BEST OF MANHATTAN: EATS AND DRINKS

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Best of Manhattan: Eats  Drinks

BEST COFFEE FROM A PLACE THAT WOULDN’T APPEAR TO HAVE GREAT COFFEE

The Million Deli
1624 Second Ave. (at 84th Street),
212-535-7800

The Million Deli is a true diamond in the rough of the Boar’s Head deli set. At first glance, it strikes you as little more than a place to buy your morning paper on the way to Dunkin’ Donuts, which is where you get your coffee, right? Wrong. This is where you should be getting your coffee. Rich, creamy and perfectly sweetened, the Million’s cup puts to shame the aforementioned coffee chain’s efforts. (It is important to note that at the Million, one should not dictate the amount of cream and sugar to be added to your coffee; this is wholly unnecessary and will cause your coffee to be delayed by as much as 15 seconds in the ensuing confusion.)
First time visitors to the Million should also be advised that the line for the cash register runs parallel along the counter and continues along the deli case for as far as need be. It does NOT extend out perpendicular from the cash register counter. This invariably causes a tragic breakdown in the Million’s checkout system, and you will be verbally corrected by those waiting in the proper manner for their inexplicably excellent coffee.

BEST SURF & TURF

Leonard’s Seafoods and Prime Meats
1385 Third Ave. (at 79th St.), 212-744-2600

At Leonard’s Seafoods and Prime Meats, there are no stacked refrigerators lining the walls-every piece of seafood and cut of meat arrives fresh in the morning. The store has been on Third Avenue since 1910 and is still family owned. John and Peter Leonard handpick the seafood every morning, just like their grandfather did in the early 1900s. Back at the store, expert butchers are ready to help customers pick and prepare their selections, whether it’s a tuna fillet or lamb chop.
Note: in late October, Leonard’s will be moving to 1437 Second Ave., between 74th and 75th streets.

BEST DOWNTOWN VIBE, UPTOWN

Vai Restaurant & Wine Bar
225 W. 77th St. (betw. Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.), 212-362-4500

There’s a hip new vibe emanating from West 77th Street-and it’s not coming from that boutique hotel. What was once the Pita Grill, lost on an uninviting block between Broadway and Amsterdam, has morphed into a stylish little restaurant that’s been packed since its late June opening. But don’t be fooled by the flattering candlelight and the club-like soundtrack. This is not merely one of those see-and-be-seen kinds of joints. Executive chef and principal owner Vincent Chirico, who worked at Aquavit, Daniel and JoJo, is dead serious about his food. Appetizers like seared foie gras with fresh fig, and entrees like ricotta ravioli with truffle cream show that his focus is on the plate. To complement his modern Mediterranean cuisine, Chirico offers a diverse list of wines, among them a dozen whites and as many reds by the glass. The popular flights of three or five different pours allow diners to explore different regions without having to spend on full bottles. In short, Vai has brought a welcome dash of downtown attitude uptown.

BEST TRADITIONAL PUB

Biddy’s Pub
301 E. 91st St. (At Second Ave.),
212-534-4785

With subway construction currently turning the Second Avenue sidewalks into some sort of cruel human-size lab-rat maze, it’s easy to miss the humble awning of Biddy’s Pub hanging just east on 91st Street. Though the watering hole’s typically small crowd probably doesn’t mind this too much, it would be a shame for any pub connoisseur to overlook it. It keeps a namesake brew on tap, has a healthy relationship with the dimmer switch, offers a fair amount of seats and employs barkeeps who keep their patrons’ glasses full. In other words, the one-room space is a pub done right. With an Internet jukebox and well-used dartboard, you’ll stay long enough to numb yourself to the ordeal of walking through a construction site on your way home.

