The good: Zoma, where a new friend steered me to my first Ethiopian in a quarter-century at least and where I discovered a whole new world a 15-minute walk away. She had sent me a link to the $25 and Under, which led me to expect a pretty bare-bones-to-funky joint. Instead I had the same reaction Gordon Ramsay did on reading truffles were nothing special: How jaded are they? The place was seriously sleek and smart-looking, especially the bathrooms. My friend ordered for us, a vegetarian combination for $17 with two spectacular spicy bean purees, a cabbage saute and one with green beans on ungreasy injera, and we split a rather lively California pinot grigio for $19. The waitress was attentive, and the noise level was not painful even when the place filled up with what looked to be monochromatic Columbia kids. WIGB? Can’t wait, but I’m leaving more time beforehand to go exploring. 2084 Frederick Douglass Blvd. at 113th Street, 212 662 0620.
The not bad: Bettola, where another friend persuaded me to meet her after she heard it was another friend’s favorite and where the wine and the sniffy waitress were the only drawbacks. Our shared pizza bianca, with mushrooms and truffle oil, was as thin and rich as a cheese crisp, while my green salad (di campo) was fine despite the paucity of cherry tomatoes (1 1/2 of the grape variety) and apparently AWOL basil. The vermentino, however, was both undistinguished and a stingy pour (once in a dirty glass) — but cost $9. Really, you could buy a bottle for that. And the service was of the woman-and-tip variety: which comes first? WIGB? Probably, but not when I’m thirsty. 412 Amsterdam near 79th Street, 212 787 1660.
The scary: Bistro Citron, where I made the mistake of stopping for a late lunch and do not want to consider why there was a yelling outbreak in the kitchen just before my burger arrived with a rip in it. It had taken so long I figured they were butchering the cow, but I guess they were just cooking the fries to death instead. I had remembered a big, juicy burger from a boozy night out with friends weeks ago, but this was big and bloody but weirdly hard and came with a slice of plum tomato so minuscule it was almost as if the cook was mocking me for wanting Cheddar when they only had Swiss. Worse, it cost $13, almost double what the great ones do at Fairway. The waiter was exceptional, though. And I did get to overhear two brink-of-60 women commiserating: “Yes, I open up my underwear drawer and there are my keys.” Chastity belts on their absent minds? WIGB? Unfortunately. It’s cursed with proximity. 473 Columbus Avenue at 83d Street, 212 400 9401.
The transporting: Subletea, where I stopped in for a scone to get rid of the taste of the curry doughnut I had succumbed to in Koreatown after skipping breakfast at home on my way to soak up rum. It’s a great corner cafe with communal tables, windows all around, magazines to read and a nice vibe and decor — it felt like Sydney. I didn’t have time for tea, but 36 were on offer. And while the scone might not have had much green tea flavor, the crustiness and the combination of coconut and currants made up for that. The sandwiches looked great, too. WIGB? If I find myself in that strange neighborhood again. 121 Madison Avenue at 30th Street, 212 481 4713. [Mid- to late April 2007]