Trapped in Manhattan

Specialty Rolls at Jing
I recently got back from a trip to Manhattan, and I thought I’d share some of the deals I found. Admittedly, I was wandering around aimlessly through Hell’s Kitchen back and forth from a fashion trade show, but I actually found some good stuff! For starters, Jing, a Chinese and sushi restaurant in the famous “Restaurant Row” of Hell’s Kitchen. Decent, cheap, but nothing worth going back to (unless you too wind up lost and hungry in that part of the city). It did the trick, and was particularly easy on the wallet.
 Let’s move on to bigger, and better things:

Lentil Soup (surprisingly flavorful!) at Rafaella
On a particularly cold and miserable day, I decided to stop into Rafaella in Chelsea (near Hell’s Kitchen). The signs boasted of “Lunchtime Happy Hour!” and I was sold.
Salad with Smoked Salmon at Rafaella
Lunch specials run Mon-Thurs from 12-4, and feature a fantastic wine list at a discount. I chose a bubbly, knowing that usually the bubbly is exempt from most discounts, but nooooooope! My bubbly was half off too! High-five, Rafaella!

 The staff is French, the guests do not seem to be local, and guess what? THEY HAVE A SCOUTMOB DEAL! I normally wouldn’t have noticed, but I’m an avid Foursquare user and caught wind of the discount. That meant my booze was half off for the happy hour, and my lunch was the same for me having found the deal. Hopefully it’s still going on, if so, take advantage!

My take on the food? It was great for the price that I got.

Tapas at L’Ybane
 I think I died and went to happy hour heaven at least twice in New York. I found deals left and right, which made the business trip feel more like a vacation (at least for a few hours). One of the best deals I found was at L’Ybane. French staff, dim candle-lit tables, and one hell of a “Chef’s Choice” $20 deal later… I’m completely in love. The aforementioned deal, which my table ordered two of, is enough to make everyone full with plates still spilling off the table. Expect a ton of cheese, olive oil, and dolmas. None of these are a bad thing.
Scallop Ceviche at Fish
I was trying to do this thing in chronological order, but I can’t save the best for last. Fish is absolutely my favorite place in Manhattan. They have this deal called “Red, White, & Blue” where you get a glass of red or white wine and six Blue Point oysters for $8. It’s good. Sooooo good.
Red, White, & Blue at Fish
 The oysters and wine were one of the most obscenely beautiful deals I saw in all my time in Manhattan. It was great. I would go back. That ceviche in the other picture? They need to offer something crunchy with it. Who just spoons ceviche?? Is that an Austin thing? I loved it, I just wanted crackers, chips, something…
 The last thing I will mention is Kodama. One of the best, most wallet-friendly sushi places I found near the theatre district. Also? We were the only white people in there. I don’t know how to take that, but considering that most people weren’t speaking English, I have a good feeling that we were onto something good. 


Lunch at Malaga

Shrimp Tapas

Malaga is a Spanish tapas bar tucked away near the end of the 2nd Street district. I’ve been in there for dinner before, but it was years ago and checking back on my old Yelp reviews… I didn’t necessarily love it. (Nor did I hate it.) I was bored around lunchtime, wandering through the area a few weeks ago, and decided to try them out for lunch.

Cheese-Stuffed Peppers

Their weekend lunch happy hour has discounted food and drinks. Day-drinking is a hobby habit of mine, and to grab some good $4.50 wine at 1:30 in the afternoon was a delight. 

Weekend Lunch Happy Hour(s)

The $10 lunch special I had allowed me to pick a few of my own tapas, and start it all off with a soup or salad. I went with the soup, a gazpacho, and it did not disappoint. I’d show you pictures of it if it wasn’t just so damn unphotogenic. I know that’s not a word.

Two Tapas Lunch

The tapas I chose were peppers stuffed with a creamy blend of cheeses, and shrimp served with aioli and a side of plantains. It was worth it for the money, and people-watching on the patio made it spectacular.

Overall, I think Malaga has a very decent lunch, but it’s been too long for me since I had dinner there to comment further. Just today I overheard two friends discussing how much they enjoyed brunch at this place, but I haven’t tried that yet. All I can say is, if you’re downtown on a weekend between 11:30-2, give lunch a chance.

A Week in Chicago

We can’t eat out in Austin every day, so we decided to eat out in Chicago! You know us, we like expensive things for cheap, as well as ridiculously good food, and we found some delicious gems for you.

First off, the locals raved about a heavy metal themed burger joint called Kuma’s Corner. They also felt compelled to mention that Lady Gaga eats there, but I was more excited about the fact that you could swap any burger with a veggie patty.

