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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Egyptian burritos, plump piroshki, and more

An overhead photograph of piroshki sold from plastic bags on the street.
Eater design director Nat Belkov finds excellent piroshki in Brighton Beach.
Nat Belkov/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.

December 19

Piroshki on Brighton Beach Avenue

If you ever want to feel like you’re walking along the edge of the earth, pick a crisp, sunny off-season day and take a stroll down by the water’s edge on Brighton Beach, with the silent structures of Coney Island looming over your shoulder. To keep warm and well-fed, I suggest grabbing a piping hot piroshki from the woman selling them under the truss of the BQ subway line. Tearing into the outer crust of a just-fried piroshki with an airy, milk-bread-like interior is an entirely different experience than consuming one that’s been sitting out. With meat-filled cheburek and cherry and sweet cheese-stuffed bulochki laid out in front of us, we landed on these veggie pockets, one filled with subtly spiced green peas and the other, pillowy mashed potato with striations of sour cream ($2 to $5 each). Hearts were warmed, bellies were happy, and despite their best efforts, the seagulls weren’t able to snag a single bite. Brighton Beach Avenue, between Brighton Beach Fifth and Brighton Beach Sixth streets, Brighton Beach — Nat Belkov, design director

A skillet with ground goat in a thick brown sauce, with two rolls on the side.
The keema pav at GupShup.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Keema pav at GupShup

GupShup, which means something like “loose talk,” dwells on the food of Mumbai, which the restaurant still refers to as Bombay. This includes a broad range of dishes, but one of my favorite emphases is street food. Keema pav ($22 at lunch) is a strongly flavored mince of goat topped with crunchy masala potato sticks, served in a skillet and sided with buttered pav, the yeast-risen rolls brought to India by the Portuguese. Make yourself some impromptu sandwiches! Yes, the keema tastes of its cumin-forward masala, making it a cousin of Texas chili con carne, and it just might qualify as the best chili you’ve ever tasted. 115 East 18th Street, between Irving Place and Park Avenue South, Union Square — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A wooden table with chopped cheese sandwich, a burrito, and disco fries.
Egyptian burritos find a home in Park Slope.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Kofta burrito at Sandwich Girl Cafe

Thanks to reader Diane M. for writing in this month with a tip about Sandwich Girl, a small cafe that started as a food truck in Miami, before becoming a food truck in Manhattan, and eventually a storefront on a residential side street of Park Slope. The shop is about a year old, with a delightful menu that lists chopped cheese sandwiches and disco fries drizzled with spicy tahini. We ordered both, of course, plus one of the restaurant’s wraps — an Egyptian burrito of sorts with giant torpedos of kofta, Egyptian salad, tahini, and crumbles of feta cheese ($13). Let me say: After a year of inventive and often disappointing East Coast burritos, this one gave me the hope I needed for 2023. 339 Seventh Street, near Fifth Avenue, Park Slope — Luke Fortney, reporter

Two pizzas across a bar.
The guancia pizza at Razza.
Melissa McCart/Eater NY

The guancia pizza at Razza

Dan Richer’s pizza at Razza is still good — no surprise here. But now with a new space next door that opened in the spring, it’s easier to get a table or a spot at the bar, even as a walk-in. Sure, you can sit in the original digs — the moody former theater space with a view of the oven on a stage. The next-door dining room is a welcome contrast: bright and airy with a slip of a bar and tables that align the room behind it, and the acoustics are a Goldilocks situation. If you do happen to find yourself waiting a few minutes, there’s walk-up ordering in the corner across from a window seat so you can sip an amaro cocktail or a glass of wine while you wait. This past visit, I shared a guancia — tomato, mozzarella, guanciale, and pecorino ($22) — a savory pie with a nice char and topping restraint, how I prefer it. 275-277 Grove Street near Montgomery Street, Jersey City — Melissa McCart, editor

Spicy falafel sandwich at Zooba

After checking out the Eater holiday market in Soho, I wanted a quick but cheap dinner where I could sit for a minute before heading to a pop-up in Downtown Brooklyn. It sounds easier than it is in Soho, where you might be able to get a quick-service meal, but seats are a whole different question. Zooba has been reliable for that since opening in 2019, the first U.S. outpost of a chain in Cairo, which in Soho looks kinda Matrix-y. I went for the spicy Egyptian falafel with roasted harissa cauliflower, cucumber salad, tahini, and sweet harissa — healthy and filling for $10.25, though the bread was a bit stiff. And yes, I did get a seat. 100 Kenmare Street, at Cleveland Place, Soho — Emma Orlow, reporter

December 12

An overhead photograph of a red sauce pizza with minced clam strewn on top.
The red clam pie at Lee’s Tavern.
Nat Belkov/Eater NY

Red Clam Pie at Lee’s Tavern

Located on Staten Island’s East Shore, with its usual mix of subcontractors, Little League, and FDNY patronage, Lee’s Tavern is the kind of joint where everybody knows your name — unless they don’t. Strangers and regulars huddle around tightly packed tables with frosty lager beers and piping hot tavern pies that have the sort of cracker-thin crust you’d expect from similar-looking spots in the Windy City. Locals will tell you to order the clam pie ($15.75 for a full pie, $8.75 for bar pie), and opt for the one mottled with just the right amount of red sauce: Its mellow sweetness pleasantly stands up to the briny chopped clams and the rich cheese beneath. Not to enrage our Connecticut readers, but I have a confession: I’ve been to New Haven, I’ve tried all three of the famed institutions touting a similar style of pizza, and on a good day, Lee’s stands above each one. Plus, the beautiful journey across New York harbor to get there beats a two-hour pilgrimage on the Metro-North. 60 Hancock St, Dongan Hills, Staten Island — Nat Belkov, design director

A red clay bowl filled with leafy sprouted legumes and other vegetables.
Sprouted mung beans at Semma.
Molly Tavoletti/Eater NY

Mulaikattiya thaniyam at Semma

Okay, so sprouted mung beans with coconut and roasted chile ($11) is not exactly what Michelin-starred Semma is known for, the standout Greenwich Village restaurant from the folks behind Dhamaka. With so many incendiary dishes on the menu — meaty, lush tiger prawns, a comely gunpowder dosa, fiery long peppers, or a whole sea bass swaddled in banana leaves — this bright, vegetal starter is the perfect counterpoint to them all. Next time I visit with a crowd, which may not be for a while since it was absolutely mobbed, I’d order two. 60 Greenwich Avenue, near Seventh Avenue, Greenwich Village — Melissa McCart, editor

Bowls of oxtail ragu, to the left, and amatriciana, with pork jowl, sit on a dark wooden table.
Oxtail ragu (left) and amatriciana at Macosa Trattoria.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Bucatini amatriciana at Macosa Trattoria

Unless you live in Bed-Stuy, it’s possible that Macosa Trattoria is the best Italian restaurant you’ve never been to. The small neighborhood spot opened last year on Tompkins Avenue, and aside from Eater’s Robert Sietsema, I’ve only heard talk about its excellent pastas from friends in the neighborhood. Fine by me, because it means it’s still possible to walk in here on a Saturday night without a reservation. A friend and I arrived around 10 p.m., too late for the wonderful tiramisu, which had already sold out, but perfect for a late dinner of carbs and $13 negronis. We shared three types of pasta that were well-priced at $16 to $20 a bowl. Best was the bucatini amatriciana ($20), a nice portion of chewy noodles with bits of pork jowl that get better the longer you gnaw on them. 310 Tompkins Avenue, between Quincy Street and Gates Avenue, Bed-Stuy — Luke Fortney, reporter

A plate with colored small dishes of onions, red paste, whitish paste, along with five sausages and a round bread.
Cevapi at Selo.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Cevapi at Selo

Selo, meaning “village,” is a newly opened Serbian and Croatian restaurant, which is a rare combination. The menu runs to stuffed schnitzels, pastas from the Istrian peninsula, Turkish-leaning salads, and pastries common to the former Yugoslavia. A cherished dish rarely rendered so well is cevapi, finger-shaped and skinless grilled sausages of pork and veal (five for $10.50). They are served with chopped onions, a round and puffy loaf of pita that’s made in-house and served warm, and the red-pepper paste called ajvar. But tender up another $2.50 and receive kaymak, a thick and buttery dairy product that has no equivalent among English speakers — except perhaps “clabbered milk.” Spread it on the pita with a couple of cevapi, and the flavor is marvelous. 33-05 Broadway, between 33rd and 34th streets, Astoria — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

