Sake Bar by Zabb. A basement izakaya/sushi den popping up in many neighborhoods might be no big thing, but Japanese food is scarce in Jackson Heights and a drinking (and snacking) place open until 4am that isn’t geared toward carousing Latino men is huge. I was excited. There’s nothing wildly esoteric being served in the slight space, but you’ll do just fine with grilled mackerel, fried baby octopus and chicken gizzards, takoyaki, as well as some of those cross-cultural pastas that are practically Italian if it weren’t for flourishes like seaweed or roe, plus a sushi bar and specialty rolls like the one I’m just noticing now that combines shrimp tempura with pineapple and mozzarella that should’ve been calling my name if I’d been paying attention to the other side of the menu. Sake Bar is affiliated with upstairs Zabb Elee (and the naming convention couldn’t be more Thai) the restaurant with the distinction of being the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Jackson Heights. Next door Playground Thai, which I’d never heard of, was completely packed on a Sunday night and made me wonder who goes to Playground when Zabb is right there? If it hasn’t already been done, this is crying out for an article. Who goes to the lesser restaurant when competitors are in close proximity?
Smorgasburg Queens. The very definition of barely blogged is stopping by a food fair and only trying one thing. I was hot and uninspired (eating and sweating outdoors isn’t really my thing unless I’m in Southeast Asia) sorry. RAR Bar is perhaps better known for its Elvis croissant, but I wanted something more, er, delicate and less sweet, you know, like a bacon jam sticky bun. The less sweet thing was too true. In fact, the dense and lardy pastry was fully savory despite what looked like candied bits of bacon and what they’d call pork floss if sold at one of those Singaporean or Malaysian hawker stalls. I love pork floss and I’m still not sure if I liked this or not.
Lobster Joint. And once again being a hypocrite, I made a big production about wanting whole lobster only this weekend, no rolls, and then went and ate a roll on a whim (after walking from Smorgasburg in a daze and pit-stopping at Transmitter Brewing for a tasting). This was a satisfying New England-style roll, light-handed with the mayonnaise (which I’m pretty sure contained tarragon) and extraneous crunchy additions i.e. celery. I also ate fries, this time waffle, for unexpected late-night dinner at The Randolph. That might be embarrassing under any other circumstances than a three-day weekend.
Fritzl’s Lunch Box. Ok, technically I ate this delicious mess of a cheeseburger before Labor Day weekend. It’s notable enough, though, to not let it get lost in the wilds of Instagram. The use of strong cheddar instead of American cheese (my disgusting preference) tells you it’s not haute junk food, as does the aioli and super mustardy relish, which probably made me seem like a maniac when I asked for mustard before tasting. It’s not precious either. Why there was never more than one other table occupied during my 8-9pm solo stint in the back garden is a mystery.