>> Eat the World New York City

09 June 2017


KOREA ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท

A guess might be ventured that most people that come to Debasaki are doing so to imbibe, and convincingly the pages offering drinks on the menu are more plentiful than those with food. But in Korean and most far eastern drinking cultures, you do not go out just to drink. There must also be plenty of food to soak up the alcohol.

Debasaki is known around town for its fried chicken wings, even listed on Google Maps as a "Japanese fried chicken spot." While the country is off, the wings have made a name for themselves, especially their house special gyoza stuffed wings. These unique creatures are deboned and stuffed with your choice of fillings.

The table wanted more and opted for the half & half combo ($25, below), which gives you the choice of two styles.

Our choice of filling was kimchi and cheese, two ingredients paired together only when there is heavy drinking involved. Biting hard into a chicken wing without the fear of hitting bone is a weird experience in itself, but the wing failed to live up to expectations despite its superb exterior crisp. The spicy sweet soy garlic (right) were better and very spicy just as the staff warned.

A longtime favorite Korean drinking food has been budae jjigae ($27, below), which I think translates to "hot dog soup" in English. That is a lie, but hot dogs make up a good volume underneath the vibrant red broth along with Spam, kimchi, recently unpackaged dry ramen noodles, and chewy rice cakes.

The history of this dish is well worth a read, but the short version of it is Koreans making American foods more palatable with their own spices. There were plenty of hot dogs and Spam tins left behind on army bases after the Korean War, and it had to be used in such a time of hardship. There is even a town north of Seoul specifically known for its budae jjigae to this day.

With everyone in the mood for as many rice cakes as possible, the seafood tteokbokki & noodle ($21, below) was also ordered. We found it to be a little on the sticky sweet side, the sauce tasty but too heavy on the corn starch. The rice cakes used are great though, and the dish has a good portion of squid to enjoy.

As you can probably guess by the photos and prices, the portions here are very large and meant to be shared by big groups. The dining room is laid out with this in mind, and booths accommodate six people comfortably with high backs for privacy. Each table is like a small room for you and your group and even has a call button since waving down the staff is impossible when you cannot see them.

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DBSK- Debasaki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

05 June 2017

AK Laundromat/Pancho's Bagels To Go

Mร‰XICO ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ

In Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the sight of a woman selling elotes and esquites in front of a neighborhood laundromat is not all that surprising. It took a while to try her treats though, as the favorite esquites is a few storefronts down on the corner. What actually drew enough attention to warrant a stop was the handwritten sign behind her for quesadillas. This made the important promise of homemade tortillas, essential to any respectable quesadilla vendor.

Upon further investigation, this location has shifted parts for quite a few years now. 10 years back the space was occupied by a record store called Musica Latina, but around five years ago the "AK" franchise moved in and created a bodega with grill service, a place like so many others in New York City. By the end of 2013, they decided to install laundry machines and reduce the amount of "store."

The grill has since been taken over by a husband and wife team that seems to be completely separate from the laundromat in the back. For good measure, there is also an independent lottery stand to cure the boredom of the spin cycle. Up front, the only leftover from the bodega days is a case of drinks.

The wife spends most of her time outside running the aforementioned stand, which has a constant stream of passing customers grabbing snacks. A small cup of esquites (above) is $2.50, and can be loaded up with crema, queso, and a dusting of spicy pepper powder.

She comes in to help her husband when more than one customer is ordering from the grill. The menu inside offers bagels and breakfast, and if you look hard enough the name of the place is found to be Pancho's Bagels To Go. Without seating except small stools in the back for laundry customers, "to go" is unfortunately the only way food can be ordered, but the benches of Sunset Park are just a few steps away and provide tremendous views.

Quesadilla de chorizo

Stick to the quesadillas ($6 each with meat, $5 without, above and below), which come with either a standard flour tortilla or wheat version. They have very limited space and stick to just three meat options: chicken, beef, and chorizo. The latter, spicy cubes of Mexican sausage, is probably the best.

Each order is a good deal and comes with sliced avocado and pico de gallo on the side. Also an array of sauces create a Mexican tri-color flag of flavors. Eating the whole preparation alone is guaranteed to fill you up completely.

An order does not take long, but hanging out while waiting is quite enjoyable regardless. The laundromat has a boisterous atmosphere and people are dragging their giant bags of clothes in and out constantly. Not interested in the lottery apparently, I saw one man buy a beer and pour it into a coffee cup before returning to his machine.

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ

04 June 2017

Esquina Catracha Restaurante


Many times eating Central American food can be an underwhelming experience here in the city. The cuisine definitely has its own characters, even between countries, but usually does not have the flare of the more famous Mexican or South American cuisines that surround it geographically. Restaurants tend to cater to diaspora and have generalized menus focusing on the easier to cook items.

In this atmosphere, it was thrilling to have a meal at Esquina Catracha Restaurante in Union City, NJ. The restaurant technically shares its menu with El Salvador, but it is Honduran through and through. The interior is amazing, completely white and blue like the flag, full of football jerseys of the national team and its big bold "H" crest. Structural poles are painted blue and white, all the chairs upholstered with the same stripes from the flag. Cabinets are full of t-shirts and tchotchkes that tourists in the Bay Islands would buy before coming home, but might also interest homesick Catrachos.

If Honduras is able to qualify for the next World Cup in 2018, this place will definitely make our list of venues best for watching.

Before the plates come out, complimentary chips, beans, and cheese.

The typical breakfast plates looked so inviting, exact replicas of the simple hearty meals we were craving each morning during travels in Honduras. The staples here are important, and forgetting one would upset the balance of a Honduran meal. The eggs come flanked with beans, cheese, and tortillas, as well as a slice of avocado.

We were here for lunch though, so everyone ordered their own personal baleada con todo ($3.50, below), the flagship culinary creation of Honduras. The flour tortilla made here was slightly thicker than most and luxuriously fried for a thin crispiness around the pillowy center. "Con todo" means with everything, and that means beans, cheese, cream, meat, and egg. A side of avocado was ordered for the full splurge.

On its own, the cuisine is not very spicy, but pickled peppers come standard on every table to be added to anything as desired. Also green and red salsas from Guatemala were available.

Perfect for sharing and getting the full experience of what a typical Honduran kitchen makes daily, try the plato tรญpico hondureรฑo ($16.50, below). Centered around the rice sculpture, the typical platter includes carne asada, Honduran crema, a block of queso, chismol and avocado, and fried sweet plantains.

Carne asada can be one of those underwhelming things described earlier, but here it was better than any other Central American restaurant in the area, tender and full of flavor and less tough than usual. The excellent crema and queso is used in both of these dishes, but like a Honduran I could never get enough of these.

This section of Union City is unique in that it is an almost exclusively Central American enclave with most residents with roots in El Salvador. The menu probably offers Salvadoran cuisine for this reason, but we suggest sticking to the other side of the menu like most of the customers coming here.

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Esquina Catracha Restaurante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

30 May 2017

Schaller's Stube Sausage Bar


Ferdinand Schaller and Tony Weber met each other in New York City just before World War II and almost immediately decided to set up a shop in Yorkville. Ever since, it has been a special place. Recently the butcher shop and sausage maker has decided to add its own sausage bar next door to the provisions, offering an immediate taste of many of their creations.

Stepping inside the tiny place (far right in the photo above) gives an immediate impression of what is a really nice place to eat a sausage. The smells are the first introduction, and once your eyes adjust to the dark interior the sights follow with wood panels and German beer taps. Despite not being far away, it seems hidden from the street and commotion outside.

If you are not in the mood for a sausage, a beer and a side can be purchased for $8. You can use this to get a good German pilsner and the soft pretzel seen below. Schaller & Weber also makes their own German-style mustards, so I asked for the sweet option to go with the pretzel. It has a nice kick to it as well, more so than the Lรถwensenf I am used to.

The currywurst ($7, below) is a mixture of feelings, but the most important part shines. The sauce they make is excellent, a good combination of sweet and tart, with a healthy dousing of curry powder on top.

Unfortunately the bread, which comes out nice and toasty, is too wimpy and becomes soggy quite fast. If nothing is asked for specifically, they use a knackwurst for this dish. If possible, I would recommend swapping this out with their classic bratwurst, which Wechsler's Currywurst & Bratwurst used to use and seemed much more compatible with the sauce and firmer.

The prices are good, especially for the area. Eating a sausage, side, and beer comes in a few bucks short of a $20. If anyone decides to try their "Saigon Special" or "Chili Cheese Brat" let me know how that works out for you.

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Schaller's Stube Sausage Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2017 Champions League Finals: Real Madrid C.F. vs Juventus F.C.


The final match of Champions League takes place this Saturday in Cardiff, Wales. Juventus will be playing Real Madrid starting at 2:45pm ET. If you want to watch the game with fans of each team or country, or even certain players, here is a list of places we recommend for the best atmospheres and chances to eat and drink your culture.

ITALY ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น
Ground zero for Italian national team football and Serie A games in New York City is Ribalta Stadium, the name of Ribalta Pizzeria (48 East 12th Street, Greenwich Village) during big matches when the projector screen comes down. In Brooklyn, the unofficial meeting place for Juventus fans is Caffe Sportivo (7502 18th Avenue, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn). Check out their Facebook page for details about the pre-match BBQ they have planned. Other time-tested places for great experiences are Mulberry Street Bar (176 Mulberry Street, Little Italy) and right across the street Grotta Azzurra (177 Mulberry Street).

Juventus Club NYC meets at The Football Factory (6 West 33rd Street, Midtown).

SPAIN ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ
I have always found the best support options at smaller restaurants like La Nacional Tapas Bar (239 West 14th Street, Chelsea), which also has watch parties upstairs sometimes but appears not to for Champions League. Nearby Cafe Riazor (245 West 16th Street, Chelsea) also has a small but friendly bar, and if you happen to be in Newark, definitely head to Casa d'Paco (73 Warwick Street, Newark NJ) for perfect football atmosphere.

The official Peรฑa Madridista group has two locations, check their Facebook page for more info.

Smithfield Hall (138 West 25th Street, Chelsea) is New York City's best football bar, and will have a great atmosphere as always. Woodwork (583 Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Heights) is great in Brooklyn.

Fans from Colombia ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ด  will have their allegiances split between James Rodriguez (Madrid) and Juan Cuadrado (Juve), but expect Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights, Queens to be packed with fans in its many football bars. Good bets are Teatro Restaurante Blvd (82-24 Northern Blvd), La Pollera Colorada II (82-13 Northern Blvd), El Rumbero (82-05 Northern Blvd), and El Paisa Bar (87-05 Northern Blvd). On 37th Avenue, newcomer Barriles (83-14 37th Avenue) is a fantastic sports bar with good food.

Fans of Ronaldo ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡น will be at O Lavrador (138-40 101st Street, Jamaica, Queens) or in Newark, NJ. Try Madrid & Lisbon Bar & Restaurant (325 Lafayette Street, Ironbound) or Coimbra (637-641 Market Street, Ironbound).

Costa Rican ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ท fans will be cheering on Real Madrid and their goaltender Keylor Navas from their home bar Olga's Place (214 LT Glenn Zamorski Drive, Elizabeth, NJ). If you have the chance, this is a fantastic place to watch football.

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29 May 2017

Karen & Sharon Restaurant


On a recent walk in Bergen County on the way to the well-known Latin American neighborhoods of West New York and Union City, I was surprised to find somewhat of a Guatemalan enclave in parts of Fairview, Cliffside Park, and even as far north into Palisades Park, a neighborhood known for its Korean population. Near the southern end, there was a block with three Guatemalan delis occupying real estate amongst the Korean restaurants, staking claim for an always-expanding population. Groups of Guatemalan men waited on corners for day-rate work opportunities, while the quiet residential neighborhoods in the area were full of parked cars with blue and white flags of the country on their rear view mirrors.

There was no plan to eat Guatemalan food on this day, but I obsessively walked into each deli and restaurant I found, about a dozen in total, asking for some of my favorite hard to find Guatemalan dishes. Over in Jamaica, Queens exists the wonderful Tierras Centro Americanas, the only place in the city I ever found serving hilachas and jocรณn, dishes first experienced in travels through the country. Since first eating there over a decade ago, I have diligently asked the chefs at Guatemalan places in New Jersey, Brooklyn, and Queens whenever I run across them, without luck.

Having asked almost ten times on this day at various locations, I walked into Karen & Sharon not expecting much, but the lady nodded her head quickly after my request. Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, an order was placed and I sat down and took a look at the rest of the menu still skeptical that it was actually going to happen.

But there on the front cover of the menu was hilachas, apparently one of their featured dishes.

Excitement levels skyrocketed, these two ladies with rhyming names had somehow made the day. I took a seat at one of the eight or so tables available and enjoyed the white and blue environment. Stripes on the wall, flowers at the table, everything had to adhere to the strict patriotic theme inside.

The word "hilachas" means "rags" in English, and the dish somewhat resembles the more popular Cuban dish ropa vieja (old clothes). Both are prepared by shredding thin strips of beef. Various vegetables are combined with the strips of meat, which are slathered here with a red tomato and tomatillo sauce. Sometimes the dish reads more as a stew and is served in a bowl.

The version Karen & Sharon serve ($9, above) is potato-free, accompanied by a mound of white rice for starch, a basket of fresh tortillas, and a small vessel of black beans.

The cuts of beef are a bit chewy and tough, not as tender and of the quality at Tierras unfortunately, but still very satisfying.

Other exciting menu items not seen in a standard Guatemalan steam table deli are salpicon, a fresh salad of beef, mint, lime, tomato, pepper, and onion (amongst other ingredients), and subanik, a Mayan meat and chili pepper stew served during ceremonies.

๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡น ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡น ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡น
Karen & Sharon Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

26 May 2017

Arenie Armenian Gourmet Foods & Bakery


In the middle of a 25km walk one very warm May afternoon approaching 35 degrees celsius, there was an urgent need for a cool down and refreshment stop, which turned into a little more. A nondescript Armenian shop showed up like an oasis, but did everything I needed it to and more.

After grabbing a couple drinks from the refrigerated case, it was hard not to notice the four red boards advertising all the foods on offer that are made fresh to order.

Panini sandwiches using Armenian ingredients, beef lahmajoun, za'atar bread, and bouregs all plead their cases strongly to be the selection. In the end, knowing at least two meals were still to come in the day, one piece of lahmajoun ($2.99, below) won out over the others.

You will often find ground lamb on top of these, but here they used beef, the other most common topping. It is made fresh, so come with at least ten minutes to spare, well worth the wait. The beef is mixed with tomato, onion, green and red peppers, parsley, and Armenian spices. A wedge of lemon comes to be squeezed over everything, and the discs can also be ordered "hot & spicy" if desired.

Along with breads, it appears that people come in for bulk orders of these lahmajoun, available by the dozen for $15.99.

As well as a nice big bottle of cold Armenian water, I got hydrated with a delicious box of sour cherry juice, one of my favorite things in the world. To be honest, this is what I needed a dozen of on this day.

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Arenie Armenian Gourmet Foods & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

25 May 2017

My Grill Bar


For some years, the location at this address was called Shawarma Ave, an enticing name to be sure. In the last two years, the owners have rebranded more generically as My Grill Bar, but things look even nicer inside and the shawarma spits rotate with even better looking meats.

Given the neighborhood, the restaurant is glatt kosher like most places in Midwood, and describes itself as an "Israeli Grill." Otherwise, it would be hard to tell from most standard Middle Eastern restaurants solely from the menu.

Photo courtesy of mygrillbar.com

What was not immediately apparent but became a point of much interest was the access to the small salad bar (above) that opens up when you order a platter. Normally the salad bar can be purchased by weight, $3.50 per 1/2 lb. The beets, eggplant, and pickled vegetables were all fabulous, and a second plate had to be filled up. Unsure of the proper salad bar etiquette, this was done as quietly as possible.

A plate of hummus with falafel ($10, below) also brings a basket of warm, fresh bread. While the falafel fall flat, the hummus is very creamy and smooth and could not be much better. Shawarma and hummus always make a good combination, so having this plate around also made sense for the rest of the order.

The beautiful spits of shawarma mentioned earlier consist of chicken on the left and the house special turkey and lamb mixture on the right. We stuck with the normal chicken shawarma platter ($18, below) as the first choice, a very large plate of meat knifed off with their special shawarma blade, fresh salad of cucumber, tomato, and onion, and Israeli rice and beans.

The turkey and lamb shawarma is called "My Shawarma" and costs an extra $2 for the platter. A quick discussion after the meal with the proprietor about their specialty piqued the interest for next visit.

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My Grill Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato