The good: Dean’s, where my consort and I headed with two friends to discuss the meaning of death in the superb “No Country for Old Men.” We got there just before 10, but the host was happy to seat us and the waitress was amazingly patient as we dithered over what to order; best of all, there were only a few tables still occupied and it was as quiet as our living room (if much warmer next to the oven). We shared a surprisingly excellent multi-cheese square pizza with mushrooms, a too-big salad with arugula and lentils and a small order of average fried calamari, plus a bottle of nero d’avolo, and the bill was about $35 a couple. WIGB? Soon, but on the late side. The pizza was even great the next day. 215 West 85th Street, 212 875 1100.
The bad: Cafe Frida, where I think I swore I would never go back and where I was of course spotted by a friend walking past. Never, it turns out, is not as long as you might think on this end of the island — I had almost succumbed to City Grill for a quesadilla when I thought I could walk just a bit farther and maybe at least get a glimmer of Mexican magic. I should have left when I saw three tables waiting for food at very late lunchtime, or at least when I saw the three tiny quesadillas are now $13. But my feet were failing me, so I suffered tired, cracked tortillas around slimy cheese and shiitakes, with a tiny ramekin of bland salsa and a side dish of mostly chayote with a tiny bit of the promised spinach and corn. Even without the din that drove us away for what we thought was for good, the mystery is why a hostile clip joint is still in business when earnest Jacques-Imo’s is being dismantled right next door.
The reliable: Les Halles, where we took refuge from turkey overkill and where we got the usual expertly done food with just slightly more addled service. The place was packed with people whose size would bar them from Barneys, and with huge family groups taking photos, so it took a while to get a waiter’s attention. But the steak frites with salad for $17.50 was as excellent as it always is, and the “hachi parmentier de canard” was like a French shepherd’s pie with truffle oil for perfume. The read and butter are top quality as well. Four dollars buys a whole pot of coffee, and Bob happily drank it all. WIGB? Any Saturday for post-Greenmarket lunch. 411 Park Avenue South at 28th Street, 212 679 4111.