Tag Archives: Outdoor Dining

Diner, Dive In and Drive Away Happy

So it’s been a while, but I’m backkk!!! I sure hope you missed me, because I missed you!…and that you are wondering what food is bringing me back to the blog.…what restaurant could have been so noteworthy that the writer in me is ready to, well, write again? Ohh hold on tight cause this is a good one…

I was almost tempted to bury this information because, let’s be honest, I’m just not sure if I want this restaurant blowing up.  Sure, it might be selfish, but it also might be brilliant.  Keep this to myself and avoid having a hard time getting in when you all flock like seagulls to this place, sounds like the smart thing to do.   But, I wouldn’t be the Bite-Sized Blonde if I kept information this meaningful from you, now would I?

Is the suspense killing you? Okay okay, here it is…drumroll please…the restaurant so good I had to start writing immediately is…DinerDiner is well, an old diner from almost a century ago – resurrected and brought way above it’s former glory to become a superstar restaurant.   Of course, the food is the star here, but it seems rather silly not to mention the décor, because in this case, it’s what makes the atmosphere so freaking awesome.  Diner looks like a diner you would see on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives if the wrong person bought this place.  You totally could have found chicken fried gravy on this menu or something equally as “comforting” and by comforting I mean just kind of ineffectual.  But, this place is so much more that a triple D joint.  It’s seriously cool, and not just in a BK hipster too cool for school kind of a way.  It’s like cool, man.  The diner is illuminated by votives that take the usual space and make it into something so unusual people are clambering to come in.   The space might be small, but nothing else here is.

Okay, so there’s one more thing that’s small, and that’s the menu.  But remember what I’ve taught you, good things come in small packages.  Or Bite-Sized packages really. But you get the point.   If you take after your favorite Bite-Sized Blonde, then you probably want to see the menu right now.  But you can’t, because it changes daily.  Pain in the ass to reprint the menu everyday, right? Wrong! The waitress sits down at your table to write the menu on the paper tablecloth.  So casual, so cool.

We shared several dishes, because how could we not.  So, I sampled about half of the menu.  We started with the Fried Green Tomatoes.  OMG, these FGTs were SG – so good, so so good.  Green tomatoes are different than your run-of-the-mill red tomatoes.  They are denser and a little sour almost.  Which is why they are great to fry.  They maintain their integrity even under high heat.  These FGTs were something special though.  Lightly breaded and fried to a golden perfection, they were served with a side salad of watercress and mint and moisturized in aioli.  Yes, moisturized – because they had a thin layer of creamy goodness on them to keep them moist.

We also shared the Romaine Salad, which kind of sounds boring, but it was anything but.  The crispy leaves were left in rather big pieces and combined with roasted beets and finely shaved red onion and then showered in love, otherwise known as creamy basil vinaigrette.   A simple salad elevated to awesomeness is a salad you could find me eating everyday.

As a treat, the kitchen sent us a plate of crostini.  Thin slices of sourdough bread, toasted on the grill, and covered in a garlicky spread and marinated green tomatoes is anything but your ordinary crostini, and man, was this good.  Of course, it only had me begging for more…

You know how I feel about burgers – so I couldn’t resist the Special House Burger at Diner since it is the one thing that is always on their menu.  And after eating it, I know why.  This burger is so good, I’m sure the Diner regulars would be up in arms if it disappeared from the menu.  A thick juicy patty of blended meat rests comfortably on a doughy brioche bun and is then adorned with lettuce and pickled onions and served with homemade ketchup.  The pickled onions take on a cabbage-like flavor that elevates the burger so subtly.  And the ketchup is thick and sweet with a hint of cinnamon; it is truly unlike any ketchup you have ever had.  Which is why it’s the only choice in condiments for the fries.

Fries are important to a burger like a bikini top is to the bottom.  Sure, they are separate entities, but if you have one without the other, you are just half naked.   The fries are thick cut and double fried in flavorful and greasy oil and then dusted with salt to create a crunchy, salty snack that is impossible to resist.  Even after I had finished my meal, and all of my fries, I still wanted more.  Not because I didn’t have enough, but because every time a plate of fries was brought near my table, and that incredible scent perfumed the air, I found myself salivating.

Diner is more than burgers though.   We also shared a Sirloin.  It was grilled, so it had beautiful char marks, and then was sliced and plated with grilled spinach and an heirloom tomato salad.  I’m not sure who the genius is that decided to grill spinach but I need to meet this person ASAP.  Spinach takes on a whole new level of deliciousness when it is grilled.  It was so intensely flavorful but light, which made it the perfect addition to one buttery soft piece of meat.

