Tuesday, March 19, 2013

OttO Enoteca/Pizzeria 

You may think a Mario Battali/Joe Bastianich restaurant is going to be expensive. Not so with Otto. I can have lunch for $10 and be satisfied. I also can spend more and enjoy the meal; it just depends upon my mood.

I decided to try Otto on Eighth Street in the One Fifth Avenue building because of the location, and because of the famous names attached to it. Now this restaurant is one of my favorites due to the cuisine and the staff, which makes me feel welcome on each visit, especially Ray, the floor captain.  He is always willing to answer questions about the menu without making me feel I should know that ingredient.

The atmosphere is relaxed — I do not seem out of place in my casual tour guide attire — but it can get noisy at lunch with families and children or business meetings. As a people watcher, I enjoy the busyness.

But I do go for the food! Wonderful salads, especially the chopped salad, which can contain different ingredients, depending upon the day and the season. Beans and Italian dried sausage, hard cheese with the greens and various vegetables all work together for a filling entré. The $10 salad and the crusty bread brought to the table when being seated provide me with a satisfying meal.

Depending upon the weather, I may choose one of the pastas, also about $10 per plate. Pasta ala Norma is a rich tomato sauce with roasted eggplant, fresh basil and Bufala Ricotta — pure pleasure on a cold day. Also, the Taccozzette con Stracotto (braised pork shoulder with basil and tomato) is flavorful and more than enough to fill me up.

I have tried several of the small dishes, vegetable antipasti, and thoroughly enjoy this style of grazing at lunch. Red beets diced with herbs, brussel sprouts, spicy rabe...I have ordered too much and had to ask for a take home package.

Try one of the small plate pizzas — again too large for me to eat at one seating, but fun! Toppings range from Fennel & Bottarga to Margherita pies. With the range available, you cannot get bored or tired of visiting Otto.

If you still have room for dessert, go for it. Only once did I have enough courage to stuff myself with dessert and loved it!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pour Georges — West 8th Street

While I like to keep lunch under $10 (without tip) the food at Pour Georges is worth the extra cost! I have suggested this restaurant to several tourists, who have reported back that they “loved” the food and the variety.

Since the menu changes with the season, I can only tell you to walk over and check out the menu posted. During the 2011-2012 Holiday season, I enjoyed Rabbit Ragout and Cioppino on two different occasions. I am sure you can get good Cioppino at Mesa Grill, and other expensive places in the City, but not at the price you will pay at Pour Georges. First, the smokey flavor was subtle, yet present. Mussels, clams, shrimp and cod filled the plate. The size of the bowl scared me at first, but I finished the whole thing, soaking all the sauce with the toasted baguette slices.

The Rabbit Ragout was rich, creamy, and again, an ample portion. The meat was tossed in a rich brown sauce and served over pappardelle. Because I do not find rabbit frequently, I rushed over to taste this dish when told they had it on the menu, and I was not disappointed. My father was a hunter, and we consumed what he shot. Rabbit was a frequent fall dish, and served simply sauteed. This dish elevated rabbit for me.

At other times, I have consumed the cod fritters — served with two different dipping sauces — and a red beet salad with crushed pistachios. Lighter meals during warmer weather.

I like to sit by the fireplace, even though it is gas fired and not wood burning. Hot cider is offered when the wind whips up. You can order it hard, or regular. Either way, it is an enjoyable addition to the meal.

Check out their wine list and their cocktails. I do not imbibe since I have a tour to do after lunch!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Free Tours by Food

Free Tours by Foot is adding a Food Tour of Greenwich Village! I followed Courtney through the streets yesterday, sampling savory delicacies in preparation of the Food Tour. Several of her friends came along to advise which locations should be on the tour. What a blast!

We had young people from Eastern Europe, Asia, England, etc. and from NYC tasting local favorites.
One of the great things about eating in Greenwich Village is the extensive variety of foods, from Middle Eastern, to Asian (Indian, Chinese, Japanese) to South American (Brazilian and Peruvian) to Island (Cuban and Puerto Rican) to Vegan and U.S. Down Home Cooking.

