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Eaters’ Journal 9/10/16: Cava Grill, Bar Six, Paowalla, and More

Field notes from Eater editors about recent meals around New York City

Bar Six: This 25-year-old French bistro was founded in the early 90s when bistros were on the decline in these parts. But it looks much older, with its humongous framed mirrors, red circumferential leather banquettes, and walls that might have been stained yellow by generations of cigarette smoke. That’s because the deep dark premises on the northern verge of the Village was once an earlier bistro known as La Gauloise (presumably referring to the brand of cigarettes), and the décor was kept pretty much intact. Ditto with its close neighbor of equivalent vintage, Café Loup.

In addition to classic bistro fare (onion soup, moules frites, nicoise salad, sauteed skate), the menu has a sub-specialty of Moroccan food. There’s a very nice chicken tajine with almonds and pumpkin, the phyllo pie called bisteeya, and a trio of flatbread dips that functions as the perfect shared app. I visited one balmy evening with a friend for the first time in five years, and am somewhat sheepish to admit: I went for the outsize hamburger and fries, which is one of the juiciest in the Village. While it is neither French nor Moroccan, it’s damn good. — Robert Sietsema

Paowalla: Spring Street remains one of the best places for stylish people watching in the city, and a seat on the small patio of Paowalla was perfect for the occasion. It’s a charming space, with very charming plates and other dishes. I’d heard the breads are the stand-outs, and indeed, a Tibetan steamed bun called tingmo was the best thing we ate. It was similar to the Chinese mantou my mom makes at home, except lighter, fluffier, tackier, and overall, kind of better. (Big compliment; my mother is an excellent cook.) Many of the other dishes we ordered — cucumbers, patia, squid ink vermecelli — were interesting, though lacking in the addictive quality of the tingmo. I also gave up all hope of fitting in among Soho’s models and gnawed at a corn-on-the-cob side dish with relish. This was the only non-tingmo item I would order again. It was like an Indian version of a Mexican elote, except without the butter and mayo. My teeth suffered, but my stomach was very happy. Serena Dai

South Edison: When the shitshow that was Surf Lodge opened back in 2008 – and I can confirm it was indeed a shitshow – a lot of level headed people started to seriously wonder about the future of Montauk and whether it was being Hamptonized, so to speak. If Hamptonization means turning this quieter, (slightly) more blue collar town on the eastern tip of Long Island into a nonstop party for overprivileged 20-somethings, I’m happy to say that, nearly 10 years later, that hasn’t happened — Montauk has kept its quaint soul. Mostly. But if Hamptonization means things are more expensive out here than they should be, then well, we might have a problem.

So it’s under this subtext that I ended up at South Edison in Montauk, which was jam packed at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night, off season. The other option was the newer Grey Lady, but that quickly became a non-option when they told me the lobster roll was $36 (compared with $18 at Red Hook Lobster Pound in Brooklyn). No lobster rolls at South Edison, just solid, not too fussy maritime fare: raw clams on ice, cold beers, raw fluke with chiles, gently fried rock shrimp, tender octopus tacos, seared scallops with lollipop kale (sigh), swordfish with coconut fava bean hummus (ugh), and local oysters for $3.75 apiece (wait, what?). Okay, fair enough, maybe this is fussy fare, and overpriced fare, but it all tasted pretty great. Then the bill comes. After tax and tip for three: just under $300. It ain’t right, and the worst part of all is this cold hard fact: I’m looking forward to returning. Maybe the Manhattanization of Montauk is the better term??? — Ryan Sutton

Achilles Heel: The Sunday night-only hell chicken is one of the most-buzzed about dishes of the year and I was dying to try it. My seven-month-old son was not in love with the boisterous vibe of Andrew Tarlow’s excellent little Greenpoint bar, and 10 minutes after our order was placed, we realized that we should probably scram before we ruined the party. The staff here was kind enough to box up our order before it hit the table. I fully realize that the convivial Sunday afternoon backyard cookout vibe is a big part of the hell chicken experience. But this bird was damn good right out of the box, and the big, flat crispy rice cake was equally tasty. — Greg Morabito

Cava Grill: When my boyfriend and I couldn’t get a table at TsuruTonTan, we walked down to another first New York outpost of a chain, Cava Grill. The DC-based Mediterranean fast casual restaurant is basically like a Sweetgreen, or a Chipotle, or any other quick service restaurant where you wait in line and custom pick your ingredients. They have no preset suggestions for what you should do, so in my decision paralysis, I immediately became one of those idiots who sounds like they’ve never been to a restaurant before. "Is the pita or the bowl better…?" I asked the employee. "Um….depends on whether you want a sandwich or a salad?" he responded. You’re right, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.

Anyway, I got a rice and salad bowl with chicken, which came with three dips (hummus, eggplant, etc) and a dressing. It was a humongous portion and was basically a big pile of mushed flavors like any other salad or bowl, though Cava Grill has managed to make chicken that doesn’t taste and feel like garbage — somehow a rarity for salad chains. The whole thing was filling and healthy and really quite delicious, and I am sure they will do very well here with lunch crowds.Serena Dai

Top photo: The bar at Paowalla by Nick Solares

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