BEST BOILED-TO-ORDER DUMPLINGS

Zheng’s Lanzhou Handmade
Noodle Shop
144 E. Broadway (betw. Pike & Rutgers Sts.), 212-566-6933

When urges attack for plump and cheap dumplings, we thumb our noses at Chinatown’s perpetually packed Dumpling House and Anita Lo’s costly Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. Instead, we hit this sign-less, fluorescent-lit shop that’s as stylish as a torture chamber. Ignore the surly, skinny man stretching dough and request the boiled-to-order pork-and-chive dumplings. Eight translucent, bone-white treasures arrive steaming, begging for a bath of house-infused ginger soy sauce or incendiary chili oil. Each bite sends greasy pleasure cascading down our chin, the fatty pork packets cut with chunks of chives. It’s a trip to culinary nirvana for just two bucks.

BEST BLEND OF ADDICTIONS

Sixpoint Craft Ales’ Gorilla Warfare Coffee Porter
Our days are bookmarked by vice. Morning coffee is capped by countless pints of evening beer. It’s a balanced relationship, one in which each addiction understands its role. Then Sixpoint unleashed Gorilla Warfare. The burly, rusted-brown porter is steeped with Gorilla Coffee’s equally strong Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans, resulting in a morning-evening hybrid we don’t know when to drink. The full-bodied blend is redolent of java and raspberries, which meld with chocolaty flavors of porter and, oh yeah, an electric caffeine jolt. Our slippery slope to full-fledged drunkard just got slipperier.

BEST CLASSIC DINER

EJ’s Luncheonette
1271 Third Ave. (at 73rd St.). 212-472-0600?
447 Amsterdam Ave. (betw. 81st & 82nd Sts.), 212-873-3444

When anyone asks me where I want to meet for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I tell them EJ’s, on 73rd and Third. It’s not that I’m unimaginative or lazy (EJ’s is extremely close to home); it’s just that their menu is great for every meal. I love the waffles with real maple syrup, the onion soup has no shortage of melted Gruyere cheese, the burgers are superb and so is the grilled cheese on rye with tomato. Don’t forget the meat loaf with real mashed potatoes and gravy. And the desserts: ice cream sodas, chocolate cake, key lime pie, rice pudding.
EJ’s isn’t giving their food away, but the portions are so generous an appetizer is often enough for a meal. Friends visiting from out of town have come to realize the wonderfulness of this place and they always ask to go there. I have a great collection of EJ coffee mugs, too (that I paid for).

Tiffin Wallah Photo By: Justin Richards

Tiffin Wallah Photo By: Justin Richards

BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT TO APPEASE YOUR VEGETARIAN GIRLFRIEND

Tiffin Wallah
127 E. 28th St. (at Lexington Ave.),
212-685-7301

When dining out with my vegetarian girlfriend, we hit this flesh-free Curry Hill gem. The spicy Gujarati curries are swell (our heart pounds for the potato-and-onion sukhi bhaji), but more winning are the cracker crisp, forearm-size dosas. Select one filled with spicy potatoes soaking in luscious, buttery ghee or perhaps one packed with cheesy paneer. Our favorite, however, packs gunpowder. A cilantro-flecked dosa is stuffed with soft potatoes and incendiary gunpowder chilies. Each bite is a five-alarm blast that, for a hot second, makes us as happy as our girlfriend that we’ve gone veggie.

BEST COMFORT FOOD, UPPER WEST SIDE

Good Enough To Eat
483 Amsterdam Ave.
(betw. 83rd and 84th Sts.), 212-496-0163

For nearly three decades, Carrie Levin has been transporting diners back to their childhoods with what she calls “cozy, recognizable and comforting” fare at this farmhouse-style mainstay. Homey staples like macaroni and cheese or fried chicken are simple pleasures, but Levin’s food is hardly simplistic. Her famous meatloaf recipe calls for no fewer than 18 ingredients, including the finest ground veal and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Yes, the lines already go down the block during weekend brunch. But sink your teeth into Levin’s buttermilk biscuits with strawberry butter and you too will want to move in and call her “Mom.”

BEST PLACE FOR BELGIAN BEEF STEW AND A BEER

B. Café
240 E. 75th St. (betw. Second & Third Aves.), 212-249-3300

Properly called Carbonnade Flamande, this Belgian beef stew, made with dark beer and served with pomme frites, makes a meal hearty enough for even the chilliest of winter days. Enjoy it with one if the 40 of international beers available, five of which are on tap. With a slightly cavernous, yet European feel, B. Café is a great place to meet for drinks after work, or to relax over the weekend. The garden patio is open for dinner as long as weather permits.

