Tag Archives: Bushwick
For the fourth year in a row, I present the 100 most exciting dishes I’ve consumed during my food adventures around the five boroughs. Look for another five dishes every few days.
People in the food world always love to claim each year as being the “year of the cupcake” or the “year of fried chicken” or the “year of something.” While many people might decalre 2013 the year of BBQ or the year of Nordic food in NYC, I became smitten with that old American favorite: the burger. I kept biting into one delicious meat bomb after another and here are five of my favorites (some old, some new, and one very unusual).
NUMBER 65: THE ORIGINAL at UMAMI BURGER
I’d heard about the legend of the Umami Burger long before they opened their first NYC location this year. Even my non food-obssessed friends on the West Coast were calling to tell me about this new burger joint that highlighted the mysterious undiscovered taste: umami. Used to describe savory, meaty notes, the word umami is thrown around a lot these days. But every component of the original Umami Burger showcases the often misunderstood word. The already-meaty beef blend is brushed with a special umami sauce (containing umami-rich ingredients like seaweed and miso), then seared and sandwiched together on a toasty Portuguese bun, along with caramelized onions, oven-roasted tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and a parmesan crisp. If you want to know what umami is, this burger will show you. Price: $12
|432 Sixth Avenue (between 9th and 10th Street),
Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
SADLY, FRITZL’S LUNCH BOX IS NOW CLOSED.
When I first arrived in New York, all of my friends were moving to cheap apartments in this artsy, gritty neighborhood of Brooklyn called Williamsburg. Well, we all know how that story ended. Today, my just-out-of-college friends would not be able to afford to live in Williamsburg. They would manage to find a cheap apartment a little further out on the L train in Bushwick.
I hate to sound cliché, but Bushwick really is the new Williamsburg. That’s where some of the most exciting new restaurants, bars, and art gallerys are popping up. Everybody knows about Roberta’s by now, but it’s worth it to explore a little deeper into the neighborhood.
Now that I’ve eaten my way through somebody else’s list (Time Out New York), I’m ready to compile my own 100 spectacular things I’ve tasted in 2012. Look for another five dishes every few days.
NUMBER 50: STEAK TARTARE at POST OFFICE
Sure, I’m a carnivore, but I don’t go bonkers over meat like many food bloggers. Strangely enough steak houses are probably my least favorite kind of restaurant. That being said, when a modest cut of meat is prepared exquisitely with the right seasonings and sauce, I could easily forget vegetables ever existed.
And while Post Office’s steak tartare is not cooked, it is certainly exquisitely prepared. This whiskey lounge serves some of the best bar food in Brooklyn, including their zippy version of raw chopped steak. Fresh filet mignon is tossed with the most perfect ingredients to provide a wonderful balance of flavors and textures. Bright, spicy, and rich, this version (with a side of seasoned and buttered toast points) has the potential to convert even the staunchest of vegetarians. Price: $14
|188 Havemeyer Street (between South 3rd and South 4th Street),
If there’s any one place that is to take the credit (or blame) for bringing the whole hipster locavore movement to Brooklyn, it’s probably Roberta’s. The vibe of the ski lodge-like dining room, the covered outdoor area facing a radio studio, the backyard porch, the hidden second restaurant in the back, and the rooftop garden all scream “Brooklyn!!” The menu is rather pretentious and over-the-top with the too cool for school twentysomethings wearing faux hawks and twirly moustaches taking photos of their food and downing an obscure Sixpoint Ale. I really want to hate this place. The problem is the food is just too damn good.
Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.
Last year the dish I dreaded the most on Time Out’s list were the Everything Fries at Scores. It ended up being a fun adventure, but I was a little intimidated because Scores is a strip club. Who goes to a strip club to get french fries?
Well this year, the dish I was most perplexed by was what sounded like a fraternity initiation: Sol with a Shot of Jalapeño Tequila. Even in college, I wasn’t really a fan of doing shots. I definitely put back my fair share in the interest of being social, but generally if I was going to drink I wanted to taste the alcohol (except for those awful kegs of Bud Light at most college parties).
And now that I’m a grown adult living in New York, I never do shots. If one comes my way, I tend to sip it rather than shoot it because I like the nuances of flavor on my taste buds. Based on a statement like that, you can guess why I got picked on in high school.
Only in New York (or Brooklyn more specifically) could you find a romantic unmarked bar where frat boys, hipsters, yuppies, and biker guys could drink in harmony. There was a very unexpected mix of customers in The Narrows, which I can only imagine is a nod to the lack of space between the bar and the wall. It’s in a newly gentrified section of Bushwick (Roberta’s Pizza is up the street) and was jamming on a Saturday night. We scored a corner booth in the back and drank our selections by candlelight.
The specialty cocktail list is short but the ingredients and prices (only $8 for a fancy cocktail!) are impressive. We were seduced by the Caulfield’s Dream, which I imagine is a reference to Catcher in the Rye. It’s a balanced and surprisingly delicious elixir of rye whiskey, lemon, spearmint, bitters, and a float of cava. Drinks like this and the Babushka (vodka, ginger, soda, lime) appeal to the hipster foodie masses and then specials like the Time Out item appeal to the party-ers looking to get drunk as cheaply as possible. So they keep the crowd eclectic.
