Two weeks ago, Top Chef finalist and Crocadile Aficionado Angelo Sosa opened a new restaurant in midtown Manhattan called “Social Eatz” (SIC). Since Noah Garfinkel and I are both exquisite connoisseurs of fine cuisine, Top Chef, and putting the letter Z on the end of thingz, we decided to take a trip to the Asian-inspired snack-food jaunt to sample some real-life Top Chef cooking, just like our moms (the lesbians from Top Chef Season 4) used to make.
Social Eatz — named for its laid-back-but-upscale ambiance and also Z — is located at 53rd st and 2nd Avenue, right in the heart of Manhattan’s “What The F*ck Is Over Here After 5 pm, Werewolves Or Something?” District. When we arrived at the restaurant, we couldn’t help but immediately notice that it’s conveniently located right next to a not-unpornographic DVD depot:
Immediately after entering, Noah used the bathroom to “wash his hands” (like the people in the viewing booths next door claim they’re doing – high fivez!), and he took note of the oddly suggestive Bathroom Door Food Genitalia:
While Noah was taking phone pictures of a hot dog and a taco drawn on a bathroom door (quick aside: our jobs are tough!) I amused myself with the menu, which did, to my immediate delight, have Z’s at the end of literally every section:
The menu was an interesting cross-section of American snack foods — burgers, hot dogs, wings, tacos, etc. — each “Asianified” to varying degrees, either with some Vietnamese-style vegetables or classic Korean sauces or just anything to make the dishes slightly unique and extremely Angelo.
The place wasn’t too crowded (we were there on a Thursday at 2:30 pm, though we were sitting right behind Momofuku entrepreneur and Top Chef veteran David Chang – chefdrop!), and the service was friendly and efficient, besides one absolutely irredeemable oversight:
We ordered one thing from each of four sections: Hot Wings (App’z), a Korean Beef Taco (Taco’z), a Bulgogi Burger (Burger’z), and an Imperialist Hot Dog (Signature’z). Below, our rambly IM’ed reviews of each item:
Noah: I actually feel like, after some days to think about it, that I don’t like it as much any more.
Dan: The restaurant?
Noah: Yeah. Like, if there was a wing night, with more than five wings, maybe i would go back. But I feel like if I want a hamburger or taco there’s places i would rather go.
Dan: The concept is a little strange, it’s too formal to be casual and vice versa — the hamburger and taco were as good as other places’, but I’m not sure I’d rush to go back to east midtown, sit down, order a weirdburger and pay.
From the Menu: Bulgogi literally means “fire meat” in Korean, the beef charred, hence the name. sauteed with soy, sugar, scallion, garlic and sesame oil then garnished with cooled cucumber kimchee, kewpee and a Japanese mayo
Dan: That said, that burger was really, really good.
Noah: Yes, but I think Shake Shack is probably still better.
Dan: Probably, but it’s the most famous burger place in New York – what’s wrong with having a different also great burger?
Noah: There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not what I would do.
Dan: If you owned a restaurant?
Noah: No, if I was going to eat – I would rather have the most famous burger in New York than the very good, but not quite as good Angelo burger.
Dan: So when you get pizza, do you cab down to Grimaldi’s every time?
Noah: No I do not go to that pizza place I have never been to before for pizza, I just go to some place near my house. But since neither Angelo’s restaurant or Shake Shack are near my house, I would go to Shake Shack if i were to purposefully wander out for food.
Dan: There’s a new one right by our office.
Noah: Let’s go there next time, and if you really really want we can bring a cucumber and bottle of sriracha sauce with us and you can have your little-bit-Asian burger.
Made with organic chicken, served on a toasty bun, smothered in sweet and spicy relish. Ah, sweet harmony
Noah: The hot dog i thought was unique, with that cheese sauce, but once again, if i wanted a hot dog, I probably would not go to Angelo’s restaurant.
