798 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10019
(212) 765-7080

With a name like "Eatery", how could I not point out the window of Speeds' car and scream "That one! Find a parking spot and let's see if they live up to their namesake." Eatery, like my last review, 44 & X, and Cafeteria, which I haven't reviewed yet, does its thing by modernizing traditional American food and giving it some funk. Part of that funk is a trendy setting in a trendy neighborhood while being served by waiters who think they're better than you are. And part of it is a tweaking of the traditional foodstuffs, which in this case means giving it a bit of an Asian and a bit of a Mexican flair. Americexicasian?

By this point, I'm sure that some of my regular readers will think that Speeds and I are... an item. Even I wonder sometimes. But no, we're not. I'm specifically aiming this paragraph at Toilet, Speeds' should-be boyfriend (long story). Toilet, we're just friends. It just so happens that she likes eating out as much as I do (partly because she can't cook worth a damn) and appreciates a good dirty test message. Plus, since she'll split the bill 50-50, she's practically better than a date. Actually, Speeds was all set for a night out with Toilet when he cancelled at the last minute. Lo and behold, she was suddenly free and I found myself in her car zipping around the west side.

The waiter of ours, at least according to Speeds, was really hot. "Too bad he's so flamboyantly gay." But so was everyone who worked there. Our waiter, it must be said, was a total prick. But he improved over time. The first thing we got, after choosing tap over bottled water, were these odd peppered wafers instead of bread. The menus came and we tried to pick some things that we wouldn't have had before or that at least sounded fun.

We started with the Ginger Calamari, which was... uh... awful. One of the worst I've ever tasted, to paraphrase Speeds. Overcooked with a nice little burn to it. Actually, I didn't think it was so bad. I've eaten worse, and I figure that if you don't mind eating a fishy rubber band coated in 4C breadcrumbs, no problemo.

As I said, Eatery tries to blend American concepts with Asian and Mexican influences. And contrary to what you might think following the calamari fiasco (contrary to what we thought), Eatery succeeds immensely. Speeds went for the Apple Marinated Pork Tenderloin. It came with bok choi, which I love, purple potatoes, and a banana tamarind salsa. Speeds absolutely loved it, aside from the bok choi, which I took. I ordered the Wok Flashed Tequila Shrimp (see below), served over corn flautas with sweet potatoes and a cilantro sour cream. And I have to say that while I fully expected these to taste like something off the Blockheads menu, they were incredible. Eatery went from being a place I was planning to pan and ignore, to being a place I can't wait to return to.

No one, according to our hunky but distant black-clad waiter, was ordering coffee this 95 degree evening. But Speeds and I are smarter than your average bears and ordered iced coffee. Alongside the iced javas came our desserts. If you know my dining companion for more than two minutes, you know that the first word that comes to her mind after someone says dessert is chocolate. And hence, the Warm Chocolate Cake was the natural choice. I had some hopes that she'd order something different from her norm, like maybe the Oreo iced cream sandwich, but no. She was far from disappointed in her choice.

My option was the Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cheesecake. Very yummy, as you can see. The image tasted as good as it looks. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for cheesecake, ever since I was a little kid who ate y first slice in the crypt restaurant of an Irish cathedral. I've never found a cheesecake that can live up to the fantasy I've created as a memory of that one, but Eatery's was pretty damn good. I'd go back just for it alone.

Our meal, which consisted of an appetizer, a bottle of Magic Hat Number 9, two entrees, two desserts, and two coffees, tax and tip, came to $100 even.

UPDATE (7/24/09):
Speeds and Dogz and I, hungry in Hells Kitchen, wound up at Eatery for a quick dinner. Eatery was crowded, but we got a table with a pretty short wait and we placed our orders. The service was fine. Happy, pleasant, attentive. No one could really complain. The food was another story. No dish was necessarily bad, and maybe we'll find our way back here should we be unable to think of another place to go, but we were unimpressed with each dish.

Dogz ordered the Mac and Jack, a baked mac and cheese dish with fried onions. He thought it was good, but admits his bias having recently had what he calls, the best mac and cheese ever somewhere else. Speeds ordered the Grilled Pork Tenderloin, with red cabbage, almond-watercress slaw and red-potato bliss potato cake. She found herself disinterested and with good reason. The pork was flat, the potato cake mediocre and the slaw mostly for decoration. My choice was the Grilled Free Range Chicken Paillard over a bed of golden potatoes. Again, bland, and a little dry. Without the sauce, it wouldn't have had any taste at all.

Maybe we went on a bad night, but all of us left disappointed. Our three dishes ranged in price from $14 to $19.

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