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Image: Daniel Root

PATIO DINING


Veritable Quandary


The science is fuzzy on whether surroundings aid in digestion. But should anyone need to investigate the matter, we’re certain this venerable restaurant and bar, which has been overlooked in favor of more trendy eateries lately, would make a great test case. The VQ’s brick-lined patio strewn with ivy has all the quiet charm of an English garden. Fragrant lilies, ferns, and hollyhocks ward off the noise of the traffic emanating from the nearby Hawthorne Bridge, and they make a breakfast taken here feel more like a picnic in Hoyt Arboretum. The 38-year-old restaurant’s kitchen is none the worse for wear, either. Luscious poached eggs and pork loin with crisp and fluffy potato cakes, as well as a top-notch cocktail menu with offerings like espresso martinis and an eye-opening kir royale, will undoubtedly tempt you to stretch your morning meal into an afternoon of lollygagging.


BREAD PUDDING


Mother’s Bistro & Bar


After downing a rich, rib-sticking bowl of chicken and dumplings, you might think it’s asking a lot of a sensible person to suggest they keep climbing Mount Carb. Lighten up. Dessert is about decadence, and the brick-sized loaf of bread pudding at Mother’s Bistro & Bar is worth loosening your belt a notch or three for. Made from scratch, the cubes of fluffy white bread are soaked in milk, pure butter (slow churned, thank you), and vanilla, then piled on top of each other before being baked. The result is a brown, sugary crust on the outside and a series of creamy layers underneath that get softer and moister as your fork plows to the center. Drizzled in a caramely sauce and topped with whipped cream, this is pure food euphoria—and absolutely nothing like your mother used to make.


SOUP


Corbett Fish House


If you haven’t wrapped your lips around a spoonful of Crab Pepper Cheese Soup at Corbett Fish House (and its sister operation, Hawthorne Fish House), you haven’t lived. It’s a rich and creamy knockout, with equal parts blue swimming crab (sustainably harvested in Indonesia) and fiery pepper-jack cheese (and we do mean fiery)—two robust flavors that manage to complement each other without a power struggle. Though the restaurant originally served the soup just once a week, on Saturdays, co-owner Dana Boyce, who helped open the fish house in 2002, explains that demand for the heaven-sent dish has led them to serve it on Tuesdays as well. Many diners avoid withdrawal during the other five days of the week by plunking down $13 for a to-go quart. Despite all the hubbub, you won’t find the dish on the menu. Just consider it their worst-kept (and most delicious) secret.


MAI TAI


Thatch Tiki Bar


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Image: Daniel Root
Banished to sorority pool parties (where it’s made with prepared mix from plastic jugs) and the menus of bad Chinese restaurants (where its sugar to alcohol ratio is 50-50), the mai tai has slipped, sociologically speaking, from the cool drink it was in the 1950s to one that’s downright cheesy. But at Thatch, where the tiki factor is high and the lights are dimmed to a subdued, sunset hue, the mai tai stands ready to reclaim its true identity as a stiff, classy drink. Perfectly balanced with fresh lime and pineapple juice, orange curaçao, and orgeat syrup, and spiked with hefty pours of both dark and light rums, this is the kind of drink Burt Lancaster would’ve tossed back to cool down after his From Here to Eternity beach-frolicking. At 9 bucks, it ain’t cheap. But it’s probably as close as you’re going to get to rolling around with a half-naked Deborah Kerr.