Monday, April 21, 2014

Mighty Quinn's...Great BBQ Makes Its Way to Clifton NJ!

From their humble beginnings at a small stand at Brooklyn's Smorgasburg, Mighty Quinn's opened a brick and mortar restaurant right in the East Village that I never had a chance to try.  I've walked by the location several times though, seeing the lines of people snaking out the door into the street.

In March 2014, they expanded from their East Village location, which had been open for less than two years, right into NJ.  I was able to stop by with my brother just several weeks in, and all I can say that the food was FANTASTIC!  

Not only are the meats, complete with a variety of pickled fixings upon request, delicious, but the food is very reasonably priced too, especially compared to two other BBQ places I love--Fette Sau and Hill Country.  (A serving of meat with choice of pickled vegs runs from $7 to $9)

I ordered the brisket, which is what everyone talks about and is probably the hands-down best meat to get on the menu.  It was tender, moist, and flavorful, and was served with a small charred end piece on top of my serving.  The pickles consist of two types of coleslaw, pickled red onions, pickled celery, pickled peppers (only mildly spicy), and half sour pickles.

The burnt ends were tasty, but it wasn't quite what we expected.  They were simmering in a zesty bbq sauce and felt more like a stew.  This would probably be very good if you order it as a sandwich though.  I was looking for more of that charred carcinogen flavor(!) when you think of eating burnt ends.  

We ordered a side of wings, which were great.  They were crisp and tossed with scallions and sesame seeds, and had more of an Asian flavor profile.

Lastly, sides were ok but not quite least the fries were decent. A small order was only $3.

The broccoli was the only part of the meal that was forgettable...everything else was great.

This was still an awesome meal, and this spot is definitely going to be one of my go-to spots in Jersey!

Mighty Quinn's
850 Rt 3 West (in a shopping center)
Clifton NJ 07012
(973) 777-8340

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Great Meal at Empire Diner, Amanda Freitag's New Restaurant

Growing up in NJ, diners are still a go-to spot for me for a quick casual meal. I'm also a big fan of the show Chopped on Food Network and of Amanda Freitag, but regrettably wasn't able to try her food when she was the executive chef at the Harrison.  I was very excited to find out that Freitag is now the chef at the newly reopened Empire Diner in Chelsea, where she takes modern approaches to reinventing old-school diner classics.  

Freitag's playful riff on the Buffalo wing using the same flavors, but she uses a skate wing instead, which is lightly fried and tossed in hot sauce.  The wings are appropriately accompanied by shaved carrots in a light blue cheese dressing.  Pretty cool concept, with familiar flavors.

The Greek salad with octopus was OK, with a well dressed salad and a grilled piece of Octopus on top.  The octopus was pretty good but I wish the piece was bigger!

The entrees were where things really started to shine.  The "pork on pork" had a huge piece of pork chop topped with bacon and served with beans.  The pork chop was cooked perfectly and the bacon mixed so well with the chop and the beans.

The oyster pan roast was basically a kick-ass chowder.  If you like seared pork belly, oysters, and chowder, this IS the dish for you to order!  The pumpernickel toast  garnish soaks soaks the soup up nicely.

The entrees were great, but man I was so glad we ordered dessert because the cake and the pie we ordered were both outstanding.  First off, the "Impossible Cake" had a very rich chocolate cake with a rich flan "filling".  This was served with a chocolate and caramel sauce.  Rich and decadent, but not overly sweet.

The dulce de leche pie was also amazing.  The caramel mouse filling was super light and fluffy.  

Empire Diner's menu rotates seasonally so I for sure will be going back...If you do end up going, make sure you leave room for dessert!

Empire Diner
210 10th Ave, 
New York, NY 10011
(212) 596-7523


Monday, March 31, 2014

Dinosaur Newark, NJ!

Last year for a family meal we were able to check out Dinosaur BBQ's latest outpost by the Prudential Center Arena in downtown Newark NJ.  I haven't been to the Harlem location, but was able to check out the original Albany location years ago, as well as a few pop up stands for BBQ events in NYC.

We started out with the appetizer sampler, with wings, fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, and shrimp rolls.  Everything was pretty good, but the best by far were the wings.  Just get an order of that to start and you'll be set!

My bro ordered the chicken and ribs combo, with mac n cheese and baked beans.  I was able to try the chicken and ribs and both were great.  The beans were so-so and the mac and cheese is decent.

I was eager to try the lamb steak, but it was very disappointing.  It was a cheap cut of lamb with a large bone in the center.  The sweet potatoes and potato salad (yeah carb on carb action!) were pretty good.

My mom ordered the chicken, with sweet potato and gumbo.  The gumbo was an interesting side that you really don't see in other bbq spots, and it was actually pretty good too.

The meal overall was great, and I was excited to finally have Dinosaur close to home, but unfortunately I haven't been back since.  The issue with the location is that it doesn't really have a parking lot and parking is tricky in downtown Newark; you basically have to park at a meter or put your car in a lot.  I tried to go another time but could not find a spot to park (and no, I don't believe in paying for a parking garage just to eat a meal!).  All in all, it's great but I wish it was more convenient to get to.

Dinosaur BBQ
224 Market St.
Newark NJ 07102
(862) 214-6100

Monday, March 24, 2014

Baconfest Thursdays at Zeppelin Beer Garden in Jersey City!

They had me at FREE bacon strips at the bar!!!  I had decided to go and check out Zeppelin Beergarden in JC after seeing their promo for free bacon on Thursdays on my Facebook feed.  Zeppelin is a huge beer hall in Jersey City by the water with a nice selection of beers on tap.  I have been there on weekends and it gets quite packed, but on a Thursday night when I organized a little group to go there after work the atmosphere is actually quite chill even with their promo, and a great spot to grab a few beers and some food.  The Baconfest promo here is awesome was awesome.  If the same promo ran at a beer garden in NYC you can bet that the place will be PACKED.

For Baconfest on Thursdays they offer the gargantuan 50 Shades of Bacon BLT...which supposedly comes with 50 strips of bacon between bread and some fries.  It's actually reasonably priced at $12 (Bacon is expensive these days!) and would require several people to finish.  

The main draw for me was the free bacon at the bar though.  The salty bacon does go well with beer, but that night I found out that I couldn't eat even ten strips of bacon before tapping out!

Later that night I also ended up sharing a currywurst with spaetzle, which was just so-so. The currywurst was just curry flavored mayo over a brat.

So it was my first time having the food there, and must say that taste-wise a few of the items we tried were just OK; at the very least most of the food is very reasonably prices though, more so than similar spots in the city.  After all, you'll definitely be needing some food to soak up the alcohol!

Zeppelin Hall Biergarten 
88 Liberty View Dr
Jersey City, NJ 07305
Phone number(201) 721-8888

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Totto Ramen in Hell's Kitchen...Worth the Long Wait Times!

I have to say a big "thank you" to my fiancee for finally taking me to Totto Ramen this year.  It was definitely worth the wait!  Totto Ramen is her favorite ramen joint, and we tried going there once but changed our minds one weekend when we saw the crazy line outside.  I was told the wait could be as long as two hours at peak times!

The chicken-based broth is clean with the a lot of body, yet didn't taste too salty.  At my first go-round, I had the Totto Spicy Ramen, which was possibly the best bowl of ramen I remember having.  The ingredients seems simple, but the spicy chili paste that's added that gives it a depth of flavor.  The noodles are also homemade and cooked perfectly.  The char-siu pork was nicely seared but still juicy...just perfect.

My fiancee's go-to-bowl is their Miso Ramen, with a saltier instead of spicier finish.  It also comes with a hard boiled egg.

The ramen was so good there we went just several weeks later just after my initial visit!  This time around I ordered the Mega Ramen.This super-garlicky broth comes in an extra big bowl with three types of pork--shredded, seared like the other two, and in big braised chunks.  It's also topped with a generous dusting of fried garlic.  This was also delicious, though I think I prefer the spicy ramen just by a little.

 Just a note that this was the original location; Totto did open a second, bigger space just a block away, but I've yet to try the expansion.  Some of the tips for avoiding large waits is to go right after work, and try to get there before 6pm to snag a spot quicker (both times we went right after work).  If you have to go on a weekend I would suggest going at off-peak times.  

