Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Review: Junior's


Junior's Restaurant and Bar

386 Flatbush Avenue Extension at DeKalb Ave.

B,M,Q,R to DeKalb Ave.; B54, B38, B26, B25

Reviewed by Jessa


The Order:

Something Different Sandwich (beef brisket and potato pancakes with sides of country gravy and applesauce); bacon cheeseburger with fries; coffee; Coca Cola; cheesecake (duh)


The Food:

I have a confession to make: Throughout all of my 27 years on this earth as a Downtown Brooklyn Resident, I had yet to make a trip to Junior's before this one. All anyone talked about was the cheesecake, and I've never been a fan of the stuff. The one time I did try a slice of Junior's famous cheesecake, at a backyard birthday bash, I took a few perfunctory bites before uttering a curmudgeonly "feh" and downing another vodka shot (which I am sure had nothing to do with my cake experience).


Well, I have been missing out! The Something Different Sandwich turned out to be an outrageous stack of juicy beef brisket, sandwiched between two humongous potato pancake pillows that were crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The country gravy tasted like it came out of some old granny's kitchen, and the chunky applesauce was wonderfully fresh and a perfect complement to the pancakes.


My dining companion Spyderr had similar raves about his bacon cheeseburger and fries. Of course, I simply had to have some (purely for research purposes, I assure you). I am happy to report that I have finally found a perfectly well done burger without sacrificing any juiciness or flavor. The burger was topped with thick, smoky, crispy bacon and good ol' yellow American cheese. The steak fries were crisp and, when salted and dipped in ketchup, the perfect accompaniment to the burger.


We also received a side of crunchy, tangy coleslaw that wasn't swimming in mayonnaise. Rather, there was just a hint of creaminess that allowed the naturally sweet, crisp cabbage to be the star. The pickles that also came with our meal were delectably sour and salty without causing burning, puckered lips.


Considering that we were so full that we had to pack half of our meals to go, Spyderr and I wisely decided to share a slice of strawberry cheesecake. And the cheesecake! Apparently, when I'm sober, Junior's cheesecake is super-tasty! The creamy melt-in-my-mouth filling wasn't gelatinous or too sweet like other cheesecakes I have tried in the past, enhanced by the plump whole berry sauce and streusel crust. In other words: Yum!


The Drinks:

The coffee was hot and delicious, and refills were prompt and plentiful. The half-and-half came in individual thimbles, which made it impossible to overmilk the coffee. I barely needed any sugar, which is the hallmark of good coffee. Spyderr's Coke was cold and bubbly, just as a good Coke should be!


The Service:

The members of the waitstaff were all friendly, from the host who greeted us to the person who refilled our coffee. Our server, the regally named Lenworth, was delightful. He was never pushy or intrusive, yet he magically appeared whenever we needed him.


The Surroundings:

Junior's d├ęcor can best be described as casual retro glam. Just being there made me feel a little more glamorous, even in jeans and a smock top. I imagined myself being at Junior's in the evening back when they opened 50 years ago, ordering a Sidecar and wearing a slinky cocktail dress, a rising-starlet sort of dame. Elegant and unfussy, the wood-paneled walls are accented with touches of gold, making the perfect setting for the circular tables covered in white paper tablecloths. The comfortably low lighting didn't compete with the sun streaming through the blinds that decorate the windows. Soothing piano music played, underscoring the Sunday brunch chatter going on around us. I felt relaxed and -- dare I say it? -- hip.


Junior's presentation thrives on simple yet thoughtful touches that accent the surroundings perfectly. Everybody knows that fancy little details make everything taste better! The Something Different Sandwich was held together by a little plastic sword toothpick, which delighted the detail-oriented craft lady in my brain. Spyderr's Coke came in a tall glass with the Junior's logo and guidelines for making the perfect egg cream. Our ketchup and mustard were brought out to us, the mustard actually being Junior's own brand.


Miscellany:

For anyone looking for a delightful lunch spot in the area, look no further! Junior's has a lunch special menu that is available Monday through Saturday. Barbecue aficionados can also partake in a reasonably priced barbecue special menu Monday through Saturday. Take-out and delivery services, a full bakery, and bar (where you can perhaps order a Sidecar of your very own!) are also available. For more information, including the restaurant menu and their vast cheesecake offerings, go to

www.juniorscheesecake.com.


Junior's gets an A. Obviously.


Junior's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Review: St. Clair

St. Clair Restaurant
Smith St., on the corner of Atlantic Avenue
F, G to Bergen St.,; B75
Reviewed by Jessa


The Order:

Feta, tomato and spinach omelet (made with egg whites) with home fries and rye toast, side of turkey bacon, coffee.

The Food:

The omelet wasn't runny, which is just about a miracle when it comes to egg whites. There were plenty of veggies and cheese to appease me, as I hate skimpy omelets. The feta was well distributed, so salting my eggs was kept to a minimum.

The potatoes? Meh. Standard thin-sliced diner style, with nary a pepper or onion in sight. I gave up on those after a few bites.

I did like the rye toast, which was still chewy and plenty buttery, with just enough warmth and crunch. I've never been one for super-crispy toast, but those who are may want to ask for theirs well-done.

As for the turkey bacon, it came to the table with a fair amount of grease on it. I'd pretend to be outraged, but, at a diner, grease equals love. It wasn't slimy or undercooked, which was a huge plus.

The menu was huge, with standard diner fare such as burgers, triple-deckers and the like, and tons of dinner specials.

The Drinks:

Average coffee, fine with a little milk and sugar. I wish I could let you in on their coffee refill habits, but the bright fuchsia old-lady-lipstick stain I noticed on my second sip of coffee put the kibosh on my coffee cravings.

They were very quick to give me more ice water without asking, though, so I'm guessing they would be quick to refill a coffee mug.

The Service:

Full disclosure: in the past, my friend Girl and I had a couple of bad experiences at St. Clair in the past. We would divvy our diner meetings between St. Clair and Salonike. Then, we got this one waitress who was constantly rude while taking our order,

practically throwing our food on the table and then tossing us the check without ever asking if we wanted refills or anything else. When the same waitress was nasty to my friend's child, we stopped going altogether.

This time around, however, said waitress was nowhere in sight, and the service was super-attentive. Despite the busy lunch rush (on a Thursday!), I was approached in rapid succession by three waitresses who gave me ice water, handed me a menu, and took my order, respectively.

My favorite was an older woman, a straight-up sitcom diner waitress. A conversation I had with her on the muggy summer day I went to St. Clair went something like this:

Friendly Waitress (FW): Hot enough for ya?
Me: Seriously. I'd like to kiss the person who created the air conditioner full on the lips!
FW: How about the guy who created work? I sure ain't kissin' him!

ZING! Oh snap! Not exactly a "kiss my grits," but it'll do.

The Surroundings:

Think Brown Derby meets The Krusty Krab. St. Clair has a "bygone era" feel about it. The sign outside has the triumvirate of old-school restaurant attractions: "Steak-Seafood-Chops." Inside, the low lighting and the wooden and red vinyl diner booths were complemented by a long counter with red vinyl swivel stools, where an old man had his melon cut by hand by a cook. The Sanka packets were stacked high, as were the cream cheese thimbles. The wood-paneled walls were covered in fishing nets and nautical accoutrements. And pistols. A second dining room further in had a hunting lodge feel, where men in coonskin caps gather and curmudgeon about "kids these days."

Miscellany:

The ketchup was pourable, people! Pourable! And not watered down! That was enough to make me happy, seriously. Also, can I ask if anyone actually ever orders the cottage cheese and Jell-O combo in the "diet delights" section? Or anything in that section? It's so kitschy, no?

Funny enough, I spotted fishcakes and spaghetti no less than three times on the menu, as well as fishcakes and eggs. Curiouser and curiouser.

St. Clair is definitely for meeting with a friend. It's a bit of a downer to be there alone, since the lighting isn't conducive to reading, my solo-dining activity of choice.

I have to give St. Clair a B+. Clean your glasses properly, people. And if you bring that nasty waitress back, you're downgraded to a C. I'll be watching you, St. Clair.