A popular Tunisian street food has come to Queens.
I’m a big fan of what I like to call the Tunisian tuna sandwich at Roast n Co. Essentially it’s a salad nicoise sandwich kicked up with a bit of spicy harissa spread. Back in Tunisia it’s a common street food, as are the spicy little lamb sausages known as merguez. Recently the Forest Hills cafe started running a merguez sandwich ($9.95) as a special.
Several ruddy little lamb sausages are packed into a crusty baguette along with greens, cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumber, onions, and of course harissa. It comes with a choice of salad or French fries. I always get the fries, since a) they’re excellent, and b) there’s already a salad in the sandwich. (more…)
With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. It was a big year for me and for food in Queens, including a feature in Asahi Shimbun and the discovery of the durian pizza. In no particular order here are 16 of the best things I ate last year.
1. Best Grilled Cheese Mr. Crispy, a grilled cheese sandwich served at Astoria Bier & Cheese answers the question, “How good can a grilled cheese be?” with a resounding “very, very good.” The sandwich of cave aged gruyere, ham and honey mustard is coated in mantle of white crispy cheese. This coating extends outward into a golden lacy corolla, a veritable halo of crispy cheese. It’s crunchy, sharp, and eminently craveable. I’ve haven’t been this excited about fried cheese since Joe Bastianich’s ill-fated Frico Bar. Astoria Bier & Cheese, 34-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-545-5588
2. Most Fabulous F***in’ Clam Pizza
The salciccia e vongole pizza at Whit’s End is the best clam pie I’ve had outside of Zuppardi’s. Housemade sausage seasoned with clove, star, anise, juniper, and allspice join the Littleneck clams along with pepperoncini and shaved garlic. The combination of the fior di latte mozzarella and Parmigianno Regianno round things out quite nicely. Whit’s End, Riis Park Beach Bazaar
3. Hottest Off-menu Indian-Chinese Chicken
Nashville may have cayenne-infused hot chicken, but here in Queens we have something I like to call hakka hot chicken. Peter Lo, Queens’ godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine and founder of Tangra Masala, whipped up a batch for me a while back. The hacked up bits of fried bird sauced in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298
4. Best Breakfast Sandwich I count myself a big fan of the classic bacon egg and cheese, but my favorite breakfast sandwich of 2017 contains no swine whatsoever. The breakfast sandwich at Roast n Co combines organic eggs, tomato jam, and Cabot white cheddar on a brioche make for one of the best egg sandwiches ever. Since Roast n co is run by Tunisians you have the option of asking for a sidecar of harissa, a lovely concoction of chili peppers, olive oil, and paprika. It’s an option you should exercise. Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000
5. Most Secret Korean BBQ Garden
Korean barbecue always brings to mind happy memories of backyard barbecues. At Flushing’s Majang Dong the Korean BBQ that takes place in an actual backyard. Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ, and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. Pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers, but one of the best meats is grilled pork intestines. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins. Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629(more…)
I can’t recall ever writing a Sandwich Wednesday column about a tuna salad sandwich. Heck I can’t even recall eating one in the past decade. Served on white bread with bits of crunchy celery and onion it was a lunch box staple growing up. Now I’ve found one that’s so good I’ve eaten it twice in the past two weeks. Roast n Co can call it the Mediterranean Tuna Sandwich, but after talking with the chef, I now know it’s a Tunisian tuna salad sandwich.
Served on a baguette the mixture of tuna, hardboiled eggs, salty black olives, tomatoes, greens, and spicy harissa it eats like a salad Nicoise sandwich. It makes for a lovely light lunch or a great post-workout repast.
“It’s a common snack in the market in Tunisia,” the chef said. Seeing me in my gym clothes he had at first offered me a Bulldozer smoothie made with peanut butter, banana, and milk. I’m glad I declined and took my tastebuds to Tunisia instead.
Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000
Tomato jam and white cheddar make for a tasty breakfast sandwich.
The classic New York City bacon egg and cheese sandwich looms large in Gotham’s culinary consciousness, so much so that Times critic Pete Wells penned an ode to it around this time last year. In Forest Hills I purchase my breakfast sandwiches from a taciturn Central Asian gent who runs the coffee cart down the street from my apartment. That is to say I did, until Roast n Co opened its doors a few days ago. The new cafe/rotisserie chicken spot serves up what is fast becoming my favorite breakfast sandwich in the hood. (more…)