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

Liuzzi’s – Cheese Lovers’ Destination in North Haven

For the best cheese at Liuzzi’s, Louis is your guy. “Ask him about anything in the case,” urges gardencub. “He loves folks who love good cheese and are willing to try.” Ricotta, mozzarella, caciocavallo and basket cheese, among others, are produced in house. Ravioli made with Liuzzi’s smoked ricotta flat out kills, gardencub adds. Alongside the house cheeses is a wide selection of imports. And beyond the cheese department, hounds recommend olives and house-cured meats.

Liuzzi Cheese [New Haven County]
322 State St., between School Ln. and Sackett Point Rd., North Haven, CT

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Good cheese east-of-the-river?

Tacos Jaliscos – a Sure Thing at Belmont

Belmont Park has the ponies, but the smart money is on the truck. Tacos Jaliscos, which parks across Plainfield Avenue from the racetrack, turns out nicely seasoned beef, chorizo, chicken, and al pastor tacos, just $1.25 apiece, reports profjmm. Add-ons include beans, onions, cilantro, and two salsas, a green one and a killer red one. Also on the menu: burritos and refreshing agua fresca.

Tacos Jaliscos [Nassau County]
Plainfield Ave., north of Hempstead Tpke., Elmont, NY

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taco truck in elmont

At Devin Tavern, Waffles and Other Brunch Bites

Sunday brunchers can enjoy a near-perfect waffle at Devin Tavern: slightly fluffy, slightly browned, with time-delay deliciousness in the batter. “If it were a wine,” writes kathryn, “you’d say it finished well.” It comes with an exceptionally fresh fruit compote–raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, green apple, pineapple, and melon are a typical combo. Also: perilously luscious strawberry butter. “Be careful, it eats like ice cream,” the waiter warned, and kathryn happily agrees.

Other recommended brunch bites at this comfortable upscale joint: sweet/smoky pork maple sausage, crisp yet juicy thin-sliced bacon, and a breadbasket highlighted by moist, agreeably dense blueberry muffins.

Devin Tavern [Tribeca]
363 Greenwich St., near Franklin, Manhattan

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Devin Tavern Brunch

Corn-Blueberry Muffin Bliss at Tempo Presto

Look for moist, flavorful corn and wild blueberry muffins behind the takeout counter at Park Slope sandwich shop Tempo Presto. “Slammin,’” raves redgirl–and a deal at $1.85.

Tempo Presto [Park Slope]
256 5th Ave., between Carroll St. and Garfield Pl., Brooklyn

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Any great muffins in Brooklyn?

Ariana – Glorious Grilled Lamb in Hell’s Kitchen

Lamb, beautifully seasoned and broiled over charcoal, is a smart order at Ariana, the best of the Afghan places in Hell’s Kitchen. Lamb tikka kebab (marinated chunks of thigh meat) is a standout–and even better with a squeeze of lemon, says Pan. You can order it with good Kabuli palow (rice with vegetables and nuts). Lamb also comes in chops or ground in kofta kebabs. Beef, chicken, fish, and shrimp round out the kebab lineup.

Off the broiler, hounds recommend pumpkin or eggplant curries, aushak (boiled leek dumplings), bolanee qandana (fried meat-and-leek turnovers), and kadoo bolanee (fried pumpkin turnovers with yogurt sauce), among other things.

Ariana also bakes good, crusty flatbread, sprinkled with nigella seeds, and serves it warm. Entrees come with a salad; order it without dressing (which the kitchen tends to apply with a heavy hand) and instead use the bright, fresh green hot sauce on the tables. For dessert, try firnee, a rice pudding with cardamom and crumbled pistachios and almonds.

Ariana Afghan Kabab Restaurant [Clinton]
787 9th Ave., between W. 52nd and 53rd Sts., Manhattan

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Wanna try Afghan….
Best of 9th Avenue

Stellar Coconut Cake at Fort Greene’s Five Spot

They bake unbeatable coconut cake at Fort Greene’s Five Spot Supper Club, says BGRose. Red velvet cake is also worth saving room for. We’ve heard little about the rest of the somewhat upscale Southern menu, but mrs. jones endorses the fried chicken and lemonade.

Five Spot [Fort Greene]
459 Myrtle Ave., between Washington and Waverly, Brooklyn

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fabulous red velvet and coconut cake
Clinton Hill/Wallabout: Where’s It Good?

Cafe Grumpy – Java Mastery in Chelsea

They pour seriously great coffee at Cafe Grumpy, the tiny new Manhattan outpost of a hound-endorsed java joint in Brooklyn.

iraform reports faultlessly pulled espresso, rich and strong, “with that heavy mouthfeel you get only from good espresso.” Drip coffee is made with equal care, precisely extracted from a daily-changing selection of beans (recent choices have included Red Mountain from Papua New Guinea and Yirgacheffe Ambessa from Ethiopia).

Coffee geeks inclined to peek under the hood will appreciate the state-of-the-art hardware, which includes Clover machines for drip coffee and a Synesso for espresso.

Cafe Grumpy [Chelsea]
224 W. 20th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Manhattan

Cafe Grumpy [Greenpoint]
193 Meserole Ave., at Diamond St., Brooklyn

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Coffee to go around 10th Ave. & 23rd St.

Cubano Find at Long Island City’s New Thompson Diner

jaw2 clues us in to an excellent Cuban sandwich in Long Island City. At New Thompson Diner, they carve a heap of fresh-roasted pork before your eyes after you order. Along with the customary ham and pickle–and a Tampa-style slice of salami–it’s tucked into a long roll and pressed to perfect crispness.

New Thompson Diner [Long Island City]
32-44 Queens Blvd., between 32nd and 33rd Sts., Long Island City, Queens

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Best Cuban sandwich in NYC?

In the East Village, Zabb Thai Hits Its Stride

Zabb City, the newish Manhattan outpost of a Thai favorite in Queens, has been on probation. When it opened last summer, hounds looked forward to more of the robust Isaan chow they’d swooned over at the Jackson Heights original. They were often disappointed. The menu offered few Isaan dishes, and the restaurant seemed little changed from the run-of-the-mill Thai eatery it replaced.

Happily, things are looking up. A recent meal was excellent, reports veteran Thai hand Simon. Highlights: superior laab moo (ground pork salad) and som tam (papaya salad) with admirable texture and just the right amount of sweetness. “I’m delighted,” Simon adds. “The quality of life in my neighborhood just got a lot better.”

Zabb City [East Village]
formerly Chaa Chaa Teahouse
244 E. 13th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan

Zabb Queens Restaurant [Jackson Heights]
71-28 Roosevelt Ave., between 70th and 72nd Sts., Jackson Heights, Queens

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Zabb City
Excellent Thai in LES —Ama ya

Catch of the Day: Scallops Fresh from the Bay at Cor-J

Peconic Bay scallops are back in season, and there’s no better place to score some than Cor-J out in Hampton Bays. Fresh from local baymen, they’re sweet and scrumptious and don’t even have to be cooked, swears skeetereats. Cor-J, right near the Ponquogue Bridge, also offers the area’s best selection of local fish and shellfish, plus a boatload of small-town charm.

So far it’s shaping up as another lean season for Peconic Bays, so call ahead. If Cor-J’s is out, skeetereats suggests trying Stuart’s in Amagansett, which works with different baymen.

Cor-J Seafood Corp. [Suffolk County]
36 Lighthouse Rd., Hampton Bays, NY

Stuart’s Seafood Market [Suffolk County]
41 Oak Ln., between Schellinger Rd. and Montauk Hwy., Amagansett, NY

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Bay Scallops?