Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tisha Eats New York: Casual Dining

I ate quite a bit in New York (and Hoboken), and my trusty Levi's jeans can attest to that--I can barely get 'em past my bum! Damn. But anyway, I decided to divide my entries into categories, so today we're starting off with casual dining. These are the super laidback places we went to, the kind of places where you don't really need to get all dressed up, and with reasonably priced eats.

Turning Point
1420 Frank Sinatra Dr. Hoboken, NJ 07030
(201) 222-3797

Traditional Eggs: Two farm-fresh eggs cooked any way you want and served with country potatoes and a toasted English muffin ($4.95); you can add sausage, ham, or bacon for an additional $2.50

I realized recently that I have a thing for brunch. You don't have to get up too early for it, plus it gives you an excuse to overeat--you're eating two meals, after all! (It is a nightmare meal for any sensible diet, though. The whole five-small-meals-a-day thing goes right out the window.)

Given my Brunch Love, I was really happy that my brother took us (meaning me, my cousin Ate Udes/Lorie, and Boston U nephew Gedo) to Turning Point, a really lovely breakfast/brunch/lunch place right along the Hudson. Hoboken itself is such a nice neighborhood, and Turning Point seems to be located at a prime spot, with a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline. If I lived in Hoboken, I would be at Turning Point every weekend, I swear.

I ordered the Berry Delicious and Cream ($8.50)--an absolutely heavenly blueberry-infused waffle topped with homemade whipped cream and sliced strawberries. It was served with strawberry sauce and blueberry sauce...but I asked for a side of chocolate sauce. Sweet!

This baby elicited a lot of oohs and ahhs in Multiply and Facebook!

My nephew ordered the Big Daddy Omelette. This thing was no joke--a six-egg omelette loaded with Virginia ham, smoked bacon, chorizo, and fresh mozzarella. I learned that a half dozen eggs is Gedo's normal daily intake. "It's good cholesterol!" he insisted.

This (over)loaded omelette will set you back a little over seven bucks, I think (sans tax)

Ayhan's Shish Kebab
1504 Old Country Rd., Westbury, NY (516) 222-8000

I'm not sure exactly which branch we went to, but I tacked on the Westbury address! The one where we ate was a mall-based resto, and it was packed. There was a really long line snaking around the resto--all people waiting to partake of the $10 Mediterranean buffet! Yup, that's right, a $10 buffet--and that includes a drink. Plus our server, Jamal, was incredibly attentive. He was constantly checking up on us, which totally amazed us given that there were so many other people he had to take care of. I'm guessing Kuya Vic gave him a hefty tip.

Major's Steak House
Branches in Woodbury and East Meadow, NY

"What is it with Filipinos and steak?" asked Kuya Vic.

"Umm...I think it's just our family and steak," I theorized.


Yep, my mother's side is just full of carnivores. We ended up eating at Major's twice, on two separate occasions (I'm just not sure if the branches listed are the ones we went to!). Too bad my appetite crashed while I was abroad (no disc = small appetite), so I couldn't fully enjoy all the meat set before me.

On the first visit, I had a 12-oz steak served with potatoes while my cousins had the 24-oz version. My brother had a 12-oz steak as well...and a side order of burger. Hahaha. We also ordered some pretty tasty wings. On our second visit, Kuya Vic got the seared tuna (yummy!), and for the second time, we ordered the apple crisp a la mode. "Good choice!" said our waiter.

Tip: If you're not a fan of too-salty stuff, steer clear of the creamed spinach.

Off Times Square, near Hawaiian Tropic, NYC

The skewers were about $1.50 to $3 a stick. Note: The chicken skin one is better on paper--it's not like fried chicken skin, and I don't even know why we were expecting it to be! But all the others were good.

My brother might kill me for including his "secret sushi place" in this list. You know how you like keeping some of your favorite things to yourself coz, well, it's cooler that way? Like how you're possessive about a still-unknown band before they go all commercial. I guess that's how he feels about Hagi. (Hey, at least I didn't include the complete address!)

Prices are really reasonable, by New York standards. And my brother believes, like other foodies do, that the mark of a good Japanese resto is when you see Japanese people eating there. Measured by this standard, Hagi passes with flying colors.

The menu item that my bro was most excited to have us try was the five-dollar beer cocktail. It's beer mixed with different flavors of juice. Pretty good, and rather strong! I couldn't finish mine. Allergies + jet lag = a really bad idea!

Diced steak, $7.50

Worth noting is the miso soup, which was just $1.50--comparable to Manila prices! We also ordered a really freaky yaki udon ($9). It had these stringy little things on it that were squirming when the dish was served--it's like the whole shebang, delicious as it was, had worms on it! Gak! My family and I just kept laughing in between eyews. Haha.

We had such a filling meal for such an affordable price. (Although my relatives took care of paying, bless them!) "Panalo, di ba?" my brother kept saying.

The Diner
44 9th Ave. at W 14th, NYC
(212) 627-2230

Spinach and artichoke dip by candlelight

My brother wanted us to pay Samantha Jones's neighborhood a visit, so on our way to Long Island one night, we stopped by the meatpacking district for dinner. The area's uber-trendy, so to say that it's hard to get a table is an understatement. Every resto we called on our way there had a two- to three-hour wait--and it was a weeknight! There was the Spice Market (really nice, one of my bro's faves), Pastis, and Vento--all with hordes of people waiting, waiting, waiting.

We ended up going to the only place that wasn't packed. In fact, it was a pretty slow night for them: The Diner. After all, if you were going to the meatpacking district, all dressed up, why would you go to a diner, right? (Insert eye-roll here.) While I had a hard time walking because of my twisted ankle, I heard one woman complain as she struggled across the cobblestoned streets in her sky-high heels: "Ugh! They should pave these roads!"

A little odd that we had a candlelit dinner at a diner...I guess they're kind of trying to blend in with the rest of the district? Would've been cooler, I think, if they were all lit up like a regular diner, just to make it so blatantly different from other spots--a haven from other more pretentious establishments!

I wasn't that hungry so all I had was spinach and artichoke dip. Really good. And that, plus my brother's burger cost about half or a third of what our dinner would have cost in all those other see-and-be-seen places.

It was interesting being in the meatpacking district, and it probably would've been cool...if only it weren't "too cool," if you get me. SATC has either kept it alive or ruined it.

Grotta Azzurra
177 Mulberry St., NYC
(212) 925-8775

"More cheese, please!" OK, so we love steak, and we love cheese!

My brother took us to this busy resto in Little Italy mainly because they offer a $9.50 prex fixe lunch--you get to pick one pasta and one entree. While I opted to have risotto, they of course picked the pasta and--what else?--steak! "Where else can you get steak for $9.50?" said Big Brother.

They didn't get the steak right the first time, and my cousin wasn't they replaced it with an all-new steak. Can we get that kind of service here, please?

The other attraction in this joint is the Wine Cellar which, unfortunately, was booked for a private function that day. We instead got a table in the main dining area, brightened by the sunshine streaming through the windows.

Marra's (Downtown Glen Cove)
1 School St., Glen Cove, NY

Not your typical pasta: My lobster ravioli with saffron cream sauce

On what Kuya Vic dubbed my "last supper," we went to Marra's, a casual Italian resto in downtown Glen Cove. While the food was pretty good, the highlight was just cam-whoring with my family! Sigh, I miss them so.

Kuya Vic's choice: Pasta with chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, and oil

In fact, I miss New York. But eating out in a foreign land reminded me that restaurant hopping could be such an adventure--one that I can have right here at home!

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