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Lindsay

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Entries in Restaurant reviews (293)

Thursday
Jan192017

Reviewed: An authentic Mexican brunch at Citrico

Restaurant: Citrico

  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Location: 681 Washington Avenue - (Prospect Heights) Brooklyn 11238   
  • Pricing: $-$$
  • What's delicious: Fresh margaritas (you can't go wrong with the traditional), handmade corn tortillas, authentic Mexican rice, chile de arbol salsa
  • Perfect for: Legit tequila/mezcal-based cocktails, happy hour, brunch, homesick Mexicans and Texans

...

For those of you who have been around here for a while, you're not only aware of my obsession with Mexican food, but are all too familiar with my arduous attempts at finding decent representations of the cuisine here in NYC...  

Last Sunday, my friend, Shelley, and I trotted over to Brooklyn to check out Citrico, a new-ish Mexican joint in Prospect Heights, for brunch.  Upon our 11AM arrival (What? We wanted to beat the crowds.), we had the entire intimate restaurant to ourselves (Come noon, that would soon change.).  Bright and inviting, the small, yet fully functional space was adorned with turquoise and pastel-colored wooden tables, black and white family(?) photos, Mexican tchotchkes, and an energetic open kitchen. 

We plopped down and immediately ordered a round of cocktails.  While Shelley opted for the traditional margarita, I chose the more exotic "Guavazcal," a mezcal concoction married with guava and lime juices, plus ginger beer and served on-the-rocks.  The mason jar in which it was poured was rimmed with spicy Tajin.  While my beverage may have been more appealing to the eye (Maybe it was the ginger beer that threw me off?), I much preferred Shelley's excellently-crafted authentic margarita.  

Citrico: The "Guavazcal" cocktail (mezcal, guava and lime juices, and ginger beer)Citrico: Traditional margarita

Between sips of our cocktails - and prior to placing our meal order - we noshed on a gratis bowl of what one of the owners coined as "chicharrones."  However, these crunchy rings had no trace of meat/poultry.  Addictive, crispy, and sprinkled with a zesty spice powder, Shelley and I managed to inhale our entire bowl within seconds.  

Citrico: Vegetarian chicharrones

Forgoing guacamole, which seems to be the quintessential 'first order' for every Yankee at a Mexican restaurant, we opted for the house-made chips and quartet of salsas, including pico de gallo, tomatillo, guajillo, and chile de arbol.  While I'm not a big tomatillo fan (it always seems to have a weird gelatinous consistency), the other three salsas were dynamite; my favorite being the chile de arbol with it's smooth, creamy texture and garlicky finish.  The chips were still warm from the fryer and seasoned with the perfect amount of salt.

Citrico: Homemade salsa trio + chips 

In a dual effort to sample as much of the menu as we could, Shelley and I chose to split three entrees: Panqueques, Huevos Divorciados, and the Huitlacoche Quesadilla.  Oh, and a bowl of Mexican rice.  God, what fatties!

Panqueques

When this plate of perfectly cooked (a fluffy interior with that crunchy, buttery exterior rim), golden brown pancakes arrived, I was a bit anxious.  Why?  Because, look at all of that fruit (see photo, below)!  There was so much of it, in fact, that we couldn't even see the top of the 'cakes.  "Oh, for crissakes," I exclaimed, "let me go ahead and scoot all of this crap off to the side."  Shelley giggled and watched as I moved the 'healthy bits' off to a lonely corner of the plate before dousing the real stuff in the accompanying tequila-infused cajeta sauce/syrup.  

Having grown up with cajeta in our kitchens, we both appreciated the Mexican influence on this traditionally American dish.  I will warn you, though, the tequila-infusion is NOT for the faint of heart or for the alcohol intolerant!

Citrico: Panqueques

Huevos Divorciados

To be fair to both sides, if you will, I played the role of hungry mediator and sampled both parties of the 'culinary divorce' at play on my plate: Bordered by a helping of black beans were two lightly-fried corn tortillas - arranged side-by-side - each respectively topped with a sunny side-up egg.  Salsa rojo crowned one of the eggs, while salsa verde smothered the other.

