Category: Reviewed Restaurants


so-it-appears

So It Appears

Sure, New York City has lots of glitz and glam. Huge buildings and iconic attractions are among its characteristics, but NYC wouldn’t be what it is today, without its dreamers; those who take a chance to pursue their passions with reckless abandon – or those who live by ‘YOLO’ (You Only Live Once). For generations, New York has been built by go-getters and is full of those seeking their ultimate ‘American Dream.’

The same aspirations are true for Frankie Rodriguez and Alyssa Sartor, owners of August Laura, in Brooklyn. Bartending more than 20 years combined in New York City, the couple was blessed to open their ‘dream,’ befittingly located four blocks from where Alyssa’s grandfather (an Italian immigrant) grew up. Paying homage to her grandfather, the living room style bar has been named after him. The deep familial ties are undeniable at August Laura. Family pictures and home-goods are tastefully placed around the room, creating a cozy nightcap for all guests.

Tipples are elegant, intriguing, and satisfying, at the warm neighborhood cocktail bar. Each highlight the individual ingredients whether sweet, bitter, or savory and progress thoughtfully in spirit strength. The signature and nostalgic Amaretto Sour is seriously addictive. Alyssa’s recipe uses egg white and flavorful Nocino walnut liqueur, which adds sophistication and a seductive, creamy element to each sip. Shaved nutmeg heightens the senses and is the perfect garnish for the luscious drink.

The dedicated staff at August Laura pours sippers for patrons nightly, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, while listing to stellar playlists such as Sam Smith, 90s rap, and even a live jazz duo (every Wednesday night).

In its premier year, August Laura is making its imprint because Alyssa and Frankie dared to dream. Each time a customer enjoys their drink of choice, in essence, he or she raises a glass to couple’s surreal American Dream.

Want to know more about August Laura? Check the interview and how to make the buzz-worthy Amaretto Sour on POUR.

August Laura

387 Court Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

Tidbits:

Jazz on Wednesday evenings

Pop-up Weekend Brunch: Dovecote at August Laura – Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 3 pm (featuring La Colombe coffee, coffee cocktails, and local bakery goods)

llama-innA truly international and rustic cuisine, Peruvian food deserves more acclaim than it receives. Serving up a melting pot of cultural influences including Spanish, African and Incan, yield iconic dishes like ceviche and Escabache de Pescado (fried fish with onion sauce). Peruvian dishes often have bold, complex and vibrant flavor, incorporating ingredients like aji chili and sweet lucuma (a native fruit).

Flavors such as these are proudly served at Brooklyn’s Llama Inn. Don’t let its hipster vibe fool you – the ‘Llama Drama’ (referring to the buzzing atmosphere) is serious about delicious authentic eats, reflecting Chef Erik Ramirez’ favorite nostalgic meals. Chef Ramirez and his staff have done a wonderful job turning a social haven into a full-scale, epicurean, must-visit. One of the stand-out dishes is the Beef Tenderloin Stir Fry. This visually stunning dish matches its aesthetics in taste as it is a beautiful mountain of sliced tenderloin topped with red onion, rocoto (hot chili pepper)  and French fries served with a side of avocado and scallion pancakes. The succulent beef is bathed in a luscious soy sauce, perfect for dipping fries or drizzled on a pancake burrito.

It’s difficult to go wrong at the Inn with so many exceptional selections including the refined octopus or spicy pork belly anticuchos (skewered meat). Whether a novice to Peru’s succulent fare or a native, Llama Inn is an unforgettable experience transporting diners’ taste buds to the motherland itself.
Hungry for more? Click here to watch the ‘Llama Drama’ in action on POUR featuring Llama Inn’s iconic Flying Purple Pisco cocktail.

