How to Eat and Drink This Summer at Rockaway Beach

There are lots of ways to work up an appetite at Rockaway Beach. Just getting there on the weekend — either driving or taking the A train — is enough to make somebody hungry, never mind the swimming, running, beach soccer, or Zen-like application of SPF 50. Even just lying on a towel on the sand for an hour or two might give you a hankering for a piña colada or a cheeseburger. Here are the eleven best places to eat and drink at Rockaway Beach, which appears on the way to a full recovery after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

See also: The Eleven Best Places to Eat and Drink at Rockaway Beach



Really Closed? Source Says Stage Restaurant’s Eviction Notice Is ‘Just the Beginning’

I’ve written before about my deep love for Stage Restaurant, where regulars feast on Ukrainian specialties and greasy-spoon classics — and the best egg on a roll in New York City. It’s a beloved mainstay of the East Village, and last year, the Voice named it one of the 99 Essential Restaurants in Lower Manhattan. So it pains me to see it closed, as it has been for the almost three weeks since a gas explosion tore down three buildings just across the street on Second Avenue. And now it looks like Stage might be done forever.

According to documents obtained by WNYC, the owners of Stage’s building at 128 Second Avenue (ICON Realty) have dealt the restaurant an eviction notice. A stop-work order was put into effect just three days after the gas explosion across the street, when a Con Ed employee noticed illegally tapped gas lines in the basement of Stage’s building following a resident reporting a smell of gas.

It is not completely clear who was tapping the gas line illegally — the landlord points to tenants, while Roman Diakun (the owner and proprietor of Stage) told DNAinfo, “They don’t want me…I didn’t do any crime.” (ICON Realty has a history of kicking restaurants out of spaces.)

This past week, Diakun could be seen outside the restaurant, talking with longtime regulars and local customers. His son, Andrew, has started an online petition to help save the venerable diner, with over 1,000 signatures already collected.

And while the eviction notice says that Stage has to be out by the end of the month, take heart: A source with knowledge of the situation, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, says Diakun has been meeting with lawyers and might not vacate immediately. “It is not the end, it’s just the beginning,” the insider said.

We’ve also reached out to Diakun, and will update here when we hear more.


Does America Need Gimmicks to Eat Poutine?

Mile End Deli owner Noah Bernamoff’s first experience eating poutine was as a kid in Montreal, during post-hockey-practice trips to Lafleur, a fast-food chain that offered, among burgers and steamed hot dogs, “really greasy, really gross kind of french fries.” Those gross fries forged his lifelong admiration for the Québécois comfort food, though, as Bernamoff is a poutine purist: “I have this deep-seated, principled belief that poutine is really only meant to be french fries, cheese curds, and gravy, but Poutine Week is that, like, unencumbered opportunity to make the poutines whatever we want to make them.”

In this video, the poutine purveyor (there are locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn) tells us about his “Poutine Week,” which ran February 2–8, during which Mile End offered special styles of the Canadian comfort food, going beyond the core ingredients of fries, curds, and gravy: There was a chilaquiles poutine, a smoked meat burger poutine, a “fat Jewish” poutine, a Philadelphia-styled roast pork poutine, and an Italian poutine.

Mile End’s already known for its glorious smoked meat sandwich, but its poutine is also worth trying, especially this time of year, when it’s OK to bulk up against the bitter cold and wind.

“I think Americans are amazed by poutine,” Bernamoff says. “I think it’s one of those over-the-top indulgences that Americans tend [to] respond very well to.”

Video by Sarah Mortimer for the Village Voice.

See also:
Big Smoke Burger Brings Poutine, Canadian Style Burgers to NYC
Ask the Critics: Where Can I Eat Lots of Delicious Poutine?
Smoked Meat Poutine from Mile End, Dish #65
A New York Poutine Crawl Reveals Brooklyn to Be an Unlikely Poutine Paradise
Poutine Reconsidered: Five Great Dishes at Three Letters in Brooklyn


Sampling Balkan Comfort Food at Balkanika

Cevapcici (left) are delicious flame-grilled skinless beef sausages, sided with a Turkic bread, red-pepper paste, a yogurt dip, and salad.

This week, Counter Cultures slides in to Balkanika, a Hell’s Kitchen spot with probably the fullest selection of wine-bar eats you’ve ever seen. While the cheeses and cured meats are doctrinaire for this type of establishment, the bread dips are not, and the place also offers some Balkan comfort-food standards that are difficult to find in most parts of the city.

Read the…/dive-your-pita-into-balkanika-s-hell-kitchen-treats review here.

