Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blockheads - A San Francisco Treat

Best bang for your buck thus far- Blockheads! You’ll know it when you see the black and white puppet photos that act as sort of a restaurant mascot. Or look for the tequila bottles that fill every square inch of the bookshelf walls at its Hell’s Kitchen location at 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. Cheap food and cheap booze (at least for NYC) with great taste and quality can be found at anyone of its seven locations in Manhattan.

Their claim to fame is in the cooking and ingredients. The menu offers a variety of “San Francisco style” Mexican dishes with fiber rich vegetables and steamed or grilled meats. It also has a sizable vegetarian section and a few dishes that are dairy-free. I ordered the chicken fajita burrito ($12). White rice, red onions, green peppers, and seasoned grilled chicken were protruding out of an eight to ten inch burrito wrap and weighed about a pound. It came with Spanish rice, refried beans, and sour cream on the side. I also topped it with the salsa from the bottomless chips and salsa that is offered at each table. High quality ingredients that the restaurant has claimed to provide could only achieve the rich flavors.

Come for the food, but stay for the drinks. I highly recommend their specialty drink, “Red Nosed Bull-Dog.” A Margarita-filled plastic cup topped with a shot of sangria and a Coronita bottle buried upside down in the whole mix makes for a happy face. Is the Margarita mix cheap? Yes. Does it do the job? Absolutely.

Blockheads did it! Great food, reasonable prices, and cheap drinks. Lunch, dinner, or after hours – it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Big Little Italy

It’s 11 a.m. on a Saturday and already the streets are filled with active crowds weaving from store front to store front. Young, old, families of five, and small groups of college kids brandishing their maroon and white Fordham University apparel. Yes, I’m back in the Belmont community of Da Bronx. It would be completely worth it to spend the rest of the year reviewing each of the 20 Italian restaurants, 13 deli’s, and the 7 bakery’s and pastry shops that thrive from the visitors that regularly flock to area from places as far away has northern Connecticut. But that would be selfish of me, so for now I’ll cover the area as a whole.

I know I’ve done this area before with an earlier entry of Pasquales Rigoletto, but there are some areas you just have to come back to. “The Little Italy of Da Bronx” spans 4 blocks of Arthur Avenue and two blocks across 187th Street. This area offers a touch of authenticity that can’t be matched by the over crowded and commercialized Mulberry Street. Small deli’s and meat markets prepare sandwiches with imported Italian meats and produce. Bakery’s and restaurants bring an old world taste to its patrons that once could only be found somewhere on the boot.

Sampling some of the food doesn’t even require walking into a store. Clam bars wheeled in front of seafood markets are lined up and the down the side walks. Help yourself to raw oysters or clams right on the sidewalk with your choice of sauces. Or enjoy a sandwich, full course meal, or coffee and dessert right on the curb during a beautiful spring day.

The area has also attracted celebrities and media outlets. Bobby Flay has featured world renowned Mike’s Deli on The Food Network. Influenced by the areas abundance of fine Italian cooking Flay created a recipe called, “The Arthur Avenue Burger” which includes an abundance of Italian seasonings. Prominent Italian figures such as James Gandolfini and Rudolph Giuliani have been known to frequent the deli for a hero or a hand rolled cigar. Even a picture of the presence George W. Bush is a hanging centerpiece on a deli wall.

Arthur Avenue is, however, quite removed from Manhattan. Taking the subway through the south Bronx to Fordham Road makes the area well worth the special trip.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brunch at Isabella's

Open-air and upper class is the best way to describe one of New York City’s most revered restaurants; Isabella’s. It wasn’t quite noon on a Saturday afternoon when I walked into the bright, breezy dining room. Men sipping on dirty martini’s and women with Mimosa filled flute glasses reassured me that brunch in New York is not a lost art. Marble floors, palm trees and thatch chairs had me scouring the bar for Humphrey Bogart nursing a Bourbon Whiskey. The large glass doors that line the perimeter open up to the southwest corner of the Museum of Natural History, creating a unique relaxed comfort only the Upper West side can provide.

The lunch menu and special brunch Eggs Benedict menu screamed gourmet Americana. Maryland Crab Cake Sandwich, Free Range Turkey Burger and Seared Scottish Salmon were all tempting choices, but I put the Grilled Steak Sandwich to the test. Between two pieces of toasted rye bread were medium grilled sirloin steak, mozzarella cheese, watercress and horseradish mayonnaise. The medley of flavors had me anticipating each bite. Accompanied with the sandwich was a serving of beer battered onion rings. Although the onion rings didn’t stand out as anything gourmet, it did compliment the flavors of the lunch.

My fiancĂ©, who is partial to Eggs Benedict, couldn’t help but order from the extensive list of the Benedicts menu. Smoked Salmon, Crab, and Filet Mignon Benedict are unparalleled items on a typical breakfast menu, but it was the BLT Benedict that got the call. An open faced English muffin was topped with lettuce, slice of tomato, thick apple wood smoked bacon, two poached eggs and smothered in creamy Hollandaise sauce.

The lunch menu ranged from $10.50 to $17.50 per plate, but the quality of food and preparation makes it well worth the price. Reservations for Isabella’s are highly recommended. The high quality and unique menu is no secret to local New Yorkers and you can expect a full house at any given time.