Sunday, November 16

Crown (New York City, NY, USA)

While wandering the streets of Upper East Side for some happy hour options, me and my friend stumbled upon Crown.  A restaurant with a bar upstairs located in a seemingly residential area, we carefully wandered in a side door to find a bar with romantic lighting and beautiful wooden interiors.  While I can't speak for their food, which seems to have mixed reviews, I can say that their bar service was delightful.  Online, reviewers have said that they have a happy hour, but as of September 2014, this was not true.  This left me and my friend conflicted since we both obviously were intrigued by this place, but we didn't have many afternoons to happy hour away in New York!

The guy at the front politely went to the back to ask if they had happy hour, and the bartender's apparent response was "We don't have happy hour but we can give you a happy hour."  We obviously decided to stay, and each had a drink.  My friend had the Watermelon Gimlet (12), which she enjoyed (especially the cracked pepper), and I had the Star Anise Negroni (12).  While I was hesitant on the star anise at first, Mariano, our bartender, convinced me otherwise.  I was pleasantly surprised, and even prefer this version to many regular negronis I've had!  The cocktails were made with care, and were graciously complimented with some bread and olive oil.  The drinks were strong, otherwise we would've gone for a second round, and we definitely would have stayed for another drink if we weren't on a tight schedule.  Oh, and Mariano did end up giving us a happy hour!

Crown is definitely a gem in the city away from the bustle of the city, and I would return next time I'm in New York!  While I really can't speak for their food, I can say that the presentation of their food had me eyeing others' dishes while there.

Price: $$$
Rating: 4.5/5

24E & 81st St.
New York, NY 10028
#: (646) 559-4880
Crown on Urbanspoon

The Halal Guys (New York City, NY, USA)

First night in New York I was out with a friend and after having flown in from New Orleans, and needless to say I was hungry!  A friend had suggested The Halal Guys to me, and sure enough, I found myself in proximity to their stand in the city.  The stand is a bit hard to find when you don't know what you're looking for, as it's away from all the lights in Times Square, but it's still close enough of a walk, and they have a big sign with "Halal Guys" written on it.

I got their chicken plate, as directed by my friend, and for less than $10, it was a whole lotta food!  Especially for NYC.  I don't eat like a mouse (ie. very little) and there was still quite a bit left for my friend to munch on.  The flavor was decent, a little salty for my liking, but somehow very addicting!  And no, I did not have any alcohol that night.  It definitely was not the most amazing chicken and rice that I've had, but I can see it being better than bad pizza while drunk in the Big Apple.  With that being said, hot food is always delicious on a cold night, and if you're into spicy, their hot sauce will definitely warm you up!

The Halal Guys is a food truck so there are no seats and some people mind that, but there are some buildings with stairs that you can sit on during off-hours.  Overall, not a bad place to grab some grub if you don't want to dish out that dough in Times Square.

Price: less than $10/order
Rating: 4/5

The Halal Guys (Website)
SE Corner of 53rd and 6th
New York, NY 10019
Midtown West, Theatre District
#: (347) 527-1505
The Halal Guys on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 20

Sarabeth's (Central South Park, CA)

Now that my posts are all jumbled and it's almost been a month since I was in NYC, I'm finally getting around to posting about all the delicious, beautiful food I ate.  Here is the first of my series from the Big Easy to the Big Apple.

Breakfast (or brunch) is my favorite meal of the day, as I've mentioned many times before, so naturally, my first proper meal was exactly that!  Where is my first, and unfortunately, only real brunch stop?  Sarabeth's, of course!  I say of course because if you know me, I'm secretly (or not so secretly) a huge fan of Gossip Girl, and this is one of their favorite destinations.

I had my usual latte to start, then finally decided to go all out and order the Crab Cake Benedict (24).  The latte was strong, with lots of fluffy foam (not the usual American latte foam), but nothing too spectacular in my opinion.  While the crab cakes were good, they seemed like they weren't as fresh as they could be.  The flavor was decent and not fishy, and of course it was real crab meat (for $24 one would hope so), but the crust was just stale.  The eggs were a little overcooked for my taste, and the muffins were very stale, but the salad was quite refreshing.  My friend had the Eggs & Kale (17), two eggs over a bed of delicious kale with some almonds.  The almonds were delicious and the dish fresh, but for what you're paying for?  Maybe a tad bit much.  Overall, I wasn't too impressed by my plate, but I'm still glad I came here for the experience.

I feel like I must add that the service is quite good, but the wait for food is long and they only have one bathroom stall.  Maybe this is the New York way - I've noticed many restaurants only have one-toilet bathrooms.  All in all, I was a bit disappointed, but I was pre-warned by overhearing a local say that Sarabeth was "just not as good as it used to be" and has lost some of its charms.

Price: 25-35pp USD or depending on your order and drink | $$
Rating: 3.5/5

Sarabeth's (Website)
40 Central S. Park
New York, NY 10019
#: (212) 826-5959
Sarabeth's on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 15

Shane Confectionery (Philadelphia, PA)

Another well known vintage sweet shop in Old Town Philly is Shane Confectionery, which dates back to the 1860's!  Now this place has been around for much longer than its neighbor, Franklin Fountain, and their extensive history includes a move to a different location and back, as well as a reopening in the spot it is in today.  You can read about their extensive history here.

