Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Review: The Americana

Americana Diner
6501 7th Avenue (at 65th Street)
N to 8th Avenue; B63
Reviewed by Sars and G-Force

The Order:
G-Force: Two eggs over easy, bacon, rye toast, coffee, water
Sars: Mozzarella and tomato omelet, home fries, rye toast, coffee, water

The Food:
G-Force: The whites of the eggs were slightly runny. I like a runny yolk, not so much with the whites (that's why I order over easy instead of sunny-side up). So, leave those eggs on the grill a little longer and you're set. Potatoes were good -- oniony and peppery and just greasy enough. Awesome toast. I also liked that since we both ordered rye, it was efficiently served on a single plate. The bacon was good – I'd give it a 7 out of 10. It was meatier than most diner bacons, but could have been cooked just a tad more. Seems the undercooked is a theme here -- maybe going at a less-busy time would give the food a few extra minutes on the grill. It did come damn fast.

Sars: Good omelet, a little overdone in spots; strong ratio of filling to egg. G's awesome toast is seconded -- well buttered, not burnt, not limp, plus-power overall. Great potatoes, right in the zone, not mushy, not hard. Good ketchup. I could take points off for the sugar packets (vs. pourable sugar), but I'll let it go.

The Americana was my home-team diner when I lived out in Dyker Heights, and this is by far the best meal I've had there. The meal is usually notably slow, by diner standards, but it showed up quite promptly this time.

The Drinks:
G-Force: Decent coffee, quick refills. The water glasses were also larger than the standard little plastic thimble, which is nice.

Sars: I didn't like the coffee. It had that sludgy burnt time-to-clean-the-Krups taste to it, which is not unusual, but this was markedly Vegas-buffet. Thumbs down.

The Service:
G-Force: Efficient -- it was an old-guy waiter who knew what he was doing. I honestly didn't pay a lot of attention to the server, which means he was good and unobtrusive. (At a diner, I'm kind of partial to the waitress with a bad dye job who calls me "hon.")

Sars: Average service -- but again, this is an achievement for the Americana. Previous servers of mine have been, while very personable, rather slow, and at times unwilling to believe that what I was ordering was actually offered on the menu (like, seriously, a grilled cheese. Yes, you "have that." Yes, I am "sure").

The Surroundings:
G-Force: Awesome. The outer tables are separated, booth to ceiling, with tinted Plexiglas -- kind of a huge sneeze guard. I guess that provides some kind of aural privacy -- if nothing else, it looks hilarious. There was a booth in the corner where a family was having some kind of Christmas celebration -- how great is it to have your family Christmas gathering at noon at the Americana Diner in Bay Ridge? Hey, if anyone in that family reads this, will you adopt me?

Also, lots of plastic "wood" veneer. Lots of it. Even on the ceiling.

Sars: The décor is what has historically saved the Americana from a permanent suck rating, because in addition to the rad stuff G mentioned, 1) each booth has its own jukebox; 2) the placemats are those hilare cocktail recipe ones; 3) the diner includes a full bar right by the front door, and from what I could see, it's composed primarily of jewel-toned liqueurs; 4) the infrastructure is clearly meant to suggest some sort of ski lodge. Like, heavy wood beams, fake-ola wood paneling, the lot.

G-Force: Best. Diner napkins. Ever. For a moment I lamented the lack of the overstuffed, faux-wood napkin dispenser on the table, but then realized we had a whole stack of big, soft napkins on the table. Also -- cookies instead of mints at the till! And a display case of cakes that looked really awesome: surprisingly (suspiciously?) awesome for a diner in Bay Ridge.

Sars: There are actually mints at the till -- but sad, stale little Starlight-type mints, not the pillowy licorice mints that, it seems, you can only get at the diner register (and which news reports consistently warn you are lousy with the germs of other patrons who failed to wash their hands). I also noticed that the milkshake glasses are the old-school wavy kind, which is a plus.

The Americana still isn't all that great. It's open 24 hours, and I was pleased to note that they'd fixed the sign outside so that it revolves again instead of kind of twanging back and forth all Ray Bradbury "There Will Come Soft Rains," but the food is average at best, and it's ordinarily quite slow in arriving. But I've seen big improvements since I last ate there, so if I count the points for effort, it's a B-minus.

Americana Diner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Review: Daisey's Diner

Daisey's Diner
452 Fifth Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets)
F/M/R to 4th Ave. and 9th St.; B75, B77
Reviewed by Sars and Mr. Stupidhead

The Order:
Sars: Grilled cheese and tomato on rye; French fries; Coke; rice pudding.
Mr. S: Caesar salad with "Cajun-style" chicken and anchovies; Diet Coke; rice pudding.

The Food:
Sars: Good standard grilled cheese, not crazy greasy like you sometimes get. The rye slices were on the small side; without the fries, it's more of a to-go snack.

Great fries, though. One fry in particular had a Platonic-ideal quality to it -- perfectly done, piping hot, the right size for a double-dip into the ketchup. The fries came out piping hot and clearly weren't warming-lamp casualties.

