One of my favorite things to do after leading a Chinatown food tour on a steamy summer’s day is to walk westward down Roosevelt Avenue and cool off by sampling frosty treats from various cultures. My first stop is the Dominican shaved ice at 98th Street and Roosevelt Avenue known as El Bohio. The bodega that the place takes it name from is long gone, but the frio frio man along with his gigantic block of crystal clear ice and his multihued syrups remain.
Fish cakes from Bronx-based Vendy finalist CaSpanish.
Back in 2009, when the Vendy Awards were held in the shadow of the Unisphere, there was only one food market game in town: Smorgasburg. LIC Flea & Food came along in 2012 and a few years later Queens got its very own night market. Well these days it does and so does the Bronx. The finalists for this years Vendy Awards are a lineup of vendors from the street and from the markets that is almost as diverse as Queens itself. Puerto Rico, the Domican Republic,Trinidad, Italy, China, Indonesia, Japan, El Salvador, India, and Romania are all represented. What’s more, six of the nine finalists have a connection to Queens.This year’s Vendy Awards will be held on Governors Island on September 22. Click here to get tickets. Ladies and gentlemen, we present your 2018 Vendy Awards Finalists for Best Market Vendor and Best Dessert Vendor.
These Bronx Night Market stalwarts take their name from a blend of Caribbean and Spanish cuisines as reflected in a menu that features straight up Dominican fare like mangu—a trifecta of salami fried cheese, and eggs—and fusion specialties like jerk chicken empanadas. Husband and wife duo Keith and Judy were in the middle of planning their wedding in 2015 when they could not find a caterer that offered the varied menu they were looking for. Keith is Trinidadian-American and Judy is Puerto Rican and Dominican. They wanted a reception spread that included each of their favorite foods reflecting their Caribbean-American backgrounds. Unhappy with what they found they decided to cater their own wedding reception, and thus was born CaSpanish.
D’Abruzzo NYC took top honors at this spring’s World’s Fare.
Tommaso Conte started D’Abruzzo NYC in August 2017, and now sells his arrosticini, succulent roasted lamb skewers, at Smorgasburg and other markets. While growing up on Long Island, Tommaso’s family, in particular his nonno, or grandfather, instilled in him the values, traditions, and work ethic that he learned in Abruzzo a rugged mountainous region is southern Italy. Early on Tommaso grew tomatoes, helped make wine in his Cantina, and turned the soil in his nonno’s garden. This connection to the land at an early age has inspired Tommaso to pay homage to his roots with D’Abruzzo NYC.
Hometown Spring Pancakes
Founder Annie Ye hails from Wenzhou, China and got started in the food market game with CBao Asian Buns, which can still be found at Queens Night Market, beside her new venture, Hometown Spring Pancake, which showcases a lesser known Northern Chinese snack. Each flaky pancake is made fresh to order and then filled with such meats as stewed beef or roast pork. (more…)
“Oh you have to try the mangú,” my good friend Jane said of the Dominican breakfast staple made from mashed plantains. “It’s so good.” I half expected something with a viscous fufu-like texture, so I didn’t share her enthusiasm. I am happy to report that mangú is not only pleasant in texture, it’s tasty too.
At Mangu Grill, a Dominican steam table spot in College Point, the yellowish mash is the centerpiece of a classic Dominican breakfast combo known as los tres golpes, or the “three strikes.” The triple play includes fried salami, two braids of salty fried cheese, and two eggs, and is sure to vanquish your hunger. I shall henceforth think of it as the Dominican breakfast of champions.
Mangu Grill, 153 College Point Blvd., College Point, 718-321-9982
Hardboiled eggs, ground beed, and pickled red cabbage meet in the rikitaqui.
Based on the name—rikitaqui—and the menu picture I thought the Dominican sandwich I was eager to try at the newly opened Empanadas Monumental in Woodside was going to be an epic gutbomb. It turned out to be something far more subtle.
