Blue Smoke – Southern smokehouse New York

Staying at the lovely Conrad hotel overlooking the Hudson River at Battery Park (see my river view pics here), we wanted to eat Sunday lunch nearby on the last day of our New York trip.

Blue Smoke, a Southern BBQ smokehouse, just around the corner on Vesey Street was convenient, appealed (as in – when in the U.S., make the most of good American cusine) and served craft beers too.

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Ginger crush with thyme + a root beer

 

From the drinks menu, K had a root beer (tastes like medicine) and I had a ginger crush (ginger beer with orange, lime, soda and thyme – nicely refreshing), followed by a flight of four 5oz beers to share @ $15.00.

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Beer flight: Blue Smoke original, Abita turbodog, Lefthand milk stout + other half IPA @ $15.00

 

 

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Bar: craft beers + a decent wine list

 

From the Southern lunch menu, we both chose a pit stop: one meat, one side and one sweet for $20.00. Plus an additional meat @ $5.00.

The meat choices were pulled pork, 7 pepper brisket, baby back ribs and backyard chicken (K chose the first two, and I chose the latter two).

The side dish options were mac & cheese, collard greens, sweet potato mash and BBQ baked beans (K chose the first, I chose the last).

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7 pepper brisket, pulled pork + mac & cheese

 

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Baby back ribs, backyard chicken + BBQ beans

My ribs and sticky chicken were as good as they look in the photo, as were the barbecue beans. The mac & cheese was well done and K enjoyed the pulled pork and peppered brisket (slightly dry though). The crispy bread was superfluous (and again, a bit dry).

For the ‘sweet’ included in the pit stop, we chose a cookie and a brownie to share. Both arrived in packaging – no frills style, ready to take away.

 

The verdict: Excellent value @ $25.00 (about £17.00) for such a big meal. Simple but good Southern food, with really good service and a very appealingly furnished interior.

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Blue Smoke interior

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Southern American, BBQ, smokehouse
– Address: 255 Vesey St, Battery Park, New York
– Zipcode: NY 10282
– Website + menus: Blue Smoke website
– Photos on flickr: images of Blue Smoke food
– Location: Blue Smoke Battery Park map

 

Blue Smoke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Mudville 9 – Traditional American + craft beer New York

After a fun-filled afternoon at Barcade in Brooklyn playing games like asteroids and drinking craft beer, we explored Williamsburg but struggled to find somewhere really appealing to eat. K had already got his eye on Mudville 9 – a traditional American restaurant with the largest selection of craft beer in Tribeca (over 150 beers) – so we headed back to Manhattan. Great choice.

 

The restaurant was busy and nicely buzzing on our Saturday evening visit. We were greeted promptly and experienced really efficient service throughout. Our server was really on the ball – she didn’t even write down our order but everything arrived correctly.

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Single portion (10) of wings @ $12.50

 

If ever there was a time to convert K from his dislike of chicken wings, it was here in New York, at a proper American barbecue and burger joint. We ordered a ‘single’ portion of 10 wings to share (a generous portion) with sauce @ $12.50. And guess what –  he’s converted and now likes chicken wings. Tick.

We ordered side dishes of truffle mac n 4 cheese @ $9.00 and onion rings @ $8.00.

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Onion rings, truffle mac n 4 cheese

 

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Mudville 9 food menu

 

 

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One of the drinks menus – craft beer

 

For main course, I ordered beer battered cod sandwich platter with tartar sauce @ $13.50 while K had a bar-BQ burger sandwich platter with Bonelick BBQ, hardwood bacon and onion rings @ $15.50. Both were served with hand-cut fries.

 

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Beer battered cod sandwich platter with fresh tartar sauce and fries @ $13.50

 

 

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Bar-BQ burger platter with onion rings and fries @ $15.50

 

 

 

The verdict: This was a seriously good meaty meal with an excellent choice of drinks. Given the size of the portions, it was really good value too. Good, straight-forward American food. I hope to visit again.

