Tag Archive | Fresh Juices

Gramercy Kitchen: A NYC Diner With a Small Town Vibe!

Exterior Shot
All Photos By Gail

Diner culture is iconic across America, but in NYC, where the small business real estate landscape changes in a heartbeat, people whisper that the days of the old New York Coffee Shops are numbered. The value of a neighborhood gem, where the food is tasty, the prices fair, and —  at the risk of sounding cliche —  “everybody knows your name” cannot be taken for granted. Revelation: the owners and staff of a new eatery, Gramercy Kitchen, have warmly embraced that credo. Gramercy Kitchen just opened for business in January, exactly one year after the space’s former tenant, Gramercy Cafe, closed its doors after 24 years in business. Gramercy Kitchen is under new ownership and unaffiliated with its predecessor. Menu Detail 1

Gramercy Kitchen happens to be in my old ‘hood of Gramercy Park, and I was curious to pay them a visit, so I stopped in one evening on my way home from the office to grab a Burger. The restaurant was in that transitional lull before the dinner rush hits, and after being seated at the ‘family booth’ — with its massive curved banquette that takes up the entire front corner of the restaurant — I struck up a conversation with general manager John K., a relaxed and friendly guy who treated me like we were old friends. John was happy to answer my questions about the menu, what Gramercy Kitchen offers customers that its neighboring restaurants might not,  and the experience of opening a  new restaurant in one of Manhattan’s most historic neighborhoods.

Haloumi Salad

Halloumi cheese is one of my favorite things, and Gramercy Kitchen has a Halloumi Salad ($14) that is huge! This salad can easily be  shared, or made into a satisfying entree with the addition of grilled chicken.  Halloumi cheese has a high melting point, and it is served lightly grilled over abundant greens, chopped tomatoes, olives and slivered red onions, with a generous portion (6 pieces!) of fresh pita bread. John mentioned that the restauant’s chef/owner is from Cyprus, where halloumi is made. Oil and Vinegar dressing comes with the salad but there are other dressing choices you can ask for, such as Avocado Ranch, which is what I had.

Menu Detail 2

Gramercy Kitchen’s massive, 8-ounce sirloin burger is priced at $12 — which includes Lettuce and Tomato —  and you can build your own custom creation from there. Add your choice of Cheese for $2Sliced Onion for $1, and premium toppings such as Avocado or Bacon for $4 each. They also offer something called Mercy Mayo, which is mayonnaise mixed with ketchup and tabasco sauce, for a tangy kick on your burger or fries!

Cheese Burger and Fries

Here is a photo of my Cheddar Cheeseburger with sliced Avocado, which was amazing! And check out those Curly Steak Fries, which I’ve never seen on any other diner menu. They are out of control delicious! “While we don’t feature any ‘specialty’ burgers,” John explained, “we want our customers to feel comfortable to choose what they want, the way they want it, made to order!”

Tuna Melt and Fries

Another favorite on the menu is the classic Tuna Melt, served here with Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread ($10/ $15 with Fries). The Tuna Melt was added to the  menu based on customer demand. John said that a lot of people coming in were formerly customers of the previous diner, and Gramercy Kitchen wants everyone who might have been dining there for years to find familiar items on the new menu.

Fresh Orange Juice

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to drink, but John suggested a glass of their freshly squeezed Orange Juice, which was not only refreshingly sweet and tasty, but very reasonably priced at just $5 for a 12 ounce Glass,  or $7 for 16 ounces.

Counter Detail

Updated interior finishes include a new marble countertop with a Mediterranean-blue ceramic tile backsplash, as well as frosted globe light fixtures throughout the restaurant. The room maintains a cozy feel, but on sunny days an atrium ceiling skylight makes the most of natural light.

Globe Light Detail

Interior

No matter what you are in the mood for, you will find something yummy to satisfy that craving. Gramercy Kitchen’s menu features a wide selection of fresh seafood, including muscles, shrimp, salmon and lobster dishes. “Our seafood is freshly delivered by Bayside Seas,” John told me. “They’re huge supporters of the restaurant and are dedicated  to supplying us with the best quality fish.” For the morning crowd, the restaurant offers a breakfast special that includes eggs, home fries, toast and your choice of organic hot coffee or hot tea, all for just $7.00 —  a price point that’s even competitive with fast food joints!

