September 10, 2009 | Ask Gael

Tell me some good, not too expensive restaurants for after Broadway theater.

 A squeeze of lemon "cooks" razor clams instantly at Esca. Photo: Steven Richter
  A squeeze of lemon "cooks" razor clams instantly at Esca. Photo: Steven Richter

Dear PP in Chicago,

         When the Road Food warrior and I have a theater curtain near 43rd or 44th Street, we always reserve at Esca, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s fine seafood house run by the colorful and obsessed chef David Pasternak. I wouldn’t call dinner here “inexpensive" but when it’s supper, we might order from the daily changing crudo offerings and share a pasta or share the sensational razor clam crudo and order 2 pastas.  With a glass of wine and a beer, the bill is affordable.  Click here for more about Esca.

         When our theater is closer to the mid forties, we might slip into the quiet back room at Blue Fin. Or head for Toloache on West 50th for three or four savory tacos (Click here for my Toloache review).  It’s a bus or taxi ride north but I love  Bocca di Bacco on Ninth Avenue at 54th – especially the fava bean soup, the octopus and the gorgonzola pasta (dishes to share at that hour).  For more specifics click here.

 We might eat too much guacamole at Toloache while waiting for our tacos.  Photo: Steven Richter

        I fell in love with the original Brooklyn Diner on 57th for great burgers with frizzled onions, splendid chicken soup and the Chinese chicken salad that is much too big to finish.  But there’s a newer seedling just steps from Broadway at 155 West 43rd street. For more on the finer diner click here.

         The new Aureole hopes to fulfill all cravings. It’s just steps east of 7th Avenue on 42nd Street.  The smaller, serene back room is set aside for expensive chef’s tastings.  But there’s a  great range of options on the bar-lounge menu.  They can even sit at the bar for oysters and a glass of champagne or order the house burger and a big burst of the marvaelous papas fritas in a paper cone.  Read my recent report.

         I haven’t had a peep of complaint yet from anyone I sent to Five Napkin Burger except that there might be a half hour wait. Click here.

Penne gorgonzola at Bocca di Bacco is wildly rich and wonderful. Photo: Steven Richter

         Walking distance from their hotel on East 12th Street is the Strip House, home of our favorite sirloin.  It’s not exactly what you’d call inexpensive but at that late hour neither of us can eat a whole steak. We share a New York strip, rare of course, and spinach or a potato side (hash browns or the duckfat potatoes with minced raw garlic) with red wine by the glass. If dessert is required, go for the notorious chocolate cake.  It too tall and too rich for just two, but they can take what’s left home and stash it in the minibar for breakfast.  See my ode to Strip House.
         Really fun and noisy though not near the theater or their hotel is Daniels's new DBGB with sausages to share, the very good Piggy Burger and a proud beer list. If your friends want to see what’s hot, it’s a long cab ride downtown to the Bowery but a short hop afterward to the hotel. Click here for the scoop.

Break an egg,

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