Tag Archives: historical restaurants

New Orleans Food Tour: Brennan’s

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

A disappointing breakfast at a beautiful restaurant.

Brennan’s is one of New Orleans famed historical restaurants. It opened on Bourbon Street in 1946 as Owen Brennan’s Vieux Carre Restaurant, and moved to its present location after the death of its founder. The restaurant, located in an 18th century building, underwent major restorations last decade, and it’s now famous for its several outrageously beautiful dining rooms, which so toe the line between elegant and kitschy. The front dining room, where we had breakfast, was wonderfully fun and Disneyesque. We could have been in a set from Beauty and the Beast.

Despite its age, Brennan is still a very popular restaurant in New Orleans, and its particularly noted for its breakfasts. Indeed, I read so much about them that I made reservations to eat there out last morning in New Orleans, despite the fact that I usually don’t eat breakfast. Alas, it proved a mistake. As lovely as the surroundings were, the food was underwhelming and overpriced.

As I wasn’t very hungry, and was planning to have after-breakfast dessert, I ordered the Shallot Tarte Tatin (caramelized shallots, sherry caramel, puff pastry, taleggio – $15.00). I expected the portion to be small, given that it was a (breakfast) appetizer, though perhaps not so small – still, it was delicious. I’d been afraid that the puff pastry would overwhelm the shallots, as is often the case, including when I’ve made similar tarts. Here, however, the puff pastry was barely there. There was just enough of it to hold the shallots together, and the chef must be recognized for this achievement. I will definitely try to copy this sometime. The shallots were perfectly caramelized and just beautiful, and they went wonderfully with the warmed cheese – which maybe needed to be a tad warmer so it wouldn’t cool down before I finished eating it. Still, this was a very successful dish, and for that reason, worth its rather steep price.

Brennan’s offers both New Orleans style chicory mixed coffee, and regular coffee from a local roaster. I had a pot of the latter ($9), and it was fine, though nothing to write home about. It did feel overpriced.

Mike had the Crawfish Omelette Cardinal (Vital Farms eggs, Louisiana crawfish tails, lemon scented Mascarpone, sauce Cardinal  – $28.00) and he was very disappointed in it. The biggest sin was that the crawfish were served separately from the omelette, instead of being incorporated into the omelette itself. The omelette, on its own, was pedestrian. He liked the dish, but was not awed by it and found it overpriced for what it was.

Mike had a French Quarter Fest (honeydew purée, Chareau aloe liqueur, sparkling wine – $15), which was basically a honeydew melon mimosa. He enjoyed quite a bit, and it has inspired me to try mixing champagne with a variety of fruit juices and purees to see which ones might work.

One of Brennan’s main claims to fame is that its antecedent restaurant was the originator of Bananas Foster. As the story goes, Ella Brennan created the dish based on a dessert her mother used to make and named it after Richard Foster, the chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission and a friend of her husband’s. That meant that we had to have the dish. You can only order it for at least 2 people, at $14 per person.

At Brennan’s, the waiter will come and flambee the dish table side. This means that you can see everything that goes into it: an enormous amount of butter and sugar and a banana, split in two. The banana is then served with the resulting toffee sauce and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I’m sorry to say that as much as we loved the show – and enjoyed seeing kids seating nearby be fascinated by the flambeeing -, the results were underwhelming. The toffee sauce was unbelievably sweet – or rather, quite believable – and the banana didn’t really have the time to absorb much of it, it just slid off it. The ice cream was quite bland, and didn’t really work with the caramel. It was just not worth the sugar content.

Service was fine though uneven. The floor manager in our dining room – I don’t recall what title he used when he introduced himself – was an incredible salesman, welcoming everyone into the restaurant and convincing patrons that yes, in New Orleans, breakfast cocktails were a thing. It was a pleasure just to see him work the room. The waiters themselves were less impressive.

In all, I felt this was our most disappointing meal in New Orleans, as well as our most overpriced one, and it’s the one place I would not return to, at least for breakfast.

417 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA
M-F: 9 am - 2 pm, 6 - 10 pm
Sa-Su: 8 am - 2 pm, 6 - 10 pm

New Orleans Food Tour

New Orleans Food Tour: The Richelieu Bar @ Arnaud’s

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Pre-dinner cocktails in an elegant bar

Arnaud’s is another classic New Orleans restaurant, dating all the way back to 1918. On a Friday night, the restaurant was impossibly busy and lively, it looked like a great place to go if what you want is an upbeat, social atmosphere.

However, the recommendations we had were to go to Arnaud for a drink before having dinner at G.W. Finn across the street. Arnaud’s main bar, French 75, has been named by Esquire Magazine one of the five best bars in the country. And that might indeed be the case – but we’ll never know, as when we arrived a little before 8 PM, the place was popping and full and we couldn’t get a table or even a seat at the bar. Instead of waiting, we were offered a table at Arnaud’s older and far smaller Richelieu Bar, and given that our time was limited, we decided to take it.

The Richelieu Bar was built in 1948 in one of the oldest parts of the restaurant, though it was recently renovated. It maintains its beautiful mahogany bar. The space is rather small and dark, and on a Friday night, it was filled with young people in girls’ and boys’ weekend trips, mostly sitting at the banquette on the back or going in and out the back door.

The bar serves both food and drinks, though given our upcoming dinner reservations we decided to go only for the former.

Mike got the French 75 (Cognac, Lemon Juice, Sugar, Moet Chandon Champagne, $15), the drink for which Arnaud’s is famous.

This cocktail was developed in the 1920’s, though champagne-based cocktails date back to the 19th century. While the older French 75 recipes used gin, later recipes substituted it with cognac, and that is Arnaud’s approach to the drink.

Unfortunately, we didn’t like it. I, of course, found it way too strong and sour for my taste. Surprisingly, so did Mike. He just didn’t think it was very tasty, and felt the alcohol in the cocktail wasn’t tempered by the added ingredients. As this was our first French 75, I think the problem was the drink itself, and not Arnaud’s rendition.

I didn’t feel like an alcoholic drink – I’m clearly not much of a drinker – so I ordered a Tropic Storm (Pineapple Juice, Honey Syrup, Pomegranate, Lime Juice – $8). The drink was tasty enough, and the presentation was beautiful, but there was barely any of it. The glass was mostly filled with ice, and I’d be surprised if there was more than 4 to 6 oz of actual juice in it. That was disappointing, but clearly a bar is not a place to order non-alcoholic drinks.

Service was good and in all, we had a nice time hanging out there. Next time we might try going to the French 75 bar and ordering other stuff.

Richelieu Bar @ Arnaud's
813 Rue Bienville
New Orleans, LA

New Orleans Food Tour

New Orleans Food Tour: Broussard’s

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Delicious Creole food in a historical restaurant

Creole cuisine was developed in the kitchens of innumerable Creoles during the French and Spanish period, who combined European techniques with native and African ingredients, but it was popularized and brought to its zenith in the kitchens of a handful of now classic restaurants in New Orleans. Several of them still exist today, both in and out of the French Quarter, and no visit to the City is complete without dining at least one of them.

That said, I had not intended to go to Broussard’s for lunch the second and last day of our New Orleans trip. I had previously made and then cancelled reservations to Galatoire’s, another of these classic restaurants, whose Friday lunch is legendary, thinking that we’d want lighter fare for lunch. But it was a beautiful day, and after eating beignets in the courtyard of our hotel, I thought lunch in the courtyard of a nearby restaurant would be just lovely. Broussard not only fit the bill, but it had reservations available. And reservations are a must if you want to sit in the courtyard – walk ins are seated indoors, which is also lovely, but not what I wanted that day.

Broussard’s traces its history back to 1920 when Joseph Broussard, a Creole with French culinary training, opened the restaurant in the childhood home of his wife, Rosalie. After the couple died in the 1960’s, the restaurant was sold and has changed hands a number of times, but still occupies the same lovely building with a comfortable, casual and very sunny patio.

A jazz band plays during brunch, Fridays to Sundays, though that day they were mostly visiting individual tables and playing “Happy Birthday” – the trumpet player was amazing. Given how warm it was that early April day, I feel for them during New Orleans summers.

Broussard’s brunch menu offers Creole, Southern and French classics and I really wish I had been hungrier to try more of them – the baked Camembert, in particular, sounded wonderful. Mike, who hadn’t eaten as many beignets as I had, ordered the Duck And Alligator Sausage Gumbo, with Louisiana popcorn rice ($12) as an appetizer. This was our second gumbo of the trip, and we both agreed that it was the superior one. The soup was very flavorful, only slightly spicy and achieved that umami quality that is essential for any soup. The shredded duck, in particular, was delicious, while the alligator sausage was interesting but not as flavorful as Andouille. We’d definitely order this dish again.

I ordered the Short Ribs & Eggs ($34) which came with brabant potatoes and hollandaise sauce (I asked fo it to be on the side). The short rib was delicious, perfectly cooked, with the absolutely right texture and devoid of extra fat. The kitchen knows how to prepare a short rib. The potatoes were good as well, particularly with the hollandaise. While the dish didn’t appear huge, I was stuffed.

Mike had the Bbq Gulf Shrimp & Grits ($29) and he was in heaven. The “New Orleans style” barbecue sauce didn’t taste like any barbecue sauce I’m acquainted with, but was absolutely delicious. He usually hates grits, but he enjoyed these mascarpone grits swimming in them. If you are going to eat shrimp and grits in New Orleans – and if you like shrimp, you sort of have to -, this is where you should get them.

Neither of us had any room for dessert, but I did have bottomless mimosas ($18) with brunch. I liked that they make them for you at the table, bringing you a small carafe with orange juice to add to the flutes they keep filling with champagne. This way I was able to get the perfect mimosa for my taste – about 2/3rds champagne, 1/3 orange juice. These weren’t the best mimosas in the world, the orange juice wasn’t freshly squeezed, but they were definitely a fun drink to have in a warm day like that one.

Service was great. Our waiter was genial and efficient, even when he had to also take over the mimosa duty when the drink waiter became unavailable.

In all, this was one of the best meals we had in New Orleans, and it very much overshadowed the breakfast we had the next day at Brennan’s. If you are going to one restaurant for brunch, this is the place.

819 Conti Street
New Orleans, LA
M & Th: 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
F & Sa: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm & 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Su: 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Tu-W: closed

New Orleans Food Tour

New Orleans Food Tour: Cafe du Monde

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Wherein we confirm that beignets are just not our thing.

The Cafe du Monde is one of the America’s oldest – and most famous – cafes, serving chicory coffee and beignets since 1862. This open air cafe is located at one end of the French market in the French quarter and attracts endless lines of tourists. While our visit to Cafe Beignet had pretty much convinced us that we didn’t like beignets, any visit to New Orleans demands a visit to Cafe du Monde. Alas, rather than face the crowds myself, I sent Mike to get us beignets. I didn’t burden him with getting chicory coffee, as I was pretty sure I would not like it. Chicory has been used as a coffee extender for ages, and while it has become quite popular in New Orleans, there is a reason why that popularity hasn’t travelled (I guess this is just as true for beignets). Plus our hotel had normal coffee available for guests.

The beignets come in paper bags, three to an order ($3.85)

They had irregular shapes, they were probably rectangular to being with but they deformed in the hot oil. I liked them better than those at Cafe Beignet because they were slightly lighter and less dense, but only slightly. These were still heavy, chewy and just not that tasty. Again, regular doughnuts are far superior.

Still, I’m glad we tried them.

Besides its location at the French Market, Café du Monde has several locations throughout New Orleans, including one at the airport. So, if unlike us, you do like beignets, you can pick some up right before you fly back home.

Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA
(504) 587-0833
Su-Th: 7:15AM-11PM
F-Sa: 7:15AM-12AM

New Orleans Food Tour

New Orleans Food Tour: Napoleon House

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

The Muffulettas are as good as you heard.

Napoleon House is one of those “must go to” restaurants when you visit the French Quarter. Not only is it famous for its muffulettas – a sandwich invented in New Orleans, albeit at an Italian deli, not here -, but it’s located in a beautiful, historical home that convenes in one place the whole spirit of the French Quarter, itself a magical place.

As the story goes, the house was originally built in 1797 and enlarged in 1814 for Nicholas Girod, then mayor of New Orleans. A large three story brick building with plaster covered walls, the house reflects French architectural influences with its hipped roof , dormers and French doors and Spanish ones, as shown in its internal patio and wrought iron balconies. In 1821, Girod seems to have devised a plan to rescue Napoleon, who was then on exile in the island of St. Helena after his defeat at Waterloo, and bring him to live in this home. While Napoleon died before Girod could undertake this scheme, the house inherited Napoleon’s name. In 1914, Italian immigrant Joe Impastato turned it into a bar and the business slowly evolved into the restaurant it is today.

And a beautiful restaurant it is. The smallish, dark dining rooms still display those discolored stucco plastered walls, evoking a long ago feeling. They are decorated with old pictures and Napoleon memorabilia, and you can imagine yourself plotting up a secret mission or a pirate raid on its tables. The patio, where we didn’t eat, is more conventionally beautiful and relaxing, though it still conveys an old world feeling.

Napoleon House is a casual place with a casual menu. It serves salads and sandwiches, with a few ubiquitous appetizers and sides. Like most restaurants in New Orleans, it offers beers and wines as well as local cocktails. They are particularly known for their Pimm’s No.1 drinks, though I didn’t realize that until later, so we didn’t try them.

What I did have was the muffuletta – or at least a quarter of one ($8.5). It wasn’t until we got to the restaurant that we realized we weren’t that hungry after all, and we wanted a light dinner. A quarter of a muffuletta seemed perfect – in particular, because I was very apprehensive about them. A muffuletta is a sandwich of deli meats and cheeses typically covered with a thick layer of olive salad. Neither Mike nor I are fans of olives, so we were afraid we wouldn’t like it. Watching the videos of how they’re made at Central Grocery & Deli, the place where they were invented, I still think that’s likely to be the case there, but the one at Napoleon House was just perfect. It had enough olives to give the sandwich a kick, but not enough to actually taste them individually. At Napoleon House, the muffulettas are served hot and the melted cheese deliciously brought the whole sandwich together. In all, it was a delicious sandwich and just the right size for my light hunger. I’d definitely have it again.

Mike ordered the Boudin sausage ($8) which was served with bread and mustard. I was surprised that it wasn’t a blood sausage – I usually think of that when I hear “boudin” – but in Louisiana, a “boudin” sausage typically refers to one made of pork and rice. This gives the sausage a disconcerting soft texture, but it had a pretty good flavor. Mike liked it though he wasn’t awed by it.

For dessert, I tried a New Orleans classic: chocolate Doberge Cake ($8). This consists of a multi layer chocolate cake with chocolate pudding filling. I wasn’t thrilled with it. It just tasted like your typical, overly dry chocolate cake. Warming it up and adding ice cream might have helped, but as it was, it was a waste of carbs.

As we didn’t know about the Primm’s, Mike ordered a Sazerac with absinthe ($13), another traditional New Orleans cocktail. Alas, he didn’t really enjoy it, and it was too strong and bitter for me to do anything more than taste it. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great Sazerac, but it was enough to make it our first and last experience with the drink.

We had no complaints about service, and we didn’t feel any pressure to leave even though I think we stayed until closing time. In all, I’d recommend Napoleon House to anyone visiting the French Quarter.

Napoleon House
500 Chartres Street
New Orleans, LA
(504) 524-9752
Su-Th 11am-10pm
F-Sa: 11am-11pm

New Orleans Food Tour

NYC Food Adventures: Tavern on the Green

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Tavern on the Green is a NYC Institution, But Is it Worth Eating There?

