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Crab Rangoon (half-assed & trashy version)

Purists (as if there could be such a thing) will cringe at my tinkering with a classic. Maybe I’ve just been skimming too many whack mom-ish food publications like Weight Watchers and Kraft Food & Family. I ended up using reduced fat cream cheese (though I’d never advocate fat free for any purpose, except maybe spackling) so I wouldn’t feel guilty (no, I’m not one of those types who drinks Diet Coke with candy) and fake crab because I’m cheap and actually like the taste. If I were making a smaller batch or trying to impress strangers outside of a Super Bowl party, I’d certainly use real crab meat. At least I didn’t use garlic powder.

More musings on this unlikely delicacy can be found here.

8 ounces crab meat
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 garlic cloves, minced
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 green onion, chopped (optional)
48 square wonton wrappers
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Mix cream cheese, crab meat (if using the fake stuff, it won’t flake nicely, so chop it instead), garlic, Worcestershire and onion, if using, until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling onto wonton wrapper. The edges can be wet and folded simply in half for a diamond shape or continued by pinching the two corners and adhering to the center with another dab of water.

Heat oil to 375 degrees, deep-fry rangoons in batches (don’t overcrowd) for about 3 minutes, or until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Serve with hot mustard and/or sweet chile sauce. I highly recommend this Thai version.

Makes 48 crab rangoons, about five per person (unless you are feeding freaks, they will seriously all get eaten)

Crab Rangoon

I can’t believe that I spent most of my life oblivious to the charms of crab rangoon. Well, I did grow up occasionally eating cheese-filled won ton skins at American-Chinese restaurants. They came with combo platters that might also contain fried shrimp (which would always make me sick—there’s something about battered, fried seafood that’s hard to stomach—though it hasn’t put me off soft shell crabs), stir fries laden with corn starch and celery and those little dishes of ketchup, blobbed with a hot mustard streak and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. But we just called those golden, cheesy things won tons.

I’ve since discovered that in New York City parlance won ton, at least at the one-per-block chop suey joints, means those uninspired, thin strips of fried dough that come in greasy little transparent bags. Crispies, as I call them, aren’t good for much more than floating in hot and sour soup. Crab rangoon, as it turns out, is akin to my childhood notion of what a won ton is: a creation where the presence of crab is usually undetectable, though a wisp of scallion might make it into the filling.

To allay some confusion The Food Lover’s Companion defines won tons as “bite-size dumplings consisting of paper-thin dough pillows filled with a minced mixture of meat, seafood and/or vegetables” So really, rangoons are more won ton (though of course cream cheese was not part of that definition) than NYC crispies are (which isn’t surprising, the city tends to mangle foodstuffs. I’ll never get used to hearing gyro pronounced “jai ro”).

Ubiquitous on local take out menus, I was swayed by the description of cheese won tons one lonely evening in my Greenwood Heights basement apartment, an abysmal culinary no-man’s land (good food wasn’t the only thing lacking—banks, drug stores and Laundromats were all in short supply while copious strip clubs, adult bookstores and a federal prison dotted the next block). Creamy, crunchy, caloric…the three Cs seemed like the perfect greasy antidote to my glum surroundings (the only bright beacon being the White Castle mere steps away from Twin Lin, said Chinese storefront). It was a good decision, and only set me back $4.50 for ten rangoons with sweet and sour sauce (some restaurants just include packets of duck sauce).

And where the Rangoon descriptor comes in is anyone’s guess, there’s nothing remotely Burmese about the golden treats. It reeks of Polynesian invention, pu pu platters, mai tais, exotica. This line of reasoning was bolstered by a feature on Trader Vic’s in the December 2004 Saveur, “Crab Rangoon & Bongo Bongo Soup.” It included a delectable sounding rangoon recipe where the crustacean plays prominently in taste and texture—Trader Vic was no slouch. I have a couple of Trader Vic’s cookbooks in storage, unfortunately, on the opposite side of the country, I’d be curious to see crab rangoon is mentioned. I know the restaurant has had its heyday, but a visit to the granddad of tiki chic would be fun, nonetheless. Unfortunately, the nearest location is in Chicago, and that’s a bit of a haul.

