Chill Out: That Fried ‘Rat Head’ at Popeyes Was Probably Just Misplaced ‘Organ Meat’

It’s not uncommon to find foreign objects entombed in prepared food: The mouse in the Chop’t salad. The metal shard in the pizza. Just last week I almost choked to death on a zip tie I found masquerading as a piece of bacon in a breakfast burrito. But the alleged discovery of a rat head in a Harlem Popeyes? No. Fuck no. Ten thousand barfs, I’m never eating again, etc.

The basic facts are that Rosemary Thomas, her sister, her daughter, and her niece — none of whom will ever be the same — were attempting to dine at the the franchise’s West 145th Street location when Rosemary found what looked like a rodent’s head emerging coquettishly from some fried batter. She photographed it and posted several nice, high-res images to Facebook, along with this description:

Friends and family, this is a meal Popeyes in Harlem served my daughter, my niece and sister. This is clearly a rat and they have the nerve to have a 5 rating by the department of health. I’ve sent this picture to DESK@NY1 and no one has contacted me. People please free to share this picture. Think about all the other rat that have been served and the lasting effect this will have on my daughter, niece and sister. The exact address is 2730 Frederick Douglas Blvd.

DNAinfo got in touch with Popeyes spokeswoman Renee Kopowski, who said that any non-chicken items inadvertently tossed into the fryer usually turn out to be organs. (Chicken organs, presumably.) Thomas has been asked to bring the specimen to the restaurant for “product testing,” meaning not only was she forced to reckon with a potential vermin interloper poorly disguised as food, she also had to KEEP it somewhere, like in her freezer next to the ice cubes? She has sensibly retained legal council.

Interestingly, the “product testing” is being conducted not by an outside entity, like the Health Department, but Popeyes themselves, a DOH spokesperson confirmed to the Voice. In fact, the department already re-inspected the restaurant and determined that it’s spick-and-span, and thus allowed to retain its A grade. “The inspection didn’t find any evidence of rat activity in the establishment, or contaminated food,” the DOH spokesperson said. OK!

Anyway, Mass Appeal today spoke again with Kopowski, who seems to have doubled down on her assertion that, indeed, the offending head is in fact just eerily rat-shaped organ meat.

“Our supplier has told us that they’re very sure it’s organ meat,” she said. “They think it’s a chicken organ. It tends to be organ meat.”

Organ meat has certainly been found in fried chicken before. Earlier this year, another unlucky diner found what was identified as either “kidney” or “lung” (who can say) when he bit into his meal at an Australian KFC. A UK gentleman had a similar experience with a kidney in his KFC bucket.

“I have a habit of picking the chicken off the bone with my fingers, and as I pulled the second piece apart, I saw this horrible wrinkled foreign body,” he floridly told the Sun. And here’s a guy whose “woman” brought back some Popeyes, and found what he thinks might be a chicken heart.

“It looks like a little wiener,” he says, wiggling it with his forefinger. “I don’t know why you’re telling me not to say that,” he says to the camera, perhaps to his woman. “There’s no reason that should be in your food.”

On the bright side, if there is one, chicken kidneys are a delicacy in France and China. I don’t know about wieners, though.


This Week in Food: ‘Super Upsetting’ Cocktail Party, Taste of Bushwick, Big Apple Zinfandel

A ‘Super Upsetting’ Cocktail Party (Featuring Sandwiches)
Weather Up Tribeca (159 Duane Street)
Tuesday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Celebrate the release of Tyler Kord’s A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches with cocktails and sandwiches from an all-star lineup of chefs. The No. 7 Sub chef will highlight tasty fare from Jonathan Wu of Fung Tu and Justin Bazdarich of Speedy Romeo. Tickets are $25 and include cocktails, food, and a copy of the book. Reserve yours here.

Fast Food With Andrew F. Smith
Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) Lab (62 Bayard Street; Brooklyn)
Tuesday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Explore the ins and outs of America’s obsession with the fast-food industry thanks to author and New School professor Andrew F. Smith. Prior to the discussion, guests can sample healthy versions of classic fast-food treats. Tickets ($40 for general admission) also include entry to MOFAD’s current exhibit. Reserve yours here.

Taste of Bushwick

Boar’s Head Distribution Plant (24 Rock Street; Brooklyn )
Tuesday, 6:30 pm to 9 p.m.

The third annual Taste of Bushwick will take place rain or shine and includes the largest lineup of restaurants the festival has ever had. Restaurants and food businesses at the event — forty total — include Montana’s Trail House and Faro, among others. An after-party will be held at Syndicated, with plenty of drink specials. General admission tickets are $50.

Taller Copenhagen Dinner

The Pines (284 Third Avenue; Brooklyn)
Wednesday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Chef Karlos Ponte — of the Copenhagen-based restaurant Taller — brings his take on Venezuelan cuisine to Brooklyn for one night only. Dishes include caviar-topped corn crackers, black lentil noodles with chili and egg, and for dessert, cookie-dough-and-pineapple sorbet. An $85 ticket includes all nine courses; however, drinks are not included.

Big Apple Zinfandel Experience

Union Square Ballroom (27 Union Square West)
Thursday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Cool off with a glass of wine (or several) at this walk-around tasting, which will spotlight more than 70 different California Zinfandels. Between glasses, you can nibble on curated cheese boards from Saxelby Cheesemongers. Tickets start at $85.


Here’s Where to Get Your Fast-Casual Fix While Chipotle Is Closed

Good news: Chipotle got their E. coli outbreak under control. Bad news: Today CEO Steve Ells is closing all stores nationwide, nearly 2,000 locations, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to go over an improved “farm-to-fork” food safety program and answer questions from employees.

The upside for all the Chipotle-heads out there seeking to satisfy “quesarito” and tofu sofritas cravings (at least until the late afternoon) is that NYC is full of other options for quick, tasty Mexi-Asian meals served cafeteria style. And most of them are better than Chipotle, if you can believe it. Here are five NYC alternatives to keep any taco-induced tremors at bay:

Oxido's "Make it dirty" nachos
Oxido’s “Make it dirty” nachos

5. Oxido (18 West 23rd Street, 212-256-1072)
San Antonio chef Jesse Perez is the driving force behind this earth-toned modern Mexican spot, where he gives the Chipotle formula an extra dose of Latin flair with more-aggressive seasonings and seven salsa options. There’s grilled chicken or grass-fed beef for your tacos, burritos, and bowls, but Perez’s Southwest-inspired dishes set Oxido apart. Pinto beans come “cowboy style” with bacon, and a New Mexican beef curry finds shreds of shoulder brightened by pasilla chiles and tomatillo.

Chicken burrito
Chicken burrito

4. Korilla BBQ (23 Third Avenue, 646-823-9423)
The facade of the apartment building that houses Edward Song’s Korean-Mexican restaurant is emblazoned in his company’s signature orange and black tiger stripes. It’s a bold statement for the food truck operator’s bold kitchen, which traffics in gochujang-spiced meats and tofu, rice options that include forbidden purple and fried rice with bacon and kimchi, and more than a dozen pickled vegetables and condiments.

Signature Bay Area–style burrito
Signature Bay Area–style burrito

3. Dos Toros (multiple locations)
The excellent San Francisco–style burritos at this growing chain come courtesy of California natives, brothers, and bros Oliver and Leo Kremer. Sticking to the Bay Area model, Dos Toros’s tortillas get some one-on-one time with the griddle, which adds a great toasted flavor to the equation. Their carnitas, while not as heavily spiced as some, revels in porky unctuousness, which you can subsequently bury under cheese, sour cream, beans, and a bevy of salsas. Tacos are fine, but that griddle works wonders on what must surely be the best fast-food quesadilla in town.

Grain bowl
Grain bowl

2. Inday (1133 Broadway, 917-521-5012)
Basu Ratnam introduced this stylish Indian canteen last summer, with Jean-Georges restaurateur Phil Suarez and natural foods magnate Irwin Simon of Hain Celestial Group backing the project. This may be the most aesthetically pleasing fast-casual restaurant in the city, and the room’s artful aesthetics translate to the plate — or bowls, in this case. They start with a base of grains (red quinoa with lentils; tamarind wild rice) or vegetables (shredded cauliflower and brussels sprouts), and diners choose ground turkey, simmered tofu, or grilled chicken, steak, or salmon to accompany. Condiments and further additions like pickled raisins, coconut chutney, and sesame beets up the flavor ante. No, it’s not a Mexican restaurant, but it still out-Chipotles Chipotle.

Brisket burrito
Brisket burrito

1. Tres Carnes (multiple locations)
Pit master Mike Rodriguez, an alum of the revered Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas, smokes the brisket at this fast-casual mini-chain for a minimum of sixteen hours. The other meats — pork shoulder, chicken thighs, and a weekly changing special that might feature leg of lamb or house-made chorizo — get nearly as much wood-fired love. The deeply flavored meats find their way into tortillas or bowls, which diners run through the toppings gauntlet: crema, green and red salsas, radishes, chipotle-spiced roasted squash, and elote-style corn mixed with lime mayo and cilantro. NYC’s barbecue renaissance might be tapering off, but the city’s penchant for fast-casual restaurants doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Tres Carnes does both pursuits proud.


Marc Forgione Fancies Up Penn Station With Hot Lobster Sandwiches

As gourmet food courts have mushroomed across our city, chef-driven, fast-casual counters have multiplied apace to fill them.

Lobster Press, from Marc Forgione, is one of a handful of eateries debuting at The Pennsy (2 Pennsylvania Place), the new 8,000-square-foot food plaza located atop Penn Station, at the southwest corner of 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue. With his fresh lobster panini ($17–$18), Forgione is offering up a crustaceous contender for NYC’s fervent, social-sharing sandwich cravers.

Forgione, whose cooking has fanned the flames of many a candlelit Tribeca romance, tells the Voice that his new venture is not about everyday lobster rolls. “There are other ways to do a lobster sandwich, and this is my favorite one,” he says.

Instead, it’s a handheld interpretation of one of Forgione’s most popular dishes — a chili lobster appetizer served at his eponymous restaurant. The panini at Lobster Press starts with an Orwashers roll, which is rubbed with garlic butter, stuffed with lobster meat, and toasted on a sandwich grill. A warm cup of chili sauce is served alongside for the ultimate dunk.

“We used to make chili sauce to dress our lobsters at the restaurant,” Forgione says. “If there was ever any left over, we’d eat it in the kitchen, and make things to dunk into it — toast, garlic bread, grilled cheese. It was a totally natural idea to me to make the lobster sandwich like a French dip with this sauce, warm, on the side. That’s what led me to the panini press, really. I needed something to stand up to the dunking.”

“The lobster comes in fresh, live, and whole from my partner Homarus every morning,” notes Forgione. The tail meat is sautéed in the shell with ginger and onions before it’s steamed and chilled, then mixed with claw and knuckle meat and seasoned with celery, fresh chili, mint, olive oil, and lime juice. Forgione says the mixture of meat is unusual for a lobster sandwich. “In the restaurant industry, a lot of people buy the tails separately, then the claw and knuckle get sold for lobster rolls. We like to use the whole thing. We go through a couple of hundred lobsters every day. It’s a lot of shelling, but it’s worth it.”

Since the restaurant opened two weeks ago, Forgione reports that service has been smooth. “It probably helps that we only have two sandwiches on the menu.” A lobster salad and a bisque are available, too.

As Lobster Press settles into a rhythm and finds an audience of eaters, the inevitable speculation begins. Is this the beginning of an empire of lobster sammie stands? Early signs are pointing encouragingly toward the future for Forgione — especially if taste is the only metric in play.

“Honestly, so far, I’m really happy with how things are going.” He smiles. “I want to change the way people think about lobster sandwiches. You only have to taste it to see there’s more to the lobster than lobster rolls.”


Favorite Dishes #39: Beef Rolls at Kottu House

Related to Malaysian roti canai, Sri Lanka’s godamba roti — pancake-like griddled flatbread — enjoys a certain status among street food fiends. Chopped and stir-fried with proteins and vegetables, it forms the base of the eponymous dish at Kottu House (250 Broome Street, 646-781-9222) on the Lower East Side. From a cozy storefront, mother/son team Sandya De Silva and Chelaka Gunamuni serve takeout boxes of filling and fiery Sri Lankan fare, including briny salmon croquettes and french fries jazzed up with chili powder.

