06/24/16 12:28am
Was the Jackson Hole burger ever good?

Was the Jackson Hole burger ever good?

There are probably some hamburgers out there worth a 20-minute subway ride and a 20 minute walk involving traversing the BQE. Sadly the cheeseburger at Jackson Hole is not one of them. The loosely packed behemoth is steam griddled, that is to say cooked on a flat top under a dome. A burger should breath free—sputtering and sizzling on the flat top or under a salamander—not suffocate in its own fetid vapors.

Ordered medium rare it was a mushy flavorless gray travesty of a burger utterly devoid of a char. I found myself wishing Tommy DeVito would walk in and put two in the back of my head so that I didn’t have to finish thing.

I did not bother to ask what type of meat it was, it could have a blend of unicorn chuck and golden calf short rib for all I care, the cooking process would still turn it into drek. There’s only tasty steamed burger out there kids: White Castle.

All that said the decor can’t be beat. There’s a reason the folks behind Goodfellas used it in a scene, the exterior of the diner is iconic, all stainless and neon. It’s evokes a time that was simpler and also more glamorous. I’ll bet it was a time when people gave a shit about how their burger tasted.

Jackson Hole,  69-35 Astoria Blvd., Astoria, 718-204-7070

06/22/16 10:22am
Giuseppe

The Giuseppe, Astoria’s take on Philly’s roast pork Italian.

The late great Josh Ozersky once said that I had forsaken my Italian-American heritage to eat my way through the Chinese food courts of Queens. He was partly—well, really mostly—right. When I find myself in need of comfort and familiarity though, there’s nothing quite like a good Italian deli.

I am a huge fan of the ladies at Leo’s Latticini in Corona and their food. They know how to make this Italian boy feel right at home. I am lucky to live so close to their shop. Lately I have been exploring the Italian delis of Astoria. My favorite so far might be Rosarios. Under the el Rosario DiMarco serves up old-school Italian-American comfort food in the form of killer Margherita pizza and more than a dozen sandwiches. (more…)

05/23/16 4:23pm
Loukomades

Little Greek doughnuts, aka loukoumades, at Astoria’s Cafe Boulis.

“Let’s go to the place with the little Greek doughnuts,” my friend Jane said. We’d just had a lovely Thai lunch at Pye Boat Noodle. After I confessed my ignorance of little Greek doughnuts, we set out for our dessert destination.

“Oh, gosh I’ve passed this place dozens of times,” I said  when we arrived at Cafe Boulis. Like many Greek cafes in Astoria the little space hums with a caffeinated energy. Directly opposite the door a sign reading, “LOUKOUMADES MADE FRESH TO ORDER” graces the Greek doughnut station. Behind the glass lies a fryer that evokes memories of fresh fried zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day and the spectacle of watching Krispy Kremes receive a cascade of glaze as they come  down the conveyor belt. (more…)

04/06/16 11:09am
kurrysammy

Kurry Qulture’s  pav bhaji: Not quite a veggie burger.

When it comes to vegetarian food, I’m not a veggie burger or mock meat type of guy. Give me a vegetarian cuisine that’s based solely on the love of vegetables. It’s one of the reasons I love Indian cuisine, with all of its chaats and dosas, so much. One dish I’d never tried until a visit to Astoria’s Kurry Qulture is pav bhaji. Served with two slider size buns, I suppose one could think of it as veggie burger if one were inclined to such thoughts, which I am not. (more…)

01/23/16 12:05pm

Now that King Frost has officially made his presence known with the arrival of winter storm Jonas, it is officially soup season. Sure I’ve had plenty of bowls over the course of the past two months. But now it’s on, time to bring in the big guns. So here are seven of my favorites spanning a variety of styles—from sweet medicinal Chinese concoctions to savory noodle soups and spicy sinus clearers—and regions, including Southeast Asia and Latin America. Best of all you can find all of them without leaving the world’s borough, Queens.

pozole2

1. Pozole rojo, Taqueria Coatzingo
This Jackson Heights cantina is known for its tacos, but the specials are the real stars. That’s where I discovered pozole rojo, the spicier cousin of the Mexican pork and hominy soup. As the name implies, the broth is red—very, very red—thanks to loads of chilies. Pozole rojo employs chicken rather than pork as a base.  Served with the standard pozole fixings of diced onion, cilantro, and lime as well as shakers of oregano and red pepper, I like it think of it as Mexican penicillin. Add a few squeezes of lime along with a handful of onion and the other seasonings for one of the most head-clearing soups to be found on Roosevelt Avenue. Sour, spicy, and packed with fresh herbs, hominy, and chicken it’s sure to cure what ails you. Best of all it’s always on the specials menu! Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, 718-424-1977 (more…)

01/18/16 11:41pm
HUB1

Chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird.

