As serious New Yorkers who appreciate good food, we know how hard it can be sometimes to find that right place to spend our time and money. You troll the blogs and websites, refer to the latest “Top (pick a number)” list, and then there’s the good ole’ trial-and-error. What’s your record?

I get it. Restaurants open and close every day in New York City, how are you supposed to keep up? We get stuck, happily, in our favorite spots because they are local, affordable, familiar and so much more. However, there are plenty of restaurants that have been around for a “minute” (i.e., a long time) and all you need, sometimes, is a little reminder.

Last week I was invited to a tasting dinner at Thelma on Clinton (@ThelmaonClinton, 29A Clinton St., 212-979-8471, to celebrate chef and owner Melissa O’Donnell. She has been at it for decades, working for great chefs such as Dan Barber and opening her own restaurants. In the three short years since re-opening her former 10-year tenured Salt Bar space as Thelma on Clinton, O’Donnell has received a Michelin Bib Gourmand (award for best affordable good food). She is not playing.

We arrived to the homey post-and-beam LES location to the sounds of ’90s hip-hop and the most divine blood orange pomegranate vodka cocktail. We sidled up to the white marble bar and cozy lounge area while canapés of asparagus and sweet pea risotto, chicken liver mousse and honey glazed dates wrapped in bacon were passed. I had to pace myself. Just one of each—maybe three of those dates!

We were invited to sit at our table for dinner to begin and introduced to our sommelier of the evening from 24 Hubert Wines (@24HubertWines), who picked all of the wines for the meal. O’Donnell told us she opened Thelma on Clinton as a love letter to growing up in New York City and the foods that define her.

The chef started us with pickled deviled eggs with salmon roe and house-pickled mussels in sauce remoulade. Paired with muscadet and cabernet franc rosé, these two bites set the tone for the rest of the meal.

In the second course we moved on to house-smoked duck breast with plum balsamic compote and, my favorites, octopus confit with potato, fennel and orange reduction and celery Caesar salad with anchovy and Italian parsley. Brilliant! I don’t just love octopus. I love octopus that is well prepared, tender, but keeps its integrity. Found it! The stunning Nebbiolo was a treat.

There are two more courses to discuss on my blog at You don’t want to miss it or dining at Thelma on Clinton. Thank you chef and team!

Happy eating and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl or on Facebook For even more recipes, tips and food musings subscribe to her blog at Follow AmNewsFOOD @NYAmNewsFOOD.