We also shared the Pork Chop, which was grilled and served on top of a garlicy sauce.  It was juicy and hearty and so insanely delicious, I was surprised no one at the table picked up the bone to salvage the last, impossibly small pieces of meat left.

Diner’s food is comforting, but it’s not comfort food.  I would eat here when I’m sad, when I’m celebrating, when I’m starving, or when I’m totally full.  This is the food you cannot pass up.  This place is so cool, that if someone took me here on a date and I didn’t know about this place beforehand, I might just be getting undressed at the table.  Clearly the way to my heart is through my stomach, but you already know that…

Diner
85 Broadway
Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY
718.486.3077

Advertisements

Rock You Like a Hurricane

Oh, Irene.  You are such a tease.  And since it takes one to know one, I can say this with conviction.  You got us New Yorkers all riled up, and for what? Nothing, I tell you, nothing!  Except maybe a little junk food eating contest.  If you stocked up on food to prepare for the possible power outages, I bet you ate it all this weekend.  Not because the power went out and you needed to, but because you were so bored the food actually provided an activity.  Well, if you gained the “Irene Fifteen” this weekend, you might be looking for a light and easy dinner, out of your apartment, which of course now feels like a jail cell. 

Westville is the perfect place to go.  This small and simple restaurant has a menu that speaks to everyone.  Their food is prepared simply and tastefully, which is exactly what the doctor ordered, or nutritionist, whatever.  

The Greek Salad is loaded with olives, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and avocado.  It is served over grilled bread with melted herb goat cheese.  I like to add the Grilled Steak to this salad to make it a meal.  The steak is flavorful and juicy and the salad is crisp. 

The Grilled Lemon Herb Marinated Chicken is my favorite item on the menu.  The chicken is packed with flavor and it is incredibly juicy, the way chicken is meant to be cooked.  It is served with 2 sides from the market.  What’s the market? Glad you asked.  The market is Westville’s abundant list of veggies.   They offer everything from asparagus to bok choy and back again.  It is a vegetarian’s dream come true, and mine as well.   I love the Honey Dijon Brussels Sprouts, and for good reason.  They are little tidbits of veggie heaven.  I couldn’t resist the Tomato Basil Mozzarella Salad.  After all, it is tomato season.

Riddle me this.  What’s dinner without dessert?  While you ponder that, feast your eyes on this.  A homemade ice cream sandwich. Clearly, I’ve become a little obsessed with Ice Cream Sammies recently.  This isn’t on the menu, but ice cream is, and so are cookies, and the waiters are more than happy to accommodate your needs, no matter how indulgent they are.

With three locations, Westville convenient for everyone.   I happen to love the Lower East Side location, but they offer the same menu in the West Village and Chelsea.  So, whether the weather has you feeling on a bit on the bulky side, or you just want an easy, light dinner, head over to Westville.

Westville East
173 Avenue A (11th Street)
New York, NY  
212.677.2933

Westville West
210 W 10th Street (Between Bleecker and West 4th Street )
New York, NY
212.741.7971

Westville Chelsea
246 W18th Street (Between 7th & 8th Avenue)
New York, NY
212.924.2223

A Tale of Two Cities

This is a tale of two cities, if cities were restaurants.  One bad, one good.  But at least you know upfront there is a happy ending to this story.  I’ll start with the bad: The Mermaid Inn.  This classic NYC establishment gets a Bite-Sized Thumbs down.  If only my thumbs were bigger.

I was so excited to have a feast of oysters at The Mermaid Inn in the East Village.  I even tweeted about it.  Not that that says too much; I tweet about everything food related. But still, the excitement was there.  We got to the restaurant, and we were seated in the garden on a gorgeous night.  I saw an iPhone app for oysters on the menu and since I am in love with my iPhone, I was thoroughly impressed.  I thought to myself, we are off to a good start.  Little did I know the good ended there.

We ordered the Grilled Romaine Salad, half a dozen West Coast Oysters, and the Bay Scallops to start.  The salad was so underdressed, it could have gotten a ticket for public nudity.  There was a miniscule amount of lemon dressing on the lettuce, which was then covered in Parmesan cheese.  I took 3 bites before waiving the white flag.   If I want to eat plain lettuce, I’ll go back to camp where is the food is inedible.  It’s hard to comment on the Bay Scallops because there were so few of them on the plate.  Seriously, there were 4 of them, and since Bay Scallops are the size of nickels, you can understand how this is unacceptable.  There was, however, an overwhelming amount of the mediocre Summer Corn Succotash.  Lucky me.   The oysters were tasty, but since there is no prep work in oysters, other than shucking, it wasn’t enough to save the meal.

