Tag Archives: New York City

NYC DINER DUEL: Westway Diner vs. Tick Tock Diner

Now, we may be Triple B, not Triple D, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love a good diner, bro! And when it comes to diners, New York City might be the diner capital of Flavourtown. So we’re chowing down at two classic NYC institutions — which one will come out on top?
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WESTWAY DINER

This Hell’s Kitchen diner is apparently the place where Jerry Seinfeld came up with the idea for a show about nothing in the late 80’s. Up on West 43rd and 9th, it’s a pretty big place — you can probably fit about 200 people in here. I heard there was a line, so I got there early…and marched right in at 8 am, when just a few tables were taken (people started filing in at 8:15.) But hey, the early bird gets the corned beef benedict, bro!!!!
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Dude, these are some of the biggest benedicts I’ve seen, bro! Corned beef is nice n crispy, you get some creaminess from the egg, and there’s even a bit of mashed potato in there. And they’re two for $13.50 — that’s a five finger discount in Flavourtown!
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These also come with a whole lotta hash browns. Crispy on top, but soft in the middle — dude, this is body by hash browns!!!!
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TICK TOCK DINER

The party don’t stop at this classic joint, which is open 24 hours a day, on 34th and 8th, across from Madison Square Garden. It’s also attached to the New Yorker Hotel, so if you’re staying there and too hungover to go outside — not that I would know — this is the place for you!
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Most people think of chicken and waffles as a southern soul food staple, but this dish was actually invented in Harlem, back in the day. We might not be quite that far uptown, but I figured I had to check out the Tick Tock’s take on this classic.
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Now, the waffles were nice and fluffy, but I’m not so sure about the chicken. You can definitely call it crispy (this dish is called “crispy chicken and waffles” on the menu), but it’s not a chicken leg or chicken thigh…or even really a chicken tender, more like this vaguely Batman shaped chicken burger. Ever seen those fried chicken patties you could put in a toaster? (Yes, that was actually a thing.) This is what they remind me of.

Also, the piddly little forks they give you often aren’t big enough to spear both chicken and waffles in the same bite, which is a bit of a bummer…

FINAL VERDICT

Tick Tock might be in a great location, and it gets props for being open all night (Westway closes at 9, apparently), but it is definitely more of a tourist trap. For the real-deal diner feel, head up to Hell’s Kitchen.
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BONUS: Tilly’s Diner in Monticello, NY

Sometimes, to find a real-deal diner, you gotta go upstate. We’re hanging out at Tilly’s Diner, this funky little joint a couple hours north of New York City in Monticello. This is one of those places that used to be an old trailer, until they grew big enough to attach a dining room. And it’s completely packed on a Sunday, with a mixture of locals and post-concert checkout crowd from the Best Western two doors down.
But you can still take a seat at the counter, and watch them crank out diner classics, like this three-meat masterpiece in Flavourtown, the Farmer omelette:
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This bad boy is packed with three little pigs — bacon, ham AND sausage — along with peppers, onions and Swiss cheese. You’ve also got home fries and white toast, Blues Brothers style.
This is not subtle food. It’s huge chunks of meat, barely contained by a thin layer of egg, which cheese in the middle. It’s delicious. And it’s only $10.50…about the same price as a supersized sammy at Colosseo next door!!!!

Demolishing the legendary Gramercy Tavern Burger!!!!

Now, it’s been almost 10 years since we’ve had a killer burger in New York City, so you KNOW we gotta take care of that, bro! We’re hanging out at Gramercy Tavern, this funky joint on East 20th Street, where I hear their Tavern Burger is one of the best in town… so we’re definitely gonna check that out. But first, it’s time for some duck liver mousse:

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This duck definitely doesn’t suck! Rich and creamy, like a pate, served on grilled sourdough toast. But what makes it is the cherry compote, adding a nice tartness to balance out the dish.

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But now it’s time for the main event. The Tavern Burger is coming in hot, a nice blend of 70/30 chuck and brisket, cooked to medium. This burger is tender, juicy, with some bacon and an oozy white cheddar cheese. The onion donkey sauce on the side adds a bit of a kick, but it’s better off without it. My only complaint is it was too small — more like a supersized slider. Now if they could make it a triple, I’d be all over that, son!!!!!!!!!

