Tag Archives: Yelp

In Which I Allege Prime Meats Has No Clothes…Or is At Least Half-Naked…

I’ve been Yelping.

Mostly because I realized I have opinions about local restaurants and it’s silly not to share them…even though I remain terrified someone is going to call me out, a la the Lucky purse disaster on Consumerist. I guess this proves that despite all the book rejections that have come my way, I still haven’t developed very thick skin.

Nonetheless, I did a bold thing today: I posted a review of Prime Meats in which I alleged the restaurant is completely uninviting. Angry mobs may be assembling as we speak.

I’m not sure whether I’ll become a hard-core reviewer on Yelp — after all, there are so many places on the Internet where you can review things and provide your opinions…like, say, on Epicurious…and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to write it all.

But I also know a little cross-promotion can’t hurt…and am kind of proud of this review. There — I said it. (Which probably means it is terrible as that is usually the case whenever I like something I write.)

Nevertheless…for non-Yelpers, here’s my review:

I am going to make a bold statement. And I’m fairly certain it’s going to ruffle some feathers, but I’m going to say it anyway: I think, to a degree, Prime Meats — like the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale — has no clothes. Or it is at least half-naked.

The food is very good, to be sure. Prime Meats wouldn’t have garnered so much attention if that wasn’t the case.

I also think it was a bold move for the owners to focus on German cuisine – although perhaps therein lies their genius.

But somehow Prime Meats, despite its delicious food, doesn’t have the warm, inviting atmosphere of other restaurants of its caliber. That is not to say it is not aesthetically pleasing. But it is permeated by a sense of entitlement that belies the site’s humble history as a dry cleaning business.

On a recent weekday, one of the owners waltzed about with his French bulldog in hand with such an air of confidence, I wondered if he would actually get in trouble if a health inspector dropped by or if he could simply say, “Do you know who I am?” and get away with it.

I’ll repeat: The food is very, very good. You can get a fine steak here – and this is a neighborhood that cannot otherwise boast a good steakhouse.

But I think the fuss over this restaurant is partly psychological. In other words, I think part of the reason people rave about it is the same reason the head cheerleader and the quarterback of the football team are powerful in high school. It’s not necessarily because they’re good people…

Sam Sifton did an excellent job describing diners in his NYT review last May: “…brownstone bohemians, third novelists, people with Web sites, with good art at home.”

They are served by waiters in beards, skinny jeans and suspenders…or, as Sifton described them, “a crew of handsome men and women dressed as if ready to ride horses back home to Bushwick, where they trap beaver and make their own candles.”

I am admittedly a struggling writer with a degree that has so far not justified its pricetag…and perhaps if I had landed a job at the New York Times or Conde Nast, I would feel more welcome here. But I don’t. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a restaurant where I’ve felt so unwelcome.

I could perhaps understand if I was dressed inappropriately or was spewing profanities. But I wasn’t. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And I live very close. I walk by virtually every day. And yet when I decided to drop by to take advantage of an oyster special and the restaurant was unoccupied with the exception of one other party, it took 15 minutes for our drinks to come and yet another 15 more for the oysters to appear.

“I’m sorry, but the oyster guy is backed up,” our waiter explained as the table next to us received their second platter of oysters and we checked our watches.

We were eventually served and, as noted, the food was good. But at no point did I feel my business was wanted or that I would ever be compelled to return…unless I was suffering from acute hubris and needed my ego cut down to size by a staff eager to imply that I wasn’t good enough to eat there.

It’s not just me. I’ve heard stories from neighbors who were deemed unfit to mingle with the clientele and who were encouraged to sit at the bar or move along.

Take Frank Bruni on Twitter, for example. On January 5, he wrote, “At Prime Meats last nite, didn’t think: I’m in BROOKLYN!”

In his defense, he went on to say, “Didn’t mull geography. Just ate well at super place. The borough has plenty.”

But, at the same time, a Brooklyn prejudice seems terribly outdated and pompous…and somehow completely fitting for this restaurant that calls the borough its home.

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The Halloween Postmortem

I had kind of a hard time deciding what to do for Halloween this year. One friend was going to see Paranormal Activity…but I knew that was out. (Heath Ledger‘s turn as The Joker scared me more than I care to admit…so something that legitimately bills itself as a film that will scare the pants off of you is simply not something I can handle.)

