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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the NY Chowhound community.

Spectacular Smoked Duck at Righteous Urban Barbecue

Chowhounds disagree heatedly over Righteous Urban Barbecue—as they do over most every barbecue house in town—though most rank it among New York’s best. ScottK, while not entirely won over, allows that the Kansas City–style smoke joint does some things better than anyone else, including burnt brisket ends and chicken wings.

To that list, he adds the frequently sold out “Szechwan” smoked duck (which gets a decidedly un-Chinese raspberry-habanero glaze). Having analyzed the cooking process, Scott concludes that much of the fat is shed during smoking, leaving meltingly tender meat under skin rendered beautifully crisp, in part by the sugar in the glaze. “It was amazing,” he sighs. “The combo of the not overly sweet glaze on the crisp skin, the great taste of the remaining fat, and the perfectly cooked duck meat was incredible.”

Righteous Urban Barbecue, a.k.a. RUB [Chelsea]
208 W. 23rd Street (near Seventh Avenue), Manhattan

Board Links: R.U.B. Smoked Duck Amazing

At a Brooklyn Bodega, Explorations in Mexican Ice

Sley Deli Grocery, a modest store in Borough Park, turns out to be a palace of paleta, reports bigjeff. The Mexican ices are made in the back of the shop with fresh fruit, cream, and other ingredients, and sold both at Sley and at other bodegas around town.

Among the dozens of varieties, fruit options abound, including some that combine chile heat with tropical flavors like mango or pineapple. Cream-enriched ices, like almond with rice, also satisfy. At just $1 each, bigjeff suggests, “there’s no reason we can’t sample all of their flavors by the end of the summer.”

Sley Deli Grocery [Borough Park]
4217 Fort Hamilton Parkway (near 42nd Street), Brooklyn

Board Links: sley deli–paleteria

There Goes the Neighborhood

Anyone who required further evidence of the relentless changes transforming New York City need only visit the East Village. Kurowycky, a Ukrainian butcher that was a neighborhood fixture for half a century, closed June 2, a victim of changing demographics and tastes. “The older generation of customers is dying off,” KRS observes. “A Kurowycky ham is now a holiday special rather than something you have every day or two.” The owner says he will open a mail-order business. In the meantime, lovers of kielbasy, kabanosy, and other meat delicacies might check out nearby J. Baczynsky’s.

Another cruel blow for lovers of Eastern European chow was the abrupt demise of Teresa’s, a Polish diner that went under May 31 after 22 years in business. Longtime regular Pan offers an elegy: “No more of your soup, no orders of pierogis to take out / The chicken stew lunch special is unavailable / The luxuriant babka French toast, past / For all the times you delivered a quart of chicken soup like my father’s, / The times I read a newspaper in your living room, / All the people I met between your walls, / The sentimental painting of Warsaw, / And the time when you spilled water on my pants, too – / All are but a memory.” Survivors include a sister restaurant in Brooklyn.

Chelsea hounds are also in mourning. A steep rent increase led to the closure this month of Bright Food Shop, the Mexican fusion restaurant on Eighth Avenue, and Kitchen/Market, the grocery and burrito joint next door. “Sad day,” notes bill_p, who is scrambling to find another dependable source for spices, sauces, and dried chiles and beans. The owner hopes to resume making burritos inside another store in the neighborhood, so watch for updates.

A block south, Havana Chelsea is also history. It’s rumored to be looking for a new location, but at least for now its Cuban sandwiches, roast pork, deeply flavorful beans and rice, and other homey fare will be missed. “Awful news. Where will I get my ropa vieja on Fridays?” wonders KTinNYC.

East Village Meat Market and Deli, a.k.a. J. Baczynsky’s [East Village]
139 Second Avenue (between E. Ninth Street and St. Marks Place), Manhattan

Teresa’s [Brooklyn Heights]
80 Montague Street (near Hicks), Brooklyn

Board Links: Kurowycky–is it really gone?
The Death of Teresa’s East Village location
Kitchen Market / Bright Food Shop Closed
Kitchen/Market CLOSED
Havana Chelsea Closed

In Jackson Heights, Street Bites Block by Block

Jackson Heights’ street food scene, like the weather, is heating up. There are so many vendors dishing up Latin American chow along Roosevelt Avenue that you practically need a map to track them. So Jim Leff has drawn us one on Google —and he’s been furiously adding pushpins as new faces appear. “The speed with which this scene is changing is just amazing,” he marvels. “I’m struggling to keep up.”

The situation is too fluid and the venues too numerous to list them all, but here are some of the best and newest (west to east):

  • On Roosevelt Avenue around 80th Street, a fellow rolls out a cart bearing a whole roast suckling pig. He’s around on weekends after about 10 a.m. Latecomers risk missing out. “By late afternoon,” reports The Turtle Bay Dove, “mostly only the head was left!”
  • On 82nd Street just south of Roosevelt, a stellar tamale vendor peddles her wares on weekend mornings and possibly weekdays as well. Her ultra-fluffy tamales sell out well before noon. Look for chocolatey, slightly sweet mole tamales, and don’t miss her arroz con leche (hot sweet rice beverage), which “practically undulates with soulful flavor,” Jim promises. (As good as this vendor is, he adds, there are even better tamales to be had a mile west, from a vendor who works under the Long Island Rail Road overpass in Woodside. Smart orders include cheese, chicken with peppers, and a formidable Oaxaqueño.)
  • Nearby on 82nd Street, a newish crew of vendors makes quesadillas from scratch, scooping fresh masa out of a huge tub. Everything is done to order, with no shortcuts, so expect to wait as long as 15 or 20 minutes. It’s well worth it. The chorizo in the chorizo-potato filling (a.k.a. choripapas) is real meat, Jim observes, “not the usual veterinary-quality squeeze tube o’ sausage.” Huitlacoche (corn fungus) and homemade tinga (stewed meat) are also good bets. “As time goes by,” he advises, “they’ll surely have to cut corners to stay viable, so enjoy them while they’re still deliciously clueless.”
  • On Roosevelt between 82nd and 83rd, ace Colombian bakers are at work in a storefront that once housed a courier service. Technically this isn’t street food, but it’s an improvised-looking operation that’s barely a step above the carts. Go for some of Queens’ best fried empanadas (with terrific house-made hot sauce) and a pan de bono (cheese roll) that achieves the elusive spongy/melting textural balance. “Only these guys get it just right,” Jim says.
  • Near Roosevelt and 85th, a stealth fryer works afternoons at what looks like one of those ubiquitous fruit-and-chips carts, making churros more or less to order. “They’re not world class,” JH Jill writes, “but they are the best I’ve had here in New York.” Their flavor and texture are on the money, says Jim, who faults only their oiliness.
  • A few doors east, on what is emerging as a hot block for street eats, another vendor (assisted by her son) turns out great quesadillas and chicharron (pork crackling) gorditas. Other nearby vendors appear poised to join the action. “This is probably how Las Vegas started out,” Jim suggests. “Watch for more.”
  • Across Roosevelt Avenue, one of the several taco trucks that go by the name El Fogoncito has staked out a regular parking spot and is open at night. The carne asada plate has nicely marinated meat and solid rice and beans. It also advertises horchata, usually not a taco truck staple, and may have some specialties from Ecuador, the vendors’ homeland.
  • Near Roosevelt and 86th, a guy shows up on weekends and sells good elotes (grilled corn on the cob with crema, cheese, and chile sauce).
  • A half block east, two sweet Salvadoran ladies offer Mexican tacos and——though there are very few Salvadorans in this part of town——pupusas, “made with great care and love,” Jim reports, “redolent of corn, and utterly soulful, if not the most deft.”
  • Beyond street bites, Jim’s map lists Terraza Cafe in Elmhurst, “a cool trippy bohemian bar for South American musicians and artists.” It’s also one of the few places in the neighborhood where you can hang out with a well-pulled espresso, notes JH Jill.