And while their lineup of kottu — from black curry chicken to seawater fish — is worth the trip alone, we can never resist an order of the house beef rolls filled with a coarse mix of ground meat, shredded vegetables, and curry powder blooming with explosive spice. Godamba roti forms a texturally appealing shell around the beef hash. It crisps up like an egg roll when fried, at once shatteringly crisp and chewy. Find the rolls listed under the menu’s “short eats” section. They’re two for $5, and come with cups of sriracha hot sauce for dipping, but we like to splurge on De Silva’s insanely flavorful sambals. The coconut and green chili one in particular, while the least spicy, still delivers a cooling, creamy tingle that works wonders on the beef.

The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10. To read about previous dishes, browse our 100 Favorite Dishes page.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
#86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
#85: Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
#84: Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
#83: Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding With Candied Violets
#82: Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
#81: Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream
#80: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie
#79: Delmar Pizzeria’s Pizza
#78: Cafe Cluny’s Avocado Toast
#77: Brooklyn Star’s Cinnamon Bun
#76: Pork Belly Cotton Candy at Carnem
#75: Ippudo’s Pork Buns
#74: Mission Chinese Food’s Oil-Cured Anchovies
#73: Johnnycakes at LoLo’s Seafood Shack
#72: The Starving Artists Steak at Belle Reve
#71: The Spotted Pig’s Gnudi
#70: Xi’an Famous Foods’ Tiger Vegetable Salad
#69: Crème Brûlée Truffle at Kee’s Chocolates
#68: Pok Pok’s Muu Paa Kham Wong
#67: Cacio e Pepe at Upland
#66: Pulpo at Toro
#65: Junior’s Something Different
#64: Duck Carnitas at Cosme
#63: Banana Miso Ice Cream Sandwich at Neta
#62: Breads Bakery’s Chocolate Babka
#61: Braised Lamb Neck at the Gorbals
#60: Dough’s Passionfruit Doughnut
#59: Uncle Jesse Bao at Baohaus
#58: Patatas Bravas at El Colmado
#57: Lupulo’s Razor Clams
#56: Bar Masa’s Spicy Dancing Shrimp
#55: Underwest Donuts’ Halva
#54: The Virgola Platter at Virgola
#53: Noreetuh’s Monkfish Liver Torchon
#52: Amarena Cherry Merveilleux
#51: Roasted Mushrooms at Bara
#50: Fonda’s Oaxacan Black Mole Enchiladas
#49: Flinders Lane’s Lamb Rump
#48: Blue Ribbon Sushi’s Temaki Honnin
#47: Dirty French’s Chicken and Crepes
#46: The Vegetarian Combination at Zoma
#45: Merguez Sausage Flatbread at Irvington
#44: Le Grand Aioli at Marlow & Sons
#43: Shelsky’s Hot Pastrami Sandwich
#42: Hippie Banjo at Pies ‘n’ Thighs
#41: Malted Milkshake from Dizzy’s Diner
#40: Graffiti’s Graffiti Burger


Could This Be the Biggest Fried-Chicken Sandwich Ever?

The fried-chicken sandwich may be enjoying a renaissance in 2015 — the Fuku phenomenon is the latest example — but Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken (28 East 1st Street; 212-228-0404) in the East Village has decided to go medieval with its recently released Smorgasbird. The jaw-unhinging, double-decked creation is stuffed with every side dish you can think of — and a few more you can’t. Although simply fitting the sandwich in your mouthhole is impressive enough, if you can manage to defy physics and finish the thing in under five minutes, you’ll be entered to win a heaping platter of even more food. Either way, just by ordering the Smorgasbird, you’re helping to raise money and awareness to fight multiple sclerosis — 20 percent of all sales goes to the National MS Society (the sandwich is available until the end of July).

The demented brainchild of Blue Ribbon owners Bruce and Eric Bromberg, the Smorgasbird is built upon two fried-chicken cutlets. Then, in between heavy-duty brioche buns, goes smoked bacon, melted cheddar, sour cream, pickled peppers, french fries, BBQ chicken, and Blue Ribbon Special Sauce. Lastly, there’s grilled pineapple, lettuce, and tomato, for your health.

