I recognize that I am a hard eater to please. If something isn't transcendent, I move to this complex value/connection/taste/emotion evaluation framework that basically boils a restaurant down to this - the food is fine (maybe even good) and I'm not unhappy I ate it, but it might be overpriced, over-hyped, overdone - something. These are them.
Corner Bistro, West Village | Not bad, but is it worth a pilgrimage? I'm undecided. Prices are affordable (for NYC for sure!), the burger is tasty, and its a fun little bar atmosphere. This is a good burger at a good price and I'd go again, but it lands here simply because of the hype. I was not wow'ed.
Balthazar, SOHO | Another chic and well-known Manhattan institution, Balthazar has serves bistro-like food in a wide-open and chaotic dining room. I can't say much about the quality of food, since I only had a hamburger and their oh-so-famous fries - but what I did have was tasty. I'm not sure about 15 dollars for a burger tasty, but the fries were definitely above average. Pricey, but potentially worth it.
Press 195, Park Slope | It seems like everything on 5th in Park Slope is a cute little neighborhood place, but Press 195 definitely felt like that. We sat at the bar, got involved in a local conversation about the absurdity of not having a good pizza place in the neighborhood and had pretty decent knishes and fries. The food was not spectacular and perhaps a bit costly, but I don't oppose giving Press 195 a whirl.
Shake Shack, Washington Square, Manhattan | Okay, the hype machine is on overdrive when it comes to Shake Shack, so I know that I'm in the minority here, but I just can't see what the fuss is. Long lines, smallish portions, exorbitant prices - I just feel like your life, your appetite, and your money are better spent somewhere else. I've heard waits can be up to an hour. C'mon, for a five dollar burger and three dollar cheese fries? I know some of my friends will disagree, but just give me a Double Double. Seriously, what's the big deal here?
Caracas Arepa Bar, East Village | My friend and I went here after each having one of David Chang's way-too-famous pork buns. I was expecting something different than I got - I'd never had an Arepa before, so when they did come out, I was a bit surprised. We tried three arepas, and while all three were better than just "fine" they were not all that interesting. The prices aren't outrageous, and the food is acceptable but maybe I'm just not a fan of arepas.
Charles' Pan-fried Chicken, Harlem | Okay, if you're going to go somewhere for southern-style fried chicken in NYC, I guess Harlem is as good as any. Yet Harlem is still Manhattan, so Charles still charges Manhattan prices. Even for a buffet, 15 bucks is a bit much. So is it worth it? Hard to say, but the food is good. The fried chicken, the bbq ribs (that just fall off the bone!), the yams and the mac and cheese, and even the lemonade - all really tasty.
Sripraphai Thai, Woodside, Queens | So, this was proffered to me as the best Thai in NYC. It's not bad, and the menu is ginormous as advertised, but if this is the best Thai in NYC, then I'm sorry to say, NYC has pretty mediocre Thai food. Don't get me wrong, the food is fine (some dishes even good), but I don't find it to be in any way deserving of a "best" title. I think the fact that Sripraphai is the best in NYC says more about the competition than it does about the food here.