The Ten Best Restaurants in Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, 2015

On Brooklyn’s southern shores, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay offer some of the borough’s best dining options, heavy on Eastern European and Central Asian restaurants. It’s also no surprise that as Brooklyn’s most popular cuisine, there are a number of Italian-American restaurants. The neighborhood’s enclaves feel removed from the clamor of the city but retain a vibrance all their own, tight-knit communities composed primarily of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Gastronomically, the area offers a microcosmic taste of food from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, which makes it a destination for the hungry and intrepid masses. From Russian pelmeni and vareniki dumplings to roast beef sandwiches and plump fried clams, here are our 10 Best Restaurants in Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay.

Lagman noodles
Lagman noodles

10. Kashkar Cafe (1141 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-743-3832) Khasiyat Sabitova emigrated to New York from China by way of Uzbekistan in the 1960s, and credits himself with introducing the United States to Uyghur cuisine. The aromatic and assertive food comes from Turkic people whose ancestors settled across Central Asia, primarily in Xinjiang, China. Kashkar’s menu splits its offerings between Uyghur and Uzbek fare, offering platters of supple manti dumplings and juicy kebabs skewered onto steel rapiers. Colorful woven curtains and hanging beads spruce up an otherwise understated room in which diners slurp hand-pulled lagman noodles, stir-fried with onions and peppers or served in a gamy broth with carrots.

9. Cafe Glechik (1655 Sheepshead Bay Road, Brooklyn; 718-332-2414) At this Brighton Beach mainstay, opened in 1998 by Ukrainian expat Vadim Tesler, find Eastern European specialties prepared according to heirloom family recipes. A homespun touch yields hearty yet delicate thin-skinned vareniki and pelmeni dumplings. They come stuffed with meats both red and white, and vegetables like cabbage and potatoes, always with a sauceboat of sour cream on the side. Other menu highlights include holodets, a meat jelly, and soups like green borscht with rice and eggs. Porridge-like kulesh, a millet and potato stew, eats like a cross between oatmeal and mashed potatoes. With so much starch and lip-glossing fat at play, relieve your taste buds with homemade fruit punch called compote, a macerated mix of cherries, apples, and pears. Tesler’s grandmother and great-grandmother were popular caterers in his hometown of Odessa. At Glechik he honors his family’s history while carving out a space of his own here in New York.

8. Delmar Pizza (1668 Sheepshead Bay Road, Brooklyn; 718-769-7766) Slinging cheese-topped bread since 1957, this Sheepshead Bay pizzeria claims to have introduced sauceless “white” pizza to New York. Owner Gus Martuscelli resuscitated the neighborhood staple after it was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and thankfully it’s retained its charm (check out the murals and vintage menu posted on the walls). The homey shop ranks among the city’s finest old-school pie parlors, serving up white pizzas with a nice balance of ricotta and mozzarella, and grandma and cheese pizzas whose sauce registers more savory than sweet. While the focus is on pizza these days, entrees like chicken boscaiola and shrimp parmigiana shouldn’t be overlooked.

7. Cafe At Your Mother-In-Law (3071 Brighton 4th Street, Brooklyn; 718-942-4088) The result of a forced migration from Russia under the Stalin regime, Korean-Uzbek food pulls elements from both cuisines to derive flavors at once familiar and unique, and this nondescript restaurant in the heart of Brighton Beach is one of the few places in the country that specializes in it (there’s a sibling café in Bensonhurst). Owner Elza Kan grew up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, before settling in Brooklyn in 2003 to open her first restaurant, whose Russian signage translates to “At Your Mother-in-Law” (the English signage reads “Eddie Fancy Foods,” a switch from “Elza Fancy Foods” that occurred two years ago, after Kan’s grandson Eddie passed away). Standard Uzbek dishes like samsa, plov — a lamb-filled, simmered rice pilaf — and bulbous manti dumplings join a vibrant array of cold and warm Korean salads available by the pound. Go for one of the hye preparations: marinated eggplant, beef tripe, or chewy, cured chunks of tilapia in chile-spiked vinegar. There’s only one dessert, but it’s a doozy: chak-chak, a cake of fried noodles bound with honey that tastes like a subdued funnel cake.

6. Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Deli (2718 Avenue U, Brooklyn; 718-891-5298) Best friends Jay Stern and Lloyd Lederman opened this Jewish deli 22 years ago, and in that time the eatery has been visited by bigwigs like Anthony Bourdain and former Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, who celebrated the restaurant’s eighteenth anniversary during his tenure. With a facade as pink as the corned beef and pastrami served inside, there’s more than enough chutzpah to go around at this place. In addition to standard deli fare, check out the gonzo signature sandwiches like brisket slathered in chopped liver, or that vintage Catskills favorite, the Chinese roast pork sandwich served with duck sauce on garlic bread. It may not have the centuries-old bones of its competitors, but as Brooklyn’s delicatessens fade away, Jay and Lloyd do the tradition proud.

5. Nargis Cafe (2818 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-872-7888) This polished Uzbek restaurant at the southern end of Coney Island Avenue has wowed locals with its Central Asian dishes since 2007. Find generously filled samsa, pastries stuffed with chicken, lamb, or vegetables, as well as fluffy rice pilaf and lagman noodles. Don’t miss kitchen specials, like chicken drumsticks surrounded by a layer of ground chicken and baked dough. Dumplings like manti and chuchvara, plump with ground meat or mashed potatoes, make for hearty main courses. Chef and owner Boris Bangiyev prides himself on his shish kebabs (especially anything with lamb) scented with aromatics like toasted cumin. When temperatures rise, a plate of narin, chilled noodles with thinly sliced beef, hits the spot as well as any iced coffee.

4. Skovorodka (615 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-615-3096) Toast your glass of kvass — the fizzy, fermented beverage made from pumpernickel or rye bread that also shows up in a summer soup called okroshka — and celebrate this charming Russian and Ukrainian restaurant, which sits in the shadow of the Brighton Beach Q stop and serves regional cuisine from all over the Caucasus; call it pan-Caucasian cuisine. From the lengthy menu, delight in all manner of smoked fish, appetizing salads, and soups both hot and cold (borscht is particularly good). The kitchen also excels at more involved larger entrees, like robust stews cooked with beef or pork. There’s also the massive boat-shaped cheese bread called khachapuri, and thick links of kupati pork sausage, both from Georgia. If you can manage a weekday trip, the lunch specials are outstanding: $5 main courses or $12 for a choice of three plates.

3. Toné Café (265 Neptune Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-332-8082) Since 1997, Toné Café has produced incomparable versions of the Georgian bread called khachapuri: one a flattened, pie-shaped concoction; the other molded into the shape of a boat and filled with bubbling farmer cheese gratin. For years the circular toné oven was cared for and tended to by a grizzled man named Badri, whose elongated loaves of shoti flatbread were as crusty as the best French baguettes. He has since retired, and the new owners have entrusted Lasha Chikhladze to carry the flour-covered torch. The breads accompany Georgian meals featuring sumptuous kebabs grilled over charcoal, or khinkali, fat dumplings filled with a mixture of beef and pork. Vegans can dig in to pkhali: minced vegetable salads stirred with ground walnuts, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds (the spinach version is a standout).

Fried calamari
Fried calamari

2. Randazzo’s Clam Bar (2017 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-615-0010) When this red-sauce shanty opened in 1932, it was a waterfront fishmonger and bar. In the decades following, it became a Sheepshead Bay icon, thanks in part to its expansion into a full-fledged restaurant serving matriarch Helen Randazzo’s Italian-American recipes. It’s still a family operation; fourth-generation owner Paul Randazzo weathered Hurricane Sandy from inside the restaurant. Bivalves draw the crowds, but it’s the kitchen’s famed sauce, made with tomatoes stewed for hours, that keeps folks coming back for more. Ladled over steamed, fried, or raw seafood, the sauce’s chile heat creeps to a low rumble. Pastas arrive in heaping portions, stained red and hiding a bevy of shrimp or calamari. Saddle up to the bar in search of chowder, and a waiter’s likely to demand, “Red or white?” Either’s a safe bet, though the Manhattan red hits with a tangy tomato zest, like that of the sauce. Savor the namesake mollusk slurped raw, fried, or baked in the shell, chopped and tossed with breadcrumbs and herbs. These days the restaurant’s neon lobster sign cycles through a rainbow of colors, lighting up Emmons Avenue like an undersea rave.

1. Roast beef heaven at Brennan & Carr/Roll-n-Roaster (3432 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-646-9559/2901 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-769-6000) Brennan & Carr, Gravesend’s perennial king of dipped sandwiches, has served the borough’s hungriest carnivores for more than 75 years. Its low-slung brick building looks stuck in time, a better fit amid the farmland that used to surround it than the paved roads that flank it now. A small wooden sign advertises “hot beef sandwiches,” which arrive at your table saturated in a murky jus shimmering with liquid fat. Soggy and leaking, it’s not the prettiest sandwich, but the flavor payoff of concentrated bovine musk more than compensates. Resist the urge to use a knife and fork: making a mess is part of the plan, as essential to the experience as slurping is to ramen. Also look out for the Gargiulo burger, in which the kitchen plunks a helping of roast beef onto a cheeseburger. Down the street from Randazzo’s, Roll-n-Roaster — Brennan & Carr’s fast-food kindred spirit — serves jus-less sandwiches that are still plenty succulent, piled high with rosy roast beef submerged under a coating of molten cheese. There are other items on the menu, like a $5 personal pizza, but it’s the beef that has kept this nostalgia factory going strong since 1970, washed down with homemade lemonade. And as if you needed another reason to go, there’s always this classic TV commercial.


The Eleven Best Breakfasts in NYC, 2015

Depending on your previous night’s activities, your morning refueling might call for a bowl of oatmeal cooked with almond milk or a full Irish breakfast piled high with blood sausage and rashers. Though it’s harder than ever to carve out time for a proper morning meal in this city, ambitious breakfast menus keep popping up around town at buzzy places like Mission Cantina, Santina, and Ivan Ramen(ina). If you can afford at least a semi-leisurely start, you can partake of breakfast offerings that range from quickly grabbed sandwiches to luxurious sit-down feasts, and reflect this metropolis’s multitude of cultures and the diversity of its residents. With that in mind, here are our eleven best breakfasts in NYC.

Focaccia farcita
Focaccia farcita

11. Sariling Atin (89-12 Queens Boulevard, Queens; 718-397-1200)
Breakfast at this unassuming Elmhurst Filipino restaurant is a communal affair: Everyone orders at the buffet and takes whatever seats are available in the modest dining room behind the cafeteria’s front grocery area. Crispy pata — deep-fried pork trotter — comes piled high next to garlicky fried rice called sinangag. With splashes of sweet and sour, Pinoy cuisine is a guaranteed roller coaster for groggy taste buds. Served from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

crispy pata
crispy pata

10. Taqueria Tehuitzingo (578 Ninth Avenue, 212-707-3916)
Now that this beloved Hell’s Kitchen underdog has moved to a more central location on 42nd Street, the small space clogs up during prime hours, but mornings are still relatively sleepy. Breakfast tacos, like eggs with ham or two different kinds of chorizo, cost a modest $7 for three. Hangover gut-bombs like chilaquiles — a mess of tortilla chips doused in salsa — or burritos filled with eggs, guacamole, and queso fresco, will sate heavier appetites. Served from 8 a.m. to midnight

9. Lincoln Station (409 Lincoln Place, Brooklyn; 718-399-2211)
Veteran Brooklyn restaurateurs Emiliano Coppa and chef Anna Klinger helped put Park Slope on the map sixteen years ago with their Northern Italian gem al di la. The duo’s youngest effort (after Slope wine den Bar Carvo) is a cheery Crown Heights café dressed up in exposed brick. Klinger puts an emphasis on quality ingredients, whether that means sourcing local produce or braising and roasting meats in-house for exemplary lunchtime sandwiches. That attention to detail translates to the breakfast menu, where burnished ham and cheese croissants and a gleefully bloated egg sandwich hold court. Served on warm and spongy ciabatta, the wobbly, fried over-easy egg joins crunchy bacon and salsa picante for one messy morning treat. Served from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

Ham and cheese croissant
Ham and cheese croissant

8. Tea & Sympathy (108 Greenwich Avenue, 212-989-9735)
While there are fancier places to try a traditional English breakfast (where eggs join a crowded plate heaped with back bacon, sausages, grilled tomato, and beans), this cozy, kitschy canteen operated by British expats offers a hearty rendition that adheres to tradition. An extra dollar yields a side plate of griddled black pudding, completing the porky trinity. Called the “Full Monty,” it anchors a breakfast menu that includes a range of sweet and savory home cooking, from scones with clotted cream to Welsh rarebit and bangers ‘n’ mash. Served from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday.

The Full Monty
The Full Monty

7. Amy Ruth’s (113 West 116th Street, 212-280-8779)
Ruling late-night Harlem with a greasy fist since 1998, this convivial soul-food restaurant serves an indulgent crowd late into the night during the week and 24 hours on weekends. Whether you need to soften a hangover or just enjoy a midday nap, a plate of fried chicken or pork sausage over hefty, sweet waffles will set you up for success. The kitchen also does the neighborhood fried-fish tradition proud with crisp fillets of catfish and whiting with eggs. Want to have your cake and eat it too? Free slices are available for birthday boys and girls — a sweet taste of uptown hospitality. Served from 11 a.m. on Mondays, and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday; 24 hours on weekends.

Waffle with pork sausage
Waffle with pork sausage

6. Black Seed Bagels (170 Elizabeth Street, 212-730-1950)
Catch them freshly baked, and the honey-sweetened Montreal-style bagels honed in Matt Kliegman and Noah Bernamoff’s flagship Nolita shop are among the finest in the city. The heavily seeded rounds have burnished crusts and spongy interiors, and they make beautifully messy breakfast sandwiches when stacked with eggs and avocado, bacon, or ham. Appetizing selections stray from standard nova, with beet-cured salmon and smoked rainbow trout; match them to spreads like wasabi tobiko or fiery horseradish cream cheese. There are plenty of bagel shops with more history, but Black Seed has us excited about the future. Served from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Beet-cured salmon sandwich
Beet-cured salmon sandwich

5. Big Wong King (67 Mott Street, 212-964-0540)
Patrons love this aging Chinatown favorite for its cheap roast duck and pork and tremendous wonton soup with juicy dumplings sporting paper-thin skins — both of which are available as soon as the kitchen opens at 8:30 a.m. Giant baton-like crullers come savory or sweet and help pad your waistline without padding your wallet. And as if lacquered Chinese meats weren’t decadent enough, try rolling your protein in floppy rice crepes or dropping it into viscous congee for a nourishing, filling breakfast. Served from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Roast duck noodle soup
Roast duck noodle soup

4. Egg (109 North 3rd Street, Brooklyn; 718-302-5151)
Owner George Weld and chef Evan Hanczor literally just wrote the book on daytime eating with their recently released Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For, a cookbook culled from years of pumping Williamsburg with a steady supply of omelets and other egg dishes, biscuits smothered in sausage gravy, and duck leg hash. The Egg team also goes the extra mile for breakfast meat offerings, putting out plates of country ham, candied bacon, and homemade scrapple to pair with your over-easies. Served all day, Hanczor’s pancake and french toast game is also on point, making Egg a destination for American breakfast classicists. Served from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and starting at 8 a.m. on weekends.

Spicy red peas
Spicy red peas

3. Il Buco Alimentari (53 Great Jones Street, 212-837-2622)
The casual sibling to upscale Italian restaurant Il Buco around the corner, Alimentari offers a standout rustic Italian breakfast, including egg-topped avocado toast and a beastly sandwich of eggs and thinly sliced porchetta. Showcasing the kitchen and market’s incredible products, the bread basket comes with goat’s-milk butter, and fruit-studded focaccia gets spread with house-made ricotta. End your meal with airy cream or fruit-filled bombolone doughnuts, or take one to go for savoring later in the day. Served from 7 a.m. until noon, Monday through Friday.


2. Nha Minh (485 Morgan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-387-7848)
Fred Hua oversees the culinary side of this East Williamsburg art gallery and café, which serves “chef’s choice” bowls layered with grains, vegetables, soy eggs, and proteins (everything from grilled fish to beef bacon) and the occasional knock-your-pants-off pho special. Fried eggs with toast on an aioli-spiked breakfast sandwich are easy to love, but the benefit to having a single menu for the whole operation means that you can also rouse yourself in style, and order a chicken liver banh mi sandwich or a smoked trout melt brimming with muenster cheese, pickled red cabbage, and dijon mustard. Served from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Beef bacon bowl
Beef bacon bowl

1. Dimes (49 Canal Street, 212-925-1300)
With a recent move to roomier digs down the street, Dimes the restaurant (the former location will be turned into a market and to-go shop) now has access to a full kitchen and a larger (albeit still petite, at 35 seats) dining room. Co-owners Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner have taken advantage of the location, carving out a bright and breezy hideaway on the edges of Canal Street where a good-looking crowd satiates their appetites with refreshing breakfast bowls made from healthy ingredients like açaí, chia, goji berries, and bee pollen. Scrambled eggs fill tacos or top sliced ciabatta, paired with mango salsa and tomatillos or pickled jalapenos, respectively, and both receive generous helpings of cheddar cheese, avocado, and house-made hot sauce. While you won’t find bagels and lox, Dimes’ pickled-salmon plate with cucumber and ricotta will satisfy New Yorkers looking for a less involved appetizing experience. Served from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.



The 10 Best Lamb Dishes in New York City

Come springtime, veg-heads rejoice in the return of greenmarket produce, while meat-eaters get excited about the flesh of young sheep. Omnivores get the best of both worlds, matching rosy and supple lamb to the abundance of carrots, asparagus, and ramps available at the greenmarket. Spring lamb’s mildness makes it versatile for preparations cooked or raw, while chefs tame the gaminess of more mature animals with slow cooking and pungent spices. In celebration of the season, here are the ten best lamb dishes in NYC.

10. Lamb over rice, Halal Guys (307 East 14th Street, 212-533-7707) It took more than twenty years, but the little street cart that could (on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue) went brick-and-mortar last year, finally offering its devoted fans protection from the elements. Carvings of spit-roasted lamb get stuffed into pitas or piled over fragrant sunset-orange rice. Smother the piquant slices in zesty, mayonnaise-based white sauce to complete this simple formula, which has spawned a burgeoning empire, with franchises planned across the country.

9. Lamb bun, Cooklyn (659 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-915-0721) At his casual Prospect Heights eatery, chef Anthony Theocaropoulos — who worked for fine-dining heavy hitters Mario Batali and Michael White — cooks under the broad umbrella of New American cuisine, employing occasional nods to his Greek roots. One of his best Hellenic dishes is also one of the most straightforward, a $5 sandwich of warm braised lamb slathered in cool feta cream and anointed with pickled daikon and dill fronds.

8. Lamb bolognese, Dieci (228 East 10th Street, 212-387-9545) For eight years, this Japanese-Italian restaurant in the East Village has attracted a steady stream of regulars thanks to clever, offbeat pairings like piquant marinated sea-urchin-topped new potato gratin. The kitchen takes springy, thick-cut ramen noodles and tosses them with a chile-spiked bolognese made from ground lamb. The chunky ragù makes the dish reminiscent of mazemen, ramen’s saucier, soupless cousin.

7. Crudo del día, El Colmado Butchery (53 Little West 12th Street, 212-488-0000) Seamus Mullen’s meatpacking-district sibling to his El Colmado tapas bar inside the Gotham West Market specializes in grass-fed meats from local purveyors — as in, customers can purchase beef, chicken, and even prepared dishes for takeout during the day. At night, there’s a menu of sandwiches and tapas, but diners can also choose cuts from the butcher’s cold case for the kitchen to cook. There’s also a daily changing crudo preparation; one recent standout was lamb carpaccio with puffed farro and cured lemon cream.

6. Lamb burger, the Breslin (16 West 29th Street, 212-679-1939) From an Anglicized, clubby restaurant inside the Ace Hotel, April Bloomfield serves one of the city’s best burgers that happens to be made from Pat LaFrieda–sourced American lamb. The bulky patties sit in between a toasted ciabatta bun under slices of tangy French feta cheese and raw red onion. On the side: superlative, thrice-cooked french fries, sturdy enough to stand up to a saucer of cumin-flavored mayonnaise.

5. Lamb chop in Xinjiang style, Lao Dong Bei (44-09 Kissena Boulevard, Queens; 718-539-4100) The must-order dish at this Flushing Dongbei restaurant — specializing in the cuisine of northeast China — is a hulking lamb rib rack hidden under a thick coating of crushed chiles, cumin, and sesame seeds. The meat’s marinated, braised, and deep fried before it gets its spice mop, which creates a gorgeous dichotomy between fatty, juicy interior and crunchy, pungent crust. Easily shared, it makes for a sensible gateway dish to this lesser-known regional Chinese cuisine.

4. Lamb meatballs, Louro (142 West 10th Street, 212-206-0606) With his weekly, experimental “Nossa Mesa” dinner series and a penchant for pickling, chef David Santos rarely shies away from a challenge. In search of a lighter meatball dish, he’s taken to braising ground lamb in the seasoned white-wine broth left over from simmering Provençal artichokes barigoule. The addition of hay butter turns the liquid into a sauce, and Santos cracks open a jar of kumquat marmalade made with Middle Eastern spices to add a tinge of aromatic brightness.

3. Iskender kebab, Taci’s Beyti (1955 Coney Island Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-627-5750) At Ersin Beki’s Sheepshead Bay Turkish restaurant, which his late father, Taci, opened over 30 years ago, lamb crisped on a spit takes a bath in tomato sauce that whispers with chile heat. Browned slices are layered over squares of toasted pita mixed with yogurt, which soak up the meat’s juices and soften into something like thin dumplings after being baked in the oven. The result is a kind of loose, homey casserole that’s both comforting and filling with the creaminess of dairy and acidic tomatoes playing against the lamb’s concentrated gaminess, amped up from its time on the rotisserie.

2. Chakapuli at We Are Georgians, (230 Kings Highway, Brooklyn; 718-759-6250) Erstwhile seismologist Marina Maisuradze-Olivo runs this Gravesend Georgian restaurant with her nephew Giorgi, serving up generous butter-and-egg-filled khachapuri breads and filling bulbous khinkali dumplings with mashed potato or a mixture of pork and veal. Delve deeper into Maisuradze-Olivo’s menu, however, and you’ll be rewarded with a rotating menu of earthy, savory stews. When it’s available, don’t miss a chance to try chakapuli, a verdant slurry of parsley, mint, dill, cilantro, and tarragon with tender chunks of boneless lamb.

1. Mutton chop, Keens Steakhouse (72 West 36th Street, 212-947-3636) The city’s finest chophouse owes much of its fame, fortune, and glory to one singular dish: the mutton chop. Despite an earnest mislabeling (actual mutton’s long been replaced with saddle of lamb), the gargantuan meat mountain yields medium-rare flesh that nearly falls from the bone underneath a thick crust of char. Eating the old-fashioned cut feels especially apropos given the surroundings — a labyrinth of dimly lighted rooms, walls cluttered with antique collectibles, and ceilings strung with 90,000 long-stemmed tobacco pipes.


Screw Your Bone Broth: The Ten Best Soups in NYC

Stock, the product of boiling water with (most often) animal bones, vegetables, and savory herbs, has been around for centuries. “Bone broth,” on the other hand, reared its smugly head last year, and the trendy collagen-rich slurry has only gained in popularity, even though the two are essentially the same. Some proponents assert that for stock to be considered bone broth, it requires at least a day bubbling away on the stovetop (for the bones to release the most nutrients, naturally) and a proper drinking vessel. Just like stock, broth helps with inflammation, but its many purported benefits mostly come up short. But that hasn’t stopped celebrities from endorsing the stuff, or bone broth-ers from organizing a festival to memorialize marrow and celebrate their superior health.

Giving in to the concept of bone broth as something new feels like accepting a rebranding of oatmeal as “sipping porridge.” A $9 paper cup filled with bone-marrow-spiked beef is still a paper cup. How about a bowl of soup instead? Here are the ten best in New York.

10. French onion soup, Balthazar (80 Spring Street, 212-965-1785) After the recent mirror mishap at Keith McNally’s popular Soho restaurant, wherein one of the massive, dusty glass fixtures came crashing down on a group of lunch patrons, you’ll want a dining companion with sufficient upper-body strength. Because you, of course, will be too busy dragging your spoon through one superlative bowl of French onion soup, enriched with Port and white wines and a browned cap of melted gruyère, to save yourself or anyone else from disaster. Country bread croutons maintain their crunch while soaking up caramel-colored broth thickened with charred onions. It’s easy to see why the kitchen goes through gallons of the stuff each day.

9. Laksa, Taste Good (82-18 45th Avenue, Queens; 718-898-8001) Fans of Southeast Asian cuisine have long headed to this narrow Malaysian restaurant in Elmhurst for two kinds of laksa, fragrant noodle soups radiating with chiles and perfumed with fermented sardines and anchovies. Curry laksa blends rich coconut milk with a pantry’s worth of spices to form a rich broth, which supports fresh shellfish and thick rice noodles. Tamarind sets assam laksa’s funky, sour tone, bolstering tender chunks of white fish with dried shrimp paste, mint, and pineapple. Both showcase Malaysian cuisine’s finest attributes, grounding bold and bright flavors with earthy ones.

8. Chicken soup, Bara (58 East 1st Street, 917-639-3197) At Ian Alvarez’s whitewashed French-Japanese tavern, tucked along a stretch of East 1st Street on the edge of the Lower East Side, the chef dares to broth, ladling tea dashi over sunflower seed purée for a duck entrée. His ramen-inspired chicken soup forgoes noodles in favor of enoki mushrooms, Tokyo turnips, soy-marinated eggs with jammy yolks, and a sheet of nori. Earthy, mellow, and served in a French crock, it’s one slick bowl for the soul.

7. Borscht, Stage Restaurant (128 Second Avenue, 212-473-8614) East Village residents and visitors relish a taste of old New York at this timeless counter restaurant, which specializes in Eastern European and diner fare like bulging pierogies topped with caramelized onions; stroganoff; and a solid turkey dinner with all the fixings. Chicken and tripe soups join a rotating list of hearty bowl-bound meals, but it’s the borscht that we find so delightful. Hot, it comes red (beets) or white (potatoes, bacon), and during winter months, the red variety is served chilled. At either temperature, the crimson elixir displays a muted sweetness, brimming with endearingly mushy boiled vegetables.

6. Pariheula, Wanka (71-04 Grand Avenue, Queens; 718-476-9680) Head out to sleepy Maspeth for a jolt of spice at this airy Peruvian restaurant, which serves a massive bowl of parihuela, a tangy seafood stew buzzing with garlic, shellfish stock, and red and yellow aji chile peppers. Here, the bowl’s jammed with enough marine life to stock an aquarium: Shrimp, crabs, clams, and squid all make an appearance.

5. Smoked whitefish chowder, Russ and Daughters Cafe (127 Orchard Street, 212-475-4881) The creative Neo-Jewish cuisine at this sleek spinoff of one of the Lower East Side’s most celebrated brands draws crowds that span generations, and it offers a modern take on nostalgic tastes. Based on a Russ family recipe for lox chowder, the cafe’s smoked whitefish chowder caters to modern palates with the addition of pricey espelette pepper. Its mellow smokiness softens in the cream base, which hides flaky shreds of whitefish, root vegetable nuggets, and plenty of dill. Topped with two squares of matzoh, it’s a soup perfect for any family of five squeezed into a one-bedroom tenement.

4. Kale matzoh ball soup, Dirt Candy (86 Allen Street, 212-228-7732) At Amanda Cohen’s newer, larger iteration of her beloved vegetable restaurant Dirt Candy, the kitchen keeps things playful with DIY brussels sprouts tacos and that old East Village standby, broccoli dogs. Now the pioneering and outspoken chef serves matzoh ball soup with a tableside presentation of verdant vegetable stock. Miniature kale balls surround a poached egg, which adds a splash of striking yellow when punctured. [

3. Num tok, Paet Rio (81-10 Broadway, Queens; 917-832-6672) Phimploy Likitsansook lets her hair down at this Elmhurst Thai restaurant, a wild-child sibling to Likitsansook’s beloved but tamer Wondee Siam outposts. And if the kids over in Manhattan are spooning Siam’s rich curries over rice, Paet Rio might be courting a different crowd with bowls of rusty-colored num tok, an opaque noodle soup seasoned with fresh animal blood. Diners choose pork or beef broths lurking with springy noodles and tender meatballs, the whole murky bowl a tempest of iron-rich, earthy flavors.

2. Peanut and okra soups, Bognan International Corp. (590 East 169th Street, Bronx; 347-271-5457) Hearty soups and stews anchor the menu at this Ghanaian restaurant in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx. Okra stews with tomatoes to form a viscous, herbal liquid, while the kitchen melts peanut butter with ginger, garlic, and chiles for aromatic peanut butter soup. Eat them both with fufu, the bulbous doughy mounds of boiled, mashed cassava.

1. Bun nuoc leo, Thanh Da (6008 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-492-3253) The cheery atmosphere makes up for the cramped confines at this Sunset Park storefront serving banh mi sandwiches and an array of Vietnamese soups, from the ever-popular pho to all manner of rice vermicelli soups, including bun rieu, which banks on salty preserved crab paste. For bun nuoc leo, a canopy of basil hides shrimp and crispy chunks of roast pork, which bathe in an unctuous broth flavored with whole fermented fish that disintegrate during the cooking process.


The 10 Best Restaurants for a Christmas Meal in NYC, 2014 Edition

Sticking around for the Christmas holiday? Or is the thought of cooking a Christmas goose on your Foreman Grill turning you into the Grinch? Whatever your plans are for the two-day celebration, just know there are plenty of restaurants ready to welcome you with some holiday cheer. Here are the 10 best Christmas Eve and Christmas Day holiday dining deals in NYC.

Christmas Eve

Aquavit, 65 East 55th Street

If you’re looking to experience a new holiday tradition, consider Aquavit’s julbord — a large-format Swedish Christmas dinner perfect for big groups. From noon to 9 p.m., guests can enjoy hot and cold dishes like pickled herring, Christmas ham, and pork spare ribs in family-style servings. The meal also includes appetizers, salads, and dessert, like gingersnap cookies and caramel brittle. Reservations are $95 per person.

Catch, 21 Ninth Avenue

The holidays are all about sharing, and Catch is offering several large plates designed for at least two to enjoy. Special holiday dishes include a roasted partridge with chestnut and foie gras au jus as well as salt-baked Chilean turbot. The restaurant’s seafood-heavy menu will also be available for those seeking sushi and other Asian specialties.

Eataly, 200 Fifth Avenue

Whether you’re looking to explore a five-course chef’s tasting menu at the swanky Manzo or enjoy a holiday refreshment at Birreria, all of Eataly’s restaurants have something to offer. For $35, guests can enjoy a three-course dinner at Le Verdure with a focus on vegan and gluten-free items, while Il Pesce is running a $40 four-course special. Reservations for all of Eataly’s dining options can be made on its website.

FP Patisserie, 1293 Third Avenue

For those with a sweet tooth, noted baker Francois Payard will offer a special $44 dinner that includes his signature buche de noel for dessert. Savory dishes include foie gras torchon, goat cheese and onion tart, and roasted chicken.

Tavola, 488 Ninth Avenue

If you and your family are all about the Feast of Seven Fishes, this Hell’s Kitchen restaurant can give your nonna a rest. Share appetizers like grilled Portuguese sardines, octopus, and baked clams oreganata, and then tuck into pasta and a main course. For dessert, panettone bread pudding and pistachio cannoli will make sure everyone is in bed before Santa arrives. Tavola’s regular menu will also be available.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Blaue Gans, 139 Duane Street

Not getting a tree this year? If that’s the case, you might want to head to chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s house, as all guests will receive an ornament upon arrival to decorate the restaurant’s Christmas tree. After picking out the perfect branch, guests can enjoy a three-course Austrian menu for $90. Main-course options include wiener schnitzel, goose, and crispy salmon; there will also be traditional Christmas cookies and chestnut ice cream. Reservations are available on Christmas Eve from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Christmas Day from noon to 9 p.m.

Brasserie, 100 East 53rd Street

Planning a trip to Rockefeller Center? After taking the requisite tree photo, head over for one of many specials this nearby restaurant is offering throughout the holidays. Starting at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, guests can enjoy a three-course prix fixe for $35. Christmas Day brunch starts at 10 a.m. and provides two courses for $26. The restaurant will also offer dinner on Christmas Day — $59 for three courses — in addition to its à la carte menu.

Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar, 9 Crosby Street

On Christmas Eve, the restaurant inside the Crosby Street Hotel is running a modern take on the infamous Feast of the Seven Fishes with white razor-clam pizza and monkfish osso buco. On Christmas Day, roasted pheasant and a seared ribeye are on the menu. The restaurant is open from noon to 9 p.m. on both days.

Christmas Day

Bryant Park Grill, 25 West 40th Street

Ice skating, a Christmas tree, and a pop-up winter village make Bryant Park Grill a favorite holiday destination. After working up an appetite, guests can enjoy a special three-course menu full of fine dishes including lobster chowder, roasted venison, and duck breast cooked in Grand Marnier.

Jimmy’s No. 43, 43 East 7th Street

Give the gift of endless meats and sides for $25 and splurge on a fine craft beer at this annual celebration for stragglers. A guest chef will be cooking up as much food as you can handle, and you’ll also get dessert. The bar’s deep lineup of exotic beers and ciders will also be available for purchase. Make your reservation in advance.


The 10 Best Restaurants on the Upper West Side

The Mary-Kate Olsen to the Upper East Side’s Ashley, the Upper West Side, labeled a dining wasteland, has long shivered under a cloud of misunderstanding. And while it’s impossible to ignore the massive uptick in real estate development and mallification the area’s undergone, the neighborhood’s options have expanded to include some truly creative eating. As the numerous Chino-Latino restaurants that once dotted this landscape have faded away, many of the new outfits setting up shop are either popular local mini-chains, like Xi’an Famous Foods and the Meatball Shop, or concepts that would otherwise do well downtown. Like so many of New York’s rapidly changing puzzle pieces, it’s a mix of satisfying stalwarts and glossy newcomers. Here are the 10 best restaurants in the neighborhood.

10. Sura Thai, (2656 Broadway, 212-665-8888) Three years ago, Joey Phadungsil came on to overhaul the menu at this modern Upper West Side Thai restaurant, and she installed a broad range of regional specialties from both northern and southern Thailand. Her fragrant blue crab fried rice, though, is our repeat order. Swaddled in a banana leaf, a heap of fresh crab sits over eggy fried rice, its brininess imbuing the grains with salty sweetness. Lunch specials are particularly inspired, including diced chicken with chile garlic sauce, Thai basil, and a fried egg. Embracing the neighborhood, Phadungsil has even put together serious brunch plates like Thai crepes stuffed with duck confit and Thai-style fried chicken over french toast.

9. Awadh, (2588 Broadway, 646-861-3604) Awadh, a smartly appointed restaurant from chef/owner Gaurav Anand of the celebrated Mughlai restaurant Moti Mahal Delux, champions North Indian cooking. Most impressive are the slow-simmered “dum pukht” dishes, made famous in the city of Lucknow, which have found a home in the bi-level dining room. Some of the chef’s greatest hits, like sublimely moist cream-cheese-marinated murgh tikka chicken, make an appearance, but coconut shrimp curry and lamb biryani cooked in a handi (a squat Indian crockpot) showcase the regional style best. Anand installed ex-Daniel sommelier John Slover to consult on a European-heavy wine list of varietals robust enough to stand up to such intense flavors.

8. Gray’s Papaya, (2090 Broadway, 212-799-0243) The sole remaining location of a cultish, legendary New York hot dog chain — and an offshoot of Upper East Side original Papaya King (which opened in 1932) — this 24-hour fast-food mecca serves a tremendous tube steak. Mustard and sauerkraut’s our go-to, though everything from chili, cheese, and tomato-spiked onion sauces are available. The eponymous papaya drink has a beguiling, almost generically “tropical” flavor, though it’s hard to pass up, thanks to nostalgia. Forget white truffles and Barolo, a snappy Gray’s Papaya frankfurter with a frothy papaya juice is the city’s true food and beverage pairing.

7. Barney Greengrass, (541 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-724-4707) Uptown’s answer to Russ & Daughters, Greengrass opened up shop a few years before the Houston Street darling. Gary Greengrass deals in old-world hospitality, preserving (with an equal amount of vigor) traditions as much as his sumptuous smoked fish and deli meats. Fish is the deli’s calling card, and no visit is complete without a taste of Nova Scotia salmon, buttery smoked sturgeon, or paprika-laced sable. Each slice yields with luxurious softness, sporting mild smoke and saline richness. Such luxury comes at a price, but it’s worth the puffed-up admission for this spectacle of old New York wonderment.

6. Saiguette, (935 Columbus Avenue, 212-866-6888) Find beastly banh mi on locally baked bread at this tiny corner shop on upper Columbus Avenue, where locals come for excellent Vietnamese food at reasonable prices. Pho achieves admirable depth thanks to an inspired mix of animal parts including beef eye round, brisket, shin, tripe, and tendon. And don’t overlook rich curry laksa with chicken or shrimp, and red curry chicken folded with sticky rice and steamed in banana leaves. Lunch patrons get 10 percent off listed menu prices automatically.

5. Flor de Mayo, (484 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-787-3388) Of the remaining Chino-Latino restaurants that once flourished in this neighborhood, this bright, kitschy diner is the most consistent. The menu highlights several Latin American cuisines, mining for dishes like bronzed Peruvian rotisserie chicken and Hong Kong-style crispy ribs covered in house-made sweet-and-sour sauce. Squid ink fried rice bridges the gap between the two cuisines, but most people stick to traditional dishes like lomo saltado. Balanced, fruity sangria and strong, generously portioned Polynesian cocktails round out the experience.

4. Sal & Carmine’s, (2671 Broadway, 212-663-7651) This family-owned pizzeria has been slinging some of the city’s best cheese-and-sauce-topped bread for over 50 years. Founded in 1959 by Sal and Carmine Malanga, the shop’s now run by Carmine and Sal’s grandson, Luciano Gaudiosi. We could wax poetic about the towers of pizza boxes stacked high, Carmine’s no-bullshit attitude, and the shop’s resistance to delivery, but the parlor’s success could easily be predicated on its product alone. Yeasty dough bakes to a terra-cotta brown underneath, which complements a helping of aged mozzarella. Completing the picture is the pizzeria’s bold sauce, which has a concentrated sweetness and tang that bolsters everything it touches.

3. Jean-Georges, (1 Central Park West, 212-299-3900) Surely one of the grandest rooms in town, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Nouveau French stunner has reigned as an extraordinary dining experience for nearly two decades. Although its three-course prix fixe and two-course lunch options have risen in price, the latter remains a solid deal for sampling this level of cooking from such an influential chef at a relative discount. As much its own restaurant as it is a less expensive sibling to Vongerichten’s flagship, Nougatine won’t disappoint if the main event is short on space. Still, nothing beats the original.

2. Dovetail/Telepan, (103 West 77th Street, 212-362-3800)/(72 West 69th Street, 212-580-4300) Choosing between the high-minded, vegetable and greenmarket-centric cooking at Dovetail and Telepan feels like choosing between parents as a child of sustainable, artisanal divorce. Both New American restaurants hold a Michelin star, and both feel classic and comfortable while providing top-notch, beautiful food and pinpointed service. They’re similar in genetic makeup, but each place stays true to its chef’s vision. However, since we might as well make this metaphor even more uncomfortable, while both Bill Telepan and John Fraser hold special places in our city’s dining scene, we’d have to give weekends to Dovetail — the $32 four-course brunch is one of the better dining deals in the city, and especially welcome in this zip code.

1. Bustan, (487 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-595-5050) Chef Efi Nahon, formerly of midtown Middle Eastern favorite Taboon, expands upon that cuisine at this colorful Upper West Side restaurant. Painting with a broad Mediterranean brush, Nahon uses a taboon oven to add char to octopus and a browned top to lamb cooked under pastry crust in a terra-cotta baking dish. Olive wood chips perfume everything that exits the custom-built furnace. Desserts offer a chance to try something new, like the Levantine cheese pastry kanafeh, or silan, a kind of bizarre sundae composed of shredded halva, sweet cream gelato, crispy rice, and candied nuts.


The 10 Best Candy Shops in NYC, 2014

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you probably don’t need much of an excuse to go stock up on all the major candy food groups: candy corn (veggies), gummies (fruit,) nostalgic chocolate (dairy), chocolate with nuts (protein), and marshmallow-y things (oxygen). New York City’s best candy shops offer those options and more, from candy-encased alcohol to Oreo-filled chocolate brains. Tell yourself you’re buying these things for the kids, or the office, if you must. We won’t tell anyone that you plan to wolf all that candy down yourself. Here are the 10 best candy shops in NYC.

10. Li-Lac Chocolates, (40 Eighth Avenue; 212-924-2280) This chocolatier turns out chocolate-covered grahams and s’mores that’ll make just about any child-at-heart salivate. The shop’s tagline is “stubbornly old-fashioned since 1923,” so look for vintage treats like caramel apples coated in white chocolate, dark chocolate, and nonpareils. For Halloween, Li-Lac sells a pear-sized chocolate skull, solid chocolate mummies in coffins, and Death Pops, which recall Edvard Munch’s The Scream, but with creepier teeth.

9. H Mart, (25 West 32nd Street; 212-695-3283) This Korean grocery store gets jammed with people loading up on a week’s worth of groceries, but to hell with the kimchi. Among the flavor-straddling selection of sweet and sour candies, choose the pumpkin candy, lip-puckering sour Super Soda candy, and the Milkita candies, hard suckers that turn into delectably creamy, chewy coins.

8. Sugarfly Alley (320 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-985-3321) Sugarfly owner Stacy Desmond wanted to bring a candy store to Bed-Stuy because she felt the neighborhood was overrun with taco joints and hipster coffee shops. “It’s a good old candy rush,” she says. “I have the older people outside the store dancing because it’s nostalgic for them.” Come Halloween, the glassware on the lime-green shelves inside this narrow space gets loaded with vampire teeth and mustache lollipops. Get yourself hooked on the gummy body parts, which include a set of glowing fangs, a black foot, and green fingers that taste like Swedish Fish. Or try the brain: two Oreos covered in white chocolate and dyed with natural food coloring to make them the suspicious orange color of Cheetos.

7. Vosges, (132 Spring Street, 212-625-2929) This plush haut chocolate bar wrings sinful flavors from its top-quality 72 percent cacao dark chocolate with spice. In the fall, skip the delicate truffles and opt instead for the Guajillo & Chipotle Chili Super Dark Day of the Dead Chocolate Skull. Consider the name a warning: This chocolate is darker than dark with a faint slow-burning heat.

6. The Sweet Life, (63 Hester Street; 212-598-0092) Opened in 1982, this by-the-book old-fashioned candy shop doles out penny candy from apothecary jars. The fact that the chocolate is made on premises adds to the charm, and makes for some odd flavors: One of the paperweight-thick milk chocolate bars gets studded with Pop Rocks. The addictive chocolate-covered marshmallow lollipops and pumpkin pops are the real draw, but the Sweet Life also has Crayola gumballs that actually color your mouth. And there are spades of gummies: fried eggs, for instance, and chicken feet. Don’t miss the organic Aztec chocolate bars, located in the dignified upscale chocolate corner.

5. Papabubble, (380 Broome Street, 212-966-2599) Soulcycle cult members and cleanse enthusiasts will appreciate the healthy-ish varieties of candy here, which are incentive enough to try clean eating for a day. Sweets are gluten-free, nut-free, and kosher, and no corn syrup or gelatin touches anything. During Halloween season, look for the artisan pillow candy: Candy artists sculpt the sweets into rods and decorate them with ghosts, jack-o’-lanterns, and “Trick-Or-Treat”; the shop sells them by the multi-pack. And if you’re a candy corn fan, you should try the monos, hard-candy versions of candy corn that taste like Creamsicles. They come in a flask or a test tube.

4. Dewey’s Candy, (141 Front Street, Brooklyn; 718-422-1333) At this shop, the gummy is worthy of worship. Expect gummy skulls and sunny-side-up eggs, plus gummy spiders, alligators, and garden snakes. Dive into the wax fangs, red licorice, and crunchy chocolate eyeballs (like Crunch, but higher quality). Dewey is owner Alison Oblonsky’s nickname, bestowed upon her by her dad. She hasn’t touched candy in two years because she was skipping lunch for licorice. “I just can’t break the seal,” she says. It’s the staff and her customers that test out the candies, so you’ll have to help her out.

