Back at it again- working in New York City and exploring various eats and cheap eats this grand city has to offer. For those of you that don’t know about Grubstreet’s ‘Absolute Best of New York’ Reviews- well go look at it. It’s awesome and they list at least 5 recommendations for almost every food group from fried chicken to BBQ to steakhouses. Great to pull up on the smart phone when you are out and about and need a few hours to kill and you know exactly what food you are craving.
Here were my cravings this past week:
Andy’s Deli– few locations
What sounded as a fun and great New York Deli turned out to be a slight disappointment. Nothing super exciting but cheap Boar’s Head brand deli meat sandwiches with the works on a big roll. I guess I was expecting too much. But in their defense- it was exactly what was advertised- a bargain stuffed sandwich.
Jin Ramen-462 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 (Upper Westside)
I was recommended this place last time I was in town and, sadly, ran out of time to go pay a visit. When I finished work early the first night back in the city on the upper west, you bet your bottom dollar I fled over to this place to sample. Jin Ramen, which occupies a few locations in the city, is a little more upscale for a noodle bar. The one on the upper west has a bar and cozy tavern feel when you walk in. Since I was alone, I opted for a seat at the bar to chat with the bartender and look at all the various high end Japanese whiskeys. Although I had every intent to commit to a HUGE bowl of noodles in a rich bone broth, the bartender actually recommended I try the house fried gyozas and a rice bowl with soy braised brisket, mixed mushrooms and tofu. With a light Japanese lager, it really hit the spot. Fresh ingredients and flavors, incredibly outgoing and passionate staff and affordable. I really liked this place and can’t wait to go back and actually try the ramen!
Lavain Bakery- 167 West 74th Street (Upper westside)
Arguably rated New York City’s best chocolate chip cookies. Well, the cookies are of the chewy and soft variety and they are buttery, rich bombs! One cookie could probably have enough calories as one needs in a day. Other notable varieties are ‘chocolate walnut’, ‘double chocolate’, ‘oatmeal raison’ and ‘chocolate peanut butter’. Who doesn’t love a cookie that contains a stick of butter per cookie??
Hometown Barbecue – 454 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (Redhook)
While doing research and ogling over all the barbecue videos and books in preparation for an upcoming project, I decided I had to make the trek out to Redhook to try the top rated BBQ brisket (according to Grubstreet) in New York City.
What an awesome joint.. Although I haven’t [yet] been to very many Barbecue joints, I can say that this place is capturing the simplicity of a typical southern joint with perhaps a Brooklyn flair. There was a little line (which I suspected) which wasn’t as bad as I thought that moved very quick up to the counter where brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs and turkey were cut to order and served on a good ol’ metal tray lined with paper with some sides and a big ol’ hunk of cornbread dipped in honey butter. I was in heaven..
Now Barbecue is the kind of thing that traditionally is eaten at lunch time rather than dinner. Although there are plenty places that serve late night barbecue, it was always an early in the day kind of fare. For a couple reasons: a) The food is rich and heavy. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more likely to burn off that fatty brisket and pulled pork after lunch by walking it off or returning to work than I am after dinner and them tucking into bed. b) The origins of Southern Barbecue originated during the turn of the 19th century when German and Czech immigrants would sell various meats for other migrant workers. Smoking the meat was the best way to preserve it and utilize the tougher, less desirable and naturally less expensive cuts like the brisket and these joints were open during typical early day market hours.
Back to Hometown- the brisket and pork were amazing. Beautiful smokey and tender flavors and texture. I did have a significant amount of time to kill so I literally camped out here for 2 hours while writing, checking emails, and taking alternating mouthfuls of smoked meat, cornbread and coleslaw.
The guy at the counter apologized for the line being so long. He better get used to it and look forward it to being a lot longer because I have a feeling this place is finally getting all the attention it deserves.
In fact, Brooklyn Barbecue is getting as much attention (if not a tad more) than the southern styles of barbecue. While I won’t attempt to write about that controversial and senstive topic, check out the this latest article in ‘Munchies’ covering it.
Banh Mi Saigon Bakery-198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013 (Chinatown)
On the last day before I had to book over to the Bronx, I new I wanted something quick, cheap and tasty. So I thought I’d hit up this recommended banh mi joint over on Grand Street while catching up with a dear friend. It’s a no frills little place that is impeccably clean with very friendly staff. Walking in, it’s a bakery with a jewelry counter to the left side. I didn’t have a need for jewelry today so I made a b-line straight for the counter with a tower of bread. When I asked the guy at the counter which banh mi sandwich I should try from their list of about 20, he looked at me and pointed at the ‘BBQ pork banh mi’. Good man….he knows me. Although it sounded delicious, I opted for the classic- Ham, pate, carrot slaw and roasted pork on a warm and toasty french bread. For $5, I was delighted with my choice and could have easily bought another for the ride back home, even if it got stale and bread crumbs ended up in every corner of my car.
The banh mi sandwich is perhaps what the club sandwich was in the 90’s. It appears on a lot of bar and sandwich menus and has various versions and creative components. At it’s classic best, its a toasted baguette, ham, smooth liver pate, carrot and cucumber ‘slaw’, and loads of cilantro. The French influence on the Vietnamese around the 1950’s led to this great collaboration of ingredients and, like I said, has managed to really create a buzz today with foodies and chefs.
Until next time….