December 10, 2006


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The Salmon & Wasabi Cream Cheese “Sandwich” at Au Bon Pain

October 26, 2006

Being from a Jewish family, I’m a big fan of the smoked salmon.  Lox or nova… doesn’t matter which one, just slap it on a bagel with some white fish, cream cheese, onion (and sometimes tomato) and you’ve got one of the greatest meals of all time.  Thank you to the Eastern European Jews who brought this delicious food over at the beginning of the last century… 

Flash forward to the 80s, and Jews all around the country (actually it was probably just in New York and Miami) were trading in their parents’ smoke fish for raw fish.  Sushi was the new “it” food, and Jewish kids everywhere must have been thinking the same thing I was thinking the first time my Dad took me for sushi (“This is the weirdest chinese food I’ve ever had”). 

Now, I don’t know what genius came up with this one, but I’m guessing at some point one of these Japanese chefs said “Hey… Jews seem to love this bagel with cream cheese and salmon thing… let’s add cream cheese to our salmon maki!”  And thus, the “Bagel Roll” was born… also known as the Philadelphia Roll or sometimes the JB Roll (the Philadelphia I understand- because of the cream cheese, but I’m scared to know what JB stands for.  Could it possibly be Jew Boy???  That would be insanity…)

Anyway, flash forward another 20 years and it looks like Au Bon Pain has decided to take this marriage one step farther… reclaiming the salmon & cream cheese bagel- but keeping the Wasabi.  What the hell kind of craziness is this?  I don’t normally eat at chain sandwich places like ABP, but I could only manage walking by the sign 3 times before finally breaking down and trying this “Salmon & Wasabi Cream Cheese Sandwich” at Au Bon Pain.

What the actual thing looked like (nothing like the sign of course…), and the +/- after the jump…

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Chicken Bar vs. Ranch1 (The Epic Battle!!!)

October 9, 2006

I love Ranch 1.  I wrote about it a few weeks ago, and while I know not everyone is on board- I stand behind what I originally said.  If you are looking for a grilled chicken sandwich, that tastes like real chicken, and french fries that taste like they are made from real potatoes (plus you don’t mind a chicken breast that has been pounded thin before being grilled) then Ranch 1 is your place.  It’s one of the few fast food places my wife actually likes (loves is a more appropriate word)- and any place she’s into, where I can “get fries with that”, is alright with me!  (Click here to read the original Ranch 1 post)

So, you can imagine my confusion when I started seeing these new Chicken Bar’s popping up.  The first one, I saw on 8th Ave. and 45th St…. and then another on 52nd and Lexington.  Same colors… similar logo… it’s chicken.  Very strange.  I couldn’t believe that this new chain was clearly ripping off Ranch 1.  Did they really think that their chicken sandwich was going to be that much better to support 2 chicken chains like this in the city???  I decided a visit was in order, and last week I headed to this “Chicken Bar” with every intention of pitting it against Ranch1 in a “one on one” fast food chicken battle of death.  (I would have liked to have made it a 3 man battle royale, but sadly there is no Chick Fil-A in Midtown…)

Arriving at the Chicken Bar on Lexington & 52nd, I was reminded again of how similar the logos are to each other.  Both have got the yellow, red and white thing going… but the Chicken Bar sign is clearly newer- and a bit nicer.  I like the abstract, “hidden” chicken head in the Ranch1 logo, over the obvious big chicken in the Chicken Bar logo, but a vinyl awning can’t touch the class of a 3-D neon style sign.  Chicken Bar 1, Ranch1 Zero.

Both places have “employees” giving out $1 off coupons around the corner from their respective restaurants.  I think it’s pretty obvious who wins this one.  No offense to the lady on the right… I’m sure she cleans up real nice- but she is clearly not a gigantic yellow chicken.  Ranch 1 ties it up… One to One.

The truth is, who cares about the coupons, and the signs and the big yellow chicken (well, actually- I care about the chicken so that’s a bad example).  The food is the most important.  What I ordered, and conclusion of the fierce battle that will literally cause your brain to explode in disbelief…. after the jump.

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Grand Central Terminal Food Court

September 25, 2006

I think I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again.  I love food courts.  What’s there not to like?  It’s like 20 cheap restaurants, all under the same roof.  Sure I always get the Chinese food, or the Chinese food knock off (bourbon chicken I’m looking at you)… but having the options (whether you use them or not) is great- because if you go with other people, everyone can get what they want.  So when I want Chinese food (which I always do), my wife and I can go to a food court even if she doesn’t want Chinese food, because there’s other things for her to get!  It’s a fool proof scheme…

There aren’t many food courts in Manhattan (you’ve gotta go to a mall in the suburbs for that), but there are a few.  And one, that seems like it should be amazing, is the Grand Central Terminal Food Court.  One walk through this place, and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to food court heaven.  No wasted space on generic fast food joints like McDonalds or BK, and they have all the requisite food options (Chinese, Sushi, Indian, Cajun, Caribbean, BBQ, Pizza, and more.) 

