Lunch at M. Wells in Long Island City

M. Wells is a diner. But just on the outside. Here, instead of gum-snapping waitresses and stale coffee, you’ll find pickled pig tongue with housemade soda crackers. Served warm.

You’ll also find bone marrow and escargot, oozing with a butter-garlic sauce and crunchy with breadcrumbs:

And a fun, funky atmosphere that encourages much laughter.

Come see our meal.

M. Wells is owned by Hugue Dufour, formerly chef at Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, and his wife, Sarah Obraitis. The “M” stands for magasin — or store in French — and Wells is Sarah’s middle name.

Au Pied de Cochon, which is on my must-do list (and I want to do it soon!), is known for its foie gras and fall-off-the-bone meats, like, yes, pig’s trotter (with foie gras, naturally). (See Boo’s Sour Cherry Farm visit in 2008. It is mouthwatering.)

So yes, here is the diner — right up against the railroad tracks:

Here’s Karen and Greg walking over said railroad tracks:

Looking from the corner of M. Wells:

From the same corner:

We’d heard a lot about M. Wells from the press — the New York Times named it one 10 restaurants in the world worth a plane ride: 10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride, and there have been reports on all the New York blogs (like Serious Eats here).

But what got us really excited was a story Kris and Tom told us. They’d been to M. Wells, introduced through Irene. On one of their return trips, they started telling Sarah and Hugue about Dick and Sally’s Cherry Ridge Farm in Orange County (which longtime Sour Cherry Farm readers may remember from the Paella Party post here). So Kris and Tom watch the farm for Dick and Sally when they go on their vacation in August, and K&T ended up inviting Sarah and Hugue up for a visit. They ended up taking home a bunch of wonderful produce from Dick and Sally’s place, and the friendship was sealed. We had invited Kris and Tom to this lunch, but unfortunately they had plans.

We arrived at lunch on Saturday. The restaurant only just started serving dinner this week. But lunch is still packed. We waited in the vestibule.

Irene, Kris and Josh:

We, especially Greg, stared in through the transom at the food on the tables:

We sat on the “table” side of the restaurant.

Check out the seltzer bottles on the floor.

And the space-age chandelier, which we all loved:

Our table:

There are the old booths on the far side.

Perplexed by the relationship of the people depicted here, we called this the “Presidents and Others” mug:

Plants in heads:

Karen, me and Irene:

Bloody Caesar, made with clam juice:

Here is the specials board, but it’s just for show… not all those dishes are available.

Unfortunately, there was no crispy veal brain, even though Irene really wanted it.

Here’s a look at the real menu.

Doesn’t it look divine? And those prices!

We ordered much of the menu. So let’s get to it!

We started with the special, the pickled pork tongue:

It was a lovely hors d’oeuvre. We cut pieces and put them on our crackers. It was warm, and required a little sawing, but then the pieces fell apart like brisket. It seemed only slightly pickled. We all loved it.

Housemade biscuit with strawberry apple butter:

Fantastic: crumbly, sweet, moist.


A great combination of hot pork, crunchy and briny pickles, melty cheese and hot mustard on that warm pressed bread.

The blue cheese salad with apples and walnuts:

Gorgeous. Look at those matchsticks of apples. Lovely balance.

And the Caesar:

Amazing how the smoked herring in the dressing made it taste meaty. And the tangy cheese all over the top? And the homemade croutons? Might be the best Caesar I ever had.

Here, the bone marrow and escargot:

Rich, dense, buttery, fatty. And the bite was chewy with a little resistance from those little buggers under the breadcrumbs.

I happened to walk by as they were prepping more:

Karen’s seafood cobbler:

No, not rich at all. Cheesey, biscuit, brussels sprouts. And fish. Delicious.

Oh, all right, we’ll have some vegetables. Turnips will do. As long as they’re drenched in lobster butter:

Toothy. Nice bite. A little fishy and herb-y from the dressing.

Beef and lamb burger:

Juicy and meaty. Nice spicy McSpecial Sauce, with harissa. And the bread was buttery and perfectly toasted.

Hand cut fries.

Crisp on the outside, puffy on the in.

I believe this was my favorite dish of the day. The potato and bacon hash with Brussels sprouts, topped with an egg:

Look at those lardons! So good.

Fish soup with a rouille croton:

Everyone loved this dish, but unfortunately it wasn’t my favorite. I normally love creamy soups, but I wasn’t in to the texture. The taste was a little forceful for me, too. Lots of fish.

Fish and chips:

Those fabulous fries were underneath. On top were flaky, fresh fish and crispy, tasty batter. Really fantastic.

Yes. We had dessert.

Tarte Tatin:

Loved the apples and crust, but the thick cream was the best. Not sweet at all, either.

Chocolate mousse pudding:

Like a brownie. But mousse. Yeah.

Maple pie. Oh. My. God.

Completely and utterly amazing. Like crack pie or chess pie, but with maple. I am so making this. It was just ethereal. And the ingredients are really in my wheelhouse: caramelized sugar, milk, eggs, maple. Unbelievable.

And this coconut cream pie was also a stunner

The cream was freshly whipped. The crust was crumbly and crackery, like a shortbread. The coconut was just fab. We adored it.

Just as we adored M. Wells.

The 411 on M. Wells.