Friday, December 11, 2009

My Favorite NYC Restaurants

Someone just asked me what my favorite NYC restaurants are and the question, or at least my response to it, suprised me. I'm sick of restaurants. This is crazy, because I love to eat and drink and talk and smoke cigarettes and generally subject my body to all the pleasure and abuse I can make time for. Eating out is one of my favorite things in the world. All those size 12s in my closet? A testament to immoderate enjoyment, ordering dessert and eating all of it, drunkeness, the bread basket....

What I'm tired of is the cult of the restaurant in New York City. My friend just tried to organize a birthday party at the private-dining-room Airstream trailer in back of Marlowe & Sons in Williamsburg, and, after days of back-and-forth, they told her they wouldn't be able to do it. When your day includes a rejection from a private-dining Airstream trailer in Williamsburg, things have gotten silly. People take food seriously, which has many wonderful consequences, but maybe too seriously? Don't we have better things to do with our time than spend hours trying to figure out what restaurant to go to? I'm not kidding, in New York, this can take a solid chunk of a Thursday afternoon. Chefs and restaurateurs are caught in a bind, too. To make money, your restaurant needs to be a hot place, but once you're in the white-hot eye of exposure, you're mainly in the business of turning people away, not feeding them. So, that's the long version of my answer. I don't even know anymore about restaurants. It's too much of a pain in the ass to stay on top of it.

The short answer is this classic list, some new, mainly old, all delicious, in no order, but all more-or-less places where you should be able to get a table at little or no notice and eat and drink and relax in a glowing, noisy room amongst friends.

The Good Fork
My Red Hook, Brooklyn local. I have been eating here a few times a month for three years and each time is still a treat. Great wines by the glass. Husband-and-wife maitre 'd/ chef team, lots of walk-in tables, food that balances perfectly between comfort and sophistication, local-fresh-ingredients yadda yadda. I particularly love the steak-and-eggs with kimchee rice (I have tofu instead of steak) or the wild boar ragu. It's a small, quirky, glowy, casual room that the owners designed and built themselves. In the summer there's classic NYC junkyard garden seating out back. The epitome of the kind of laid-back, somewhat scruffy foodie dining that NYC invented.

Dok Suni
119 First Ave between 6th and 7th Sts; (212) 477-9506
No reservations, always packed (but the tables move), pitch-black, poky-elbow-crowded East Village date place with various challenging features like surly service, tiny, hidden bathroom and difficult to manouver metal chopsticks. To me, this gets an A for NYC atmosphere. People say it's not authentic Korean but it's family-owned by some Korean girls and their mom, so who is to say what's authentic? I get the rice wine (?) with the little bits of cucumber floating in it, spreads of kimchee, shrimp dumplings, and always the hot bibimbop, a searing-hot iron pot of crusty-bottomed rice, pickles, vegetables, egg and tart plum sauce (and steak if you so opt).

The Oyster Bar
Like everyone else, I used to for lunch with the coworker I was secretly sleeping with. It's really a lunch and after-work place; it's simply too huge to stay rollicking all night long, but during the day or for an early dinner, I love the Oyster Bar. Eat at the counter. Look no further than a flight of oysters, a bowl of chowder and consume plenty of Bloody Marys on the side. (For the out-of-towners among us, this is a NYC institution in Grand Central Station, which is itself a beautiful city landmark that remains in everyday use, a secular cathedral, warrens of subterraean passages, various strata of heating and humidity, an ebb and flow of people like the tides, quintessential New York....)

Will be a few more, but I'm also tired of looking at last week's post atop my blog, so here goes....

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