I tend to lean more toward the latter group because getting drunk quickly is not generally my motivation. But I paid the $6 (cheap price!) for the combination of Sol (which is a Mexican beer meaning “sun”) and a shot of their house infused jalapeño tequila. I wasn’t exactly sure how to do this. Do I shoot the tequila first and then chase it with the beer? Do I mix them together in the shot glass? Do I sip them together? You see why I never ended up in any fraternities.
I tasted the liquor first and really liked the rich buttery flavors of the tequila (they use Sauza) and the heat-drenched finish from the jalapeño. I would have been happy just sipping this or tasting it mixed into a cocktail (they do that as well). The Sol, which really is Mexico’s answer to Bud Light, is the kind of beer you’d drink in college. It has that thin, watery, skunky experience. These kinds of beers were never my thing and aside from the cheap price tag (and low calories), I never understood why anybody would want to drink them.
But the combination of the two does make sense and it harkens back to a crazier time (college) when alcohol was consumed for the purposes of getting drunk, feeling good, and showing off to your college buddies. And as it turns out, that’s what many people in New York are still after. I’m just relieved we can still find a corner booth in the back and sip smartly made cocktails.
Would The Narrows’ Sol and a Shot of Jalapeño Tequila make my Top 100 of the year? Perhaps if I was a frat boy in my junior year, but since I’ve never been that into shots of tequila and cheap beer they get a 7 out of 10 but I do appreciate the flavor componenets. Just wish it was more sippable.
|1037 Flushing Avenue (between Morgan Avenue and Wilson Avenue)
New York is a big city for sure, but not so big that a sense of community is lost. In Brooklyn, there is a huge community of artists and musicians and most of them never leave the borough, unless they have a gig or a David Byrne lecture to attend somewhere.
And many of the hipster artist types hang out or work at Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick. Roberta’s even hosts a radio station that features shows about local food and music. You can feel there is a real sense of community at this place. They even have those communal tables. Get to know your neighbors!
When we finally found Roberta’s entrance (which made the place look like a grungy dive bar), we were greeted with warm smiles, but I felt a little out of place. It was as if we had entered an exclusive ski lodge in the middle of New England and we were more than welcome to visit, but we weren’t staying for the night.
The service was friendly but apathetic and completely unhelpful. I asked the waitress about a specific beer and she answered that she hadn’t tasted it, without any offer to find out more information from somebody who has. I think she may have been slightly stoned too because she took away our menus before we ordered and then later in the meal as we were clearly eating, she attempted to take our order again.
But the service was really besides the point. Everything was relaxed and Roberta’s felt like a local haven from your daily troubles. Now on to the real reason we were here: the pizza.
We started with The Good Girl, which had no tomato sauce, but kale, taleggio cheese, pork sausage, and just the right amount of garlic. It was a nicely balanced pizza. I got some saltiness from the crispy kale (which may have been fried), sharpness from the cheese, spiciness from the sausage, and just a touch of sweetness from the garlic.
I also had to order the margherita. I didn’t think it was quite as successful, but it was a valiant effort. The dough was tender and soft with a good amount of char (they use a classy wood oven). The mozzarella was buttery, rich and quite stretchy, but the tomato sauce was a little dull. The basil was undeniably fresh (I hear they grow it on their roof) and plentiful. The pizza was a bit wet, but the flavors worked well together.
Roberta’s was our first stop of an evening spent eating, drinking, and being cultured in the Williamsburg/Bushiwck area. I won’t go too much into the specifics of our night (who really wants to hear about the show we saw which featured lots of girl on girl fighting and subtle lesbian overtones… wait a minute….), but I have to mention the bar we ended up at.
It was The Alligator Lounge, another local watering hole that I had been to before. When we walked in, I realized I was in for some trouble because their gimmick is that they give out free personal pizzas with each drink ordered. The last thing I wanted was more pizza, but in the name of science….
I feel bad even reviewing it since it was free, but it was pretty awful. It tasted flat and bland. It had no flavor. It was a sad, dead pizza. Granted, I have been eating some of the best (and most expensive) pizza in the city, so my tastebuds are a little refined and I might be a tiny bit of a food snob. But, it’s free pizza. I should just shut up and eat it!
Right before we left, a local came running into the back and invited us all up front for a drunken game of Bingo. It sounded like fun, but I had a bit of a train ride ahead of me. I can linger for as long as I want, but the truth remains: I don’t live in the neighborhood.
Is Roberta’s the best pizza in NY? They do a modest wood-oven pizza with smart flavors and fresh ingredients in a hip enclave in somebody else’s neighborhood. They get a 7 out of 10 from me.
Is Alligator Lounge the best pizza in NY? It’s definitely the cheapest (free), so I’ll leave it at that.