All posts by Johnny Prime

Hill Country BBQ

It’s been a while since I went to Hill Country BBQ, home of my favorite BBQ links in NYC. They’re having a killer Superbowl menu this year, and to get all of this it’ll only cost you $65.

The “pre-game” consists of mini jalapeno cheese corn bread, as well as “Texas Trash” snack mix.

The kick off to the first quarter will feature chili nachos.

In the second quarter, you’ve got these amazing smoked wings with their house made ranch.

During half time and the third quarter, you’ll stuff your face with a platter featuring all of Hill Country’s BBQ meats (brisket, ribs, pulled pork, links, and smoked turkey).

That even comes with collared greens, mac & cheese, baked beans, and of course some white bread (Texas style).

For the fourth quarter, DESSERT! Banana pudding and mini pies.

I really hope you all can get there for this. They’ll also have their regular menu available if you need more food!

But if you can get there before this coming Sunday, you’ll also be able to get their Smoke Stack sandwich, in celebration of MEAT WEEK! This is basically a sandwich that features all of their BBQ!

HILL COUNTRY BBQ MARKET
30 W 26th St
New York, NY 10010

Defonte’s

I finally got over to Defonte’s to try some sandwiches. My buddy Nick and I rode over on our Zooz bikes. It took us 10 or 15 minutes from downtown Manhattan – a trip that would otherwise take a half hour and cost an arm and a leg in cab or Uber fees.

These things really are the best way to get around the boros, especially for food crawls! If you want one, get one with my coupon code JOHNNYPRIME for $100 off at THIS WEBSITE.

Anyway, we started with the hot roast beef dip sandwich that’s topped with fried eggplant and fresh house made mozz. Awesome!

Next up was the Italian special, which is a cold sandwich that features a variety of Italian meats, along with some spicy bomba sauce, lettuce, tomato and dressing. This was the big winner for me.

I’ll be back here for sure, especially to try the roast pork sandwiches, and something chock full of mortadella.

DEFONTE’S
379 Columbia St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Kissaki

I took my wife to Kissaki for her birthday since she likes omakase restaurants. This place did a great job. We went with their 13-course tasting menu, swapping out sashimi for nigiri on the sushi pieces, and we also shared a sake pairing (four generous pours that progressed through the meal).

My favorite items were the Santa Barbara uni, the thin sliced squid, the Japanese barracuda, and the Spanish mackerel.

I’m no omakase expert, but this place seemed to deliver very good quality at a great starting price point of $120 (for the nigiri – add $60 for the sashimi).

My only gripe: they should offer a combo of both nigiri and sashimi, since some of the nigiri sushi looked really interesting with wild toppings and flavors, while the sashimi pieces were more traditional and plain. A mixed piece menu would be a great way to get a taste of both modern and traditional.

KISSAKI BOWERY
319 Bowery
New York, NY 10003

Shanzu Knives Coupon Code

I just got this awesome chef’s knife in the mail the other day. Check out this quick unboxing video:

If you like what you see HERE on their website, you can get 15% off your order with code JOHNNY15.

I’m a big fan of that GYO series 8″ chef’s knife. It’s got 67 layers of gorgeous “shark tooth” patterned Damascus steel!

Watch the sharpness test on this potato:

Outstanding!

Handcraft Burgers & Brew

A buddy of mine helped open this joint over by Bryant Park, so I had to go check it out. The food here is excellent! Check out how perfect this burger looks:

That’s a handsome fella. And it was as delicious as it looks. Certified Angus Beef smash patties, shredded lettuce, sharp American cheese, and tomato on a brioche bun. The crust on those patties was perfect!

The chicken sandwich was great as well. Great spice to it.

As a tribute to Rutt’s Hut over in NJ, they also offer this ripper hot dog. It really hit the spot with a crispy snap.

And to top it off, the fries and tots were both golden and crunchy.

I highly recommend this place. The food is better than most other joints out there slinging smash patties now.

HANDCRAFT BURGERS & BREW
110 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018

Kaiseki Room by Yamada

This new Kaiseki tasting is available on 53rd Street at 6 1/2 Avenue, just across from La Grande Boucherie. It’s a small stretch of bar with two seatings each night, at 5pm and 8pm, for $300 each (more for sake the pairing). I took my wife here for a Christmas present/date night and we both loved it. Here’s everything we had:

Olive fed wagyu tartare with caviar:

Uni truffle and foie dashi:

Assorted sashimi:

Hand roll sushi (our favorite bite):

Here are some of the mushrooms coming up in the next courses:

Lobster and crab miso bisque:

This plate had five cold glasses that featured octopus, abalone, and other raw fish preparations:

Eel and tilefish:

Duck and winter mushrooms:

Rice with crab, roe and squid:

Bean ice cream and granita:

Freshly whipped matcha:

This is definitely worth splurging on for a special occasion. I’m interested to see how the hyper-seasonal menu will change throughout the year.

