You know how you look at a website and think that a concept boutique hotel is a great idea? When I saw the Night Hotel I was convinced it was going to be something totally new. It has an edgy website, the requisite lounge/bar and a killer location near Times Square.
So my husband and I check in expecting hip and happening and what we get is fetishistic and off putting. Sure the room was huge (by New York standards), and the property was 100% bed bug free (key in Manhattan), but I wouldn’t go back. Why? Because when we checked in they insisted on making a copy of my drivers license for “security” purposes. Weird. Then they handed me my key and told me I had, “A great room”. Well I did have a nice room, the linens were Frette, and the bed was comfy, but I had a view of an air shaft. The decor was black and white which I thought would be chic, but it comes off overbearing. I mean there were thistles creeping up the walls, and a black tiled bath. Even the bed was dominated by a large black headboard. I had the impression I was spending the night in Edward Cullen’s bachelor pad.
I’ve stayed in many boutique Manhattan hotels and what I’ve learned is that in New York, boutique = weird.
Let’s talk reality for a moment…the economy is in the dumper, and so every restaurant that can is trying to woo customers with cheap eats and booze, and who are we not to partake of such bounty? Thus, The Muse and I have become aficionados of the perfect Happy Hour. From sushi to small plates, The Mission to The Marina, we know the ins and outs of every decent happy hour in the city. Here are two:
Fish & Farm — This small restaurant in the Mark Twain Hotel serves pretty decent fare and that carries over into their happy hour. Skip the Bacon Tater Tots and go straight to Juicy Lucy Burger ($5) with a side of their French Fries and Steak Sauce. Or try the Mac & Cheese, an appetizer to die for, along with a pile of F&F’s greens, just to keep your arteries from hardening. The only place F & F’s happy hour falls down is on the drinks: $3 draft beers but not a single cheap cocktail in the place.
Urban Tavern — Another hotel bar and restaurant, but one that explicitly bills itself as a ‘Gastro Pub’. I don’t know about the full menu, but the only ‘Gastro’ in the fare served at Urban Tavern is the one in ‘gastro-intestinal distress’. But here’s the thing… If you want to drink, I mean really, REALLY want to drink, Urban Tavern is your place: 1/2 price cocktails people, and I don’t mean crappy half-price well drinks. I ordered a dirty Junipero martini (a very expensive local gin) and got a full-size drink that had me wobbling before I’d finished it for only $5! Along with their specialty concoctions, this place is practically an alcoholics paradise.
So what’s my recommendation? Drink like a fish at Urban Tavern from 3:00 to 5:00 and then stumble over to the Mark Twain Hotel (about 2 blocks) and gorge on Fish&Farm’s appetizers till 6:00.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and nowhere is that more important than here in Babylon by the Bay. In fact, breakfast is so important that we often roll out of bed and, without even drawing a comb through our hair, put on whatever rumpled clothes we threw on the floor last night and head out in search of sustenance. Fortunately for the Muse and I, we have an abundance of great breakfast joints close at hand.
Golden Coffee — You know that diner that you always stumbled into after a long night of college drinking? A place so think with grease that you were afraid that the oven hoods might ignite at any moment? Well Golden Coffee is such a place. 14 stools, two cramped tables, and a short-order cook that serves up plates of eggs, hash, or pancakes with the speed of a Ferrari and the calm of a Zen Master. (The fact that he’s almost certainly named “Wong”…or something…no doubt helps with the latter.) Nothing fancy at Golden Coffee, just competent American breakfasts at prices that you haven’t seen in a decade or two–certainly not here in the second most expensive city in America.
Dottie’s True Blue — Dottie’s is unique. Dottie’s is an institution. Dottie’s is in a neighborhood that will make you cringe. Dottie’s, after 8:00 am, is so overrun with tourists you’ll wait an hour to get in, but don’t let that phase you. We locals don’t, and Dottie’s is definitely worth the wait. Ignore the menu. It’s irrelevant. The only thing you should pay attention to is the “specials” board at the back of the restaurant. And what specials! Omlettes filled with artichokes, trout, chard, and whatever else you can imagine; scrambles that will have your arteries hardening just by looking, and scones…and muffins…and breads, all fresh, all different, every day.
Frankly I love both Dottie’s and Golden Coffee but for different reasons. And consequently this Food Fight is a tie. If you’re in San Francisco’s ‘Tendernob’ (that’s halfway between Nob Hill and The Tenderloin) you owe your stomach a visit to Dottie’s and your wallet a whole bunch-o-visits to Golden Coffee.
Living, as The Muse and I do, here in Babylon by the Bay, food is an all consuming passion. We’re always looking for the ‘latest and greatest’ dining out experience. And so it was that we recently sampled the food at two new restaurants: RN74, a new joint opened by Michael Mina, celebrity chef and owner of the restaurant that bears his name, and Wexler’s located in the same space as two previous restaurants that were themselves favorites of ours.
First RN47… This place tries to be so painfully hip that I felt bad for having worn color. Loud and crowded, it’s staffed by the sort of waiters that treat you with barely concealed contempt. “I’m really an ac-tor!” Except that…this isn’t L.A! Nonetheless, we had high hopes for the food. After all this is a “Mina property”, high (but not screamingly high) prices, imposing wine list and all. So on to the food… Chick peas and braised chard—a side that I ordered in lieu of an appetizer—was yummy; A tasty, though none too imaginative pork loin, was served almost cold. Dessert was good, espresso was lousy, and at the end the waiter almost lost the half of The Muse’s meal that she wanted boxed to take home. Verdict: RN74 ain’t all that. For the same money you could eat at Range and get better food, a more hip neighborhood, less attitude, and a Michelin star.
So why are we comparing RN74 to Wexler’s? Mostly because we ate at both in the same week and they’re both new. So really were talking experience here, not any similarities in the style of food. Wexler’s is all about upscale Southern cooking, ribs, bitter greens, grits all served fine-dining style with imaginative cocktails and less attitude. And WHAT COOKING! I’m at an age were it’s not often that I get to say “this is the best meal I’ve had in a while.”. My pork cheeks were astounding! My mustard greens…delicious. The barbecue squid salad appetizer was worth not getting kissed for the rest of the evening (The Muse has a thing about fish). No espresso, but excellent french press coffee. Verdict: Wexler’s is twice the restaurant that RN74 is—food, atmosphere, cocktails—at half the price!