>> Eat the World New York City

17 September 2017

Joeper's Smokeshack


In this part of Brooklyn, Flatbush Avenue becomes a major thoroughfare on its way out to the Marine Parkway Bridge and eventually the Rockaways. A rooftop pig in a chef apron marks the wedge of space between Marine Park, Mill Basin, and Flatlands, a tiny triangular corner has become home to Joeper's Smokeshack, a Brooklyn barbecue joint that replicates the dry rubbing and smoking styles of Memphis.

On a lazy weekday, I wandered in and enjoyed the small space and had a chat with the friendly proprietor, a man with a thick Brooklyn accent but definite southern hospitality. Open for six years now, Joeper's seems to be the culmination of decades of work cooking meats in the backyard.

The results are good. New York City is not known for its premium barbecue, but a few different styles have popped up here and there to generally mixed reviews. To my knowledge, Memphis-style barbecue is only represented by Joeper's, and a welcome addition to anyone seeking out good barbecue in the city.

Shown in the top left of the photo above is a trio of Memphis-style ribs, which attain their greatness from a dry rub. People in Memphis do not get caught dumping sauces on their already perfectly smoked ribs. Knowing not everyone has this good sense here in New York City, Joeper kindly has spent years creating his own recipes for different barbecue sauces. Seen to the left are what he calls "hot" and "sour" when offering, both of which can go nicely with the brisket, served in thin slices.

The "sour" version was most interesting, somewhat of a combination of different styles from the Carolinas with both mustard and vinegar. I also added a side of the bacon mac & cheese ($3.50), which rounded out the plate very well.

A bottle of bourbon used to sit in the window and is still the most important ingredient in the popular bourbon bread pudding, if you happen to have any space leftover for dessert.

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Joeper's Smokeshack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

City Tamale

Mร‰XICO ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ

Hunts Point usually figures into our imaginations with generally negative connotations; the prostitution that makes documentaries, high crime levels, and blocks dominated by faceless industry. Walking the neighborhood reveals more though, as colorful murals, some new parks overlooking the Bronx and East Rivers, and a few spots to eat here and there now vie for attention.

One of these small restaurants is City Tamale, one of the only brick and mortar establishments you will see that focuses on this steamed masa dish eaten in Mรฉxico and throughout Latin America. They do provide walk-in breakfast and lunch service to local customers and always have a few options available, but it seems that a lot of their business is also done with small restaurants around the city.

Five varieties are on the menu board, but the place is more than meets the eye. Ask which kinds they have available at the time you arrive and there may even be additional options not shown. Tamales (below) are $2 each or 3 for $5. What also is not shown on the board is that they also make tacos, tostadas, and other Mexican antojitos here for lunch customers.

All wrapped up and ready to go.

The tamal is such a wonderful invention, usually eaten for breakfast in Mรฉxico, and a stand-alone unit that has everything necessary already inside. No silverware is needed, so one or more tamales can be picked up on the go and eaten relatively cleanly using the corn husks to hold everything. In Mexican neighborhoods throughout the city, tamal vendors are spread out on different blocks making it always easy to find one. The best normally sell out quite early in the morning.

The version pictured above and below is the verde, full of shredded chicken and tomatillo salsa. It has a nice little kick and is moist and flavorful throughout.

The shop also has empanadas ($1.50, below) that are light and fluffy. This version was full of beef and very tasty, a good excuse to use some of their homemade salsa.

In addition to the verdes, City Tamale also advertises rojos, rajas, tinga, and dulce, all of which besides the sweet one we picked up for later consumption at home (below). All were of the same high quality and enjoyed equally.

Housemade jamaica or fresh juices including sandia fresca, a watermelon drink are available as well as horchata and tamarindo. If you have time, take your food south to Barretto Point Park or north to Hunts Point Riverside Park to see some of the newest improvements made to the neighborhood.

As seen in the top photo, the shop has a small pushcart and a street vending cart, which are not just for show. You can find them at a festival here and there, as well as Smorgasburg if you're lucky.

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City Tamale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

08 September 2017

Grin African American Restaurant


I often get the sense that West African restaurants are not exactly trying to get new customers. They have a bit of a formula and telltale signs of this: darkened windows or pulled shades, a lack of menu or information on the outside, and a weirdly common "African American" moniker on the awning that would be deciphered completely incorrect by a unknowing passerby.

Before opening the door, it is often impossible to know what atmosphere you will find on the inside. On a sunny day, this is especially true as your eyes struggle to adjust to the dark interiors. At Grin in Morrisania, the interior could not be more different from what you see outside, as tables full of boisterous men are dining and laughing together.

These groups of friends are at least partly cab drivers, as the street in front is densely double-parked with green and livery cars. A third row of vehicles stops and jumps in to order takeout. These waves of people were on and off during the whole time we dined in, and various other couples and women with children filled the other tables. Even before taking the first bite it is apparent that Grin has something special happening.

You will get by here no matter what because everyone is super friendly, but if you know a French-speaking friend, bring them along as all the ladies speak French as in Cรดte d'Ivoire. A white board behind the plexiglass and counter serves as a way of advertising what dishes they are cooking on any given day, but by having a conversation you may find even more available.

The cooking styles here are simple, so dishes are listed mostly just as the animal that you are eating. Our server went through a good list of choices, including the lamb (above, actually goat) and chicken (below). Both are lightly fried and covered with a sauce of onion, pepper, tomato, and lemon juice. The magic here is the marinade though, as deep within the flesh there is always so much flavor in every bite.

Using the same style, the guinea fowl (above) was also a treat, but the fried fish (below) was possibly the most popular dish on the table.

All main dishes are priced at $15, include the choice of one side, and are vastly too much for one person to finish. Besides the cassava and salad below, the table also enjoyed fried sweet plantains and a heaping portion of rice.

The demographics of our dinner group spanned four continents, but everyone seemed thoroughly delighted with the meal. It is hard to quantify exactly how well everyone took to the experience here.

Do note that Grin is quite far from any trains and hills will be a part of any walk here. Check out the bus connections and/or plan on grabbing a cab if necessary.

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Grand African Amer Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

07 September 2017

Lammy's Restaurant & Lounge


I have now lingered at the window counter seating in Lammy's twice, finishing my meal and enjoying this moderately busy corner in Wakefield, as well as the comings and goings of its patrons. No matter how long you stay, there is a good chance that you will never be the only customer. Lammy's is an old neighborhood favorite that always has someone coming in hungry. It is also an important place for anyone with a flyer to distribute, as the basket near the front door attributes. Many sets of Jamaican and various Caribbean eyes walk through this door on a daily basis.

When you see smoke coming out of an old oil barrel and pieces of jerked meat coming out fresh, it is safe to go ahead and order a meal of it. Otherwise it is hard to know when the meat was cooked and how fresh it will be. On a first visit, the safe road was taken with a heaping (small) order of stew chicken (above). Above a good portion of rice and peas, the excellent chicken can also be accompanied by some greens and as much gravy as requested.

On a second visit and with the confirmation that the first meal was so good, a bit of a risk was taken with an order of jerk pork (below). The meaty bits were quite dry while the fatty pieces offered more moisture. After a couple bites I returned back to the counter to get a few scoops of the oxtail gravy, which made everything balance perfectly.

In regular Caribbean steamtable fashion, before setting your heart on something, ask what is available on the day and pick from the choices offered.

Lammy's advertises a lounge, and if you use the restrooms you must walk through this space to get there. It is unclear when the lounge opens though, and if they sell alcohol it was not visible from the small main room where people order. Maybe it is available for wedding receptions?

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Lammy's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

06 September 2017

Los Nisperos Seafood

PERรš ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช

Besides possibly a branch or two of the ubiquitous Pio Pio chain, Los Nisperos might be the only outpost for Peruvian food in the Bronx. (That is almost certainly false, but hey I only have 7 days per week). Stopping by recently, we were happy to report that the food is actually quite good, so uptown and Bronx patrons do not have to head out to neighborhoods in Queens or Paterson, NJ for their fixes anymore.

The absolute best way to start your meal is with a cup of delicious chicha morada (below), the distinctly Peruvian sweet drink made with purple corn. This drink traces its heritage back to pre-Columbian times and is spiced with cloves and cinnamon after the corn has been boiled with pineapples. Wildly popular now, it is available throughout the country and luckily for us in any Peruvian restaurant here in NYC.

Another feature of most Peruvian restaurants in the area, although not as much in Paterson, is having dual focuses for the menu. Peruvian-style Chinese (called chifa) is just as popular as some of the traditional foods, and has blended itself into many dishes rather seamlessly. Los Nisperos offers chifa as well, and a plate of lomo salteado (below) is probably the #1 seller.

Served on a bed of fried potatoes, the juices soak into both them and the accompanying rice. The beef is not quite as flavorful as normal, and might signal that the restaurant tends to concentrate their energies more on traditional foods and seafood as the name suggests.

This meal did not call for seafood though, with a plate of anticuchos and papa a la huancaina (below) winning out. The marinade of this beef heart was miles better than the lomo.