On my recent maiden voyage to Stew Leonard’s I was most impressed by the big boxes of frozen crab Rangoon (the animatronic singing cows placed a close second). This was a score, and also a comfort during yet another despondent lull in my life. Despite currently dwelling in a nicer apartment and neighborhood, I still get bummed over my annual Christmas alone in NYC predicament. Crab rangoon to the rescue. I ended up eating the whole box over the course of that holiday week (and out of desperation turned to frozen jalepeno poppers when the rangoons ran dry) with sweet Thai chile sauce, the ultimate pairing if you ask me. But don’t get the impression that crab Rangoon is only meant to be enjoyed while sad and alone just because I turn to the fatty treat in times of need. Heavens no, what’s more social than warm cheese and fried dough? A plate of rangoons, a bottle of chile sauce, and thou.

Roll Your Own: Crab Rangoon Recipes

Gorton’s No, I wouldn’t trust food from a company that combines goldfish crackers and frozen fish sticks to make Fish on a Log, either.
Ming Tsai goes haute with cranberry chutney and a $50 Chardonnay pairing
Low carb (barf)

‘Tis the Season to be Crabby


Once again I find myself celebrating a solo Christmas (despite little love for religion, I find the generic happy holidays thing kind of ridiculous. No one really celebrates Kwanzaa [and please set me straight if you do] and Hanukkah is long over. I know it's hard to believe if you live in the N.E. or pockets of Florida, but only 2% of Americans are Jewish) which can only mean one thing.

No, not a Home Alone marathon (though I do tend to watch shittier fare on TV when no one's around. However, I can promise that I'll never be so bored that Jon & Kate plus 8 will be considered acceptable entertainment. With every aging woman using fertility drugs, are multiple births really a novelty anymore?). I'm talking about crab rangoon, my biggest guilty pleasure. I've come to associate the cream cheese filled wontons with solitary end-of-year snacking.

There's something irresistible about fried and starchy encasing tangy and creamy. I don't think there's actually any crab in the things, just scallions. And dipped into a duck sauce/sambal oelek blend? Perfection.

Previously in crab rangoon:
Crab Rangoon #1
Crab Rangoon (half-assed & trashy version)
Rangoon Run
Wanton Wontons

Rangoon Run

Ok, I just went outside for the first time today (well, technically I was in the hall earlier for about 15 min. barefooted and wet-haired answering census bureau questions about crime) to get Chinese take out (I’m too cheap to have it delivered. I’ve always had a thrifty streak but I fear it’s getting worse. The other day at work they had all these pastries and fresh fruit set up in a common area as a reward for everyone moving offices [my office wasn’t moving] so of course I had to get some. But the truly miserly librarian-ish behavior came out after the food was all gone. I actually went out and saw all the plastic cutlery that hadn’t been used, grabbed a bunch and stashed it in my drawer. Jesus. And when I recently visited the swanky bathroom at Yumcha for my birthday dinner I was completely wowed by the almost cotton towel quality of their nicely folded paper towels and crammed a handful in my purse because I figured they’d make better subway sweat mops than the Kleenex I’d been using that sticks to my face and that I’m unaware of until hours later when I look in a mirror).

I don’t do the ubiquitous NYC hole-in-the-wall Chinese thing very often, but when I do I’m always shocked at the insane amount of food. Even as a penny-pincher and glutton, I’m a little appalled. No wonder they’re so popular. All I really wanted were crab rangoon, a mild guilty pleasure that I only seem to eat when I’m alone. But I figured I’d get one of those combos too to not look like a total freak (that’s the other reason I didn’t do delivery—the 10 for $3.25 rangoons don’t meet the minimum).

