It takes too long to get into Caracas, the arepas restaurant in the East Village. And when I went there last night, to wait outside for an hour, someone had planted her toddlers directly in front of the door so they could color on the ground with chalk. No, I guess that's fair though, because a baby has to color.
We went to Westville East instead, the eclectic American/soul food/salad food restaurant on 11th and Avenue A. It's a little white box of a restaurant, with big windows and tiny, tiny waitresses. I broke my vow of never drinking Coors Light (which I made a few years ago because of their insipid men-are-idiot-clowns-and-women-are-their-toys ads) because those recent commercials about how the Coors Light bottle turns blue when it's cold have changed my mind. Seriously. I really like that. And because the special at Westville East last night was a Coors Light bottle for $3. Which is a pretty shitty deal anyway. (Other drinks were in the $5-$10 range.)
The various burgers are delicious, or so I'm told, and so it seemed when I saw the burger platters being carried from the kitchen. Instead, I had a giant salad of roasted, candied walnuts, parmigiano reggiano, arugula, watercress, pears and lemon vinagrette ($9) and a side of sweet potato fries ($5 by itself, or if I had wanted 3 additional sides from the giant "market" section of the menu--lots of vaguely gourmet fresh veggie concoctions--all four would have been only $14). My brother had the grilled salmon with dill pesto sauce ($13) and a cranberry oatmeal cookie with a vanilla frosting filling ($3), and my friend got the grilled chicken ($13). Both said their meals were terrific, and I ate the end of my brother's dish and agree that it was. Their corn on the cob with lime, cumin and cotija cheese (pictured) is $5 for two ears and delicious. But I think it's impossible to combine those ingredients to any other effect.
Westville East (and Westville West, in, yes, the West Village) is a decently priced, tasty and airy option if the more popular cheapish spots (Momofuku, Caracas, Cafe Mogador, the other Momofuku) are too packed. Be warned, though, that it's not a sure bet--it does get crowded later in the evening. As does everywhere slightly above average in the East Village, in case you've never been to the East Village.
173 Avenue A, at E 11th St