Saturday, December 12, 2009

Around The Boro: Clinton Hill coffee shop set for makeover

Brownstoner reports that the Pratt Coffee Shop will reopen as the Pratt Cafe.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Around The Boro: "A tiny hand from the booth next to you"

Restaurant Girl offers up her list of the top diners in Brooklyn -- and says the borough of Kings does diners the best.  Motion seconded, RG.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Around The Boro: Diner-type spot to replace F. Martinella?

The short-lived F. Martinella space at 117 Court is replaced by a deli/diner entity.

Some of the commenters have the right idea -- the space seems on first glance like a slam dunk for a sandwich place, but the layout is a little weird, plus in that neighborhood you have to have a lot of ready-to-eats, or be faster on the sandwich counter, to handle the lunchtime traffic from the courts.  FM belonged on another block, basically, and whatever comes in to replace it needs to understand what it's dealing with in terms of the weekday demographic.

Whatever comes in, I'll review it day one, since I can practically see it from my couch right now.  Heh.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Review: Park Slope Restaurant

Park Slope Restaurant
492 5th Avenue (between 11th and 12th Streets)
F/M/R to 4th and 9th; B63

Reviewed by Sarah D. Bunting

Fast, cheap, and under control.

The Order:
Greek omelet with rye toast and home fries; coffee; tomato juice.

The Food:
Perfectly adequate. Nothing special, but nothing notably terrible. I have a couple of minor quibbles -- overcooked egg (which I prefer to the alternative), and a weirdly hashy chop to the home fries, whose lack of onion or pepper left them pretty dry -- but the plates arrived to the table in under five minutes. This is somewhat unusual for a weekday-mid-morning order, when the kitchen may have gone on partial break between rushes, but it's awesome.

Very good toast, not overbuttered.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Around The Boro: Brooklyn Paper's favorite diners

Mediocre writing (oy with the "hipsters" reference), and blurbs too short to be helpful -- but recent arrivals to the 718 may find it helpful.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Review: 5th Avenue Restaurant

5th Avenue Restaurant
432 5th Ave. between 8th and 9th Sts.
F/M/R to 4th Ave./9th St.; B75 to 5th Ave., B63 to 9th St.
Reviewed by Jessa
The Order:
First visit: Reuben sandwich; old-fashioned French toast with scrambled egg and bacon.  Second visit: grilled cheese and tomato.
The Food:
The menu at 5th Avenue Restaurant has a subtitle: A Finer Diner. Oy. Last time I reviewed a "finer diner" I nearly asked for my money back. Nonetheless, I try to maintain my optimism as I peruse their massive menu. It is classic, with a hodgepodge of traditional diner staples like burgers and triple-decker sandwiches alongside stuffed mushroom caps and gourmet salads. It seemed only fitting that I choose a classic sandwich: the Reuben.

Oh, how I love a good Reuben, and this open-faced marvel didn't disappoint. The rye bread was both crisp and buttery without being greasy, with lots of meat and just the right amount of gooey cheese. The pickle had amazing garlic flavor! I was so satisfied I was willing to overlook the dinky, stale cup of cole slaw that accompanied my meal. (Also? The leftovers I took home with me were even more spectacular than the first taste. I think I'm in love.)
My friend Kali's verdict on the old-fashioned French toast? "Not bad. Not the best, but not the worst. But bitch is hungry!" she added, digging in. I can relate: no challah or fancy bread here. It's just regular white bread, and it reminded me of the French toast my sisters and I used to make at home as kids. The hint of cinnamon saved it from complete blandness.
Luckily, the rest of the meal fared better. Kali's eggs were fluffy and a nice, sunny yellow. They would have gone perfectly alongside mashed potatoes and gravy. (Yes, that was my regular diner meal as a kid. Hush.) They tasted great with a hint of salt and pepper to jazz them up. The bacon was really nice and crisp, an absolute must.
On my second visit, I went to the diner alone for a quick lunch. I chose my good ol' standby: grilled cheese and tomato. It should be impossible to get wrong. And yet. This sandwich was the definition of disappointing. The bread was on the verge of burnt, and the cheese was skint at best. But neither of these was the worst sin. Let's talk about the tomato. The burnt, bitter, disgusting mushy mess of a tomato I actually had to dig out of my sandwich in order to make it edible. Sigh. The sandwich was salvageable, but that's just not good enough for grilled cheese. It's grilled cheese! I didn't even finish it.

The Drinks:

I had my usual peppermint tea on my first visit, coffee on the second. Bonus for them, they actually put the tea bag in the water before it reached the table. Kali's hot chocolate was thin and chalky, sans whipped cream and made with water. The coffee on the second visit was nice and strong, the result of being lucky enough to order a cup just as they had finished brewing a fresh pot.
The Service:

Eh. Competent, but not great. I did get my food on both visits rather quickly, and drink refills were plentiful. It took us forever to get our check on the first visit, and almost as long to figure out who had to pay for what since the waitress didn't actually write down the drinks or even some of the food, just a price list. An older woman behind the counter, who I suspect is the owner, seemed to cater to her regulars, going so far as to go over to a table with some rowdy children and admonish them like a stern grandma when the mother's attempts to talk it out ("Please sit down, I think you should sit down now, oh, I don't think that was very nice...") were falling on deaf ears. The children stopped their shenanigans immediately, something both the mother and I appreciated. My server on the second visit was older and much more efficient.
The Surroundings:
The diner was cozy with some modern touches, like the hints of exposed brick alongside the cream and wood-panelled walls. The framed prints of Old Park Slope (for example, one depicting the block circa 1947) were a nice touch, especially since I'm a bit of a nostalgia whore. The patrons were fairly representative of the changing landscape of Park Slope: a little old man drinking coffee and making small talk at the counter, the aforementioned rowdy kids with the harried mother, and twenty- and thirtysomethings all coexisted nicely in the comfortable space. 

The butter came in little premeasured pats, the syrup in a huge glass jar with the silver top. You know which one I'm talking about. The shakers dispensed just the right amount of salt and pepper.
5th Ave. Restaurant is the kind of place where you get decent, no-frills food for a good price and go more for convenience and comfort than anything else. If it wasn't for that sad, sorry excuse for a grilled cheese sandwich, I would have given 5th Ave. Restaurant a solid B+, but that broke my heart. Seriously, it's grilled cheese. Get it right. For that, the grade is knocked down to a probably-too-generous B-.

Photo: view from the 5th Ave. Diner, courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan.

5th Ave Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Around The Boro: Rhapsody in Bluegrass

Dizzy's Diner is among the local establishments sponsoring the Park Slope Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree on 11-12 September.  Dizzy's is just determined to get back into BD's good graces, it seems.  FINE.  We'll re-review it.  Dang.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Review: Emphasis Cafe and Restaurant

Emphasis Café and Restaurant
6822 4th Avenue (at 68th Street)
R to Bay Ridge Ave.; B37, B63
Reviewed by Sarah D. Bunting

At last, an unqualified good review. Feels like it's been a while.

The Order:

Spinach and feta omelet with rye toast and home fries; hot coffee; Diet Coke.

The Food:

My order took a little longer to come out than I think it should have, given that I went at dinnertime and didn't order anything outlandish like the lamb chop, but once it arrived, I cleaned my plates. Delicious omelet, more coherent than most; it had a sort of folded/frittata presentation. The spinach tasted very fresh, but in consistency and size of the spinach bits it seemed creamed. Evenly spaced cheese, not as dominating or salty as the feta usually is in these dishes.

Very good home fries as well: good chop, very thinly sliced, and perfectly cooked, not too hard, not mushy.

The rye toast was a bit rarer than I prefer, but the butter, furnished upon request, didn't drown the toast.

It took a couple of light thumps against the table to knock the sugar into dispensable condition, but the salt and pepper were filled properly, as was the (unwatered) ketchup.

The Drinks:

Quite a fresh cup of coffee for the dinner hour, although in a 24-hour joint like the Emphasis, the coffee's relative lack of sludge has less to do with the time of day. The waitress offered me a choice between half-and-half and regular milk, which I appreciated -- I don't love half-and-half -- and the little pitcher came to the table cold.

My Diet Coke was a generous glass with a civilian amount of ice: enough to chill the drink, not so much that you drain the drink in one long sip. Nice big young wedge of lemon.

The register mints are individually wrapped, but! It's the soft dusty kind, my favorite! Just without the crazy germs in the bowl! Well done, Emphasis.

The Service:

My server was an old-school middle-aged "hon" waitress with a cheap white buttondown and a little Diane Keaton necktie. Attentive and professional, but wasn't asking me about refills every two minutes or anything. She could have made a little faster with the check, but I was reading a book, so I wouldn't mark off for that.

The Surroundings:

Clean and very big, with a standard railroad-car-type room at the entrance -- booths, chrome counter, cheese-danish pyramid -- and a bigger dining room to the right as you walk in, decorated in the late-'80s peach-wallpaper/abstract-hotel-bar-"art" style. (We need an official term for this, the fugly GoodFellas-Hilton aesthetic that seems to guide diner renovations. I don't expect Italian marble or Mission furniture, but could they at least spring for the whole roll of tired peach wallpaper, instead of cheaping out with badly-lined-up short ends?)

A bar-mounted TV was on, on mute, the better for patrons to hear the lite satellite radio station. Let me just settle this right now: the "doggone girl" is not yours, Michael Jackson. She's Paul's. …Did anyone else find this song disappointing and undignified even when it came out? I feel like we all waited ages for this video and then felt embarrassed by the stagey arguing and the antics with…isn't there a hayride or some damn thing? Maybe it's me but the whole thing made me feel uncomfortable. "Say Say Say" is a good song; they should have left it there.

Anyway. That one unfortunate audio selection aside, the décor is standard for the genre. The Emphasis has a broad-spectrum clientele, at least on a Monday night in August -- college students; a bunch of siblings in their thirties crammed into a booth; middle-aged "bowling widows"; the two very tiny, very old ladies to my right, one of whom referred to her Jansport backpack as her "pocketbook." Aw: grandmas.


I've driven past the Emphasis probably two dozen times and never even noticed it there. Now that I know, I'll be returning. They do the staples well, everyone's very nice, neither staff nor fellow patrons look at you like you're made of noodles if you sit by yourself and read -- and from what I read on Yelp, clearly I'll have to re-review the place on the pancake tip.

A couple of very tiny blips, but: A-minus.

Emphasis on Urbanspoon

BD on Brokelyn!

Check out my top-five diner meals post on Brokelyn.

More to come...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Around The Boro: Dizzy's redux...redux

The Brooklyn Paper raves about Dizzy's corned-beef hash. Maybe I need to re-review this place, since BD is the only place that doesn't love it.

Still: "transcendent" is going maaaaybe a little far.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Around The Boro: egg creams and turkey clubs

Nikki Jo Grossman says it's hard to find a good egg cream.

A Brownstoner commenter can't find a decent turkey club; another recommends the 5th Ave. restaurant.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Review: Ocean View Diner

Ocean View Diner
515 Atlantic Avenue (at 3rd Avenue)
B/D/M/R/Q to Atlantic/Pacific; 2/3/4/5 to Nevins; B37, B63, B65
Reviewed by Sarah D. Bunting

I've avoided reviewing this particular diner, because before it was the Ocean View, it sucked -- sugar-sticky tables, lackadaisical service, bafflement at the concept that offering a kids' menu might mean that kids will order items from it, C-minus eggs. Oh, and: no ocean view.

Trapped in traffic on Atlantic Avenue recently, however, I noticed the crisp new awning and the banners, plural, assuring prospective patrons that the spot is under new management, so I walked over on a weekday to have some lunch.

The Order:
Greek omelet with rye toast and home fries (hash browns are apparently not on offer); Diet Pepsi.

The Food:
As I waited for my omelet to hit the table, another customer asked for a raw egg in his milkshake, but the waitress turned him down, citing Board of Health restrictions. Moments later, I had to restrain myself from offering the guy a forkful of my omelet as a stopgap solution, because maybe the management is new, but the same medium-rare-at-best attitude pertains on the griddle.

The eggs presented as if they'd only just begun to cohere in the pan, and I tried to tell myself that past experience had just made me overly sensitive to the possibility of an undercooked egg, but the vegetables told the truth: the tomatoes hadn't warmed up past room temp, and the onions tasted more or less raw. Also, not enough feta.

The home fries fared better -- good chop with several pepper bits on my plate, and strongly seasoned almost to the point of spiciness. A bit dry for my taste, but frankly I was relieved that they could overcook something.

The server asked if I wanted butter on my toast, which I found a bit odd, and then apparently she meant "do you want all the butter," because each slice arrived with a soup-spoon-sized scoop of butter on top. The toast itself was firm, but not burnt.

The ketchup seemed a bit thin. Probably watered. It's in a proper glass bottle, though.

The Drinks:
The Ocean View doesn't appear to have a soda fountain; I got a glass with ice, and a can. Fine, but again, a bit odd.

The Service:
In this area, the place has improved. I walked in at 12:40 to find the place deserted, which could explain the attentive attitude, but having the place to myself on prior occasions hadn't meant a thing; one dining companion of mine, after our third failed attempt to signal for a coffee refill, compared it to being shipwrecked. The diner started to fill up closer to 1 PM, but the waitress didn't forget me.

The Surroundings:
Also much better: the table was clean, all the condiments were filled (but not overfilled!) and the mouth of the sugar dispenser was like new. A flat-screen TV had the news on over the counter. It didn't look to me like they renovated anything -- just cleaned holy hell out of it. All the wall stuff -- Brooklyn Eagle headlines, Dodgers posters, vintage maps -- is the same as before.

It occurs to me that, every time I've had undercooked eggs here, I've also been one of the only customers in the joint, so maybe the griddle isn't hot enough, or the guy's in a hurry or something…it's probably a coincidence, that may have something to do with it. Seriously, though, another 60 seconds to let the edge of the omelet brown up and take some bite out of the onion, and it's perfectly fine. But it's an omelet; I don't want it al dente.

The butter thing is also bizarre -- you can't just buy the little mini-tubs? And you don't have a soda fountain? This is how you make your profit margin, chief: spend eleven cents a pour on the soda, charge two bucks. Fifth-graders know this.

Everyone who works there is pleasant, the menu is your garden-variety pretensions-to-fine-dining affair (the tip-off: the word "specialities," where the extra "i" signals to the discerning palate that continental pleasures attend the…pork chop? I don't know). But it's as though everything they know about the actual food, they learned from pictures -- like the mermaid teaching herself English from TV in Splash.

They mean well, and not having to unscrew the top of the pepper shaker and handle the overflow was nice, but it's just not that hard to make a decent Greek omelet. Fool me four times, shame on me. Flat C.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Review: Dizzy's Diner

Dizzy's Diner

9th Street, corner of 8th Avenue

F to 7th Avenue; B69, B75

Reviewed by Jessa

Recently, my coworker came into work holding a coffee cup -- not from the local Starbucks, nor was it from the bodega down the block. No, this white paper cup was emblazoned with a colorful logo for "Dizzy's: The Finer Diner." I had seen the Dizzy's exterior many times in the past few years, and while I'd wanted to eat there, I had never gotten around to it. "So, how is it?" I asked, gesturing towards the cup. "Bad," she replied, scrunching her nose while willing herself to swallow another sip. Apparently, she had only gone to Dizzy's because it was close to her house and she was running late. The Finer Diner can't even get the morning cup of coffee right? Ruh roh. I had to check it out for myself.

