As 2014 draws to a close rather than offer up a roster of resolutions—less chips more gym, save money, etc.—C+M presents a list of 14 of our favorite things, a highlight reel of the year that was. Let the mostly Queens-focused cavalcade of offal, mashups, secret eats, and overall deliciousness begin.
The rugelssaint at Andre’s Hungarian.
1. Sweetest mashup
Part pain au chocolat, part rugelach, all decadence the chocolate croissant—aka rugelssaint—at Andre’s Hungarian Bakery was my go-to guilty breakfast this year.
Ban Ga Ne’s got your large format goat feast needs covered.
2. Best goat meat bonanza Not only was the three-course black goat meat feast at Ban Ga Ne one of the best Korean meals I’ve had in a long time, it was some of the best goat I’ve ever had. Plus as the proprietor pointed out, it’s um, invigorating.
Zuppardi’s glorious fresh shucked Little Neck clam pie.
3. Best pizza Some friendsand I made a pizza pilgrimage to New Haven this fall. Everything we tried was good, but the real revelation came when we dug into the fresh clam pie at Zuppardi’s Apizza. Fragrant with Little Necks and oregano atop a crackling thin crust, it was simply astounding. (more…)
It might look meatballs and marinara but it’s not.
When it comes to pizza, I am a hidebound traditionalist who hews to the classic New York City slice as served at Lucia. Glistening with orange grease and dusted with garlic powder and crushed red pepper there’s nothing better. Sure I’ve been known to enjoy blistered noveau Neapolitan pies from places like Co. and Motorino, but there’s one type of amalgam of cheese and dough for which there is little room in my pizza loving heart: the novelty slice. Buffalo chicken, barbecue, and ziti are all legitimate food groups unto themselves and have no business topping pizza. Neither, for that matter, does falafel. Yes, falafel. The falafel slice, as served at Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Queens is the best and only novelty slice I have eaten to date. (more…)
Like a Big Mac, but much spicier and much, much more kosher.
The last time I ate a kosher burger was more than five years ago. It was such a disappointment I’ve given little or no thought to repeating the experience. That is until I came across Burgers Plus out on Union Turnpike in the part of Flushing locals call Hillcrest. Still dubious I asked my pal Meir—my go-to guy for Israeli grub—about it. “It’s really good,” he enthused. “We should have lunch there.”
The menu at Burgers Plus lists four burgers, including a 220-gram lamb number ($10.95) that the grill man said was his favorite. In 2013 Burgers Plus seems to be the only the burger joint that has caught onto the metric system. I followed Meir’s lead and ordered the 150 gram (5.2911-oz.) house spicy beef burger ($7.95). The burger is also available in a non-spicy version, given the option I always choose spicy. (more…)
Beef tongue and matzo ball soup, good for what ails you.
Feed a cold, starve a fever, or so the old saying goes. But what if you’re down with a bit of both? Well then the cure as any good Jewish mother knows is surely to eat something. Enter Ben’s Best, my local old-school Jewish deli. Whenever I have a cold I stop in for a bowl of Jewish penicillin, aka matzo ball soup ($6.75). Chicken soup helps with the cold part. As for the feeding yesterday I opted for a beef tongue sandwich. ($14.95). (more…)
Spell it shwarma or shawarma, I don’t care. Either way, the Middle Eastern sandwich of stacked meat roasted on vertical spit is one of my all-time favorites. Truth be told I am mesmerized by rotating, roasting meat whether it’s a whole goat or a tower of chicken or lamb slowly browning, just waiting to be shaved off into sandwiches. One of the best places in Queens to get an Israeli version of this sandwich is Grill Point, where they spell it shuwarma. Grill Point lies on the largely Israeli end of Main Street in Kew Garden Hills. It’s an area I wish I visited more often. So when my pal Meir suggested we have lunch there I immediately said yes.
The turkey lamb shuwarma has plenty of crunchy browned bits.
I ordered the lamb shuwarma ($10.10) and got a surprise, turkey. At first when I read “pita lamb turkey,”on my receipt I thought it was a mistake. The grill man assured me though that the spit he was carving from was composed of 60/40 blend of lamb and turkey, a meat that I begrudgingly eat every Thanksgiving. I was tempted to ask him whether Grill Point uses meat glue to bond the two, but I’m pretty sure the wonder substance is not kosher. In addition to the wonderfully sweet and spicy meat alloy, my pita was packed with creamy hummus, Israeli salad, and fried eggplant. Best of all there was a perfect balance of crunchy browned meat from the shwarmic wheel’s exterior and succulent flesh from within. Truly one of the best “shuwarma” in recent memory. (more…)
Arzu’s lamb ribs and sweetbreads are both excellent.
There are more than a half dozen Uzbek kebab houses within walking distance of C+M’s Rego Park headquarters. All of these kosher spots serve various meats—lamb, beef, chicken, and odd bits like lamb fat—grilled on flat, swordlike skewers. I am not sure what serving meat on swords says about this culture, but I do know that it is darn tasty.
One of the best of these often social club like eateries is Café Arzu. It’s practically a samsa’s throw away from my apartment. A shish-kebab of lamb ribs—really riblets—runs $4.25. Sprinkle on a bit of vinegar and some ground hot pepper and set to gnawing away. That vinegar and the raw onion serve to cut the lamb’s rich fat. Veal khorovak ($5), is one of the cheapest and tastiest preparations of sweetbreads I’ve ever come across. At times Arzu has a heavy social club vibe. Blend in BYOing a bottle of vodka and drinking a pot of green tea. Or just set to ordering and eating meat with utter abandon.