Sietsema Recommends: Fritzl's Lunch Box
Bushwick is rife with boho bars and restaurants that can provide you with a memorable meal in a slightly unusual vein, whether it’s fried chicken sliders on a stick, grilled cauliflower and blood oranges in an anchovy vinaigrette, or a brunchtime semblance of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham (El Cortez, Montana’s Trail House, and Tchoup Shop, respectively). While being similarly wacky in outlook, Fritzl’s Lunch Box strives for at least the appearance of normalcy, and the kind of menu that could bring you back day after day.
There’s a hamburger, of course, this one distinguished by a sesame-paved bun, all-encompassing mantle of cheese, and great fries that supposedly have been cooked three times before landing on your plate. A chicken sandwich is available, too, made with a house-composed patty of coarse composition, and a good Caesar salad that’s nearly conventional. From there the bill of fare flies off the handle, with things like beer-battered broccoli, kimchee-steamed mussels, and shrimp-and-sweet-corn pancakes. In summer, the backyard is one of the most pleasant in Brooklyn, but the homely dining room with its view of the chef is also just fine. 173 Irving Ave, Brooklyn, (929) 210-9531 ‚— Sietsema
Sietsema Recommends: Bricolage
When Park Slope’s Bricolage flung open its doors last February in the midst of a serious snowstorm, it didn’t particularly impress me. This updated Vietnamese gastropub inspired by a very popular San Francisco restaurant didn’t have a sufficiently ambitious menu, though much of what there was turned out to be perfectly edible, especially the apps. Well, now the menu has expanded, and some expected dishes previously absent have been added, sometimes to spectacular effect.
Playfully called cup-o-pho, a starter-size serving of the national soup has been formulated in its chicken rendition, delicately seasoned with scallions and cilantro; summer rolls are a pristine winter delight, the rice-wrapped shrimp sliding into the peanut sauce like a bather into warm springs. Best of all remains the sizzling and sprout-driven ban xeo crepes heaped with fresh herbs. The number of main courses has doubled since my visit, with the current highlight being a pair of thick clay-pot stews reflecting French and Chinese influences on Vietnamese cooking. One is made with chicken, but why not be adventuresome and try the sardine version? 162 5th Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 230-1835. — Sietsema
January 30, 2016
Sietsema Recommends: Piccola Strada
Thankfully, despite the wave of fashion-forward, fast-casual eateries, there are several off-price, full-blown Italian restaurants still located in the East Village, little known to outsiders. Located in the historic theater district along East 4th Street, Piccola Strada ("small street") is one such restaurant, a small romantic enclave decorated with wine-bottle chandeliers. The menu is small and pan-Italian, configured with the usual progression of antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci.
But there is one difference: Piccola Strada is BYOB, with a modest corkage fee of $5 per bottle, and thus attracts wine geeks to its six or so tables. The food goes especially well with heavy European and Californian reds. The other evening a friend and I enjoyed a ‘99 Barolo with a plate of Bolognese-soaked gnocchi and then a serving of cotechino (a fatty pork sausage) stewed with white beans — perfect accompaniments to the tannic, saturated, and now attenuated wine. At the table next door, a threesome matched an ’80 Bordeaux with lobster ravioli. Plenty of apps go nicely with whites, including a platter of charcuterie and cheese that, at $11, is quite a bargain. 77 E 4th St, (212) 674-1557,— Sietsema
January 23, 2016
Sietsema Recommends: Flaming Kitchen
It started out a few years back as a Shanghai restaurant with a gambling theme, and the soup dumplings (a/k/a "steamed pork and crabmeat juicy dumplings") were superb, ethereally thin-skinned and each surmounted by a wad of crab. What’s more, the place had two distinct dining rooms: the ground floor felt like a neon-festooned Hong Kong diner aimed at club kids, while their parents climbed the stairs to inhabit a white-tablecloth establishment flanked by gold dragons on a mezzanine. But the place abruptly added Sichuan food to the menu over a year ago and changed identities. The new name is Flaming Kitchen.
The Shanghai menu remains mainly intact, with lion’s mane meatballs, braised pork shoulder, West Lake beef soup, and shredded pork with dried bean curd. The new Sichuan offerings are no less impressive: ma po tofu, shredded beef and green pepper, spicy & sour black fungus, and dried rabbit with peanuts and chili, plus lots of whole-fish presentations. If you are a Sichuan peppercorn fanatic, this is your new place. For the more tender-tongued, the tea-smoked duck is the city’s most succulent. And as a sop to the club kids, there are now magnificent plates of French fries and fried chicken wings available for snacking. 97 Bowery, (917) 924-1247
Bonus Sietsema Recommendation: El Donkey Breakfast Burritos
Almost everyone agrees that Los Tacos No. 1 in Chelsea Market serves up some of the best tacos in town, but that institution doesn’t roll up its gates until lunchtime is approaching. What to do about breakfast? Well, the California-style taco stand has now mounted a small and picturesque cart parked near the waterfall to serve breakfast burritos, which are quite a deal at $4 each. Fillings are limited to scrambled eggs with semi-spicy chorizo or scrambled eggs and machaca, a sort of dried and pulled beef common to the American Southwest and Mexico’s Sonoran Dessert. No beans, no rice. Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave, (212) 652-2110.
January 16, 2016
Sietsema Recommends: Cemitas El Tigre
Sprung from a Smorgasburg booth, and lately set down on a bucolic stretch of 48th Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens, a few blocks south of a 7 trains stop, Cemitas El Tigre specializes in the Pueblan sandwich known as the cemita. The modernistic new premises is spacious and comfortable, featuring a counter flanked with colorful chairs meandering into the deep interior, a few tables, and a geometric wood sculpture on the walls. At the end of the room, you can see your sandwich being made. Tacos and (excellent) burritos are also available.
Cemita sandwiches feature 10 layered ingredients in a soft round bun; nine of the ingredients (like refried black beans, Oaxacan cheese, avocado, and tomatoes) are constant, while the main one is variable. At El Tigre, some of these spotlight fillings are conventional, some not. Those that break the mold include southern-style fried chicken and a Pat LaFrieda burger, the patty of which has never seen the inside of a Mexican sandwich before, we’re sure. Standard are such filling choices as carnitas, barbacoa, and spicy chicken tinga (pick the tinga). A vegetarian version of the sandwich deploys (what else?) portobello mushrooms. Beers are available on tap and in bottles. 45-14 48th Ave, Queens, (929) 296-3946 — Sietsema
January 9, 2016
Sietsema Recommends: Queen of Falafel
Once it was an industrial laundromat, but now the massive space is the new home to House of Yes, a combination theater, circus, party barn, and performance space. Carved out of a corner of the premises right at Jefferson and Wyckoff, and hence directly above the L train stop, Queen of Falafel serves as a sort of canteen for the space. It's also as one of your best places in Bushwick for a quick snack in a vegetarian vein, with a menu that delivers pita sandwiches, platters, and desserts.
Taking a cue from Taim, there's sabich, a heavenly pairing of eggplant and boiled egg, garnished with greenery and tahini. The falafel is also solid, three freshly fried specimens per order served in a sandwich with the strange-but-good accompaniment of homemade sauerkraut. A special of ground-meat kefta in a puffy pita was a hit with me and my pals one evening; it seemed like a Middle Eastern hamburger. A few seats are available opposite the order counter, and there's also a long narrow dining room that can accommodate an additional six or seven. Take a trip to the bathroom, and you can grok what's going on at House of Yes. 2 Wyckoff Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 504-8628 — Sietsema
December 19, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: V-Cafe
The menu is not overly long, and there aren’t a half-dozen forms of beef thrown in the pho; in fact, with its dark oxtail broth and single cut of beef, it more resembles the original pho produced near Hanoi than the complex version favored by immigrant restaurateurs from the Mekong Delta.
