It’s 10 P.M. — Do You Know Where Your $1 Blue Point Oysters Are? (aka the “City Crab Weekend Happy Hour Win” Post)

Half-priced appetizers, $1 Blue Point oysters, $3 beers.

If a better Friday or Saturday night deal exists in downtown Manhattan, bring it. For now, City Crab‘s late-night happy hour, which is available at the stately restaurant bar between 10p and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, is the golden ticket. (City Crab also runs its happy hour from 4p-7p daily.)

When four of us stopped in on a recent Friday night, we started with a round of Coronas and a dozen Blue Points. Squeeze, sauce, slurp, repeat — these oysters, meaty and lightly briny, are some of the best specimens I’ve had yet, although it should be noted that oysters are still new to me.

(After many years of “trying” oysters — e.g. swallowing the slippery thing as fast as possible and hoping I wouldn’t feel it too much or taste too much — lately, I’m slurping them down with the best. This epic night of all-you-can-eat oysters at Bondi Road in LES was the turning point.)

Onto the hot foods — and mas cerveza s’il vous plait.

First impression: These portions are not for the faint of appetite. The crab, spinach and artichoke dip ($6.50/hh) comes out bubbling in a metal cauldron, a basket of thick pita chips ($6.50/hh); both the dip, and the basket of Southern fried popcorn shrimp ($6/hh), went on and on — even among four of us. The lightest option, a pound of steamed PEI mussels ($6/hh), comes in a beautiful tomato broth laced with garlic and fresh herbs.

For next time, I have my eye on the lobster mac n’ cheese and crab cake bites and … of course, more oysters. (The chef at the raw bar said he shucks 1,000+ oysters a night!)

City Crab, 235 Park Ave. S., near 19th Street, 212-529-3800.

Saturday: The Bigger, The Better, The Boozier (aka the “Birthday Brunch at Essex” Post)

photo-11While other cities around the world have their own weekend-daytime drinking cultures, I think New York owns the boozy brunch.

No one eats that breakfast-lunch hybrid meal later on weekends than New Yorkers — brunch here often extends until 3 p.m., or later. A restaurant recently opened in the East Village entirely pegged to New Yorkers’ adoration of this meal. (It’s aptly called Permanent Brunch.)

So, Saturday. Possibly the one thing that I could love more than a boozy brunch at Essex restaurant — a great Lower East Side scene of a restaurant attached to the Essex Street Market — is a boozy brunch here at 12:45 pm on Saturday for a party upwards of 15.

The planner deserves both some props for their patience and their ultimate faith in the fact that the aforementioned brunch for the aforementioned party of 15+ will actually happen — in a reasonable amount of time. (Parties of 4 regularly wait for 45 minutes to get a table.)

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Well, it did, and I’m happy to report that it generally went off without a hitch. And once we started roping in other wait staff to refill our drinks — the whole premise of Essex Street’s boozy brunch is that brunch includes three mimosas, screwdrivers or bloody marys, but you hope that they stop counting after a while — done.

The first time I came to brunch at Essex Street I was a little too excited about the caliber of the menu, which extends far beyond the egg scrambles and pancake stacks of some of the more ordinary brunch suspects in the area. (You can see the full menu here.)

photo-12Slowly but surely I’ve worked my way through some prospects, and today I went out on a limb — crispy potato pancakes with sauteed apples and honey-cream sauce and spinach-shiitake-black bean hash.

Yeah, they don’t look so pretty. Although it tasted delicious, I found myself wishing for a couple of strips of bacon, and the part where the sweet, buttery apples and the savory, spinach-y, mushroom-y, black bean hash — I don’t like mixing.

… Well, unless it’s one of Essex’s excellent bloody marys. The more mixing, the merrier. My recommendation: Don’t overlook the Mexican Matzo Brei — scrambled eggs with tortilla chips, Monterey Jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo (and no matzo) — still the standing favorite.

Essex, 120 Essex St., at Rivington Street, 212-533-9616.

Sunday: In Search of a Fresh, Lively Salad (aka the “Almost Perfect Baoguette Steak Salad” Post)

photo-6Finally, late into Sunday evening, I found myself  standing at the counter of Baoguette/Pho Sure in the West Village, utterly parched for some fresh, lively greenery after Saturday’s (need I remind you) “Ugghhh …” binge.

There is one salad on the menu, a skirt steak salad. (note: I can find no online menu that reflects this menu change/update.) Skirt steak salad, with pineapple, English cucumber, fresh herbs, crushed peanuts, etc., etc. $12.99.

photo-8“Does that come on a bed of greens?” I ask. I only ask because the only other salad listed, a green papaya salad, while delicious, has no bed of greens whatsoever. And I need some leafy greens. Desperately.

She told me yes.

In fact, the answer is no. No greens. I was sort of annoyed … until I took a bite.

That salad was gone in t-minus 10 minutes, and I wanted more. Simple, fresh, beautiful — and with ample, gorgeous (and gorgeously rare) slices of skirt steak — “Fuck it, I will find some greens tomorrow.”

Saturday: A Quietly Raucous Night at Fanelli Cafe (aka the “Balloons, Beers and Bison Burger” Post)

photo-2Anytime balloons are affixed to a street sign outside a restaurant (or bar, as it may be) when I’m sitting nearly in the picture window of said restaurant — I take that as a good sign. Who doesn’t love balloons, bobbing and bouncing softly off each other, as the background to their evening?

It makes a festive place like Fanelli Cafe in Soho — with its tin ceilings, worn, wooden bar and bear of a bald-headed bartender, who single-handedly (and quite adeptly) nurtures to his bar into the steady, cacophonous riot that is part of Fanelli’s charm.

Quiet, everyone, quiet,” he bellows, and then, when the din has settled a murmur, he turns to my friend and I and asks, “are you here for dinner or for drinks?

photo-3Both,” I said, “But we want to sit at the bar.”

His whole face lights up — that’s his turf. (For the couple behind us that wants to sit down for dinner, he sends them to the hostess stand deep inside the restaurant with an dismissive wave.) He scans the bar, and gestures for us to come to where there’s a single open seat.

Just wait a few minutes and you’ll have two,” he says. No doubt if only one other single seat opened up on the opposite side of the bar, he’d readily convince everyone scoot down so we could fit the two chairs in together. Fortunately, two adjacent seats opened up at the same time, and, at his signal, we made the move.

It’s called a cafe, and certainly, there are more tables than seats at the bar, but I know Fanelli’s for its drinking culture, so when I think of how to categorize the food, immediately in my mind it falls under pub fare, better than average.

photo-1It’s a little classier — the burgers, for example, come on a nice onion roll, with your option of fries or salad, and you can choose between a beef, turkey, veggie or bison burger ($10.95). Really, rather than being upscale pub food, this is the effect of a great bar operating within a full-service restaurant kitchen.

We split a bison burger, plus pepper jack cheese, plus bacon, cooked to a medium doneness — and it was a beautiful thing. During my first encounter with Fanelli’s, on a trip to visit the city before I moved here, my knowledgeable guide told me to “get the burger. They have great burgers,” and I’ve hardly strayed since because they are good.

photoWe shared an order of jalapeno poppers ($5.50), the cheddar inside kind, which were good, but not great, and a little skimpy — the order only came with four. Sure, it saved us the decision of who got the last one, or the awkwardness of splitting a popper with a knife, but really, an order of poppers should come with no less than five, ideally six, or seven, little gems. All the better to order another pint, you might say.

Sunday: Barbecue, Squared (and a Birthday, to Boot!)

Almost didn’t make it to the second barbecue of the day because we were busy working our way through a basket of rib tips at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, which happen to be one of my favorite food discoveries so far in New York City — rib tips are like these gnarled, meaty, fatty end-of-rib knuckles and they’re so, so good.

I think I might like them better than ribs. The ultimate test will be when I rise to the challenge of Brother Jimmy’s Monday night special: $15.95 for all-you-can-eat rib tips and all-you-can-drink domestic draft (maximum two hours). Hot damn. We’ll find out how many rib tips this girl can truly put away when that day comes.

photo-3photo-4Thankfully, I did get to the second barbecue just in time: It was after the dishes were washed and the home-smoked pulled pork, smothered in a delicious hickory-style spicy barbecue sauce, had been packaged into leftover bags … but (and this is key) before the pork, dishes, et. al. walked out the door. Meaning, I swooped in and got one!

They layering of the sandwich is key, my friend, the pitmaster (if you’ll recall, the one responsible for the delicious tea-smoked chickens), advised: Coleslaw, then sliced white onion, then pork, pickles on top. One of these little pulled pork sandwich gems, paired with the cutest miniature cupcakes from Crumbs Bakeshop … this Sunday birthday party was kickin’ yet.

Saturday: Nearly Made It to the Korean Festival (aka the “Cheap Sake Discovery” Post)

Grand plans of gorging at the city’s annual Korean Festival were slightly foiled by the sudden, motivation-sapping (and nap-inducing) downpour — well, that, plus the fact that I thought we had until 9 p.m. to get out there and sample the goods. Instead, vendors in packing-up mode at 5:30 pm, and the couple that were still selling food, well … the food just looked like it should be the last stuff standing.

IMG_0538photoAnd I’d been so looking forward to sampling small tastes, some kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) here, a grilled meat skewer there, some tteokbokki elsewhere.

photo-1Thankfully, Woorijip, that old K-Town standby, was not only open, but seriously bustling at 6pm on a Saturday night.

The hot food buffet, as always, was a treasure trove of Korean comfort-food fare: I wound up with a plate that included everything I’d been looking forward to sampling, and then some.

One of the great discoveries of the night, however, was the 180 ml bottles of “the finest Japanese Sake Gekkeikan,” which retailed for $4.95 and came in a plump, screw-top bottle — with your own sake cup. As far as cheap sake goes, this one is a winner. Smooth and mild, lightly floral, the sake has none of the harshness otherwise associated with cheap sake. And the price can’t be beat — draft pints often cost more in this city.

“Foiled” might have been too harsh a term. The plan wasn’t foiled, more like, successfully revised.