La Antojeria Popular We'll always have the hole-in-the-wall taquerias (and despite what West Coasters argue, NYC has plenty of Mexican food that doesn't suck) even as flashier entrants come in waves. La Esquina to Hecho in Dumbo to Tacombi, and more recently El Toro Blanco, Salvation Taco and La Antojeria Popular, the latter being the newest offering from the owners of Taka Taka, the Mexican conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Soho. As the name implies, the menu is made up of antojitos, a.k.a. little snacks or "Mexican tapas," some more traditional than others. Pictured is a sampling (gratis, in the name of full disclosure) that includes the Guerrero (raw tuna cubes and mango tossed in serrano mayonnaise on a jicama round), Michoacan (chicken in mole sauce with toasted sesame seeds and crema on a corn tostada), Zacatecas (sirloin, salsa verde, chihuahua cheese, also on a corn tostada) and Tamaulipas (steak, beans, chihuahua cheese, pasilla mayonnaise--mayo is definitely a thing--in a pita sort of like a taco arabe). For obvious reasons the Oaxaca topped with crickets--a little salty and chewy, not so scary--and avocado on a blue corn tortilla, has gotten the most press. There is also a small selection of ceviches and sides like the Distrito Federal (a mix of shrimp, tilapia and beef) and Morelos, which are esquites (corn, mayonnaise, chile, lime topped with a square of queso fresco). Desserts include a flan with cajeta and increasingly omnipresent La Newyorkina paletas.
Pio Pio My favorite Peruvian chain. Ok, maybe NYC's only Peruvian chain (I guess there's similarly named Pio Pio Riko too?). The Matador Combo is $34 well spent, and minus the hot dog fries there's nothing terribly offbeat about Peruvian food, despite it winning the top "exotic" spot among US consumers surveyed about Latin American cuisine. Of course you get the chicken, burnished, garlicky and salty (I think soy sauce is a not-so-secret ingredient) and no matter how many birds they churn out (it will never not be crowded on a weekend night) still moist, plus salchipapas, everyone's favorite french fry and wiener dish, avocado salad, rice, beans, tostones, and the all-important green sauce (mayonnaise being the not-at-all-secret ingredient). I like the metal bucket crammed full of Heinz mustard and ketchup, even if I don't what the condiments are meant to go with.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop So, I've never been. Some people think I don't like desserts, which isn't true at all. I just rarely go to sweets-only shops and never patronize food trucks or street fairs or carnivals or whevever it is that sugar is sold in multiple formats. The Salty Pimp with its chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream and salted dulce de leche is pretty perfect, and they even offer to put it in a dish for you, a flourish I like because I'm fussy (yes, a fork-and-knife pizza-eater). Don't go after 11pm, though, if you want something more elaborate like the Monday Sundae (similar flavors to the Salty Pimp but in a bigger Nutella-lined waffle cone and smothered in whipped cream) because they won't make it. And there was more of that Fany Gerson and her La Newyorkina paletas--she gets around.