Sunday, July 5, 2015

In search of 红烧肉..

In Search of

(Hong Shao Rou)

Many of you haven't heard of this traditional Chinese dish and you're not alone.. 
It's very rare to find it on a restaurant menu here in the states as it is usually 
a treat reserved for family gatherings (aka something grandma makes). 
But, it is well worth the search if you're willing to look for it!

Hong Shao Rou (红烧肉) or red cooked (braised) pork is a classic entree from mainland China. It's prepared using pork belly and a combination of ginger, garlic, aromatic spices, chili peppers, sugar, light and dark soy, and rice wine. The pork belly is cooked until the fat and skin are gelatinous and melt easily in the mouth, while the sauce is usually thick, sweet and fairly sticky.

As the English name suggests, the melt in the mouth texture is formed as a result of a long braising process, using relatively little liquid. A little juice is good though especially when served over rice or with Bao (buns) to soak up the goodness!

Hong Shao Rou made for me by Dana Tang!

Since it is such a popular dish (purportedly Chairman Mao's favorite) across China and especially in Shanghai it does vary slightly from place to place in the basic preparation, presentation, or even name! The most common to look for are Hong Shao Rou, Hongshao Rou, Hungshao Rou, Mao Pork Belly, Braised Pork Belly, or any combination herein. If all else fails look for 红烧肉 especially if some or all of the menu is written in Chinese.

Ones that are similar, but not the same are Twice Cooked Pork, Waipo Kaorou aka "Grandma's Meat", Twice Cooked Pork Belly, Dong Po Pork, Mei Cei Kou Rou (steamed pork belly with pickled mustard greens), Braised Pork Belly with Arrowroot, and Cantonese Roast Pork Belly. There are similar dishes across Asia- In Taiwan they have a pork belly sandwich called "Gao Bao" that is basically Hong Shao Rou in a steamed bun. In Japan their own version is called Kakuni, in Malaysia it's Tau Yew Bak, and in Indonesia theirs is named Babi Kecap. If you do happen to order any one of these don't fret- they are all delicious and equally as good!

Here are some of examples of the "pretenders" 
that can commonly be found and they are ALL worth a try!

Twice Cooked Pork at Hong Kong BBQ in Denver

Dong Po Pork at Shanghai Cafe Deluxe in NYC

Twice Cooked Pork Belly at Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine
(unfortunately now permanently closed) in Aurora, CO

"Chairman Bao" (Gao Bao) at Baohaus in NYC

Pork Belly with Pickled Mustard Greens (Mei Cei Kou Rou) 
at China Taipei in Centennial, CO

It is indeed an illusive dish that is gaining in popularity. Reportedly in areas of the Pacific Northwest (where I'm originally from- go figure..) it is being presented at trendy restaurants in one form or another- especially in the Portland area. As for Colorado it is still very tough to seek out. Making it even more difficult my beloved go-to "real-deal" Chinese restaurant Chef Liu's Authentic Chinese Cuisine has closed forever leaving a gaping hole in the Asian food scene in Denver. It was one of the best Chinese restaurants I've ever been to! Out of all the places I've eaten in the search for Hong Shao Rou it was the one establishment anywhere that had nearly every type of Chinese-style preparation of pork belly on the menu. Truly a shame..

"Braised Pork Belly" (Hong Shao Rou) at Chef Liu's, one of the many places 
you have to look for 红烧肉 on the untranslated "secret" Chinese menu!

Don't fret though Denver-ites! There is still one place you can get the real thing though. As i've mentioned before the best feature of the Yelp App is that you can do a search for specific food items! It pulls from posted menu's, reviews, and photo descriptions so you will need to scroll through the pictures to see if it is really the thing you're looking for and what it might be called on their menu.. The next best feature? You can bookmark the restaurant in the app and save it for later for quick access! 

Anyway, in doing this I stumbled across JJ's Chinese Seafood Restaurant! It's not much to look at from the outside (or even from the inside) especially at night, but the food here is great if for nothing else than the Hong Shao Rou and the Cumin Ribs.. Always get the ribs..

"Braised Pork Hometown Style" or 家乡红烧肉 on the "Chef's Special" Menu
 at JJ's Chinese Seafood Restaurant (on Alameda) in Denver. 
Notice the last three characters are Hong Shao Rou.

Even though we do serve a lot of pork belly (bacon) it probably won't make it on the menu at The Little Diner (or anywhere here in Vail, CO in the near future) as its too expensive and time consuming for most establishments. Worst case scenario if you can't find it? No problem! Just make it yourself like I do. It's fairly easy to do, but the hardest part may be finding actual pork belly and a few of the ingredients- especially in a rural area. Most gourmet groceries and international markets will have what your looking for. I have found many great recipe's- [here], [here], [here], [here], and [here].

I'm sure by now you're wondering where the best one I've had was? Well, on my last trip to NY  I really made a concerted effort to find the "real thing" using the aforementioned Yelp technique. After three trips into Chinatown and two trips into Flushing to about 9 different restaurants and I finally found it! The most delicious (so far) was discovered at Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan right on Main St. in Flushing (Queens), NY. Also, be sure to get the Cumin Ribs here- they are worth the trip too! ;)

Behold! Revel in it's awesomeness! The BEST Hong Shao Rou to date.
"Braised Pork, Mao's Style" at Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan in Flushing.

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

By Popular Request: New York Restaurant Recommendations 2015

People have been asking for it and now I finally had the chance to deliver.. I've been writing most of these down on little slips of paper for customers for years. Now it can be accessed by anyone at anytime on the internet! 
But first some background info and a few caveats..

My Wife and I have been together for a fairly long time and my Dad is from Binghamton so I’ve been visiting New York pretty much my entire life (even though I grew up in Seattle). Since Peg and I started dating in college (we were lab partners at Arizona State) we’ve been taking trips back to The City at least once a year. Usually for at least two weeks at a time, but sometimes totaling more than a month to visit her family in Pelham, NY which is located just outside NYC in Westchester County. We love the food and the music so we always take time when we visit to find new places, return to old favorites, and take in a concert or a show or two! Plus, it's great "research" for us at The Little Diner and I can always find more flavors than are available here in Vail, CO or even in Denver for that matter.

I didn’t really include too many of the higher end or trendy places like Daniel, ABC Kitchen, Delmonico’s, The Spotted Pig, Per Se, Del Posto, DBGB, Gramercy Tavern, Collichio & Sons, Esce, Jean-Georges, The Palm, Union Square Cafe, Le Bernadin, Alder, Little Owl, Eleven Madison Park, etc.- because what would I add really.. You, me, and the rest of the world all know they’re great! They are all on the tv, they all get great reviews online, and everyone argues about which one is the best restaurant in The City..

As far as I'm concerned the best deal in town (for a really nice multi course meal) is The James Beard House. All the events are very affordable for what you get and all the best chefs from around the world come to you! Check their website to see what's coming up. Also on their website are recent nominees and past award winners for the prestigious James Beard Awards- always a great resource to find great places to dine. My favorite is the "America's Classics" category.

While a few of the recommendations below fall into the same categories as the high-end/ haute cuisine guys (some my suggestions are even owned by the same people I mentioned above) - the places I’ve chosen to list below have a little extra that sets them apart other than the greatness of the food. Whether it’s the history, value, experience, or service they all have something more to offer! Plus, since they’re spread out all over the boroughs (or further) a part of the fun is getting to them and seeing areas you might not otherwise get to experience.

In addition to finding out new places from friends and customers I also like the recommendations made by New York Magazine in their “Eater" and "Grub Street” pages & columns. Gothamist is good too..

Other than using TripAdvisor and Yelp for looking at overall restaurant rankings and reviews (which I always do) a “new" (to me) feature that I like to use (especially for foreign cuisine) is to type a specific food item I’m looking for into the search window on Yelp. It will then give you a list of restaurants that have that item either on the menu, in reviews, or in photo descriptions. Then, I look at the photo’s to see what looks good. If I’m trying to find something really specific I usually disregard the reviews and ratings (unless they are truly atrocious) and give it a shot! I’ve been pleasantly surprised doing it this way going to places with a marginal rating, not to mention the excitement of trying something new and different!

New York is quite possibly the food capitol of the United States if nothing else for the sheer variety of flavors that so many different cultures bring. This is no definitive guide by any means- nor is it any kind of standard someone should give any real merit to.. These are all just great places to eat that I’ve been to and enjoyed. I feel confident that you will too! If something does go horribly wrong though, try not to be too hard on them. Everything is subjective, especially so in the restaurant industry. Please give them the benefit of the doubt and possibly give them another shot down the road because to me personally if the food is good or has potential I can overlook almost anything!
Thank you.


Minetta Tavern- 113 MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village - The first real "designer" burger in NYC (with proprietary mixture of meat in the grind- all prime cuts from Pat La Freida). Get the original Black Label Burger with the caramelized onions- get nothing else- get it medium-rare & do not put anything on it or the fresh cut fries that come with it (well, maybe the homemade mayo for the fries)! Just eat it the way it comes where Hemmingway used to drink and revel in its awesomeness.

Shake Shack- Multiple Locations (Spreading like wildfire..)
- Believe the hype! If I have time I usually get one for the road in Grand Central regardless of what I eaten previously on the way back to Westchester on Metro North.

Burger Joint- 119 W. 56th St., Midtown West (Le Parker Meridien Hotel) or 33 W. 8th St., Greenwich Village
- Solid Burgers & Boozy Shakes!

db Bistro Moderne- 55 W. 44th St. #1, Midtown West (City Club Hotel)
- Go for lunch and get The Original db Burger (Mmm Fois Gras)!

Peter Luger Steak House- 178 Broadway, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)
- The longtime champ for best burger in NYC before the recent “gourmet" burger craze.

Korzo- 667 5th Ave. Brooklyn (South Slope)
- Burger grilled to temp then deep fried inside a Hungarian pastry.. Need I say more?

Leno’s Clam Bar- 755 Pelham Rd., New Rochelle, NY
- AKA Greasy Nicks! This is my go-to burger joint near the In-Law’s house. Just your standard thin grilled double cheeseburger with grilled onions on a Freihofer bun, but the combo is fantastic! So good in fact that the caramelized onion burger on our menu is named "The Greasy Nick". This is a no nonsense seafood shack on the side of the road across the street from Long Island Sound and is only open April - October. The clam strips are great too!

White Diamond Restaurant- 1207 Raritan Rd., Clark, NJ
- Your typical Jersey diner car that serves awesome sliders! They have all the other stuff too, but the real treat are the little sliders- don’t go for the bigger one.. Similar to White Castle, but better! And, WAY tastier than White Manna up in Hackensack.

Ramen Burger- 899 Bergen St., Brooklyn (Berg’n Beer Hall/ Brooklyn Flea in Crown Heights as well as their original booth at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg)
- Ramen “patties” act as the bun for this cheese burger with mixed greens, scallions, and a soy based sauce. It’s actually a pretty tasty combination and worth braving the long line once (or twice)..

Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern

Slice of Pizza- 

Joe's Pizza- 7 Carmine St., West Village
- The BEST pepperoni slice in The City!   Bar None.

Don Pepe (Pepi) Pizza- 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, Midtown West (Penn Station, Main Concourse)
- Great slice! Probably the best in Midtown despite no one being able to list the name correctly online. For the record, the sign says "Don Pepi Pizza”.

Ben’s Pizzeria- 123 MacDougal St., Greenwich Village
- Get the “Grandma’s Slice” and a Gino’s Italian Ice.

Rocky’s Pizzeria & Restaurant- 607 2nd Ave., Murray Hill
- Dizzying array of unique topping choices. I like the Chicken Marsala! Great neighborhood joint.

Patsy’s Pizzeria- 2287 1st Ave., East Harlem
- This was the original Patsy"s Pizzeria opened back in 1933 (when Spanish Harlem was an Italian neighborhood). In my opinion it's the only one worth visiting since the other two are just franchises anyway. Patsy Lancieri let his young cousin Patsy Grimaldi work here starting at the age of 13 and eventually opened his own Patsy's under the Brooklyn Bridge in 1991, but was unaffiliated with those other two franchises. After Patsy died he left it to his wife who ran it for a short time before selling it to Frank Brija who then sued Grimaldi over the name. You can read all about the "Coal Oven Pizza Wars" [here]. Legend has it that Frank Sinatra would even have his pizza's flown out to Vegas when he played there.. It's still awesome though AND the only coal oven place in the city that will sell you a single slice! Well worth a visit.

Sal & Carmine’s Pizza- 2671 Broadway, Manhattan Valley (Upper West Side)
- Another great slice if you’re in the area! I have friends that used to live near it that swear they have the best in Manhattan.

Louie & Ernie’s Pizza- 1300 Crosby Ave, Bronx (Schuylerville)
- I try to go here at least once when I’m in town. They get their own sausage made by a local butcher. I usually just get a couple slices, but I could easily polish off at least a half a large pie if I lost control- which happens often! LoL

L & B Spumoni Gardens- 2725 86th St., Brooklyn (Gravesend)
- The BEST Sicilian style (square & thick) slice anywhere in town! The Spumoni Ice Cream and Rice Balls are awesome too. Well worth the trip out to the far reaches.

Saccone’s Pizzeria- 56 6th St., New Rochelle, NY
- My favorite local pizza place when I’m at the in-laws.  Maria (the owner) is a gem. Great pizza- plus the stuffed peppers are to-die-for! Fantastic Italian Ice too!

Still my absolute fave for a single slice

Whole Pie (Coal Fired Oven- mostly)-

Juliana's- 19 Old Fulton St, Brooklyn
- I used to recommend Grimaldi's that had to move a few doors down from this space after loosing their lease. Lucky for us Patsy had a falling out with his business partner for cutting corners so he opened this place in his original location after his non-compete clause ran out! You can read about the "Coal Oven Pizza Wars" [here]. And for the better- you can now get a pie worth waiting for! Arrive between 2 & 3pm on a week day to avoid the REALLY long lines.. My go-to pizza spot when I have friends in town with all the great sightseeing and views nearby.
Lombardi's- 32 Spring Street, Nolita
- The Original! The oldest pizzeria in the USA. Also, the place that taught Patsy Grimaldi, John, and Totonno how to make pizza before they decided to branch out and start their own restaurants.

Di Fara Pizza- 1424 Ave J., Brooklyn (Midwood)
- Dom is king and it is well worth the long trip to see the master at work- on an off day- at a weird early hour (to avoid the lines, also call ahead to be sure they’re open). He sells slices, but why would you do that? He makes some of the best pizza’s you will ever know. Get the “classic” pie w/ sausage, peppers, mushrooms, & onions (and maybe a slice of Sicilian), wait a loooong time (go next door to MD Kitchen and get a an app, a hero, or some pasta while you wait), pay high prices, and enjoy!

John’s of Bleecker Street- 278 Bleecker St., West Village
- My go-to spot when I’m in the mood for a whole pie in The Village. Not super expensive either.

Totonno Pizzeria Napolitana- 1524 Neptune Ave., Brooklyn (Coney Island)
- Worth going once (or twice), this icon is great (at least for the food).. Go for the pizza, not the hospitality. Keep it simple with Pepperoni, Sausage & Basil and beer- other drinks are kind of overpriced.

Luzzos- 211 1st Ave., East Village
- The new(ish) kid on the block was voted the best pizza in the city a couple years ago. This place has a legit coal oven Napolitan-style pie with the owners right off the boat from Italy! I really like the "calzone style" pizza aka "the #8" (you have to ask them to make it like a pizza instead of a calzone). Note the furniture on the ceiling and the fact they only take cash or AMEX- nothing else.

Marta- 29 E. 29th St., Midtown East (Martha Washington Hotel)
- Danny Meyer’s (Shake Shack) foray into the pizza scene. No coal here for these wood fired Roman-style pies. Very thin crust and reminiscent of a "bar-style" pie. Plus, lots of other cool stuff on the menu in this sexy high-end spot!

Lincoln Lounge- 209 Stevens Ave., Mt. Vernon, NY
- Just regular brick ovens for the bar-style pies at this old school neighborhood joint! Legit though.. Just good super thin crust pies- especially the “original” pan pizzas and the regular pies with hot sausage with red sauce or vodka sauce. Also, the calamari and Chicken Edward are both fantastic! We go here every time we’re in town despite the shadiness of the area it’s in. A local institution for 50 years.

Colony Grill- 172 Myrtle Ave., Stamford, CT (with locations in Fairfield and Milford)
- Off the beaten path (sort of), but definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area! This bar-style brick oven pie is unlike any you will have anywhere. Super thin with no crust. Crispy & chewy at the same time- very hard to describe, but fantastic nonetheless! Don’t add more than two toppings and get the “Hot Oil” with sausage if you like it spicy.

Calzone Pie at Luzzo's


Babbo Ristorante- 110 Waverly Place, Greenwich Village - Mario Batali’s original restaurant from before he got famous.. Get the Bucatini all’Amatriciana- IT IS AWESOME!
Patsy's Italian Restaurant- 236 West 56th Street, Midtown
- Don’t get this one mixed up with Patsy’s Pizzeria- totally different people and old school with white glove service. The Amatriciana is good here also- as is everything on the menu (I really like the Seafood Pappardelle too), but the real treat is the Spedino Alla Romana appetizer.. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Osteria Morini- 218 Lafayette St., SoHo
- Chef Michael White’s ode to his mentor. Everything is great here, but the real standouts are the Raviolo & Pancetta side dish at Brunch, the Spallina at Dinner, and the Bistecca di Morini available anytime!           

Carmines- Multiple Locations (2 in Manhattan alone)
- Go hungry, the portions here are ridiculous! The Saltimbocca Chicken Wings are some of the best things I’ve ever eaten. All the entrees here are great and are big enough to feed an army! Go to the website to see the daily specials. I like the 4 Pasta Sampler (Sunday), Rack of Lamb (Tuesday), and the Double Cut Veal Chop (Wednesday).

The Meatball Shop- Multiple Locations (5 in Manhattan alone)
- I’m not big into chain restaurants, but these guys are great! There’s a reason why they can specialize in something so simple..
Don Peppe- 13558 Lefferts Blvd., Ozone Park, NY (Queens/ JFK)
- Not to be confused with Don Pepi Pizza- this is another awesome vintage Italian place. If you watched Entourage you’ll know this restaurant and it’s everything they bragged about on the show. Bring an appetite and be sure to get the Stuffed Clams, Veal Don Peppe, and Linguine w/ White Clam Sauce if nothing else. Be sure to save the broth from the stuffed clams to dip your bread in. Other standouts are the Stuffed Artichokes, Shrimp Luciano w/ Linguine, Spaghetti w/ Shrimp Sauce, Lemon Chicken, and Chicken Marsala. Another "family style" place so bring friends!

Artie's Steak & Seafood Restaurant- 394 City Island Ave., Bronx (City Island)
- Feeling hungry for seafood? This Italian inspired steak & seafood place won't disappoint! It's my father in law's favorite. The Zuppa di Peche is their signature item and even though it says for two people on the menu I can almost guarantee you'll be taking some home. The Clams Oreganata are awesome too!

Zuppa di Peche (for two) with white sauce at Artie's

Hot Dogs-

Gray’s Papaya- 2090 Broadway, Upper West Side
- The best dogs in Manhattan. Get it the NY way with mustard, onions, & sauerkraut and a papaya to drink.

Street Venders- Everywhere
- Only the ones that sell SABRETT'S Hot Dogs AND have a Hibachi Grill for Kebabs are worth anything.. Also, get a Beef Kebab with Hot Sauce..

Crif Dogs- 113 St. Marks Place, East Village
- Probably the next best dog in Manhattan behind Gray’s. If nothing else than for the crazy combinations you can get!

Lou's Hot Dogs- 474 Garden Ave., Mt Vernon, NY
- The BEST Dirty Water Hot Dogs” anywhere! Tommy Deagan is the man and I go see him 2-3 times a week when I’m in town. The hot sausage with chili & cheese is great too!

Two with mustard, onions, & sauerkraut and a hot sausage with chili, cheese, onions, & mustard! Mmmm

Delis / Sandwich Shops-

Katz's Delicatessen- 205 East Houston Street, Lower East Side - Get a hot Pastrami on Rye with Melted Swiss and Mustard, a Hot Dog, and a Reuben. It's confusing but worth it. Go to the meat cutter on the right for Hot Dogs and Reuben's, but the real treat is the Pastrami from the "cutter's" on the left. EVERYTHING HERE IS AWESOME! Beer and drinks are on the far left. Give 'em your ticket and pay when you leave. Sit where Harry met Sally.
Carnegie Deli- 854 7th Avenue, Theater District/ Times Square
- Bring a friend, get the "Woody Allen" and prepare to be IMPRESSED! Come hungry! The onion rings are awesome - as is the cheesecake!

Sarges Deli- 548 3rd Ave., Murray Hill
- Their claim to fame is NYCs biggest sandwich and they may even have the biggest menu in town, but my favorite is "Sarges Special" open faced sandwich with gravy.

Porchetta- 110 E. 7th St., East Village (Also booths at Smorgasburg & Brooklyn Flea)
- Italian street food on a roll. Basically pork loin wrapped in pork belly and roasted then shaved onto a baguette. It’s awesome. Go earlier in the day when the roasts come out of the oven and ask for extra meat!

