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.