Are you a Millennial who’s into wellness brands and likes her pasta served in a shade of fluorescent pink? Then The Sosta, the new fast-casual pasta restaurant from the minds behind By Chloe, is the perfect place for you. On the corner of Mott and Kenmare St, the bright lights of the restaurant invite you in to consider their Italian offerings. The dishes have catchy names, mixing familiar faces like bolognese and vodka sauce with interesting pasta options like gemelli and zucca. And the pasta tastes healthier than what you would get at the nearby red sauce joints in Little Italy, and an added plus is that you can get the pasta gluten-free or even zucchini noodle-based.Read More
I love eating dumplings and scallion pancakes, but I don’t love going to Chinatown. And I love it even less if I have to wait in line for them. Which is why I could never bring myself to do dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor, the historic Chinese restaurant that seems to be perennially mobbed during the weekend. I’d rather get seated quickly at my reliable standby Dim Sum Go Go. Which is quite good, by the way. Traditionalists will beg to differ.Read More
There’s a necklace that I really love that I have no use for. When I bought it at the time, it was so interesting and distinctive that I fell in love with it. But outside of that moment, I’m not quite sure what to do with it. it doesn’t quite match any of my outfits, and in order to wear it, I’d have to build a new wardrobe around it. So now it just hangs out in my jewelry box.
Mr. Donahue’s, a tiny little restaurant in Nolita run by the Uncle Boons team, reminds me a lot of that necklace. It’s extremely quirky and charming but so very strange. I know I liked being there, but I wouldn’t know when to go back. The place is tiny, with 6 bar stools around a counter and two small dining tables. It’s physically set up for meals with quick turnaround, but they’re serving proper dinners, so given that plus the tight space, it’s not quite right for a date night or a small group dinner. The atmosphere is also a little odd, it looks like an old time ice cream parlor from the 1950s, but it’s cranking out diner staples like fried meat and roast beef and serving them on porcelain plates and doily place settings. Plus there are some subtle Asian undertones in the seasonings. It all made me scratch my head a little bit.
It is a very random place, and like rummaging through the sales bin at a thrift store, you”ll stumble upon some key finds in a sea of knick knacks. Some things in our loot that we were very happy with–the nutty gazpacho soup, the pickled beets with candied walnuts, the creamy gnocchi covered in chives, and the very fun to say and also fun to eat pattypan squash parm.
The sides surprisingly were more memorable than the mains that were advertised. The chicken fried pork cheeks tasted like a standard cutlet, while the bland broiled porgy was puzzling. The server said that the fish was underutilized, and now I can see why. I was pretty envious of all the roast beef platters around me. It seems like this is the way to go in terms of mains. And an impulse buy that worked out really well for us was the fantastic banana rum pudding that we ordered for dessert.
Like my necklace, Mr. Donahue’s will always be in my back pocket when thinking about where to go to eat. I’ll always wonder about it and consider it in the realm of possibility, but its randomness and quirks will hold me back sometimes from actually going there. But when I do tip my toe in the water and take it out for a drive, I’ll be very happy that I did.
203 Mott St (between Kenmare and Spring St)
New York, NY 10012
There’s a concept in retailing called the hero SKU. It’s basically the one item in the store that carries the entire business. At Tory Burch this would be her famous ballet flat, or at Ralph Lauren it would be the men’s polo shirt. And for food, it would be the pancakes at Clinton Street Bakery and the cupcakes at Magnolia (even though the banana pudding is wayyy better).
And at Pasquale Jones, the new Italian restaurant in Nolita run by the Charlie Bird team, the little neck clam pizza is the hero. Clam chowder is one of my favorite foods in the world. It was the soup of the day on Friday at Denny’s, and you can only guess what I had for dinner every Friday night in the suburbs. This pie basically tastes like Friday night at Denny’s, and I mean that in the most flattering way. If you can imagine creamy clam chowder soup on top of a doughy, chewy crust, that is what this clam pizza tastes like. Since the Charlie Bird team is behind this, you know that they can recommend some excellent wines to pair with that pizza. I am blanking on the bottle we ordered, but it was somewhat dry, a little funky, and brought out the brine in the clams.
Sometimes a restaurant might rest on the laurels of the hero SKU and neglect the other parts of the menu. Pasquale Jones is not like that. I didn’t think I would love eating leeks as an appetizer, as the faint resemblance to onions is not really my thing, but here they braise away any of that raw flavor so that you almost feel like you’re eating creamy meaty asparagus with scallions. I love how the menu is small so that you don’t get too overwhelmed by choices. You can order a few appetizers, a pizza and an entree and feel like you’ve grasped the main intent of the menu.
There’s only one dessert option, a mascarpone gelato with rhubarb and olive oil. You might think it’s a lazy way to check the box at the end of a meal, but it’s one of the best parts. They rotate the fruit topping based on the season, but whatever it is, the tastiness is perennial. And the icing on the cake? Gratuity is included but the prices aren’t outrageous. One of the few times where saying “check please” is a pleasant one.
187 Mulberry St (between Broome & Kenmare St)
New York, NY 10012
Public made a big splash when it first opened for its interesting Aussie New Zealand fusion cuisine and for a beautifully designed space that won the admiration of many design geeks. I remember loving the brunch back in 2009, but I haven’t been back since, as it was a little bit out of the way from my former UES residence to make it a regular neighborhood spot.
A few weeks ago, near the Elizabeth Street Garden, I heard live music playing, which I assumed was coming from the garden. As I followed the sound, I learned that it was actually coming from a wedding that was being held at Public. I guess over the years they repurposed part of the main dining room into an event space, which is totally fine, although I found it odd that the wedding was being held at normal hours. Semiformal meets Sunday casual, very interesting. With that, Public reentered my consciousness, and I decided to see how brunch had changed over the years.
The brunch menu has been tweaked somewhat to accommodate recent food trends like quinoa and avocado toast, and Asian seems to be an even bigger influence than in the past. I never expected to see kimchi, togarashi and yuzu all on the same menu. The French toast that I loved seems to have been retired, which was disappointing, but I got over it. I”m more of a savory brunch eater anyways.
I do think Public has aged pretty well and the brunch is still very solid, even with all the changes that took place. The kimchi waffles, which I was very skeptical of, was a big crowd pleaser, and something I would return for. I remember liking the Turkish eggs back in the day, but this second encounter was not as favorable. The soft boiled eggs and unsweetened thick yogurt was too plain and dense, I felt like I was eating gobs of unflavored 100% Fage straight from the package. But overall the brunch was adventurous and on trend, and it’s hard to beat a table in a pretty part of Nolita that’s not impossible to get. A good meal here is truly available to the public.
210 Elizabeth St (between Prince and Spring St)
New York, NY 10012