Our last meal in New York City was brunch at Tavern on the Green. The only restaurant actually located in Central Park, Tavern on the Green has been a NYC institution for ninety years. The restaurant came into life in the 1930’s in a former sheep fold, and underwent changes and expansions in the decades to come. Throughout its history, it served socialites, celebrities and tourists alike, and has been featured in a myriad of movies. After closing and falling into disrepair in the aughts, it underwent a major renovation – I read somewhere that only the original wood beams from the ceiling were kept – and re-opened in 2014. Since then, it’s had its share of struggles, and reviews are mixed.

Still, I figured a visit to the park followed by brunch at Tavern on the Green, would be the perfect way to close our week in New York City – and I was right. It had snowed the night before, and Central Park was covered in light, fluffy, perfect snow that morning. The park was beautiful, enchanting. To me, it looked like out of a postcard. And the restaurant, from the outside at least, looked dreamy.

Inside, the restaurant is very large, with several dining rooms, each with its own vibe. There is one around a very busy bar, bursting with energy. Several have lots of windows, with great views of the park. Most were quite full, though we were seated fairly promptly after we arrived and checked our coats.

We were seated in the last dining room, near the kitchen. It’s a rather small, cozy dining room with tables looking into an enclosed area on one side, and to the patio on the other. It featured the aforementioned wood beams. This was a much quieter dining room than others, but also a darker one – particularly in what was still a cloudy day.

Our table for two was in the middle of the room, which made it much less pleasant. I would have much preferred a window view, and I really should have asked for one – so I have only myself to blame for not getting one. Fortunately, the waiter traffic around us wasn’t too annoying.

Tavern on the Green was serving brunch, that Saturday morning at 11:30 AM, and their menu was surprisingly limited. Prices were high, though not unexpectedly so given its location. I have to confess that I was uninspired by the choices. The menu has a lot of American classics, but not particularly exciting ones, at least in their descriptions. The offerings also seemed rather disjointed – though I guess “American classics” is a theme. It took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted to eat. I was also disappointed that they didn’t have fresh orange juice available.

I finally decided on the French Onion Soup ($14) and the potato pancakes. The soup was surprisingly to my taste (I won’t say good, as I’m sure preferences differ a lot here). The onions were very, very sweet, and contrasted nicely with the saltiness of the cheese. It had an old-fashioned taste – perhaps the lack of bitterness made me think “American” rather than “French”. I just enjoyed it.

The Potato Pancakes ($12) served with sour cream and apple sauce, were also surprisingly tasty. They were very nicely seasoned, without being overly salty. I probably would have preferred them if they were less crispy – they were a tad on the dry side and could use less time in the fryer -, but flavor wise, they were definitely there. I was sad that I wasn’t able to finish them.

Mike had the Green Chicken Salad (deviled eggs, haricots verts, baby oakleaf lettuce, frisée, sundried dates, toasted almonds, red wine vinaigrette – $33). This was a huge salad, and a very filling one. Mike couldn’t finish it. He particularly liked the deviled eggs – he loves deviled eggs -, but the chicken was also nicely spiced and grilled. If you’re going to have a salad for lunch, this is a very good option.

Service was fine, I don’t remember anything particular about it, and we really had a lovely experience – though a window would have made it better. After lunch, we stopped at the gift shop which has a lot of beautiful items, though as overpriced as you expect them to be.

In all, it was a nice lunch, though I’m not sure I’d return – while the food was good, it was boring, and expensive, and the restaurant is so buy you get the feeling you are at an amusement park.

Tavern on the Green
67th Street & Central Park West,
New York City
Monday - Thursday 11am - 10pm
Friday 11am - 11pm
Saturday 9am-11pm
Sunday 9am-10pm

NYC Food Adventures: Katz’s Deli

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Yes, we had the Pastrami Sandwich. And yes, it was as good as they said.

