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.
What is a snack anyway? In my definition, it’s a grab-and-go item that could stand in as half a meal — and may actually be a full meal if you are in a dieting frame of mind. Here are some satisfying snacks I’ve had recently.
Most people ignore Paris Baguette as a chain with so-so pastries, though the prices are often much less than what you’d pay at an artisanal bakery. So I pop in from time to time, and recently saw something in the glass cases with tongs that caught my attention. The “sausage bread” ($3.69) was a pale sausage scored crosswise and stuck inside of a flatbread. The flavor of the link was way smoky, and a condiment on top was made of ketchup, grated cheese, and parsley. It was delicious! 2568 Broadway, near 97th Street, Upper West Side
A couple of days later I was walking down Eighth Street in the Village and noticed a place that had advertised itself as selling empanadas, but had switched its focus to arepas calling itself Classic Arepas. Naturally, it made me want to try the empanadas it had formerly focused on. Being hungry — but not too hungry — I selected the pabellon empanada, with a fried yuca crust filled with pulled pork, black beans, and sweet plantain. I inhaled it ($8.50) in about a minute, and decided to call it lunch. 31 West 8th Street, opposite MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village
A taco makes a great snack, but you generally need three of them to call it a meal. Are there exceptions? Yes, and one of them is the taco Arabe, which originated a century ago in the city of Puebla when Middle Eastern immigrants remade the shawarma sandwich with locally influenced ingredients. Now we have it here, made with a giant flour tortilla wrapped around a filling of very saucy pork al pastor. At wonderful newcomer, Gallo Negro III, in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City, a stone’s throw from the temporarily closed Queensboro Plaza station, the taco Arabe ($4.50) also contains chopped onions, cilantro, and copious quantities of fresh guacamole. This is a large snack on the way to becoming a meal. 41-34 Crescent Street, near Queens Plaza North, Long Island City
Shingane is a newish storefront in Greenwich Village that is dedicated to the art of snacking, and basically serves only one kind of snack. It’s a round waffle with the image of the Statue of Liberty on the front and a filling of cheese, chocolate and nuts, or red bean. With a different shape, a similar pastry is called bungeoppang in Korea and taiyaki in Japan. Here, the window of the shop says Goddess Bun. I picked red bean ($6), and after an elaborate preparation in a bank of waffle irons, the finished coin was jammed on a stick, and I happily walked down 6th Avenue nibbling at it. I say nibbling because the filling was scalding, at least for several blocks. 480 6th Avenue, near 12th Street, Greenwich Village