And, you know, I wouldn’t be completely averse to staying at home and handing out candy to adorable trick-or-treaters…except that this is my fourth Halloween in this apartment and I’ve haven’t had any little ones knock on my  door on any of the previous Halloweens. (Although I think there were some trick-or-treaters in the early afternoon yesterday…but I wasn’t expecting them and didn’t have any candy [I mean, really — me in a house with a bag of mini Snickers? I wouldn’t be able to fit back through my freakishly small door…] and so I had to pretend I wasn’t home…which makes me very much a Grinch, doesn’t it?)

One of my classmates had told me about a party on the Upper West Side…but that’s SO FAR AWAY and I hate the Subway on Halloween pretty much more than anything else…and there was another party in Midtown, but I wasn’t actually sure if it was the best idea to show my face there. So, like I said, I didn’t know what to do.

Then, on Friday morning, I was walking to the train and knew the Bartender wouldn’t be at his bar because it was so early…and so I allowed myself to glance over at it…which is sort of a rare treat as I don’t normally give myself this luxury when there’s any chance he *could* be there…as seeing him — even from afar — still makes me sad. But, when I looked over, instead of just seeing the bar stools where I spent so many hours when we were first getting to know each other, I *also* saw a stupid sign in the window announcing their big Halloween bash that was going to include a — wait for it — “Sexy Costume Contest.” With prizes. And this just bugged me to no end. I mean, come on — a HUGE proportion of ladyhood already uses Halloween as an excuse to get tarted up…so it’s sort of one of those things that goes without saying, right? (And, okay, okay — fine. If it had said, “Sexy Costume Contest…with All Male Revue!” perhaps I wouldn’t have found it quite as objectionable…and maybe would have even been intrigued…and so perhaps this makes me a huge hypocrite. But, at the same time, women have been objectified since the dawn of time, so I really don’t see anything wrong with evening the score a bit now.)

And his boss is quite possibly the worst person ever — seriously. If I gave you the name of this place and you Googled it and saw the reviews on Yelp, you would know that lots and lots of people complain about him. I’m not just harboring a grudge…and so I am absolutely certain that this stupid contest was *his* idea and I am sure that every woman who works there was specifically told to dress slutty that night and might very well have a good lawsuit on her hands…and I am also sure that my sweet, funny Bartender was very excited about the whole thing…and I just had visions of him in a sea of boobs…and it, too, made me sad. (Although my friend K pointed out that it would be “a sea of trashy boobs,” to which I replied, “That’s right! Mine are waaay classy…” and I guess I can begrudgingly admit it’s a pretty good way to look at it.) It also conjured up a pretty funny cartoon visual with his face in the middle of a bunch of boobs…like diagrams of cells in a biology class, just less detailed. (I was tempted to actually draw it for you guys but felt maybe that would be taking things a *little* too far.)

And, I mean, whatever. Any chick who goes out on October 31 dressed as a French maid or a slutty nurse or a police officer in hot pants named “Sergeant Sexy” is basically the Anti-Lisa and if that is what the Bartender wants, then, well, he and I never ever had a chance. (I don’t actually think that Sergeant Sexy *is* what he wants…as, despite his best efforts to convince the world otherwise, he really has a lot of substance to him…but I also don’t understand why he “can’t.” So. Questions for the ages, I suppose.)

But the whole reason I am beating this (very dead) horse is to explain that I had some options and I knew I should do *something* as it would be infinitely better than staying at home and watching TBS in my pajamas with an ever-present visual of the Bartender’s cartoon face being squished by an avalanche of cartoon boobs. But I also, as noted, could not think of a fate worse than riding the Subway on Halloween…especially all the way to the Upper West Side.

But…when I vacillated, my friend convinced me I was being stupid and I agreed to go.

My friend was dressing as Balloon Boy (I provided the box! Thanks, Zappos!) and said I could join her group and dress as a news reporter or something, but…I didn’t want to jump on that bandwagon, so I spent some time thinking about what I could come up with that I already had around the house…and I decided on a pregnant Pam from The Office.