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Washed it all down with a Legendary Shader, this funky German-style Hefeweizen from 3 Floyds. Dude, this tastes bananas (literally), just like a good German wheat beer should. And at 6.2%, it packs a bit of a punch that kinda sneaks up on ya…

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We’ve also got a Sun Up hazy IPA from Talea Brewing in Brooklyn. This one checks all the boxes — hazy, hoppy and just a little fruity. I’ll take 10 of these to go…

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Now, since that burger wasn’t very big, we’ve still got room for dessert. And when in New York, you gotta go for some cheesecake, bro! This caramelized cheesecake comes complete with cookie crumbles, honey strawberry sorbet AND compote on the side. You’ve got the creaminess of the cheese, a nice crunch from the cookies and the tartness of the strawberries. And it’s all over in a New York minute!!!!

EAST VILLAGE BAR CRAWL: From punk rock dive to KGB Bar to OG Irish pub…

CBGB’s may be long gone, but there are plenty of places to grab a drink, and even listen to some punk rock, in New York City’s East Village. So after stuffing our faces full of pastrami, we set out to check out a few of em, all within stumbling distance…

Doubling down on $5 IPAs @ Double Down Saloon

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We’re starting off this adventure at the Double Down Saloon, which is just around the corner from Katz’s Deli on Avenue A at Houston Street. This punk-rock dive bar started off in Vegas, and they’re keeping it hardcore with this badass Black Flag mural on the back patio.
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It just so happens to be Happy Hour until 8 pm, which means you can pound pints of craft beer for just five bucks, bro! We’re starting off with a Founders All Day IPA, which has a nice hoppy taste, but is relatively light at 42 IBU and just 4.7%. What’s more, this beer is only 140 calories, so I can drink, like, 13 of these…
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But instead, we’re switching to Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale. This American IPA is stronger (7%), hoppier (60 IBUs) and more citrusy than its predecessor…which means I *might* only have 3 more.

The Soviet-themed bar that stands with Ukraine…

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Now, the East Village is also known as Little Ukraine (I’ve heard the pierogis at Veselka are so legit!) so it’s not surprising to find a Soviet-themed joint called KGB Bar on East 4th Street, just off of 2nd Ave. As their website makes clear, though, they definitely stand with Ukraine!
The music selection was an interesting mix of punk, goth, and Brian Eno-style ambient music. In Soviet Russia, synthesizer plays you???
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Now, I’ve heard that before the war, you could find a lotta Russian and Ukrainian beers here…but I’m guessing the sanctions against Russia probably put a stop to that. The closest I could find was a Radeberger Pilsner from Germany, dating back to 1872. It’s got a bit of a bite to it, similar to Pilsner Urquell, but not quite as bitter.
(Oh, and they actually have Pilsner Urquell here, too.)

Cozy craft beers at Cooper’s

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Stumbled out of the KGB Bar to find this funky little joint with “Craft” in its name, so you KNOW we had to check it out… This is Cooper’s Craft & Cocktails.
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Starting off with a Mondo Generator from Wild East — Dude, Mondo Generator is my second-favourite Nick Oliveri band, bro! This West Coast IPA is about as bitter as the dude who wrote a song called “Kyuss Dies,” with a nice mix of Citra, Columbus and Simcoe hops. A few of these, and you’ll be loading up your war machine, bro!!!
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Up next, we’re gonna hitch a ride to Rock-Rock-Rockaway Beach with this Eccentrics Welcome from Rockaway Brewing Company. This sour beer is super tropical with apricot and passion fruit, coming in at a crushable 4.8%. I think I’ve only had apricot and passion fruit in liquid form, but the citrusy flavours are definitely on point. The techno pop they were playing at this place? Not so much…

If the Bovine was a sports bar, this is the bar it would be…

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When you think sports bar, you usually think some massive place with big screen TVs, chicken wings, waitresses in referee stripes, etc, etc. But Standings, this funky little joint on East 7th, ain’t like that. This place fits maybe 40 people, and the walls are covered in sports cards, pennants, posters and other memorabilia. The night I went, there was only a handful of people in the place, and everybody seemed to be cheering for the Red Sox against the Yankees. Whaaaa???
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Oh, and they also serve a buncha craft beers, like this Prima Pils from Victory Brewing. A nice, crispy German-style pilsner — this ain’t no Bud Light, bro!!!!
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This Greenport Harbor Black Duck Porter does a pretty good impression of a Guinness. Nice, chocolatey richness, but not too strong or too heavy. Maybe a little heavier on the cocoa than an Irish breakfast smoothie. Not bad for a nightcap, though…

And we’re ending the night at an OG Irish pub…

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If there’s one place to bring this evening to a fitting conclusion, it’s McSorely’s Old Ale House, an OG NYC Irish pub that’s been open since 1854.

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They only have two beers on tap — dark ale or light ale. And when you ask for a pint, they give you these two small glasses, which’ll set you back 7 bucks. Is this the best beer I’ve ever had? Not by any stretch. (I’d say it’s just a little bit better than Molson Canadian…) But the historic aspect of this place makes it a must-see when in NYC!
I mean, what’s the oldest bar in Toronto? The Senator? Imperial Pub? I guess the Wheat Sheaf is about the same age, but it doesn’t have quite as much character as McSorely’s. Slainte!!!
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I’ll have what she’s having… and then some!!!

So, we’re hanging out at Katz’s Delicatessen, the legendary deli in New York City’s East Village that’s been serving it up since the 1880’s. Man, the food here’s so good it made Meg Ryan cream her jeans, so you KNOW we gotta check it out!!!!

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While there’s no shortage of deli classics here, the sandwich to get is pastrami on rye, with mustard. Picture some of the best beef brisket you’ve ever tasted, brined in that pink salt, with just enough bread to hold it together… This meat just melts in your mouth, bro!!!!

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Pair this with some housemade pickles to kick it up a notch. The dills are decent, but I prefer the fresh ones…

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And we’ve also got a nice helping of creamy potato salad. Nothing wrong with that at all!

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Now, this food is NOT cheap — the sandwich itself will set ya back 26 bucks — but it’s some of the best smoked meat I’ve had this side of Texas. And I didn’t even hafta line up down the street for it!

(There are definitely lines at the meat-cutting stations, but with 6-8 cutters on duty, and free samples to tide you over while you wait, it wasn’t too painful when I was there.)

Best burger in NYC? Let’s break it down…

(Originally written January 27, 2013)

Eating out in New York City is expensive.  Y’know, I almost wish they had a gift shop that sold t-shirts inscribed with “I can’t believe I paid $16.95 for a deli sandwich!”  (And it was a damn good deli sandwich, too, but still…)  Suffice to say, I didn’t have le cash to eat at Le Cirque–though I’m sure it’s very nice.  Alas, aside from a daring foray into Guy Fieri’s critically disclaimed restaurant and bar, I primarily dined on burgers.  Which isn’t all that unusual for me, since I once spent a whole week eating beef here in Toronto not so long ago.  (Hey, I am from Alberta, after all!)

Now, while Toronto has its share of gourmet burger joints, you won’t find too many of them on Zagat’s best list–with the exception of The Burger’s Priest, which, I must confess, I still haven’t tried.  On the other hand, the best burgers in the Big Apple are adored by critics and commoners alike.  They even go as far as to ask you how you’d like your patty cooked, which was a first for me.  Of course, I’m from Alberta, so I had mine medium-rare.  (Apparently, you’re supposed to cook hamburger for longer to prevent stuff like E. coli.  I guess that explains a lot…)

Mind you, I was only in NYC for one weekend, so it was kind of a case of so many burgers, so little time.  However, I managed to find two great burger joints that couldn’t have less in common, apart from the main menu item.  One was your more traditional fast-food, take-out or dine-in joint (if your traditional fast-food joint serves alcohol) in trendy Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  The other, a popular, wait-for-a-table, upscale eatery in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan.  But in the end, both had some tasty beef.  Let’s go to the tale of the tape…

67 BURGER

To get to 67 Burger, you’ll hafta take the C Train.  This Brooklyn fav boasts two locations a world removed from Times Square; one in yuppified Park Slope and the other in racially-harmonious Fort Greene.  (GQ describe the latter hood as a racial mucous membrane, which is definitely a disgusting way to define diversity.)  The decor at the Lafayette Ave location leaves little to look at; there is, however, ample seating space if you get there early enough.

As I alluded to earlier, this fairly-fast-food joint also offers a six-dollar selection of beer and wine.  But for the price of a pint, you can go one step further and order a beer shake.  Admittedly, I wasn’t watching the milkshake machine when they mixed it, but it did taste a little like a light lager…

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The nice thing about 67 Burger’s selection is that you can order any of their 13 signature creations with any one of five proteins: beef, chicken, turkey, veggie or tofu.  They even offer recommendations as to which patty goes best with each style–while also encouraging experimentation.  According to the menu, the southwestern (homemade chipotle mayo, roasted peppers, tomatoes, scallions and pepper jack cheese) tasted best with tofu, but I’d rather shit a brick than eat tofu–though I’m told the two aren’t mutually exclusive.  So naturally, I made mine with beef.

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Hard to tell if there were roasted peppers on there, but the chipotle mayo blended well with the big block of cheese.  I made sure to pile on all the extra toppings on the plate, as well.  The pickles were especially fresh and tangy.

Meat: Thick and juicy, this patty practically has its own zip code.
Cheese: The big slab of pepper jack didn’t fully melt on the burger, which allowed it to melt in your mouth instead.
Toppings: Tangy chipotle mayo collides with fresh pickles and purple onions for a nice bite.
Price: $8.75 burger, $6 beer shake (fries are extra)

5 NAPKIN BURGER

Though its namesake started as a popular menu item at Nice Matin on the Upper West Side (not to be confused with the Corsican newspaper), the 5-Napkin Burger simply couldn’t be contained, as it now boasts four New York locations (three in Manhattan, one in Queens) as well as sister franchises in Boston and Miami.  The flagship location, at 9th and West 45th in Hell’s Kitchen, is a pretty popular place; you simply cannot just walk in and get a table, not even at 5 pm on a Sunday.  But if you time it just right, you can probably grab a barstool.  Most people sitting at the bar are waiting for a table, so once their buzzer goes off, jump in and snag their spot.

The 5-Napkin bar itself is a pretty impressive structure.  It conceals over 50 beers, 100 wines and several stirring cocktails.  I confess, I spent longer looking at the beer menu than I did deciding on food.  I was a little disappointed, however, when my drink arrived.  I saw Brooklyn Pilsner for seven dollars and assumed it was on tap; nope, that’s seven bucks for a bottle…

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Now, I must say, the fare at 5 Napkin was much more diverse.  While 67 Burger offered burgers, fries and salads, this Manhattanite’s menu included chicken wings, pork taquitos and a wide variety of sushi maki rolls.  No, really.  Who goes to a burger joint and eats sushi?  Not this guy.  Alas, while they also offered turkey, tuna, lamb and veggie burgers, I went back to the beef.

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The Bacon-Cheddar almost needs no introduction.  It’s sharp cheddar, bacon, raw onion, lettuce & tomato on a soft white roll.  As you can see, mine was extra bloody.

Meat: Let’s put it this way; I went to a Rangers game afterwards, and they probably coulda used this patty as a puck–if hockey pucks were meant to explode if your mouth without knocking out your teeth.
Cheese: Smothers the meat like an overbearing mother, or a warm slanket.
Toppings: Top marks for the big pile of thick, crispy bacon; just the way I like it.  There wasn’t much else on top of ol’ smoky, but there didn’t really need to be.
Price: $14.95 burger (fries included), $7 beer

 

THE VERDICT

Although it’s hindered by a weaker photograph, I’d hafta say 5 Napkin had the slightly better burger.  However, for convenience, speedy service and affordability, the edge goes to 67.  Uh, I guess it’s a draw, then?  (That just means you’ll have to have them both!)

“Don’t forget you have a lunch date tomorrow with Donald Kimball at Smith & Wollensky…”

It started off as a shockingly violent Bret Easton Ellis novel before becoming the starring role that launched Christian Bale’s career. And tonight, American Psycho the musical debuts on Broadway. While some of the scenes were certainly squeamish, both the movie and the book also contained some of the craziest restaurant trends of the 80’s. And many of these joints actually existed–at least they used to, at the time. A couple years back, I took a flavourtown roadtrip to one of the few that’s still standing: Smith & Wollensky.

(Originally written July 31, 2013)

Not all the restaurants name-dropped in the Bret Easton Ellis novel (and subsequent cult classic film) American Psycho actually existed.  There was no Dorsia in New York City circa 1987–some guy from Godsmack or something tried to open one 20 years later, but it didn’t catch on.  (You can’t even find it on the internet anymore; ditto the short-lived Dorsia in London.)  On the other hand, many of the real restaurants referenced in the book/movie have since closed down–hey, 25 years is a long-ass time in the restaurant biz!  There are, however, a handful of NYC institutions (as documented here) from that era that are still going strong today–although something tells me Gorbachev’s not at ENK-NYC. 😉

Alas, when I found out that the hotel I was staying in last weekend was just a few blocks from the legendary Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, I knew I had to go there for lunch.  If Detective Kimball asks, I had a shower… and some sorbet.