The ketchup was in a plastic bottle, which is not great, but that means it wasn't watered, which is good.

Strong pickle.


Mr. S: Gotta say, I knew there was a problem when the food came out almost TOO fast. The romaine was absolutely drowned in Caesar dressing, and there wasn't a single flake of parmesan to be found anywhere near my plate. The anchovies were warm, which I won't hold against them because it's a personal preference that I like them cold, and I wasn't about to hold up the meal to tell them to chill my 'chovies. The plate was gigantic and the chicken, while it was supposed to be grilled, was slathered in grease. Not.

The salad tasted fine – certainly not the best I've ever had. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being highest, I'd give it a 3.5. Would've been a 4.5 if I weren't so positive that the river of dressing didn't totally give me diarrhea later that night during a new episode of House M.D. Not Cool.

Back to the "Cajun" chicken. Not so much. A sprinkling of paprika does not a Cajun dish make, there, captain. A little effort would be nice. You failed on that one.

Rice pudding was great, except that our waiter apparently took "just a little bit" to mean "a metric ton" when it came to putting the whipped cream on top. Plus, he ragingly committed one of the R.P. Sins by smothering the heap of whipped cream with cinnamon. Also not cool. But, once I dug through the mound on top, the actual pudding was perfect.

Sars: I'd take issue with "perfect," although it was good and thick, but Mr. S is right on about the other stuff -- the serving had way too much whipped cream and way way too much cinnamon, like "nearly induced a sneezing fit" too much. I did think it was tapioca for a second until Mr. S corrected me; I'm still not entirely convinced it wasn't.

The Drinks:
Mr. S: Standard fare. Wasn't struck by it sucking, so I'm sure it was fine. Around 12 ounces, not too much ice, nice and fizzy.

Sars: The Coke was plus-power for a diner -- not flat, not too much ice. We got good-sized water glasses too, with ice. Definitely above average on the libations.

The Service:
Mr. S: Very friendly, but ignored certain specific requests (i.e. grilled chicken [was actually fried]; "not too much whipped cream").

Sars: Don't forget "don't make me sick." Heh. Overall, agreed. I would add that this is an "old-man waiter" diner, which ordinarily bodes well. It's often more than a job to dudes like that; the waiters at the late lamented Second Ave. Deli were career waiters who knew their slaw and didn't give you the eyebrow on special requests.

The food came out crazy-fast given that we came in around 3 PM and there weren't a lot of other customers. Sometimes off-hours orders take longer, but our lunch was plated in ten minutes, tops.

The Surroundings:
Mr. S: Totally nondescript, devoid of any common theme or matching tchotchkes.

Sars: Mr. S is generous; the décor that horrendous post-renovation light-pink-with-weird-murals mishmash so many diners wind up with after redoing the place. Also, what's with the phone booth? And if you're going to spend beaucoup bucks on new brickface (which, get a refund because it's fugly), how about ponying up for some new booths?

The place is gigantic, and I've never eaten in the back (or even knew there was a back until this visit); maybe it looks less like a halfway-house rec room back there.

But you're not there for the interior design, and the table was nice and clean. We took a booth by the window, but it looks out on a bus stop. I'd recommend a counter seat.

Mr. S: All in all, not the worst. I'd give it a tentative C+, with room for improvement. When I return, I'll have to test them on some of the more random dishes they offer, to see how quick they are on their feet.

Sars: Having not gotten the trots, I'll give it a high B. Also, confidential to out-of-work Second Ave. Deli guys: the Daisey is hiring.

Daisey's Diner on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Review: The Silver Spoon

The Silver Spoon
218 Flatbush Avenue (at Bergen St.)
2/3 to Bergen Street; B65, B67
Reviewed by Emily Lawton

The Order: Western omelet with home fries and wheat toast; coffee

The Food: Fairly disappointing. The omelet was more like fried eggs, folded. Though I tend to prefer "well-done" eggs over runny ones, this had an obvious crust both inside and out that spoke to careless cooking -- the kind of careless cooking that entails walking away from the grill for several minutes at a time. This led to the omelet being way too dry, which might've been less of an issue if I'd chosen something with cheese. But should I have to compensate for their mistake? The fillings were well-distributed throughout -- cooked into the eggs instead of bedded down in the middle. The red peppers were good, and the ham acceptable, but the onion pieces were too large and too crunchy for my taste.

The homefries here are below average, with soggy potatoes and the carrots and onions undercooked. I don't really like carrots in there to begin with (because really, fried carrots? ["I never heard of that in my life, and I can't say I wanted to" -- Sars]), and the difference in texture among the vegetables was disconcerting.

The toast was perfectly toasted, neither over- nor under-done. Buttering, however, was half-hearted, and made for greasy middles and dry outer edges.

The Drinks: Silver Spoon's coffee is standard diner fare: palatable but nothing to brag about. I like that they actually have a cup-and-saucer serving system, as opposed to a plain mug. The cream came in a 4 oz. plastic juice glass, which seems odd since there are a variety of dishes specifically designed for dispensing dairy into coffee. Their improvisation is unwieldy; it's almost impossible to pour without spilling cream all down the side.

