Restaurant Review: Cull & Pistol

In my previous post, I described some of the delicious things that can be found at Chelsea Market. Above all other options, my favorite place to eat at Chelsea Market has to be Cull & Pistol. The dilemma is choosing when to go. One of my favorite things on their menu is the Connecticut-style Lobster Roll. The generous chunks of lobster are warmed in lobster butter and served on a soft, toasted bun. The lobster roll is then finished with a squeeze of lemon and some kewpie mayonnaise. It’s absolutely luxurious, and one of those things that you just can’t put down. Before you realize it, the entire thing is gone! The lobster roll is served with “new bay” french fries. The fries are thin-cut shoestring fries, fried crisp and liberally seasoned. They’re a great accompaniment to the lobster roll, especially if you order one of their craft draft beers. Cull & Pistol also offers the traditional chilled Maine-style lobster roll. (The Infatuation recently named Cull & Pistol’s lobster rolls among the best in the city–so I can’t be wrong!)

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The reason why I have such a dilemma in deciding when to go to Cull & Pistol is that the Connecticut-style lobster roll is only served on the lunch menu (served from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm), and the dinner menu (served from 5:00 pm until close, on the weekend starting at 5:30). If you come in between those times, there’s no lobster roll to be had (although they do serve a cold lobster roll-style slider during happy hour).

Luckily, from 4:00 pm to 6:00pm on weekdays, there is a delicious alternative to the lobster roll–Cull & Pistol’s happy hour and raw bar menus. If you sit at the bar during happy hour, you can order raw oysters for $1 each. The bar area fills up quickly, so you have to be quick to get a spot. On our last visit, we tried two of each type of oyster available (1o varieties in all), along with two types of clams. We also ordered a half lobster, which was nicely presented. The raw bar menu changes regularly, depending on what’s fresh each day.

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So what types of oysters did we get to try this time? Beau Soleil, from Mirimichi Bay, NB; Summerside, from Malpeque Bay, PEI; Irish Point, from Hunter River, PEI; Mayflower Point, from Cape Cod Bay, MA; Pleasant Bay, from Orleans, MA; Watch Hill, from Winnapaug Pond, RI; Fishers Island, from Block Island Sound, NY; Hog Neck, from Peconic Bay, NY; Peconic Gold, also from Peconic Bay; and Penn Cove, from Sammish Bay, WA. We also had Little Neck Clams from New York, and Topneck Clams from Maine. Our bartender was knowledgeable about each variety, giving us great descriptions of the flavors and texture of each oyster.

One of the reasons why sitting at the bar is so much fun is that you can watch the oysters being shucked. These guys are experts at this, quick and precise! The oysters were clean and well-prepared.

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For those who don’t find the raw bar as appealing, there are other food options during happy hour:

  • Clam Chowder (by the cup);
  • Chowder Disco Fries (french fries covered in clam chowder, bacon and chives)–I think I’m going to have to try this at some point;
  • Steamed Mussels;
  • Pistols on Horseback (fried oysters with Serrano ham, a ramp crepe, served with smoked aioli);
  • the Maine Lobster Sliders I mentioned previously;
  • Fish Tacos; and
  • a Charred Kale Caesar Salad.

We tried the steamed mussels. I’m not normally a huge fan of mussels, but these were delicious. The broth was rich and savory, and the chorizo added a spicy, meaty bite to the dish. This is definitely a dish I will order again. (A version of this is also available on the lunch menu, served with french fries.)

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I’ve not been to the Cull & Pistol yet for dinner, but I definitely will be trying it sometime soon!

Exploring Chelsea Market

DSC00788_editedThere’s something I love about Chelsea Market. Located in New York City’s Meatpacking District, it’s housed in an old brick National Biscuit Company building that spans a full city block. The Market is full of interesting old architectural details, as well as a variety of food establishments and small shops. It can be a lot of fun to explore, but I avoid it on the weekends. Out-of-town visitors flock to Chelsea Market on the weekends, making it almost impossible to appreciate the variety of things the Market has to offer. I prefer going on weekdays, primarily Monday through Thursday. Chelsea Market is much quieter early in the day, but there are some restaurants that may be better enjoyed in the afternoon and evening.

When I went to Chelsea Market last week, the Market had just been decorated for Halloween. If you have the chance to visit this month, I recommend it–the decorations are really fun! Here’s a sampling of what I saw:

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One of the main reasons people go to Chelsea Market is for the variety of delicious food options, from vegan sushi (yes, that’s a thing!) to lobsters, and everything in between. Here are a few of my favorites (although not a complete list). First, I love the cookies at Eleni’s New York. Not only are the cookies delicious, but they also make great gifts! Right now, they have some fun Halloween-themed cookies in the store, but they always have their New York City-themed cookies as well.

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Another favorite: The Lobster Place. In part, the Lobster Place is a seafood market, where you can buy fresh seafood to prepare at home. But it is so much more. There’s a walk-up window where you can buy lobster rolls (or even complete picnics for the High Line), associated with the Lobster Place’s restaurant, the Cull & Pistol (more on that restaurant coming in another post). Most popular with visitors, however, are the whole lobsters cooked fresh to order. The market is jammed full of people standing at tall tables while they tackle their lobster lunch or dinner.

