October 28, 2008

The Usual

Jennifer and I came upon The Usual on the way to go running in Prospect Park (no--we didn't eat instead of run), and made note for brunch. We returned later with big appetites, and found a table for two right away.

The atmosphere is casual, but doesn't have squeaky plastic booths but rather cafe style seating. The menu is pretty classic diner, though, with lots of options. We did what we do best in brunch situations: ordered something sweet, ordered something savory, and split them between us. Above you see the waffle with strawberries, and below an omelet with turkey sausage, onion and cheese with home fries and toast. Prices are standard, our bill came to about $19 with all this and hot tea.

The waffle wasn't unusual or over-the-top, but well done. It was crisp on the outside, pillowy and chewy on the inside, and the strawberries were fresh. The omelet was also good, not as fluffy as it could be, but good with a good portion of tasty toppings mixed in. The homefries weren't my favorite-- I like them crispy-- but not bad, either. The portions were appropriate, especially since we were so hungry. We ate it all, but were full afterwards. All-in-all it was a solid brunch.

I would recommend this place as a solid brunch spot in Prospect Heights if you live in or are visiting the area. Nothing spectacular, but still pretty delicious and sometimes nothing will do but some eggs and a waffle. Nice place to reverse your calorie burn after a run. -Laurel

Yes, we ran. I was unbelievably proud of myself. We decided in that run to start training for mini-marathons. Since that day, Laurel has continued to run, and I've...not. But here I pledge myself to start running for realz.

Ok, now that that's out of the way. Exercise really does burn calories to give way to starvation, and while The Usual isn't that mind blowing, the food is definitely filling, tasty and cheap. Our waffle was sweet and flaky, just like a belgian waffle should be, and the omelet wasn't spectacular, but the sausage inside was the perfect counterpart to the onions and cheese. And unlike my dining companion, I love home fries soft or crispy or pretty much any way (I love potatoes), but these potatoes lacked a certain pizazz. Nothing ketchup and salt won't solve, but my favorite homefries are those that don't need any extras.

The Usual is cute inside, and while the place is very diner-y menu wise, but it's more reminiscent of a down home local family joint, rather than the diner from Seinfeld, which had more of a ... dirty feel (is it just me that thinks that?)

Either way - if you're ever around going for a run, you should stop by. Or if you live somewhere close, you should make it your place to hang. Or if you have to pee, you should check out the tiny bathroom. - Jennifer

Address: 637 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn

Website: http://www.menupages.com/restaurantdetails.asp?areaid=0&restaurantid=41632&neighborhoodid=0&cuisineid=31&home=Y

Payment: Cash, Cards

Take Out: Yes

Delivery: Yes

Open Late: No

Bar/Happy Hour: No

October 19, 2008

Dogmatic Gourmet Sausage System

Dogmatic Gourmet Sausage System.. quite a mouthful isn't it? (pun intended) This newly opened storefront, lovingly referred to as simply Dogmatic, was formerly a street cart I'm ashamed to say I never visited. The new space is located right off of Union Square and is small and modern. The storefront is all glass, and the seating consists of a communal table in the middle with pull-out attached stools, and some seating on one side up against the wall (not big group friendly). When David and I went on a Thursday night they weren't busy, and we had no problem finding seats and our food came out pretty quickly.

The concept is fresh, locally made sausages (chicken, pork, beef, turkey) in little baguettes with your choice of "topping." They skewer the baguettes on these hot pokers, squirt in your sauce, and slide in the sausage-- and ta da! a fancy hot dog. The small-ish menu includes these variations of sausages, several fillings (see below, plus some), chips, ice cream, and various handmade sodas.

I ordered a turkey sausage with chimichurri sauce, David ordered a pork sausage with horseradish mustard, and we ordered an asparagus (as the menu says, "not a sausage") with truffle gruyere to share (each $4.50), along with a homemade grape soda ($2.50). The turkey sausage was tasty, but somewhat overpowered by the chimichurri.. albeit the chimichurri was yummy and fresh-tasting, if you like that sort of thing. The baguette was crusty and very good. I had a bite of David's, but mostly got the mustard--which was good, but there was too much of it. The asparagas was lightly grilled, but the star was the truffle gruyere sauce. The soda was creamy and, honestly, a little medicinal tasting. I kind of liked it, but David wasn't a big fan.

