If there’s any type of challenge I like best, it’s finding the perfect place to eat for the mood/price/type of food/area my group wants. This weekend’s mission? Find a happening (yet casual), inexpensive, not-exotic restaurant in either Murray Hill or Turtle Bay that had good reviews and even better food.
Now, I don’t mean to brag, but my Zagat-ing and NY Mag restaurant list-ing skills are impeccable. I narrow my fields to the neighborhoods, price point, and type of food I want, then cross reference the two lists to find a winner. Bonus points for Zagat above 22 food ratings (it’s out of 30) and NY Mag Critic’s Picks. And this time the grand prize went to Social Eatz in Turtle Bay, Manhattan.
It totally fit the bill: an energetic, young crowd, cheap (I’m talking $10 entrees) food, and a safe-yet-boundary-pushing menu. How is that possible? Well it’s a Korean-American fusion menu, so there’s your standard burger, yet also a Bibimbap burger (which I had). I like more adventurous food, but one of the people I was eating with strays more toward safe, so it hit that perfect balance. Oh, and the cherry on top: I was able to get a 7 p.m. rez the day of.
The service was incredibly friendly–our server was attentive, yet not over-the-top. She never rushed us, and always seemed to stop by at the perfect moment. It was a bit loud in there (said my friend Ali), but I liked the vibe. And, what matters most, the food was great.
Turns out Angelo Sosa, a former Top Chef contestant, started the restaurant, so I was particularly interested to see if the food lived up to his reputation. I had the bibimbap burger, which is topped with a slow-cooked egg and pickled veggies. Plus Eater rated it the best burger in America. Really, how can you pass that up?
Ok, so you can see that it’s a messy burger. In fact, I might call it horrible first, second, or third date food. This is a burger for committed boyfriends and friends who have already seen you stuff your freaking face. That said, it was delicious. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the pickled carrots & cucumbers added great acidic flavor, and the runny egg a savory component. Was it the best burger in America? Absolutely not. Was it different and worth a try? Yes. It also comes with a kimchi of sorts on the side. I actually have no idea what you would call it, but it was a spicy, crunchy, acidic pickled veggie that I couldn’t get enough of. I even swiped my friend’s since he wasn’t eating it (you snooze, you lose).
In my research, I had read that the fries come with a cheddar-sake dipping sauce. Um, yes please! So obvi we ordered one for the table, plus an Asian-inspired mac and cheese.
The fries were just like I like ‘em: skinny and crispy. The cheese sauce was flavorful and didn’t taste processed at all, but was a tad thin. And the mac & cheese was excellent. They actually used macaroni (so throwback) and it had a tempura flake on top that added great texture.
Last note about the restaurant: it really is social. Our server told us that if we checked into Social Eatz and wrote a review, we’d get free Halloween shots. An awesome-sounding deal, except apparently we’re not very social people and none of us use Foursquare or Places. All in all, though, good play Social Eatz. I will absolutely go back when I need a restaurant in that area.
Plus everything is better with a “z” attached. Byez!
Social Eatz, http://www.socialeatz.com, 232 E. 53rd St (between 2nd & 3rd Avenues), New York, NY, 212-207-3339