Wednesday, September 7, 2011
M. Wells, Queens’ Quebeco-American Diner, To Close
All’s well at M. Wells, but only for another few weeks.
M. Wells, the Long Island City diner headed by Montreal’s Au Pied de Cochon alum Hugue Dufour and partner Sarah Obraitis, is closing at the end of the month after only being in business for a year! My friend Christa and I braved torrential rains with a sense of urgency to get there before the final meal is served.
Housed in an old-fashioned diner car complete with a chrome exterior, M. Wells is an art deco, Quebeco-American, culinary conundrum. With booth seating and stools lining a counter, menu boards on the wall and antique soda siphons, you assume you’re at a soda fountain/french fries kind of place. Look more closely though, and those menu boards offer crazy things–a Ramos Tecate Fizz and Tripe Jello Shots, which have to be the most disgusting things I could imagine. The waiter assures me that everything up there is a joke. I’m a little disappointed, for the fois gras maple syrup sounded like something I’d order. This is no ordinary diner. Dufour’s food has been called the most innovative thing to happen to NY’s culinary scene this year. “Exciting and fearless” have been used to describe the restaurant and the food it puts out.
Knowing ahead of time that our Tuesday lunch would be a rich and indulgent one, since anyone from the Montreal mecca wouldn’t have anything less, I ate only a small bowl of cereal in the morning to be ready. I was starving, in the true Chris Farley SNL skit fashion, when I arrived. The restaurant was full, with a wait, at 2pm on a Tuesday. It’s good to know that a good, long weekday lunch still exists in our modern workweek. That, or everyone there was like me, reporting to work at another restaurant in a few hours.
I perused the menu while waiting, watching plates leave the kitchen and arrive to couples and groups eagerly waiting. I saw something with bonito flakes, bone marrow with escargot- bones split the long way, and lots and lots of fois gras. I saw two men order a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape. For a Tuesday lunch at a diner. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, that sounds lovely.
We watched the host jury rig a table that was just inches from being in the actual doorway, pushing whole groups of people at the communal table over a few inches, sorry folks, a few inches more. Fearful that his careful orchestration was going to result in our seat being in the doorway, we watched, knowing our fate. Of course, he turns, gestures, and welcomes us to sit. Oh well.
This menu is rich. There are porterhouses and ribs on one side, breakfast hotdogs and béchamel on the other. There is fois gras on both sides. We ask the cute-as-a-button server for guidance. We order his favorite salad- farm fresh greens with blue cheese, spicy, candied walnuts and green apple slices- but diverge from his plan for the next two plates. To the dismay of cardiologists everywhere, we ordered a fois gras grilled cheese and the breakfast hotdog. Because what is a breakfast hotdog? Honestly. It is actually two hotdogs, a grilled, buttery bun, a fried egg, cheesy béchamel sauce and roasted tomatillo salsa. Good lord. We cut through this meal with what ended up being a whole bottle of crisp French rosé.
It was delicious. It was gratuitous. It was a once in a lifetime? No way, they have another location all picked out; they’ll start a build out once August ends. They only had a year long lease at this location, so when the landlord raised the rent too high, they decided to go. But, bide your time New Yorkers, Dufour and Obraitis will continue their quest to bring the richness and customary foods of Quebec to Long Island City for us to enjoy.
You have one week to get there:
21-17 49th Avenue Long Island City, NY 11101
Brunch 10-4 Tuesday through Sunday
Dinner 6-11 Tuesday through Thursday