Five Points

NoHo - Great Jones between Lafayette St & Bowery

American Nouveau

I’ve always had difficulty wrapping my head around eating at a restaurant named after the Five Points.  An old time New York City intersection where filth, disease, gangs, crime, and corruption all met; ironically to form what was known as “Paradise Square.”  However, if someone put a gun to my head and asked me to provide them with the name of a top notch New York City brunch spot, my first instinct would be Five Points in NoHo.  

The old Five Points of lower Manhattan, formerly infested by slum life, is now home to the Civic Center.  An area filled with State and Federal administrative buildings and courthouses.   When it comes to brunch, the court is adjourned.  Chef Marc Meyer is guilty of cooking up one of New York’s most reliably delicious and hearty brunches.   Yes, they take reservations. 

Start your brunch off with banana-walnut bread and wash it down with one of the best Bloody Marys New York has to offer.  I highly recommend the Eggs Rancheros and Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes.  An order of Mac & Cheese is a must, too good to keep to yourself; share this one with the table. 

Now you’ve got a solid buzz going and you’re definitely full.  Chances of doing anything productive with the rest of your day are as good as someone in old Five Points living past 20 without catching typhus or cholera.

Which reminds me of the disease I tend to suffer from when ordering at Five Points; short term memory loss.  Apparently, I like to pretend I’m Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates.  I read the menu over as if I’m going to go with anything but the Eggs Rancheros.  Eventually, I come to my senses and order them (while speaking with a lisp of course). 

In all seriousness, I really forget just how great they are and I’m always pleasantly surprised.  Yes, I just compared Eggs Rancheros to Adam Sandler, but after Jack and Jill, it’s safe to say his career is over… easy. 


Earl’s Beer & Cheese 

East Harlem – Park Avenue between 97th and 98th 


Welcome to Earl’s Strip Club & Sports Bar Beer & Cheese.    Earl’s is located a step into East Harlem at the root of where Park Avenue takes off its prestige and spreads wide around MTA train tracks. 

Earl’s Beer & Cheese has danced around East Harlem as an unknown asset before climbing the pole to the top of NYC’s cheap eats charts.  Every power tool handling, beer drinking, boob loving sports enthusiast alive has thought of the Strip Club & Sports Bar combo at one point or another.  But beer & cheese?  Truly enlightening, Earl’s.

Pulling up to E 97th and Park Ave, I hopped out of the cab suddenly overcome with the feeling of uncertainty.  Is this cheap eats spot simply a figment of my imagination?  Storefronts covered with metal gates to my right, train tracks to my left.  The only thing missing from the scenario was a nearby airport, a meathead bouncer, $20 ATM fees, and dancers named Chastity.  If my palet could speak, it would be cursing Earl’s name while wondering where it could exchange twenty dollar bills for some ones.

Speaking of ones, you don’t need many to eat well at Earl’s Beer & Cheese.  Known for its hearty food and reasonable prices, Earl’s has a small and creative menu.  The NY State Cheddar incorporates braised pork belly, kimchee, and fried egg into your standard grilled cheese for a uniquely satisfying flavor.  The Mac and Cheese, with a shredded chicken surprise, is creamy - yet not overbearing - and quite appetizing.  If available, try the bread pudding.

Earl’s comfortably seats around 15-20 patrons.  The communal beer hall table - or in this case, beer closet - is great for a group, so longs as you beat the rush, and your group consists of you and one other.  Grab some of Earl’s signature beer cheese and wash it down with an ice-cold craft beer.

Not your typical song-and-dance, but worth a ride uptown.

Review featured on Im In The Kitchen


Hop Kee

Chinatown - 21 Mott Street


I usually try to avoid Chinatown.  It makes me claustrophobic.  Narrow crowded streets filled with garbage; an all-around lack of personal space.  This may be the year of the Dragon, but in New York City it's always the year of the Rat.  

I walked down the stairs toward the underground Cantonese kitchen into what looked like an elementary school cafeteria.  Where are the Crayolas?  Oh, they were already used to label the 500 pictures on the wall of Anthony Bourdain and Bill Cosby.

Hop Kee is known for their family-style specialty fare.  Come to Hop Kee to eat the traditional version of Chinese food that you grew up eating on Sundays, or experiment with lesser-known dishes like the Cantonese crab, snails, or pan-fried flounder.   

The crab Cantonese style smells and appears phenomenal.  However, diving into this dish is about as intimidating as trying to fix Charles Barkley’s golf swing -- where do I even begin?  I’ll begin by waiting until the summer to douse my blue crab with Old Bay; Maryland style.  For now, I’ll leave the Cantonese crab and Barkley’s attempt to hit the links to a braver man.  

Speaking of brave men, you won't find General Tso on this menu.  Looking to protect your dinner from the unknown exotic dishes?  Start off with the egg rolls and a hot cup of tea.  I recommend the Pork Chop Peking Style with an order of fried rice.  This should bring you back to Sunday with the family at the something something Garden.  

Just beware of the Anthony Bourdain - King Midas menu touch.

Review featured on Im In The Kitchen


Boat Basin Café

UWS – West 79th Street

Bar & Grill

If I had a dollar for every bar and grill in NYC that allows you to eat and drink outside on the water with TV’s to watch games, that not only allows but encourages you to bring your dog, well –I’d have $1. 

After having a discussion about the nearly impossible feat of finding a bar and grill that provides the ability to watch sporting events outside while enjoying the weather, I came to the premature conclusion that it simply didn’t exist.

That was until Manifest Destiny led me to West 79th Street, past Riverside Drive, around the red clay path down the steps and underneath the Henry Hudson Parkway.  I know what your thinking – I just recounted the filming of an all too familiar Law & Order rape scene.   

Anyway, Boat Basin Café is best known for reasonably priced drinks.  Specialties including their own Electric Lemonade, as well as the standard Piña Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri.  Looking to grab a beer?  You can’t go wrong with Liquid Gold on tap or a bucket of Coronas.  

The café serves food, but set your expectations low.  Not as low as the dog food stationed on the floor at the end of the bar, but low nonetheless.  Have a few too many drinks and you may actually enjoy the frozen chicken tenders or out-of-the-box burgers.  

If it's Sunday, if the sun is out, and if you cant find me, I’m at Boat Basin Café drinking the day away, begrudgingly eating the mediocre bar food while petting some stranger's dog.  Just remember; you can't let your Mondays ruin your Sundays.  



East Village – 14th Street between 2nd and 3rd Ave



Eddie and Evan Huang come to New York City fresh off the boat.  Their words, not mine.  Our boys bring with them a unique Taiwanese-Chinese meets hip-hop Gua Bao flavor.   No need to wait till 2013 for Fast and Furious 6 when you can experience it seven days a week in the East Village.  


These guys don’t just think outside the box, they tear it up.  Enter this hole-in-the-wall to rap music bumping, a street graffiti mural, and a shrine to Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin, extra MSG.  Seating is limited with two tabletops and a bar against the back wall.   

I walked in expecting to run into Vin Diesel and Paul Walker chowing down some Gua Boa with the likes of Tyrese, Ludacris, and The Rock along with ten other B-list celebrities.  Where the flip is Mia Terreto?  

The menu is simple yet creative.  BaoHaus is best known for their braised pork belly Chairman Bao and the all-natural fried chicken Birdhaus Bao.  Not the best bao in the City, but for $2.99 a pop, its worth taking a spin. The Oyster Po Bao made my stomach the epicenter of a magnitude 8.9 earthquake.  I only wish Tums had a Nos button.

At BaoHaus they don’t cook for pink slips.  If you want a 60 second Bao, you’re in the wrong place.  Service was not fast.  I got a little furious.  Maybe the Saturday late night pit stop had something to do with it, but you won't find me drifting back to these Bao Kings anytime soon.  

Review featured on Im In The Kitchen 



Dos Toros

West Village – Carmine Street Between Bleeker and 6th Ave

Union Square – 4th Ave Between 13th & 14th / UES – Lexington Ave Between 77th & 78th 


Where should I eat?  What am I in the mood for?  Should I eat something healthy?  Are you calling me fat? What should I order?  Should I add guac for a dollar?  Why is guac always a dollar?  Sometimes, deciding what to eat just isn’t easy.  If you constantly suffer from indecision, have no fear; Dos Toros is here.

Bite one, all wrap… bite two, some guac… bite three, a little sour cream mixed with a mouthful of guac and signs of cheese on the way.  Bite four, did I get chicken or steak?  We’ve all experienced disappointing burritos. Not at Dos Toros, where the protein allocation is proportionally as big as Barry Bonds' head.  Barry, did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?

Dos Toros hails from the San Francisco Bay Area with a simple menu and simply delicious Mexican food. Burrito, taco, or quesadilla; braised pork, grilled chicken, or grilled steak.  Cheese, salsa, and sour cream are included.  If you feel like that was too easy -- go ahead, add guac, or get your burrito on a “plato.”

When I walk into Dos Toros I feel like Steve Young circa 1994 -- in the shotgun position with the secondary giving a generous cushion.  Go deep with a burrito?  Hit a ten-yard buttonhook with some tacos or check down to a quesadilla?  Unlike 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship game, you can’t really make a mistake at Dos Toros.

I recommend the check down, or the quesadilla if you will.  Let’s face it, Alex Smith can’t throw the deep ball like Steve Young (and the burrito will most likely put you into a food coma).  The tacos come fully loaded, but I feel like I need to hit the showers when I’m done.  The quesadilla is basically a perfectly sized burrito, not your standard flat press.  Call it what you want -- quesadilla, perfectly sized burrito, whatever it may be -- it's the Golden Gate Bridge from hunger to satisfaction.

Move over Rice-a-Roni, New York’s got its own San Francisco treat.


Joe Junior

Gramercy – 3rd Ave and 16th Street


It’s Saturday morning, and you racked up quite the credit card bill at the bar last night.  You just woke up on the couch in the upright position - fully clothed, shoes on. In front of you lies a full cold pizza that you managed to take three bites out of before passing out.  “Good morning moral hangover, so nice to see you again. “

Wait a second... where is my credit card?  Turns out you left it at the bar with your dignity.  Okay, so here we are: about $5 and change in your pocket and you feel like Billy Cundiff after missing a chip shot field goal versus the Patriots to send your squad to the Super Bowl.

