Skip to content

Archive for

San Loco

Ooh, I can’t believe I ate at San Loco. Sometimes I have to let my guard down and lower my standards so I don’t ostracize and annoy friends with what I call little kid palates. So, a chicken chipotle burrito before The Organ show at Rothko didn’t kill me. I will admit being disturbed by my dining companion ordering a rice burrito. I’ve always abhorred rice in burritos, it so doesn’t belong there, and neither does spinach. But a burrito entirely centered around the grain?! What the fuck? Ha, and then she ordered a rice krispie treat to cap things off. But I love those, so it was ok, albeit a lot of rice for one meal. (4/27/05)

San Loco * 111 Stanton St., New York, NY


Hmm, so Target has been getting all fancy pants with its new house brand Archer Farms. It's a notch up from Market Pantry (who makes a mean Dr. Pepper rip off called Spice Cola, not to be confused with Pepsi Holiday Spice). But I'm having a serious pet peeve with their new premium nut-filled caramel corn snack that has replaced Poppycock. Bring back the Poppycock. I love Poppycock almost more than anything in the world. Even Chinese Poppycock that was all wet and stuck together in a wad (the packaging was still cute). Despite being buttery, fatty and full of sugar, it's a not-so-guilty little pleasure I can't deny myself. It wasn't like I'd buy a whole can, sometimes they'd have 99-cent small packs at the register. This was good, I need portion control. But now, nothing, and Archer Farms doesn?t offer choices like cashew lovers, just nuts, etc. and the only size is large.  A container of caramel corn that large is dangerous.

Oh Poppycock–I just discovered their parent Lincoln Snacks, and they totally rule. Who knew Fiddle Faddle, Screaming Yellow Zonkers and Poppycock all coexisted in such a way?


I think this place is closed/in flux (4/06)

I'm not a brunch person. I like the concept, but the dining event takes
effort. And really, its a social affair. Friends meeting friends from the
neighborhood. Youngsters placating visiting parents. And depending where you
live, brunch is a playground substitute. If anything I shy away in Carroll
Gardens because I find strollers, drool and colic less than appetizing.

But we ventured out on a sunny Sunday morning anyway. Banania is one of
the more popular brunch spots in the area (my out of town sister and
boyfriend nosed it out unaided on their last visit), I'm not sure why, the
food is standard fare, I guess the prices are fair, there is outdoor seating
and a complimentary bread basket, complete with chocolate croissant. Thanks
to the nature loving throngs who adore dining al fresco (I generally don't)
there were actually free tables inside during prime time. No complaints
there. James and I went Hollandaise crazy and ordered eggs benedict and
Florentine, respectively (I never realized people had such issues with
Hollandaise. The woman on my right ordered Florentine minus the sauce,
though clearly wasn't fat-phobic since she ordered an extra plate of bacon.
The woman on my left wanted her Hollandaise on the side. Why don't they just
order egg white omelets and be done with it?). They were pleasant enough
renditions and came with home fries and salad greens. It's doubtful I'd
return any time soon, no fault of Banania, brunch is just a very occasional

Banania * 241 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY


I don't unusually partake in any of those Restaurant Week type promotions. Partly because it makes me feel like a scornful cheapskate coupon clipper, but mostly I'm just lazy. The one time we did it years back, we just ended up ordering off the regular menu anyway, the discount not making a major difference. Value is the thing, ideally you want restaurants with entrees that cost over $20 to make the $19.95 deal sweeter. (I'm still trying to figure out what Uncle Sams in Sunset Park is and how they could possibly serve three courses worth twenty bucks. Sunset Park kicks ass with Mexican and Vietnamese fare, but minus the White Castle, I'm scared of anything all-American in the neighborhood. )

I thought this would be a chance to finally try some of the new-ish acclaimed restaurants that kind of blur together in my mind with their New American flair. Applewood, Tempo, Stone Park Caf, Chestnut, all sort of wholesome and simple sounding, right? Wed actually eaten at Chestnut when it first opened, but I think there's a new chef, so thats on the list for later in the week. Stone Park was all expectedly annoying because theyve been talked up in the food press lately, that was a no go. All reviews of Applewood make mention of the owner toting around a toddler, and thats a deal breaker, kid-friendly makes me cringe. Tempo became our other reservation. Since we were looking at Friday and late in booking, are options were 6 or 10pm. I don't mind late night dining so we chose the latter.

I didnt anticipate the downside to this slot until later. It was crowded in the bar area when we arrived, not the best sign, but it wasn't as daunting as it first appeared. We ordered gin and tonics and barely got through a third of our cocktails before being seated. Luckily, we got the better spaced side room, and even though we were given a two-seater next to another table, they werent touching or close to touching like in the main dining space.

Unfortunately, we were seated next the couple giving me the heebie jeebies in the lobby. I know, I complain about the upscale bohemians in Brooklyn, but this girl was 180 degrees, young and well, kind of trashy and not in a refreshing way. Like she thought she was super sexy and all dolled up in short '90s body hugging dress, the guy seemed foreign and actually too handsome for the louche lady friend. They were kissing and groping at the bar and its not like I don't already get enough of this on the F train every day. I tried to ignore them, but its hard to when fingers are being licked and food being spooned into each others mouths. My favorite overheard line was "I want you to teach me about food." There's probably some other schooling shed benefit from first.

The P.D.A. twosome ordered right before us, the guy asked millions of questions, his way of showing off. I started getting antsy about the service, this couple was sucking all the waitstaff energy and we werent given a wine list like they were. So much time elapsed between when they ordered and when we did that their first course had already arrived by the time someone stopped at our table. I had wanted the duck pastilla roll as a starter, the same thing the gentleman next to me was tearing into. As an entre I chose the Moroccan spiced roast chicken with chickpea fries. Minutes later the waiter returned to inform me that they were out of duck. Really? Because the eurotrash next to me got the last of it?

I seriously almost lost my shit. It's one thing to blindly be told a restaurant has run out of something, but its pernicious when you can see it being devoured inches from your face, and by a diner already on your bad side. So yeah, I was irritated the rest of the meal. Dumb and petty as it is, not getting what I'd ordered when another did, struck a nerve, a nerve that happened to have a lot of alcohol swimming around it that evening. I became a little vocal and disdainful, it couldnt be helped. I wasn't mad at Tempo (the food was fine), I was incredibly pissed off at the couple having the fucking time of their life right next to us. They spoiled my meal.

This happened once before, and I wasn't the upset one, so don't brand me an isolated kook. A few years ago I took Jessica to Diner for her birthday and we wanted mussels and fries like usual, that was the deal. The table next to us full of fun loving oblivious Williamburg kids ordered the same thing right before we did. Guess who didnt get mussels and fries? It's the principle. And the context. Wed just been talking about getting older, late 20s, Jessica wondering if shed ever find anyone (she still hasnt, for the record). Meanwhile these yahoos were acting like NYC was one big juicy apple ripe for the picking. We both got ruffled, she started crying. Not getting what you want in life, even a stupid bowl of mussels, can have serious emotional repercussions.

I might return to Tempo, whos to say, but certainly not at 10pm and during prix fixe promotion. Discount dining brings out the riff raff and the worst in me.

Tempo * 256 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Reese’s & Triple Pepperoni Threat

Hershey’s is so nuts with the new candies and limited editions. Every time I turn my back they’ve got a new incarnation of something. The Reese’s line has always been one of my favorites—who can resist the all-American peanut butter and chocolate combo? Dark and white chocolate shells were first. Then they did the inside outthing. I had a honey roasted peanut butter flavor not too long ago (it really didn’t stand apart from the original, kind of pointless). I’m currently obsessed with the seasonal white chocolate Easter eggs. And now they have a Chocolate Lovers and Peanut Butter Lovers promotion. I haven’t tried either, but I’d think that that a pure peanut butter version would kind of miss the point of a peanut butter cup. Two great tastes that taste great together—wasn’t that the slogan?

Take 5 would seem a bit excessive, though at least Hershey’s has the decency to spell out the five components for you: caramel, peanut butter, pretzels, chocolate and peanuts (I think breaking out peanuts and peanut butter is fudging a bit). This is a tasty sweet/salty fix, better than the highly addictive Nestle Flipz.

While Hershey’s might explain their five ingredients, I’m totally baffled by Pizza Hut’s three pepperoni claim in their limited edition “Pepperoni Trio.” Isn’t pepperoni just pepperoni? You could say three kinds of ham because ham comes in countless permutations. You could probably say three kinds of salami, too, but I’m a stickler about this varieties of pepperoni nonsense. Ok, they don’t even have a special product page detailing this big lie, but there is a description makes it apparent that the two extra pepperoni flavors are hickory-smoked and southwestern. Sadly, I am still not sated by this explanation.

Karihan ni Tata Bino

1/2 * Closed. I'm not sure when it changed hands but it's now Burmese Cafe (12/22/06)

It's rare that I get to indulge a Filipino food craving. James has issues with the cuisine, which I suppose stems from bad childhood memories. I have an aversion to Banquet frozen fried chicken and taco salad with Catalina dressing, so it happens.

The dining room is small, and on the Sunday afternoon we visited, full to the brim.  You almost feel like youre invading someones house, a friendly house, but still. The lack of anonymity doesnt bother me. Everyone was watching a horror movie in Tagalog on TV. Unfortunately, the screen was directly behind my head so I actually had to concentrate on my food. I did get the gist, via James, that the plot had something to do with curses stemming from being too lucky.

I'm crazy for lechon, and fried pork in general. Crispy pata seemed like an interesting variant. It's translated as pig knuckle, but I think there's some leg in there too, not just a foot. You cant be squeamish about fat and odd bits with Filipino cuisine (fats the least of it–ears, intestines, blood, its all to be eaten). With pata, you get a contrast of crunchy skin, gooey insides and porcine flesh. The vinegary dipping sauce is a tart foil for the grease. We also tried do order something vegetable heavy, minus coconut milk and/or fried preparation, and opted for  fresh lumpia, which is kind of like chop suey filled crepes drizzled with peanut sauce. To round things out, we also ordered two grilled pork skewers.

I was completely satisfied, but it might be a while before I return. If only because that part of Queens contains such concentration of food goodness that it seems a shame to not experiment a little.

Karihan ni Tata Bino * 71-34 Roosevelt Ave., JacksonHeights, NY

Atlantic Chip Shop

Everybody was in such as tizzy over the opening of the Atlantic Ave. branch.
Maybe the months and months of opening soon teasing built up hype.  I
don't know why I cared so much, I don't even like battered fried fish
(battered fried candy is another story). But I couldnt pass up the chance to
give it a try since I was seeing a show at Magnetic Field, just a block over
(never mind that I live near walking distance to the Chip Shop anyway).

There's not a lot of seating, but luckily we didnt have to wait too
long, and I didnt mind passing time with a pint at the bar (something the
original location lacks). I ordered the steak and kidney pie with chips like
I've always done at this now chain. I don't know why everyone gets grossed
out by that. I love meat pies, pot pies, I used to eat frozen ones after
school like a little freak. Combined with the beer, its filling fare, for
sure. We were only able to share the treacle pudding, which was warm,
carmelly and good. The fried Atkins bar was an amusing touch. As for the
fish? I really couldnt say.

Atlantic Chip Shop * 129
Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Pam Real Thai Food

When you use a term like real in your name, people are going to expect you to deliver the goods. I guess you could say Pams is realer than much of what passes for Thai food in NYC. I'm so not a food snob, but Thai is one of the few cuisines that I actually feel like I "get" and can talk about semi-authoritatively. I'm picky. Ill have a shit fit if anyone dare suggest Lemongrass Grill as a viable option (or requests chopsticks). And unfortunately, I just might live amidst the citys highest concentration of mediocre Thai restaurants (Citysearch lists 18 for the 11231 zip code, but nearby stragglers also show up in the results).

Everyone knows Sripraphai is the go to for Thai food, like the earth is round, its irrefutable. So, its hard to branch out when you know ahead of time the cuisine wont measure up. But Pams has been qualified as Manhattans best Thai (others would argue Wondee Siam), and with that ranking in mind, bolstered by fairly recent New York Times praise, I figured I'd finally give it shot.

The first weird uncharacteristic thing I did was bring a bottle of wine. BYOB is allowed at Sripraphai too, but I've never partaken. I have unfounded issues with people who bring wine into "ethnic" holes in the wall. It's not that I don't enjoy wine with my meals, its just sort of a when in Rome deal. I would say its a Borough vs. Manhattan thing, but its not completely because I also feel NY Noodletown is an inappropriate venue for showcasing ability to pair wine with roast duck on rice. But Pams felt like a bottle of wine was warranted, nothing precious or foodie about it.

I ended up liking Pams food, and if I'm sounding defensive its only because authenticity police love slamming this place. No, its not Sripraphai (and some would argue the new Sripraphai isnt Sripraphai anymore) but if you choose carefully and strongly emphasize your capacity for heat, its not like youre going to have a Lemongrass Grill experience. The LG experience at this restaurant was more evident in atmosphere, by which I mean the clientele.

We arrived very early and beat the notorious crowds, but that didnt keep a peculiar foursome from being seated smack dab next to us. After the older gentleman removed his back brace and crammed it an inch from my feet, I became fixated on figuring these folks out. The best I could tell was that a woman who used to live in Manhattan was enlightening relatives (the spine injury guy and a couple in their early 20s) with her good taste via her former stomping grounds. I was stumped by their slow Midwestern diction and unabashed love of Ruby Tuesday, only to have them go on to talk about living in New Jersey. I shouldnt condescend, despite their not knowing what curry was and gaping over a fish presented whole, they all seemed pleased with their meal at the end.

I wasn't displeased either. We started with a surprisingly spicy seafood som tam, studded with shrimp, mussels and squid. I swear I'd eat som tam all the time if I could just find green enough papaya. Instead of ordering crispy pork with basil and chile so we could compare to our Sripraphai standard, we tried the duck version. I thought it held up, though smaller pork pieces seem better in their flesh to fat contrast. Basil chicken, aka E3 (Bennies got us hooked on that shorthand) has never knocked my socks off in the first place. We make it home all the time because its easy and tasty, but at restaurants I want things that are difficult for dabblers to reproduce. I did miss the all the plastic tubs of goodies since I'm accustomed to taking my sweets to go. I refrained from dessert at Pams though I do have to give them kudos for putting a durian rice pudding on the menu. You definitely wont find that at Ruby Tuesday. (4/1/05)

People get down on Pam because it's not Sripraphai. But jesus, compared to the bland lowest common denominator Thai food that dominates my South Brooklyn environs, it's like a breath of fresh fish saucy air. Since my last visit, they've taken a page from Sri's book, literally, and have started putting color food photos at the back of the menu (as opposed to a big binder). They've also started serving alcohol.

But of note, is that the food is better than I recall from my previous meal. I frequently feel like crying after wasting money and calories on Thai food. I end up full yet totally unsatisfied from the pale renditions of yums and curries. The one dish that remains unique to Sripraphai seems to be the watercress salad. Nothing compares, I don't even know if they eat such a thing in Thailand (I never saw it, but it's not like I scoured the country). Pam hasn't attempted that, but their salads are sufficient.

Pamfish Where they seem to excel is with the crisp fried, deep and dark preparations that burn the tongue. Or maybe I just love anything that's rich, crunchy and hot as hades. Our two entrees looked nearly identical–only one photo turned out, but no matter because the images were interchangeable.

We ordered crispy duck pad prik king and a catfish something or another that was hard to resist with its double chile rating. The duck had long beans and the fish apple eggplants, both were sprinkled with lime leaves (my only complaint would be the thick matchstick-sized cut leaves instead of a finer chiffonade) I'm not sure if both had basil. You have to emphasize you really like heat (and that you're not freaked out by lots of tiny bones. Oh my god, once I brought a friend to Sriprphai and her boyfriend ordered a similar catfish curry and had a spazz out over all the bones). I guess they believed me because the fish (actually the sauce and eggplants more than the flesh) hit me hard half way through the meal. I think it charred my esophagus. I don't even want to think about the intestines and the rest of that eventual route.

Despite the detractors, I really do think Pam's is the solution if you're Manhattan-bound. If you're stuck in Brooklyn? I guess you're screwed. (1/19/06)

Pam Real Thai Food * 404 W. 49th St., New York, NY