Just for the taste of it, MMXII.

Twenty twelve was a different kind of year for me. I really self-policed. With very few exceptions I didn't just go somewhere for the sake of going. I didn't want to spend money on a meal that would suck. In a sense, that meant that when something sucked, it was extra irritating. But it also meant that I usually liked where I wound up. It made picking my best of list a bit harder. One thing you can count on though, if the oft unemotional me starts raving about a place, then there's a reason. Especially this year.


Best Restaurant

The winner of eateryROW's Best Restaurant 2012 is Goat Town, the gastropub/bistro on East 5th Street. Why? Because it might be perfect. The food was great, the drinks were great, the staff was great, the ambiance was great. Goat Town literally did nothing wrong. What more can I possibly say except why aren't you eating there right now instead of reading this?

Best Bar

Wine bars tend to blend together. There's almost an unwritten rule that they need to be dimly lit, have black floors, play non-pop music, and have tiny bowls of olives on the menu. And that's fine. I like the wine bar mold. But that's not Ayza. Ayza is a bit more fun. You might not see a middle aged woman reading the New Yorker in the corner while she nurses a Malbec, but you can ask for a sommelier and cheese expert to put together a tasting menu for you and your friends. Ayza works great as both a place to hang out and a place to go on a date. And the food is fantastic. 

Best Cheesecake

Most people associate Peter Luger, the Steakhouse in Williamsburg, with steak. How ridiculously short sighted. Yeah, they probably serve steak, too. But go for the dessert. This was a slice of cake that was so smooth that if I was told that it was really a liquid and that the triangle shape was an illusion, I'd believe it. And look at that mountain of fresh-made whipped cream! Christ almighty. 

Best Sandwich

I ate the fish sandwich at Nor East Clam Shack once four months ago and I still think about it. Sadly, that's all I can do since every time I've returned they haven't had it on the menu. The few occasions since August when I've tried the fish sandwiches served elsewhere have been but pale imitations. 

Best Tourist Trap

La Birreria is the beer/wine bar that sits 17 floors above the Eataly food complex and manages to be a relaxing escape from the craziness of the downstairs mob scene. A few craft cask ales and a handful of imports dominate the small menu. La Birreria is a great place to people watch, especially if you're in the mood to watch foreigners type requests into the Google Translate app in their smartphone. I had a really fun time here and would definitely return. Bring your wallet.


Worst Excuse for Pizza

2 Bros Pizza is so bad that it's almost offensive. How bad do I mean? Let's just put it this way: even at a dollar a slice, you're getting ripped off. It's gloppy, undercooked, disgusting, and you feel like you're eating it in a bathroom stall at the Port Authority bus depot. 2 Bros' one saving grace is that they only give you a tiny slice, so at least you don't have to suffer for too long.

Most Squandered Potential

Walking down that dark alley to the entrance of the Back Room is filled with an atmosphere of fun creepiness. Then you walk inside and the dark woods and velvet and tacky paintings add to the cool bordello-speakeasy mood. Then you order a drink and it's awful. Then the pumping club music comes on. Then you thoroughly lose all interest and leave for Death & Company.

The Why Did I Pick This Place? award goes to...

The kitchen of this Russian restaurant closes at 9pm, the owner will greet you while inebriated, it's expensive, the food is mediocre at absolute best, and the staff is rude. The physical space is quite lovely. The bar is nice and the dining rooms are gorgeous. Like the Faberge eggs that were popular with the Tsar and the pre-revolutionary Russian elite, Firebird looks real nice. It's a shame that there's nothing inside the glitter.

Worst Beer Garden

Domestic brew served in plastic cups. That just about sums it up. Greenwood Park spoons out standard keg-party beer in a vast space in the middle of nowhere with all the atmosphere of a Home Depot parking lot. 

[ © Copyright eateryROW 2013 ]

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