So we sampled pizza, deciding which provider will be on the tour, traipsing along Bleeker — even stopping for rice balls as Faicco’s — over to MacDougal for pizza, falafel and kati rolls....

The end of the walk included sweets — we must have sweets — with some members of the group choosing gelato at Grom, others suggesting cupcakes at Amy’s, and several of us satisfying our sweet tooth at Milk and Cookies with their bag of broken cookies.

What makes the final cut will be seen soon. In the meantime, try Courtney’s Food Tour of the Lower East Side or Chinatown, which starts next week. Courtney has inside stories about the neighborhoods and the shops she visits. Since the tour is free—you are not paying $40+ to taste items you may not like—you can choose which foods to sample at each location, or to choose nothing at all. I have found that the individuals on these tours are friendly, often offering to share their samplings.

These tours can cost you less than $20/person, and a family desiring to divide up items can save even more. This allows you to be generous with Courtney at the end of the tour!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Burgers on Sixth and Seventh Avenues

While burgers may not exciting, bad burgers are horrible. My experience so far has been to have two really good hamburgers in Greenwich Village. Usually, I would grill my own hamburgers with my own seasonings, but since I am writing for tourists who may desire a burger while traveling, I need to review hamburgers in the area.

Joy Burger on Sixth Avenue and Washington Place opened in the Spring of 2011. The burgers are grilled with a good sear on the beef, keeping the meat tender, juicy and flavorful. A board inside lists all the toppings and flavors of sauces for the burgers.

You enter and order at the counter. After you have navigated the order, you are given a card from a deck of playing cards -- this is how you will be notified your food is ready.

In addition, Joy Burger boasts several large salads. I have enjoyed the salads while sitting and watching passers by from the large, open area onto the sidewalk. If you really want a burger and/or a salad, you won’t be disappointed at Joy Burger.

On Seventh Avenue, across from Bleeker Street Pizza is Five Guys. Here you also enter and order at the counter. A very helpful young lady assisted me by describing the single patty and double patty styles of burgers and by handing me a list of toppings — which came at no additional cost. I had my single patty with lettuce, tomato and pickles, no ketchup or mayo necessary. The burger was juicy, and the toppings provided enough flavor so I did not need to mask the taste of the meat with mayo or ketchup.

Plenty of seating is provided at Five Guys, Joy Burger is smaller — not easy for large groups of six or more.
On days that only a burger will do, or if with a group that wants a variety of burgers and salads, try either location.

Friday, August 5, 2011


On West Eighth Street between MacDougal and Fifth Avenue is a coffee house style restaurant with charm, atmosphere, and most importantly interesting and good food that is affordable. I was drawn in by the menu posted outside, and a glance inside welcomed me.

With sofa seating as well as tables, the coffee house provides a variety of options. Just plop onto a sofa and have a coffee while reviewing your emails, or order lunch off the blackboard menu. Oh, the waiter will offer you a printed menu, also, but I like reading through the colored chalk on the blackboard.

Gizzi’s Pear Salad was refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. The greens were chopped with cranberries, walnuts, feta cheese and chunks of pear with a pear dressing. I sighed when it was placed in front of me — it was huge. But, oh so tasty. As I consumed the salad, I glanced over at the refrigerator display touting all the desserts — from cupcakes to cheesecake and coconut cake, to .... Well, I did not finish the salad in one sitting so I didn't order dessert.

On a subsequent visit, I ordered a sandwich of portobello mushroom, pesto, mozzarella cheese and lettuce on focaccia bread. On the side was a salad of mixed greens and grape tomatoes. Delicious. I forced myself to finish and then had a café au lait for dessert. The coffee and beverage menu is extensive. Breakfast seems to be served all day, with a variety of omelettes suggested.

Each lunch came in at just $10 and change...affordable for lunch in NYC.

A flat screen TV plays on the back wall, and music is just loud enough to hear what is playing, but not so loud that you cannot hear the waiter. The decor is eclectic, with large paintings hanging on the wall over the lounging booths, and perched down the far end is a raised platform for entertainers on the weekend. In the front window are round tables, and behind them a sofa with low tables for easy reach of your laptop.