Traditionally you find skewers of anticuchos on the street in Peru, groups of vendors will cluster together in parks selling this most-cherished of foods, plumes of smoke sending signals to hungry folks nearby. A typical night out might include a skewer of this and another of fried donuts called picarones. Unfortunately Los Nisperos does not offer the latter, but their huancaina sauce more than makes up for it. That sweet tooth will need to be satisfied elsewhere.

Right on busy East 149th Street, this restaurant is also a calm reprieve from the bustle. The friendly staff and Peruvian beer make it even more enjoyable in case you have a little bit of time to spare in Mott Haven.

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Los Nisperos Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

03 September 2017

Jalloh Family Restaurant


It appeared that the representation of Sierra Leone with its own Bronx restaurant had ended a few years back when B&B African & American Restaurant on Webster Avenue changed hands and chefs to folks from Guinea and become Adaya ML. This was only true for non-West Africans from outside of the area though, as Jalloh Family Restaurant has been around for at least 10 years. Having never strolled down this section of Third Avenue, it was new to me and now new to these pages, and of interest for anyone dedicated to seeking out the foods of Sierra Leone.

Surrounded by noisy auto shops and a West African market next door, Jalloh is a respite for sore feet and empty bellies. On days of agreeable weather, only a wooden screen door separates the interior from the street, creaking open and thwacking shut as customers come and go. These sounds conjure up a sleepy old rural country home and the people inside do little to intrude with these mental images. Not knowing if I should help myself, I had to basically wake someone up to ask.

The system here, similar to many West African steam tables around the city, is one of self-service. Heap all the food you want to eat into takeout containers and have them weighed to get your price. Most customers, many of which are cabbies, grab quick plates to take with them, but there are always a few seats around for eating in as well.

The cost per pound was not inquired about, but the plate above with jollof rice, chicken with mustard sauce, goat in root vegetable, and some sweet plantains came to only $6 even. To be fair to some of the amazing West African chefs around the city, the meats and sauces here were a bit of a step down, but the meal took place very late in the afternoon. At 12 noon, it could be guessed that everything would be at its peak freshness. That being said, the restaurant stays open 24 hours a day.

Because of these hours, the place has taken on a fair bit of dirt and grime, but the steam table is immaculately taken care of even if the tables could use a wipe down.

They have homemade sorrel ($2, above) and ginger juices, which are recommended to cut the generally oily nature of West African sauces. This delicious bottle went way too fast and had to be replenished.

One large difference here is the presence of English, as this is the common and official language of Sierra Leone. Almost four-fifths of Sierra Leoneans practice Islam, and customers and staff still greet each other with "as-salamu alaykum" and big smiles. The restaurant obviously has a strong feeling of community and has proven this for at least a decade.

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Jalloh Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

29 August 2017

Sunken Hundred

WALES ๐Ÿด๓ ง๓ ข๓ ท๓ ฌ๓ ณ๓ ฟ

The flag of Wales is unfortunately not setup for web viewing as an emoji yet, but someday the dragon will shine on this page above when that is corrected. Sunken Hundred also chooses not to display the national flag, opting instead for the flag of Saint David that is visible over the door on the front. This yellow cross on black has recently been adopted as a symbol of Welsh nationalism and/or a dissatisfaction with the current flag.

Wales is surrounded by the sea on three sides, a connection that feels immediate in the country but also here before opening the door. Once inside, photos are hung from the coast and underwater, while boating flags and the minimalist design all speak to this relationship as well. Opening the menu turns to the wide range of creatures and plants from the sea ready to be eaten.

Order a beer at the bar, and a complimentary small bowl of salty seaweed fritters shows up. Seaweed is another ingredient that pervades throughout the menu, as does leeks, which we will see later. These set the tone immediately.

Always coming here alone, the dishes sampled for this page all turned out to be appetizers and bar snacks, although this turned out not to be such a bad decision. Welsh cheddar cheese and leek are the main ingredients of the Glamorgan croquettes ($9, below). Seeming to riff of the more famous Glamorgan sausage, a vegetarian variety with similar ingredients, these croquettes come with a well-fried exterior that takes a bit of work to break through.

It is strongly recommended (from the bar) that you top your croquettes with their house made seaweed mustard, seen behind. While very tasty, some bites without are also good, letting your tastebuds focus in on the Welsh national vegetable: leeks.

The lamb pasty ($9, below) is made with an exquisite short crust, so buttery and flaky. The meat inside almost seems like an afterthought with such a nice container, although the tomato chutney does help to add some herbal and sweet tones.

Without exposure to the nuances of Welsh cuisine, most North Americans are at least familiar with Welsh rarebit ($10, below), a simple dish of toast with melted cheese. The Welsh love to roast their cheeses, and the version of the popular dish here is just as tasty as it looks and sounds.

Welsh beer is available on draft, as well as a few others like the Belhaven Scottish Black that was enjoyed during these visits. For Smith Street, Sunken Hundred is miles away from any pretension or unnecessary posh. The people here are friendly without prompting and had warm smiles on each visit. The bar seating, especially near the window, is one of the most comfortable places in the area to have a beer and grab a bite.

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Sunken Hundred Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

22 August 2017

Ugly Baby Restaurant


Kanlaya Supachana is back! Well, sort of...

The much beloved chef formerly of Kao Soy and then Chiang Mai, two restaurants in Red Hook, Brooklyn briefly serving Northern Thai food has returned in spirit to create two new restaurants. Unfortunately for us, one of them is going to be in North Carolina, where Chef Supachana now lives. She has left the reigns of her Brooklyn empire to her partner chef, who has opened Ugly Baby in Carroll Gardens. After a first visit, the spirit seems to be alive and well.

In the deep south of Carroll Gardens, just below the point where F and G trains come out from underground on their way to Smith/9th Streets and onwards to the BQE and Red Hook, Ugly Baby has set up in the location of a former gourmet sandwich shop.

They have left the open plan as is and painted colorful murals on both walls. The kitchen is in full view, so you can stroll back to eavesdrop on your meal being prepared or more likely to kiss the shoes of the chef making your amazing meal.

Despite being known for Northern Thai, now the chefs are expanding with a few dishes from central and southern Thailand. The Muslim south is wonderfully represented by gai golae ($10, below), two skewers of chicken that put normal satay to shame. This is named after the colorful curving fishing boats used by fisherman, and uses very thick and tender juicy pieces of chicken. More ingredients in the sauce make it much more flavorful and spicy than the varieties that generally just taste sweet and peanutty.

The large portion of laab ped udon ($16, below) had a uniqueness we could not quite put our finger on. It was served with an herb that immediately gave me the memories of Laos when I ate it. Upon a bit of later research, this herb called Vietnamese coriander in English is indeed used a lot in Lao and Isaan renditions of laab. This version hails from Udon Thani, an Isaan city just over the border from Vientiane, Laos and is the creation of Chef On, who took care of our meal on a Saturday afternoon.

The fresh and rather large chunks of spicy duck are well complemented with kaffir leaves, mint, cucumber, cabbage, and green beans. Part of its unique flavoring comes from a coating of tamarind sauce.

Gang hung le has made an impression here in New York City in the former Northern Thai restaurants of Red Hook and also Thai Diva in Sunnyside, Queens. This pork curry is deep in richness and color, and beloved on its own. It is also the main ingredient on occasions when too much food is brought to the temple to feed monks during important events. The meat will be stir-fried with glass noodles, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, chilis, and other ingredients to create a "kitchen sink" type dish out of all the leftovers.

This dish, kang hoh ($16, below), is passed out amongst all the people that brought foods and came to temple for celebration. Here at Ugly Baby, the dish is a must-try for its complete uniqueness in New York City.

Possibly the most famous northern dish is khao soi, a curry noodle soup made with boiled and crispy fried egg noodles. In Chiang Mai restaurants specializing in the dish, you usually have the choice between chicken and beef, but here in New York we usually see this dish only offered with chicken. Ugly Baby has decided to end this trend, offering khao soi nuer ($15, below), with beautiful tender pieces of beef shank and beef meatballs.

Just the right amount of red chili is in the bowl for decent heat, but this soup should not be overwhelmed. An assortment of pickled vegetables and the squeezing of a lime add nice sour notes. The curry itself is divine, only slightly sweet and just right. This is definitely a dish that should not be tried by the run-of-the-mill Thai restaurants all over the city because it takes a highly skilled chef.

This beautiful bowl, while slightly more expensive, reminded me of the amazing versions served at Khao Soi Lam Duan, my favorite spot in Chiang Mai for the soup.

Ugly Baby is officially open for business on Friday, September 1st, serving dinner only on weekdays and lunch and dinner on weekends. This meal was eaten during a "friends and family" soft opening and was unexpectedly fully comped. Not a word (besides this paragraph) would have been different had we been able to pay. As they find their feet and start running, I expect the restaurant to get even better and keep wowing patrons from all over the city as word gets out and this becomes a destination.

Why not?

[UPDATE: Photos below from a second visit. Will add some words soon.]

Kua kling $20

Pla tod kamin $16

Tom kha pla salid bai makam onn $18

Gluay tub (comped)

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407 Smith Street
Ugly Baby Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato