i was in no mood to go out, already in my sweat pants, under the covers and craving delivery food; looking for a bartending job in nyc will do that to you. but, my boyfriend, who without too much complaint has rented a tux and will attend a wedding this weekend where he'll know no one but me, well, he wanted to go out and i guess i kinda owed him.
m. wells reminded me a lot of florent, a much missed and oft mourned go-to place in the meatpacking district before it turned into a suburban mall. diner vibe? check. hipster staff? check. big crowd? check.
after a false start ordering the grilled cheese with foie gras, which was not available, we settled on marrow bones with escargot, just one bone, but full of lux marrow and plump juicy snails and served with one fat piece of buttery grilled bread. the steak tartare was a huge hamburger patty sized pile of meat topped with a poached egg and seasoned so it tasted, to me, a bit like a fourth of july burger with relish. the menu alluded to egg salad, which makes sense in hindsight. it was pickle-y and smooth and crunchy at the same time and came with a lovely little toss of greens on the side. we also tried the blood sausage and sea snails. it was a lovely glob of salty goodness, full of potatoes and served on flatbread so every bite had a bit of crunch.
for dessert we tried maple pie which wasn't all together successful for me. it looked a lot like milk bar crack pie, but the texture was a bit wet and though the crust was quite burnt, i wanted the filling to have a few more moments in the oven. that said, my bf practically licked the plate and announced he'd easily eat a second piece.
i was quite charmed by everything about the place, the goofy bathroom tile, the counter stool that goosed me throughout my meal, the super passionate cooks, the waiter who offered me the magnifying glasses right off his face. however there was one misstep which grossed me out so much i feel obligated to mention it.
as we were paying our bill, a large table, perhaps the staff sitting down for a post-work snack, ordered several large plates. and please note, when m. wells calls something large, they mean circus fat girl large. we were seated right in front of the cooks station so watched, mesmerized as each dish was plated. when the cook got to the third and final dish, he ladled out sauce with a large metal spoon, then dipped the spoon into the pot to confirm it tasted right. i watched in horror as he wiped the spoon, the one that had just been in his mouth, on a kitchen rag, then used the same spoon to ladle out the rest of the dish onto the plate. yuk.
the best part? our bill barely came to forty dollars. astonished, my always good tipper boyfriend left 50% and we giggled all the way home.
M. Wells Diner
21-17 49th Ave, Queens, NY 11101