Saturday, April 30, 2011

Stamping Our Pizza Passport at Little Italy

Little Italy Pizza
55 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036

If you are a tourist in New York you can count on many things. Your neck will become sore from looking up at all the buildings. You will have to buy an extra memory card for your camera, because you have taken so many pictures of all the sites. Your feet will be throbing from all the walking that you have done. Lastly, tourists can count on finding one of the eight pizza places in the city that calls itself Little Italy.

Not sure if there is just a shortage of creative names in the Big Apple, or if they used to be all together and then split up. It can get confusing for an out of towner. Luckily, Katie had her smart phone and we could look at Yelp for a pizza place near our hotel. The reviews were all pretty posetive for Little Italy Pizza, so that is where we headed.

The menu at Little Italy Pizza informs us that they are not affiliated with any other Little Italy Pizza. They have been originally owned and operated since 1965. Now that is some staying power. They sell pizzas by the slice here, and they have a very good selection as you will see. When walking in the pizzas are already cooked and behind the glass case. After ordering, the slices are placed back in the oven for heating. Let's see how they turned out.

Here is a quick overview of what we ordered. Four pieces of pizza and Garlic Knots. Now for a closer look.

First up we have the Buffalo Chicken pizza. This pizza came with spicy chicken pieces and fresh mozzerella. I liked this pizza a lot. They definitely did not skimp on the chicken here. I felt it could have been spicier, but I almost always say that.  Crust was good, held the toppings well and it let the toppings and cheese be the star of the show.

I went with a more tradiotional route for my second slice, the Sausage and Pepperoni Slice. Once again there were toppings in each bite here. The sauce was good, but the toppings were better. Not greasy like the pizzas at home. The cheese was very good on this as well. This slice was made even better after I added crushed red pepper to it.

Let's take a quick detour away from the pizza and check out the Garlic Knots. These were very good. Loaded with garlic and very soft. The texture on these was spot on. Enough garlic to kepp Dracula away for awhile.

Katie's choice was the Grandma Slice. This Sicilian slice is brushed with olive oil and garlic, then topped with mozzerella and San Marsano tomato sauce. Katie loved the uniqueness of this slice. I always want a little meat on pizza, but this was good, even though it was meatless. The ingriedients were fresh on this slice and made this pizza.

Katie could not stop raving about this White Pizza. Ricotta, mozzerella and Romano cheeses made  up this grown up tasting cheese pizza. Katie liked the buttery flavor that resulted when she bit into the slice. I liked this as well, even with the abscence of meat.

Little Italy Pizza was a very good pizza place. After having too many meals standing up, my parents were very happy that this was a decent sized restaurant with plenty of tables. I am sure that they are very busy for lunch, but we were here at dinner, and we were one party out of three others in the joint.
The prices here were also very reasonable. Slices of pizza ranged from between $2.75 to $4.95. Who says that New York is so expensive?

Out of five soccer balls, five being best to zero being worst, Little Italy Pizza gets three solid soccer balls.

For more information on Little Italy Pizza, click here:

Little Italy Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Anatomy of a Good Hot Dog at Gray's Papaya?

Gray's Papaya
2090 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Everyone loves a bargain, especially in very expensive New York City. After going through the Met and a quick walkthrough Central Park we worked up quite an appetite. We had been in the city for a few days and I had yet to have a great hot dog. So I was very excited to try Gray's Papaya.

Gray's has been open since 1973. Started by a former partner of Papaya King, Gray's has left the shadow of its competitors and been named the best hot dog in the big apple, been featured on numerous TV shows, and become part of pop culture by being featured in a plethora of movies. Enough of the buzz about Gray's, let's check out the food.

At Gray's, it is all about the Recession Special. The special includes two hot dogs and a 14-ounce drink all for the incredible price of $4.45. A real steal in New York. We got two of the specials. The first two frankfurters we got had sauerkraut on them. The kraut was not of the highest quality, but it was definitely better than the weird onion mixture that we got on the second special. The sweet onions were not very good, and I ended up taking most of it off of the dogs. The frankfurter was a little salty but had a very good snap to it.

