Mid-June 2007

The good: Kefi, where we were able to reconnect after a school year apart and would have been thrilled with the noise level and good service even without the comped wine and appetizers. We both had excellent fish (the one thing Bob missed most in Middle Earth) and split the spreads, which were great although I have to admit they were outshone by the sausage/dumpling and grilled octopus starters on the house. And who knew a Greek rose would be so drinkable? We left the price of the bottle along with a better-than-20 percent tip and still got out for $80 cash. WIGB? Early and often. 222 West 79th Street, 212 873 0200.

The not bad: Five Front in Brooklyn, where four of us fogies wound up on a tip from an e-pal after a brain-cell-destroying hip-hop photo opening. I would have settled for a funky diner with crappy wine as long as it was quiet, but this turned out to be a surprisingly charming real restaurant with a garden, and even seated next to a birthday group ominously decked out in party hats we could still talk. I just had the $14 crab cake appetizer, which was huge, full of the essential ingredient and teamed with both a chipotle mayonnaise and decent guacamole. Bob passed me his special, too-rare-for-me tuna, and I also got a reassuring taste of the salmon. The bread arrived warm, the wines by the glass were adequate, and everything would have been wonderful if the kitchen had not been sooooo slow. WIGB? Maybe. Not much else around there. 5 Front Street, under the Brooklyn Bridge, 718 625 5559.

The just right: Fairway’s cafe, where we happened to land late after a movie and everything was working. They set a window table for us, got us our $5 wine immediately and good Caesar for me and excellent hanger steak with fine fries for Bob not long after. WIGB? When it’s on, that place is on.

The port before a storm: Neptune Room, where I took refuge in desperation at that odd hour of 4 on a weekend when it’s so hard to find real food. I got a table on the sidewalk, smart and personable service and a quartino of $7 verdejo and escaped just as the rain came pissing down. Who cared that the skate in my $13 sandwich was overbreaded and the basil mayonnaise had nil flavor? Even direct knockoffs of Pearl can’t get that right, and Neptune is clearly trying to be its own place. WIGB? Probably. Four o’clock will come again. 511 Amsterdam Avenue near 84th Street, 212 496 4100. [Mid-June 2007]