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Posts from the ‘Seafood’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Sweets, Shots, Samosas

 arepa lady dessert

Arepa Lady Desserts can be a sticking point at otherwise fine restaurants. Post-tacos, curries or dosas, the sit-down Arepa Lady is fine for a sweet nightcap and open until 1am on weekends, to boot. A naturally sweet arepa de queso can be doctored by a number of squeeze-your-own sauces like pineapple, condensed milk and dulce de leche. Share with a friend at the bar if you’re too full, and if you’re lucky you may walk into one giant birthday party. If I understood correctly, the entire space, which isn’t saying much as it’s the size of a bedroom, was celebrating the Arepa Lady’s daughter’s birthday. We cracked open the leftover BYOB beers from an earlier meal at Kitchen 79 and were gifted a few shots of aguardiente. Salud!

london lennie's quad

London Lennie’s is so awesome I may have to dedicate two entries, one for food and one for the bar. Queens will never be allowed to be called “The New Brooklyn” as long as dollar oysters remain scarce. Offhand, Astor Room and London Lennie’s are the only two borough restaurants I’m aware of with such happy hour deals (I’m all ears, if you know more) and both require a bus ride. No one in Brooklyn, by which I mean Williamsburg, the epicenter of dollar oysters, refers to them as “Buck-a-Shuck” either. In Rego Park, they are available Monday through Friday, 4pm-6pm at the bar. On this occasion the oysters, just a little sweet and saline, were Rocky Reef from Long Island. You may also want big, fat battered fried shrimp, crab dip and oyster shooters. You may also be bought a shot of tequila when your new bar friends find out it’s your dining partner’s 40th birthday. There have been a disproportionate amount of shots consumed since I moved to Queens last month.

raja sweets samosa chat

Raja Sweets & Fast Food Even though Jackson Heights is known for Indian food (I see the Jackson Diner is doing a pop-up at Diamond Bar?) it’s not what the neighborhood excels at. Neither are places to pass time leisurely. Initially, I popped into the reopened Jackson Heights Food Court for a snack to kill time while my apartment was being taken over by wallpaperers (my dining room and entryway kind of rule now) but no one behind the steam table would make eye contact or take my order. To its credit, it did give me that foreign dining feeling where I start questioning myself, “Am I not doing this right?” Carb coma-inducing chaat, more like two dinners than a snack, can be had for $4.99 down the street, so it’s all fine. Instead of being broken up to resemble a lettuce-free chopped salad, this samosa chat contained two nearly intact potato-filled specimens tossed with the requisite chickpeas, spicy sauce, yogurt drizzles and a slew of cilantro and raw chopped onions. Just the right balance of crispy-crunchy and mushy, punched up with heat and an optional diy swirl of sweet-tart tamarind sauce (not really chutney–it looks like ruddy sweet and sour sauce). I’ve had a few chutneys recently that are nearly dead ringers for pico de gallo. A Russian woman at a party last weekend claimed Russian food was like Mexican, which is one of nuttiest things I’ve ever heard. If you said Indian, I’d entertain your argument.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Schnitzel, Hot Pot, $1 Oysters

zum stamtisch trio

Zum Stamtisch might not serve the best German food in NYC, but you have to appreciate its longevity. (The first thing I ever wrote for money in NYC–and was paid 7 to 14 times more than what I’ve been offered for blog posts in modern day–was about German bars in Glendale. Zum Stamtisch is the only one of four still standing in its 2002 form.) And commitment to Bavarian kitsch. This is not a young person’s restaurant, especially not on an early Sunday evening. Everything could use a few shakes of salt (perhaps the clientele is watching their sodium intake). The schnitzel, available in pork only, is a stellar specimen, though, with a super crisp-and-craggy breading that’s not oily in the least. The mustardy vinegar-based potato salad is also well done; the starchy chunks have a few browned edges that add a little character. There is an impressive list of after dinner digestifs that does include Jaeger and Bailey’s but also gets a little more esoteric. Forget Fernet, this is Underberg and Escorial Grün.

