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Zum Stammtisch

I'll admit my knowledge of German cuisine barely extends beyond what I grew
up with at the debatably authentic Rheinlander in Portland, Oregon. I used
to go nuts for the fondue (and middle-aged, lederhosen-clad accordionist
who's been there for like 20 years, is still there, and once made me laugh
so hard I cried by playing my request of "Consider Yourself").

Zum Stammtisch has neither fondue, nor accordions. However, they
do go for the full Teutonic, taxidermy and cuckoo clock treatment, and
serve plenty of goodies no one in Portland would dare touch like head

I went whole hog and ordered the Bayerische Bauern Platte filled
with potato salad and sauerkraut and topped with a bratwurst, kassler
rippchen (smoked pork loin) and leberkase, which I couldn't for the life of
me figure out. It tasted sort of livery, but the texture was springy like
bologna. I found out leberkase translates literally as "liver
cheese" and that sounds about right. On the opposite side of the
spectrum, Jessica, the unfortunate vegetarian in tow had only one choice
(amusingly, "vegetables available by request" quietly sits at the
bottom of each page of the menu) and what a peculiar one. A strangely
non-German grilled camembert, consisting of two rounds of breaded, fried
cheese on english muffins topped with jellied cranberry sauce?!

Oh my, they know how to do it up in Queens. Really, I've been
thinking about returning ever since.

Zum Stammtisch * 6946
Myrtle Ave., Glendale, Queens


I was kind of nervous, seeing how this was supposedly a German restaurant
though they had a "Bistro Bar Menu," advertising a blooming onion. But they
did have a German section on the regular menu, so I opted for an acceptable
sauerbraten with pretty good sauerkraut. Things got scary German when James
insisted our waiter, who did have a clean-shaven head, was a skinhead and
had Aryan Nation tattoos. I didn't really believe him, he just looked like a
youngster who might be into metal, and it's not like James knows Nazis. I
mean, I'm the one from the NW where Aryan youth run rampant. However, things
got much freakier a few nights later when I returned to the neighborhood to
try another German restaurant, Von Westernhagen's, and there was a big,
loud, middle-aged, crew-cutted Nazi-esque figure at the bar. He plainly said
"sieg heil, white power" numerous times and matter-of-factly made his
feelings known about the black character on "The Green Mile," which happened
to be playing on TV. They do say Queens is the most ethnically diverse
county in the entire United States, though you might not guess in Glendale.

Closed: It's been gone awhile, but I just remembered. I'm pretty sure
they have a Long Island location, though. (6/6/05)

Gebhardt's* 6506 Myrtle Ave., Glendale, Queens

Havana Central

Unremarkable. Same with "One Hour Photo," which we saw afterward. It was agreed that within a week we would have forgotten both the restaurant and movie. I have a hard time forgetting something I've told myself to forget, but you get the idea.

I ordered the undignified-sounding fried pork chunks hoping for something wonderfully crisp, fatty and flavorful like lechon or the fried pork with basil at Sripraphai. No such luck. The meat was dull and dry, likely a lean cut of pork to start with. It just doesn't work like that–you need the fat. If I was being respectful of my health, I wouldn't have ordered fried pork in the first place.

Barring the mojitos, the prices were reasonable and the portions were huge. I'm a fan of big and cheap, but mediocre? Not so much.

Havana Central * 74 17th St., New York, NY

Soda Pops

Soda has officially gone out of control. And for someone who doesn’t drink the stuff (if I only had a similar aversion to candy and fried food I’d be pretty healthy), I’ve certainly taken an interest in all the new flavors and colors. I knew there was a lemon diet Pepsi from that icky commercial with that little curly-haired girl, but Pepsi Twist also comes in a full sugar version. Not to be outdone, Diet Coke with Lemon is also on the market (is this new? I wasn’t familiar with it). Competing with Mountain Dew’s Code Red is Dr. Pepper Red Fusion with its enticing “bold flava.” I didn’t even know they still made Jolt, they do, and now it comes in vivid colors (with corresponding flavors) like green, blue and purple. Mr. Green is a new Dr. Pepper rip off from SoBe that entices with a neon green color. What is it with those prune flavored colas demanding titles–who could forget Mr. Pibb? I predict Rev. Red with the phattest, phreshest flava you’ve eva seen, in the near future. Word up? Speaking of the near future, next year 7up will introduce dnL, 7up backwards. The soda, bright green and caffeinated, will be the opposite of 7up’s clear and non-caffeinated formula. Apparently, in 2003 the earth turns into Bizzaro World.

Spam’s Officially Cheesey

Spam with Cheese There’s turkey Spam, low sodium Spam, but you won’t find cheese Spam on their website. However, I did find it displayed on a pile of cardboard boxes at my favorite Ridgewood, Queens grocer, Western Beef. According to the label it’s a limited edition–just like all those collectible coins you see advertised. Hurry up before they’re all gone!

United Noodle

Our third anniversary passed without much fanfare. Same as the second, and
most likely the fourth, if that comes to pass. I'm not sure why that is. At
least the meal was nice. United Noodle has all the makings of return visit:
it's mere blocks from James's apt., fusion-esque, but not out of control
(I'm a sucker for fusion) and reasonably priced.

We started with a tower of wontons with shrimp and an orange citrusy
sauce. I ordered a decidedly non-summery dish of short ribs with
papperadelle. It was wonderfully meaty and anise-scented with sweet cherry
tomatoes and a green (possibly Asian, it wasn't broccoli rabe). I was
actually more enamored of James's shrimp and scallops in what they menu said
was carrot pudding, which was really a rich, creamy, sweet sauce. There
might have even been vanilla in it, I couldn't put my finger on all the
flavors. Luckily, we switched plates at the half-way mark to get a little

Dinner was topped off with an ubiquitous molten chocolate cake. No big
shakes, but not bad. One of these days I'm going to play stupid and throw a
fit that my cake isn't properly cooked. "Send this back, I'm not paying for
a raw cake!" "If I wanted to eat batter I could do it at home and it save
the $7!" Eh, I don't think I have the nerve.

UnitedNoodle * 349 E. 12th St., New York, NY

Tacos Moreno

I heard this was the place to go for tacos, but they were closed every time
we passed by. Luckily, they were open our last day in town. I got carnitas
as usual, and they were good. I was nervous and in a rush so I couldn't
savor them as I might've liked to. They're the only place I encountered in
SC that used beans in their tacos. Is that all right to do?

Tacos Moreno * 1053 Water St., Santa Cruz, CA

In N Out

After recently reading the "New York Times" article on this cult-fave chain,
I had to check it out for myself. I didn't know they had them in the Bay
Area, but out of the corner of my eye I saw the bright sign beckoning off
the freeway on the way to San Francisco. In-N-Out would have to wait until
our return drive (a mere three hours later) en route to the airport.

On our way back, the problem was neither of us could remember where we'd
seen the sign and by the time I spotted it, it was too late and we'd missed
our exit. Taking the next exit, we did lots of winding, fighting (we were
cutting it way close to flight time) and weaving through what turned out to
be Daly City. I was sorry we didn't have more time, as I've been crazy for
Filipino food lately and I know this neighborhood has the largest population
outside the Philippines. (It was, and probably still is home to my aunt
Amelia that I haven't seen in like 25 years because she's got some issue
with my dad or something). Given a full day in Daly City I would've gone
nuts, totally non-East Coast chains like Jollibee (I've never eaten there, but
the Aloha Burger on their site inspired me to create my own burger with
pineapple and bacon. To my bafflement, it has since been removed from their
site.) and Goldilocks have set
up shop in town. Asian strip malls also called to me as we maniacally drove
past. Grand Opening banners graced a place cunningly called Porridge King.
Congee in a mall? So not New York.

We managed to park, run through the insane drive-through line and
quickly ordered a double double (for James) and a cheeseburger for myself
(damn, if I hadn't just eaten a huge bowl of duck wonton noodles minutes
earlier). I'd heard about this not being the fastest of fast food, and after
a few minutes that seemed like hours we got really nervous. Wouldn't it suck
to miss your flight for a burger?

It all worked out. We hightailed it out of there and made it the airport
just in time to face a fully booked flight with seats not together. Well, at
least we had our lukewarm burgers to keep us company. Actually, we were able
to swap seats with a kind man, but I was prepared to take solace in my

In-N-Out* 260 Washington St.,
Daly City, CA

Hing Lung

Foreign Chinatowns are so baffling. Where do savvy eaters go? How do you
avoid tourist draws? Who knows, and with only a couple hours to spend in San
Francisco before catching our flight, there wasn't time to be discerning. We
just wanted roast duck won ton soup or something, so we stopped in Hing Lung
since they had ducks hanging up, I could see "fried dough" through the
window and their menu seemed interesting. They did have the soup, and a
pretty good rendition at that. But I was fascinated with the immense
pick-three-items-for-$4 each, after 5 pm menu. There were all sorts of
innards, jelly fish and frog concoctions. But you had to pick at least three
to get the discount, and unfortunately we just weren't that hungry (we were
saving room for an In-N-Out burger).

Hey, it just occurred to me to look this place up for context. It seems
to be an all right

Hing Lung * 674 Broadway St., San Francisco, CA

Taqueria Vallarta

This seemed like a more commercialized Taqueria, right on the shopping
strip, all colorful and airy. I was wary, but after seeing the ad for menudo
Saturday and Sunday (it was Saturday), my hesitation melted. You just can't
find that stuff here. Well, not with all the add ins like lime wedges,
cilantro, oregano and chopped onion. Perfect breakfast food.

Taqueria Vallarta * 1101 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA