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Posts from the ‘Rego Park’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Sweets, Shots, Samosas

 arepa lady dessert

Arepa Lady Desserts can be a sticking point at otherwise fine restaurants. Post-tacos, curries or dosas, the sit-down Arepa Lady is fine for a sweet nightcap and open until 1am on weekends, to boot. A naturally sweet arepa de queso can be doctored by a number of squeeze-your-own sauces like pineapple, condensed milk and dulce de leche. Share with a friend at the bar if you’re too full, and if you’re lucky you may walk into one giant birthday party. If I understood correctly, the entire space, which isn’t saying much as it’s the size of a bedroom, was celebrating the Arepa Lady’s daughter’s birthday. We cracked open the leftover BYOB beers from an earlier meal at Kitchen 79 and were gifted a few shots of aguardiente. Salud!

london lennie's quad

London Lennie’s is so awesome I may have to dedicate two entries, one for food and one for the bar. Queens will never be allowed to be called “The New Brooklyn” as long as dollar oysters remain scarce. Offhand, Astor Room and London Lennie’s are the only two borough restaurants I’m aware of with such happy hour deals (I’m all ears, if you know more) and both require a bus ride. No one in Brooklyn, by which I mean Williamsburg, the epicenter of dollar oysters, refers to them as “Buck-a-Shuck” either. In Rego Park, they are available Monday through Friday, 4pm-6pm at the bar. On this occasion the oysters, just a little sweet and saline, were Rocky Reef from Long Island. You may also want big, fat battered fried shrimp, crab dip and oyster shooters. You may also be bought a shot of tequila when your new bar friends find out it’s your dining partner’s 40th birthday. There have been a disproportionate amount of shots consumed since I moved to Queens last month.

raja sweets samosa chat

Raja Sweets & Fast Food Even though Jackson Heights is known for Indian food (I see the Jackson Diner is doing a pop-up at Diamond Bar?) it’s not what the neighborhood excels at. Neither are places to pass time leisurely. Initially, I popped into the reopened Jackson Heights Food Court for a snack to kill time while my apartment was being taken over by wallpaperers (my dining room and entryway kind of rule now) but no one behind the steam table would make eye contact or take my order. To its credit, it did give me that foreign dining feeling where I start questioning myself, “Am I not doing this right?” Carb coma-inducing chaat, more like two dinners than a snack, can be had for $4.99 down the street, so it’s all fine. Instead of being broken up to resemble a lettuce-free chopped salad, this samosa chat contained two nearly intact potato-filled specimens tossed with the requisite chickpeas, spicy sauce, yogurt drizzles and a slew of cilantro and raw chopped onions. Just the right balance of crispy-crunchy and mushy, punched up with heat and an optional diy swirl of sweet-tart tamarind sauce (not really chutney–it looks like ruddy sweet and sour sauce). I’ve had a few chutneys recently that are nearly dead ringers for pico de gallo. A Russian woman at a party last weekend claimed Russian food was like Mexican, which is one of nuttiest things I’ve ever heard. If you said Indian, I’d entertain your argument.

Dallas BBQ Rego Park

1/2 Who says advertising doesn’t work? After my first two subway sign encounters with the words Dallas BBQ superimposed over the familiar red flames, my attention was peaked. And Rego Park? Queens’ first outpost definitely required investigation.

The most sprawling, modern and mildly clubby—glass-encased liquor bottles as room dividers are a prominent design feature—incarnation yet, this branch right off the LIE is part of a relatively new shopping complex that houses a not crowded Century 21, an awkward to get to Costco and bare bones Aldi, Trader Joe’s no frills German parent company (I only bought American cheese, bratwursts and a box of frozen cheese wontons).

Rego park dallas bbq

Clearly, the area was desperately in need of cheap ribs and colorful drinks because even on the early side of Saturday night, the industrial-carpeted foyer was crammed with the antsy and expectant. By the time we left, crowd control was in full effect and a hostess had brought out the bullhorn. Stampede!

Dallas bbq saturday night

Sam Sifton’s recent multi-culti portrait of Red Rooster painted a feel good image of the new Harlem. I’ll give you a celeb restaurant in an underserved neighborhood and raise you a Dallas BBQ. There’s no more NYC a restaurant than this. Staten Island is now the only borough suffering without one. Sure, it’s a chain, but it’s our chain and we love it. Applebee’s and Chili’s could learn a thing or two from them.

Just in my noisy corner of the complex sat Korean-American dudes with pitchers of beer, their dates barely touching their food, frozen drinks melting. To my left was a black, teetotaling mother and daughter downing chicken fingers and giant goblets of cola with nearly an entire jar of maraschino cherries floating in each. On my other side, colorful drinks for all four diners and two massive double cheeseburgers destined for one hungry woman. A multigenerational Chinese family sprawled across four pushed-together tables while an elderly couple conversed in Russian. No one thinks twice about looking like a glutton and men aren’t afraid to order pink cocktails. Merely convivial or debauched, it’s hard to say. The judgmental aren’t welcome at Dallas BBQ.

Dallas bbq cocktails

For me, at least, the fruity, neon frozen drinks overshadow the food. As someone who has to minimize my sugar intake and prefers a dry, stiff cocktail anyway, their pantheon of syrupy “Texas-sized” concoctions provide a welcome respite. It is wholly possible to burn out on artisanal moonshine, mole bitters and hand-carved ice. I nearly succumbed to our server’s promotional recommendation of a passion fruit-swirled pina colada served with both a shot of Alize and Hennessy (they also serve Hennessy wings and the spirit is prominently featured in the above mentioned wall displays—I don’t know if they’re getting kickbacks or if they’ve merely determined that their audience really likes a particular cognac). Instead, I started with the Texas-sized pina colada, then wisely moved onto a regular-sized Blue Hawaii with a shot of rum in a green plastic test tube half-buried in the creamy surface. Less slush, more alcohol is the sweet spot.

Dallas bbq onion loaf

I’m glad that they now serve a smaller version of the onion loaf, which shared between two will still knock you out. The matted stack of thinly sliced battered rings is a must. Could you eat at Outback Steakhouse and ignore the Bloomin’ Onion? You’d better not say no.

Dallas bbq ribs & shrimp

I don’t want to say the namesake barbecue is superfluous, but no one’s going to mistake their pulled pork, beef brisket or babyback ribs for lovingly smoked meat in the style of Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, North Carolina or whichever region you prefer. Tangy-sweet, saucy to the point of ensuring stained clothing and tender, the ribs are perfectly edible, even if they’ve never seen the inside of a smoker. Normally, I would get the $11.99 (most of the menu is under $12) ribs and chicken combo, but we already had a box of Korean fried chicken sitting in the car. I definitely did not need the fried shrimp with tartar sauce. Fries (you can have yellow rice—so very Latino—or a classic American baked potato as a side) and a square of cornbread ensure you get your recommended dose of starch.

When I talk my love of chain restaurants, Dallas BBQ exemplifies what I mean. You go for the experience, not for culinary fireworks. I only ate a fourth of my ribs (which of course I took home for later) because absorbing the genuine New Yorkness while picking at fried onions and sipping sweet, highly alcoholic drinks is fun in itself. The fat and sugar may be gnawing at my organs, but it’s emotionally nutritive being in the thick of things—even when the swell of humanity can be grotesque.

Dallas BBQ * 61-35 Junction Blvd., Rego Park, NY