Valley Queen

Pillow Queens is the best new band I've heard in a while. They're from Dublin and play passionate, literate, grungy shoegazey alt rock, and their lead singer Sarah Corcoran sings with this barmbrack-thick Irish broogue that makes her one of the most distinctive lead singers you'll hear.

When I first listened to Valley Queen, I was perplexed. The band played a little looser, a little lighter, and something closer to Laurel Canyon classic rock rather than amp-blistering alt rock—but if you told me I was listening to an earlier Pillow Queens album, I would've believed you. The singer emotes with the same exact cadence, similar melodic tendencies, and that same distinctive Dublin accent. Uncanny.

Well obviously they must also be from Ireland, and simply share that same natural manner of singing? No! Valley Queen is from Los Angeles! Their singer was born and bred there! She went to college at Loyola Marymount! Why the fuck is she singing like her parents spent their youth on the run from the IRA?? What is going on??

I have no answers. I've looked into it, and the only thing that I can say is that she's cited The Cranberries as an influence, and I imagine both she and the members of Pillow Queens have done well to ingest some of Dolores O'Riordan's stylings into their arsenal. But when you sit and listen to the Cranberries, you hear a lot of different colorings from Dolores that never made their way to Pillow Queens or valley Queen, it's mostly just the accent. But still, that's all I've got. And I have to admit it's pretty fucking annoying to think about someone from LA singing with such an intensely put-on affectation. I'd say it makes me like the band less, but honestly I still think they're pretty good and the album is pretty enjoyable.

Furthermore: Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Pillow Queens! Valley Queen! Do you see it? Do you see it?

Anyway. This particular Valley Queens record is from like 2016, and I've listened to a couple of their newer songs, and it sounds like they've toned down the fake Irish thing. If anything, she's singing with an equally put-on indie girl quirk, which is maybe even more annoying.

Leo's LatticiniQueens
Italian hoagie

If I posted about Leo's Latticini before, I was wrong. Last time around, whatever sandwich I had struck me as very average. This time I was totally wowed. Truly one of the best sandwiches around.

Two Wheels Manhattan
Pho, chicken wings

Totally decent pho. Some of the best wings I've had in New York.

Joe JuniorManhattan

Joe Junior, aside from having one of the charmingest signs in all of Manhattan, is a constant presence on "Best burger in New York" lists. The place itself is very much just a diner—a somewhat charming one yes, but not quite up to that sign outside. And on my visit, it was swarming with unmasked NYU students out for brunch who were annoyed at not getting served quickly enough. I know that's not the restaurant's fault, but yikes. Although Joe Junior's, shall we say, hands off approach to service definitely didn't help the situation. These guys have clearly been living the diner life for way too long and were did not g a f about it keeping the customer happy. I dunno, good for them really.

The burger: good! Not amazing, certainly not the best in New York. But it was very edible. Which I mean as a compliment. It reminded me of the Jackson Hole Diner burger (another VIP on your average Best Burger list), where it was almost meatloaf in its consistency—soft and even light in a way, almost like it was baked rather than grilled. I'd actually put Joe Junior's ahead of Jackson Hole's, simply because it was a much more reasonable size to actually eat, compared to Jackson's basketball-sized offering.

The other odd thing: Never before has iceberg lettuce worked so perfectly on a burger. Usually the lettuce gets immediately sloppy and wilted, and doesn't make a bit of difference to any burger. But the big ol pile of iceberg on this thing actually kinda bumped it from "good" to "pretty darn good". With that extra fragile texture to the burger, having a nice crunchy cool counterpart on top made the whole thing work.