The $5.50 sandwich consists of a schmear of seasoned ground beef topped with a pleasant red cabbage slaw tomato and hard boiled eggs. There’s also some salsa roja, a red sauce that calls to mind Russian dressing, in there. The sandwich took well to the extra hot hot sauce.
All in all it was a pleasant sandwich, just not as monumental as my expectations of it. The empanadas, which come in more than a dozen varieties, including lasagna and Philly cheese steak look pretty epic though. Next time I visit, I’ll have try one along with another rikitaqui of course.
The frio frio man’s new flavor tastes like a tropical vacation via Corona.
There’s no surer sign for this Queens kid that spring’s here and summer’s around the corner than the emergence of the frio frio man, a Dominican shaved ice vendor, in the window of El Bohio Grocery. Bottles of fruit flavored syrup—tamarindo, naranja, limon, coco, and frambuesa—line the counter along with a 75-pound block of ice. By the time I arrived on a sunny late afternoon last week the glacier had been whittled down to about 25 pounds by the shuss shuss shuss of his scraper. If Benfaremo is the Lemon Ice King of Corona then this gentleman is surely Corona’s El Rey del Frio Frio Dominicano. (more…)
A Mexican cocktail of a different kind for Cinco de Mayo.
Sometimes I’m convinced that Cinco de Mayo was invented by Cervecería Modelo to promote Corona. That’s just one reason why I’m spending it in the Bronx eating Bengali food. For those of you who don’t have plans yet or don’t like drinking frozen margaritas and dining on rice, beans, and mystery meat covered in cheese I have a suggestion. Grab a few friends and take a nice walk in the spring sunshine on La Roosie, as the locals like to call the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that runs through Jackson Heights and Corona.
Start out with a Mexican style ceviche from La Esquina de Camaron Mexicano, Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. Watch as Pedro the ceviche mixologist fills a plastic cup with your choice of seafood: shrimp, octopus, or both. To the protein he adds a pour of a tomato-based concoction, olive oil, diced onions, avocado, salt, and hot sauce. Don’t forget to crumble some saltines over the top before digging in. If ceviche, or a “coktel,” as Pedro calls it, isn’t your thing head over to the nearby Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave. for a weekend special: barbacoa de chivo, slow roasted young goat available in a taco or a platter with consommé and rice and beans. Stop by Panaderia Coatzingo next door for a cinnamon and sugar dusted concha to munch on your walk.
Sweet and cold, El Bohio’s shaved ice is a harbinger of even warmer days.
As you continue down La Roosie with shafts of light dancing on the street from the elevated train you’ll soon enter Little Ecuador. Its epicenter is Warren Street and Roosevelt Avenue, right by the Junction Boulevard stop on the 7. The corner and Warren Street are lined with food trucks and carts offering a staggering amount of pork, both roasted and fried. The ladies who run the cart called La Esquina del Sabor—the corner of flavor—will gladly offer up a sample of fritada, toothsome fried pork. Ten bucks buys a plate of pork with potatoes, fat starchy kernels of mote corn, and crunchy toasted maiz cancha. Need to cool off? Hit up El Bohio, 98-17 Roosevelt Ave, Corona, for an old school Dominican shaved ice. My go-to is the fresa or raspberry ice ($3.50 for a large cup) with leche condensada. If you’re still in need of refreshment there’s a Dominican dude who hangs out around 104th St. selling fresh tropical fruits and drinks. These include ginormous young coconuts ($5) that he will gladly hack open with his trusty machete. (more…)
Sweet and cold, El Bohio’s shaved ice is a harbinger of even warmer days.
Forget that groundhog. The real indicator of the arrival of warm weather is the ice cream man. Or in Corona, the shaved ice man, specifically the dude who sets up in the window in front of El Bohio Grocery. The other day after eating enough Thai food for an army I took a long walk up Roosevelt Avenue and was delighted to see that El Bohio’s shaved ice—or frio frio as Dominicans like to call it—was in full effect. (more…)