The noodles, too — the most important part — are a bit firmer than usual, and rectangular in cross section. Other things are good, too, including luscious, shrimp-stuffed summer rolls served with a sturdy, peanut-laced hoisin, and the clay pot cookery that represents a sort of Vietnamese haute cuisine. Banh mi heros are especially tasty, and there are a few unusual choices, including one made with crisp sunfish filets in a red curry sauce. "Beef stew egg noodles" is another favorite. 20 1st Ave, (212) 780-6020
Some of New York's Finest Pizza: Paulie Gee's
The crust is what sets Paulie Gee's apart from the rest of the Neapolitan pizza pack. It's puffy and pleasantly chewy, with a few blisters around the edge, and the dough is not soupy in the middle. The best pizza here might be the simplest one: the Brian De Parma, which is topped with tomatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano. The Delboy, Anise and Anephew, King Harry Classic, and Whiter Shade of Kale pizzas are also excellent. People usually line up in front of the restaurant before it opens on weekend nights, and you might have to wait an hour or more if you show up between 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Thankfully, the restaurant has a lively bar area in the front of the space, and there are a number of great taverns around the corner on Franklin Street. 60 Greenpoint Ave; 347-987-3747
Brunch in the Village: Quality Eats
Michael Stillman's popular Greenwich Village restaurant kicks off brunch this weekend with a menu that includes short rib hash, a coconut quinoa bowl, roasted beet tabouleh, a smoked salmon tartine, and a "large format sticky bun." Although this is marginally a steakhouse, chef Ryan Bartlow has a knack for creating winning vegetable dishes. If you stop by at dinner, make sure to order the crudite salad, the scalloped sunchokes, and the creamed spinach hush puppies. 19 Greenwich Ave.; 212-337-9988.
Date Night Dinner or Drinks: The Nomad Bar
Leo Robitschek and his team are serving some of New York's finest cocktails at The Nomad Bar. But the Nomad's next-door spinoff is more than just a bar. It's also a full-service restaurant with a menu of luxe comfort food from Daniel Humm and James Kent, and the service is just as good as what you find next door. Standout dishes include the carrot tartare, the baked clams, the fried chicken, and the mighty dry-aged beef burger. 10 West 28th St.212-796-1500.
Holiday Drinks: Lucky Strike
Lucky Strike is the Keith McNally restaurant that everyone forgets about, which is a shame, because it's one of his most fun establishments. The menu is like a greatest hits list of McNally's casual restaurants — pastas, burgers, salads, steaks, sandwiches, roasted chicken, and lots of bar snacks. The steak frites with roquefort butter is particularly good, but like Schiller's, the food is not really the point — you go here for the convivial vibe and the stylish space. Lucky Strike's barroom is a great place to catch up with an old friend or make some news ones. 59 Grand St. 212-941-0772 — Morabito
December 12, 2015
Sietsema Recommends: White Tiger
One aspect of the zooming popularity of Korean food in the city is the appearance of local bistros in many neighborhoods that take an approach that might be termed Korean Lite – presenting certain recipes almost unembellished, but then embroidering on the country’s culinary traditions to produce more inventive fare. White Tiger recently debuted in Prospect Heights presenting updated Korean food, with an eclectic alcohol program that includes mixed drinks, Japanese sake, the clear Korean distilled spirit called soju, craft American beers, and wine by the glass and bottle, creating a real conundrum as to what to drink with your dinner.
The premises are pleasant enough, with wall-hugging banquettes like park benches, shelves overhead stocked with East Asian commodities, and big picture windows offering views of Vanderbilt, plus the usual stools at the bar. The snacks and short dishes are your best bet for some delicious eating, while the larger main courses don’t quite succeed in being as good as their Korean-restaurant counterparts. Best were some great deviled eggs decorated with caviar, chicken liver pate brilliantly served with fried chicken skin, and a kale salad planked with acorn jelly. While nicely cooked, the fried chicken was too bland; go for the much better bibimbap served in a stone crock. 601 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 552-2272
One of Midtown's Finest Cheap Meals: Burger Joint
When Burger Joint opened twelve years ago, it was a true oddity — a cheap, retro hamburger restaurant hidden behind a curtain in the lobby of a Central Park South hotel. This restaurant was partially responsible for kicking off the burger craze of the mid-aughts, and thankfully, the spirit of the restaurant and the make-up of its signature dish have note changed over the years. The meat is freshly ground, flame-broiled to order, and served with a smile. 119 W 56th St., 212-708-7414.
Rustic Brooklyn New American: Reynard
Reynard is the best all-around restaurant in the Andrew Tarlow empire. You can have a great meal here at practically any hour of the day. This is a particularly nice place for brunch, when light pours through the dining room's giant windows, and the kitchen serves an assortment of rustic, market-driven dishes that you won't find on any other brunch menu in the city. Get the Dutch baby pancake during brunch, and anything that's roasted in the wood-burning oven during dinner. 80 Wythe Ave; 718-460-8004.
Luxe Lunch on the Bowery: Rebelle
Rebelle is one the year's most acclaimed neo-bistros. The new restaurant from the Pearl & Ash team launches weekend lunch today with a menu that includes beef tartare, a riff on steak & eggs, cod brandade, and fluke with brown butter. For those who want to splash out, Rebelle is also offering caviar service, and Champagne served from a cart. 218 Bowery; 917-639-3880.
Lunch at a True New York Classic: John's of Bleecker Street
John's is one of the city's oldest and best pizzerias. It's also a tourist magnet. But if you go here at a somewhat odd hour — say 11:15 a.m. or 4 p.m. — you can walk in and get a table with zero hassle, and enjoy a coal oven-fired pie that's better than what they serve at Lombardi's and almost as good as what's offered at Totonno's. John's is a living, breathing piece of New York's culinary history. It's also a terrific place to go if you're in a group and you don't want to spend a lot of cash. 278 Bleecker St, 212-243-1680. — Morabito
December 5, 2015
Sietsema Recommends: Gaia
The long-running, walk-down café Gaia is one of the Lower East Side's best kept secrets. In the morning it functions as a coffee shop, offering pastries and espresso-based beverages, but by lunch has geared up to serve some of the city's most authentic Italian food. The antipasti platter, with its three cured meats, two cheeses, gnocchi and bocconcini salads, and heap of dressed baby arugula, provides a fine shared appetizer for two or three, then on to the pastas which form the heart of the menu. A pesto lasagna served in a round metal contraption awash in olive oil and ricotta has just the right amount of the green condiment, not allowing it to dominate. At $8, it's an unbelievable deal.
But look to the specials chalkboard for regional Italian recipes, such as linguine with seafood, a Sicilian dish of a rich, fumet-informed red sauce dotted with shrimp, squid, and baby octopi. Sumptuous! The tables are glass-topped, so you can see the magazines and other reading material available to patrons of this quirky institution, and the walls are festooned with art that's not half bad. Order at the counter, pick a table, and wait for delivery. Note: the address is on the south side of the street. 251 E Houston St, (646) 350-3977. — Sietsema
Williamsburg's Sandwich Champion: Meat Hook Sandwich
The Meat Hook Sandwich team respects the classics, while making a few upgrades to the formula. The roast beef is topped with fried onions. The sliced pork is slathered in a tuna-inflected mayo. And the charcuterie in the Italian combo is made from scratch at nearby sister establishment The Meat Hook. Check out the video above to see the creation of one of these sandwiches from start to finish. 495 Lorimer St., 718-302-4665.
An Intimate Meal at Any Time of the Day: Joseph Leonard
Joseph Leonard is one of New York's coziest restaurants. The service here is always pleasant, and the staff knows how to make guests feel comfortable in the small space. Gabe Stulman's restaurant on the corner of Grove and Waverly is an especially great place to go before noon or after 11 p.m. on the weekends. For brunch, consider ordering the biscuits & gravy or the shrimp & grits, and if you're stopping by after-hours, get the fried chicken sandwich or the mushroom bruschetta. 170 Waverly Place; 646-429-8383.
New York's Most Classic Pizzeria: Totonno's
At this famed Coney Island restaurant, you can taste pizza as it was served 90 years ago. The classic New York pizza as we know it evolved out of these large, thin, charred pies. It's one of the city's most important restaurants, and it's also a really fun place to visit. Sietsema once called Totonno's "simply the best pizzeria in the world." 1524 Neptune Ave, 718-372-8606.
Hearty Italian Fare High Above the Flatiron District: Baita
Eataly's rooftop beer garden La Bierreria recently morphed into an Alpine-themed restaurant called Baita. The menu includes raclette, creamy polenta with salted anchovies, beer-braised pork shoulder, and bread & spinach dumplings with butter and sage. To drink, Baita is serving warm bombardino, mulled wine, and boozy hot chocolate, plus an extensive seelction of beer and wine. This pop-up is open through March. 200 5th Avenue. — Morabito
November 27, 2015
Pay attention to the sides, too, which include a Mexican-leaning poutine featuring hot tater tots decorated with cotija cheese, cilantro, crema, and a very mild mole — fragrant and delicious! 740 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, 347-763-0434 — Sietsema.
