tripping through the old hood

March 16, 2009 |  Category:   dining out nyc remembering

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You may recall from yesterday’s post that we were waffling over what to have for our Sunday lunch out since our plans to go away had changed. It used to be that Mark and I would make the decision, but with the girls old enough to voice their opinions, it isn’t always easy to get 4 people to agree. We decided to spend the afternoon in the East Village, our old neighborhood, and one that I’ve lived in on and off since the early 90s. Sadly, we don’t come to this neighborhood much since we moved to Brooklyn 9 years ago, so walking from the Union Square subway stop to our lunch destination, Soba-ya, I pointed all sorts of places out to Mia: our old apartment building on 12th street, the cheese store on 3rd ave, the Kiehl’s store (which, by the way, is HUGE now), Sunrise Mart, among others. Weaving our way down 9th street Mark and and I wondered if the Takoyaki stand was still open…and it was!

So after our delicious lunch of freshly made soba noodles in savory broth, which Claudine slurped down till she was the last one left eating, and an appetizer of uni tororo (sea urchin in grated Japanese yam, which Mia couldn’t get enough of), we headed out to Otafuku across the street to get Takoyaki, or as we used to call them, octopus balls. The space is tiny tiny so we waited outside on the bench for our order. Mia could hardly contain herself – she was so excited to try them and kept peering into the little window to watch the guys cook the batter with octopus. After a 7 minute wait and one bite, she was hooked.

Soba-ya and Otafuku were old standbys back in the day since we used to live around the corner, but since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to drop by the Momofuku Milk Bar to see what all the hype was about. I have to admit that I still haven’t eaten at any of the David Chang empire of Momofuku restaurants, which as a foodie (did I just call myself a foodie?) is lame, but I attribute that to being a working parent on a tight budget (and maybe that’s an excuse, but it is true). The Milk Bar menu is a little bit eclectic as there are both sweet and savory dishes, including the famous pork buns and the cereal soft serve, but we went for the cornflake, marshmallow and chocolate chip cookie, and the Crack Pie. Both items had good flavor, but they were both really densely sweet and very buttery. Despite the fact that we’re in the business, I’ve never been able to handle very sweet desserts or cookies, but I do realize that a lot of people like them that way. I’d come back here though, but I’d have to have an intense sugar craving to plow through a cookie by myself (the girls had no problem, though).

Once home, it struck me that weekends are fun again now that Mark is no longer stuck working in restaurants. Now that we are out of the baby phase, it’s really fun to explore the city with the girls who are enjoying these outings. Maybe Claudine is even growing out of her culinary pickiness just a little bit, as she’s starting to try new things and even tried a salmon roe (which Mia loves) and a piece of Takoyaki. Speaking of which, Mia is still talking about those octopus balls, raving that they are now her new favorite thing. What was my favorite takeaway from this day? The Soba-ya bathroom, which has one of those fancy Japanese toilets with heated seats and a bidet!

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  • nichole March 16, 2009 at 10:43 am

    The EV is our old stomping ground as well. Every time we go back, we eat brunch at Cafe Mogador or dinner at Dok Suni (still my favorite restaurant in NYC).

    We may be moving back. We’ve extended our home search to include NYC again. 😉

  • Jenna March 16, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Nichole, so many possibilities for you! It’s rather exciting! Will be very curious to hear where you end up.

  • Lauren March 16, 2009 at 11:14 am

    What a delicious post! Now I want to find that Takoyaki stand, I’ve always wanted to try some and you made them look delicious!

  • unha March 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

    yummy adventure. ah, dok suni. love their ginger tea martini. yum!

  • Jessica March 16, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I have been to the noodle bar for Momofuku and i just don’t understand the hype. The milk bar is alright, but ntohing too special.

    Have you been to Ippudo it is my favorite restaurant in that area if not in the whole city? Simply delicious, you will never look at ramen the same way again.

  • Jenna March 16, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Jessica,
    Yes, we have been to Ippudo, and found it delicious. We’ll definitely go back, and they are very kid-accommodating. Some of the other ramen places that I’ve tried may be too small for kids and strollers, but I do want to try the newly opened ramen setagaya on University.

  • Sarah March 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Mmmm. Ok now I want soba noodles. No fair. I can’t wait until the twins are old enough to start enjoying outings more. I keep telling myself, “Just a few more months.” But I don’t believe myself

  • Alicia March 16, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Oh, god, those dancing little pork shavings on top of Mia’s dish really freak me out. We went to a restaurant on St. Marks once (the one with the cotton candy machine) that had those and they wouldn’t quit moving and… oy… hahaha.
    I really ought to try the Milk Bar sometime, too, looks delish.

  • Fiona March 16, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Those takoyaki look amazing. Next time I’m in the city they’re on my list.

  • Gabriel March 16, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    i like the food and service at ippudo but am not a fan of the slick atmosphere or the crazy crowds since they got the favorable write up in the times. it’s really obnoxious at night.

    i still prefer minca for a hearty bowl of ramen – the basic broth with charshu pork can’t be beat. unfortunately the place is so small that it makes it difficult for strollers, etc. minca has been around for about 6(?) years now and i think once the ramen craze slows down it will still be there. speaking of ramen craze – have you guys tried zuzu ramen yet on 4th ave in the slope? i’m curious about it…

    back to the east village – i also recommend birdbath bakery on 1st ave & 13th st. i had some amazing cookies from there once and was surprised to find out they were vegan. as good as the vegan bakery on broome with much nicer staff.

  • Jenna March 16, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Gabriel,
    I haven’t tried zuzu, they weren’t open for lunch yesterday, but that is next. I see what you mean about Ippudo, but with the kids, we go early or for lunch so I haven’t seen the crowd, just other families.

  • Gabriel March 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    yup – ippudo is best for lunch when it’s still fairly peaceful and doesn’t resemble a nightclub/singles bar. last tuesday i went there at 6:15 thinking it was early enough but since the great review there was already a 45 minute wait for 2 people. guess i have to go at 5pm when they open for dinner…

  • laura March 16, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    i love soba-ya. i was just thinking about it this weekend and now i really really need to go!! and i have to agree with you on the crack pie (and i do love sweet things) but that was just not for me.

  • Kitty March 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Oh yum!!!

    Also this has made me slightly nostalgic for taiyaki as I remember the smell of them wafting out of Daimaru when you walk past.

    I really like Mia’s coat.

  • Lani March 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Whew…I can’t keep track of all the places you’re excited about. I definitely want to try some of them in April…for Mother’s Day??? BTW, I really think Mia takes after Lara in so many ways, but esp. with her adventurous eating soul. They are clones!

  • Claudia March 17, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I have two little kids and I and my husband always try to diversify their meals and introduce different foods, mainly vegetables, but it´s too hard. My youngest kid (she is one year old) eats everything, even stones and sand! But the oldest (my son is almost 5 years old) is always getting an excuse to not eat a good salad. How do Mia and Claudine eat some many different kinds of food? Help me”!!!!!!

  • Jenna March 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Claudia, Are you talking about Claudine? She’s about the pickiest creature on the face of the earth. Mia on the other hand…

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