POST CRITIC SAYS GOOD UWS RESTAURANTS CLOSE BECAUSE LOCALS HAVE TERRIBLE TASTE

fatty crab4
Crispy pork and pickled watermelon at Fatty Crab, a restaurant that Steve Cuozzo says was simply too interesting for our parochial tastes.

Food critic Steve Cuozzo at the Post threw down the gauntlet on Thursday, writing in a column that decent Upper West Side restaurants never seem to last because Upper West Siders simply have no taste. In fact, he calls the entire food scene here “crap-tastic.”

BURN!

“Something in the water from the wooden rooftop tanks seeps into local pores and neutralizes tongues and palates. They deserve Manhattan’s dullest restaurant scene, even if they don’t recognize it.”

In short, Cuozzo says we don’t stay out late enough or desire inventive food, choosing “mediocrities” like Cafe Luxembourg over the now-closed Bar Eighty-One, Fatty Crab and BarBao.

“Restaurants that bravely open with creative menus quickly dumb them down for proletarian tastes left over from the age when bearded “intellectuals” debated Sino-Soviet relations over refried beans, and “fine dining” struck West End Avenue sages as capitalist decadence.”

Among the restaurants that Cuozzo disses are Cafe Luxembourg, Papardella, Cesca, Nice Matin, Bustan, and Cottage.

The column is gleefully mean, but it’s fun and worth reading.

That said, we’ve got a few quibbles.

1. Cuozzo recently berated food critics for not paying attention to the kinds of food that people really like to eat. Now he’s blaming customers for forcing restaurants out of business. Blame the customer never got anyone very far in business.

2. How can you open a restaurant that takes risks and serves inventive food when landlords are asking $64,500 a month in rent! many of the city’s most inventive restaurants are opening these days in areas with cheap rents that allow chefs to serve dishes that might be unfamiliar to the average customer.

3. Some of the restaurants that do take chances or offer something different are more humble, and don’t attract food reviewers used to being wined and dined. Check out our food adventure series from a few years ago.

Anyway, have at it in the comments! If there’s one thing we’ve learned, Upper West Siders have no shortage of opinions on local restaurants.

Photo by bionicgrrrl.

FOOD | 85 comments | permalink
    1. Nelson says:

      Steve Cuozzo, eat me!

    2. Kate says:

      I’m not sure why Steve Cuozzo was so snotty and, well, angry in his article. The UWS is full of really old people and lots of young families. It’s never going to be a “scene” for hipster kids and finance bros. (THANK GOD.) If you want bars, nightlife, and pretentious dining, there’s all of downtown for you to enjoy. So in short, be quiet, Steve Cozzo.

    3. Noreaster says:

      Not to get all ad hominem on him or anything, but does he realize that he writes for The New York Post?

    4. Keelhauler says:

      If he was a good chef he would cook in a restaurant. If he was a good writer he would write intellectual pieces. He is neither so he writes about what he wishes he was good at for The Post.

    5. Meg D says:

      Totally agree with you on point 2 above!
      Plus, Steve Cuozzo is a famous jerk so no surprise he wrote this column about the UWS.

    6. David Collins says:

      This guy has no Fn idea what the F he is talking about. 1) Andanada, 2) Bar Boulud, 3)Barney Greengrass, 4)Boulud Sud, 5) Bustan, 6) Caffe Storico, 7) Celeste, 8) Dovetail, 9) Lincoln, 10) Mermaid Inn, 11) Quest, 12) Parm, 13) Red Farm, 14) Shun Lee, 15) Sushi of Gari, 16) Telepan, 17) Tessa, 18) The Smith,… just to name 18 restaurants that are as good as any across NYC at what they do. Other places that come to mind where you can get some great food would be Sushi Yasaka, Mee Noddle, Oaxaca, Grandaisy Bakery,…You let me know what the UES has – maybe Mr. Cuozzo got the UWS and UES mixed-up.

      • CosmoAndCharlie says:

        …don’t forget Spiga in case you need to pretend you’re in Trastavere and forget you’re on the UWS.

      • TFJWM says:

        He is out of line in the article but no offense those places are not even close of doing “the best that they do” throughout the city. I’ve only ate at 13 of them thou

    7. Fatty Crab was one of my most favorites restaurants EVER, anywhere but lord, the prices…. (22 year UWS resident).

    8. Sean says:

      Any discussion about the UWS and food has to be put in perspective. Where does the UWS begin? These days it is north of 72nd St. and not Lincoln Square or Columbus Circle. It is the most vital in the W 80s. The W 70s have always been the absolute worst for food since time began. The excuse has always been the rent but truth be told the residents there always preferred to spend their money elsewhere like on the East Side. As for the W 90s there ain’t much and above 96th St. is for college kids. Plus West Siders just love love take out.

    9. Steen says:

      I’m sorry, but that food item pictured above looks disgusting. If that is what Steve Cuozzo cites as fine dining, then I think he is clueless.

      • Cuozzo may be a schmuck – but that dish was insanely delicious. Sounds awful – maybe looks awful to you, but Wow! I still think about it…

      • Lisa says:

        I’m sorry, first…why the attack? Honestly, who peed in his Cheerios?!! Second…who doesn’t want pork and watermelon? Yum…or um not so much! I don’t think UWSiders should be slammed for enjoying good quality food that makes sense. I think we can be creative, just not necessarily willing to pay a fortune for ridiculous food.

      • Vince says:

        And let’s not forget. That combination of pork and watermelon is toxic for your body!! Steve Cuozzo can put actual crap on a stick and feed it to his family.

    10. Michael McNamara says:

      I checked the menus of the two restaurants he said in that story aren’t doing the business they deserve. Parm is overpriced basic Italian food (nothing too creative on the menu other than the digits), and Red Farm is WAY WAY overpriced Chinese food (like $25 for a chicken dish, $19 for Chinese broccoli with shitake mushrooms). I predict they both go out of business and who cares. We don’t go out and have Rupert Murdoch pick up the tab that way Post restaurant writers do.

      • David Collins says:

        They both serve good food, but I agree that both are also over-priced, in particular Red Farm. I’ve gone twice and spent over $100 for three of us at lunch. Frankly, I would rather spend $150 at Lincoln and have a nice glass of wine and enjoy a great atmosphere.

        • Nelson says:

          Red Farm is a joke! A waiting list for uncomfortable seating, lousy service and two cases of food poisoning (and when I called to notify them the next day, I received no apology). Luckily, there are plenty of awesome restaurants on the UWS where we won’t have to worry about running into Steve Cuozzo!

      • RK says:

        Wow. Comparing Parm and RedFarm to “Basic Italian” and Chinese restaurants. I hate to say it but you’re proving Cuozzo’s point.

        After stunning the food world with Torrisi Italian Specialties in Little Italy (google it) Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone (refugees from top restaurant kitchens – Cafe Boulud, Guy Savoy, Del Posto) opened up a more casual place next door which used their reimagined Chicken Parm sandwich as inspiration, thus Parm. He then created a tongue-in-cheek old-school red sauce restaurant around it, with everything being exactly perfect. I haven’t been to the downtown one, but the new UWS one has PERFECT “basic Italian” food that is unavailable anywhere else.. The menu may not impress you but EVERY INGREDIENT is carefully chosen and EVERY COOKING PROCESS is nailed.

        I don’t even know how to begin to respond to your criticism of RedFarm. The person behind the restaurant is Ed Schoenfeld, a Jew, not Chinese. He created his interpretation of chinese food, sort of a chinese food fantasy. There is a serious kitchen in that restaurant, not a bunch of wok-slingers that turn out “a chicken dish”… and the fact that you can’t tell the difference again supports Cuozzo’s thesis that average UWSiders can’t recognize exciting food.

        Please stop.

        • Sam says:

          You nailed it RK!

          • LPK says:

            I agree with Cuozzo, but it just means the UWS is like most other upwardly mobile, predominantly white neighborhoods in this country, where “New American” cuisine rules the day (The Smith is the perfect example). And yes, there are plenty of other nabes in NYC that are as “average” in culinary taste as we are, just as there are popular “average” restaurants in neighborhoods otherwise crawling with interesting food.

            Thankfully, NYC has enough adventurous diners that interesting, authentic, tasty food CAN be a good business plan, even, from time to time, on the UWS.

          • Michael McNamara says:

            I was born and raised in Bklyn and have lived in NYC my whole life, over 45 years. I’ve eaten more heroes and more red sauce in more authentic Italian joints than you can imagine. But tastes evolve when you become an adult. Send that red sauce stuff back to Little Italy for the tourists.

        • Michael McNamara says:

          Basic red sauce ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, going out of business soon. Get used to it.

      • webot says:

        You sound like…..what is the urban version of a hick?

        and yes, proving Cuozzo’s point to a T.

        • Michael McNamara says:

          Funny. I bet the interesting UWS places I eat are restaurants you wouldn’t even step foot in. Red sauce and chinese, whoopee.

    11. Mike says:

      The problem isn’t Upper West Siders, it’s the Upper West Side, which no longer offers much for non-UWSers to venture here for, unless they have a burning desire for an over-priced, average meal in the midst of avenues that are rapidly resembling suburban malls.

      • Nancy F says:

        Mike you nailed it. Best post here. It is a schlock town these days. Worst block ever on Broadway between 81 and 82 has some scart ugly wireless store, a massive Claires, the most depressing McDonalds ever, a COMING SOON BOlton’s (Lord help us) and some crappy Sleepys with that Sandater (or who knows what it is) bank with the red sign. Misey and disgusting

    12. webot says:

      interestingly enough , there is a burgeoning restaurant scene on the upper upper upper westside.

      AKA

      Harlem

      Marcus Samuelson’s new place Street Bird opens today on 116th and FDB.

      Also, I like Lincoln.

    13. DMH says:

      Jin Ramen, E’s Bar, Arte Cafe, Barley & Grain, Tolani, Luke’s Lobster, Redfarm (it’s $$$$ but fun), Bustan… I adore them all.

    14. Susan Jane says:

      Fatty Crab offered bland, overpriced quasi-Malaysian food with condescending, disinterested service. They deserved to close.

    15. Ted says:

      So on the one hand the Fatty Crab was a poorly run dump and hmmmm we were to stupid to eat there. Now Red Farm is on fire from 5:45 to 11pm and beyond.

      And then there is amazing places that retain some of NYCs ethnic glory. Swagat in its modest environs creates Indian dishes worthy of London or Devon Ave. in Chicago in the 80’s.Oh and Gari, Momoya and or Masa or Bar Masa or Per Se or Porterhouse. Where are the accolades for Thai Market, probably the best Thai in Manhattan.

      Thankfully the days of the 14.95 UWS chicken dishes are in our rear view.

      Now all summer we will watch hipster kids and junior finance guys coming to the UWS in droves to hand out at the Boat Basin. Pier I cafe will also be wall to wall. I am so done with restaurants that think they can serve you dirt cheap hangar steak or pork belly and you won’t notice the difference. At the Spotted Pig they had skirt steak on the menu and they were servin up Tri-TiP. All the hipsters noticed was their Tinder feed. They probably don’t know Lobels exists and god knows they couldn’t cook it.

      Oh and Momofuku Milk Bar, or Magnolia

      Steve Cuozzo will find a lovely Miami Subs and Nathan’s Famous at Newark Interional where he will catch his flight and GTFO. Direct.

    16. T says:

      1. It’s ridiculous to bring up Fatty Crab. Zak Pelaccio has cut and run on almost every restaurant he’s ever opened. Did the Village get blamed when he closed Cabrito?
      2. BarBao was in an impossible and too-large space for that concept.
      3. I’m up on all the Torrisi/Carbone restaurants, Parm is their version of Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack. It’s opening all over town. Nothing to get too excited about (and the design of that place is ridiculously impractical.) Similar to the meh Meatball Shop, I’ve had it in the original location, and I think it’s just not that great.
      4. I would’ve been with him on badmouthing Cesca up until their last chef change. The food is pretty good there right now.
      5. Union Square Cafe is closing. Barbuto is closing. The Harrison closed. There is a ton of restaurant turnover right now, in every neighborhood. Is he really crying over Eighty-One? Shoot, Dovetail’s still there, right around the corner, and they opened at the same time, for the same audience.

    17. Tom says:

      Lets not forget Han Dynasty opens soon on 85th Street!

    18. Greg says:

      Cuozzo is pazzo! UWS has some of the best, unpretentious, traditional cuisine restaurants in the city.
      Bistro Cassis is as close to a Paris bistro as you’ll find anywhere in this country. You want culinary experimentation? Find a lab rat and go to the East Side!

    19. Rodger Lodger says:

      Emphasizing rent could be $64K/month is a mistake I see often. How could a non-specialist reader have a perspective on that rent? Are we supposed to know what restaurants gross in a month? I know our eyes are supposed to pop out at that figure, but all it means to me is maybe some low-priced places can’t stay in business.
      Don’t agree with me? Fine, tell me how much Gray’s Papaya grosses in a month.

    20. DB Westmoreland says:

      I guess he has never dined at Vai.

    21. Elinor Greenberg says:

      Many of the dishes that are “Inventive,” such as the pork and watermelon dish pictured contain pork or shellfish, which I and many others do not eat for religious reasons. The author seems oblivious to this.

    22. Sheryl Fox says:

      Ha! I’ll keep that in mind when it is 3 deep at the bar at Cafe Luxe….our “go to” spot in the neighborhood!

    23. Ellen says:

      Who would go into a restaurant named “Fatty Crab?” Not I. And I do not frequent the Fatty Crab in Cruz Bay, St.John either. Sounds onerous.
      There are many great restaurants on the UWS for many years. Steve Cuozzo –phew! Glad you are out of the UWS!
      We want to be “real” people, not celebrities…..and while on the subject, many celebrities live on the UWS…Steve, you just don’t know them!

    24. Isabella Calisi-Wagner says:

      Let’s think about which “esteemed” news organization is making this judgment about UWSiders’ tastes. Really? I don’t think The Post is the true arbiter of what constitutes good food. I am not insulted by his allegation. Hahaha!!!

    25. Beth Sievers says:

      What about the recent downtown transplant Red Farm? It is expensive by local Asian standards and is always packed.

    26. zaza says:

      I would completely agree on some of those restaurants! The cottage is embarrassing! Nice restaurants are around though on the UWS, we go out to many, we just avoid eating any asian food up here. Italian is also borderline. But we live in the best neighborhood! We have 2 amazing parks either side of us! and beautiful streets to walk around!. If we need to go outside to get food then subways are easy and quick to do so have 2 main lines!
      I love the Upper West Side, even though it has some food shockers.. but thats not what makes the area amazing..

    27. Nancy Kaye says:

      The rents are astronomical so that even busy restaurants and other businesses are closing almost daily. Don’t blame the victims.
      We have no great neighborhood restaurants that a family can go into without spending 3 figures.

    28. mort berkowitz says:

      since when does anyone care about the new york post

    29. rob says:

      Guess he misses Big Nick’s (the real one that was on Broadway between 76th and 77th streets) as much as the rest of us do!

    30. MJS says:

      He’s right. I live in the upper west side (since 92) and it really doesn’t offer much in terms of quality. I basically eat at Lux / Telepan / Red Farm. I’d rather pay the tax on a better meal. Most of the other place just don’t stand out in any significant way compared to those cuisines in basically any other part of town.

    31. Aunt Renie says:

      UWS “proletarian tastes”….Are “reporters” for the NY POST allowed to use words like that? LOL…. this gave me a good chuckle…NY POST…what a joke.

    32. BW says:

      I think part of the problem is unreasonable rents from shortsighted landlords and coop boards who just want the maximum and don’t care about the quality of life in their neighborhood. Who can afford to take a chance on interesting things these days?

      BTW we ate a fatty crab when it first opened and really tried to like it. But it was awful. Good riddance.

    33. B.W. says:

      He’s just angry because he lives on the UES. Also, saying that Parm is a wonderful new place? I guess if you like bland, over-priced food.

    34. cathy c says:

      We had a really yummy meal @ Bustan several days ago (albeit noisy!) – love our local FISHTAG….and of course
      also great DOVETAIL – CAFE BOULUD…EPICERIE BOULUD

    35. blogenfreude says:

      When H&H became a Verizon store, I wept.

      And let me put on my best NY voice: FUCK dis guy!

      There are plenty of good restaurants here. That said – why can’t someone make a good thin crust pizza and deliver it in the 70s?

    36. Brian P says:

      Maybe Fatty Crab should have offered JUST ONE gluten free item on the menu (unheard of at higher end restaurants these days). Perhaps they could not afford both the rent and the cost of higher end ingredients. There are plenty of “downtown” restaurant concepts that are doing exceptionally well on the UWS – RedFarm, Jacob’s Pickles, Mermaid Inn, Telepan,dovetail, etc… Stop extrapolating bigger trends on a few, poorly executed, attempts at higher end cuisine on the UWS. Do better research next time.

