Lunchtime With Tillie: Pilar

Can you believe it? Scooped by The New York Times!

Hey everyone, it's Van and Tillie, and this time the Lunchtime With Tillie Express stopped off at Cuban restaurant Pilar, located on Classon Avenue, the day after the place just hit the big time with its review in The New York Times' Dining section.

I thought T and I would have been the first major players to write up the place, but I guess if we have to come in second to someone it might as well be the Times!

Pilar worked out as a logical choice for us to go because I was dropping Tillie off for a couple of hours at one of her little chum's house, who only lives a block or two down from the place. Then I was off to get some daddy time (or rather, hit-the-computer-and-look-for-freelance-work time).

Before going there, I had a pretty good idea of what we were going to eat: I was going to get the quarter-chicken, black beans and rice lunch special and Tillie would have one of whatever empanada they had. (And maybe an extra empanada would make its way into the mix for the big guy!)

But in looking at the glass casing where the food was, said empanadas were nowhere to be found. I asked the owner of the place who was behind the counter were they out and he confirmed my worries. Empanadas had been pretty hard to come by after the Times article and by the time we got there later in the day, they were way gone, so there went that part of the lunch plan for Tillie—and me, too. I had them before, but she was going to be missing out.

Luckily, there was a ton of other options to choose from scrawled on the black board. One thing, in particular, caught my eye: a soup with chickpeas, bacon and potatoes. I wasn't sure if Tillie was that big a chickpea eater: She's eaten falafel before and hummus, too, but I didn't think she had them in there whole form. It sounded good, though, and if she didn't like it, I'd give her some black beans and rice.

So after placing our order, that's when we hit a big snag: where to sit. Plenty of spaces were available, but there was no high chair. I didn't have too many worries when it came to that; I figured I could just feed Tillie with her sitting in the stroller. But the only seats available were the tall chairs that they have for the high tables or ones outside with no table. I went for the high seat and got settled in.

The food arrived within five minutes: a steaming bowl of soup with a big plate of the chicken, black beans and rice. I was quite curious about the soup, so I took a bite first. It was loaded with chickpeas, big chunks of bacon and potatoes, and was tasty—even though it didn't burst with flavor like I thought it would. After I had a bite, I was put to the test with trying to figure out how to feed Tillie from my elevated position. I didn't want to keep getting out of my seat for every bite, so I reached down with another hand under the spoon and gave her her first taste. She took to it right away, which definitely impressed me. It was a long time ago, but I know I wasn't eating chickpea soup at 17 months!

So after giving her a few bites, I was able to start eating my food. I know it may be a basic meal, but I really love the chicken, black beans and rice combo, and Pilar's doesn't disappoint. The chicken was nice and juicy and the beans were flavorful. And since I was dipping into Tillie's soup, I figured I'd reciprocate and give her some beans and rice, which worked out good for her.

I didn't think we'd do it, but we managed to get through all that food, save a chickpea or 12. And there were no major spills to report, despite the precarious position I was feeding her from!

I went to the counter to pay, then thought, "You know what would make a tasty treat for Tillie? Some good-ol' plantains!" I asked for some, but they were out at the moment. They told me it would just take a couple of minutes to prepare some more, though. I really appreciated that because it wasn't that big a deal for her to have some. And they were right, it did take a really short time. I can't really report on how Tillie enjoyed the fresh, hot plantains because we got them to go for her to bring over to her pal's house. After that, we took off for Tillie's playdate.

The bill was reasonable, I felt, at $15—and that was for a lot of food. The people working there were extremely nice, which just adds to the highlights of the place, and the food was more than satisfying—both taste- and filling-wise. However, the seating sitch was kind of tricky. The owner told me he needed to get a high chair. Until then, we'll probably get our food to go—and get there earlier for empanadas!