If you’re caught in Midtown for whatever reason this weekend, consider this affordable Chinese restaurant for lunch of dinner. The Peking duck buns, soup dumplings, and stir-fried noodles with sausage are standouts. The best move here is to build a meal out of the dim sum items, and order one of the hand-pulled noodle dishes for the table. There can be a wait at times, but the tables turn pretty quickly .811 8th Ave, 917-388-2555.
This French restaurant is another great choice for lunch if you’re stuck shopping or running errands in Midtown this weekend. Le Relais serves exactly one item: steak frites. This generously portioned meal costs $29, and it includes a very good salad with walnuts to start. Le Relais doesn’t serve aged beef, or cuts from a fancy purveyor. But the meat has some noticeable mineral flavor— especially if you order it rare or mid rare — and every order comes with an irresistible chicken liver sauce. The wine list includes many bottles for under $35. 590 Lexington Ave. 212-758-3989.
In his two-star review, Ryan Sutton notes that Root & Bone serves "some of the most ambitious poultry of the past half-decade." Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth brine their birds in sweet tea prior to frying them. Before hitting the table, the crispy chicken parts get dusted with dehydrated lemon powder. The meat is super juicy, and it has a clear citrus flavor. The menu also includes inspired riffs of southern classics like shrimp and grits, meatloaf, deviled eggs, and mac & cheese. 200 E 3rd St, 646-682-7076.
Rita Sodi is earning raves from the critics right now for Via Carota, the Italian restaurant that she runs with partner Jody Williams. If you're a fan of that establishment — or Italian food in general — check out her first project, the Tuscany-inspired I Sodi. This chic Christopher Street restaurant has excellent fresh pastas and awesome roasted meat dishes. I Sodi is one of Manhattan’s most casually romantic restaurants, so keep this one in mind for that anniversary dinner or special date. 105 Christopher St, 212-414-5774. — Morabito
November 21, 2015:
Sietsema Suggets: Pho Pasteur
For decades the go-to street in Chinatown for Vietnamese food has been Baxter. This leaf-shaded thoroughfare with views of the city lock-up known as the Tombs boasts at least three Vietnamese restaurants at any given time, of which the most ancient is Pho Pasteur. The curious name is not inspired by some hygienic obsession, but by a street in Ho Chi Minh City, once known as Saigon. The cafe has undergone a makeover in the last couple of years, and is now darkly paneled and brightly lit, where once it looked more like bare-bones café. No matter, the food is still great.
A major theme of the menu is pho, with a bewildering array of choices. Pick one of the simpler combinations (i.e., the brisket or the oxtail version) or go for pho ga, the lighter chicken version of the soup — which has thicker, more luxuriant rice noodles. The banh mi sandwiches are a good bet, too, including a couple of unexpected choices like fried catfish (which should remind you of the Mekong River rather than the Mississippi) and beer-braised brisket. But the best luncheon dish of all is com dia, and features combinations of meat and seafood over broken rice. Pick L2, showcasing barbecued pork chops, shredded pig skin, and a crab omelet. Pour on the fish sauce vinaigrette! 85 Baxter St, (212) 608-3656 — Sietsema
Farewell to a Trailblazer: Kin Shop
You have less than a week to visit Harold Dieterle’s excellent Thai restaurant before it closes for good. For many New York diners, Kin Shop was the gateway drug to fiery Northern Thai cuisine, and the team always delivered a great overall experience. The ideal meal here involves the spicy duck laab, the drunken noodles with shitake mushrooms, and the massaman curry with braised goat, plus a side of the crispy roti. 469 6th Ave;
The East Village’s Finest 24-Hour Restaurant: Veselka
Veselka is a great place to go with a picky eater, because this menu’s got something for everyone. The burgers and sandwiches are terrific, the soup alway tastes fresh, and the pierogies can't be beat. It’s also one of the best solo dining restaurants in the city, and a great place to go before or after a night on the town. The meat combo is the perfect thing to eat for dinner at Veselka around this time of year. 144 2nd Ave;
Alphabet City’s Indian Stunner: Babu Ji
Babu Ji keeps racking up rave reviews from the critics. Recently, Ryan Sutton awarded two stars to this Alphabet City Indian newcomer, noting: "The food can sometimes boast levels of refinement, balance, and creativity that one wouldn't normally expect at a cramped, noisy, hard-to-get-into hangout where most everything's under $20." Make sure to order the General Tso’s cauliflower and the beetroot paneer. 175 Avenue B;
Meat Madness in Murray Hill: The Cannibal
The Cannibal serves killer tartares, sausages, steaks, and large-format feasts, and the vegetable dishes are not afterthoughts. The earthy morcilla sausage is a standout, and so is the lamb tartare with capers and egg yolk. For a true feast, bring along a buddy and order the pig's head for two. 113 E 29th St,
November 14, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Breakfast at Maison Kayser
One of the upsides in Maison Kayser's aggressive takeover of the city (there are currently eight branches of the French pastry and baking chain in Manhattan) is breakfast. The dining rooms are unfailingly well-lit, clean, large, and well staffed; the coffee is good; the breakfast pastries often superb. Inspect the glass cases as you enter and see not only such Parisian viennoiseries as croissants, pain au chocolat, and brioches pralines, but many wholesome plain rolls featuring whole grains, figs, and olives. (The cheese roll is particularly savory.)
But traipse into the rear dining room and find a whole other egg-centric menu. There are glorious open-face tartines showcasing fluffy scrambled eggs and added ingredients like smoked salmon or sweet sausages; poached eggs in various guises; and French toast, of course, littered with fresh fruit and whipped cream, maple syrup on the side, thank you. If you feel like easing into brunch, there's also a croque madame with a sunnyside-up egg on top, or onion soup bobbing with a massive cheesy crouton. Not a bad place to spend an hour or so with friends. 326 Bleecker St, (212) 645-7900 and other locations — Sietsema.
Dinner or Lunch at the Bar: Union Square Cafe
Union Square Cafe will close on December 12 so that it can move to its new home on Park Avenue. This is the perfect weekend to experience the restaurant that launched Danny Meyer's career, in its original form. Union Square Cafe helped popularize bar dining. For a fitting tribute to this New York Classic, consider ordering the cheeseburger or a bowl of gnocchi at the bar, with a glass of something sparkling. 21 E 16th St;
A Rustic Italian Feast, for Lunch or Dinner: Felidia
After 34 years in business, Lidia Bastianich's East 58th Street restaurant is still serving terrific Italian food. The pear and pecorino ravioli is the classic pasta dish, and the menu has some really good meat entrees like spicy tripe, sautéed calves livers, and braised beef. Felidia recently launched a bar menu, where most dishes are priced around $10. 243 E 58th St; 212-758-1479.
Soup Dumpling and Pork Buns: 456 Shanghai Cuisine
456 serves some of the city's finest soup dumplings — they're smaller than what you find at places like Joe's or Shanghai Cafe Deluxe, and the dough is super thin. The other essential dish is the platter of fried tiny buns, which are not tiny at all. These buns have chewy skins and juicy dumplings nestled inside. You can easily build a meal here from the dim sum items for about $10 per person. 69 Mott St # A; 212-964-0003.
A Casual Afternoon or Late-Night Meal in Tribeca: Blaue Gans
Head to Kurt Gutenbrunner's Tribeca brasserie for crispy schnitzels, plump sausages, and hearty veal goulash. Blaue Gans also has some solid lighter options, too, like trout with almonds, and a bibb salad with roasted pumpkin seeds. This is a low-key restaurant that's super versatile — you can pop in for a big meal at 4:30 in the afternoon, or a drink and snack at the bar at 11:30 at night. 139 Duane St;
November 7, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Cheeky's Sandwiches
Reopened after a run-in with the DOH, Cheeky Sandwiches is one of the most delightful places on the Lower East Side for a quick bite, or to linger over a cup of New Orleans chicory coffee. The urban rustic interior recalls the Crescent City, too — whitewashed, countered with distressed wood, scrawled with humorous caricatures of customers, and possessing a cryptic little white shack with a roof deep in the interior.