I asked who Gizzi is and was told by the waiter he doesn’t know. He was not sure if a Gizzi exists. When I asked where the name came from, he said it was probably just an interesting name. The restaurant is open for just a year. Casual, enticing, and offering good food.

If you are in the area, stop and have a bite and enjoy the surroundings.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Curry Kitchen

Located on West 8th Street, Curry Kitchen provides ambiance as well as good food — with lunch specials priced at $7.95 and $8.95 for several different curry  dishes. I had stopped here last year for lunch one afternoon and enjoyed the food. When I discovered the Village Alliance was sponsoring discount coupons for several restaurants in the area, I visited Curry Kitchen again and was pleased with the food, the service, and the atmosphere. Note: the coupons do not apply to the lunch specials; the à la carte menu is discounted with the coupon only. But you will be pleased at the prices on the menu, starting at  $11.95 and up

Lunch specials include a fragrant and tasty Basmati Pulao rice, salad, Papadam & Raita, along with the vegetables of the day and the entré you specify. Naan (Indian oven-baked flatbread)is extra, and the food is so plentiful that I do not order it — I barely consume all of my lunch! It was explained to me, though, that they eat naan with the vegetable portion of the meal. The “meat” or protein portion is consumed with a little of the rice. I find the rice so tasty that I like eating separately (shhhh, don’t tell them).

Take out is available and reasonably priced. I prefer dining in the interestingly decorated, narrow restaurant. The walls are plastered to appear very old and deteriorating. It is comfortable, plus I am outside all day and like the cool indoors of the restaurant.

One day I had run errands and only had 30-35 minutes to order and eat before meeting my next tour group. I explained that to the waiter, who was helpful in choosing an entré that could be prepared quickly. I received the meal within 10 minutes so could eat at a leisurely pace.

The à la carte menu explains the dishes, and the waiters/waitresses are helpful in providing details, if you are not familiar with an item. You may get a chuckle out of the misspellings on the menu — some words are printed phonetically, not correctly. Good cooks are not necessarily good spellers, and I do not care if they are if they create the same quality of food as Curry Kitchen!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hummus Place

For a year, I have been passing Hummus Place and saying I must go in and try it, so I finally did so. Some people turn up their noses at Hummus, but personally, I enjoy it. The recipe book Eat Up, Slim Down by the editors at Prevention Magazine printed a hummus recipe of mine...

Pleasant, small, with outside seating, Hummus Place in Greenwich Village is on Seventh Avenue, right next door to Bleeker Street Pizza, which is on the corner of Bleeker and Seventh. I chose to sit inside since I spend most of my day out and walking.

The menu offered a lunch special, but on my first trip, I decided to order the Egg-plant sandwich. Eggplant, a hard boiled egg, tahini, lettuce and pickle mango chutney are packed into two pitas (choice of white or whole wheat; I chose with the latter). On my next visit, I ordered the lunch special: any of the hummus plates on the menu, with an appetizer, all for $7.95! The mushroom hummus plate arrived with sauted mushrooms swimming in the center of a ribbon of hummus. I was asked if I wanted a hard boiled egg on top, but said, “No, thank you.” The slice of eggplant appetizer was finished with a drizzle of tahini.

Delicious! I forced myself to complete the meal, leaving a pita — used for scooping the hummus — in the basket. Also, a plate of pickles and olives was offered, as was hot sauce. I enjoyed both!

Each time my bill was under $10, and my stomach was full, and my taste buds pleased. Seated at other tables, patrons shared their different types of hummus with each other, permitting everyone to taste the variety of dishes on the menu. Alcohol is served — I do not dare to have alcohol and then try to lead a tour group afterward — as are a variety of teas and other beverages.

Try something new and maybe different. I am looking forward to Saturday’s brunch menu! You can find their menus on the internet at www.humusplace.com. Check it out; the website explains the nutritional value of hummus — it fills you up without filling you out or spiking your blood glucose levels; packed with vitamins, minerals, and Omega 3, hummus is a complete protein when eaten with pita. It is good, and good for you!