>> Eat the World NYC

17 August 2018

Carniceria Mexicana


First of all, if you are not following @tacoliteracy on Instagram or elsewhere, do it now. Besides having a real job as a professor, the owner of this account branches off into Queens eating, mostly Mexican in Jackson Heights and Corona. A couple weeks ago an interesting "house taco" and "house quesadilla" popped up there and immediately a trip was necessary. Northern Boulevard can be a slog from the 7 train in this summer weather, but Carniceria Mexicana joins the ranks at the top of the area's market kitchens and is open 7 days a week starting early for breakfast.

Sitting here for about 45 minutes total, it could not be discerned whether this was more of a meat market or a restaurant. They seem to be thriving at both just about equally. From the moment you enter the attitude is friendly and positive, and the hand-written signs are welcoming.

Don't jump the gun and order too fast, take a look to your left and right and on every surface that might have another item available for order. Those tacos and quesadillas de la casa jumped out on this visit for us as well, but for good measure the torta de la casa was thrown in to go.

Tacos here are all $3 and gigantic. The meats and ingredients are good enough not to need that heavy blob of guacamole that too many taquerias put on their larger "con todo" tacos. The taco de la casa ($3, above and below) revolves around fresh and thicker than normal cecina with small strips of cactus. A few strips of rajas, green Poblano peppers, give the taco a slight kick, but be sure to use their lovely house green salsa which ties all the flavors together.

Those rajas also show up on the torta de la casa ($8.50, below), a small blanket covering a thin strip of carne asada and a halved salchicha. The most noticeable item when the sandwich is cut in half is the white Oaxacan cheese, used in a very generous portion.

As seen in all these photos, it is further satisfying to eat these foods off of real plates instead of styrofoam or other disposable items. As with their meats, many of which are advertised as organic, Carniceria Mexicana seems to have a real interest in sustainability and stewardship.

The quesadilla de la casa ($6, below) is a meaty take on the classic quesadilla de flor de calabaza. In addition to these squash blossoms, they add crunchy bits of chicharrón and extra flavoring from epazote. Lettuce, onions, and more cheeses are on top and the whole things is wrapped in a beautiful homemade corn tortilla.

The rest of the menu items seem to be interesting flavor combinations like these, different takes on the standard antojito fare we all know and love. The few tables in the back are constantly full of various types of diners, some of whom are also enjoying larger plates of meats with rice and beans.

Another hand-written sign is taped to the window offering extra weekend tacos of suadero, oreja, and lengua, but seemingly unstated by pen is the barbacoa which I was told about during a brief conversation before leaving. Any day is a good one here at Carniceria Mexicana, but maybe those Saturdays and Sundays would be even greater draws.

Carniceria Mexicana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

16 August 2018

Stephanie's Mexican Bakery


Stephanie's has the definite look of a place that has altered its format over the years. Once focusing on Mexican breads, a kitchen opened up in the back and became popular with the neighborhood. As happens, this operation became more profitable and the room made for it in the store expanded. Now Stephanie's almost seems like a restaurant, with plenty of tables and a good-sized menu. Walking in the door still affords the wonderful smells of breads like these conchas ($1, below) which are all placed in the front.

Swipe through digitally or walk through in person and grab a seat. Tacos here are large and come in portions of three ($9, below), and if you ask nicely they will make your tortillas fresh on the spot! The winner of this visit was their superb chorizo, shown in the third photo.

Tortillas hechas a mano

Taco de chorizo

A tidy menu is posted on the steam table (below) with everyday offerings, but it was also noticed that many of the customers were ordering the daily specials that are freshly made and ready to order on the steam table. On this day, the cecina en salsa verde looked especially tempting.

Stephanie's Mexican Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

12 August 2018

Antojitos Mexicanos at Horchata Deli


In and around the capital of México, you will see stacks of pambazos being prepared here and there, for sale as another type of antojito. Typically, they are found with a filling of potatoes mixed with chorizo and some other sandwich fillings similar to a torta. The whole thing is then dipped in guajillo pepper sauce, which gives it the trademark red glow.

Here at this small stand which seems like an annex to the corner deli, a fun menu includes these (also available with tinga) and a focus on tacos placeros and quesadillas made Mexico City style. Order from the stand and grab a seat inside, where they will call you to the window or the plate might just arrive at your table if things are not too busy.

Interior of the pambazo $6.50

Order from the stand outside.

We will be back to try those tacos placeros and as much of the rest as possible.

Antojitos Mexicanos Horchata Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

09 August 2018

Sagara Restaurant


There is an unfortunately high turnover rate at 98 Victory Boulevard. The short-lived BLVD Café reported about here in late 2015 closed the next year and gave way to Shiranti, which actually may have never opened. Now a bright yellow awning announces the latest restaurant to take on this location, Sagara, which opened four months ago.

A first look at it is optimistic, real care is being taken in the kitchen and the food is going to rival other Staten Island favorites. The $12.99 buffet seemed to be attracting Sinhalese speakers during this weekday afternoon visit. Not much has went into decorating the space other than a coat of pink paint on the walls, but this should come in time if the restaurant is a success.

The Sagara appetizer sampler ($7.50, above) is a good way to get started and was surprising in just how tasty it was. Normally a walk through this area is impossible to do without the purchase of some of these fried bites at New Asha up the hill. This plate was satisfying enough to render that unnecessary, but certainly return visits up to this favorite chef will still be frequent. Especially impressive was the fish cutlet, the long tubular selection. Two chutneys (and an insultingly large portion of ketchup!) are served with the plate, both of which are strong.

The influence of Dutch during their colonial period in Sri Lanka is perhaps most evident in lamprais ($12.99, above and below), adapted from the Dutch word meaning "packet of food." The packet in this case is a carefully constructed spread of banana leaves in which traditionally the whole thing is baked. Nowadays you are more likely to find the leaves added afterwards, but it still provides a fun presentation and reveal when opened.

The dish always consists of rice, at least one meat, and curry. Here at Sagara, the liquid component is light so the rice at the bottom still remains untouched while floating above it are the caramelized onions and meat. Chicken was chosen for this version, a good option and very tender.

Sitting next to the cooler, the brownish-pink tone of a wood apple yogurt drink ($3.99, below) stood out next to the usual mango lassis. When ordered, the cup went to the back and was presumed forgotten, but actually shows up with an added scoop of ice cream, in case the deal was not already sweet enough.

Wood apple is actually a citrus fruit and does have bitterness when found on its own, but this drink is well-sweetened and almost looses that entirely. It is a fun deviation from the mango lassi, but does the same job filling your stomach before the foods come out unfortunately.

Sagara Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

06 August 2018

Grab & Go Food


This all happened by accident, but sometimes this is the best way to experience the city. When a nearby Senegalese restaurant had its gate down and a "closed for renovation" sign out front, a little canvassing was necessary for a meal. Without much time before a job in the neighborhood, a quick look around did not find anything new so I retreated into a deli to grab a quick sandwich.

As New Yorkers, we take our corner groceries and delis and bodegas for granted, knowing they will always be there for us whenever we need them, early in the morning and late at night. After the recent "bodega strike" last year when the current administration tried to impose a ban on Muslims entering the United States, most of us now know our beloved corner stores' owners are in many cases from Yemen, if we did not know already.

Some of these shops might have a shawarma spit spinning next to the grill that turns out egg sandwiches and turkey clubs all day, but what happened at Grab & Go Food in Harlem was new to me: A menu with the famous Yemeni saltah right at the top of the page. They have some standard Middle Eastern fare here as well as the entire line of Boar's Head deli meats, but the $10 saltah (below) was what was destined to be eaten.

The man taking orders could not at first understand my likely very bad pronunciation of the word, but also may not be accustomed to a non-Yemeni or Middle Eastern customer ordering the dish. His surprise likely matched mine when it arrived at my table in a traditional stone stew pot still boiling. This pot came on a wooden base for transport and my meal became the center of attention for the other customers who were seated at the shops four or five tables.

They do not have a proper oven here to make Yemeni flatbread, but some warmed up pitas are brought out with an order. I was asked if I wanted it spicy, and this translated into a jalapeño being chopped up inside the stew, which had a stronger than usual fenugreek taste. Shredded lamb marakh, the base of the stew, was joined with scrambled egg, potatoes, and a small amount of vegetables. For the price, it is an incredible amount of food and enough that could not be finished. Luckily a neighborhood teen took me up on the offer to taste it when I saw his interest, and came back for more after enjoying it so much.

We already love our Yemeni bodega owners and their wonderful stores that keep New York City running, but if they all plan to add Yemeni cuisine to their daily offerings, the ceiling is about to get moved skyward.

Grab & Go Food Inc. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

04 August 2018



On their first official unveiling to the world, Pereybeurre doesn't disappoint with their Mauritian food, a self-described blend of Indian, Chinese, and Southern African flavors.

Their first offerings showed the heaviest influence from Indian, with well executed chicken biryani ($5, below) and dhal puri with curry lamb ($5, at bottom). The latter chickpea flatbread is seen a lot in the city's Caribbean communities, which have their own Indian influences. Nice to see a new cuisine make it here to our shores. Best of luck to Pereybeurre!



03 August 2018

Arsi's Pateseria


The börek, a pastry made with thin phyllo dough and filled with various ingredients, has made its way from home in what is modern-day Turkey in all directions towards Europe, the Middle East and the Caucasus. In different places, it has taken a life (and shape) of its own.

Pastries here have been on our radar since a short report 8 years ago on EIT, but in the end we veered towards the triangles instead of the circles. On the menu they were written "bureaka" but more commonly known in Armenian as "byorek," this tiny little bakery is making them right regardless of spelling.

Each pastry is $1.25, making it hard not to stop in for a heaping bag to go. Shown below is a cross-section of the delicious mushroom version, but the unseen innards of the spinach and feta were actually the favorite.

There are a variety of goods for purchase here, including the round cheese pie reported on the EIT article linked above. We will add different shots if future visits come up with anything good.

Arsi's Pateseria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

02 August 2018

Çka ka Qëllu


It has all been leading to this. First came Tradita, a brick oven pizza joint a bit more than 30 minutes walk north into Norwood. It's menu satisfied the pizza cravings of an obsessed city while slipping in some traditional Albanian and Kosovar items. But Çka ka Qëllu was always the dream, a full modern restaurant highlighting everything about this proud cuisine. The name is an offer and a desire at the same time, inspired by the feeling that giving your last piece of bread is much more honorable than eating it yourself.

But do not be afraid, the offerings here speak of bounty, a one-page menu lays these out easily. Besides the grilled meats that are most famous from the Balkans, another focus here are dishes called tavë, named for the clay vessel they are served in. A version of this dish with lamb and yogurt is considered the national dish of Albania, but tavë kosi is unfortunately not offered yet. There are six other kinds though, all of which made it hard to narrow down to one.

Muskujë viçi në tavë ($14.50, above) is the veal option, a thick section of pure meat in a savory reduction with peppers.

You will see many items used for centuries like this old tavë dish on the walls of the restaurant. Tools and decorations, cookware and clothing conjure up the past. Even the music follows the same beat.

It was hard to sample much while dining alone, but the pickled pepper appetizers seemed like a good bet not to be too filling. Spec n'turshi ($2.50, below) is pickled very sharply in the traditional Albanian way while spec me mazë n'turshi ($3.50, below back) is covered in creamy white cheese.

Both are crunchy and very enjoyable to eat, although it is hard to recommend against the cheesy version.

Return visits will of course knock off plates of grilled meats and more versions of the tavë. It is exciting to see a Balkan menu arrive with a more diverse array of the cuisine available there.

[UPDATE: The return visit happened faster than expected, with a group of 8 hungry people. Rating upgraded, photos below:]

Tradita salad $12

Fli $7

Tradita mixed grill platter x 2 $19 x 2

Pasul with smoked sausage $14

Kacamak $11

Sarma $13.50

Baklav and sheqer pare $5.50 each

Albanian coffee $4

Çka ka Qellu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato