In my nearly 20 years in NYC I’ve developed an embarrassing jaded side where I’m surprised and delighted by nothing, so I love reminders that I haven’t seen it all, not by any measure.
I used to work in the Financial District and yet somehow Fish Market near the Seaport never made it onto my radar. (And god, I still miss Little Lad’s.) Maybe it was the generic name, or that it seems like the place where you’d have to eat fish and chips, or the dive bar vibe from the sidewalk (though that would probably appeal to me since grit is scarce around those parts).
I was just drunk enough on a balmy weeknight to become intrigued by Yelp reviews (yes, Yelp is a horror but it is good for facts or descriptions of atmosphere) that detailed shots of Jameson and photos of what looked to be Chinese food. Ok. There is a prominent bar, well, the entire place looks like a bar, with a bunch of TV screens and a few arcade games.
The bathroom door looks like it been used as a punching bag.
Many plates of lobster, an item I didn’t even see on the menu and if I did I would hesitate to order it, were being placed in front of diners. (Apparently, it’s a Monday-Wednesday special: 1.5 pounds for $16.) Dishes include non-descriptive things like yummy noodles and hinted things like pescatore bowl. I opted for the pork belly pot (as opposed to the pork belly meal for $4 less), some sort of wings that I don’t even remember, and crispy rice with shrimp, which is fried rice with the crust scattered on top, socarrat-style.
By the time we left, I had managed to be served four shots of Jameson in a little plastic cup. Yes, one of the owners makes rounds with the bottle, filling up your glass as needed.
Fish Market Restaurant * 111 South St., New York, NY
I never intended to eat plantains for three courses at lunch. The plantain chips and bean dip was a freebie. You can partake or not but I’ve never been one to ignore a bread basket or facsimile. That was my first mistake.
It made sense to do the three-course $20 prix fixe since my original plan to order two tapas/appetizers would’ve cost even more. I don’t normally delve into the double digits for a weekday lunch, though I’m unusually frugal by even cheapskate standards. Trying to keep my daily total under $4 usually translates into a tiny midtown soup or bagel. But Salud is at the Seaport, which is an extension of the Financial District. James, who works nearby, didn’t think the prices were out of line.
I shouldn’t gone with my initial instinct and started with ceviche but instead I was swayed by sweet plantains stuffed with spicy beef and monterey jack. It sounded gooey and decadent, but in reality it was starch with barely perceptible dashes of ground meat and cheese. The maduros completely overwhelmed the other flavors.
Garlic shrimp seemed safe, but they didn’t come solo. Oh no, the little crustaceans aligned next to a tidy row of tostones. It’s a good thing I’m not low-carbing it. However, I am trying to eat less and shun sugar, but dessert was part of the meal so I was semi-forced to eat a perfectly acceptable flan (which apparently I enjoyed enough to eat before remembering to take a photo).
There appears to be a Cuban theme in music and style, but the menu is more of a Caribbean mish mash. I can see Salud being good for happy hour drinks if you worked nearby but it’s not distinctive enough to attract diners from beyond the neighborhood. Now that I think about it, it’s the kind of place that would pop up in my neighborhood (Carroll Gardens) and fail to excite me. Un-hideous but far from amazing.
Salud! Restaurant & Bar * 142 Beekman St., New York, NY
How do you end up eating chain Cuban at the South Street Seaport when you intended on hole in the wall Cuban in Chelsea? Well, thanks to the MTA's inability to deal with rain water, I was only able to access the 6 train Friday after work. Anything diverging too far from that line was out of the question during the downpour (though the Seaport isn’t that close to the Fulton St. station).
I’ve never been to the Seaport in my eight years of NYC life. It’s not like I’ve ever had any reason to. Strangely, it’s quite the tourist attraction. Strangely, because essentially it’s a mall with chain stores you could find anywhere in the U.S. that happens to be on the East River. Maybe because of the oddball location, Cabana wasn’t crazy busy, which is always my fear on Friday nights. The vibe was very much girls night out with a few couple scattered around too.
What I hate about “fancy” Latin American food is the preponderance of boneless chicken breasts and absence of pork dishes. I eat boneless, skinless chicken breasts at home all the time, but that's weeknight health-ish cooking, courtesy of a Costco bag of Tyson’s poultry. I don't actually want to pay good money for that dry nonsense on the weekend when a supposed professional is cooking.
I settled on one of the few porky entrees, chuletas, which came with yellow rice and black beans by default. Two pork chops strikes me as little excessive, though eating half of my food allowed for two genuine meals to be made of it. A mid-week leftover pork chop isn’t the worst thing. We tried tostones stuffed with ropa vieja and shrimp (you can choose from four fillings) as a starter, and they were better than I'd expected. The orange, garlicky dipping oil a nice unhealthy touch. A pitcher of sangria rounded out the meal.
Honestly, I would’ve been happier with a cubano or cheap rice, beans and meat combo. I don’t need all the fanfare (or bathroom attendant) that comes with the more upscale versions of Cuban cuisine, though the food was a perfectly acceptable rendition.
Cabana * 89 South St. Seaport Pier 17, New York, NY