Dan: I thought the first bite was very weird, in a part-intriguing part-confusing way, but then it settled into a nice rhythm.
Noah: Yes. And the eazy cheese sauce – DON”T FORGET ABOUT IT.
Dan: “(Don’t You) Forget About Cheese”. Remember, from the Literally Breakfast Club Soundtrack? I think we’ve sufficiently covered this item.
Vintage skirt steak marinated in a sweet or savory sauce of cane sugar and gochujang. served in warmed corn tortillas with spicy bean sprout kimchee
Noah: The Endless Summertime Truck in Williamsburg I think has better tacos. Actually, I would prefer Taco Bell to that taco, although this is mostly because of a shredded carrot issue, but also because there was nothing awesome going on there.
Dan: I think the taco was the least noteworthy of the group; it was tasty but not that different than just any readily available taco.
Noah: I would argue that it was actually just not as good as many readily available tacos.
Dan: We could call the review “Tac-OH NO!”? And include no explanation or pictures?
Crispy wings glazed in a sauce of tamarind, garlic, shallots, palm sugar and togarashi, a Japanese spice blend of red chili, roasted orange peel and black sesame
Noah: But those chicken wings, my God…I think about them all the time. Wingz! So crizpy.
Dan: ZZZZZZZZZ… I don’t mean they were boring, I mean that is how many Z’s I’m giving them by our Ratingz Zystem.
Noah: It boils down to, all the food was good, but not so overwhelming that I would go back for any of those things. Except the chicken wings, but I wouldn’t even go back for that because I never just want 5 chicken wings as a meal. I’m glad I ate there and it was fun, but I can’t imagine a scenario when i will go back. In the end, I thought it was just zo zo.
Dan: Mmm, I disagree.
Noah: I mean, it was all good, but I’m never like “ugh, why isn’t this food that i love a little Asian, jeeeeeeez.” I fully encourage people to try it, I just feel like I will never be on the east side of midtown ever again, ever.
Dan: No, me neither, and that’s my biggest issue with it — if I worked right near there, it’d be perfect for a special lunch thing now and then, but I don’t think I’m gonna take a group of people there for a birthday dinner or anything.
Noah: “I really wanted to open a restaurant for the employees of one of the biggest financial institutions in the world to eat at.” – Angelo.
Dan: Plus that area after 5 pm is full of werewolves.
Noah: I wouldn’t know.
Dan: Fact. It’s the majority of their business.
We capped off our meal with an absolutely awesome (though tiny) chocolate toffee brownie, and because Noah “The Food Was Zo-Zo” Garfinkel was so full, I had to heroically pound the milk shot that came with it:
Before we left, we worked up the courage (nerve?) to ask the server if we could get a picture with Angelo — who we’d already seeing walking by with a canister of liquid nitrogen earlier in the meal — and Angelo happily obliged:
We chatted with Angelo for like 30 seconds — I did note his black and metallic-gold shoes, to which he responded “They’re my sister’s – nah, kidding.” Our obligatory smalltalk consisted of us complimenting the meal, asking about the wings’ crispiness, saying we were fans of the show, and after that we were pretty much on our way. Angelo was completely friendly and accommodating, juuust short of the point where I felt comfortable enough to ask him about the Z’s. Like any great things in life, though, they will forever remain a mister-z* (*not true about majority of great things in life).
As for the restaurant, in the end, Noah and I slightly disagreed; I thought the food at Social Eatz was excellent, interesting, and reasonably priced to boot, I just thought the dynamic of an upscale super-casual place was a little odd, and I’m not sure how far out of my way I’d go for what amounts to a spin on very casual, very easily-acquirable-in-New-York American food. We both agreed that the wings and brownie were the most outstanding dishes — the crispiness of the wings seemed almost magical — followed by the burger, while the hot dog was a solid A-/B+ and the tacos were nothing special.
So our recommendation? Somewhat inconclusive. But we certainly agreed on at least one thing: That is definitely a food d*ck on the bathroom door.