My partner fell in love with the beer list. The beer shown above is possibly now his favorite beer ever, and that’s a hard title to win from him. I drank whisky. We both loved the menu and the insane burgers that they put together. 

I know everyone says you have to eat Chicago-style pizza when in Chicago, but we are rebels! We had thin and delicious pizza at Piece. Turns out that most of my friends in Austin had eaten there in the past, and mourned for more.

We had a bit of a twitter fiasco when I threw a fit over my partner ordering a white pizza with clams (I’m very much a sauce person, white pizzas contains no sauce), and wound up really liking the one piece I had. The rest of the entire pizza went into my partner before I could  reach for a second slice. I had to fill myself up the rest of the way with their beer menu.

We thought about going to Hot Doug’s, a place made famous on No Reservations, but our dreams of having a “Tony Tour” (Anthony Bourdain-inspired Chicago fest) were soon crushed. That place is insanely popular, so you’ll need to treat it like Franklin Barbecue. If you don’t feel like the wait, the good news is that the aforementioned Kuma’s Corner is just around the, well, corner.

I’m a recovering vegan, and still a huge fan of the veggie lifestyle, so Chicago Diner was a must for me. My partner hates all thing meatless or healthy, so he  found the one vegan item on the menu that resembled something from T.G.I. Friday’s (shown above). He was afraid of the “cheez,” but ended up loving it! I was surprised to find that I did too!

I ordered an avocado tostada, and those people do not f@&! around with avocado. Do you see that up there?! That’s an entire avocado! Also of note, Chicago Diner is located in Boystown, which is quite possibly the most fun part of Chicago, and they make a mean bloody mary.

One of the most awesome secrets in downtown Chi-town is Quartino. They joke that it’s where wine is cheaper than water, and they don’t lie. The clams weren’t pricey either. 

In fact, it was overall the best deal I found. I was eating scallops and drinking Bianco (around $5 got 1/4 litre), and not breaking the bank.

I didn’t think the fondue was all that great though.

Sorry. That was random.

Considering that Wicker Park/Bucktown was our stomping ground, we made a stop at The Bongo Room. I was not a huge fan of their prices or bloody mary, but their serving sizes were enormous.

I do mean enormous. You should’ve seen the other guests chowing down on monster-sized French toast. They looked happy. It’s a great spot for sweet-lovers with an enormous appetite, or at least a few people to share with.

There was a stop at Usagi-Ya, and it was decent. That hamachi appetizer, which I’ve turned into an elephant, was the best thing there. I’m still debating as to whether or not I liked the uni.

Our final morning was spent having Saturday brunch at LoKal. 

Those poor people made the mistake of letting us near their $7 bottomless mimosas, and I’m sure they regretted it. We drank A LOT. My French omelette, which I got to customize, was great, but never ending mimosas were better. For $9 I could’ve gone bottomless on bloodies, and for a little more, just straight bubbly. They have things on the menu like “Nutella Frites,” and overall they made our last morning phenomenal… Except for the part where we were stuck on the train and dying for bathrooms because we just had 6 mimosas each. I guess we deserved that.

That photo was taken at Signature Lounge, on the 96th floor. I don’t recommend eating or drinking there, but I do recommend running up, stealing the view, snapping some pictures, then running back down.

All in all, Chicago is now one of the greatest cities in America to me. I had never been before, and can’t wait to go back. I will definitely miss the food.

One last thing: Groupons work for alcohol there, unlike here in Texas, so use ’em! You’re welcome. 😉

Happy Hour at Uchi

Let me try to think of something about Uchi that no one has ever blogged about before…

How about “social hour?” (their fancy name for happy hour.) Surely no one’s truly covered that before, right? Let’s do it! All things pictured in this post (so far we have the seared escolar and the shag roll, about $6 each), except for the nigiri, are part of the discount from 5-6:30 every day!

People in Austin say that Uchi is impossible to get into, and impossible to afford. Lies! Get there around 5, especially if it’s on “date night,” and cozy up at the sushi bar. You can get full for under $50. We did. And we each had hot sake for under $5.

Odds are, you live in Austin, and already know that everything served is going to be perfect and blow your mind. That is mostly true, with the exception of the crunchy/spicy tuna roll. We weren’t exactly dazzled.

The nigiri, chef’s choice, seemed to be one of the greatest deals. When you do the math of ordering piece by piece or letting the chefs pick out 7, you come out ahead.

The hama chili, which we often order in a slightly larger quantity and price at Uchiko, was possibly the highlight of our social hour adventure.

The takeaway is obvious: Uchi is an option, even if you’re not rolling in the dough! Have a nice date night, drink some $7 white wine, and keep it fancy.