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Posts from the ‘Financial District’ Category

Chains of Love: Denny’s Manhattan

twoshovelNearly four years ago Denny’s rebranded itself as America’s Diner. That might ring false in parts of the country teeming with chrome, Formica, and counter stools, and I thought the tagline was a little silly at first. Growing up, though, the Denny’s across the street from my high school’s football field, did serve a diner-like function since it was one of the few places where you could kill time with friends drinking mug after mug of coffee, chain smoking (the cigarette machine in the lobby practically encouraged it) and ordering the occasional Super Bird, if you had the kind of uptight parents who wouldn’t let you go clubbing or hang out downtown after sunset.

Nobody would argue that New York needs a chain diner. It doesn’t. But at least from the outside, the city’s first Denny’s is fairly understated, housed on the ground floor of a landmarked stone building facing City Hall. Maybe it was the scaffolding obscuring the signage, which I don’t even recall being gold and red, but I wouldn’t think twice if I walked past it.

Inside, is another matter. As everyone’s heard by now, this isn’t a suburban Denny’s, no sir. The first thing you notice when walking up the ramp and through the door is the prominent bar featuring plenty of exposed brick and pressed copper ceilings with requisite Edison bulbs sprouting from them. The only thing missing was a chalkboard with an avocado toast special hand-written in a jaunty script. (Even KFC knows what’s up with the scrawls on the wall.) On a Friday afternoon, the bar seats were occupied by middle-aged European tourists drinking margaritas and beer. A young well-dressed man, possibly a Pace student, sat alone with a laptop.

denny's paloma

Keeping with the indie ethos, the cocktail menu is faux letter-pressed and touts a drink called The Fixed Gear. A $10 Manhattan, here the Lower Manhattan (meaning the addition of Cafe Lolita coffee liqueur), is a pretty good deal even if you’re brought a margarita first. (Service is wildly friendly, though still a little shaky in execution. If you want to rat them out–I did not–more than one manager will likely check in on you.) Palomas are better suited for day drinking anyway, if not a little gross with eggs.

The food menu is pure Denny’s, laminated with specials also encased in syrup-resistant plastic tucked inside. My old standby turkey club now has a cosmopolitan spin-off The Tuscan Super Bird that includes spinach and sun-dried tomato mayonnaise just like they do in Florence. They’ve also rebooted the Moons Over My Hammy and made it Baja (yes, that would be avocado).

denny's belgian slam

In comparison, my Belgian Waffle Slam, two eggs, said waffle and four pieces of bacon (even two breakfast sausage links is two too many for me) felt demure. There’s no arguing that this is diner fare and as good a rendition as any. You can also have Tabasco and Cholula.

The lower Manhattan Denny’s won’t be an aberration for long (it’s also not the chain’s first attempt at being on trend–let’s not forget Baconalia) as it’s just the beginning of a number of planned locations. Downtown Brooklyn and Harlem branches will supposedly be themed to fit the neighborhoods, whatever that means exactly, yet it will be areas that consider Denny’s gentrifying not cheapening receiving the chain first: East New York is already listed on the website and the building that will house a Jackson Heights branch is under construction. The odds of Dom Perignon popping alongside pancakes are likely slim to none.

Denny’s * 150 Nassau St. New York, NY

Capital Grille

The lord giveth…and taketh away. I eat at Capital Grille, the Darden-owned steakhouse would feel more appropriate in the downtown of a mid-sized city, and then mere days later discover that Little Lad's, my favorite vegan, Seventh-Day Adventist restaurant hidden in the basement of the same Financial District building, has packed up and moved into a Lower East Side church. I somehow feel responsible for setting this chain of events into motion.

Capital grille interior

Even though I only work three blocks away, it’s not like dining at Capital Grille crosses my mind with regularity. At lunch its business is drawn from surrounding offices, at night, especially on a Friday, the showier than expected—live band, taxidermy, and a private dining room in a former bank vault—bi-level restaurant was luring tourists hard. Camera in hand, I was certainly pegged as one. Using a 30% off discount from Savored might have not helped my case either (hey, Savored is classy—I do think getting rid of the Village Vines name was a good move). This does not bother me at chains. If there’s one thing they’re good for, it’s serving as Manhattan havens from the food trend obsessed.

And how trendy could a steakhouse from the people behind Olive Garden and Red Lobster be? (To be fair, it’s much higher end brand than their LongHorn Steakhouse.) Meat and seafood is the story.

Capital grille starters

Chilled oysters (of what provenance, I couldn’t even tell you) and lobster-and-crab cakes with corn relish. I like the lemon wrapped in netting touch.

Capital grille steak & fries

A medium-rare porterhouse with a good amount of char, fattiness and the slightest bit of funk (which I like). Even as a chain-admirer, I tend to stay away from Outback Steakhouse and its ilk because the beef barely has flavor. This is a real steak with a real steak price ($47) and real calories (980–one oddity of being a chain is that the menu must list them). Truffle oil was in the air, so I acquiesced and shared a cone of parmesan truffle fries (only 30 calories less than the steak).

Capital grille vault-1

The bank vault. Capital Grille is not the only restaurant on Broadway with such a feature.

Playing tourist at capital grille After you’ve been identified as a tourist (this generally only happens when I’m in other countries, and it’s really weird when you’re traveling alone, taking pictures of your food and someone, especially a guy, asks if you want your photo taken and you have to say yes because that seems like the right answer even though you might not like having your picture taken) that the inevitable, “Do you want me to take a picture of you?” question arises. I don’t, because the result is generally horrifying.

Garbage across the street

If I were a tourist I might be bothered by the amount of garbage piled up across the street.

Capital Grille * 120 Broadway, New York, NY

Crêpes du Nord

I don’t make a habit out of eating two crepes for lunch, but if a near-stranger with a gift card for a restaurant across the street from my office offers to share their bounty, I don’t say no. I’m up for food blog blind dates.

Crepes du nord proscuitto crepe
I enjoyed a buckwheat crepe similar to what they serve at Bar Breton. The grains add heft to the soft pancakes and make the meal feel healthy even though it’s filling. I feel the same way about soba; even though I prefer udon the brown pleasingly gritty noodles just seem more angelic nutritionally. Mine was served open-faced, filled with ricotta and topped with a handful of arugula and slices of prosciutto. Though a few dollars more than I normally allow myself for lunch (this one was $11 but many are $8-$9) a savory crepe could make a nice sandwich alternative and certainly beats a BMT (yes, I’ve been known to frequent the Subway, a few storefronts down the street).

Crepes du nord chicken crepe
You know this is the country herb chicken because they put a few meaty clues on top.

Crepes du nord cloudberry crepe
Since I was double-creping it, I went simple with a triangular (these are not buckwheat, as you can probably see) pancake drizzled with a cloudberry syrup and a dollop of cream. Lingonberries, cloudberries, gooseberries…all foreign and indiscernible to me. Of course, I can tell a raspberry from a blackberry from a blueberry by taste, but cloudberries in this form? I could only describe the flavor as sweet with the smallest amount of tartness.

A sweet crepe filled with chocolate, probably Nutella, was the first thing I ever ate in France so I always associate the folded-like-a-napkin treats strongly with the cuisine (never mind that Crêpes du Nord is billed as French-Scandinavian). And that sounds far more pretentious than intended.

Whenever someone mentions going to France as a kid, it shifts my opinion of them, and not always for the better. Tony Bourdain, who I’m lukewarm on anyway, loses me when he drops childhood visits to France into his shows. I’m currently reading Rob Sheffield’s Talking to Girls About Duran Duran and I was like “what?!” when I hit the chapter where his family takes a road trip across Europe. It’s hard to paint yourself as an awkward teen with crappy jobs when you get to go to France, Italy and Spain for the summer. And sure, European Vacation was about rubes abroad, but in reality with only about 30% percent of Americans owning passports, traveling to France with kids is not only a luxury, it’s a rarity. I can only think, “Wow, you had a charmed childhood and wealthy, open-minded parents.” I feel the same about where-to-take-the-parents round-ups that suggest Daniel and Minetta Tavern. Sorry, you're getting Totonno's and East Buffet.

I did stay with a family in Nerac, France, so-called melon (the only food I won’t eat) capital of the world in July 1989. I couldn’t swing a full year or even a semester abroad, but I was serious about saving up for my month and got my first job, bussing tables for $3.35 an hour at Hunan Garden, on the same strip as Skate World and Donut Barn. Even though I ended up being kind of bored and miserable in the countryside (I wanted the romance of Paris, duh) and ultimately getting parental financial assistance (which I’m still surprised happened) the 31-day-trip was one of the wisest things I did in the ‘80s. And despite numerous trips to Asia and other parts of Europe I’ve never returned to France and currently have no inclination to (right now, I’m toying with San Sebastian or Lima) because I hate idealized Cartier-Bresson/Amelie stereotypes. The Japanese have learned not to idealize (seriously, you have to read about “Paris Syndrome”) and so should we all.

As to Crepes du Nord, I would return if I could sneak out of the office for a late lunch and take advantage of their two-for-one 4-7pm happy hour. Drinking during the work day is a luxury I’ve managed to resist so far, but 2011 may be the year I cave. There’s nothing uncivilized about an occasional midday glass (or two) or wine, right? Oh dear, now I’m starting to sound French or something.

Crêpes du Nord * 17 S. William St., New York, NY

Wall & Water

When asked what made me decide to try Wall & Water (it had already been determined that I wasn’t a hotel guest, but worked up the street–really those are the only two reasons someone would be dining in this nowhere edge of the city) I didn’t have the heart to admit that it was a Village Vines 30% off promotion. Normally, I’d shy away from $14 cocktails, “house-pressed” ginger syrup or not. But a $9.80 dark & stormy? Sure.

The manager is painfully attuned to the service being described as “hot and cold” in the doubled-up New York Times review from August. Consequently, they’re kind of overdoing it now, falling hard into the ingratiating end of the spectrum. Not that I’m calling for more aloofness, just balance.

The food, however, hits all the right new American notes. Raw bar, charcuterie, artisanal cheese? They’ve got that too. Overall, the menu is a little pricey but good as opposed the little pricey but middling that plagues nearly every establishment in a ten-block radius (Setai excluded). I would return if I had an expense account type of job, and recommended it to someone I work with who probably does.

Wall & water butter

The salt-sprinkled hunk of butter drizzled with olive oil and goat cheese topped with cracked black pepper added variety to the bread basket.

Wall & water swordfish confit

The swordfish confit starter would’ve been better for sharing. It was hard to gauge serving sizes based on price. Fifteen dollars of seafood could be a few bites or it could be substantial like these three slices of mild, firm fish. The dish was appealing but not exciting enough to hold my attention. The smoked trout with pickles and beets might have been more my style.

Wall & water pork chop

It’s hard to go wrong with a pork chop, especially with such handsome grill marks. I enjoyed the slightly unusual pairing of meaty pinto beans and horseradishy slaw. Potatoes would just be too obvious and I’ve been trying to take a break from heavy starches, so this was perfect.

At its core, Wall & Water is at hotel restaurant in the Financial District. Lots of suits, and for nearly an hour I was the only female in the dining room. Eventually, a young guest was seated next to me who ordered swordfish (an entrée, not my appetizer) a glass of water and blew through his meal in minutes, sunglasses on, iPod buds in ears the entire time. This is what’s going to happen to all those kids glued to DVR players at the table when they grow up.

Wall & Water * 75 Wall St., New York, NY


SHO Shaun Hergatt

Anyone who has partaken in Restaurant Week more than once quickly realizes that it’s generally not worth it. In the past I’ve always ended up ordering off the regular menu, and now I rarely bother at all. It’s actually very easy to determine whether you should bite or not—is it an expensive restaurant or not an expensive restaurant?

Wildwood bbq 3 little piggies A few friends recently wanted to eat barbecue and none of us had been to Wildwood. Did we want to spend $35 apiece for an appetizer like fried green tomatoes, an entrée such as spare ribs and a chocolate molten cake when “Three Little Pigs,” a porky triumvirate of thick bacon, pulled pork, spare ribs and two sides (I chose baked beans and collard greens) was enough food for two meals and cost $21.95?

SHO Shaun Hergatt, on the other hand, is a mysterious (literally—it’s been covered in scaffolding for eons and has that ‘80s Shogun black lacquer, red accents, land of the rising sun vibe) upscale restaurant that I walk by every single day but have never felt compelled to visit. I know the chef is Australian and that he uses lots of imported exotica and gets flogged in The New York Times for being tone deaf and pricy when that’s not really true.

$69 isn’t an outrageous dinner prix-fixe, the Restaurant Week $24.07 lunch was a bargain and would not be a rip off at its normal $35. My own hesitation stemmed from the Wall Street location and odd placement in a maligned condo with my favorite tagline: The Setai. There’s no word for it in English. I associate the neighborhood with work, not leisure.

Sho shaun hergatt petuna farms ocean trout tartare

I had never heard of Petuna Farms, the purveyor of this ocean trout, and that is because it’s in freaking Tasmania. I’m totally un-locavore so the tartare and roe suited me just fine. I love seeing kalamansi on menus; I seriously thought it was going to be a break-out citrus in the mid-2000s but the Filipino fruit never made the mainstream jump like yuzu. The limey broth was tart, perhaps a touch too mouth-puckery, and slightly bitter in a grapefruit manner. The trout was rich enough to take it, though.

Sho shaun hergatt hibiscus & acacia honey glazed long island duck

The hibiscus-and-acacia-honey glazed Long Island duck was served with an apple cider vinegar sauce, brussels sprouts, turnips and a gelatinous cube that I wanted to say was beets based on color but wasn’t particularly beety. In both dishes the equation was unctuous+tart+bitter.

Sho shaun hergatt butterscotch parfait candied honey crisp, green apple sorbet

I’ll order anything butterscotch and was curious how they meant "parfait." Clearly, this was a modern scattered dessert not a composed chilled treat in a tall glass. The tawny poof looked like a marshmallow but was cold and creamy like ice cream, fluffy. Honeycrisp apples were used for sweetness while the sorbet was pure green apple. More of that tartness. This more like an apple crisp than a parfait.

I rarely talk wine, but if you are curious I had a glass of Lachini Vineyards 2007 pinot gris, then returned to work and saw Eric Asimov had just written about Oregon pinot gris being kind of boring. True enough, I had already forgotten what my wine tasted like 15 minutes later.

Sho shaun hergatt mignardises

If I had a personal chef I would like small, powerfully flavored portions of food for lunch every day instead of my usual light, soul-crushing soup or salad.

SHO Shaun Hergatt * 40 Broad St., New York, NY

Bon Chon Chicken John St.

If you told me we were going to have two banh mi options when I first starting working way downtown, I might not have believed you. And Korean fried chicken? Not at all. I’m happy for the new Bon Chon, though it's still not clear who the target audience is for this location. There is a counter to order takeout in the back, a row of maybe five tables for four along one wall and a bar opposite them.

It is still more inviting than the strip mall Staten Island Bon Chon, which despite a few stools near the window, is very much a takeout operation. If you were an office worker looking for fried chicken takeout lunch you might be weirded out by the prominent bar (unless you're ok with drinking during the day–I've been tempted many an afternoon). If you wanted the dark, clubbier atmosphere from the Koreatown original, the bright lights and small space would put you off. On a Friday around 6:30pm, the clientele was maybe 65% Asian and mostly young, mixed with a few curiosity-seekers like myself, checking out the new digs before heading home. Residents of nearby dorms also seem like an obvious customer.

Bonchon mixed chicken

No arguments with the chicken. The skin is shiny and shellacked to perfection as ever, the air pocket between the crust and the dark meat revealed after the initial bite. We ordered both hot and garlic soy because I couldn't remember which I liked better. The hot, as it turned out, which isn’t all that fiery.

Bonchon radish & kimchi coleslaw

Kimchi coleslaw was chosen as our side (fries or a roll seemed odd) and came served in a little square dish along with the standard pickled radish. Fresh cabbage shreds, fermented cabbage hunks and a sparing amount of mayonnaise to hold the two together, wasn't exactly cooling but complemented the chicken.

Bonchon calimari

More fried food wasn't wise and breaded calamari rings are in no way special like the chicken. Like the chicken, though, they aren't wildly greasy.  I just didn't want a salad or dumplings and had already tried the pancake before.

Bonchon black & tan

I've not had good past experiences with sake cocktails and love the novelty of pitchers, so yes to beer and no to Asian pear soju. This Guinness/Blue Moon blend was like a giant black and tan—is that normal?

Bon Chon Chicken * 104 John St., New York, NY

Financial District Baoguette

When I spoke to the unstoppable Michael Huynh for this Metromix year-end trend piece, he was envisioning Baoguette as the new Subway. And sure enough the  still-rough-around-the-edges storefront in the Financial District is just a few spaces over from a Subway. Five-dollar foot-longs had better watch out.

In the nearly three years I've worked way downtown pho has been high on my list of edibles missing in the neighborhood. I think I would be more jazzed if we hadn't been barraged with so much Vietnamese food this year. It is still a novelty in the Financial District, though. My only other venture to a Baoguette, the one on St. Mark’s, involved the beef soup not banh mi and it wasn’t half bad. Now that it’s brutally cold, soup seems smarter than sandwiches. But it wasn’t to be. Even though pho is on the menu, it  isn’t being served yet. They did have some prepared summer rolls in the refrigerated case, but it’s hard to get excited over the chilled cylinders as long as it's wintry.

Baoguette exterior

The brown awning with an air conditioner punched through bore the Baoguette name held in place by blue tape. The long-necked lighting wasn’t having a good time either. Inside, the dry erase board on the wall was still shiny and unsullied. Same with the chalkboards above the counter. Rows of goldenrod Café du Monde coffee cans and full bottles of green-tipped Sriracha were the only design elements.

My old hard rule about $5 lunches shifted to $6 somewhere in the recent past and even that gets broken at least weekly for a Pret a Manger salad. Even those pick-a-mix salads where short little guys toss it in a plastic container for you come in around $7. It doesn’t mean I make a habit out of it, though. But hey, I had a little Christmas gift cash burning a hole in my pocket. I could spring for the $7 for a catfish sandwich…just this once.

Baoguette catfish banh mi

The flavors were an untraditional mishmash (honey mustard and sweet pickles?) not dissimilar to certain swampy Thai curries. I only saw a few jalapeño slices and no obvious red pools of Sriracha, but mouthfuls were hot, a dirty spicy that was compounded by the catfish’s natural earthy taste and tempered slightly by the strands of pickled red onions and sweet cucumber relish. I liked it more than I thought I would.

Baoguette catfish banh mi cross section

The catfish sandwich is akin to Num Pang's (which I never blogged about, oddly) and in some ways is preferable to me because I like a drier sandwich and this one uses honey mustard while the Cambodian one bulges with mayonnaise. It’s hard to disassociate honey mustard from chicken fingers, but the condiment wasn’t that jarring, just tangy. I only recommend not trying on candy apple red lip glosses at Sephora on the corner right before biting into one of these sandwiches.

Baoguette does serve better food than the than closer-to-my-office banh mi cart and both charge $6 for the traditional Saigon sub (though I notice it’s only $5 at the Christopher St. Baoguette/Pho Sure while the catfish is $7 at both). I’ll likely return to check in on the pho at some point but as long as it’s in the 20s outside I’ll probably just walk the one block to the cart instead of the seemingly long (lots of tourist-dodging–I’ve given up on politeness and now barge through everyone’s posing in front of the Stock Exchange photos) five blocks to Maiden Lane.

Baoguette sign

Clearly, I’m not the only one who likes appropriating The New York Times' banh mi cross section photo.

Baoguette * Maiden Lane, New York, NY

Cowgirl Sea-Horse

Cowgirl Hall of Fame will always be the '90s to me–squarely in the same camp as Moustache or Mugs Ale House–places I ate when I first moved to New York and didn't give much serious thought to food.  Cowgirl Hall of Fame is where birthdays tended to be celebrated or large groups would convene. Just last month a vegetarian friend (I point this out because people who can only eat a small proportion of the menu don't always have the best sense of what's generally good) asked for restaurant advice to give to visitors from Germany. She had steered them to toward Cowgirl, among others. Eh, if they wanted "American" food, The Redhead might be a better choice. Clearly, Cowgirl still holds sway with many, though.

2009 or not, I, myself, was curious about Cowgirl Sea-Horse (I’m still not clear why seahorse is hyphenated—would you say cow-girl?). It's quintessential Friday night fare. By 6pm I've all but given up and fried food and beer walking distance from my office sounds like the best idea I've had in ages.

A week after opening, the restaurant, on a lonesome corner across from the Brooklyn Bridge's underbelly, was hopping. An enormous party of 25+ youngsters were attempting to take over the back room (where we were seated), little kids were running around and falling over each other, a few of James' coworkers even randomly stopped in. Service was upbeat but clearly overwhelmed. I wouldn't want to make any strong judgments about the slow as molasses pacing so soon. I expected as much on a weekend.

Cowgirl seahorse texas caviar

Texas caviar, a.ka. black eyed peas in a vinaigrette, were a gratis starter despite being listed on the menu for $3.50.

Cowgirl seahorse rattlesnake bites

Rattlesnake bites are grilled bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with shrimp. These smokey vegetal poppers are a form of Russian roulette, every third one you get a seriously hot chile. As you can also see, some are more done than others.

Cowgirl seahorse clam fritters

I wouldn't have ordered the clam fritters, not only because we already had plenty of starters but because inevitably you end up with a mouthful of bready filler. There was a decent amount of firm meat in these, though. More jalapeno in the tartar sauce.

Cowgirl seahorse pork tacos

Trying to avoid any more oil-bathed items (James had the oyster po boy and onion rings) I went for the tacos. Weird, yes. Sometimes I like the American shredded lettuce and cheddar style, but hard shells would've been too much. I wasn't expecting wheat tortillas as the "soft" option, though. These were floppy fun handheld drinking snacks. The pulled pork was on the dry side, even if it wasn't sharply obvious with all the accouterments.

Afterward, I wandered over to the Water Taxi Beach to see how it compared to Long Island City’s version. Well, for one you don't have to pay $10 to enter in Queens. At umbrella’d tables on the other side of the barrier next to the shops, groups had set up their own party complete with R&B blasting from a boom box. Smart? And as you continued around the back of the shopping center, the crowd became whiter and whiter until it suddenly became very '90s for the second time in one hour. The big stage was encircled by a tightly-packed crowd, disproportionately gray-haired and crows-feeted, bobbing up and down to Superchunk. Yes, Brooklyn babysitters must've made a killing that night. Despite being of that demographic, I was never a fan, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing a $6 plastic cup of beer just to stand a while and ponder the state of 2009.

Cowgirl Sea-Horse * 259 Front St., New York, NY


Yips2 This is $2.60 worth of food. Ok, oily, sitting out food, but sometimes it hits the spot. Leeks, mushrooms, bbq pork and sesame chicken. (6/5/09)

I’ve developed a strange new obsession with Yip’s, a block from my office. I had managed to steer clear of the bi-level (restaurant upstairs, buffet downstairs) Chinese joint for over two years. Curiosity fueled by a cheapskate quest for a few pieces of char siu my cheapskate ways finally got me in the door.

Yip's exterior

Keeping a lunch under $5 (ok, I’ll go up to $6) in the Financial District is no easy feat so the banner touting the $3.49/lb buffet after 1:45pm (and a still not expensive $5.39/lb before then) was perfect since I rarely eat a midday meal before 2pm anyway. And if you spend more than $5 you get a free can soda. I've never hit this mark yet but I wonder if they'll give you bottled water, for some reason water is considered more precious.

The thing is the sweet barbecue pork is nearly gone by 1:15pm and the whole thing is decimated by 2pm. People go nuts for sweet and sour pork, fried fish and spareribs, apparently. There is also traditional salad bar (you know, with lettuce and vegetables—yet also sushi and crab legs) in the center of the room but it gets less play. I couldn’t help but notice the poor tray of bitter melon with beef that had all the beef picked out. The place is full of carnivorous heathens.

Yip's buffet

No, it’s not particularly healthy and way oily but sometimes I need a cheap lowish carb break from my typical midday cup of soup from a carton (black bean chipotle is good, sweet pea puree isn’t bad). I stay away from rice, noodles, heavily breaded things and dense bones (the duck chunks do call my name, though). I end up with 40% vegetables and 60% mixed hodgepodge, a ration I'm trying to reverse.

Yip's lunch

This is what I got for $3.88: salt and pepper shrimp and squid, bean curd with mushrooms, spinach, green beans, roast pork, zucchini and black beans (the chicken had been all picked out). Lots of mismatched items in small doses that are satisfying enough for my junk tooth.

This isn’t my first foray into questionably cheap Chinese food. There used to be a place on the ground floor of a downtown Portland hospital called Dollar Chinese Food. Actually, I don't know if that was its proper name or if it even had one, but that’s what everyone called it because of the $1 Chinese Food advertised on the sidewalk sandwich board. If I remember correctly for $1 you got a small paper plate with rice, a scoop of an entrée of your choice, and I'm fairly certain one of those tiny hard cabbage filled spring rolls.

Yip’s is way less depressing, if you can imagine. (5/17/09)

Yip’s * 18 Beaver St., New York, NY

Banh Mi Cart

1/2 I'm not sure if the banh mi cart is getting more tolerable—they hand out numbers when you order now—or if the misty weather kept people indoors for lunch, but around 2:02pm there was only two people waiting for sandwiches and one woman in line ahead of me asking staff (a whopping three, two men, one woman), "What should I order?" She was steered toward the classic #1. I'm a strict #1 gal, myself, but following right behind the clueless eater I didn't want to seem like a lemming and went wild and got the meatballs instead.

Eh, should've stuck to my guns. The meatballs were delicate and springy, turning into a soft near-spread when pressed between the baguette. They were definitely spicy yet somehow under seasoned and bland.

My only real pet peeve (because I must have one) is that they seem to have stopped cutting the sandwiches in two. I need petite halves for at-desk nibbling. It's just not ladylike to be seen with a dripping meatball-filled hoagie while at work (on my free time, sure). I also noticed jerky on the menu (and no shrimp cocktail). (6/10/09)

The crowd is very manageable at 2:30pm, no more than a few minutes wait. No problem for a late luncher like myself. I did notice that they raised the price to $6 since my last visit way back in early 2009, which kind of breaks my self-imposed $5 and under lunch rule. But still, $6 isn't outrageous in this neighborhood and I brownbag it 70% of the time anyway. Also, now have a pork fu and eel sandwich, 11 styles in total. (5/11/09)I was excited to hear that the city’s only banh mi cart had moved even closer to my office, only about three blocks away on the corner of Pearl St. and Hanover Sq. It’s a sad state of dining affairs down here so little things mean a lot.  But Friday there was a huddle of about 12 people in front of the cart at 1:30pm. I’m not patient in the best of circumstances so unorganized, non-lined up clumps of customers was too much for me. I’ll go later next time and see how things play out. (5/8/09)

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