New York minutes/December 2012

The always good: Momofuku Ssam, where my consort and I ate dinner after the fabulous-as-promised “Searching for Sugar Man” and where I met up with friends for lunch the next day because I knew it would be an entirely different restaurant. Bob and I snared seats at the bar as soon as we walked in and got advice on either side on what to choose: unfishy Spanish mackerel with a schmear of black garlic plus lotus root and airy-crisp chips made from lime peel, then a creamy, light Jerusalem artichoke soup with snails, bits of pork jowl and sliced jalapeño that was just killer, every bite with each element alone and then with all combined. After a very large popcorn, we couldn’t finish the great spicy pork sausage and rice cakes with Chinese broccoli and Sichuan peppercorns (the cakes were like crunchy gnocchi). The bartender let me taste the Greek white, and it, too, was so good I felt safe ordering a bottle the next afternoon for friends who drink sauvignon blanc and Sancerre. The roast duck breast was, as always, stunningly good, as were the spicy fingerlings served in the set, although the duck dumplings were a little more fried than usual. I thought we had under-ordered in sharing those two dishes and insisted we try the duck wings. Which were pleasant enough but outshone by both the tempura squash and the watercress-apple-pumpkinseed salad on the plate. Wally was horrified when she saw the cook in the kitchen right next to our table drench the latter in duck fat, but not when she tasted it.

The vaut le schlep: Lao Dong Bei in Flushing, where I met the eating-Asian group I’ve been so fortunate to be invited to explore with and to whom I am so happy to leave the ordering. I arrived as the chef/owner and our Taiwanese-speaking leader were deep in discussion of all we needed to try to get a sense of the food from that part of China, formerly known as Manchuria, and he was translating that we would get “skin jelly” on the house. That turned out to be a sort of aspic meant to be dunked in a soy sauce-vinegar-garlic-ginger sauce, and it was the one dish I couldn’t brave. I usually can’t stomach lamb, either, but the slab of ribs that soon landed was exceptional: the meat tender, the crust crusty with black and white sesame seeds, cumin seeds and chile. (Coal is the cooking fuel in Dong Bei, that region.) It was rivaled only by the spicy quail, a platter of legs that may have been a bit overcooked but had great flavor and spicing, especially with the onions alongside (a tablemate likened them to liver and onions, but the little birds had none of that funky flavor). We also had two meatless dishes, “tiger vegetable,” which was mostly cilantro stems and jalapeños, and something off the specials on the wall in Chinese that the table translated as bracken (and was pretty great). “Fried pork in orange sauce,” as the menu had it, turned out to be very tender slices in a crisp but delicate coating (“thinking man’s General Pso’s?”). The showstoppers were served in hotpots over Sterno lit by the waitress/wife: the richest, most intense broth with chicken, mushrooms and vermicelli, followed by a whole fish in another rich broth with fermented tofu and glass noodles, both dishes seriously well-spiced (star anise?) After all that, our 24 steamed dumplings landed, stuffed with pork and pickled cabbage and made for dunking in the sauce from the skin jelly. WIGB? Actually, I would even on my own with a new crew, not just because the food was so eye-opening but because the owners were so thrilled to have a bunch of non-Chinese in the restaurant. The chef was clearly invested in us loving everything we ate, and his wife could not have been more eager to keep the customers satisfied. 44-09 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, 718 539 4100.

The happy-making, twice in a row: Toloache on the Upper East Side, where Bob and I warmed up after the outstanding Ann Hamilton installation at the Park Avenue Armory and again after the bloody-great “Django Unchained.” We got a nice booth for a quiet lunch to share the best-ever tortilla soup and then carnitas/nopales tacos, which the waiter warned were bite-size but were actually handfuls, and the huarache, a light masa cake filled with black beans, surrounded with chunks of chorizo and sauce and topped with ultra-creamy scrambled eggs. Even early on Saturday night, though, we could only get seats at the bar after calling to reserve, but the bartenders were excellent. We had to have the tortilla soup again, then the quesadilla with huitlacoche and truffle and more tacos, these filled with Modelo-braised brisket with tomatillo salsa and horseradish crema. WIGB? Absolutely. It’s a beautiful place and much more comfortable than the one in the Theater District. (That tortilla soup did such a good job of vanquishing Bob’s serial-killer cold that he insisted we stop and try the new Spanish LeChurro shop we passed nearby, where the hot chocolate with chilies was perfection although the churros themselves were doughy.)

The good again: Parm in Nolita, where we wound up after an Illy-stockup at DiPalo (best price in town) even though I had had dumplings on the brain on that day after Christmas — after reading this scary story on the train on industrial pork, eggplant parmesan sounded so much more enticing. We were lucky and had to wait only 15 minutes for a table to tuck into three great little salads, the pickles being the least surprising. Buffalo cucumbers were as good as you’d expect: chunks in a blue cheese dressing spiked with hot sauce, and excellent, while chickpeas in ranch dressing with celery qualified as genius. We should have split a hero; a roll was messy to eat once cut in half, but that eggplant was pretty fabulous. And of course we had to have the ice cream cake that had just been written up; I must not get out enough because it didn’t strike me as anything extraordinary aside from the strawberry goo holding the three flavors of ice cream together. WIGB? Anytime. The staff’s attitude is so upbeat, and the music was all flashbacks from my childhood.

The better than its ingredients: Tortaria just south of Union Square, where Bob and I ducked in for a quick lunch after the Greenmarket when all the cool joints mostly had eggs and after he Yelped it up and remembered he’d had a good fast lunch there. You order at a counter and sit at a table you hope has been wiped down, but the window area is as nice as the people, and the guacamole is way above average — we asked for spicy, and it was perfectly balanced with heat and richness; the huge bag of chips was obviously freshly fried. We split two plates of tacos, one with beef and the other carnitas, and both blew Chipotle out of the agua. Table salsas only enhanced the intense flavors. WIGB? Definitely. The people are pleasant, and the price is right, too. (Although I know the tradeoff is less-than-Chipotle meat.)

The undeniably good but probably doomed: Forager’s Table in Chelsea, where we hooked up for geographic convenience with a food aficionado in from Denver after my consort spoke at the School of Visual Arts and where the food and service were so impressive the near-emptiness of the nicely designed room was mystifying. We were disappointed the menu was so tiny compared with the extensive bait online, so Bob and I wound up ordering only appetizers after a shared (and superb) eggplant dip with cumin and lavash. His fluke carpaccio looked stunning, coated with toasted poppy seeds, and tasted sublime, with lemon vinaigrette, and my duck liver paté was fatty-satisfying, with perfectly grilled bread (and, for once, plenty of it) plus cornichons and grainy mustard. We only tasted Matt’s beautifully cooked fish with root vegetables. With a couple of glasses of wine each and a beer for him, it was $51 a person with tax and tip. WIGB? Hope so . . . Wish it had opened in our neighborhood.

The “how do you say kinks en Español?”: Casa Pomona on the Upper West Side, where a Spain-besotted friend and I landed for a drink in the first days after it was open and where it was one stumble after another. The worst was that the bartender offered to split the one glass of white he had left from one of the three bottles on the list, but he charged us for two. And I didn’t realize it until I was walking home, wondering how the tab was so high for three glasses of wine and one shared tapa, the migas. I’ve never had that in Spain, but I’m assuming it is not always a well-cooked egg topped with a little bit of chorizo and some dried croutons. WIGB? Probably, so Bob can try it. But the wine choices were so limited, and that little gouge didn’t help.

The not bad: Kelso Dining in Brooklyn, where I took Bob for lunch to try a Panamanian carimañola for a recipe I needed to develop. As good as those meat-filled yuca tubes were, the real stars on the table were the drinks: sorrel and tamarind, big glasses filled with ice and sweet-sour brightness. Both were perfect counterpoints to the richness of the fried yuca I also insisted on ordering, and to both the stewed chicken and the superb salt fish with rice and peas on the $10 lunch plate. It was like eating in the Caribbean. The owner and waitress couldn’t have been friendlier, even sending us off with a “souvenir” of the housemade hot sauce. WIGB? If I were in the neighborhood.

The port in a storm: A.G. Kitchen on the Upper West Side, where we landed after getting shut out of two other places (Loi, you had to hold a Tony Danza private party?) after the way overhyped “Chasing Ice.” It’s just the latest incarnation of the space, but the menu is more energetic. The hostess happily gave us a booth, and the waiter was patient. I didn’t try the burger one friend appeared to enjoy, but I’ll vouch for the fries. My salad was quite good, with Bibb lettuce, bacon and Cabrales dressing, and it was all of $9. Even better was Bob’s “samba” chicken, well-marinated and cooked juicy; The Cat loved the leftovers. Extra points for decent New Zealand sauvignon blanc for a non-gougey $36, and for a low noise level. WIGB? Why not?

The price is right: Cocina Economica on the Upper West Side, where we snared a table after an early showing of the seriously good “Silver Linings Playbook” and where the only thing that would keep me from going back was the space — it’s great-looking, but too many tables are crammed in so tightly the waiters can barely navigate. Everything was so cheap I hoped the chefs know restaurant math, because it’s hard to see how they’ll make money on an $8 skirt steak salad with avocado, lettuce, poblanos, jicama and cotija when it’s mostly meat. Bob’s braised pork loin for $13 was a mega-portion/plate as well, with Swiss chard, corn, green beans and pumpkin seeds. Maybe they’ll clean up on the ill-conceived avocado corn bread, baked to desiccation in a corn husk and desperately needing the superb salsas that arrived with it.

And the good as always when we’re eating close to home: Mermaid Inn on Amsterdam, where we met up with friends in from Bucks County before a balloon party on Tryptophan Eve and where the service was especially ebullient and the food pretty much as reliable as always. We had a 6:30 reservation, so happy hour prices were in order; I got there last to find a mini fish taco was on its way for me and a full glass of the discounted wine was waiting. The other three shared oysters while I ate my three-bite tilapia with spicy mayo. I was trying to abstain and only had the lobster knuckles given escargot treatment, which certainly is a lovely way to get $14 for scraps. They were swimming in less butter than I expected, but they were certainly satisfying. I just tasted Bob’s good skate and watched our friends tear through the trout and the spaghetti topped with seafood salad. They were thrilled with the free chocolate dessert. And with the waiter, who recognized us from many Social Media Mondays and was fully engaged. We went back a couple of weeks later with one of Bob’s boyhood friends who now lives in Sweden, and he loved it, too.

New York minutes/End o’August 2012

The good: Sel et Gras in the West Village, where my consort and I headed partly because it was close to Jeffrey’s Grocery, where he was having work drinks, but largely because the name is so enticing. The place turned out to be teeny, an odd sliver of a bar/cafe, and loud, but they kindly seated us oldsters at an awkward but relatively quiet table, and we soon had nice glasses of rosé and some chickpea-battered and fried “market” vegetables with a chutneyesque tomato jam. Duck rillettes came with beer mustard and excellent pickled turnip, and we finished with an excellent croque madame, cut into thirds, each one a perfect layering of ham and cheese and sauce mornay topped with a fried quail egg. I was most impressed on my trip to the train-size bathroom on hearing the kitchen — it sounded not like a bar’s but a top chef’s. WIGB? Absolutely, although I have to take points off for the phrase “diminutive degustation” on the menu.

The reliable: El Paso Taqueria on the Upper East Side and Luke’s Lobster on the Upper West Side, again. The first was the right place to head after the cafe at El Museo del Barrio looked too cafeteriaish, and the second loaded almost too much lobster on its buns. (BTW: The current show at the museum is kinda baffling but includes some great food-related pieces: Barbados cookie cutters with a literal sharp edge, black-and-white photos that include one of “three-meat stew” and an absolutely wonderful collage entitled “Uncle Sam Wants Your Surplus Fat” by an artist with, it turns out, an equally wonderful back story.)

New York minutes/Mid-May 2012

The pretty good, Chinese division: Hunan Manor in Midtown, where my consort and I wound up after a liquid opening at ICP when his first choice had a 30-minute wait. The place has the sad bare-bones look of so many Manhattan Chinese joints, but we were encouraged to see only ethnically appropriate faces at other tables as we were profusely welcomed. It probably wasn’t fair to order what we love in Flushing, but we did. And the tea-smoked duck might actually be superior; as we ate it, it tasted almost steamed, but next day it was grease-free and intensely smoky. Hunan-style stir-fried mustard leaf is better at the cousins’ place (thinner garlic slices, defter cooking), but not by much. Cold bean curd, Hunan style, was heavier, though, and while Bob is a total pan-fried pork dumpling junkie, even he agreed these were clunky. WIGB? Of course. It’s an hour closer, with treatment just as nice. 339 Lexington Avenue near 39th Street, 212 682 2883.

The pretty good, Thai division: Pure Thai Shophouse in Hell’s Kitchen, where a friend and I headed after being thwarted first by the bedlam at Toloache and then by the peculiar bar food menu at the otherwise perfect Xai Xai, and where the staff was just patient enough with two women who wanted mostly to talk while soaking up wine. Wally’s traveled in Thailand and immediately picked up on the crowd (authentic) and the food (smells/looks: authentic). We just split three appetizers, all above average: vegetable spring rolls, fat steamed vegetable dumplings and crispy fried tofu with peanut sauce. With two glasses each, it was $31 each with tip. WIGB? No question. 766 Ninth Avenue near 52d Street, 212 581 0999.

The pretty good, aside from the understaffing: Jacob’s Pickles on the Upper West Side, where we met a couple of friends on the early side and where we could only wonder why we had put off trying the place for so long. The food was shockingly accomplished for the neighborhood. I think I scored with excellent house-made sausage with leeks that came with respectable fries, good mustard and a great ketchup alternative (along with pointless braised cabbage), for all of $15. The running-hard waitress screwed up two orders, so gracious Bob took the Caesar with fried chicken no one had asked for and Len got his biscuit with fried chicken smothered in mushroom gravy plus grits; both were superb. I don’t think you go there for spinach salad, but Diane’s came with Niman Ranch bacon, blue cheese and mushrooms. We shared a couple of bottles of the rosé on tap, too. The mystery is why a restaurant that puts so much thought and energy into the menu, the sourcing and the drinks program skimps on staffing. WIGB? Looking forward to it but hoping they hire some waiters and runners in the meantime. Jeebus. 509 Amsterdam Avenue near 84th Street, 212 470 5566.

New York minutes/Early November 2010

The good: The Redhead in the East Village, where we met two friends coming from Greenpoint as a compromise location and where we had that rare experience where things got better as the place got busier/louder. The lighting at 5 was police-interrogation level, so we spent our first round feeling as if were drinking at a VFW hall, but that soon changed. Then we were worried they would rush us out of our table as people started arriving for dinner in the tiny room, but the servers couldn’t have been nicer. We had to start with the bacon peanut brittle, which was not as great as I’d remembered from the New Amsterdam Market, but my duck rillettes, a special, may have been the best ever in an American restaurant, and came with enough toasts for a change. Bob’s fried chicken was also respectable, and a huge portion, with a big salad and corn muffin. I didn’t try the gnocchi across the table but heard no complaints, and we could still hear. Wines were well-chosen, too, and our friends seemed happy with beer and a Sazerac. WIGB? If I were in that neighborhood, for sure. 349 East 13th Street between First and Second, 212 533 6212.

The promising: Tolani on the Upper West Side, where we headed after finding Fairway’s cafe closed for a private party after the depressing “Inside Job,” and after I remembered reading about this weeks-old place in the Columbia newspaper my consort had brought home from his teaching gig. We just glanced at the menu prices ($18 or so) before asking for a table, and the super-happy hostess turned us over to a congenial host who led us downstairs to the “garden,” an awkward room with a glassed-in back wall and a view of the kitchen. (The upstairs was full.) And then the waiter informed us everything was small plates, designed for sharing. But we’d had popcorn for our first course and just ordered the grilled quail, hot but listed under “cold” because it came with a bulgar salad with dates, and the roasted half-chicken, with creamy mashed potatoes. Both little birds were juicy and flavorful, perfectly cooked. I recognized the consulting chef’s name, Craig Hopson, but had forgotten he works for Le Cirque; he’s branching out with this couple, who own another restaurant on the Upper East Side. The wine list had a couple of choices neither of us had encountered, including a Tasmanian white that was really fruity and would be great with that quail if I had not moved on to a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. WIGB? Absolutely. The cooking and the combinations were spot-on. 410 Amsterdam Avenue near 80th Street, 212 873 6252.

The fine: Num Pang in the Central Village, where we stopped for a quick lunch on a market Saturday after the Strand (which now must have the best penny-candy selection in town, and where we were amazed to see how many people could pay in cash when the computers went down — the line was huge). Bob shared his “seasonal special” sandwich, with five-spice glazed pork belly, that was messy/juicy perfection for $7.50; I had a $3.75 cup of the good “curry red lentil soup,” topped with pickled red cabbage, cilantro and fried shallots. With both, it was easy to see why the house policy is “have it our way,” with no substitutions, alterations or modifications allowed — the combinations work. As a bonus, we were able to grab stools in the teeny dining room up a spiral staircase rather than searching out a park bench. WIGB? The ginger barbecue brisket sandwich is calling my name. . . 21 East 12th Street between University and Fifth Avenue, 212 255 3271.

New York minute/Late February 2009

The right port in a nonstorm: Regional, where a friend and I hooked up with my consort after “Selected Shorts” down the street, The place was scary-empty, but that was good for us, with no din and great service. All we wanted was snacks, but the bar snacks were only available at the bar and we were on the banquette in the bar. Bob got a decent baby arugula-and-tomato salad, our friend didn’t complain about what seemed to be goat cheese in her beet salad where Gorgonzola was promised and I was more than fine with my balm: polenta sticks with fonduta. With a glass of wine each and a shared slab of bread with bean puree, we got away for $20 apiece including tip. WIGB? Undoubtedly for location and price, although I have to say walking past there a few days later and seeing a young chef walk out and energetically hawk all over the sidewalk was not exactly enticing. 2607 Broadway near 98th Street, 212 666 1915.

New York minutes/Latish October 2008

The good: Bocca Lupo in Brooklyn, where friends who live nearby lured us for a good catch-up meal and where my only complaint would be the noise level, although we certainly contributed to it after way too much of the reasonably priced wine. Walking there I realized yet again how much has been sacrificed to real estate greed on the big island; my neighborhood is totally overrun with Fuckin Donuts while Smith Street has small shops and character (at least from what I could see walking fast in the dark). Dr. and Lady Bugs know their food, I know, and so we let them do the ordering of a bunch of small plates to share. Veal and porcini meatballs were excellent swimming in sauce on a slab of sturdy bread, and braised endive was as good as it gets. Farro with mushrooms was also superb. We split bruschetti with eggplant and with butternut squash and an order of broccoli rabe, too. I’m not much on lamb or shrimp, but everyone else seemed happy with those dishes and with the Nutella and banana panino. WIGB? Absolutely, but we’re ready to go exploring other places around there first. 391 Henry Street, 718 243 2522.

New York minutes/Mid-July 2008

The good: The New French, where I met the Not-So-Tyro-Anymore for a perfectly pleasant lunch at that great little table in the window and where I was mostly relieved that I had not oversold the tuna sandwich (confit makes it as much as the proper proportion of bread). I had the special BLT pizza bianca, which tasted great but was tough to eat either by hand or with knife and fork; the judiciously applied creamy dressing on the greens over the tomato slice and under the bacon bits was outstanding, though. And we each had a glass of the Spanish rose. Like old pros. WIGB? It’s become beyond a habit, and lunch, even when the place is busy, is so mellow. 522 Hudson Street near 10th, 212 807 7357.

The hellish: Barceo 95, where I met a friend for location’s sake on a sweltering night when all the doors were open to the street and where we somehow managed to survive a few hours wedged into a tight table directly under a blaring speaker with the most inattentive service since Helen Keller last waited tables. We should have stayed at the uncrowded bar for our two rounds and a shared order of roasted peppers stuffed with cheese. As it was, the busboy got the bread, napkins, silverware and oil to us right away and kept our water glasses full no matter how tricky it was to navigate through too many chairs crammed into too small a room. The waiter was either overwhelmed or out of it; we might have ordered more if he had seemed half-engaged. I was fine with the $11 verdejo (quartino), but Valerie thought her $13 monastrell — listed as “full,” with extensive tasting notes — was on the wan side. Luckily, the place had emptied out enough that she was able to send back her second choice because the glass reeked of bleach. Unluckily, around 11 someone started to use that same cleaner to swab up around the bar. Not the best effect in a place where aroma is part of the pleasure. The only saving grace was that the human larva at the next table when we were first seated did not throw the shit fit you always anticipate from those ticking time babies. WIGB? Not likely.

New York minutes/End o’ April 2008

The good until it got annoying: Pudding Stone West, where I arranged to hook up with a friend on a chilly Sunday night and regretted it once great throngs of cloned women — all the same age, all the same look — thronged in and started whooping and Vows-hunting. Until then, we had been enjoying our $9 wine at the bar, with the superb bartender and a martini glass filled with $10 avocado puree for dipping with chips. By the time my consort turned up, I had heard about enough. WIGB? Only if I can sit outside. There are worse things than views of funeral homes where you can still hear the eulogy. 645 Amsterdam Avenue at 91st Street, 212 787 0501.

The not bad: Bodrum Mediterranean, where the three of us decamped in search of quiet, a good snack and more wine and where those minimal expectations paid off. The place is pretty slick, with good flatware, but we were only in the market for mezze and happily split a $14 plate of mixed tastes and then a pizza. The first (hummus, babaganoush, lebne etc.) I liked better than my consort did, and the second left me wondering, yet again, what in the name of rennet people are buying instead of real mozzarella. This was like slime on a crust, and it’s the same mucus-like experience you suffer everywhere pizza is sold anymore. WIGB? Maybe, because it’s in the neighborhood, and our friend who used to live here was amazed at the options. Still, when we signed our bills at 9:20, we felt as if we were keeping the staff from going home. 584 Amsterdam Avenue near 88th Street, 212 799 2806.

New York minutes/Late April 2008

The pretty good: Pudding Stones West, where I met my consort for an early dinner to escape my own kitchen and where we had a surprisingly great experience, despite the views (huge piles of garbage bags in Bob’s line of sight, a funeral home where we saw off a friend and neighbor in mine). In a million lifetimes I would never have expected a pretty sophisticated wine bar with outdoor seating to open on that — or any — stretch of Amsterdam Avenue, so I would have been happy with just a couple of glasses and a decent snack. But the hummus with warm pita was outstanding (if a tiny portion) and both my Caesar and Bob’s goat cheese and roasted beet salad were spiffy-looking and great tasting. The waitress was excellent, the wines were decent pours (although of the four we tried, two were just slightly past their prime) and even the kid at a nearby table was behaving — mostly because his parents were slipping him a little red every so often. WIGB? Absolutely. The serious food looks enticing, too. 635 Amsterdam at 91st Street, 212 787 0501.

New York minutes/Mid-April 2008

The good: Square Meal, where we finally lucked in on a Saturday night and only realized why when we saw so much Passover food on the menu. On the plus side, the place never filled up, so the din a friend had warned me of never had a chance to build to bedlam level. On the minus side, chicken liver pate with matzoh is not my idea of bread and butter. But my consort loved his roast “organic/kosher” chicken with potato latkes. I was happy with airy/crispy fried “Thai” calamari on an Asian pear and Meyer lemon slaw, and we both were impressed by the “Boston ’n buttermilk” salad, with its delicate balance of leaves and dressing with tiny croutons and bacon bits. We almost never order dessert, but Bob got kid’s eyes over the ones being served all around us, so we succumbed to a pretty decent coconut cream pie. It’s BYO, and I had a great red left from a magazine story, so we got out for $55 before tip. Bonus points for the look of the place, which is sleek but homey, and for the staff, all total pros and a real team. As the neighbor who tipped me off to the Yura enterprise put it, “It’s special.” And considering where it’s located, it really is. WIGB? Hope so. 30 East 92d Street, 212 860 9872.

The not bad: Pasita, a Venezuelan wine bar where we wound up after the devastating “Body of War” at IFC. The long, narrow room was nearly empty on a Monday night, and the server spent most of the evening reading at the bar, but the food came fast and the wine pours were more than generous for $9. A pizza would have been the way to go, judging by the brick oven, but we just split a “cremosa” salad with iceberg lettuce, avocado, red onion and tomato with a creamy pepper dressing, and, at the child-for-a-night’s insistence, “tequenos,” described as cheese puffs dusted with cumin but actually more like mozzarella sticks with a great green salsa. My Los Andes Torrontes was outstanding, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising in a place whose slogan translates as “happiness in a bottle.” WIGB? Absolutely. 47 Eighth Avenue near West Fourth Street, 212 255 3900.

The not awful: Ostia in the West Village, where I stupidly suggested we repair when the one table open at Centro Vinoteca after an early book party seemed to be in an especially deafening level of aural hell. Of course as soon as we sat down and ordered wine I realized we were trapped next to something worse: a big table of braying Euro-holes. But the poor waitress was so mumbly-shy we stuck it out to share some decent grilled shiitakes and an obviously made-to-order tortilla (never a good thing). That and three glasses of wine cost fifty bucks. WIGB? Not likely.