Katz’s Deli is perhaps New York City’s most famous restaurant. At least, it’s the one “must visit” restaurant in every list I looked in preparation to our trip to NYC. It has appeared in several movies, most famously, in the “orgasm” scene in When Harry Met Sally. Katz’s claims to be the oldest deli in NYC, and it has operating at its present location for almost a hundred years. Mike and the girls had visited it back when we last went to NYC in 2016, after the Democratic Convention in Philly, and had brought me a sandwich from there – I had been so exhausted after the convention that I barely left the hotel room. But I wanted to go myself and really savor that very famed pastrami sandwich.

As Katz’s is such a famous destination, it can also be impossibly busy – with lines which sometimes are supposed to near 45 minutes. Fortunately, it was pretty empty when we arrived before noon on a cold February day and I was able to find a seat right away.

katz ticket

Katz’s has a somewhat confusing system of serving customers, but it works fairly well. When you go in, every person is given a red ticket at the door. The cost of what you order will be written on the ticket by either the people at the counter, where you order, or your waiter if you get waiter service. When you are ready to go, you present the ticket to the cashier at the exit, and pay the amount written on it. You can put all your purchases on a single ticket, but just make sure to keep your blank ticket with you and return it to the cashier when you leave. If you don’t have your ticket, you’ll be charged $50.

Katz's deli

You have a choice of ordering your food at the counter and finding your own table where you can seat, or getting waiter service. Most of the available tables are for counter customers, but there is a small section at the back of the store (walk all the way back, and then go to the right, towards the bathrooms) where they have table service. If there is more than one of you, you can find a seat while someone goes to the counter and orders for the rest.

Katz' deli

Katz’s very long counter is divided into several sections. If you are ordering a meat sandwich – or, I presume, just meat – you go to one of the “cutters” who will give you a sample of the meats you are interested in (make sure to tip him a buck or two), for you to choose. They are most famous for their pastrami, but they also have corned beef, brisket and others. We’d been considering a combo pastrami-corned beef sandwich, but after tasting the pastrami, Mike knew that’s all he wanted. After ordering your sandwich, you can go to the other parts of the counter to order other dishes and drinks.

pastrami sandwich

Katz’s sandwiches are both expensive and huge, large enough to share as long as you are not starving (then, you might want your own or you might want to get a second dish). They are so filled with meat, that I found it easier to just eat the pastrami and forgo the bread – though Mike went for the sandwich experience. The pastrami was really very good, only slightly fatty, and just tasty and smoky (thought not overwhelmingly so). Sandwiches come with two types of pickles, full and half-sour, but as we don’t like pickles, they were wasted on us.

Getting to Katz’s on the subway from Times Square/Rockefeller Center was very easy, so it’s worth the trip, at least during those times when there isn’t much of a wait. You can algo get Katz’s goodies through a variety of delivery services, and they do ship nationwide.

BTW, there is no discount if your last name is “Katz“. We asked, as apparently lots of other people have (for those who are not in the US, Katz is a very common Jewish last name over here).

Katz's Delicatessen
205 East Houston Street

New York City
(212) 254-2246
Monday - Thursday: 8:00 AM - 11:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM - Sunday 11:00 PM

NYC Food Adventures: Junior’s

Notes from a New York City Foodie Trip

Is Junior’s Cheesecake worth its accolades?

I love cheesecake. My guess is that most people who have tried cheesecake, love cheesecake. But I was a relatively late convert to cheesecake. My first real experience with it did not come until after college. Before, I had been reluctant to try it. In my childhood, my mother made a frozen ricotta cake which I wasn’t terribly fond of, so when Sara Lee frozen cheesecakes hit the Argentine market, I’m going to guess around 1980, the time of a cheap dollar and lots of imports, I refused to even try them. I loved the Sara Lee strawberry shortcake (no longer produced), but the idea of cheesecake seemed, to me, to be an abomination. After that, cheesecake just went into my long last of things I knew I wouldn’t like, so I didn’t.

It wasn’t until I was doing my junior-cum-senior year abroad in Egypt that my interest in cheesecake was awoken. It was all because of Lola, another foreign student at the American University in Cairo who would quickly become my best friend. She craved cheesecake. She talked about it incessantly. So much so, that we spent a fair amount of time looking for cheesecakes in Cairo – never to be found. So when we returned, I had to try it. I actually can’t remember the first time I did, but soon enough I became, like practically everyone else, a cheesecake aficionado. Over the years and decades, I have eaten and baked many a cheesecake. To be honest, most of them taste pretty close to each other. They are made with sweetened Philadelphia-style cream cheese, flour, sugar and eggs. Variations come on the crust – graham cracker is traditional, but I’ve preferred it with vanilla wafers -, and on the toppings. These can be anything: chocolate, fruit, caramel, peanut butter; you name it. But, I keep going back to plain New York cheesecake. Sometimes simpler is better.

It should thus not be surprising that for my first stop in New York City, I chose Junior’s for dinner. Among the myriad of restaurants and bakeries serving cheesecake in NYC, the two most often mentioned as having the best cheesecake in town (and therefore, the world) are Junior’s and Eileen’s Special Cheesecake. Junior’s, which started as a coffee shop-style restaurant in Brooklyn back in 1950, has since opened two other locations in Manhattan (and one in Connecticut), one of which was just a couple of shorts blocks away from our hotel.

There was no wait to be seated, on that Sunday evening in February – but Junior’s offers an online waitlist for those times when it’s busy. The 49th St. & Broadway location where we dined looks like an old-fashioned coffee shop; there are booths, tables and lots of waiters buzzing around. The immense menu has everything you’d expect in a restaurant of that kind and more: burgers, soups and salads, lots of different sandwiches – including four different Reubens -, seafood prepared in a myriad of ways, roasted or fried seafood and meats, BBQ (?!) and a couple of odes to its Eastern European cultural origins: Hungarian beef goulash and Romanian steak. In addition to a myriad of cheesecakes, Junior’s serves other desserts, ice cream sodas, malts and shakes. If you are looking for that 1950’s diner-style experience from so many Hollywood movies, you’ll find it here. Most of the crowd were foreign tourists, however, judged by the myriad of mostly European languages we heard spoke and the location near Times Square.

Junior's Pastrami Cheeseburger

We weren’t particularly hungry, however – I’d brought us a sandwich to share in the plane – so we decided to split a pastrami burger ($23) and two slices of cheesecake. The burger was impressive as far as size went, but not particularly great. It wasn’t as juicy or flavorful as I’d had hoped for. The pastrami itself was very tasty, the slices were fairly thick and had a pleasant smoky flavor. Ordering a pastrami sandwich might be a better call here. The burger was served with steak fries and onion rings, which were remarkably under-seasoned. Their ranch dressing was superb, however.

Junior's classic cheesecake

The cheesecakes, fortunately, were much better. I just loved their “famous No1 original cheesecake,” aka New York cheesecake ($9/slice). It was light and very creamy, and most importantly, had a very different flavor from most cheesecakes. It tasted like it was made from some type of farmer’s cheese, it had a more savory, aged? flavor and was less sweet that most cheesecakes I’ve had. Perhaps they use neufchatel, the French cheese American cream cheese is set to imitate? I don’t think I would have liked it as a kid, but as an older adult, it hit the spot. The cheesecake is made with a thin sponge cake crust, rather than a graham cracker one, which improves the whole experience. In all, I was quite happy and considered bringing one back with me. However, that might have been a disaster and Junior’s ships them country-wide, so I might order one for Thanksgiving or another holiday meal. I think I will also try to recreate it, and I’ll blog about my tries when the time comes.

Junior's Brownie Cheesecake

The “brownie explosion cheesecake” slice ($9.25) we ordered was much less successful. I was envisioning a cheesecake with little pieces of brownie baked in, but instead it consisted of two layers of brownie with some cheesecake in the middle. The brownie was good, but very dense, and too rich a dessert for this stage in my life. Plus, flavor wise, the brownie overwhelmed the cheesecake.

Service was good but hurried. The experience in general was quite positive. I’d go back.

626 Broadway @ 49th Street
Manhattan, NYC

Sunday – Thursday 7am – 12am
Friday – Saturday 7am – 1am