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Quality Eats is a wildly successful mini-steakhouse run by Michael Stillman through his family's Fourth Wall Restaurants group on Greenwich Ave. near 10th St. in the Village. It's meant to be a cheaper and more youthful version of the group's also-wildly-successful Quality Meats uptown.

So they got a chef from the Brooklyn-based Frankies group, they kept the size of the place small, and, by serving cheaper cuts in smaller portions, they kept prices down: no steak costs more than (or even as much as) $30.

Now, if the food here were good, this place would occasion an interesting Adrian-style write-up on the importance of style and culture in the dining experience. Since the food wasn't good, however -- so I didn't have to beat myself up for not liking the place despite the food and the prices -- that discussion will be an endnote that will end up seeming both snobby and churlish.

The food is really a pity. The problem, I think, is that they go too far in trying to pump it up, so that this won't be "your father's steakhouse." An appetizer of sausage-and-pepper toast suffered from the use of too-hot peppers, which took over the dish. If you ordered sausage with hot peppers at any Ital-Amer place, the peppers would never be this hot (so you'd be able to taste the sausage). Here, an apparent attempt at macho cuisine resulted in a serious imbalance.

The creamed-spinach hushpuppies I had with my steak were, to put it simply, disgusting. Well, this is a serious foodboard, so I should have some other adjectives: gooky, greasy, starchy. Now you might say that a dish like this couldn't work -- but only a few days ago I had eaten heavenly arancini at Franny's, deep-fried starch with dairy fat inside at its finest.

Finally, I had the next-to-cheapest cut of steak, the Flat Iron. Nothing wrong with the meat. But, hey guys, WAY too much salt. Again, they seem to need to pump everything up here.

NOW, the cultural commentary. As has frequently been stated, the Village has gone from being the coolest neighborhood in Manhattan to being the below-14th St. extension of Murray Hill. I couldn't help but compare the staff and crowd at this restaurant with those at St. Anselm in Williamsburg. You might accuse the St. Anselm crowd (both staff and customers) of being pretentious and even a bit twee -- but at least they seem serious, knowledgeable, and non-douchey. Everybody at Quality Eats, OTOH, was just so straight.

As I was awaiting my food, I thought about how I would evaluate a place that seemed to be a great deal, but just wasn't to my personal taste in its non-food elements. As it turned out, that problem was never presented to me.

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Quality Eats is a wildly successful mini-steakhouse run by Michael Stillman through his family's Fourth Wall Restaurants group on Greenwich Ave. near 10th St. in the Village.

 

An odd thing just occurred to me. If you ask someone [familiar with the industry] to name NYC's most successful restaurateurs, the name Michael Stillman doesn't spring to mind. And yet, he has done rather well for himself.

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My thoughts about Quality Italian uptown. I think it's directed at the less discerning business traveler.

 

You know, there are a ton of restaurants in midtown that do quite well, but get zero foodie press. It isn't just out-of-towners patronizing them.

 

I visit these restaurants sometimes, because I work in midtown, and they are convenient. It becomes quickly apparent from the bar conversation, that a lot of their clientele consists of people who work in the area.

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Yes, that's definitely true. I think there's a lot of people who like the atmosphere and like food with big, bold flavors. Also, I think that what I consider to be over-cooked for fish, pasta, pork, etc., is perfectly acceptable for most people.

My family really enjoyed Quality Italian.

 

I find that I want something subtler at places (and prices) like that.

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To corroborate Sneak's take, I ate here a couple months with 5 other people aged 24-30. I had the Don Ameche, which is a sliced filet that comes with two pieces of toast smeared with chicken liver and caramelized onions. The filet was fine -- kind of tasteless, but cooked well. The two pieces of toast, however, had been left to sit too long after they were taken off heat, so they were hard as a rock, and the chicken liver covering them was nearly frozen. We shared the PB&J Bacon as an appetizer, which, if not great, was at least interesting.

 

My friends, however, loved everything they ate. Everything hits hard on sweet/salt/fat, and it's a fun atmosphere, and it's relatively inexpensive as far as "steakhouses" go. Which explains why it is incredibly popular with my generation.

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I had the flatiron steak, salted correctly, a few months back -- it (just the steak, cooked to temperature) was the highlight of an uneven meal. That corn brulee however, has no business being near beef. Too sweet, and mine was served nearly cold. Agree with sweatshorts about appealing to the lowest common denominator with excessive salt/sweet/fat elements.