If you haven't read my other posts, I state outright that I'm not the biggest sweet-tooth ever, especially when it comes to candy, so I went to Shane with the purpose of candy-gazing.  And candy-gazing was what I got.  Shane Confectionery is the quintessential vintage candy shop and a dream for any kid, but on top of that, the variety of candies and chocolate they carry is phenomenal for a quite the tiny storefront.  I was flabbergasted by their numerous offerings of lollies, chocolates, truffles, fudges, and even candied popcorn.  The choices I could pick for were a bit overwhelming...

There were so many items I could pick for, I ended up just getting some chocolate.  I probably should have tried their salt water taffy, but I guess there's always a next time!  My only concern is that some of the items look somewhat stale and old, maybe due to the lighting, or maybe due to the large variety they carry, but either way, this place is a must-visit for children and adult alike!
Price: $-$$ | $$ for candy
Rating: 3.5/5
Tip: Buy something here to get 10% off at Franklin Fountain!

Shane Confectionery (Website)
110 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
#: (215) 922-1048
Shane Confectionery on Urbanspoon

Dutch Eating Place (Philadelphia, PA)

Breakfast is my favorite meal, and I didn't want to miss it, so on day two of my Philly trip, I headed to the Dutch Eating Place.  Located inside the Reading Terminal Market, this food shop offers blueberry and choco chip pancakes, as well as chicken pot pie and other hearty meals for lunch.  The shop is set up like a diner, and when I arrived, there were already lots of people chowing down on breakfast!

Since I was planning on having Tommy DiNic's that same day... I was a bit weary of ordering blueberry pancakes (which they are known for), but I did anyway!  It was a bit of a mistake in a way that the serving was just a bit too much for me, but they sure were delicious!  As delicious as pancakes can get anyway, even though I'm not the biggest fan of pancakes in general.  I guess I decided to be a little adventurous in my food choices on this trip (ie. Franklin Fountain) - eating foods that aren't my favorite and all.  The blueberry pancakes were fluffy and fresh, and very (overly) filling.  Not being the biggest bacon eater either, I thought the turkey bacon was actually pretty good, flavorful and not completely fatty.  Overall, the food, place, and service are all decent.  My suggestion for anyone looking to try more variety in the market, definitely share one order.
Price: $-$$ | 10USDpp
Rating: 3.5/5

Dutch Eating Place (Facebook)
1136 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
#: (215) 922-0425
Dutch Eating Place on Urbanspoon

Franklin Fountain (Philadelphia, PA)

I'm not a sweet-tooth, nor am I the biggest ice cream fan, but Franklin Fountain somehow found its way into my destination list because of its popularity.  Vintage decor and marbled counters gives Franklin Fountain the quintessential ice cream parlor look, though its only been around for about a decade.  The vintage getup is what initially attracted me to actually check the place out, and thank God I had some cash on me!

Even though I'm not the biggest ice cream fan, I've had a fair share of delicious ice cream (including places like Ici), so I'd like to think that opinion bears some weight in the ice cream world.  Franklin Fountain definitely has some strange flavors, like teaberry (which I think tasted like licorice), but after trying generous samples of a few, I settled on the Black Raspberry.  The flavor was definitely very potent - for lack of a better word - and it did taste like black raspberry.  I have a hard time believing it's all natural flavors, but I will take their word for it.  The balance of their flavors was definitely not the best that I've had (a lot of them tasted artificial), but the novelty of the place is worth paying a visit at least once I suppose.

I'm in love with Franklin Fountain's look, but for about $6 a pop, I was expecting spectacular and unique flavors.  I was a bit disappointed, but I did have to remind myself that no ice cream parlor has yet to win my heart over Ici.

Price: $-$$
Rating: 3/5
Tip: cash only!

Franklin Fountain (Website)
116 Market St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106
#: (215) 627-1899
Franklin Fountain on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 12

Tommy DiNic's (Philadelphia, PA)

Now that I'm free from clinical duties for about week - let's get back to talking about Philadelphia!  It's been quite a few weeks (eight to be exact) since I was last in Philly, but good thing I take notes... I better hurry it up since I'll be in The Big Apple in three days! Yay!

It may be a mistake that I didn't eat a cheesesteak during my visit to Philly, but I think I can say Tommy DiNic's just about makes up for it.  An American sandwich shop located in the Reading Terminal Market, Tommy DiNic's claim to fame is their roast pork sandwich, traditionally topped with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone.  I say American, because this place is listed as "traditional American," but they're really an Italian sandwich shop well into their fourth generation serving up meatball, Italian sausage, and roasted meat sandwiches to the lucky denizens of Philadelphia.

Unfortunately for me, I was traveling alone and already had a meal at the Dutch Eating House, so I wasn't too hungry when I sat down to order that classic sandwich of theirs.  Nevertheless, the roast pork sandwich with the ultra-garlicky broccoli rabe and mound of provolone was the most glorious sandwich I've ever had.  The meat was juicy and flavorful, but not too salty, and that broccoli rabe was perfection!  That is, if you're a fan of your breath smelling garlic fresh.  Fortunately for me - I was traveling alone.  Hah.  I'm someone who doesn't usually go for sandwiches for a meal, so it's quite a statement when I say this was possibly one of the best decisions that I made on my trip to Philly. Yes, I'm talking big.  So next time you're in the city, have a taste yourself!
Price: $-$$
Rating: 4.5/5
Tip: Don't expect to get great service or 5 star seating, but make sure you get there early or there'll be a line!

Tommy DiNic's (Website)
Reading Terminal Market
1136 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
#: (215) 923-6175
Tommy DiNic's Pork & Beef on Urbanspoon