The Order:

Portobello mushroom burger, served with a side salad and fries; coffee.

The Food:

Dizzy's menu is exciting: it's diner food, but classier. The Reuben is spiced up with "jalapeno 1000 island dressing" and pepper jack; their special oatmeal comes with different toppings daily (today, it's poached pears), and they tout a grilled Swiss cheese on Alsatian bread as one of their specials.

The breakfast sandwiches, however, are another story, with classic egg sandwiches made ironic with names like Mr. Clean (egg on a roll), DiMaggio (egg and sausage), and Coltrane (DiMaggio mas queso). They don't have scrambled eggs here, they have "wrecked" eggs. And don't you ask for a bagel! Ask for your sandwich "hard." My inner 15-year-old really wants to like this place just so I can go back and order a hard, wrecked Coltrane. Heh.

Salacious breakfasts aside, I ultimately went with the portobello burger, which is comprised of a meaty portobello mushroom cap dressed with luscious green avocado and a thin layer of tangy goat cheese, sitting atop a vibrant sweet roasted red pepper, dressed in a sweet, tart balsamic vinaigrette, all stuffed in a pillowy brioche roll. At least, that's the way I had it planned out in my mind. It's the sandwich my sometimes-vegetarian foodie self adores: a healthier version of the burger, gussied up with all the classic components of fancy-shmancy dining for a health-conscious urban dweller. I should love this sandwich!

But...I don't. I barely even like it. The portobello mushroom is nice and hearty, but the avocado is absolutely flavorless. The red pepper seems thrown on as an afterthought, especially since it's haphazardly hanging out of the bun. While we're on the subject of the bun: wimpy. It doesn't hold up to the density of the mushroom, or the overabundance of (admittedly yummy) balsamic dressing that is soaking the delicate bread and completely obliterating any taste of goat cheese. It's sloppy mush that could easily be remedied by using a heartier bread, like ciabatta, and not being so stingy with the goat cheese. And for pete's sake, show some restraint with the vinegar.

Accompanying my slippery sandwich are shoestring fries, which is already a big plus in my book, as I am not a fan of the steak fry that the other diners I frequent seem to love (I'm looking at you, Carroll Gardens/St. Clair). The fries still have the skin on, which is just the way I like them, and behold! They are seasoned with what appears to be Old Bay seasoning! Huzzah! I eagerly pop one in my mouth and...nothing. Soggy. Bland. Oily, but not in that good-grease kind of way. I dejectedly sprinkle some salt and pepper onto them and give them a squirt of ketchup to make them passable.

There is also a side salad, with limp but edible greens, and the star of the plate, juicy wedges of tomato, the only part of the meal I ate with gusto. ["Which is rare enough at this time of year in NYC that I am tempted to check Dizzy's out just for the tomatoes. Pathetic, I know." -- ed.]

The Drinks:

Oy, the coffee. A little chalkboard sign beckoned from the counter: TRY OUR PUMPKIN PIE COFFEE! Well, okay, I will! Unfortunately, they're all out, with the exception of a "swallow" that the waitress generously gave me so I could try it. Oh, cruel waitress, why did you not let me hold on to the nutmeg-and-cinnamon-laced ideal in my head! What I got tasted like a dash of pumpkin pie filling mixed with instant coffee and sink water. Still, I wanted to give Dizzy's a fair chance. It was the end of the pot, after all.

