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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Weekend barbacoa, pizza in the park, and more

A handful of customers sit at plastic, fold-up tables inside of an enclosed outdoor dining structure
La Estancia de la Espiga
Robert Sietsema / Eater NY

The amount of excellent food available in New York City is dizzying — even during a pandemic — yet mediocre meals somehow keep worming their way into our lives. With Eater editors dining out sometimes several times a day, we do come across lots of standout dishes, and we don’t want to keep any secrets. Check back weekly for the best things we ate this week — so you can, too.

April 26

On a green plate, a giant hunk of meat with onions and cilantro, and a side plate of tortillas.
One pound of barbacoa, with all the fixings
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Weekend barbacoa at La Estancia de la Espiga

One look though the window at this Mexican restaurant in Corona, Queens, and you have to go in. There you’ll see a woman making outsized tortillas, running fistfuls of masa through a machine and throwing the resulting rounds of dough onto a flat top, where they begin to sizzle and bubble. The resultant tortillas are offered in limitless supply when you order a pound of barbacoa — a weekend special that draws crowds to the restaurant — along with chopped onions, lemons, and cilantro. This Sunday, the barbacoa made in the restaurant’s makeshift pit oven was mutton, rich with flavor and boasting an edge of wobbly, lubricating fat — though some weekends the meat is goat. Priced at $27, one pound of barbacoa easily feeds two or three, and makes the most wonderful brunch imaginable, especially when you squirt on the red or green salsa, the former hotter, the latter tarter. 42-11 102nd Street, between 42nd and 43rd avenues, Corona Robert Sietsema, senior critic

An overhead photograph of a half-eaten pesto and burrata pizza topped with sprigs of basil
The pesto burrata pizza at Joe and Sal’s
Luke Fortney / Eater NY

Pesto burrata pie from Joe and Sal’s

It’s possible you’ve spent more time in Prospect Park these last two weeks than, say, the previous 12 months combined. If that’s the case, and with more picnics and potlucks on the way, it’s important to know about Joe and Sal’s. Located a couple blocks from the north end of the park, this neighborhood pizzeria might look like an everyday slice shop — but look closer, and you’ll see that some serious thought has gone into the toppings and ingredients here. The pesto burrata pie ($28), perfectly greasy and served with what appears to be a whole basil plant, is a reliable choice, but you can’t go wrong with the square nonna pie ($26). Call ahead of time for pickup and BYO hot honey. 842 Franklin Avenue, between Union and President Streets, Crown Heights — Luke Fortney, reporter

A white bowl with cabbage, tomato, egg, meatballs, and black rice in it
Grandma’s Favorite bowl at Chinah
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Grandma’s Favorite bowl at Chinah

Chinah has been on my list to check out since it opened in March — it’s right next to the office (already started pre-planning my work lunches, I guess), the team behind it is solid, and FiDi’s fast-casual lunch scene is in desperate need of more standout options. I ordered the Grandma’s Favorite ($13.99) with three fist-sized meatballs, forbidden black rice, tomato and egg, and steamed cabbage. It was like a little hug in a bowl — a simple, homey meal that’ll feel like an escape when we’re back to sitting under fluorescent office lights. I’d head back to Chinah over any of the other options, including Chipotle, that are flanking it on Maiden Lane. 100 Maiden Lane, at Pearl Street — Erika Adams, reporter

A dozen of wontons in hot sauce goes for $8.50 at White Bear in Flushing, Queens
A dozen wontons in hot sauce at White Bear
Bao Ong / Eater NY

Wontons with hot sauce at White Bear

The dozen delicately wrapped spicy wontons — Number Six on the menu and what almost everyone calls it — is priced at $8.50 an order these days. Longtime fans of White Bear will reminisce (aka, complain on Yelp) that a tray of these juicy pork-and-vegetable wontons used to be a lot cheaper. I wouldn’t hesitate to pay more because each wonton is worth it. The not-too-hot chile oil combined with salty preserved mustard leaves is a perfect snack if you’re looking to hit up other spots on your Flushing bucket list. The tiny shop is only offering orders to go these days, and I hope they’re bringing in enough business to survive the pandemic. I’d happily pay more to make sure that happens. 135-02 Roosevelt Avenue, between Prince and Main streets, Flushing — Bao Ong, editor

