I was in a sour mood last Thursday, sour like a lemon sour. It was cold and grey and miserable, then it warmed up enough to go straight from cold to unbearably muggy. It rained in the morning, right when I had to go out, and my hair went frizzy and messy. It was one of those days.
H1 and I had decided before he left for work that we'd go to the movies that night, after grabbing a quick dinner of sushi or something similar. Various unexpected delays, and a quick reading of the situation by my clever husband, led to the decision to forgo the movie and just head to dinner. But where?
We're not exactly short of dining options in our area, and despite enthusiastically trying a wide range out over the last nearly two years, we've hardly scratched the surface. For some reason, though, picking somewhere to have dinner on Thursday night proved to be troublesome. As we wandered the streets, discussing ideas and stopping to check menus at likely-looking places, I caught H1 up on the events of my day.
"I went to the doctor and that was fine..." I said as we crossed Third Avenue.
"My hair was great this morning and now it's awful because the rain messed it up..." as he frowned at a restaurant's description of their terrines.
"There were crazy people* everywhere today..."
He turned to me and smiled patiently at this point. "Rough day?"
I nodded sullenly, and he echoed my nod gravely. "Where do you want to eat?"
"Cask," I announced.
"Okay," H1 agreed. "We'll go to Cask."
Cask is one of our neighborhood favorites, a local so good we will return to it when we move out of this neighborhood. It's not expensive, but not cheap, and usually we'd save it for a night that wasn't a school night, and a time when H1 wasn't in training for a big cycle race, and cut loose a bit more than we usually do on a Thursday.
We were at Park by this stage, so we turned around and started to trek back down to Third. At Lex, H1 paused and looked north.
"We're only one block away from Penelope," he pointed out. "Do they do dinner?"
Penelope is another favorite, but one to which we've only ever been for brunch before. Inside, it's a cozy pale blue, with mismatched plates and glasses, and wooden tables with flowers painted on them. They make the best waffles ever, and all manner of crazy-inventive breakfasts, and because there's always a queue, they dole out unlimited coffee while you wait on the bench outside. It's also ridiculously cheap. There is not a bad word to be said about Penelope, and I would argue with anyone who tried until they gave in and agreed with me.
I was pretty sure they did, so we went to check, and sure enough. Not only did they do dinner, but they offered all sorts of amazing sounding things that H1 and I wanted to eat. I don't even remember us reaching a consensus - we just walked in and procured a table, as if by magical food telepathy**.
My day went solidly uphill from there, and thanks to the total deliciousness of my brie and apple sandwich and green salad, H1 even got to share some details of his. He ate a salad (aforementioned training - he's not really a salad person, usually) but it contained chicken and dried fruit and toasted coconut, and was warm, so he was happy - more than happy, really. I was too - time with my husband and a sandwich containing two of my favorite foods and more Dijon mustard than any sane person would really enjoy***?
We didn't drink anything but water, H1 because he's in training, me because discovering a new wine or enjoying an old favorite is not nearly as good when you're not sharing the experience, and we didn't eat dessert, because it was Thursday. In some places, ordering two mains and one side, with no drinks or dessert, would lead to lesser service. Not here. The service was perfect from sitting down to receiving and paying the piddly little bill.
I would recommend Penelope to all and sundry, but the queues are quite long enough as it is. All the same, it's a neighborhood favorite that nobody should be without, so if you happen across it, go. For those who don't live in Murray Hill, if you haven't found your Penelope yet, go looking and don't rest until you do so. Open your own if you need to. It's that good.
*This sounds kind of mean, but it's true. New York has more than its fair share of crazies, and they all come out the second it starts warming up. I don't know where they go over winter - Florida? The Bahamas? - but once the temperature hits 12°C or so, it's all on for another season.
**About the only mystical thing I could even begin to consider taking seriously.
***Any sane person but me! I could eat mustard by the spoonful. Somehow the waiter sensed that (magical food telepathy?) and my sandwich was mustardy enough to hurt my nose occasionally - i.e. perfect.