Category Archives: Union Square/Flatiron

Vinyl Steakhouse

Vinyl Steakhouse overall score: 84

I was recently invited into Vinyl Steakhouse for a complimentary meal in exchange for posting some photos on my Instagram account. But as you know, I like to keep it real in my reviews here, for all you meat maniacs. Let’s get into it.

Flavor: 9

My wife and I shared both the boneless 16oz wet-aged cajun rib eye, as well as the dry-aged porterhouse for two. Both really hit the mark for flavor. I only took a point away because the porterhouse was cooked a slight bit beyond medium rare.

As you can see, this was mainly isolated to the grey banding, but, honestly, I don’t think it took much away from the over all experience (9/10).

The rib eye was pretty much cooked perfectly. The cajun flavor was light/mild, but I think it was the right move to use a fresh cut rather than an aged cut for this, as the flavors may have wanted to compete a bit. Perhaps a marinade would pump up the flavors a little more (8/10).

Also worth noting here, the steak sauce it blessed with white truffle, so you’ll definitely want to try it. This is one of the only steak sauces that I actually used at a steakhouse. It was incredible!

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9

There’s a great selection of both aged and fresh steaks, as well as bone in and boneless steaks, and steaks for one or two. The beef hails from Greentree Packing Company, and the chef, Alex, told us that their dry aging room is adorned with planks of cedar wood and salt blocks, which are said to impart flavor and create a nice environment for aging beef. I definitely tasted some of that dry aged flavor on the porterhouse, so the tricks they’re doing worked.

Portion Size & Plating: 8

I dig the plating here. They scrapped the traditional steakhouse style of all white, plain looking plates, and went with a little bit more style that’s unique and fitting to their vibe. A ring of gold, patterns, grooves. Very vinyl/wax. As for portion size, the apps and sides were nice sizes for sure. A hulking 6-8oz crab cake; enough beef carpaccio to satisfy a light appetite; two turnovers on the dessert plate. It works. The single portion steaks are a little on the small side (8, 10, 14 and 16 ounces), however, I think this was done to keep the prices from being jaw-dropping. The US has seen a massive bump in beef prices, so I appreciate the effort at keeping steaks to a comfortable size for the price.

Price: 8

A 16oz fresh cajun rib eye (no bone) comes in at $59, and the steaks for two (porterhouse or rib eye) are $139, aged, at 36-38oz. I think this is really fair, especially given the quality.

Bar: 8

The bar here is nestled midway into the restaurant, past the host and turntable area, and just before the intimate yet social dining room. Without window space, the bar area is dim, but there are some seats along the front window near the record player that would be fun for cocktails. In fact, that’s where we ate, because the light was perfect there.

The cocktail menu is awesome.

We tried four of the signatures, each one better than the last. I highly recommend the “Magickal Childe,” named after the Wiccan store owner that used the space before them (pictured above).

Specials and Other Meats: 6

They have some chicken on the menu, but nothing else by way of red meat flesh other than beef. I appreciate the beef-forward menu big time, so don’t let the lower score here fool you.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 9

We started with a crab cake. This was awesome. The roasted corn really made it pop.

We also tried the beef carpaccio. The slight age on this, as well as those dots of spicy horseradish mustard, took it to the next level. This is one of the best I’ve had in a while.

On the side, we tried the marrow corn, which was really nice and carved right off the cob, served in a husk.

For dessert, we tried the cherry turnovers, a la mode with vanilla ice cream. I liked these; not too sweet. The more discerning Cake Dealer thought the dough was a bit thick in parts, and slightly undercooked.

Seafood Selection: 7

There’s scallops and salmon here by way of entree selections from the sea, but we didn’t try them. We did enjoyed the crab cake though, as noted above.

Service: 10

The staff here is awesome. Everyone is excited about the menu, from the drinks all the way to the desserts. Very friendly, even when it comes to music disagreements! That’s right: you may hear the in-house audiophiles debating music as they swap out records to play. They even asked our opinion, which I thought was pretty cool.