Totto Ramen
366 W52st 
New York, NY 10019
(212) 582-0052

Totto Ramen (second location)
464 W51st
New York, NY 10019
(646) 596-9056 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Chinatown Eats: The Seafood Laksa at Aux Epices

Aux Epices is a cute little eatery located on a more isolated street off Canal in NYC's Chinatown. If you're wondering why the name sounds French, it's because it is run by a husband and wife team; he is French and runs front of house while the wife is Malay and runs the kitchen.

The small focused menu is definitely more Malaysian than French, and features rice and noodle soup dishes.  The noodle soup dish that I often get at Malaysian restaurants is the Asam Laksa.  Aux Epices's version is a bit pricier than its Chinatown counterparts, but is loaded with a ton of goodies, including mussels, calamari, flaked salmon, shrimp, eggplant, and garnished with a fried wonton skin and lemon.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dish, though my fiancee wasn't quite as impressed when we went last summer.  Still, I would be open to going again at some point to try some of their other dishes.

Aux Epices
121 Baxter St.
New York, NY 10013
(212) 274-8585

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Onegin in the West Village for Upscale Russian Fare

My then girlfriend (and now fiancee!) and I had a date night and wanted to have some nice warm, stick to your ribs food on a cold night earlier this winter.  I had gotten a Groupon deal for an upscale Russian restaurant called Onegin in the West Village since I enjoy Russian food, and I was glad I did.

The deal consisted of two drinks, two apps, and entrees.  To start we both ordered our apps.  I started with the Solyanka, a warm soup filled with smoked meats, which was great for the cold.

My fiancee never had pelmeni dumplings before, and these delicious little dumplings are some of favorite dumplings of any cuisine.  These ones were made with veal, then boiled and served with sour cream which pairs perfectly with them.  Sooooo good.

For our entrees, she ordered the braised short ribs with truffle barley risotto and endive.  This dish was hearty and the short ribs were tender.  Using barley for the grain was also a nice twist.

I had the chicken and veal cutlets, which were served with a mushroom cream sauce.  The cutlets were very juicy and again, a very hearty dish.  

The deal also involved two flavor infused vodka shots.  These were tasty and strong, but not quite as strong as the drinks from The Russian Tea Room (one was enough to make both of us a little tipsy!)

The meal was great.  While the food doesn't completely blow you away, it was still solid and satisfying.  The portions were huge as well, and we couldn't even finish all that was served.  The ambiance was really nice and is a nice spot for a date. I believe the deal was for $55 for all that you see above, and as of this writing it's still up on Groupon.  

391 Avenue of the Americas
(West Village)
New York, NY 10014
Phone number(212) 924-8001

Monday, February 24, 2014

David's Brisket House in Bed Stuy for Some Amazing Pastrami

Now that I don't work in Brooklyn anymore, one of the places I really miss grabbing food after work is David's Brisket House, right near the Nostrand and Atlantic Ave by the Bed Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn.  The decor is kind of dingy and it's not in the best of areas but don't let it stop you from stopping for a bite; they do have tables to do sit down meal.

The deli is known for their brisket, corned beef, and their pastrami sandwiches, served in small medium or large servings.  Do yourself a favor and pick the pastrami, since they probably have the best I remember having in recent memory  I haven't had Katz in a few years, but remember being almost underwhelmed by their pastrami.  When I've gone on a few occasions, David Brisket House's pastrami was just so mouthwateringly (spell check says that adverb isn't  even a word but that's how I feel about it!) good, fatty, tender and flavorful, and is quite a bit cheaper than Katz.  The "small" i got had about 1/3 lb of meat and runs about $6 or $7.

It's been a while since I've been there, but I should definitely make my way back's worth the trip!

David's Brisket House
533 Nostrand Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11216
Phone number(718) 789-1155

The Spicy Miso Ramen at Santouka at Mitsuwa Marketplace in NJ

Santouka is a Japan based ramen chain that opened at Mitsuwa Marketplace several years ago, and is one of the few decent ramen places to go to in NJ.  If you can get there on a weekday, do so unless you want to risk braving the crowds, lines, and fighting for a seat in the food court on a weekend.

When having ramen at Santouka I typically go for their Shio (salt) ramen, but this time around I wanted to try out their spicy miso ramen.  The spicy miso broth is very flavorful and rich, albeit a bit salty if you try to drink the whole bowl...the soup goes great with the noodles though, which have a nice bite.  There's also a decent amount of toppings and the pork topping is generous and tasty.

One of the main draws for the ramen place is the ability to upgrade to a delicious lunch box set for just a few bucks more, complete with a hard boiled egg, which is served on the side instead of a soft boiled egg in the soup, and a small rice dish that can be topped with pork, salmon roe, or natto (fermented soybeans).  I usually go for the pork, pictured below...

Overall, Santouka is a good ramen place and your best bet if eating at Mitsuwa, but there are better options in NYC, such as Totto Ramen, Hinomaru, or Ippudo.  It's definitely still yummy and worth a try if you're a ramen aficionado.

Santouka (at Mitsuwa Marketplace)
595 River Rd
Edgewater NJ 07020


Monday, February 10, 2014

Delicious Taiwanese Fried Chicken Leg Over Rice, at Teariffic Cafe in Chinatown

As far as Asian lunch bowls go, the Taiwanese chicken leg over rice is one of my favorite quick eats dishes, and Teariffic Cafe in Chinatown does a yummy version of this dish.  I like Teariffic Cafe since it offers a pretty good variety of items such as beverages like hot teas/bubble teas/smoothies, desserts like toast with condensed milk, as well as a variety of noodle and rice bowls.  Ambience-wise, the place is also not a bad spot for a lunch/dinner date if you are in the Chinatown area.  The decor is nothing fancy, but is one of the better looking (and cleaner!) spots in Ctown.

When I went with my girlfriend we were able to try some of their rice dishes.  What makes their rice bowls Taiwanese is the addition of the accompaniments: a hard boiled egg, pickled mustard greens, and a zesty meat sauce.  Teariffic's version was delish with the chicken hot and freshly fried.

My girlfriend ordered the eel over rice and she also thoroughly enjoyed her dish.
As you can see the eel is served with the same accompaniments.  

To start we also grabbed a small combo app to split, which consisted of some spring rolls and dumplings, among other items.  They also have a lot of other small apps (what they call snacks) to chose from, ranging from $2 to $4.

Teariffic Cafe
51 Mott St
(between Pell and Bayard St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 393-9009

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Go Go Curry in the Financial District If You Enjoy Katsu Curry!

My girlfriend is a huge fan of Japanese curry and has gotten me into it as well as of late.  One of the spots we enjoy going to for our curry fix is Curry Ya in the East Village.  So when I was looking for quick meal around my new office in the Financial District, I was happy to find out that Go Go Curry, which has several other locations in the city, has a branch downtown.

Her and I met up after getting some drinks downtown one night and I ordered their "Home Run" Curry. For $10 you get a decent size katsu...with your choice of pork or chicken cutlet, sausage, shrimp tempura, and hard boiled egg.  All this over rice and drizzled with curry sauce (and some shredded cabbage there on the left).

As you can see from the picture above it's a bit of food and all of it was yummy, but if you are a Japanese curry purist you might be a bit disappointed.  The curry itself isn't quite the main attraction and was really just used a sauce and didn't have veggies like carrots (as opposed to Curry Ya where it's served in a crock pot and kept at a boil with your choice of garnishes).    Now if you enjoy katsu and Japanese style fast food in general, it's a great deal!  

Go Go Curry 
12 John St
New York, NY 10038
(212) 406-5555

(they have various other locations in NYC)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Creative Bowls of Ramen at Yuji Ramen in the Lower East Side

Ramen has been one of my favorite foods to eat this winter, and recently I was finally able to try the much-hyped Yuji Ramen before seeing a show at Bowery Ballroom late last year.  Yuji Ramen is on the second floor of Whole Foods at the Lower East Side and merely has bar/counter seating.  Yuji is known for their "Mazemen" already marinated, soupless ramen, as well as a ramen tasting menu that is tough to get reservations for, but also since the place only has a few seats at the bar.

Other than the tasting menu, they also have a small menu of ramen dishes, and I was able to try the uni miso mazemen (I believe they have a salmon and cheese one as well as a spicy tuna option).  For around $10 the bowl of ramen they give you is pretty tiny, but is also topped with a generous amount of uni.  The ramen is also good and toothsome, and actually reminds me more of an Italian al dente pasta. 

While I may not go to Yuji Ramen while I'm craving ramen, it's worth trying once.  They're doing some pretty creative stuff there with the delicious Japanese staple and have to be commended to trying to go outside the box.
Yuji Ramen
95 E Houston St (at Whole Foods)
2nd Fl

New YorkNY 10002
Neighborhood: Lower East Side
(646) 262-1358

Thursday, January 2, 2014

NYC Quick Lunch: The Lamb Tagine at Bab Marrakech in Hell's Kitchen

I was hungry one weekend with some time to kill in the Hell's Kitchen area and was happy I picked Bab Marrakech, a tiny, unassuming Moroccan spot on 10th Ave.  

I think they function mostly as a to-go/delivery spot since they only have a few tables inside with a counter with hot prepared foods.  The best thing I saw was the gigantic slow cooked lamb shanks. I pointed at the lamb and was told that one shank came with two sides for a very reasonable $10.  They have some options such as fries, rice, and couscous and a choice of vegs, but I ended up picking couscous and okra. The lamb was braised very tender, as the meat was falling off the bone.  The flavors were very simple and straightforward but everything had a home cooked comfy flavor that just hugged you on a cold winter day.  My only regret was not taking an order to go!

Bab Marrakech
691 10th Ave
Ste B

(between 47th St & 48th St)
New YorkNY 10036
(212) 582-2609

Monday, December 16, 2013

Caribbean Inspired French Food at Arcane in Alphabet City

Arcane is a quaint bistro located adjacent to another restaurant that I love, Zum Schneider (a small German Beer Hall with good eats), on Ave C in Alphabet City.  Arcane features a small menu of reasonably priced entrees; pretty much nothing is over $20.  The restaurant is also has a Groupon for $30 for $60 worth of food/drink that is still available on the site as of this writing.  Mix the reasonable prices with the basically half off Groupon deal, and two people can eat like a king for $30! 

I had been here a few times but one of my favorite dishes is the Pork Colombo.  It's a pork curry stew with string beans and potatoes served with rice.  While the dish is a bit different from the Caribbean curries I had, the dish is still packed with flavor and the pork was super tender.

On this trip I went with my bro and he had the skate with lemon caper sauce served on mashed potatoes.  The skate was cooked perfectly and the mashed potatoes were super creamy.  The lemon caper sauce was tasty and the skate was a pretty big portion from what I usually see at other restaurants.  At $19 it's quite a steal.

For apps we got the guacamole with salt fish.  I don't like bland tasting guacamole and this one is flavored well with the salt fish.  While they gave you a lime wedge the guac itself needed a little more zing though.

We also had the mussels app, and while the serving was small the mussels and broth tasted great.  The bread they provided was great for soaking up all that tasty soup.

If you hang out in the East Village, grab the Groupon and head over a little further to Avenue C to check this restaurant out!

111 Avenue C
(between East 7 and East 8th st)
New York, NY (646) 370-5158



Monday, December 9, 2013

Sooo Good! The Mussels and Cream Crepe at Pates Et Traditions in Willamsburg

One of my girlfriend's favorite places to eat is a quaint little spot in Brooklyn called Pates Et Traditions, which is quickly becoming our go-to spot for crepes.  Nestled in a quiet corner on the outskirts of Williamsburg, the cozy restaurant is decorated with rustic French decor, complete with some French waitstaff (minus the snobbishness!)

The must haves here are definitely their savory crepes; the savory crepes are soooo good they trump their sweet dessert crepes.  I've been here several times to try some different savory crepes, but my favorite has to be the mussels crepe, which also has Swiss cheese, cream, and onions.  For a seafood crepe it tastes very decadent, and the fact that they serve their savory crepes are open-faced mean that there's more filling than if they had completely wrapped it.

My girlfriend ordered the shrimp curry crepe.  This was also amazing; the spinach tasted very fresh and was sauteed well, and the shrimp perfectly cooked.  The curry flavor was evident but not overpowering.

I highly recommend this restaurant.  There will be a wait on weekends during brunch and peak times during dinner, but it is definitely worth trying and will fill satisfy your crepe cravings!

Pates Et Traditions
52 Havemeyer St.
Between N6th and N7th st
Brooklyn NY 11211
(718) 302-1878

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