Relationship Themed Restaurants

I had some personal family business to attend to, so in the meantime, I arranged for a guest post from one of my favorite writers. Katlin McGrath writes the hysterical blog Party in the Lifeboat, where she shares her thoughts about life as an actress, life as a woman, and life as a human being. Head over there for videos, blog posts, and the PERFECT accompaniment to your glass of wine and bowl of Cheez-its. She is also a fearless eater. This girl can down a slab of toast covered in bone marrow like nobody’s business. Ignore the fact that she is rail thin. Don’t worry, we all hate her. And kind of want to be her. Read this and you will see why:

If Your Relationships Had a Theme Restaurant, The List Would Look Like This:

Relationships and food have a lot in common. Relationships and restaurants have even more in common. Seriously. Think about it- we ultimately seek a relationship to fill a void that cannot be filled by us alone. Restaurants are the same thing! Sure, you can cook at home- but you may not have the expertise, ingredients, ambiance, music or well stocked bar that the restaurant does. Therefore, no matter how much we love cooking at home, we eventually venture out into the world to experience new things. I mean, when you really think about it, Yelp and Tinder have an awful lot in common… In either scenario, we are driven by hunger, need and passion, whether in romance or the pursuit of culinary adventure, and we take a gamble. We just hope we leave with our stomaches, wallets and hearts in tact at the end. After 5 years; good meals, bad meals and boys of all kinds, here is my humble guide. Please keep in mind, that while I have an adventurous palate, New York City is a BIG place and I have not sampled everything. I’m not that kind of girl.

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Brother Jimmy’s: AKA “The Out of College Frat Boy.”

Remember when you moved to New York? Bright eyed and bushy tailed, navigating the subway like it was some uncrackable mystery. Experiencing sticker shock on everything from milk to beer to band-aids (which you needed a lot of because, hot damn, you had never walked more in your life!). So inevitably, as a young twenty something you found your way into Brother Jimmy’s. The casual atmosphere somehow comforted you. Football on every TV, reasonably priced beer you’ve actually heard of, mac and cheese and fried pickles. Letting your guard down, you find yourself enticed by “him”, the Axe-wearing, polo clad frat boy that reminds you of your not so distant past. Double points if he has an accent or shares your love of college basketball. There’s nothing really wrong here, except that the more space and time you get from this one, you realize the immaturity of it all. It was okay then, fueled by alcohol and fear of the unknown, but now you expect more. Plus, if you’re going to (and should) eat BBQ in the city, this is the LAST place you should go. Your palate is more refined and you want more adventure and spice than is offered here. While “he” will never change, “he” will continue to help the small town girls and college kids traverse lonely transitional periods.

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Liqueteria: AKA “The Activist/Nutritionist/Makes His Own Deodorant”

New York has a way of creeping up on you every so often. Not in a good way. One morning, you wake up, disgusted by the pollution, trash, rudeness and smelliness. That’s when you stumble across this one. Sharing your love of recycling and good, clean fruits and veggies, you’re lured in by the clean freshness and the unmistakable aura of someone who actually cares. Which they do. Not a preservative in sight over here. Unfortunately, the longer you stay, that fun, optimistic potion of ginger and cardamom and pineapple, slowly turns to unfiltered kale and judgement. Whatever you do, don’t let any of “his” friends find out you buy your toiletries at Duane Reade or, God forbid, eat cheese. There’s just more going on here than you can feasibly commit to. But, that’s okay. You’ll run into each other from time to time, feel good about yourself when you do and even better about the fact that it’s just an every so often thing. After all, “his” crap is expensive.

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Barcade: AKA “The Hipster”

Oh, this was exciting! The first time you came here, you had never felt cooler. Local beer, vintage arcade games and graffiti covered bathrooms. You may as well be a Sex Pistols groupie! Reeled in by the skinny jeans, tattoos and “I have a band and ride a bicycle everywhere” attitude of it all. For a few beers, it’s sexy and exciting and you want to be a part of it. That is… until the hunger sets in… And “he” is over in the corner playing Frogger. As the delirium of overwhelming appetite sets in, you realize, not only do you not want a tattoo, but you don’t own nearly enough flannel. Plus, you watch HGTV un-ironically. Will they judge you for liking Disney? Or not knowing whose song this is? Or only owning one Radiohead album? The truth of the matter is, while “he” is really cool for a beer and a quickie, you don’t want to be this cool everyday. Plus, you can only walk of shame it back from Brooklyn so many times before you start to lose your cool.

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Red Rooster: AKA “The Foodie”

For Pete’s Sake, “he” is good. With good press, great recommendations and located in “up and thriving” Harlem, every single part of you feels good about being here. It appeals to you in so many ways. Covered in visual art of the neighborhood, while listening to the Nate Lucas Quartet every Sunday to the Deviled Eggs made with CHICKEN SKIN mayonnaise, you are so frigging happy to be here. Everything is awesome. Signature cocktails in pitchers, the best damn jerk chicken you have ever tasted and the funky Southern American/Swedish fusion going on throughout the menu. Your downtown friends arrive with trepidation and leave wondering if there are any apartment vacancies near by so they can be closer to the magic. Now, on the surface, “he” really is everything you want. Unless, you care about your thighs, waist and general heart health. Sure, “he” offers salads, but why would you eat salad when you can have shrimp and grits?! You have to pry your finger nails from the table and goodbye is so hard, but you know your arteries can’t handle “him” emotionally or physically (pun intended). You’ll come back someday, if only for a reminder of how good it really was.

ABC Kitchen: AKA “The Elitest”

Finally. You finally made it in. Between the fact that you have to make reservations to see “him” weeks in advance, as well as save up to even go, you sometimes wonder if taking a 5 day Disney vacation would have been more practical. Yes, they are the freshest of ingredients, “he” seems to remind you of this constantly, and the ambiance makes you feel like you should feel lucky to even have been allowed inside. It’s delicate and delicious and the pizzas make you think, “maybe he is a little down-to-Earth…” The unfortunate part is when you look around at all the furnishings and accouterments from the next door ABC Kitchen and Home, you realize that not only can you not afford “his” salt and pepper shakers, you don’t think he can handle the fact that you’re wearing H&M. Maybe someday, when you’re a rich and famous celebrity, you can come back here and be on “his” level, or better yet, have eclipsed said level, but for now, it’s just flat out too much. Too much money, too much freshness, too much you don’t have in common. Who knew vegetable could make you feel so inadequate. Lesson learned. At least it tasted damn good on the way down.

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La Esquina: AKA “The Tall, Dark and Handsome”

Oh dear, sweet sexy pants. If ever there was a sensual mystery of a man, and that man was a restaurant, it would be La Esquina. Entering through the unassuming taco shop, whispering your name to an attendant you will never see again, you are whisked down the stairs, into an underground lair of danger and mystery. Surrounded by dripping candles and exposed brick, you’re given a margarita laced with sweet tropical flavor and an ever so subtle burn. The food comes in waves, familiar and spicy, delivered in the near dark, exciting and enticing all your senses. “He” makes you feel like a real woman, with equal parts comfort and danger. When you finally decided to leave the folds of this exotic cave, you emerge… (Sun blinds you as you step out) “UGH, why is it bright outside?! Why don’t I have sunglasses? Oh my god, this headache is going to kill me…. and WHERE did all my money go?!” It was magical and sexy, but you can never decide whether it was worth the hangover or the hit to your bank account.

Union Square Cafe: AKA “The Your Parents LOVE Him”

Like the ricotta gnocchi that graces the menu of this Danny Meyer NYC staple, it is so damn smooth. Not in a gross way, either. “He” is just straight up classy. From the herb scented bar nuts, to the personal and familiar service, to the carefully selected wine list. They even have black napkins, because “he” knows just how much your mom hates getting white lint all over her clothes. You love it here, not only because you somehow feel completely at home, even while receiving four star service (again, pun intended), but because it feels familiar, and safe. Like you can see the future here. Except for one small problem. The problem is you. You love everything about this place, but you also have a hankering for deep fried mac and cheese and slutty brownies and Cheez-Its. There is a part of you that loves how classy “he” is, because part of you is too. You want this to be all of you. But, just like Charlotte York couldn’t handle the “always perfect” MacDougal family and ran straight into the hands of the gardener, you know you need both sides of the coin. Don’t worry though, “he” is so classy, you can come back anytime. He will always be around and more importantly, so will the gnocchi.

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Sarabeth’s: AKA “The Barney Stinson”

You held out long enough. You’d heard the stories everywhere. “Oh my god, how have you never been there?” You’d found yourself on the outside, seeing the tourists and locals alike waiting outside in line; judging them. Surely, there was breakfast this good elsewhere. Have some dignity, people! Then, it happened. You found yourself there. With your MOTHER, no less. She practically encouraged you. And just like Barney Stinson and the legendary playbook, “he” has everything designed to lure you in like Winnie the Pooh to a honeypot. Homemade preserves, never ending coffee and lemon ricotta pancakes with strawberries. My God. It’s the most delectable booby trap you’ve ever seen. PLUS, it’s breakfast, the most important meal of the day! How did you stay away so long? Then, as you sit there, in that cushy seat, enjoying your coffee, you ponder, “Just HOW MANY people have been here before me?” I mean, there’s no discrimination here- business men, Portuguese tourists and little old ladies who’ve lived on York and 83rd for 37 years. It’s not that “he” isn’t nice, delicious and comfortable. You just wonder if “he” will remember you after you leave. It’s a good stop over every so often, but you don’t want to get attached to this one. No one wants to show up and wait 45 minutes in the rain when you thought you had a connection. And by connection, I mean reservation. Obviously.

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Delmonico’s: AKA “The Older Man”

“He” really does have many leather brown books and smells like rich mahogany. Touted as being one of the first restaurants in the United States, “he” hasn’t just seen things, “he’s” made them. Eggs Benedict, Baked Alaska, the Delmonico steak… There may be variations and imitations and re-imaginings, but “he” INVENTED them. While it feels a little more mature than your usual, there’s something you can’t turn down about stopping by here for a bit. Who are you to scoff at a tradition of excellence? There’s so much to learn here, and the stories are half of the appeal! You feel proud, patriotic and very worldly here. The only downside, is you find yourself feeling the same way you do when you watch “Fool’s Rush In”. Longing to have been old enough to romance 27 year old Matthew Perry. If only it was 1994 and the two of you could ride off into a perfectly positioned sunset. Unfortunately for you, it’s just a little… icky. “He” may be so many things, but one of them is just too old for you. You learned so much, but had to get out before someone accused you of gold digging or worse, daddy issues.

Shake Shack: AKA “The Forbidden Fruit or Your Best Friend’s Brother”

Sweet buttered beef. This is some good, good stuff. Sure, you avoid it like the plague because in the long run there is no way in HELL that it’s good for you in ANY way, but every once in a while, you give in. You give in to the custard milkshakes, the beef that has obviously been cooked in pure CRACK and the buns that were hand crafted by angels. “He” is unassuming, familiar and comforting. “He’s” always been there and on some level, part of you always wanted to try. Resistance was futile. It’s possibly the best thing that’s ever been put in your mouth. It’s like the 4th of July on any damn day of the year. Delicious, making you feel right at home and always ending in fireworks. You binge. Hard. Eventually, an intervention is necessary. All sides of your life pull you away and eventually, you separate. You achieve distance. Understanding why “he” is not the right choice, but knowing somehow, after a few cocktails and on lazy summer afternoons when you round the corner and run right into “him”, you’ll go in for a quickie. For the sake of your sanity and general wellbeing, you are so damn glad there isn’t location near your office. Those carmel custard shakes really are like playing with fire.

Your Place: AKA “The One”

Like McClaren’s Pub, Central Perk or Tom’s Restaurant, we all have it. Or if we don’t, we’re looking for it. The place where everybody know’s your name. Where the moment you walk in, “he” is waiting and happy and eager to hear about your day and make all your dreams come true. Breakfast is cheap and filling, dinner is always served with a smile and every so often “he” gives you something like caramel covered brie or mushroom risotto, scented with truffles (See also, Cafe Petisco on the LES). It’s everything you need. Refined, but comfortable. Yummy, classy, dangerous, fulfilling. The future father of your children who can throw down like it’s 9 1/2 weeks. Some of us find it early in the city and some of us have to leave to find it elsewhere, but at the end of the day, the journey to get there is damn delectable.

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