Table bread is excellent, by way of Balthazar. Pictured here is sourdough and baguette, but they also offer focaccia (all on the house with creamy, whipped honey butter).

Ambiance: 10

These guys really made great use of the space, and, in doing so, created a very unique dining experience based off of the GM’s passion for, and background in, the music industry (he was a producer and record label owner). The front DJ area takes you back to the old days when the living room, basement, or bedroom, was lined with book shelves containing LOTS OF WAX.

They generally like to play whole album A and/or B sides right through, just as many of the artists intended (these days, you’re lucky to get two good songs on an album, let alone a great concept album that you actually want to play start to finish).

We pretty much finished every last bite of food here, despite ordering like animals. So i’ll definitely be back here for more, and soon. Give this place a shot!

VINYL STEAKHOUSE
35 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011

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

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

Joe Junior

This joint came highly recommended by a food reviewer and meat expert friend of mine, Nick Solares. He has waxed eloquent about the burger here many times!

It’s deceptively simple. Nick ordered it for me: Rare, simply seasoned with just salt, and seared on the plancha, with cheese melted on both sides of the bun.

I have to say, for under $8 (sans fries), this thing rivals many of our city’s great steakhouse burgers. They’re using real quality ground beef, and they certainly know how to cook it. Rare was warm to the touch in the center, but not much bleed out or drips on the plate. Impressive.

And total steal at that price point. Go give it a shot!

JOE JUNIOR
167 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10003

Gupshup

Gupshup is an awesome Indian joint in Union Square that serves up some amazing meat-centric items.

Their pepper beef appetizer is one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year, and I’ve been on a serious meat binge. Super tender, great spice levels, lots of freshness popping from the greens and pickled radish, all delivered on a light, crisp paratha. I can’t get enough of this dish!

Their spicy double lamb cheeseburger is really great too. There’s a hint of mint chutney for brightness, and a wild special sauce slathered onto the underside of the top brioche bun.

Cooked to a perfect medium rare, and paired with their magic masala shoestring fries, you can’t go wrong!

But the real attention grabber here is their large format roasted leg of lamb.

This is 3.5lbs of juicy, tender, perfectly roasted lamb, accompanied by lamb jus, crispy roasted potatoes, pickled red onion, roasted cipollini onion, roasted garlic and paratha for making tacos.

At just $75 this platter will feed three to four people without breaking the bank. That’s a steal! You just need to give the restaurant a 24-hour advance notice if you want this, since it takes some extra time to prepare it just right. I could eat this every week.

Also worth mentioning; fantastic cocktails here, with Indian flavor profiles worked into the mixology. Really delicious. Pictured below is a gin, chai and cardamom martini, and a bourbon cocktail that was going down WAY too easily.

Oh and check this out – The Foodie Magician!

GUPSHUP
115 E 18th St
New York, NY 10003

Oceans

My wife took me to this joint for a belated Valentine’s Day date. This spot has some great seafood. We tried a lot of it, so I’ll get moving.

First, their bread service is incredible. I didn’t take a great picture of it, but the focaccia and sourdough are perfect. They bring it out with a dish of whipped butter mixed with some seriously high quality olive oil.

We started the meal with some fresh uni. This was a bit steep at $38, but it was so damn delicious, seasoned simply with some flake salt.

The stone crab claws were probably the low point of the meal. It was difficult to extract the meat (didn’t come out in good sized chunks), and over all it was just average in terms of flavor. For $25 a pop, we would have spent that $50 on more langoustines or carabineros (you’ll see that ahead).

The octopus with gigante beans was a good dish, but not excellent like some of the others. I would pass on this next time and focus more on the other seafood options.

Here’s one of those excellent dishes now: grilled langoustines.

These were perfectly cooked and incredibly flavorful. Make sure you save some bread so you can scoop out the succulent brains and eat them together like a makeshift lobster roll.

The carabineros shrimp were our favorite part of the meal. These giant, head-on shrimp from Spain are so deeply flavorful that it’s almost hard to explain. That dark red flesh is packed with natural fatty juices too. You’ll want to wipe some bread into that shit as well.

