Where to Get Cheesesteaks and Tofu Desserts in Hell's Kitchen
Welcome to Drinks, Dinner, and Dessert, in which we share three picks in one neighborhood, keeping an eye out for deals, off-the-menu items, and new stuff to check out. This week, get off the C train at 50th Street and use these suggestions to guide you through Hell's Kitchen.
Drinks: The Pony Bar
Folks in the Pony Bar might be singing America's praises, and not only because of the beer bar's patriotic theme -- see the tattered pre-Alaska flag -- but because everything on tap is $5. Brews with higher ABVs are doled out in 8-ounce glasses instead of the standard 14-ounce mugs, and the options change daily, sometimes hourly, but they're always domestic. Customers can check Pony Bar's website for live updates on the kegs, which often include alcoholic rarities like Smuttynose Gravitation Quad 2013 or popular crowd-pleasers like Magic Hat Single Chair Ale and Victory Hopdevil. The Tenth Avenue bar is usually filled with regulars who rate their beers on scorecards. Those who've tasted 100 beers and have a full card to prove it are inducted into the "All-American Club," which earns customers a free polo shirt and unofficial special treatment from the barbacks. 637 Tenth Ave.
It's hard to find kinship if you're a Phillies fan in New York. But Shorty's welcomes Philly folk to watch games and devour authentic cheesesteaks. The steak here is chopped finely with big knives right on the griddle, just as in South Philly's Italian market, instead of the slices of steak that so many New York hoagie haunts pass off as cheesesteak meat. Thick white rolls -- the dough is shipped straight from the City of Brotherly Love -- are topped with provolone or Cheese Whiz. Insiders know to ask for their sandwich "wit," meaning with fried onions. If you stop in before 7 p.m. or after 11 p.m., a beer and a cheesesteak go for $12, but the sandwich is always $9 on its own. If you're going for a gut bomb, order Italian fries -- a hearty serving of fries topped with Italian seasoning and melted Parmesan. 576 Ninth Ave.
Skip the savory items at Kyotofu and order from the Japanese restaurant's dessert bar, which has been drawing tourists and neighbors to its tofu-based sweets since 2007. The menu changes with the seasons, and though the year-round Yuzu Vanilla cupcakes always taste of refreshing citrus, the winter items are dense and cozy. A $12 chocolate mochi cake is made of hazelnut mochi, vanilla caramel, Valrhona chocolate, and topped with coffee ice cream, and is more like a mousse than a crumbly cake. The green-tea crème brûlée, also a winter special, is $10. Its top crackles with the first spoonful and the custard is made from soy milk, which gives the dish a vanilla-like accent. Though the restaurant is small, ordering the desserts to stay gets you an intimate date at one of the 12 candlelit tables backed against padded walls. Those who are looking for something to take for the road can check in to Kyotofu on Yelp to get a free chocolate cupcake. 705 Ninth Ave.