Tag Archives: Restaurants

The Upper West Side: OK, It’s Not All Bad

big nick inside

Even though I’m thinking of moving all my restaurant reviews to Yelp, I figure I at least owe you this post. And by “you” I mean both my readers (are you still here?) and my neighborhood.

Ready? Let’s do this.

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The Upper West Side: A Vast Culinary Wasteland

Citrus

It really saddens me to say this, but my new neighborhood is a vast culinary wasteland.

Sure, I haven’t eaten out nearly as much as I used to. The economy and the fabled NYC cost of living increase has certainly taken their toll. However, the wife and I have tried several eateries in the past month and a half, and we were not impressed.

To wit:

Citrus (photo above)

This restaurant is only a few block from my apartment and boasts “Latin fare with Asian flair.” It’s a fun motto, which is matched by the almost clubby atmosphere of the interior. It’s a modern place, very glossy looking, with the patronage to match.

Unfortunately, the food’s not very good.

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Something fishy

Let’s ignore the fact that it’s been more than a month since the wife and I returned from the Florida Keys. When I look at these pictures, I’m already back there.

We had a ton of great food during our time on the islands and as you might expect, most of it was happily swimming along less than 24 hours previous.

The Island Fish Company

Just down the street from our vacation rental was an awesome little place unimaginatively named the Island Fish Co. We were treated to a great little table on the water (bayside) and basked in the quintessential Keys meal.

I had one of the specials: freshly caught hogfish with tomato, asparagus and a tangy bechamel sauce (pictured above). Even more delicious was my wife’s fish-of-the-day choice: simply prepared grilled mako shark (to your right).

Both came with yellow rice and mixed veggies. Both were perfectly prepared. And both were so tasty that I forgot to mention our appetizer: crab cakes.

While I didn’t get a good picture of them, I can still remember every moist, flavorful morsel. You’d think I’d never had a good crab cake before. And I would probably admit you’re right.

I don’t count myself as a crab cake connoisseur, mostly because I’ve had some dry, tasteless cakes in my time. But this one appetizer saved the whole dish for me. I will be having crab cakes again, but only near a coast.

Southernmost Beach Cafe

A few days later, we found ourselves in the land of beach bums, wild roosters and drunk tourists: Key West.

Right next to the Southernmost House (where we met up with friends and lounged by the pool for a day – highly recommended), is the Southernmost Hotel. And part of the Southernmost Hotel is the Southernmost Beach Cafe.

There’s nothing like a fresh fish sandwich. And when you’re in the Keys in the spring and summer, there’s a good chance that the fish in the middle is mahi (a.k.a. mahi-mahi and dolphin).

The Cafe grilled the fish simply, slapped it down on a fresh bun slathered with a mayo-based pink spread, and added some perfectly crisp fries. You can’t get much better than that.

My wife, however, would beg to differ. Although she ordered the same fish, it was placed in a more healthy environment – among the greens of a fresh salad.

Among the ingredients in attendance were apples, grapes, croutons, a tangy vinaigrette and plenty of lightly fried mahi goodness. It was one of the few lunches where we were simultaneously satisfied by our own food and jealous of each other’s.

Good stuff.

Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Restaurant and Brewery

Maybe it was post-sunset ennui or the less-than-diligent service. Or maybe it was just too difficult to follow the perfect lunch. Whatever this issue, Kelly’s Caribbean just didn’t strike the right chord.

One excuse I can’t use was the “dining room.” Set among beautiful flora and fauna, the outdoor garden dining area was an amazing way to eat al fresco.

We started with shrimp cocktail, mostly as an excuse to try the famously well-advertised Key West “pinks.” They certainly were enormous, but unfortunately, fairly tasteless. They were also too chewy, leaving my wife to deny her third shrimp. Not a great sign.

To combat fish fatigue, I went with jerk chicken (darkly photographed below). Although it came with a tasty mango chunk sauce, the dish was only decent. My wife also ordered a chicken dish, although I can’t remember a thing about it. Also not a great sign.

The food may have been forgettable, but the interminable wait for the check (after only one cup of coffee and one slice of key lime pie) was the stuff of legend. We beat a hasty exit shortly after finding the waitress gabbing it up on a cell phone near the kitchen.

We were done with Key West. And it, apparently, was done with us.

Top Philadelphia Restaurants I Haven’t Tried Yet (updated)

1. Vetri

Haven’t been there yet because… it’s too expensive, it’s only open like two days a week, and it encourages a chef’s menu that takes away precious control over what goes in my mouth.

2. Striped Bass

Haven’t been there yet because… it’s too expensive and it just closed.

3. Osteria

Haven’t been there yet because… it’s too new, too popular, and too north on Broad Street.

4. Buddakan

Haven’t been there yet because… it’s supposedly good for groups, but I don’t have a group that can really afford it.

5. Gayle

Haven’t been there yet because… I don’t know if I’m as adventurous as most people describe its food.

6. Supper

Haven’t been there yet because… I just heard about it and I’m not sure I’m in any rush at this point.

Been There, Done That

1. Mercato (BYOB) – TRIED

Haven’t been there yet because… it doesn’t take reservations and I only remember I want to go on weekends when the waits are the longest.

2. Django (BYOB) – TRIED

Haven’t been there yet because… its chef switch has garnered mixed reviews and the place is smaller than a matchbox.

3. Le-Bec FinTRIED

Haven’t been there yet because… it’s too expensive and that rich French food does a number on my guts.

4. Marigold Kitchen (BYOB) – TRIED

Haven’t been there yet because… it’s in West Philly and I don’t want to get shot.

5. RaeTRIED

Haven’t been there yet because… I only heard about it last month in Esquire.

6. Bindi (BYOB) – TRIED

Haven’t been there yet because… I’m afraid it won’t live up to my expectations of a Lolita-like Indian place.

* For more Philly restaurants I have tried, click here.