little sheep

Little Lamb. I’ve said this before but I’m still not sure who’s ripping of whom. Little Lamb Happy Family, which has sat on Flushing’s Main Street for some time, is a blatant counterfeit.  But Little Sheep, which opened last year and Little Lamb, which recently appeared in the SkyView Center, are cut from the same cloth, complete with flat screen TVs showing videos of the Mongolia-based chain’s origin story. Little Sheep is bigger and has a liquor license (though Lamb serve what appears to be cola in wine carafes). Little Lamb has a view of the Applebee’s, its neighbor, and was still doing a 10% off promo when I visited (both pros, if you ask me). Bizarrely, the entire seafood section had an X through it on the order form (a con). The spicy side of the half-and-half broth contained an unusual amount of cumin–I’ve never had a hot pot where cumin seeds stick to everything, and the greens in the mixed vegetable platter were kind of strange and included lettuce (I find cooked lettuce grotesque) as well as weird frilly leaved weeds I’d never seen before. Everything was pleasant enough, though if this were a competition Little Sheep would win by a (wooly) hair.

extra fancy trio

Extra Fancy has always struck me as more of a drinking establishment even though both times I’ve eaten there in the past it has been fine (if not full of loud drunken people encroaching on my space). Apparently, they are trying to get fancier with the addition of a new chef. That seemed to translate to a $35 steak special, lobster pie and more charcuterie. I didn’t even realize they did a $1 oyster happy hour, practically a requirement in Williamsburg, but it was appreciated. A chicken pate topped with a layer of cider jelly and a big dose of toasted pistachios was one of the better I’ve had of late, bone marrow with barbecue-sauced brisket and Texas toast was also fun and now makes two restaurants in a six-block radius serving bone marrow with Texas toast (see Brooklyn Star). I stuck to the shared plates, but will most likely return in the very near future because I sometimes Lent dine to appease others and live down the street.




gambrinus quad

twoshovelI suspect that much of Gambrinus’ appeal stems from being able to sit outside, drink vodka and smoke rather than being related to the Russian restaurant’s swashbuckling theme or the food. The indoor bar is fashioned to look like a boat–and so is the exterior–so peering in from outer porthole window has the potential to suck you into a maritime-themed vortex. For good measure, the male servers wear sailor suits.

gambrinus exterior

It was still warm enough for the picnic tables when I went and that’s where every patron was clustered. I’m also not so sure that it’s a seafood restaurant, despite the full name, Gambrinus Seafood Bar and Restaurant, and the eight different fish involved in the entrees. Soups, grilled meats and potato dishes seemed to get more play.

gambrinus fish platter

Unintentionally, I ended up with three dishes, all appetizers technically, sharing many common ingredients. The assorted cured fish platter with salmon and sturgeon was good, and a concession because they didn’t have all of the meats for the meat platter.

gambrinus seafood blintzes

If there’s a menu section called “dough entrees,” it can’t be ignored. That’s how I ended up with seafood blintzes filled with shrimp, fake crab and cream sauce. People witnessing my broadcast on social media seemed to think this gross, which wasn’t true at all. There’s nothing problematic about dairy paired with seafood, and krab is legit.

gambrinus salad

The “subtlety” salad was in a similar vein, including smoked salmon, roe, and a form of thousand island dressing that was not all that subtle.

gambrinus piano

The benefit of the now cold weather is that the piano player won’t be so alone.

Gambrinus * 3100 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY





Waterman’s Crab House

I independently came to the conclusion that Waterman's
is the closest real Chesapeake crab-eating experience to NYC, which was later
reinforced by the Road Food message board. You still have to drive nearly 200 miles for
the experience, though.

Waterman's crab house view

By real I don't even mean that the crabs are local;
most, maybe all, of the Maryland crab houses get their bounty from Louisiana
and Texas, at least part of the year. It's the Eastern Shore style, served
outdoors, on the water, at picnic tables (though the windowless bar room is
equally authentic
, especially in Baltimore).

Waterman's crab house dozen crabs

The crabs come crusted in salty,
piquant Old Bay with vinegar, extra Old Bay, and melted butter for dipping.

Waterman's crab house crab pile

get to choose the size of your crabs, all the way from mediums to jumbos with
larges and extra larges in between, if they have them, and pay accordingly by
the dozen. NYC crabs are never larger than medium. Picking crab is fussy
business; you'll starve messing with mediums.

Waterman's crab house hushpuppies

Hushpuppies are the starch of choice. Dip them in
more butter.

Waterman's crab house crab pretzel

Crab pretzels, cheesy crab dip baked onto pretzel
bread, came on the scene some time ago. Admittedly, it's kind of gross when it's
over 90 degrees and you're sweating. Crab dip served with saltines is more

Waterman's crab house beer

A pitcher of beer is necessary. I'd never seen this
bag of ice trick before.

Waterman's crab house bar

Then you can move onto Rum Runners, Jaeger bombs or
whatever special is advertised at the adjoining bar where 85% of the clientele
is at least 40, smokes and tanned to a beef jerky brown. My current bleached
blonde hair made me feel like I fit in a little big, but my skin's ghosty hue gave me away
as an intruder.

Waterman's Crab House * 21055 Sharp St., Rock Hall, Maryland

Kødbyens Fiskebar

Kødbyens Fiskebar may have won for prettiest plate
of food. The seafood restaurant in the meatpacking district (the name
translates to Meatpacking Fishbar) another Noma alumnus project, was also my
first night safety pick  I like having a
non-elaborate, no reservations required option
within walking distance in mind for my first night in another city. I'm just
not a serendipitous traveler. Even though Fiskebar was just around the corner
from my apartment, it didn't pan out because that initial evening because it
was closed for a staff function.

I went back five days later, on my own, despite my
irrational aversion to solo dining. There's a 
prominent bar in the center of the room for walk-ins and it's not really
a big deal. I got my glass of French rose (American wines of any style are just
not a thing in Copenhagen) and settled in among the other tourists eating
alone. Midlake, a band I hadn't thought of in some time, played
"Roscoe" quietly over the speakers, and for a second I was lulled into
thinking I was in Brooklyn.

(Unlike Brooklyn, they take reservations and credit cards,
both with weird caveats. I was hesitant to use a credit card since ours don't
have chips and PINs and get rejected by machines, but also because most menus
had a blurb about credit card company fees being charged to the card. You are
also given a two-and-half-hour time limit at most restaurants, even the Michelin stars, when you book.
I'm trying to decide if this is a matter of transparency, rigidness, or
literalness in the Danish character and how it connects to being the happiest
people in the world.)

It's one of those casual restaurants with high
quality ingredients. Despite the relaxed atmosphere, quality does come at
a price, especially if you hail from somewhere with an unfavorable exchange
rate. At home I'm surrounded by $1 oyster specials so I'm warped; even on the
high end a Belon might be in the $4 range, so $7-$10 oysters felt punitive enough
for me to pass. Then again, I've never tried an Irish (Ostra Regal) or French (Roumégous,
Gillardeau, perle blanche) oyster so I could very well be missing out.

Fiskebaren langoustine tartar, smoked bone marrow, ramson flowers, pickled onion

The Norwegian langoustine tartar was very delicate,
so too the ramson a.k.a ramps and its flowers. Smoked bone marrow was mixed in
with the fluffy raw shellfish and the pickled onions were blackened, creating a
striking flavor combination based on char. Something was also contributing
bursts of citrus.

Fiskebaren scallops, peas, granola, capers, morels, dill vinaigrette

Scallops, also from Norway, were just one part of an
intense spring tableau. I have no idea where the granola from the menu
description comes into play, but the peas, pureed, whole, shoots and flowered,
definitely stood out, sweetly. Capers added zing to a dill dressing and the morels
grounded the brighter components.

Danish shawarma

I debated a third dish and then frugaled out. My
most favorite food cliché is the Big Mac supposedly needed after a fancy meal,
often a tasting menu. I'm not sure that two small plates (technically, these
fell under the raw bar and medium courses from the hot kitchen categories)
qualifies, but I did get a shawarma an hour later.

Kødbyens Fiskebar * Flæsketorvet 100, Copenhagen, Denmark

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

I would be remiss in not taking part of all that
Times Square has to offer, now that my office in right in the thick of it. And
if there's one thing chains are adept at, it's responding fairly rapidly on social

I put out a plea. And Bubba Gump was there for me (29 minutes later). 

But really the deciding factor was that out of the many choices in a one-block radius, it was the only chain I'd never tried before. That shrimpy alien-eyed mascot in a top hat had beckoned many times in New Orleans, but I'm not a monster. Three visits in, there's no way that even I could justify allocating a dining occasion there in such a food-rich city. But I'm here all the time and have no problem sacrificing a meal in search of greater knowledge. Bubba Gump Times Square is a very YOLO experience.

I expected tourists. I did not expect foreign
tourists. There's a heck of a lot of Italian, Spanish and British-accented
English being spoken in line–and yes, there's a line, despite the multiple
wood-planked dining rooms that sprawl along the second floor overlooking the
northeast corner of 44th and Broadway. More American than New York, though, two
diners will still be given a raised booth that could easily seat six, almost
making it worth the wait. (For the record, Guy's American Kitchen, equally
large, on the same block, looked like you could walk in and snag a table
Bubba gump sign

Are the foreigners Forrest Gump fans? I ask, because
a friend who's worked in the Viacom building and wondered why anyone would line
up, didn't realize the restaurant was themed after the movie. Memorabilia is
everywhere and so are the cameras capturing it. My only interaction with the
film was once choosing it over True Lies on an unusually hot Portland night
because I was desperate for air conditioning, drunk, and I could get in free to
movies. I missed the first half, and barely remember the second half.

Bubba gump blue hawaii

They push the commemorative glasses with the
cocktails, but you can buy your Sierra Mist, blue curacao, rum, vodka, gin and
pineapple juice, a.k.a. the Blue Hawaiian, to consume in the normal manner,
just renting the glass. The drink are sweet and you won't get drunk, despite
the Long Island Iced Tea-esque list of ingredients. Even two stiff brown
spirited cocktails at Rum House afterwards won't mitigate the aqua-ness.

Bubba gump shrimper's net catch

Calories are listed on the menu, as is now the law, and
no surprise, quite a few dishes break the 1,000 limit. Peel and eat shrimp will
not (only 300, if you care). The most popular dish by far is the Shrimpers
Heaven, basically 1,420 calories worth of fried shrimp every which way. Vacationers
don't care.

Bubba gump bubba's far out dip

If you want a little more cheese and fat, with
spinach and artichokes thrown in, Bubba's Far Out Dip will suffice.

Bubba gump dumb luck coconut shrimp

And if it's requisite breading and frying you're
after, the coconut shrimp with a marmalade dip, supposedly Cajun, works and you
don't even have to like seafood because of all the orange and coconut sweetness.

There is a dish called Bubba's After the Storm
"Bucket of Boat Trash," which I hope makes more sense to those who
paid better attention to the movie.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. * 1501 Broadway, New York, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Spicy, Meatless, Horseless

Brooklyn taco duo

Brooklyn Taco The Saturday afternoon pop-up housed
inside Williamsburg's Donna was a pleasant surprise. Happy hour drinks
practically call for a little stomach padding. Guacamole (for god’s sake, never
say "guac"–do I even have to tell you not say "marg?")
always bores me to death and is overpriced to boot (I’m fine enjoying the
two-dollar's worth of raw materials in my own home) but for reasons I don’t
understand everyone always wants to order a shitload for the table, so I was a
mildly amused that the usual crowd-pleaser was fiery enough to elicit dismay. I'm
not even sure where they heat was lurking in the green mash. Same with the
tacos; those who went for the vegetarian version got dosed with a blast of
chile heat. Maybe the meat-avoiders were being punked? The cabeza was spicy,
not brutally so, and I was happy to have a chewy, substantial choice instead of
some stewed San Loco/Calexico blahness.

Blossom I probably wouldn’t have chosen a vegan
restaurant out of my own volition (though animal-free dishes are a step above
raw foods) but others’ birthdays are like that. And the
pistachio-and-pepper-dusted tofu was better than the sum of its parts. Probably
because of the foundational crepe stuffed with a root vegetable puree and the thick
lemon truffle sauce. It was more rich than austere. My camera photo was hideous enough that it decided to leave it out–I hate to give vegan cooking an even worse image.

Qi Bangkok Eatery I’m really not obsessed with Qi
even though I do get a kick out of the Williamsburg location (I'm pretty sure
I've mentioned it at least twice). It turns out that I now work a block from
the one on Eighth Avenue so I had to take a peek. I was surprised that they
also have a menu by Pichet Ong a.k.a. the “Bangkok Selection” (and that there
are still peep shows in Times Square) but it’s not the same as in Williamsburg,
no Ovaltine ribs, etc. and only available after 5pm. I just had the lunch
combo, steamed chicken dumplings that were kind of boring but not bad and
chicken basil chile stirfry that was spicier than expected for not having to
ask for extra heat. $7.95 isn’t a horrible price (you could pay $13 for a
takeout salad over here) for two dishes in a non-frenzied setting. I'll probably go back and just get a larb and a glass of Riesling (drunk lunch is my new midtown M.O.–don't tell anyone) You don't
like chandeliers in lucite boxes and Louis Ghost chairs during your lunch break?

Bonefish grill april duo
Bonefish Grill Ok, well, I am obsessed with Bonefish
Grill. Twice in one quarter is a lot even for me. This is a weirdo location in
Paramus that instead of sharing space with a fellow OSI brand like Carrabba’s is
attached to a Crowne Plaza next to a mall. So it felt like I was on a vacation.
There was no trout for my grilled fish with pan Asian sauce (pretty much soy,
ketchup and oyster sauce
) so it was scallops and shrimp instead. They did,
however, have a new appetizer, white tuna, a.k.a. escolar, a.k.a. shit fish
sashimi (that's seared) which I ordered because I’m wild that way. The seasonal sides have
progressively gotten more creative. I don’t mean that chickpeas, spinach and
turkey sausage is Michelin-worthy, just that it’s trying a little harder than the
usual mashed potatoes, rice or steamed vegetables.

Ikea Horse-free, I think, not that I would be
bothered by a little horse meat (apparently, the Swedes aren't either). I
haven’t eaten in an Ikea cafeteria in years—when did they replace the boiled
new potatoes with mashed?






Eaten, Barely Blogged: 11211

Le Comptoir It seems like just yesterday I moved to
Clinton Hill, but that was five months ago. Now it’s winter and I’m living in
Williamsburg where there is easily ten times the number of restaurants and I may as well be a grandma. That’s
one reason why Le Comptoir seemed like an odd choice to be name-checked in the
new rental’s glowing ad copy.
I wouldn’t consider the bistro notable enough to
convince anyone to move nearby and only went because I wasn’t in the mood for a
long Saturday night wait after a day of moving and it was empty (while Walter
Foods next door was at capacity) at first, then filled with drinkers up front.
I think they live on their all-you-can-drink weekend brunch. Service was
predictably wonky and my Sazerac, which I only ordered because it was listed,
was served iced like the Manhattans in Southeast Asia. My steak tartare with
salad was fine, if not generously portioned for $11. A fallback, not a first

Briskettown breakfast tacos

BrisketTown I’ve still not experienced the primetime
bbq (nor the just introduced lunch sandwiches) but during the day they serve
the brisket–and you should get the brisket–in Austin-style breakfast tacos.
The floppy flour tortillas make the creation feel more like an open-faced
burrito. Despite tales of lines for dinner and running out before closing time,
there was not another soul inside for the morning shift. Though the pulled pork
and brisket look similar (I did not try the vegetable, the third offering) each
had its own unique garnish: a slightly bitter cabbage for the pork and pickled
red onions for the smoked beef. The latter, blended with scrambled eggs and
chile sauce had the edge. I have never been to Texas so I can’t speak to any
authenticity–bacon or chorizo are the favored meats there–but the breakfast
tacos have been given thumbs up by more than one Austin transplant.

Forcella Part of the 2011 montanara pizza craze that
apparently has died down. And once again, we were the only diners on a
weeknight (not a good trend). I like the concept–it’s not as if they’re going
full-Scottish and battering and deep-frying the whole pizza–but it failed to
deliver. The whole center was sog, defeating the whole purpose of the fry. I
would’ve rather had a langos.

Maision premiere happy hour

 Maison Premiere A wild exception to the
everyplace is empty experience. Arriving at 4:05pm for the 4pm-7pm $1 oyster
happy hour was no prevention against waiting until 6pm until an iced tray of oysters
appeared in front of me. Whether or not this was the result of a
three-day-weekend Monday (I hope to god) or a normal Monday, I can’t say. And
the seating procedure was arcane, to boot. The initial 20-minute quote turned
out to be just to enter the restaurant, which was already at capacity, and not
for any guarantee of bar seating where you can order food (seats with ledges in
the bar are drinks-only). Said prime bar seating is a free for all and
predatory. If you wait another hour or so one of the real sit-down tables will
eventually become available. Logistics aside, a buck an oyster is a good deal,
and 18 varieties means you can get an education (I knew I liked Malpeques but
the super briny new-to-me Beausoleil and Totten Island oysters were the best)
even if it’s unlikely that I would return anytime soon (or could unless I snuck
off work early). The non-raw bar food is ambitious. Loup de mer crudo was
precious in size, though brightly flavored with grapefruit and marcona almonds
for a little richness. And I was not expecting a cloche and tableside saucing
with the langoustine and sweetbreads, especially not as the large group of
young men at the next table were doing their best impression of Dave Chapelle channeling
Rick James by shrieking “I’m rich bitch.”

Omg tacoOMG Taco
Technically 11206 (and no, this isn’t Bushwick) there is not probably any reason to eat
here other than being very drunk and/or needing food on the same block as the
Montrose L station.With that said, the bistec taco (pictured) could’ve been worse.

Taco Chulo There is not a strong argument to eat
here either, though I have done so many times. It is useful for large groups
with varying levels of interest in food–and there’s no harm in a margarita and
queso-drenched  nachos every now and

Bonefish Grill Staten Island

If I were a paid mystery shopper for Bloomin’ Brands
Inc. or a fake employee on Mystery Diners (that show is so staged, right?) I’d have to report some underperformance at NYC’s first Bonefish Grill. One could go as far as saying I’m a Bonefish aficionado (no one should go as far as saying afishianado) since I’m unabashed about it being my favorite casual dining chain. Sometimes it even gives me feelings. Staten Island’s attempt, though, left me feeling that they weren’t quite following New Jersey’s model.

They do take reservations, unusual for a chain, and it’s an amenity not fully advertised so it’s great for  pissing off people who’ve been waiting close to an hour for their beeper to go off while you get seated straightway (this is how you induce envy in the suburbs).

So, with said reservations at 8:30pm on a Friday, intentionally arrived early to scope out the bar scene. The restaurant, a former Carrabba’s (there’s also no Olive Garden in S.I. which makes me wonder if the Italian-American contingent won’t abide chains) was far less bustling than its New Jersey counterparts. And while less crowded, it still felt understaffed. It took 15 minutes to get a drink, we weren’t given the list of specials (I’m not going to order a White Winter Cosmopolitan anyway, but you should offer) and I was asked if I wanted the blue cheese olives in my “Three Olives” Martini (quotes, all theirs) a not uncommon New York-ism where you order something as described on the menu and then are asked what you want in it. So, yes, I want the three blue cheese olives. Of interest, they were serving Brooklyn Sorachi Ace and lager, a nod to NYC not found at Garden State locations.

Bonefish grill staten island bread

I started getting panicky (ok, not really) when the bread and pesto dipping sauce didn’t automatically arrive after being seated and I didn’t see evidence on anyone’s table. Once again, like the cheesey olives, we were asked if we wanted bread instead of it arriving by default. Why do they not understand that America is about excess? Would Red Lobster ask if you wanted Cheddar Bay Biscuits? Of course not because the biscuits are the only reason to dine at Red Lobster. Bonefish’s warm cibatta is no Cheddar Bay Biscuit, but it’s part of the routine. The loaf eventually came, but naked on a plate instead of swaddled in the usual white poly-blend napkin in a metal basket. Is this approved by corporate?

Bonefish grill staten island bang bang shrimp

The signature Bang Bang Shrimp arrived minutes after ordering, suspiciously fast. And suspiciously soft.

Bonefish grill staten island lobster thermidor

I don’t go to Bonefish for pin-pricks of sauce or tweezered micro-herbs artfully arranged on the plate, but I wouldn’t mind a little symmetry. My Lobster Thermidor Dorado (a not bad mahi mahi filet smothered in cream sauce, crab meat and lobster claws) is about to escape off the plate.

True to form, they did play moderately obscure alternative songs (It was “Shellshock” that originally endeared me) that now sound adult contemporary like Echo and the Bunnyman’s 1996 past its prime, “Stormy Weather.”

Cadillac hubcap

On the way back to Brooklyn, a Cadillac exploded or I don’t even know what and a flying hubcap shredded our tire. And then the flat replacement had a hole. I can’t help but think that waiting two hours for AAA to do something (they won’t rescue on the BQE, by the way; you must get your car up an exit onto a service road unless you want to pay extra for the tow) in teen temps (no surer way to sober up after a few Zombies) was a sure sign that suburban chains are best left to the real suburbs, just as a Dallas BBQ would make no sense in Westchester, a working theory that needed to be made concrete. Go try some of that Times-approved Sri Lankan food, instead.

Bonefish Grill * 280 Marsh Ave., Staten Island, NY

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Black Labels & Seafood, City & Suburban

Minetta tavern black label burgerMinetta Tavern
Not-that-embarrassing-confession: I’ve never had the Black Label Burger
(though, I recently encountered a Thai burger bearing the same name) and when
you admit this, people always want to know what you thought of it. Ok, yes,  it was very much not a regular burger. It was
a rich, messy and amazing burger that actually gave me a stomach ache even from
eating half. (And now I wonder if it’s just because I’m getting old and can’t
handle fatty foods because the same thing happened with pork ribs a week later.
I fear turning into my boyfriend’s mom who says things like “I like
butter, but butter doesn’t’ like me,” which sounds quainter on paper than coming out of her mouth.) I’m not a
tasting notes type, but I can still recall the flavor even if I’m having trouble articulating it (I hate it when people online describe food as “flavorful”). The meat had that fleshy, aged steak flavor I think is more musky than minerally that
you get in particular when you gnaw on a porterhouse bone to eke out all the scraps and
congealed fat. There was also a lamb special involved and it seemed unnecessary
for the server to explain what merguez is, but then the crowd was weird. It was
also the first time I’d ever seen middle-American grownups taking
photos of their food with SLRs. Also, bros who didn’t know what animal bone
marrow came from and were dismayed at the cost of hair and makeup for

Nitehawk cinema quesoNitehawk Cinema Ok, these weren’t bad for movie theater
nachos (though chips, along with traditional popcorn, aren’t exactly the ideal
food for an environment requiring quiet). And it wasn’t ordinary queso. In
fact, the super-cinnamony chorizo and lime-heavy guacamole almost distracted
from the aggressively salty quality I look for in dishes revolving around melted
processed cheese.

Ditch Plains There was a lot of lobster in this roll, enough
to make for a surprisingly filling sandwich, though I still find the $28 price
tag tough to justify.

Extra Fancy The $12 shrimp sandwich in a split, buttered
roll and demure serving fries tucked into a paper fast food bag was certainly
cheaper than the lobster roll, but more of a snack than a meal.  It’s a shame that they switched chefs so
quickly since a city can only handle so many New England and Maryland
approximations–even when well-priced and easy to score a seat on a Saturday

Birthday bang bang shrimpBonefish Grill Free birthday Bang Bang Shrimp in New Jersey
on the same night that the chain’s first NYC branch opened in Staten Island. I considered
the opening, but the charity component seemed too serious and I wouldn’t be
able to use my coupon, which was the whole point. I’m pretty sure 90% of tables
have these crispy shrimp bathed in what I’m guessing is a sauce made of
mayonnaise and Sriracha. Apparently, Bonefish now serves a lobster roll, but I’d just eaten one the night before so it didn’t seem right. For the record, it’s only $13.90.