Soft shell crab at Ha’s Đặc Biệt at Frenchette

I cycled down the Hudson River Greenway last week to pick up an order from Ha’s Đặc Biệt, the roving modern Vietnamese pop-up that’s currently in residence at Frenchette on Sundays and Mondays. Chefs Anthony Ha and Sadie Mae Burns were sold out of their chicken and a few others dishes by nightfall, but I managed to snag one of the last orders of soft shell crab ($16). The chefs glazed the crustacean in chile, cilantro, and fried garlic. Each flavor came through with striking clarity; a bit of lemongrass imparted a pleasant bubblegum-like aroma, while the caramel-y sauce did just enough to add complex sweetness without overwhelming the natural oceanic aromas of the crab. I’ve had quite a few soft shell preparations over the past decade or so, and this was by far one of the most precise and balanced, which is a heck of a thing to say for something that I ate from a cardboard box 30 minutes after it was prepared. 241 West Broadway between White and Walker streets, Tribeca — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

April 19

A giant piece of breaded fish flops across the whole wheat slices of a sandwich, and only the top slice is visible.
Fried fish sandwich at Legends House of Sea Foods
Robert Sietsema/Eater

Fried fish sandwich at Legends House of Sea Foods

Open only a few weeks, Legends House of Sea Foods replaced a Texas Fried Chicken and is the type of fried fish joint you’ll find across Harlem. The main menu predictably limits itself to fried fish, shrimp, and chicken wings, but the fish is local whiting and encrusted in a crumb coating rich with spices, and the filets perfectly fried. The price is only $6 for a three-filet sandwich, in which the fish flops over the whole-wheat bread so that one sandwich, liberally slathered with tartar sauce, easily fed two on a recent sunny afternoon. The interior of this carryout place is painted with super-graphic representations of a lobster and a crab, betokening a more-expensive menu of steamed seafood. For either, the usual soul food sides apply: collard greens, mac and cheese, candied yams, and potato salad. 2309 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard, between 135th and 136th streets, Harlem — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A baked cheese dessert with a burnt top sits in a small clay bowl lined with a banana leaf.
Chenna poda at Dhamaka

Chena Poda at Dhamaka

At Dhamaka, whose food I very much enjoyed (the space was a different matter), I sampled a dessert that I didn’t get a chance to rhapsodize in my early review due to space considerations. That confection was the chena poda ($9), a baked cheese dessert popular in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, which shares a long coastline with the Bay of Bengal. The Dhamaka crew told me via phone that they cut down on the sugar content in terms of how it’s typically prepared; the team also likes to bake the dish, to order, in a banana leaf. The resulting product is quite good; it’s steaming hot as it’s served, and it boasts a soft but cake-like interior with a nicely caramelized top. The curd itself sports the pleasant tang of a good farmer’s cheese, while the banana leaf imparts a wonderfully astringent and almost matcha-like aroma. I’m looking forward to trying this again. Keep in mind that each small serving is most definitely just for one person. 119 Delancey Street, between Norfolk and Essex streets, Lower East Side — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

An overhead photograph of a bowl of brick-red soup with chunks of chicken, potatoes, and sprigs of cilantro. A takeout container of noodles sits to the side. Luke Fortney/Eater

Spicy big tray chicken at Spicy Village

If there’s a defining theme of these last two weeks, it’s Catching Up. Not just with vaccinated pals in Prospect Park, but also on my running list of restaurants to visit outside of my home borough. On top of that list for some time now has been Spicy Village, the much beloved Lower East Side restaurant from the wife-husband team of Wendy Lian and Ren Fu Li. On the recommendation of, well, everyone, we started with the spicy big tray chicken ($15.95), a heaping takeout container of chicken and potatoes that’s as good as they say. The stew is made from star anise, chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, and a splash of Budweiser beer — and, for an additional dollar, a side of hand-pulled noodles can be dipped in the brick-red broth. There are two tables in front of the restaurant for outdoor dining, but the best seats during the pandemic might be across the street, where park benches offer views of handball matches and games of mahjong. 68 Forsyth Street, between Grand and Hester streets, Lower East Side — Luke Fortney, reporter

A close-up photo of a croissant filled with cheese set on a brown paper bag, with greenery in the background
Ramp and cheese croissant at Mel
Erika Adams/Eater

Ramp and cheese croissant at Mel

Sunday is a day for simple pleasures, and to me, that often means early-morning bakery runs. This past Sunday, my husband and I stopped at Lower East Side newcomer Mel and stuffed a tote with croissants to take over to nearby Seward Park. The seasonal ramp and cheese croissant was the real standout among the bunch — the garlicky ramps were evenly distributed among generous gobs of cheese, and it was all packed into one beautiful, buttery croissant with dense, layered innards and a crispy outer shell. Plan to get there early as the baked goods tend to sell out fast. 1 Ludlow Street, at Canal Street, Lower East Side — Erika Adams, reporter

A small sized serving of the savory tofu pudding at Fong On in Chinatown
Savory tofu pudding at Fong On
Bao Ong/Eater

Savory tofu pudding at Fong On

I hadn’t made it to Fong On since last year, but when I heard that owner Paul Eng was recently hospitalized, I knew I had to get to one of my favorite Chinatown spots to support the humble tofu shop. For a quick Sunday lunch, I ordered a small serving of the savory pudding ($6.50), a paper cup filled with silky, custard-like tofu that’s overflowing with dried shrimp, fried shallots, pickled radishes, and scallions. It’s as comforting as any bowl of hearty congee without all the carbs weighing you down. I also added on an order of the rice cakes ($5.50 for six pieces), which weren’t available for about a week, and a block of firm tofu ($2) to peck away at during the week. But as much as I love everything on Fong On’s entire menu, my main motive was to make sure Eng’s family business wasn’t yet another victim of the pandemic. After all, Eng had already resurrected his family’s business a few years ago after it closed in 2017. An employee says Eng is recovering, and I hope that means some of New York’s best tofu is here for years to come. 81 Division Street, between Eldridge and Pike streets, Chinatown — Bao Ong, editor

April 12

On a white outdoor table a reservoir of cheese sauce, little plate of focaccia, and bowl of crudite for dipping.
Chalet fondue at King Mother
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chalet fondue at King Mother

What better brunch dish on a rainy afternoon in early spring than fondue? Guests sit around in a circle, sipping wine, and dipping vegetables or gobbets of bread in the cheese sauce, kept molten with a candle flame underneath. At King Mother — a biodynamic and organic wine bar offshoot of a nearby Ditmas Park liquor store — the fondue ($30, plus $3 extra for focaccia) is presented on a camp stove and comes accompanied by steamed fingerling potatoes, purple endive, radishes, and cornichons. The fondue is composed of chardonnay-laced raclette, cheddar, and American cheeses, rendering it creamy and a little tangy. Other menu items making surprisingly great dipping objects, too, including the Schaller & Weber frank in a bun. 1205 Cortelyou Road, at Westminster Road, Ditmas Park Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A tangle of noodles sits intertwined with charred bits of lamb in a bowl with chopsticks next to a glass fo beer
Lamb noodles at Momofuku Noodle
Ryan Sutton / Eater New York

Lamb noodles at Momofuku Noodle Bar Uptown

One of the nice things about living in Hell’s Kitchen is that I manage to fall within the Momofuku Noodle Bar delivery zone, which means I can occasionally treat myself to some stay-at-home carbs. On a recent evening, I noticed that the venue, which is also open for indoor dining (no thanks), was offering what appeared to be Western Chinese-style cumin lamb noodles, so I decided to give them a quick test drive. They arrived in a nice tangle, slicked with chiles and replete with crispy bits of sweet, funky, charred lamb. A few pickled shiitakes provided acid, while the noodles themselves were springy and somewhat creamy. Then there was the heat, which was not subtle. A polite customer might call this a two beer dish; I’d say it exhibited the type of reality altering spice that one could logically measure using an emergency room-style, “how-much-pain-are-you-in” scale. That is to say, it’s quite hot. But I still finished it! 10 Columbus Circle, third floor, near 58th Street, Midtown West — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

Disclosure: David Chang is producing shows for Hulu in partnership with Vox Media Studios, part of Eater’s parent company, Vox Media. No Eater staff member is involved in the production of those shows, and this does not impact coverage on Eater.

A green bowl is filled with white grits, green roasted pepper strips, brown galbi, and red cherry tomatoes cut in half
Kjun’s galbi grillades and grits
Erika Adams/Eater New York

Galbi grillades and grits at Kjun

It took about five seconds for me to go from staring at this photo of Korean-Cajun newcomer Kjun’s galbi grillades and grits while I was putting together our Manhattan heatmap update last week to ordering the dish for myself. And, yes: I’m here to report that chef Jae Jung’s galbi pairing is top-notch, and those grits are exactly as cheesy and creamy as they look in the photos. The dish was already rather mixed due to a bit of jumbling during Citibike transit but that only helped each bite come together. My favorite forkful included bits of juicy kimchi cherry tomatoes, which did a superb job of cutting through the heaviness of the grits. It was a very fun weeknight dinner. 345 East 62nd Street, between First and Second Avenues, Upper East Side — Erika Adams, reporter

A dessert of thai tea tres leche cake as seen at Golden Diner
Thai tea tres leches cake at Golden Diner
Bao Ong / Eater New York

Thai tea tres leches cake at Golden Diner

I can’t lie that I always find temptation in pad thai (carbs galore!) and thai iced tea (often so sweet it’s basically a dessert in liquid form) whenever I’m scanning a Thai restaurant’s menu — even if I end up ordering the duck larb or the boat noodle soup because that often feels like what someone working in food is supposed to do. My little First-World conundrum is solved with Golden Diner’s latest dessert: Thai tea tres leches cake ($9). This twist on the Mexican confection is a standout that wipes away any guilt of ordering a “basic” thai iced tea. When our server dropped off this last course, I knew I’d love it. I can’t recall ever catching such a fragrant whiff of lime zest before, and the tiny shards of coconut were perfectly toasted. My spoon went straight through the chantilly cream and cake — which is soaked in the tea overnight — like butter. Thai iced tea never tasted so good. 123 Madison Street, between Market Street and Mechanics Alley, Two Bridges — Bao Ong, editor

April 5

A bulging burrito covered with cheese and sauce appears to be taking flight on a long white runway of a plate.
El Patron burrito at El Patron
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

El Patron burrito at El Patron

Located at the northern gateway to Flatbush and a quick sprint away from Prospect Park, El Patron lies in a little cluster of Guatemalan and Mexican restaurants with a colorful, fenced-in outdoor seating area that catches the sun’s rays around brunchtime. The menu is big on mixed drinks, but also offers a pleasing array of mostly Mexican-American fare, of which humongous burritos is one of the restaurant’s proudest accomplishments. This burrito ($13), which looks like a very heavy bird with its tortilla-chip wings, arrives stuffed with brisket, rice, pico de gallo, and your choice of beans (black, pinto, or refried pinto). More impressively, like the epic burrito mojada found in San Francisco’s Mission district, it comes bathed in a porky red sauce and topped with grated cheese, making a gutbomb of magnificent proportions. But be warned this is not the kind of burrito you can pick up and eat while walking around. 51 Lincoln Road, between Flatbush and Ocean Avenues, Prospect Lefferts Gardens — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Beef chive momos at Lhasa Fresh Foods
Beef chive momos at Lhasa Fresh Foods
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Beef chive momos at Lhasa Fresh Food

Lhasa Fresh Food doesn’t have the charm of being hidden in an arcade where you have to pass a cell-phone shop, tailor, and jewelry store before placing an order. But since the original Lhasa Fast Food was reportedly destroyed in a fire and chef-owner Sang Jien Ben started a GoFundMe fundraiser to open another location of the Tibetan favorite, I wanted to support a local business in my neighborhood. It was my first time at Lhasa Fresh Food, which opened in 2019, and I’ll definitely be back soon. The eight steamed beef chive momos ($6) looked like a cross between a Shanghainese soup dumpling and a bao with its pincushion shape and pleats. I dredged each morsel through the bright orange hot sauce and the juicy filling, laced with bits of fragrant chopped chives, reminded me of why Lhasa is one of the most popular destinations for momos in town. I’ll be ordering more momos here until the crew (hopefully) opens a new location. 81-09 41st Avenue, between 81st Street and Baxter Avenue, Elmhurst — Bao Ong, editor

A white plate with some tacos on it that have fish and an orange sauce and some thin slices of mango
Pescado tacos at Barrio Chino
Tanay Warerkar/Eater

Pescado tacos at Barrio Chino

A recent warm weekend day afforded us the perfect opportunity to sit at Lower East Side Mexican restaurant Barrio Chino’s outdoor dining setup and order several dishes off the menu — where you seriously feel like you want to order every single one. There were several standouts in our meal, notably the enchiladas de mole and the guacamole, but the pescado tacos were in a league of their own. The mahi mahi fish is blackened just enough, giving the fish a lightly crispy exterior while still maintaining its soft, flaky interior. Thin, shaved strands of sweet-sour mango balance the peppery-ness of the fish, and a creamy, chipotle lime mayo binds the whole dish together. I washed it all down with a refreshing watermelon margarita. 253 Broome Street, at Orchard Street, Lower East Side — Tanay Warerkar, reporter