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Trip Report Recent New York City restaurant experiences

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Went to some NYC restaurants not long ago that have been known to show up in guidebooks, and found them to be a mixed lot, with some significant disappointments among them. Details:

--Amy Ruth’s. Got fried chicken and waffles here, which were really good. Leg quarter of chicken was as good as I’ve had down south, with a thin but sufficient coating that was beautifully browned and chicken underneath ideally cooked. Good waffles, perfectly cooked with just the right amount of crispness. With this place and Mamie’s Spoonbread Too, these constitute the best Harlem soul food places I’ve eaten at thus far.

--Sylvia’s. Have seen some grumbles about this place, and sorry to report I’m with the naysayers here. Got a ribs and fried chicken combo with sides. Ribs were overcooked to the point that the meat at the top of the ribs was tough as leather – ribs were covered with a sauce that was really odd, quite sweet with noticeable overtones of lemon and vegetables. Chicken leg quarter was cooked underneath but coating was heavy and leaden. Collards were horribly salty and gumbo was pasty and dull.

--Patsy’s (Harlem, apparently not affiliated with the other Patsy’s locations downtown). A cheese slice was a serious disappointment, very thin crust with remarkably meager sauce and cheese. No there there, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein.

--Totonno’s (uptown Manhattan). Note that the original Coney Island location, allegedly the best of these, is now closed due to a fire. Cheese and sauce were really good, potentially in the same league as John’s and Grimaldi’s, both of which I count as my favorite New York pizza spots. But the pie was utterly ruined because the crust was unbelievably overcooked, to the point where the crust was dark brown and hard with much of the crust’s bottom flat-out burned. It wasn’t the only pizza I saw on surrounding tables that looked this way either, so it’s hard to think this was a mistake. Cook the crust right and this could be a really good pizza.

--EJ’s Luncheonette. Had breakfast here, a place that’s trying hard to be a classic Greek style diner. Coffee was good. A dish of sweet potato and turkey hash was just bizarre, essentially pureed sweet potato with turkey cubes mixed in – am guessing it’s wisest to stick to basics at a spot like this.

--Virgil’s Real BBQ. There were good, bad, and indifferent things about the food here. Pork ribs were actually pretty good despite a few of them being fatty, cooked respectably with a very good dry rub seasoning. Sides of collards and beans were just average, perfectly edible but nothing special. What was not good were the BBQ sauces, both of which came in bottles on the table – mild sauce had no character, hot sauce had a snarly kick but no substance beyond its spiciness.

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