The half-good: Kefi, where my consort and I landed after he landed early on Sunday morning after 10 days in Namibia on a shoot and where our route was nearly as circuitous as his getting home. We had run down to the Greenmarket on Columbus Avenue only to find a crap show going on, so it took longer than usual to navigate the displaced stalls in the flea market in the schoolyard on 77th Street. It was 11:30 when he said he was starving and I suggested the closest tempting thing: dumplings. On walking into Canteen 82, though, I remembered exactly how we’d felt walking out. The place cooks for kids, who make up most of the clientele (and they’re the kind of kids who do not go to Greenmarkets with their dad and want clams for dinner, as we’d just seen at the seafood stall). Once again, the service was so unservice-y and we had so long to wait before ordering that we got the “bail, bail!” message simultaneously. So we wound up walking a couple of blocks north.
I was worried walking in because it was so deserted shortly before noon, and the beehived waitress and the hostess were kinda disinterested, but we soon had a table and menus and water and an order in for the Greek spreads. They took an absurdly long (or hungover-kitchen-long) time to arrive, but they were nearly as fabulous as always, with just grilled pita. We could enjoy them at leisure, too, before the superb crispy calamari and the Kefi salad arrived (updated Greek, with shaved fennel tossed with lettuce, onions, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, olives, caperberry, roasted red pepper and pickled pepper). It took some work, but we flagged down the negligent waiter to get the check before the mega-table next to us filled up for a birthday party. As is so often the case, the service picked up as the place got busier. WIGB? Of course. Food’s great and priced right, and it’s close by. Plus we were spared bland dumplings and an even longer wait. 505 Columbus Avenue near 84th Street, 212 873 0200.