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Just For Kids,Staten Island Reviews

May 4, 2010

Eating Out with the Family – Adobe Blues

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Adobe Blues

By: Nanine Iengo Blomstrom

Photo By N. Iengo
Enjoying Adobe Blues 225x300 Eating Out with the Family   Adobe Blues

No Mas!

I am full.  Full of Enchiladas that is.  I actually can’t even think straight. Tonight we ate at a staple in New Brighton–Adobe Blues.  For those of you who are not familiar with it (and there may still be a few of you out there) Adobe Blues is located past the ferry and just a little before Snug Harbor off of Richmond Terrace at 63 Lafayette Avenue.  It serves southwestern food and boasts a humungous beer list–which is what appealed to us some years back when a hangover wasn’t something we worried about.  Now that 10 o’clock is sounding a little late, a hangover is actually making us just say no-at least a little.  It is the homey atmosphere and welcoming attitude Adode Blues has that keeps us coming back.

It is one of my husband’s favorite places on the Island.  My son Teddy and I picked him up from the ferry on the evening of his birthday and after hemming and hawing about where to go–which usually lasts about 20 minutes and ends up with two out of the three of us sulking in our warm soda and overpriced yet soggy sushi–I suggested Adobe Blues.  Teddy was excited about the prospect of guacamole and chips and I knew Pete was already thinking about which beer he would have–I think it was Newcastle this time.  We got there around 6:30 and it was relatively empty.  A couple of patrons were at the bar and a few tables were already occupied.  I didn’t intend to write about this, but after we were settled at our table and were enjoying the chips and the ambient lighting (to put it romantically)  a group of 5 parents wielding 3 infant car carriers walked in.  I thought to myself–Yikes, they may have a problem sitting down.  I’ve been there, not with three of course, but it is mildly uncomfortable walking into a restaurant with one child, thinking “I hope we can be accommodated without much fuss”.  The hostess didn’t bat an eye–They were seated right away in a comfortable table in the back where the band usually plays.  The place does have a rather interesting acoustic issue.  It is hard to hear anything there that is outside your immediate area, so that totally worked in their favor.  Then I started noticing more couples with children coming in and it was getting crowded.  There were at least 4 tables with children under 3 and some with children from 7-15.  It was nice.  A place where mommy and daddy had way too good a time working their way through the beer list has renovated itself into a family establishment. Maybe it always was, but like I said–they have great beer!

While they do not have a dedicated children’s menu, my son was more than happy with his heaping (yes, I used the word heaping) side dish of Red Beans and Rice, sour cream, chips and guacamole. His milk did come in a covered kids cup with a ‘fat’ straw.  The menu hasn’t changed that much over the years.  They usually have a few unique specials and not-your-everyday southwestern plates, as well as the standard Mexican/southwestern dishes such as the aforementioned enchiladas (the green chili sauce that accompanied them was amazing.) Overall the food has remained consistent–honestly, I can’t say I have ever had a bad meal there.  Now I can enjoy it with my family and know that family friendly doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste and atmosphere.  They do provide a changing table in the ladies room which was a plus, since the bathroom is a bit rural looking.  Also, just to make a note of it if you are thinking of going, we were there on a Tuesday night around 6:30, it started getting full at about 7:00 and the waiting area is in the bar–which can definitely get crowded as well.  Also, Wednesday night is “Open Mic” night where many a singer and guitar hero come to play.  They also usually have a band or two on the weekend.  It can get pretty loud, so maybe call before going.  (718) 720-2583?…..http://adobe-blues.com/

Staten Island Reviews

December 21, 2009

Staten Island’s Island Coffee Shop

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 Staten Islands Island Coffee Shop

A good cozy greasy spoon!

You can’t judge a book by its cover or in this case a diners awning.- T.Giordano

The Island Coffee Shop doesn’t exactly look like a great place to have a meal. The red awning has seen better days and the on the street parking isn’t the greatest but don’t judge this greasy spoon by its exterior.  This is a neighborhood hot spot.

This past Saturday, December 19th, my family and I awoke to a frigid and blustery morning. The sky was grey with a reddish tint. SNOW! Actually a Nor’easter was bearing down on the Staten Island. It would bring the season’s first snowfall (about 4 inches). What a better way to charge up our bodies for snowball fights and shoveling with lots of hot coffee and a rib sticking breakfast.

As soon as my family and I entered the Island Coffee Shop a very busy waitress named Joann warmly greeted us. A quick “good morning” and a smile later we were seated and our drink order was taken. Joann had greeted us (and everybody else) as if she knew us for many years. After returning with our drinks she asked for our order but we never received menus. Joann apologized because she assumed that we had been here before. I guess the Island Coffee Shop has many regulars. Shortly after our order was taken we had some time to take in our surroundings.

