It's been a barren few months for my poor old blog, but after the shock of having written a bonafide blog post last week had worn off, I thought I would try and make an effort, and keep it up. Truth is, and strange enough to say, after nearly four years of blogging, it's started to feel like a real slog. Hard work, little gain, and recently, my real life has just demanded that little more of me. I think of the blogs I used to love reading, like American in London and World Foodie guide, and see how their life has simply taken precedence, and while I miss them and can finally understand why they stepped away. I don't think it's quite Game Over for me yet, but it's strangely satisfying to admit that I came pretty close.
Now that I got that out of the way, let's talk about Rita's, because in short, this is one of those places which always seem to make me happy. Set in the heart of Dalston (for now at least, I believe that the premises are temporary until they find their own place), it may come as a surprise to some the effort I made to get there. Now most people who know me are probably accustomed to my rather outspoken view of the East of London. In a nutshell, I have never been too fond of it but have definitely grown to tolerate the area, particularly fuelled by it's rather excellent array of bars. But Dalston, it's just so so far away. All that said, I like the venue. I like the classroom-like desks and chairs, the little strips of neon light giving the room colour and the overall clean and simple urban feel of the place. Young, old, hipster, city boy, all packed into one room. You won't find a more eclectic clientele in London.
The food too, it's great. The theme is America with splashes of the rest of the world, and somehow, it really works. Best in class are the items closest resembling burgers. The patty melt is uncomplicated and pretty awesome. Take a smashed patty covered with slow cooked onions and cheese, squeeze it all between two excellent slices of carraway seeded bread and chuck the thing into a sandwich toaster. The most filthy pimped out cheese toastie I have ever had, and I loved every second.
Better still is their chicken burger. Served in a paper bag (which I still don't really get), it is everything you could possibly want from a chicken burger. The chicken is crisp and succulent, the bun has that slightly stick-to-your-mouth texture which really appeals to me and is slicked with ample mayo and lettuce. I have no idea what spices they put into this thing, but it might as well be fairy dust as the minute you open the bag, poof, the burger disappears within a matter of moments. Magic.
I could go into every item of the menu I have tried and loved, but you would probably get very bored. So to summarise the rest of the must eats, you really need to give the soy and ginger hot wings a bash, as well as the comforting green chilli mac and cheese. The wings were a new discovery as they never really appealed. I'm not particularly enamoured with ginger and wings are fiddly little things. I would much rather just eat another one of their chicken burgers instead. On my last visit however, I was surrounded by tables ordering wings, and being the sheep that I am, I had to order them for myself and my god they were good. Sticky, hot and so moreish, led by sweet soy and backed up by subtle ginger and chilli. The green chilli mac n cheese is an excellent accompaniment, being a good rendition of the faithful American classic, lifted by a punchy green chilli salsa.
There are always interesting specials on the menu, so I highly recommend keeping your eyes out for them. Varying from lamb ribs to things like ox heart tacos, I've never had a dish I didn't enjoy. The thing is with Rita's, there's something about it which is just so damn likeable. It might be the fact that I am normally a couple frozen margaritas deep by the time I eat (which are equally potent and delicious), or it might be the fact that the food is great with prices which are incredibly reasonable. Whatever it is, it has managed to achieve the impossible as I appear to have a constant hankering to head back to the East. Quite amazing what effect good food can have on me.
Rita's Bar and Dining @ Birthdays - 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8BJ
I love your blog and hope you carry on with it as I always use your restaurant reviews when I want to book somewhere in town!
Don't leave us EuWen!
I thought Rita's was okay when I visited; the patty melt was nice, and the ox heart tacos but the chicken burger was a little dry and the room was filled with smoke making it pretty hard to see anything. It sounds like I might have visited on an off day though.
Alway enjoy what you have to say so hope you don't bail. I'm not a blogger but was interested in your observations re: blogging. I saw that recent tweet from World Foodie Guide Helen (I came across her blog the day after she stopped!) and was slightly bemused when Pim launched her mega-site and then apparently gave up (ok segued neatly into bespoke jam making). I guess it's an amateurs game (in the best sense) so life does catch up. But hopefully that keeps it fresh as you can take a break or others get on board with a different take/ more time/ recent redundancy ; ) etc. - Christ, listen to that "new" Rolling Stones single and you think stop you bastards let others have a go. Anyway, this deeply discounted Aussie red I'm supping is clouding my judgement. Got to go. But one last thing - those wings look amazing and you are not just 'unusual', you are a 'freak' of a Chinaman for not preferring their on the bone awesomeness. Random fact (from co-owner of Orange Buffalo in Truman Brewery) - w/e clientele are > 70% Chinese. Looking forward to your posts.
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