint on all counts, and especially on the mussels. Hank’s does feature a cool menu at its Eddy Bar, but my martini was not served in a martini glass, and was not good! Enough said, but for the fact that I looked for the glass shape on line and I think it’s a margarita glass!
No. 5. Cate and I ate at Boxcar Tavern on Friday night. It’s a small, wood-paneled spot on Capitol Hill, across from Eastern Market. Cate and I walked in on a Friday night at seven and had no trouble getting seated. (Our trip spanned the Memorial Day weekend. Getting seated was an issue nowhere!)
Boxcar makes a martini that was very nice. Cold, clean, and not small; who can ask for anything more? Cate had the Hangar Steak, while I had mussels and fries. Cate’s steak was very nice, and the fresh potato chips were excellent. My mussels were not quite as good as those at Hank’s, and the fries—an add-on, as I saw some passing by—were lukewarm. Excellent service, though, and that, the steak, and the drink made Boxcar Tavern a place for an easy evening.
No. 4. We met friends at Graffiato late—we didn’t order food until 10—on Thursday evening. Graffiato is a Mike Isabella restaurant. He’s a big deal chef in DC.
Once again, I got a so-so martini in what appears to be a margarita glass. Glass shapes do matter. (A wine tasting years ago proved this. Red wine, in two different-shaped glasses, tasted completely different. A parlor trick, of course, for both glasses were filled from the same bottle.)
Graffiato is a mostly small plates and pizza place. The roasted cauliflower and fritto misto were excellent. The pastas we tried did not do much for me, and the Porky’s Revenge pizza was not exceptional. I confess, though, that I’m not a small plates guy, and when the server tells me the food comes out when it’s ready, hair stands up on my neck. I’m paying, and you decide the order in which you prepare my dinner? What’s up with that?
All of my gripes aside, we had a very nice evening with old friends, Graffiato serves decent food that tastes good, and it certainly prices meals fairly, taking into account the fact that we were in downtown DC. My half of dinner was $77, and we also had a $27 bar bill for two drinks while we were waiting for our friends.
No. 3. Sunday night in New York was “meet the boyfriend and his people” night. We had a delightful meal at Barchetta with Cate’s boyfriend and his family. Barchetta has opened in the last month or so, just across the street from a High Line staircase on 23rd Street at 10th Avenue.
Barchetta’s chef/owner is David Pasternack, who is also the chef and a part owner of Esca, a Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich enterprise. Very pretty place! Fine service, and while it was not inexpensive–$440 for six, with two decent bottles of wine and two courses each—we all had fine food and an enjoyable meal. No food pics! Sorry.
No. 2. The child and I will disagree here, as I’m confident she thought Yuba was our best meal. I am happy to report that I ate the best sushi of my life at Yuba, and so did Cate. We shared steamed soup buns, followed by a selection of four rolls. Everything was fresh; what was exceptional was the combination of flavors and textures. Good fish and rice are necessary, but it was the attention to details which made the food special. We did make “all gone,” but the meal also left us stuffed.
Service was great, and the place is very stylish, making it a very nice place for a “more than every night, not a special occasion” meal. And very reasonable! For a filling dinner with saki, our total check was $80. (We did have a drink at Union Square Café, the first restaurant in the Danny Meyer/Union Square Hospitality Group organization. Fine martini for me, and Cate had something too sweet. I wanted to experience Mr. Meyer’s hospitality, and it was present, even with a 25 minute stop at the bar for a cocktail. Friendly, considerate staff. Fair pricing—$13.50 for a well martini made with Gordon’s gin—after giving due consideration to lower Manhattan prices. Lovely surroundings.)
No. 1. For me the best restaurant meal we enjoyed was served at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. (I’ve written about David Chang’s Momokuku Bo Ssäm, the pork roast that has become my go-to dinner for company. It’s only served for large groups, and with an advance reservation, but Ssäm Bar is the place to get it.)
Ssäm Bar is No. 64 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. (Do I know why a “best 50” publication goes up to 100?) We experienced excellent food, worthy of the rating. I had the Grilled Spanish Octopus, which was better than the octopus at Barchetta and only topped for me by the Polpo Alla Griglia at Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante in Miami Beach. A smaller portion than I wished for, but very outstanding!
Cate had the Grilled Flat Iron Steak, which she liked and I tasted. Very nice! We also shared the famous Steamed Buns, which are comprised of soft white rolls stuffed with lean pork belly, cucumber, scallions, and Hoisin sauce. Very, very tasty!
Ssäm Bar knows how to make a martini. Also, and this was much appreciated, when my octopus arrived and I decided I’d like a glass of wine with it, a waiter was at the table within about 60 seconds. And the wine was poured at the table from a bottle. And I got to taste it first. All good!
Great meal! Lots of good food, too, throughout our week long adventure!!!