Editor's note: In "Apps Only," Ben Fishner will be eating his way through New York's appetizer, bar, and lounge menus as your guide to fine dining on a budget.
We've done Apps Only in Brooklyn, and we've done it downtown. But can it be done in Midtown? That was the question as a friend and I entered Bar Americain, Bobby Flay's New American style brasserie. When we arrived in the after-work rush, men and women in business attire crowded the bar, so we settled into a table.
When we sat down, our waiter brought over a bread basket with a few types of bread as well as some soft, cheesy finger-shaped pieces of cornbread that were absolutely delicious—one of the best things we ate.
This being Midtown, the appetizer menu at Bar Americain is not exactly filled with bargains. We started with the Grilled Pizza ($16), a super thin crust topped with cheese, big chunks of double-cooked bacon, carmelized onions and toasted garlic. Plenty tasty, but the price tag was a bit steep, and if it hadn't been for the bacon, it would have been unremarkable.
In addition to the pizza, we ordered the Hot Potato Chips ($9), a bowl of fresh cut potato chips served with blue cheese sauce. The sauce was delicious, but nine bucks at this restaurant does not buy you many chips. While they were perfectly crispy, we were wondering why they were advertised as "hot" while not possessing a single iota of heat.
Still feeling a bit peckish after our first two snacks, we decided to try the Gulf Shrimp and Grits ($16), a bowl of cheesy, buttery grits dotted with bits of bacon and topped with about 5 small gulf shrimp. Again, the portion size was modest, but this was a very rich and filling dish, rounding out the meal. The shrimp were delicious and perfectly cooked but unfortunately the grits were too salty for my taste, overpowering the other flavors.
The food we ate at Bar Americain was good but not particularly memorable. We spent $41 before tax and tip for the two of us, so we ended up over the target price of $15 per person before tax and tip. With Bar Americain's Midtown prices, directed more towards expense accounts and out-of-towners than thrifty foodies, there are better options in the city if you're looking to eat on the Apps Only plan.
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