String beans and pork seemed mildly healthy, at least there would be some vegetables and nothing else breaded and/or fried. I picked the $7 dinner for one, which ended up also including a shitload of fried rice (the default, I was fine with plain white), fried wontons, wonton soup, sweet and sour spareribs and “chicken fingers.” Oh, and a can of soda, which I turned down because I’m not pop person. But they were all “it’s free,” which I realized, and then felt bad for saying no and got a ginger ale. Easily dinner for three, or two hungry people. I don’t know whether I should be impressed with how much food I got for around ten bucks or disturbed. Self-imposed portion control, I guess (for the record, I only ate half the rangoons and all the spareribs). So, I might be a pathetic Sat. night Chinese take out food orderer, but I draw the line at watching Ghost Dad on the PAX Network. Who knew it was directed by Sidney Poitier?

I think rangoons are best enjoyed with Thai sweet chile sauce, but dammit if I wasn’t out. I improvised using rooster sauce mixed with one of those orange duck sauce plastic packets. Nice emergency substitution.


Duck Duck: Canard and The Decoy

In a matter of 24 hours I ate at two restaurants with duck themes of varying degrees. The two couldn’t be more unlike each other.

Canard is the walk-in casual Le Pigeon offshoot (which I thought Little Bird was but I’ve not been a permanent resident of the city for two decades, so I could be wrong) with small plates and sassy (yeah, sassy) flavor combinations that might not seem like they would work on paper. I stopped in at happy hour but the most appealing items to me weren’t part of that abbreviated menu. The $5 apéritifs with a choice of many liquors from classic Lillet Blanc to local Imbue Petal & Thorn. I chose Imbue Bittersweet.

The uni Texas toast is luscious and rich with crunchy pops from the yuzu tobiko (which I’m not sure now was roe flavored with the citrus or fruit somehow pearlized to resemble roe). A great balance of fat and acid. Honestly, I don’t even know that it needed the avocado but I often think this secretly.

I love steak tartare in all forms. This version reminded me of Estela’s now classic style, which I could’ve swore also was dusted with parmesan wisps (not true). Maybe it was the fish sauce and crunch? I did not expect a plate of butter lettuce. Every component on the menu jumped at me: fish sauce butter, cashews, ok, maybe not the broccoli. It didn’t totally work for me, though. I think this might be better as a shared item interspersed with bites of other things. It was a little bitter when I wanted unctuousness. Like the Texas toast delivered.

I would go back and try the shrimp toast, wings with truffle ranch, the soft serve of the day…lots of stuff.

The Decoy, on the extreme other hand, is a diner-ish dive bar that I always pass on my way to Scappoose. What finally drew me in was the promise of Chinese food that’s often on the marquee.

I didn’t get the story, but I will. The clientele and waitstaff is what you might picture (despite feeling like a small town in the middle of nowhere, Linnton is still Portland as is only a 15-minute drive from the NW hubbub) but there did appear to be a Chinese couple cooking. Did they come first and decide to make Chinese-American food or did someone decide that there needed to be Chinese-American food and found them?

Though you can’t tell from the above photo, the booths were full this Wednesday night and our waitress was being run ragged.

So yes, there are crab puffs a.k.a. rangoon, kung pao chicken, and chow mein on the back page of the menu that is filled with omelets, burgers, and a NY-style pizza section.

The potstickers were doughy in a good way and nicely toasty on the bottom. I can’t not order crab rangoon when I see it on a menu. These fried pockets of cheese came with sweet and sour rather than the sweet chile sauce accompaniment I’m used to at Thai restaurants or the packets of duck sauce, which is probably regional, from Chinese take-out restaurants. Oh, and salt-and-pepper calamari that was just light coated in rice flour and stir-fried with onions and peppers. It practically qualified as health food. I’m not going to talk about that cheeseburger that snuck in.


Canard * 734 E. Burnside Ave., Portland, OR

Decoy * 10710 NW St. Helens Rd., Portland, OR

Shovel Time: Marco Polo Global Restaurant

I noticed that the Salem Statesman Journal was recently hiring a food writer. I’ve only been to Salem twice in recent history, primarily because it’s sort of a half-way meeting point between Portland and Eugene (where my less-vegetarian-than-she-used-to-be sister and her vegan husband live) so I’m no expert. I would love the job if I could write exclusively about Pietro’s and Sizzler and Marco Polo-type restaurants (and were two decades younger–I’m too elderly for a near-entry level newspaper salary or any newspaper salary).

Marco Polo Global Restaurant is described as having “Chinese, Italian & American menus, plus English-style afternoon high tea.” That’s all you need to know. Good bye. They serve dishes like gluten-free raspberry pistachio chicken, fajitas, samosas, eggplant parmesan, jambalaya, and a full roster of Chinese-American classics.

For what it’s worth, Marco Polo presents as a Chinese restaurant. I think?

I stuck with the Chinese-American side of things and ordered crab rangoon, obviously, and some mildly spicy orange sauced thing that I can’t remember if it was pork or chicken (it was pork). The spring rolls with the ketchup dip with a hot mustard stripe and beef and broccoli weren’t mine. Everything was fine. You could do worse if you had a craving for this type of crispy, heavily sauced Chinese-ish cuisine.

Honestly, I was more enamored by the style of the building than the food, which is peak late ‘70s/early ‘80s NW style. There is also a lot of concrete brutalist municipal architecture in Salem, in stark contrast to all the woodsy facades.

Marco Polo Global Restaurant * 300 Liberty St., Salem, OR

Thoughts No One Asked for On Two Things I Read Related to Bon Appetit Two Weekends Ago


I still remember the first time I saw that photo in Bon Appétit of a line of beautiful people patiently waiting outside a low-lying, barely marked building, a tree blooming out front. It was a spoon-fed fantasy — that you, too, could be one of the good-looking regulars — and I wanted all of it.

Me too, despite being over two years ago, because two of those “beautiful people” were women not being skinny, something always surprising to see in a lifestyle publication not specifically featuring a larger woman because they have to i.e. she is being profiled. Interestingly, the image on has been cropped to erase one offender (the other was already hidden behind a pole).

* * *


This wasn’t so much reading–if you call tiled blurbs and captions reading–as page-skimming and absorbing, though that’s all it takes to have an “It Me” moment with Peter Meehan. Crab rangoon is my favorite junky snack food in the whole world, and the only dish I miss when not doing a traditional Thanksgiving is the stuffing (ok, and pecan pie but there are no guarantees there will be a pecan pie).

Eaten, Barely Blogged: French-ish, All-American, Mexican Mash-Ups

mimi trio

Mimi The mark of a good restaurant is one where you leave feeling better than when you arrived (despite young men good-naturedly but firmly asking you to move down six inches so their lady can have more room even though you’re already arm-to-arm with the older-but-not-old man waiting for his lady on your right, being there first [the first customer period to avoid this situation because you know your limits], the isosceles triangle napkin placed by a server establishing your plot of land at the bar). That’s not a lot to ask, though it’s scarcer than it seems. Mimi succeeds. The sliced madai in brown butter with lemon curd and dried seaweed was like candy, or more accurately, caramel corn, fish caramel corn, which sounds dubious but is brightened by the citrus and amazing with nice bread and butter. I would go back and have this as a bar snack with sparkling wine in a second.  Don’t play around with it too much or else the sauce will start to cool and congeal. Peppery calves liver, rare and steak-like, is served with boudin noir-stuffed eggplant, studded with golden raisins, and also blended sweet with savory well, potent and energizing in the same way as the crudo without being heavy, matchingwith a glass of equally bold French red wine that I vowed to remember without taking a photo  and promptly forgot (comped, I realized later, which occasionally is a benefit–at least at a certain type of casual-polished place–of dining on your own) Even approaching fullness, I was never bored.