The specialty is sandwiches, po' boys mostly, two made with freshly fried oysters and fried shrimp extravagantly heaped with greenery and pickles and slathered with mayo. There's a half-and-half version, too, if you can't decide. Fried chicken sandwiches are made on outsized biscuits with coleslaw and gravy, and a couple of sandwiches are available aimed at vegetarians. Zapp's potato chips are also featured and, if you arrive at the right moment, you'll find the cooks frying up a mess of beignets. Shake on the powdered sugar! 35 Orchard St, 646-504-8132. — Sietsema
A Sophisticated Dinner or Brunch in the Flatiron District: élan
If you're tired of cacophonous restaurants with uncomfortable seating and food that comes out of the kitchen erratically, élan is a good palate cleanser. David Waltuck's food is accessible but interesting, and he's not chasing any of the culinary fads of the day, which is refreshing. Highlights include the potato potstickers with black truffles, the seafood sausage, the shrimp toast, and the General Tso's sweetbreads. élan offers a three-course prix fixe for $45, and a reasonably priced brunch on the weekends too. 43 E 20th St, 6
Splashy Brunch Downtown: Dirty French
The main reason to head to Major Food's Ludlow Street restaurant during brunch is the French dip sandwich — it's made with dry-aged beef that's so tender that you don't even need the jus on the side. The brunch menu also includes a number of healthy items and some standouts from dinner, like the tuna tartare with a crispy crepe, and the excellent trout meunière. Dirty French has a mellower vibe on the weekends than sister establishments Sadelle's and Santina, but the production value is still very high. 180 Ludlow St.,
Dim Sum Frenzy: Golden Unicorn
Every New Yorker should experience the controlled chaos of Sunday morning dim sum at Golden Unicorn at least once. Make sure to get the chicken feet, the leek & pork buns, and the shrimp dumplings. Expect to wait downstairs if you arrive after 10 a.m., and if you can't hack it, Jing Fong on Elizabeth Street has a bigger dining room and equally awesome dim sum. Royal Seafood on Mott is also great, although the wait can be really long there on the weekends too. 18 E Broadway,
Casual Meal in the West Village: Buvette
You can have a light meal at Jody Williams's West Village charmer, or a French-Italian feast. For breakfast, consider order a tartine, or the steamed eggs with prosciutto. At dinner, make sure to get the beef tartare, the shaved Brussels sprouts, and the country pâté . This is the rare small plates restaurant where you don't feel like you're getting fleeced. 42 Grove St., no phone. — Morabito
October 31, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Fort Gansevoort BBQ
No city can have too many barbecues, and the MePa has been a neighborhood underserved in this regard. Not so now: Recently appeared in the backyard of the townhouse that once housed 5 Ninth, where Zak Pelaccio presided over weekend pig smokings 10 years ago, is Fort Gansevoort BBQ. It’s really just a pair of smokers and an order counter that might be mistaken for a lemonade stand in a cartoon. The founder is Adam Shopkom, who owns a gallery next door.
The list of ‘cue is minimal, now including a pair of ample sandwiches on rotund brioche rolls. Pulled pork and pulled chicken are available, piled high on the sandwich and squirted — unless you stay the hand of the sandwich maker — with barbecue sauce. The sauce is quite good, without a trace of liquid smoke. On the other hand, the ‘cue is not particularly smoky (except for the little blackened bits in the pulled pork), and the sauce tastes great. For once, I’d go with the sauce. Ribs were also promised on the first weekend, but were out by the time Eater NY arrived. Sandwiches are $12 each, plus a discounted sales tax that brings the total to $13, and the business is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday only. 6 Little W 12th St, 917-639-3113 — Sietsema
Japanese Food With a New York Twist: Ivan Ramen
Ivan Orkin's broths can't be beat. The vegetarian, spicy chili, and shio ramens are all excellent, and Ryan Sutton is a big fan of the triple garlic mazeman. You can also build a great meal from the non-noodle section of the menu, which includes braised beef tongue, pastrami-buns, and "mushrooms casino." On weekend afternoons, the menu also has a few brunch-oriented dishes like buckwheat waffles, and crispy pork belly with eggs and beets. 25 Clinton St., 646-678-3859.
Casual Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner in Noho: The Smile
New York is in the early days of a health food craze right now. Scenesters are heading to vegetable-forward downtown cafes like Dimes and El Rey Luncheonette, and the critics have good things to say about a lot of these places, too. The Smile pre-dated this trend by a few years, and it's arguably one of the best restaurants in this category. In addition to all that kale, quinoa, almond butter, and vegetable dips, this cafe also serves hearty things like steak tartare, braised lamb shoulder, and roasted chicken. The Smile has excellent egg sandwiches during breakfast and lunch, too. 26 Bond St.; 646-329-5836.
Casual New American in Williamsburg: Meadowsweet
Polo Dobkin is serving some of the finest New American fare in North Brooklyn right now. This is a cool choice for a relaxed brunch with pals, or a low-key date. During dinner, order the crispy artichokes and the pork & clam fettuccine, if they're available. At brunch, consider the duck pastrami with eggs, or the eggplant parm sandwich.149 Broadway, 718-384-0673.
Riesling & Schnitzel on Avenue C: Edi & the Wolf
This Alphabet City restaurant serves solid Austrian fare in an unusual dining room that's lined with reclaimed wood, tchotchkes, and funny little plants. Edi & the Wolf is an especially great place to go with groups of people who want to drink as much as eat. The schnitzel, spaetzle, and short ribs are all winners. 102 Avenue C, 212-598-1040. — Morabito
October 24, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Dukagjini Burek
Not to be confused with the empanada-shaped bureks of Turkey or Russia, the Balkan burek is shaped like an over-inflated spare tire on a small car. It’s made out of a dough something like filo, layered with a narrow range of fillings, usually confined to ground lamb and onions; pot cheese; spinach; or pot cheese and spinach. Occasionally, you can find one oozing pumpkin instead.
Some of the best in town are found in Albanian coffee shop Dukagjini Burek; as the name suggests, you can get $4 wedges of burek in addition to espressos and cappuccinos. Eat them dipped in the excellent yogurt made in house, which you might find a bit runny; it's supposed to be. The location is right on hopping Lydig Avenue in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx, where excellent Pakistani, Russian, and Italian restaurants and delis are also to be found. 758 Lydig Ave, Bronx, 718-822-8955. —Sietsema
Chic Farm-to-Table: Narcissa
John Fraser's food is lighter than what you find at a lot of trendy restaurants around this city, which is refreshing. The menu here is a mix of reimagined American comfort classics, and things that you might classify as health food. If it's your first time here, make sure to order the rotisserie beets and the carrots Wellington. Narcissa also serves a superb burger during lunch and brunch. 25 Cooper Sq, New York; 212-228-3344.
Korean Barbecue Bonanza: Kang Ho Baekjeong
Kang Ho always feels like a party. The servers here are super friendly and attentive to the meat that's being cooked at your table and the overall flow of the meal. Make sure to supplement the beef and banchan with the kimchi stew and the seafood pancake. Chef Deuki Hong also makes an incredible "Baekjeong lunchbox," which is basically kimchi rice that you mix at the table. 1 E 32nd St., 212-966-9839.
Lunchtime Splurge: A Salt and Battery
The frymasters at A Salt and Battery serve some of the finest fish & chips in this city. A large order easily feeds two people for just $14. The shop has a fun vibe, especially late at night. For a slightly different Anglophile thrill, check out its next-door sister establishment Tea & Sympathy, which serves a traditional English breakfast in the morning, and dishes like Welsh rarebit and shepherd's pie at night. 112 Greenwich Ave., 212-691-2713.
An Affordable Spanish Feast: Socarrat Paella Bar
All of the rice dishes here are great, but if you've never been to Socarrat, get the Valencia paella, which is made with rabbit, pork ribs, snails, asparagus, and scallions. The traditional tapas are better than what you find at many Spanish restaurants around the city, and the menu also has some great charcuterie items. Socarrat is one of the best restaurants in New York for large groups, and if you play your cards right, you can get a lot to eat and drink here for around $40 per person. 259 W 19th St., 212-462-1000. — Morabito
October 17, 2015
Sietsema Recommends: Kopitiam
Located right next door to the new Dimes on a brunch-happy stretch of Canal Street, Kopitiam ("coffee shop" in Hakka) is a new, postage-stamp-size Malaysian coffee shop. It offers three styles of coffee imported from Southeast Asia, several teas, a few sweets, and a handful of savory dishes perfect for a light meal. For breakfast, there are soft boiled eggs served with soy sauce and black pepper, or Malaysian-style buttered toast.
Two friends and I ate all the savory dishes and the best thing we tasted was Kopitiam’s rendition of nasi lemak: coconut rice topped with a boiled egg, cucumber, roasted peanuts, and a homemade sambal with a delicate fishy taste. We also dug pulut panggang: a palm leaf wrapped around sticky rice stuffed with "shrimp floss." Seating is limited to four at a counter and three at a bench outside, so don’t depend on eating in. 51B Canal St, 646-894-7081 — Sietsema
East 12th Street's Perennial Favorite: Hearth
This is a restaurant to keep in your back pocket for the next few months. Marco Canora's Italian-influenced American fare is hearty, but it won't weigh you down. If it's your first visit, make sure to order the veal & ricotta meatballs or the spatchcocked chicken for two. The fresh pasta dishes here are often terrific. 403 E 12th St; 646-602-1300.
Brooklyn's Coziest Restaurant: Vinegar Hill House
Vinegar Hill House is located on one of the most charming blocks in all of Brooklyn. The vibe inside the dining room is also incredibly cool — it's a mix of old school and new school Brooklyn design aesthetics. If you stop in for brunch, consider ordering the pear sourdough pancakes. The Red Wattle pork chop is a standout on the dinner menu. 72 Hudson Ave, 718-522-1018.
Cocktails + Bar Food in Greenpoint: Alameda
A lot of people get the burger at this stylish Greenpoint bar/restaurant, but everything else on the menu here is worth ordering, especially the fish and seasonal vegetable dishes. Right now, Alameda is serving a mushroom and egg tartine, arctic char with fried shallots, and steamed clams with bacon. The drinks are always right on the money, too. 195 Franklin St. 347-227-7296.
Where to Drink Beer and Eat Brisket: Hill Country
New York's barbecue scene has changed a lot over the last decade, but this eight-year-old restaurant is still one of the top places to eat brisket in the five boroughs. It's also one of the best restaurants for large groups. Make sure to get a link or two of the jalapeño and cheese sausage along with all that brisket, if it's available. 30 West 26th St., 212-255-4544— Morabito
October 10, 2015:
Sietsema's Pick: Baker & Co. Eating House
It’s hard to imagine a less evocative name for an Italian restaurant. Yet Baker & Co. Eating House is quite a good one, and a sleeper of sorts that moved into the old Zito’s Bakery space on Bleecker Street in April 2014. Just inside the front door find a long white-marble counter lined with backless and comfort-free wooden stools; better to sit in one of the string of smaller and more romantic dining rooms that extend far into the interior, culminating in a nice enclosed backyard partly open to the elements.
Nobody will find you there! Fluke crudo was a big hit at my table, the translucent morsels topped with thin-sliced chiles, each with a drop of red sauce in the center that made them look like eyes. The Sicilian-style rice-and-mozzarella croquettes, two to a plate, were also worth ordering, though the watermelon and tomato salad was something of a head-scratching disappointment. Sliced charcuterie comes spectacularly with cracker-thin flatbreads like Sardinian carta di musica, and the best entrée was a thick grilled Berkshire pork chop. 259 Bleecker St, 212-255-1234. — Sietsema
The Wine Bar Hit of the Year: Wildair
Wildair is the restaurant that all the chefs, food writers, and sommeliers of this city are talking about right now. This wine bar from the Contra team is the subject of a two star review from Pete Wells that reads like a rave. And Eater's wine editor Levi Dalton notes that Wildair is "the closest approximation of the Paris natural wine apero spots that New York has, with its drop-in and drift-out, open to the street arrangement. " 138 Orchard St.; 646-964-5624.
Date Night in Noho: Vic's
The tomato-sauce slathered focaccia at Vic's is one of the tastiest breads in downtown Manhattan. With thick, charred edges and an extra layer of sauce on top, it recalls the famed pizza at L & B Spumoni Gardens, only this one has a puffier crust. Beyond the focaccia, Vic's serves rustic vegetables, hearty pastas, and satisfying roasted meat and fish dishes. 31 Great Jones St, 212-253-5700.
Brunch or Cocktail Hour in Dumbo: Gran Electrica
Head to this Dumbo restaurant with your pals for a lively Mexican brunch or a margarita sipping session in the late afternoon. The shrimp tostada and mushroom quesadilla are great bar snacks or first-course items. While the weather's still nice, the back garden is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the weekends. 5 Front St, 718-852-2700.
Avenue C's Fried Chicken Favorite: Bobwhite Lunch Counter
During this week's Extreme Chicken Sandwich Run, many readers chimed in with praise for the crispy chicken sandwich at this low-key Alphabet City Southern restaurant. And indeed, Bob White's sandwich is a fine specimen — that crispy chicken breast is hugged by a large, soft roll and homemade bread & butter pickles. The restaurant also has an unbeatable $11.50 fried chicken dinner and a solid fried catfish entree for $12. 94 Avenue C, 212- 228-2972. — Morabito
October 3, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Pause Cafe
Can’t get into Dimes at peak times? Can’t score a seat at El Rey at any hour? Well, Pause Café, also on the Lower East Side near the corner of Clinton and Houston, is a less-popular counterpart of both places, with some unique charms of its own. There’s the little outdoor table out front for one thing, a flouncy banquette with three tables inside, and a jovial staff behind the counter to make your smoothies, fresh-pressed juices, vegetarian baguette sandwiches, cheese platters, meal-size salads, salutary teas, and even grain bowls.
In addition, Pause has a Moroccan bent as seen in some of the food, which means a Saharan salad with spicy hummus on the side and a wonderful sandwich featuring scrambled eggs, merguez sausage, and fontina cheese.
The interior is as highly organized and antique looking as a North African souk, with hospitality to match. For dessert, there’s a selection of cookies at this relaxing and entertaining spot. 3 Clinton St, 212-677-5415. — Sietsema
For Korean Food in a Stylish Dining Room: Hanjan
After 9 p.m. each night, Hanjan serves an incredible spicy ramyun with a pork/fish bone/chicken broth that's simmered for 12 hours. If you arrive earlier than that, make sure to get some of the fresh-killed chicken dishes — either the skewers or the fried wings — plus the seafood scallion pancake, and the kimchi and beef brisket fried rice. 36 W 26th St, 212-206-7226.
For a Hearty or Healthy Brunch Downtown: Baz Bagel
The theme at Baz is, roughly: Floridian/NYC Jewish lunch counter. It's a cute space, and the Baz team makes some very good bagels and other baked goods in that back kitchen. The menu has a nice mix of comfort food dishes and healthy options. If you're dining with a friend or two, consider ordering the blintzes for the table. 181 Grand Street; 212-335-0609.
The Farm-to-Table Champion of East 12th Street: Northern Spy Food Co.
Northern Spy Food Co. is one of the restaurants that kicked off the kale salad craze — and this place still serves one of the best versions of that dish in town. Other standouts include the pork sticky rolls and the roasted chicken, and the fish dishes here are always great too. This is a solid choice for a low-key date or brunch with friends in the East Village. 511 East 12th St.; 212-228-5100.
For Fantastic Pasta and More: Bar Primi
This is definitely a pasta restaurant, first and foremost, but the snacks and antipasti are also excellent. You can't go wrong with the broccolini, the stuffed meatballs, the crispy calamari, or the antipasti plate. When it's not too busy, this is a good place to have a solo meal at the downstairs bar. 325 Bowery; 212-220-9100. — Morabito
September 26, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Cowgirl Hall of Fame
A holdover from the 80s and 90s when boho theme restaurants like Sugar Reef and Cottonwood Café dotted the East and West Village landscapes, Cowgirl Hall of Fame is a half-serious tribute to the great cowgirls of the past, from Annie Oakley to Patsy Cline and Dale Evans. The walls are covered with photos and other memorabilia, and the food is straight-up Texan and Tex-Mex, served in humongous portions. The meal begins with a quite wonderful free black-bean dip served with tortilla chips (don’t bother with apps), and then proceeds to entrees such as chicken fried steak, fried chicken, smoked ribs, enchiladas, and fajitas.
This is comfort food pure and simple. Reflecting modern nutritional tastes, there are also meal-size salads and a specials list that dabbles in such things as fish tacos, spaghetti casserole, fried calamari, and New Mexican green chile stew. A favorite West Village dining spot for kids and their parents; crayons are provided for the kids, and a serious beer list for their parents. Outdoor seating is available out front in a "corral." 519 Hudson St, 212- 633-113. — Sietsema
A Pint at Third Avenue's Most Charming Pub: Molly's Shebeen
The first weekend of fall is the perfect time to visit this storied Gramercy pub, which has endured for over a century on Third Avenue. The floor is covered with sawdust, old-timey photos and ancient pantings hang on the walls, and a fire roars near the end of the bar. The shepherd's pie is popular with the regulars, and the burger rocks. 287 3rd Ave, New York, 212-889-3361.
For a Great Steak at an Even Better Price: St. Anselm
The "Butcher’s Steak" is one of the best meat deals in town — you might even like it more than the strip, which costs twice as much. St. Anselm also excels at salads and vegetable specials (like this beauty, from a few weeks ago.) You’re almost guaranteed to have to wait if you show up after 6:15 p.m. on a weekend night. If that’s the case, head next door to sister establishment Spuyten Duyvil to sip a fancy beer in the sprawling back yard. 355 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, 718- 384-5054.
Tribeca's Enduring Classic: The Odeon
This is the dining rom that inspired countless imitators across the city, and it still feels electric. Head to The Odeon for solo brunch at the bar with a newspaper and a bloody Mary, or stop in at night for steak frites and martinis in the dining room.145 W Broadway, 212-233-0507.
Breakfast or Lunch at an 85-Year-Old Legend: Eisenberg's
Eisenberg's is the old-fashioned greasy spoon that you wish you had in your neighborhood. The people who work at this lunch counter across the street from the Flatiron Building are super friendly, the sandwiches and egg dishes are awesome, and the prices are low. 174 5th Ave; 212-675-5096. — Morabito
September 19, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Miscelanea in the East Village
Some of the most interesting and reasonably priced food is coming from places that are purely carryout. As the reasoning goes, if the product is good enough, you’ll find your own place to eat it. One of the latest examples is Miscelanea, a fashion-forward Mexican grocery store in the East Village. I was first turned onto it by an editor who gave me a sip of her house-made watermelon-basil juice that she’d purchased there — delicious and refreshing!
The small shop in East Fourth Street’s theater district is packed with south-of-the-border products, including avocado oil, maguey sap, dried huitlacoche, mole pipian, seed cakes, carved wooden stirrers, tortilla presses, and hot sauces. The menu is succinct, running to only five tortas (torpedo-shaped sandwiches), plus chilaquiles and a corn salad. Served with a cup of pickled peppers and carrots and a bag of tortilla chips, the egg and chorizo sandwich was superb. The roll was pleasantly soft, the sausage spicy, and the refried-bean lubrication so tasty it was worth eating on its own. The chilaquiles were similarly lip-smacking, though the beverage cup it was served in made the toss of chips, avocado, crema, and beans a little difficult to eat. 63 E 4th St, (212) 253-0277. — Sietsema
Dinner or Brunch at One Downtown's Seminal Restaurants: Raoul's
This classic Soho bistro, where Thomas Keller once worked the line, is now offering brunch for the first time in its 40-year history. The menu includes ratatouille Provençal, egg & ricotta ravioli, and the elusive Raoul's cheeseburger. This restaurant still serves one of New York's top steak frites, and it's one of the best places in the neighborhood for a good, stiff drink. 180 Prince St. 212-966-3518.
Rustic Italian Fare in an Intimate Setting: Porsena
Sara Jenkins serves some amazing pasta dishes at this cozy East Village restaurant. Standouts include the rigatoni carbonara with Sichuan peppercorns, the linguini with clams, and the annelloni with sausage and mustard greens. Make sure to order some of Posena's Mediterranean-influenced salads to go along with all that pasta — they're terrific. 21 E 7th St, 212-228-4923.
Tapas For Days: El Quinto Pino
Head to this low-key Chelsea restaurant for some of the most exciting Spanish food in NYC. Alex Raij and Eder Montero's menu is a mix of traditional tapas and original creations. If it's your first visit here, consider ordering the uni panini, the lamb skewers, and the fideúa — all of them are slam-dunk dishes. 401 W 24th St, 212-206-6900.
The Sleeper Hit of East Fifth Street: GG's:
Bobby Hellen's pizzas are the stars of the show— both the thin pies and the grandma-style slabs are excellent — but the pastas, salads, and burger are also right on the money. The menu is very similar to what's offered at a lot of cafes around the city right now, but the GG's team is executing everything with a bit more care and attention to detail than the rest of the pack. 511 E 5th St, 212-687-3641.— Morabito
September 12, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Quarter in the West Village
It’s known in the industry as a sleeper — a restaurant that, without benefit of fanfare, hoopla, or major reviews gradually builds up a customer base until the place is jammed nearly every night. Opened in 2012, The Quarter is just such a restaurant. Maybe the extensive sidewalk seating on Hudson Street in the loveliest part of the West Village helps, or the dollar oysters during happy hour that serve to fill tables early. Or just the laid-back attitude the restaurant has toward itself.
The menu is decidedly eclectic, featuring such choices as hummus, burrata with pesto, fish and smoked lamb mini-tacos, quinoa salad, general tso’s satays, a red miso pork chop, and cavatelli with cremini mushrooms. How can the kitchen do it? Well, not everything’s rave-about-it great, but the food is certainly solid, the ambiance and service pleasant. And you can never go wrong with the luscious cheeseburger, which comes with excellent fries that even Belgians would be proud of. Open until midnight weekdays, 2 a.m. weekends. 522 Hudson St, 212-691-3252. — Sietsema
Nolita's Classic Latin Luncheonette: Cafe Habana
This perennially hip cafe on the corner of Elizabeth and Spring streets serves straightforward Cuban and Mexican fare in a lively setting. Everyone always seems to be in a good mood here. The best move is to go before 11 a.m. for breakfast or after 3 p.m. for a late lunch, because it's always slammed during prime brunch hours. Get the grilled corn, the eggs with chorizo, and the Cubano. 7 Prince St. 212-625-2001.
For a Red Meat + Offal Feast: Takashi
Head to this small West Village Japanese restaurant for top-notch cuts of beef that you grill at the table, plus meaty specials from the kitchen like squid ink rice with sweetbreads, and bone marrow & crawfish dumplings. The perfect bite here is the niku-uni, which is a shiso leaf topped with a slice of raw chuck flap and a lobe of sea urchin. 456 Hudson St., 212-414-2929.
One of New York's Classic Pubs: The Ear Inn
The Ear Inn has been open, in one form or another, for the last 198 years. It's one of New York's oldest taverns, and thankfully, the various owners have kept it in good shape over the years. The Ear serves what might be New York's best pint of Guinness, and the menu includes a very good cheeseburger that's served with roasted new potatoes and a salad. This is the perfect place to knock back a few beers on one of the last weekends of the summer. 326 Spring St. 212-226-9060.
Andrew Tarlow's All-Day Champion: Marlow & Sons
The cafe at Marlow & Sons always has about a dozen incredible pastries, with a good mix of savory and sweet options. For the early birds, the dining room offers a concise breakfast menu starting at 8 a.m. that includes a stellar frittata and poached eggs with seasonal vegetables. The options expand a bit at lunch with the addition of soups, salads, and oysters. And then things kick into high gear at night, when the kitchen starts serving rustic roasted fish and meat dishes. In its own quiet way, Marlow is one of the best all-day restaurants in New York City. 81 Broadway, Brooklyn, 718-384-1441.
September 5, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: Flushing's Golden Shopping Mall
When was the last time you visited Golden Shopping Mall, Flushing’s down-and-dirty Chinese food court located at the corner of Main Street and 41st Road, steps from the 7 train terminus at Main Street? Well, it’s still there, and over the last seven years of its existence has been expanded to the more remote nooks and crannies of its basement space, with its gerrymandered counters and seating arrangements, and oft-inscrutable (to non-Chinese speakers) signs. Still at the bottom of the stairs is Chengdu Sky House, offering chile-oil-slicked Sichuan salads and noodles, and the original location of Xi’an Famous Foods, where the Chinese lamb burger was first introduced to its adoring public: shards of fragrant lamb heavily rubbed with chile oil and cumin deposited between mini-pitas. Also don’t miss the lamb face salad (the menu is conveniently depicted in color snapshots on the wall.)
Then there is a stall for hot pots, and others specializing in Tianjin dumplings shaped like bulbous buttons and Lanzhou hand-pulled noodles in more permutations than you can count. So plunge down the rickety stairway, be prepared to point at pictures and eat one dish per stall, and you’ll have a fabulous sequential meal. 41-28 Main St, Queens. — Sietsema
Lobster Rolls in Greenpoint: Littleneck Outpost
This cafe/grocery/general store is the perfect place to pop into for a caffeinated beverage or a sandwich to-go if you're ambling around Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The lobster roll and chicken confit sandwiches are right on the money, and the freezer here is stocked with Melt ice cream sandwiches, which are some of the finest cold treats in NYC. 128 Franklin St, Brooklyn, 718-383-3080.
Mexican Food That's Full of Surprises: Mission Cantina
Danny Bowien's Lower East Side restaurant is constantly in a state of flux — the menu changes all the time, and the chef loves mixing and matching elements from different cuisines. The only thing you can be sure of is the fact that the menu will be full of delicious, relatively inexpensive dishes. Right now the restaurant is offering chile relleno burritos, lamb tartare, mole spiced duck wings, and ice cream with French fries. 172 Orchard St., 212-254-2233.
Noho's Modern Classic: Lafayette
Lafayette is one of New York's greatest all-day restaurants. It's a fun choice for date night or a lively brunch with friends, but the restaurant is perhaps best enjoyed in the a.m. hours when sun is pouring through those giant windows and the room has a relaxed vibe. If you stop by this weekend, make sure to get one of Jennifer Yee's terrific macaron-flavored ice cream pops to go. 380 Lafayette St., 212-533-3000
Cheap, Tasty Southern Food: Wilma Jean
The easygoing Carroll Gardens cafe from Rob Newton and Kerry Diamond serves some of the city's finest fried chicken, plus really good Southern-style side dishes like cheese grits, braised collards, and cornbread. Two people can get a lot to eat and drink here for under $40. 345 Smith St, Brooklyn; 718-422-0444. — Morabito
August 29, 2015:
Sietsema's Pick: Jordan's Lobster Dock
This antediluvian spot sports a full size (though now non-working) lighthouse and a 15-foot statue to commemorate the lobstermen who have plied the waters of Shell Bank Creek and Plum Beach for 100 years and more, not only gathering their traps, but forking clams and oysters from the lapping waters.
The lobster roll at Jordan’s (founded 1938) is legendary, but maybe direct your attention to the broad range of clam specialties offered, including raw, baked, steamed with drawn butter, red- or white-sauced with linguine, fried clam strips, and (shown here) fried whole clams, Ipswich style. Free coleslaw comes with every order. A seafood market adjoins, with local catch in addition to more far-flung sources. Sit outside at picnic tables as the boats pass by on the channel. Bring GPS or you’ll never find it! 3165 Harkness Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 934-6300 — Robert Sietsema
Dim Sum Legend: Jing Fong
Head to Jing Fong for very good off-the-cart dim sum served in one of New York's largest dining rooms. It is a forest of tables in here, and if you're seated near the perimeter, it can be hard to score the best dishes. If that's the case, consider walking up to the carts near the center of the pit to get what you want. The shumai, rice rolls, pork buns, chicken feet, and ribs in black bean sauce are all great. 20 Elizabeth St., Chinatown, (212) 964-5256.
Greenwich Village Spanish Stunner: Tertulia
Seamus Mullen's four-year-old Spanish restaurant is a great place for a low-key brunch or a date night dinner. The menu is a mix of traditional tapas and market-driven small plates in a more New American vein. The chicken and vegetable-studded "paella del huerto" is a terrific entree to share for dinner, and if you're in the mood for red meat, Tertulia also serves an impressive 40-day aged prime rib, which is grilled over coals. 359 6th Ave, Greenwich Village, (646) 559-9909.
Extra-Fine Fried Chicken: Pies 'N' Thighs
The fried chicken at Pies 'N' Thighs is not coated in a fancypants buttermilk batter or matzo crumble, and the meat is not Frenched off the edges of the bones. This is straightforward, classic, somewhat dirty fried chicken, and it's spectacular. Pies 'N' Thighs also offers lovingly prepared Southern-style brunch dishes and excellent pies and doughnuts. It's an ideal place for brunch if you show up early enough to beat the crowds. The Williamsburg location has the benefit of a back yard, but if you're dining solo, consider the LES outpost. 166 S 4th St, Williamsburg (347) 529-6090; 43 Canal St, Lower East Side, (212) 431-7437.
McNally's LES Masterpiece: Schiller's Liquor Bar
Bits and pieces of Keith McNally's LES restaurant have been replicated in dining rooms all over the world. It's a distinctive space that is perhaps best enjoyed before 1 p.m. on the weekends and in the early afternoon any day of the week, when the room is filled with light and it's not too crowded. It's also a fun place to pop into at the end of a night spent bar hopping downtown. This a restaurant that you go to more for atmosphere than for cuisine, but as Eater co-founder Lockhart Steele notes, you can have a very good meal here if you order the huevos rancheros or chicken paillard for brunch, and the garlic shrimp and steak frites for dinner. 131 Rivington St, Lower East Side; (212) 260-4555. —Morabito
August 22, 2015
Sietsema Recommends: The Anticuchos at Nazca
Maybe as the weather cools down you might want to dine in the open air again. Astoria newcomer Nazca boasts an open front calculated to catch late-summer breezes, and a menu that hits all the high points of Peruvian cuisine. Relax with a glass of the purple-corn punch called chicha morada and dive into jalaea, a giant plate of perfectly fried seafood, including shrimp, squid, and corvina, mixed in with the stray plank of yuca.
Also available is tiradito, a type of sashimi in a spicy orange paste, and a cooling watermelon and cucumber salad that could use some more dressing. Ask for it. Best of all are anticuchos, the swatches of marinated beef heart grilled over charcoal that constitute Peru’s most popular street fare. No liquor license yet. 34-20 Broadway, Queens, 929-522-0297. — Sietsema
A New York Classic Reborn: Jams
This week, Jonathan Waxman — a chef that's largely credited with bringing California cuisine to New York — opened a new iteration of his 80s hit Jams in the 1 Hotel Central Park. The menu includes throwback dishes like the roasted chicken with tarragon butter, and "Jams pancakes" with caviar and red peppers, plus new items like short rib tacos and a bacon cheeseburger. The dining room is airy and comfortable, and the space has a big bar that's ideal for solo dining. 1414 Avenue of the Americas, 212-703-2001
Chinatown Legend: Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Nom Wah is situated in the middle of Doyers Street — which is officially New York's coolest block — and the dining room is a relic in the best way. The food is fresh and consistently delicious. Order the pork buns, the sticky rice in lotus leaves, the shrimp & chive dumplings, and any of the rice rolls. During peak dim sum hours (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) you might not be able to sit down right away, but the wait is never that bad. 13 Doyer St., 212-962-6047.
Summery Italian: Rosemary's
Carlos Suarez's West Village Italian restaurant has a special glow during the summertime. The food here is lighter than what you find at most contemporary Italian restaurants, and the wine list has a good selection of refreshing whites and rosés by the glass. Consider ordering the caprese focaccia, the mozzarella & burrata plate, the cavatelli with fresh peas, and the roasted chicken with grilled corn. 18 Greenwich Ave, 212-647-1818.
Destination-Worthy Hot Beef Sandwiches: Brennan & Carr
If you've got an automobile, Brennan & Carr is a great place to go before or after the beach. It's also a fun place to have the first or last meal of a road trip. The specialty at this eight-decade-old Sheepshead Bay classic is sliced "hot beef" sandwiches doused in a mysterious salty broth — many customers request a "double dip," because it's that good. Bud Light is the only beer on tap and the restaurant is cash-only. For more on the history of the restaurant, check out Brooks of Sheffield's Who Goes There? report from four years ago. 3432 Nostrand Ave, 718-769-1254. — Morabito
August 15, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: The Veggie Burger at V-Spot Organic
This charming 73-year-old lunch counter recently returned from a four-month break due to issues related to the horrific Second Avenue explosion. The line cooks here are masters in the art of omelette-making, and the vibe can't be beat. New York is a better place now that B & H is back in business. 127 Second Ave, 212-505-8065.
For Date Night or a Splashy Brunch: Cherche Midi
This is one of Keith McNally's prettiest restaurants — note the pink tablecloths, red banquettes, lace curtains, and soft light — and the menu is full of surprises. No visit to The Cherchemonster is complete without the funky pot de fromage with anchovy toast. After that, consider ordering the dry-aged slab of prime rib or the Nicoise salad. 282 Bowery, 212-226-3055.
Ramen Perfection: Ippudo
Manhattan's's first big-deal Japanese ramen house is still one of the best noodle parlors in town. The broth is truly something special, and the energetic service, theatrical decor, and lively bar scene complete the picture. 64 Fourth Ave., 212-388-0088.
Casual Charm in the East Village: GG's
August 8, 2015:
Sietsema Recommends: The Back Yard At Cooklyn
Overhung with trees, strung with tiny lights, and fenced in with woven mats, Cooklyn possesses one of the pleasantest outdoor spaces in Brooklyn. The menu of this nine-month-old Prospect Heights establishment whose name recalls a Spike Lee movie highlights Brooklyn purveyors, and the chef is Anthony Theocarpoulos, a veteran of Café Boulud in Palm Beach and the pasta operation at Eataly. The eclectic menu spotlights Greek, Spanish, Japanese, and New American influences with a special emphasis on seafood, including octopus a la plancha with smoked potatoes and pesto, and mussels with chorizo in lobster broth. There are plenty of pastas, too, and entrees that run to duck couscous and pan-seared salmon. Thirty wines are available by glass and quartino. 659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, (347) 915-0721. — Sietsema
Chelsea's Best Kept Secret: The Cafe at Sullivan Street Bakery
You've most certainly tasted Jim Lahey's breads at restaurants around the city, and you might have even sampled his pizzas at Co. or the flagship Sullivan Street location in Hell's Kitchen. But have you ever tried the baker's menu of seasonal Italian food at Sullivan Street's sit-down cafe in Chelsea? It's phenomenal stuff. Standouts from the menu include the farro salad with toasted pistachios, the roast beef sandwich, and the poached eggs with zucchini and potatoes. 236 Ninth Avenue; 212-929-5900.
The Perfect Spot for a Late Afternoon Lunch: Otto
Mario Batali's Greenwich Village pizzeria is packed most nights, but you should have no problem walking in and grabbing a table during lunch on the weekends. But really, the best move is to swing by in the late afternoon for a drink and some charcuterie or contorni in the barroom. The bartenders are extremely attentive and hospitable, and they're more than happy to point out the winners on the menu and the wine list. It's one of New York's greatest dining bars. One Fifth Avenue, 212-995-9559.
An Uptown Burger Legend Heads Downtown: J.G. Melon
Upper East Side burger favorite J.G. Melon recently spawned a downtown sibling on the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal. Eater's resident meat expert Nick Solares declares that the burger here is "equally compelling as the uptown original," and the cottage fries are crispier downtown. This new iteration of J.G melon opened about two weeks ago with dinner service only, but now it opens at 11:30 a.m. for lunch daily. 89 MacDougal Street; 212-460-0900.
A Brunch Menu That's Full of Surprises: Talde
Talde is a good example of how a restaurant can serve brunch without selling its soul to the devil — the midday options are just as good as what's offered at night. With its uncanny "buttered toast broth," the breakfast ramen is the must-order dish, but the bacon pad Thai and lobster egg foo yung are also slam dunks. — Morabito
August 1, 2015
Sietsema Recommends: Randazzo's Clam Bar
Summer is the time for joyous consumption of fresh seafood as close to the sea as possible. And one of Brooklyn's best options is Randazzo's Clam Bar in Sheepshead Bay. Founded in 1964, when the bay was lined with similar clam bars, Randazzo's serves an entire seafood menu from an Italian perspective. There are raw clams and stuffed clams, of course, the tiniest and tenderest Littlenecks imaginable, and clam chowders both red and white. (You're in Brooklyn, get the red!) But Randazzo's is also a great place to enjoy an al dente serving of linguine and clams, superb fried calamari (pick the hottest tomato sauce), and, like the towering neon sign implies, whole lobsters with drawn butter. Then take a stroll along the bay and admire the fishing fleet. 2017 Emmons Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 615-0010. — Sietsema
Nolita Classic: Cafe Gitane
A meal at Cafe Gitane is like stepping into a time portal back to a looser version of downtown Manhattan. You might spot a star of indie cinema across the room or, at the very least, some fashionable person that frequents Angelika and Film Forum. The menu is full of French bistro/Mediterranean cafe dishes that are vaguely healthy. Gitane helped popularize the avocado toast, and the version served here is top notch. But the star of the show is the tower of grilled eggplant with olive tapenade, goat cheese, and pesto. Wash it down a few glasses of rose, and you're on your way to having a stellar afternoon. For the early birds out there, Gitane opens at 8:30 a.m. daily.
Spectacular Seasonal Italian in Fort Greene: Roman's
Perfect Neapolitan Pizzas: Motorino
July 25, 2015:
For the Perfect Pasta Lunch: Lupa
Lupa is one of New York's best weekend lunch restaurants, but the hitch is that you've got to show up before it gets slammed — the ideal hour of arrival is approximately 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Babbo and Del Posto get all the love in the Batali/Bastianich group these days, but really, this is one of their most enjoyable restaurants. The pastas are amazing, the wine list includes some great options by the glass, and the service is attentive without being overbearing. [Photo: Krieger]
For Accessible Fine Dining in Midtown: The Modern
Over the last year, former Nomad chef Abram Bissell quietly revamped the menu at Danny Meyer's restaurant in the Museum of Modern Art. The basic concept is the same — shareable small plates in the front, tasting menus in the back — but Bissell has a lighter touch than his predecessor, Gabriel Kreuther, and he knows how to tease a lot of flavor out of seasonal vegetables. Standouts include the carrot tartare, the succulent chicken with leek gribache, and the sensational black truffle cavatelli. [Photo: Facebook]
For a Casual Dinner Date in the East Village: Via Della Pace Pizza
The team from East Village standby Via Della Pace recently opened a pizzeria spinoff serving ultra-thin Roman-style pies baked in a wood-burning oven. The menu also includes salads, antipasti, homemade pastas, and a few baked noodle dishes. The space is full of kooky sports ephemera, including a boxing glove signed by Jake LaMotta, a couple of tennis rackets, and the steering wheel from an original Fiat 500. [Photo: Nick Solares]
For Knock-Out Sichuan Food Near 30 Rock: Wu Liang Ye
Wu Liang Ye is Rockefeller Center's best kept secret. This two decade-old Sichuan restaurant is located right across the street from the Today Show plaza on the second floor of a townhouse building that has a Five Guys in the basement. Once you climb those stairs you'll find a dining room that looks like an old steakhouse — high ceilings, dark woodwork, white tablecloths, and giant paintings on the wall. You can't go wrong with any of the "Sichuan delicacies," but make sure to get the cold sesame noodles and the "Sichuan mini pork buns," which are fluffy steamed dumplings stuffed with chives and minced pork.
Sietsema Recommends: Nick's Lobster
Where Brooklyn's Flatbush Avenue lunges past the estuary called Mill Basin on its way to the Rockaway Inlet stands Nick's Lobster. Established in 1975 as a fish market, it's the city's only authentic Maine-style lobster pound. Sit on the outdoor wooden deck around sunset as the fishing boats come in and enjoy one of the best seafood dinners in town, with a view of houses on stilts just across the water on Mill Island. You can even pick your lobster from a bubbling tank just inside the front door, and have it with corn on the cob, french fries, cole slaw, and, of course, plenty of drawn butter. Other seafood selections are also fab, including red and white clam chowders, broiled whole fish (many local), fried calamari with spicy red sauce, and stuffed clams. — Robert Sietsema
July 17, 2015
Spicy Northern Thai Food in a Living Room: Chiang Mai
After a recent split with her business partner (and boyfriend) Kanlaya Supachana, the talented Thai chef behind Red Hook's Kao Soy, traveled just down the block and opened her own place, Chiang Mai — a six month (maybe longer) pop-up in the living room-style cafe Home/Made. Here, she's cooking northern Thai dishes, including her signature khao soi, a rich yellow curry with noodles and chicken, and topped with banana blossom fritters.
Come For the Art, Stay for the Vegetables: Untitled
Gramercy Tavern chef Michael Anthony and his chef de cuisine Suzanne Cupps are "serving some of the city's most accomplished vegetable-forward fare at very reasonable prices," says Ryan Sutton in his two star review of Danny Meyer's Untitled at the Whitney. Bonus: The restaurant's all glass walls allow for optimal people watching.
Where the Soy Flows Freely: Kings County Imperial
At Kings County Imperial, the team behind Park Slope's Stone Park Cafe, is focusing on the food of central China made with ingredients grown in the restaurant's garden. Expect dishes like crispy white radish cake with la chuang sausage and shrimp, a whole wheat lo mein made with radishes and cucumber, and prawn fries served with Chinese ketchup. Soy sauce comes on tap here and drinks are Tiki style.
Petanque, Meet Tacos: M. Wells Steakhouse
On Sundays this summer, the M. Wells Steakhouse clan is hosting petanque tournaments with tacos, cider, and wine in the afternoons. On Saturdays, there's pizza on the terrace overlooking the new Smorgasburg Queens, perfect for when the crowds get a bit intense.
Robert Sietsema Recommends: Ducks Eatery