Super-Size Me:
A Review of the Restaurant Plus

by Tony Phillips

Who knows if we have Peter Paul Reubens, Patient Zero or the Swanson’s Hungry Man to thank for it, but sometimes bigger really is better. Don’t get me wrong, when I was young, and generally more fun, I loved nothing more than visiting the Zagat’s of the moment and making too many trips to the bathroom while barely touching the food. But I’m older and wider now, and I have to confess I loved the heaping portions served up at the new Chelsea eatery Plus.

Waiting at the bar for my date, a rabid and notoriously late Fashionista, provided a moment to drink in the ambience of the place. And the various shades of gray were almost enough to bring on an attack of lead poisoning. This is not a chick bar, and even if all of the giant, flat-screen monitors were switched from ESPN to Beaches, it still wouldn’t be a chick bar. That’s not a complaint. With its hanging, silver bead partitions, fresh-cut flowers and dark slate floors, Plus looks like Cher installed a Sanctuary catalog showroom on the Upper West Side.

I’d already sucked down two $12 grape jolly ranchers — the décor may be manly, but with offerings like Angel’s Kiss, Sex in the City and The Miz, the martini menu is all woman — by the time my date arrived. We were seated in a comfy banquette in the front of the house affording prime views of the many couples racking them up on the top floor of the duplex pool hall Slate. We could have done without the accompanying FM hip-hop necessary to the game, but these swarthy pool room hustlers and the breast-augmented babes who love them provided people-watching you just don’t get in other restaurants.

Our appetizers arrived with a flourish. My crispy fried calamari ($9) came Belgian style wrapped in a wax paper cone with bits of fried zucchini thrown in for good measure and two types of sauce, a mayo and chunky, hot tomato, for dipping. The calamari was tender, not chewy, but soon the unique holder began to poop out a long stream of unappetizing, gelatinous grease. “Oh well,” my Fashionista shrugged, “on me, not in me” as she continued to plow through her generous serving of tangy lollipop chicken wings ($9).

Fashionista was able to keep it real and keep it Atkins with the double pork chop ($14). Our friendly waitress, hopped up on way too much caffeine (Plus doesn’t serve decaf), not only entertained the necessary switching and substituting for the carb-phobic, but was able to chat at length about the almost limitless swapping that would keep my pal carb free. I kept it simple with Plus’ signature cheeseburger ($10) that was a bit disappointing with a single slice of pickle, red onion and anemic tomato served on a cold onion roll with white American cheese — the orange variety — broiled on top, but the vanilla milkshake ($5), whipped up thick in a clear glass so we could see tiny black flecks of vanilla bean floating more than made up for the pedestrian burger.

We both needed take-away containers if we were going to have room for desert. Returning with two piping hot regular coffees, we had to remind our overly-caffeinated waitress that some people prefer coffee with cream and sugar — Plus isn’t real big on condiments — she shot us a puzzled look, but dutifully returned with cream and a sugar bowl measly with three packs of raw sugar and no Splenda. Fashionista saved the day by fishing a few yellow packets out of her purse.

The deserts themselves were hardly worth the wait. Fashionista decided to blow her program with a flavorless slab of what was billed as Jenny’s cheesecake ($5). I don’t know who Jenny is, but someone needs to introduce her to cream cheese and vanilla, pronto. I had an ice cream strawberry shortcake ($5) that consisted of a large helping of strawberry ice cream mashed between what Fashionista insisted were two English muffins. It should be noted that she abhors any type of bread, but Plus’ idea of shortbread wouldn’t have been out of place on any breakfast table. Both deserts were inexplicably garnished with red grapes.

After desert, Fashionista and I kicked back, curious about this new, post-New York meal feeling. “We’re full,” I marveled, “we don’t have to stop for pizza on the way home!” She nodded silently, probably tallying pizza carbs in her head. “Then what do you want to do?” she asked like something out of Marty. “How about we rack ‘em up?” I replied and Fashionista began tugging up the corners of her lace-up bustier contraption. “Not those,” I laughed, “let’s shoot some pool.” If she wasn’t a girl, I would have punched her in the arm.