emmy squared duo

Emmy Squared I forget if this is supposed to be Detroit-inspired or Detroit-style pizza (which I did try last year for the first time in a very different setting i.e. one that doesn’t threaten a $25/per person fee for no-shows because you just show up and eat pizza). The slices are square, the crust thick but not Chicago deep, with crisp edges and plenty of cheese. I will take any excuse to eat Hawaiian variations in an acceptable manner. Here, that would be ham and spiced pineapple on the Lou-Wow. I’m also a sucker for pretzel buns, which hold together Le Big Matt Burger, the formerly semi-secret double-pattied, white american cheese, and sambal-spiked mayonnaise monster that’s now formally on the menu. Split a burger and pizza if possible. Both are good but you’ll probably leave feeling more or less the same as when you entered. 

mission cantina trio

Mission Cantina is as good a spot as any to unintentionally stumble into on a weeknight. The whole operation from service to menu feels haphazard, and that’s not a criticism (though I almost ordered a drink special because it was green until I parsed that it contained  Midori, god no, which the server thought was cucumber liqueur). It’s a perfect place to knock back micheladas and marvel at more fried chicken than would seem imaginable for $26. That would be masa-crusted, spicy, honey-drizzled, and tarted-up with pickles and pickled jalapeños in a vaguely Southern/South of the Border/Korean way. Like pretzel rolls and Hawaiian pizza, I will always order crab rangoon if I see it. There was an undercurrent of what I thought was curry powder in these fried wontons, which you have to be in the mood for, and then the next day while sweating on a walk home it hit me that the abrasive seasoning was likely Old Bay, with celery salt being the offender.  Limey, lightly funky mussel tostadas, chosen instead of a side vegetable that was practically insisted upon, were more guacamole than anything.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Seattle Take 2

seven beef trio

Seven Beef Sometimes I go crazy, especially when time is limited, and this was a purely social long-weekend trip, not a food-focused mission. Originally, I reserved at this newish pseudo-steakhouse with a vague Vietnamese undercurrent because it seemed interesting and was walking distance from my Airbnb in a residential neighborhood, but then Bateau, seemingly more serious, also doing in-house butchery and serving lesser known cuts of locally raised beef, started getting buzzy (and Renee Erickson has since won a James Beard for best chef Northwest) so I scrambled to switch, only to get an 8:45pm slot, which would be fine anywhere else but is late-ish by NW standards, but more detrimentally because I’m a sweaty, anxious person, was the fear that only super expensive, non-optimal cuts of meat would be left, plus I already tried attached Bar Mesuline in January so I knew the vibe. So, back to Seven Beef where I didn’t even end up ordering steak but the namesake bò 7 món tasting. Big hunks of meat definitely seem to be the thing here–on a packed Saturday night I didn’t notice any other tables opting out of steak–but something must be done with all of the extra bits, hence lots of sausage (there is also a popular burger, which I totally would do for happy hour if I really lived four blocks away). You start with a beef salad with pickled vegetables and then there’s an onslaught including vinegared beef carpaccio and grilled sausage three-ways (lemongrass-skewered, wrapped in la lot leaves, and laced with five spice) served with fresh herbs, lettuce, and sliced fruit. Congee with meatballs and shrimp chips caps off the meal. It’s totally a deal for $40 per person, especially if you’re into variety and not married to the idea of eating a whole rib-eye. I also ordered fries because it was a birthday dinner and why not?

ian's on the hill pizzas

Ian’s on the Hill If you need any further proof that this was not a food recon trip, I ended up with Hawaiian and taco pizzas, the result of missing my reservation at Vito’s (loved the atmosphere so much last time that I was open to eating lasagna despite being an unabashed Italian-American disliker) the first night due to barfing that started at noon in the car service to JFK and lasted 12 hours, the exact thing that happened when I flew to Seattle three months ago and makes me think I should maybe never go back to Washington or ride in a car. Despite all the Caviars and Ubereats and Postmates that keep on coming and Seattle ostensibly being a tech city, food delivery isn’t much of a thing outside of NYC in my experience. I wanted pizza and this was one of only two options on Seamless. #seamlessinseattle, yes. Oh, I’m just now seeing that this is a Wisconsin-based chain. Even while nauseous yet hungry, I had the right instincts. 

ma'ono trio

Ma’ono Fried Chicken and Whisky I was recently asked what quintessential Seattle food was. “Is there a Primanti Brothers of Seattle?” Uh, no. Dick’s is an icon but that’s just burgers. An argument could be made for teriyaki. Hawaiian food is also relatively big in the Northwest considering the islands take as long to reach by plane as NYC. I just wanted some fried chicken. Here, it’s a thing big enough to reserve birds ahead of time. It just happened that brunch was a meal I had free, so I got the morning version with biscuits and gravy and maple syrup. A half order, so wonderfully crisp and crackly that it held up two days later, is plenty for two. If you want to die, feel free to also start your day with spam masubi and a fancy loco moco (Basil-mint chutney? Wood-grilled ground chuck?). I didn’t realize exactly what sort of place this was until my bloody mary arrived with a pickled sunchoke garnish. Now you know.

elliot's oysters

Elliott’s Oyster House Touristy doesn’t have to be bad even though there’s a lot of crap on the waterfront. I can’t speak to the rest of the menu or long waits for tables, but sitting at the small bar watching more than 20 varieties of regional oysters being shucked while drinking Oregon pinot gris is not crappy. You might even get a few freebies tossed in with your half-dozen.

charlie's monte cristo

Charlie’s on Broadway Finally got my damn West Coast monte cristo. What makes a monte cristo West Coast, you ask? It can’t be an open-faced abomination served with maple syrup. Raspberry jelly all the way. That’s it. These wedges were so perfectly battered and fried that the layers of turkey, ham, and swiss had nearly melded into one with powder sugar-dusted bread, giving a cake-like impression. It seems like it needs fries as to be less naked on the plate, not out of caloric weakness. Apparently, Charlie’s was recently redone after a closure, yet it still looks like a ‘70s fern bar, i.e. my kind of joint, so there’s that.

aoki chirashi

Aoki serves sushi that is neither fast food nor luxurious nor loungey and sharing a menu from other Asian nations. That’s not a simple ask for a spur of the moment choice in Capitol Hill. I just wanted some solid chirashi and got it.

honey hole sandwiches

Honey Hole I’ll admit I went just because that name? Walking past the nondescript facade a few storefronts down from a Babeland this winter, I automatically assumed it was a gay bar not a sandwich shop. And a good one at that. My dining companion also wanted the Liotta (an Italian sub with quality ham and salami) which warmed my heart to discover we have similar tastes in sandwiches, but I don’t allow parties to order the same dish, so a Corleone (no, the names are not all Italian though there is a Chachi’s Favorite) which sounded like a baguette reuben by description but was so pastrami-forward that it tasted more like a deli sandwich even minus the rye bread. I also consumed a coffee cider (local brewery unknown/unremembered–there is no evidence of this creation existing on either Schilling’s or Seattle Cider Company’s sites) which might be the most Northwest thing ever. I’m still not convinced those two beverages are meant to be one.

cheesecake factory duo

Cheesecake Factory My cross-country rendezvous was with someone who had never been to a Cheesecake Factory and hasn’t drank for the past 25 years, which is to say after 60 hours living my way there was serious malaise the final day in Seattle. And brutally, there was a huge block of time to kill between the Airbnb check out (even at an unusually civilized 1pm) and my 9:50pm flight. Being a near-90 degree day (as I currently sit in gray, damp 50s NYC) we did the only sensible thing and headed to the suburbs, specifically an upscale ghost town mall in Bellevue for good air conditioning. After paying $9 to take a nap in a completely empty movie theater across the escalators from a comedy club/pool hall/ping pong lounge and not sleeping because Boss, the lesser of evils playing at a workable time, ended up being more stupid-funny than expected (I literally LOL’d just because I could in this impromptu private screening) it was time to choose among the chains. P.F. Chang’s almost won out, and  I’m still curious about non-chain Tavern Hall, which has the post-millennium, upwardly mobile young adult trappings–Sazeracs on tap, shuffleboard, brunch–I would normally go nuts for. At Cheesecake Factory, which went from dead to completely filled during our stint, I loaded up on pre-flight fat and dairy with their version of crab rangoon, a bacon date pizza, plus a slice of salted caramel cheesecake. Even eating less than half of all that ended up feeling like a very bad idea. One must go out with a bang. That’s the rule.

Nothing like a roaring fire in full-on sweat weather

Nothing like a roaring fire in full-on sweat weather

You know you're in the Northwest when there's Dale Chihuly hanging in your mall

You know you’re in the Northwest when there’s Dale Chihuly hanging in your mall

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Pine Nut Ricotta, Paneer, Cream Cheese

PicMonkey Collage

Avant Garden. I didn’t think I’d be eating vegan food on a Friday night (you know, totally Tuesday fare) and yet there I was with a friend sharing plates, drinking wine (from a more conventional list than expected) like I was on a pretend date. It’s all very now (non-basil-based pestos, toasts, grains, pickled produce) and very tasty (the absence of dairy doesn’t register at all). Strangely, the standout was a toast. Strange because the descriptions don’t always sell the dish. Fennel hummus, Castelvetrano olive, orange, walnut was a delicious autumnal combination, rich and almost buttery, while I was resistant to the beets, mango, avocado, black sesame, tamari, tobanjan, lime not because of the long ingredient list but because the mango and avocado read too nuevo Latino, which clearly this round stack of food wasn’t considering the double dose of fermented bean products. Stick with the more outre combos i.e. smoked macadamia, maitake, and crispy leeks rather than seemingly familiar blends like tomato, basil, and almond ricotta.

artichoke slice

In a delayed Big Mac Attack-esque move, after too many drinks at my late ’90s staple Boxcar Lounge, I found myself at 2:30am crouched in a doorway with an enormous, molten artichoke slice dripping with dairy. It wasn’t until I woke up the following afternoon with a charred, ripped-up roof of my mouth (that still hurts three days later) that I even remembered taking a photo. Good going, drunk self.

lupulo duo

Lupulo. Despite the prominent bar, I find NYC places like this tricky to dine in alone because you can eat a cobbled together light meal by spending $24 on two small plates (shrimp turnovers, creamy and fried like haute junk food and duck hearts skewered with pickled mango and shishito peppers) or outlaying the same amount on a more substantial dish to receive less variety. And then despite reasonably spaced stools and well-defined place settings, after the loud male half of a big-spending older couple has had numerous samples of beer followed by multiple full glasses on one side and a single Manhattan has been consumed by a young lady on the other, limbs start splaying, elbows thrust, and personal boundaries become encroached upon until you quietly leave still vaguely hungry. 

samudra duo

SamudraBoth a vegan and vegetarian meal within 48 hours is highly unusual. Samudra is great, though, for chaat and South Indian carbs like the super light dosas filled with spinach to be healthy and hefty uthappam I always get stuffed with paneer. The best, though, might be the vada, perfectly deep-fried chickpea flour doughnuts, crackly on the outside and fluffy in the middle, served here with mild coconut chutney and sambar.

kitchen 79 geoy hor cheese

Kitchen 79. Not enough cheese yet? Let me introduce you to geoy hor cheese a.k.a. Thai crab rangoon. With sweet chile sauce? Amazing. And that doily only helps matters.