The good, the bad, and the ugly of 2011.

Last year, my best/worst was dominated by the outer boroughs. It taught us all - but specifically me - that if you want great food, but insisted on sticking to Manhattan, then you were a lazy bum undeserving of such fine caloric intake. As I look back on this past year, I note that I was in a comfort food mood. I continued to travel to wherever the subway would take me, but I was clearly subconsciously looking for food that I could wrap myself up in like an old blanket surrounded by Tonka trucks and Lincoln Logs.


Best Restaurant

There are few foods that embody comfort food to the degree that fried chicken does, and Hill Country Chicken, near Madison Square Park, makes just about the best chicken, and couples it with the best pie, that you can get. I had a lot of trouble deciding between Hill Country and Salt & Fat. Both were great, fun places to eat. Salt & Fat, a small plates restaurant that never met a pork dish it didn't like, was close. But it boiled down to the small fact that I can feel my mouth watering right now at the thought of Hill Country's chicken and pie in a way that is pretty much unmatched by any other food product known to man.

Best Burger

If there's one thing I eat far too many of, it's probably burgers. They're my diet's Achilles heel. They're quick, inexpensive, and hard to really be terrible. On that note, it's rare that you find a standout. But JG Melon managed to pull it off with their no-frills, ye olden tyme style ground beef in a bun on a plate with nuthin'. What's that? You want veggies on your burger? Here, have a pickle. And yet, easily one of the best burgers I can say I've had, period.

Best Bar

I'm no connoisseur, but I love beer and, in that vein, the beer halls and gardens that serve such a copious volume of the stuff. With NYC seeing a beer hall/garden renaissance, it's only natural that one of these newbies rise above the others. Spritzenhaus not only has a ginormous beer list, it has damn good food and more space than you'll find anywhere outside of Astoria.

Best Cocktail Bar

It's hard to imagine a better combination than a classy coffee bar that transitions into a a classy cocktail bar. Then add the ability to hog a booth for hours doing New York Times crossword puzzles and reading back issues of the New Yorker and you have a caffeine and alcohol infused coupling not seen since biblical days.

Best Sandwich
MELT SHOP     and

There's no way to compare the two most fantabulous between-the-bread creations I've had this year so I'm giving them a tie. Neither of them are original, but both of them are perfect. Literally, perfect. Melt Shop's Classic Grilled Cheese With Bacon and Tomato is so good I can't describe it without getting X-rated. Meanwhile, Red Hook Lobster Pound's Maine Style Lobster Roll is something I can see grown sober men fighting each other bloody over. Do not, and I can't emphasize this enough, do not allow 2012 to go by without eating both of these creations at least twice.


Okay. First there was no worst. I did a pretty good job of self policing this year. I managed to avoid being suckered into going, by hype, hyperbole or ignorance, to too many places that stunk. Hype, hyperbole and ignorance did lead a few disappointments though.

Biggest Letdown

Vinegar Hill House was supposed to be so great and was instead just not. While the atmosphere and service were fine, the food was well below par. Operagirl and I trekked all the way out through Dumbo to get here and wound up walking back the the F train with a sulk in our stride. To this day,  she scrunches her nose at its mention. "$200 for that meal?" with incredulity.

Where's The Beef?

You'd think that a place with as much schmance as DBGB wouldn't serve a cold, overcooked beef slab coupled with shit service, but you'd be wrong. 'Nuff said.

Nostalgia gone amok

PBnC led me astray with some mediocre-as-can-be peanut butter sandwiches. I wanted so badly to love this place. I mean, hell, I love peanut butter. Who doesn't? But they seemed to have gone the route of crazy-shit-we'll-stick-together-between-bread and then hoped that everyone would get lost in the nostalgia of the days of yore when you did that as a kid. Unfortunately, as an adult, it didn't translate so good.


Dearly Departed

M. Wells would have been the best restaurant of the year if it was still open. It was great. Simply great. I never went there and ate anything less than amazing. It sucks that they couldn't afford the new rent. Word to the wise: read the lease. They're expected to return in a new location, but then they won't be in that cool antique diner space. It created a mood that was almost priceless. Plus, it was right on top of the subway. Couldn't be more convenient if it wanted to be. And so I lament their (temporary?) passing.

[ © Copyright eateryROW 2012 ]

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