My advice is to try it if: you like sausage (shame on you if you are a meat eater and you don't), you like baguettes, and you don't mind paying $4.50 a pop for some good quality. One isn't quite enough, so if you're ravenous go for two, if you're with someone share a second one, or order some chips or ice cream to accompany. And please, try the truffle gruyere, but word to the wise: let it sit a moment, and eat with caution. Hot cheese may come shooting out when you least expect it! -Laurel

26 E 17th St (near Union Square)

Website: http://eatdogmatic.com/

Payment: cash or credit

Take Out: yes

Delivery: don't think so

Open Late: I'm not sure and I can't find it anywhere online. Sorry folks, I've failed you

Bar/Happy Hour:
No alcohol, just homemade sodas.

October 10, 2008

Angelo's Pizza (with guest reviewer Matt Litman)

First things first. Take serious look at that pizza and tell me it's not good. They don't call it fat people porn for nothing.

When you're looking for good pizza I think geography must play a factor. If you're from Chicago you will favor the deep dish. New Yorkers like their "New York" style pizza, and if you're lucky and from Italy, thin crust and fresh ingredients conquer all. If you're from Knoxville and stuck with the unlucky decision between the $5-$5-$5 deal from Domino's or Papa Johns drowned in a butter dipping sauce then I guess anything that signifies New York will do just fine. Midtown New York normally does not get much in the way of recognition when it comes to pizza, but two relative powerhouses still remain - John's and Angelo's.

Friday we took a visiting co-worker from Knoxville out to Angelo's - Better known as the coal-oven joint famously attached to the hip of Letterman's Studio on Broadway. Today's Angelo's is probably a far cry from what put it "on the map" but it still a pretty good pie. Between 5 of us we got two large pies, one pepperoni and one sausage...sometimes it's good to eat with a bunch of porkaholics. For the first couple bites you'll need a fork and knife to deal with initial entry thanks to the piping hot delivery, stringy cheese and flimsy pointed end. After that, put down the fork and knife and dig in.

Angelo's is a good pizza. It's one of those pies that you can relate to the good old college days in the sense that you were drunk and before you know it you've just housed the entire $5 large pie. The difference this time is that you're older, sober and the pie costs $17.50. The will to eat the whole thing is still there.

Now, for what we all came here for - From order to delivery took about 15 to 20 minutes. From delivery to leaving nothing in sight takes another 5 minutes. The sauce is mild and the cheese is fresh, but not over powering...just enough to leave that much anticipated string from the pan to the plate. All this gives way to what I thought was the surprise of the pie itself - the sweet and soft crust. It's not too thick and not too thin...like Naan bread compared to a tortilla wrap or pita. The crumbled sweet Italian sausage was spot on, but sparing. The little pepperoni discs were great as well and they were a little more liberal with their application leaving for another greasy pie. All in all, I'd go back. And if it were a rainy day, I'd order in. -Matt

I can't say I have all that much to add to Matt's thorough review [his views on overweight individuals' sexual preferences are not necessarily those of the blog], but let me lay it out plain and simple. It's coal oven, which is a good thing. The pizza is good--not the very best I've ever had, but nothing to shake your head at. Definitely satisfies that pizza craving, and the prices are on par with Lombardi's and Grimaldi's (kinda high, but the norm for coal oven). It's in midtown, a quality pizza wasteland. And they have tons of seating, which is always rare around these parts.

We went around 1:30 and were immediately seated. Service was prompt and our pizza came out quick and hot. Two large pizzas was just right for five hungrys, and we all left happy, albeit without any Letterman spottings. I'd recommend this place if you're looking for coal oven pizza in midtown and don't mind paying the price. The crowd is mostly tourists, but it's still especially good if you have a group! -Laurel
Address: 1697 Broadway near 54th St (with two other locations)

Payment: Cash & Cards

Take Out: Yes

Delivery: Yes

Open Late: Midnight on the weekend

Large Group Friendly: Yes

Bar/Happy Hour: Yes
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