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And I have to admit that I love the fresh doughnuts from the Doughnuttery, especially paired with the coffee from Ninth Street Espresso. At the Doughnuttery, you can have your hot doughnuts tossed in a variety of flavored sugars. My current favorites: Cacaoboy (flavored with cacao nibs, chocolate cookies, and mesquite), and Purple Pig (flavored with maple, purple potatoes, and bacon). The mini doughnuts go well with Ninth Street Espresso’s rich, complex coffee, which is less acidic than the leading chain coffee store’s coffee. Together, they make a great snack for a walk on the High Line.

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Chelsea Market also has some other great shops. I enjoyed exploring the Chelsea Wine Vault, although the last time I was there it was a bit early to taste wine. They offer some intriguing tasting events and special classes about wine–I may have to check one out some time. If you want a bottle of wine chilled, they can have it ready for you in only 4 minutes.

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There’s also this gorgeous flower shop in the middle of Chelsea Market, associated with Mrs. Bloom’s Mobile.

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Visually, the little shop Spices and Tease always draws me in, with its vibrant display of spices and teas.

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Finally, Chelsea Market also has it’s own outpost of Artists & Fleas–but I’ll talk more about that in my next post!

Tips for getting to Chelsea Market: Like pretty much anything in Manhattan, the best way to get to Chelsea Market (and the most cost-effective way) is by public transportation. You can take the A, C, or E to the 14th Street station, or the L to the 8th Avenue Station (these two stations are actually connected). From there, it is only a couple of blocks to Chelsea Market. There’s also one added benefit to taking the subway there. There’s a really interesting art installation in the subway station by artist Tom Otterness called “Life Underground.” The small bronze sculptures are scattered throughout the station, and you may find them in unusual places. Here are a couple of photographs of my favorites.

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Manhattan Sunset from Long Island City

There are countless photographs of the New York City skyline, and multiple ways to recreate those images. One evening this summer, I went searching for the right location to watch the sun go down over Manhattan. I found the perfect spot at Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, Queens. From the park there is a beautiful view of midtown Manhattan across the East River. Here is a photograph that I took of the skyline after the sun had set and the skyscraper windows were twinkling.

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We looked up the time for the sunset so that we wouldn’t miss it. The skyline was beautiful even before the sun disappeared, and the longer we waited after the official sunset time, the better the view became. I recommend going on a partly cloudy day. As the sun goes behind the buildings in the distance, the light reflects off the clouds. The view changes minute by minute, making for a spectacular experience. (We’ve now gone several times. Each time the sunset was beautiful and different than the time before. But there was a lot less color to the sky the night the sky was clear.)

One of our visits to Gantry Plaza State Park was at the time of the bi-annual “Manhattanhenge” sunset, also known as the Manhattan Solstice. The Long Island City riverfront is an ideal location for viewing this unique sunset, where the sun lines up with the cross streets of Manhattan as it sets. I captured this picture on that occasion:

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Depending on where you are at along the riverfront, you can see a number of Manhattan landmarks. As you look to your right towards the northern part of the East River, the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge is in the distance. (It’s not the most picturesque bridge in the city, but still an interesting landmark.) In the middle of the river towards the bridge there is Roosevelt Island, with Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at its tip. (I think I might have to explore this area sometime soon!) Directly across the river in Manhattan is the United Nations. And nestled among the taller buildings spanning the horizon are two iconic skyscrapers: the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

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If you have a little extra time to explore, the park has additional features that make it a unique destination. In the previous photo you may have seen a sign glowing red towards the right—that is the vintage Pepsi Cola sign located on the edge of the park in Long Island City. The sign used to be situated on the roof of a Pepsi bottling company along the riverfront. When the old building was torn down to make way for luxury apartments, the sign was relocated to a prime spot in the park. Here’s a close-up view of the sign, which stretches 8 stories above the grass. (And here’s a link to a New York Times article about the sign.)

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There are also the gantry cranes located next to the piers. Originally used to load and unload materials from boats along the waterfront, today they are another symbol of Long Island City. Here is a view looking back at one of the gantry cranes from the end of the pier, with luxury apartment buildings in the background.

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I took this second photograph of the cranes on another, cloudy evening. This photo shows some of the cranes’ architectural details. As a bonus, Manhattan is across the river in the background.

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If you keep your eyes open, you may even find some other unique photo ops. Here, I caught a view of Manhattan once again, this time framed by one of the gantry cranes and some rosebushes.

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And a short time later, I spied this tiny piece of railroad track. Most likely it was originally part of a railroad line that transported items between boats and nearby factories. But now it makes for a special photograph, literally the “Tracks to Nowhere.”

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What can you do once the sun has totally set? There are numerous restaurants in Long Island City, including several along Vernon Boulevard near the station for the 7 train. On one of our visits to the riverfront, we stopped at the Rockaway Brewing Company to try some local microbrews. I tried their “Black Gold,” a Nitro Stout. It was smooth and rich and creamy. The evening that we visited, the Brewery was hosting a pop-up food venture upstairs above the tap room. It was the perfect place to relax for a while with a beer and a snack after watching the spectacular sunset. Rockaway has an events calendar on their website previewing some of their delicious upcoming events, so check it out! We will definitely visit again.

Getting here by subway? I try to use public transportation whenever possible, and Gantry Plaza State Park is easily accessible by subway. You can take the E or the M to the Court Square-23rd Street Station, the G to the 21st Street-Van Alst Station, or the 7 train to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Avenue.