Naturally, at a place that has papaya in the name, they have a Papaya Drink. Not only do they have papaya, but they have other fruit juices as well, including banana, pina colada, and pineapple. The papaya drink reminded me of a drink I used to have at Orange Julius. A little frothy, and a great neutralizer to the saltiness of the hot dog.

I will admit that this was not the best hot dog I have ever had. I did however like it, and I thought they were well worth the money. My parents would not agree with this statement. My Dad would not even finish his hot dog. He found this place to be the worst restaurant on my list. They might have been put off by the eating while standing up situation here, or maybe they really did not like the taste of the frankfurter. The menu here is very limited, but I am sure that is how they can keep selling their products at such low prices. Everyone should at least say they have been here at least one time to experience true New York.

Out of five ropes, (because the stem and bark of the papaya tree are used in rope production), five being best to zero being worst, Gray's Papaya get 2.5 ropes.

For more information about Gray's Papaya, head to their website here:

Stumbling Upon Serendipity

Serendipity 3
225 E 60th St.
New York, NY 10022

I admit it, I have never seen the movie Serendipity. I had not even heard of this restaurant until a week before I was leaving for New York. That is when the girls at the bank asked me if I had Serendipity on my list of places to try. I told them no, but after they mentioned Frozen Hot Chocolate and other ice cream treats, I had to succumb and add Serendipity to our food parade of the Big Apple.

Serendipity 3 was started by three friends back in 1954. Named after a crossword puzzle clue, the three amigos decorated their place with Tiffany lamps, started selling kitschy items, and started hawking frozen treats. Serendipity just kind of took off. They had lines around the block and famous clientele, Andy Warhol, Bill Clinton, and Katie Holmes to name a few. Wait times for a table have said to be about three hours on a busy day. Luckily on this night we only had to wait an hour. Let's take a look inside.

Serendipity kind of had a Farrell's feel to it. Being here made me feel like stepping back in time. Their menu is huge, and looked very intriguing. Two items caught my eye.

If I had not just eaten dinner I would have tried the $69 hot dog, just to say that I have had it. Really it is not that much more than you pay at the ballpark. Okay maybe a little bit more, but I could have justified it because I was on vacation. I do not think I would ever be tempted to eat a $1000 sundae. The sundae is covered in 23 karat edible gold leaf, rare chocolate, and even comes with a spoonful of Grand Passion caviar. A little too rich for my blood, so we settled on these items.

Katie could not resist the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. This oxymoron was actually quite good. It tasted just like a frozen hot chocolate. Great rich chocolate flavor in this. Katie had no trouble finishing this up by herself after we all took turns trying it.

For as long as I can remember my Dad has loved ice cream sodas. He likes them only one way though, a chocolate ice cream soda made with chocolate ice cream. Unfortunately there are not too many places that still serve these. Lucky for him though, you can still get an ice cream soda at Serendipity. I could tell that he was very pleased with this nostalgic drink.

My Mom saw three scoop sundaes on the menu and immediately asked if they had a smaller size. The waiter sold her on this Two Scoop Sundae. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream combined with rich hot fudge with real whipping cream and a cherry on top. A sundae from long ago, this tasted very good. I am sure my Mom could have finished the three scoop sundae with no problems, but she has great willpower.

I really chickened out here. I should have gone big, but I chickened out. I ordered the Coward's Portion Banana Split. This traditional banana split came with vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream, rich hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry on top. The ice cream here was very creamy and held the coldness in very nicely. It was great to have real whipping cream for a change, instead of out of the can. It really made a difference.

Serendipity might be a trendy place to eat, but it is definitely worth the buzz. Although we only ate desserts here, they were all very good, and we were pleased to have been here. The service was fair, they were still really busy when we walked out of the restaurant at 10pm. Worth the wait, but they do take reservations for dinner in case you want to try the $69 dollar hot dog.

Out of five chocolate chip cookies, (because chocolate chip cookies were invented through serendipity), five being best to zero being worst, Serendipity gets three chocolate chips cookies.