Speaking of health, Bruce Bromberg told the Voice why taking on multiple sclerosis is such a personal and vital mission for him and his restaurant. “Blue Ribbon has been riding as a team for Bike MS for the last six years and counting,” he said. “We started riding to support a dear friend diagnosed with the disease and have continued riding together to raise funds for this important cause. Adding a charitable component to the Smorgasbird sandwich seemed like a natural extension of our dedication to the MS Society.”

If you’re going to be a glutton, you might as well be a glutton for charity. And given its exhaustive list of ingredients, the Smorgasbird is something of a value at $15; it’s certainly enough food to satisfy two grown adult appetites at lunchtime. But if you insist on channeling your inner Joey Chestnut, tackling the five-minute challenge could net you your own Hail Mary Platter — 25 whole wings, 25 chicken tenders, and your choice of side, valued at over $200. That’s a lot of chicken, and a lot of change. Altruism, however, is priceless.

Follow Brad Japhe on Twitter and all your wildest dreams will come true — provided your dreams involve stories about craft beer, booze, and fried chicken. 


Eat Free French Fries, Hit Up a Harlem Brunch, and Party in a Garden This Week

NYC Cocktail Week, Multiple Locations, Monday through Friday

If you’re in search of a new favorite drink (or a new favorite neighborhood), consider a citywide deal that gets you $4 cocktails and appetizers all week long. For $30, guests receive access to specials at bars including The Wayland; offering fried oysters and a San Fran Spout specialty cocktail and Sweetwater Social for a special twist on a whiskey smash. Participating bars and restaurants are focused in the East and West Village area as well as Midtown East; check out a full line up of offers and ticket pick up options here.

National French Fry Day, Bareburger Columbus Circle, 313 West 57th Street, Monday, 11 a.m.

If you’re going to eat fries and feel guilty about doing so, they may as well be cost efficient. For those craving a deal, diners who purchase any menu item receive a free side of fries. The vegan, gluten-free fries can be paired with any burger, salad, or sandwich listed on the menu.

Gold Cup Viewing Parties, Salon Hecho, 356 Bowery, Tuesday, 5 p.m.
Starting this week, soccer fanatics — especially fans of Mexico — can view Gold Cup games (games runs July 7 – July 26) while enjoying a $10 tournament mezcal and beer special. The dining room offers a happy hour from 5 pm to 7 pm (extended until 8 pm at the bar) with $5 beer and $6 glasses of wine, as well as specials on food. To eat, Danny Mena’s menu is full of casual Mexican fare like corn tostadas, short rib and cheese tacos, and queso fundido.

Harlem Helps: A Benefit for the Families of Mother Emanuel AME Church, Ginny’s Supper Club, 310 Lenox Avenue, Wednesday, 12 p.m.

Marcus Samuelsson and several Charleston-area chefs and friends are helping the families of Mother Emanuel AME Church with a food focused fundraiser. A $30 minimum donation provides a buffet lunch full of Southern specials inspired by the Harlem chef and friends like pork shoulder, watermelon and tomato salad, and catfish. For the seated dinner beginning at 8 p.m., a $75 donation offers a menu of she-crab salad biscuit, fried green tomatoes, crispy oysters, and wreckfish. Reserve your ticket package of choice here.

61 Franklin Street Summer Cocktail Fundraiser, 61 Franklin Street Garden, Brooklyn, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Spend a summer night in a Greenpoint garden with cocktails, food, and live music. For $20, guests receive two cocktails, food, and a raffle ticket to win prizes from local neighborhood businesses. All of the proceeds will go towards the garden’s upkeep efforts; secure a reservation here.

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Superiority Dance: Vegetarian Fast Food Rocks the East Village

The veggie burger may have infiltrated mainstream dining while millennials were still teething, but despite advances in the design and DNA of our vegetable-based-patty sandwiches, they still have a way to go before becoming a nationally accepted form of fast food, even in these plant-food-mad times.

Sure, there are local vegetarian restaurants and even some national chains (Hillstone comes to mind) that pride themselves on their hefty, griddled pucks masquerading as meat, but when’s the last time you had a truly impressive veggie burger? One that not only looked and played the part of its beefy doppelgänger but matched it in flavor and style? Say hello to Superiority Burger (430 East 9th Street, no phone).

For the better part of a decade, Brooks Headley worked as the ballsy, sweet Nancy to executive chef Mark Ladner’s savory Sid at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s contemporary Italian showpiece Del Posto; he created desserts, penned a cookbook, and won the 2013 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef. But at the end of last month, the chef and punk-rock drummer left the fine-dining world behind, setting his sights on the high-velocity world of vegetarian fast food with Superiority Burger, his first solo venture.

Say hello to my little sloppy joe.
Say hello to my little sloppy joe.

The namesake sandwich, which Headley honed over the course of several years and flaunted at numerous events and pop-ups, relies on a nutty, quinoa-based patty formed with additional vegetarian proteins like beans and tofu. Tucked into its squishy Martin’s potato roll (slightly less flattened than the buns at recent fast-casual fried-chicken sensation Fuku), the patty easily achieves the closest approximation to that nostalgic “fast food” flavor of any veggie burger we’ve ever tasted. This is due to the nuttiness of the burger itself, combined with a familiar (and expertly utilized) combination of pickles, lettuce, cheese, oven-roasted tomatoes, and mustardy special sauce. There’s even a vegan version available, with a sourdough-looking bun and non-dairy cheese.

Sized somewhere between a slider and a standard fast-food-value-menu patty, it’s perhaps a touch petite for a $6 sandwich. You’ll likely have to add one of the excellent vegetable sides or double down on burgers in order to feel fully sated. The modest proportions make the $7 sloppy joe — a heap of piquant crumbled-tofu tomato stew topped with fried onions on a toasted sesame-seed bun — feel like the superior value. (Wet-Naps generously included.) Grab one of each for $13 and walk out holding your belly in satisfaction. There’s also a dish with rice, tofu, cabbage, and sunflower seeds available in wrap or bowl form (at $9, the most expensive item on the menu).

Burnt broccoli salad
Burnt broccoli salad

“Nothing on the menu is fried,” Headley boasts, beaming from the recesses of his kitchen. Folks will have to get their frites fix elsewhere, but on social media the chef has been teasing heavier dishes like vegan nachos and macaroni and cheese. For now the only listed vegetable side — a burnt broccoli salad — nearly steals the show, the florets piled atop a smooth eggplant purée and tossed with chiles, cilantro, and crunchy cashews. Greenmarket sides make an appearance, including sugar-snap peas tossed in breadcrumbs from Addeo Bakery on Arthur Avenue. They’re as composed and well thought out as you’re likely to find at any vegetable-minded outfit.

With limited space and a short standing counter running along its eastern wall, Superiority Burger occasionally commands wait times for its five coveted seats, which feature swiveling trays from which to eat. Otherwise, you’ll have to take your street food outside, onto the actual street. If you do snag a seat, the soundtrack’s aces — a mix of indie, punk, and rock, thanks to Headley’s musical background — and the stark, white-tiled space makes for a fairly comfortable meal. Also be aware that the restaurant is only open Thursday through Monday for dinner.

"Dessert" (gelato and sorbet)
“Dessert” (gelato and sorbet)

Headley’s background as a pastry chef informs the shop’s two classy desserts. Four-dollar scoops of intensely creamy vanilla labne gelato have a nice sour tug from the yogurt, and the strawberry sorbet tastes fresh and bright, fruity without being overly sweet. While they may not have the sass of a McFlurry, the frozen treats are of inordinately better quality. Unless you have a berry allergy or lactose intolerance, do as your cashier suggests and order them together.

Mixing equal parts Americana/burger nostalgia with the eco-conscious zeitgeist, Headley offers a compelling argument for greening up the fast-food industry, albeit in microcosmic fashion. Most important, he has managed to make everything taste so good, you won’t even want fries with that.


Kings of Kobe Brings Crazy Hot Dog Combos to Chelsea

The gourmet burger craze may be morphing into mania over another American classic: the hot dog. The recently opened Kings of Kobe (160 Eighth Avenue; 646-449-8150), a pop-up takeout window on the side of Pounds & Ounces NYC Pub, aims to spread a high-end hot dog and brat brand throughout NYC.

