Finally, I’m getting around to reviews of restaurants I’ve visited (the accounts related to any reviews are solely mine and my first hand experience).
I’d like to start by saying that I typically never rate a restaurant as Poor or Horrible on a first visit unless everything fails. Like many people I am a “typical walk-by, read the menu, then walk-in.” However, I only do that on a “no specific idea in mind” trip or because there’s nothing else in the area.
Mostly, I research restaurants based on a want or need, usually more a need to fulfill a craving. On the road, especially in this day and age, we have available to us numerous apps and mobile websites that allow us to quickly do a search of the food category we seek, obtain ratings and suggestions, on the fly.
One of the major unfortunate aspects of ratings and reviews is that you are unlikely to know who the reviewers, whether they are objective and especially, whether they have a clue to flavor, plating, service, pricing, a palate, and/or real knowledge of freshness vs. frozen dinner. I don’t claim to be an expert but I do have a clue and in my own kitchen, have had a number of flops. However, when you go out you have a reasonable expectation of quality in exchange for your patronage, and hopefully, that the meal was so good that you return, as often as possible.
On the coming pages you’ll note the good and the bad of eateries I’ve visited, loved and hated. When a friend or family member makes a recommendation I am not quick to order an intricate meal until I have a lot of input from others as well, especially on a first visit. I keep my order simple with something that is usual and customary. If that succeeds then I go to the 2nd level and try something more interesting, and so on and so forth. You might say that may be a waste of time however I’ve many times have been blown away by simple extraordinaire, and on the other side very disappointed with scrambled eggs, something that should be simple, on so many levels.
Here are several things I love, and need to have, and have enjoyed, and occasionally have been disappointed. These are items that are claimed to be specialties at the restaurants I’ve eaten, but let me warn you there have been a lot of misses.
– Barbecue Ribs: Not pre-boiled but slow roasted. If a restaurant has a grilling/smoking oven/BBQ’er then this should not be an issue however there are too many lazy cooks that take too many bad short cuts;
– Seafood Marinara or Fra Diavolo: I only order this in Italian restaurants that have supposedly good reputations for the seafood, their pasta and sauce. Typically I order this at restaurants in seafaring towns or big cities with lots of foot traffic;
– Brisket Sandwich: Slow roasted and hand sliced. I am not into the “Lean Cuisine” thing I want all the fat included, so VERY juicy! Meat on club or Rye bread, heavy slather of spicy mustard, and sour pickle on the side;
– Steak: The real thing (of course, none available in my area). At least 45 days dry aged at 48F, preferably the Sirloin bone-in however a mignon will do fine;
– Lobster: After having my lobster plucked fresh, before my very eyes, on the seacoast of Maine (20 minutes from my home) it is hard to have a favorable opinion of elsewhere. Though, when I have traveled I have seldom ever had lobster.
– 3 Eggs, Soft Scrambled & Corned Beef Hash: 3 Eggs not over beaten and slow cooked until no longer runny, the hash slightly crispy on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside, and a side of toast;
– Hamburger: 80/20 Half pound Sirloin burger (dry aged at least 21 days) medium rare but charred on the outside, a lightly charred roll. Extras may include sharp cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, raw red or sautéed white onion, tomato, salt and pepper;
– El Cubano: Sliced roasted pork (the fresh ham seasoned Caribbean style), sliced Manchego cheese, sliced ham, sliced Dill pickle, a slather of Mayo, on club bread (or baguette), and toast pressed (like a Panini);
– Hot Dog: Nothing but a Nathan’s Dog in natural casing (east coast dog, the first and best in the USA) will do, spicy onions, sauerkraut, mustard in a steam warmed hot dog roll;
– Pizza: Old fashioned Brooklyn pizza. Thin crust – well done, semi-light sauce, and Buffalo Mozzarella, light on the cheese.
– Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich: Old fashioned ham, prosciutto cotto type and cheddar on thick cut crusty bread with a creamy tomato soup on the side;
– Duck & Goose: Any and all ways;
– Conch & Octopus: See “Duck & Goose” above.
These are not the only meals I enjoy however they are some of my favorites, and believe it or not, they are the most difficult to find unless (in most of the cases) I make them myself – except for the Dog (at Nathan’s, Coney Island) and the Brisket (at Katz’s Deli, lower Manhattan), both in NYC, and in over 40 years have never been disappointed!