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The Best Dishes Eater Editors Ate This Week

Olive oil ice cream, gunpowder dosas, and more

A back-lit wooden banquette runs along one side of the restaurant’s dining room.
A wooden banquette at Semma in Greenwich Village.
Molly Tavoletti/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.

May 31

A patty made from multiple meats mixed together is sandwiched between two pieces of flatbread.
Pljeskavica at Pera Ždera.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Pljeskavica at Pera Ždera

This branch of a Serbian fast food restaurant — named after Popeye’s burger-eating friend Wimpy, known as Pera (“Peter”) in Serbian — specializes in the outsize mixed-meat burger patty called a pljeskavica. It’s a full 10 inches in diameter and comes on a bun (lepinja, a cousin of the pita) exactly the same size. The burger ($12) has an oniony savor, and can be customized with raw onions, lettuce, red pepper paste (ajvar), and a kind of clabbered milk (kajmak), something like a cross between cream cheese and sour cream, for which there seems to be no equivalent in English. The thing is deliciously seared on the griddle and delivered piping hot, and it would be difficult to finish if you didn’t bring a friend along. Other grilled meat treats like kebabs and skinless sausages (cevapi) are also sold. 66-31 Myrtle Avenue, at 66th Place, Glendale — Robert Sietsema, senior editor

The cross-section of a bagel overflows with scallion cream cheese on a sunny day.
Half of an everything bagel from Omar’s Indian Fine Cuisine.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Everything bagel at Omar’s Indian Fine Cuisine

It’s not news that the best New York-style bagels are often found in the unlikeliest of places — New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Long Island, apparently — and this version from Omar’s Indian Fine Cuisine is no exception. A reader wrote in last December informing us that “an odd new restaurant” had opened a few blocks from my apartment in Prospect Heights, serving not just tikka masala and the usual Indian American dishes but also pizza and bagels. Sure enough, when I arrived on Memorial Day to an empty restaurant, a few types of bagels were hanging in baskets on a far wall. I ordered an everything bagel with scallion-vegetable cream cheese (around $4), which came lightly toasted by default and had all the makings of one of New York’s (or New Jersey’s or California’s) great doughy bagels. 568 Vanderbilt Avenue, near Bergen Street, Prospect Heights — Luke Fortney, reporter

A perfect equilateral triangle of a dosa, with three sauces underneath in tiny bowls.
The gunpowder dosa at Semma.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Gunpowder dosa at Semma

Roni Mazumdar and Chintan Pandya’s Southern Indian Semma was predictably packed on a recent Friday, filled with patrons sipping colorful bourbon cocktails with spiced jaggery syrup. I’ve been to both Dhamaka and Rowdy Rooster quite a few times, but this was my first visit to the duo’s heralded West Village institution, which my colleague Robert Sietsema praised in an early review. I enjoyed my king prawns and slow-cooked lamb with black cardamom, but the star of the meal was the famed gunpowder dosa ($19), that perfect triangle of a rice and lentil crepe. The golden exterior crackled and shattered with relative ease, revealing a soft mound of spicy potato masala within. The best part, of course, was using the airy crepe to scoop up aromatic tomato and coconut chutneys. I could eat this dosa every day. 60 Greenwich Avenue, near Seventh Avenue South, Greenwich Village — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A brown Bad Habit container filled with ice cream and placed on an outdoor patio table.
A pint of olive oil ice cream from Bad Habit.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Olive oil ice cream from Bad Habit

I’ve never been much for stocking my freezer with pints of ice cream, with the exception of occasional phases where I buy a fancy vanilla flavor, scoop it into a cup, and drizzle it with olive oil and salt. With that in mind, I had a hunch that I would be into Bad Habit’s olive oil ice cream ($13), but I still wasn’t prepared for just how good it was. The team has somehow bottled the exact taste of olive oil — every last bit of the buttery, salty, olive-y notes — and churned it into a savory-sweet ice cream that I could not put down once I popped the lid. All that was missing was the Joy cone. Delivery and pickups in NYC available via online ordering — Erika Adams, deputy editor