BEST $1 BEER

Underground Lounge in Murray Hill
613 Second Ave. (betw. 33rd & 34th Sts.), 212-683-3000

Murray Hill is a neighborhood favored by Phi Kappa guys and sorority sweethearts filled with college-like bars that encourage loutish drunkenness and grind dancing. But when our cheap-bastard urges overcome common sense, we find ourselves at the rundown Underground Lounge. From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. nightly, the dude-heavy bar dispenses Yuengling and Bud Light drafts for one buck. That’s a hundred pennies, 20 nickels, 10 dimes-cheaper drunkenness does not exist.

BEST DIRT-CHEAP BEER IN A TRENDY SPOT

The Old Man at The Rusty Knot
425 West St. (at 11th St.), 212-645-5668

The nautically themed Rusty Knot is as trendy as a hipster dipped in Nike Dunks. The Hudson River hangout is chock-a-block with kitschy model ships, saucy murals and sugary tiki drinks that are a one-way ticket to Hangoverville. Combine that with a packed house of air-headed models and Euro-trash sausaged into $300 jeans, and you have every reason to run away. But early in the afternoon, before the hepcats come running, the sun-drenched Knot is downright ideal to slurp a dirt-cheap beer. A Busch pint is $3, while a five-ounce “Old Man” beer is $.99. It almost redeems Rusty. Almost.

BEST FIERY CHAAT

Indus Express
48 W. 48th St. (betw. 5th & 6th Aves.),
212-221-7952

We’re loco for chaat. Loosely translated as “to lick or taste,” this Indian snack is a riot of cool and spicy, crunchy and soft. Our most darling chaat depot is this Diamond District gem. Nearly a dozen assembled-before-your-eyes chaat are available, ranging from spicy alutikki patties to fat samosas to our fave, the papri. Garbanzo beans, potatoes and a sprinkling of onions, nuts, mango and fresh cilantro join crunchy bread chips and lentil dumplings, with the whole mess topped with minty chutney and creamy yogurt. As the name suggests, you’ll want to lick clean every last savory dollop.

BEST PLACE FOR HEALTHY EATING-AND INSPIRATION

Candle Café, 1307 Third Ave. (betw. 74th & 75th Sts.), 212-472-0970
Candle 79, 154 E. 79th St. (betw. Lexington and Third Aves.), 212-537-7179

A 14-year veteran on the Upper East Side, this vegetarian café is the only vegan place in the neighborhood. But don’t be scared if you’re not into the vegetable thing-Candle Café offers fantastically delicious edibles for both non-meat eaters and meat eaters alike. Using all natural ingredients, each item on the menu is scrumptious and good for you, desserts and shakes included. Proprietor and self-proclaimed bon vivant Bart Potenza recently released a book, Look Two Ways on a One-Way Street: Food for Thought from the Founder of Candle Café and Candle 79. The tome is a compilation of 20 years worth of affirmations and aphorisms he uses to inspire his crew, like, “Life can be a bowl of cherries, but you might have to bring the fruit and probably the bowl, too.”

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Photo By: Hai Zhang

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Photo By: Hai Zhang

BEST WAYS TO BLOW YOUR DIET, ON WHEELS

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
(For truck hours and locations visit www.vanleeuwenicecream.com), 718-701-1630
Wafels & Dinges

(For truck hours and locations visit www.wafelsanddinges.com), 866-429-7329
New Yorkers are taking to the streets in their quest for the perfect sugar rush: first came dessert restaurants, now come sweet trucks. By parking at various locations throughout the city, the owners of these little shops-on-wheels avoid expensive rents and are free to spend their money on first-rate materials. Ben Van Leeuwen splurges on Michel Cluizel chocolate, Sicilian pistachios and other expensive ingredients for his all-natural ice cream, which he sells out of a custard-colored van. All of his 10 flavors-from Peppermint & Chip to Coffee-are made without milk powder or other common stabilizers. They also contain around 20 percent less sugar than most brands. The result is a cold and creamy delicacy that’s neither cloyingly sweet nor overly thick.
Those who prefer their snacks hot and crunchy should be on the lookout for the black, yellow and red truck of Thomas DeGeest. His “wafels” are the most authentic Belgian waffles in all of New York, and not just because DeGeest was born and raised in Belgium. He imports both the pearl sugar and the dough for his chewy Liège waffles directly from his native country, where he also bought his 65-pound waffle irons. For the lighter Brussels waffles, he has a variety of toppings on hand, including whipped cream and Belgian chocolate fudge sauce. Health nuts should think of all the calories they will burn on the walk over and indulge without guilt.

BEST FOOD-BLOG SMACKDOWN BY WHINY BRATS

Eater vs. Down by the Hipster
Food blogs have become battlegrounds, with foodies fighting to post pics of plywood-covered construction sites, scandalous chef gossip and reviews of eateries that have been open eight hours. This OCD idiocy reached its apex this spring when the ever-bitchy Eater.com revealed Scott Solish as the furious fingers behind Down by the Hipster. What followed was a back-and-forth, name-calling snarkfest perpetrated by grown men acting like a catty clique of high school cheerleaders. Remember the days when food blogs actually, you know, wrote about food? Here’s an insider scoop: Grow up.

BEST INSIDIOUS CHARGE ON YOUR BILL AT BARS

Charging Tax on Wine or Beer at Bars
When we pony up to bars and buy a $5 beer, we expect that brewski to cost $5, tax included. Why mess with change when you’re getting messed up? Lately, though, owners at hoity-toity drinkeries including Terroir, Clover Club and Pegu Club have begun adding tax to bills. Paying $10.83 for a $10 cocktail is now the ridiculous norm. Look, we empathize: it’s a Sisyphean struggle to run a successful New York City business. But do us a favor and round up, instead of saddling us with bills requiring dimes and pennies. What’s next, a dirty-water-dog vendor charging $1.08 for a frankfurter?

BEST LAMB & FETA BURGER

Niche
1593 Second Ave. (betw. 82nd & 83rd Sts.), 212-734-5500

The lamb and feta burger at Niche is melt-in-your-mouth good. It’s such a delicious combination of flavors that after your first bite, you’ll be craving more. Added bonus: this lamb and feta delight is available at a cool new place to relax and hang out. Niche, the sister restaurant to the Bar@Etats-Unis and Etats-Unis restaurant, also hosts a tasting hour from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The complimentary apertivos allow you to taste samplers of other menu options for free, including charcuterie meats, artisanal cheeses, homemade pizzas and finger sandwiches. Don’t miss the nightly wine specials, either.

BEST TV-INSPIRED DISH

Gossip Girl Grilled Cheese at Gilt (in the New York Palace Hotel)
455 Madison Ave. (betw. E. 50th & 51st Sts.), 212-891-8100

“You know you want it,” says the menu entry for the Gossip Girl grilled cheese at Gilt, and, oh yes, we do, we do! At $30, this sandwich is over the top: a thick wedge of Fontina cheese and brioche sprinkled with black truffles-”Originally white truffles,” the manager explains, “but as you know, the white truffle season lasts only so long.” There was no sign of Serena, Chuck or their gilded friends during a recent visit to the restaurant bar, a setting for early episodes of the hit CW show; instead, it was crowded with a much older demographic, a cruel irony since only a teenager’s metabolism could efficiently process this very buttery slab.

BEST NEW MIDTOWN RESTAURANT

Brasserie Cognac
1740 Broadway (at W. 55th St.),
212-757-3600

Since we studied abroad a semester in Paris and subsisted on nothing but cheap wine and Gauloises, we were thrilled when a new French restaurant gave us a good reason to venture into Midtown. Brasserie Cognac’s menu includes such French staples as “Soupe a L’Oignon,” “Salade Nicoise” and “Steak Frites,” all done to perfection. After trying out our rusty French accent on the waiter, we ogled the modern yet ostentatious décor-a zinc bar, vaulted ceilings and a dramatic, runway-like entrance that’s a little more Sex and the City than “City of Lights.” Sipping a $10 glass of Pinot Noir, though, we quietly reminisced about those dirt-cheap bottles of red that kept the youth hostel interesting and toasted ourselves for making it out alive.

BEST PIZZA, EAST SIDE

Luigi’s
1701 First Avenue (betw. 88th & 89th Sts.), 212-410-1910

Is there a more abused and ultimately futile small talk topic in New York City than best pizzeria? Nearly all of these great debates end in some serious neighborhood homerism, or demonstration of arcane pizza knowledge. Forget the opinion of that guy at work who would have you trek to a basement kitchen in Coney Island for the world’s greatest slice. Luigi’s is delicious and does not require cab fare. Buffalo chicken and grandma’s slices are more recent additions to the menu, but, as with any truly great pizza joint, the basics are where the shop makes its mark. Perhaps the best indicator of the neighborhood’s love affair with the restaurant is the after-work crowd that forms most days, where cops and button-downs, high schoolers and moms with strollers, all line up for slices. The people have spoken, and you now have a brand to tout the next time someone dares ask about the city’s best pizza.

BEST NEW DINER, WITH THAI FLAIR

Vynl
1491 Second Ave. (at 78th St.), 212-249-6080

With a mirrored disco ball, mosaic tabletops and black LPs glued to the walls, Vynl looks like an average American diner. But open the menu, and be prepared for a little culture alongside your comfort food: mac and cheese and buffalo wings are found just across the page from traditional Thai entrees like pad thai and red curry. Prices are reasonable, too, making Vynl the perfect place to go when you can’t agree on a cuisine.

BEST NEW DESSERT SPOT

Dessert Studio
ABC Home & Carpet, 888 Broadway
(at W. 19th St.), 212-477-7335

Hidden in the back of ABC Home & Carpet is a literally sweet surprise: a dessert café bar-cum-chocolate and tea shop smack dab in the middle of the house wares institution. Dessert Studio, with desserts by Will Goldfarb (of gone-but-not-forgotten Room 4 Dessert), seats about 35 people but rarely seems to have more than a handful of customers, even when the store around it is bustling. Sit at the small bar or among the low-slung tables and enjoy treats such as bubbly chocolate ganache with espresso jelly and milk foam or recently added items like white coffee sabayon with passion fruit sorbet and cocoa nibs. A PacoJet is employed to make the frozen concoctions, which allows for some particularly vibrant sorbets-the bracingly tart banana is a personal favorite. Goldfarb has reined in some of his more outlandish tendencies; there isn’t a blindfold or a syringe to be found, though one early dessert did pair caviar with the outstanding vanilla ice cream. His lack of presence is a bit troubling though, since half the fun is having the bespectacled mad foodist explain the process behind the dishes, let’s hope Goldfarb starts stopping by a bit more often. There’s a wide selection of products to take home such as SerendipiTea and Caffe Terzi beverages, Cuizel and Amadei chocolates, or impeccable brownies and straightforward cupcakes from Seth Goldberg.

BEST FREE BAR SNACKS

davidburke & donatella
133 E. 61st St. (betw. Lexington & Park Aves.), 212-813-2121

You don’t have to be a hedge-fund manager or media tycoon to enjoy Upper East Side fine dining at its best. Just grab a stool at davidburke & donatella, a stylish New American restaurant in the posh East Sixties, and wait for the bar snacks to arrive. On a recent evening, crispy breadsticks were dipped in mustard seed oil and perched atop a salt brick platform. Bite-size short rib strudels arrived in a little red wagon with Amarillo sauce and a Moroccan glaze, and a pair of grapes fried in cornflakes were skewered and suspended above a foie gras marmalade. The playful menu is suited to the restaurant’s whimsical, white-washed décor, and for only the price of cocktails, you, our cash-poor but desire-rich friends, can fit right in.

BEST DEAL AT A FANCY RESTAURANT

$29 Lunch Special at Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West (at W. 60th St.),
212-299-3900

Our two main food groups may be gyros and pre-packaged sushi, but sometimes even our sad palates deserve the strange culinary concoctions those celeb chefs dream up on TV. Conveniently located where so many subway lines intersect at Columbus Circle, Jean-Georges, helmed by kitchen star Jean-Georges Vongerichten, offers plebes like us just that chance. Instead of dropping another $30 on a party dress at H&M, we saved our pennies and went hungrily uptown for the restaurant’s ridiculously cheap, fixed-price lunch. After a complimentary amuse bouche (we know what this “one bite” appetizer is because we love Top Chef), we chose two plates from the lunch menu. Our scallops were divine and the gnocchi was delectable. Sure it cost more than a Styrofoam box full of street meat, but when we found ourselves chatting about Jean Georges and his use of spices and sauces on our ride home, we realized that the chance to sound like a know-it-all foodie is priceless.

BEST LOUNGE

Auction House
300 E. 89th St. (At Second Ave.),
212-427-4458

Most Friday and Saturday nights, it feels like the fresh-from-commencement crowd (and the ensuing ruckus) is inescapable in the bars of the Upper East Side. Seek sanctuary behind the permanently curtained windows of Auction House. The two-room bar space is decorated with morose, oddball paintings and plush seating options. It feels a bit like what the inside of Anne Rice’s head must look like. Cuts from the more gothic end of the post-punk musical spectrum serve as a soundtrack for the whole affair. Almost as welcome as the moody aesthetic is the fact that the crowd doesn’t appear to be a roving game of flip cup. Of course, the heady mix of low lighting, ample booze and Robert Smith vocals can also induce the occasional public make-out session, but there are plenty of less uncomfortable designs elements to stare at as well.

BEST PLACE TO FILL A GROWLER ON THE CHEAP

Whole Foods’ Bowery Beer Room
95 E. Houston St.
(betw. Bowery & Chrystie Sts.), 212-420-1320

Nowadays, beer lovers must sell a pint of plasma to buy a pint, which can cost upward of $6 or $7. Balderdash. Thankfully, Whole Foods is an unlikely ally in low-cost intoxication. The Bowery locale fills growlers (sealed 64-ounce jugs; buy one for $3 or bring your own) with delectable local suds from the likes of Brooklyn, Sixpoint and Blue Point. Each refill costs just $7 or $8. Do the math, Einstein: with growlers containing four 16-ounce pints, that makes the per-pint cost about $2. Whole Paycheck? That’s a whole lot of nonsense.

BEST PLACE FOR A LAST DATE

El Quinto Pino
401 W. 24th St. (at Ninth Ave.), 212-206-6900

This tapas bar in Chelsea is great for a first date but even better when the fantasy ends and you’re looking to sever ties. The plates are delicious (you’ve suffered enough, so enjoy), but there’s no need to, ahem, “commit,” since the portions are so small. The space is standing room only, which facilitates a rapid exit should you find yourself on the receiving end of a bottle of grappa or well-aimed Spanish port. And once you’ve said your good-byes, drown your sorrows and look for a rebound in the West Chelsea club district, just a few blocks away.

BEST VIRGIN TAKE ON AN ALCOHOLIC DRINK

The Dark and Stormy Ice Cream Float at Five Napkin Burger
630 Ninth Ave. (at W. 45th St.), 212-757-2277

While the burgers at this new Hell’s Kitchen hotspot are nothing to write home about, there is one thing on the menu that’s so tasty we would use it to wash down anything we could: The Dark and Stormy Ice Cream Float. A take on the Bahamian national drink-ginger beer with Gosling’s dark rum floating on top-this sweet, foamy drink uses bracing ginger beer but subs rum-raisin ice cream for the booze. We normally don’t see the point in drinking things that don’t get us drunk, but, when presented with such a loving homage to such a fantastic cocktail, what choice do we really have?

BEST DESSERT, UPPER WEST SIDE

Flourless chocolate cake at Gennaro
665 Amsterdam Ave.
(betw. 92nd and 93rd Sts), 212-665-5348

If you’re the type that never skips dessert, you better get in line-pronto-at Gennaro Picone’s neighborhood Italian eatery. Picone is drawing such crowds to his casual, family-friendly eatery that he recently decided to expand for the second time. Many are lured by the short-but-sweet list of timeless treats like tiramisu and semifreddo. The most popular among them is clearly Picone’s flourless chocolate cake: his regulars like it so much, they frequently order it out for special occasions. Made from fresh Piedmont hazelnut paste and bittersweet Callebaut chocolate, the mousse-like confection is chilled, cut into slices and served with a mound of fresh whipped cream. It’s rich enough for two, but you won’t want to share it.