Mike’s (Greco’s) Deli- 2344 Arthur Ave., Bronx (Belmont) *Located inside the Arthur Avenue Retail Market*
- The best Italian Deli in NY! I usually get the Big Boy Brooke’s Famous Porchetta with Hot Cherry Peppers on a Hero and my Father in Law usually gets the Hillary’s Special on a Hero, but everything here is fantastic. Spend the afternoon shopping- buy the seeded italian bread at Addeo Bakery, get the fresh Ravioli at Borghatti’s, take home the perfect Burrata or Parmesan from Calandra Cheese, pick up some Bracciole at Peter’s Meat Market, grab some fresh Italian sausages at Vincent’s, eat some fresh clams at Cosenza’s while browsing, and buy some pastry’s at Morrone’s. It’s a great day trip! *Factoid* Mike’s used to have a booth in the old Yankee Stadium behind home plate, but since the move to the new stadium the organization has moved to more corporate entities, i.e. Boars Head.

Luke’s Lobster- Multiple Locations (six in Manhattan alone plus a food truck)
- Your source for a New England Style (cold) lobster roll in town. A little pricey, but not crazy expensive either.. The grilled cheese is awesome! Look for a location near you! Also, check their Facebook page to see if their food truck is nearby.

Lange’s Delicatessen of Bronxville- 94 Pondfield Rd., Bronxville, NY
- The best deli outside The City! If you’re ever in the area it’s worth the stop. Hundreds of choices, but I really like the chicken cutlets. Park Place Bagels (next door) is great too!

Russ & Daughters- 179 E. Houston St., Lower East Side
- The best Lox & Bagels in town! If you want a sit down meal try their cafe around the corner on Orchard St..

Saigon Shack- 114 MacDougal St., Greenwich Village
- Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches sold here. I like the “Classic” with egg or the Spicy Brisket. The Pho is good here too.

Hallo Berlin Food Stand- 54th St & 5th Ave., Midtown
- German push cart with tonnes of different sausages that are named after different german cars! Everything is great. I really like the Berliner sausage, the Bavarian-Lite Weisswurst, and the Bavarian Meatballs. The potato salad and all the accouterments are "on point" too! Truly legit. They also have normal sit down restaurants- one on 10th Ave. and one in Conklinville..

Baohaus- 238 E. 14th St., East Village
- Little Taiwanese steamed bun sandwiches (Bao). So good. I like the Chairman Bao-  the braised pork belly one that is similar to Hongshao Rou.

Redhook Lobster Pound- Multiple Locations (One in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and a food truck)
- Yes, more lobster rolls.. Why? Because they’re awesome! This one has both hot & cold sandwiches though.. Plus,  Lobster Mac & Cheese! Check their website to see if their truck is nearby.

Faicco’s Pork Store- Multiple Locations (One in Manhattan)
- Probably the best Italian Deli in Manhattan. They have two other locations, but the one in the West Village is the best! Try the Soprasetta.

Hot pastrami with melted swiss & mustard on rye and matzo ball soup at Katz


Peter Luger Steak House- 178 Broadway, Brooklyn (Williamsburg) - Get the Porterhouse For Two (or three) with the Bacon Appetizer and wash it down with Kostritzer Swarzbier Draught! Still the best! It’s said that the owner gets first pass at the beef from their supplier before any other restaurant- if not they take their account elsewhere! Thats a big deal when a place serves 3,000lbs of prime steak per day..

Keen’s Steakhouse- 72 W. 36th St., Midtown West (Herald Square)
- Aside from being the oldest in the city..  The “Mutton Chop” (basically a double sided/ double cut lamb chop) and the Prime Rib are what sets this place apart from all the other steak houses in town. I can’t wait to go back!

Quality Meats- 57 W. 58th St., Midtown West
- Since no one can top Peter Luger in the Porterhouse department (and it seems the majority of the steak houses in NYC seem to focus on that one cut) what sets this place apart is again what they have that no one else does. For my money I’m getting a partner in crime to share the 64oz Rib Steak and I highly recommend you do too! The Cajun Short Rib is on the radar for my next visit and the Baked Oysters are always good. I also hear good things about their Italian steak house sister restaurant Quality Italian around the corner from this location.

Prime Rib and Mutton Chop at Keens


Avra Estiatorio- 141 E. 48th St., Midtown East
- Best seafood in The City! Greek inspired menu. The octopus, red snapper, char, and imported shrimp are all standouts. It can be pricey, but worth it!
Diner- 85 Broadway, Brooklyn (Williamsburg) - High end comfort food done with locally sourced ingredients, the menu is written on a blackboard and changes daily! Their other restaurant Marlow & Sons next door is great too.

Pommes Frites- 123 2nd Ave., East Village
- REAL Belgian-style fries with all the real accouterments is all they serve and it’s all they need to serve. Yum!

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant- 89 E. 42nd St., Midtown East (Grand Central Terminal)
- Believe it or not it's some of the most reasonably priced seafood in The City and an institution for over 100 years. Their menu's featuring what seems like hundreds of items can be a little overwhelming, but you can't go wrong with the specials and some oysters (of course).. Everything is in season and is great! In a rush? Hit up the take out window out front and grab a sandwich!

The Brooklyn Star- 593 Lorimer St., Brooklyn (Williamsburg)
- High end southern style comfort food from David Chang’s former Sous Chef. Probably the only place in the city you can get truly legit Chicken Fried Steak. Also lots of awesome off beat offerings like Spicy Fried Duck Wings, Country Cassoulet,  Fried Brussel Sprouts, Tripe Chilli (done Frito-Pie style) and Sweet Tea Glazed Brick Chicken..

La Isla Cuchifritos- 1439 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn (Bushwick)
- Puerto Rican, Cuban, & Dominican style "quick serve" with just a takeout window and a service counter with stools. Speaking Spanish is a plus here, but you can get by with just pointing at what you want on the hot line. The stuffed plantains, blood sausage, chicharrones, fried meat pies, roasted pork or chicken, fresh fruit juices, and rice & beans are all winners. Super duper cheap by any standard, right under the subway station, and open 24/7!