KAISEKI ROOM BY YAMADA
145 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

Hawksmoor

The high-end English steakhouse chain Hawksmoor has finally landed here in NYC. I’ve been looking forward to trying this place since I heard the rumors of its opening, pre-covid. It recently opened its doors, and I was able to try it out before the holidays (after which I’m assuming NYC will go into lockdown mode again over this new Omicron variant).

Anyway here’s the review – that’s why you’re here:

Hawksmoor overall score: 88

My wife and I came here for a quick meal before catching a flight to Spain. She had a credit for something like $56 so that covered the steak.

Flavor: 9

As far as steaks are concerned, we only tried a 40oz aged rib steak that they had as a special for the night. It was great, although a little bit under seasoned. In fact, a few items throughout the meal needed salt, but otherwise excellent. The steak had a great cook temp and a nice charred crust with good aged flavor throughout.

We also split a cheeseburger as an app, which I thought was great. I typically don’t like brioche buns for a burger, but this one help up nicely. The meat was cooked perfectly.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

There’s a good selection of cuts here, both boneless and bone-in, staple cuts and irregular cuts (like rump), prime and aged. But they may need to beef up their availability, because by 7pm they only had two 30oz porterhouse steaks left on a Thursday. I know it’s the busy season, but this shouldn’t happen at a steakhouse. I had to take a point for that.

Portion Size & Plating: 9

Portion sizes ranged from 10-40oz, and nicely plated on Staub cast iron pans. Other dishes were sufficiently fun, yet elegant, without being stuffy, which matched the whole ambiance of the place.

Price: 7

The pricing here is definitely on the high end when you compare it to other steakhouses in NYC (especially the ones that are part of larger chain ownerships). On the flip side, Hawksmoor touts a “natural beef” program, so that niche market of steaks is expected to come with a price tag premium.

Bar: 10

The bar is a great place to sit and eat (which is what we did), and they offer some inventive house cocktails in addition to an impressive selection of bottles behind the bar. One negative: the martinis are small, but at $12 for Beefeater 24 it’s a more than fair price. Michter’s 10 year is $28, and the 20 year is $118 (we had some of that deliciousness).

Specials and Other Meats: 8

I would definitely come back to try the veal, but I was a little bit surprised at the lack of pork and lamb options on the menu of this English chop house. Other than beef, they only offered a chicken dish by way of alternative meats. Nonetheless, the 40oz rib steak that was on special was awesome, and I can respect a steakhouse that’s LASER focused on beef.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We tried a bunch of stuff, and all of it was great. The aged rump steak tartare with pickled shiitake mushrooms was unique and had a mild sweetness to it, along with a gorgeous orange egg yolk.

I really loved the bone marrow roasted oysters. Top notch, and a must order!

The potted beef was good but needed a little bit of salt. Awesome onion marmalade and Yorkshire to go with it.

I would pass on the triple fried “chips.” They had a good crisp on them, but overall they lacked personality and seasoning.

That little red bottle is actually the surprisingly good tomato-based steak sauce. Give it a shot!

The desserts that we tried were both masterpieces. When you go here, make sure you get either the Meyer Lemon Bomb or the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Wow!

The tribute bites, however, while beautiful and tasty: I would pass on those next time.

Seafood Selection: 7

The oysters were awesome, but we didn’t try either of the seafood mains that they offered on the menu (lobster and halibut). Maybe next time, but likely not. Again; only two offerings, but I respect the focus on beef here.

Service: 10

Our bartender was incredibly knowledgeable about both the food and drinks, and she made excellent suggestions when we asked for recommendations. Everyone in the front of the house was really nice and helpful.

Ambiance: 10

Both the bar room and the main dining room here are beautiful. Elegant, steakhousey, bustling, fun, and energetic. And good music, too, not too loud.

Here’s something from the dining room that was very apropos – seems like both are being diminished lately.

I can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu.

HAWKSMOOR
109 E 22nd St
New York, NY 10010

Amigo

Amigo is a casual but high quality tapas joint that’s owned and operated by Chef Ruben Rodriguez from Nai Tapas Bar (one of the best Spanish joints around).

My buddy Mike, my wife and I tried almost the entire menu, so I’ll just get right into it. But this was easily one of the best meals I’ve had this year.

First up: cocktails. The espresso martini and wasabi infused scotch cocktails were awesome.

Octopus and shrimp ceviche:

45-day dry aged rib eye steak tartare – this was one of the top bites of the night.

Shrimp tacos:

Bacalao – fried cod tacos. These were also a top bite of the night.

Mango salad:

Eggplant:

Braised pork cheek. This was insane. So tender:

Watch how easily it gets pulled apart (about 17 seconds into the slide show):

This savory corn pudding was delicious:

Pork belly taco:

The oxtail tacos de birria were another top bite.

I drank that entire cup of dipping broth.

The lime ice cream granita was off the charts – another top item:

And these chocolate filled churros were perfectly paired with that espresso martini I mentioned earlier.

I can’t wait to go here again. So damn good!

AMIGO
29 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Jack & Charlie’s

Jack & Charlie’s just opened on Greenwich Avenue near 8th Avenue.

The place is absolutely stunning inside. The color scheme is mid century greens with dark wood paneled walls and floors. The odd shape of the building space makes for cozy and interesting nook-like seating in some corners. This was my favorite table in the joint:

Here’s the main bar:

Incredibly gorgeous art deco vibe there. There’s also an oyster bar in back, beside a wood fired brick pizza oven. Love those subway tiles:

Speaking of bars, the cocktails here are really nice. This first one is called “Needs a Name.” Basically a sort of coffee old fashioned, I suppose? Super unique, really tasty. The other is a martini called “Slightly Promiscuous,” with a goat cheese stuffed olive.

Anyway, lets get to the food, because it was amazing.

We started with three items: First, the Littleneck Clams Casino.

These were so good. Only down side: we wanted bread to soak up all that delicious lemony, buttery sauce.

Next, Shepherd’s Pie Croquettes, from under the “Bar Bites” part of the menu.

Note here that the bar does offer secret menu items that aren’t available at the table, such as French Dip sandwiches. However, the full dinner menu is available at both bars.

Anyway these were perfectly crisp outside, super soft and flavorful inside. And also not too insanely hot to eat right away. The kitchen is on point, and knows what they’re doing in terms of food temps so that diners don’t destroy the inside of their mouths.

Lastly, the steak tartare:

By far one of the best, most flavorful I’ve had in a long time. It’s made from hand cut tenderloin, and it’s dressed and spiced just right.

For our mid course, we had a salad and a pasta. The chopped veggie salad was surprisingly delicious. It had all the usual stuff which you can see, as well as radicchio, artichokes and hearts of palm. Some of my favorite things for salads.

The strozzapreti pasta with rabbit was killer! It had a really nice flavor that reminded me of the pasta e fagioli (aka “pasta fazool”) that I ate as a kid. The green in there is arugula.

I can’t wait to go back and try their other pasta dishes. All of them looked and sounded amazing.

For the mains, I had to try the two items that Chef Ed Cotton makes from what we supply them at Golden Packing. Each week, we send them ground duck and prime grade export ribs (whole racks of rib eye). Here’s what Ed does with the ground duck:

That’s a bone-in duck meatloaf!

I’ve never really eaten meatloaf, unless you consider Italian meatballs to be some kind of cousin to meatloaf. I was blown away by this. So flavorful, and the glaze on that thing was incredible. Make sure you get this when you come here.

With the export ribs, Ed makes slow roasted, pastrami rubbed prime rib.

This is only available on Friday’s and Saturday’s, first come first served, and while supplies last. I asked for a chuck side cut, and Chef Ed obliged!

Huge cap on that (spinalis). And the meat was probably the most tender that I’ve ever had for prime rib, even in the more densely structured eye/center muscle (longissimus). It comes with au jus, horseradish cream, warm popovers and a spice rubbed rib bone.

The meat on that is so delicious!

On the side, the hen of the woods mushrooms were out of the park! Meaty, earthy, and full of flavor. I had no interest in the traditional creamed spinach when I saw these babies on the menu.

For dessert, banana pudding!

This, with that scoop of ice cream on top, was just heaven. What a way to end a meal!

I can’t wait to go back here and try more stuff. There’s also a tomahawk rib chop and a strip steak on the menu, which are fired in the brick pizza oven at 750F! Gotta be good…

JACK & CHARLIE’S
118 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10011

Les Enfants de Boheme

I popped into this little French joint for Brunch last weekend. I tried the steak burger and really enjoyed it. it was topped with melted brie, thin sliced tomato and cucumbers, and tartar sauce, of all things. It really worked nicely. And the fries were BONKERS. I’d definitely eat this burger again.

LES ENFANTS DE BOHEME
177 Henry St
New York, NY 10002