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Now, because I didn’t think I could get a table at the main steakhouse in a Weed Metal trucker hat and a t-shirt depicting a Satanic goat throwing the horns, I took the side entrance to Wollensky’s Grill, which is meant to be more down-market, relatively speaking.  They’re even open until 2 am, but when I got there around noon on a Sunday, the place was Texarkana empty.  There was just one guy in the corner enjoying a salad, and no one else but the wait staff until an elderly couple came in right before I left.  I guess no one eats a business lunch on Sunday, eh?

But while the battered bartop had seen better days, the shelves behind it well certainly well stocked.  Put it this way: the place didn’t have J&B or a Corona, but I doubt they were out of Finlandia.  In any case, I ordered the house beer, Wollensky’s Irish Ale, which happens to be brewed by Rogue Ales.  It might not have been brewed with bacon, but it was still quite tasty.

As for the main, I ordered the notorious Wollensky Burger, with blue cheese topping and a side of fries served in a miniature chef hat.  The burger itself was $17.50, while the white-suited barkeep may or may not have comped me for the fries–the card-sized menu makes no mention whether they come with the sandwich.  (In any case, I left him a receptacle, erm, respectable tip.)  And hey, that might seem like a lot of bread for a sandwich, but believe me, you get a whole lotta burger for $17.50:

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The beef, besides being bountiful, was also very juicy and tender.  The blue cheese–an optional topping, which didn’t cost extra–added a nice tangy bite, along with the pickles, and crisp lettuce, onion and tomato were piled on top for good measure.  Let’s just say you need two hands to eat this thing, but you’ll wanna keep one free for the fries, which were served hot and fresh.  I never have enough ketchup when they put it in those little dishes, but that’s a very minor, erm, beef.

Bottom line, this might be the best burger in NYC–and hey, I’ve actually had a couple.  Just try not to look shocked when you get the bill; I assure you, it certainly wasn’t cheap. 😉

Top 5 Food Cities: 4. New York City

For me, NYC is all about the burgers, baby! 5 Napkins, 67 Burger, Smith & Wollensky’s…this city has some Bomb.Com beef, bro. Sure, you can get other fancy food, like a $25 fried chicken in Brooklyn, a $20 pastrami sammy at the Carnegie Deli, or a $15 shrimp po’ boy at Bubba Gump’s (only 1020 calories!), but when I’m here, I’m eating burgers, son. Unless of course I’m eating at Guy Fieri’s funky joint in Times Square!

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Hell’s Kitchen used to be pretty dangerous, but now, the only thing you gotta worry about is whether you can get a table at 5 Napkin Burger!

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67 Burger lets you pick between beef, turkey, chicken, veggie and tofu patties. But really, why would you choose anything but beef, bro?

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Dude, the Wollensky burger at Smith & Wollensky is big enough to feed a whole team of Dash Riprocks!

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Believe it or not, I actually ate this for breakfast…

Guy’s American Bar is in Times Square, but its Kitchen must be in a distant suburb of Flavortown…

(Originally written January 23, 2013)

What trip to New York City would be complete without a visit to celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s Times Square joint, which received such a glowing review in the Times?  As a big fan of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (the show, not the fat fuck who hosts it), I of course had to come check it out.  Were the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders really not so awesome?  Did the watermelon margarita really taste like formaldehyde?  My life would not be complete without the answers to these questions.  But, much to my dismay, I see they’ve omitted the formaldehyde martini.  The chicken tenders, on the other hand, are very much still a menu item:

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Now, I will agree with NYT food critic Pete Wells in that I would’ve never guessed that the breading contains either pretzels or smoked almonds.  That said, they really weren’t that bad.  Big, hot and crispy…  Better (and more expensive) than the chicken fingers I buy at Costco, that’s for sure!  Also, the Donkey Sauce really added an extra kick.  At least, I think that’s what it was called.  It was really just a spicy mustard.  Anyways, while the tenders were at least partially awesome, I can’t exactly say the same about the pulled pork tacos…

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Now, while the pork itself had the right amount of tang, it wasn’t even remotely warm.  And the random sprinkling of corn, cheese and semen-lookalike white sauce didn’t really add much of an extra kick.  This dish does not reside in Flavourtown, put it that way!

Alas, while there were initial reports of the place being packed, it was half-empty when I arrived around noon on a Sunday.  And yet, even though there were only three people sitting at the downstairs bar, the food-runner still managed to give my grub to the other folks–before he was chastised by the barkeep.  Granted, it might seem weird for one person to order two appetizers, but man, their mains were fucking expensive!

On the plus side, I take some comfort in knowing that the cooks all washed their hands before preparing my pork tacos.  I’m assuming they read the sign, anyways…

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