If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

NUMBER 100: GREEK SALAD WITH CHICKEN at CHICKEN SHACK

I don’t often spend more than one or two afternoons home for lunch. But when I do, I’m usually too lazy and pressed for time to actually prepare something, so I almost always look out in the neighborhood for my midday meal. And Astoria is not the easiest place to find a cheap, healthy, to-go lunch.

But recently I’ve found some place to fill that gap: the Chicken Shack. And my order is always the same, the Greek Salad with Chicken. The Shack (as I affectionally call it) has just as much atmosphere and style as a typical rotisserrie chicken chain. But the flavors are closer to local NY favorites like Pio Pio. All the chicken I’ve had has been juicy and flavorful, making it one step up from the typical fast food joints.

The generous portion of chicken breast (I always have enough for two lunches) is expertly grilled. The char on the outside has a vague flavor of sweet, tangy barbecue sauce and gives way to tender succulent slices of meat. I’m not usually a fan of the white meat because it’s often bland and dry. Not so here.

The salad itself is not the best version of Greek salad I’ve ever had (especially in Astoria). It has the requisite lettuce, olives, grape leaves, cucumbers, and feta cheese. Some fresh tomatoes for acidity and pepperoncini for a little heat round out the salad. Nothing too special, but it’s fresh and is a nice bed for that juicy chicken.

The fact that I order it every week must mean it belongs on my list. Even at the very bottom. Price: $8.99

CHICKEN SHACK
35-02 30th Avenue (at 35th Street)
Astoria, Queens
(718) 721-3035

NUMBER 99: STEAMED PORK BUNS at MOMOFUKU

If you’ve gone out to eat (outside of fast food chains) even once in the last year, you’ve probably heard of Momofuku. Although, if you truly have only eaten out once, I take that back.

David Chang basically gentrified Asian cuisine in the East Village by giving it a hip, local, slightly grungy facelift. Strange concept. He has five locations of Momofuku now – the Noodle Bar (ramen and such), the Ssäm Bar (Asian wraps), Momofuku Ko (higher end reservations only), Milk Bar (wacky desserts), and now Má Pêche (Chang in midtown!). And while theoretically each location has its own concept, it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference. And the fact that all the locations (even the Milk Bar) serve the steamed pork buns brings this company one step closer to a national chain with a consistent menu.

I’m being a little too harsh on Momofuku, but they can handle it since they’ve gotten so much good press over the years. I’m not a huge fan of the restaurants in general (although to be fair I’ve never had more than a few dishes at a time), but this review is because I have loved their steamed pork buns from the very beginning.

In order to include them in my inaugural Top 100 list, I re-visited Noodle Bar and found them listed under the “etc.” column of the menu.

I was a bit put off by the amount of fat on the pork. Were they always this fatty? I don’t remember them being quite this greasy. But I closed my eyes and scarfed down the little guys. And they were as decadent and fresh as I had remembered.

The pork was soft and fatty, but full of rich flavor. The cucumbers add a nice crunch, the hoisin sauce gives it a dark sweetness, and the pillow buns themselves are perfect to sop up all the grease. They’re almost like a savory marshmallow.

So as tired the Momofuku empire is getting, I’ll never get tired of their pork buns. Until they’re sold at every restaurant across the city. Price: around $9 (varies according to location)

MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR
171 First Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
East Village
(212) 777-7773
MOMOFUKU SSÄM BAR
207 2nd Avenue (between 12th and 13th Street)
East Village
(212) 254-3500
MOMOFUKU MÁ PÊCHE
15 West 56th Street (between 6th Avenue and 5th Avenue),
inside the Chambers Hotel
Midtown West
momofuku.com

NUMBER 98: L’HEURE VERTE NO. 2 at ALLEN & DELANCEY

I know this is very annoying and if Time Out did something like this, I’d be pissed. Allen & Delancey, which was the restaurant I got this cocktail from is now closed. Meaning nobody can get the cocktail the exact way I had it at the beginning of 2009.

But I took note of the ingredients and maybe somebody can re-create it. So, if you have decided to embark on my list as I have on TONY’s, I’ll give you a pass on this one if you make it yourself.

The L’heure Verte No. 2 was a stirring of tequila, absinthe, a smoky Islay scotch, bitters, and sweet agave nectar. It was deeply complex and incredibly interesting to drink. This overshadowed the Tinker’s Stand No. 2, which was on my Time Out list (the restaurant was still open then). It kept finishing with new flavors on my palate after I put the drink down. Smoky, sweet, bitter – amazing.
And if anybody does decide to re-create it at home, will you invite me over? Please?
ALLEN & DELANCEY
NOW CLOSED

Photo courtesy of: behindtheburner.com

NUMBER 97: BBQ BRAISED SHORT RIB SLIDERS at TRAIF

Traif refers to all the things that are not kosher (and in a very sinful way, the most delicious). But I grew up Jewish and going to Traif is comfort food and makes me feel like I’m a kid again. We were good people, but bad Jews.

The BBQ Short Rib Sliders are one of the less sacrilegious dishes as he rib part refers to beef. It’s still not blessed by a Rabbi but, in a pinch, the Hassidic community of Williamsburg is not too far away. I’m sure we could find a Rabbi to bless this meat. Although I can’t imagine that would ever work out.

But in my mind, these sliders don’t need any blessings. They’re little sandwiches of flavor. I find short rib to be very fatty (which is why it’s so flavorful) and sometimes unpleasant to eat, but these were incredibly meaty and melted in my mouth. The sauce was sweet, smoky, and just a little spicy. The mound of perfectly tender sweet potato fries were addicting and made it difficult to figure out which to eat first.

Those Hassidic Jews down the street don’t know what they’re missing! Price: $8

TRAIF
229 South 4th Street (between Havemeyer Street and Roebling Street)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
(347) 844-9578
traifny.com

NUMBER 96: PILSNER from KELSO OF BROOKLYN

There are only three breweries currently operating in New York City. Most people know Brooklyn Brewery by now and Sixpoint is gaining popularity. But Kelso is a lot more humble and under the radar, but they turn out some awesome brewskies.

Kelly Taylor also brews the beer for Heartland Brewery and he does it all out of a little brewery called Greenpoint Beer Works in the middle of Clinton Hill. I had the great opportunity to visit it one night and talk with Kelly. And he poured me a glass of his pilsner. I was a bit disappointed that the pilsner was the beer I was tasting. I’m generally a fan of ales and more full-flavored beers. Budweiser, Amstel Light, Coors, those are all pilsners. And if that’s all on draft, I’ll generally just drink water.

So it was completely unexpected for this Pilsner to be so complex and full of flavor. There was a bit of cereal sweetness at the beginning but it ended with a nice hoppy dry finish. It was easy to drink and a pleasure to enjoy.

If you don’t get to make it out to Greenpoint Beer Works, Kelso is also available at any restaurant in the city with a respectable beer list. Price: Varies according to location.

KELSO OF BROOKLYN
Available at bars and restaurants across the city
kelsoofbrooklyn.com

Photo courtesy of: flickr.com

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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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