3. Sugar Shop, (254 Baltic Street, Brooklyn; 718-576-3591) Located within egg-throwing distance of movie-material brownstones, Sugar Shop is family-oriented, with quintessential candies like Big League Chew, Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks, and, the store’s favorite, salt water taffy, which comes in candy corn and pumpkin pie flavors. You may recall this is the place where Girls‘ Hannah Horvath met her editor before he dropped dead. “Everyone comes in and mentions the Girls scene,” says co-owner Jennifer Bischoff. “They all want to buy the chocolate cups. Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for that! That was invented by the Girls team themselves.” Sugar Shop also sells party favors in brightly colored goody bags; they’re filled with Ring Pops, a candy necklace, pumpkin Pop Rocks, and black plastic spider rings.

2. Slodycze Wedel, (772 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-349-3933) It’s not that small children don’t matter to this store, it’s that the liquor-filled candies just matter more. For a grown-up party, fill a bag with wrapped morsels with liquor centers. The relentlessly indulgent candies are pumped full of brandy, rum, cherry liquor, and Advocaat, a Dutch liquor that tastes like eggnog. You’ll find the walls piled high with reasonably priced gift boxes. These shiny cases retail for around $10, so they’ll make you look more generous than you really are. Not everything here contains alcohol, and the Polish staff will translate the labels for you. Try the sublime party mix that combines milk chocolate, white chocolate, cookies, nuts, and wafers. Be on the lookout for the owners’ cat, Drops (named after candy), and Polish women with actual liquor in highball glasses if you roll in near closing time.

1. Economy Candy (108 Rivington Street; 212-254-1531) Slinging sourballs since the 1930s, this longtime favorite preserves, in sugary microcosm, the Lower East Side of the old days. It’s packed to the gills with novelty candy, the tough-to-score retro stuff, and a solid array of halva. Hunting for sweets here feels frenzied no matter how slow the shop is, because everything is so well stocked you get the sense that an avalanche of candy buttons could take you out at any moment. Pack your own old-fashioned bags full of loose candies like Bit-O-Honey, which are $2.99 per pound. The hefty Halloween selection includes Alien Ice Cream, Pac-Man Ghost Sours, and gummy pet rats.


The Definitive Guide to NYC’s Chinese-Latin American Restaurants

In the years following the Cuban Revolution, New York City welcomed large numbers of Cuban-Chinese immigrants, and during the 1960s and ’70s, restaurants serving these new residents’ food abounded. This isn’t fusion cooking like Peruvian chifa; rather, it’s a mash-up of both Latin American and Chinese cuisines offered separately, side-by-side. Once a common sight on the Upper West Side and in Chelsea, these restaurants have slowly disappeared as the neighborhoods have changed; the people who built them embrace retirement and old age. This year, Washington Heights lost the beloved Jimmy Oro, and Chelsea’s seen the demise of La Nueva Rampa, La Chinita Linda, and Mi Chinita, to name a few. But remnants of this once-thriving type of restaurant still dot the landscape, and the Garment District recently welcomed a new entrant: Calle Dao, named for a famous street in Havana’s Chinatown, serves good Chino Latino fusion. Built on a foundation of no-frills cooking and barebones atmosphere, here are the remaining representatives of this proud, fading genre.

14. Peking BBQ (58-11 Woodside Avenue, Queens; 718-672-1414)
Locals swear by the rotisserie chicken at this Chinese-Peruvian takeout spot; its red-and-yellow awning stands out on a low-key stretch of Woodside Avenue. A bargain by any standard, everything on the menu save for half-gallon portions of American Chinese food costs under $10, with most items hovering at around half that amount. There aren’t many tables, but most are crowded with plates of glazed spareribs over pork fried rice and that chicken, served as quarters or halves and torn of the bone to be dipped into pungent aji amarillo sauce.

13. New Victory, (48-03 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-431-2938)
Perhaps in response to the wealth of Mexican restaurants in the area, Sunset Park’s New Victory (no relation to La Nueva Victoria on the Upper West Side) serves the spicy seafood cocktail vuelve a la vida, a south-of-the-border hangover cure whose name means “return to life.” Chinese food sticks to the Americanized variety, but crispy General Tso’s is nothing to complain about. For stronger flavors and offal, look to the Latin American portion of the menu and its tripe and lamb stews.

12. El Pabellon De Oro, (1501 Westchester Avenue, Bronx; 718-328-1252)
Load up on Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Chinese favorites at this petite Soundview restaurant in the shadow of the Lexington Avenue line. Cantonese and Szechuan dishes dominate the Chinese offerings, and there’s even a touch of Galician Spain in the form of caldo gallego, a hearty soup fortified with greens and beans. Fried rice is a standout, as are the lobsters, which come from the nearby New Fulton Fish Market at Hunts Point.

11. Sabor Latino, (2161 Starling Avenue, Bronx; 718-822-0922)
A recent addition to this rarefied group, Sabor Latino was opened in 2007. Chinese-born Robert Ng spent time cooking throughout the Caribbean and at Bronx stalwart Sabrosura. Cooks who’ve also put time in at Flor de Mayo join him, and together they put out a menu with a few more bells and whistles than your average Chino-Latino joint. In particular, look out for mojito-spiced grilled shrimp and Peruvian-style linguine stir-fried with beef, chicken, or shrimp.

10. Sabrosura, (1200 Castle Hill Avenue, Bronx; 718-597-1344)
In business for over 30 years, this Unionport staple boasts a livelier interior than most of its ilk — a gambit that translates to the rest of its menu. The creamsicle-like beverage morir soñando arrives in a fluted colada cup, and the chefs fry plantains and yucca into cups to stuff with seasoned crabmeat, pork, or steak. And while you might not find any shrimp shumai in the mix, combination platters of meats, beans, and rice are served in bento boxes. Don’t miss chofan, a Dominican take on fried rice that tosses the grains with chicken and pork chicharrones.

9. Jardin de China, (3737 Junction Boulevard, Queens; 718-476-3755)
With its tan tables, plush booths, and cafeteria layout, Jardin de China could be mistaken for a run-of-the-mill diner, but here chicken and beef noodle soups share page space with asopao, Caribbean soupy rice cooked congee-style, the grains soaking up the liquid to make a loose porridge. Combination plates, like saucy boneless spareribs with fried rice and sweet plantains, offer the best of both worlds, and there’s even a ropa vieja sandwich if you’re truly aching for that diner aesthetic.

8. La Nueva Victoria, (2536 Broadway, 212-865-1810)
Serving bronzed, boneless chicharron de pollo, aromatic soupy rice, and various other Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban dishes, La Nueva Victoria has spiced up its Upper West Side corner for over 40 years. Originally named China Victoria, new ownership brought a menu overhaul, incorporating Szechuan food into the menu as the spicy regional Chinese cuisine gained popularity. Cocktails, like the Sex on the Beach-inspired “Butter,” lean toward the strong, fruity, and syrupy sweet.

7. Sapolo, (501 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-789-7788)
Popular with Pratt students and locals alike, this Clinton Hill late-night favorite beckons with its fluorescent light display, replete with car-driving, thumbs-up-giving man tacked onto the building’s roof. The interior is equally flashy, with faux-art deco ceiling fixtures and a bar pumping out brightly colored cocktails. Sit down for complimentary fried noodles with duck sauce before tucking into greaseless fried rice, craggy egg foo young mountains, and boneless chicken chicharrones.

6. Mi Estrella, (88-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens; 718-429-8973)
With equal prowess in both the Spanish and Chinese sections of the menu, Mi Estrella puts forth noteworthy stews featuring an array of animal parts, from pork trotters to salt cod and thick-sliced tongue. Egg foo young arrives on stemmed circular silver platters covered in gravy, and Cantonese lobster hits the table in a haze of aromatic ginger and scallions. Formerly “Grande Estrella,” it takes up a massive corner space steps from the Elmhurst 7 train stop.

5. New Apolo, (502 Grand Street, Brooklyn; 11211)
The colorful graffiti on New Apolo’s Union Avenue wall is the only indication that this restaurant might secretly be East Williamsburg’s premiere partying headquarters. The kitchen serves up Puerto Rican, Cantonese, and Szechuan specialties under multicolored neon lighting. Three frozen cocktail machines spin behind the bar; they contribute to a long menu of ultra-boozy drinks with cheeky names like “Nut Cracker” and “Thug Passion,” offered in sizes up to a quart. Proceed with caution.

4. La Caridad 78, (2199 Broadway, 212-874-2780)
Thanks to a Seinfeld reference and a certain amount of street cred that’s built up over the years, La Caridad remains the torchbearer for Chino-Latino cuisine, even if some of its Americanized Chinese food feels archaic by today’s standards. Large prawns in black bean sauce don’t disappoint, nor do golden brown egg rolls filled with pork and shrimp. Cuban-style chopped beef and roast pork tumble over their plate edges, and piquant chorizo and chickpea stew is good enough to forgive the lack of mofongo.

