01/20/14 10:02am
TLAYUDA1

Way better than Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza.

I’ve passed Cienega Grocery & Deli dozens and dozens of times in my perambulations through Corona. I’ve always meant to stop in this Mexican grocer/restaurant. The other day the stars aligned in such a way that I poked my head in and learned that this humble deli specializes in the seldom-seen cuisine of Oaxaca, in the country’s Southwest. “Que es tlayuda?” read a hand lettered menu board. “Tortilla gigante de maiz orginaria de Oaxaca,” it continued, listing several options, including al pastor and chorizo.

I don’t if I was more excited to read Oaxaca or tortilla gigante. “Do you have chivo?” I asked. Once I got through the formalities and told them I knew what chivo was, I asked for a tlayuda topped with goat and eagerly awaited the arrival of the mystery antojito.

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12/24/13 10:17am
HALLACAS

Tu Arepa opened just in time to start selling hallacas for Christmas.

Tu Arepa Pizza Cafe stands in the grand tradition of Queens pizzerias with a sideline in ethnic eats. At Tu Arepa, that sideline is the griddled corn cakes known as arepas and other Venezuelan specialties. Come Christmastime that means hallacas ($8) and pan de jamon ($28), both yuletide favorites back home in Puerto La Cruz. A mixture of pork and chicken studded with raisins, green olives, chopped potato, and peppers fills the rustic hallaca at Tu Arepa. (In case you are wondering about that pan de jamon (ham and olive bread) all of tomorrow’s 18-inch loaves are presold, but the shop will be taking orders though the end of the year.) (more…)

12/17/13 12:08pm
FALAFELSLICE

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…)

10/17/13 1:05pm
BANKSY1

Do they know they’re standing in the epicenter of ethnic food?

I am more street food connoisseur than street art aficionado. That didn’t keep me from jumping on the Banksy bandwagon though. No, I was not fortunate enough to purchase a $60 “spray art” canvas in Central Park. When I read on Monday that the British street artist had put up a piece in Queens as part of his monthlong New York City residency I hastened to a block of 69th Street in Woodside’s Little Manila not far from the rumbling 7 train. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the crowd of camera toting street art fans had any idea they were standing at the epicenter of ethnic food in New York City.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity,” it read in Banksy’s signature stenciled script. Well, almost, that last word was cheekily in the process of being obliterated by an old-timey looking character. (That’s a quote from the film Gladiator, by the way.) Having partaken of some culture in the form of art—and Instagrammed, Tweeted and Facebooked it—I took off in search of food culture.

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09/24/13 9:45am
DIMSUMJURY

Dim sum at East Ocean Palace will lift your spirits if you are on jury duty.

“A food writer?” Judge Ira H. Margulis asked as I squirmed in my seat hoping not to be picked.”Well, what’s good to eat around here?” “With the exception of Dani’s House of Pizza it all stinks,” I replied. As a reward for my culinary candor both the defense attorney and the assistant district attorney deemed me fit to sit on a jury. The case was expected to take a week or less. It wound up taking 10 days.

In those 10 days I found only two things that were truly delicious. One was the dim sum at East Ocean Palace (113-09 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills), a short walk from Queens Borough Hall. If only I’d served in Manhattan, then I could have undertaken a survey of the neighborhoods Vietnamese sandwiches, Cantonese roast meats, or eaten myself silly at Xi’an Famous Foods. Alas I was serving my time in Kew Gardens, where East Ocean Palace is the only game in town for good Chinese. The dim sum—shrimp in rice noodle, flaky pork pies, and dumplings—was quite nice, but one juror can only eat so much dim sum. (more…)

08/07/13 2:15pm

CHI-UJ4

Taco Bell unveiled the waffle taco—a fried waffle cradled sausage and egg—in 100 test markets today. Sadly none of these markets are in New York City. No word on the company’s plans to rollout the a pizza crepe taco pancake chili bag.

Writing for The New York Times Robert Sietsema gives a rundown of Vietnamese joints in Atlantic City, including  Com Tam Ninh Kieu and its hu tieu with egg noodles and pig feet. Sign me up, Robert.

Josh Ozersky tells the tale of a trail at Jonathan Benno’s Lincoln. “I barely did any work at all, but I didn’t act like Mayor McCheese either, and tried my best not to interfere with the machinery of service,” he writes. Cutlets also makes me really hunger some stupendous sounding roast chicken. (more…)

07/11/13 10:40am
Photo: Saveur

Photo: Saveur

Saveur’s James Oseland declares Flushing’s Mamak House “Probably the best Malaysian food in the States right now . . . especially the shrimp curry with fresh turmeric leaves”

The funny folk over at NPR’s Sandwich Monday take on Chicago’s knockoff Cronut from West Town Bakery. Quoth Peter, “Who wanted this in the first place? Who bought a croissant and said, ‘Dammit, this needs frosting’” (more…)

06/17/13 12:45pm
Hungry hordes gathered to eat and shop.

Hungry hordes gathered to eat and shop.

When it comes to food Queens has Brooklyn beat. After all, the diversity and quality of the grub in Queens is simply mind-blowing. Plus, we have M. Wells Dinette. And as of this past weekend Queens is giving Smorgasburg a run for its money with the newly opened LIC Flea & Food. Here’s a look at some of the market’s food offerings.

Alobar’s big dog topped with ginger pulled pork and carrot slaw.

Alobar’s big dog topped with ginger pulled pork and carrot slaw.

On Saturday morning I was actually at Smorgasburg performing a Thai chicken skin mitzvah for my friends over at Scharf & Zoyer. They also turned me on to a sandwich and I sampled some wonderful couscous from NYSHUK. And then, I had some ice cream from nearby Oddfellows. So, by the time I got to Long Island City the old food tank was pretty full. Good as it looked there was no way I would have been able to take down Alobar’s Big Dog ($12) a frankfurter topped with ginger pulled pork and carrot slaw. (more…)

05/03/13 10:17am
LUCIA-ZA

An old school slice in the midst of New York City’s most dynamic Chinatown.

Unlike Manhattan Chinatown, which borders Little Italy, downtown Flushing has little or no Italian food. There is precisely one Italian restaurant, Lucia Pizza. It sits across from New World Mall, and has been there since well before that mall was a Caldor. Its opening also predates New York  current pizza Napoletana craze.

The draw here is unreconstructed old-school New York City pizza, by the pie,or more often the slice. Hand over $2.25, grab a perch at the counter and dig into a taste of days gone by. The Sicilian slice is pretty good too. I once asked the counterman here  why he didn’t have kimchi pizza, like T.J.’s a spot that has since closed. He looked at me like I was nuts.

Lucia Pizza, 136-55 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, 718-445-1313

01/18/13 10:05am
AAAAA

Tufino’s fried calzone is magnificent.

With 18 pies on offer there’s something for every type of pizza lover at Astoria’s  month-old  Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana. The thing that impressed me the most at a recent dinner at Stephen Menna’s new spot though wasn’t the pizza, good as it was. It was the calzone fritto ($12), a gigantic creation that had been deep fried before getting a blast in Tufino’s wood-burning Stefano Ferrara oven.

AAAAAA

It’s like the love-child of lasagna and zeppole.

The blistered golden brown calzone is filled with rich fresh ricotta, fior de latte mozzarella, and prosciutto cotto all livened up with a good dose of black pepper. It eats like the illegimate love child of zeppole and lasagna, proving that everything is better fried.It’s just one of several dolcetti fritti, or fried treats on the menu here. Word on the street is that Tufino plans to add more. I can hardly wait.

Tufino Pizzeria, 36-08 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria, 718-278-4800