Llama Inn

50 Withers Street

Brooklyn, NY 11211

718-387-3434

Tidbits:

Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 3:30 pm

Rooftop bar and dining space

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Family Jewels Pizza

If you live in the vicinity of Brooklyn’s eclectic Bushwick neighborhood, or even voyage over the water from Manhattan (gasp!) you know ‘Roberta’s’ and heavenly ‘pizza’ are synonymous. This beloved Brooklyn pizza is as popular as New York City’s legendary bagels. So light and incredibly flavorful, the dough stands up to heavy-hitting ingredients.

Known for its relaxed, funky ambiance that serves up decadent ingredients like Italian caciocavallo cheese and delicious spek, Roberta’s is a favorite of locals and beyond. Surrounded  by refurbished, trendy warehouses, vintage clothing boutiques, and local watering holes, this hotspot contends with the most favored pizzerias in New York City.

The thoughtful selection of wine, cocktails and beer are well-rounded and have an emphasis on supporting local vendors. One such beverage, the Wölffer Rosé Cider from Long Island, is an exquisite cider made in the style of Rosé wine. Tip:this bubbly bev. beautifully complements the Duck Prosciutto appetizer.The unique prosciutto interpretation of using duck compared to traditional ham is brilliant and is deliciously paired with the cider.

Any cured meat begs for bread and Roberta’s perfectly baked bread – flaky outside while magically light and fluffy inside – doesn’t disappoint. Truly, all of the doughy treats: brunch sticky buns, biscuits, and croissants are equally as mouthwatering, lush and baked on the premises. No wonder guests visit in droves, waiting up to two hours for a table sometimes. Unfortunately, reservations are not taken, but calling ahead for the wait-time status doesn’t hurt.

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Duck Prosciutto and Wölffer Rosé Cider

Every pizza is made to order and fired in a brick oven that greets guests upon arrival. Although it’s hard not to order one of each menu item, there are a few must-haves. I recommend the delectable Family Jewels pie  topped with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and prosciutto bread crumbs. If toppings are your jam, try the Spekenwolf with a whopping 14 toppings, including crimini mushrooms, eggplant and ricotta salata.

Roberta’s isn’t a one-trick pony, though. Other entrées like the zesty Sasso Chicken with salsa verde  or the addictive Dry-Aged Wagyu Carpaccio are also  showstoppers. With an enticing menu, regulars are always thrilled to try something different each visit or enjoy their ‘usual’ as if it was the first time. There are so many exceptional restaurants in unexpected places in Brooklyn – and Roberta’s is no exception to this truth. The quirky pizzeria is also a bakery and tiki bar in the middle of industrial and auto repair lots. It’s obvious Roberta’s doesn’t fit any molds but breaks them instead.

Roberta’s

261 Moore St.

Brooklyn, NY 11206

718-417-1118

Tidbits:

Manhattan outpost location: 230 Park in Midtown.

Roberta’s frozen pizza is available in select markets and online grocers.

1310 Broadway

Hewlette, NY 11557 (Long Island)

Phone: 516-569-2654

You’ve heard of southern comfort but at Hewlett’s best kept secret, Ciao Bella in Long Island, comfort Italiano is served as rich as their marinara sauce. Steeped in a long  (and rather notable) history in the kitchen, Chef and owner Freddy Sammarone puts forth his best five days a week at his debut, laid-back haute. Raised in his father’s legendary restaurant, Ennio and Michael’s (previously in the West Village), Chef Freddy practically fulfilled every position in the family operation. Teamed with his wife Dina, his expertise is modestly, yet exquisitely displayed on every plate, seducing diners as they anxiously dig-in.

Antipasto Trio

Antipasto Trio

The antipasto trio, for starters, isn’t your traditional antipasto but stems from tradition. Showcasing his mother’s famous roasted artichoke, Chef  Sammarone dresses it in breadcrumbs and dried cranberries. The artichoke is roasted to “buttah” perfection and melts in the mouth. Cranberries balance the creamy artichoke as the crumbs added great texture to each bite. Savory baked eggplant and clams rounded out the trio – a great backdrop for the next course.

