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A person walks in front of a skewer shop set slightly below street level.
A-roll is a new skewer shop on St. Mark’s Place. The restaurant stays open until midnight each evening.

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A Late-Night Skewer Shop Hides on St. Marks Place

Find chicken feet, neon lights, and naughty signs at A-Roll, the first Manhattan location of a Chinese chain

Unlike most city blocks, when a restaurant opens on St. Marks Place, it has to be worth the trouble. Where else do you have to dodge stumbling college students, Citi Bikes in both directions, and multiple weed dealers, just to get to dinner?

A handful of restaurants are worth the journey. There’s Szechuan Mountain House and Che Li, which always have a crowd, and 886 across the street. The newest reason to brave the block is a month-old skewer shop called A-Roll Bar and Grill.

The restaurant opened on the west end of the block last month, under some scaffolding and behind a set of stairs. Down a long hallway covered in neon signs, customers suck on crawfish heads and grilled chicken feet.

A plate of crawfish with scallions and onions.
The mala crawfish.
A neon sign with the words “Roll Rock” and Chinese characters.
The skewer shop has around 50 seats.
A neon sign with the words “Love It” behind a dark bar.
The bar at A-Roll.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

A-Roll, a Chinese chain, has hundreds of casual locations overseas — and one in Flushing, Queens. None are like the sit-down skewer shop on St. Marks. It’s run by Kacey Yeh, a former bartender at Nobu. She runs a small bar at the back of the shop with a full menu of fiery, fried snacks. It’s a party waiting to happen.

If you’re familiar with the skewer shops up and down Flushing Main Street, you’ll know what to do. There are almost 20 kinds of skewers on the menu: chunks of short rib dusted in cumin and fennel, ribbons of chewy, charred chicken heart, and even skewered scallion. On a recent Tuesday, customers crowded around small tables in a dark dining room that smelled like meat.

Almost everyone was eating chicken feet, the chain’s specialty. They’re made by cooking talons for hours in soy sauce and Sichuan peppercorns — enough to make your top lip buzz like a television set — then grilling them, then glazing them. “We weren’t sure if Americans would order chicken feet,” says Yeh, who runs the shop with her partner Tuo Liu.

The skewers are cooked over a flame in the kitchen up front, then carted to the back of the restaurant. They come out sizzling on a small makeshift grill made from wood, aluminum foil, and two small tea candles. If you order more skewers later, your server will drop them right on top.

Beyond skewers, there’s a full menu of fried foods, like crispy noodles and popcorn chicken. The messy, mala crawfish might be my favorite new snack. It’s made by boiling crawfish in hot pot spices and beer, then cooking them in a skillet with onion, celery, and Sichuan peppercorns. It comes with two plastic gloves.

A hand holds three short rib skewers up against a dimly lit bar.
Short rib skewers come three to an order.

The skewer shop has had a slow start, Yeh says. Most people don’t know it’s there, but it’s not hard to imagine the nights that will unfold here once they do. The restaurant has bar seats and a 12-seat table for groups. On almost every wall, there’s either a neon sign or a PG-13 poster. One of them had a cartoon roster and a caption that made me look twice. “Nice cock.”

Don’t forget: You’re dining on St. Marks.

A-Roll is open Monday to Sunday, from 5 p.m. to midnight. Walk-in only.

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