 

What I will give them credit for is their interesting wine service. Someone else with a better handle on grapes can tell me if they're selling plonk, but I liked these mini-carafes, basically three 6-8oz pours of your choice:

 

Wine Stack – Stack a Bottle
Select Three for $40

stack.png

White

Gruner Veltliner, Hermann Moser "Per Due" 2014 Kremstal, Austria

Sauvignon Blanc, Chateau Haut Selve Blanc 2013 Graves, France

Ribolla Gialla, Forchir 2013 Fruilli, Italy

Rose

Cinsault Blend, Le Caprice de Clementine 2014 Provence, France

Red

Nebbiolo Blend, Gia "Langhe Rosso" 2014 Piedmont, Italy

Merlot, Bodegas Chacra “Amor Seco" 2014 Patagonia, Argentina

Nero d'Avola, Cento Cavalli 2013 Sicily, Italy

Red Blend, Dow's" Duoro Vale do Bomfim" 2013 Duoro, Portugal

Cabernet Sauvignon, Recanati Reserve “David Vineyard” 2013 Galilee, Israel

Tempranillo, Condado de Haza 2012 Ribera del Duero, Spain

Tannat, Chateau Peyros “Vieilles Vignes" 2009 Madiran, France

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Someone else with a better handle on grapes can tell me if they're selling plonk, but I liked these mini-carafes, basically three 6-8oz pours of your choice...

I would be pretty happy to be offered a list like that.

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You know, there are a ton of restaurants in midtown that do quite well, but get zero foodie press. It isn't just out-of-towners patronizing them.

 

I visit these restaurants sometimes, because I work in midtown, and they are convenient. It becomes quickly apparent from the bar conversation, that a lot of their clientele consists of people who work in the area.

Most people can't tell the difference between truly good food and adequate food. If a restaurant looks right, has good service, and an unchallenging menu with familiar dishes it will often be a success. If the world was filled with people like the ones on this site (a frightening thought - multiple Chambolles on the loose) those restaurants would go belly up.

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Most people can't tell the difference between truly good food and adequate food.

I will be a little bit more charitable. Most people do not feel that they need to have "truly good food" at every meal out, and will allow their dining decision, at times, to be guided by other criteria.

 

We had many versions of this discussion when Ssäm Bar was at its apex. You could recognize that Chang was doing great stuff, but still choose not to go there very much, because of the location, the lines to get in, the uncomfortable stools, etc., etc.

 

If a restaurant looks right, has good service, and an unchallenging menu with familiar dishes it will often be a success. If the world was filled with people like the ones on this site (a frightening thought - multiple Chambolles on the loose) those restaurants would go belly up.

 

People like us are highly atypical.

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My thoughts about Quality Italian uptown. I think it's directed at the less discerning business traveler.

You know, there are a ton of restaurants in midtown that do quite well, but get zero foodie press. It isn't just out-of-towners patronizing them.

 

I visit these restaurants sometimes, because I work in midtown, and they are convenient. It becomes quickly apparent from the bar conversation, that a lot of their clientele consists of people who work in the area.

Yes, you're right of course; just as New Yorkers do go out in midtown in the evening (hard though some find that to believe).

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I think you guys are wrong on Quality Italian, but it's mostly because you don't value the same things as the folks eating there. For group dining, Quality Italian is better than 90% of what's out there in NYC. As someone who constantly has to book large group meals, it is very very helpful to have Fourth Wall Restaurants and they're incredibly popular with clients and coworkers. They also have an excellent wine program with a lot of value, plenty of interesting stuff and lots to satisfy people with boring palates.

 

The food at Quality Eats, I agree, is inexplicably bad. I think it's WELL below the rest of their restaurants in the group. Very disappointing for me because it would have a lot of utility a few blocks away.

 

*Notes: Mike Stillman is a friend from college. Fourth Wall is really Alan Stillman's group and though he's mostly retired I think over the years he's gotten QUITE a lot of street cred. In the past decade Fourth Wall has closed quite a few restaurants restaurants as they've opened, so even though their Avroko mass high end seems like a spot on formula, that only works if you ignore Maloney and Porcelli, Hurricane Club, General Assembly, Park Avenue Cafe, etc.

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