Weekly Roundup: New York institutions old & new

This is truly a fantastic time to be eating in New York City.

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Every week there are fabulous restaurants opening, some trying old things in a new way, others starting completely from scratch.

All I know is that figuring out where to eat is harder than it should be, but at the end of the day you really can’t make a bad choice. The only problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is getting in. So sometimes, you have to be a little flexible.

Like, sometimes you just have to eat at odd times. Your dinner time options might be 3:30 or 11pm, and you just have to be cool with that. The end result will be a life-changing Caesar salad and a pork chop the size of Texas.

I’m referring particularly to the magic that is Upland, one of the highest rated restaurants on The Infatuation and conveniently close to my apartment. It epitomizes the current New York restaurant scene: sleek but comfortable interior, new takes on classic fare, and main dishes that would make any carnivore swoon.

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I started with the Caesar salad, because how could I not? It definitely doesn’t fit your standard definition of a Caesar, but it was everything I wanted and more: a pile of multi-colored, multi-textured greens, lightly tossed in a salty, anchovy-heavy dressing, and topped with bread crumbs or some such magic.

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My friend got the beef tartare which also challenged expectation–it comes topped with puffed farro, with an egg yolk on the side. I’ll let you decided whether that’s a good thing (but we think it is).

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Given that it was after 11, we decided to split a main and it’s a good thing we did because our “pork chop” turned out be about 3/4 of a pig. Honestly, I didn’t know a pork chop could be like that. It wasn’t flat, it was on the bone and part of the time it tasted like bacon. It came with one spring onion on a platter drizzled (liberally) with a magic butter sauce, with a sprinkle of chicharrones. Welcome to pork heaven.

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Because we were splitting, we also got the side of carrots in salsa verde and romesco sauce. Helping ourselves to a little of both felt like eating a meal at home, if you had a professional chef in your employ and decorated your dining room with thousands of jars of preserved lemons. The carrots actually may have been my favorite part, except for the romesco which I don’t love. The crispy ones on top, lightly seasoned and dripping in olive oil, however, were killer.

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The only weird part of the meal was when they brought us milk & cookies during our salad course…turns out, they were for the table next to us. I couldn’t stop thinking about cookies after that, but when you eat 1/2 of 3/4 of a pig you don’t end up having room for dessert. Shocker.

Another stop on my new restaurant tour was a new-old restaurant, Russ & Daughters Café. The original Russ & Daughers is a counter-service New York institution serving up the best bagels and even better smoked fish. The only downsides? The lines, and that you can’t sit down anywhere and that there aren’t eggs.

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The solution? R&D Café. It’s the same bagels we know and love served in a sleek, sit-down space with a side of eggs and a Bloody Mary. Specifically, 4 types of Bloody Mary’s: caraway-infused vodka garnished with Gherkins and rye croutons, dill-infused vodka with dill, fenugreek-infused vodka (what is that??) and smoked pepper and sea salt. I got the caraway and it was pretty dope. My friend got the smoked pepper and it was doper.

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Now when you go to R&D (and you will be going soon, right?) you get a board. It’s basically a DIY bagel station, and it’s to die for. The thing that’s great about this place is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. Like, we got a gluten free bagel on the side for my friend, and goat cheese cream cheese on the side for me.

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Then, to up the ante, we tried one of the egg dishes, the Lower Sunny Side: two eggs, two latkes fried to golden-brown perfection and an ample side of lox. Again, the customization element here was key as we subbed in scrambled eggs for sunny-side up without a fuss.

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It was truly the perfect breakfast: bagel-goodness, smoked fish, and some eggs thrown in for good measure. In short, it was everything I hoped for and more, and worth the hour and 45 minute wait for a table…oh yeah, this place doesn’t take reservations did I forget to mention that?

But don’t worry, they text you when your table’s ready so you can walk yourself down to Irving Farm Coffee Roasters and get a blueberry muffin and an iced coffee to take the edge off. Do it, and do it soon.

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