The dining area is snug with a dated decor. The walls are adorned with photos of family, friends and articles from the local newspaper, the Staten Island Advance. The ceiling has an intricate web of ivy growing from mismatched hanging pots. The dining area has a handful of booths, a counter and stools with the grill/griddle behind it.  The place was packed! A line was forming outside. It seemed that everybody, customers and staff, knew each other well. Regular customers were greeted with hugs and kisses and a quick “how’s the family?” Some customers brought holiday gifts to the staff. This is a warm and friendly greasy spoon. More businesses should greet and interact with there customers like the staff at the Island Coffee shop.

Our breakfast arrived quickly and as ordered. We ordered the #5 and the #3. The #5 is 3 pancakes, bacon (ham or sausage) and home fries. I ordered scrambled eggs with ham on the side. My eyes are bigger than my stomach! The #3 is 2 eggs (over easy), bacon (ham or sausage), toast and home fries. The kids ordered toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries. The bottomless cup of coffee or tea warms us up from the inside.

I knew this was going to be good when I saw the huge chunk of butter slowly melting over the warm pancakes. The pancakes were thick and fluffy. They had an excellent texture and not greasy. I quickly poured the maple syrup over the pancakes only to be disappointed. Artificial syrup! This would have been a homerun if it were real maple syrup. The eggs, scrambled and over easy, were perfect. They were delicious. Not bland at all. The bacon was cooked as requested, crispy. The home fries were spectacular. The texture was faultless. They were crispy on one side and tender on the other side. The home fries had a rich flavorful taste. You must order the home fries when you visit the Island Coffee Shop. Where is the grease in this beautiful greasy spoon?

I know you can’t judge a restaurant on just breakfast but so far the Island Coffee Shop has a good foundation. Because the Island Coffee Shop has a friendly and efficient wait staff with a good breakfast I will return for lunch and dinner. I recommend you pay a visit. Please be aware that if you sit in the window booth closest to the cash register you will have a pronounced breeze on your neck. The through-the-wall air conditioner is not sealed correctly.

Overall the breakfast was hearty and inexpensive. The total bill was $24.95 for four and it did not include the tip.

The Island Coffee Island Shop is located at 1734 Victory Boulevard near the corner of Manor road. The phone number is 718 720 5606.

The owner is George Bakratsas and he knows how to do a good breakfast.

Update:

Island Coffee Shop has moved to a new location. You can find them at 407 Manor Road, Staten Island, NY 10314


minilink Staten Islands Island Coffee Shop

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 Staten Islands Island Coffee Shop

Staten Island Reviews

October 22, 2009

Staten Island’s Tuscan Sun Italian Ristorante

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Sun Face Staten Islands Tuscan Sun Italian Ristorante

Tuscan Sun Face

In the most Southern part of Staten Island, tucked away on the corner of Main Street and Amboy Road lies an Italian delight, the Tuscan Sun Italian Ristorante.

Since it’s opening in July of 2008, the Tuscan Sun is maturing nicely. Owner and executive chef Jonathan DiTringo is a stand out on an Island littered with ho-hum cookie cutter Italian restaurants. Ah, but they still have some work to do.

The Tuscan Sun is an intimate restaurant. The dining room and bar have a warm atmosphere with a rustic brick interior and dark wood trim. The walls are adorned with metal sun faces and seasonal decor. Mr. DiTringo must love the music of Andrea Bocelli because on all but one occasion Bocelli’s music or concert dvd was playing on the flat screen tv’s located in the restaurant (not that I have a problem with that, It’s better than playing Led Zeppelin to enhance the mood).

On our last visit, 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, we were greeted and immediately seated by the hostess and Mr.DiTringo. Because the restaurant is popular and the seating is limited expect to wait about a thirty minutes to be seated on a Friday or Saturday evening. I would suggest to call ahead to check the wait time. Once seated, our waitress Renee took our drink order and informed us that chicken fingers and french fries are available for our young children even though it is not listed on the menu.  Renee also told us, “Everything is cooked from scratch.” and they will try to accommodate a child’s or adults most finicky request with any of it menu items.

Two noticeable points was that the staff forgot to bring out the bread basket and we had no place settings until our appetizers were served . This seemed to be a simple oversight.

The Tuscan Sun has daily specials and is open for lunch and dinner. The lunch menu ranges from burgers ($8.95-$9.95), mouth-watering panini’s ($7.95-$8.95), sandwiches ($7.95-$9.95) and 16″brick-oven  pizza’s ($13.95-$17.95). Some lunch home runs (come on it’s the ALCS, go Yankee’s) are the Tuscan Sun pizza which is made with fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes, prosciutto, artichoke hearts and basil for $14.95 and the soppresatta, fresh smoked mozzarella, fire roasted red peppers and basil mayo panini served with hand cut fries for $8.95.

The dinner menu ranges from unique salads ($6.95-$9.95), standard appetizers ($6.95-$15.95), large portion pasta dishes($10.95-$14.95), succulent entrees ($14.95-$18.95) and common desserts ($4.95-$5.95). Mr. DiTringo talent really shines with the reasonably priced dinner specials ($15.95-$19.95).

On our last Saturday visit we ordered the pear salad, the mini rice balls appetizer, rigatoni Bolognese, veal scallopini Fontina dinner special, chicken fingers for the kids and crepes and chocolate lava cake for dessert.

Top of the rotation.

The pear salad is simply delicious. The large portion will satisfy the hungry soul. The salad ‘s plate presentation was just as appealing as I thought it would be. The salad consist of mesclun greens, crisp fresh pears, sweet figs, goat cheese, cashews and croutons in an balsamic glaze dressing. This salad has multitude of textures and flavors. I would highly recommend this to anyone (especially now when figs are in season). The dressing can be overpowering if poured on too heavy. I would suggest to have it on the side so not to spoil the dish.

Next up was the mini rice balls. The presentation was rather plain and disappointing compared to the pear salad. I found them to be slightly bland and the chunky tomato sauce accompanying them was bit salty. After adding some pepper to the rice balls it helped improve the flavor.

Dinner is served.

Once our entree’s arrived I was amazed at the large portion of rigatoni Bolognese. The presentation was simple and seemed to over power the plate (and my wife’s eyes). The rigatoni was cooked al dente and the sauce was rich and full bodied. You could taste the subtle favors of thyme or rosemary.  This seems to be your traditional Bolognese sauce with carrots and garlic. Celery is usually used in Bolognese sauce but none was present in this dish (this is the way my wife prefers it). This was an excellent dish to be paired with a good red wine.

My entree, the veal scallopini Fontina dinner special, was appealing to my sense of sight, smell and taste. The thin veal was cooked perfectly and tender enough to cut with a fork. The baby spinach topped the dish along with the Fontina cheese and the Madeira sauce. Unfortunately, I could not taste the Fontina cheese. It seemed to get lost with the baby spinach and the Madeira sauce. A slight disappointment. This dish was paired with Acini di pepe or pearl pasta (tiny balls of pasta that is bigger than Pastina) mixed with diced vegetables and a butter (?) sauce. Also there was a side of Julienne vegetables. Both sides were a nice touch and enhance the dish. The kitchen and staff did have a nice cadence to the timing of our food on this visit. The time between courses was not rushed but not too long.

My children’s chicken finger entrees were fine for them. No complaints from the the little bosses and that is fine by me.

Dessert!

One would expect that with all this wonderful and carefully thought out menu you would have a homemade dessert on the menu. Maybe a cheesecake or a Tiramisu. Nope!

I understand that the cost and ease of pre-made desserts is more cost efficient over a homemade one but it would have been a nice touch. Now do not get me wrong. The dessert list is good. The dessert crepes are as close to homemade as they have. The crepes are filled with a mascarpone cheese and nutella topped with their homemade whipped cream and topped with cocoa powered sugar. I probably finished them in all of about thirty seconds. They were very good.

The chocolate lava cake is a chocolate bundt cake with a chocolate cream filling served warm with an “imperial vanilla (?)” ice cream. It’s as good as it sounds. My children devoured this dessert and made one hell of a mess.

Overall the Tuscan Sun is a good restaurant that my family and friends enjoy. During the many visits two things concern me. The wait staff is hit or miss especially on a busy night. They seemed to get overwhelmed very quickly. I wondered if part of the staff are friends or family helping out in a pinch? On my last visit the service was good but I hope it improves. The other point is related. There seems to be a lack of consistency to the food. Sometimes the quality it stellar and other times it’s just okay.  Quality control and consistency is vital in a restaurant and I hope to see that my last visit in now the norm. Usually a new restaurant goes through growing pains and one way that shows up is as a high staff turnover. Mr.DiTringo has a passion for his establishment and expects the same from his staff. To share in one’s dream is to make it a success. I know this popular restaurant will continue to succeed and improve like a fine wine.

The Tuscan sun is located at 7528 Amboy Road and can be reached at 718 227 4900.

If you have visited the Tuscan Sun please let me know your thoughts and experiences.

Thank you for reading.

UPDATE: December 1, 2010

To my dismay the Tuscan Sun is no longer in business. Another causality of our current economy.

I wish the owners and their families the best of luck in the future.

Please email me if you open another establishment…. say on the North shore.

 Staten Islands Tuscan Sun Italian Ristorante