BEST OF THE NEW UPPER WEST SIDE FINE DINING SCENE

eighty one
45 W. 81st St. (betw. Columbus Avenue and Central Park West), 212-873-8181
With the opening of Ed Brown’s eighty one earlier this year, dining on the Upper West Side has reached a whole new level of sophistication. Sure, Brown himself is the first to point out that other excellent chefs present seasonal market menus, extensive wine lists and elegant settings elsewhere in the area. Yet none of them gave done it in quite so grand a style. His lavish dining room glows in rich reds and creams. His skillful cooking shines through in fluke a la plancha with green tomatoes and poached duck with chorizo. Everything from the mouth-watering amuses-bouches to the finger-licking petits fours oozes classiness. But don’t reach for that coat and tie. As longtime resident Brown puts it, “jackets required” just doesn’t fly in this neighborhood. Turns out he hates getting dressed up for a good meal as much as the next guy.

Anthos lamb burger Photo By: Katherine Bryant

Anthos's lamb burger Photo By: Katherine Bryant

BEST UPSCALE MIDTOWN LUNCH

Anthos
36 W. 52nd St. (betw. Fifth and Sixth Aves.), 212-582-6900

Greek has gone haute. At Anthos, chef-partner Michael Psilakis takes the humble cuisine from its peasant roots and elevates it to Michelin-starred heaven. Take the marvelous things the self-taught Psilakis does to an old Greek standby like lamb: he grinds it, sears it, slaps it on a bun and turns it into the best burger you will ever eat. Thank the gods that he decided to put it on his three-course prix-fixe lunch menu-such a steal at $28 it’s no wonder half the midday crowd goes for it. This being Midtown, said crowd is heavy on the suits, but they must be the ones shelling out the big bucks for the big wines, which makes it possible for the rest of us to worship at the altar of culinary genius without breaking the bank.

Photo By: Justin Richards

Photo By: Justin Richards

THE GREAT BAGEL TASTE-OFF

New Yorkers put up with a lot-overpriced and under-spaced apartments, traffic, the MTA-but in exchange for these inconveniences we get access to things like the Metropolitan Opera, 24-hour bodegas and the perfect bagel.

Few food items elicit more passionate opinions from New Yorkers than these carb-heavy wheels of boiled dough. So we decided to conduct a blind taste-test, involving three of Manhattan’s bagel heavyweights-Daniel’s Bagels, H&H and Tal Bagels, to see which reigned supreme. Noshers evaluated each entry on appearance, taste, texture and overall appeal. Some opted for cream cheese, while others went for the plain, unadulterated bagel.
Results were surprising and overwhelmingly tilted in favor of the winner: Tal Bagels (fortunately, also the store with the most locations).
“That’s a damn good bagel,” one taster said.
“Firm on the inside, but not doughy,” said another-although one person complained that Tal’s was, “a little hard to chew.”
H&H seemed to be the second-favorite, although those who favor soft bagels may prefer this variety over Tal’s.
As for Daniel’s, the panel was underwhelmed. “Better than a coffee cart bagel,” one taster said with a shrug.

Tal Bagels
333 E. 86th St. (betw. First & Second Aves., 212-427-6811
1228 Lexington Ave. (at 83rd St.), 212-717-2080
979 First Ave., (at 54th St.), 212-753-9080
2446 Broadway (betw. 90th & 91st Sts.), 212-712-017
54 First Ave. (betw. 3rd & 4th Sts.), 212-753-9080

H&H
2239 Broadway (at 80th St.), 212-595-8000
639 W. 46th St. (betw. 11th Ave. & West Side Hwy.), 212-765-7200

Daniel’s Bagels
569 Third Ave. (betw. 37th & 38th Sts.), 212-972-9733

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