Best Of :: Food & Drink
Whenever we take jaded locals to Jimmy's, which is across the street from Mai's and Hall's Hobby Shop (two more local landmarks), they're always shocked at the treats and treasures this place holds. They take it for granted that it's one more quickie convenience store, one more neighborhood stop-and-rob on an urban corner; they've driven by it a hundred times and never given it a second glance. It's their loss, and our job to correct their mistaken impressions: This place, owned and operated by fourth-generation Sicilians, is a veritable gastric paradise, a repository of exotica. One aisle overflows with olive oils from the homeland; another is drenched with fine Italian wines available at the nicest price. From capers to crackers, from coffee (Café Bustelo, that dark Miami nectar, is our favorite) to cheeses (including bufala mozzarella, the Tom Hicks of cheese), Jimmy's is your one-stop shopping for a day of nibbling or a night of culinary get-down. The nerve center of Jimmy's is its meat market, located at the back and packed to the brine with some of the finest olives, cheeses and meats in town (the prosciutto is primo). And it's back there they concoct the Cuban sandwich, a spicy mélange of pickles and pork, ham and Swiss cheese, mustard and butter (and, likely, so much more; one bite makes our taste buds do the masticatin' mambo). Call ahead--it takes a good 15 minutes to prepare this delicacy--but stop by and pick up one. Or five. At $4.99, it's a real bargain--the lunch that keeps on giving, if you know what we mean.
OK, so it's not exactly new in traditional restaurant parlance, which entails a new name, owner and cuisine. But York St., which has been around for a dozen years, sure tastes different. After purchasing York St. earlier this year, chef Sharon Hage cleaned it up, yanked out bolted-down clutter, whitewashed the walls, added some mirrors and created a new logo (the "Y" looks like a twig). But these are just minor adjustments compared with what she has done to the food. Hage's touch doesn't unleash dramatic cuisine, nor visually compelling cookery. What springs is a gathering of subtle flourishes that, taken in its entirety, pulses with both imaginative artistry and disciplined harmony. For example, Hage creates a horseradish broth in which to bathe her mussels. To this, she flecks the puddle with specks of smoky ham. Slightly weird, incredibly good. Strokes like this abound, from the lavender sea-salt rubbed chicken in foie gras potato sauce to the ivory salmon with wilted pea shoots. This place isn't for everyone. It has no see-and-be-seen appeal, and the sight lines kind of suck--even for a 42-seat cubicle. But if you revere food, there's no better place. One taste, and you'll be a York dork for life.
This is a damn good list almost by any measure. It incorporates virtually all of the world's best growing regions with ample stocks from places most wine lists ignore, such as Alsace and Germany. Plus, the list is packed with a great diversity of the world's best wines, those hailing from Bordeaux and Burgundy for instance. The selection of dessert wines is beefier than most lists after subtracting chardonnay and cabernet. Yet perhaps what sets Lola's list apart are the trimmings. It contains a robust selection of half-bottles, a generous by-the-glass list, plus an assortment of "twenty somethings," wines priced in the $20-$29 range. In fact, price may be the greatest feature of Lola's list. Markups are held down from the usual 3 to 4 times wholesale, so you'll have enough shekels left over to bribe the valet for a spin in a few of the exotic sports cars he's just parked.
Steak. Not just any steak. Bob's steak. USDA prime steak, steak as thick as the bull in a campaign speech. Ask anyone anywhere in Dallas (who doesn't believe his great-grandparent has come back as a steer) who has the best steak, and he'll reflexively spit out Bob's. The flavor is rich. The meat is juicy. Tough gristle has been evacuated. The texture is buttery. The degree of doneness is perfect. And if that weren't enough, Bob throws in a potato and a glazed carrot for no extra charge, though you might want to pay him to keep the latter off your table. Bob's steak knocked our socks off. It renewed our faith in God, or steers anyway. Bob is the bovine boss. And that ain't no mad cow bull.
First it was Going Gourmet. Then entrepreneur Suzie Priore took over and retagged it Suze. In the process of transforming it to her set of tastes, Priore brought former Toscana chef Gilbert Garza. Roughly 18 months later, Garza bought out Priore. He subjected the restaurant to relatively minor changes. Garza has even left the menu somewhat intact, keeping a handful of holdovers. The food is simple, meaning it isn't burdened with "look-at-me" ensembles or unruly clashings of obtuse flavors. Everything is intelligent, balanced and clean. And when you combine this with a snug homey atmosphere and reasonable prices, you've got a great takeover--all done without junk bonds and Brooks Brothers suits.
Chef Jason Gorman has done many wonderful things during his short time at the 16-year-old City Café. But among his finest is this: potato Stilton agnolotti (Piedmont-style ravioli) in herb truffle butter sauce. It's hard to overstate what a rich, balanced and focused culinary eruption this project becomes in the mouth. Arranged in a circle around the plate, the smooth pillows are delicate (almost like a pastry in character) but forceful, merging smoothly with the butter sauce. They're topped with diminutive cauliflower florets and baby carrots strafed with crumbles of Stilton cheese. The dish comes with a choice of grilled chicken breast or grilled shrimp. Yet the best thing about this dish is that it's also among the least expensive entrées at City Café, coming in at roughly 18 bucks. Which means it's a responsible way to gradually squander the kid's college fund, at least more responsible than prime steaks would be.