[See More Review Photos: Casa Enrique | Potlikker]


Served with yogurt, bureks are spiral pies filled with a choice of spinach, beef, cheese, or leeks and potatoes.

For spud lovers, the goulash not only contains potato cubes, but also rests on a bed of mashed potatoes.

Lamb kofte kebabs are served with rice, charred tomato, and salad.

Moussaka is a eggplant casserole that, unlike its Greek cousin, adds layers of potatoes to the mix.

A stuffed and roasted pepper is the essence of mellow.

691 Ninth Avenue



My Top 10 Comfort Food Dishes in New York City

New York City is full of fancy restaurants where people go for a spirited night on the town, to sample the exquisite creations of chefs in vogue, while sitting shoulder to shoulder with the other hundred diners in the know. Then there are the restaurants for the city’s homebodies, people who would rather be holed up in their living rooms with big plates of pasta than at crowded, noisy restaurants. These places recognize that when the homebodies of the city are lured out of their apartments, they pretty much want to eat exactly what they would have eaten at home — just prepared expertly and interestingly by a professional chef; their menus feature comfort foods, dishes you would enjoy at a cozy, private dinner for two, a backyard barbecue, or a family dinner.

As the newest member of the Fork in the Road team, I might as well let you know now that I’m one of these homebodies at heart. And I’m often forced to reconcile my persistent desire to stay in with the need to try out every restaurant that piques my interest by ordering my favorite comfort foods when I’m eating out. So below is a list of the best of these dishes, served at restaurants that manage to make you feel at home, even in the middle of the bustling city.

10. Feijoada at Casa Restaurant: Having grown up in Miami among people from all over South America and the Caribbean, I crave the rice and stew dishes that I used to eat at my friends’ and family’s backyard parties. Feijoada, a Brazilian stew with beans, beef, pork, and vegetables, prepared in a clay pot, simmered for hours, and served with rice and collard greens perfectly encapsulates the earthy, spicy flavors of Latin-American home cooking. Casa Restaurant’s feijoada, eaten alongside its freshly made pão de queijo, is a meal worth writing home about. Casa Restaurant (72 Bedford Street, 212-366-9410)

9. Red Beans and Rice With Smoked Sausage at Sugar Freak: Maybe Louisiana Cajun cooking is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Astoria, but that’s where you’ll find some of the best red beans and rice around. Sugar Freak’s beans get a good dose of spice from pieces of potent andouille, and the whole thing is topped with a tender smoked sausage. Sugar Freak (36-18 30th Avenue, Queens; 718-726-5850)

Bacon jalapeño cornbread at the Brooklyn Star
Bacon jalapeño cornbread at the Brooklyn Star

8. Bacon Jalapeño Corn Bread at the Brooklyn Star: Smell is everything when it comes to cornbread. While it’s cooking in the oven, a cornbread loaf lets off steam, both sweet and savory, that wafts out of the kitchen reminding you that dinner is not too far away. This particular aspect of the cornbread-eating experience is honored at the Brooklyn Star, where the cornbread is brought to the table piping-hot from the oven in a cast-iron pan. You can almost taste the deep smokiness of the bacon and the piquant flavor of the hot peppers, while you wait for the whole thing to get cool enough to eat. The Brooklyn Star (593 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, 718-599-9899)

Fried chicken platter at Pies-N-Thighs
Fried chicken platter at Pies-N-Thighs

7. Fried Chicken at Pies-N-Thighs: The Basque philosopher Bernard-Paul Heroux once remarked, “There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” Well, the same can be said of a fried chicken platter. This is particularly true in the case of the chicken at Pies-N-Thighs, which manages to remain moist, with a full, meaty flavor, even after being dipped in hefty batter and deep-fried. Adding on some biscuits, baked beans, mac and cheese, and banana cream pie for dessert are all good ways to amp up the pleasure quotient. Pies-N-Thighs (166 South 4th Street, 347-529-6090)

6. Tagliatelle al Ragù at Osteria Morini: If you ask anyone from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy what food most reminds them of home, they will almost always talk about their mother’s ragù. In Bologna, Italy, where I lived for two years, ragù recipes are kept private, and passed down in families as part of the patrimony. (At least that’s what I was told by several home cooks when I tried to squeeze recipes for the dish out of them.) But you probably don’t want to make the whole thing from scratch anyway — it’s very labor-intensive. So unless you have hours to kill on a Sunday, head to Michael White’s Osteria Morini, and try the intensely meaty, savory ragù alla Bolognese folded over ribbons of fresh tagliatelle pasta. Osteria Morini (218 Lafayette Street, 212-965-8777)

