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Certain restaurants make me wonder: Why don't we have more of this kind of place? Not more spinoffs of the same restaurant, necessarily. Just more chefs tackling that genre, and doing it as masterfully. Restaurants that inspired this question most recently: NYC's The Little Owl, which has the neighborhoody but sophisticated thing nailed (a little too well, given the waits); also Manhattan's Soto, and Uchi in Austin, Texas, for exquisite crudo (like Uchi's toro with Marcona almonds and dried cranberries in a white-soy dressing). Happily, looks like upcoming openings like BarFry owner Josh DeChellis's raw bar in Manhattan's West Village will help up the city's crudo quotient.
As far as Little Owl-ish places, last night I had a deliciously no-fuss, bound-to-make-me-a-regular dinner at Shorty's.32, Soho's new comfort-food restaurant from former 66 chef and Jean-Georges Vongerichten vet Josh Eden: perfect, crisp-skinned roast chicken with buttery mashed potatoes, crunchy green beans and fried garlic. It still feels like August in the city, but that kind of food is exactly what I wanted to eat last night after a manic workday. Next time I'll have what my friend ordered, the ultra-moist roasted cod with Gruyère broth and caramelized onions. A bunch of restaurants have crashed and burned in the Shorty's space before (latest was Goblin Market), but there's a whole new vibe in the room now, as if this place has been around for decades and already has an unshakably loyal clientele (much like Raoul's across the street).
Afterwards I caught the new Bravo show, Better Half, which premiered after the Top Chef finale. The premise isn't bad, as reality shows go: Force one half of a couple to teach the significant other his or her profession—last night, two chefs taught their kitchen-clueless women how to cook—and then make the beginners demonstrate their new skills in a high-pressure situation (like cooking dinner for a packed room). Yeah, it can be funny watching bad cooks make appalling food, but I hope Bravo switches up the gender roles in future cooking-related episodes. Watching overamped guys get territorial and impatient in the kitchen as their wives or girlfriends cook? Seen it—way too much in real life. But with the alpha-cook gender dynamic reversed? Hmm, could be interesting....