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I found another good spot to eat before the theataaah.

23 Jul

Prettily presented quesadilla.

OK, so it’s more Hell’s Kitchen than Times Square, but the service is speedy enough to get you to your seats on time. On 49th and Ninth, Ponche Taqueria & Cantina is a 20-seat taco shop with good, cheap food: $6 fresh, creamy guac, $7 quesadillas, $3 tacos or $12 for three (with a side of not-special rice and beans). *And yes, you can mix-and-match taco types.* The must-get is the pescado: lightly battered mahi mahi with pickled cabbage and a light chipotle mayo sauce. I also liked the camarones taco. And the carne asado taco. So what if I like tacos? My only complaint: mostly flour tortillas instead of corn. But at least they don’t double wrap.

FYI, this is not some hole-in-the-wall: It’s clean, with friendly staff and nice food presentation—and actual wine glasses for BYOB. If you want to imbibe, stop by the shop half a block away on Ninth—no corkage fee unless you’re drinking bottle after bottle. Liquor license is in the works, but because there’s a school across the street, booze sales may be limited to certain hours. Location is removed enough from the aggravation of Times Square but not so far to be inconvenient. The post-curtain crowd was a bit young (must be the prices!); sit near the front for the best acoustics.

Oh! And 10% off your bill if you pay with cash.

SNL ladies dish about being in comedy, in love—and also, in labor

24 Jan

(This cover grosses me out a little.)

I may be the last person on Earth to have picked up Tina Fey’s Bossypants, a quick, enjoyable read with plenty of sarcasm and self-deprecation. To fully appreciate it, it helps to know a bit about SNL, 30 Rock and/or NYC. (It is also useful to know who Alec Baldwin is. Oh, and some lady named Sarah Palin.) But lest you think it is merely about Tina’s ascent to TV success, there are also some endearing chapters about her don’t-eff-with-me dad, her honeymoon on a cruise ship that almost went up in flames and her completely justifiable annoyances with Teat Nazis. Published in April 2011, it’s still on the NYT Best Seller list.

(This cover is just a little weird.)

Now her compatriot in comedy Rachel Dratch is coming out with her own book. On sale in late April, Girl Walks into a Bar… Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters and a Midlife Miracle may have been inspired by Tina Fey’s memoir just a little.  If you didn’t know, both women got their start doing improv in Chicago before making their way to SNL (along with Amy Poehler, who apparently has no plans for a tell-all book). But Rachel’s chapters detail her dream of becoming an actor, her bad luck with dating and her ultimate acceptance of never becoming a mom … right around the time she gets unexpectedly pregnant. At 43. By a guy who lives across the country with whom she’s in the early stages of a “long-distance, fun, casual, not-defined relationship.” You may guess there was a bit more cursing in this book. It made me laugh out loud. (I’m immature.)

Just two good reads by successful women in the male-dominated field of comedy peppered with reflections on life and motherhood.

Ridiculously cheap theater, no catch

4 Nov

If you’re under 35, there are two programs that offer cheap theater tickets to great shows, even on Broadway. FREE to sign up. No rush, no lottery, no camping out overnight—reserve your seats in advance like a real person.

  1. Hiptix: $20 for any show by the Roundabout Theatre Company—even Anything Goes. Bonus: Occasional post-show parties with snacks/drinks.
  2. LincTix: $30 for Lincoln Center Theater shows, including War Horse.
    Plus: An offshoot of LCT, shows at LCT3 feature the work of new playwrights, directors and designers. Tickets are always $20—for all ages.

Photo courtesy of flickr/MARCZERO1980.

Frank Langella on Broadway in Man and Boy

12 Oct

Man and Boy: What a show! First, Frank Langella is amazing. It is such a treat to see this guy’s complex intensity live. And the story is strikingly relevant to today’s times, despite being written by Terence Rattigan in 1963. Set during the Depression, the play features Langella as a finance mogul dad who heads to his estranged son’s apartment for refuge when word gets out that he’s at the center of a Ponzi scheme that will cause economic collapse. Can you say Bernie Madoff? Yet I still managed to feel bad for the guy (only a little). For his son, though, I cried.

Photo: Roundabout Theatre Company

Fit for Foodies! New spot near Times Square

28 Jun

Not all of us can dine at Esca. But across the street on that same corner of 43rd and Ninth is the slightly more affordable but very new and innovative Elsewhere. Open and airy (acoustics a bit loud when full), this place is a magical addition to the area. Try The Sound cocktail, made with vodka from Long Island, mezcal, pink peppercorn syrup and lime juice. In fact, the bar is only stocked with artisanal spirits—no big brands. Munch on Bacon Butter Popcorn while checking out the menu of seasonal ingredients from local farms. (Or maybe opt for the Lavender-Rosemary Popcorn; you might reach maximum butter capacity from the Biscuits with Brown Butter and Crushed Black Pepper.)

Entrees are similarly special: I had Pan-Seared Tilefish with Sauteed Swiss Chard and Rhubarb Buerre Blanc. And a 5-Spoke Tumbleweed (it’s a cheese, dummy!) Poutine. While a $14 side seemed a bit ridiculous, it was the only exorbitantly priced thing on the menu—and it came on a huge plate. For dessert: the not overly sweet and pretty much perfect Chocolate Bourbon Icebox Cake with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream.

You can eat well near Times Square!

You can make a reservation!

You can enjoy pleasant, knowledgeable servers!

You can go on a MONDAY when the already reasonably priced wine list is half off!

Menus here.

On Broadway: Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart

25 May

Sometimes you see a show on Broadway and think: This is why I live in NYC. This is why I go to the theater. And this is why art is great. That’s how I feel about The Normal Heart.

Set in 1980s NYC as the AIDS crisis is beginning to unfold, this revival is intense and upsetting. It is political, emotional, sexual. Ellen Barkin and Joe Mantello give particularly fierce performances, but the entire cast is great. What’s most impressive is how the play still feels relevant, even though the face of AIDS has changed. Unlike How to Succeed in Business..., which seemed antiquated in parts, Normal taps into feelings of frustration, lack of cooperation and resentment that can also be applied to other modern-day unsung causes. It is both rewarding and maddening to watch the characters spin their wheels without hope—fighting the mayor, the president and each other—as the epidemic spins out of control.

Be moved for $20

22 Feb

Last week I was lucky to catch When I Come to Die, the latest play from Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3 group. Connecting new artists with new audiences, LCT3 serves up quality theater for $20—that’s only $7 more than a movie.

When I Come to Die is a somber look at life and friendship on death row, as Damon Robinson (played by Chris Chalk of Fences) explores why he survived a lethal injection.

Photographed by Erin Baiano at The Duke on 42nd Street