5. Arroz con Leche at Sala One Nine: I grew up eating the Colombian version of rice pudding, arroz con leche, which uses evaporated and/or sweetened condensed milk for maximum creaminess, and is served warm with plenty of cinnamon sprinkled on top. Sala One Nine, an endearing Spanish restaurant in Flatiron, offers a nice twist on this dessert. Its arroz con leche is made with bomba rice (a short-grain variety used for paella), which stays firm amid velvety pudding flavored with cinnamon and brandy. A caramelized sugar topping and blood-orange compote liven up the dish. Sala One Nine (35 West 19th Street, 212-229-2300)

4. Spicy Ramen at Kuboya: In Japan and Midtown, ramen is primarily a quick meal for hungry businessmen, but the East Village there are intimate ramen restaurants where you can linger over your bowl of steaming noodles for hours. One of these places is Kuboya, where you can order a large bowl of spicy miso ramen with a rustic quality that derives from its broth made with shiitake mushrooms, nori, and miso. The restaurant serves one of the best bowls of spicy ramen out there — though Ramen Setagaya and Minca are also good destinations for the dish — and gets extra points for its laid-back ambience. Kuboya (536 East 5th Street; 212-777-7010)

3. The BBLT at Penelope: A double serving of bacon, freshly baked sourdough bread, and ripe tomatoes: You can’t really ask for more out of a BLT. But Penelope’s BLT has an extra-special element — mayonnaise made with balsamic vinegar and fresh pepper that perks up the bacon’s rich flavor, giving the sandwich balance and pizzazz. Penelope (159 Lexington Avenue, 212-481-3800)

2. Deviled Eggs at the Spotted Pig: Briny with a fluffy yolk mixture, these deviled eggs are a super-gourmet version of the family picnic dish. They come topped with fragrant olive oil and plenty of chopped chives. Eating at the Spotted Pig can be overwhelming at dinner, but the restaurant is the perfect place for a leisurely lunch. The Spotted Pig (314 West 11th Street, 212-620-0393)

1. Spaghetti and Meatballs at Brucie: Italian-American chefs and home cooks have been perfecting their recipes for this dish since the beginning of the 20th century, yet it’s still hard to find a first-class plate of spaghetti and meatballs at a restaurant. Brucie’s spaghetti and meatballs, though, are just that. In the dish, thick spaghetti, cooked al dente, grips abundant amounts of tangy red sauce. The meatballs are not falling-apart tender but are bright and texturally varied, highlighting their fresh ingredients: organic meat and lemon zest. In keeping with its homey feel, Brucie runs a takeout service in which customers can come to the restaurant with pots from their own kitchens and have them filled up with meatballs. Brucie (234 Court Street, Brooklyn; 347-987-4961)


Tomorrow: My Top 10 Comfort Food Dishes in NYC

New York City is full of trendy restaurants perfect for a spirited night on the town. But there are also food destinations for the city’s homebodies, people who would rather be eating big plates of homemade pasta in their living rooms than dining at the nicest tables at the chicest new spots. The menus at these places are all about comfort foods, and tomorrow I’ll list the tastiest dishes of the bunch, served at the restaurants that most make you feel at home, even when you’re out and about.


Year of the Takeout: Day 13

Mushroom Egg Foo Young and Roast Pork With Pepper and Tomato from New Kam Lai (708 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-749-8990)

Eating Americanized Chinese food every day can start to feel a lot like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” — routine bites hard, and ambitions run low.

This seems especially true when the work requires that you mainly sample the most mundane staples.

Even when you come across something tasty, which, luckily, Year of the Takeout has been able to do several times, the potential for surprise — and true enjoyment — remain minimal.

You almost want to say “to hell with this” and abandon the project altogether — but then you come across a dish that’s so unexpectedly perfect, you realize all over again that there are still undiscovered treasures hidden throughout the scene.

New Kam Lai’s mushroom egg foo young fits this description exactly. Though most versions of this recipe usually get — and deserve — little praise, the omelet at this eatery had the magical mouthfeel of the latkes of my youth, with crisp, eggy edges and a marvelously gummy, vegetal greasiness (fresh ‘shrooms, bean sprouts, and bok choy absolutely abounded).

Get on this train!
Get on this train!

And the gravy — holy shit, the gravy!!! — featured a thick, beefy savoriness but a sort of drinkability nonetheless. The $4.35 main makes for a superlative cold-weather comfort food.

The $4.85 roast pork with tomatoes and peppers is also highly recommended. The meat skillfully balances moisture with a smoky semi-sweetness.