There’s something to be said about simple flavors and textures. When the right ingredients meet and spices mingle pure magic happens. Such is the case with the stunning squid ink linguini topped with a shrimp filled marinara sauce. Sounds simple, but this winning dish thoughtfully highlights each main ingredient. The al dente pasta with the garlic, ink sauce complements the kick of the spicy shrimp marinara. Good luck resisting the urge to lick the plate once done!

Squid Ink Linguini

Squid Ink Linguini

And of course, a meal isn’t complete without ending on a sweet note. Hands down, the Italian ricotta cheesecake is the best dessert offering. Mastered by Dina Sammarone and inspired by Chef’s father, this awe-inspiring slice of heaven is wonderfully moist, has a light cake consistency and manages to have a dark, golden crust. This cheesecake rivals the best of ‘em.

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake

Although, considered a charming neighborhood spot, it’s definitely on the rise. Genuine, inviting people, scrumptious fare, and family influence equals comfort in my book. Ciao Bella is more than a phrase, more than a restaurant – it’s a way of life.

Tid-bits:

  • Open Wednesday evening – Sunday evening
  • Made to order meals
  • Mindful of food allergies and gluten free requests (with advance notice)
  • Can bring wine but there’s a corking fee
  • No website, just call or walk in!

Many people know the Upper West Side, U.W.S. for short, for it’s exquisite museums – MOMA, The Museum of Natural History, the Planetarium and of course Central Park. But remember, this is New York City, one of the world’s food mecca’s and so ANY NEIGHBORHOOD in this city is known for it’s food – The Upper West Side included. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling some new dines and known favorites in this neighborhood.

New to me, but well established to locals is Canteen 82. This superb sushi and Shanghai-centric joint offers fresh, organic ingredients. So many imaginative sushi rolls in this eatery – there’s the Mango Fly Roll filled with spicy tuna and yellowtail fish topped with mango and also the Green Dragon Roll stuffed with sweet potato, shitake mushrooms and cucumber draped with avocado.

Green Dragon and Mango Fly Rolls, Canteen82

Green Dragon and Mango Fly Rolls, Canteen82

I cannot say enough about their succulent pork soup dumplings. These babies are similar to traditional dumplings but include a helping of pork broth inside, so your bite bursts with flavor to seduce your taste buds! You must try it at least once in your life. Unforgettable!

Address: 467 Columbus Ave. (bet. 82nd and 83rd )

Another popular place is Gabriela’s Restaurant & Tequila Bar. No passport necessary, but once your walk under the front trellis your are instantly transported to Gabriel’s back patio in Mexico. Authenticity is taken very seriously here. Especially in the coveted moles served – Poblano (pepper and chocolate based sauce) and Pipian(pumpkin seed and almond sauce). I recommend notable dishes: Empanada de Pollo Organico, a turnover filled with organic chicken, sautéed tomatoes and onions and the Pork Al Pastor tacos.

Empanadas de Pollo Organico, Al Pastor Tacos, Shrimp Chimichanga, and Suizas

Empanadas de Pollo Organico, Al Pastor Tacos, Shrimp Chimichanga, and Suizas

And you cannot miss the shrimp chimichanga filled with beans, cheese and tomato sauce (pictured) nor the Suizas enchilada packed with chicken topped with Pico de Gallo, sour cream and Green Salsa or you can opted for a mole sauce instead (pictured). No matter what you order you won’t be disappointed. Be adventurous and accompany your option with their delicious sangria or a fantastic margarita. Looking for a brunch option? Gabriela’s offers an unbeatable $13 spread of dishes every weekend and holiday!

Address: 688 Columbus Ave. (at 93rd st.)

One of my favorite places, The Meatball Shop, is one of the new kids on the block (literally). Recently making their claim to the UWS, Owners, Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow have opened their fifth location in Manhattan (sixth overall) which is all the buzz in town. This time, I tried the mysterious yet legendary Kitchen Sink Salad with a quinoas, turkey meatball topped with homemade pesto and vinaigrette dressing. The salad is made up of the chef’s choice of

Kitchen Sink Salad with Quinoas Turkey meatballs and pesto sauce

Kitchen Sink Salad with Quinoas Turkey meatballs and pesto sauce

greens and veggies. Mine included sliced apples, shredded carrots with raisins, sautéed cauliflower, mushrooms, and beets. All topped with extra mozzarella cheese. Absolutely tantalizing! I’ve reviewed The Meatball Shop in a previous post… if you’re hungry for more, read the full review here.

Address: 477 Amsterdam Ave.

Shakeshak, a glorious burger joint to New Yorkers. Known for it’s heavenly milkshakes, juicy burgers, dogs and addictive fries, this shack is a grill-grub home for museum tourists and natives alike. Cannot miss the DogMeister- a dog topped with Shack cheddar and American cheese sauce and crispy ShackMeister Ale-marinated shallots. Umm-hmm, sounds great, right? Wash it down with a Caramel shake or a featured beer. P.S. Congrats to ShakeShak for it’s newest location in Flatbush, Brooklyn!

Address: 366 Columbus Ave. ( at 77th st.)

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Dinning in a small town doesn’t mean a dull dining experience. Such is the case when it comes to The County Cork Wine Pub. Nestled in a modest area of Eldersburg, (a suburb of Baltimore) this chic family owned wine bar has truly made its mark with locals. With an impressive selection of wines ranging from sparkling to the favored J. Lohr Chardonnay, delicious ports, and flirty rosés, this pub is well stocked for a great time. And let’s not forget vino from around the world like the Austrian Grooner Grüner Veltliner (a white wine with citrus and green apple notes) and the Argentine Alamos Melbec (a full bodied red with dark cherry flavors) is on hand – no passport necessary. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what to choose; you can sample up to three wines for $10. No too shabby! The cocktails are great to boot, too!

There are so many great reasons to come visit with friends or to end a work day. On Tuesdays bottles of wine are half price and Wednesdays are free apps! My favorite appetizer is the bountiful Crab and Brie fondue- a cheesy pool of fresh, lump crab meat adorned with diced tomato and scallions. You can’t go wrong with the Shaved Lamb French Dip with swiss and caramelized onions along with a velvety au jus. Or even the glorious Grilled Eggplant Flatbread decorated with tomato, basil, and mozzarella cheese.

The County Cork Pub has so much to offer; it’s not just another wine bar. The Cork’s library of wine, specialty cocktails, and craft beer paired with no-nonsense dishes provides a top shelf experience for guests. Throw in its superb service, warm atmosphere and affordable prices, there’s no wonder why this pub is an up-and-coming neighborhood favorite.

Location: 1716 Liberty Road, Eldersburg, MD

Tid- bits:
OpenTable Diner’s Choice 2014 Winner, Happy Hours, Monthly Wine Events, and fantastic weekly specials
Hours: Tue- Sat 11am -1 am
Sunday brunch: 10am -3pm
Closed Mondays

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7121 Bethesda Lane

(301) 656-5515

 www.redwoodbethesda.com

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Chicken Sliders

You’re probably like me. I love being surprised, especially when it comes to a restaurant like Redwood in Bethesda, Maryland. Located in an upscale area near DC, it’s highly touted and was chosen as the venue for Bravo’s Top Chef season 7 “restaurant wars” – a legendary event and honor in itself. Needless to say, I was slightly intimidated by its score card. Yet, when I was invited to dine there, I jumped at the opportunity. Surprisingly, my nerves were quickly eased. The food and exceptional service lives up to the reputation but it is unpretentious. Although chic and modern, Redwood focuses on wholesome comfort food and doesn’t take itself too seriously. With delicious appetizers like whimsy fried chicken sliders with a chipotle aioli and lightly fried macaroni balls, I knew I was in good hands. This local favorite renewed my faith in fried calamari as well. In the past, I’ve been highly disappointed by calamari if I order it anywhere else other than an Italian eatery.  But I was more than pleased here. The flavorful, plump “O’s” are crispy and well-seasoned with the perfect thickness – it didn’t stand a chance for survival!

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Shrimp and Grits with braised greens

Known for its commitment to serving the best of traditional and contemporary dishes with local ingredients, the kitchen takes homey favorites such as chicken pot pie or shrimp and grits and refines them while evoking memories of  our first bites of these classic entrées. Executive Sous Chef, Sedrick Crawley’s take on custom and modern American cuisine is the perfect balance between familiar and new tastes while leaving diners wanting more. And with an ever-changing menu, it excites me to see what else he has up his sleeve. Chef Sed’s passion for his craft radiates from each plate. Such is the case with the steamed muscle with chorizo and roasted garlic and even the bucatini (a thick pasta dressed with a pork and beef meat sauce finished with the Italian grana padano cheese); both appropriately served in a rustic “mama’s favorite” skillet.

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Bucatini

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Steamed Muscles

Now, when indulging in such great fare, the occasion begs for a 21+ libation. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the impressive, hand crafted drinks and wine list. (A comfort to know.)  I’m a gin girl and my favorite drink was the brilliant Chartreusian 75 which includes yellow chartreuse, simple syrup, and sparkling wine. A tantalizing mixture of sweet and tart…basically it was seduction in a glass.

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Chartreusian 75

With delicious happy hours, weekly live entertainment and a menu that’ll thrill your taste buds, Redwood is more than a restaurant… it’s an experience for all senses.

There’s something about live music at mealtime that enhances the dinning experience. It’s refreshing to be greeted by a rousing brass band, stellar guitar solo, or the smooth stylings of an incredible vocalist. Regardless of genre, live performances tend to draw  great crowds. Plus, when you throw great food and drink into the mix, a great time is to be had!

Restaurateurs have definitely been bitten by the “live tunes” bug. It’s no longer a new trend, more like a mainstay in many locations. Bars, lounges, supper clubs, and other dines have regularly scheduled performers during service. Since I love to indulge in great tastes and music, here are a few of my favorite places for both!

The Darby

244 West 14th St.

212-242-4411

Iron Chef Alexandra (Alex) Gaurneschelli is the culinary force behind the wildly popular speakeasy, The Darby. Reviving the illustrious 1920s, this sexy, intimate, and beautifully decorated dine transports diners into the yesteryear prohibition’s thrilling rebellious swagger. With plush cranberry and dark redwood accents, opulent chandeliers and a raised center stage highlighting The Darby Band – an exquisite five person jazz band with vocalist- this NYC dinner destination is well worth the hype. And since I’m all about food, the dishes are as spectacular as the band. Plates such as perfectly grilled octopus with a bacon and red wine dressing adorned with pickled jalapeno peppers, seared Colorado rack of lamb with roasted potato cake, green olives and fresh mint and a wide raw bar selection as well as caviar service (with Beluga Noble Russian Vodka!) are well worth a splurge as Iron Chef Gaurneschelli guarantees guests are dazzled by the selections and entertainment!

Tosh’s Living Room

9 West 26th St.

212-839-8000

Toshi’s Living Room, a part of the Flat Iron Hotel, is a fun, trendy spot for live music chasers. With whimsical, colorful furniture, guests are invited to relax or dance the night away to the tunes of rock, jazz, pop, or whatever’s on the nightly music menu. The fishbowl setting with its spacious front stage is the perfect backdrop for live entertainment. Click here for my full review of this rockin’ living room.

The Garage

99 7th Avenue

212-645-0600

Set in the heart of the West Village, stands a jazz haven pumping out original and iconic arrangements like Take Five by the late Dave Brubeck. Thoughtfully named The Garage, this jazz café is popular among the locals. Its raised stage spotlights local artists and bands playing classics by such legends as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. Portraits of many musical all-stars are displayed on the walls along with abstract designed car parts (playing into the name of the café). Weekend brunch is the best time to visit as there is a delicious prefix menu ($17) ranging from creative egg benedict dishes such as the Crab and Lobster Benedict smothered in a turmeric hollandaise sauce or the Surf and Turf with filet mignon and Main lobster covered in a smooth béarnaise sauce, to a delicious Belgium waffle with a choice of homemade macadamia coconut rum butter and freshly made chocolate sauce or a cinnamon apple compote. The Jazz Brunch also offers unlimited Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and Screwdrivers for an additional $6. Can’t beat that!

These are just a few tasty, tune-centric haunts NYC has to offer. My list is continually growing. Check back for more soon!

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.”

– “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” Lyrics by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo

Do the lyrics above sound familiar? It’s the opening to the hit show, Cheers. Who knew that the simple idea of frequenting a local bar would become an insanely popular sitcom? Well, it’s something we’ve been doing for the longest – visiting our favorite spots, ordering “the usual,” and a brew or two. We even catch up on the week’s news be it last night’s game or the front page of the Times. And the thing is, we can’t get enough of our favorite bars. The thought of visiting instantly perks us up and we think about the good times and dishes there. So, in that spirit, I’ve decided to feature some of my favorite local bars and grills on the island. No mater the day or time, good times and good eatin’ are always on the menu…

Croxley’s Ale House and Eatery

(Multiple locations

www.croxley.com)

Whether you’re looking for a hearty bite or rearing to go for game night, Croxley’s Ale House & Eatery’s got you covered. The ale house brews its own beers and has a wide array of national and international selections. With 60 on tap ranging from light to dark lager, angry ales to beer cocktails, Croxley’s is sure to engage the “brew-curious” and brew enthusiasts’ pallets. And for a limited time, there’s a seasonal Croxley’s Pumpkin Ale served with a cinnamon sugar rim. I may not be a “brew guru”, but I’m a “food guru” and their eats are not to be missed! The savory menu has American and English pub classics such as crispy fish and chips, stand out burgers such as the Ale House Burger with bacon, glazed with an addictive 1,000 Island dressing sauce.

But my favorite fare there arethe finger lickin’, 5 napkin needin’ wings! Fried to fall-off-the-bone perfection, the chicken is doused in your choice of mild, medium, hot or BBQ sauces – all of which are tangy and tempts diners to lick the plate. Not into sauces? No problem. The wings are served plain as well. Served in groups of 10, you can literally feast on them all day long.

Best of all Monday – Wednesday the wings are $.10 and unlimited. Ready for more? Thursdays, the $.10 wings go boneless and Saturdays and Sundays the wings are $.20. Still that can hardly be beat. Wings and beer go hand-in-hand when it comes to football. Croxley’s a is great spot to watch fights or the game but get there early, by kick-off, it’s packed and for good reason too!

Meal:

20 wings : $2.00

Glass of Angry Orchard Cider: $6.00

Total: $8.00

Other tidbits:

  • Multiple locations:
  • Long Island: Franklin Square,* Rockville Centre, Farmingdale, and Smithtown
  • NYC: Brooklyn, Manhattan
  • Multiple huge flat screens
  • Follow on Facebook and Twitter (@Croxley_FS) for news and events

* Location reviewed by Canny Candi

Shakers

(267 Mineola Blvd.

516-294-0445

www.shakersny.com)

We’ve all done it while driving. No, not texting. (Shame on you!) I mean, noticed a new restaurant on a street we always travel and say “hmm,… I should try that one day.” Well, that happened to me recently. On a residential corner in Mineola, sits a rompin’ good time within four walls. Applebee’s, known as your neighborhood grill, has nothin’ on Shakers. This no fuss, true neighborhood hangout spot lets the guests set the mood with a decked out touch screen jukebox, and serves up fresh, flavorful bar bites all day long. Locally sourced, the food is delivered daily and is never frozen offering a truly fulfilling made to order experience for diners. All of the selections looked delicious. It was hard to decide, but I ordered a flawless Long Island Ice Tea, and Chicken on a Stick, three Panko crusted breasts on skewers and a side of perfectly golden French fries. What really won me over was the chipotle mayo served as a dipping sauce.

It was just enough spice to add some south of the border zest to the whimsy chicken dish. Next time, I can’t wait to taste their finger lickin’ Colossal Wings or their Frito Pie!

This hidden jewel’s popularity has grown in the short six months it’s been in Mineloa. That’s not surprising because it has so much to offer: a legendary Level 15 Wing eating challenge, guests can play “bar tender” on Sunday’s with the Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar, live music on the weekends and Way Back Wednesday (a weekly blast from the past with a themed menu and stellar prices based on the decade, i.e. 80’s night). And no local joint could proudly hold the label of “bar” without honoring footballs nights. Shakers offers $5 Football meal deals and drinks specials every Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday game nights. It’s so easy to order a round of beer and wings, watch the game and root for your team without breaking your budget. If you’re looking for a low-key place to unwind from a busy day or somewhere to catch up with friends, Shakers is your place.

Meal: $15.00

Other tidbits:

  • Daily happy hour: 3pm – 7pm
  • Outdoor seating
  • Like on FB (site listed above) and follow on Twitter for promos and event news (@ShakersMineola)
  • Free local delivery
  • Comfy leather seating in lounge
  • High top bar seating
  • Multiple huge flat screens

So, Cino de Mayo has come and gone. Hope you seized the day for all it was worth! My NYC Mexican/Spanish food crawl was fantastic! First stop was Las Ramblas in the West Village. This quaint, rustic, cantina was the perfect spot to start the evening. Touted for serving traditional Spanish tapas, here are the highlights: ensalada costa brava (tomatoes, onions, roasted peppers, orange segments, & basil w/ raspberry vinegar – a great choice to prepare the palate for further fare), empanadas de pollo (chicken turnovers), savory chorizo con alubias (Spanish sausage w/ cannellini beans & onions) and brochetas de res (Grilled skewers of beef in a tempranillo wine reduction). All of this plus refreshing white peach sangria, brought tears to my eyes. I could have called it a night, but what sense did that make? I hadn’t had the expected margarita, and it was too early in the evening. So, after the first round of noshing, a friend and I did some sightseeing and walked 30 blocks to Penn Station (si, you read it right, THIRTY blocks). Meeting up with another friend, we all journeyed to the Murray Hill area for ‘ritas!

Second stop on the crawl was at Tavern on Third for a classic margarita. Although, the restaurant was not a typical fiesta hang-out, it served up a mean margarita. Strong and ice cold with a wedge of lime – just what we needed to kick off the fun. Afterward, we stumbled, (literally) upon a hole-in-the-wall, La Palapa (3rd Ave. bwn 26 st& 27th st), next to the tavern. There, housed absolutely authentic tacos and burritos bursting at the seams with a choice of juicy grilled chicken, pork, or beef, rice, beans and cheese. Knowing we were only snacking, instead of devouring, we each ordered a $2 soft taco. The best of our choices was the chorizo: finely ground and full of flavor with a pleasant balance between salty and the spicy peppers.

ImageThe last stop was Rodeo Bar and Grill I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was an actual rodeo going on there. With live music in the main bar area and celebrations all around we picked a great party spot. Being the nacho aficionado that I am, I dove head-first into the Nacho Grande Platter (pictured right). Each tortilla was beautifully decorated with chicken and black beans, covered by a blanket of magnificently melted cheese. And it got better with pico de gallo scattered on top. Somehow, I have developed a dangerous taste for empanadas (and so have my friends) so it was obvious that we’d have a side of those. Golden brown, fried to perfection, filled with diced red peppers and pollo mixed with Mexican spices, these bite size treats stood no chance. Both dishes were excellent. For this last leg of the trip, we washed everything down with agave’s favorite cocktail – frozen margaritas! (Naturally.) Our flavors of choice were Pomegranate and Mango…

Happiness.

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