When Alli and I were planning our trip, we decided that we wanted to visit a couple of restaurants that are really hot right now; a Michelin starred restaurant, a hip new taco joint from a popular chef and one of the most anticipated new restaurants of 2013. Unfortunately, we only made one reservation a head of time (Minetta Tavern). With the other two restaurants we just crossed our fingers and hoped to get in. For Wed, Thurs and Friday it meant that dinner was at 10pm after a 2 hour wait, but it was worth it.
Salvation Taco. This is the latest restaurant from Michelin Starred Chef April Bloomfield (The Breslin, Spotted Pig) and we first heard about it while reading Eater’s Hot list. The taqueria is located in the lobby of the Pod 39 Hotel, a very hip midtown hotel with a maitre d’ that looked like Stefon. We arrived on a Thursday night to a packed restaurant. A large happy hour crowd had filled up the dining room, bar and lounge seating. The place looked like a great drinking spot and had two bars with a rear lounge area complete with couches, ping pong tables and large communal tables. We decided to grab some snacks in the back bar while we waited for our table. We split an order of chips and guacamole (good, really spicy) but had a near religious experience after trying their crispy pig ears. They were perfect bar food, crispy and delicate on the outside with melted fat on the inside and a great seasoning that gave each bite a kick. I could have eaten three orders by myself. The tacos we ordered after being seated were good but definitely not the star of the show. Of note was the Morrocan Lamb Taco that was served on a mini Naan “shell” with a generous amount of tender lamb, packed with spices and drizzled with a nice cooling yogurt sauce. To finish the meal we ordered their churros for dessert. Instead of typical sweet cinnamon sugar churros, these were more savory and had a strong corn flavor. Alli wasn’t a fan but I really liked the change of pace and their dark chocolate sauce was fantastic.
Minetta Tavern. On our last trip we visited the Michelin Starred Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn, a classic restaurant that basically hasn’t changed much through the decades. It worked out really well for us last time, so we decided to enjoy a similiar meal at the Greenwich Village classic, Minetta Tavern. The restaurant hasn’t changed much over time and when we walked into the restaurant I felt like I had stepped onto the set of Mad Men. This was the only restaurant we made a reservation for and when I looked on Open Table two weeks before our visit, their only availability (before 10pm) was during Brunch on Saturday. The brunch menu isn’t as exciting as their dinner or lunch, but I was still able to order their famous Black Label Burger (above) and Alli and Mike found their own dishes to enjoy. I’ve seen the Black Label Burger featured on Food Network and Travel Channel dozens of times and knew I was going to order the burger long before we walked in. I have to admit, as a huge burger fan, I was nervous. Would such great cuts of beef (a combination of dry aged rib eye, brisket and skirt steak) work in ‘burger’ form? Or would I wish that I had just ordered a steak? Luckily for me, the burger was insane. Smaller then I imagined but the most amazing texture and flavor I’ve ever experience in a burger. The meat basically melted as I took each bite, the extremely caramelized onions were a perfect compliment and the roll was great. Alli’s salmon/egg brunch special was OK and Mike really enjoyed his French Dip, but the star of the show was the $26 Black Label Burger. I was very happy to cross this off my bucket list.
Alder. Before our trip, we didn’t even consider visiting Wylie Dufresne’s new restaurant because it’s only been open for a couple weeks and it’s one of the most anticipated new restaurants to open in NYC this year. When I asked Mike about his favorite meals from last year, he talked about the tasting menu at wd ~50 (Wylie’s other restaurant) and how amazing the experience was. Instead of high end fine dining, Alder is meant to be Wylie’s version of a ‘gastropub’ and the entire menu is a la carte. Basically it’s a restaurant that is some-what affordable for folks like us. The buzz around it is huge and I didn’t think we’d ever get a table. So when we called an audible and walked into Alder on a Friday night, I thought they’d tell us to go away and that would be that. Instead we somehow lucked out as our names were literally the last one’s they took for that night. We had to wait 2 hours so we went across the street to kill time with some soup dumplings. Before dinner, Mike and I grabbed a drink at the bar and thought the drinks were very interesting but not exactly the most enjoyable cocktails I’ve ever had. We were incredibly excited for the meal so we ended up ordering about 9 small dishes from the menu and decided to make our own mini version of the tasting menu.
All of the dishes were presented in creative ways. Some dishes (like the rye pasta with shaved pastrami, above) were very clever and evoked thoughts of other classic dishes. Other dishes sounded more interesting then they ended up tasting; the poached egg in a cherry consume was just an egg sitting in a mildly tart broth. All three of us loved the pub cheese which had a great flavor mix of cheddar and wine and served with awesome chips (flattened potato rolls), the fried quail was served with a banana curry that somehow was awesome and foie gras terrine with an apple was a great little bite. When we visited the restaurant it was only a couple weeks old and Wylie was running in and out of the kitchen, so this place will definitely continue to evolve over the coming months. Maybe I was so excited to try the restaurant that my expectations were way too high, but nothing that we had blew my mind. However, the space itself was awesome and most of the food we tried was good enough to warrant a second visit, just beware because their a la carte menu can really add up quickly.