Taim- Multiple Locations (Two in Manhattan)
- Best falafel & hummus in town by far AND a great value.. Who doesn’t love that? 

Buttermilk Channel- 524 Court St., Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens)
- The best Chicken & Waffles I’ve ever had (Sorry, Sylvia’s in Harlem used to be, but not anymore)! You can get them anytime at their BFC booth during the Smorgasburg event, but only for Dinner service here. Brunch is also very good- the fried pork chop and short rib hash are fantastic! Worthy of all the accolades and famous clientele.

El Mitote- 208 Columbus Ave., Upper West Side
- Sure they have great Taco’s, regular Torta’s (sandwiches), Tostada’s, & Quesadillas, but why would you do that when the real treats here are the Guadalajara-style smothered Torta’s & Molletes as well as some of the best Guacamole I’ve ever had!

Sylvia’s Restaurant- 328 Malcom X Blvd., Harlem
- The Soul Food mecca! Everyone goes here for the Fried Chicken & Waffles or "World Famous” Ribs which are great, but I really like the Fried Pork Chop or Dark Meat Fried Chicken smothered in gravy. Also, the short ribs are delicious too! Be sure to save room for dessert!

Calexico- Multiple Locations (3 in Manhattan & 5 in Brooklyn)
- Probably the best approximation to a California-style fish taco place in The City.. Get the Baja Tofu Taco and a Carne Asada Rolled Quesadilla!

Tea & Sympathy- 108 Greenwich Ave., West Village
- Real deal comfort food for the displaced Londoner.. Scones, clotted cream, bangers & mash, and tea.. They even serve a “proper" english breakfast and a Sunday Roast with Yorkshire Pudding on the weekends!

Rayuela- 165 Allen St., Lower East Side
- Peruvian inspired pan-latin cuisine. They’ve gotten mixed reviews lately, but I still think it's worth a couple visits since the prices are pretty good for what you get.. Try it once for dinner and once for brunch!

The Stanton Social- 99 Stanton St., Lower East Side
- One of our regular customers sons is the chef here. Solid tapas/ small plates. Try the french onion soup dumplings & goat cheese pirogies! Brunch is good here too.

Candlelight Inn- 519 Central Park Ave., Scarsdale, NY
- Awesome Buffalo Wings! The best in Westchester. The potato skins are pretty great too.

Chicken & Waffles with Balsamic-Maple Syrup Reduction at Smorgasburg


Wo Hop- 17 Mott St., Chinatown
- Setting the gold standard for "authentic" americanized Chinese food in NYC for almost 80 years.. For a long time this was my go-to spot in Chinatown before hunting for REAL Chinese food all over The City, but it’s still awesome and cheap. If you’re looking for chow mein, egg foo young, or snails in black bean sauce this is your spot! Open 23 hours a day (closed between 5 & 6 AM) 7 days a week! Hop Kee two doors down is similar and just as good if the line is too long.

Han Dynasty- 90 3rd Ave., East Village
- Real deal Taiwanese. The Dry Pepper Chicken Wings are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Also, the 3 Cup Chicken, Dan Dan Noodles, and Tea Smoked Duck are ridiculous. Be sure to order the Taiwan Beer - so good..

Ippudo- 65 4th Ave., East Village or 321 W. 51st St., Hells Kitchen
- Ridiculously good ramen and Japanese small plates. Also, the best sake selection you will find anywhere! The Shishito Peppers, Karaage, Chicken Wings, and Asparagus are all great starters. For the main event I like the spicy Karaka-men with extra Chashu Pork. Everything here is great though and worth multiple visits to try everything out - especially the small plates.

Big Wong King (Restaurant)- 67 Mott St., Chinatown
-Chinese BBQ joint that has awesome Char Siu- some of the best i’ve ever had. Typical in Chinatown though as it is super cheap and service has much to be desired.. Be that as it may - it’s still one of my favorite places and the food more than makes up for it! I like the Salt & Pepper Pork Chops here as well.

Bonchon Chicken- Multiple Locations (3 in Manhattan alone)
- Korean style fried chicken. They have all kinds of different combinations of wings, drummies, & chicken fingers as well as two different sauces. I like the spicy, but my wife likes the mild. Both are equally good! If fried chicken isn’t your thing the Bibimbob bowl with the grilled spicy chicken is awesome too!

Prosperity Dumpling- 46 Eldridge St., Lower East Side
- Best pork & chive dumplings in town- get em fried. Super cheap, 4 for $1.00! Watch out though as they’re really hot, you'll burn yourself. Or, you can buy a bag of frozen ones and cook em up later! The sesame pancakes are good too.. If the line is too ling you can always head to Vanessa's just a few blocks to the north and almost as good. Dumpling Galaxy in Flushing has a dizzying array of variety's if you're looking for something different.

Sushi Nakazawa- 23 Commerce St., West Village
- For those of you who don’t know- Daisuke Nakazawa is a former apprentice of Jiro Ono (Chef/ Owner of the best Sushiyama in the world) and was made famous by the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" as the employee that breaks down into tears when Jiro gives him praise. It is well worth booking this reservation 3-5 weeks in advance for the easiest way to taste something as good as Jiro’s without having to fly to Japan! Just say "Hai, Omakase" and enjoy the parade of food.

Joe’s Shanghai- Multiple Locations (Two in Manhattan alone)
- The best soup dumplings in The City. Bar-none. Don’t stray too far from the Crab & Pork (Xiao Long Bao) though.. The scallion pancakes are good too! Expect looong lines at the Chinatown location & less of a wait at Midtown, but the quality of the food isn’t quite as good either. Still better than everywhere else- at least for the dumplings!

Xi’an Famous Foods- Multiple Locations (6 in Manhattan alone)
- The Spicy Cumin Lamb “Burger” is pretty good, but my favorite here is the Hand Pulled Noodles with Roasted Pork. Ask for it spicy! Heed the warnings and do not get it to go - eat immediately!

Xinjiang BBQ Cart- 41st Ave. & Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY
- Some of the best "meat on a stick" you’ll ever eat- especially the lamb with the spicy seasoning. Super cheap too- most are just $1.00 each! Believe it or not this place is voted the #1 "restaurant" in Flushing.. Go figure.

Momofuku Ko- 8 Extra Pl., East Village
- David Chang’s high-end Asian inspired comfort food counter. The original on only had 12 seats, but the new location just off The Bowery is supposed to be slightly larger. I used to try and try to get reservations for his Saturday luncheon at the old space on 1st Ave. via the online reservations system on their website, but never got a spot. Dinner is all they’re serving right now and is usually fairly easy (especially if you just go by yourself)- it might take a few tries though. Don’t be discouraged.

Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan- 42-47 Main St., Flushing, NY
- The best Hongshao Rou I’ve ever had in a restaurant- except here they call it Braised Pork "Mao's Style" here. The Spicy Cumin Pork Ribs are great too! For the lamb ribs you have to go to Fu Run Restaurant three blocks away..

Inakaya- 231 W. 41st St., Midtown West (Times Square)
- Semi traditional Japanese Robata-yaki style cuisine with a flair for showmanship. Much better than Benihana though- a little gimmicky, but cool. Be sure to get a seat at the Robata Bar and order the grilled meats- especially the Kobe Beef Skewers. The Black Cod is tha bomb too..

Peking Duck House- Multiple Locations (Two in Manhattan)
- The best is the original on Mott St. in China Town. Of course Peking Duck is their specialty and is what you should get! Expensive and worth it.

Yakitori Totto- 251 W. 55th. St.- 2nd Fl, Midtown West
- The chicken meatball is a must, but don’t let anything on the menu deter you (no matter how weird it seems).. Believe it or not the stranger the option the better! Try the knee bone, skin, and neck as well as the more “normal” options like the bacon and lamb chop..

Pok Pok- 117 Columbia St., Brooklyn (Columbia St. Waterfront District)
- Thai and Vietnamese inspired menu that is all pretty good.. Two words though-  Chicken Wings! If you get one thing, just get "Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings", and get 'em spicy! Mmmmm..

Hongshao Rou at Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan 


*This has always been elusive, It’s very hard for me to find a truly great breakfast place anywhere in the city.. Maybe because I’m rarely in Manhattan early or I’m always in a hurry whenever I get into town in the morning.

Anyway, Sarabeth’s is ok, Balthazar is worth doing once or twice, and Bubby’s is decent. I think it’s almost better to try out all the great brunches the higher end places around town- at least you’ll get your moneys worth that way..  I mentioned Osteria Morini & Buttermilk Channel above, but there are two I neglected- The Smith (3 locations) and Bosie Tea Parlor (awesome french toast & scones).

It's always worth investigating new places via the periodicals I listed above as well as Yelp or Tripadvisor. Times Square Diner is getting good reviews lately, but I haven't had the chance to go. Usually breakfast for me is just a bagel and I’ve already mentioned my adoration for Russ & Daughters and Park Place Bagels in Bronxville, but the best bagel in The City is at Ess-a-Bagel (Midtown East & Stuyvesant Town)- rumored to be shutting down soon, Noooooooo! I guess Davidovich at the Essex St. Market will get more business from me if that happens.

Shopsins Store at the Essex Street Market from the documentary “I Like Killing Flies” is decent sometimes. It's worth doing once or twice if nothing else because of the sheer size of Kenny's menu and the "show" that goes on, but if the wait is too painfully long you can just go down the block to The Doughnut Plant (Lower East Side & Chelsea).

Doughnuts at The Doughnut Plant


Le Pain Quotidien- Multiple Locations (Over 30 stores in Manhattan alone)
- Sure they have sandwiches, croissants, & other pastries, but there are many other places in Manhattan that do those things just as well.. The thing to get here is the Chocolate Mousse Cake! Its the best $6.00 dessert in town and it’s seriously difficult for me to pass by one of these shops and not get one for the road. Imagine the best mousse you’ve ever had in the form of something you can pick up and eat with your hand. Heavenly!

Breads Bakery- 18 E. 16th St., Union Square
- The best Chocolate Babka in the world. Seriously good. I go here every time I’m in town at least twice. Get two- it’s a better deal. Plus, the hold up pretty well if you keep em wrapped up in a zip lock. Not that they will be around for long!

Magnolia Bakery- Multiple Locations (5 locations in Manhattan alone)
- Famous for their cupcakes, but my wife loves the lemon bar’s and the cheesecake is damn good too!

Ample Hills Creamery- Multiple Locations (One in Manhattan & 3 in Brooklyn)
- Some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. We will travel all the way from Westchester on a cold day just to go here- no joke! My favorite flavor is called The Munchies. Check it out!

Caffe Roma- 385 Broome St., Little Italy
- To-die-for Chocolate Covered Canolli’s. They dip the shells when they are super fresh so the dough soaks up the chocolate like a sponge.. Service has much to be desired, but the end result it well worth the surliness.

Dominique Ansel Bakery- 189 Spring St., SoHo
- Yes, the original Cronut. There might be a wait, but probably not. Worth it anyway though in my humble opinion at least once.. The Nutella one is super addictive.

Sweet Revenge- 62 Carmine St., West Village
- A block down the street from Joe’s Pizzeria.. Cupcakes & booze, who doesn’t love that?

Big Gay Ice Cream- Multiple Locations (Two in Manhattan)
- Dare I say it? Better soft serve than Carvel? Yes, it definitely is.. Get “The Salty Pimp”. The shakes & ice cream sandwiches are fantastic too! Sometimes they even feature their specialty shakes at Shake Shack. Also, check their Blog & Twitter feed to see if their food truck is near you!

Baked By Melissa- Multiple Locations (3 in Manhattan)
- Fantasic mini cupcakes! Too mant flavors to list!

Lemon Ice King of Corona- 52-02 108th St., Corona NY (Queens)
- If you like Italian Ice like I do it is well worth the trudge across Queens to get to this iconic place. Besides, it's just one block away from Flushing Meadows so it's really convenient if your at the park anyway.. Lots of flavors and low prices at the best one in town!

Chocolate Mousse Cake at Le Pain Quotidien


Chelsea Market- 75 9th St., Chelsea
- Lots of cool shops and food- albeit a little touristy.. I like the Adobada Taco at Los Tacos #1 and yes the lobster roll (of course) at the Lobster Place, but be sure to leave room to try everything. Doughnuts, Ramen, Gelato, Brownies, and more are available here! Be sure to check out the pop up shops and maybe even see a taping of a food network show.

Smorgasburg- 90 Kent Ave., Brooklyn (East River State Park- Williamsburg)
- From April through November this Brooklyn Flea event is held every Saturday and is always worth the trip. Dozens of stalls line the upper area of the park with the Manhattan skyline laid out before you on the east river waterfront. From the pork belly lollipops at Landhaus to the Caffe au Lait doughnuts at Dough to the Duck Confit potstickers at  Brooklyn Wok Shop there is something for everybody! In the winter months they retreat into a warehouse that houses the flea market and a few food venders next to the Berg’n Beer Hall at 1000 Dean St. in Crown Heights on Saturdays & Sundays. Also, during the summer the organizers used to hold a smaller Smorgasburg under the bridge in Dumbo, but they’ve since moved the Sunday event to Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5. Im not sure how big the new venue will be though. Be sure to check out the venders websites as they do tend to get more permanent locations if they're good!

Essex Street Market- 120 Essex St., Lower East Side
- Lots of different food venders offer a wide array of fresh meat, fruits, vegetables, & bread. Shopsins Store and Davidovich Bagels are also here..

Arthur Avenue Retail Market- 2344 Arthur Ave., Bronx (Belmont)
- I kind of laid it all out when I mentioned Mike’s Deli above. Don’t just come for the market- the whole neighborhood is worth the trip! If nothing else, be sure to get the sesame seed bread from Addeo Bakery.

Dean & Deluca- Multiple Locations (2 in Manhattan)
- One of the original gourmet grocers. I like the original flagship store in SoHo- a great place to pick up stuff you can’t find anywhere else AND the Sur La Table flagship store is just a few doors down..

Eataly- 200 5th Ave., Flatiron
- Massive Italian food hall with multiple shops & eateries.. My favorites are the Prime Rib Sandwich and the Porchetta, but make room to try everything else! Multiple trips are necessary to truly appreciate this place.

The Plaza Food Hall- 1 59th St., Midtown West (The Plaza Hotel)
- They’re all good, try everything! Lobster rolls, crepes, macaroons, etc.. The upper crust of food venders in The City.

Red Hook Ballfields- Clinton St. & Bay St., Brooklyn (Red Hook)
- Going to Ikea? If so, save about two hours and a hefty appetite to go to the food trucks across the street (you can even take the Ikea water taxi straight there)! Truly authentic south american cuisine to be had. Be sure to get the Pupusa’s at El Olomega as well as the Huaraches, Al Pastor Taco’s, Fresh Made Ceviche, and Elote’s at other places.. Cheap & good- worth multiple trips, if nothing else because not all venders are there all the time. Weekends only from the end of April to the end of October.

Gotham West Market- 600 11th Ave., Hells Kitchen
- Artisan venders and restaurants offering a decent selection of goods and eats! Similar to Chelsea Market, but less crowded and smaller.

Fairway Market- Multiple Locations (7 in Manhattan alone)
- The best grocery store anywhere! They all vary slightly in size and therefore some carry more than others. The one down the street from Peg's parents house in Pelham is great, has nearly everything my heart desires whether I want to make something simple or fancy, and the prices aren’t terribly outrageous for what you get!

Grand Central Market- 49 E. 42nd St., Midtown East (Grand Central Terminal)
- This place has literally saved my bacon on the way home on Metro North.. Not big by any means, but a decent selection, and you pay a premium for it due to the location & “convenience” of it all. At least the quality of everything is usually really good..

J&G Deli and Market- 502 New Rochelle Rd., Bronxville, NY (Chester Heights)
- Great local Italian deli where everything is made in house. The chicken parm hero is especially good.. It's the closest place to the in-laws house to get Arthur Ave. bread if I don't want to drive down into the Bronx. Conveniently located right off the Hutchinson River Parkway aka "The Hutch" at the New Rochelle Road exit.
Sesame seed Italian bread at Addeo & Sons Bakery on Arthur Avenue

Happy Hunting! 

Bon Apetit,