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Best Weekend Food Events: Oiji’s Honey Butter Chips, Big Apple Barbecue, La Nuit en Rosé

25-Cent Nuggets
The Nugget Spot (230 East 14th Street)
Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.

What’s better than cheap, delicious finger food on a summer Friday? This afternoon, the Nugget Spot will offer 25-cent nuggets until close. All seven different styles of chicken nuggets on the menu will be available — including Southern Belle, Cap’n Crunk, Cheese n’ Chong, Sriracha Nugs, Tso Tswag, Buffalo, and Skinny Nuggs.

Free Falafel Bar
Nanoosh (111 University Place, and other locations)
Friday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

All five Manhattan locations of Nanoosh are celebrating International Falafel Day with a free falafel tasting bar. Guests can choose from a selection of toppings like hummus, tahini, and habañero sauce to kick things up a notch.

Big Apple Barbecue
Madison Square Park (Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street)
Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The country’s top pit masters will meet up in Madison Square Park this weekend for the annual Big Apple Barbecue party. This year’s lineup includes a new entrant (Dallas’s Hutchins BBQ) along with returning favorites like Sam Jones of North Carolina’s Skylight Inn and Billy Durney of Red Hook’s Hometown Bar-B-Que. VIP ticket packages start at $275 and allow guests to skip the line at all barbecue stands. Get your tickets here.

Honey Butter Chip Pop-Up
Oiji (119 First Avenue)
Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Craving some sweetness on the go? Oiji is offering honey butter chips with ice cream from their take-out window. Get this sweet, salty, crunchy treat for just $10.

La Nuit en Rosé
Hornblower Infinity Cruise Ship (Pier 40 at 343 West Street)
Saturday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Sample over 150 different rosés from France, Italy, and California at this walk-around tasting. The event includes a brief cruise along the Hudson River, as well as food and entertainment. Reserve a ticket, starting at $95, here.

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Our 10 Best Things to Eat Around Union Square

Katsudon — the perfect autumn lunch

Constituting a sort of new Times Square for New Yorkers instead of tourists, Union Square is alive with places to eat, many offering such amenities as outdoor seating, full bars, late hours, and even bargain pricing. Some joints are small, others can accommodate scores of diners at once. Here are the 10 best things we’ve eaten around Union Square recently.

For the purposes of this ranking, the restaurant must be located either right on the square, or no more than one block away in any direction. Food trucks qualify, but no guarantee is made that they’ll actually be there when you want to eat some specific something.

10. Katsudon at Ennju (above) — Dear Ennju! Our longtime fast-food mainstay near the Greenmarket offers a range of competently prepared Japanese eats at bargain-basement prices in a food-court atmosphere. The katsudon is made to order out of excellent pork cutlets, which are fried and then mired atop rice in eggs cooked up with scallions. Takuwan (the yellow daikon pickle) graces the top.20 East 17th Street, 646-336-7004

9. Vegetarian Platter at Rainbow Falafel — This closet of a place turns out Middle Eastern food that’s fast and delicious. The vegetarian platter, jammed into a single overflowing carryout container, includes falafel (4 big balls!), grape leaves, baba ganoush, tabouli, raw onions, and pickled peppers on a bed of tomatoey salad drenched with tahini and hot sauce. Share this platter with a chum. 26 East 17th Street, 212-691-8641

8. Carnitas Tlaycoyo at Patty’s Taco Truck — A surfboard of hand-patted masa dough is heaped with crema, greenery, cheese, cilantro, avocado, and a salsa of your choice (pick the green) over a bed of flavorful pork tidbits. Climb aboard this baby and ride it across the square! Parked near 15th Street and Union Square West most days

Yes, Patty’s looks like Flash Gordon’s spaceship.

7. Goodburger Classic at Goodburger — This was Peter Meehan’s favorite burger in a piece he did for the Times a few years back, and the item remains a thing of burgal beauty: the patty modestly sized, cooked to order, and meaty tasting; the toppings profuse and of unassailable quality. No, it’s not Shake Shack, but it’s damn good. The thick chocolate milkshake is worth getting, too. 870 Broadway, 212-529-9100

6. Chicken Milanesa at Union Square Café — Never have you had a chicken cutlet so delicately crumbed or perfectly fried. And the salad on top sings, with salty low notes provided by pecorino, is a delight in itself. 30 East 16th Street, 212-243-4020

5. Grilled Pork Chops at Republic — No, it’s not a noodle dish like the ones Union Square old-timer Republic is famous for. Rather, the pork chops, sliced razor thin, flame grilled, and coated with a thin sweet sauce are better than the same dish in some of the city’s best Vietnamese cafés — here presented with all the trimmings. 37 Union Square West, 212-627-7172

Step inside, ladies.

4. Peruvian Burger at Morocho — To say this thing is a gutbomb is an understatement, and you’re going to have to wear scuba gear to eat it, such is the messiness of this bizarre invention, which features a runny fried egg, fried plantains, and several gloppy sauces. Parked near 15th Street and Union Square West most days

3. Carne Asado Taco With Guacamole at Dos Toros — This California-style beauty knocks you over the head with the smoky taste of the meat. With the optional guacamole, it swings for the fences (without it, the taco is vastly diminished, so be prepared to pay the extra fee). 137 Fourth Avenue, 212-677-7300

2. Shrimp Baiano at Coffee Shop — First opened on Union Square in 1990, Coffee Shop was the first of the ironically named places (soon to be followed by Cafeteria, Eatery, Diner, Delicatessen, etc.), and also started the trend of moving into a place and leaving the previous décor nearly intact. Oh, and then there were those waiters, who, one was convinced, doubled as fashion models. But the stealth specialty has always been authentic Brazilian fare, and this delicious shrimp stew from Bahia — which also includes shredded kale, an orange wedge, fried plantains, and plenty of white rice — handily proves it. 29 Union Square West, 212-243-7969

You can sit outside, even in cold weather.

1. Sushi at 15 East — Yes this place is fiendishly expensive, but the quality of the sushi ranks it in the top five sushi parlors in town, and the weekday lunch special allows the masses to sample the output in small quantities. 15 East 15th Street, 212-647-0015

The sun-dappled exterior of 15 East

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Cheap EV Favorite Tahini Shuttered by the DOH

Tahini dark during the shank of the dinner hour Tuesday

On the edge of the Cooper Union campus and close to the NYU dorms, Tahini is a favorite for students seeking inexpensive Middle Eastern fare with an Israeli bent, especially falafel, chicken schwarma, bread dips like hummus and babaganoush, and the boiled-egg sandwich called sabbich. But now the place has been closed by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a yellow warning sign glued to the front door.

The spoor of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which has closed Tahini.

Unfortunately, the DOH website has no record of a preemptively bad inspection, and calls to the restaurant go unanswered. Fork in the Road will inform you as new info becomes available.

Tahini
23 3rd Avenue
212-254-0300

 

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Our 10 Best Middle Eastern Restaurants, 2012

New York City has a lot to offer when it comes to Middle Eastern cooking. If you know where to stop for a meal along the city’s few Arab strips or even in fancy neighborhoods, you’ll find a wide range of the region’s typical cooking including grilled meats, honey-drenched pastries, savory flatbreads, and bright, beautiful meze platters. I’ve been able to find traditional dishes in this city on par with those my Lebanese grandmother makes and ones I’ve tried in Jordan and Egypt. And the city even holds its own on the falafel and kebab front despite some serious competition in the Middle East and Europe. Below you’ll find my 10 favorite sit-down and takeout Middle Eastern spots in NYC.

Note the delicate pita at Gazala's
Note the delicate pita at Gazala’s

10. Gazala’s — At this Druze Israeli restaurant, located on the Upper West Side, you’ll find the kitchen staff hand-rolling kibbeh at tables hidden in the back of the dining room, and freshly made bread that’s stretchy, thin, and more like South Asian roti than the pita found in most Middle Eastern restaurants. Use it to scoop up lemony tahini and thinly sliced grilled lamb — one of the best entrées on the menu. 380 Columbus Avenue, 212-873-8880

9. Moustache — Much has been written about this West Village restaurant’s flatbreads, but the best dish on the menu is also the most ordinary sounding — grilled chicken over lentil puree. These are no ordinary lentils: They’re softened and mashed until velvety and spiced with plenty of garlic and a drizzle of potent olive oil. Though it might be hard to resist the lamb sandwiches and fancy pitzas, this plate won’t let you down. 90 Bedford Street, 212-229-2220

Stuffed grape leaves at Tripoli
Stuffed grape leaves at Tripoli

8. Tripoli/Damascus Breads & Pastry — Located on an Arab restaurant-dense strip of Atlantic Avenue, Tripoli has an endearingly old-school feel — the walls are covered in dark wood, the ceiling is painted to look like the sky, and the menu specializes in Lebanese home cooking. Make sure to try the wara’anib, tight cigars of grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb and rice served warm with a bit of lemony broth. Then for dessert, head across the street to Damascus Breads & Pastry, a Syrian bakery, and pick up some first-rate walnut or pistachio baklava for the road. Tripoli (156 Atlantic Avenue, 718-596-5800), Damascus Breads & Pastry (195 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-625-7070)

Lunchtime falafel at Alfanoose
Lunchtime falafel at Alfanoose

7. Alfanoose — This restaurant got its start as a food truck that quickly won over the lunchtime crowd in the Financial District, where the street food competition is fierce. Here the falafel, which is not always super crispy but has a lively cumin-coriander flavor, is at its best when bundled up tight in a large pita (for tidy eating) with beets, tahini, lettuce, and tomato. 8 Maiden Lane, 212-528-4669

Stuffed bread on a board at Taboon
Stuffed bread on a board at Taboon

6. Taboon — The kitchen of this spacious Hell’s Kitchen restaurant riffs on classic Middle Eastern dishes using Mediterranean — often Greek — flavors. It’s a great place to go for brunch, especially for its freshly baked, crusty bread stuffed with feta cheese and soft-boiled eggs, or ground lamb and tahini. 773 Tenth Avenue, 212-713-0271

The dining room of Ilili, where you'll be served some terrific lamb
The dining room of Ilili, where you’ll be served some terrific lamb

5. Ilili — A little more pricey and swanky than most other Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, Ilili serves some outstanding lamb — made into makanek, a typical Lebanese sausage, or simply seared as chops and served with a sauce made with za’atar — which makes putting up with the loud music and weird décor worth it. 236 Fifth Avenue, 212-683-2929

Taim's harissa falafel sandwich
Taim’s harissa falafel sandwich

4. Taïm — This Israeli vegetarian carryout gets some serious points for boldness — it serves three different flavors of falafel, a move that would be considered heresy in some purist circles. My favorite one features house-made harissa, a chili pepper paste common in North African cooking, which turns the balls’ interior a vibrant orange color. The great thing is that when you bite into the harissa falafel you’re not inundated with heat; instead you taste the flavoring’s zest playing off the low, earthy notes of the chickpeas. 222 Waverly Place, 212-691-1287

Baked kibbeh at Tanoreen
Baked kibbeh at Tanoreen

3. Tanoreen — You can find some fantastic meze — snacks meant for nibbling on while lounging for hours at an outdoor café — at this Bay Ridge restaurant. Try some Arab classics: kibbeh — raw, if available (fear not, it’s like steak tartare), baked, or fried — crispy lamb-filled sambousek, and tabbouleh salad. 7704 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-748-5600

Meat bliss at Cedars
Meat bliss at Cedars

2. Cedars Meat House — The juicy meat skewers at Cedars will make every other kebab you’ve had in this city pale in comparison. Order the platter so you can really taste the deep seasoning and perfect char of the lamb shish kebab and the spicy beef kufta kebab. They come with plenty of accoutrements: two dipping sauces — a potent garlic sauce, and one with hot pepper flakes; a fresh chopped cucumber, tomato, and onion salad; hummus; and baba ghanoush. Then cool down your palate with some ayran, a sour yogurt drink often consumed with meat for digestive purposes in the Middle East. 41-08 30th Avenue, 718-606-1244

Kabab Café's Meze platter with baba ghanoush, hummus, foul mudammas, falafel, and garnishes of fried frisée and apple slices
Kabab Café’s Meze platter with baba ghanoush, hummus, foul mudammas, falafel, and garnishes of fried frisée and apple slices

1. Kabab Café — Not only does this Egyptian café in Astoria offer an outstanding meze platter, it’s one of the most intimate, relaxing spaces in the entire city. If you come during the day, there will be no written menu to choose from, the owner and chef of the restaurant’s minuscule kitchen, Ali El Sayed, will simply ask you what you’d like to eat. Your order must absolutely include baba ghanoush, made with intensely smoked eggplant and lime, stuffed eggplant (if available), and the place’s truly distinct fava falafel — the daintiest, crispiest fritters you could ever hope to find outside the region. 25-12 Steinway Street, Queens, 718-728-9858

 

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Tomorrow: Our 10 Best Middle Eastern Restaurants in NYC

New York City has a lot to offer when it comes to Middle Eastern dining — beyond falafel sandwiches and kebabs. Tomorrow, find out where to get the best grilled meats, tender braises, honey-drenched pastries, savory flatbreads, and light, bright mezze that make up the region’s complex cuisine.

