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Newborn: Oceanic Boil

If there’s anything Jackson Heights residents might agree on, it would be that we don’t need any more chicken restaurants or sports bars or sports bars run by chicken restaurants that end up changing their name so people don’t wonder why there are two Pollos Mario on the same block. It’s a sad state of affairs when a new, nondescript teriyaki takeout joint rouses interest because at least it’s something different.

Oceanic Boil is quite possibly the best name ever for a new restaurant. #jacksonheights #newborn

A photo posted by Krista Garcia (@goodiesfirst) on

Oceanic Boil is different. It kind of wins just on name alone. Poetic yet direct, if you get the restaurant’s M.O. It’s been a long time coming–I was kind of shocked to see it had been 76 weeks since I first got wind of it (only 1.5 months into this apartment, I was still easily excited). What might not be apparent at first glance is that what’s being served is New Orleans-style shellfish, boiled in Old Bay and custom levels of cayenne heat. Plain and simple peel-and-eat bar food minus the bar. Tables are wrapped in brown kraft paper, plastic gloves provided by default, paper plates handed out if asked for. 

oceanic boil crawfish & shrimp

This is the crawfish and shrimp combo that comes with corn and potatoes. Diners can choose between thick garlic butter and lemon pepper sauces for dipping. Traditionalists won’t need any at all.

oceanic boil menu

Wisely–not everyone will want to work for their meal–there are also fried seafood baskets (I was given a light crab cake to sample) and extras like lobster rolls and clams casino. And possibly a first for the neighborhood, there will also be a raw bar selection (oysters haven’t been sourced yet). This is still a soft open. 

oceanic boil interior

The overall feeling is vaguely Asian (maybe I’m just reacting to the good luck bamboo trees since the red and green color palette, forged metal seats, and prancing stags gracing the entryway don’t signal any particular heritage) and that’s because it kind of is; the owner is Chinese, the gentleman who appeared to be running things was Indonesian. There are Japanese beers and sake (as well as wine, both plum and Coppola). Oceanic Boil falls between Crazy Crab (r.i.p.) and Claw Daddy’s on the NYC boiled seafood spectrum (the menu is very similar to The Boil’s in actuality) which I hope can resonate considering this is the epicenter of Colombian Jackson Heights. 

Oceanic Boil * 84-20 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Seattle Take 2

seven beef trio

Seven Beef Sometimes I go crazy, especially when time is limited, and this was a purely social long-weekend trip, not a food-focused mission. Originally, I reserved at this newish pseudo-steakhouse with a vague Vietnamese undercurrent because it seemed interesting and was walking distance from my Airbnb in a residential neighborhood, but then Bateau, seemingly more serious, also doing in-house butchery and serving lesser known cuts of locally raised beef, started getting buzzy (and Renee Erickson has since won a James Beard for best chef Northwest) so I scrambled to switch, only to get an 8:45pm slot, which would be fine anywhere else but is late-ish by NW standards, but more detrimentally because I’m a sweaty, anxious person, was the fear that only super expensive, non-optimal cuts of meat would be left, plus I already tried attached Bar Mesuline in January so I knew the vibe. So, back to Seven Beef where I didn’t even end up ordering steak but the namesake bò 7 món tasting. Big hunks of meat definitely seem to be the thing here–on a packed Saturday night I didn’t notice any other tables opting out of steak–but something must be done with all of the extra bits, hence lots of sausage (there is also a popular burger, which I totally would do for happy hour if I really lived four blocks away). You start with a beef salad with pickled vegetables and then there’s an onslaught including vinegared beef carpaccio and grilled sausage three-ways (lemongrass-skewered, wrapped in la lot leaves, and laced with five spice) served with fresh herbs, lettuce, and sliced fruit. Congee with meatballs and shrimp chips caps off the meal. It’s totally a deal for $40 per person, especially if you’re into variety and not married to the idea of eating a whole rib-eye. I also ordered fries because it was a birthday dinner and why not?

ian's on the hill pizzas

Ian’s on the Hill If you need any further proof that this was not a food recon trip, I ended up with Hawaiian and taco pizzas, the result of missing my reservation at Vito’s (loved the atmosphere so much last time that I was open to eating lasagna despite being an unabashed Italian-American disliker) the first night due to barfing that started at noon in the car service to JFK and lasted 12 hours, the exact thing that happened when I flew to Seattle three months ago and makes me think I should maybe never go back to Washington or ride in a car. Despite all the Caviars and Ubereats and Postmates that keep on coming and Seattle ostensibly being a tech city, food delivery isn’t much of a thing outside of NYC in my experience. I wanted pizza and this was one of only two options on Seamless. #seamlessinseattle, yes. Oh, I’m just now seeing that this is a Wisconsin-based chain. Even while nauseous yet hungry, I had the right instincts. 

ma'ono trio

Ma’ono Fried Chicken and Whisky I was recently asked what quintessential Seattle food was. “Is there a Primanti Brothers of Seattle?” Uh, no. Dick’s is an icon but that’s just burgers. An argument could be made for teriyaki. Hawaiian food is also relatively big in the Northwest considering the islands take as long to reach by plane as NYC. I just wanted some fried chicken. Here, it’s a thing big enough to reserve birds ahead of time. It just happened that brunch was a meal I had free, so I got the morning version with biscuits and gravy and maple syrup. A half order, so wonderfully crisp and crackly that it held up two days later, is plenty for two. If you want to die, feel free to also start your day with spam masubi and a fancy loco moco (Basil-mint chutney? Wood-grilled ground chuck?). I didn’t realize exactly what sort of place this was until my bloody mary arrived with a pickled sunchoke garnish. Now you know.

elliot's oysters

Elliott’s Oyster House Touristy doesn’t have to be bad even though there’s a lot of crap on the waterfront. I can’t speak to the rest of the menu or long waits for tables, but sitting at the small bar watching more than 20 varieties of regional oysters being shucked while drinking Oregon pinot gris is not crappy. You might even get a few freebies tossed in with your half-dozen.

charlie's monte cristo

Charlie’s on Broadway Finally got my damn West Coast monte cristo. What makes a monte cristo West Coast, you ask? It can’t be an open-faced abomination served with maple syrup. Raspberry jelly all the way. That’s it. These wedges were so perfectly battered and fried that the layers of turkey, ham, and swiss had nearly melded into one with powder sugar-dusted bread, giving a cake-like impression. It seems like it needs fries as to be less naked on the plate, not out of caloric weakness. Apparently, Charlie’s was recently redone after a closure, yet it still looks like a ‘70s fern bar, i.e. my kind of joint, so there’s that.

aoki chirashi

Aoki serves sushi that is neither fast food nor luxurious nor loungey and sharing a menu from other Asian nations. That’s not a simple ask for a spur of the moment choice in Capitol Hill. I just wanted some solid chirashi and got it.

honey hole sandwiches

Honey Hole I’ll admit I went just because that name? Walking past the nondescript facade a few storefronts down from a Babeland this winter, I automatically assumed it was a gay bar not a sandwich shop. And a good one at that. My dining companion also wanted the Liotta (an Italian sub with quality ham and salami) which warmed my heart to discover we have similar tastes in sandwiches, but I don’t allow parties to order the same dish, so a Corleone (no, the names are not all Italian though there is a Chachi’s Favorite) which sounded like a baguette reuben by description but was so pastrami-forward that it tasted more like a deli sandwich even minus the rye bread. I also consumed a coffee cider (local brewery unknown/unremembered–there is no evidence of this creation existing on either Schilling’s or Seattle Cider Company’s sites) which might be the most Northwest thing ever. I’m still not convinced those two beverages are meant to be one.

cheesecake factory duo

Cheesecake Factory My cross-country rendezvous was with someone who had never been to a Cheesecake Factory and hasn’t drank for the past 25 years, which is to say after 60 hours living my way there was serious malaise the final day in Seattle. And brutally, there was a huge block of time to kill between the Airbnb check out (even at an unusually civilized 1pm) and my 9:50pm flight. Being a near-90 degree day (as I currently sit in gray, damp 50s NYC) we did the only sensible thing and headed to the suburbs, specifically an upscale ghost town mall in Bellevue for good air conditioning. After paying $9 to take a nap in a completely empty movie theater across the escalators from a comedy club/pool hall/ping pong lounge and not sleeping because Boss, the lesser of evils playing at a workable time, ended up being more stupid-funny than expected (I literally LOL’d just because I could in this impromptu private screening) it was time to choose among the chains. P.F. Chang’s almost won out, and  I’m still curious about non-chain Tavern Hall, which has the post-millennium, upwardly mobile young adult trappings–Sazeracs on tap, shuffleboard, brunch–I would normally go nuts for. At Cheesecake Factory, which went from dead to completely filled during our stint, I loaded up on pre-flight fat and dairy with their version of crab rangoon, a bacon date pizza, plus a slice of salted caramel cheesecake. Even eating less than half of all that ended up feeling like a very bad idea. One must go out with a bang. That’s the rule.

Nothing like a roaring fire in full-on sweat weather

Nothing like a roaring fire in full-on sweat weather

You know you're in the Northwest when there's Dale Chihuly hanging in your mall

You know you’re in the Northwest when there’s Dale Chihuly hanging in your mall

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Elmhurst Thai Two-Fer

paet rio trio

Paet Rio To date, I’ve only ordered delivery (and still can’t figure out if the 8 is part of its name or not) and usually rely on Kitchen 79 and Arunee because they are in my neighborhood officially despite not being any closer than this part of Elmhurst. In-person is just right, though, small like the best Queens Thai restaurants of yore but with that modern rough wood, exposed-brick-and-ductwork style that signals a younger person is probably involved somehow. The collection of salads and appetizers were right on, from the duck with cashews, pineapple and matchsticks of green apple to the puffy fish maw and crispy anchovy to the grilled sausage and never-had-before crispy greens-stuffed pancake, more bubbly like a fried spring roll wrapper than crepe. Only the steamed mussels (not my idea but trying to prove I’m not a food boss!) were kind of bland and lackluster. Unlike many of the latest wave of Elmhurst Thai that are more narrowly focused (khao mun gai, sweet things on toast, noodle soups, over-rice dishes), Paet Rio is a little more general purpose. 

sugar club roti

Sugar Club Despite having been for sweets like the banana roti (above) before, I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned this cafe/shop that has blossomed into a fun grocery source. They may not have everything (like plain old dried shrimp paste, oddly) but what they do stock isn’t completely duplicating what you’d find in the the Thai section of the typical NYC Pan-Asian-but-mostly-Chinese supermarket. That’s to say toiletries and packaged goods like Lay’s in flavors like namtok hotpot (meatball blood soup, more or less) but also a lot of prepared food that is sometimes sold bazaar-style from set-up tables on weekends, and my personal favorite, nam priks galore stacked in the fridge. I’m always warned when trying to buy them, and if they only knew that some like the pork-catfish I picked up on Sunday is already almost gone today (Tuesday). On the other hand, a wet, deeply funky shrimp paste I bought months ago to sub for the dried stuff, went in my freezer barely touched. If there should be any warning, it’s that sauces involving catfish are filled with deadly little bones that will stab your tonsils no matter how carefully you chew. 

cottage cheeses nam prik

This particular chile paste has a real dirty-hot quality while still retaining a candied flavor, and I want to eat it with everything (in my poorly stocked kitchen) which means old carrots, leftover pita chips from Easter, and on cottage cheese. Tonight I’ll toss it with some gai lan and some pork strips a.k.a. moo dad, also picked up at Sugar Club.

butterfly pea flower

But really, I’m burying the lede because they also sell what look like packets of potpourri but are dried butterfly pea flowers, source of my natural blue dye obsession. I’m going to have to do something good with these.

Related, when did Chao Thai Too close? That, plus the shuttering of Plant Love House and supposedly Zabb Elee too, at least in its current form (though the only mention I’ve seen of this is in a print Jackson Heights gardening newsletter my neighbor gave me). What’s going on, local Thai?

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Portland Barrage, Old-School Mostly

burgerville colassal cheeseburger

I started Portland with Burgerville, partially because I wanted a Colossal Cheeseburger (they aren’t really colossal) for the road, but mostly because I needed to use a bathroom and the Beaverton location is sort of on the way between downtown, where the Bolt Bus dropped me off from Seattle and my mom picked me up, and her place at the coast. I was chided for not getting the seasonal chocolate hazelnut shake and I still regret it. Burgerville spread rules so hard they’ve jarred it.

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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Ears, Tongue, Pizza, Pizza

margot's hot supreme

Margot’s Pizza It’s doubtful I would order a supreme anywhere else but this Saturday pop-up. Hawaiian is my suburban pizza  of choice, ham and pineapple being the sweet-and-kind antithesis of ground sausage and green peppers, but a supreme also seems like the ultimate bar pie style (casual, thin, crispy) even if I went slightly out of bounds with the Hot Supreme that wisely subs pickled jalapeños for those diced green peppers. This was a very good pizza, with a nearly frico’d rim and wonderfully anisey free-form sausage that made me wonder why I had a problem with it in the first place. All that was missing was a pitcher of beer (insert your own regional cheapie brand of choice). I lucked out when a friend and his friend turned out to be in attendance (the other two bar-sitters until Margot herself showed up) so I could swap for a slice of pepperoni drizzled with honey, more to my natural sweet-and-savory tendencies. Why is honey on pizza so good when it can be so gross in other guises?

el atoradero duo

El Atoradero Since I rarely stray beyond North Brooklyn if I’m going cross-borough due to public transportation logistics and general impatience, I had to squeeze in a second meal to make my Clinton Hill pizza journey more worth the while. After killing some time, trying to work up another appetite by counter-intuitively drinking beer and buying doughnuts in Bed-Stuy, double-borough-crossing Bronx-to-Prospect Heights Mexican it was. (And if you think I’m bad and provincial, I couldn’t convince any Brooklynites to meet me.) I had a nice taco, blue corn tortilla and chewy-crunchy pig ears, followed by tongue, dead opposite texturally, described as “like filet mignon” because of its softness, drenched in a moderately spicy salsa verde. Look at those tasty slabs. I’d prefer this to that pricier cut of beef even if it provokes revulsion on social media. It’s doubtful anyone would identify braised tongue if fed a delicious bite. As an aside, if I were someone else, someone to whom Plant Love House wasn’t dead to after abandoning Queens, I might’ve stopped by Look too on the way back to the G train.

00+co farro fennel pizza
00+Co If I were to choose a new-school, unconventional pizza in the East Village I would probably pick Bruno because I like cheese, but this was not up to me. Birthday dinners that aren’t yours are like that. I like modern vegan food. No biggie. It’s more like you have to evaluate a non-traditional pizza against itself not some Neapolitan standard. Same for Chicago pies. These are hardy pizzas, no doubt, with farro-fennel balls standing in for sausage on the one of my choosing, along with tomatoes and cashew mozzarella that was a little overshadowed. My favorite was the smoky, tangy grilled trumpet mushroom and walnut cream pizza with green harissa, an overall earthy vibe and noticeable lemony brightness that once again made me covet my neighbor’s slice. 

alewife solo lady receipt

Alewife is a fine enough place for a sour beer (and maybe a super dark stout or two if its Friday) and a pile of duck confit poutine on the way home from work if those two points are connected by the 7 train and and both Corner Bistro are Casa Enrique are full, but if you are a woman doing so alone at the bar it will not go unnoticed and might be used to identify you on your receipt. Yep, just a “solo lady” here. That’s me.

 

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Fresh Seafood and Forgotten Chains of the Oregon Coast

local ocean trio

Because I enjoy generalizing and like seeing the world through my own experiences, I have no problem stating that Oregonians don’t really eat seafood. Not natives anyway. And Dungeness crab aside, local bounties don’t get their due either. You’ve probably had Washington oysters, maybe northern Californian (even in Seattle, some Humboldt Bay bivalves float their way onto menus) but do you even hear about Oregon oysters? I don’t. I don’t even know why.

mo's clam chowder

Regional chain Mo’s and its famous thick, buttery clam chowder is probably the only coastal restaurant with name recognition. And this treatment from the Sterns in Saveur a few years ago is the only food-focused article on the area that I can recall seeing in recent history. It’s strange how so much coastal food is overpriced and geriatric and ‘90s continental crusted in hazelnuts. I just wanted to eat fresh fish, which is how I ended up coercing my mom and stepdude 75 miles from where I was staying in Nehalem, and my sister and her husband (even after a decade, brother-in-law sounds weird) 120 miles from their base in Eugene to Local Ocean Seafoods in Lincoln City for a belated Christmas dinner. (Yep, it’s now April–I’m determined to rein 2016 back in.)

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Color Me Bad: Easter’s Most Wanted Purples

This ube ice cream sandwich (should really just start calling this Ube Patrol) currently at OddFellows Sandwich Shop was my pick for amazing purple edible thing of the week. A Danny Bowien/Sam Mason co-creation, it also includes coconut dulce de leche and shiso granola, and I want it.

But then Dallas BBQ posted a purple long island iced tea, and in its own typical lily-gilding fashion, adds a Peep, shot of rum, and upturned bottle of moscato. Wow?

Um, and there’s a Dallas BBQ just four blocks from OddFellows…

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Pizza, Pizza, Sushi, Himalayan and Not

pizzeria sirenetta arugula & prosciutto pizza

Pizzeria Sirenetta This is type of place–pizzas, pastas, snacks, all under $20–just taken for granted in so many neighborhoods. (A little less so in this more-desolate-than-you’d-think pocket of the Upper West Side.) I mean, it’s kind of boring. Also, I would kill for one. There just isn’t anywhere to get skinny linguine creamy with meyer lemon-spiked ricotta and sprinkled with micro-croutons or what I’ve decided is my favorite pizza, the perfect bitter/rich/salty combo of arugula and prosciutto. Instead of the little chocolate pudding freebie offered at the end of the other Mermaid restaurant meals, you will receive a tiny panna cotta with a droplet of balsamic vinegar.

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Screen Time: The Affair, Doll & Em, Transparent, Portlandia

From New York’s annual Best Of issue: Best 35th-Birthday Bar “Here’s a new one: ‘midlife millennial.’ That’s who Bryce David and his partners had in mind when they opened this bar and dance club, a spot for grown-ups who still want to rage but feel too old for the hangar-size dance bars like Output and Verboten.”

First off, no. Uh-uh. Millennials don’t get to start laying claim to middle age now too. I’m already bracing for an even Bigger Chill over the next decade.

Ok, just had to get that out of the way before playing catch up with some TV portrayals of elder women in bars.

the_affair (2)

The Affair: Helen is only drinking white wine alone in Brownstone Brooklyn because she got stood up by a Tinder date. “Tinder is more of a hookup site for millennials,” the server informs her, while suggesting Match.com because that’s where the divorcees hang out (hello, OurTime.com). It’s frightening to think I’d be roughly in the same dating pool as this character because I don’t look like Maura Tierney (51), own a home in Park Slope, or a housewares shop, and this probably goes a long way in explaining why I end up with 30 year olds with roommates not middle-aged salt-and-pepper drunk doctors, who hump you in the basement during a rainstorm while your kids are upstairs.

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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Seattle Side Trip

Almost always if someone outside the West Coast hears you’re from Portland, they assume you know everything about Seattle even though with 175 miles separating the two cites, that’s practically like conflating New York City with Baltimore. (Also, no one in Jackson Heights has ever heard of Oregon or Portland.) Prior to January, I’d only been to Seattle once in 1993 on an art school field trip where I used fudged work study money to buy a pair of John Fluevog flatforms, got my photo taken by tourists, and sipped not even second-wave coffee at some place called Puss-Puss Cafe before being driven back south by a charter bus.

Contemporary Seattle is…I’m not sure exactly. Definitely more mature than Portland, a little bland (seriously sad Tinder), a lot wet and outdoorsy, kind of like if a city could be the municipal embodiment of damp polar fleece. That said, there is also a lot of new, and a lot of it seems to have sprung-up close to where I was staying in Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill Cider This is where I kicked off my final night of eating and drinking (my first night of three was a bust after barfing into an air sickness bag while waiting on a porch for an Airbnb host) a little before night truly began. At this cider-focused tavern with a Northwest bent, just a glass of Apple Outlaw’s Ginger Bite kind of because the gluten-free menu wasn’t my thing (nothing against bbq or tempura broccoli) but mostly because I had many more pit stops ahead of me.

bar melusine

Bar Melusine I eat a lot of happy hour oysters, often without paying much mind to origin. At Bar Melusine I was excited about two things: trying more than just the familiar kumamotos, and getting an eyeful of that mint green, marble, and brass scheme that’s like visual Xanax. With six oysters on offer, the kumamoto being the only non-Washington bivalve (and raising the question as to why you never encounter Oregon oysters), ordering a dozen was the perfect opportunity to try them all, with an Aquavit-based cocktail like the Fleet Wanderer. Supposedly ranked mildest to strongest (I did not agree): Kumamoto, Treasure Cove, Eld Inlet, Passage, Blue Pool, Hama Hama.

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