The Service: The waitresses here are generally young women who are attentive but only intermittently friendly. Though my water glass was a tiny 8-oz. number, it was never empty. Coffee refills were readily provided. Food arrived in about ten minutes. Sadly, they have the New York mentality that dictates that customers don't really want their bills, even when they've finished eating many minutes before and seem to be fidgeting around in their seats. We finally had to go find our waitress to get the ticket, which is always irritating.

The Surroundings: Lots of mirrors, and where there aren't mirrors the walls are cluttered with framed things (letters, newspaper articles, et cetera). There's a vaguely Greek theme. The front windows look out onto Flatbush Avenue, which can be entertaining, but only a few tables have a view. People sitting towards the back can entertain themselves by watching the cook in the open kitchen, or by staring at their own reflections on every wall. The Silver Spoon has table seating, and a row of stools along the counter with the required diner allotment of old men eating soup.

Miscellany: This is a local establishment, with some degree of quirkiness, and it's my neighborhood place, so I wanted it to fare better. But any diner worth its salt should be able to serve up a decent eggs-and-potatoes breakfast with ease, and the Silver Spoon just doesn't deliver.

review by Emily Lawton

Silver Spoon on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Seven Deadly Rice Pudding Sins

1. It's runny or soupy.
2. The top of the pudding is caked.

I don't mean that there's pudding crust in the bowl; that's fine. But when the surface of the pudding is kind of dried out, that means that they pre-served the portions and threw them all in the fridge instead of serving it out "fresh" when I ordered it. It's probably psychological, but when I can tell it's a pre-served bowl, it tastes different to me. And by "different," I mean "worse."

3. Raisins come with it automatically.
4. Too much cinnamon.

Rice pudding is not the most exciting dish in the world, but it's not supposed to be. Souping up the engine with an opaque layer of cinnamon leads to sneezing, and dark muttering.

5. It's actually tapioca.

Nothing against tapioca, but it's not what I ordered.

6. It's not sweet enough.

Not a frequent sin, thank God, but if you order the RP with whipped cream, you really notice it. (I usually go straight no chaser.)

7. It's served in a sundae dish.

Probably more of a peeve than a sin, but it bugs me and this is my blog so there.

Did I miss any?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Disco Fries

In response to a question from reader capurrs: "disco fries" = fries with brown gravy and cheese.

I have seen disco fries defined as fries with cheese only. Alas, no. Fries with cheese only = cheese fries.

The word "fries" looks really weird now that I've just typed it a bunch of times.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Review: The New College

New College Restaurant
224 4th Avenue
M/R to Union Street; B63 or B71

The Order: Cheese/onion/tomato omelet with home fries and rye toast; Coke

The Food: Standard straight-up-the-middle diner omelet, pretty much -- good-sized portion, not a fearsome amount of food (although, to be fair, my idea of "too much food" is a way bigger portion than most people's).

The omelet was somewhat unevenly cooked -- weak egg in spots, crunchy egg in others -- but the cheese was melted throughout, and was not skimpy, as sometimes happens (many diners will put less cheese the more veggies you add, not the case here).

The toast was fine, one piece burnt but the rest did its job. The New College has underserved the butter in the past; that was not the case today.

The home fries were excellent -- enough grease to get the job done, but not so much that it sat on the plate. Good green-pepper-and-onion chop ratio, not obtrusive. The potatoes had some zing, just enough to be noticeable.

The ketchup seemed watered to me…not blatantly so, but watered ketchup is a diner peeve of mine and the Heinz presented a bit thin.

The Drinks: Served in a 12-ounce glass, the Coke didn't have too much ice, but was a bit thick/flat. Water appeared without my having to ask for it.

I did not have coffee with this meal, but generally speaking the java is below average.

The Service: Outstanding, as usual. Very friendly staff, no wait, order-to-plating time was about eight minutes. Probably this diner's best feature is their short-order speed; even on a busy Sunday during peak brunch time, the food is out in ten minutes.

I was called "hon" several times, which based on my research in Jersey diners is closely correlated with overall diner quality.

The Surroundings: The diner itself is on a busy intersection of a thoroughfare in Park Slope/Gowanus; the people-watching is rather bleak, in the human-drama sense, and while I believe outdoor tables are available in warm weather, you…don't want them (they face a busy gas station).

The interior is…a little weird. Management picked out a bus-stoppy grey-flecked color scheme, which with the pink points gives the inside a Boulevard Of Broken Plates feel. I've seen far worse, but it does have the effect of sucking all the natural light out of the room two inches from the window.

Good variety of seating, though: booths, two- and four-top tables, and half a dozen counter seats.

Miscellany: This is the "home base" for BDHQ, so I'm pleased to report that it earns a solid B, despite what might seem like a somewhat salty appearance. Nobody's reinventing the wheel at the New College, and the coffee needs work, but considering how quickly the food is cooked and served, it's a strong entry.

Coming soon: 5th Ave.'s Daisey, and a field trip to the unmissed Americana in Bay Ridge. Suggestions? Send 'em!

New College Restaurant on Urbanspoon