    37. Sue L says:

      Too much already said about too litte–but oh! how I still miss Bar Bao, even now that Ditch Plains has deservedly been ditched!

    38. D. Pines says:

      It’s true. I live in Morningside Heights, and we had one good restaurant, Varelli on Broadway between 111th and 112th. Unfortunately, the management messed around with the menu, and doubled the prices, and then no one went. When they tried to go back to the way it was, it was too late. Now it’s closed.

    39. barbara says:

      Steve Cuozzo is misguided and focusing on the wrong things. He says upper west siders do not appreciate quality food/restaurants because a reservation can be had at 9:30pm. Because people like to eat dinner at 7:00pm does not mean they do not like or appreciate good food. I do agree with him concerning Cafe Luxumbourg however that it where it ends. I know the former chef at Fatty Crab and was informed by him that there were serious lack of management skills at the location which is what led to its demise. I lived in Chelsea for a couple of years and many of the restaurants were not very good. And yes, they were crowded with young people out having fun late at night. Again, being able to get a table at 9:30pm does not mean the restaurant isn’t good. Also, “inventive” menu items also does not mean the restaurant is good. It is apparent to me that Steve Cuozzo has another agenda on his mind other than what he is being paid for. Not sure what that agenda is or why he is doing it ….. But shame on him. He is a disgrace to his profession.

    40. Paula says:

      Pretentious isn’t desired, but Cuozzo is pretty much correct, hyperbole aside. What too many UWSers say is good food is horrible food. We may have universities up here, but we don’t have educated palates. I’ve given up on eating out in the nabe, with rare exceptions.

    41. Norm Golden says:

      Yes a lot of the new places are busy.. Everybody tries them ONCE. Every new owner thinks they have the answer to a need when in fact most are overpriced , not that good, or both.

    42. Jake says:

      Who cares what this dickhead thinks. He writes for the NY Post, for God’s sake! I’ve lived on the UWS for over 40 years now, and I still love it. There’s good food all over the WS.
      Now, if only the landlords would give the eateries a break on the impossibly high rents……..oh, but why go on.

      • webot says:

        of course the simplistic blame the landlord mantra continues.

        of course their are greedy landlords (including the co-ops that own their retail). But ask any restauranteur and they will tell you that is only part of the problem.
        Try dealing with 12+ city agencies looking to find any fault., community boards who won’t let you get a liquor license, months and months of approvals and delays. a city council that just passes more and more laws that hamper business. insurance, water, taxes, tickets, bad ratings, credit cards, cost cost of product, etc etc.

        rent is usually 6-8% of the expenses for a restaurant.

    43. Michael says:

      Am I the only one here who agrees with Steve Cuozo?

      I mean, except for one or two exceptions, like Awadh, Jacob’s Pickles, The Milling Room, Dovetail, Picholine, Telepan, Fishtag, Bustan, Gari, Amused, Spiga, Jean Georges, Ouest, Per Se, Burk and Willis, Polpette, Kefi, Cafe Boulud, two Jin Ramens, Sushi Yasaka, and outposts of the Shake Shack, Oaxaca, The Meatball Shop, and Numero 28, there are no fine dining options or delicious trendy places to speak of. I guess it’s another weekend on the subway for me!

      Of course, Parm and Red Farm are good, and seem to be doing fine business, so I can confirm he’s totally accurate about that, too.

    44. 92nd street says:

      I don’t read the Tabloids but must agree with Cuozzo, the UWS has very few good eats, my section in the 90’s has Mermaid Inn, El Malecon, and sometimes in the Summer a decent Shaved Ice on the corner of Columbus and 93rd. That’s about it.

      No good Diners, no good Sushi, no Chinese, no Pizza worth mentioning, no good burgers, no good brunch, there are a few moderate dinner joints, but nothing that attracts foodies from other area’s. Hopefully with so many families moving to Westchester to take advantage of the current House rates, we may get some more singles that are followed by great chefs and not Domino’s or Subway.

      • Steve Thomas says:

        1) Andanada, 2) Bar Boulud, 3) Barney Greengrass, 4) Boulud Sud, 5) Bustan, 6) Caffe Storico, 7) Celeste, 8) Dovetail, 9) Lincoln, 10) Mermaid Inn, 11) Quest, 12) Parm, 13) Red Farm, 14) Shun Lee, 15) Sushi of Gari, 16) Telepan, 17) Tessa, 18) The Smith, 19) Sushi Yasaka, 20) Mee Noddle, 21) Spiga, 22) Cesca, 23) Cafe Luxembourg, 24) The Leopard, 25) Picholine…

    45. David collins says:

      So what does the UES have that is better other than Daniel?

    46. Jay says:

      And the UES has Daniel, and oh, yeah Nello’s and Serafina!

    47. Chuck D says:

      He’s right. The food up here is terrible, mainly because we are the stroller and bed by 11 crowd. What’s amazing is there isn’t any good takeaway either.

      • drg says:

        ditto. I would add genaro’s and buceo 95 in the 90’s, but other than that its slim pickings. We go to the west village frequently, and they have more really excellent restaurants every two blocks than in the total west 90’s. Sad, but I think its simply due to demographics, not high rent or inherent defects in west side palates.

        • david collins says:

          Here are 25 good restaurants on the UWS — 1) Andanada, 2) Bar Boulud, 3) Barney Greengrass, 4) Boulud Sud, 5) Bustan, 6) Caffe Storico, 7) Celeste, 8) Dovetail, 9) Lincoln, 10) Mermaid Inn, 11) Quest, 12) Parm, 13) Red Farm, 14) Shun Lee, 15) Sushi of Gari, 16) Telepan, 17) Tessa, 18) The Smith, 19) Sushi Yasaka, 20) Mee Noddle, 21) Spiga, 22) Cesca, 23) Cafe Luxembourg, 24) The Leopard, 25) Picholine. There are at least a dozen more.

    48. R.P. says:

      food is subjective. a narcissist like cuozzo wouldn’t know something like that.

    49. hr0208 says:

      Anyone who uses Parm as the standard for good Italian food, has no taste in food. Parm has probably the worst parm I have ever had.

    50. tostonesfix says:

      I agree with the overall contention that the UWS leaves a bit to be desired in the restaurant department due to a clientele that doesn’t really go out that much. He ought not pick on Cafe Luxembourg though. That place is great. Bustan seems to be doing something right as well. I was disappointed in the Nice Matin menu and atmosphere the last time I was there so maybe he’s on to something…

    51. UWS Dad says:

      Oh how I miss Fatty Crab, Bar Bao and Eighty One. Of course we still have good restaurants, and Cuozzo even mentions several of the ones that commenters here have mentioned. But many of them are in the 60s (and debatably not actually on UWS). Red Farm is great (and only fractionally more expensive than Nice Matin and many other places with less good food). Vai is the best place in the 80s.

    52. S. Louie says:

      As an UWS watching it change over 25 years…the reason these restaurants don’t succeed is

      1. THE COMMERCIAL RENT.

      2. The UWS is still 50% rent stabilized OR inhabited by a lot of old people who bought their 2 bedroom apts for $12,000 back in the 70s and/or have passed it down to their kids. They still own it and are probably on fixed incomes. (I have a friend who is exactly in this situation.)

      3. TENANT RENTS. People that still actually live AND/OR work here in the neighborhood..are not being paid over $40k a year. So what makes you think your local tenants, shop workers, firemen or police are going to pay more than $14 for a plate?

      Walk by Chipotle on 83rd or anywhere in Manhattan. It $8.50, tastes good, is fast and is somewhat healthy. No fucking wonder it’s always packed. So good luck with bourgeous cuisine in this neighborhood.

      Last one I can think of right now..but give me a few days….

      4. Foreigners who bought condos here over the past 6 years…are here, are NOT using services on the street level, except only a few weeks or months out of the year. When do you expect them to order take out from their foriegn country home addresses? My bulding is half condo half renters…guess what…these people buy two apartments…combine the spaces then leave for 3 or 4 months at a time.

      Blame the greedy landlords..for taking small businesses to the cleaners and increasing risk..and taking more money from renters who are looking at food as a way to stay alive…not based in keeping up with what the Jones’ eat.

      Give me a fuckin break!