An American Place

Lexington & 50th


This is not Larry Forgione's An American Place. His name is off the marquee, and for good reason. The only place he shows up is in the fine print of the menu as the executive chef, and one can only imagine him insisting on an even small font size.

We have been eating at An American Place since the 1980s, and have followed it downtown, and now uptown again. In fact, down in the 30s, it was our favorite Thanksgiving restaurant, where the tribe would gather from around the country. But, based on our most recent visit at its new location, we will not be coming back any time soon.

We had walked by the place several times, and finally decided to drop in and look at the menu. It was different, but not seriously different, so we made a reservation. Then we made our first mistake, we came for dinner.

Things started badly. The bar, where we planned on a drink before our meal, was full of cigarette smoke. We ordered a glass of wine from the list of wines by the glass. After ten minutes, the bartender returned explaining that the wine was unavailable and that he could not recommend an alternative and suggested that we order the standard "white wine" by the glass. We suppose he wished to spare us the rather high per glass prices on all of the other listed items. We passed on this. Meanwhile, another customer was having no luck finding a drink that the bartender knew how to make.

We pressed on despite this. We should have known better. The restaurant was almost as smoky as the bar, but we did manage to find a table in a relatively well aerated area. We ordered our meal and hoped that the magic was still there.

It wasn't. The beef short rib was bland, though to its credit, it was not fatty. The fried clams were a cut below the old Howard Johnson's and we kept tasting the remoulade, unable to believe that anything could actually be that flavorless. The seared ahi tuna was, at best, fair, but it was served with an all too small portion of the high point of our meal, a miniature jambalaya. This was a pleasant, moderately spicy mix of rice, prawns, peppers, scallions and okra. "Okra" is in the singular because there was only one little ring of it. The lamb, in contrast, was appalling, overcooked and covered with school lunchroom mystery sauce. The grits and anasazi beans weren't quite as awful, but the whole thing was slopped on top of the worst brioche we have ever tasted, bar none.

We did not stay for dessert.

Amazed at this transformation, from fine restaurant to marginal slop joint, we checked a few restaurant guides. Most seemed rather kindly, suggesting the place for the expense account crowd, perhaps for those attending the Anosmics Convention. Our advice: AVOID, AVOID, AVOID!

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