New York minutes/Latish December 2009

The good, yet again: Fairway upstairs, yet again, where we trotted after the underwhelming “Up in the Air” and where we were rewarded yet again with good food, cheap wine and WTH service. We shivered in just minutes before the kitchen closed, which made it all the more amazing that my (yes) Caesar was super-garlicky perfection and Bob’s chicken thighs with roasted butternut squash were juicy-exceptional. And consider the wine: NZ sauvignon blanc was a buck less than lame popcorn at the theater. 2127 Broadway near 74th Street, 212 595 1888.

The not bad: Qi after the Wednesday Greenmarket, where I stopped for a quick hoisin duck banh mi preceded by chive dumplings. The waiter remembered me, which was nice, although not enough to compensate for my sandwich, which was light on filling and heavy on bread. The dumplings were no better than last time either. WIGB? Sure — location, location, location. Plus the tab with tax and tip was only a little over $10, and now they have wine. 31 West 14th Street, 212 929 9917.

The adequate: Santa Clara Taqueria Mexicana in Inwood, where we settled after an expedition to buy Russian chocolate in graphically great packaging at Moscow on the Hudson on 181st Street. I discovered aerated chocolate last year and figured it would be a good gift for my in-law equivalent, and this shop had many more options than the one where I shopped for my consort. Thirty-four dollars and a heavy bag later, we set out to find the vintage Grunebaum’s bakery I had read about on a neighborhood blog, only to find its longtime space up for rent, and were ready for anything for lunch. The loud place is minuscule, with half the space taken up with beer promos (wonder what the vendors think about waitresses whose hats boast one brand and aprons another). And the prices are insane — we could have been eating in mellow luxury closer to home at El Paso Taqueria. But Bob was thrilled with his beef tongue and chorizo tacos, $2 apiece with superb green salsa. I was put off by $9.95 enchiladas on a street where gloves are $2, so I settled for a $5.50 torta, soft bread skimpily filled with decent chorizo, avocado, jalapeños and lettuce. With a Jarritos grapefruit soda, the damage was all of $11.50. WIGB? Nah. We passed no end of tantalizing alternatives on our walk to the subway at 145th and Broadway.

The almost: O’Neals near Lincoln Center, where we headed with another couple after the bad-acoustics Steve Earle concert down the block and where the hosts were smart enough to offer us a table just for drinks but the waiter was dumb enough to hustle us out. I had expected we would have to squeeze into the bar and yell, but once we were seated with linen and flatware and menus, salad and crab cakes and guacamole were being ordered to go with the $11-a-glass sauvignon blanc. I only tasted the guacamole, which was better than it had any right to be despite supermarket-level chips, but our friends seemed happy with their real food. And the roll I tasted outperformed, too. It was late, but it was Friday, so I was rather surprised no one seemed interested in selling us another glass or so. WIGB? Undoubtedly. Location trumps many flaws. 49 West 64th Street, 212 787 4663.

The bittersweet: reBar in Dumbo, where we joined MediaStorm & famille for a last holiday party and where we got to celebrate Bob going from panda to condor again — he’s leaving regular feeding times in the zoo to go back to flying freely — while acknowledging it would be the last time we partied with this crew in this way. The tables were covered in food by the time I got there (late), but I can vouch for the guacamole, the pico de gallo and the penne with artichokes. And the wine service was surprisingly attentive considering how busy it was on a Monday night. WIGB? If he still had to commute, maybe. 147 Front Street, Brooklyn, 718 677 9110.