I actually had a lot of fun putting my costume together — getting one of the books from The Finer Things Club and making those post-its with smiley faces on them and printing out a brochure for Niagara Falls…– and, in the end, I’m glad I went to the party. One of the hosts was dressed as Julia Child and there was a lot of good Halloween-themed food. (Although most of the guys there didn’t really know who Julia Child was, which I thought was weird…but then my friend’s husband said he didn’t really know who she was either…just that she was some sort of cook. So. I guess Julia is a girl thing.)

And I found I actually really like being pretend pregnant. And I got a little self-righteous about it — like, there was a woman on the train who had her stuff spread out EVERYWHERE and we rode that way for a few stops and then I sort of gave her a dirty look and she finally asked me if I wanted to sit down and I (sort of) haughtily told her I was getting off at the next stop. And a man at the party with an actual pregnant wife asked me when I was due…so I feel like I was convincing. (One friend said later that she was disappointed I did not pretend to go into labor.)

There was a man there dressed as “Super Drunk,” as in, like, a superhero but drunkenness was his superpower…and I said he looked like one of our professors and my friend said it was the meanest thing I have ever said. Later, Super Drunk asked if I was really pregnant and when I said, “No,” he said we could go into another room and change that.

And…this guy dressed as Cookie Monster was giving me the hairy eyeball all night, so I finally — with some help from my friend — positioned myself in the living room with the guys watching the Yankees game so he had to talk to me. Totally nice guy — name’s Doug; works as a copywriter; was in a writers’ group with one of the actual pregnant ladies; dressed as Cookie Monster because his nephew really likes him…and there was a guy there who looked a lot like *another* classmate and *his* wife told Cookie Monster that it looked like he was playing with his balls when he took off his head and was holding it by the eyeballs at waist-level.

And so Cookie Monster and I eventually left together, but only walked half a block and he said, “Okay — bye!” and that was it. Didn’t even walk a pretend pregnant lady to the train OR ask for her number…although I guess that’s for the best as there won’t be any waiting by the phone now. A few people on the train back asked if I was really pregnant…I guess maybe because I’d be the worst mom-to-be ever if I was coming back at 2:00 in the morning after a night of partying with my unborn child. And then a group of guys boarded around 14th Street and said, “YOU LOOK LIKE PAM!” and I said, “I am!” and we bonded for a few stops.

And, you know, when I was getting ready last night, I had all these fantasies in my head about walking by the Bartender’s bar…and, you know, sometimes his boss is out front and sees me and sometimes we acknowledge each other and sometimes we don’t…and so I was dreaming up this scenario in which he saw me walk by pregnant and ran in and said to the Bartender, “Squeaks got knocked up!” and then the Bartender wouldn’t really be able to appreciate the sea of boobs as he’d spend the whole night wondering if it was his. But, no. That didn’t happen. I didn’t even make it past the bar. Instead, I thought I saw him smoking out front and freaked out and ran across the street. Like, RAN. So much for emotional maturity. And it didn’t even turn out to be him after all.

I didn’t really care when I was walking *home* though. That’s another thing…I wasn’t really pregnant, but…I felt weird about drinking. Part of it was that I was sort of in character — like with that lady who made me mad on the train because she didn’t get up to give me her seat — but part of it was also because I was afraid people would judge me. And all of these worries lasted 5 or 10 minutes, tops…so I’m sure it was liquid courage that helped me walk by, stomach out and head held high. So maybe he saw me then. Although, then again, I was REALLY pregnant. And he’s a smart guy. And he probably knows there’s no way I got *that* pregnant in eight weeks. So…so much for my revenge plot, I guess.

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The Great Pizza Fiasco of 2009, Entirely New Apples…and Binging Throughout Manhattan (and a Little Bit of Brooklyn, Too).

I haven’t been SO focused on self-improvement lately that food has slipped *entirely* through the cracks.

I have been meaning, for example, to blog about the Great Pizza Fiasco of K’s recent(-ish) trip. You see, she had never been to Grimaldi’s before…and if you’re someone who comes to New York from time to time — as K is (or was) known to do — it seems like the kind of place you need to go once. I took my oldest childhood friend on, like, a Tuesday in the middle of the afternoon and we were able to walk right in. So…I thought maybe if we got there *right* when it opened the line wouldn’t be too bad.