With the exception of certain Mexican cantina/hookah lounge Tut’s Hub might well be the strangest restaurant in Astoria. I’ve never been able to quite get behind the Mexican hookah lounge, but Tut’s Hub wedged between two discounts shops on Steinway Street drew me right in with its promise of “Royal Cuisine” and over-the-top Temple of Dendur style.

Once inside I was a little overwhelmed by all the menu choices, design your own pasta, design your own feteer, plus a salmon dish that they seemed all too eager to push on me. I settled for the chicken shawarma platter and grabbed a can of Fayrouz, an apple flavored Egyptian malt beverage. (more…)

01/03/16 12:29pm

Now that the streets around Times Square are almost cleared of New Year’s Eve confetti and I’ve digested several plates of lucky New Year’s noodles it’s time to take a look back at 2015. It was a big year for me, including a profile in The Wall Street Journal. Queens  continued to amaze with everything from octopus tacos and Thai noodles to Caribbean Chinese and the most unlikely French patisserie ever. In no particular order here are 15 of the best things I ate last year.

CHERRYDRYNOODLE

Tom yum haeng topped with fried pork sugar and chili.

1. Yummiest dry tom yum
The weekend noodle soup pop-up at Elmhurst’s Pata Paplean remained on point, but one of my favorites there wasn’t a soup at all. Tom yum haeng—dry tom yum noodles—consists of springy yellow noodles, fish balls and golden shards of fried pork all dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, and cilantro. Mix it all up and dig into the best dry noodles in Thai Town.

BIGELOWS2

2.  Tastiest deep-fried seafood nostalgia
The cheery blue and white Bigelow’s Seafood has been around for more than 70 years. After driving by it for about that amount of time, I finally had the privilege of trying it this past spring. These wizards of the fryer turn out impeccable Ipswich clams, fried smelts, shrimp, and soft shell crabs all served in an atmosphere that time and cholesterol have forgotten.  (more…)

10/04/15 3:25am

BearCheeseBurgerThere’s a Queens-based chain called Bareburger whose menu complexity never ceases to vex. There are multiple meat choices: elk,bison,beef, duck, ostrich,wild boar, and turkey; multiple sauce choices, including curry ginger ketchup and horseradish remoulade; a greengrocer’s worth of vegetation to choose from; and even multiple bun choices: brioche, sprout bun, tapioca rice. You could also choose from the 14 remade combos. Just writing about all these choices has given me a headache!  The only choices one should have to make when ordering a burger are cooking temp and with or without cheese.

And then’s there Chef Natasha Pogrebinsky’s Bear, which has nothing to do with the aforementioned chain. It offers only one type of burger. It’s a cheeseburger that also goes by the nickname the Grizzly Burger. It consists of a loosely packed patty with a fringed, crispy bottom sitting atop some greenery. The top is mantled with American cheese and crowned with a slice of juicy tomato. The bun’s what Pogrebinsky calls a standard “backyard bun,” because after all who really wants to think about the bun when eating a burger, it should serve as a mere vehicle for its contents. (more…)

09/02/15 12:01pm
ramenburger

The Austin Ramen Cho features brisket, bacon, cheese, and kimchi.

When I was growing up the closest thing to an extreme sandwich was something called a Dagwood. It was septuple-decker and was only eaten in comic strips by an absurdly thin man. To be sure there were Philly cheesesteaks around, I just never ate one. Today there are all kinds of extreme sandwiches, including the Puma from Tortas Neza, which is bigger than your head and contains a chorizo omelet among other things. The Puma is the Dagwood of Mexican sandwiches. It’s a sandwich fueled by the twin engines of Mexican pride and team spirit for football club Los Pumas de la UNAM. It is also at its heart an American sandwich, embracing Mexican foodways and turning them up several dozen notches. (more…)

06/23/15 8:58am
Mamu’s roat det has an incredible depth of flavor.

Mamu’s roat det has an incredible depth of flavor.

There’s been such a renaissance of Thai cuisine in Queens that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of the players. Which is why I’m very glad my friend Connie asked me to lunch at Mamu Thai. I’ve been meanng to try the Astoria eatery, which got its start as a noodle truck for at least six months. We ate enough for a small army of Thai truckers that humid afternoon, but there are two dishes that stood out:one, a beguiling beef noodle soup, and the other a not-so-simple off-menu omelet. (more…)