Ask the Critic: UWS Date Spots, Franklin Avenue and Crown Heights
Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is contributing writer, former managing and SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!
This week on Ask the Critic, we're chatting about date night spots on the Upper West Side and good eats on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights.
Date on the Upper West
Taking a date to the Upper West Side and I'm unfamiliar with the area. It's a second date so I would like to impress without breaking the bank. Is this even possible to expect of a restaurant on the UWS?
Well, "breaking the bank" and "impress" mean different things to different people. Is breaking the bank mean over $100/head, or much less than that? Is "impressive" high-end or just great food? And how much do amenities like a great wine list or polished service factor in?
With those questions in mind, a few options.
For a casual no-frills Italian trattoria, there's Celeste, with a full roster of Italian pastas and pizzas that rarely crack $20. It's a lively, cozy place where you can over-order wine and dessert and still not ring up a huge bill. Or for a fun and friendly sit-down Mexican spot, well-intentioned, homey, and very affordable, consider Cocina Economica Mexico, where New York editor Max Falkowitz declared that "it's easy to have a great time here." Don't miss the chorizo and meatball fondue or the braised pork shoulder. For Greek, there's the ever-reliable Kefi, with generous portions and friendly staff. [Kefi is closed currently due to building issues, but plans to reopen, and we'll be back! —Ed.]
And if you're looking for higher-end, but not Per Se or Le Bernardin high-end, Telepan is an elegant restaurant that's affordable for the fine dining quality of its menu, wine, and service. Order a la carte or as a $69 four-course tasting menu—again, not chump change, but for such a refined restaurant, a real value.
Moving to Crown Heights
Hiya Critic—I'm moving to Crown Heights soon (just off Franklin Avenue, south of Atlantic) and I've heard there's good eats in that area. What's worth knowing about?
When I moved to Prospect Heights five years ago, Vanderbilt Avenue had a sprinkling of cafés and bars, but then exploded into a restaurant row. Washington Avenue was next, and now we're seeing Franklin Avenue get the same treatment. True story: I walked into a wine shop in Bed-Stuy a week ago and the owner was chatting with his friend about whether he should open a falafel shop on Franklin Ave. "Falafel, really?" the friend said. "Would anyone eat falafel there?" I couldn't help but respond with an emphatic, unsolicited YES. Falafel would fit right in.
As to what's there now: Mayfield has been one of the restaurants I've recommended most often this year. It's a solid, unpretentious restaurant with a great bar, friendly service, and the kind of food I find downright craveable: fried quail with spoonbread, fried oysters, corned tongue. (Yes, I realize not everyone craves corned tongue.) And it's open for brunch, open late-night, even on weekdays and Sundays. There's Rosco's Pizza, a slice joint that looks like it's been there for decades but is only a year old; it's got wine on tap and a serious attention to quality. For coffee, go a block west to Glass Shop. Back on Franklin, there's Chavela's, which reminds me of the kind of Mexican restaurants I grew up with in Northern California: nothing too elaborate, but colorful, cheery, inexpensive, and tasty across the board. I've heard great things about Gueros tacos but haven't been myself.
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