Their regular coffee? Horrendous. Like the pumpkin pie coffee, without the pleasure of the hint of pumpkin. I sipped against my better judgment and got lost in thought, conjuring up several other places nearby that have better coffee than this place: Naidre's (their chocolate mint coffee will change your life), Sweet Melissa's Patisserie, Cocoa Bar, Ladybird Bakery, Dunkin Donuts, the bagel place near the Pavilion…hell, even Mickey D's makes better coffee than this place. I was soon greeted with a refill of steaming hot coffee that was still horrible, but at least didn't taste like dirty tap water. To my surprise, I spied two large bags of Barrie House coffee behind the counter. Barrie House makes some wonderful coffee, so I'm pretty sure it was just their complete lack of attention to the cleanliness/brewing. In other words, SKIP THE COFFEE.

The Service:

For the most part, the service was absolutely wonderful. The waitress was super friendly, attentive and accommodating. She had it down to a science: prompt without being pushy, friendly without being obnoxious, and she didn't rush me out the door. The busboy, on the other hand, took my plate while my head was turned. Mind you, my plate still had part of my sandwich and most of my fries left! He didn't even ask if I was done. I turned and caught him mid-snatch, too stunned to say anything. I wasn't going to miss my plate of soggy potatoes and mushy brioche, but jeez, ask before you clear someone's meal! The waitress, on the other hand, encouraged me to loiter with my blessed cup of ice water and my latest Freecycle acquisition, a huge canvas bag filled with magazines. This, dear reader, was the best part of my meal.

The Surroundings:

I wish Dizzy's worked on their food as hard as they work on their kitschy decor. The atmosphere is mellow and relaxed, with a cheery red, yellow, and lime-green color scheme that brightens and expands the cozy space. Jazz plays at a pleasant volume.

But, this being "the finer diner," they couldn't stop at that, no. Jumbo, multicolored lights adorned the vent pipe mounted on the ceiling, and vintage diner signs competed with artsy black-and-white framed prints of what appeared to be farm machinery, which competed with a huge wall clock flanked by framed pictures of kittens. Yes, really. This is what would happen if the diner from Happy Days mated with a truck-stop eatery while watching Terry Gilliam's Brazil. (Side note: am I the only cinephile that doesn't fellate this movie at any given opportunity? Is it really strange that, twelve years after viewing this film for a cinema class, I can't look at a vent pipe or duct without thinking about it? Should I really give it a second chance like my Gilliam-loving friend, Kid A, urged? I NEED YOUR GUIDANCE.)


They offer soy milk (a rarity in the diner circuit) for their beverages and homemade granola, which they sell by the pound. Rumor has it they will substitute tofu for eggs if you ask nicely. The salt and pepper shakers have huge holes: one shake coated my fries. The ketchup came in a classic red picnic squeeze bottle, which appealed to the nostalgia fiend inside me (nay, inside us all). Their sugar comes in packets, but you won't have to worry about that because you are never going to order their coffee. EVER. They even have the nerve to sell it by the pound. I mean, it's Barrie House, so I'm sure if you want to brew it at home, you'll be fine, but Just go to Naidre's or Ozzie's or Gorilla Coffee and get some great coffee for about the same price. All of them are located in the surrounding area, and the amazing elixir these beans create is so worth the travel! ["Note: get the beans at Ozzie's on 5th, NOT the brewed verzh. Tastes like ozone." -- ed.]

Dizzy's has a real-deal cappuccino machine, not the 7-11-esque dispenser so many diners have, but I do not trust these people to brew up a shot of espresso. I just don't.

Also, Dizzy's is hiring. Just thought I'd put that out there.

I really wanted to like this place. Dizzy's has all the ingredients that should make it great, but somehow, none of it works. None of the amenities or coziness matter because the food is just plain bad. I'll take my classic diner food done right, thanks. It's a shame; someone took a long time coming up with a fantastic menu full of potential. Someone's asleep at the flat top. And the counter. Those bus boys, on the other hand? Wide awake and ready to snatch your dreary meal out from under your nose.

Dizzy's, there are far finer diners than you. You get a D.

Dizzy's on Urbanspoon