For our mains, we had Japanese snapper and a Niman Ranch rib eye. Both were served as composed dishes with sides of vegetables, and both were cooked really nicely. The steak was a solid 8/10.

For dessert, 16-layer lemon cake. So good with that blood orange sherbet swirl.

I definitely plan to go here again. They have beef tataki and lamb belly pasta on the menu that I need to try, but the daily seafood specials will be difficult to pass up again, I’m sure of it. Go give this place a shot.

OCEANS
233 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003

The Stand

Wyoming Whiskey teamed up with pitmaster Tyson Ho (from Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn) for a killer meal at The Stand near Union Square.

To get the juices flowing, we sipped on the Wyoming Whiskey bourbon as well as a cocktail made with Delirium Tremens and the whiskey. Very nice.

We started with a delicious Brazilian style elk tartare that was paired with a herbaceous frozen cocktail called a batida that featured the whiskey.

Then we moved on to a Filipino style BBQ quail with a smoked old fashioned. This course was awesome.

The smoked leg of venison was nice, tender and thinly sliced, served with Bengali spices and a fat washed whiskey sour.

Next up was nori wrapped rib eye and BBQ sweetbreads. An odd combo for sure, but the sweetbreads were my favorite bites of the meal. This was paired with a nori and mushroom infused Manhattan.

Dessert was a nice blackberry and vanilla ice cream pie/crumble with a swig of the single barrel.

I really dug this meal. Most of this is not available on the regular menu at the Stand, but based on tasting chef Harold Villarosa’s cooking alongside Ho’s cooking, I would go back for sure.

THE STAND
116 East 16th St
New York, NY 10003

Rezdora

As soon as you walk into Rezdora you’re hit with the sharp, pungent odor of fresh garlic. Another thing you might be hit with is a plate, as waiters scurry to serve the handsome stretch of bar and tightly packed tables in the front of the restaurant. The small and crowded space would normally have pissed me off, but my wife and I managed to get seated across from each other in a corner spot in back with a circular table that was slightly larger than the almost microscopic rectangular tables for two nearby.

I had heard about and seen great things from this place. The chef, Stefano Secchi, had trained under Massimo Bottura, at the Michelin three-star “Osteria Francescana” in Modena; a place that has been crowned the best restaurant in the world a few times, if I recall correctly. Needless to say, I was not let down.

We started with some nice aperitif style cocktails and a few bites of an amuse that consisted of toasted bread with fresh ricotta and a nice Modenese balsamic. We opted to skip the appetizer menu completely. Instead, we shared three pasta dishes and two entrees.

The first pasta was a garganelli-like macccheroni with duck ragu. This was absolutely delicious. Just the right amount of salt, al dente pasta, and a really hearty sauce with properly cooked duck meat well-dispersed throughout.

Next up was my favorite dish of the night, and probably the best pasta I’ve had all year if not in all of my life. “Apertivo in Reggio-Emilia:” Doppio tortelli filled with prosciutto, parmigiano and “erbazzone” greens. These pasta pouches were pleasantly packed with prosciutto. I could eat these by the bucketload. I strongly suggest getting your ass in here ASAP to try these, because from what I understand, this particular pasta item will change with the seasons, whereas some of the others will remain the same if not similar.

The third pasta was the spaghettoni with clams. Spaghettoni is just longer/fatter version of spaghetti. The clams in this were more like cockles (in the oyster family, from what I understand) as opposed to the Little Neck variety. At first we were concerned that there would only be three clams in this dish, based on the shell count, but the sauce was riddled with these little fuckers, sans shells. This pasta was cooked extra al dente. From what I was told, this is the only pasta that isn’t made in house. I’m not sure why that is. In any case, it was our least favorite of the three pasta dishes we tried. But don’t take that to mean it was bad in any way. This was still better than most other Italian joints that sling this dish.

For the first of our mains we shared the braised rabbit leg, which came with rabbit sausage and sweetbreads, as well as a parsnip puree and some roasted baby zucchini. The leg was deliciously tender, falling apart and peeling away from the bone with just the slightest pull of a fork. The sausage was light, yet robustly flavored with spices and herbs. Almost porky but without the grease. The sweetbreads were creamy and crispy at the same time. A beautiful contrast. I highly recommend this dish.