After the poor showing of appetizers, we didn’t want to stick around to be inevitably even more disappointed with the entrees.  So, we told the waitress we were unhappy with our appetizers and asked if the entrees had been fired.  She said no, and asked us if we wanted the check.   Did she apologize and send the manager over? Nope, she just brought us the check, in its entirety.  Well, ain’t that a swift kick in the pants.  This is a true testament to service, or lack thereof.  If the waitress had tried to recover the meal, I assure you we would have stayed.  *Disclaimer: This is not something I have ever done before or advocate doing.

Is this a reflection of all The Mermaid Inn restaurants? I am not sure.  But I am certainly not going to find out!  As another one BITES the dust…an OBG saves the day.

OBG.  What’s that you asked?  An OBG is an “oldie but goodie.”  And Lil’ Frankies is an OBG.  Located just a few short blocks from the mediocrity that is The Mermaid Inn, we knew that Lil’ Frankies was going to be the chocolate to our heartbreak.  Since we didn’t need appetizers, we skipped right to the entrees: Mezzi Rigatoni Polpettini Ragu and Spinach Gnocchi Pomodoro.  The Rigatoni was perfectly al dente and the polpettini, which are mini meatballs, were out of this world.  They were tenders little pearls of meat.  The Spinach Gnocchi tasted like a garden pure deliciousness, and you know how I love my Gnocchi.

So, thank you Lil’ Frankies for being an OBG, not to be confused with ODB.  That would just be weird.

The Mermaid Inn
96 Second Ave
New York, NY
212.674.5870

Lil’ Frankies
19 First Ave
New York, NY
212.420.4900

Party in the City Where the Heat is On

When I think about Miami, I think of palm trees, night clubs, and of course, Will Smith…I mean how can anyone not love that song, or love to hate it at least.  (Apologies now if you are still singing this song at the end of the day.)

Palm trees and night clubs are great, but never do you hear someone say Miami has great food.  Miami is just not a front-runner is the culinary world, and no, I am not hating on Miami because I hate on the Heat.  (Let’s Go Knicks!)

Don’t get me wrong, Miami has great restaurants, just not that many.  They are hard to come by without a little hard work.  And lucky for you, this Bite-Sized Blonde did all the hard work this weekend.

My first stop in Miami was Casa Tua, which means “your home” in Italian.  This hotel, which is really more like a private residence, has only five private suites.  I didn’t stay here, but I did have the privilege of dining in the restaurant.  Yes, you heard my correctly, PRIVLEGE.  This restaurant is special, and you feel that the minute you walk into the lush garden terrace.  The restaurant is designed to feel like you are in someone’s home; it is adorned with photographs and bookshelves piled high with books and trinkets.  Even the menus are special, decorated with personal photographs for an intimate feeling.

I would be remiss not to mention the enormous open kitchen that embellishes the dining room.  Although I didn’t sit in front of it, I had a pretty good view; Cameron Diaz and A-Rod were at the table next to me.   While this Bite-Sized Blonde might not be a celebrity, I was certainly treated like one.  The service was outstanding.  Our waiter, well versed in the menu, helped us pick a perfectly hued Rose and well as a number of exceptional dishes.  He made sure they were stacked so we could savor each and every one.

We started with The Branzino Carpaccio with Pink Grapefruit and Toasted Hazelnuts, which was enhanced by crisp scallions.  The carpaccio was everything that carpaccio should be, light, refreshing, and delicious.

We also enjoyed The Grilled Octopus with Borlotti Beans, Celery and Red Radish which was tender and creamy from the beans.  The celery and radish added a unique element of texture to the dish.

Spinach Salad is usually something I stay away from in a restaurant with endless options.  But as it was a recommendation, I decided to ignore my initial instincts and give it a chance.  Boy am I glad I did. This spinach salad was anything but ordinary, with prosciutto, fresh figs, fried red onion and balsamic dressing.  The spinach, along with a few sprigs of basils, was cut into beautiful ribbons, mixed with the fresh figs and fried onions, tossed in the balsamic dressing, and then wrapped up in the prosciutto like a beautiful present.   Gosh, I love an early birthday gift.

The Casa Tua Tuna Tartar was prepared more like a beef tartar, with olives and capers.  It was an interesting take on a classic dish.

The Tagliolini with Maine lobster and fresh tomatoes was a dish I couldn’t pass up, and do you really blame me?  The sauce was sweet which complimented the succulent lobster so effortlessly.

For the grand finale, we ordered the Grilled Waygu Skirt Steak with Baby Cipollini Onions and Roasted Mini Sweet Bell Peppers.  The juicy meat was smoky and woodsy from the rosemary yet sweet from the onions and the peppers.  When such a simple dish has such complex flavors, you know there’s a great chef behind it all.

Casa Tua is a great restaurant, and not just for Miami.  This restaurant would be successful in New York and Los Angeles.  You know why? Because exceptional food, outstanding service and a warm atmosphere are like love, universal and hard to come by.

Casa Tua
1700 James Ave
Miami Beach, FL
305.673.0973

It’s All Hood Baby, Baby

This Bite-Sized Blonde is an Uptown Girl – born and raised.  Okay, well not really, well really not at all.  But I’ve been on the Upper East Side for ten formative years now, so that’s got to count for something, right?   While, the UES isn’t exactly known as the coolest culinary community, it isn’t exactly lacking either.

Case in point, Felice Wine Bar.  The deliciously inclined folks at St. Ambroeus and Casa Lever have another great restaurant in their family.  Felice is conveniently located, for me, on the Upper East Side.  The location brought me in, but the food and the service keep me coming back again and again, literally.  I’ve been known to frequent Felice several times in a week, just ask Jake, the manager.  Embarrassed or proud? I’ll stick with the latter.

The restaurant has about 20 tables, both inside and out, plus one, big communal table.  They also have seating at the bar, which is a great alternative if there are no tables available when you get there.  Since they only take reservations if you’re a party of six or more, it’s a sad possibility.

I have made my way through most of the menu, so I’ll share a few of my favorites and most recent orders.   Many of the pastas are homemade – but my favorite is the simplest one on the menu: Fresca Di Campagna – penne pasta with plum tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella.  The pasta has a nice bite and the tomato sauce is so simple you can taste the integrity of the tomatoes.   The combination of sweet sauce and fresh basil is intoxicating.  This is far from your mom’s spaghetti sauce, unless of course your mom is the chef at Felice.

Burrata is hands-down one of the best cheeses, ever. It’s flavorful and mellow all at the same time.  It is not always on the menu, but if you happen to be lucky enough to get burrata on the specials menu for the night, order it.  Burrata with prosciutto was a recent special that I could not pass up.  This dish starts with  salty prosciutto which sits on a bed of spicy arugula.  It’s topped with the creamy burrata and then drizzled with the most sinful olive oil.  The combination is expected but nothing else is.  The olive oil accents the delicate cheese perfectly and the salty prosciutto and clean and crisp arugula come together like beautiful Italian poetry. You don’t have to speak Italian to understand this cultural lovefest.

Branzino is a great fish.   It’s like a signature Louis Vuitton bag; it’s neutral and something that everyone likes.  The Branzino alla Griglia at Felice is perfect if you are in the mood for something light.  It is stuffed with herbs and then simply grilled to give the fish that great grill flavor.

Sometimes, you just need a piece of meat, and Felice is great for that too.  Their Tagliata di Manzo – grilled sliced sirloin – is a one of my favorites.  The meat is tender and flavorful, yet surprisingly light for red meat.  It is served over a bed of spicy arugula salad.  Add a drizzle of Felice’s olive oil and you are in business.

So, the next time you are on the Upper East Side make sure to stop by Felice.  Your stomach will thank you.

Felice Wine Bar
1166 First Ave (64th Street)
New York, NY
212.593.2223

Pappardelle with a Side of Attitude

As New Yorkers, we are trained to be rude, inconsiderate, and untrusting of just about everyone.  But, of course, we expect everyone to be polite and considerate to us.   So when someone is nasty, we’re foolishly surprised.  But, there is one place in New York that we not only accept rudeness, we have learned to expect it, and that my dear friends, is Bar Pitti

Bar Pitti is the more casual, next-door neighbor to Da Silvano.   The sidewalk, and restaurant, is littered with artists, bankers, and celebs anxiously waiting for a table.  But, if you expect any sympathy from the host you are sadly mistaken.  You can wait and wait and wait for a table until you are blue in the face, but will that earn you any respect? Of course not! No matter what you do or who you are, you will get an attitude from the waiter.  Sorry Charlie.  

Expectations are everything.  You have to know what you are getting yourself into. Bar Pitti is not about service, it’s about good food.   So, if you go with that mindset, you will not be disappointed.  The Pappardelle Alla Fiesolana is a plate of heavenly goodness.  These large flat noodles are covered in tomatoes, cream and bacon. Yes, please! Plus, they are homemade.  The difference between homemade pasta and the pasta from a box is like the difference between fine Italian leather and well, not real leather; the homemade stuff is just better. Sometimes the simplest of dishes are the best, so don’t overlook the Penne Strascicate, covered in a hearty yet light meat sauce, that’s as baffling as it is delicious.  Bar Pitti is great spot not only for dinner, but for brunch as well.  Just don’t order the Rose, unless of course you are hoping to get something resembling cranberry juice. 

Bar Pitti
268 6th Ave
New York, NY
212.982.3300