The pretty good: Barfry, where I retreated after finding Pearl closed for Xmas break and where I had a great crab cake po’ boy but the strangest service even though only one other diner was in the joint at lunchtime. The waiter behind the bar pointed me to a table and let me sit while he did a few chores before finally bringing a menu and weirdly funky-tasting water. Then he disappeared into a back room or basement to retrieve milk and was gone so long I considered leaving, but Pearl was closed. I think it took longer to order than to eat, since the check shows 22 minutes elapsed. But that $15 sandwich was superb, with great crunch to the crab cake and lots of little pickles in with the dressing and chopped lettuce. It was too big by half, but that’s a tiny complaint. I also had a $10 Tasmanian chardonnay that really needed a proper wineglass rather than a ridiculous little tumbler. WIGB? Probably, although my money goes farther at Pearl and the thought of that glass sent us to Jane the next night . . . . 50 Carmine Street, 212 929 5050.
The not bad: La Rural, where we headed for a Sunday dinner to avoid washing dishes and where we got the deal of the month. Because it’s BYO, we split a big salad, a heaping order of “Provencal” fries and a skirt steak so huge we had leftovers for burritos the next day, and the bill with a good tip was $42. The meat was good and perfectly cooked, very fast, and the fries were fine, too. The engaging waiter remembered us from when the place was Pampa; it looks nicer now but still takes cash only. And because it was nearly empty, it was luxuriously quiet. WIGB? Happily. 768 Amsterdam Avenue near 97th Street, 212 865 2929.
The charming: Tiffin Wallah, where the room and the Koizumi-look-alike waiter compensated for the sub-Saravanaas cooking at Saturday lunch. The hand-washing sink is in the dining room, and it’s the coolest one imaginable; the walls are hung with great black-and-white photos from India, while the waiters’ area has shelves filled with Indian gewgaws. And the behl poori was everything Irene Sax promised: spicy, crunchy, a great blend of cooling and hot. The Mysore sada dosa with coconut chutney and sambar was big and greasy, though, and the best thing in the Gujarati thali was the dessert, which says everything given how cloying Indian sweets can be. The bread was too greasy to eat, and the curries were one-note; the two fried bits were also sodden. No wonder most of the clientele was not Indian. WIGB? Maybe, as an antidote to Saravanaas hostility. 127 East 28th Street off Lexington, 212 685 7301.
The annoying: Jane, where we landed after the truly extraordinary “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and where the ample portions at low prices had to be weighed against the crazy-making service. Why do restaurateurs insist on stinting on waiters? Six busboys are not much use if they can’t take an order for a second glass of wine with the entrees. Plus the waitress was really a waitron, with a chip implanted that made her unable to deviate from her water-selling script. I ordered the $19 veal Milanese because it came under an arugula-tomato salad, and it was literally the size of the not-small plate; that and the flavor made me wonder if it was really the ingredient with top billing. My consort’s $23 scallops were also oddly gargantuan, but they came in a spectacular chile sauce with pozole and bacon. Wines by the glass started at $8, but I had to switch to the $10 sauvignon blanc after the not-great viognier. WIGB? Maybe — price and proximity to two movie theaters are not to be underestimated. 100 West Houston Street near Thompson, 212 254 7000.