Our next main was the “steak for two.” They offered 60-day bone-in Pat LaFrieda rib eyes in two sizes: 28oz or 32oz. Now, I know what you’re saying: “That’s for two?” Yeah – I agree. That’s small for two. They’re charging $99 for the smaller size as well, which is borderline crazy. However, I was really happy to see that it came with two sides (we chose zucchini and sautéed greens), and was prepared in such a uniquely Modenese way that I felt transported.

Okay so what makes it uniquely “Modenese?” On the bone there is a “Modenese Pesto,” which consists of pork lard, rosemary and spices. It was like sausage butter. Adding a smear of that on a bite of steak here and there made for a real treat. But the meat itself was rubbed with dried mushroom before cooking to give it a uniquely earthy crust. I also detected a hint of finishing balsamic on there as well, as I understand it is common in Modena to eat cooked steak with balsamic (I usually just use it on cold or raw meat salad type dishes). The only spots that had any real dry-aged flavor (a definitively different taste than the mushroomy crust) was along the bone, where less of the pellicle must have been trimmed away during butchery. In any case, that balsamic cut the fat nicely, and the mushroomy crust offered a very unique “steaking” experience on a perfectly cooked and tender cut of beef. 9/10.

This place is a must try for anyone who enjoys good Italian, especially pasta dishes. If you’re adventurous, get the rabbit as well. Now that Summer is over, that is a perfect dish for the Fall. Good luck getting a table though! From what I understand it’s pretty hard. We lucked out and someone gave us theirs (even though my wife had already gone once a few months ago).

REZDORA
27 E 20th St
New York, NY 10003

Cardoncello diVino

My wife and I discovered Cardoncello diVino this week and so far we are loving it.

First off, they have great cocktails like the smoked negroni and grande stella (tequila, mezcal, elderflower).

The table bread is a good variety of quality breads and breadsticks, served with a zucchini puree.

To start, we had a side of Cardoncello mushrooms, salmon carpaccio and sardines.

The salmon was a slight favorite over the mushrooms, but not by much. All were very good.

The pasta dishes really shine here. This paccheri with veal ragu was absolutely perfect. Cooked to a nice al dente texture and impeccably seasoned.

This crab and lemongrass tortelli dish had a fresh pea sauce that was awesome.

For one of our mains, we had shrimp with quinoa in a sambuca sauce. It may sound weird, but I assure you it was great. Only thing I’d change is to maybe swap the quinoa for something heartier like a farro risotto, made with that sauce.

The wagyu beef cheek was braised to fork tender deliciousness. It’s very easy to mow through this dish very fast.

For dessert, we had a lemon and coconut budino (rice pudding) with raspberry jelly on top, and a goat cheese and barley tart that was a teetering balance between savory and sweet.

I’m psyched to go back and try more pasta dishes, as well as take on their extra virgin olive oil tasting.

CARDONCELLO DIVINO
43 West 27th St
New York, NY 10001

Barn Joo

I recently had a meal here when celebrating a friends birthday party. Here’s a quick rundown of everything I tried:

This chicken with peanuts dish was really tasty. Nicely fried morsels of dark meat.

These fried beef dumplings were better still. I could have eaten a dozen.

While I’m not a huge tofu guy, these fried cubes were pretty tasty. I’d eat them again, but definitely not over the other two apps above.

Next up, beef noodles. These were ultimately pretty middle-of-the-road. Nothing stand-out about them.

The star of the show, however, was this pork belly dish. So much nice quality belly, with some chiccharones and a great spicy bean curd dip to boot. Awesome.

The octopus was perfectly cooked and had a great crunchy texture on the outside, but there was just something about it that bugged me. It had a flavor that reminded me of the smell of dried fish food. Perhaps it was something added on top for seasoning.

Lastly, their pickles and kimchi items are superb here. Some of the best I’ve had.

I would definitely go back here again.

BARN JOO
35 Union Square W
New York, NY 10003