Applebee’s Relies On Fake Customers

Dan and I were in the Bronx today over at Gateway Plaza and we saw the most bizarre thing – Applebee’s had FAKE customers sitting at the tables by the window…

Applebees customers

That’s right, they took their prime real estate – the window seats – and put a bunch of mannequins in chairs sitting at tables “having a good time”. It was just bizarre. Here is a close up of three of the Applebee’s “customers”…

3 mannequin 'customers' at Applebee's

That’s just sorta sad, and kinda disturbing/freaky…

Harlem Tavern vs Bier International

And the winner is… Bier International (IMHO).

After bombing out trying to get into Harlem Tavern last week, we tried again early this afternoon and had no problem getting a table. Unfortunately it was sorta what I expected (based on the pics I saw on Harlem Bespoke) – very middle America – sorta dull actually.

The patio at Harlem Tavern

The beer that comes with brunch is Bud Light (yawn). And they have every other standard beer you can think of. Other than a selection of IPAs (which my niece likes), I didn’t really see anything beer-wise that came anywhere close to Bier’s beer selection.

As far as food, it’s pretty to look at (I should have taken a picture), but pretty bland too. I had the turkey burger with fries, Dan had the beef burger with a salad. Despite putting some interesting cheese on it, the turkey burger just didn’t stand out. Dan noted that the lettuce for his salad had been chopped with a knife – that promotes oxidation and just makes for a less interesting salad. He also thought the food was less fresh than it is at Bier. In comparison, everything I’ve had at Bier has met or exceeded expectations. In fact at Bier things are unexpectedly good – there’s always a slight flavor kick to the food at Bier that makes it interesting.

Harlem Tavern’s decor is the biggest turn off for me… It’s like you’re at Applebee’s or something… Like the food and the beer selection – it’s incredibly bland.

And honestly, I was a bit disturbed that they had the A/C on full blast inside with a huge wall of french doors completely wide open – it’s just wasteful for no good reason. Well, there was live music – but just keep the doors by them open and close the others…

So if you want bland decor with bland food and bland beer – go to Harlem Tavern. If you want a well-designed space with an unusual selection of interesting beers and surprisingly good food – go 2 1/2 block south to Bier International.

Harlem Tavern Is Crazy Busy

After dropping by the house today we decided to check out Harlem Tavern – it opened a couple weeks ago while we were away in Toronto. It’s still crazy busy – there was a pretty big line to get in and the bouncer manning the entrance couldn’t tell us how long the wait would be. He guessed it would be 45 minutes (!).

Crowd at Harlem Tavern

I guess it’s a good thing that people are patronizing places on FDB. In the end that will encourage more businesses to open up and make the neighborhood a better place to live. But I gotta say the love for this one particular place sorta mystifies me.

We wound up going to Bad Horse Pizza instead. It was about half full and the kids that were there were very well behaved (unlike the first time we went there).

New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park

Dan and I went to New Leaf Cafe for drinks on the 4th of July. New Leaf is one of just a handful of restaurants we have in Hudson Heights – it’s in a great old building in the middle of Fort Tryon Park, near the heather gardens.

When we first moved into the neighborhood in 1997 the cafe was usually closed, or had businesses in it that almost always failed since the kitchen didn’t support much more than making sandwiches. Then Bette Midler came along and gave a grant through New York Restoration Project (which she founded) to upgrade the cafe with a proper kitchen and New Leaf Cafe was born.

It was nice having another restaurant in the neighborhood – even though the food was “unpredictable” it was something different and the atmosphere is really wonderful. The problem is, as time has passed the food is still mediocre/unpredictable, and the prices have gone up. It’s one thing to get so-so food and good atmosphere for a “reasonable” price, but when you pay more, you expect more…

On Valentine’s Day Dan and I went to New Leaf and spent $255 on a dinner for two (the only alcohol on the bill was an inexpensive bottle of champagne). For that price you expect something decent, but the food and service were only “OK” at best and some of the food just wasn’t that good (I’m trying not to sound completely harsh, but you get my point…)

After that we swore we wouldn’t go back there for dinner – it’s just not worth the price. It’s not like dinner for 2 always costs $250 (Valentines was a ‘special’ event with higher prices), but it just seems whenever we go there for dinner we always leave disappointed – so we’ve just given up…

On July 4 we arrived around 3 or 4pm wanting drinks and appetizers only to find they weren’t serving any food – not even chips or beer nuts… Nothing… We got a couple of drinks ($9/each), and sat on the walk in front of the cafe and watched people go by. When our hunger got the best of us Dan ran and got crappy hot dogs from the hot dog vendor at Margaret Corbin Plaza (at the entrance to Fort Tryon Park).

It really was beautiful out. Everything was incredibly green and the weather was blustery, but we were protected from the wind… It reminded me of sitting out on our screened porch when I was a kid – looking out at the garden in bad weather…

But once again, the restaurant part of the experience was underwhelming – the drinks just weren’t all that good… How you can get Absolute and juice wrong, I’m not quite sure – but they did – and Dan wasn’t all that impressed by his martini… And once again, high prices for something that’s just not all that great…

We really do want to see New Leaf do well, and we’d still consider it for lunch, but lately it’s just been one disappointment after another… I’m hoping they get a new chef who will turn the place around…