Jim Leff’s Jackson Heights street food map

Board Links: My Google Map of Obscure Street food in Eastern Jackson Heights
Woodside tamal vendor

Crowd-Pleasing Japanese Curry at Go Go

Lovers of Japanese-style curry, who have few decent options in New York, are cheering last month’s arrival of Go Go Curry from Japan.

Hounds who have made it through the long lunchtime lines describe a thick, dark, pork-enriched curry sauce—a good match for meat toppings that are fried to order, and surprisingly delicious for a chain fast-food operation. Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) is the signature topping; other choices are pork sausage, chicken, and shrimp. They’re also phasing in side toppings, including raw egg, cheese, rakkyo (pickled scallion), and natto (fermented soybeans).

“It is pretty good,” declares E Eto, “better than the instant roux-based curries you find at most Japanese restaurants in New York City. I hope it inspires other curry shops to open.” Another curry hound, Skillet Licker, approves of the sauce and meat but complains that the curry isn’t served hot enough.

Go Go’s owner is reportedly a devoted fan of Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui, which explains the shop’s baseball motif and even its name (go go means “five five,” as in Matsui’s jersey number, 55).

Go Go Curry [Garment District]
Formerly Ramen King
273 W. 38th Street (near Eighth Avenue), Manhattan

Board Links: Go! Go! Curry = So So Curry

Grandmotherly Italian, All Over the Map, on Staten Island

The idea behind Enoteca Maria is brilliant —and dauntingly difficult to pull off: A rotating lineup of five cooks from around Italy is turned loose to prepare daily-changing, market-driven menus of dishes from their home regions.

Yet it seems to be working. First posts from this four-month-old wine bar and restaurant, a short walk from Staten Island’s ferry terminal, describe delightful and surprising food, made with care. Miss Poste, who went when a cook from Palermo, Sicily, was in the house, loved her bucatini con sarde (with raisins, pine nuts, and briny sardines). Also delicious: clams in spicy red sauce, and cheesy, aromatic veal spiedini (skewers). Other recent Palermo menus included lasagna with chopped meat, peas, mozzarella, and tomato sauce; pasticcio (baked pasta) with sausage, shrimp, cabbage, eggplant, mozzarella, pine nuts, and raisins; and, for dessert, cakes with house-made ricotta.

The other cooks hail from Torretta (also in Sicily), Rome, Marche, and Salerno (in Campania)—no reports yet on their specialties. The lunch and dinner menus are on the restaurant’s Web site, which is updated daily. Since this is an enoteca, the wine list is deep and all-Italian. Sit at the bar and chat up the owners, Denise and Jody Scaravella, who are likely to comp you a glass.

Phantastic, who has enjoyed two extraordinary meals in two visits, applauds the Scaravellas for their novel concept: “They didn’t want cooks, or worse yet, chefs. They wanted your little old Italian grandmother who loves to cook, has great ideas, and is used to cooking for a crowd. This concept risks a certain spottiness, as inevitably one cook will outshine another, or one night there might be little fresh food to work from. But so far I haven’t suffered from this.”

Enoteca Maria [Staten Island]
27 Hyatt Street (near Central Avenue), Staten Island

Board Links: Enoteca Maria, worth the Staten Island ferry boat fare
Enoteca Maria—amazing

Gelato with a Pedigree, at a Premium Price

Those who have braved the glacial lines for high-end gelato at Grom come away with vivid memories of Italy—and, in some cases, an acute case of sticker shock.

For Cpalms, Grom’s gelato is comparable, in consistency and depth of flavor, to Giulitti in Rome. For FattyDumplin, the lemon granita recalls a memorable version from a roadside cart in Positano, “not too sweet, bursting with fresh lemon flavor, and just the right mix of liquid to ice.” Other early favorites from the rotating menu of around 20 flavors include pistachio, zabaione, gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut), crema di Grom (egg cream with chocolate flakes and bits of corn biscuit), and uncommonly intense chocolate and vanilla.

