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Trip Report A few more recent New York City restaurant experiences

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A few more food reports from relatively recent New York City visits.

-Five Napkin Burger (Queens). I don't often eat real hamburgers, opting instead for veggie burgers -- and I enjoyed the version served up here. The patty is good-sized, looking grainy and seeded, but it's not dry like veggie burgers can sometimes be. Served with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickle on a nicely textured whole wheat bun, it's gloppy with sauce (they call it 5N Sauce, like a sophisticated version of McDonald's "special sauce"), so the place name holds here as well as it does presumably for regular meat burgers. A side of onion rings was nicely prepared, crunchy, not too uniform in texture but not crumbly. Able and friendly service.

-Afghan Kebab House (Midtown). A little hole-in-the-wall Central Asian spot with very good food reasonably priced, judging from what I had -- mostly kebabs, korma, and such. Got the fish combo kebab, a mix of tandoori and spicy white fish chunks laid down as if just un-skewered over brown basmati rice. The spiciness was notable but not overpowering, maybe not for a serious chili-head but not wimpy wan, either. Accompanied by an undressed mixed salad (using the squeeze bottle of what is probably a yogurt sauce on the table for dressing is a good idea) and a rectangle of Afghan style bread, this was delicious and healthy stuff. Service is a touch slow but very pleasant. Well worth patronizing.

-Island Burgers and Shakes (Midtown). Another small and narrow eatery, specializing in burgers and chicken sandwiches in various guises. My goal here was to try one of their milkshakes. Decided on a black and while malted shake (vanilla with swirled chocolate sauce and malt) which was a luscious guilty pleasure, rich and thick with full mouth feel and vibrant flavor. While not something to get regularly unless you're rail thin and really don't care about your cholesterol, it's a sinfully fun occasional indulgence.

-New Won Jo (Midtown). There's a Koreatown of sorts just south of the Empire State Building, and this is one of several dining options there. This place is best known for Korean BBQ, but decided to go with tofu bibimbap. This consists of a stone dish of mixed veggies (shredded carrots, spinach, etc.), rice, and protein (can be beef, tofu, or other things, with a fried egg sometimes included), to which one often adds a spicy ketchup-like condiment (here courtesy of a squeeze bottle). Very good of its kind, with all cooked not too little, not too much. Flavors were clean and had personality. Definite pluses for the side dishes, including a good spicy kimchee, marinated seitan, bean sprouts, cooked greens, crunchy spicy radish chunks, and several other things, which were replaced as soon as they were emptied. Service was very attentive without being intrusive (water glasses were diligently kept full). Very good, and I'd happily go again.

-Carmine's (Times Square area). I probably should have known better, but decided to give this place a go anyway -- likely won't be back, either. The gimmick with this restaurant is that most everything is served family style -- fine if you're dining in a group, as most items are enough to feed four to six, but severely limiting for a one- or two-diner party unless you want to drag home one monstrous doggie bag. Got a Caesar salad, which had good romaine lettuce drowned in a lot of dressing and the largest, hardest croutons I've ever experienced. Then had a sandwich item from their menu that combined a number of things rolled together one on top of the other (eggplant, meat cutlet, cold cuts, melted cheese) -- with all the flavors cancelling each other out into a rather heavy mishmash. There was a ramekin of okay marinara sauce for dipping. The accompanying bread basket contained a number of hard or dry items that lacked flavor, and no butter or oil was offered. Service was perfunctory and sometimes ill-timed (bread basket came out well after the main course was delivered), if not unfriendly.

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