Andy D'Amico, owner/chef of his Manhattan restaurants Nice Matin, Marseille, Nizza and 5 Napkin Burger crossed the 59th Street Bridge into a Queens neighborhood known as Astoria with his third 5 Napkin Burger venue. Where better than to place a 50's style upscale burger joint than across the street from both the Museum of the Moving Image and Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, let alone just down the block from a movie theatre.
There seems to always be someone at the glass entrance door to open it and extend a happy greeting. The inside looks as if the building was once a warehouse with the exposed ceiling of pipes and floor that looks like old tiles from perhaps the 30's. 50's and 60's music echos about and so loud that I was unable to communicate with the person across from me.
What really counts is the food and just like D'Amico's other restaurants my expectations were met.
Burgers, fries and beer is the hype here as there is an extensive beer menu of many of which I had never even heard of. I skipped that and went to the food.
Although the 5 Napkin Burger name conjures up nothing but chopped meat, the bill of fare sports plenty of seafood including Sushi Maki Rolls. The menu is the menu and the only special is a Maki roll that is not listed. Last night soft shell crab was the highlight. One other that I chose was the California Rainbow of king crab, mango and cucumber on the inside; tuna, salmon, yellow tail and avocado on the outside.
I have had deep fried pickles before but in a restaurant with a "deep south" cuisine. The house made pickles here are deep fried with pastrami! They then sit atop sauerkraut and a mustard oil. A true appetizing deli delight!
As far as the burgers, it's not limited to the fresh ground chuck as you also have a choice of turkey, tuna and lamb as well. Most burger starred restaurants will have sliders of the ground chuck. Here their sliders consist of Maine lobster, 5N Mayo, scallions and cucumbers.
5 Napkin Burger wouldn't be there nom de plume without their signature 10-ouncer with caramelized onions, gruyere cheese, and rosemary ailio, served on a soft roll and of course, with fries! They have some tasty buns, but if you prefer there is the Inside Out that is wrapped in lettuce with tomato and 5N sauce.
Dessert time! Hey, if you're having a burger and fries you must have a shake or float. I indulged in their black and white shake noticing a different flavor and texture from your average ice cream shake. Let's just say that they use a cream that is more of a creme. Esther and Eunice stopped in and I shared this cold gushy glee with them.
I only got a shake of the shake as Esther and Eunice slurped it up. Hey it was two against one!
So I order this 7 layer devil's food cake with chocolate frosting. It's not my usual dessert as I'm come to experience that the looks of a chocolate cake never seems to match the taste. Surprise! First, they use a French chocolate and second, the butter cream frosting is not sugary sweet...and neither is the cake. And, no, this is not served with fries.
FYI, they said that everything on the menu is made on the premises...accept for the ice cream.
The address is 35-01 36th Street, which means that it's located on the corner of 35th Avenue and 36th Street, just a few blocks off of Steinway Street, for those who are familiar with Astoria.
Does anyone want to do more than a half-assed job? Last week the UPS (Unbelievably Poor Service) guy delivers a package. When I answer the door I see that the package is a bit soaked. The guy, whose name is Angel, is next door with more wet packages and a hand truck. I asked him how the package got wet and he said that it was raining just a little while ago. I asked him where the truck was and he told me that it was across the boulevard. When I finally get to speak with a supervisor John Cruz, at the UPS that dispatches in the area, he says "What's the difference if the truck was in front of your house and it rained?" When I tell him that it wouldn't have gotten that soaked, he doesn't seem to have an answer.
Now this gets better. The other day I get a package. I see that someone is approaching my stoop and can detect that it's UPS. I'm on the phone, excuse myself, get to the door and he is gone. The package is on the top of my stoop and the truck is just down the block. HOWEVER...the package is crushed! I stand out there not wanting to call to the guy and hoping that he may be looking out of the side mirror to notice me.
Nothing. Now, what stopped him from leaving a note about this? When I track the package I notice that it was sent out just the day before and there is no memo in regards to the package being damaged, so I must conclude that it was the fault of when it was dispatched from the local UPS.
Earlier that day, I was on my way shopping, saw a UPS truck and two guys getting out. It looked as if one guy was the driver and one was the guy delivering. I could see the back of the truck when he opened it. Boxes were simply thrown about without caution.
My package contained items from Rowena's including two cakes, both crushed. When I speak with John Cruz, he simply tells me to file a complaint and that the sender will get reimbursed and able to ship the contents again. "Will she have to pay for shipping again?" "Yes", says Cruz. In addition, the package will have to be picked up and brought in for inspection. WHAT!!!!!!!?????? With this kind of service and attitude, how many people do you think will want to file a complaint rather than "just forget about it".
Now I asked to have Sergio, another supervisor that I have dealt with in the past for complaints, call me as well as the manager, Willy Grey. Suffice to say that neither called me as I'm sure that they don't want to be confronted or delve into why the package was crushed in the first place.
Another great breakfast at the Gold Lounge and we're off to Assiniboine Park, home to the Assiniboine Park Zoo and Assiniboine Park Conservatory. Esther, Eunice and I were most interested in visiting the zoo. I was quite surprised with the size and variety of animals. In fact, as I kept on walking around it seemed never ending and that was a good thing. Okay, I forgot to take a map. Here's what we saw: lions (great exhibit and cage); sea eagles; monkey world of lemurs, marmosets and gibbons (always fun to watch; lots of amphibians; tigers; camels; kangaroo; llama; alpaca; reindeer; bison; lots of birds; an Australian exhibit; the Kinsmen Discovery Centre; and prairie dogs, peacocks running about along with turtles in the cages of other animals. I know that Esther and Eunice had a great time. www.society.com
Lunch was at the Velvet Glove lounge where I finally had the opportunity to sample the local fish, pickerel. It was served beer battered with sweet potato fries. Michael Blahuta joined me divulged the name of the best gelato store in Winnipeg.
Located in what was once the Little Italy of Winnipeg, Nucci's Gelati at 643 Corydon Avenue. I could not believe how great their gelato tasted! It's by far the best cold processed gelato that I have had anywhere! Why does the best hot processed have to be in Provincetown (I Dream of Gelato) and this one in Winnipeg!
The test was the dark chocolate, hazelnut, and amarena. The dark chocolate was clearly a chocoholic's dream; hazelnut was obviously not artificial; amarena was the special cherries imported from Italy and not the maraschino ilk. I met mom and pop, Rosa and Gino as well as their son Sebastian. Maria Pepe, their daughter, was not there at the time. Rosa then wanted me to taste the raspberry and lemon to get the true flavors. If I hadn't eaten lunch I would have tasted more! Esther and Eunice were just as happy. I then decided to have a shot of espresso, which I usually don't have. I don't know what the brand of coffee was. I didn't need anything else in it as it seemed to be quite low on that acidic taste. Rosa told me that she's been making gelato for 44 years.
Back to the hotel I rested and hung out in the Gold Lounge for several hours until it was time for the jam session in the Velvet Glove lounge. Those folks from the Folk Festival were doing their own thing while everyone just sat around munching, drinking, and watching the boob tube.
And so it was time to depart this wonderful city but not before my final breakfast and farewells.
Our morning was spent at the Winnipeg Art Gallery at 300 Memorial Blvd. www.wag.mb.ca The building itself has architecturally distinct and houses the world's largest collection of contemporary Inuit art. There are several floors with much to see in the way of both painted art and sculptures; ten galleries. I also loved the roof garden even though it's under construction.
We are now off an area called The Forks, an expanse of riverside property in the downtown area. These 56-acres possesses a rich 6000-year old history. Early Aboriginal peoples traded at The Forks, followed by European fur traders, Métis buffalo hunters, Scottish settlers, riverboat workers, railway pioneers and tens of thousands of immigrants.
Now, it's a tourist attraction with restaurants, sidewalk entertainment, boutiques, markets, riverboat cruises, and Manitoba visitors center. Esther and Eunice were having fun checking out the venue as I was looking forward to the Inn at the Forks, the location of Riverstone Spa where I indulged in a body wrap with a mini-facial and felt "fabulous". http://riverstonespa.ca/
The Inn's complimentary car service brought me back to my hotel, where I then indulged in resting and hanging out in the Gold Lounge. A woman was dressed in her wedding gown and I asked if she was part of the wedding party that was booked at the hotel. She was not. In fact, she hadn't had a honeymoon when she did get married and decided to do so by staying on the Gold Floor. She and her husband were having a great time with the VIP treatment given to them. In fact, she couldn't say enough compliments to the Gold staff. I totally understood why.
After canape time, I took a Unicity tax to the St. Boniface Cathedral's cemetery for Theatre in the Cemetery. This guy didn't know where it was and even when we got there had to back up to find the address. Interesting how the meter was two dollars less going back to the hotel.
Anyway, these three costumed actors were telling the history via stories from French, Metis and Manitoban character gravesites. It was a great way to learn and would have been a much better experience if it weren't for the mosquitoes!!!
I leave the hotel and board a Unicity taxi telling the driver that I'm going to Kildonan Park. He is a bit confused as to where it is and I tell him that I don't know since I don't live here in Winnipeg. It's at Kildonan Park that the Rainbow StageTheatre is located and where I will be seeing a performance of Rent. He continues to drive for a long time as I am telling him that I'm going to an outdoor theatre to see a play. As we approach the park I could see a sign that says, "Rent..Rainbow Theatre" and finally a sign that states that Rent is sold out posted at the entrance.
He drives into the park and keeps on going asking me where it is. There comes a point that I see cars parked along the side of the road which would indicate to me that considering a sold out performance and if one were to keep on going on that road one would wind up at the Rainbow Stage. I told him that I needed to go to where the box office is located. Instead, he stops at a sign that reads, "Pavillion". It is there that he makes a left and I'm thinking that he knows a short cut to the box office.
He passes the area and stops at the Pavillion where there is obviously nothing going on and tells me that "this is what I want". I had already hinted that the theatre was most likely near where the people were parking on the side of the road and walking towards somewhere. Meanwhile, the meter is ticking away. I insist that the Pavillion is NOT where I want to go and that the venue is an outdoor theatre. He now pulls out a map. He says he knows where it is and drives out of the park, makes a u-turn and goes back into the park.
I again talk about the cars parked on the side of the road and as he continues into the park he stops where the Pavillion sign is and pulls over. He says that he will ask someone. We are sitting there as cars are slowly passing by. I was waiting for him to roll down his window and nothing was happening. "Are you going to ask someone?" You have to know that at this point my brain was actually saying, "You farkin idiot! Is it not logical that if you continue you will find the entrance to the theatre?" I remained calm as he said, "Do you think it's along this road"? WHAT???? Has his brains turned to shit?
Now you have to understand that nothing stopped him from calling into the company and simply asking. Is it a male thing or just something beyond stupidity? We finally get to the theatre where he drops me off across the street from the box office. Needless to say, I called the company the next day and spoke with the manager.
As for the show, the performance was great! Nothing short of as if I saw it on Broadway...which I didn't. The only problem is being there in the summer and the mosquitoes! I brought bug spray, which I borrowed from the Gold Floor. David thinks of everything!
Esther and Eunice enjoyed the show as well. Joan and Dwight Embleton were seated next to me. Joan is the Executive Director of the Victor Mager Adult Education Training with the board of ed. Dwight is a Sales Representative for Alphi Apparels. They were gracious enough to drive me back to the hotel.