Midtown West

What to Eat in New York City

 

Best Pizza

Best Pizza

Oh no you didn’t…  Oh, yes I did!  A post on.. well.. everything.  I’m not writing about pizza or Indian food, or where to get the best Cheesecake, this is a post on everything.  A one time stop for the confused visitor that knows only what he reads in his guide book, and Trip Advisor ranking.  In other words, just a tad smarter than Klauss.  I have news for you Mr visitor.  We New Yorkers don’t eat Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders.  Well, the last one on occasion, but having the word “Manhattan” in it should not automatically qualify it for the guidebooks.

A month ago at our company we had visitors from Minnesota.  When we ordered food for lunch, there was a moment that shook me a little.  One member of the Minnesota gang pointed to something and said “What’s that”.  To which I replied “this my friend, is a Falafel”.  Locals eat more falafels than Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders combined in NYC, but you would never guess by just reading the guidebook.  Let me help set you straight

I will try my best to make it as comprehensive as possible, and update as often as I can.  Something to chew on before I leave for yet another trip to Turks (lobsta calling my name).  But there’s a chance I may forget a few things, so I would appreciate some help via comments if that indeed happens.  Its essentially a guide to help you understand what you should be targeting in NYC.  Here we go…

Eat Pizza – Yes, we eat a lot of pizza.  Every block where I live has these 3 essentials.  Pizza, Bagels, and a pharmacy to help you cope with all that pizza and bagels.  There’s great pizza everywhere in NYC and I’m not going to even attempt to name all the best spots, but here are a few

Merilu (2)

Merilu

   Slice – You have the usual suspects like Joe’s on Carmines and Di Fara in Brooklyn, but the truth is that there are plenty of solid slices out there and the 50th best slice is not really that far behind the 2nd best slice taste wise.  Consider Sacco in Hell’s Kitchen, Prince Street Pizza, Best Pizza” in Williamsburg might very well be best with their wood burning oven slice, and for something a bit different and not very New Yorky consider the thin squares at Merilu.  BTW, for those Di Fara bound, the pilgrimage may cost you half a day of travel and waiting for quite a while for your slice.  Not worth it if yo ask me, but if you must…

   Pies – While the guide books will guide you across the bridge and make you stand for 30-90 bone chilling minutes on a long line (and fail to tell you that the real Grimaldi is actually next door dishing them out at Juliana’s), you can get similar or better quality all over the city.  Consider Capizzi in midtown, where you will not find any long waits whatsoever.  Or how about the thin vodka pies at Rubirosa, an offshoot of the great Joe and Pat’s in Staten Island.  For your fancy Neapolitan pies there are a lot of great options and I strongly suggest to try at least one.  Consider Motorino, Don Antonio, Keste, Paulie Gees, and Roberta’s at a food festival near you (if you cant Bushwick it).  You can even get a decent pie in Eataly.  Also consider the Neapolitan archenemy, the mighty Roman pie at Marta.  Well, its not very mighty with its matzoh like thickness, but its quite delicious, not to mention everything else Marta offers.  You can have a great meal here without even touching the pies

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Eat Burgers – As with pizza this is a very difficult topic to cover as there are so many choices, and so many kinds.  You are not only dealing with a plethora of Burger joints but you also have them on just about every French/Italian/American, you name it menu and everyone trying to outdo each other.  For your fast food smallish burger, yes, I suppose Shake Shack will do, and the pain that comes with it (long lines, fighting an old lady for a seat).  But head to Gotham West Market, and you can find another solid burger at Genuine Roadside where you’ll find no lines, and no old ladies to fight.  Try the terrific Chicken Sandwich too while you at it.  For the middle of the road, regular burger try Corner Bistro, Island Burger and Shakes and the rest of my Hell’s Kitchen picks I outline here

Dutch - Burger

Dutch – Burger

For the fancier stuff, Minetta Tavern’s Black Label is still the king, as one of a few burgers out there where the meat is so good, you can get it practically naked.  Meaning the burger!  Also consider Minetta’s sister Cherche Midi’s much hyped burger these days.  Bowery Meat Company uses the same supplier for its excellent patty (though I wish the fries would have been better).  Other solid players include the Breslin’s terrific Lamb Burger, Bar Sardine’s popular Fedora burger, The Gender’s burger with beef aioli, and the Spotted Pig with its addictive fries.  But if you’d point a gun at my head and make me choose one, I would ask you to please put the gun down, then proceed to kick your ass and call the cops.  Once you are out, I would direct you to the NoMad Bar where you’ll find the best combination of quality burger, fries, and ease of getting a table (No reservations tho)

Spotted Pig Burger

Spotted Pig Burger


Eat Bagels, Lux
 – No shortage of great bagels all over town.  With Absolute Bagel, Pick-a-Bagel in midtown, Ess-a-Bagel, and Murrays you pretty much have all the corners covered.  And while Russ & Daughters doesn’t bake their own, their Brooklyn Supplier is as old school and solid as they come.  R&D is an icon, and so very touristy for good reason.  But once you experience it, consider something like Shelsky’s in Brooklyn, or Nordic Preserves in Essex Market, for much of the quality and none of the pain.

