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Les Halles

Duck leg confit and crispy potatoes coupled with a side order of fries. I
swear I didn't know I was ordering double fries (the menu didn't mention
potatoes with the confit). It seemed like an acceptable indulgence,
considering it was to be my last pre-weight watchers brunch. Gluttony was
the least of my sins that morning. James chided me for talking about nurses
raping patients at the breakfast table. I was only discussing the previous
night's bit of arts and entertainment, Talk to Her. Jeez, people just
need to keep their eyes on their own plates. I was disgusted with the nearby
Midwesterners with moustaches' mundane conversation, but I kept my ugly
expressions to myself. It's all about composure, see?

LesHalles * 411
Park Ave. S., New York,NY



This wasn't my first Friendly's excursion, that would've been my maiden
voyage into Staten Island with the specific goal of trying Friendly's (it
was mildly traumatizing, lots of dirty, misbehaved kids and older, hefty
adults in wheelchairs). I've since tried one in Connecticut, one in New
Jersey (I never know the specific cities) and one in Saratoga Springs. I
know Friendly's is nothing special, but it played a pivotal role in my
mental well being when I first moved to NYC. I was poor, friendless, jobless
(huh…five years later and not much has changed) and would sit in the
sweltering heat on the ratty left-behind mattress on the floor and watch my
little TV. I'd see all these ads for Friendly's with candy sundaes and it
just seemed so suburban and safe. I'd never heard of Friendly's so I wasn't
identifying with it specifically, just the genre, and became hell bent on
finding one. But as it turned out the only location in all of NYC is at the
Staten Island Mall, which I didn't have the luxury of visiting until two
years later when I was privy to a car. Now that I have a boyfriend with a
shiny automobile, Friendly's can be mine any time I'd like. But jeez, one
wouldn't want to become spoiled and jaded. I play it conservatively with my
Friendly's excursions.

Friendly's* somewhere about
45 min. NW of Philadelphia


First off, I'm not a beer person. Not that I dislike it or anything, but I'm
certainly not an expert. I'm not sure if this Belgian place is more
restaurant or bar. Size-wise you'd think restaurant, but they're pretty
obsessive about their Trappist brews. During the 30 minute wait for a table
(which would lead you to believe food is the emphasis), I was able to pour
over one of their pamphlets, complete with glossary, categorization by
styles, and price list by country. It was all a bit overwhelming if you ask

When all was said and done, I tried a Rodenbach Flemish Sour Ale and
Boon Kreik, a bright red, sour cherry brew. I guess I must like tangy, red
beers since they were both in that vein. But I was there for the mussels and
fries, which were good even though there were a few duds in the bucket. A
smoked salmon appetizer with Boursin and a tart cucumber dill salad was
refreshing. It's a fun night spot, and one of the few places I found in town
to serve real food till 2am. (5/12//01)

This is the place for beer, mussels and fries. But apparently not the
place for brunch. I only say that because I'm not a terribly critical eater,
I don't love everything, but I rarely dislike anything either. With that
said, their eggs Benedictine totally disturbed me. They came on heel ends of
very hearty, crusty, peasanty bread that were impossible to cut through, so
logistically they're impossible to eat (I did see someone eating them out of
hand like a sandwich-the correct procedure?) and then the hollandaise was so
sour (vinegar? Lemon juice?) it was unpleasantly tangy. The spinach was
doing that grainy thing on the teeth it often does, but coupled with the
awkward presentation and too-tart sauce, I had no desire to finish my food.
And in a food city like Philly, there's no reason to fill-up on mediocrity.

Monk's Cafe * 264 S. 16th
St., Philadelphia, PA


With these name brand restaurants, I hem and haw over what to say, as if
seriousness of mission is ever reflected in my recounting. Whatever.
Morimoto was a spur of the moment birthday dinner choice. All I knew was
that New York City was not the place to be for James's 33rd birthday. Not
after the past few years of fiascos. I randomly made out of town
reservations. Perhaps not the brightest financial move, but hey, what's a
whole week's wages for a meal ($12/hour part time doesn't get you far when
it comes to high end dining)? That's right, the world is this library
clerk's oyster.

We ended up taking the middle ground, trying the $100 omakase (the
others being $80 or $120) and probably ordered a bad wine, the waiter seemed
curt and unimpressed with me. But that could've had more to do with how
every time we go to a restaurant that serves a Willamette Valley wine James
makes a big point of asking how to pronounce it because invariably they'll
say Willa Met as he also incorrectly says it. It's Wil
LAM ette
, the correct way, my way. I'm from the Willamette Valley, for
crying out loud. Anyway, the ruse always alienates staff and pisses me off.

It's definitely a thrill to see the plates coming out, not knowing what
you'll get. The trouble is not having a menu to refer to, and only the
verbal descriptions. I tend to forget subtle ingredients, nuances and feel
self-conscious about scribbling in a notebook like an foodie who needs to be
put in his place. The first course was toro tartare with caviar wasabi and
what they called a Japanese peach (more like a pitted berry), then a palate
cleanser of wasabi-yuzu sorbet with a beignet (not a pillowy New Orleans
goodie, but a miniature, sweet breadstick), third was hamachi with
microgreens and a yuzu vinaigrette, fourth halibut steamed with sake in a
banana leaf, fifth Kobe beef with Japanese potatoes (sweet), and a final
sushi course served on a board (I don't remember the individual varieties,
there were about six in the style I think is called Nigiri-sushi). Dessert
was a long thin strip of yam cake with a postage stamp-size square of lime
gelatin, drizzles of balsamic vinegar and a thimble dollop of ice cream, the
flavor I can't recall.

Morimoto wasn't in the house, but I'm not one of those folks who goes to
celebrity-chef type restaurants looking for snapshots. I do fall for
over-the-top dcor, however. Sure, all that Stephen Starr plastic, glowing,
color-changing, space-age crap is gimmicky. But it works on me.

Morimoto* 723
Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA

Tony Luke’s


Pork, provolone, broccoli rabe. This sandwich is the shit. An Italian
sandwich, in their words. I've also enjoyed the version at Tommy DeNic's,
but there's something to be said for the ambience of the take out window and
picnic table style dining, a la Geno's and Pat's. Such a phenomenon. I've
never lived anywhere with this whole tradition of brusque, window service
sandwiches. (I've also never lived or visited anywhere where people can just
park in the middle of the street-it's totally bizarre to see cars sitting in
medians, facing all different directions.) The rabe has the tendency to make
the sandwich soggy and most un-dainty (but good) so I often refrain, but I
noticed what they call a "green sandwich," which I'm thinking must be
provolone and rabe. That even sounds good, and probably the only thing a
vegetarian could eat in this damn town of fatty fast food delights.

Tony Luke's * 39 E. Oregon
Ave., Philadelphia, PA



Part of the great NYC pizza frenzy of 2002-03. Their shtick is pizza by the
pound. But as it's just around the corner from James', it was at least worth
a try. A small slice of potato-rosemary and egg and bacon were quite good.
My only issue might be the potato, which they also do at Sullivan St. Bakery
and though I've only sampled it once, if I'm correct the potatoes stay soft.
Here they reheat the potato slices and they become like potato chips, and
well, I don't care that much for potato chips. Heck, they'd make good
homemade potato chips, if you're into that sort of snack, but I'd like a
little chew to my thinly sliced tuber. Nonetheless, Pie beats other blah
pies nearby (no, I'm not referring to Otto).

Pie* 124 Fourth Ave., New York, NY


I've declared Keens the fertile-making steak house. I'd always considered
myself more of a Luger (not Lugers, dammit, no extra Ss, just like it's not
Barnes & Nobles either) girl, and now I know why. James's college pal, Pat,
the recent transplant, got in his head that Luger was the place to impress,
the spot to take the ladies (nevermind that he didn't have a lady, and the
few dates he eventually scored were with a vegetarian).

Then another old college buddy that James isn't fond of took Pat to
Keens and that's when all hell broke loose. Keens took the place of Luger in
his mind as the chicks-dig-it restaurant (I don't know where he got the idea
girls are nuts for meat and potatoes from in the first place). His fate was
sealed when he took a mousey, classic meat and potatoes gal/coworker out to
Keens. Soon after, we don't know if it was actually that night, he knocked
her up.

There might be something to all this. I recall a beef council commercial
where the old stodgy guys get scared because their steakhouse has been
overrun by women, one very pregnant. What, is iron the latest aphrodisiac?
Beef might be what's for dinner, but you'd better think twice about what
you're going to get for dessert.

KeensSteakhousee * 72 W.
36th St., New York, NY