The vintage-wood and galvanized-steel stand opened on May 19, serving a 100 percent Kobe beef dog on a brioche bun — the Classic K, a six-inch dog topped with onion marmalade, sauerkraut, and yellow mustard. Starting on Memorial Day, the stand will feature an additional special every day.

Expect to see these imaginative and decidedly decadent combinations: the BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato, balsamic glaze, and mayo); the Life (sweet-and-sour sauce, raisins, and mustard greens with truffle honey drizzle); the Whoo-Ah! (chile salsa, chipotle aioli, avocado, and crisp bacon bits). The Most Whimsical award goes to the Almost PB&J, topped with sheep’s-milk cheese, blackberry jam, and mint. “The idea stemmed from the burger,” says Pounds & Ounces managing partner Etai Cinader. “I kind of wanted to create something more fun and unique.”

The burger craze served as a model for the food, but growth in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) market was the real basis for the idea. Cinader had been exploring ideas for a multitude of concepts over the years. Given the popularity of comfort food and Americans’ long-term relationship with hot dogs and brats, he was looking for ways to incorporate them into a fast-casual setting. When he discovered smaller versions of the Kobe dogs and started selling them at the pub to mild fanfare, he knew he’d found his brand.

Over the course of a month, he read up on hot dogs and looked at menus across the U.S., experimenting with different flavors and ingredients. “I’m definitely into creative stuff, the weird stuff, the funky stuff,” he says.

Cinader has been seeking out investors and looking for locations for about a year. The pop-up is sort of a tryout to see how the concept flies. Cinader hopes to branch out to one of the indoor food markets. He’s being selective, though, as he wants to have space to present a brand. Design elements will be a big part of doing that; he envisions something like funky-motorcycle-gang-meets-great-chef.

Cinader’s endgame, however, is to eventually branch out to brick-and-mortar storefronts where he’ll be able to expand the menu with more Kobe products like steak and burgers as well as some vegetarian options. He’d eventually like to have multiple locations throughout the city. “It’s all about fun, edgy takeout,” says Cinader. “I’m very much about accommodating people. That’s hard to do at a pop-up.”

Pounds & Ounces’ Kings of Kobe hot dogs will be available Monday through Friday from noon to 3:30 p.m. through Labor Day (maybe longer, depending on the weather). Cinader is toying with the idea of opening again for late-night service on Friday and Saturday nights, after the restaurant’s regular dinner service. Each hot dog costs $6.50 and is available for takeaway only.




A Food Writer Seizes Shamrock Shake Season for the First Time

How to Throw an Office Shamrock Shake Party: 1. Get a bunch of Shamrock Shakes. 2. Hand them out ’round your office.

St. Patrick’s Day fast approaches. A day rich with tradition and heritage. None more sacred and revered than the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake.

“I think we should have an office Shamrock Shake party!” I suggested, noting that since I had never had one before, and they’re a limited-time deal, the day to seize might as well be now.

Huge excitement all around. Yes! Let’s get our food coloring on! Today would henceforth be known as Office Shamrock Shake Day. Could we even call it “team building,” and expense it?


Dom returned from Union Square with eight — count ’em, eight — shakes of varying degrees of greenness and swirliness, and deposited them on the desk. “Help yourself!” he declaimed happily, passing out straws. “It’s Shamrock time!”

“It tastes like toothpaste,” said Ben, who, to be fair, had selected the most lurid green of all the options available. “What’s that aftertaste?”

“Yeah…” said R.John, taking a sip and poking around in the creamy topping with his straw, mixing in the swirls of cherry. “Nope.”

“Well, I like it,” said Liz. “It tastes like delicious vanilla ice cream with a hint of peppermint. I totally see why people are obsessed with them. They’re sweet and creamy, and I don’t know what your problem is.”

“I feel like I should have kale for dinner,” I said. “Nothing but kale.”

An hour later, crashing pretty hard from the sugar, I shuffled around the office with a trash bag, collecting sweating half-imbibed shakes and wiping up sticky green rings.

Interesting — the Shamrock Shakes didn’t seem to have melted much.

“I don’t even care,” said Liz. “I’d drink another one right now. You’re all crazy.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that.