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Çi?köftem: Vegetarian Turkish Wraps in the East Village

Çiğköftem (438 E. 9th St, 212-777-8767)
Çiğköftem, the first American branch of a popular Turkish fast-food chain, opened a little over a week ago in the East Village. It serves just one dish — a vegetarian mixture called çiğköftem, which consists of cracked bulgur wheat, red pepper paste, chili pepper, and 18 spices. You can order the dish by itself, or folded into a wrap, pita, or bun along with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, parsley, fresh mint, pickles, and a squirt of pomegranate sauce. It comes in a mild and a spicy version. Go for the spicy one: It’s not too hot and has a pleasing, slightly smoky flavor. Either way, though, the dish is a refreshing alternative to falafel for a late-night snack or a quick lunch.

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Za’atar Brings a Feast of the Middle East to the West Village

Greenwich Avenue has gotten a crop of new eateries recently. Whitehall, the new Brit-influenced spot from the team behind Highlands, is getting lots of buzz, but if it’s cheap eats you’re after, you’re better off checking out new Middle Eastern spot Za’atar (50 Greenwich Avenue, 212-242-3451). The small shop sells the standard roster of falafel, salads, and grilled meat plates, not to mention a selection of different types of flaky baklava.

We popped in for a quick vegetarian lunch and ordered a falafel with hummus ($5, though it was advertised as $3 in the window) and fattoush salad ($7). Although service was on the slow side since only one person was running the whole operation, from assembling plates to taking orders to receiving incoming food shipments, the falafel was warm and crispy, but with a soft interior and a mild peppery finish. Toppings included lettuce, tomato, cucumber salad, and tahini, and were all crunchy, though the tomatoes slightly hard (it is nearly December, after all). It’s hard not to compare the falafel with Taïm, located just a few blocks away, which is one of our favorite falafels in the city. The chickpea balls don’t quite equal the ones there, which are so light and chock-full of herbs, but they are still better than at the other local Village favorite, Mamoun’s, which can be grainy. Definitely worth checking out the fried chickpea balls here if you happen to be nearby or are on a falafel crawl.

Fattoush salad
Fattoush salad

The fattoush salad was enormous, and it was decent, though we were hoping for more sumac flavor, and we would have also liked the veggies (tomato, cucumber, lettuce, onion) and fried pita-bread chips to be in larger pieces. The dressing ran a little too salty for comfort, but given that fattoush is one of our favorite salads, it’s always nice to chance upon a new spot that sells it, no matter how it tastes. We washed it down with a cup of hot spiced Damascus tea ($2).

Inside Za'atar
Inside Za’atar

Grilled lamb, chicken, and kofta kebabs are also available, served in sandwiches (alongside baba ganoush, tzatziki, hummus, or grape leaves) or as platters, which come with rice and salad. Prices for most sandwiches are around $5, while platters range from $7 to $9, and both sit-down and takeout are available. It’s nearly lunch time: time for a Middle East feast, perhaps?

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Dish No. 36: Kulushkät Gourmet Falafel’s Classic Falafel Sandwich

Since opening earlier this year off of Flatbush Avenue, Kalushkät Gourmet Falafel has distinguished itself with, simply put, some damn fine balls.

They’re put to excellent use in Kulushkät’s Classic falafel sandwich, where they share pita real estate with a citrus- and cilantro-spiked red cabbage salad and a few voluptuous chunks of roasted eggplant. The falafel themselves are fried to swarthy perfection, and boast a crisp exterior and creamy guts. They’re seasoned with an earthy, vibrant combination of cilantro, onion, parsley, and spices including cumin and paprika. Attention has also been paid to the pita, which is soft, pliant, and tastes like something that emerged from an oven instead of a plastic bag.

It’s a sandwich befitting of Kalushkät’s name, which is Moroccan Arabic for “shut up and eat.” You’d be wise to heed the command.

Kulushkät Gourmet Falafel
446 Dean Street, Brooklyn
347-799-1972

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Falafels, Like Bugs, Free Next Friday

For those of you who are even more at-ease with sketchy food handling practices than we are, Tasty Falafel, where we got the sandwich pictured above, will be holding a falafel eating contest at 6PM next Friday, and will also be giving away falafels between 4-9PM.

Tasty Falafel
32 Saint Marks Place

(212) 254-1001