December 5

An overhead photograph of a pie stuffed with meat and served with sides of cheese, sour cream, and other toppings.
The Frito pie from Back Alley Bread.
Nat Belkov/Eater NY

Frito pie from Back Alley Bread

In 99 percent of its preparations, the Frito pie is not in fact a pie but a portable taco salad of sorts. Not so at Back Alley Bread, a pop-up inside Greenpoint bar the Mallard Drake, where the dish proudly honors its name. Slicing into this personal pie ($17) gave way to a cascade of luscious beef chili enrobing pockets of melted cheddar; the seasoning reminded me of Old El Paso vibes from my childhood. As I topped alternating bites with the various accouterment included — zippy pico de gallo and sour cream — I was stumped by how owners Autumn Moultrie and Brian Villanueva manage to yield such a flaky, moist, and tender crust made from corn chips. Autumn and Brian: If you open your own bakery, I’d like to (selfishly) ask that you stay in Greenpoint, so I can stumble out of bed and make your baked goods a regular part of my weekends. 43 Franklin Street, near Calyer Street, Greenpoint — Nat Belkov, design director

A whole fish napped with red chile sauce, head on.
The whole dorade at Essex Pearl.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Crispy whole fish at Essex Pearl

This seafood anchor downstairs at Essex Crossing began life in a blah sort of way as an overpriced seafood market with a plainish restaurant attached, before transforming itself into a splendid Southeast Asian spot via Daniel Le. The chef grew up in a shrimping family in Louisiana, and most recently worked at Hanoi House in the East Village. He serves skewers, okra, water spinach, egg rolls, and raw bar items aplenty, but the crown jewel of the menu is a whole roast dorade in a tamarind chile sauce that lights up the plate, with a mint salad on top adding pungency. The fish ($48) is fleshy enough to feed two. The Market Line, 88 Essex Street, Lower East Side — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Kitakata ramen at Gorin Ramen

I’m still bummed about the loss of Ivan Ramen’s fast-casual slurp shop at Gotham West. Even in a neighborhood as noodle dense as Hell’s Kitchen, it was a rare institution to offer so many different styles — shio, shoyu, mazamen, tori paitan, and others — in a single venue. But as luck would have it Slurp Shop’s closure made way for Gorin, a spot that specializes in Kitakata ramen. The style, originating from Japan’s Fukushima province, involves a chicken shoyu that, at least here, is cloudier and richer than comparable shoyu broths elsewhere, and a thicker, wavier noodle than most ramen shops ($20). A small pile of chopped raw onions adds sharp complexity. Ramen is a year-round staple for me, but I’d say the luxuriousness of Gorin’s soup, while not quite tonkatsu level, definitely makes this more of a late fall or winter ramen as opposed to a summer one. 600 11th Avenue, near 44th Street, Hell’s Kitchen — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A hand holds one half of a torpedo-shaped bagel that’s stuffed with a hot dog.
A bagel dog at Bobbi’s Italian Beef.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Bagel dog at Bobbi’s Italian Beef

Hot dogs are having something of a moment, I’m pleased to report, as regional wieners with all sorts of toppings find homes across town. Knowing this, I was still surprised to find a bagel dog on the menu at Bobbi’s Italian Beef, a newcomer in Brooklyn’s restaurant scene that specializes in foods from the Windy City. We used to snack on a version of these as kids in California, which were basically hot dogs baked in an oval of meh bagel dough with both ends of the dog poking out. I’d yet to see one in New York — and still really haven’t in that bizarre preparation. (At Bobbi’s, they look more like poppyseed torpedos, stuffed with Vienna beef franks and served cut in half at an angle.) Well, sorry to my childhood, but the dough is much better here, tasting strongly of meat grease and perfect with a dab of neon yellow mustard ($7). 228 Smith Street, between Douglass and Butler streets, Cobble Hill — Luke Fortney, reporter