Walk on over to Joe Junior to fill your stomach with a good old-fashioned breakfast.  Every time I step into Joe Junior I feel like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future,  though I do still have the shakes from overindulging last night and I think I may have developed a stutter.  Anyway, this place not only makes you feel like you're in the 70’s but their prices read accordingly.  

I have a working theory that every homeless junkie in the area peddling change playing the harmonica save up for the week to eat with me at Joe Juniors on Saturday morning.  Invalids drooling on themselves, dragging their right leg behind them through the door, looking like Christopher Lloyd fresh out of the time traveler.  

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.  But take a quick look around and you're feeling better about your morning already.  Despite the feeling of being in the depths of a soup kitchen, the food is really good, service is really fast, and the prices are really cheap.  The sausage egg and cheese on a roll - salt, pepper, ketchup - is as good as it gets.  The quality sausage serving can’t be beat.  If you’re looking to get in and get out, which you obviously failed to do last night, Joe Junior is the place to be.  


Red Rooster

Harlem – Lenox Ave between 125th and 126th

Scandinavian American Soul Food

Location.  Location.  Location.  Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster disagrees.  Hop on the 2/3 and head up to Harlem’s 125th Street station.   That is, after waiting about a month for a reservation. 

Red Rooster received quite the stimulus package after President Obama held a $30,800 per plate charity dinner at the restaurant.  Ever since they’ve been printing money, and filling reservations far in advance.

Samuelsson grew up in Ethiopia and Sweden where he developed a spice rack as big as David Beckham’s before moving to New York and creating this posh Harlem hangout.  Red Rooster is Samuelsson’s tribute to Harlem and an effort to help revive the area.

We kicked the meal off with Cornbread, Dirty Rice & Shrimp as well as the Crab Cakes.  The menu said appetizers, but the prices read entrée.

The Fried Yard Bird and the Dutch Bass & Grits were packed with flavor.  The signature bird looks like it was yanked right out of Fred Flintstone's thick hands.  But for $26, I’d expect Wilma to jump on the table and drop it like it’s hot.  The grits beneath the bass sent my southern root from six to midnight, and the fish, while rich, was cooked to perfection.

The check will make you feel like you never left Manhattan.  Change?  None left after this meal.   


The Dutch

SoHo - Corner of Sullivan St and Prince St

American Nouveau

Nothing like waking up to the aroma of a Dutch oven.  Nobody loves his own brand like chef Andrew Carmellini of The Dutch, Soho’s trendy hot spot.  A Food & Wine Best New Chef award, two James Beard Awards and enough stars from Michelin and the New York Times to ice out the Milky Way.  This guys no joke, and neither is his food. 

After opening Locande Verde and proving his Italian prowess in Robert DeNiro’s Greenwich Hotel, Carmellini decided to go the American route.  No, I’m not referring to trapping your significant other under the covers engulfed in your own morning brew.  I’m talking about an American restaurant, bar and oyster room.

The Dutch is known for its celebrity spottings.  As I threw back some delicious Kumamoto oysters, Jane Krakowski from NBC’s 30 Rock sat right down on my lap.  And by lap, I mean at a table across the room with her family.  Tomato tomäto.  Which brings me to my next point…great Bloody Mary’s.  Not too much horseradish, just the right amount of salt on the brim, an all around great flavor garnished with an olive to top it all off.

Brunch, Lunch, Supper; they do it all well.  Two perfectly fried eggs atop hominy grits, chorizo and salsa verde hit the spot.  Our waiter was somewhat silent; the check somewhat deadly, but at The Dutch a premium for quality food and a “be scene” atmosphere is expected.  Waft it all in, and enjoy.


Katz's Delicatessen

LES – Corner of E. Houston St. and Ludlow St. 


Katz’s has been slicing and dicing New York City’s finest slabs of pastrami and corned beef between two pieces of rye bread since 1888.

If there is a line, I can promise you it’s more than worth the wait.  A historic landmark on New York’s Lower East Side, Katz’s runs the old fashion way. No, believe it or not, they don’t have an app that lets you pay seamlessly through your iPhone. Grab a ticket and make sure you hold onto it, or it will cost you $50 on the way out. 

As you approach the counter, remember to stick to the basics, pastrami and brown mustard on rye or a good ol’ Reuben are as good as it gets.  Katz’s goes through about 10,000 lbs of pastrami a week.  Just the tip… can go a long way.  The meat men are known to return the favor with a generous pastrami tasting while you wait to those who “take care of them.” 

Katz’s has served as the site of several Hollywood films. Best known for the filming of When Harry Met Sally as Meg Ryan’s fakes an orgasm to prove a point.  [Insert orgasmic pastrami joke here] I know, I know, that’s a layup... I’ll take the assist on this one; too easy.

Enjoy your mouthwatering pastrami with pickles and a refreshing Dr. Brown root beer or cream soda.  Just don’t forget to send a salami to your boy in the Army.