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Posts from the ‘lower east side’ Category

The Fat Radish: A No Man’s Land Secret Garden

Despite it’s goofy name, The Fat Radish is magical. Tucked into a discrete space in the no man’s land between the Lower East Side and Chinatown, walking into The Fat Radish is like discovering a secret garden. Inspired by the original industrial Covent Garden market in London, the Fat Radish bills itself as a healthy and simple sort of place – with a veggie friendly menu, biodynamic and natural wines, and an emphasis on seasonal cooking. And yet, it is so much more than the “simple, airy and elegant room” it considers itself.

Before sitting down to dinner, first enjoy a cocktail at the tiny bar behind the hostess stand. Nina Simone and Nat King Cole croon softly in the background while a swarthy English bartender, clad in plaid, pleasantly whips up one of the fresh house cocktails; industrial Edison lights shed a golden glow on the stacks of artisan and mainstream liquors, causing the glass bottles to twinkle softly. Suddenly, waiting for your guest to arrive is a marvelous experience. When heading back into the main dining room, take in the illuminated sprays of fresh flowers nestled into archways carved into the distressed white brick, the large antique mirror in the back listing the day’s specials, the rough hewn wooden furniture, decorated simply with dishcloth napkins and a tealight candle. Unique design touches make the room pop – such as a retro scarlet “R” letter sign, illuminated like a Broadway marquee with small white light bulbs or the cool blue modern ceramic squares, arranged neatly into a rectangle on one wall.  The Fat Radish is a charming gastronomic sanctuary in a part of town better known for graffitied storefronts, massage parlors, and fresh produce stands; it is warm and welcoming and yet somehow effortlessly cool, frequented by an unpretentious yet fashionable crowd.

The food is seasonal American, focused on fresh flavors and simple preparations. At dinner, something as simple as a warm potato salad, an arrangement of roasted fingerling potatoes topped with a poached egg, is truly tasty when the rich yellow yolk covers the herbs and shards of potato; the celery root pot pie is vegetarian, yet rich and homey, reminiscent of Thanksgiving stuffing and the chicken pot pie we all know and love. Salads are well-dressed and just taste good, garnished with baby beets, crispy bacon, or a well-cooked egg. Entree dishes are traditional – Colorado lamb loin with miatake mushrooms, glistening with fat, green curried monkfish with wild rice, a heritage pork chop with tomato jam, and, of course, a thick bacon cheeseburger with perhaps the best side ever, duck fat fries. While dinner is wonderful, brunch is perhaps even better – warm banana bread, soaked with melted butter, is irresistible; rich thick slices of avocado 7-grain toast, with eggs in a spicy tomato broth, is unusual, innovative and ridiculously delicious; ‘eggs purgatory,’ swimming in a flavorful tomato sauce dusted with pecorino, is the ideal savory brunch dish; and the homemade cheddar biscuit, served with gravy and bacon, is just … sinful.

The Fat Radish is a marvelous find for people who just love food. The atmosphere is pleasingly low-key, just trendy enough to feel hip yet also approachable, warm, and immensely likeable. The service is friendly and unobtrusive, present and efficient yet not nagging. The food, by and large, really tastes delicious – it’s not fussy or over-thought; instead, it has the taste of being cooked from the soul, cooked with love. When the atmosphere, the service, and the food all work together so seamlessly, with such a unified front, it’s truly difficult not to love The Fat Radish.

Perfect For: trendy vegetarians, Lower East Side locals, fashionistas, laidback dates, boozy brunch, schmoozing with a friendly bartender, a cozy night out with good friends

The Fat Radish on Urbanspoon


Apizz: Ending the Quest for Manhattan’s Perfect Date Spot

I’ve heard good things about Apizz on the Lower East Side, pretty much since I started paying attention to restaurants in New York. And, as I discovered this weekend, all the buzz is for good reason. The sister restaurant to ricotta-lovers’ favorite Peasant in Nolita and to nearby The Orchard, Apizz has a familiar look and feel to the others in its family, though, without question, it’s just plain betterthan its siblings.

