Many of my best dining experiences never make it to the page: If an eating establishment doesn’t merit a first look, dish of the week, is it still good?, point on a map, or paragraph in a feature story, it often disappears. Those fleeting encounters with restaurants are often the most enjoyable. Accordingly, I resolved to keep an informal diary reflecting my unvarnished daily experiences. Here’s the fourteenth installment and here’s the last edition.
Ignore St. Marks Place for longer than a week or two at your own peril: The storefronts, especially restaurants, turn over so frequently that the next time you go, you might not fully recognize the place. Every couple of weeks I get off the M8 bus at Astor Place and walk east along the thoroughfare until I get there, whether it’s to revisit Sichuan Mountain House, Che-Li, Crif Dogs, Hanoi House, Empellon al Pastor, or somewhere new. Here’s where I went this time.
The first thing I noticed on my latest visit was the Jamrock Jerk truck parked just west of the Cube — which has recently been refurbished. Founded in 2016, Jamrock Jerk is a fleet of maximally designed trucks based in Jamaica, Queens, that follow an elaborate schedule. The truck is equipped with a charcoal grill; a serving of a leg and a thigh with salad with a side of abundant rice and peas sets you back $16. The jerk chicken is quite good and spicier than you might expect from a truck. Jerked pork shoulder and stewed oxtails are also available. Locations vary.
Thai dumplings underground
Thai restaurants often offer a thin-skinned dumpling or two featuring pork, chicken, or vegetables among satays, curry puffs, and fried tofu in the appetizer section of menus. So it’s rare to see an homage to the Thai dumpling, but such is the case beyond the barricades surrounding a new high-rise being built at Third Avenue and St. Marks, where the newsstand used to be. Here lies Thai restaurant Dumpling N’ Dips. In this subterranean space, the restaurant takes familiar Thai dishes and turns them into dumplings: steamed, drenched in a slightly sweet sauce, and dusted with crushed peanuts with an admittedly odd texture — extra crunchy.
At $10 for four, the dumplings were pretty memorable. I ordered chicken pad Thai and vegan massaman, and preferred the former (it’s kind of surreal for pad Thai to be turned into shumai). The others were a little overpureed, but compensated with spice, though massaman is generally one of the milder curries on Thai menus. 5 St. Marks Place, near 3rd Avenue, East Village
It’s the season for tomato pie
I was surprised when a new pizzeria on St. Marks called Funzi’s started selling tomato slices. It’s a rather ambitious place with decor intended to evoke the ’70s and ’80s on St. Marks Place with a hodgepodge of kitschy pictures and objects, including a framed Mona Lisa.
The plain cheese slice ($4) is what you might expect from any local pizzeria, with perhaps more low-moisture mozzarella than you might want. The tomato slice ($4) — with a thick, well-seasoned tomato sauce and a few perfunctory curls of cheese — is fantastic, its thin crust crackling with every bite. 36 St. Marks Place, between 2nd and 3rd avenues, East Village