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Posts from the ‘Staten Island’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Good Burger, Bad Burger, BBQ

elm brunch trio

At The Elm there were a lot of empty tables during the brunch Sunday (and I was still told preemptively  that I couldn’t be seated until my full party showed up, even though I didn’t ask to). What gives? I’ve generally considered myself as a member of the opposition in the war on brunch, but I wanted to try that burger. It’s two dollars cheaper during brunch ($16) than dinner , which I suppose is pricey (remember when $12 burgers used to spazz people out?) but more than ok because it’s one of those special, thick, aged like a steak patties, medium-rare without asking, juicy enough to soak through the bottom of the brioche bun if you chit chat too much while eating. The dinner menu says white cheddar while the brunch one says comte–whether different meals actually demand different cheeses or if the two menus are out of synch is a good question. Frankly, I don’t even remember the cheese because the meat blend was so dominant. The pickled onions and tomato confit were a nice touch, though. The fries were real fries (see below) which is the best one can hope for. You could also have an omelet or lobster benedict.

red robin western bbq burger

Red Robin I hate to say this as a chain apologist, but Red Robin is just sort of off. Both of my adult experiences, the latest being at the new Staten Island mall location to visit the recently opened Uniqlo and to take advantage of a housewarming gift card (thanks, by the way) for the house I no longer live in, have done nothing to persuade me. (Last time there was glitter in my ice.) In every way, it’s the anti-Elm burger. You can’t have it cooked less than medium and it doesn’t matter because the patty is too thin anyway. The bun and toppings are all you taste, and this particular burger comes with mayonnaise despite already being dressed with bbq sauce, which shouldn’t be allowed. The most distressing aspect of this restaurant’s M.O., though, is the bottomless fries premise because they’re steak fries and what kind of monster could or would want to serving after serving of soft, mealy potato slabs? When considering this offering, paying $6.50 more at The Elm feels like a true bargain. I did like the pretzel bites with cheese sauce even if they tasted inexplicably like peanut butter.

rookery scotch eggThe Rookery Even as New Nordic flourishes seep into all corners of the culinary world, gastropubs persist. I managed to eat two scotch egg renditions in a single week without even realizing it (more on Alder, which I’m not calling a gastropub, later).  More pub than gastro, The Rookery has a small menu with West Indian tweaks like curried goat in the shepherd’s pie and oxtail used for sloppy joes, however the egg is fairly straightforward with some bitter greens for balance. Order it and the sweet and sour brussels sprouts (with the rashers, of course) which are spicy more than sweet or sour.

Hometown Bar-B-Q It could’ve been the lateness (is 9:30pm late?) or the brutal chill (it was coat-wearing temperature even in the restaurant) but I was surprised by the lack of patrons on a weeknight. The brisket was very good, both crusty and just fatty enough to freak out the lean brisket-lovers (I know you exist, but why?). I wish I had ordered more of the beef than the pork ribs because a pound is a lot for two people, pink with a perfect smoke ring or not.  I’ve never been able to capture bbq adequately with a smartphone; the all-brown food is always set atop a brown piece of paper on a tray that’s on a brown wood table, creating a dark reddish mud-toned photo that only a Martha Stewart would be comfortable sharing online.



Eaten, Barely Blogged: A Month or More

So, I’ve eaten a few things in my absence, a lot or not much, depending on your perspective. I don’t eat out every day, and I don’t relentlessly pursue newness. I will likely elaborate on a few of these in the near future.


JG Melon: A belated birthday burger. My first time ever at the UES institution.


L’Albero dei Gelati: No salmon or blue cheese gelato, but the savories of the day, saffron and red pepper, were pretty nice paired with cheese and salami.


The Elm: Convincing a vegetarian to eat a few dishes at the bar with me meant no large format sharing (the$48 zillion vegetables in a cocotte contains pork
broth, by the way). I will have to return.  There was a tom yum scallop.

Bagelteria: I reached new levels of laziness and ordered an egg and cheese on a roll (plus a bagel with lox to make the delivery minimum)
from Seamless on a Sunday morning.


Desnuda: Two visits ordering the exact same thing, $1 oysters and one of my new favorite cocktails, The Reformer (Cherry Heering, Elcano fino sherry, Avua Amburana cachaça, Peychaud’s bitters, and pasilla and scorpion chiles). The drink is spicy but almost melon-tasting, a surprise because I hate melon.

maggiano's aviation

Maggiano’s:  I’m no lover of Italian-American food, but I do love a new-to-me chain, and it’s rare for one of these types of places
to serve non-sweet cocktails. Yes, I went all the way to Bridgewater, NJ for an Aviation (so many leave off the crème de violette, which is the whole point)
and something called Catcher in the Rye (Knob Creek Rye, Luxardo Maraschino, simple syrup, old fashioned bitters). The food was what you’d expect.


Motorino: Delivery once, dine-in another time. The Brussels sprouts pizza is classic, despite not being particularly summery. The tomato pie with four varieties made up for it with his hyper-seasonality.

Roberta’s: So, I’d never been before. An embarrassment, considering that for me it’s hardly the arduous journey media makes it out to
be (under two miles/30-minute walk). More pizza, the Beastmaster (mozzarella, gorgonzola, pork sausage, capers, onions, jalapeno) plus duck prosciutto and a
grilled squid special. The thing that stands out the most, oddly, was the peanut butter and celery gelato that tasted exactly like peanut butter and celery. This is the only restaurant where I’ve ever seen an e-cig smoker at a table. (I have them too, but it feels too douchey to use them indoors in public.)

jail bong

Sripraphai: They really don’t believe you anymore when you say you want things spicy, yet I still go. The nam priks and assorted chile pastes in the fridge are another story and I’ll always pick up two each visit. This so-called “jail bong” is blistering hot, humid garbage funky and delicious as all get out. It was described to me as being “like blue cheese,” but I would say it tastes like the fermented anchovies that it moslty is.

Ootoya: Read more here. It’s the new Times Square branch. Pricier than a typical lunch, but also peaceful and not like anything else in the neighborhood.

gambrinus piano

Gambrinus: There’s no doing this Russian seafood café any justice in a sentence or two. The bar is shaped like a boat, staff is dressed like sailors, everyone sits
outside and drinks vodka and smokes—that’s why the indoor piano player is all alone.

Zizi Limona: There is $5 house wine at lunch, which would be compelling enough without the chicken and smoked eggplant sub with paprika-dusted fries and

jacobs pickles

Jacob’s Pickles: When our waiter informed us that a marriage proposal was about to go down, all I could do was think about ruining it somehow, potentially using Twitter pre-emptively. Unfortunately, no diamond rings appeared to be lurking in the fried chicken biscuit sandwiches.
Battery Harris: Somehow six pints of beer, jerk wings, two patties and a kale salad only cost $29. All-Monday happy hour is a feat.

dairy queen blizzard

Dairy Queen: It took me 15 years to finally ride the Staten Island Ferry, and there was a mini Blizzard (my childhood fave, turtle pecan) waiting for me on the other side as a reward. Supposedly, there will be another Dairy Queen appearing in Times Square before the end of the year, and then it will cease being special.


SanRasa: It wasn’t just the most interesting thing walking distance from the ferry, but also the only business that appeared to be open on Labor Day (even the Subway was shuttered). Lamprie, this enormous mound of basmati rice, caramelized onions, cashews and kingfish curry, a croquette that may have been fish or vegetable mush, topped with a paper umbrella and served in a banana leaf, is as good an introduction as any to Sri Lankan food.


Sadly, SanRasa’s beer garden was closed. Luckily, I was fueled by a giant can of Modelo on the ferry.

peter luger steak

Peter Luger: There was a steak for three (I hate the odd-numbered steak divvying) for my visiting mom’s 63rd birthday. Benecio del Toro was sitting at the
next table, so she at least got one celebrity sighting. Mother may know best, but I ordered the creamed spinach (am I the only one who likes it?) despite her protestations.

Dumont: Still a very good burger. Medium-rare is taken seriously.

qi tea

Qi Thai: I order delivery all the time at home, and pick-up duck salad for lunch when I’m at work in Times Square. I had never ordered Thai iced tea to go, however. Apparently, it comes in plastic takeout container. I guess it’s not so much weirder than how they put drinks in plastic baggies in Thailand.

brooklyn star marrow

Brooklyn Star: Smoked bone marrow and Texas toast is probably meant to be a shared plate, but I made it my dinner last night. It’s good having a place to eat after midnight on a Tuesday.


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

How Do You Say Tiki in Staten Island?

Jade island drink

Guy at end of the bar to guy on neighboring stool: "How
do you say Tony Romo in Spanish?"

Answer: "Mark Sanchez."

The small separate but open-doored front portion of
Jade Island devoted to drinking (not to be confused with the main event, a strip
mall restaurant serving a Chinese-American Polynesian amalgam to 90% locals/10%
Zipcar drivers) is really a sports bar that happens to serve tiki drinks. And
to steer from bottles of Bud Light or practiced classics with mixes at the
ready is to ask for trouble–or at least a suspicious glance. Don't even think about
Batavia arrack or allspice dram.

I did not get that joke, by the way. And I'm not
convinced that following football (I do not) ups the hilarity.

There may not be more than five patrons on a Friday
night, but the odds are they will all be middle-aged men, not unfriendly, even
the one who talks to himself and rides a bike, not for fitness or carbon
offsets but in the way that grown men sometimes do in the suburbs, perhaps the
result of poor decision-making, maybe due to a banning from the accepted mode
of transport. They talk of Jose Tejas, the popular (I've attempted to go three
times in the past year, most recently this weekend and can never bear the
hour-plus waits. Chevy's is a compromise, but they do serve Bulldogs,
i.e. margaritas with shrunken bottles of Corona tipped in
) Tex-Mex restaurant on
Route 1, in the nearby part of New Jersey, my favorite part, that blurs with
Staten Island, despite the Goethals Bridge separating them.

Ask for a Harvey Wallbanger and
invoke the wrath of the bartender, Chinese by way of Hong Kong, who may have
been there as long as the NYC-mandated signs warning they will card, dated from
the '80s (the restaurant, itself, can't be much older; it's not a mid-century
relic). "Those are old drinks!" Never mind that those old drinks are
listed on the menu. I knew better to even look at that section after an
encounter with a jordan almond blue Grasshopper and being denied a Pink Squirrel on my first visit five years ago.

Even something as mundane as Jack Daniels, requested
by a regular, has the potential for exasperation and consequential trip to the
basement to look for a bottle. Like I said, beer or Scorpions.

Bartender: "How do you say Mark Sanchez in

Answer: "Tony Romo!"

Er, ok. You couldn't accuse the
bartender of being entirely humorless.

Jade Island * 2845 Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY





Denino's facadeDenino's filled two needs. James wanted pizza. "Old-school or hipster?" I asked, as if those were the only two styles on earth.  Old-school, it was decided, Staten Island, preferably. Me, I wanted a clam pie, but New Haven wasn't in the cards on such short notice. Neither of us had ever eaten pizza in (or is that on?) Staten Island, which is a shame. Pat & Joe's and Lee's Tavern were also contenders that will have to wait for another time. I did not regret my choice because Denino's is awesome.

Any place with an old man bar attached, pitchers of beer on most (laminate wood) tables, and booths (booths are key) where half the clientele and staff know with each other, is going to be good. Plus, when was the last time you saw a Kiss tattoo?

Denino's buffalo calimari

Oh, and you can have buffalo calamari. You wonder who the grotesque target audience is for Sabra Buffalo Syle Hummus, and now you know. Me.

Denino's clam pie

The pizza is thin crust with some chew, charred just a little, and non-floppy. I wanted to try half-and-half since it doesn't seem like you can do that in NYC and it's kind of a throwback to childhood when a pepperoni/Hawaiian was the crowd-pleaser at any gathering (plus, plastic pitchers of root beer and Ladybug, the Pac Man ripoff) but clams seemed weird with meat even if they weren't technically touching. I'll leave blending pork and shellfish in a single dish to the Portuguese. There was a good amount of cheese, but not so much that it overwhelmed the clams. And being a white pie, garlic and olive oil were also major players.

Despite wanting to stay for hours, Denino's is no place for lingering. On weekend nights there are waits for tables, despite multiple dining rooms, and if you talk too much (like I do) you'll soon realize the whole room has changed over and you still have half a pizza left. Eat up, box your leftovers and scram.

Denino's * 524 Port Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY


Jade Island

How much you enjoy the food at Jade Island will have a lot to do with your feelings on maraschino cherries and sweetened flaked coconut on savories. And whether you’re ok with canned mushrooms, pineapple and lychees. Otherwise, soaking up the throwback cocktails and tiki décor and may be more palatable for those with more refined tastes than mine.

Jade island booths

Weekend Valentine’s Days are dangerous and romance should be avoided at all costs. That’s why I ended up on a Polynesian-themed double date in Staten Island on Sunday.

Jade island coconut kiss

I quickly got into the mood with a coconut kiss, their take on a pina colada. You’d better be able to abide Malibu rum.

Jade island pupu platter

You cannot have tiki without the pupu. I am still a bit disconcerted that crab rangoon did not make the cut. Instead, make due with shrimp toast, curry beef skewers, fried shrimp, chicken wings and spare ribs with hot mustard and duck sauce.

Jade island sesame noodles

Cold sesame noodles were also a starter.

Jade island prawn rangoon

The closest you’ll come to rangoon is a dish called prawn rangoon, which involves neither wontons nor cream cheese. Prawns are butterflied and coated in what appears to be flat out egg, not egg batter, and pan-fried, creating a squishy, puffy coating. The tail-on seafood blobs are surrounded by mushrooms, snow peas, lychees, carrots, pineapple and enough maraschino cherries to create a pink-tinged pool of sauce.

Jade island volcano chicken

But that really has nothing over the volcano chicken, akin to sweet and sour with an emphasis on sweet. This is where you’ll find that flaked coconut…and more cherries. I wouldn’t be surprised if an entire bottle was used on our meal alone.

Jade island mei fun

Not all the food is big top brash. Mei fun (pictured) and chow fun with pork were soothing in their tameness. That’s a lot of noodles, now that I assess this meal. My pick was the prawn rangoon. Happy Valentine's to me.

Previously on Jade Island.

Jade Island * 2845 Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY

Nurnberger Bierhaus

1/2 Like many rewarding experiences in life, the most fun are often those you never saw coming. While errand running in New Jersey I didn't imagine that by 11pm I would be surrounded by karaokers in a Staten Island German restaurant. It happens. Relying on a GPS for food advice has rarely panned out. With its perpetual crowds out the door, cheap Tex-Mex go to, Jose Tejas, is unapproachable before 9:30pm. We turned to the Garmin Nuvi to find other nearby Mexican/Spanish options (I'll never understand why people think burritos and paella come from the same geographic region) and were directed to downtown Linden. I love the township's down and out fading Polish main drag and was once lured into a tavern, but wasn't sure I wanted to eat in the neighborhood (I only recently read about White Diamond and can't figure out why I hadn’t encountered them yet). It turned out that both recommended restaurants, Don Alex and suspiciously named, The Mexican Restaurant, were nowhere to be found. Thanks for nothing, GPS.  Apropos to nothing, I decided I could use something porky and big mug of beer. Easy, we have to go through Staten Island to get back to Brooklyn, anyway. My only sadness with Staten Island German (Killmeyer's being the other) is that they don't offer pork knuckle, one of the finest examples of porcine extremes: the crackliest skin housing a mound of tender, moist meat. I just realized that I've bemoaned the lack of pork knuckles and shanks in practically every German write-up I've ever posted. I guess I really like pork knuckles. They do a great rendition at Bay Ridge's Schnitzel Haus and possibly the best version I've had was at King Ludwig's in Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong—I can't live on congee and dumplings, alone.  Instead, I settled for kassler rippchen, smoked pork chops. They’re nothing like a knuckle, all soft and yielding with little textural contrast, but there is charm to salty smokiness buffered by a scoop of mashed potatoes and a bed of mild sauerkraut. Hmm, I thought we asked for the game sausage trio, the same appetizer we had on our last visit, but were presented with three all-the-same sagey links that I figured out where rostbratwurst, baby brautwurst. I'm not sure if we were misunderstood or if after 10pm (the remaining tables were all wrapping up by the time we sat down) you get what you get. As we finished up leisurely, half the waitresses began changing out of dirndls and into street clothes and some of the staff began pushing dining tables to the edge of the wall and setting up speakers and lights. A new boisterous crowd, composed of quite a few revelers who barely looked out of high school, supplemented by a few middle aged men, slowly started trickling in. Laminated spiral bound books were being placed on tables. Ah ha, karaoke. "Ok, time to go" immediately popped out of James mouth. Not so fast. I wasn’t feeling so quick to flee. "No, we have to stay for at least one song," I pleaded. "This is going to be bad," James countered, not instilling confidence with his kill joyness. "No, this is going to be good," I affirmed. And another beer would certainly improve matters, so we shifted to the bar to watch from a safer distance. I don’t sing.  I will admit to brief hesitation, my only ever NYC neo-nazi encounter occurred in an outer borough German bar attached to a restaurant, but I can judge each far flung German bar in the city as an individual. Would it surprise you that the first song was "99 Red Balloons?" Thankfully, that was the bulk of '80s nostalgia, things sped rapidly into the '90s with the exception of an older gent's rendition of The Eagles' "Take it Easy," a song I always associate with being made to jog in circles around the gym in grade school. (In a similar not terribly blood-pumping vein America's “Ventura Highway,” somehow managed to get on my iPod shuffle I use at the gym and nearly conjures P.E. nightmares.)No pork chops after 11pm, that's when the bar menu inserted on the front page of the song choice guide, becomes standard. I’m still marveling over the concept of "Bavarian Bizza." (6/14/09)

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1/2 Googling killmeyer's vs nurnberger bierhaus
recently brought someone to this site, and strangely, I had the exact
same question last week. This is German food weather, but where to go?Manhattan just doesn’t work, though I’ll admit that I haven’t given it a chance. I probably would appreciate the kitsch factor at Rolf’s, especially this time of year. Queens is rife with options, and part of me is curious about Manor Oktoberfest since it’s in that bizarro Atlas Park, and they serve a Cuban panini. Schnitzel Haus is Brooklyn’s only contender (and might just have the best food of any I’ve tried so far--two words: schweinshaxe “hofbrauhaus" a.k.a. pork knuckle ). But really, the best ambiance is in Staten Island, yes, Staten Island. Killmeyer’s is barely even in the city. After winding for miles on woodsy dimly lit Arthur Kills Road, you could practically be in the Black Forest. If you really pushed your imagination, this isolated pocket could even be the setting for my favorite Grimm Brothers' fairy tale, "The Bird, the Mouse and the Sausage."
Due to its inconvenient location (though there are bus stops outside) the crowd tends to be very local, and on a Saturday night the bar was more crowded than the dining room. I sipped a Bitburger at a lone unoccupied table while waiting for friends to arrive (the same ones that I’d randomly ran into at Wegmans just a few hours earlier).I wonder if forcing the staff to wear festive costumes is key to the experience? Maybe that’s why I shy away from Manhattan…too much dignity. But what is German food without a Snow White-style building, moose heads and dirndl-clad lasses? (I’m seriously looking forward to Hua Hin where I’ll be in two weeks because the coastal town is thick with German expatriates who run businesses staffed by Thais in lederhosen and the like. So wrong for the tropics.)Potato pancakes with the requisite sour cream and applesauce were shared by all. They were a little oily but not offputtingly so. 
I was a little disheartened that there wasn’t any pork knuckle on the menu (I checked Nurnberger Bierhaus’ and Zum Stammtischs’ too and same deal. Sure, Schnitzel Haus seems oddly located in Bay Ridge, but they have the massive, crispy, fatty pork knuckle!). In order to try and satisfy my pork tooth, I opted for the farmer’s feast, which includes pork loin, smoked pork chop and pork sausage with sauerkraut, red cabbage and potato dumplings. It’s a lot of food. I could’ve survived on sauerkraut and kassler rippchen, but was happy for variety (and lunch the next day). The overall effect was sweet, tart and salty. Perfect with dark wheat beer whose name I’ve forgotten but in a style called dunkelweizen.
Sausage trio for a recently lapsed herbivore. On my last visit to Killmeyer’s I was accompanied by two vegetarians and it was tough going variety-wise. They do have a vegetarian plate, if need be.
Sauerbraten. This looked wonderfully dark and rich. I always intend to branch out into something non-porcine (though chicken or fish is pushing it) but after once ordering a lackluster sauerbraten at Schnitzel Haus instead of my favorite dish, yes, that damn pork knuckle, I was deeply disappointed. No German beef ever again.
There was no need for dessert and yet James was swayed by ridiculously fluffy overflowering sundaes being brought to tables throughout our dinner. No, there’s nothing particularly Bavarian about ice cream covered in walnuts and Bailey’s Irish Cream. But seriously, look at that thing. 
Is black forest cake authentic or one of those regionally whack things like English muffins or Singapore noodles?I can’t help but notice the “Book your holiday party now!!” plea on their website. I wish. After last year’s foodie-planned office party fiasco at Bacaro, someone else took over holiday celebration duties and we’re now going to someplace I’ve never heard of called Kemia Bar where I doubt squid ink, head-on sardines or chicken livers will make an appearance. (11/15/08)

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Kimchi Hana & Bon Chon Chicken Staten Island

Coordinating out-of-the-city errands isn’t always easy. I wanted drivable Korean fried chicken but that would involve Queens or Northern New Jersey and neither of those were places where I wanted to shop (Union and Middlesex counties).

Then I remembered Bon Chon Staten Island, which would be en route to my desired part of the Garden State. Initially, I didn’t believe there was such a branch, but more than once I found those keywords misguidedly bringing searchers to this site so I had to investigate. Yes, there’s Korean fried chicken in Staten Island. Weird. For all its bravado, Brooklyn certainly lacks in the Asian food arena, multiple Chinatowns or not.

But I wanted sit-down rather than takeout, which was the impression I’d gotten about S.I., so fried chicken was nixed and general Korean was substituted into the schedule. I’ll admit that I’m kind of a Korean food idiot having never ventured past the obvious like bbq and bibimbap. I do like spicy and pickled so there’s no reason why I should avoid it, it’s just never around.

Based on some internet randomness, I settled on Kimchi Hana in South Plainfield’s Middlesex Mall.  Now, Middlesex Mall is only a mall in that there’s a row of storefronts; some are empty, others occupied by the likes of Dollar Tree, Radio Shack (which saved my life with in-stock earphone pads. Do you know how difficult it is to find replacement pads for earbuds in stores? I ended up ordering from Amazon and incorrectly buying the wrong size, which were the circumference of an oatmeal cookie) and a more busted looking Macy’s than the one on Fulton Mall, which also isn’t a real mall. I knew what I was in for after reading a local resident’s lament.

What didn’t occur to me was to make a reservation. I clearly don’t have the suburban know-how down because I don’t equate strip mall restaurants with advance planning. And it was busy at an early-ish 7pm, but not insanely so. No one was waiting in the lobby when we showed up. We weren’t asked if we had reservations, though, just whether or not we wanted a bbq table. It seemed like getting a grill would be a problem, plus I trying to expand my culinary horizons, so we went the easiest route and agreed to any table available, which ended up being a standard four-seater in the back half of the smoky room.

This was fine for about ten minutes while we tried to interpret some language on the menu. There was a section of grilled meats but it said you could only order those at bbq tables (though later we noticed cast iron plates of kalbi and the like on grill-free tables. Perhaps they meant you just couldn’t cook it yourself?). While pondering, a woman who seemed to be the boss, came over and told us that we needed to move because someone had reserved this table.

Here we go…the Saturday night nuisance again (and I don’t need anonymous assholes telling me to stay home, thanks, everyone’s entitled to a reasonable dining experience). I don’t mind sitting at a two-top but I could already foresee a problem with fitting dishes into the abbreviated space. The banchan alone (which I do love about Korean cuisine) would take up a majority of the open area.


There were seven dishes, a spinach-like vegetable was off to the left. Those pictured included kimchi, baby bok choy, bean curd, octopus, radish and seaweed.

And sure enough, after ordering two appetizers and two entrees we were admonished, “That’s a lot of food.” No, not really. We were ordering a reasonably sized meal and it was now up to them to figure out how they were going to fit all of the dishes.

Sashimi came first, and the raised wooden board wasn’t too much of a hindrance. These were some hefty slabs of fish and considerably fresher than the disconcertingly room temperature slices I’d been served the previous day at Gold St. in the Financial District.


The girthy pajun arrived soon after. Pan-fried cakes can get a little doughy, though this seafood-stuffed one maintained a fair amount of crispiness. I will admit that these greasy treats are probably better divvied up between more than two diners, especially since it doesn’t lend itself to leftovers.


The seafood hot pot was a bit problematic to eat because of broth’s high temperature (the photo is steamy) and the weight of the vessel. Normally, I would ask for two small bowls as other tables seemed to have but there was nowhere to put them. So, I had to carefully rearrange the other dishes and scoot the little cauldron near me, trying not to splash, eat a few bites, then maneuver it back towards James so he could have some.

The soup was black pepper and chile flake hot, the type that doesn’t hit until you swallow and get the urge to cough. A little of everything was included: shell-on crab chunk, clams, tiny shrimp, hefty tofu squares, wedges of fish and decorative pink-rimmed fish cake slice. It seemed right for a spring day that had turned chilly and wet.


Chicken was a misstep. I still had fried chicken on the brain so those two words jumped out at me from the kan poong gi description, but as you can see it was essentially sweet and sour chicken. There was a hint of heat and a scattering of bizarrely firm peas and carrots. It wasn’t horrific by any means but wasn’t what I was craving.

The danger of not eating what you wanted is that you (ok, I) will just end up double dinnering to make up for that empty feeling (in your soul, not your stomach, duh). But really, would two measly midnight snack wings harm anyone?

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Suburban excursions are not always blissful. I couldn’t bear attempting a Swedish meatball combo plate at a busier-than-expected Ikea on Martin Luther King Day. I know better than to patronize the always under stocked Elizabeth, NJ location and don’t even want to ponder the potential beastliness of the soon-to-open walking distance Red Hook branch. Part of me even hopes the neighborhood Trader Joe’s never happens.

Breakfast for lunch (no, not brunch) at Staten Island’s IHOP (contrary to popular belief, there are IHOPS in NYC, six in total randomly scattered throughout four boroughs) was far less life changing than I’d hoped for.


The commercials always entice me with fluff, sweetness and starchy goodness but my stuffed french toast was a waste of fat and calories. The syrupy strawberries were sweet and that’s where all flavor ceased to exist. I don’t know how it’s possible to make grilled egg-coated bread and cream cheese filling taste like chewy nothingness but they did it. I requested no whipped cream and I don’t imagine the non-dairy spray topping could’ve helped matters any.



The eggs and bacon that made up the Stuffed French Toast Combo (I have enough making my mouth say Sammie—there’s no way I’m ordering the Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘n Fruity) were adequate (more like adequite, if you ask me) yet the hash browns fell into the potatoes stripped of all potato-ness category.


I was more interested in the disproportionately Italian desserts being advertised. I can’t imagine all menus in the U.S. have tartufo, spumoni, cannoli and neopolitan ice cream. There’s no mention of any of these treats on their website. I guess if Brooklyn Applebee’s can serve Cakeman Raven red velvet cake, the Staten Island IHOP shouldn’t shy away from micro-regional tastes either. I would definitely take the red velvet cake over any of IHOP’s goodies, though in my opinion blue velvet cake is prettier in its garishness.

IHOP * 935 Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY