Cilantro UWS

Last night my husband and I went to Cilantro on the Upper West Side for $10 Fajita Night.  We’ve been to this location many times and we are familiar with the food and service.  We’ve always known that both the food and the service are inconsistent.  For example, the vegetable fajitas one night might be just a bunch of onions and green bell peppers and another night, there might be a cornucopia of grilled zucchini, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, yellow squash and a smattering of onions and green bell peppers.  The service one night might bend over backwards to make sure you are enjoying yourself and another night, you may have to ask 4 different individuals for more tortillas (like last night).

So, we have established the fact that this location is inconsistent, yes?  Why do we keep going back?  Well, $10 fajitas is a pretty good deal and 50% of the time, the service and food are good.  Sometimes they are even good on the same night!  Haha!  Now, the reason I write this post today is that last night was the worst ever.  I need to vent about it.

Last night as we sat down, we were brought our basket of chips and salsa and our glasses of water.  We placed our order quickly as we knew why we were there and what we wanted.  I ordered my usual vegetable fajita and my husband ordered his usual steak fajita.  The food was unusually slow to come out last night to the point where we actually polished off the basket of chips and salsa and were about to ask for more when the fajitas finally arrived.  We immediately noticed problem #1: the restaurant had run out of onions.  I asked the server, “No onions?” and he said “What? Oh yeah, we ran out of onions.”  This was not a huge deal but my husband’s dinner looked more like Chinese pepper steak than steak fajita.  Before that server left, my husband asked for more tortillas as this restaurant never gives us enough.  Problem #2:  the waiter said “There should be enough there.”  My husband said “Trust me, we’ll need more.  Can we have 4 or 5 more?”.  The server, with his shrewd bargaining skills, said “How about 3?”.  Fine.  Except, they never came.  So, we asked another server for some tortillas.  She brought 2.  We ate those in about 2 minutes.  We asked the same woman again, “Can we have some more tortillas, please?”  They never came.  So we asked the man who appeared to be the manager for some tortillas.  He brought 2 tortillas.  We gave up our fight for tortillas.  After having to ask for extra tortillas 4 different times only to have them rationed out to us on every other request, I told my husband to go ahead and enjoy those last 2 tortillas and I ate my veggies plain, with a knife and fork.  We finished our meal and we paid the check, asking for the change.  Enter Problem #3: they only brought the paper part of our change and kept the coin part!  What the hell is that?!?  Did they run out of onions, tortillas AND coin change???  Needless to say, we were quite frustrated with the evening as a whole.

You may be wondering, “Will you be going back?”.  The answer:  Probably.  “Why?”  Because, I haven’t found a better fajita deal in town and this one happens to be in our own neighborhood.  No subway ride necessary.

I do appreciate you letting me vent to you.  Feel free to vent to me anytime.

Levain Bakery

One of my favorite places to get a sweet treat is Levain Bakery on the UWS. My husband and I adore their humongous, soft, still slightly warm cookies. They have four varieties and we have enjoyed them all at least twice. My preference is the dark chocolate chocolate chip. The interior is so soft and the chocolate chips absolutely ooze with deliciousness. My husband prefers the chocolate chip walnut with its perfect ratio of chocolate chips and walnut pieces. One improvement I would like to see is an increase in oatmeal in the oatmeal raisin cookie. For me, while the plump raisins are delightful, there isn’t enough oatmeal texture.

The staff at Levain Bakery are perfectly friendly and always make us feel welcome. The space is small and while they have some counter seating, we usually take our cookies to go and eat them on our stroll home. This bakery makes some lovely breads as well, but one can see that the cookies are the real star.

My rating (out of a possible 5):

Magnolia Bakery

My husband and I have been to the UWS outpost of Magnolia Bakery twice since it opened this last winter. We have never been to the Village location as waiting in line for an hour for a cupcake is simply not an option for us. That being said, these 2 experiences at the UWS location are the only experiences we have had with this bakery.

We have some issues with this place… the first time we went to get a cupcake, there was no signage to let us know what flavors we were looking at. We asked one of the employees what flavors they were and she pointed to the obviously chocolate one and said “chocolate” then she pointed to the obviously vanilla one and said “vanilla” then I spoke up and said “What is this one here?” and she didn’t know. Well, I took it anyway but when we got to the cashier, the cashier asked me which one I got. How funny. If they don’t know and there’s no signage, how can I possibly know?

Well, today we went back to get some cupcakes for a friend’s birthday party and again, there was no signage for the cupcakes. We knew better than to ask, so we just took 2 of each flavor/color and proceeded to the cashier to pay. The cashier again asked which flavors we got. We explained what appeared to be obvious- there are no signs, how should we know which ones we got?

Frustration aside, the cupcakes are very good. As an adventurous eater, I don’t really mind not knowing what flavor I’m picking. It does pose a problem in that some flavors cost more than others and since there are no signs to indicate flavor, there are no signs to indicate price.

If you’ve had any experiences with Magnolia Bakery, either UWS or in the Village, for better or for worse, I’d like to hear about them. Please feel free to comment!

My rating (out of a possible 5):