Russ and Daughters lox

Russ and Daughters lox

Eat Italian – In NYC, one should take advantage of our Italian dining. Even Italians coming from Italy do so, and appreciate the wide array that NYC has to offer.  From the amazing seafood of Marea, to simple neighborhood spots like Da Andrea.  Consider Mercato and its southern Italian fare (real southern, not Brooklyn southern), or perhaps Bat Pitti in the village.  How about All’onda, and Piora for some Asian influence.  Or a taste of Emilia Romagna in Osteria Morini or Salumeria RossiMarta can certainly enter the discussion, and its sister Maialino is perhaps my favorite of all.  If you need to choose one, thats the one.  Or consider Scarpetta whose menu includes many popular staples.  Babbo is possibly entering icon territory, Del Posto may be already there among the high ends, while the inventive Lincoln remains under everyone’s radar.  In NYC we also have the classic New York Italian, aka red sauce American Italian cuisine that one may try.  The Guide Books will direct you to the Theater District and Little Italy, but for proper tasting consider something like Rubirosa or Carbone

Lincoln Strozzapreti

Lincoln Strozzapreti

Eat American – This is another big topic.  The one place that always comes to mind where you can get that old quintessential NY feel is Minetta Tavern.  Eleven Madison Park light, The NoMad is another solid choice with its celebrated Chicken for two.  In Midtown consider Betony, runner up for James Beard’s Best New Restaurant award last year.  Louro is a dependable neighborhood joint with rotating menus, and theme dinners on Mondays.  Consider the Dutch and its terrific fried chicken and more, which brings us to Root and Bone where the bird reigns over a solid southern inspired menu.  The veggies reign supreme at Narcissa, and the Marshal is not only extremely veg friendly, but covers all the classics well.  For something different consider the winter game festival at Henry’s End.

You also have a slew of Asian inspired American like the inspiring Annisa, and the David Chang’s empire, especially Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Ma Peche.  Consider a visit to newcomer Tuome, featuring a young chef with an attitude.

NoMad Chicken

NoMad Chicken

Dicksons pastrami

Dicksons pastrami

Eat Pastrami – Yes, yes go to Katz’s.  That’s not a tourist trap, but the real deal.  In Midtown, Carnegie Deli keeps chugging along, while Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in Flatironhas been raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929.  Try perhaps the Montreal Jewish style pastrami at Mile End.  Or for something completely different, consider the pastrami sandwich at Dickson’s the great meat purveyor in Chelsea Market where the pastrami is more marbled and comes with a smear of apricot chutney or however they do it that day.  Yummo!

Eat Steak – Visitors come to NYC looking to eat steak in something called a “Steakhouse”.  It’s one of the most common questions on Trip Advisor… what is the Best Steakhouse.  Well, you do have the icons like Keen’s, and Peter Luger that folks will no doubt pick over Wolfgang’s which started by an employee that worked for Luger for 40 years and offers a similar Porterhouse.  But the beauty of NYC steaks is that just like burgers, you can get great steak anywhere pretty much including in modern “I cant believe this is not a steakhouse” steakhouse.  Consider the Bowery Steak at Bowery Meat Company, which consists of the Ribeye cap (the best part of the ribeye).  The Minetta Tavern Cote de Boeuf is perhaps the most celebrated cut in Manhattan.  Though for us, that honor would go to the Costata Tomahawk Ribeye which like the Cote de Boeauf, can feed a small Armenian village.

Costata - Ribeye

Costata Ribeye

Eat French – Classic french, new and old are still plentiful in the city.  You got the usual haute suspects with Per Se, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Daniel (who am I missing.  I dont want to upset anyone and get hate mail).  Then you have the bistro fair like Balthazar, and yes even Minetta Tavern which I’m adding to just about every category here (they even have a take on the Italian Carbonara, called Pasta Za Za).  Consider Benoit in Midtown, and Chez Napoleon may be as old school as it gets.  For something different however, consider Le Philosophe for a fresh take on old classic

Le Philosophe - tournedos rossini

Le Philosophe – tournedos rossini

Eat BBQ – A few years ago, the proper recommendation would be to skip BBQ in NYC.  But time, they are a changing.  In midtown if you must, head west to Daisy May’s BBQ USA, in case you forget what country you are in.  In Brooklyn you have Fette Sau and BrisketTown which also sells its sick brisket on the High Line in the warmer months.  But the mightiest of all might very well be Mighty Quinn’s which you can enjoy in both West and East village, among other more remote locations.  For the “I cant believe this is not BBQ” experience that almost no one talks about, consider Georgia’s Eastside BBQ in the Lower East Side.

Eat Ethnic – Need to take a break.  More to come after these words from our sponsors…  Are your menopause changes causing bleeding, irritation, pain during sexual intercourse?  Try Premarin, a Virginal Cream you can count on.

Ok, I have a confession.  This was not a real commercial!  But, I do need to take a break, as my arm is tired and I already used all the adjectives known to me on one page

The ethnic plays will have their own page when the time comes.  Stay tuned…

Mighty Quinn's Brisket

Mighty Quinn’s Brisket

 

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, TriBeCa, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Houston Street, We Have a Problem!

161A Note from the Editor:

In the summer, during my much anticipated staycation, there was a moment on the High Line that is etched in my mind.  We found ourselves almost paralyzed, stuck in rush hour Sunday afternoon traffic behind a family of 4, a rooster, and a pair of parakeets.  It was like a zoo!  We’ve seen our share of tourists at the High Line before but not to this degree, and with characters no less.  We needed to get out of there and we had to do it fast, after a bite of the Delaney Brisket of course.  A trip to the storied High Line coupled with braving the crowds of the Chelsea Market is now firmly on the tourists path.  Great for NYC, and all those Chelsea eateries that must be thriving just about now, right?  Not exactly.