 

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
– Type: Traditional American, BBQ, burgers
– Address: Chambers Street, Tribeca, New York
– Zipcode: NY 10007
– Website + menus: Mudville 9 website
– Photos on flickr: images of Mudville 9 food
– Location: Mudville 9 map

Mudville 9 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

John’s of Bleecker Street – New York Pizza

Prepare to queue for John’s coal-fired brick oven thin-crust pizza

There’s always a line for John’s pizza. It’s not exactly cheap and the original Bleecker Street restaurant is quite grubby, in need of a good interior refresh. So why is it so popular – what’s the attraction?
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Tired old mural

 

Having visited other branches, we went to the original Bleecker Street location last night to find out. We queued – as expected – and got shouted at periodically by staff, telling customers to keep away from the door until we were eventually shown to a narrow formica-topped table for two. Shabby wooden panels on the walls were engraved with years and years worth of names and comments, while a dirty old mural of a lake and mountain scene begged to be cleaned. This wasn’t stylishly retro, it just felt unclean and in need of re-decorating.
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Battered wooden panels

 

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Large pepperoni and mushroom pizza @ $32.00

 

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Thin pizza and salad
K ordered a Goose Island beer @ $7.00 and I ordered a glass of white wine @ $6.00. It didn’t seem to come as a surprise when I told the waiter it tasted of vinegar and was undrinkable – he readily swapped it for a glass of house red (a pinot), which wasn’t great but slightly more drinkable. The pizza itself – @ $32.00 – was a good thin base pizza, while the salad – @ $8.25 – was covered in a sharp, vinegary dressing.

 

The verdict: To revert to my original question what’s the attraction with John’s pizza? I am unsure. Perhaps the reputation and brand is so well established and firmly tied into all the tourist guides that the punters just keep flocking? But to me, it’s over-rated. After all, good thin pizza isn’t hard to find anymore. It just isn’t, when the hay days of stodgy deep pan pizza from big chains are long gone.

But if I’m missing something please do let me know.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 2.5 / 5
~ Type: Pizza
~ Address: 278 Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, New York
~ Zipcode: NY10014
~ Website + menus: John’s of Bleecker Street website
~ Photos on flickr: images of John’s of Bleecker Street
~ Location: John’s of Bleecker Street map
John's of Bleecker Street Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Spotted Pig – New York

The world’s teeniest bar in what looks like a flower shop?

Being an information geek and a food blogger it should come as no surprise that I’d prepared a list of potential bars and restaurants for us to visit during our trip to NYC this week.

On The Spotted Pig I was undecided: it’s a Michelin-starred ‘gastro pub’, reputedly British in style, and apparently – if top search engine results are to be believed – where certain celebrities hang out (and where numpty celebrity-stalkers go to try and see numpty celebrities. All this numpty celebrity stuff put me off. Mr West, Ms Swift… bah! who cares? really?).

To be honest, the dinner menu didn’t look all that appealing either (I mean – “pigs ear salad” ew?). We’d pretty much written it off.

 

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Pussy willows, flowers and pig decorations outside The Spotted Pig
 

As it turned out, we had a lovely walk this morning from the Financial District through Tribeca on our way to the Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking district (popping in to the Tribeca Tap House for a late breakfast, and a tiny, street-fronted Irish bar the-size-of-a-living-room for further refreshment on the way).

So we happened to be passing The Spotted Pig anyway, and it looks so appealing and small and befitting its local community with all the pussy-willows (I’m a sucker for furry catkins and had them in my wedding bouquet) and plants and pig decorations outside (a bit like your local flower shop) that we just had to step inside to check it out.

 

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One of the teeniest bars you’ve ever seen?

 

Ours was a Friday afternoon visit so perhaps not as busy as it might get in here.

There were plenty of available stools at the tiny bar (to the left side of the picture above) so we sat down for a drink, trying a local Brooklyn craft beer and gin or two.

This might’ve been one of the smallest bar service areas I’ve ever seen but on the plus side, we didn’t have to shout or wait to order a drink and it was served immediately. Hooray for intimacy and immediacy.

Enjoying the friendly bar service and banter going on around us, as well as the appealing pig-themed interior with funky food fabric stools (bacon patterns, pepper prints, etc) – not to mention our ‘taste testing’ of local-ish Brooklyn gins – we decided to have a late lunch at the bar after all…

 
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Battered bar, bacon and pepper patterned stools, pigs
 

We both homed in on the chargrilled burger with roquefort cheese and shoestring fries @ $25.00. The beef patty itself was good and the roquefort gave it a strong blue cheese flavour but overall, the assembled burger was plain, distinctly average and wasn’t carefully crafted in any way (it lacked imagination) – it was simply a beef patty with roquefort in a brioche bun.

While the shoestring fries with rosemary looked attractive, quantity had been prioritised over quality – it was a massive mound of greasy fries (and they were very oily) with some rosemary needles thrown in.

 
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Nice enough burger but a bit plain with greasy fries
 

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Good patty – pink patty

 

This was a straight-forward enough afternoon visit and we had a good time – enjoying the intimate bar service.

We were glad to have made this a lunchtime visit rather than a more special evening meal out, and it was close enough to the Whitney Museum so it was on our route. But I really don’t understand yet why this place has got a Michelin star….

 

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Potato, potato, potato…

 

The verdict: Quaint enough bar if you’re passing, but not somewhere to rush to.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Burgers, gastro-pub, British? (in New York)
~ Address: 314 West 11th Street, New York
~ Zipcode: NY10014
~ Website + menus: The Spotted Pig website
~ Photos on flickr: images of The Spotted Pig
~ Location: The Spotted Pig map

 
The Spotted Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Raymi Peruvian Restaurant + Pisco Bar – New York

Lively Peruvian restaurant + bitter-tastic pisco cocktails

Having stumbled across a Peruvian jazz club on our last trip to New York (which has sadly since closed down) K was keen to re-live another Peruvian-themed evening during our visit to NYC this week so we booked a table in advance at Raymi in the Flatiron district, to try Peruvian food and cocktails. A brand new experience for us.

On being promptly greeted and seated, K ordered a passion pisco (overly sweet for me, containing passion syrup) @ $14.00 while I had a classic pisco sour @ $13.00 (made from pisco sour, lime, egg white and bitters) – lovely and bitter – while reading the food menu.

 

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Passion pisco, roasted corn kernels and pisco sour

 

Service was excellent right from the start, with our friendly, helpful waitress answering our questions about the menu and making recommendations for us. We wanted to share dishes and eventually chose charred octopus @ $18.00 from the Chef’s Corner menu (specials available Thursday to Sunday only), a mixto cerviche @ $16.00 from the Cerviches & Tiraditos selection, a ‘jalea’ fried mixed seafood @ $14.00 (a small plate) and an arroz chaufa @ $26.00 (a large plate).

Our waitress recommended that the charred octopus and mixto cerviche be served together (as a starter course) and the jalea and arroz chaufa together afterwards. So that’s what we did. And those food pairings worked well.

 

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Mixto ceviche – aji rocoto (red peppers), corvina fish, shrimp, squid, octopus + sweet potato
 

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Charred octopus – with butternut squash, potatoes, mussels
 

The charred octopus was lovely and tender with a smoky flavour (gorgeous) and the fishy ceviche was nice and sharp in contrast.

With a busy bar area and buzzing atmosphere, along with interesting eclectic furnishings and soft lighting, this was a really comfortable restaurant to dine in and relax.

 
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Inside Raymi
 

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Pisco bar at Raymi
 

I was already fairly full after sharing the starter plates and was glad to have a break before the next course arrived!

The arroz chaufa arrived in a large stone pot containing a mix of jasmine rice, egg, broccoli, ginger, char siu chicken, shrimp, chinese sausage, scallions and peanuts (unusual, with the predominant flavours being of Chinese style spices) while the jalea fried shrimp, squid, corvina fish, yuca, salsa criolla, and aji amarillo (peppers) was served with a tartar sauce (again, really good but I was sadly too full to eat much of this course).

 

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Arroz chaufa – jasmine rice, egg, broccoli, ginger, char siu chicken, shrimp, chinese sausage, etc

 

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Jalea – fried seafood with tartar sauce
 

 

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Basement bathroom area – a relaxing feel with plants and a water feature

 

The verdict: Impressive food and drinks selection, outstanding service. I would love to return (with a bigger appetite). Check the website for Latino music and dancing nights.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Peruvian (in New York)
~ Address: 43 West 24th Street, New York
~ Zipcode: NY10010
~ Website + menus: Raymi website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Raymi
~ Location: Raymi map

 
Raymi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saigon Cafe – Catford, SE6

Vietnamese cafe with bring your own booze in upcoming Catford, South East London

While Saigon Foods cafe has a ‘bring your own booze’ policy (as they’re not licensed to serve alcohol) that keeps costs down, we chose to ‘take-away’ the other evening after work, and relax at home.

 

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Summer rolls – rice paper wraps two rolls @ £4.00

 

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Bo la lot – grilled beef in leaves with rice noodles and salad @ £7.85
 

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Bo la lot – minced beef filling

 

We ordered summer rolls – rice paper wraps with rice vermicelli, lettuce and herbs with a peanut sauce, Vietnamese spring rolls (pork and prawn rolls which were unfortunately omitted), bo la lot minced beef in betel leaves (vine leaves) with rice vermicelli, mixed salad, Vietnamese dressing with chillis and peanuts (the beef leaves and sauce were very tasty), and a chicken pho – flat rice noodles in broth served with fresh vegetables, herbs and seasoning sauces (very healthy although – aside from the aromatic basil leaves – slightly lacking in flavour).

 
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Chicken pho – rice noodles in Vietnamese broth @ £7.85
 

This was a healthy meal made from fresh ingredients – plenty enough for two – and really good value given I had change out of £20.00! I can imagine that this food would taste even better served fresh in the restaurant and intend to visit again soon.

 

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Inside Saigon Foods cafe

 

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Menu at Saigon Foods cafe, Catford

 

The verdict: Cheap, cheerful and healthy. And something a bit different for Catford.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Vietnamese, BYOB
~ Address: 24 Catford Broadway, London
~ Postcode: SE6 4SN
~ Nearest stations: Catford Bridge, Catford
~ Website + menus: Saigon Cafe website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Saigon Cafe
~ Location: Saigon Cafe map

 

Saigon Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Camion Mexican – Soho, W1

Impressive cocktail list and fresh Mexican food at El Camion and The Pink Chihuahua in Soho.

Probably the first thing to make you smile on entering this basic cafe-style restaurant is the vast collection of pepper sauce bottles on four shelves that run right along the back wall, and the Mexican wall art including day of the dead paintings.

The second is likely to be the impressive cocktail list – it’s vast! I ordered a cadillac margarita (tequila with lemon juice and grand marnier) @ £9.50 and H had a tequila espresso martini (tequila with kahlua, tia maria and espresso) @ £9.50. Along with the friendly service, this was an excellent start.

 

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Cadillac margarita and tequila espresso

 

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Margarita and tequila drinks selection from the extensive cocktail list

 

This Mexican menu takes inspiration, apparently, from the Baja Peninsula in North West Mexico.

We ordered a few starters to share (we thought they’d be light but they were pretty filling): guacamole – a generous bowl of fresh guacamole @ £3.50, tortilla chips again, a generous portion @ £1.50, chipotle salsa – very hot and fiery pepper sauce @ £2.50, and chicaron described as being like pork scratchings but probably more like Quavers (we left most of these), a large portion served with a bowl of guacamole @ £3.95.

 

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Chicaron – ‘pork scratchings’ with guacamole

 

For main course – along with a bottle of Malbec red wine @ £26.00 – we ordered mixed botanas a sharing platter comprising three tacos, three tostados, three quesadilla slices and three jaladas (jalapeno chillis with cream cheese, or ‘poppers’) @ £24.00, and you can choose your own fillings.

 

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Mixed botanas – 3 tacos with slook cooked pork, 3 tostados with slow cooked chicken), 3 quesadilla slices (spinach + mushroom) + 3 jaladas

 

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Jaladas – jalapeno chillis stuffed with cream cheese, deep fried in bread crumbs

 

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That’s a lot of pepper sauce!

 

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Basic cafe-style interior with colourful table coverings
 

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Loos by the Pink Chihuahua cocktail lounge in the basement

 

Too full for dessert, H had an amaretto @ £8.00 (a double) and I had a sparkling wine @ £6.50 as a digestif. Altogether, our meal for two came to £114.41 including service.

 

The verdict: No fuss, no frills Mexican food with an enticing cocktail menu.

 

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Mexican
~ Address: 25-27 Brewer St, London
~ Postcode: W1F 0RR
~ Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus
~ Website + menus: El Camion website
~ Photos on flickr: images of El Camion
~ Location: El Camion map

 

El Camion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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