The Divorciados reminded me a lot of huevos rancheros, save for the fact that this version was finished with two salsas, not just one.   

Citrico: Huevos Divorciados

Huitlacoche Quesadillas

Homemade corn tortillas were lathered with queso blanco, freshly-shucked corn kernels, and a generous amount of huitlacoche before being griddled to perfection.  Drizzled crema, altocumulus-like clouds of queso fresco, and a nest of bright green shredded iceberg completed the dish.  

Citrico: Huitlacoche Quesadilla

Arroz Mexicano

It's rare to find an authentic version of Mexican rice in NYC.  Most often, I'm either served plain white or some deplorable attempt where the kernels are too long, the color is baby chick-yellow, and the seasoning is either nonexistent or way off.  Citrico, however, nails it: The kernels are short, the broth has notes of tomato, garlic, and chicken stock, the color is spot-on, and there are proper "clumps" dispersed throughout (my favorite).  

Citrico: Arroz Mexicano

Dessert?  Not after all of that comida!  We did, however, save room for one last tequila cocktail.  

*While it's not on the drink menu, if you're craving something that's both sweet and savory with a fiery finish, just ask for the spicy margarita.  It may have been our favorite beverage of the three that we enjoyed!

Citrico: Spicy margarita...

Shelley and I could not have been more pleased with our brunch, notably in terms of its authenticity (from the handmade corn tortillas and salsas to the cajeta, Mexican rice, and legit tequila/mezcal cocktails).  So much so, that I am co-hosting a brunch there in a few weekends for my Mexican Food Lovers' Meetup Group!

 

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle 

Thursday
Dec102015

(NYC) Reviewed: Flights - and bites - at Chelsea's World of Beer

*This post was written by Edgar Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  All photos were captured by Mr. Castillo.**

Restaurant: World of Beer

  • Cuisine: Bar food/gastropub
  • Location: 641 10th Avenue - NYC 10036  
  • Pricing: $-$$
  • What's delicious: 550 craft beers(!), Ahi Tuna Tacos, Chimay Burger, German Pretzel (+ beer cheese)
  • Perfect for: Craft beer-aficionados, where to watch the game, bro date, casual - yet elevated - bar food and drink

...

From a solid array of tavern eats and craft beer menus that are printed daily (twenty-plus featured beers with thirty rotating options from all over the world) to 'Trivia Night Tuesday's' and 'Football Sunday's (during the season),' Chelsea's World of Beer is a casual destination for quality and fun.  Quality fun!

Being that I was invited for a food/beer tasting, WOB (World of Beer) provided my guest and I with various offerings that are currently available on both the regular and seasonal menus.

I will review what we tasted and sipped in chronological order of what was served:

The Colorado Chili was intrepid, robust, and savory without being too spicy.  For a Texan who holds this dish in high regard, it did not let me down.  That was until I happened upon the spoonful containing a bean or two (Beans in chili are a cardinal sin in the Lone Star State - luckily, this version was named for Colorado, the Centennial State, so it got a free pass.).

Colorado ChiliTo accompany the chili and the forthcoming appetizers, we were treated to three generous flights of craft beer.  The first of which included:

  1. Lancaster Strawberry Wheat
  2. Dogfish Head Chocolate Lobster: A dark ale brewed with real lobster (allergy alert!) - my instant favorite because of its robust, dark notes and cocoa flavor
  3. Goose Island Sofie
  4. Kelso Nut Brown Lager
  5. Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale: Orange rind, wheat undertones
  6. Evil Twin Sour: Similar to Sorachi Ace, high notes of banana peel and airy herbs
  7. Gun Hill Void of Light
  8. Brooklyn Sorachi Ace: One of my recent favorites featuring a rare, Japanese-developed hop called Sorachi Ace, a varietal noted for its unique lemon zest/lemongrass aroma

Craft beer flight 1 (of 3)The appetizers round continued with a German Pretzel, which was accompanied by a bowl of molten beer cheese (so good, in fact, that I’d order a side of that shit alone if they’d let me)!  The pretzel, bigger than a sports car’s steering wheel, had great texture and made for the perfect treat to share!

German Pretzel + Beer Cheese! Like a hobbit sitting down to a second breakfast, we were presented with yet another appetizer to sample.  No complaints here!  The Ahi Tuna Tacos were so delicious, in fact, that they made me question my hard and fast rule of only ordering tacos at trusted taquerias.  The tuna, light and buttery with a tart-but-bold kick from the sriracha lime aioli, was enveloped by freshly-made roasted tomato and corn salsa and queso fresco. 

Honestly, we could have ended the night with a refill (or two) of these bad boys!

Ahi Tuna TacosThe Black and Blue Flatbread was savory, filling, and the flavors of the blue cheese and juicy steak blended together very nicely.  The balsamic reduction, while heavy-handed in its application, made for the perfect juxtaposition of sweet and savory.

The Chimay Burger was hands down, the most remarkable item of the night.  From the onions caramelized to perfection and the elegantly-sauteed mushrooms, to the Chimay Classique Cheese, this sandwich stands alone in a class by itself!  I don’t think I’ve ever said this about a burger, but it quite literally melted in my mouth!  Here it is, almost a month later and I'm still dreaming about it...

*Order this burger 'medium rare' to capitalize on all of the textures, flavors, and juices.

The Chimay BurgerAfter we enjoyed two more flights of craft beer, it was time for dessert! 

The Kahlua Belgian Waffle S’mores were a fun, modern spin on the campfire classic (albeit super STICKY), and the Caramel Apple Rings were a pseudo twist on a traditional apple turnover, accompanied by a decadent salted caramel sauce.

Dessert!

The tasting menu that we were provided is only a sampling of what the restaurant and beer hall has to offer.  With tantalizing selections such as Chimichurri meatballs, fried pickles, and artisan sausage boards - in addition to the numerous options on tap - there is surely something for everyone at WOB

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Dec092015

(NYC) Reviewed: I found heaven at Hell's Chicken

*This post was written by The Style Gourmande and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  All photos were captured by The Style Gourmande.**

Restaurant: Hell's Chicken

  • Cuisine: Korean, fried chicken
  • Location: 641 10th Avenue - NYC 10036  
  • Pricing: $-$$
  • What's delicious: Chicken/wings
  • Perfect for: Gluten free-friendly, beer & wings, neighborhood gem, foodies, 1x1 dining, casual

...

As a self-proclaimed 'fried chicken/wing enthusiast' who's been on her share of fried chicken-centric food crawls across Manhattan - and Korea, for that matter - I can confidently say that the absolute best version is right here in our own backyard: Hell’s Chicken is a Korean restaurant that, while offering a full range of traditional dishes, specializes in gluten-free fried chicken.  Oh, and the name of the place has nothing to do with some wickedly-spicy wing batter or accompanying dipping sauce - Hell's Chicken just so happens to be located in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood!  That's all.  So then what's the story with gluten-free fried chicken, you ask?  Well, initially, owner Sung Jin Min began serving two versions of the battered bird - one made with rice flour and the other with a traditional combo of rice and wheat flour.  Ultimately, he decided to do away with the latter (rice/wheat flour) and solely batter his chicken with rice flour (thus gluten-free fried chicken).  Plus, who isn't gluten-free these days?    

Clean & casually sophisticated digsBrined for twelve hours, Hell's Chicken's namesake item is fried-to-order and served one of two ways: Plain or enveloped with your choice of sauce (sweet, caramelized tomato or the signature "Hell's Rocks").  Obviously, I sampled both preparations!  My favorite of the two?  Sauced'up, of course.   

Fried wings sans sauceFried wings with "Hell's Rocks" sauce - sprinkled with cashews for the extra crunchIn addition to the outstanding chicken, I ordered the Bibimbap, which was presented in a sizzling stone bowl and served alongside traditional accompaniments (kimchi, bean sprouts).  Julienned carrot, aster, radish, bracken, squash, and bean sprouts were beautifully displayed atop warm rice and crowned with a raw egg yolk.  Using my chopsticks, I stirred the ingredients together with a dollop of a spicy/sweet sauce that consisted of hot pepper paste, honey, and sesame oil.  Similar to "tahdig," my favorite part of this dish was the crunchy rice crust that formed at the bottom of the hot stone bowl.

Bibimbap

Next time someone asks me where to find the best fried chicken in town, I will unhesitatingly tell them to run - not walk - to Hell's Chicken.  It's, quite literally, heaven in "Hell!"

...

Until we eat again,

The Style Gourmande for The Lunch Belle

Tuesday
Dec012015

(NYC) Reviewed: Craft beers and quality eats at Haymaker Bar & Kitchen

*This post was written by Edgar Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.**

Restaurant: Haymaker Bar & Kitchen

  • Cuisine: Gastropub
  • Location: 252 W. 29th Street - NYC 10001  
  • Pricing: $$
  • What's delicious: Craft beers, Slow Roasted Pork Ribs, Baked Dry Rub Chicken Wings
  • Perfect for: Pre/post MSG event, neighborhood gem, bros, dates with chicks who dig beer, foodies, food/drink snobs who like to get their drink on

...

Haymaker Bar & Kitchen - the newly-opened craft beer bar and American gastropub - provides a welcome oasis to the otherwise arid landscape of northwest Chelsea. 

Owner David Smith, partner Jeff Anzulewicz, Chief Bartender, Tristan Colegrove, and Executive Chef, Jim Takacs, pour an extensive list of beer with more than 18 selections on-tap, a small, but smart selection of wines by the glass, and a refined list of classic cocktails accompanied by a menu of modern American favorites.

Photo courtesy of Haymaker Bar & Kitchen Urban-cool, yet warm and inviting, Haymaker's interior atmosphere (designed in the spirit of a haymaker’s farmhouse with early 20th century charm and old-world personality) makes for the perfect setting in which to enjoy post-work beverages - pre/post Madison Square Garden eats and libations - craft beers with the boys - a hearty snack or meal - even date night!

Photo courtesy of Haymaker Bar & KitchenFood

The Baked Dry Rub Chicken Wings - a lovely departure from the traditional "Buffalo" variety - were liberally massaged with a house spice blend and enveloped in a sticky sauce that was fragrant with notes of citrus, sweet chili, and garlic. 

While an order is definitely sharable, you're not going to want to split them with anyone.  Trust me!

Photo courtesy of Haymaker Bar & KitchenThe next small plate to arrive was the highly anticipated Mac and Cheese (parmesan cream sauce, white wine, pancetta, cremini mushrooms, bread crumb crust).  While it was beautifully constructed and very pleasing to the eye, the dish, itself, was too noodle-heavy and desperately lacking in cheese.

Photo courtesy of Haymaker Bar & KitchenAs tempting as the small plates menu reads, I’d recommend leaving room for the larger, more hearty entree plates: Slow Roasted Pork Ribs were prepared with a savory/sweet pecan-bacon barbecue sauce that harmonized perfectly with the tender, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs.  A side of bourbon-kissed yams echoed the sweetness of the barbecue sauce and provided a warm, pillowy texture that literally hugged my taste buds. 

Drinks

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the menu is the beverage - namely the beer - selection.  Options come from near and far and are hand picked, sampled and, most importantly, judiciously coupled with the food offerings.  Some stand-outs for me were:

Kent Falls Shower Beer (Kent, CT 6.0%): Had a hint of rind and a muted tone of herbs/mint.  Overall saltiness, but doesn't overpower like a more potent sour.

Easily my favorite among the dozen-plus options that I sampled was the Hill Farmstead Citra (Greensboro, VT, 5.4%), an American pale ale dry-hopped with Citra (hops) from the American Pacific Northwest.

Prairie Bomb! (Tulsa, OK 13.1%): Imperial stout aged on espresso beans, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chile peppers.  The peppers add just the right amount of heat to complement the intense coffee and chocolate flavors.  Adventurous types and Mexican food lovers, this is your new favorite brew!

Other notables were the Millstone Rhuberry (cider aged with fresh strawberries and rhubarb; extreme tartness that won’t overpower), Crooked Stave Progenitor (dry-hopped sour golden ale - tart, piney, and citrus-y finish), and the Mikkeller Hop On Drink'in (dry-hopped Berliner Weisse - tart with a rush of sour tropical fruit, low ABV of 2.8%).

For those of you who aren't particularly fond of beer (really?), trust me when I say that there are plenty of options in the form of wine and cocktails.  One that particularly caught my eye was the "Siesta" - tequila, Campari, grapefruit, and lime - which proved perfectly-crafted and unmistakably delicious.

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle

Monday
Nov232015

(NYC) Partying like a co-ed at Senor Frog's

*This post was written by Edgar Castillo and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.**

Recently, a select group of New York’s most fabulous 20 and 30 something's were invited to partake in a “fiesta” at Senor Frog's New York.  Beyond the date, time, and address, details about the event were mum...

Prior to the festivities, I scoured the web to confirm that Senor Frog's was, in fact, a Mexican restaurant.  Well, it's not.  Save for the chips and salsa/guac/queso selections - plus a random scattering of Mexican-inspired salads and entrees - the menu is chock-full of Americanized stuff like chicken wings, sliders, BBQ ribs, and Philly cheesesteak.  So, if you can get over the fact that the word Senor means nothing in terms of the type of cuisine that is actually served, then you’ll be alright.  Alternatively, if you're someone (ahem, like me) who can't leave their expectations at the door, then you'll just have to keep reminding yourself that Senor Frog's is *not* a Mexican restaurant.

The Food:

The centerpiece of the fiesta was a ho-hum chips-and-dips station: The salsa was sweet and marinara sauce-esque - nothing remotely close to savory - and certainly not even close to being spicy enough for this guy.  Likewise, the guacamole was runny and heavy-handed with the lime juice.  Proper guac should be chunky and not drip down your arm as you bring the chip closer to your mouth.  At Senor Frog's, this dip relies too heavily on its lack of additions (tomato, onion, garlic) and, ultimately, fails.  In my opinion, the restaurant also missed a golden opportunity for a nacho bar (cheese fountain, anyone?!).

The passed appetizers included mini quesadillas, popcorn, and flautas.   The chicken flauta was so small that I couldn't even tell if there was even any chicken involved!  The fish flauta, on the other hand, was unexpectedly tasty and delicious!  Who'd have thought?

Senor Frog's has margaritas on tap.  I repeat: Senor Frog's has margaritas on tap!!!  The salt-rimmed glasses in which the beverage was served helped to juxtapose the sweetness; this especially came in handy with the much more cloying - but equally tasty - frozen margarita.

With all of the savories, I was pleased when I saw the mini churros slowly making their way via passed tray.  While the yummy flavor was there ("fried," cinnamon, sugar), they were slightly overcooked.

For dessert part deux, we were treated to an 'ice cream conga line light show,' in which the staff paraded through the restaurant and performed prior to presenting us with individual ice cream stations (in the shape of a “mini truck”).  As wacky and far out as this probably sounds, it was nothing short of fun; very nostalgic and reminiscent of my days at summer camp and childhood friend’s birthday parties. 

The Fiesta:

Upon looking around, I noticed that the dining room was packed with some of the most fun 20-and-30-something's in the city (...So, how’d they get my name?)!  Moreover, the ceiling space was slowly filling up with artisanal helium accessories.  Scattered throughout Senor Frog's were a couple of balloon artists who provided guests with whatever designs their hearts desired!  Naturally, I asked for a sombrero.  Let's just say that my balloon artist delivered in a big way!

The Fat Jew!My guest, Eddie, and I began to discuss how this whole experience felt like a spring break trip during college!  To quote a fellow attendee - and new friend - Elliott, “My favorite part was just how much fun everyone was having.  I don’t think any of us were expecting it.  We entered some sort of time warp, and were transported back to high school/college spring break.  Like anything goes!  Pretty special when you think about it.”  More importantly, Elliott shared our grievances about a missing cheese component at the chips-and-dips station.

 

Ultimately, showmanship eclipsed over the cuisine, which wasn't entirely shocking.  But, damn, did we have a good time!

...

Until we eat again,

Edgar Castillo for The Lunch Belle

Wednesday
Nov182015

(NYC) Reviewed: Angus Club Steakhouse

*This post was written by Vanessa Shoman-Duell and edited/formatted by The Lunch Belle.  Unless otherwise noted, all photographs were captured by Vanessa Shoman-Duell.**

Restaurant: Angus Club Steakhouse

  • Cuisine: Steakhouse
  • Location: 135 E. 55th Street - NYC 10020  
  • Pricing: $$$
  • What's delicious: Steak fries, cocktails
  • Perfect for: Date night, small group dining

...

From NYC to Argentina (and, literally, everywhere in between) I've been to more than my fair share of steakhouses.  As an avid carnivore, you can imagine the anticipation and excitement I felt leading up to my inaugural visit to Angus Club Steakhouse, a beef-centric restaurant located in the Midtown East neighborhood of Manhattan.  

Housed in a bi-level space, Angus Club boasts a dining room and bar on each level: The lower floor is best suited for the evening with its stunning, dimly-lit atmosphere, generous table spacing, and handsome, "classic NY" appointments (sleek hardwood flooring, leather chairs, crisp white tablecloths).  Upstairs evoked more of a "lunch time" vibe, perhaps for the sole fact that it was brighter.

Dining room: Photo courtesy of Angus ClubUpon arrival, my guest and I were greeted by Dino (the owner) who, en-route to our lovely first floor table, told us a bit about his gorgeous restaurant.  "Angus Club separates itself by approaching some steakhouse classics differently.  Our creamed spinach, for example, is prepared with just a touch of cream," he noted.  "We also pride ourselves on seafood." 

Clink!  My guest and I toasted to our evening with perfectly-crafted dirty martinis that were finished with my favorite accoutrement: Blue cheese-stuffed olives!

Dirty martiniFor appetizers, we chose to split the Crab Cake and the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail.  While the presentation was attractive and colorful, I found the 'cake to be a bit bland and lacking in flavor.  The shrimp, on the other hand, were perfect and delicious.  There was a "snap" with each bite, which confirmed their freshness and quality.  A steakhouse classic!

Pan-seared Crab CakeJumbo Shrimp CocktailFor entrees, my guest and I thought it would be best to split the restaurant's highly-recommended Porterhouse steak.  For those of you unfamiliar with the theatrical presentation of this cut of beef, imagine when you're at a Mexican restaurant and order the fajitas.  Not only can you smell their approach from like 20-feet away, the sizzle wafting from the hot griddle pan causes guests at neighboring tables to pause their conversations and visually follow the fragrant steam train that's quickly approaching your place mat.

Well, very much unlike the fajita service at your local Mexican joint, it is traditional and customary for your waiter to serve each steakhouse guest their first slices of the Porterhouse!  Fancy, eh?

PorterhouseAfter our server placed two slices of the sirloin portion (of the Porterhouse) and one piece of the filet atop our plates, he made a "hold on just a second" hand gesture as we reached for our knives and forks.  "Et voila," he said, as he simultaneously poured some of the rendered drippings over our meat.  To accompany, we ordered a side of Creamed Spinach and Steak Fries.

To my utter shock, I found the sirloin cut - not the filet - to be the better of the two!  Despite the marbling, the filet was lacking in inherent flavor. 

While we found the meat lackluster, the sides were brilliant.  The less-cream Creamed Spinach tasted much cleaner and spinach-y, with a subtle hint of garlic.  Quite the opposite from every other steakhouse's version (a white, wiggly glob with a few green bits)!  And those Steak Fries!  My goodness, they must have been twice - maybe thrice - cooked!  Crispy and hot, with just the right amount of salt, I would return for these, alone!  They were, hands down, the best part of the meal.

With a bit of room left in our bellies, my guest and I split two desserts: Creme Brûlée and the Key Lime Tart.  While neither was exemplary, we preferred the brûlée to the tart.

Creme BrûléeKey Lime Tart

...

Until we eat again,

Vanessa Shoman-Duell for The Lunch Belle