Tucked away on a quiet block of Eldridge Street and thus removed from the drunken hipster disaster that is the Lower East Side after 9pm, Apizz is a charming find. Small and intimate, Apizz just about oozes an all-encompassing coziness. The mood is set by the seemingly signature low amber-orange glow of Apizz, Peasant, and The Orchard. It’s virtually impossible for someone to look unattractive in such universally flattering light (though, naturally, I can’t promise the world here…). The look is rustic, with a tiny open kitchen, pulsing from the heat of the pizza oven, a verifiable explosion of exposed brick everywhere, bottles of house wine perching on the hanging industrial ducts, simple wooden tables, and so forth. Chances are, if you live and ever eat out in New York, you’re familiar with this cozy and charming rusticity that’s all the rage right now. In the back is a miniature bar area, competently-manned and a pleasant place to enjoy one of the fairly delicious house cocktails or perhaps a quick bite to eat if you can’t get one of the coveted tables.

The food is straight-up Italian, without frills or anything nouveau, and it’s delicious. Think: a crispy and simple margherita pizza, classic antipasti with bresaola, mortadella, roasted peppers, and buffalo mozzarella, among other things, roasted and marinated mushrooms over plenta, a traditional polpo (octopus) salad, and perhaps, best of all, a marvelous dish of tender butterflied shrimp and chorizo in hot bubbling herb-infused olive oil. And those are just a few of the starters. The kitchen is known for their meatballs, and its tennis ball-sized variety is very good. A combination of veal, pork and beef, they are satisfyingly meaty and savory; a generous dollop of creamy, fluffy, decadent ricotta is worth the price of the dish itselfl and the ‘tomato gravy,’ a thick pomodoro-style sauce that tastes like its been brewing for a luxuriously long time, is just heavenly – the sort of thing you’d expect from an Italian grandmother’s kitchen in the homeland itself.
If you make your way to Apizz, you must sample one of the homemade pastas for their bold, homey, and nostalgic flavors. It’s virtually impossible to choose from housemade gnocchi in a tomato ragu with braised short ribs, lasagna made with wild boar and parmesan, a mushroom risotto with creamy mascarpone and fresh herbs. The fazzoletti, a hand-torn pasta variety, is remarkable and unique with lumps of fresh crab meat doused in an addictive creamy tomato-basil sauce that’s so good I wanted to lick my boyfriend’s plate while he was in the restroom. And of course, after you’ve stuffed your belly full of traditional Italian pastas and antipasti, it would be sacrilegious not to finish off the meal with one of Apizz’s classic New York Italian desserts: cheesecake, apple crumble, a dark chocolate torte, tartufo, and of course, spumoni. *NOTE: if you want to obsess over a dessert for about a week, treat yourself to the chocolate torta. You will not regret it, even if you need to unbutton your pants for the rest of the meal.*
If you can snag a reservation or weedle your way into the bar, Apizz is pretty much just plain awesome. It’s the perfect combination of hip dining, fantastic food, romance, and the comforts of a neighborhood spot; it’s hard to imagine going wrong at Apizz. And while there may be a few service snags here and there (the host when I stopped by was a little bit … difficult), it’s virtually impossible not to forget them when you’re being plied with such delicious food, affordable wine, and boozalicious cocktails. Yup, I’m pretty much obsessed.
Perfect For: any and all date nights, eats at the bar with a friend, romancing, Italian food connoisseurs, meatball mavens, LES locals

Apizz on Urbanspoon

Mary Queen of Scots: One Mean Meal

Like tartan? plaid? sexy accents? Scotch? If any (or all) of the above get it done for you, Mary Queen of Scots may just be your new east side hangout. The sister restaurant of West Village favorite Highlands, ‘MQS’ is dark and sultry, a hotspot with gastropub fare and a long whiskey list for the haute hippies trolling around the Lower East Side.

Set in the long and narrow former Allen & Delancy space, MQS has completely revamped the place. Where A & D had a quirky bar up front, MQS puts its dining tables. The prime seats are the tartan-covered booths in the corridor between the back bar and the front room: festive, comfortable, spacious, and perfect for people-watching. The furniture appears to be antique store finds: mismatched chairs, ‘artfully distressed’ wooden furniture, plaid upholstery, burnished metal lamps. Down the corridor to the back is the bar, delightfully festive during the wintertime. Crowds of young and attractive hipster folk, decked out in scene-appropriate plaid shirts and corduroys, chat and laugh over hot toddies, whiskey neat, and vintage cocktails like the French 75. Nostalgic black-and-white photographs, ski lodge kitsch, and plenty of nods of Scottish ‘culture’ cover the wood-paneled walls. All in all, the mood is vivacious, youthful, boozy, and uber hip.

Perhaps the most unexpected thing about Mary Queen of Scots is the remarkable food delivered out of the kitchen. A tongue-in-cheek play on Scottish and French favorites, the menu is elegant and well-curated. Bar snacks are a fun and savory way to start the meal, with offerings ranging from tender veal cheek to oysters on the half shell to a decadent foie and chicken liver torchon. Appetizers are worthy of a gourmet restaurant: buttery boudin noir, rabbit cassoulet, a twist on the famous Waldorf salad. Notably, the seared diver scallops appetizer was mouthwatering: large juicy scallops, cooked perfectly with a beautiful caramelized crust, served simply with a well-seasoned root vegetable puree.

The main dishes are hearty and obviously French-inspired comfort food. Expect a classic roast chicken, moules frites, and a traditional flaky vegetable tart. Almost obligatory for any hot new restaurant, there is of course a burger. The MQS burger is high-flavor Piedmontese beef, blended with cheddar cheese, and served with salty crispy fries. Though not the best burger on the scene (check out Bill’s Burger in the Meatpacking District, the time-tested favorite at Minetta Tavern, or April Bloomfield’s rendition at The Spotted Pig), it’s well-cooked and truly satisfying with a whiskey. The flat iron steak, served thinly sliced with smashed potatoes and horseradish butter, was the star of the night. The quality of the beef was extraordinary; cooked to a tender medium-rare, the meat tasted beefy and juicy without much help from the kitchen. It just goes to show that you can get a fantastic steak in New York without overindulging at one of the city’s classic steakhouses.

Unfortunately, while each of the savory dishes we tried was really exceptional, the dessert fell flat. The options are homey, ranging from apple tart to an acorn-squash cheesecake. The salted espresso ganache, the most interesting-sounding item on the dessert menu with several ingredients, such as Laphroaig ice cream, that were completely foreign to me, was just short of terrible; it was bitter, tough, and poorly executed; the ganache was hard, the ice cream unidentifiable, and the caramel too salty to enjoy. Take my advice and if you’re still hungry after the entree, opt for one of the delectable bar snacks instead of dessert.

Mary Queen of Scots is pretty wonderful, even if you’re not a neighborhood regular or plaid-wearing, book-toting hipster with thick glasses and a nicely-mussed hairdo. It is warm and sultry, boisterous and yet still refined. The food is surprisingly well-prepared and tasty, good enough to please foodies, comforting enough for the gastropub-loving crowd. Though the haughty and disinterested service is a serious shortfall for those easily irritated by less-than-perfect table service, after a whiskey or two from the extensive menu, a slower and uninterrupted meal was a welcome luxury for me. Whether you’re looking for a quirky and fun date spot or a new watering hole for you and your friends, Mary Queen of Scots is a thrilling new addition to the already red hot Lower East Side dining (and boozing) scene.

Perfect For: holiday festivities, whiskey lovers, Scottish imports, people in plaid, hipsters seeking hipsters, a nouveau New York experience, nightcaps

Mary Queen of Scots on Urbanspoon

Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria: Another Mediocre Addition to McNally’s Middling Empire

Given what’s about to be said in this review, it may seem like I have some sort of personal vendetta against Keith McNally, the restauranteur behind Pulino’s Bar & Pizzeria, given my vocal irritation with some of his establishments, most notably Schiller’s Liquor Bar. To cut to the chase, Pulino’s is exactly like every other McNally restaurant: mediocre food, crap service, heavily fabricated atmosphere. In fact, it’s so freakishly similar to his other Lower East Side eatery, Schiller’s, that I’m convinced they’re really just one in the same, despite an Italian menu at one and a straightforward American one at the other.

Pulino’s is (depressingly) completely lacking in any originality. It is almost garish, evidenced by the obnoxious oversized red neon sign emblazoned on both exterior sides of the corner spot. The medium-to-large dining room on the corner of Bowery and Houston is merely a reincarnation of Schiller’s: exposed brick, tiled floors, bric-a-brac-y metal furniture, backlit bottles of booze on multiple walls, stacked high to the ceiling. A vast array of untouched international newspapers and magazines are stacked in racks near the door, an additional touch of so-called charm that just strikes me as pretentious. Perhaps the most beautiful element of the restaurant, the large paned industrial-style windows, is the design’s saving grace, distracting diners with lush sunlight during lunch and pretty satisfying people-watching at night. The look of the restaurant is meant to evoke an old Italian pizzeria and yet, instead, it is a case study in the new Manhattan-style ‘chain’ restaurant, developed and executed by professional restaurant creators who’ve lost all their inspiration.

The menu is classic Italian. Expect traditional antipasti: baked ricotta, prosciutto, a variety of cheeses, mozzarella burrata, roasted olives. The baked ricotta is one of the shining stars, served creamy and just salty enough in a rustic crockpot with juicy and sweet roasted grapes and crusty Italian bread. Salads are also on the menu, in both appetizer and entree portions. Expect seasonal ingredients, sometimes Italian and sometimes not: roasted pumpkin and cabbage salad with pecorino and pancetta, roasted broccoli and hen of the woods mushrooms with escarole and parmigiano, seafood salad with roasted peppers, and an Italian rendition of salad nicoise. They are hearty, fragrant, and just about average.

In my opinion, it’s silly to visit a pizzeria without trying the pizza. Pulino’s can’t hold a candle to Motorino or Donatella, but at the heart of it, the pizza has a pretty tasty crust, a victory over the certainly mediocre toppings. Chewy and crusty in all the right places, with a slight char and a few bubbles, the crust is multidimensional and satisfying. The toppings options are dizzying, offering 12 different varieties of pies + a plethora of additional toppings. There’s a traditional Bianca pie, a mozzarella, the quattro formaggi, the classic Margherita, salsiccia, funghi, meatball pie, and a few funkier choices like spinach and egg, black cabbage and salame, or potato and egg. The quattro formaggi is gooey and bland; somehow, with four different and bold cheeses (mozzarella, fontina, gorgonzola, and grana), the flavor falls flat into a muddled mess. The polpettine pie, with beef meatballs and pickled green chilis, is a disaster, despite being the recommended by the server. The meatballs are small and dry, utterly devoid of moisture, and the pickled green chilis are unspeakably wrong on this pizza. Ick, ugh, and meh.

On top of all of this, the service is just plain strange. My party had three servers over the course of lunch, who kept repeating each other. One server made the dastardly mistake of recommending the polpettine pizza and the other gave me a water glass with orange juice pulp floating in it. Furthermore, the kitchen is slow and bad with timing. With 15 minutes elapsed between the delivery of my meal and my friend’s meal, the meal pacing was awkward, to say the least.

In short, Pulino’s is a hot mess. Let me count the ways: 1) unoriginal and charmless decor, 2) chain restaurant feel, 3) bland pizza in the East Coast’s pizza capital, and 4) confused and confusing table service. It’s hard to recommend a place that clearly seems to be surviving only on McNally’s pedigree and unfathomably blogger hype. Just skip it and head a few blocks North to Motorino, or better yet, across town to Donatella.

Pulino's Bar and Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Macondo: Bringing Latin Street Food Off The Street

Macondo’s shtick is pan-Latin street food – arepas from Venezuela, tacos from Mexico, churros from Spain, and so on and so forth. Yet, as you would expect from the sister restaurant to Rayuela, Macondo is no grimy street cart. Tucked into a surprisingly large railroad space on E. Houston Street, Macondo seems inspired by a hot and sticky summer night somewhere anonymous in Latin America.

The 6-seat communal high-top tables in the front are simple and rustic, flanked by distressed exposed brick, shelves of Spanish foodstuffs, and rope baskets; a long row of low stools along the open kitchen let diners peer into the culinary fray; a large faux blackboard listing every popular Spanish ingredient, from pequillo to jicama to mole, looms over the bar area. In the back, the ‘Green Room’ evokes a secret garden with ivy-laced lattice, pale wood tables, and twinkling candlelight. Lush and sultry, the Green Room is perfect for birthday parties, work events, after-hours drinks, and perhaps even a bachelorette bash.

Whether or not this is street food or gourmet cuisine, Macondo’s Latin American fare is refreshing, satisfying, hearty, and completely un-cliche! Most Latin spots in the city offer the same sort of stuff with the same sort of taste and the same sort of ingredients. Macondo manages to offer something new, something fresh and surprising. The menu is extensive, offering upwards of 35 items, all for under $20. Dishes range in size from small bites (patatas bravas) to slider-size sandwiches (chimichurri chico) to full-on large plates (arroz con pollo). For the best deal, opt for the $30 prix-fixe which offers 2 small plates, 1 bocadillo or large plate, and 1 dessert; it’s the best way to sample the best Macondo has to offer.

Out of the 8 dishes sampled, the 4 starters were by far the best. The ‘Almondegas’ or Brazilian meatballs were punchy and surprising; the size of golfballs and soaked in guava sauce, they proved to be immensely flavorful for such a simple dish. The salmon ceviche was just too sophisticated to be considered street food, layered in complex flavor, presented beautifully (as at Rayuela also) in a martini glass, and fresh as fresh can be; the soy ginger citrus sauce brought out the flavor and the texture of the bright pink and silky salmon, cut into large strips. The cheekily-named Chorishrimp should win the award for Best Latin American Comfort Food Dish; served in a piping hot pot, this stew-like mixture of chunky Colombian chorizo, shrimp, Albarino white wine, chili sauce, and tomato is served with thick wheat crackers for dipping and scooping; the result? A hefty, savory, and soul-satisfying dish you want all year-round. Lastly, the mushroom croquettas; bite-size and served with a creamy truffle dipping sauce, they were a well-balanced and refreshingly earthy accompaniment to the otherwise spicy and zesty Latin cuisine.

The rest of the meal suffered in the shadow of the crave-worthy starters, yet this by no means meant that the entrees and desserts should be written off. The short rib bocadillo was almost there, served on golden crisy slider buns and with a cone of fries; however, unfortunately, the short ribs themselves fell flat with not enough flavor to be memorable. The arroz con pollo was similarly bland when compared to the powerful starters; slightly gummy but with a nice crispy bottom, the chicken was over-cooked and the rice flavorless. Skip it in favor of juicy grilled skirt steak or mofongo. The desserts were hit or miss with a surprisingly tasty Latin American twist on creme brulee, made addictive with vanilla bean custard and caramelized sugar and a rather lame chocolate cake served too dry and crusty to enjoy.

Macondo walks the fine line between cheesy, sleazy and fun and is saved by its remarkably well-prepared ‘street food’. While it’s clear the grub is more meant for sceney Lower East Siders than those seeking authentic Latin cuisine, the vast majority of dishes served surprised and wowed with complex flavor patterns, excellent presentation, and an addictive blend of salty, savory, and sweet. Looking for a hoppin’ place for both great dinner and great drinks? Macondo’s your spot.

Perfect For: boozy pregames, ladies night out, quick bites at the bar, schmoozing with Latin men, bachelorette bonanzas, after-work cocktails, high-brow cuisine at low-brow prices, ceviche lovers, scenesters

Macondo on Urbanspoon

Sorella: Downright Dreamy Italian

I love Sorella. It’s the type of place you write down and remember for future occasions, the type of place you return to time and time again for the remarkable experience, the type of place you mark as ‘special’. It’s not only the gorgeous Italian cuisine that’s worth raving about but also the no fuss no muss dining experience in a lovely spot where the Lower East Side meets Chinatown.
South of Delancey on Allen Street and across from Congee Village, Sorella’s located in an unusual spot for a high-brow and luxe Italian restaurant. Hidden behind heavy distressed wood doors, only a small burgundy sign alerts those looking for it that yes, you’re in the right place. The front room is a dark and sultry wine bar with high table tops, communal seating, bottles upon bottles of Italian wine twinkling in the low candlelight, requisite exposed brick, and inlaid photos of the Piedmont region, chef Emma Hearst’s culinary inspiration. The glass-ceilinged back annex is altogether different with a far brighter and more civilized atmosphere. Almost bare white walls, delicate modern metal ‘chandeliers’, and muted contemporary grey furniture are the blank canvas for Hearst’s electric small-plates Italian cuisine.
Now, I knew Sorella would be good. It benefits from strong buzz through foodie circles and almost unanimous praise from critics. Yet, even I was surprised by how good it actually was. Sorella’s Piedmontese menu offers 13 or so ‘Qualcosina’ or ‘A Little Something’. Sized between tapas and large plates, these tantalizing offerings are priced between $8 and $16 and are meant to be shared. Alongside the Qualcosina are 2-course Stasera Abbiamo pairings – essentially 1 Qualcosina and 1 special entree dish for $30. Each dish on the remarkably well-curated menu is more lovely than the last, ranging from a fresh watermelon salad with goat cheese to grilled quail with watercress & orange salad to ruby red shrimp risotto, beef agnolotti with parmesan & sage butter, and crispy veal sweetbreads with quince bacon marmalade.
My friend and fellow food blogger Zoe and I picked three Qualcosinas and 1 special entree dish. All four choices were delicious, ranging from truly extraordinary (the gnudi) to downright soul-satisfying (the sugar snap pea risotto). Perhaps one of the most remarkable pasta dishes I’ve ever had, the Salvatore Ricotta Gnudi with tomato jam and basil & sunflower seed pesto was like eating clouds. Each fluffy potato dumpling was impossibly pillowy, moist, and light – an all-around beautifully prepared dish. The Tajarin offered an entirely different sort of pasta dish than the gnudi. Made with a fettuccine-like egg noodle, lamb ragu, pistachios, mint, and black pepper ricotta, the Tajarin was hefty and complex. At first, the mint hits you hard, but once you get a taste of each distinct flavor, the dish is wonderfully complicated study in how to successfully pair flavors together.
The sugar snap pea risotto, a special for the evening, was distinctly less high-brow and complex than the other dishes, yet it showed that Chef Hearst knows how to cook up a mean risotto like the rest of them. Salty and savory with fresh sugar snap peas in the pods and chunky cuts of ham, the risotto was Piedmontese comfort food, something you’d want to eat over and over again on a chilly night. Surprisingly though, the house special is not a pasta dish. The Pate de Fegato, a dressed-up Egg McMuffin, shows Chef Hearst’s range and skill. A perfectly cut rectangle of crispy toasted English Muffin is topped with airy and light yet flavor-packed chicken liver mousse, a fried egg that erupts golden yellow yolk when cut, and crispy bacon bits; the effect is rich and round without being too much. A perfect starter, the Pate de Fegato is a must for all those visiting Sorella.
Small, hidden, and smart, Sorella is one of the better restaurants I’ve been to this year. It’s understated in a charming and unpretentious way. On walking in, while the spot is lovely and alluring, you can’t imagine how wonderful the food actually ends up being; it is hands-down one of the Lower East Side’s brightest shining stars.
Perfect For: first dates, curious foodies, hipster wine snobs, friends looking to catch up quietly, quick bites at the bar, civilized eating without formality

Sorella on Urbanspoon

Fat Hippo: Phat Cocktails, Meager Food

Fat Hippo’s gotta get a new cook. The sleek and trendy spot on Clinton in the Lower East Side has got great service, a cool vibe, knock-you-out cocktails, and unfortunately, very subpar food. When you’ve got 80% of the equation right, why mess things up with tasteless dressed-up diner fare? The Three Guys on the UES and the Red Flame on university club row serve more delicious food than this place; heck, today’s street vendors season, salt and spice their food better.

The small space across from Falai is dark and sultry with white padded boothes, exposed brick, and little light but from twinkling tealight candles. A prominent bar, manned by cocktail-spinning mancandy, seats about 10, offering the full menu and a shortened bar bites menu. Prettily decorated with attractive and friendly waitresses, well made-up and in the latest fashions, Fat Hippo, at least in look, epitomizes the laidback and unapologetically fun character of its surrounding neighborhood.

The food is dressed-up riffs on classic American pub fare. Think: fish tacos, fried mozzarella balls, lobster pot pie, free-range turkey meatloaf, maryland crab cakes, pork chop, and bbq pulled pork sandwich. All of this sounds good – but trust me, it doesn’t taste particularly good. My party of three started with the hot & sour calamari and moved on to the house special burger fondue (both beef and veggie versions) and the duck cuban.

The hot & sour calamari was a surprise, as it didn’t come fried. Instead, it was marinated and sauteed in a tangy ginger, chili, garlic, lime and peanut sauce. While the sauce was great (with the calamari and for soaking bread), the calamari was rubbery to the point of being freaky. For a hot second, I reminisced about bouncing hotdogs in my high school cafeteria. The burger fondue was marginally better, served slider-style with a hot pot of cheese fondue, bacon bits, pickles, and cone fries. It’s hard to go wrong with burgers, cheese, bacon, and the novelty of dipping burgers in melted cheese, and that pure fact saved this dish from damnation. Yet, objectively, the cheese was low quality and frustratingly flavorless, the burgers were over-cooked, and the bacon bits were out of a shaker normally parked at the salad bar. The duck cuban looked better than the other offerings, yet had a cloying sweetness unbecoming of a should-be savory dinner dish.

While the food was a major bummer, the cocktails were unusual and fantastic – my personal favorite was the Spicy Margherita, featuring jalapeno-infused tequila, and my two male dinner mates happily threw back a fair few of the tangy bitters-laden Old-Fashioneds. Fat Hippo is not a food place – it’s there for straight-up boozy fun. Rockin’ tunes (I think I heard a Jay-Z mashup in there…) and stiff drinks get the party-started, and if you get a little hungry, salty fries and fatty food lies waiting.

Perfect for: after-work or after-anything drinks, ladies night out, birthday shenanigans, at-table dance parties, and group pregame outings

Fat Hippo on Urbanspoon