For more information on Serendipity, click here:

Serendipity 3 on Urbanspoon

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Hiding Out at Burger Joint

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien
119 W 56th St.
New York, NY 10019

As anyone that knows me can tell you, I love a good burger. I would even consider myself a connoisseur of burgers. So with all that New York has to offer, they must have great burgers right? After reading travel guides and internet blogs they all led us to Burger Joint in the swanky Le Parker Meridien.

Le Parker Meridien is one of those really nice hotels that you see in all the movies. A place so nice you half expect to run into Julia Roberts having lunch with Erik Estrada, (okay Erik Estrada would be busing the table, but they could chat a little bit while he is doing it!).

So this is the entrance to Burger Joint, as seen from the lobby of the hotel. Not exactly screaming eat here! Finding this place was more like an Easter egg hunt. It was almost like they do not want to be found. When in the lobby, just follow the curtain all the way to the left and you will not have to ask the front desk where the restaurant is like I had to.

Once inside this small fifteen table eatery, you are face to face with a board explaining how to order. Rule one, order a hamburger or cheeseburger. Rule two, How do you want it cooked? Rule three, what do you want on it? Lastly, they tell you if you are not ready to order they will send you to the back of the line. Some people may find this offensive or rude on their part, but I kind of find it refreshing. It keeps the line moving and helps get the food out faster. There is always that idiot that waits in line, never looking at the menu board until they get to the register, then they decide what they want to eat. It usually takes them forever. I say let the prepared people order first. Okay enough of the rant, let's check out the food.

Katie ordered quickly and got the Cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, and pickles. She felt that the meat was the star of this show on this very simple burger.

We split an order of French Fries. The order was pretty good sized, bigger than the large size at McDonald's. Unfortunately, these fries were about the same as McDonald's. Basic fast food fries would sum up these spuds. 

I got a Cheeseburger with the works. The works at Burger Joint is mayo, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onions. When the burger came out it looked like a salad bar, more than a burger. I remedied this by removing most of the veggies. I liked the bun on this burger, it held up to the toppings well. The burger was smaller than I would have liked, so the next time I go, I would get two. The beef itself was juicy and was cooked medium rare the way I had ordered it. The burger tasted like something you would barbecue yourself, which led to debate within our party.

My Dad felt that the burger tasted too much like the burgers he could make in the backyard, so it was not as special a burger as it could have been. I can not believe I am typing this, but I almost agree with him. The burger was good, but not much different from the backyard burger. If I lived in New York and had access to a barbecue, I am not so sure I wouldn't just barbecue a burger at home. But, on the other hand, if you're craving a homemade tasting burger, this will be the spot for you.

One last word, beware that they have very limited seating. here. We were relegated to the hotel lobby and ate on benches by the front door. Not very comfortable, but space is limited in New York, so it is understandable. It kind of made this experience more kitschy.

Out of five bones, (because a joint is where two bones make contact with each other), five being best to zero being worst, Burger Joint gets 3 bones.

For more information on Burger Joint, click here:

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien on Urbanspoon

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Spotlight on Sandwiches at Stage Door Deli

Stage Door Deli
26 Vesey Street
New York, NY 10007

When people think of food in New York of course deli's come to mind immediately. So when we were headed to New York I did some research and wrote down two names of delis to try. One was Katz's Deli and the other was Stage Deli, (more on that one in a later post). Anyways, we never made it to Katz's, but after visiting Ground Zero we found ourselves at Stage Door Deli.

Stage Door Deli has been around since 1972. Opened by a pair of Greek guys, they established a reputation as one of the best deli's in the city. After the terrorist attacks they were closed for six months, but in true New York fashion, they have rebounded and some may say they are better than ever.

Being a tourist in New York city, a deli like this can be a little intimidating. Knowing where to order, not being familiar with the ordering process, and the general organized chaos of a lunch time rush can un-nerve a guy from southern California. But we managed to find our way through the big menu and got our food to our table, so let's take a look at it.

My Mom went with a Tuna Salad Sandwich here. Not exactly what you would expect to get at a deli in New York, but she could not have been more pleased. She first noted the bread was extremely fresh and soft. She also felt that the tuna had a great mellow flavor, with just the right amount of crunch to it.

