Handcraft Kitchen. 367 3rd Ave. New York

Mother’s Day Brunch here (moms eat for free!) was a treat: Eggs Benny Ranchero ($16) with pulled pork, polenta, guac, pico de gallo and chipotle hollandaise was delicious, and the French Toast ($15) made with a bourbon maple glaze and berry compote was one of the best I’ve had in the city. Great service and many cocktails to choose from, featuring mezcal, vodka, and gin, make this an attractive venue in one of the city’s quieter neighborhoods.

Subway: 28th St (6), E 23rd St. (R, W)

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The 40/40 Club. W 25th St. New York

I have now been to this branch of Jay-Z’s sports bar chain almost a dozen times, and though it may lack diners’n’drinkers on weeknights, the food is always good; not great, nor inventive, but solidly good. The crab cakes ($15) are rich, with a creamy jalapeño ranch to add to the weight of it all, and the shrimp, artichoke and spinach dip ($15) is definitely for sharing. The Wilted Kale Salad ($13) is a punchy combo of fruits and walnuts, with a red wine reduction that adds real depth. The Braised Beef Short Rib ($23) is the best entrée, with whipped potatoes, black truffle salsa and a veg of the day, though special mention must be made of the Colossal Shrimp ($26), served over angel-hair pasta in a white wine reduction.

Drinks are awful though, unless you get one of the Martinis (the Dragonfly is decent but sweet). D’Ussé cognac (also Jay-z’s brand) is used in many of the more attractive mixes, including a ‘Bold’n’ Stormy which just doesn’t hit the mark.

Service is uneven, and though they take great pride in the place and the clientele that came here in the late aughts, it just ain’t what a lot of people expect; glamorous it certainly isn’t, especially when it’s often so empty.

$$$

Subway: E 23rd St. (R,W)

Belle Shoals. 10 Hope St. Brooklyn. NYC. 

It wasn’t very busy on the last Friday night of last year, but this bar doesn’t really get going until midnight. Food is average – the house burger is a solid bet for only $10 – but the cocktails are excellent refreshing concoctions, tailored to your preferences. Service really puts this bar above most others in Williamsburg. 

$$

Bedford Ave (L)

Masa y Agave. Under Rosa Mexicano. 41 Murray St. NYC

Tequila/Mezcal passports from the folks at Good Passport brought us here, and once the staff figured out what it was all about, they treated us like kings; before that we were mere coupon-crunchies. So we obviously had an interest in the agave spirit, and we were talked through the combinations used in our cocktails by the mescaliers: the Tamarind (Fidencio Clásico mezcal, tamarind, canela agave and lime) and the Mezcal-isco (Pelotón de la Muerte mezcal, Espolón reposado tequila, lime, agave nectar and orange). Both drinks had definite bite to them, but were well concocted. Even the happy hour specials – the house marg and the frozen pomegranate marg ($8) – were excellent cocktails. Two tacos or a quesadilla can be bought for only $6, and the Alambre de Carne of the former, and Res of the latter, are both sound choices. The bar is packed from 5.30pm for obvious reasons, but it clears out a little when happy hour fades from view. Lighting is low and noise levels can be high, but it’s a great little spot for dates and groups if you get in early and stake your space.

$$
Subway: Chambers St

Cull & Pistol. Chelsea Market. NYC 

A ‘cull’ is a lobster with one of its claws broken off, a ‘pistol’ its pitiful clawless crustacean buddy – I didn’t know this until I had seen the paintings in their bathroom (a great way of avoiding the inevitable public bathroom lines in Chelsea market) on my third visit there. Happy hour is tremendous here – all oysters and clams are a dollar each and there are chowder, tacos and drinks specials. Naragansett pints ($4) and Sauvignon Blancs ($7) will make you want to stay longer, while the Pistols on Horseback (fried oyster wrapped in Jamon Serrano on a ramp crepe with smoked aioli: $7 for 2) might tip your bill over into triple digits. Service is a little harried but you can hardly blame them. Expect long waits from 4-6pm. 

$$$

Subway: 8th Ave (L)

  

Nancy Whiskey Pub. 1 Lispenard St. TriBeCa. NYC.

Shuffleboard and a quick snack brought us here, and the crabcake
basket with fries was perfectly serviceable. This place has a lot of regulars and a resilient history as the dive bar that stayed open after 9/11 and high rents. The choice of cheap draft beers is pretty dire though, and for a ‘whiskey pub’ there’s a very small choice of bourbon, rye and scotch – no more than ten bottles in total, in fact. The owner is a real character though, seemingly intox’d all day long, and there is a down-at-heel pop-in-n-out vibe here, with a sweet little smoking patio in the front; perfect for a quick drink before walking the few steps into the subway. Also popular with off-duty cops and harmless freaks.

$
Subway: Canal St. (A,C,E,1)

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‘Disiac Lounge. 402 W 54th St. NYC

As in ‘aphrodisiac’, because they really do push the sensual descriptions and indulgent ingredients of all the cocktails and some of the food too; just be thankful they didn’t name the place ‘Afrodisiac’ as it does technically go under the description of a Moroccan bar. It was very busy on a late spring Sunday afternoon with a varied crowd, mixing the moody with the energetic.
We tried a pitcher of the Tantric Red Sangria, a Dark’n’stormy and a Seductive Storm (Makers Mark, ginger beer, green tea and sweet vermouth): all were excellent. Guacamole and humus plates were also tasty but took an eternity to emerge from a kitchen that was apparently ‘really backed up’ according to the sweet, apologetic staff that deducted an arbitrary $5 from the final bill. Unpretentious and friendly, it’s such a cute little patio in a part of town not full of these sorts of places, so we will be back.

$$
Subway: 50th St/ 59th St

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