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Time Cafe

I like Time Cafe, though it's not the sort of place I go out of my way for.
It's just there, relatively reliable. It's where friends take their families
(though I never have), acceptable for out-of-towners and good enough for a
pre-Fez show bite to eat. I'm particularly fond of their pizza with ham,
apples and honey. On the recent visit I opted for the soft-shell crab
special, which was also a bit fruity with the accompanying jicama apple
slaw. I hate to say it, but the dish was altogether too tart. Crab should be
crabby, not mouth puckering. Ah, but look who's the crab now.

This occasion was a birthday, and for once I was at a table where the
guests remarkably managed to put in the correct change, over actually.
What's normally a brow-furrowing ordeal with my usual groups of friends
became nearly pleasant with these folks I only know in passing. Perhaps it's
time to trade in dining companions. Are friends who feign ignorance about
amounts ordered when the check shows up really friends?

Time Cafe * 380 Lafayette
St., New York, NY

Blue Ribbon


I've never been to the original so I won't commence with the Manhattan vs.
Brooklyn comparisons. I am aware they're known for their seafood, which is
boldly displayed in the front window. The spendy, yet impressive looking
fruits des mer platters are a signature item, which I hope to try at some
point. As it was a random weeknight, I went the other direction and tried
the duck with spinach, sweet potato puree and a cassis sauce. Very nice. The
shrimp and chorizo appetizer was also pleasing. Duck? Chorizo? Well, no one
ever said I was a light eater.

The vibe was more welcoming than stand-offish, moderately upscale, yet
mellow. You could call it a potential date place, which made me glad I ended
up there with a boyfriend, not the stalkerish chap I was out with earlier
who'd half-heartedly suggested the very restaurant (take note: don't attempt
Blue Ribbon with the unemployed, it'd just ruin the fun). If by chance the
ambience causes you to forget you're in Park Slope, glance up from your
goodies and observe the proliferation of children, young pregnant women and
lesbians. Ah, the incongruous flavor that makes up this semi-suburban 'hood.

* 280 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Mike’s City Diner

There was a line out the door Sun. morning, which I took to be a good sign
(though I suppose lines are typical during the weekend brunch hours–not
that I would know, I only get up early enough to eat breakfast out like four
times a year). There was a long wait, but I didn't know anywhere else to go
in town and figured it'd be the same everywhere. I ordered what I think was
called an Emergency Room Special (scary, no?) and was treated to an obscene
amount of food: two huge pancakes, two eggs, almost half a plate of home
fries, three strips of bacon and two pieces of toast. It was pretty
impressive. What was even more impressive was the skinny guy sitting next to
us who ordered the exact thing after I did, and polished off the whole plate
and was digging into his pancakes while I was still picking at mine. My
dining companion ordered a side of corned beef hash and the portion almost
filled a dinner-sized plate. Not that quantity equals quality, but I was
pretty happy with the meal. The waffles also looked really good–maybe next
time. (8/19/01)

Mike's City Diner * 1714 Washington St., Boston, MA

Buzzy’s Fabulous Roast Beef

It seemed like the Philly cheesesteak stand of Boston so I had to check it
out. As it was around 2am, the place was hopping and a huge line was
forming. One might consider changing the name to Buzzed, as I could see how
the place might get a little rowdy. The lines certainly didn't move as fast
as in Philly, though the people were chattier. That's one thing I noticed
about Boston, people aren't so hard as to not comment or compliment. Much
ado was made over my Hello Kitty tattoo, and I got into a discussion with
some teenage girls about the Hello Kitty toaster (they were envious). I
guess Boston's not all bad.

I'd already eaten dinner that night so I didn't want to go too
overboard. I got an Original Buzzy's Roast Beef sandwich, no fries, rings
etc. It was alright, but nothing special. I'm not sure what cheese was on
it, something white. And it was cold. Was it supposed to be? I also felt it
should be more like $3.95 or $4.95 than $5.95, but that's just me. I think
Buzzy's is more of an experience/institution than an amazing food venue.

Buzzy's Fabulous Roast Beef * 327 Cambridge St., Boston,MA

No Name Restaurant

I'm not sure how I ended up here, it was the first place I ate at and didn't
have my bearings yet. I think I was looking for clam chowder. Not big on
atmosphere (but I didn't really expect it to be). I had a seafood platter
filled with lots of breaded, fried stuff. The amount of tartar sauce served
was baffling, it practically took up a third of the plate. It made me wonder
if there are people out there who actually eat all their tartar sauce (and

No Name Restaurant * 15 1/2 Fish Pier St. W.,Boston,MA

Pho Republique

This was the sort of place that made a fun Sat. night stop. Boston's weird,
or maybe I just didn't have any inside scoops. It's totally Ally McBeal.
Like everyone's in khakis or else they're Irish obsessed ruffians. The only
places that seemed remotely hip or interesting ended up being predominantly
gay. Are there no moderately cool people in their 20s in the entire city?
Everything's upscale or college-ish. I just wanted an unpretentious place
where culinary savvy youngsters could get a little dressed up, have a nice
cocktail and the like. Well, this was it pretty much.

We had shrimp spring rolls, which had a green (spinach?) and cream
cheese in the filling, served with a tangy/sweet dipping sauce. The
creaminess of the cheese was a nice contrast to the crisp eggroll skin. And
it's nice to see dairy in Asian food every now and then. For an entre I
tried the salmon and mussels with a coconut milk, tomato, saffron and bacon
sauce. Wow, this was really tasty, albeit rich (though not heavy). I ordered
a coconut martini and later a monkey bite. Whoo, both were strong. I'm a
sucker for foofy drinks with tropical fruit. By the time we finished dinner,
the bar scene was jumping so we headed to that half of the restaurant.

The amusing part was the "theme" or whatever you want to call it. The
waiters all wore camouflage in some form (shirts, shorts) and dog tags, and
James even got winked at (not that I should be surprised. He seems to get
more attention from men than I do. And it's not like he's some hot number
[though of course, I like him] he just has this gay aura. I thought he was
queer when I first met him). Vietnam War chic? Who knew. I also found the
clientele amusing. The men (which predominated) were typical, but the women
were all straight out of some bad '80s Hollywood movie art gallery scene,
complete with shaved, spiky, colored hair and zany geometric patterned
blousey shirts. Weird. And believe me, they weren't being new wave retro.
Most were in the late 30 to 40 age range and were certainly not trying to
pull some newfangled fashion coup. I was highly freaked out by the 4 ft.
nothing tan woman with the blue bangs and numerous piercings who sat next to
us as we were leaving. She probably had on a Swatch, but I didn't look. All
I know is that if I were a lesbian, Boston would be at the bottom of my

PhoRepublique * 1415
Washingon St., Boston,MA

Times Are A Changing

Milk Changer Oreos  I’m not a big fan of store-bought cookies, but I always skim the shelves for interesting new additions. There’s always TV and movie tie-ins, like some “Atlantis” cookies from Nabisco or who knows what company. Cookies are right up there with breakfast cereal for advertising co-branding (hideous word, I know) potential. I like to note which Keebler Rainbow Chips Deluxe cookies are on the shelf, as the colors of the M&M-like candies are seasonal. They do pastels in spring, red white and blue around Fourth of July, darker jewel tones in the winter, etc. If you see the pastels in Nov., you have an idea how well a particular store monitors its stock.

But the new Oreos are the point here. I guess the stuffing contains some sort of dye that colors your milk pink when dunked into it. Creepy if you ask me, but then I was the kind of fussy youngster who wouldn’t drink milk unless my mom made it green with food coloring. All that coddling stopped by kindergarten, but I can’t deny the existence of the bad habit. Obviously I was born about 25 years too early, the food world would be my oyster right about now.


It was blistering hot, I was in the East Village, sushi seemed appropriate
and Shima was there. I'm not a sushi expert by a long shot so in a
neighborhood with practically one place on every block, you've got to dive
in. I was perfectly content with my sushi for two and cold sake. I'm sure
there are better places in the vicinity, but that's not something worth
stressing over.

Shima* 188 Second Ave., New York, NY

Vietnamese Sandwich

I was introduced to a little something called the “French sandwich” in Portland. I stumbled upon this random Vietnamese deli, Cali Sandwiches, next to a Plaid Pantry just up the street from my house. For a mere $1.50 you could get thinly sliced barbecued pork, marinated carrots and cucumbers, jalepenos, cilantro, pate, and mayonnaise (yuck) on a french roll. That may sound disgusting, but they kicked ass (even with the mayonnaise). I’m not as sharp with world history as I could be so I can only speculate on the marriage of French and Vietnamese cuisine and things like colonial rule. It’s sort of like the N.Y. phenomena of Chinese/Cuban restaurants. People around here call these treats Vietnamese sandwiches or bánh mì when the feel like showing off their linguistic skills (it always makes me cringe when Americans go all crazy ordering things in their non-native language using atrocious “authentic” accents).

I rediscovered Vietnamese sandwiches this 4th of July in Toronto’s Chinatown. They were masquerading under the name “Saigon Sub” and the storefronts selling them had lines out the door. I can’t fairly comment on them because I got sidetracked eating so much other food that I let my sandwich sit in a warm car and by the time I got to it, the thing was goopy and rancid and I tried eating it anyway even though I thought I might get sick (which I did). The poor Saigon Sub shouldn’t be blamed, it was all poor planning on my part.

Elvie’s Turo Turo

Filipino dishes almost feel like comfort food, but that's silly since I'm
not Filipino. Growing up I had two good Filipino friends, and I'd tag along
to odd parties and what not at the Phil-Am (I'm not sure if that was the
real title, if it was some official society or what. The Phil-Am was this
small random building in SE Portland where they'd hold dances and parties)
just to eat the food. I was impressed by the sheer quantity–piles and piles
of pancit, whole pigs (never forgot the pig head), marinades using Dr.
Pepper as a secret ingredient and gummy gray-purple desserts. This was
living. Never mind that I was the only white girl there, and never danced
when I think you were supposed to dance (I was taller than all the guys
anyway), I was there to ogle the spread.

It never really struck me as restaurant food, and as far as I know,
Portland didn't have any Filipino restaurants. I rarely tried many main
dishes, i.e. the soupy stuff Lema's parents and grandparents ate. It's not
that I wouldn't, but they told me I wouldn't like it and I do recall a
sample of something eerily bitter (eggplant or okra perhaps) and tinged with
fish sauce that didn't have me coming back for more. I stuck with bbq,
lumpia, pancit and those gelatinous desserts in pans.

We used to call the purple, gummy stuff, Grimace, not so much because it
made you smile but because it shared its hue with the large peculiar McDonald's
that I think at one point was associated with milkshakes.

Living in NYC I have Filipino food at my fingertips, yet I always eschew
it in favor of other Asian options like Thai or Vietnamese. I guess it
is different–meatier, stewier, blander or something. James has some
mental block with the food, probably due to his (half-Filipino) mother's
disdain for the cuisine. I think in her eyes it represents who knows what,
but definitely not something refined.

Elegant dining experiences have their place, but pointing and picking
can be good too. James only lives two blocks from Elvie's, yet it wasn't
until I was out alone one afternoon that I stopped in for the first time.
I'm always a bit intimidated by the pointing and choosing. I don't want to
look dumb by not knowing what something is, and I also hate asking
questions. It's a dilemma, but it's also a bit of fun to just rely on your
eyes and go by instinct.

At Elvie's I felt like I was still at a family party, ready for
unabashed gorging. Of course money was to exchange hands so I had to keep my
eagerness under control and opted for a bbq beef skewer, pancit and chicken
adobo. I couldn't pass up the ube (purple yam) goodies, gooey strips of
brilliant purple chewiness coated with sugar and coconut flakes. As a kid, I
always thought they artificially dyed the dessert, especially since I
noticed intense food color, neon pinks and greens that couldn't possibly be
natural, in friends' cupboards. I've since learned that ube is truly purple,
and nothing makes me happier than unreal colored food that's real. (8/4/01)

Elvie's Turo-Turo * 214 First Ave., New York, NY