The first American outpost of a chain from Turin, Grom touts its old-fashioned methods and superior raw materials, with no preservatives or artificial colorings. It uses lemons from Amalfi, pistachios from Sicily, hazelnuts and strawberries from Piedmont. Prices are accordingly high, starting at $4.75 for a small cup. “One guy’s eyes nearly popped out when the cashier said his large cost $7.50,” notes FattyDumplin.

For some, it’s well worth it. “The small size is minuscule,” says weezie1818, “but give me that over a vat of the chemical stuff any day.” Others aren’t quite sold; thesu ranks Grom ahead of local favorite il Laboratorio del Gelato, yet concludes, “For the price, I’d rather go to Il Lab.” And a few think it’s nothing special. Lucia finds the flavors dull and the texture off, and prefers L’Arte Del Gelato in Chelsea Market. “It might be worth going for a taste,” she adds, “but I’m not rushing back.”

Grom [Upper West Side]
2165 Broadway (at W. 76th Street), Manhattan

il Laboratorio del Gelato [Lower East Side]
95 Orchard Street (between Broome and Delancey), Manhattan

L’Arte Del Gelato [Chelsea]
In Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue (at W. 15th Street), Manhattan

Board Links: Grom cometh

Brooklyn West Indian Finds

3D Bakery aces the patty test. This Jamaican joint in Prospect Heights makes a vegetable version that surpasses even the popular Christie’s, says Sarah McC. She describes fresh, flaky wheat pastry enclosing a spicy curry filling with spinach and onion. Next to 3D’s, Christie’s vegetable patty is a dryish thing, filled with a bit of cabbage and not much else.

Beyond patties (beef, fish, chicken, or vegetable, all $1.25), 3D lays out a promising-looking spread of stews, jerk chicken, and other entrées, including oxtail, escovitch fish, and curry goat or chicken. Baked goods include coconut or spice buns, bulla (ginger cakes), and other Jamaican favorites. “I love Christie’s,” Sarah adds, “but 3D is a great alternative for patties, and maybe to the Islands for hot meals without a long wait.”

In Flatbush, Ram’s Roti Shop remains on top of its game. At this two-year-old Trini takeout shop, the roti sets the standard, missmasala reports: a tasty, pliant flatbread with first-rate fillings such as curry beef, goat, or chicken. Also recommended: the veggie plate (okra, squash, spinach) and surprisingly strong jerk chicken. Peppery and charred yet juicy, Ram’s jerk rivals the more celebrated version a few blocks north at Peppa’s, missmasala attests. Other hounds brave the sometimes-brusque service to score aloo (potato) pie, doubles (fried flatbreads filled with chickpeas), and shark, saltfish, or smoked herring bakes (stuffed rolls).

For a taste of Haiti, check out Immaculee Bakery on Nostrand, where daiquiri ice savored a stunningly good fish pie. It’s spicy minced salt cod stuffed into rich, slightly chewy, yet flaky pastry—just 75 cents.

3D Bakery [Prospect Heights]
771 Washington Avenue (between St. Johns and Sterling), Brooklyn

Christie’s Jamaican Patties [Park Slope]
387 Flatbush Avenue (near Sterling), Brooklyn

The Islands [Prospect Heights]
803 Washington Avenue (at Lincoln), Brooklyn

Ram’s Roti Shop [Flatbush]
1919 Church Avenue (between Ocean and St. Paul), Brooklyn

Peppa’s Jerk Chicken [Flatbush]
738 Flatbush Avenue (between Parkside and Clarkson), Brooklyn

Immaculee Bakery [East Flatbush]
1411 Nostrand Avenue (at Martense), Brooklyn

Board Links: 3Ds has a better veggie patty than Christie
Ram’s Roti and Peppa’s
Spicy flaky little savory fish pie…

A Workweek’s Worth of Sandwiches

You could probably put rubber gloves in Sullivan St Bakery’s light, crusty sandwich bread and have a thoroughly enjoyable lunch, suggests funkymonkey. But luckily for all, a rubber glove sandwich is not on the menu. Instead, try the nearly perfect springtime special sandwich of hard-cooked egg, artichokes, fresh mozzarella, and ramp-anchovy vinaigrette.

The bread is just right; the egg, cheese, and artichoke harmonize beautifully; and the dressing pulls it all together, “with just enough of a salty tang to season the rest of the ingredients, but not fishy enough to put off my anchovy-hating co-workers.” Ramp season is nearly over, so try this soon.

NYU hounds and other downtown types score great sandwiches at Bite, which runs a tiny kiosk on Lafayette as well as a sit-down restaurant on 14th Street. billyboy loves the spicy Middle Eastern turkey sandwich (smoked turkey, hummus, greens, and plum tomatoes on ciabatta). Other favorites: curried tuna (with carrots, cabbage, and raisins) and panini with prosciutto and mozzarella, smoked turkey and pesto, and other fillings. Refreshing house-made lemonade goes well with any of them.

A few blocks uptown and several steps upscale, Gramercy Tavern makes a dressed-up pulled pork sandwich enlivened with a scoop of slaw and pickled jalapeño and onion, Scott V reports. A light vinegary dressing complements the pork without overpowering its smokiness. It’s $16 but a worthwhile splurge, Scott promises.

Lunchtime perennial Lamazou has earned a loyal following with top-notch meats, cheeses, and breads (some from the above-mentioned Sullivan St Bakery). “Like other fans, I’m in love,” confesses RGR. “It’s the high quality of all the components that makes Lamazou’s sandwiches so outstanding.” Greatest hits include the Milano (salami, turkey breast, provolone), the Brima (roasted peppers, marinated artichokes, Brie), and the Caprice de Lamazou (smoked salmon, capers, cornichons, red onion, and a delicious lemon-oil dressing).

Finally, in the narrow but important salami-and-egg category, Fallon nominates Barney Greengrass, the venerable Upper West Side store that draws crowds for its smoked fish. Salami and perfectly timed scrambled eggs come on rye, pumpernickel, bagel, or bialy. For an extra $1.50 you can add caramelized onions, and you should.

Sullivan St Bakery [Clinton]
533 W. 47th Street (between 10th and 11th avenues), Manhattan

Bite [NoHo]
335 Lafayette Street (between Bleecker and Houston), Manhattan

Bite [East Village]
211 E. 14th Street (between Second and Third avenues), Manhattan

Gramercy Tavern [Flatiron]
42 E. 20th Street (between Broadway and Park Avenue S.), Manhattan

Lamazou [Gramercy]
370 Third Avenue (at E. 27th Street), Manhattan

Barney Greengrass [Upper West Side]
541 Amsterdam Avenue (between W. 86th and 87th streets), Manhattan

Board Links: Sullivan Street Bakery–excellent sandwich
Flatiron lunch notes
Good Panini Near NYU?
cheap eats for lunch-Lafayette and 4th
Excellent Sandwich around 16th St. & 5th Ave
what’s your fave LAMAZOU sandwhich?
Current Favorite Dish/Item for Less than $10?
salami and egg sandwich

Worthy Peruvian Chicken

El Pollo does right by its namesake specialty. At this Peruvian restaurant in Park Slope, which replaced an unloved sandwich shop in February, the roast chicken comes out moist and nicely seasoned with good crisp skin. The accompanying sauces—a mild white one and especially a kicking green one—are fresh and house-made. “That is some fine-tasting chicken,” declares kraw.

Also on the brief menu: decent fried plantains, chicha morada (a sweet purple-corn beverage), and a standout avocado salad, studded with chickpeas and dressed with a light vinaigrette. Several notches nicer than a takeout joint, El Pollo offers an inviting dining room and warm service.

El Pollo [Park Slope]
Formerly Gourmet Grill
291 Fifth Avenue (between First and Second streets), Brooklyn

Board Links: Park Slope Favorites Around 4th St. & 5th Ave.
Pollo in Park Slope