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April 3, 2012

Cuzco: Chicharron Row

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Our trip to Peru wasn't all eating and hiking - Tammi and I did some sightseeing while we were in Cuzco, too. It just so happens that as we walked to the remains of an ancient inca temple, Qorikancha, we ended up walking down a strip of chicharrones joints. Go figure.

Baskets of freshly fried pork bits were on display in front of each of these places. How could we resist? Culture could wait. Get a look after the jump.

Continue reading "Cuzco: Chicharron Row" »

September 22, 2011

Peru: The Tree House

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As I mentioned yesterday, the town of Machu Picchu, formerly known as Aguas Calientes, is pretty much a tourist town. That includes the food. Pizza and Mexican and Chinese all stand next to restaurants selling the same ten Peruvian dishes, no one offering anything quite good.

There were a couple exceptions that we enjoyed and a month later, the one that sticks with me is The Tree House. Check out the space and the food after the jump.

Continue reading "Peru: The Tree House" »

August 17, 2011

Peru: Lunch at Juanito's in Cuzco

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Wow, what a week it's been since I posted from the airport in Lima at 4am. We've bounced around Peru and there will be more reports soon, I promise. For regular updates, follow my digital Tumblr blog, where I've been posting photos like mad.

Once we got to Cuzco and settled in, it was time to look for some real food. We huffed and puffed through the 11,000+ foot altitude and tracked down a sandwich shop called Juanito's, which was highly recommended and just a couple blocks from where we were staying.

Continue reading "Peru: Lunch at Juanito's in Cuzco" »

July 8, 2011

Chinatown: Hua Ji's Pork Chop

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My first excursion into Chinatown with the Chinatown Chowdown app took me to a scaffolded building at the end of Allen Street. I walked past a crowd of people sitting on the sidewalk waiting for one of those cheap fare buses and knew that I'd never have thought to stop here without a proper guide.

Continue reading "Chinatown: Hua Ji's Pork Chop" »

May 2, 2011

Hong Kong: Loon Kee Seafood Restaurant

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At the head of Hong Kong's Gage street, right across the street from Lan Fong Yuen tea house, Loon Kee draws passersby in with a visual siren's song of roasted meats hanging in the window.

Behind them, men stand in the window chopping and prepping meat for customers. Their hands, shiny from the greasy skins of pork and duck and chickens, just looking at them work, going in was an inevitability, not an option.


Continue reading "Hong Kong: Loon Kee Seafood Restaurant" »

April 28, 2011

Hong Kong: Tsui Wah

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In our first week in Hong Kong, we passed by branches of the Tsui Wah chain more than a few times without realizing that it was another of the cha chaan tang tea houses, like Lon Fong Yuen (basically diners), that we'd read about. Thankfully, we discovered it in time to stop in a couple times before we headed home.

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April 27, 2011

Hong Kong: Cha Chaan Tang at Lon Fong Yuen

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Among the notes I got from friends and friends of friends ahead of our trip to Hong Kong, I read a couple references to cha chaan tang tea houses as a particular institution in local culture. Despite what I read about it being the home of low budget comfort food, it never occurred to me that it would basically be a diner.

One in particular, Lon Fong Yuen, was highly recommended and conveniently turned out to be right at the beginning of Gage Street, the strip of markets that I obsessively returned to, ogling the Butcher shops and the people who worked there.

Continue reading "Hong Kong: Cha Chaan Tang at Lon Fong Yuen" »

April 18, 2011

Scenes from Barcelona: Kiosko Universal

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Heading to Barcelona, I was obsessed with the Boqueria marketplace. I wanted to photograph it and sample all the different foods there, gorging myself on slice after slice of jamon and who knows what else. Once we got there, though, I ended up mostly window shopping, ogling the wares and wondering how one cooks a cockscomb.

On the one 'morning' we did eat there (and by morning, I mean afternoon), we went to Kiosko Universal.

Continue reading "Scenes from Barcelona: Kiosko Universal" »

April 12, 2011

Quick Bite: Porchetta Platter

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A while back, I got a Blackboard Eats coupon for Porchetta in the East Village. I've gone on about my obsession with the Italian roast pork dish in the past. It's delicious. Usually, I get the sandwich, but with the discount, I figured I'd splurge a bit.

This is the Porchetta Platter with beans and cooking greens. And, I got a side of potatoes & burnt ends. Of course, it ended up being more food than I could eat - I took the potatoes home and broiled them up with dinner that night.

March 23, 2011

Aspen: The food of BB's Kitchen

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The interesting part of my annual sojourns to Aspen has been tracking down the new restaurants and bars that pop up over the years. This year, I discovered BB's Kitchen, which had only been open for a couple weeks when I got there.

I had a few great meals there and just missed the opportunity to photograph their meat operation for my butchery project. I spoke to the chef, Mark Buley about the restaurant and their plans to bring whole animal cooking to Aspen. If I'd written this post two months ago, I'd probably have a lot more details, but it's all faded a bit, so I'll let the food talk for itself after the jump.

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March 8, 2011

Quick Bite: Mardi Gras Muffaletta at Rye House

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I've mostly outgrown the drunken bacchanalia of events like Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day, but I did manage to find my own way to celebrate this afternoon. I met up with a friend for lunch at Rye House and discovered the addition of a special sandwich on the menu for Fat Tuesday: their own take on a muffaletta.

The true New Orleans version of the classic Italian sandwich is usually so big that one couldn't hope to eat an entire one in one sitting and expect to do anything more than nap for the rest of the day. Thankfully, this was a bit scaled back to a more reasonable size.

March 4, 2011

Barcelona: Quimet i Quimet

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When I put out the bat signal requesting recommendations for where to eat and drink in Barcelona, no less than four friends insisted that we try Quimet i Quimet. The small wine shop in the Parallel district is famous for its tight quarters and it's wonderful selection of tapas.

The talk of its small space certainly made me hesitate. I'm not partial to being bumped and jostled at every turn, but given the word of some of my most respected food geeks, I had to go. We went for a late lunch and actually found plenty of room.

We weren't super hungry, so didn't get that much - although I could certainly have kept gorging myself just because it was all so good. Check out the courses after the jump.


Continue reading "Barcelona: Quimet i Quimet" »

December 31, 2010

Learning about fish at Eataly's Pesce

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As I've said in years past, I don't really do resolutions as such, but on my list of things to learn more about for the last couple of years has been cooking and eating fish. Yeah, yeah, health blah blah blah. It's good for me, but it's also a whole area of food that up until now I've been woefully unfamiliar about.

So, the week before Christmas, Tammi and I took a break from shopping and stopped in at Eataly for lunch at Pesce, the seafood restaurant by Esca chef, Dave Pasternack. Check out the courses after the jump...


Continue reading "Learning about fish at Eataly's Pesce" »

December 29, 2010

Vietnam: Com Tam Moc

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Having spent most of my eating time in Saigon obsessing over banh mi sandwiches, I didn't really get a chance to explore too many of the other culinary stylings of Vietnam. But on our first morning, we grabbed breakfast/lunch at Com Tam Moc, down the block from our hotel. Cơm tấm apparently refers to the leftover fragments of rice grains which are sorted out and sold cheaper.

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December 21, 2010

Lunch: How does Paris Sandwich stand up to the Banh Mi in Saigon?

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After writing up my Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon, I found myself craving another Vietnamese sandwich. On my last trip down to Chinatown, when I went to Banh Mi Saigon, I noticed Paris Sandwich across the street and added it to my mental to-do list, so this time I decided to give it a try...


Continue reading "Lunch: How does Paris Sandwich stand up to the Banh Mi in Saigon?" »

December 20, 2010

Five Tips for Eating Banh Mi in Saigon

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Going to Vietnam, I was excited more than anything else for the street food. I mean, obviously. After all, I even made a lunch expedition to Chinatown ahead of the trip just to pre-game it at Banh Mi Saigon.

So, while in Ho Chi Minh City - which everyone we spoke to continues to call Saigon - I made a point of seeking out as many of these sandwiches as I could find. In the process, I came up with a few tips for the hungry traveler seeking out this particular deliciousness while in Vietnam.


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November 29, 2010

Philly: DiNic's Again

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After the marathon last weekend in Philly, there was only one thing that my friend Guy needed to make the hurting stop: A roast pork sandwich from DiNic's. Get a look at the deliciousness after the jump.

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November 28, 2010

JFK: Croque Madame Opens

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Hanging out at the airport waiting for a flight isn't something people typically look forward to, but when I read that Andrew Carmellini of Locanda Verde was going to be a part of a new collection of restaurants and bars in JFK's Terminal 2, I immediately suggested that we get a jump on all that Thanksgiving traffic as we headed to Hong Kong.

It didn't hurt that it is located directly across from that bastion of high end mediocrity, Bonfire, my longtime nemesis in Delta Terminal eats.

Despite all the threats of passenger protests over TSA security measures, we more or less zipped through leaving a couple hours to spare before our flight. All the more time to explore the menu and have what turned out to be the first adventure of our trip. Sparks literally flew. Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "JFK: Croque Madame Opens" »

November 22, 2010

Analog Montreal: Schwartz's Smoked Meat

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If there was any one food I absolutely had to eat in Montreal, it was the smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's. Viande fumee was a revelation for me on my last trip there and Schwartz's topped the list.

Here in Brooklyn, we've got Mile End's excellent version, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to go to the source.

So, on our last day in town, when my friends were brunching at the hotel and heading to the airport, I ditched everyone and made my way to St. Laurent to experience it again.

Continue reading "Analog Montreal: Schwartz's Smoked Meat" »

Self-Promotion: I'm profiled in today's NY Post @Work

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If you look on page 38 of today's New York Post, you'll find me looking back at you. I was profiled as part of their @work column in a piece about workers around town who have 'unusual' lunch habits, mine being seeking out new foods and restaurants for Midtown Lunch. Sadly, my photo didn't make the web edition. I'll try to scan it in some time today and post it.

I have to say, it was interesting being on the other side of a photoshoot. Lorenzo the photographer and I wandered back and forth through Koreatown looking for proper backdrops.


Update: See the scan of the printed version after the jump!

Continue reading "Self-Promotion: I'm profiled in today's NY Post @Work" »

November 19, 2010

Lunch: Banh Mi Saigon

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Even though I still have five days left before our trip to Asia starts, my mind has been 8,000 miles away for days. It's pretty much all I can think about.

Yesterday, my mental wandering took me on a trip far out of my usual bounds down to Chinatown to get a Vietnamese sandwich from Banh Mi Saigon, one of the old favorites in the banh mi craze. I'd never been there, but happened upon it a few nights ago and decided I had to return. Having rated first place in the Midtown Lunch Banh mi-palooza in the spring was definitely a good enough reference for me. Read on for the porky goodness.

Continue reading "Lunch: Banh Mi Saigon" »

November 16, 2010

Lunch at The John Dory Oyster Bar

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Today I strayed from my path of finding Midtown Lunch priced dishes in order to partake in some deliciousness from under the sea at the new John Dory Oyster Bar at the Ace Hotel.

The meal was a splurge to be sure, but was absolutely worth it. In the name of posting this now rather than waiting to make time to bloviate about each course, I'm going to post the courses after the jump with some brief notes. Enjoy!

Continue reading "Lunch at The John Dory Oyster Bar" »

July 20, 2010

SF: Rosamunde's Mission Bar

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Rosamunde Sausage Grill, the closet-sized sausage shack next door to Toronado, the best beer bar in San Francisco, has gone into the bar business.

Get a peek inside after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: Rosamunde's Mission Bar" »

July 19, 2010

Quick Bite: Mile End's Smoked Meat

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I finally made it to Mile End in Boerum Hill the other day. I've been enamored with Montreal-style Smoked Meat since my first trip to the Great Up North in 2002.

Viande fumee as they call it in the French part of town, is easily as tender as the best pastrami in New York, but has a stronger smokiness to it and lacks the pepper crusting of a traditional pastrami.

Check out the sandwich after the jump...

Continue reading "Quick Bite: Mile End's Smoked Meat" »

July 15, 2010

SF: 4505 Meats

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Unfortunately, I didn't end up finding time during my trip to San Francisco to do a butchery shoot with Ryan Farr as I'd hoped to do after meeting him at Cochon 555 in the spring. I did manage to catch up with him briefly at his stand at the Thursday Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.

I spoke to him for a bit while he was setting up and he gave me a quick taste of the day's special. It was all i could do to walk around and wait for them to start serving to get a full serving for myself.

Check it out after the jump.

Continue reading "SF: 4505 Meats" »

May 7, 2010

Recently on Midtown Lunch: Flatiron Excursions

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It's been a while since I've plugged my posts on Midtown Lunch. That's in part because I've been spending a lot of time eating and writing for it instead. There have been plenty of posts, from Taco Trucks to restaurant openings and even some tasty, if overpriced meatballs. But the big news for me is that I've now taken over the weekly Flatiron Lunch column every Friday.

Working on the southern edge of Midtown means that I've got as many options out of bounds as I do within Midtown proper. I've posted before about wanting to go out and explore my food options further afield and this has become a great excuse to do so.

See some of what I've been checking out after the jump.

Continue reading "Recently on Midtown Lunch: Flatiron Excursions" »

April 21, 2010

Quick Bite: Cabrito

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I imagine many people might not have much of an appetite after watching a pair of goats being butchered, but after my Cabrito shoot, I very much craved some of their tacos. Luckily, the shoot didn't end up taking very long, so there was time for me to sit down and have a few.

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I had a chorizo, up top, a lengua, above, and a pork belly, below. Sadly the cabrito is only sold as a larger dish, so not so much a lunch dish. It was all delicious, regardless, but a return visit for some of that goat is definitely in the cards.

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April 14, 2010

Miami: Señora Martinez

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After the cruise, Tammi and I had several hours to kill in Miami. It's not so much a walking town, so we found ourselves hanging out nowhere in particular until lunchtime when we were one of the first ones in the door at Señora Martinez in the Design District.

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The tapas-ish menu had a lunch time pre-fixe which greatly accommodated both our desire for little snacks, like the pan con tomate, above and for a more substantial main, like my perfectly done burger, below. There was also the roasted red peppers and the bacon-wrapped bleu cheese stuffed dates, after the jump.

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The lunch deal was quite a bargain, but, in the end, it was our bar bill that did us in. With so much time to kill and only airport time ahead, there was little else to do but to spend the afternoon imbibing in the libations on hand.

Miami's not so much my sort of town, but if I were to find myself back there, Sra. Martinez would certainly at the top of my list of places to eat.


Continue reading "Miami: Señora Martinez" »

April 8, 2010

Quick Bite: Baoguette

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The beautiful weather this week has drawn me further afield for lunch than I would usually travel. I suddenly found myself craving some deep sun and delicious ground pork.

That led me on a trip to Baoguette. I've lunched at the Lexington branch before, but this time I made it all the way down to the East Village and sat at the eat-in Baoguette Cafe.

It doesn't get much better than sitting in the sun watching St. Mark's Place go by. It was a hard trip back up to Midtown.

April 1, 2010

Lunch: Single Serve Korean Barbecue at Don's Bogam

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Korean Barbecue is awesome: the big plate piled with meats, the sizzling grill and the smell of all of it cooking in front of you and a group of friends sharing it all. The whole experience is fun and filling and leisurely time-consuming.

The only problem is that it's not so conducive to the lunch schedule and doesn't really scale down for one person so well. Or it didn't, until I found Don's Bogam a couple weeks ago. It sits in relative obscurity a block away from the main Koreatown strip. I happened upon it one day during lunch and decided to give it a try. What drew me in were the lunch specials, which at $12.95 may be outside the Midtown Lunch price range, but still makes for a great bargain for barbecue.

Food and pics after the jump...

Continue reading "Lunch: Single Serve Korean Barbecue at Don's Bogam" »

March 28, 2010

Recently on Midtown Lunch: Lines and Lent

Village Voice Choice Eats 2010

This week, I covered Monday's Village Voice Choice Eats, a food festival featuring over 60 restaurants. The good news is that there was plenty of good food and even though I had to stand in a line for an hour, which is totally something I don't do, I managed to stuff myself quite well before the crowd became so ridiculous that I had to bail.

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The Friday before that, I got a chance to meet up with my ML colleagues for a Lenten Lunch of all the seafood dishes under $10 at the Grand Central Oyster Bar. That was pretty fantastic, even for a heathen like me who has no idea when Easter is and tends not to eat a lot of fish. Brownie, of Blondie and Brownie posted a recap of the meal the other day.

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I'm so going back up to GCT for one of those Po Boys. Like, this week. The Rock Shrimp sandwich, above, was pretty fantastic too. I'd love to get a cup of the shrimp and eat them like popcorn. It was great to meet and trade notes with B&B, Jason of Me So Hungry, Amy of Amy Blogs Chow and Jenn.

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Most of my Midtown Lunch coverage this month has been stalking Kyochon, the new Korean Fried Chicken joint that opened, closed briefly to bad reviews and opened up again. That's all still in progress, so I'll have to get back to you on that in a week or so.

February 18, 2010

Vancouver: Kintaro Handmade Tonkostu Ramen

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Our first stop in Vancouver after checking into the hotel was Kintaro. Guy had read about it and as Asian food is always on the top of my list of things to try while out west, I was more than happy to check it out.

The ramen shop seemed to have quite the following. When we got there, the line ran out the door and that didn't seem to be anything unusual. The neighboring restaurant politely insisted that those in line refrained from blocking their storefront.

Once inside, it was clear that part of the reason for the line was the exceptionally small space. Folks were crammed in pretty tight, but then, pork was involved, so I wasn't surprised.

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The specialty of the house is tonkotsu. Not to be mistaken for tonkatsu, this is ramen topped with roast pork and enveloped in a rich, milky pork broth.

We sat at the counter and I watched as huge pork bones were lowered into stockpots and simmered for the next batches of broth. Like most ramen places, there were variations on the basic stock using soy sauce or miso, but they all came from the same porky base.

I can't track down any notes from Kintaro, but I believe I had an order with extra pork because, well, that sounds like me.

One of these days I need to figure out what goes into that base and try to make a batch of my own. I think some research is in order. I'd better go to Manchenko Tei for lunch today to get started...

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Kintaro Ramen Noodle,
788 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 604.682.7568‎

February 10, 2010

Midtown Lunching

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So, I wasn't particularly subtle in my recent post about new things afoot, but I wanted to make a point of not mentioning that I'm a part of the new editorial team on Midtown Lunch until something I wrote was actually posted.

So, here's the rundown for those who don't slavishly follow the food blog world: Zach Brooks of the blog Midtown Lunch has moved on to warmer pastures to Los Angeles. We'll forget all the terrible things we feel for LA and instead just be jealous for the warmer weather. I'll be posting, among a handful of other talented contributors in his stead.

I started with a post about the expansion of Little Italy Pizza, the place I posted about last year that's been my go-to slice spot that's been a favorite of mine for some time. They opened up a place a couple blocks away that I checked out last week.

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The short version is that I'll be plugging another site, but if you are a midtown wage slave, I'd also love to hear about what your favorite (non-chain) food options are. And I'm always looking for news. Checking early and often.

More to come. . . .

February 7, 2010

Flying Food: Delta's Asian Shrimp Salad

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No one has great things to say about airplane food. It's rarely good. I know this. But, when I saw "Todd English Selection" on the menu, I figured I ought to give the Olive's chef a second chance after the abysmal hot dog I had at his Bonfire at JFK.

I'm not a salad eater, but the collection of shrimp, noodles and an Asian dressing seemed like it could be worth it.

What I found was completely subjective.

I'm sure many people would have enjoyed this salad. I know Tammi would have. The shrimp was cooked properly, as were the noodles. Both could be messed up pretty easily, but they weren't. It was also topped with crisp slices of bell peppers and red onion which were fresh and crunchy.

Yet, I didn't enjoy it at all. First, it was cold. Outside of ice cream, I'm not so into cold foods. It's a personal quirk, I suppose, but whether it's a sandwich or a salad, I want my food warmed up or at least at room temperature. But this came straight out of the fridge and each crunch of veggies or slurping of noodles reminded me of that fact.

Along the same lines, I like bell peppers and red onions, I just think they'd be much better sauteed and maybe added to a stir fry of those noodles and shrimp. Instead, I was left with the sharp onion flavor for the rest of the trip.

So, if cold salads are your thing, this is definitely one of your better airplane options. But for me, I think I might have preferred some of the microwaved dinner options you used to get in flight. Not very good, but at least it was warm.

January 18, 2010

Philly: Restaurant Week

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Just a quick note that this week and next week are Restaurant Week in Philadelphia. Last night we had a huge Middle Eastern meal at Zahev in Old City and this afternoon we nearly hurt ourselves going through the courses at Butcher & Singer, pictured.

The meals are $20 for lunch and $35 for dinner both were incredible values.

More on Philly and the great meals we had to come.

January 12, 2010

Lunch: The Breslin

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Today, Sam Sifton of the New York Times will be reviewing The Breslin, the new restaurant in the Ace Hotel. Mere blocks from my office, I've had my own opportunity to check out the place and I'm not sure there's a lot that Sifton might say that would make me want to check it out again.

It's a sad thing, because everything I've had and heard tells me that the food is pretty amazing, but the culture of the place puts the scene first and customers second.

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The lamb burger, the only thing Ive had there is wonderful. The rest of the menu seems ridiculously magnificent. But much like The Spotted Pig, by the same folks, the crowd of 'see and be seen' types takes all the fun out of it and the staff seems to buy into that culture deeply.

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In a perfect world the entire clientele of the place would change. The people who show up to places because it's popular would forget it ever existed and the wonderful meat dishes would be available throughout the day for the rest of us to peruse at will.

Instead, there's a crowd of loud, unpleasant people talking about their polo weekends in Florida and Argentina and the staff spends more time ignoring you than finding out if you need anything. Apologies for being crotchety, but this is exactly the sort of thing that upsets me the most. Not sceney places that I'm not remotely interested in, but places that I would love to go to were it not for the nonsense.

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January 10, 2010

Lunch: Rye House

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Ever since getting into the analog world, I've found myself spending a lot more time in the FlatIron District. Whether stopping at a Color Lab to drop off or pick up film or going to Adorama or Calumet to pick up new rolls, I'm in the area between 17th Street to 23rd Street from 5th to 6th Avenues a couple times a week.

Changes in movement patterns around New York always inevitably leads to some interesting discoveries and Rye House is one of the best kind. After discovering it and stopping in for a drink after work, I made a point of returning for lunch a week or so ago.

Up top are a pair of sloppy joe sliders, which had the perfect balance of meat to bun to avoid a ridiculous mess. Topped with a couple rings of jalapeño peppers, it had just the right kick to it.

Below is a cross section of deep fried Mac n Cheese. It's an intriguing sounding snack. Clearly it piqued my interest. Sadly, it just shows that not everything ought to be fried. The outer crust just didn't add anything to the experience and in the end, I probably would have enjoyed it more in a bowl.

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A couple days ago, I stopped in again and tried one of the sandwiches, the Cuban. It was pretty perfect, Berkshire ham, roast pork, gooey cheese and tart and tangy pickles. Yeh.

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There are a few of other sandwiches on the menu I'd like to including the Beef Wellington with Filet Mignon and Foie Gras and the Pittsburgh with Andouille Sausage and a house slaw. I have got to try both of those.

What really fascinates me is an item from the dinner menu that I've got to have: Buffalo Sweetbreads.

Rye House, 11 West 17th Street, NYC. 212.255.7260

January 7, 2010

Lunch: Salt and Pepper

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I've been passing Salt & Pepper by for the last five years. Besides being the type of hole in the wall that is entirely missable, it's also wildly varied in a way I haven't really seen anywhere else.

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The front counter offers Latin and American food, serving everything from cheesesteaks and fried chicken to oxtails and pepper steak. There's also a strong Italian contingent with chicken parm, lasagna and meatballs.

That selection alone is vaguely unusual, but if you can squeeze through the narrow space up front and the tight seating area, you'll find another counter in the back.

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There you'll find an Indian and Pakistani spread with all sorts of options including vegetarian dishes, Naan and various curries like the Goat Curry I tried out. You don't see goat offered in many places, so I had to give it a go.

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I grew up with goat as a regular dish at home, so I don't think of it as very unusual, but I guess it's not so common. You'll almost always find it braised in a strongly flavored sauce, like curry, which makes the expected gaminess unnoticeable.

If you can't get past the whole goat thing, there's chicken and fish and lamb along with a number of vegetarian options if that's your thing.

See more photos of the space after the jump.

Salt & Pepper, 139 West 33rd Street, between 6th and 7th. 212.268.1919

Continue reading "Lunch: Salt and Pepper" »

January 6, 2010

Lunch: Wolfgang's Bar Menu

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Last week was that languid period between Christmas and New Year's Day is a little surreal in New York. Those of us who actually show up to work, the office is a ghost town. Midtown is more crowded than ever, but it's made up almost entirely of tourists. Even the commute is more relaxed and roomy.

Keeping with the indulgent mood of the week, I met up with Eric one day for lunch at Wolfgang. Now, luxury week or not, we weren't getting Ribeyes or Porterhouses in the middle of the day. Instead, we go every once in a while to snack on their excellent bar menu.

I had the Cheeseburger topped with a thick slab of rich unsmoked bacon above. Getting a burger from a steakhouse is a habit I picked up years ago upon learning of Peter Luger's burger. That is a magnificent thing. Sadly, it's not nearly close enough to go to for lunch, so Wolfgang is my next best thing. They don't have the thick slice of muenster cheese or the buns made from their Luger's great dinner rolls, but they do have one thing that is centrally important: great meat. Both the beef and the bacon are juicy and tender and done just right.

Eric went with something you can't get at Luger's: the most literal take on a steak sandwich I've ever seen. It's actually a steak, grilled and chopped up to fit on a bun. Dab a little sweet and tangy house steak sauce on top and you've got one of the best sandwiches you're going to find around.

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At around $20 each, it's a splurge that only fits in the budget every now and again, but it's definitely worth it.

Wolfgang's Steakhouse
4 Park Avenue, New York, NY.
212.889.3369

January 5, 2010

Quick Bite: Dumont

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This sexy beast is the legendary Dumont Mac n Cheese. I stopped in last week after stopping in at The Meat Hook for some holiday weekend goodies. It's been ages since I've made it to Dumont, I'd in fact almost forgotten that I blogged about it a couple years ago. My infrequent visits mean that I invariably go for one of their classics when I'm there, the burger or the mac n cheese.

The MTA has seen fit to mangle my weekend transit again, so I plan to reinstate Williamsburg Weekends this month so as to avoid the shuttle service. Maybe I'll get a chance to stop in again and see what else they've got.

For now, enjoy the gooey goodness.

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January 4, 2010

Lunch: Haru Hana adds a new Japanese option in Koreatown

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This afternoon I had lunch at the new Japanese restaurant in KoreaTown, Haru Hana. It calls itself a Japanese Pub and stocks many of the izakaya favorites I know and love, but the decor and crowd, particularly on a Monday afternoon was much more subdued than all that.

Signs prominently advertise that they are open 24 hours a day, so I'll have to report in again after a late night visit. In the meantime, here's what I had for lunch.

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I passed on the katsu and udon, which I've had quite a bit of in the last month or so and chose a broiled eel rice bowl. I love Unagi. The sweet syrup that coats the top of the eelskin and gets soaked up by the rice is a thing of beauty.

I also tried a couple of the skewers to see what that was all about. Here I had one with bacon-wrapped sausages and the other with chicken and garlic. The sausages were sweetly tangy , like those I had the last time I visited Go Go Curry. Being wrapped in bacon, it's an automatic win. The chicken skewers sported leg meat and garlic cloves toasted until the two were visually indistinguishable. Thankfully, I noticed the different in texture before biting into the garlic by mistake. The flavors may have mellowed out as it grilled, but I don't think my co-workers would really appreciate the difference

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I do have to say one thing about the yakitori. They were wonderful, but after years of eating Japanese skewers at izakaya after izakaya, I have come to expect an open kitchen where I can watch the flames lap at the meat leaving bits of char and juices dripping. When I don't see them, it doesn't detract from the experience exactly, but I notice that it's not there.

Really though, it's not hard to tell when you look at the space. The restaurant is shotgun-style, like many of the other ground floor spaces on the block. There's precious little space to offer up for the ceremony of open cooking.

The menu is widely varied, with everything from Tonkatsu to Udon to Yakitori to sushi. This could be a good thing or a bad thing. Most Japanese restaurants tend to focus on one cuisine and do it really well, so it's a little unusual. That said, the dishes I had were wonderful and I'll be happy to work my way through the menu to take advantage of the of all that variety.

Haru Hana
28 W 32nd St
Between Fifth Ave and Broadway
KoreaTown
212.736.5393


December 29, 2009

Quick Bite: Irish Bacon Burger at Spike Hill

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Lunch in the deluge Saturday afternoon at Spike Hill. I'd never noticed that Irish Bacon was an option on their burger. I feel like I'm seeing more Irish/English Bacon around on menus these days. That's a good thing.

The funky blur around the edges here is from my spiffy new Lensbaby Composer I got for Christmas from Tammi. I'm hoping not to overuse it, but it's a lot of fun.

December 21, 2009

Hawai'i: Me Barbecue

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Mé Barbecue is a divey little takeout Korean place off the main strip in Waikiki. We found it on our first night in Hawaii and kept going back as an alternative to the pricey but not so good breakfast buffets at the hotel.

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The menu offers around 40 different dishes that are mostly Korean, but also represent the Hawaiian mosaic. They even had a Loco Moco, which I didn't get a chance to try. My first dish there was the Portuguese Sausage Breakfast. These sausages are a local favorite, another other delicacy introduced with the huge influx of immigrants over the last century. The sausage was nicely spicy but not overpoweringly so and the over easy eggs left a lot of tasty yolk to slather it in.

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The other dish I had there was Bi Bim Bap, a Korean dish I've been eyeing in KoreaTown back at home for a while. It's a scoop of rice topped with veggies, kimchi, shredded kalbi and a sunny side up egg. It's an awesome thing.

December 17, 2009

Lunch: Dogmatic

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I already love hot dogs. Who doesn't? Whatever your preference for toppings or types of dogs or methods of cooking, it's a pretty great food.

Dogmatic didn't really have to do so much work to improve it. I'm really glad they did, though.

This gourmet dog is stuffed into a small hollowed out baguette. But, that's only after it's been slathered in a sauce of your choice including the intensely flavored Truffle Gruyere.

Yeh, really. It's then accompanied by one of a number of sides, in this case a cup of mac n cheese. Because, you know, the more cheese the better.

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December 16, 2009

Lunch: Is Go Go Going?

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It's a testament to my priorities in the world that the first reports that Hideki Matsui was leaving the Yankees for Los Angeles, all went something like this: "What about Go Go Curry?"

The hazard of basing your entire business around a single free agent player is pretty clear. But then, we've all enjoyed the quirks that make this place so interesting. According to reports, there is no plan to close up shop, although a Los Angeles branch may be in the works and the owner maintains his allegiance to Matsui.

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Despite the recent abundance of Katsu in my diet, I decided to stop in yesterday to check out the scene on the ground.

There was no sign of a change in color scheme or Angels gear anywhere. The staff still wore Yankee colors and most importantly, they still give out free toppings coupons on 'Go' days, that is any date with a '5' in it.

Best of all, the Katsu is still wonderful, the curry still think and the new-to-me pork sausage makes for a tasty combination with the other elements of the meal.

December 14, 2009

Lunch: Arang -- Japanese Fusion in KoreaTown

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According to Midtown Lunch, Arang in KoreaTown used to be Korean/Sushi Buffet. ML also reported that they had shut down. I discovered it after that, once they had revamped and got rid of the buffet.

They still specialize in the Korean and Japanese, but the buffet has been scuttled. Now, you can order one of a number of bentos, like the one above with kalbi or lunch specials of Tonkatsu.

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I'm on a katsu kick these days, so the last time I was there I tried out the Cheese Donkatsu. I can't name too many Asian foods that work with cheese, so it take a moment to wrap your head around. But then, as I've observed before, katsu is just schnitzel. And fried, breaded things can be quite tasty with cheese.

The crust is crisp, the cheese is gooey and the katsu sauce adds a sweetness to it that can be unsettling at first, but works pretty well.

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On an earlier visit, I tried their Curry Katsu just to see how it stood next to Go Go Curry. The answer is that there's no comparison. It's entirely different. Arang's curry sauce is chock full of potatoes and carrots and chunks of meat. It's thinner in texture than the dense sauce of Go Go, but there's so much stuff in it that it doesn't really make a difference.

The best part of all these lunch specials is that they are reasonably priced for a sit down meal, with most if not all specials under $10. The place is rarely crowded during lunch hours, so it's a good place to go when you need a break from being surrounded by office mates all day.

Arang
9 West 32nd Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 947-3028

December 4, 2009

Quick Bite: Tonkatsu at Bairin

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Back in Waikiki, we had lunch at Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin, a Katsu place on a slightly out of the way block. I had a thick cut pork loin katsu platter.

I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of Katsu, but I was a little dubious about the thick cut. The loin tends to be pretty lean and can dry out a lot unless it's pounded into oblivion a la Schnitzel. But this was meaty and juicy and the exterior had crunchy texture without dominating every bite.

They also sold bottles of their sweet katsu sauce that I meant to buy but I forgot to order one before we left.

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Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
255 Beach Walk,
Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Tel: 808.926.8082

December 3, 2009

Lunch: In the mood for Japanese

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I haven't shaken my craving for Japanese food since getting back from Hawaii. Coincidentally, I ended up having to run lunch errands in Midtown East two days in a row this week. As I've mentioned before the East 40's is basically JapanTown North. So, I took the opportunity to slurp down some more noodles and enjoy the dulcet tones of "Irrashaimase!!" upon entry.

Above is a Tuesday's Kara age Curry Udon, a favorite of mine from Udon West's uptown branch. Without repeating myself too much, I'm a big fan of Udon. It's thick and hearty and perfect eating on a chilly fall day. Combine that with the warming spice of the rich curry broth and the visceral satisfaction of the crunchy on the outside, tender and herby on the inside fried chicken and I could eat this all winter.

Below is a bowl of Pork Belly Ramen from Manchenko Tei on 45th Street that I had on Monday. The two could not have been more different. The noodles were thin, soba, I think and the broth was lighter and silkier. Topped with a hunk of pork belly that was beautifully braised it was easily as satisfying.

There's so much food in New York, I'll probably end up back into my usual patterns of a little of this a little of that soon enough, but I'm really enjoying exploring the many many Japanese options available right now. The weather has had me craving soups, but I definitely want some yakitori sooner rather than later.

More to come.

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(PS: Welcome Midtown Lunch readers! Apologies for the poor navigation, I'm working on it. Please feel free to look around.

November 9, 2009

Lunch: Buffalo Chicken Pizza at Cafe Rustica II

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The idea of spicy chicken and bleu cheese on a pizza may seem wildly unusual to many, but for me it brings back memories of my college days. Back in Amherst, Mass, there is a pizza shop called Antonio's that specializes in odd toppings. There were plenty of others including Potato Bacon, with thin slices of baked potatoes with cheese and crispy bacon bits on top, but 'Spicy Bleu,' was always one of my favorites

So, when I saw this buffalo chicken pie come out of the oven at hole in the wall Cafe Rustica II on 35th Street, I had to have it. Though not nearly as good as my far off memories of Antonio's, it was close enough to take me back for a moment.

A firm layer of mozzarella sets the foundation of the slice. It holds what might otherwise be watery ingredients in place. The bleu cheese is a thinner dressing that I'd like, but is just strong enough to balance out the tang and spice of the buffalo sauce. The chicken chunks are breaded and fried, a departure from the slices I had back in college and maybe an improvement. The crispness of the breading adds another texture to experience and manages to soak up some of the hot sauce, making it a better vehicle for flavor.

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The way I found it was entirely by accident. My usual Herald Square pizza spot, Giuseppe's apparently closed down but I still wanted a slice, so I stopped in here.

In the 5 years I've worked in the area, I had only gone to Cafe Rustica once. Passing by, the signs out front declare it a 'Trattoria Pizza and Pasta House.' This is ridiculous. The closest thing to decor in this dark, cave-like space are the exposed duct work in the ceiling. This is not Trattoria. It's not even a Restaurant. It's a Pizza shop. Make no mistake.

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October 10, 2009

LA: Kogi

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I've been putting off my Kogi post (for months!) because there is just so much already written about the phenomenal hype surrounding the truck. You've heard it all before. It's been on the food blogs, the food mags, trend reports on the cutting edge and even on NPR. Yes. Food trucks are awesome. Yes. Many of them use Twitter. Got it. And really, more importantly, yes, Korean and Mexican foods fuse well.

So, here's the short version:
Long line, great food, totally earns the hype.

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I had two tacos, one with spicy pork, the other with short ribs and a pair of sliders. All were topped with shredded kimchi.

In hindsight, given that the beef on the sliders is that same as is in in the taco, I'd have made my second taco chicken or maybe have used it as an excuse to gorge myself on a kogi dog.

Regardless, much like the dinner the other week at Minetta Tavern, I walked away disappointed that the hype for Kogi seems to be entirely earned.

Being so good means that it's actually worth jumping through stupid hoops like standing in line for 45 minutes or having dinner at 5:30pm because you aren't important enough to score a reasonable res. And that annoys me, because really, I'm rarely willing to put up with that crap.

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The good news is that the little secret of the Kogi Truck is that they sell the same menu most nights at Alibi Room in Culver City. I didn't make it there on my last trip, but it's definitely on my short list of places to go next time I'm in Los Angeles.

August 12, 2009

Lunch: Shut Out of the Outdoors

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My favorite (read: only convenient) outdoor space near my office has been locked up and fenced off for the better part of a month. It's doubly disappointing as it seemed to coincide exactly with the arrival of seasonal weather.

There's no sign or readily apparent explanation as to why it's locked up, but it is certainly a disappointment for the many local workers, like myself, starved for daylight and seeking a mere 15 minute respite from the office to soak up a little sun. Being on a side street, the space benefited from being just out of the way enough to avoid the throngs of tourists that shuffle around the base of the Empire State Building.

But now there's nothing. We either have to wade through the crowds to get to Herald Square, the heart of the swarm, where aimless tourists and shoppers meander or the benches in front of the old B. Altman's building where you can vie for spaces with the homeless.

Or, it's back to shoveling food into your mouth at your desk before someone says, "I don't want to interrupt your lunch but..."

August 10, 2009

Lunch: MFC (formerly Bon Chon)

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A month or so ago the Bon Chon Chicken in Koreatown (and I believe the location in Flushing) suddenly changed its name to Mad For Chicken. According to Midtown Lunch, this is a familiar story:

Ah yes- the old open a franchise... steal the recipe... decide you don't want to pay the royalties anymore game. If this whole thing sounds familiar, it's because it is. Shorty's (on 9th Ave. btw. 41+42nd) did the same thing to Tony Luke's. Thankfully for Midtown Lunch'ers one commenter is reporting that the chicken pretty much tastes the same as it always has, but I'm guessing it still takes forever to get your order. Thanks to Lunch'er Paul for passing along this link to the Bon Chon Website.

I stopped in for lunch before a couple weeks ago and can verify that on all counts, things are about the same. The chicken was the same, if slightly spicier and the service was just as slow.

I will say this though, the place did seem more crowded that I had ever seen it during lunch. And the waiter actually warned me that the food would take about 45 minutes, which I don't think I've ever seen before - it always takes that long, they just don't usually warn you.

Lunch: Num Pang

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Farther afield than even the extended area I've been attempting to survey as part of my walking project, Num Pang's sandwiches are good enough to hop a train for. I was downtown running a couple errands during lunch and took the opportunity to sample the pork belly special.

The sandwich, above, sported meltingly tender pork belly topped with pickled cucumber and rhubarb, shredded carrots and sprigs of cilantro. The flavors and textures fell together magically. The roll, which I worried might be too thick, turned out to fold perfectly with the meet when biting into it.

My only complaint was structural. The pickled rhubarb, simultaneously tangy, tart and sweet, was left in whole stalks, which are rather difficult to bite through. Each bite I struggled to get through it without yanking the entire piece out of the sandwich. If it had been cut up into smaller bits, the logistics of eating the sandwich would have been more convenient.

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Num Pang serves Cambodian sandwiches. They are similar to Vietnamese sandwiches in that they include a good deal of tender pork, stinging spice and tangy pickles, but with wider variations than what I've seen at traditional Vietnamese spots. I can't speak to other Cambodian sandwich shops, Num Pang seems to shine brightest on it's often changing menu of specials. Of course, it's regular menu is nothing to write off either.

Num Pang
21 east 12th street, new york, ny 10003
phone: 212.255.3271

July 30, 2009

Lunch: Soba Totto

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A couple weeks ago, work took me up to a satellite office in the Grand Central area. As soon as I knew I was heading up there I started contemplating my lunch options.

Then it came to me: Japanese. While there's plenty of Korean food coming out of K Town, there isn't much in the way of Japanese food in the area besides some anonymous sushi spots here and there. The east 40's on the other hand hosts a veritable Japantown, catering to an older crowd than the raucous scene down on St. Mark's Place.

Soba Totto is one of my favorite places in the area. One of three upscale izakaya in midtown, I've often enjoyed the yakitori and somewhat exotic fare. All three locations roast interesting skewers of cartilage and rare chicken thighs and such. This location specializes in soba noodles, as seen in the soup on the right.

Most noodles are striking for their texture rather than flavor. Soba's buckwheat base adds another dimension. I'm told that the Japanese consider soba noodles to be comfort food, a taste of home. I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to pinpoint the difference, but I find the flavor to be heartier, meatier.

Paired with that was the bowl of ginger-marinated sauteed pork belly slices on a bed of rice. The whole meal, at $15 was a great deal.

I may have to return for lunch even when I don't just happen to be in the neighborhood.

July 27, 2009

LA Recs 2: Laura's Finds

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This is Laura. She moved out to LA last year to go to grad school. From pretty much the minute she landed, I've been hitting her up to go eat at places I read about. As she was procrastinating during finals, she put together an extensive list of places she likes or has heard good things about. Here are the highlights:

La Brea Bakery La Brea and 7th St - Los Angeles REALLY delicious sweet breads, seating outside and a few tables only at that but great if you want to grab a cup of coffee and a scone or muffin or breadstick. $-$$ (for pastries...)

Campanile
La Brea and 7th St.
Same owners as La Brea Bakery
Good brunch on the weekends. Fancy place that is kid friendly. Website says brunch times during the week as well but when I went at 11:30 on a Friday they gave us lunch menu only. But that's ok because the mushroom and truffle omelet was still on there and it was YUM!
$$

Phillip's BBQ
Crenshaw just south of I-10
I haven't been here personally but I have seen the trough of meat (pork ribs, beef tip, chicken, you name it-they BBQ it) that my friends have ordered and it smelled good! You order in pounds of meat...and if they run out of corn bread then they just give you a whole loaf of Wonder Bread...mmm
$$

fraiche
9411 culver blvd
culver city ca 90232
310.839.6800
Really good specials and seafood! And wine. Kind of a fancy place, totally delicious!
$$$

Taco truck by the Ralph's parking lot
Glendale Blvd and Alvarado (just off the 101 N Alvarado exit)
Need I say more...great taco truck with like 5-6 salsas to lather on the yummy meat!
$

Chano's Tacos
Figueroa - North of Adams (East side of Fig)
Just a must eat when near USC...took me WAY too long to try this place out! Good carne asada burritos. Nachos are cheap kind w cheddar melted on top and bottom layers don't get any cheese but other than that they have great food!
$

http://www.wingstop.com/
Crenshaw north of The Cobbler Lady on the West side of the street
Just yummy wings in like 7 flavors with at least 3 dipping sauces at a cheap price, w seasoned fries and a drink you can't miss. 10pcs (2 flavors), w fries, and a drink for under $10. Eat in or take-out. One of the few places open after 10pm in my 'hood!
$

Mexican place down the block from Lyric Café
Great drinks and food is delicious! Pricing comparable to NY prices and gives a generous helping of food.
$$

July 25, 2009

LA: Food Recs, Part One

This year, I asked 'the network' (read: Facebook) for some recommendations as well as a couple well placed experts on the ground. The results could fill a month of eating even with an open schedule, so I don't know how much of it I'll be able to actually make, but I intend to try my best to put a dent in the list.

In addition, I plan to make visits to some old favorites, like Musha, Pizzeria Mozza and tonight, when my colleague with the car comes, it's Ford's Filling Station in Culver City.

I was going to collect all the recommendations in one post, but looking at them now, I'm realizing exactly how intense this list is. Let's start with some of the highlights:

First and foremost, the Kogi BBQ Truck, which has lit the blogotubes on fire with praise received forceful recs from no less than four of my friends. I was already hoping to make it out there, but a little dubious about all the hype. I still am, but really, Korean barbecue tacos are too brilliant to pass up.

Beyond that, recommendations varied from Ethiopian at Merkato on Fairfax to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

I got a nice music recommendation from Joshu, who worked in the college radio station with me back in the day, "It's been a while, but last time I was there, Catalina Jazz Club was putting it down with the music and food. Goes without saying that you need to eat some of the divey Mexican that Californians on the East Coast bitch relentlessly about missing."

Along those lines, Harriet, who lives in LA chimed in about the "Great Mexican food ... at Loteria in the Farmers Market at the Grove (a stand) or at their new restaurant in Hollywood."

I've been to both in past years and would definitely go back. She continued, "For dinner, try Susan Feniger's The Street on Highland near Mozza. My favorite restaurant is Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica."

I like Santa Monica because it's the only area of LA I've seen that's remotely walkable, but with one or two exceptions, I haven't been blown away by the food. So, I definitely want to give this a try.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be posting more recommendations from a couple locals. Stay tuned.

July 16, 2009

Lunch Explorations

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I complain about the culinary wasteland that is Midtown, but all things considered, I'm in a relatively good spot to eat if I take a little more than the customary 15 minutes to grab something quick and eat at my desk.

Last week, Tammi and I started working on losing some weight. I refuse to call it a diet, but healthier living is probably for the best, so we'll see what happens. There may be some mention of it here and there on the blog, but if you want weekly updates on such things, see Ed Levine. That's not my thing.

Here's where it's relevant: One of my goals is to walk more and I figure what's more motivating for me that food? So, I'm trying to get out to some of those places that are pretty close to my office, but further than I would usually consider for lunch. Think 2nd Avenue, Curry Hill or Chelsea. All within 10 blocks of my office, but outside of the 2 block radius I typically lock myself into.

My trip to Baoguette was my first such excursion. My goal is to do this at least once a week. If nothing else, it should make for some more interesting eating options which can't be bad.

May 5, 2009

Lunch: Loreley

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After having the katsu curry at Go Go, I was thinking about the German roots of what's essentially Japanese shnitzel. The next day, I ended up on the Lower East Side and I took the opportunity to examine the source materials at Loreley, a German restaurant and beergarden.

Loreley is one of my new favorite places to go in the afternoon in LES. I hear the scene is godawful after work, but before that, it's a quiet, uncrowded spot to enjoy some sausage, shnitzel or strudel.

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It's also a great spot to sample some great German beers that you don't often come across. The focus at Loreley is on the Koln region, its food and its fine light bodied beer, kolsh. More like a traditional pilsner than anything we fine in the US, kolsh is light and sweet, but with a bite of hops that provides a zen-like balance.

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Loreley Restaurant & Biergarten
7 Rivington Street New York, NY 10002
Lower East Side
Between Bowery and Chrystie Street
phone 212 253 7077

May 4, 2009

Lunch: Go Go Curry

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I love Go Go Curry. It's the perfect convergence of quirky Japanese culture and yummy Japanese curry.

Japanese curry is an interesting thing. It's certainly not like the Jamaican curry I grew up on. It's thick and muddy, almost like a chili, spicy and full bodied.

Go Go specializes in serving this curry gravy over plates of rice and then adding toppings that are the centerpiece of the meal. Chicken, pork, shrimp, and any number of other options including boiled eggs or natto, fermented soybeans are offered.

I chose katsu, pork cutlets which are pounded thin then breaded and fried, a preparation borrowed from the Germans, who call it schnitzel. The difference is the sweet sauce that accompanies katsu, here drizzled on top of the pork. It's awesome because there's so much going on here: The flavors of the sweet, the spicy and the porky compete with the textures of the crunchy breading, the tender meat and the slight mush of curry sodden rice.

Then there's the quirk. The entire theme of the restaurant revolves around Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees, formerly of the Yamiuri Giants. The name Go Go is Japanese for 55, Matsui's number. Any day after he hits a home run, anyone who comes in gets a free topping.

I have no idea what baseball and curry have to do with one another, but as I've seen in Tokyo, it's more than just a game.

For a peek at all of the options, here's the awesome plastic display in the window:
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May 1, 2009

Lunch: Rafiqi's

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A couple weeks ago, when the weather first improved from the dreary rain mess of April, the hordes of office workers, myself included, flocked outdoors. Unfortunately, we all got in each other's way. The line for my usual curry cart was jammed.

I wandered around a bit looking for alternative curry suppliers and found Rafiqi's on Park and 32nd Street. I've often heard about the wonders of Rafiqi's, a chain of curry carts around the city which has blog reviews posted on the side of the cart.

The first noticeable difference was how quickly the line went. With 3-4 guys in the cart, they were churning out meals like a machine. Where I'd usually have to wait 15 minutes for my regular spot, I was in and out of line in 5 minutes.

The lamb, which had already been charred and was piled up on the skillet, was excellent. I found the chicken lacking, mostly because it wasn't actually curried. It was fine, certainly juicy, but it didn't hit the curry spot I was really looking for.

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Rafiqi's also offers a much bigger array toppings and additions than I've ever seen before at a curry cart. There was corn and cilantro and olives among other things. I didn't try too much this time around, but I could see myself giving Rafiqi's another go if old E&G Pyramid is a bit too overloaded.

Rafiqi's
Park Avenue South & 32nd Street

April 27, 2009

Kyochon Still Under Construction

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In the last week, Midtown Lunch reported the news that the KoreaTown announced Kyochon will not be opening for another couple months.

Today I peeked in the door and what I saw pretty much confirms that. Here are a few pics of the demolition still in progress:

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April 13, 2009

CT Travel: Slim Food Options at Union Station

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This food disaster brought to you by S'barro. Yeh, S'barro, the most wretched chain of 'pizza' slingers in the northeast. Yet, when I'm heading home from Connecticut, it's the best of some truly foul options available at Union Station in New Haven. What irritates me about this is that I've spent enough time in New Haven to know at least a couple places to get a good bite, but none of it is convenient to the train station.

When I was in school, I passed through this station semi-regularly and loved the D'Angelo's steak shop that served what was my favorite steak and cheese sandwich until I finally visited Philadelphia.

Now, there's a Dunkin Donuts, whose doughnuts are even chalkier and staler by the afternoon than they are in the morning. And there's Subway, which produces an odor that nauseates me half a block away.

And then there's S'barro, amazingly the lesser evil.

March 25, 2009

Lunch: Tina's Cuban Pork

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I've been eating at Tina's since it opened as Sophie's before the schism. Since the beginning, the pernil or slow roasted pork has been central to my meals there. I know, it's shocking. I used to get the Cuban, but they pre-make them, which just doesn't seem quite as fresh, although it's clearly quicker during the lunch rush. So I just go to a pernil sandwich with whichever combination of toppings that strike my fancy on any given day, these generally include cheese and raw or sauteed onions.

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Occasionally, I'll want something more substantial and have a whole meal, like this Pernil with rice and beans. This particular order defeated me, leaving me stuffed with quite a bit left over.

The pork is juicy and flavorful. Though it lacks the citrus flavor you get at Cafe Habana/Habana Outpost, given that neither of them are available in midtown, I'll take what I can get.

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Much more importantly is a recent addition to the offerings that I just discovered this on my last visitat Tina's: chicharrones. Chunks of crisp fried pork skin are available in large trays on the counter at Tina's. Ask for some and you'll get a bag and the opportunity to take as many chicharrones as you can fit. I crushed them up and sprinkled them over my meal, adding the random crunch to each bite. Glorious.

I'm not sure if Tina's is offering the 'Pernil with a Twist' Midtown Lunch special, but I'm much more interested in a 'Pernil with a Crunch' option.

March 24, 2009

Lunch in the Hood: Peaches

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Last week, I had lunch at Peaches for the first time. I was inspired after a post I saw on TONY's Feed Blog that mentioned a couple sandwich specials on the lunch menu that they called some of the best in the city. This one is among them: A Black Angus Meatloaf sandwich. Served on a roll with a pile of goopy melted cheese and caramelized onions, it's fantastic.

I hope that this stays on the menu. They usually stock a Turkey Meatloaf sandwich, that my eyes gloss over just out of principle. This sandwich was good enough to motivate me to keep coming back. Hopefully when I do, it'll still be there.

March 23, 2009

Lunch: Little Italy Pizza

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This is the Marinara Mozzarella Pizza from Little Italy Pizza a block away from my job. It's no bargain at $3.50 a slice, but it's one of my favorite slices in New York, so I end up here almost every week.

Constructed counter-intuitively with thick slices of cheese directly on top of the crust then topped with dollops of sauce which leave thick puddles of sweet tomato and shredded basil on every slice.

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For all the wonders of the topping, the crust adds a dimension lacking in most regular slices: The inner layer is soft and chewy, complementing the slight resistance in each bite of the firm cheese. By contrast, the bottom layer is crisp and slightly charred, dotted with sprinkles of breadcrumbs all along it.

The sign says Little Italy Pizza, but it doesn't appear to be at all related to the much better known Little Italy on Vanderbuilt near GCT. Looking it up on Google Maps, the closest hit I get is "Big George Pizza," with an address on the corner, 2 doors down from the actual space. Whatever the pedigree, they must be doing something right given the recent expansion into the tobacco shop next door. That's a good thing

Little Italy Pizza
33rd Street between 5th and Madison.

March 20, 2009

Spring in Midtown

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Despite the snowfall this morning, today is the first day of Spring. Wednesday we got a preview of the season with highs around 60. My fellow Midtown denizens and I rushed out and took advantage of the opportunity to spend some time in the sun for lunch.

That evening, Tammi and I grabbed a round at Mé bar, which was full about 15 minutes after this shot was taken.

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Of couse, the next day we got rained on, a preview of April showers no doubt. Regardless, we'll ake what we can get.

March 16, 2009

Lunch: The Curry Cart

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There are few things I miss from my days of working in and around Times Square, but the street food definitely ranks up there. Unlike most of Midtown, the Murray Hill/Herald Square/Empire State Building area has a pathetically light Street Food population. When I read Midtown Lunch's pieces on carts and trucks serving all manner of food from Middle Eastern to Jamaican to Korean, I pine for Midtown North in a way I never really thought possible. Not that being below 23rd Street wouldn't be vastly better in all regards, but it's relative.

Besides a couple hot dog carts with pretzels and shish kababs, this cart, on the corner of 32nd and 5th Avenue is the only consistently available vendor of street meat. It's sad. But he's good and always has a decent crowd, so I'm sure he's not going anywhere any time soon. Until I stood there last week taking pictures while I waited in line, I had never noticed a name on the cart. Apparently it's E&G Pyramid Halal Cart.

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This is my usual: Chicken curry and lamb on yellow rice, topped with hot sauce and white sauce. Love it.

On the side he throws in some iceberg and a couple tomato chunks along with some sauteed cabbage, which is pretty tasty. But the main event is the meat. The chicken is season with a great curry mixture that I've tried and failed to replicate at home. It's spicy, but not over the top. The lamb is pre-cooked gyro meat, but he sears it on the griddle until it's got a great crispy char on the outside that adds depth to the blend of flavors and textures.

When I want something smaller, I just have the chicken wrapped on a pita. The mixtures of the sauces and the curry soak into the thick walls of the pita and become a medium for the combined flavors.

So, while I wish there was a bigger variety of street food in the area, at least part of that desire is so that I'd have a shorter wait to come back to this one.

March 11, 2009

Lunch: By Mandoo, Denied

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Weeks ago, I went to a dumpling party at Eric and Marni's. It reminded me that I had yet to partake in one particular treat in Koreatown, Mandoo, a dumpling and noodle house where the food is prepared fresh in the window for all to see. I've been passing it for some time, but always put off by the rather intimidating line that often stretches out the door.

Over and over since then, I have tried to pop in before the lunch rush, to no avail. I've avoided the option of calling in an order largely because it would require me to eat them at my desk, when I want to enjoy them uninterrupted by work-related nonsense. I hold onto it as my last ditch attempt. More to come...

March 3, 2009

Lunch: Golden City

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It's easy to forget Golden City is there. Between name changes, a move across the street last year, and an innocuous location in the middle of 33rd Street, it seems more like it's trying to elude attention than attract it.

Honestly, the Chinese food selection blends in with thousands of others across the city. And the buffet in the front has an anemic selection of offerings that I rarely give a second look.

What makes it worth remembering is the other cuisine. Behind Golden City's Chinese menu is an entirely different offering: Vietnamese food. Pho, Pork Chops, Summer Rolls, the whole shebang. Sadly, no Banh Mi sandwiches, but I make do with what I can get.

Before I discovered Pho 32 in Koreatown, this was where I went whenever I needed a hot bowl of soup on a crappy day. It's still a good backup if the crowds on 32nd Street are too much. Meat selections are standard, offering Brisket, Sirloin, Tripe and Tendon.

The star of the show to me, is the Pork Chop lunch special seen here. For $6.50, I get a pile of thinly sliced chunks of grilled pork on top of fried rice.

While the char is not quite as intense as I'd like, the coating of juices that permeate every bite more than makes up for it.

It also makes up for the odd music that was playing last time I was there. It was a compilation of pan flute music including "My Way" and "Take on Me." Yes, "Take on Me."

While I can't vouch for the music, the pork is wonderful.

In case of any confusion, here's a picture of the shop, with all three names clearly on display:

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February 25, 2009

Lunch: Pinche Taqueria

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After months on its last legs, my iPod gave up the ghost last night. I knew it was coming, but now I had to replace it. Today, I finally gave in and bought an iPhone.

Since I was downtown anyway to go to the Apple Store, I took the opportunity to get some tacos from Pinche Taqueria, the wedge shaped shop in NoHo.

Above are the Carnitas, Pollo Asado and Al Pastor tacos that I had. They were wonderful.

What caught my attention here was the pork roasting on a spit in the al pastor in the traditional method that I fell in love with in Mexico City:

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Pinche Taqueria
333 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 343-9977

Lunch: 2nd Ave Deli

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After watching Anthony Bourdain's special, "Disappearing Manhattan", I found myself suddenly and deeply hungry. In scene after scene, Bourdain hit classics around Manhattan that I really, really wanted, none moreso than the glorious pastrami sandwich at Katz's Deli.

I decided then and there that I had to have some pastrami for lunch the next day.

I knew I wouldn't be able to make it downtown during my lunch break, so I set my sights closer to home.

The new 2nd Avenue Deli re-opened in Murray Hill to much fanfare last year after an extended hiatus. A bit too much fanfare for me as my first attempts to eat there failed due to lines out the door.

Things are more reasonable now and I was able to get the lovely stack of thinly sliced smoked meat you see here in short order. The pastrami is lean and meaty with crisply textured edges. I slathered some tangy house mustard on the sandwich and it was gone in minutes.

Of course, I washed it down with a cream soda.

I can't say that I'm not still craving Katz's Pastrami, which is juicier and sliced thicker, but this was still great and worth coming back for. Next time I'm here, I'll be trying the tongue sandwich and maybe the gribnes I keep hearing about.

February 18, 2009

Lunch: Mondello's Chicken Parm

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The Chicken Parmesan, seen here, is the main attraction at Mondello. I've been coming here for lunch since I started working in the neighborhood five years ago and pretty much every time I've gotten this sandwich. When I get there, invariably there's a line of others at the hot food station all waiting for the same thing. It's no coincidence that that station is located closer to the door, I've seen the line go out the door on more than a few occasions.

The chicken is done right. They're plump and moist, probably due, in part, to the heavy turnover since the cutlets are never out long enough to dry out and shrivel up.

The sauce may be the best part of the whole sandwich. Mondello calls attention to this integral part of parmigiano dish that's so often overlooked. Where other places may dump pizza sauce on top, here, they offer a choice of regular and a meat sauce. Both have a salty, sweet flavor, but the meat sauce has a richness that adds another dimension to the sandwich.

Lately, I've been getting a mound of extra cheese on top to supplement the mozzarella that's already on the chicken when it's in the steam tray. It's not entirely necessary, but it just adds to the gooey awesomeness of the whole experience.

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Mondello
3 E 37th St
Midtown, New York, NY 10016
(212) 684-2411‎

February 11, 2009

Lunch Returns to Bon Chon!

Bon Chon Drumstick

I first wrote about Bon Chon Chicken almost two years ago, inspired by the buzz in the Times and on the blogs. A few weeks later I tried to take go with a co-worker and they had stopped serving lunch. I was crushed.

Yesterday, hours after getting the skinny on Kyochon, Midtown Lunch had another post about Bon Chon. Apparently it's been open for lunch for months and no one knew!

So, today after a particularly aggravating morning at work, I recovered with a Medium Hot & Spicy Combo:

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It was all I remembered: sweet and sticky with a tingly with a subtle spice that builds after the first two, three, four pieces. I stopped there out of a modicum of self-control, but also because I needed to proselytize. I brought back a handful of wings and gave them to the co-workers I knew would appreciate them. My first stop was the guy who missed out the first time. I felt I owed him.

What I had forgotten about was the particularly long wait time for the food. Despite the mostly attentive service and ordering as soon as I sat down, my order took about 35 minutes to show up. So, it's not a quick lunch, but it's delicious.

February 6, 2009

Hot Soup on a Cold Day

Pho

With the crap weather we've had lately, this big bowl of Pho hit the spot yesterday for lunch. I've mentioned the soup at Pho 32 before. This was my usual, the #4 with slices of brisket, tripe and tendon on top of a pile of noodles in a deeply beefy broth. All for $8.

March 5, 2007

Bon Chon Chicken

All this talk of wings inspired me to finally check out some of the Korean fried chicken that I've been hearing about recently. I first read about it when The New York Times wrote about it. After writing the last post, I had a craving for more chicken wings, so I IM'ed Eric, who was down, obviously.

It's just around the corner from the main strip of Koreatown, 32nd Street between 5th and Broadway. I knew it was on the second floor, so I was expecting a non-descript side door to get in. It was definitely non-descript - and totally sketchy. There was a hand-written sign next to the elevator that said, "Elevator was broken, use stairs. Bon Chon Chicken." I walked down the hall to the dark stairway with a broken first step and wondered exactly where the hell I was going. The second floor landing was unlit, all that was there was a single, unmarked door. I had no idea if this was the right place and sort of wondered what sort of hole it was going to be.

Continue reading "Bon Chon Chicken" »


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