3. Dinastia China, (145 West 72nd Street, 212-362-3801)
This Upper West Side gem peddles its Chino-Latino wares on a wide expanse of West 72nd Street. As much a holdover from a different era as nearby Gray’s Papaya, Dinastia ladles a mean Yat Gaw Mein, the Cajun spiced noodle soup made famous by New Orleans Chinese restaurants. Also not to miss: shatter crisp fried calamari coated in lotus root flour and dry fried in the Szechuan style.

2. Flor de Mayo, (484 Amsterdam Avenue, 212-787-3388)
A neighborhood favorite for decades, Flor De Mayo is an Upper West Side institution, offering affordable food in a section of the island that desperately needs casual dining options. Platters of Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken crowd tables already bearing servings of rice with soupy black beans, fried plantains, and pork egg foo young. The most impressive plate to grace the narrow dining room is a portion of Hong Kong-inspired pork rib chops. Pounded thin and fried crisp in thickly applied batter, the knobby slabs weep meat juice. The kitchen makes its own sweet and sour sauce, and we must applaud them for getting the color so frighteningly fake blood red (UWS families should keep this in mind for any tiny vampires roaming the streets this Halloween). Despite its dubious composition, it’s piquant as advertised and does a fine job cutting through the chop’s richness.

1. El Paraiso, (149 West 14th Street, 212-675-7698)
This barebones Chelsea mess hall carries on, seemingly oblivious to the mass-scale gentrification at hand all around it on a busy stretch of West 14th Street. After a change of ownership a few years ago, the Chinese menu is stronger than the Cuban side, though tamales brim with pork flavor. El Paraiso’s mofongo may not have that familiar tomato gravy kick any longer, but it tastes oddly American with its Chinese brown sauce, which at least carries a faint kick of herbs. Best in show is a bowl of chicken noodle soup, the bird meat gently blanched and in large chunks. Garnished with fried onions, the comforting mix of braised greens, egg noodles, carrots, and bean sprouts makes for an easy and filling lunch or dinner under $6.


The 10 Best Pastrami Dishes in NYC That Aren’t Sandwiches

Introduced to New York by 19th century Eastern European immigrants (the same folks who gave us pierogies, knishes, and kishka), pastrami is an easy contender for GMOAT (Greatest Meat Of All Time), and also one of the foodstuffs most synonymous with our fair city. Brined and coated in strong spices including black pepper, mustard seed, coriander, and garlic, beef briskets are smoked and then steamed to create the delicacy’s signature meltingly soft texture. The pastrami sandwich? A local luminary and national treasure. But the deli darling that launched a thousand fake orgasms has also found itself the star of numerous dishes that straight up balk at the Earl of Sandwich’s beloved invention. Here are our 10 favorites, which may just be the best thing to happen to pastrami since sliced rye bread.

10. Pastrami dumplings at Brooklyn Wok Shop, (182 North 10th Street, Brooklyn; 347-889-7992) Chinese-American takeout gets a modernized, sometimes mild-mannered spin at Melissa and Edric Har’s Williamsburg dim sum and noodle shop, where there’s hanger steak in the beef with broccoli, and lump crab in the rangoons. Pastrami dumplings ($7) would better mimic a Reuben if they were fried, but the steamed dough pouches give off a pierogi vibe, covered in sauerkraut and creamy dijonnaise sauce to complement the smoked meat, which the Hars cure themselves. The couple also vends these paunchy treasures at nearby weekend seaside food orgy Smorgasburg.

9. Katz’s egg roll at RedFarm, (529 Hudson Street, 212-792-9700) When Katz’s Deli workers were sending salamis to boys in the army (a WWII-era slogan still plastered on the deli’s back wall), I’m sure they didn’t anticipate that the restaurant’s pastrami would become the catalyst for cultural fusion. At Ed Schoenfeld and Joe Ng’s duo of upscale nouveau Chinese restaurants, the smoked meat is diced and mixed with shredded cabbage and carrots for an egg roll filling. Battered and fried to a craggy crisp, the meat weeps fat into the vegetables as it cooks. The rolls are served appropriately with mustard sauce for dipping.

8. Pastrami salmon carpaccio at Black Crescent, (76 Clinton Street, 212-477-1771) Chef Dustin Everett has since channeled his New Orleans roots at this boisterous nautical saloon, but one of the few dishes to make the cut from the watering hole’s previous incarnation as a raw bar and small plates operation is this smoked fish presentation ($14). The kitchen cures and smokes the salmon using a proprietary pastrami spice blend, then pairs it with another appetizing favorite, smoked bluefish paté on top of brioche crostini tinged near-black with squid ink. The flavors are as dark and deep, with an eggy richness from the brioche — it’s appetizing 2.0, worth the investment in both time and money.

7. Pastrami tacos at Empellon Taqueria, (230 West 4th Street, 212-367-0999) Alex Stupak, a chef who chose lamb’s blood over ice water as his liquid of choice in support of ALS, also charges $18 for two pastrami tacos at his flagship West Village taqueria. Black pepper, coriander seed, and honey permeate meltingly tender short rib, perked up by piquant mustard seed salsa and a bed of pickled white cabbage that mimics the coleslaw in a Rachel sandwich. Stupak and wife/pastry chef Lauren Resler have taken great lengths to perfect their flour tortilla game, making the rounds both thin and resilient, and the lack of rye allows the filling to shine.

6. Pastrami-spiced steak at American Cut, (363 Greenwich Street, 212-226-4736) Although Marc Forgione’s Atlantic City steakhouse at the doomed Revel Casino is imminently closing, his Tribeca outpost has fared extremely well. He pulls from two of New York’s favorite restaurant archetypes — the deli and the chophouse — for his 20 ounce smoked and pastrami-spiced dry aged rib eye. Laid over spicy brown mustard, the bone-in beauty sports a heavy char, softened by a finishing splash of brown butter infused with caraway seeds, which completes the sandwich homage in the most soigné of ways. The 28 days spent in La Frieda facilities don’t hurt either, lending the meat a subdued funk.

5. Pastrami Reuben tater tots or latkes at Shopsin’s, (120 Essex Street, 212-924-5160) The Shopsin family’s perpetually packed Essex Street Market canteen is as famous for its 1000+ item menu as it is for its gregarious owner — the subject of decade-old documentary “I Like Killing Flies.” Parsing through the offerings, which include outlandish mashups like pine nut and coconut rice pancakes, can be a challenge for even the most decisive of eaters. One sure bet? The kitchen’s tater tots and potato latkes, which are fried dark and — in the case of the pastrami Reuben variety — filled with a mixture of smoked meat and sauerkraut. Served with the traditional latke accompaniments of sour cream and apple sauce, mustard is also available upon request. Whether you prefer to eat the concoction as a flattened disc or a pile of thimble-sized dumplings is up to you.

4. Deli Ramen at Dassara, (271 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 718-643-0781) At this Carroll Gardens ramen shop, Josh Kaplan and co. have made a name for themselves serving a never-ending rotation of ramen riffs like chilled tahini noodles with kimchi pickles and a mazemen made with flakes of hot kippered salmon from Shelsky’s Smoked Fish. Another favorite collaboration is Dassara’s deli ramen ($15), which builds on a base of souped-up chicken broth, adding celery, matzo balls, a medium-boiled egg, and generous slabs of Mile End smoked meat. Now, the Bernamoffs don’t technically dabble in pastrami, and while this bowl may not smack of liquid sandwich, the requisite ingredients harmonize in a familiar way. [

3. Rye pasta at Alder, (157 Second Avenue, 212-539-1900) When Wylie Dufresne opened this modern pub, the followup to his world renowned Lower East Side laboratory wd-50, one of the most talked about dishes was this clever sandwich-cum-pasta anchored by rye noodles as malty as Scandinavian brown bread. Chef Jon Bignelli folds in a mustard sauce, pastrami shavings, and diced green tomatoes before sprinkling the tangle with powdered pastrami jerky. Thanks to the kitchen’s proprietary tricks, the end result tastes like a pastrami sandwich on steroids, or better yet, a pastrami version of The Hulk, only you’ll love him when he’s angry.

2. Meat knish at Pastrami Queen, (1125 Lexington Avenue, 212-734-1500) Before this Queen was slinging serious cured beef on Lexington Avenue, she was a he, and the Pastrami King reigned along Queens Boulevard. On the mainland since 1999, the meat comes piled high into sandwiches for $16 or layered with sauerkraut inside bloated potato knishes for $23. But a slightly smaller, all-meat knish costs just $9.50, and its mixture of coarsely chopped pastrami and corned beef baked inside a dough crust is simply a brilliant idea. Imagine your favorite deli sandwich concentrated into a sort of meatball or hache en croute. Sliced into sections, you might mistake it for French country paté. Split it open and dip the edges into mustard or Russian dressing for an undeniably filling sub-$10 meal.

1. Octopus pastrami at Bâtard, (239 West Broadway, 212-219-2777) Lauded hospitality expert and veteran restaurateur Drew Nieporent tapped Austrian chef Markus Glocker for his newest restaurant, a third-time’s-a-charm European darling plugged into the Tribeca space that formerly held Montrachet and Corton. Glocker’s food doesn’t go for gut punches, but there are plenty of exciting tastes, from tender veal wrapped in brioche to beets paired with red currants. One of the chef’s more playful preparations is his octopus “pastrami” ($27.50 if part of the minimum two-course prix fixe), which finds a block of cephalopod held together by the animal’s natural gelatins. Slice into the nautical mosaic and load your fork with the dish’s remaining elements: potatoes, mustard, shredded ham hock, and croutons soaked in the ham hock braising liquid. It might not be kosher, but we’d love to see it sliced thin and stacked high, like something served at SpongeBob’s local delicatessen.


The 10 Best Steakhouses in NYC, 2014

Kept alive by nearly two centuries of chewing carnivores, the New York City steakhouse defiantly broils on. Classic steakhouses, like Peter Luger and Keens, enjoy a certain amount of stability not common in the current dining climate, where even the most exciting chef-driven small plates tasting counters last about as long as the Edison bulbs that light their communal bathroom foyers. Many of these meat mongers have histories as well marbled as the aged cuts they serve, often extending back into the 19th and early 20th centuries. Taking their cues from the gregarious man-and-meat gatherings known as beefsteak socials, these old guard chophouses almost always feature dark wood and clubby atmospheres, but thanks to this current period of food culture awareness, a modern version of the steakhouse has emerged, where starters and sides are less of an afterthought. Traditional or contemporary, the restaurants on this list all excel in both char and charm. These are the 10 best steakhouses in NYC.

10. Christos Steakhouse, (4108 23rd Avenue, Queens; 718-777-8400) Formerly a Greek taverna, this Astoria steakhouse has an adjoining butcher shop and ages its steaks on premises, so you can take home the same quality cuts the kitchen serves in the restaurant. The lengthy menu incorporates Hellenic touches with dishes like smoked feta mashed potatoes and a lamb bacon Cobb salad. As for the beef, porterhouse is a good choice, but Christos also dry ages its filet mignon, lending a funk not often found in the usually wet aged cut. Hiding ice cream and red velvet cake, the ‘Baked Astoria’ makes for an appropriately decadent finish.

9. St. Anselm, (335 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-384-5054) Although it sits not far from what is arguably the most famous steakhouse in the country, Joe Carroll’s Williamsburg paean to all things grilled has never needed to worry about competing with the Luger leviathan. There’s not much dry aged hullaballoo in this dining room. Most carnivorous patrons go for the faultless $16 hanger steak, but New York strip, and tomahawk rib eye cuts are also available. Creamed spinach and thick-cut bacon are familiar sides, but chances are you won’t find shishito peppers and long beans on other steakhouse menus around town — so consider ordering them here.

8. Gallaghers Steakhouse, (228 West 52nd Street, 212-586-5000) Dean Poll took over this 86-year-old Theater District stalwart in February, and to say he’s breathed life back into the place is an understatement. The street-level aging locker still elicits sidewalk drooling, but the dining room and menu have been made over, giving them a more contemporary feel. The kitchen succeeds with nine options of hickory-grilled meat, from a standard porterhouse for two to a kingly prime rib, and even a humble chopped steak. Like filet mignon? Chef Alan Ashkinaze will season your beef eight different ways, including crusted with bourbon-soaked peppercorns.

7. The Strip House, (13 East 12th Street, 212-328-0000) Steven Hanson’s BR Guest Hospitality Group took over this venerable West Village steakhouse last year, long known for its hefty strip steaks. The splashy red David Rockwell interior also sets a convivial stage for chef Michael Vignola’s creative food, which occasionally tiptoes around the limits of the genre with things like surf and turf tartare and pancetta-spiked creamed corn. The signature side — a holdover from pre-Hanson days — is a mound of potatoes cooked in duck fat. Order it with either rib eye, 14-ounce dry aged or 20-ounce wet. You can order Baked Alaska to finish, but even more impressive than dancing flames is a towering slice of chocolate cake that nearly dwarfs the steaks. And although Hanson opened a midtown outpost, the 12th Street original gets our nod.

6. Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, (4 Park Avenue, 212-889-3369) Wolfgang Zwiener, headwaiter at Peter Luger for over 40 years, opened the first branch of his eponymous steakhouse — a prismatic Manhattan version of the Brooklyn classic — on Park Avenue in 2005. Since then, the enterprising owner and his team have opened eight beefy branches, including four in New York City and four afield, in Miami, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Tokyo. Still, it’s the Park Avenue original, with its domed tile ceilings and sunken dining room, that feels as emblematic as its forebear. As you would across the river, order the porterhouse, and maybe some German potatoes. There’s thick cut bacon, too, but try asking for steamed spinach at Luger and they’ll likely pummel you with schlag. Here, the kitchen even sautés the leafy green with garlic and olive oil.

5. Costata, (206 Spring Street, 212-334-3320) Michael White’s return to the former Fiamma space, where he cooked for Steven Hanson almost a decade ago, has been a resounding success. The namesake costata is a massive portion of aged rib eye for two, and duos can also order porterhouse and bone-in strip cuts. And since this is a Michael White restaurant, filet fans should consider the menu’s butcher block option, which trades in five ounces of beef (leaving you five ounces) for a pasta-inspired cacio e pepe Caesar salad, or an actual pasta, like triangular pansotti stuffed with ricotta, anointed with peas and pea tendrils, and finished with red wine sugo. For dessert, Altamarea corporate pastry chef Robert Truitt amps up the standard affogato with a shot of Ramazotti amaro and fiore di latte gelato.

4. Minetta Tavern, (113 Macdougal Street, 212-475-3850) Keith McNally’s five-year-old revamp of the storied Minetta Tavern has been a success ever since the words “black label burger” were uttered in some 2009 press release. But although the luxurious dry aged burger lives up to the hype, it’s the tavern’s marrow bone-crowned côte du boeuf for two that brings the beefiest pleasures. McNally veterans Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson left to follow their dreams last year, but chef Bill Brasile has effortlessly taken the reins. He cooks an excellent lamb saddle, as well as New York strip and Roquefort-smothered filets, which you can pair with four different kinds of potatoes or a dish of stuffed cabbage. And unlike many of its peers (but like its McNally-owned siblings), Minetta’s bartenders mix up an excellent cocktail. Even more likely to make you weak in the knees are the chocolate or Grand Marnier soufflés for two. [

3. M. Wells Steakhouse, (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060) Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis have been bringing hordes of the food-obsessed to Long Island City since opening their gloriously challenging (and sadly now defunct) diner/restaurant in 2010. Last year, the duo followed up a quirky café inside MoMA PS1 with this modern, Montreal-inspired steakhouse built inside the husk of an auto garage. Underneath an industrial chic skylight and the glow of a screen playing black and white films, Dufour and chef de cuisine Jeff Teller serve up plenty of offbeat dishes unavailable anywhere else in town — look for foie gras-covered pancakes and chawanmushi made with bacon and sea urchin. Even the list of side dishes hides incredible treasures, like beets spiced with elderflower, and more foie gras, this time stuffed into pan-fried gnocchi. Meat-minded diners can choose among solo portions of T-bone or bone-in rib eye steaks, or split platters of chateaubriand or côte du boeuf. Most steakhouse desserts are phoned-in, but Bethany Costello’s dessert trolley yields a bevvy of saccharine delights like hubcap-sized Paris-Brests and bronze-crusted maple pie.

2. Peter Luger, (178 Broadway, Brooklyn; 718-387-7400) Perhaps the most recognizable name in the steak game, Peter Luger has been in operation since 1887. Perfumed with the fleshy dew of its basement aging chambers, the dining room hums with a syncopation between excited chatter from diners and the terse-yet-amiable mutterings of the waiters, many of whom have been working there for decades. The lunchtime burger (available until 3:45 p.m. sharp) is justly legendary, composed of steak trimmings. At $11.50, it’s easily the cheapest dry aged burger in the five boroughs. On the steaks — porterhouse was the only cut available for years, but not long ago Luger added a bone-in rib steak that’s every bit as good for a few dollars less. Desserts are as straightforward as the rest of the menu; there’s cheesecake and strudel, but most tables have at least one tulip fountain glass overflowing with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and a heap of thick whipped cream, or schlag.

1. Keens Steakhouse, (72 West 36th Street, 212-947-3636) Keens is a benchmark for classic steakhouses, probably because when it opened in 1885, it was simply a midtown chophouse. Along with Peter Luger, it’s outlasted countless imitations, but Keens bears a particular pedigree. With its many dimly lighted rooms, walls cluttered with antique collectibles and ceilings strung with 90,000 long-stemmed tobacco pipes, there’s a connection to New York’s past that doesn’t feel hackneyed. The true spectacle, however, comes in the form of the heavily charred steaks and chops, including a gargantuan bone-in prime rib, and the sheer glory that is the Keens mutton chop (actually a saddle of lamb). With 16 choices for dessert, including cutesy items like the coffee cantata and red berry bibble, it’s easy to end things on a sweet note. If you’re up for the challenge, however, consider the pub room’s massive prime rib hash, fried golden brown and topped with a griddle-cooked egg.