More in the way of a deli sandwich was my Dad's choice, the Corned Beef Sandwich.  He was very happy with this sandwich as well. The meat could definitely stand on its own here. Very moist, with a great flavor. They do know how to cook corned beef here.

Katie went huge with the Number 1 Sandwich. The number one comes with corned beef, turkey, Cole slaw, Swiss cheese, and Russian Dressing. She liked the mellowness of the turkey and felt that it balanced out the saltiness of the corned beef to form a great yin and yang feeling. She was also happy that this sandwich was manageable. We had heard that in some New York delis that they pile on the meat so heavy that it is impossible for one person to finish, this was not the case here. Katie also made mention of the freshness of the bread.

I ordered my favorite deli sandwich the Reuben. This Reuben came with corned beef, sauerkraut, melted Swiss, and mustard  all on rye bread. Simply put, this sandwich was great. The cheese was melted perfectly, the meat was spiced well, and the bread, even though it was soft, held the sandwich together perfectly. I was surprised to learn that there was mustard on this, because it was not very prevalent. This could be one of the best Reuben's I have ever had.

This being the first deli we had been to in New York will be hard to beat. Wish we could have come back here so we could have tried more things off of their big menu. The prices here were not at all bad, and I might even say cheap for Manhattan. All of the sandwiches were under $8.25, less than a Quizno's sandwich at home. Even though these were not the monster deli sandwiches that we had heard about, they still had a lot of meat on them, well worth the price.

So out of five boarding houses, (because the 1937 movie Stage Door revolves around occupants of a boarding house), five being best to zero being worst, Stage Door Deli gets 3.5 boarding houses.

 For more information on Stage Door Deli click here:

Stage Door Deli Iii on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 18, 2011

Shacking Up In the NYC

Shake Shack
691 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10036

When I told my friend Mark that I was headed to New York, he told me I must try Shake Shack, or he would punch me in the face. Okay, maybe he was not that harsh, but he really wanted me to try it. So right before a Rangers hockey game we headed over to give Shake Shack a try.

Shake Shack has twelve locations, seven in the New York area, one in Connecticut, one in DC, one in Miami, and even two in the Middle East. Big expansion for a restaurant that has only been around since 2004. Let's see if they are expanding because of the food.

Here is a quick overview of the food we got. The menu of Shake Shack is pretty standard fast food fare. They feature burgers, hot dogs, and frozen custard. You order at the counter and then you wait to have your number called. We got here at about 5:30, and the good sized restaurant was filled up. We claimed our seats and then our food arrived.

We'll start with the New York Dog. The hot dog was high quality, and I really liked that it was split and grilled. It had a very good snap to it. The potato bun was good, but I should have gotten a dog with some condiments on it. This hot dog could stand alone, but it would have been made better with some toppings on it.

The Double Cheeseburger was next on our agenda. Good flavor on this one and everything about this burger indicated that it was made with fresh ingredients. The bun on this juicy burger really held up. Good burger.

The Fries here are made with Yukon Gold potatoes. They kind of reminded me of the old Carl's Jr. fries. These came out nice and hot and very crisp. Every single one was crispy, a major accomplishment.

For dessert I went with their Chocolate Frozen Custard. I am new to frozen custard, which is soft serve mixed with ice cream. The result is a dense frozen product. The custard had a grittiness to it. Not so gritty that it was bad, but the texture was a little off for me. Next time I would go for one of their Concretes, which is their frozen custard mixed with toppings and mix-ins.

Shake Shack was all it was cracked up to be.  I should have studied the menu more before I got here, but I was hungry and in a hurry to get to the hockey game. The items that I did have were pretty basic, but very good. I would equate this place to Five Guys, and I love Five Guys Burger and Fries.

Out of five bus stops, (because bus stops can sometimes be referred to as shacks), five being best to zero being worst, Shake Shack gets 3 strong bus stops.

For more information on Shake Shack, click here:

Shake Shack (Theater District) on Urbanspoon

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