This has been a hard week for me and so I've kinda fallen off the diet and allowed myself to indulge a little to keep my spirits up. Here are a few of my favorite indulgences.
Donovan's Pub in Woodside
Traditional Irish pub in the largely Irish neighborhood of Woodside where they know how to pour Guiness and serve up the most consistently great burger I've had in NYC. Located three blocks from the Woodside stop on the 7 train, it also happens to be across the street from my doctor's, so I always indulge in a burger right after I get any bloodwork done. A meaty, juicy half-pound burger with sauteed onions (ask for fried onions on your burger) done perfectly medium rare with nice crisp fries and a pint of Guiness cost $15 including tax and tip. In the bar area, they offer Monday Night Football specials of half-priced burgers, 20 cent buffalo wings, and $3-4 bud and stella draughts.
What I consider to be the best bargain in Manhattan in terms of food and value. Their specialty is a $21 pasta trio where they serve to you at your table unlimited refills of 3 pastas that change daily. It also comes with your choice of a caesar salad or an antipasto which has a great assortment of vegetables and fish. Usually of the 3 pastas, one of them will be in a traditional tomato and basil sauce and another will be made using wheat pasta. When I went last week, they had mushroom ravioli in a truffle butter and sage sauce, penne in a tomato and basil sauce, and wheat fettucine bolognese, where you can find actual shredded pieces of veal, not just random ground veal. Besides the pasta trio, other great values on the menu include the dessert sampler for $6 per person and their back page wine list where every bottle of wine (there's about 40+ on there) is $25 each.
The atmosphere is nice and quiet upstairs, while the downstairs eating and bar areas tend to be hustling and bustling most of the time. For larger parties you'll likely need a reservation, but it's easier after 8pm when the pre-theater crowd is off to their shows.
This one doesn't come off as much for good value when you have a $16 sandwich for lunch. However, the sandwich is huge and pretty much perfect. Houston's, which is a national chain, provides a really nice classy business lunch atmosphere with perfect lighting, comfortable booths and sofas, and great food. On the menu there's a specific note about no cell phones in the dining room.
If I'm there alone, I will either get the fish sandwich (perfectly seasoned fillet with fresh lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickles on a very robust sesame seed bun) or the prime rib french dip sandwich (prime rib with jus on the side). The sandwiches come with nice, really thin shoestring fries and I think their ketchup is homemade. When I'm with company I always make sure to get the spinach dip as well.