New York used to be known as the city that never sleeps, but times have changed and streets that once teemed with life at all hours have now become deserted and forbidding after midnight. Some of us nevertheless keep late hours and find ourselves leaving that all-night disco or after hours club with a bad case of the munchies. The next time that happens to you in Manhattan, you might check out David’s Pot Belly or Ruskay’s, two worthy alternatives to the perennial Brasserie.
David’s Pot Belly at 98 Christopher Street is a small cozy, candle-lit restaurant with very good food. At any hour you may find you are rubbing shoulders with jazz artists and celebrities who’ve stopped in for a quick bite. And a quick bite is what you get “We pride ourselves on fast service“, says owner, Bruce Waite, referring to the immediate attention you receive there. But there are many reasons to go to Pot Belly — French style omelets is one. From a list of some forty-five ingredients — including vegetables, cheeses, fruits and meats — you can create your dish. Served with potato pancakes, applesauce and English muffins, omelet prices range from $2.95 to $3.85. Or for the more adventurous try Baked Eggs in Casserole [$4.95] dishes like Chumley’s — chutney, bacon, anchovies and blue cheese; Lion’s Head — cheddar, bacon and yams; Ninth Circle — spinach, asparagus and cheddar; or Village West — beef, mushroom and potatoes.
A heartier appetite may call for Pot Belly Special [$5.45] — a baked dish of ham, sausage, onion, pepper, mushroom, potato, anchovy, pimento, olives, tomato sauce and mozzarella, but beware, this is some dish! A favorite of many, however, is Pot Belly’s piping hot crepes [$3.75]: chicken and mushroom, spinach and Swiss cheese or chopped beef and onion, each topped with Mornay sauce. These might catch your eye, but crepe ingredients may be substituted or added — it’s up to you. Actually, at Pot Belly’s most dishes are created by the diner. Even hamburger lovers can be creative: for $2.95 plain, or $3.50 with either cheese, mushroom, anchovy, bacon or chili topping, you get not a quarter pounder, but a half pound hamburger, served with potato pancakes and applesauce. What a mouthful!
But what about sweet tooth cravers? Well, you’re really in for a treat. Adjoining Pot Belly is a Haagen Dazs ice cream dip store, actually the first in the city and the only one open all night. Such tempters as Peaches Frisson [$3.75] — vanilla ice cream, boysenberry sherbet, topped with poached peaches, whipped cream and nuts; delicious hot fudge, blueberry, coffee, pineapple, peach, raspberry or cherry ice cream sundaes topped with whipped cream, chopped nuts and cherry [$2.45]; or huge banana splits[$3.95] — three scoops of ice cream on a ripe banana with fruit topping, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, nuts and cherry — all yours for the asking. Dessert crêpes[$3.75] with Haagen Dazs ice cream such as hot blueberries with vanilla ice cream, hot peach with boysenberry sherbet or hot banana with chocolate ice cream are also available. You might also try the homemade cakes: Anita’s Sour Cream Cake [$1.75] topped with strawberries and whipped cream or a delicious Viennese dark Chocolate cake [$1.50].
Alcoholic beverages are not available but there are sodas, hot coffees, iced coffees, espressos, juices, cappuccinos and teas by the pot. David’s Pot Belly is open until 5:30 am, Sun-Thur and until 6 am Fri. and Sat. [243-9614]
But what if you find yourself with the munchies uptown? Our suggestion is Ruskay’s, 323 Columbus Av at 75th St. With its deep dark interior, mirrored table tops and slinky candles, Ruskay’s is characteristic of Upper West Side style. There is a livelier, less cozy atmosphere here than at David’s Pot Belly, but a unique atmosphere nevertheless. A huge chandelier hangs between mirrored walls sporting framed letters and photos by renown artists. Live classical and jazz music is played nightly and on weekend afternoons from an overhead balcony. Ruskay’s is visually attractive, but most interesting is its food, an “anytime’’ menu with soups [$1.50], pates [$3], Simon salads — cubed meats and cheeses with bread and butter [$5], steak and eggs [$5], and sandwiches. We recently sampled Rumaki — skewer-broiled bacon, water chestnuts and chicken livers, which we found really tasty.
Dinner hours are 6 pm to 1 am and menus vary daily. A complete dinner includes appetizer, entrée, dessert and coffee and costs $11. Some delicious choices are: appetizers — stuffed grape leaves, gazpacho [a soup with tomatoes, cucumbers, red and green peppers in tomato based stock], spinach pie, black bean soup. Entrées — stuffed leg of lamb, beef Wellington, seafood paella, barbecued short ribs.
Ruskay’s has its own bakery downstairs, and does it smell good! Aromas from poppy seed cake, rum cake, banana sour cream tart, apple crunch pie and almond meringue cake, emanate from these lower regions on various days during the week, and delicious fresh brownies are baked each day. You’ll be tempted, and I dare you to resist.
On Sundays, brunch is available [$5] with juice or champagne or Bloody Mary cocktail, an appetizer or melon with lime, easily leads to an omelet with avocado filling, mixed vegetables and sliced steak, coffee or tea. If you’re interested in a nightcap, you’ll find that here too. Cocktails begin at $2. Ruskay’s is open all night. In the Summer there is a sidewalk cafe open until 2 am. [874-8391]