A couple months back, we took a trip to Puerto Rico. Before our departure, we got a book, a Lonely Planet guide to spark our culinary adventures on this Caribbean island just shy of the Dominican Republic. We had three days to explore and what we found was comida frita, or fried food, and we found it everywhere. Fried cheese, fried yucca, fried plantains, fried fish, fried dough, fried eggs and re-fried beans graced us with their presence multiple times over a three-day span. While some of the traditional dishes were pleasing, like mofongo and salted cod, they also left the stomach with something to be desired. There was the soggy and cold Puerto Rican breakfast we searched for on day one (and recommended by Lonely Planet,) there was the lunch at Luquillo Beach, consisting the cheapest smorgasbord of fried food $20 could buy (we had left our wallets in lockers) and the overpriced, lumpy and tasteless Italian meal we had near the strip of casinos. Then on the last day, we found exactly what we had been yearning for: Pan de Mallorca—an age old Puerto Rican treat, accompanied perfectly with a café con leche—and we found this local delicacy at an age old establishment called La Bombonera in Old San Juan.
 

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11 Old Man Bars Worth Frequenting in Lower Manhattan and the BK
by Matt Gallagher
 
Why so glum, chum? World getting you down? Sometimes, a person just needs to be alone with their thoughts, a pint, and a grumpy, leather-faced bartender that is completely disinterested in customer relations. The much-venerated Old Man Bar offers just such an escape from existence – and, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need to be an old man to frequent one. Just leave the noise, energy, and fist pumping at the door. No need to rile the natives.
 
At first glance, New York City, a wonderland of clubby indulgence, would seem the antithesis for the Old Man Bar-proponent. Where’s the peace and the quiet, the sawdust and the space? After careful and diligent research on the matter, I can assure the reader that such is not the case. The Old Man Bar not only lives, it thrives on the streets of Gotham. Here are 11 Old Man Bars worth frequenting in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. (Limited to those regions to keep this list manageable. And because the Seventh Circle of Hell, also known as Murray Hill, is somewhere up there. Real talk.)
 
Some quick guidance for the uninitiated: Old Man Bars are best visited between the hours of noon and 5pm, Monday through Thursday. Happy Hour crowds and weekend rovers ruin everything. Also, general protocol calls for monotone chatting about surface topics – the weather, the score of the game, that sort of thing. No drama-rama, no prattling, and especially no Lady Gaga karaoke.
 

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Sebastian’s Favorite Italian Tunes by Vinicio Copossela

 
We met with Sebastian Widmann on a warm February afternoon. The restaurant hadn’t opened yet and Sebastian was drilling holes in the wall for a wooden bench. He wore simple dark green linen trousers, a cotton grey t-shirt and as usual, was unshaven. You would never guess that Sebastian is in his late thirties or owns a restaurant: he is effortlessly handsome, tall, and looks like a scruffy actor or a European philosopher. His mother is British, his father German, but both of his parents were born in Argentina and have traveled the world. He wears a t-shirt or a thin shirt no matter the weather, and he has that slight tan of someone who spends more time biking around then scrambling through the New York subways. He likes to talk, he stops by tables to chat with customers, he smiles, he is calm and well spoken. Women will often stare at him but he seems oblivious to their glances and continues to coolly walk around the restaurant in his brown sneakers.
 
Many people stumble upon the restaurant industry, especially in New York City. In pursuit of a wallet to sustain an artistic lifestyle, artists, writers and actors alike, find themselves more times than not waiting tables, running food or even managing restaurants. They soon realize that the perks of a borderline normal occupation, and a semi-regular paycheck are grand. At Malaparte, a budding, Italian neighborhood restaurant in the heart of the west village, co-owner and general manager Sebastian Widmann stumbled upon the life of a restaurateur after a meandering path. As we listened to him tell his tale through the world of international relations, journalism, documentary film, philosophy and his peripheral forays into the restaurant world, we asked Sebastian, “At any point in your life did you imagine opening a restaurant in New York City?” To which he replied, “After a while you have to commit to something…the restaurant world made me unmotivated to find another job.” It is not so often that someone “settles” for the volatile, nocturnal life of running a restaurant, but for Sebastian, this just made sense.
 
The Restaurateur: Sebastian Widmann

Photo Credits: Kira Simon-Kennedy

 

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When I first heard that Dale Talde, of Top Chef fame, was opening his own Asian-American restaurant in Park Slope called Talde, my interest was piqued. Though Dale was most recently a chef at Buddakan in the Meatpacking District – not exactly the most interesting or exciting restaurant of all time – the food he cooked on Top Chef always looked delicious – aggressively seasoned, creative and sophisticated. So with that in mind, I grabbed four friends, hopped on the R train and sat down to feast at Talde.
 
From the moment we walked in, I knew I would like the place. We were greeted warmly by the host and the bartender, even as we were told of a 45 minute wait. The restaurant is festively decorated in a distinctly Chinese style, enhancing the already lively atmosphere. We started with the Pretzel Pork & Chive Dumplings ($8), five delightfully crispy and juicy potstickers. Then came the Market Vegetable Hawaiian Bread Bun ($11), not dissimilar to the famous Momofuku Pork Bun, except Talde’s version was porcine-free. No worries though, it was nearly as good. Perfectly grilled Portabella mushrooms were accompanied by an awesome tangy mayo and other crunchy vegetables, making for perfectly harmonious bites.
 

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A Letdown Meal at The Bowery Diner:
 
I had been eagerly anticipating the opening of Mathieu Palombino’s Bowery Diner since it was first publicized roughly one year ago. Delayed for months and months, I was getting antsy, but I remained patient because I was beyond excited for the Motorino chef to wow us with his take on American diner classics. Furthermore, Bowery Diner was to eventually be a 24-hour joint, serving breakfast at all hours, in addition to its menu of burgers, sandwiches and blue-plate specials. What could be better? Finally, after an eight or nine month delay, it opened on a quiet section of Bowery Street with a promising neon sign out front. I grabbed some friends and went for dinner as soon as I could.
 
Unfortunately, it fell short of my lofty expectations. Let me explain. Bowery Diner is not a bad restaurant – in fact, for having only been open for a couple of weeks now, Palombino and his crew are doing alright. Let me start with the good. The interior is warm and inviting, looking like a more sophisticated and clean version of a classic diner. Nice booths, lots of tables, a long bar. The smoked meat (something of a cross between pastrami and corned beef) is made in-house and comes in a Reuben sandwich ($17). The meat was delicious and meltingly tender, if a bit under seasoned. That same smoked meat can also be found on the Bowery Special Burger ($15), where it partners with a burger patty. This was the best dish of the night. Juicy, salty, cheesy, and straight-up delicious. The restaurant also does their potatoes well – fries were crispy and perfectly cooked and the potato pancakes are best in class.
 

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One summer, when I was visiting my grandparents in Tokyo, my mother introduced me to a terrific Japanese film: Tampopo, by director Juzo Itami. Since then I have watched Tampopo many times. I never tire of this film, partly for the humor and the wonderful cast of characters, but mainly for the spectacular and inventive portrayal of food. The premise is simple: a woman wants to open the perfect noodle restaurant and, with the help of two truck drivers (including the young Ken Watanabe), sets off on an adventure to find the best ramen recipe. Along the way we encounter a gangster dressed in a white suit and his beautiful lover, (they enjoy erotic games with food, here is the famous egg scene where man and woman exchange an egg yolk from mouth to mouth before popping the yolk and embracing), a resourceful homeless man who prepares an omelet over rice for a little boy, an exhausted mother who cooks a meal for her family before collapsing….

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