The seriously good: Recipe, again, where my consort and I headed shortly after he landed from his latest time-zone abuse, 10 days in North Carolina after at least that long in Istanbul and before that Phnom Penh and Ukraine. Our apartment is not only too hot to cook in, with half the windows plywooded over, but it always helps to reconnect on neutral ground. The great lunch prices also made it worth the short walk: $11.95 for my grilled calamari with two kinds of beans and cascading flavor, and a slab of sliced steak with potatoes, broccoli and green beans plus exceptional chimichurri (not just parsley and garlic but fresh oregano, cilantro, green peppers, celery and jalapeño Tabasco, the chef said when he stepped out of the kitchen and Bob grilled him). Bob scored just as well, with a little Nicoise-esque salad (olives, hard-cooked eggs, green beans, anchovies) followed by the roasted half-chicken with grain salad mixed with carrots and asparagus. WIGB? Anytime. Can’t believe it’s even in our neighborhood and not over in a certain borough. 452 Amsterdam Avenue near 82d Street, 212 501 7755.
The not bad: Mermaid Oyster Bar in the West Village, where three of us headed after the well-made but depressing “Restrepo” at Angelika on Saturday night and where we were lucky enough to snare the last bar table rather than wait two hours. The place was mobbed, but the staff was rolling with it — our glasses were kept filled with a Provencal rosé, and the busboy was quick to remove extra plates from the overcrowded table. Our food came too fast; my fries and the oysters in my otherwise fine $16 po’ boy could have been crisper. But everything tasted great (I didn’t try Pam’s fluke seviche with its “three-crab” sauce or Bob’s two kinds of raw oysters; Roy Blount Jr. and his “like swallowing a large baby” keep me away from those guys). The $20 crab cake was a big, meaty one with good tartar sauce, “whale” fries (potato slices), coleslaw and lettuce. WIGB? Probably, but only with a reservation. And an understanding that the huge markups on the wine underwrite the very affordable food. 79 MacDougal Street just above Houston, 212 260 0100.
The geographically correct: Canteen 82, where a friend in the neighborhood lured me on the one-week anniversary of my return to this tiny town from the mega-city on the Bosphorus. She loves it; other friends who live relatively close by love it. And it’s certainly better than any of the other dreary “Chinese” restaurants that don’t require braving the subway on a 95-degree Saturday. But the soup dumplings were underwhelming, and the Peking duck buns full of too-sweet meat (yes, she was right: ordering them was a mistake, but I was glad we didn’t get a dozen of the dumplings). The scallion pancake was crisp enough, and the green salad was a deal, for $6, with lots of vegetables and a paving of avocado slices over the top. But the service was ridiculously inattentive in a nearly empty room. And that breakfast/brunch menu of Western standards made me wonder if any kitchen could juggle hollandaise and special orders of slivered ginger without losing its way. WIGB? Probably. It is convenient, and Bob needs to taste for himself. But while it seemed like a deal, our lunch at Recipe was 35 times more satisfying for about the same amount of money. 467 Columbus near 82d Street, 212 595 4300.
The oops, I forgot: Stone Rose at JFK, where I ducked in to top off my tank after skipping lunch before getting trapped in the absurdly long security line at Delta (a whole fucking hour). I figured if I ate before boarding, I could sleep straight through to Istanbul, and that was exactly how it almost worked out, except the cheesy “steak flatbread” with pico de gallo seemed to expand in my stomach like a Houlihan’s special. Also, too, the portion was T.G.I.Friday’s outsized, and I ingested only a little and still suffered. I figured I would at least get a decent glass of wine from Rande’s cellars, but they were out of the NZ SV and I had to settle for chardonnay. WIGB? If I stupidly ever fly Delta ever again? All I can say is I was disappointed on heading to the gate to see I had missed a Chili’s. . . .