Sunday, February 26, 2006

Spaghetti and fish sticks

Have y'all ever noticed that spaghetti and fish sticks (or fish cakes) is almost always one of the specials at a diner? Because that just occurred to me and Mr. S recently. It's seriously on the specials board nearly every time. I'm going to start tracking it, I think.

Also: Is this something anyone actually makes in real life, like as a dish, at home? Have any of you had that for a family dinner? It strikes me as such a portmanteau leftoversy thing to serve, something you'd only have at a place where you're...already known. Is that just me?

Friday, February 24, 2006

"Dineromon": Chapter Two

Grecian Corner Restaurant
234 7th Avenue (at 4th Street)
F to 7th Avenue; B67
Reviewed by D3

The Order: The Hungrier Man (that's my unofficial moniker for the Hungry Man + an extra egg, because, really, one egg is kind of weak when you're "hungry"); coffee.

The Food: The centerpiece is two large pancakes mysteriously draped in a slice of ham (the HM includes one piece of bacon, one sausage, and one piece of ham). I actually prefer to coat my griddle-y goodness in syrup, not ham juice. Fortunately, it hasn't settled in too much and I can quickly achieve proper separation.

The pancakes are serviceable. The scrambled eggs are properly dry (but not dehydrated). The bacon is chewy (sorry, crispy fans).

The Drinks: Coffee. Check (prompt, hot, and within the acceptable strength range). Refills without nagging.

The Service: I liked our waiter. He handled my friend's questions about the relative masculinity of the Hungry Man and the Lumberjack with reasonable aplomb (or, at least, friendly confusion). Service is efficient.

The Surroundings: I sat below a large painting of a Pegasus. He looked friendly enough. The booths are exceedingly narrow, such that it is impossible not to knock knees and play footsie with your companion across the table. And this is not just one of the booths; it's all of them.

Miscellany: The context of the day -- the Big One of 2006 -- makes the experience of hot food and, more importantly, hot coffee, extra good.

The Grecian Corner is clearly upstaged by the Purity Diner three blocks away, which has bigger space, bigger booths, and a 10-pound menu. But the GC definitely has the cozy factor and, despite the more limited fare, it has both the Hungry Man and the Lumberjack, which make it a more quintessential experience.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Dineromon": Chapter One

Grecian Corner Restaurant
234 7th Avenue (at 4th Street)
F to 7th Avenue; B67
Reviewed by Andrew Wallace

The Order: I ordered the no-nonsense "Hungry Man": pancakes, one egg, sausage, ham, and bacon. I was initially somewhat torn as to whether to go with the "Lumberjack." I asked the proprietor which one was more intrinsically masculine. He equivocated, laughing nervously while insisting that they were both the same, thereby begging the question, of course, as to why there were two different but allegedly equivalent breakfast options targeted to the same demographic (i.e., tough guys). Upon closer inspection of the menu, however, it became clear that there was at least one crucial difference between the two offerings: the Lumberjack allowed one to opt for French toast rather than pancakes. That clearly indicated that the Hungry Man was the more masculine choice. Not to jump to conclusions here, but could the management have some kind of identity-politics agenda?

The Food: The pancakes were good, but not great. They came with a circular slice of ham draped over them, which was off-putting. The bacon was a bit too jiggly -- and this is coming from someone who has never had a bad piece of bacon, relishing as I do this meat whether it's burnt and crispy or on the undercooked side.

The Drinks: The coffee was quite good.

The Service: We were served by a man I took to be the proprietor. He was very friendly and attentive, avuncular and Mediterranean, exhibiting a willingness to please that perhaps betrayed a bit of insecurity, just the slightest hint of existential terror. He topped off my half-full coffee cup without asking. That's fine to a point, but how am I to calculate how much milk and sugar to add if I haven't made a mental note of how much coffee I had left?

The Surroundings: The Greek-themed murals provided a thematic backdrop to our meal; it wasn't hard to imagine Pericles or Themistocles sitting at the next booth. The booths were cozy; knees touch beneath them. A good second-date diner.

Miscellany: We came during the blizzard of the Millennium, so we had a lot of gloves, scarves, and coats. There weren't any coat hooks. Luckily, there was an empty booth behind us that provided a dumping ground for all our winter wear. Otherwise, we would have been in trouble.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Review: Manhattan Three-Decker Sandwich

Manhattan Three-Decker Sandwich
695 Manhattan Avenue (at Norman)
G to Nassau/L to Lorimer; B48
Reviewed by Sars

The Order: Tuna melt (tomato substituted for bacon); coffee

The Food: I love tuna melts, but they never have a good presentation; it's just kind of a frumpy dish. So, when I say that this particular melt looked especially shleppy, understand that I've already taken the essential dowdiness of the dish into account. The tuna contained wide streaks of unintegrated mayo, and parts of it looked crusty in a way that the heating of the dish couldn't really explain away…just kind of prison-food-y and not inviting close examination.

But sometimes it's the ugliest dishes that taste the best, and this one hit the spot -- good tuna/muffin ratio, good amount of cheese, and a good tomato. Tomato quality is, if I may take a brief sidebar here, a leading indicator of general value in a diner. You know the expression that you can tell everything you need to know about a man by his shoes? Same goes for diners and garnishes, or auxiliary foods like tomato and lettuce: if the place doesn't care to select out the demi-slices or the grainy tomatoes, it's seldom a good sign. I haven't really held any restaurants or sandwich shops to the tomato standard this winter, the worst I've ever seen tomato-wise -- everywhere you go, you pay four bucks a pound, at best, for these gritty, rheumy, tasteless, caved-in little tubercules, so when a restaurant gets its hands on a decent slicing tomato and is nice enough to share it with me, I've got to give props.

Props also to perfectly cooked steak fries, which came off the line hot. The melt itself could have been hotter, which is a common complaint of mine but not a huge deal; the fries, however, were flawless.

Also good: the complimentary slaw and pickles. I didn't touch the slaw, which was watery and looked, um, recycled, but the pickle selection included both dill and garlic. I heartily approve.

The ketchup was watered severely. I can forgive this practice, up to a point, because I know it's done for a reason, but when the ketchup is separating on my plate, it's gone too far.

But the 3D gets some seasoning points back with the pepper, which was, mirabile dictu, not overfilled to the point of pepperiosclerosis. Dear food service industry: I hate that. Quit filling the shakers beyond the lip.

The food arrived in about 15 minutes, not super-speedy but a good plating time.

The Drinks: Above-average coffee for that hour of the day, tasted like a fresh pot. Ditto the half-and-half, which is usually looking a little rough after sunset but didn't flake out in the coffee at all. Sweeteners came in packet form.

The Service: When your waitress looks like she's a walking three-volume memoir entitled Slinging Hash: My Life and Times, it's usually a good sign. Our server was exactly such a personage, that tired-aunt type who can turn on a dime from a gently weary "you want mustard too, hon?" to screaming at the dishwashers to get her some friggin' spoons. She took kind of a while to give us the check, though.

The Surroundings: Rando! Real plants, which I liked, and they were healthy and well watered and cared for, which I also liked -- it indicates that the diner isn't just a job to the owners. The rest of the d├ęcor was divided between the occasional nautical sign and weird Brooklyn-star-maps-y stuff. The place has a dining room in the back, denoted by an etched-glass "Dining Room" sign set off by crooked sconces. What that means: discrete tables. Not a big whoop, but it is a spacious place. The counter is good and long, and had a TV on above it, which I always enjoy.

Miscellany: I'm not a Jell-O fan, but an order came to the table next to ours in the old-style begonia-shaped bowl with a big old pile of Cool Whip on it, and it was really pretty; I was tempted, but not enough to order it.

Overall, I'm giving this bad boy an A-minus. The ketchup is an issue, and they could stand to work on the front-door climate control, which on a cold night was a little breezy for my taste, but the food was just the thing for a sub-zero night in Greenpoint, and my companion's to-order egg sandwich looked delicious (not to mention the pillow-sized kaiser roll it came on). Good portions, good service, good pickles.

Manhattan Three Decker Sndwch on Urbanspoon