This week Pete Wells awards one star to the Shake Shack chain, noting that at its best the Shack Burger is a wonderful thing indeed but that the restaurant group is plagued by inconsistencies. He loves the shakes, adores the hot dogs. And the burgers: "How the burger could change lives I never divined, but on occasion it was magnificent, as beefy and flavorful as the outer quarter-inch of a Peter Luger porterhouse. More often, though, the meat was cooked to the color of wet newsprint, inside and out, and salted so meekly that eating it was as satisfying as hearing a friend talk about a burger his cousin ate."
And, because why not, he eats at seven other comparable burger joints "traveling with a half-eaten Shake Shack burger in my pocket for reference purposes" and posts his results here. The takeaway: go to Steak 'n' Shake.
Ryan Sutton mostly likes the eccentric Brooklyn restaurant Isa: "It’s the right pairing for the splendid duck breast ($29). The bird, with soft, silky fat, comes with fluffy celeriac puree, candy-like baby beets and black trumpet mushroom powder with cocoa nibs that the menu coyly calls “dirt.” This is robust, northern, almost Nordic fare, courtesy of chef Ignacio Mattos." [Bloomberg]
Gael Greene is relieved to have a restaurant like the newly opened Alison Eighteen: "At last, a restaurant for grownups, Alison Eighteen, casual but proper, respectful of threatened values, like enough light to read the menu and a noise-muffling ambience that encourages talk, even flirtation...And the well-mannered contemporary flavors coming from chef Robert Gurvich in the kitchen are reassuring too." [IC]
Lauren Shockey loves the Caffe Storico space and is won over by the food, despite the high prices and small portions: "One of the best starters happens to be the most expensive: a $16 portion of lightly fried, intensely sweet langoustines, served with tart pink grapefruit and ricotta. But worth every penny...Note that these plates are truly portioned for nibblers." [VV]
THE ELSEWHERE: Coffee geek Oliver Strand is charmed by the first U.S. location of giant Korean coffee chain Caffebene in Times Square, Pete Wells encountered some early signs of promise and was then majorly let down at Nate Smith's Allswell, and Robert Sietsema tries Crown Heights' fancy new pizza parlor Barboncino.
THE BLOGS: Serious Eats awards an A to Jin a "destination-worthy" ramen joint in West Harlem, Gotham Gal says Empellon Taqueria is no Mexico City but it's pretty damn good, Chekmark Eats loves Sons of Essex despite the spotty service, Robert Sietsema is blown away by the chorizo burger at Mercado on Kent, Feisty Foodie recommends going for the burnt ends at John Brown Smokehouse in LIC, Immaculate Infatuation writes that The Cardinal in the East Village does right by its North Carolina roots but isn't worth a special trip, Eat Big Apple thinks that if you can look past the fact that you're in a Times Square Hotel, Lantern's Keep is a great place for a cocktail, and NY Journal has some promising starters and some not so great follow ups at Empellon Cocina.