Rice Pudding

The dessert menu includes irresistible favorites like Carrot Cake, Cheese Cake and Apple Crumb Pie. I was too stuffed from my salad and burger to eat one more bite, but, on John’s recommendation, I took home the made-in-house Rice Pudding ($5) to snack on while I watched TV. There is some kind of secret flavor profile going on with this Rice Pudding (seen above) that I think might includes orange, lavender or something wildly exotic, which makes it taste exceptionally delicious. John refused to divulge the secret recipe even though I contacted him the day after my visit to ask him what was in it.  Rice Pudding: Recommended!

“The best thing about this restaurant is the community and our great staff, “John confessed. Gramercy Kitchen provides great service in a warm atmosphere. Once you come in for a meal, we think you’ll find many reasons to come back again!” I know I’ll be back!

Gramercy Kitchen is Located at 184 Third Avenue, on the Southwest Corner of East 17th Street, NYC.

Gramercy Kitchen Signage

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Cocina Del Sur: A South American Grill Specializing in Healthy Indulgence!

Eat What Makes You Happy Signage
All Photos By Gail

As we become increasingly health conscious when it comes to dining out, the concept of fast food that can be prepared on-demand from fresh ingredients has been popularized by chains like Chipotle, and Moe’s, among others. It’s no accident that these restaurants feature southwestern flavors, because — let’s face it — Mexican food is awesome, and the variety of preferred-ingredient combinations is almost endless. Who misses a Burger when you can do a Burrito Bowl dozens of different ways? What’s really fun and exciting for a foodie like me is to see the Chipotle model emulated to expand beyond Mexican into tasty Mediterranean and Latin cuisines. Recently, I was invited to visit Cocina Del Sur, a midtown fast-casual restaurant specializing in Latin dining that is both healthy and indulgent. Let’s check it out!

Store View from Front Door

Aside from the food, the Latin flare extends to the music and decor of the restaurant, which customers seem to enjoy.

Menu Interior

Open since 2016, owner Ronny Abenhaim draws on his South American roots to create Cocina Del Sur’s simple menu of fresh and vibrantly flavorful ingredients. Ronny explains, “although Cocina Del Sur has a bit of every country in South America, it has a heavy Colombian influence since that’s were I grew up. You can find many of my childhood favorite dishes and ingredients on the menu.”

Diners can custom-build a meal from two basic starter options: a Plate, which includes your choice of two side dishes and a sauce for $10.95; or a Salad or Bowl, which includes a base of Lettuce, Rice or Quinoa, plus three additional ingredients and one sauce for $8.95. A selection of seven different proteins, with choices like grilled organic chicken, organic tofu, and grass-fed hangar steak can be added to your meal for a nominal extra charge ($1.00 to $4.50). All meats are brined and marinated overnight to be extra flavorful and tender.

Front Counter Ordering

If this seems confusing at all, the staff is very friendly (on my visit I met Kevin and Daisy, who are both really nice and excited to be working with Ronny at Cocina Del Sur), and they will be happy to explain how ordering works or to answer any questions about how the food is prepared.

Sauces
Customize your level of spice with a choice of sauces that include Green Chimichurri, Pico Del Gallo, House BBQ, Tomatillo (with little Avocado in it), Chili Pepper, Mango Salsa, or the House Dressing.

Chicken and Rice Plate
Pictured: Bowl with Cilantro Rice and topped with Organic Grilled Chicken, Roasted Corn, Black Beans, Fried Onions and Sliced Avocado. Amazingly Delicious!

On my visit, I brought along my foodie friend Anne and we had fun customizing our meals from so many delicious options. I chose the Bowl option (pictured above) with a base of cilantro rice, with roasted corn, black beans, crispy fried onions as my ingredients, and garden-fresh pico de gallo as my sauce (total $8.95). I then added the organic grilled Chicken ($1.00) and a sliced half ($2.00), which brought my total to just $11.95 for  a huge, healthy and delicious meal!

Steak and Rice

Anne also chose a bowl with cilantro rice, roasted corn (which is cut from the cob after roasting in-house), caramelized onions and black beans, adding sliced, grass-fed hanger steak to her meal for an additional $3.00, bringing her total to $11.95 as well. If you dine regularly at Chipotle, Chop’t or Sweet Green you can see that Cocina Del Sur’s prices are very competitive.

Trio of Salsas

Anne chose the Green Chmichurri sauce, which goes so well with hanger steak, and they gave us an extra Pico De Gallo to share! You can see how fresh it is. “The sauces are what takes you to a certain country in South America,” Ronny explains. “What sauce you add to your meal is kind of what decides ‘which ride you will take.’ For this reason, everything is made from scratch, chopped and prepped in house; since our lunch hours are very busy, nothing stays on the shelves for long and everything feels very fresh. We don’t own freezers or microwaves and we don’t allow cans in our kitchen. We use seasonal and quality ingredients to get better flavor and keep the menu healthy.”

Sweet Plantains

We also ordered a side of Sweet Plantains ($3.50) to share. These plump plantains were fried up just the way we like them: sweet, moist and tender and just slightly caramelized on the outside. Perfect!

Juices Sign

If you want to add a healthy beverage to your meal, why not try one of Cocina Del Sur’s fresh juices, which are a specialty that Ronny wanted to have on the menu, as they are made with exotic fruits imported  from South America. “Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil are right on the equator line,” Ronny explained, “so the climate is perfect for all the delicious, exotic  fruits in the world. Growing up, I would have breakfast and lunch accompanied always by a different juice freshly made in the blender minutes before. I can’t always find Passion fruit, Guanabana, Honeydew, Watermelon, Mango, Blackberry, Nispero, Lulo, Tamarind here in the US, so the fresh juices is the only category on the menu where we are always looking for ways to bring these beautiful fruit flavors from South America.”

Blackberry Juice

I tried the Blackberry Juice, made with a Colombian Blackberry which is a bit different in color and flavor from the Blackberry in the states. Ronny described it as being “like a combination of a raspberry and a blackberry,” which is flash frozen at its peak ripeness, then vacuum sealed and sent to the restaurant. The juice was sweet and light and very refreshing. All juices are $5.50 and come in a bottle for grab-and-go-convenience.

Hallway

Our order was ready in about ten minutes and we sat at one of the small tables in front to dig in to our Latin feasts! Everything in the bowl was bursting with fresh flavor! The rice was fluffy, the black beans tender from hours of slow-cooking, and the corn had that just-picked sweetness with a subtle roasted flavor, while the crispy texture of the fried onions added such a perfect compliment to the other flavors. The very generous portion of creamy avocado was perfectly ripe as well. Most importantly, the chicken was grilled to perfection, moist and tender.

Steak and Rice

Anne also loved her meal and noted that the hanger steak was perfectly cooked: seared on the outside and just a little pink in the center. If you’ve eaten food that is so good, you wish you could eat the plate, that is how I felt about my meal at Cocina Del Sur. Eating their health but undeniably indulgent food made me feel comforted and happy, but also excited about a return visit! “Our customers tell us how fresh and flavorful the food is at Del Sur,”says Ronny. “In Midtown, it’s hard to find good food at a decent price, and served quickly, so we can offer a freshly-made, healthy meal for around $15 dollars in under 15 minutes. And our menu is so flexible, you can visit us 30 days in a row and have a different meal every day!” Asked what he enjoys most about operating Cocina Del Sur, Ronny didn’t hesitate, “I get to do what I love, and I get to feed a lot of people each day and remind them that it is food that makes them happy!”

Catering Sign

Cocina Del Sur can also cater your Holiday party! Contact them at the email address or phone number shown above to get all the details!

Cocina Del Sur is Located at 40 West 38th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) in NYC. Hours are from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM Monday through Friday (Closed Weekends). Connect with them online at Del Sur Dot Com and Follow them on Instagram at @delsurnyc! You can order from them on Seamless as well!

Pick Up Here Sign

Wall Paper Design