And yet, for a food court- with a ton of options- right in the middle of Midtown, it’s not nearly as crowded as you would think.  None of the places have lines, and we didn’t have too much trouble finding a place to sit.  To top it off, I get emails all the time recommending places to eat in Midtown.  Very few “good” (a relative term of course) or popular places have gone unrecommended.  And yet, nobody has ever recommended the food court, or singled out any of the choices in an email.

A superficial look at the options, more pictures, and a call to arms… after the jump.

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FIKA Swedish Espresso Bar

September 18, 2006

How great is IKEA?  Greatest place ever, right?  Well, I love IKEA too- but not for the reason most people love it.  Sure, the cheap furniture is nice, and building our IKEA entertainment center was probably the greatest “building” accomplishment of my life- but the real reason I love it is for the food.  Seriously… the food at IKEA is awesome- and dirt cheap.  (Picture of IKEA meatballs to the left is courtesy of eggrollboy on flickr )

Of course I was skeptical at first.  Those signs as you walk in, encouraging you to eat Swedish meatballs in the IKEA cafe…  for $3.99?  I’m not eating that crap.  Who eats at IKEA?  Well, I will tell you who… people who spend the entire morning moving into their new apartment- but still want to take advantage of the van that is due back at U-Haul that night.   So you drive out to Elizabeth NJ, and are so hungry that the IKEA Restaurant is your only option.  That was the first time I ate at IKEA.  The next time- our “shopping” excursion to IKEA, was just an excuse for lunch.  If you’ve never tried the Swedish meatballs with gravy and lingonberries- you don’t know what your missing.  And if you don’t like it- you’ve wasted $4.  Not that big a gamble…

With that in mind, you can imagine my excitement when I read about the new FIKA Swedish Espresso Bar on RestaurantGirl.com… Even though they are called an espresso bar- they also have sandwiches, salads, and Swedish meatballs.  How can you go wrong???  More pictures, and the +/- after the jump…

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The Asian Noodle Bar @ Dishes

September 7, 2006

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know I’m not a huge fan of the “Midtown Deli”.  You know the place I’m talking about- salad bar, pre-made sandwiches, there’s one on every block.  So when my friend Joanne emailed a link to a New Yorker article about one of these very places, I was pretty surprised.  The New Yorker was writing about a Midtown Lunch deli???  I expected more from you, oh high-brow’d New Yorker…

In their defense Dishes is a little more “high brow’d” then your typical Midtown Deli, but still a deli nonetheless.  The article is more about some sort of staff issue then about the food- but they did slip this intuitive observation into the opening:

A decent midtown lunch spot—not the expense-account sort but a good, clean sandwich shop, with a fresh salad bar, and maybe some seafood tom yum, if that’s your thing—can be hard to come by. Once you find one, you tend to stick with it. You learn the hourly cycles, in terms of both customer flow (twelve-forty-five equals chaos) and servers’ shifts, and you begin to time your visits accordingly.” 

True enough.  Well, against my better judgement, I decided to head over to Dishes at 12:45pm yesterday and check out the chaos.  I’ve walked by this place a million times (usually on my way to Oms/b) and thought it looked like an above average deli.  It’s been recommended to me by a few readers- but it wasn’t until the New Yorker described it as a “a sleek, vaguely Asian-themed cafeteria”, I decided it was time for a visit… after all, I love the Asian food.  Of course, I saw only “Asian”, and missed the “vaguely” part.  Very important distinction.

Pictures, what I ate, and the +/- after the jump…

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Ranch 1 Grilled Chicken (…it’s better than you think)

August 23, 2006

I must have walked by this place a million times in the past month and a half since it opened (it’s on the same street as Rangole & Cafe Cello) but I’ve never eaten there.  Take one look, and it’s not hard to figure out why… Look at the sign.  Bright yellow, with some weird semi-chicken looking thing for a logo.  Nothing appealing at all and certainly nothing about it that says, “Hey, there’s good food in here”.  PLUS, there’s my fear of gigantic chickens- especially ones who hand out cooked pieces of themselves for free.  Very strange.

Then of course there’s the fact that it shares a space with City Cafe.  I don’t know what that is, or what their affiliation is with the other million places in Midtown with “City” or “Cafe” in their title, but if you do decide to check this place out you’ll be able to tell which part is the “City Cafe” by the generic salad bar and paninis behind the glass counter.  Go directly past that counter, the Ranch 1 part is in the back… 

In a weird role reversal, the guy who sits next to me at work actually knew about Ranch 1 (this is the same guy who thought a chicken sandwich from Cosi, was a falafel)… but seemed fairly unimpressed.  It seems to me, that many who have eaten at Ranch 1 in the past think it’s fine but don’t necessarily consider it worthy of mention.  Well, lucky for me, my wife and her co-workers were not discouraged by the sign (or the big chicken).  They went, and highly recommended it to me- and I’m here to say- give it another shot!  Or, if you’ve never been, try it for the first time.  Never having been to any of the other locations (it’s a chain that started 16 years ago next to the Late Show w/ David Letterman theater), I can only vouch for the newest location, opened last month on 46th street btw. 5th & 6th.

What I ate, the pictures and the +/- after the jump…

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