>> Eat the World New York City

18 January 2017

Berlin Currywurst


When you live in Sunset Park and multiple sources keep broadcasting the city's best tacos to be inside of Chelsea Market, it is hard not to feel both painful laughter and painful rage at the same time. Finally though recently, there was a trip and it was all flushed from the system. I tried all the tacos (shrug), I tried the hummus (pretty good but I can get to Bay Ridge easily so...), I tried some other garbage. The only thing with merit is the currywurst at Berlin Currywurst.

Ever since the closure of Wechsler's Currywurst in the East Village, it is a dish sorely lacking in the city. Some renditions are around town but fall flat, even in good environments. Here at Chelsea Market, the environment is not terrific, but the dish is done right. Berlin Currywurst is originally from Los Angeles, but has recently set up another shop here offering a fairly compact list of options, something of a necessity for this market.

Dive straight in and make one with the original style bratwurst and original curry sauce ($8, below), served with bread. The menu lets you dictate your sausage and your sauce, so follow your original with the käse (filled with cheese) on your second visit. Curry spice levels can be adjusted as well, and 3 out of 4 was already giving great kick.

Add a side of fries for $5 (above), knowing that one of life's simple pleasures is dipping one in both good curry sauce and mayonnaise, which is available in a squeeze bottle.

Most importantly, the little stand has a beer and wine license, and two German drafts. Sausage and beer is not rocket science, but it kind of is at the same time.

Berlin Currywurst Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

16 January 2017

An Beal Bocht Cafe


Even on the outside, An Beal Bocht aims to cover every square inch with color and kitsch, revealing its overall friendliness with each frame, flower, flag, and can of baked beans. Taking a seat at the bar gives you the best midway vantage point into the operation, which spans into another dining room.

Not all of the kitsch is without function, a shelf above the bar acts as a British Isles market, with cans of those aforementioned baked beans, marmalade, Hartley's jam, and Irish peas. To conveniently satisfy curiosity about how often these items sell, a couple came in and purchased a bottle of HP Sauce.

Across the space and facing the bar is an entire wall of framed Irish men and women, newspaper cuts, and maps. If no one is occupying the tables nearby, it makes a fun time to look through them all. This wall also serves as the background for the almost daily live music that takes place here. Me and a small group of friends came to catch the weekly Irish traditional session on a Sunday, but the day after New York City's first real snow had left the musicians stranded in Ireland. Allegedly.

Instead the constant clinking of silverware and plates set the background to a few hours of good cheer. This is the type of place that bartenders know a lot of their customer's names and that general New York prickliness almost keeps itself outside the door. It opened in 1991 but the walls and faces would make you guess back even further. During those first years it was just a cafe, but the spirit and their goal of making this a space for artists to come together to experiment has stuck around.

Somewhere on one side of the Kingsbridge-Riverdale border, and up at least ten flights of urban stairs from the nearest subway, most first-timers not coming from their houses at this elevation will arrive will an appetite for some hearty Irish fare. While most of the menu reads like a typical bar menu, there is a small section of "Irish specialties" to check out.

On a trip to Ireland in 2003, I became well-versed with the magic of Irish curry. They eat it there late at night with chips (fries), like New Yorkers eat pizza and tacos. To be honest though, the Irish version of curry has no business with the name, but instead is a different beast. It is sweet first and foremost. You can take it here with chips or as a chicken curry ($15, above) entree. I recommend the former, as the chicken component of the entree is just a few hunks of dry breast. For the price, I found this plate's serving size very small.

Better is the shepherd's pie ($15, below), that classic Irish boat of ground meat, carrots and other vegetables, that gets topped with whipped potatoes and baked. It is really a cottage pie as it uses ground beef instead of lamb, but getting past that is not hard because they all are here on this side of the Atlantic.

Essential to any shepherd's pie experience is a healthy dip in HP sauce. Ask an Irishman what type of sauce this is, and they'll reply "brown" without further explanation necessary. The most prominent tastes come from the malt vinegar, but it is quite sweet as well.

After a few rounds of Guinness and a few hours passing, all feelings from here are good. It was not hard to imagine why the place had so many loyal customers.

An Beal Bocht Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

14 January 2017

Restaurant & Cafeteria Centro America


The three most represented Central American countries in New York City and New Jersey are the three countries represented by the menu of this restaurant in Jamaica, Queens. Despite their logo encompassing countries from Belize to Panamá, only the food of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras makes the cut.

The first hints are the two flags on the windows with plates of food superimposed. On the right is the Guatemalan flag, with its lighter blue and vertical stripes, while the dark blue horizontal stripes of El Salvador and Honduras are to the left. In the front of the shop, there are pastries, tamales, and hot drinks like atol de elote ($2.50, not pictured), a traditional sweet corn beverage.

I asked for my hard to find favorite Guatemalan dishes but to no avail. I ended up with the pollo en crema ($10 (although the menu said $9), above), a dish I had never tried. Grilled chunks of chicken breast are slathered with a tomato onion cream sauce. The rice and beans taste exactly as they look in the above photo.

A Guatemalan tamal de masa ($2.50, not pictured) was taken to go. They also have the larger Salvadoran versions for $5-6, as well as pupusas ($2.25-2.50) and Honduran baleadas ($3.50-6), the antojitos I will stick to on the next visit.

Restaurant & Cafeteria Centro America Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

12 January 2017

Costa Chica


After a summer meal elsewhere in 2016, a hunt for a cold margarita began in New Brunswick, knowing they had plenty of good Mexican restaurants to choose from. With its ample parking and colorful charm, Costa Chica stood out from anything else. Unfortunately, it was quickly discovered that they serve no alcohol, and the search had to continue elsewhere. Before leaving, the Oaxacan bent of the menu was noted and put on the to do list.

Oaxacan food has a good reputation at home and abroad, home to the famous seven moles, Oaxacan cheese, tlayudas, and of course mezcal. It was worth coming back in December to see what kind of kitchen this place had.

While the big mole-filled tamales might be most eaten in Oaxaca, the tamal de elote ($2, below) sounded good on this day with mole already part of the order later. This sweet corn variety is often eaten for dessert. Here at Costa Chica, it stands alone with a small dollop of crema.

There is possibly no dish more Oaxacan than the tlayuda, which sometimes gets called "Mexican pizza" in English. You may find this folded over, but usually the round, crisp tortilla base is smothered in refried black beans and pork lard before being topped with lettuce, tomato, Oaxacan cheese, and the meat of your choice.

The tlayuda de barbacoa ($9.50, above and below) was sufficiently gamey and delicious. Salsas are sometimes added before presentation, but two bowls are brought to the table for you to make your own choices. In reality, neither were really needed.

You are much more likely to see black beans in Oaxacan cooking than other beans. People in the region cook them in soups and many other ways to eat. Besides the goat on this tlayuda, the beans create the second most distinct taste, and are very good.

Possibly the most disappointing dish of the meal, frustratingly so, was the mole oaxaqueño con pollo ($9.95, below), also known as mole negro and one of the most common of the seven moles of Oaxaca. While it certainly was not disliked, and certainly was finished, it just had little punch to it.

The cecina ranchera ($11.50, below) sat on the exclusive specials list of six dishes, which warranted at least one selection. Besides the thinly sliced steak, a large piece of grilled cactus is joined by avocado and Oaxacan cheese, rice and beans, and a nicely fiery sauce called salsa ranchera.

Of the other five in this section, try the plato marimba ($12.50), a plate of many good looking grilled meats.

During this weekday visit the place was not so busy, but it still has good enough vibes to overcome the lack of alcohol. There is plenty of space to bring a big group, and the festive nature of the decor just screams for a big party.

Costa Chica Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

10 January 2017

Hyderabadi Biryani & Chat


In between a fried chicken joint and a westernized Chinese takeout, sharing the rest of the block with a diner, Walgreens, a dollar store and many other generic shops, small Hyderabadi sticks out like a sore thumb. The awning offers biryani and chat, but in reality the menu is loaded with most of the pan-Indian favorites you can ever imagine, a range of vegetarian and meat options.

On the first visit, the chat section was visited with an order of dahi batata puri ($5.99, below), a street snack originating in Mumbai but like all chat is now popular throughout the subcontinent.

Instead of eating one by one like pani puri, dahi puri is served on a plate all at once. Similarly, a hole is punctured in the crispy puri shell and in this case, potato is added. The balls are topped with yogurt, spicy chili powders, salt, tamarind, chutney, tomato, onion, and crushed sev, amongst probably many other things. It is a very satisfying chat, and it can be assumed that all their other versions are just as good.

On a second visit, the biryani was the name of the game. An order of the chicken biryani ($9.99, below) comes with the question of "On the bone or off?" This is a question that usually is best answered with "on" for more tender bits. This seemed to be no different, as under the rice I found nice hunks of well-seasoned and juicy meat.

The dish is served with two cups of chutney, yogurt-based and curry-based options. This was new to me, receiving chutneys with biryani like you do with dosas, but I sampled bites with both and found them pleasing.

Hyderabadi Biryani & Chat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

09 January 2017

El Unico de Elena


After finally traveling to Cuba nearly a year ago, the thought of fancy, modern takes on the cuisine are barely below upsetting. The difference in taste between the local lunch restaurants and the tourist-only paladares was negligible. The plates might have been nicer and there was probably a small bouquet of flowers as a centerpiece, but otherwise you walked away feeling fleeced. On the first few nights, the "recommendations" from "locals" to take you to their "favorite" restaurant would come fast and furious. Luckily after a few days they stopped, apparently they caught on.

Unfortunately this was just a way for someone on a small monthly salary to try and pull in a little bit of extra change, as the restaurant (charging about as much for a meal as most people make in a month) would throw a small kickback for every tourist they could rangle. Regardless of your financial situation or the budget of your travels, these paladares showed nothing of the life (the beauty as well as the hardship) of any real Cuba, and that is why any fancified version of the cuisine even here in New York City would be upsetting and unrealistic.

There are plenty of "user-friendly" modern Cuban restaurants around, with decent offerings and probably nice atmosphere. But as this website has been showing for almost a decade, the real good stuff is just across the Hudson in Union City and West New York, New Jersey. The largest waves of immigrants and refugees have been coming here since the Cuban revolution in 1959 to live close to family and friends who had already uprooted in the previous couple decades, making everything nowadays seem very instilled and old school.

That distinct charm lives in a lot of the area's bakeries and restaurants, including El Unico de Elena, named for the late wife of the owner who still works to this day. Opened in 1976, the "charm" spoken of is probably the same quality that would earn the place a snarky review on Yelp for being dirty. But it is definitely not dirty, just worn, and this is part of why you feel so good here. The acoustical ceiling tiles, the old wooden paneled bar and throwback diner barstools were probably all originals. There is an even a working payphone inside.

The other shocking development here is that prices also seem not to have changed for decades. Heaping plates of food come out for $3.50 to $6. The ropa vieja ($4, above) is certainly workaday, but what a value. They have good rice and beans here as you would expect from any good Cuban place, and the quoted prices always include those and a couple slices of fried sweet plantains.

Our other choice this day was lechon asado ($5, below), which we had served with moro, the rice and beans combination famous in Cuba. We found this lacking the depth of richness found in the regular black beans, but the roast pork was delectable. Our server brought a spicy sauce and pointed to the pork, hinting that the combination would be worth trying. He was right.

When two people have finished their meals and juices, the check's total makes a 20% tip seem far too low. Tax is not added, so even a generous tip stretches your twenty dollar bill quite far. For those lucky enough to live close and become regulars, there is a special feeling awarded from the family that still operates this long running institution of Union City.

El Unico Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

06 January 2017

Pariscien Bakery


What initially attracted me to this Colombian bakery, which looks like all the rest, was a small home-printed sheet taped to the window saying "Tenemos Tamales Tolimenses." Usually when I have no idea what something is, my interest in trying it goes up, which was the case here. I grabbed one to go, noted the preparation instructions from the chef, and cooked it in a steamer at home for 30 minutes. They will also cook them here for you if you eat in house, but it is recommended to call ahead.

In Colombia, especially in mountainous Andean regions like Tolima, it is part of life to have a breakfast tamal like this and a cup of hot chocolate. While open throughout the afternoon, Pariscien is noticeably more busy in the morning hours, with a full breakfast menu spanning more than Colombian food. And as New York City is New York City, Colombians are joined by Ecuadorians, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans of the neighborhood.

Anyone that orders the tamal (above, wrapped, and below sliced open after cooking), is rewarded with a creamy consistency and alternating sweet and savory tastes. You will sometimes find large pieces of potatoes and carrots in this style of tamal, but this chef has pureed everything with the corn. Elsewhere inside is on-the-bone chicken, not shown in the cross section.

The display cases seem to be the most active place in the morning, with arepas, pan de bono, buñuelos, and aborrajados, a deep fried plantain stuffed with cheese. If that typical breakfast eater mentioned above has a larger than usual appetite, they might take one of the other items in addition to their tamal and coffee. The simple arepas here are fantastic.

"One of each, please"

On our last two visits, we have shared the mini bandeja paisa ($8.95, below). "Mini" is definitely misleading, as even the small version of the plate is gigantic by the standards of most appetites. Centered around terrific Colombian white rice and beans is thinly cut steak, sausage, chicharrón, a fried egg, and a fried sweet plantain.

For a sweeter breakfast, try the arepa de choclo ($1.75 each, below), a sweet corn version of the arepa without cheese. This looks somewhat like a cookie, but is soft, moist, and dense.

If you make it here in the morning for a Colombian breakfast, plan some extra time to order the tamales tolimenses and hang out enjoying your food with the atmosphere. The coffee is light and won't wake you up, but the mood is thoroughly New York City and worth lingering around to consume.

Pariscien Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

03 January 2017

Olga's Place


Still stung by a recent 4-0 thumping of the United States national team by Costa Rica in 2018 World Cup qualifying, this write-up comes painfully. I traveled down to San José, Costa Rica with the American Outlaws, still dejected from the election but wanting a reason to believe in my country again. Our football (not of the American variety) team is made up of dual nationals and sons of immigrants from Colombia, Mexico, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti, and Japan, amongst others. The current leading scorer of the team is from deep in the heart of Texas. The captain is from Princeton, New Jersey. But after beating Costa Rica 4-0 over the summer in Copa America, the Central Americans returned the favor with the same score in their home. Their fans were relentless to our relatively small group of vocal supporters. The hate between the two teams goes back quite a ways, and this was their turn to be jerks.

A young Tica at Olga's in 2014

I could not think of a better way of getting over it than by eating, and Olga's Place is ground zero of Tico football support in New Jersey, if not the east coast. My first meal and experience here came during the World Cup in 2014 when the country shocked the world and won their group ahead of England, Italy, and Uruguay.

The place was packed, loud, and full of energy. The return trip at the end of 2016 was on a lazy weekday lunch, a time better for enjoying the food. Olga's is on a sleepy street south of the interstate, cut off from the main streets of Elizabeth. It is located in a former private residence and is set up in two parts, a long bar along one side of the restaurant, and dining tables on the other.

Knowing the casado plates are enormous, we decided on a couple appetizers and one main, first trying the platano con queso ($5, above), a plantain sliced open and covered with salty cheese. We also had our eyes on the ceviche de pescado ($12, below), which comes with a few tortilla chips. We squeezed in some extra lime as well.

From my first visit here during the World Cup, the casado de chuleta ($15, below), is a thin pork chop seasoned very well. A casado translates to "married man" and is used to signify a full meal including beans, rice, and plantains.

Casado in 2014

On the return visit, the casado seemed to grow with a potato and beet salad as well as another spicy potato side. Our casado con bistec encebollado ($15, below) even came with an egg on top of the steak. Once again the meat is well marinated, and the rice and beans are on point.

Casado in 2016

The meal and two appetizers strategy worked well, both of our bellies were maxed out for this lunch.

Back on gameday 2014, the chile relleno de carne ($13, below) was the perfect match snack. The stuffed chili pepper is covered in savory sauce and is served with rice and salad.

Opening up the pepper shows a stuffing of seasoned ground beef and nothing else. I distinctly remember this plate being vacuumed of every morsel it was so good.

While mildly cathartic, the trip to Olga's did not do all I wanted to tame the anger I was feeling towards Tico football supporters, but being surrounded by the lovely people here was a good reminder that these parts of life have to be separated. 2017 brings two chances for us to exact our revenge on home soil, and I will be there to rub it in at the stadium when it happens, and buy those poor Ticos some beers.

The next set of qualifiers for the Ticos are in late March, so make plans to come to Olga's in Elizabeth and catch the great atmosphere.

Olga's Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato