Think There’s No Good Southern Food Up North? Think Again

When I returned to New Jersey after I first traveled to New Orleans back in 2013, I didn’t want to eat anything.* Nothing tasted the same. Unlike my first bites of gumbo-this and beignet-that in NOLA, which were accompanied by gasps of delight and wide eyed realization that no, I’ve never actually properly tasted good food until that moment, every mouthful I chewed on afterwards was filled with despair because I consciously started comparing everything to the food they serve down South. Apples and oranges; it’s a little unfair, I know. 

Cut to June 6, 2016. Zach and I had just returned to New York City after a week of greedily eating beignets, having one too many Pimm’s cups, searching for the best jambalaya, shucking oysters at the Oyster Festival, and succumbing to a bunch of other gluttonous vices. And yet, soon after arriving back at my apartment to drop off our luggage and freshen up, we wasted no time heading back out in order to make it for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Jacob’s Pickles. 

Jacob’s Pickles, believe it or not is a Southern restaurant in the Upper West Side, and trust me, I never thought “Southern” and “Upper West Side”  would be in the same sentence either. But our skepticism, we soon realized, was largely unfounded since the meal we were expecting to be let down by, the sausage gravy, fried chicken and biscuit sandwich with a side of cheesy grits, actually turned out to be one of the best things we’d ever eaten (even after eating Southern food in the South). 

The hype is real

The hype is real

People like to remark on a restaurant’s decor and wait service, but Zach and I are of the mind that the food should always be center stage. I’m not trying to imply that Jacob’s Pickles is a restaurant that looks like it’s seen better days, on the contrary it’s styled in that homey, mason-jar-sporting, bygone Americana ambiance that most New York City restaurants now flaunt. No, what I’m trying to say is, even if the hipster-influenced decor irritated me (which it surprisingly doesn’t), I wouldn’t care what it looks like or if the wait service is absolute crap (it’s not). I’ll keep coming back because the food? It’s damn good. 

Bring your appetite, the portions are huge. 

Fried chicken, bacon, and pancakes

Fried chicken, bacon, and pancakes

Fried chicken, sausage gravy and biscuits with a side of cheesy grits

Fried chicken, sausage gravy and biscuits with a side of cheesy grits

Biscuit bread pudding. Zach and I have tried, but you really need 4 people to eat this

Biscuit bread pudding. Zach and I have tried, but you really need 4 people to eat this

Tip: if you order the rice pudding to go, you get a free mason jar. 

*to no one’s surprise, I got over it eventually

Lactose-Intolerant? You Might Want To Check Out This NYC Ice Cream Shop

Victory Garden in New York City (on Carmine and Bleecker) uses goat’s milk for all the items on their menu. Goat’s milk is supposedly one that most closely resembles human milk. 

Yeah, I found myself saying “oh, ew” too. I’m glad I saw that sign ~after~ I’d already eaten half of my Alfajores (an Argentinian sandwich cookie made by spreading dulce de leche between two shortbread cookies. Yum!) sundae because it was pretty damn good. 

I chose salted caramel as the ice cream base for my sundae so I can’t attest to the goat-milkiness of the flavor. I can tell you that if you hadn’t told me it was goat milk, I wouldn't have known. The goat’s milk caramel they drizzled over it did taste different -- almost floral. 

Victory Garden has its share of traditional flavors but it also like to keep in line with its “garden” theme of infusing their soft serve and gelato with lavender, rosemary, and the like. 

On the day that Zach and I went, honey lavender seemed to be the favorite since the tin had only about a couple scrapes in it left. Surprisingly it didn’t taste like bubble bath. I had a couple mouthfuls of Zach’s honey lavender order and it tasted like a lemon granita without the grittiness. I liked it, but it didn’t compare to the rich salted-caramel goodness of my sundae, which also had chunks of alfajores cookies, a sprinkling of desiccated coconut, and topped with goat milk caramel. 

Just As Ridiculous As It Sounds: Getting Stopped By Agave’s Bouncer During Brunch

I really don’t like lugging around a handbag -- and why would I? I only really use about 10% of what I carry around at any given time. If it wasn’t for the fact that I need to carry a bulky set of keys, emergency Excedrin, my Iphone (which Apple can’t seem to make up its mind whether to make it bigger or smaller), some money and a Metrocard, I’d never carry a bag at all.

And it was on a sunny Sunday morning, sans handbag, that I traveled to Agave to meet my friend for brunch. With phone in hand and money, Metrocard and keys strategically stuffed in my jean pockets I thought I was all set. That is, until I was barred by some boorish looking bouncer/security guy asking me for my ID. In my rush, I hadn’t bothered to take it. I’m going there to stuff myself. Drinking alcohol just gets in the way of eating.

But this is besides the point. Is this the WASP/hispter-infested spot I always assumed it was or is it a club because let the record reflect, I have *never* been refused entry into a restaurant, with a bar or not,  for not having my driver’s license.

I told the bouncer I’m not there to drink. And then I told him again. And again. And again. Taking his job way too seriously, he finally went over to the host to whisper “She doesn’t have her ID, make sure she doesn’t drink”. The host nodded and a waiter showed up to direct us to our seats.

You’d think that was the last time I’d see that guy. But, no. In an absurd show of self-importance he comes to our table while the waiter took our orders to tell him, rather loudly, that I didn’t have my ID and I can’t drink the bottomless mimosas. “Yes, dude,” I said with more force and aggression, “I didn’t order the mimosas, I’m already covered with the eggs benedict and blueberry pancakes I just ordered.” The waiter was even impatiently nodding his head as if to dismiss home boy. “Yes, yes everything is fine,” he said. Do you think he’s just as tired of him as I am?

Agave, I get it. You’re popular and want to protect yourself from giddy underage brunch-goers who want to sneak a drink or two. But hiring such an antagonistic bouncer (who looks to be overcompensating for years of being bullied) so ridiculous he is a caricature of “bouncer” makes your whole establishment look silly.

Not to take away from your food, which was more or less average but still delicious, I’d like to share with the audience my obligatory food pictures:

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict

Blueberry pancakes

Blueberry pancakes