When U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm was arrested on federal criminal charges Monday, it was not questionable campaign finances that did him in, nor his televised threats against an NY1 reporter, but alleged tax evasion at Healthalicious, a small Upper East Side restaurant the congressman operated for a time before taking office.
With such an inauspicious eatery at the center of a tawdry national news story, I couldn’t help but wonder: how’s the food?
I’m a little ashamed to admit that initially, I was hoping the answer was “very bad.” After a long history of prickish behavior from Grimm, the schadenfreude of his downfall has been spectacular, and a plateful of steaming, unpalatable dreck at the restaurant where he’s accused of hiding more than a million dollars from the government would have been the sesame dressing on the proverbial kale salad — or whatever it is they serve at places with names like “Healthalicious.”
The restaurant is small, with five tables, counter service, and sanitary, utilitarian decor. When I arrived at 1594 Second Avenue at around 7PM, “Sweet Home Alabama” was on the stereo, and two other customers’ sat waiting for their food.
Scanning the menu, with an eye towards proving the culinary douchiness of an establishment Grimm isn’t even involved with anymore, I found “Gym Plates,” a section featuring items with names like “Hard Core,” “The Muscle Maker,” and “The Body Toner.” I settled on “Get Ripped” — seared tilapia over cauliflower purée with a side of broccoli and lemon-caper dressing — and organic ginger-peach tea to drink.
The food arrived looking aggressively bland — a gray iceberg of fish in a foreboding sea of creamy whiteness, with a few unseasoned vegetables thrown in for some color. The tea, at least, was refreshing, so that anything unsavory could be easily washed down and forgotten.
My first bite of tilapia was a minor revelation. “Seared” was probably overselling it, but the skin was crispy and flavor, and the meat inside wasn’t at all dried-out like I was expecting. The cauliflower purée was richer than anything made of vegetables has any right to be — I’m not convinced it wasn’t loaded with butter — and the steamed broccoli, was, well, steamed broccoli. Nothing to get excited over, but to its credit, it wasn’t overcooked.
The employee I spoke to, who was friendly and helpful before and after I told him I was a reporter, said he had never heard of Grimm before reporters came knocking down the door this week. Now, he said, a company called NTE Management owns the place. There’s scant mention of NTE online, though a company of that name was incorporated in New York City last year.
Would I recommend Healthalicious to a friend? Probably not, but not because of any grand moral failure. It’s just too expensive. My food came to $9.79 — a fair price had it been delivered to me on a plate with actual silverware, but too much to pay for plastic-fork counter service at a place with a concrete floor and classic rock on the radio.
(Photos: Andy Cush/ANIMALNewYork)