Onion rolls at Edith’s Eatery and Grocery

What started as a pandemic pop-up for bagel sandwiches eventually blossomed into Edith’s Sandwich Counter. Less than a year later, owner Elyssa Heller expanded with a sibling spot, Edith’s Eatery and Grocery, a more expanded, sit-down establishment (that, in my opinion, is better than her original). In early May, the restaurant launched a dinner program for those who want to sit at a table drinking zhug-doused margaritas and onion rolls ($8) — basically, adult savory cinnamon rolls that come with super spreadable ramp compound butter — in a room filled with shelves with dried pastas and pickled goods. Is it the modern day Zabar’s? No, but that shouldn’t stop you from having a great time. 312 Leonard Street, near Conselyea Street, Williamsburg — Emma Orlow, reporter

May 23

A hand with a crusted cuticle clutches a burrito overflowing with rice, beans, peppers, and mixed meat.
A campechano burrito at El Tepeyac Food Market.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Campechano burrito at El Tepeyac Food Market

Pictured here is the best burrito in New York City, or so it was named by local food Instagrammer @beli_eats last year. The account, which has over 100,000 followers, is known for its power rankings of the city’s best burgers, pizzas, Italian sandwiches, and so on. In September, it came for burritos, and this one from El Tepeyac Food Market apparently rose above the rest. Almost everyone sitting outside this Upper East Side bodega-taqueria was eating a bowl of soup — pork pozole or caldo de res — but I restrained myself and went for the campechano burrito. For $13, it comes packed with rice, beans, steak, and chorizo in a toasted flour tortilla that was fighting for its life to stay enclosed. Was this the best burrito in New York City? I’ll let you be the judge. At the very least, it was the best one this week. 1621 Lexington Avenue, near East 102nd Street, Upper East Side — Luke Fortney, reporter

Anticuchos at Kausa

As a brief heat wave gripped the city on Saturday night, I found myself craving cold beers and hot meat skewers. Usually I seek out a proper Uzbek or Japanese restaurant for this sort of thing, something along the lines of Farida or Yakitori Totto, but I decided to roll the dice on a relative newcomer this time, the Peruvian-themed Kausa in Hell’s Kitchen. And in no time at all I was sipping cool Andean lagers and using my fork to slide grilled corazon off hot metal rods. Kausa does a fine job with these traditional anticuchos ($13), the famous South American street snack of spiced and singed beef hearts. The meat itself sported complex layers of smoke and gaminess, while a veneer of sauce kept all the stronger flavors in check with notes of garlic, salt, and chile. 745 Ninth Avenue, near 50th Street, Hell’s Kitchen — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

Mac and cheese empanadas at Empanada Mama

Tearing apart a mac and cheese empanada ($4.25) from Empanada Mama was not only the best thing I ate last week, but also, if we’re being honest, the best thing I did last week. The crackly, blistered fried dough ripped apart easily, exposing cheesy noodles that were somehow as creamy and warm as if I had just made a pot of the pasta on the stove and spooned that into the pastry shell. I ordered it via delivery and it was so good that I had to order it again the next night, just to make sure the flawless execution wasn’t a fluke. (It wasn’t.) 95 Allen Street, between Delancey Street and Broome Street, Lower East Side — Erika Adams, deputy editor

Risotto del giorno at the Leopard at des Artistes

We all know why late-night dining in New York City hasn’t been the same the past two years. But what about grabbing dinner at 10 p.m. on a Monday... on the sleepy Upper West Side? I was too busy cleaning my plate of creamy, al dente risotto del giorno — the $30 or so entree is a special that changes regularly — to think too much about how this seemed impossible even before the pandemic hit. My saffron-tinged serving of rice studded with nibbles of mushroom and sausage was cooked to an ideal consistency, according to my Italian friends. I was in no position to argue with them or the table of five whose dinner arrived just minutes before 11 p.m. at the Leopard at des Artistes. 1 West 67th Street, between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West, Upper West Side — Bao Ong, editor

A plate of thick spaghetti with very red tomato sauce dumped on top and a small plastic container of cheese on the side.
Bigoi pasta with puttanesca sauce at Bigoi Venezia.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Puttanesca at Bigoi Venezia

This narrowly focused Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side — mainly a carryout operation with a few counter seats — specializes in the pastas of the Veneto, the area around Venice. All offerings feature a thick spaghetti known as bigoi, made in house. Many of the dishes deploy sauces you will be familiar with (cacio e pepe, Bolognese), while others are less common, including a turkey sauce and a salsa antica made with anchovies, cinnamon, and parsley. I want to try them all, but the one I had last week, puttanesca ($13), sported a thick tomato sauce rife with black and green olives, and outsize capers, too, a lovely flavor combination. Though the sauce usually incorporates anchovies, here it doesn’t. “Most of our customers don’t like anchovies,” the cook told me, “but I will put some in if you ask.” 1415 Second Avenue, at 74th Street, Upper East Side — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

May 16

A flurry of hands holding forks, hot sauce, and mustard hover over a plate of home fries and other sides.
A trash plate from Brooklyn Hots.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Pickled ramp smash burger at Brooklyn Hots

Look past the flurry of sauce bottles and flying forks, and there you’ll see it: An out-of-focus, half-eaten smash burger that happens to be one of the best offered by a Brooklyn restaurant right now. Its home, Brooklyn Hots, opened in Clinton Hill earlier this year, serving the oversized plates of macaroni salad and cole slaw known in Rochester as the Garbage Plate. One unsung hero of the menu is the smash burger ($13 for a double), which can and should be ordered with pickled ramps for a few dollars more. The char on these thin beef patties was the perfect interlude to bites of mustardy home fries and who knows what. Can you blame me for spooning on a few toppings from our trash plate? 291 Greene Avenue, near Classon Avenue, Clinton Hill — Luke Fortney, reporter

A colorful table spread is covered with a bowl of rice and a basket with steamed dumplings.
Don’t forget the sour cream.
Emma Orlow/Eater NY

Lamb manti at Kashkar Cafe

Kashkar Cafe is a rare Uyghur restaurant in NYC, a cuisine specific to China’s Muslim minority that have faced persecution. Kashkar Cafe’s manti, dumplings with minced lamb, are not to be missed at this Brighton Beach staple ($7). These folded pockets come out piping and the steam emitted from the basket cloaks the whole table. It might be why my photo looks so bad (sorry!), but these dumplings were just too good to wait for the steam to die down. 1141 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brighton 15th Street, Brighton Beach — Emma Orlow, reporter

A wok filled with dark meat and gravy in the lower right hand corner, while a plate holds rice and soup in the upper left.
Burmese goat curry at Little Myanmar.

Burmese goat curry at Little Myanmar

South and Southeast Asian countries concoct too many goat curries to count, but I’m convinced the Burmese version served at Little Myanmar is one of the best. The dark red stew is loaded with meat that is fragrant, not with an Indian-style masala, but with curry powder, which imparts both a pleasantly gritty texture and rich flavor. The halal meat has plenty of delicious fat, but few bones, and is served with a heap of jasmine rice and a side of yellow-lentil soup buoying a giant pod of fresh okra. At $17, it’s a full meal at a good price. 150 East 2nd Street, near Avenue A, East Village — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A hand clutches a cheesy smash burger that’s partially wrapped in checkered parchment paper.
The double smash burger at Jerrell’s Betr Brgr.
Stephanie Wu/Eater

Double smash burger at Jerrell’s Betr Brgr

I’ll be traveling outside of New York City for some time, and found myself craving a burger for my final meal. The answer was Jerrell’s Betr Brgr, which serves hearty vegan smash burgers. The double burger ($15) tasted slightly different from when I first visited — I couldn’t tell if they had updated their bun or flavored their Impossible patties differently — but it still hit the spot, along with their crispy waffle fries and creamy cookies and cream oat shake. The meal was comforting and filling at the same time, without knocking me out before my flight. 117 Sixth Avenue, near Watts Street — Stephanie Wu, executive editor

Chicken fried country rib pork chop

I was not going to order the chicken fried country rib pork chop ($28) at Patti Ann’s, the playfully Midwestern new concept from the folks behind Olmsted, until I saw a plate go by for another table, and then I could think of nothing else. The breading is at once crispy and tender, and the pork bursts with juice. The whole thing is coated in a tangy, earthy mushroom gravy that I kept spooning on its own. So far the blooming onion seems to be the Patti Ann’s Instagram star, but this might be what keeps people coming back. 570 Vanderbilt Avenue, at Bergen Street, Prospect Heights — Jaya Saxena, Eater senior writer

Light yellow scrambled eggs sit on two corn tortillas garnished with green cilantro and red chorizo
Migas tacos at Empellon Taqueria.
Ryan Sutton/Eater NY

Migas Tacos at Empellon Taqueria

Some days you wake up and need a few pastries to get going, but on a recent Saturday I woke up and decided I needed breakfast tacos. As luck would have it, I live a stone’s throw away from Alex Stupak’s Empellon Taqueria on Waterline Square — a shiny new neighborhood on the border of Hell’s Kitchen and the Upper West Side — so I swung by for a little outdoor brunch and migas tacos ($16). The kitchen keeps things pretty basic, throwing a generous pile of scrambled eggs, brick-red chorizo, bright green cilantro, and crumbly cheese on yellow corn tortillas. The eggs turned out appropriately eggy; the chorizo tied everything together with a gently meaty smokiness; and the neutral tortillas (a touch bland) did their best to get out of the way of everything else. 645 West 59th Street, Freedom Place South, Upper West Side — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

A white bowl with a light brown broth with thin rice noodles, some lifted with a pair of chopsticks.
Signature pho at Just Pho You.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Signature pho at Just Pho You

There’s a running checklist permanently etched in my mind after having consumed countless bowls of pho ever since I could hold a pair of chopsticks: Is the broth clear enough? Can I taste all the aromatics — a hint of sweetness from star anise rising above the faintly smoky notes of bruleed onions and ginger? Is the beef flank sliced thin enough that it can cook itself in the soup? The signature pho ($18) at the newly opened Just Pho You checks off most of this list — something hard to find in NYC. As I slurped the springy rice noodles, I spotted another customer ordering a bowl with an oversized short rib. The Flinstones-sized shank peeking out from an already large ceramic bowl was impressive, but I was perfectly content with my classic pho to the very last sip. 2656 Broadway, between West 100 and 101st streets, Upper West Side — Bao Ong, editor

May 9

A round flat pie like a pizza topped with black beans and shredded white cheese.
A tlayuda at the Sr San Pablo cart.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Chorizo and cecina tlayuda at Sr San Pablo

In the shadow of the 7 tracks just north of Corona Plaza, Tlayuda Oaxaqueña Sr San Pablo is a newly arrived cart named for Saint Paul and dedicated to making some of the city’s best tlayudas. These crunchy and outsize Oaxacan corn tortillas are a predominant street food in the Mexican state and are often eaten late at night. Here they remain relatively rare, and are sometimes presented in diminutive form at fancy bistros. The cook begins by putting the round irregular flatbread on the griddle to heat and soften it, slathering it with liquid lard and then black beans flavored with avocado leaves and other herbs. Next, she tosses on shredded cabbage and Oaxacan cheese. A few slices of tomato and avocado provide decoration, and then grilled sausage and the dried beef called cecina are added. Red and green salsas squirted on at your discretion complete this symphony of sharp, mellow, and earthy flavors ($12). Two can easily share this treat, washed down with cafe de olla or Jarritos. 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Corona — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

A hand dangles a metal fork into a bowl of orange pasta noodles blanketed in crumbly parmesan cheese.
The spicy rigatoni at Carmenta’s.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Spicy rigatoni at Carmenta’s

Despite this city’s swath of global cuisines, the question I’m most commonly asked by out of towners is where to find good Italian food on a budget. The correct answer — Arthur Avenue in the Bronx — never seems to satisfy Times Square tourists, and I’ve gotten in the habit of recommending reasonably priced red sauce joints in Brooklyn. Carmenta’s, a casual corner shop with a few indoor seats, is the latest addition to my list (see also: Vinny’s, Bamonte’s, Randazzo’s Clam Bar, Noodle Pudding, and Forma Pasta Factory). The Bushwick restaurant is known for its meatball parms and other sandwiches, but head in the direction of its pastas: There’s a few for around $15 each, including this actually spicy spicy rigatoni, a generous portion of noodles blanketed in vodka sauce and crumbly parmesan cheese. 50 Starr Street, at Wilson Avenue, Bushwick — Luke Fortney, reporter

Mixed grill and mezze at Ilili

I was relegated to takeout and delivery meals for all of last week due to a case of you-know-what, and, by the latter days of quarantine, my delivery orders were inexplicably getting fancier and fancier. One of my favorite glitzy to-go meals came from upscale Lebanese restaurant Ilili. Their delivery game is not an afterthought: I ordered the Ilili Tasting ($31), and it came in a tightly packaged platter with charred chicken, tender lamb sausages, and smoky grilled vegetables over buttery rice, plus two swoopy scoops of smooth hummus and tangy, thick labne. I added two squares of baklava with pistachio and cashew for an extra $2, plus extra pita and all three of the seasoned garlic dips on the side. (When there are multiple garlic dips on deck, the right choice is always all of them.) It made for both a very satisfying dinner and leftover lunch the following day. 236 Fifth Avenue, between West 27th and 28th streets, Nomad — Erika Adams, deputy editor

A white plate with a silver spoon on a large piece of seaweed holding purple rice, pieces of razor clam, uni, and morel mushrooms.
Razor clams at Little Mad.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Razor clams at Little Mad

As my colleague Erika Adams reported in this opening story, the menu at Hand Hospitality’s Little Mad is full of little surprises. Chef Sol Han gives diners a little wooden hammer to break down a seaweed chip to scoop up beef tartare, he tucks slivers of sashimi-grade yellowtail between slices of Asian pear, and in perhaps my favorite dish on the menu, he unfolds a sheet of shimmering kombu to reveal a steaming mound of Korean purple rice studded with razor clams and morels. He mixes this dish ($31) tableside and for $25 extra, he’ll gently layer on pieces of pristine Canadian uni. It tasted as luxurious as it was comforting. I can’t wait to come back to see what else there is to discover. 110 Madison Avenue, between East 29th and 30th streets, Nomad — Bao Ong, editor

May 2

A hunk of bread stuffed with carnitas and topped with pickled red onion bathes in a pool of watery red salsa.
The torta ahogada at Cruz del Sur.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Torta ahogada at Cruz del Sur

I don’t think of Mexican sandwiches as lacking in representation in NYC, maybe because the city is already home to excellent versions of the pambazo, guajolota, mollete, and cemita. But what about the torta ahogada? This salsa-soaked sandwich is ubiquitous in its hometown of Guadalajara, where I first tasted it as a hungover college student, but it’s considerably harder to find here. (Calaca, in Bed-Stuy, offered one before closing last year, and there’s a $14 version on the menu at La Superior in Williamsburg.) Cruz del Sur, a restaurant that opened in Prospect Heights this month, is this torta’s latest home, where it’s served with tongue and stomach meat on a roll perfect for sponging up the salsa it’s served in ($15). Wash it down with a strawberry horchata, a specialty of Guadalajara, for a regional meal with few homes in the five boroughs. 622 Washington Avenue, near Pacific Street, Prospect Heights — Luke Fortney, reporter

A black broth with squid rings, scallions, and red chiles on top.
Squid ink soup at Lum Lum.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Muk Tom Dam Lum at Lum Lum

Lum Lum is a brand new Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen run by sisters Sommy and Mo Hensawang, occupying the former premises of Pam Real Thai Food. The menu is compact, but loaded with surprising dishes. While the soups at many Thai restaurants are pro forma, here the rather unusual muk tom dam lum is offered ($14), said to be a recipe from the pair’s grandmother. The hearty squid soup is thickened with ink, giving it a brooding opacity, and the taste of lemongrass predominates. The soup bobs with slivered red bird’s eye chiles, making the bowl a pretty picture and sending the heat level soaring. This is one of a new crop of Thai restaurants in town that refuses to tamp down strong flavors. Add an app to this bowl of soup and you’ve got a full meal. 404 West 49th Street, near 9th Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Sunday Sauce at Casa Rustica

One of my favorite pre-pandemic traditions was swinging by Frankies 457 in Carroll Gardens for the Sunday sauce-style pork braciole, a blend of fork-tender meat and red gravy. Frankies no longer lists the preparation on its menu, but I managed to find a semi-comparable version in, of all places, Smithtown. Casa Rustica simmers meatballs, sausages, and slow cooked beef in a tomato sauce and pairs it all with firm noodles. The dish really hit the spot with its umami-rich fruit, al dente rigatoni, and achingly tender meat. Incidentally, I hear that Frankies is doing a tomato-braised short rib with polenta these days, so maybe I’ll swing back for that. In the meantime, Casa Rustica is getting the job done over here on Long Island. 175 West Main Street, near Elliott Place, Smithtown, Long Island — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

An overhead photograph of a tray of chicken biryani, served with a banana leaf and a side of yogurt raita.
The Malabar Biryani at Sona.
Stephanie Wu/Eater

Chicken biryani at Sona

I’ve been meaning to visit Sona since it opened, and finally had a chance to over the weekend. The menu was a mix of classic Indian fare and modern versions of beloved dishes, in a way that reminded me of my favorite fine-dining Indian restaurant, Indian Accent, in the Thompson Central Park hotel. The standout at Sona was the Malabar Chicken Biryani ($32), served under a banana leaf and with a side of yogurt raita. The rice, studded with cashews and raisins, was impeccably fluffy, and the deboned chicken thighs were full of flavor. And the portion was more than enough for two — with leftovers to spare. I’ll be back for their new brunch and lunch, which just launched last week. 36 East 20th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South, Flatiron — Stephanie Wu, executive editor

A takeout cardbowl bowl filled with brown soy noodles, yellow wontons, Chinese barbecue pork, and few sprigs of cilantro with a side of borth.
Wonton mee at Chard.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Wonton mee at Chard

The wonton mee ($12) at Chard — a narrow takeout joint with a menu of “Asian soul cooking” just steps from Union Square — was bound to be a standout dish for me because it features two things I can never eat enough of: dumplings and noodles. A generous amount of soy-braised noodles served as the perfect foil to slices of sweet char siu, delicate wontons, and a dab of spicy sambal. I’d sip the side of broth, which was full of nasal-clearing white pepper, between bites of the springy egg noodles. It’s the type of comforting dish that has made chef Salil Mehta’s restaurants (Laut, Laut Singapura, and Wau) popular across NYC. 17 East 13th Street, between University Place and Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village — Bao Ong, editor

A white plate filled with a pile of blackened pancakes with scoops of butter melting on top.
Griddle cakes at Breakfast by Salt’s Cure.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Griddle cakes at Breakfast by Salt’s Cure

Okay, let’s get this out of the way: A griddle cake is a pancake. But Breakfast by Salt Cure’s owner Chris Phelps has cornered the market on this particular type of pancake ($10), made from an oatmeal-studded batter and fried until the edges are crispy enough to snap off. On a recent visit, I found that this is a good thing: Crunchy edged pancakes are less boring, and, despite the appearance of a good char throughout, the pancake’s steamy innards were light and eggy. Generous dollops of butter served as a fine garnish. This doesn’t exactly unseat Chez Ma Tante from NYC’s crispy pancake throne, but it’s a respectable new entry on the scene. 27 1/2 Morton Street, near Seventh Avenue South, West Village — Erika Adams, deputy editor