So…we arrived at 11:30. There was a *bit* of a line, but the restaurant was empty and I figured we’d be okay as long as we got in during the first wave (we had tickets to Billy Elliot at 2:00!). So…we waited. There were some folks carrying in boxes and whatnot…and I thought maybe they were running behind. And then a guy came out with a clipboard and walked down the line, asking how many people were in each party. I assumed that maybe the info on the Web site was wrong or that I had misread it and the place didn’t open until 12:00. We waited patiently — it was, after all, almost noon by then — and then, what do you know? A giant tour bus pulled up right in front…and I thought, “No! This isn’t happening!” And yet it did. An entire tour bus full of people walked right in. And that was it…we only had an hour until we had to leave…so instead, on our way back to the trusty F train, we stopped in the Dumbo General Store (which I was later told is Hecho en Dumbo at night…and is totally a restaurant I have been meaning to try FOREVER).

So, it all worked out in the end and everything, but…I don’t know, Grimaldi’s. Seems like maybe we’re getting a little big for our britches, no? Especially since it isn’t exactly the ONLY place you can get good pizza in this town. So…trying to prove that very point, I tried to take K to Lucali the following night…but, dammit, there was a power outage and they were closed. So. K did not get pizza in New York. We *did*, however, have hot dogs outside the West Side Story theater, appetizers and mojitos with orange girlie doodads at Havana Central (also a tiny little nod to our mutual alma mater…), burritos at my favorite burrito place IN THE WORLD (I can’t believe some of those Yelp reviews. I love this place and I *hate* California Taqueria…so clearly Abigail S. and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the Burrito Fence…in fact, I think the guacamole there is maybe the best part…and the Gourmet burrito makes me pretty much happier than anything else. And why do you *have* to have rice and beans in your burrito, Daniel G.? I don’t get it. If I was a braver person, I’d register and write my own review. Perhaps that will come later in my quest for Sandra Bullock Clarity), and, finally — one of the places K actually wanted to go! — Tom Colicchio’s ‘wichcraft. (Another food connection? She bought me a lewd apron for my birthday. How about that?)

The following weekend I made my way to — gasp! — New Jersey to visit another K. And I was actually pretty shocked that I only had to ride New Jersey Transit for 70 minutes, but felt like I was leaving the city far, far behind. (I was also a little bit in love with the child sitting in front of me who kept calling every body of water he saw “the ocean.”) K II lives in a very bright and airy apartment on the Princeton campus (or pretty darn close) and there are lots of trees and birds and bugs. And we went apple-picking! I was not able to get my standard pie apples, but I’m not so much of a stickler that I wasn’t willing to branch out with three new varieties. I *wish* I could remember all three, but one was definitely Macoun. And…as K II took me to a charming kitchen store in the heart of Princeton (that had a revolving cake platter that plays “Happy Birthday!”) and bought mini tart pans (that’s the difference between the two of us — my tart pan is HUGE), I was totally inspired to make an apple tart of my own. (The recipe I like most on Epicurious, however, calls for cardamom and I did not see any at my local grocery store…but Trader Joe’s in the middle of the day in the middle of the week has sort of become my new favorite place to be…and Joe should have cardamom, right?) She was *also* talking about how much she likes donuts…and she was searching for a baked good to claim as her “thing” and I really, really wanted to be able to find a recipe for baked donuts that would blow her away (she was reluctant to embrace donuts because of all the frying)…but, sadly, I didn’t see anything good in any of my cookbooks (Martha has an interesting one for pumpkin cornmeal donuts…but they, like virtually every other donut in creation, are fried)…although a quick Google search pulled up *these* baked donuts…although they are also quick to note that it’s an entirely different taste sensation. If I was a more industrious blogger, I’d try these recipes out and come back with some original reporting. Which I suppose is *maybe* still a possibility, but…

…the traveling doesn’t stop there! My mother is flying in tomorrow…and we have big plans to eat a lot: Mesa Grill, Grand Central Oyster Bar, The Spotted Pig, Buttermilk Channel…and I don’t know what else. Shake Shack? Blue Smoke? Artichoke? I am sort of the proverbial kid in a candy store here as I pick out all these amazing places I would never go if it was just me.

But, wait! There’s more! Big J and I booked our tickets to Costa Rica today! We leave on November 12. And my guidebook is patiently waiting for me at the Red Hook post office. And surely there will be *something* food-related for me to blog about between now and then. (I am tempted to sign this, “Besos! LL.” But shall refrain.)

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