A few weeks ago someone asked me if my knowledge of Hell’s Kitchen extends to Real Estate, for the purpose of finding a new home for La Lunchonette, a long time Chelsea institution.  In what seems like a daily occurrence of businesses closing its doors, La Lunchonette is just another one to bite the dust of rising rents.  Culprit in this case:  The High Line.  The park, along with new zoning permits attracting Real Estate developers who now see a lot of green in West Chelsea, and I’m not talking about the plants along the High Line that no one looks at anyway.  Current building owners succumb to offers they can’t refuse, essentially forced to evict their tenants in many cases.  According to Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, the High Line is the cause of La Lunchonette’s demise, and presumably, many more will follow.

I guess we are done with gentrifying the island and now focusing on hyper gentrification?  I’m not pretending to know anything about economics or real estate.  I’m just a poor software developer who wants to have a f*** bagel or matzoh whenever I choose to, or whenever Jewish holiday dictates.  Excuse my Yiddish there.  Oh did I mention Streit’s Matzo Factory is closing soon and so is the original Ess-a-Bagel to make room for Bank of America and you guessed it.. a bagel shop.  How can anyone afford to run a business or live in NYC anymore.

The Union Square Area alone is one giant “For Rent” sign, led by Union Square Cafe which is forced to move after its lease is up.  Restaurants are getting squeezed left and right from 57th street to Houston Street.  In Hell’s Kitchen the action is slowly shifting to the West.  A Mexican restaurant owner recently told me he couldn’t afford being on 8th ave anymore and had to move all the way to 10th.  Meanwhile downtown, Brigadeiro Bakery finally found affordable space in Soho after selling their Brazilian Truffles from a Basement nearby for years.  Do you have a Bodega (Mexican deli) near you nowadays?  Bodegas are closing all over or forced to transform and unbodega themselves.

So whats in store for 2015 and beyond.  Brace yourself for more Bank of America, 7-Eleven, Chipotle, and Eataly which plans to open two more stores in NYC in the future.  While I love Eataly as much as the next guy (I spent 3 hours there last Sunday), I need more Eatalys like I need a pimple on my ass.  This expression never made much sense to me, until recently when I finally got one.  Those things can be truly annoying.  Anyway, I cant help but wonder how many more small mom and pops will close as a result of two more Eatalys.  Places like Di Palo’s, where you get a much more personal service, need to cherished like we cherish our kids.

But is it time to panic?  Yes!  I suppose 2014 also saw many new restaurants open, and I believe I even saw “Record Year” being proclaimed somewhere out there.  But with that I also noticed that my spending has increased, so no doubt I’m paying for the rent hikes as well.  How many of the new openings are truly affordable, with entrees below $20.  For every Lumpia Shack there seemed to be 10 Batards opening last year.  In Hell’s Kitchen new business owners used to find refuge on 9th ave, but now they find it on side streets where foot traffic is much lighter, or 10th ave where traffic is even worse.  Whenever I walk to Inti, a Peruvian gem on 10th where the Rotisserie chicken rivals anyone’s, I always wonder how they are still in business.  My co-worker believes they have a healthy delivery business

I still believe NYC is the greatest food city in the world, don’t get me wrong.  And the options I have in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens are limitless.  But I’m a little worried about the direction.  Perhaps the worry is for nothing and I should stick to writing about food.  Time will tell.  Meanwhile, avoid the High Line

Ziggy

Editor in Chief

Categories: Brooklyn, Chelsea, Chinatown, East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West, New York City, Queens, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Staten Island, TriBeCa, Trucks, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

HKSG Update – 3 in, 1 out

Pam Real OxtailNot the most exciting update to the Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide, but an update nonetheless.  I keep trying new places, and looking for hidden gems which turn out to be just hidden… Puff Cha, B-Side, all sorts of new Mexican, and Puff Cha Ramen formerly known as Puff Cha (little identity crisis, that’s all.  We all go through that at some point).

While some of you were standing outside of Pure Thai, patiently waiting for a table, I’ve been cheating with Pam for the past three months.  A much more approachable Pam Real Thai joins the list even though the list already includes two Thais.  I explain why there.

Two bars that happened to offer some tasty treats join the list, Brickyard and Shorty’s.  I didn’t have any bars in there, and I see plenty of site traffic coming from Ireland lately.  Just trying to keep my audience happy, and well fed.

I’m removing Annabel from the list after a recent visit.  Shared two pies with a friend and after I left it felt like I just ate an entire loaf of bread.  I liked it just enough after the initial visit but I think I added it prematurely.  I almost replaced it with Tavola, but I’m not totally in love with it either

Stay Hungry!

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

NYC – Top 10 Dishes of 2014

Lincoln StrozzapretiBowery Steak at Bowery Meat Company.  Normally in the food blogging universe, when a steak is compared to a Hockey puck, its usually in order to describe a poorly cooked piece of meat.  But in this case, its the odd looking Hockey puck shaped perfection sitting on top of creamy whipped potato puree, and topped with a little bit of Chimichurri.  One little touch of that thing with your fork or a prolong stare breaks the spiral roll of ribeye cap, aka the more flavorful part of the ribeye.  A most noble cut, generated by none other than the legendary Pat LaFrieda of course.  Don’t believe me?  Ask fellow meat lover Justin Bieber who was spotted there a day after yours truly and his family.  “Way to go dad, always picking the wrong days”

Bowery Meat Company Bowery Steak

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – I’m starting to believe this soup has special healing powers.  Whether you are suffering from Flu like symptoms, Depression, Frontal Baldness, Cholera, try the soup and see a doctor.  Best to have the soup solo, as it will clear up both your nostrils and allow free grazing of the two giant oxtail bones in a way that should leave no witnesses.  Its spicy, complex, addictive and just about my favorite soup in NYC at the moment.  Which really means America!

Pam Real Oxtail

Patate Alla Carbonara at Marta – The White pizza section to me is like the pet isle in the supermarket.  I only get there by accident or under some form of influence.  My wife found me there once and though I was having an affair.  These days the only way for me to cheat on the reds is with this Bianca, featuring Guanciale, Pecorino and egg “juice” poured ever so slowly all over the pie.  It took a few initial incarnations (started as “Gricia” with an egg in the middle) until this thing was perfected by Nick Anderer who perfected so many things at Maialino.  Its Roman style pizza which means Matsoh like cracker thin (especially at the edges), but it holds its own nicely throughout so knife needed.

Marta Patate alla Carbonara

Lobster Roll at The Grand Banks.  This place rocked!  Literally!  In fact we almost left upon entering this Schooner (a ship for the German readers) parked on Pier 25 in the warmer months.  But the food obsessed that we are, we braved it out and stayed for the main event.  A Maine style Lobster Roll (cold) using the meatiest and clawiest parts of the lobster, with tarragon mayonnaise and cucumbers which isnt very “Mainely” I know, but serve as barriers between meat and bun.  Very often lobster rolls lose its luster due to a soggy bun, but here the cucumbers keep it fresh and dont deter from the taste.  The roll which comes with well seasoned potato chips (no frier on board) is not exactly a value play at $25, but you gotta pay up for the good stuff mon.  Especially on the island I call Manhattan

154

BBQ Squid at Annisa – Stunner!  Actually the first word that comes to mind is “gorgeous” but its hard even for the feminine inner Ziggy to say the G word these days.  When was the last time you heard a straight man say something is gorgeous.  And adding the F word just makes it sound awkward.  But this dish is not only attractive to look at, but got the flavors to match.  Marinaded, perfectly grilled Squid with fried tentacles, mint, and fresh peanuts boiled to match the texture of the tender Edameme.  Add Hoisin sauce for some sweetness and tanginess and the formula is complete.  I hope it never leaves the menu.  Anita Lo are you reading?

Annisa Squid

Carrot Wellington at Narcissa – A rarity.  A meal where the veggie dishes outperform the meats and fish.  Even the beet dish here made me question everything I knew about beets and seek Borscht the next day.  I never seek Borscht.  The carrots are cured, roasted and simply shine in those puff pastries.  They are tender and rich enough that you wont miss the meat.  And the accompanied veggies especially the earthy Bluefoot mushrooms complimented nicely.  Along with Piora’s carrots, perhaps the carrot dish to beat.  If you are having commitment issues, you can always share it as a middle course.

Narcissa - Carrot Wellington

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (Top).   Orange is the new crack!  Possibly the most ingenious pasta dish I ever had.  First of all its looks gorgeous sensational, and you smell the sea as soon as it arrives.  Smell it!  Its an important aspect of any meal.  The Strozzapreti (invented I suppose when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being slowly strangled) is made with lobster coral, the female egg sac, to bring that bright sexy orange prison look.  Sweet lobster chunks are added to the mix along with Tarragon and a delicate citrusy sauce.  But the best part and what puts this thing over the top was the shockingly flavorful lobster and scallop “sausage” bits which had the texture of chicken skin nut tasted nothing like it.  As of this writing the dish is not on the menu, so write to your local congressman

Scrambled Eggs at Gato.  I’m quite the sucker for nicely executed egg dishes, and this one topped a year filled with good ones (Casa Mono comes to mind).  Almond Romesco (spanish red pepper sauce), Boucheron cheese, and fluffiness levels that I’ve yet to produce no matter how hard I try.  I Google the heck out of how to make my scrambled eggs this fluffy, and it looks like Boucheron may be the answer.  Bobby Flay got something nice going there, but dont tell him that, or mention this pick.  We dont want success to get to his head.

Gato - eggs

Zabzi Tagine at Bar Bolonat – I attacked this mini Tagine on more than one occasion in 2014.  But I confess that the first time, closer to the Bar Bolonat debut was the best rendition.  Homemade couscous, aromatic fresh herbs, and short rib or beef cheek (it changes from time to time) so tender and flavor packed, even the Goyim foodies can appreciate this modern Israeli delight.  Get this, the kibbeh, Creme Brulee, and any of the other “Best of 2014″ dishes circulating the web.  Einat Admony got herself another winner.

Bar Bolonat - Zabzi Tagine

Fried Chicken at Root and Bone – Last year it was the Ma Peche Habanero, this year its R&B singing the chicken song.  Choon!  The bird is brined in sweet tea, onions and garlic for 24 hours, and finished with a dusting of dehydrated lemon powder to add that nice zesty tone.  Perfectly crisped skin, and juiciness levels I havent seen since college.  Great dish and a great menu that features all sorts of goodies like Sticky Toffee Pudding with whiskey sauce and beer flavored ice cream.

root and bone chicken

Special Mentions:

Burger at the NoMad Bar
Marinated Pork at Somtum Der
Falafel plate at Zizi Limona
Agnolotti at All’onda
Chicken Burrito at Missions Cantina
Beer Braised Pork Tongue Tacos at Empellon Taqueria
Octopus at Marea
Kimchi Fried Rice at Louro
Tofu at Dunji
Samsa at Nargis Cafe
Elk Chops at Henry’s End
Carrots at Piora
Green Curry Ramen at Bassanova
Dirty rice at Ivan Ramen
Cha Ca La Vong at Pok Pok Brooklyn
Oxtail and Bone Marrow Fried Rice at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill

Categories: East Village, Gramercy, Flatiron, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, Upper West Side, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Best Tacos in Manhattan

Otto TacosA common misconception in NYC:  “There’s no good Mexican food here”.  “Skip tacos, concentrate on Pizza, bagels and hala”.  “For Mexican you got to go south then west”.  “Even the Mexican Soap Operas here suck”.  Somehow 350,000 tortilla challenged Mexicans opted for the Northeast, while the rest went to Texas or California.  Well, there’s no mistaken where the best Mexican food in the US is located, but that doesnt mean there are no decent options in NYC.  As with any cuisine you just need to a little bit of homework, thats all.  And in the past few years there appears to be a Mexican renaissance of sorts in NYC.  And if you think the soap operas are bad, think again.  Just like some of the taco joints I will highlight below, they are intense, colorful and will bring you to tears.  Here’s one example that will no doubt change your mind.  Now, lets get down to some of the best tacos the city has to offer…

Tehuitzingo –  I’ve already written plenty about this gem in Hell’s Kitchen.  For a while it was like one of those terrible soap operas (the other ones).  Did they close?  Oh no.  Oh wait, they not only reopened, but they multiplied.  Welcome baby Tehuitzingo on 9th and 41st.  6 pounds, 5 ounces.  Thats how much Lengua they sell every hour.  The original on 10th isnt the same bodega (deli) as it used to be, but the tacos are still the same no frills, no nonsense old tacos.  Its all about the great tasting meats with just the right amount of condiments.  Try the Al Pastor, beef tongue (Lengua), just beef, carnitas, or anything else you fancy.  I havent had a bad one yetTehuitzingo

Otto HorchataOtto’s Tacos – One of the new kids on the block, this LA expat is gathering a lot of attention lately.  Their Horchata makes every other Horchata I’ve had taste like 1% milk.  I tried all the tacos here except the chicken, and shrimp (top) is my clear favorite.  Coated with serrano cream sauce, with onions and cilantro, the Shrimp is perfectly seasoned and cooked just right.  The rest of the lineup is not too shabby either and that includes a mushroom tacos that both my vegetarian readers can appreciate

Empellon Taqueria and Empellon Al Pastor – The natural progression from the labs of Alinea and WD50 is obviously tacos.  Alex Stupak is perhaps the biggest player in this tacos revolution we are experiencing at the moment, with Emplellon Cucina, Empellon Taqueria, and now Empellon Al Pastor.  The latter is the cheap simpler tacos with the namesake Al Pastor, shaved off the spit Shawarma style, leading the pack.  Taqueria on the other hand is the fancy, polished taco option.  And if I would be drafting Tacos as part of a Fantasy Taco League, the beer braised pork tongue would most be my #1 pickEmpellon Al Pastor

Mission Cantina – The Mission District in San Francisco has some of the best Mexican food in the country.  Some in fact claim that this is where the Burrito was born.  So not surprisingly, James Beard winner Danny Bowien of the famed Mission Chinese Food in Mission can make a nasty Burrito, although its take-out only these days.  The wings here are great as well, and all these goodies will make you wonder about the low Yelp score.  Crafty shmancy tacos rule the right side of the menu, with Veggie tacos firmly in charge.  But one has to try the popular masa fish taco and the lamb belly while its still around.Mission Cantina Tacos

Los Tacos #1 – Where I come from, when you see a line, you stand on it, then you ask questions.  Same rule applies to Chelsea Market where three friends from Mexico and California are trying to introduce New Yorkers and tourists to Mexican street food.  Many claim that these are the best tacos in NYC, and who am I to argue.  Try any of them, doesnt matter.  As long as you try the Adobada.  Say it with me, A-D-O-B-A-D-A three times.  Good, you ready.  Now get out there and stand on line for those abodabasChelsea Market Los Tacos

Tacos Morelos – Another fairly new mom/pop/cousin joint in the suddenly taco heavy East Village.  The store and restaurant is on 9th and Avenue A where the slow roasted porky Cochinita Pibil reigns supreme.  But its the cart on 2nd and A, where the EV rockers get their fix after gigs at 2 am, and where my friend swears by the Al Pastor.  Almost 24 hours (they take a break around 4 am)  is 24 hours to me.

Tacos Morelos

 

 

 

Categories: Chelsea, East Village, Lower East Side, Midtown West, New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Hell’s Kitchen Sandwich Awards

15 years ago when I first got familiar with the area, I couldn’t name two decent sandwiches.  Well, I could actually, but they would not have made this list today.  Times, as they say, “They Are A-Changin'”, as the area is suddenly flooded with all sorts of well crafted sandwiches that even tourists should target.  If I miss a big one here, please share.  But as far as I know these are some of the best and most unique sandwiches in Hell’s Kitchen and in some cases NYC.  And to make it just a little bit more interesting, I gave them awards!

The Dolly Parton Award- IL VIP at Sergimmo Salumeria.  A most excellent sweet sandwich featuring robust raw materials.  Prosciutto Crudo from Parma, homemade mozzarella, Arcadian mix, EV olive oil and a lovely fig spread from Casa Giulia.  On the sweet side of things like Dolly’s smile, and so not for everyone.

