We were staying at the Marriott Courtyard Downtown (very nice), which turned out to be a great location, very easy walk to Reading Terminal Market and close enough to Chinatown and El Vez that our highly suburban, driven everywhere 5 year old could be told (more nicely) to suck it up and walk.
We arrived Friday afternoon and eventually headed out to an early (they were all early, due to our 5 year old) dinner at Rangoon in Chinatown. No wait. This was possibly the only time we've had Burmese (hmmm, can that be right?). Seemed a lot like Thai, with some Chinese and Indian thrown in, which was fine with us. We ordered a whole bunch of dishes, just to get a lot of tastes. Loved the ginger salad. The thousand layer bread was sort of like a sweetish scallion pancake, without the scallions and not as crisp. We liked that. It actually ended up on the table twice, once because we just ordered it as a side dish and once because it came under the grilled beef kebabs we ordered for my son. I liked the way the bread tasted under the beef because it had absorbed some of the grilled beef taste. The beef itself was kind of dry and overcooked. We live in the NYC suburbs and just don't get enough good Asian of any kind, so this was a pleasure.
On our way to dinner, we had stopped at Reading Terminal Market and picked up brownies and gingerbread at Flying Monkey and Metropolitan, which we enjoyed.
Saturday for breakfast we went to the Dutch Eating Place where I had blueberry pancakes and my husband and son had plain. They were fine. I got a very nice latte from Flying Monkey.
We headed to the craft show at the 33rd St. Armory and finished up there in time for lunch. For various reasons having more to do with 5 year old melt downs and less to do with the pursuit of chowishness, we ended up at the 30th St. Station for lunch, which was, ya know, edible. But I saw a sign saying Cosi is coming soon, so that should improve the lunch opportunities if that's where you find yourself. Then on to the Franklin Institute (much fun, cafe food looked deeply unappetizing).
Dinner was at Vietnam, which we also liked. The grilled meatball appetizer was probably the best thing. Chicken with black bean sauce was nothing special. Nothing wrong with it, just nothing notable. The chowpup was very happy with his grilled chicken over broken rice.
Breakfast Sunday and Monday brought us back to the RTM, for breakfast pastries from Metropolitan and lattes for me from Flying Monkey, which were perfectly nice.
Sunday, we finished the Franklin Institute and then went back to the RTM for lunch. I had a hoagie from I don't remember who, with salami and sharp provolone. It was fine. The bread was pretty tasteless. (I went to college in Middletown CT and there was a little Italian deli that made the MOST AMAZING Italian subs. Nothing has ever been as good sense. We could never quite pinpoint what made them so phenomenal, but it may have been really good rolls.) The chowpup had some immensely mediocre matzo ball soup from some deli. I could have told him it wasn't going to be anything special, but it was what he wanted. My husband had an acceptable tuna sandwich from the same place.
Sunday dinner at El Vez. Pretty much what we had been told here. Food was fine, not bad, not stellar, although we did enjoy the guacamole. The waitress was very nice. When I wasn't sure whether I wanted the frozen blood orange margarita or the pomegranate margarita, she brought over a sample of the frozen. Yummy. Then I ordered the pomegranate, just for the opportunity to have both. Also yummy.
The original plan had been to go to Capogiro for dessert, but it was a cold, raw, starting to rain night and there was a fondue restaurant, The Melting Pot, half a block from the hotel. The chowpup gets Ciao Bella gelato regularly in Grand Central Terminal, so he's not good gelato deprived, but he'd never had fondue, so we thought it would be fun, which it was. There are definitely better, more gourmet chocolate fondue experiences to be had, but hey! fruit and sweet stuff dipped in melted chocolate, what's not to like?
I think I may have done a lot of damning with faint praise in this post. That pretty much expresses our overall assessment of our food experience. We enjoyed everything. It was all perfectly nice, but nothing blew us away. We'd love to see Rangoon and Vietnam move near us, because they'd be perfectly pleasant neighborhood places and nice additions to the local, Asian-deficient repertoire, but there was nothing that made us bemoan the fact that we were leaving town. I've certainly had worse versions of everything we ate, but I've also had better.