VIP at Sergimmo Salumeria

The Bill Clinton Award – Philly Cheesesteak at Shorty’s. Given to a most outstanding sandwich that comes with the occasional strange urge to pull down your pants even though the thing looks sort of sloppy and unattractive.  Get it the way it was intended.  With Whiz, “Wit” onions, and mushrooms.  I’ve had it in Philly and this is the real deal

Philly Cheesesteak at Shorty's

The Me Love You Long Time Award – Dave at City Sandwich.  A great all around sandwich with top notch ingredients that is best enjoyed slowly with a glass of wine or Manischewitz.  This beauty features an ample amount of fresh minced sausage, chili pepper, garlic, olive oil, melted mozzarella, and peppers, and the Portuguese bread from across the river cant be beat

Dave

The Oom Pa Loom Pa Award – Banh Mi Cha Ca at Co Ba 53.  Given to the best sandwich with the least amount of syllables. Historically given to a Banh Mi.  Hanoi-style fish, usually means “Catfish” or “I cant believe its not Catfish” Swai, Basa, or other Catfish-like creatures, with fresh dill, onion, mayo, jalapenos, and house-made pickles on a French baguette.  Not only easy to pronounce but tastes great

Banh Mi Cha Ca at Co Ba 53

The Kim Kardashian Award – Pig’s Ass Sandwich at Casellula.  Nuff Said!

The If You Build It They Will Come, And Come Again, When Weather Permits, Because Its Too Far Award – Pork shoulder at Court Street Grocers (Gotham West Market).  Given to a most outstanding well crafted sandwich that is a leader in its kind but a little bit out of the way.  Pork shoulder confit, mayo, provolone, broccoli rabe, pickled red peppers inside a terrific Caputo (Brooklyn) hero.  If you ask me, I think the name of the award is too long, but hey I don’t make the rules.

Pork shoulder at Court Street Grocers

The You Say Shawarma, I Say Shawarma Too Award – Shawarma Sandwich at Azuri.  Award given to the best Shawarma!

Note: Azuri is a 2 time “No Soup For You” winner.  Recent reports of Ezra smiling or even happy are most likely greatly exaggerated (I still think its gas) but I can no longer put him in that category.  Everyone seems unfortunately friendly these days or faking their unfriendliness for gimmicky purposes.  “Hey look at me I’m so unfriendly, tell your friends, start calling me the Muffin Nazi, bla bla bla”.  Ezra was a natural!

Azuri Cafe - Chicken Shawarma

The Breaky Bad Award – Bench Girl at City Sandwich.  Given to the best breakfast sandwich.  This one features Portuguese Alheira sausage, Grilled Onions, Spinach, Melted Mozzarella and Olive Oil.  Available all day, every day.  Now lets see if they change the name to Breaky Bad from Bench Girl before any use of online petitions.  Bench Girl sounds boring and borderline insulting if you ask me.

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The Carlos Danger Award – Pig’s Head Cuban at The Cannibal (Gotham West Market).  Given to a great sandwich that is especially selfie/twitter/instagram worthy in all its glory.  Pigs head terrine, ham, gruyere, mayo, pickle.  Perhaps the hottest sandwich in Hell’s Kitchen at the moment.

The Cannibal - Pig's Head

The Barack Hussein Obama Award - City Sandwich.  A lifetime achievement award given to the top overall sandwich maker.  Last year’s Miss Congeniality winner takes top honors this year.  A Pioneer and a leader in the Sandwich making business.  Well deserved!  (ps. I’m expecting this mention on the window at City Sandwich in no time.  As my mom used to tell me “if you got them, flaunt them”.  A bumper sticker “I got a sandwich award on EatingWithZiggy will do as well)

Big Big Mazal Tov to all the winners!

City Sandwich

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Top 10 NYC Pastas

Lincoln StrozzapretiHi, I’m Ziggy.  I love pasta!  I had pasta last night, for lunch today, and I will have plenty of it in the next few weeks as I embark on another trip to mother Italia.  I think about pasta more than.. you know… Sports!  And before I leave you idle for a few weeks I figured to leave with a bang, a post about one of my favorite subjects.  My favorite pastas in NYC in no particular order…

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.  From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with just a stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea – One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits.  A no brainer on this list

Marea Fusilli

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top) – Perhaps the best dish I’ve eaten this year.  Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law.  The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look.  They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine.  The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish.  A classic in the making.  Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.

Uni Tagliatelle at Cull & Pistol – Fresh squid-ink egg noodles tossed in uni sauce and topped with tomatoes, bread crumbs, squid and Santa Barbara uni.  Marea’s uni pasta is perhaps the best I’ve had, but Marea is already on the list, and C&P’s version is pretty darn fantastic and quite different.  The sweet uni reins supreme with that rich sauce, and the smoky squid and bread crumbs add more texture to this dark beauty.  When a place makes only one pasta, its very often a good one.  Balaboosta, The NoMad come to mind as well

Cull and Pistol Tagliatelle

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta – Simple isnt it?  Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting.  Recipes are all over the internet.  Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (hey Scott) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic.  Its fresh, bright and every ingredient suddenly comes to life.  Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil.  Pure awesomeness.

Scarpetta - Spaghetti

Homemade Pappardelle With Sweet Sausage at Da Andrea – There are a lot of similar Pappardelle pastas in NYC with all sorts of tasty ragus (Bar Pitti makes a good one with either rabbit or wild boar), but none of them made so many locals happy for so long.  Ok, its only been 14 years but still.  A staple on the menu since they opened in another location (Hudson st).  The purists may turn up their noses at the thought of “fake truffles” when they see Truffle Oil being used, but we dont have truffles or wallets growing in our backyards in NYC.  Not yet!  And besides, unlike many truffle oil dishes I’ve had in this town, this one got that aroma which convinces your brain that you are eating the real thing.  And dont forget to order some Tigelle with Prosciutto, another Emilia Romagna specialty

Da Andrea - Pappardelle

Half Portion

Agnolotti at All’onda – This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually.  But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others.  Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”.  They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata.  XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac.  This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and  plenty of depth, to otherwise good but basic Agnolotti

Bonus mention:  Sort of a bizarre marriage between the Agnolotti and the Cull & Pistol dish in a way is the splendid Bucatini with black garlic and Dungenese crab at Piora.  I didnt taste enough of it to include it

All'onda Agnolotti

Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe at Maialino – Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe!  The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia).  And when I was in Rome last year, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me.  If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Stracci at Osteria Morini – From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu.  Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms.  I would be happy with just the mushrooms.  It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town

Osteria Morini Stracci

 

Pasta with White Truffles At ?? – Ok for this one you need to do a little bitsy homework.  Its white truffle season at the time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria.  I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost.  Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose.  Me?  I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival.  Buon Appetito!  Ciao, Ziggy

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Categories: Chelsea, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Rank Empanada Mama’s Empanadas

photo 2A Hell’l Kitchen Guide staple from day one, this mama hasnt skipped a beat since it opened.  Even when things seem slow everywhere else in the neighborhood (between lunch and dinner), these guys are busy.  I’ve gone on a special empanada diet for the past few weeks.  And for the purpose of this post, I picked 10 Empanadas which consists of all the popular ones, plus a few I was just curious about (e.g. polish).  Scoring is 1 to 10 Z’s, with 10 Z’s being the best.  Congratulations to the winners.

ZZZZZZZZZ (9) – SPICY CHICKEN.  The creme de la creme.  Chunks of chicken breast slowly cooked in mama’s special picante sauce which is reminiscent of the Israeli S’chug, a fiery delicious Yemeni spread.   This is the definition of “pleasant Heat” that stays with you for a few hours.  Fairly spicy, not for everyone

ZZZZZZZZ (8) – BRASIL – Traditional Brazilian style empanada with ground beef, olives, sauteed onions, and potatoes.  Juicy, flavor packed with excellent depth.

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – CUBAN – Slowly roasted pork, ham with mozzarella cheese and a touch of sofrito sauce.   Very nice!  The ham and the sauce take this to another level

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – DESAYUNO COLOMBIANO – Colombian sausage, cheddar cheese, eggs and Spanish onion.  A solid breakfast snack that’s available throughout the day.

ZZZZZZZ (7) – VIAGRA – Seafood stew with shrimp, scallops, and crab meat.  The shrimp half is a bit boring, but then when you get to the other stuff.. oooh boy!  Nice fishy flavors.  The Viagra especially goes well with the Brazil!

ZZZZZZZ (7) – TJC – Mama’s tuna melt with cheddar cheese and jalapenos.  While I didnt rate it here because I havent had in a while, the Tuna/Jalapeno Empanada (no cheese) may be even better

ZZZZZZZ (7) – MAMBO ITALIANO – Roasted Italian sweet sausage with red and green peppers, onions, mozzarella cheese and a touch of tomato sauce.  Pretty much exactly what you’d expect…  Sausage and Peppers

ZZZZZZ (6) – POLISHPolish sausage (Kielbasa) sauteed with sauerkraut.  Good if not a bit bland.  I like my Kielbasas a bit tangier.

ZZZZZ (5) – REGGAETONCaribbean style roast pork with sofrito seasoned yellow rice and peas.  I’ve enjoyed this in the past but now finding it a little dry and in desperate need of that green sauce.  Would have been better without the rice

ZZZZ (4) – CHEESESTEAKSkirt steak with mozzarella cheese and a Latin twist.  The latin twist is it squirts all over the place when opened!  Steak a bit tough, no flavor, no likey

Even though I ranked the Polish and Reggaeton at the bottom, the only one I would avoid is the last one.  Reggaeton is fairly popular.

The green sauce is nice.  Red sauce not so much

photo 3photo 1

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Five Pre-Theater Restaurants to Target

Taboon inside

Taboon

The other day I was checking out a restaurant in the theater district for a friend and the very first line of the first Yelp review made me almost spit out the Shawarma I was eating.  “Theater District is well known for its dining”.  What? Where? Boise?  If you say it out loud to someone in the subway you will get crazy stink eye stares from the locals.  The pre-theater bunch on 46th street and around has plenty of decent options like Carmen’s, Becco, Basso56 and its not necessarily a bad idea to dress up and go to one of those.  Most likely the average place is an upgrade over Boise.  But considering the level of cooking you find everywhere else in NYC, the truth is that Theater District dining is close to the bottom of the pack.

But the point of this post is not to slam Theater District dining, though I do get some pleasure from it it seems.  The point is to make it easier for the Hell’s Kitchen’s guide followers to pick a solid, affordable but somewhat unconventional place to eat before or after your show.  The HK guide is one big mishmash of mostly cheap ethnic eats, not really suitable for pre-theater unless thats what you are after.  So to make it easier for the readers I’ve flushed out five places out of the guide where you can have an exceptional meal.  All these places are not in the district but close enough (5-10 minute extra walk on average depending on the size of your heels).  Or you can just take a 5 minute taxi ride that will add $5 to your $500 evening.  I think you can afford it

Taboon (Middle Eastern)

In that spot (10th/53rd) you gotta be good to succeed.  Nothing but data centers, a liquor store, a deli and appartment buildings surround you.  Taboon utilizes its good looking “Taboon” oven to create the type of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes that will make your kids put down their phones and tell you about their day.  Yes, that powerful.  One of the top chefs in Israel help create the menu for Taboon initially.  Try any of their bread specialties, the chicken with the Israeli couscous (big and bubbly just like I like em), and the sick Silan, one of my favorites desserts in the city.

Taboon

Danji (Korean)

An instant winner with the Michelin man, this Hooni Kim’s Korean inspired tapas joint dishes out greatness in consistent fashion.  When you sit next to your new friend at the Broadway show who will boast about her Filet Mignon at Joe Allen, astonish her with the Tofu with Ginger Scallion Soy Vinaigrette, and the fiery Korean Chicken Wings, Bulgogi Beef Sliders and the Pork BibimBop you just attacked at Danji.  And after you explain to her what a Bibimbop is, perhaps its also a good time to tell her that there’s also a Joe Allen in Miami Beach where she lives and/or she can get a decent filet mignon in Boise

Danji

Mercato (Italian)

You have a plethora of Italian joints in the area.  Plenty of mediocre ones with Becco and Carmens one of the better and most popular, especially with families seeking family style dining.  But I have a different spin on “family style”.  Instead of sharing one huge chicken parm and penne alla vodka (Carmens) or order the all you can eat pastas of the day (Becco) why not share four or five different pastas that are much closer to the true south Italy cooking, vs the the south Italy cooking Americans often confuse with.  Pastas like the stupendous but simple Trenette with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil, or the rich gnocchi with finger licking beef and pork ragu, or the pasta of the day like the Cavatelli.  This is true Italian, by Italians, with Italian accents (for those with a Fish Called Wanda syndrome)

Mercato

The Marshal (American)

Sysco, Cargill, Fats R Us, are some examples of names you will see if all the area restaurants would require to print their distributors on the back of their menus.  But at the Marshal you will see the 14 local farms they deal with to produce just about every ingredient on the menu.  This is our answer to Slow Food in Italy.  If something is no longer on the menu it means its not currently grown.  A brilliant sides lineup, along with the best bread and butter in the area, followed by roasted chicken, meatloaf, best mussels this side of Newfoundland, and an amazing ice cream sundae to boot.  American food, in America, cooked by Americans (with a little bit of help by Central Americans!)

The Marshal - Bread

Ippudo (Ramen)

You may not be able to hear each other,  but you will have more fun than 96.5% of all the restaurants in the district.  Between all the shouting of the staff every time someone comes in (“welcome”), leaves (“Thank You”) or goes to the bathroom (“aim well”), and the slurping of the best noodle soup you will ever have, you wont have time to talk to your spouse anyway.  Dont be surprised if you are the only none Asian couple in the room (unless you are not a non Asian couple of course).  The best pork buns in the city (I tried a bunch) and you will be hard pressed to find better Ramen than the splendid Akamaru Modern

Happy Eating!

 

Ippudo

 

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hell’s Kitchen – What’s Up?

Pad Ped Moo Krob at Larb UbolI haven’t eaten much to write about lately.  Partly due to religious holidays where I either had to eat at the in-laws or survive the annual semi fast (eat light, not brush teeth..).  So I’m taking this opportunity to update you all that there are no updates to the Hell’s Kitchen guide.  “That’s it.  He officially ran out of things to write about”  So, so not true.  I have plenty of things to write about.  Like, about the wonderful fan mail I’m finding in my Spam box lately (Brazilian girls are big fans apparently, all sorts of Russian marriage proposals, quality of life improvement suggestions…).   Anyway, here’s what’s happening in the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen lately

Pizza.  New gourmet pizzas are popping up everywhere these days in the area.  I already discussed Pamela… err I mean Annabel (confusing spam email fans).  Vinyl owners teamed up with NYC-LA-Back to NYC chef Jason Neroni to open B-Side (Get it? Vinyl, B-Side?  I actually don’t get it). It looks very promising and I plan to check it out very soon.   There’s another place on the Capizzi side of the area that I’m long overdue for a first visit.

Larb Ubol (above) – Big Mazal Tov to LU for joining the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmet list, awarded to best cheap(er) eats.  Although awarding the same distinction to Khe-Yo means that I dont quite understand the qualification or I should probably get half of my Khe-Yo check back

Danji – Losing their Michelin star this week.  Does this mean it should be avoided?  My theory is that the Michelin inspector sat in the same seat as I did a few weeks ago where I couldn’t open the drawer at the bottom to get the menu out as it was hitting against the side of the wall.  That’s the only explanation I have since the menu hasn’t changed since they got the star, and the dishes come out in consistent fashion

Oxtail – One of the best things I’ve eaten lately is the Oxtail soup at Pam Real Thai.  With two Thai places already on the list I’m not so quick to add a third, but this soup is tremendous.  Pleasant heat, A LOT of pleasant heat, with deep lasting flavors and a coupe of hefty meaty bones.  There are all sorts of amazing soups in the area I’m enjoying lately, perhaps worthy of a post?

No Addition – Not that I’m not trying new places.  Briciola – Feh! and awkward.  Puff Cha – Dido.  But trying desperately to like it.  I’m completely content however with the current list and dont feel the need to add anything.

Now, back to fan mail…

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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