Summer 2011 in New York has been quite the gourmet tasting party. In addition to the usual summer weekend food staples, there has been a plethora of food festivals/events, pop ups and food courts (indoors and outdoors) throughout the 5 Boroughs.
One of my new favorite new places to eat is at the lot next the Williamsburg Waterfront. The Saturday delicious fat fest calls itself the Smorgasburg, in honor of Williamsburg. Here you can gorge or snack and drink from a variety of weekly regular and rotating Brooklyn (and a few) Manhattan vendors. Some of these vendors are exclusive to the Smorgasburg; others occasionally pop up at other weekend markets.
There is a balanced selection of both savory and sweet treats; some one of a kind, many unique and others fully straight forward (for the less adventurous eater).
To quench your thirst from the humid heat, there are local house made soda and juices, as well as coffee (cold and hot).
There is a small Farmers Market on the premises, with vendors who you will recognize from Union Square and Grand Army Plaza Greenmarkets. Here you can buy seasonal fruit, vegetables and bread.
And for those of you who obsess over fancy condiments, you will definitely enjoy checking out Sam Mason’s fancy “Empire” mayo as well as Anarchy in a Jar’s tasty jam’s and organic heirloom beans from Bean In.
Nothing beats the free amazing view of the Manhattan skyline right in front of you. Occasionally, you might even see a wandering duck or two.
Money-wise, the Smorgasburg is a bargain. Most items price from $4-$10, there’s nothing really over $10, but you can definitely spend some bucks if you want to check out a few places. My advice is to go with some fellow foodies and pig out!
Some of my memorable highlights and favorites:
King Crumb Fried Chicken Biscuit, with a special sauce and bacon; it’s big and messy enough for 2 meals!
Grilled Shrimp Japanese Octopus Balls at Mimi and Coco NY. These are better than the Octopus Balls at Otafuku in the East Village. For real.
Mighty Quinns BBQ Berkshire Pork Belly and Brisket.
Bon Chovie’s fresh fried anchovies. I love this, and so would Jon Bon… if he eats these little delicate fishes.
Brooklyn Oyster Party – a bit pricey at $3 a pop, but they are tasty on a hot day!
Nana’s Chocolate dipped Frozen Banana (with or without toppings)
Shorty Tang and Sons Spicy Peanut Noodles.
Brooklyn Soda Works – flavors change weekly.
Dough – save yourself a trip to Bed Sty and get the same giant donuts here for the same price ($2)
Good Batch Ice Cream Sandwiches; fun ice cream flavors sandwiched between homemade cookies. Flavors change often.
Worth checking out, at least once…
We Rub You – their version of Kogi but a tad pricier and a less generous portion. Tasty tho.
Scratching My Head…
Landhaus’ Pork Belly on a stick – all you can taste is the fat, as you watch it ooze into your napkin.
Cemitas – haven’t tried this, but paying $9 for what they’re giving you doesn’t encourage me when there are other more delicious items.
Dumont Burger – there is more bun than burger, even if it’s only $5 and supposed to be a “slider.” When biting into the burger, the bun breaks off (because there is so much of it!) For price or a few bucks more, you can go to a handful of places for a tastier bigger juicier full sized) filling burger. Dumont Burgers are tastier if you go to their free standing location on Bedford in the Burg.
Table Tales – known for their “Sunday Gravy” or thick tomato pasta sauce. It tastes like the sauce that comes with a dish at a chain restaurant. (Just my opinion of course!)
Take me home tonight (really!)
Anarchy in a Jar – creative jellies and jams. They also serve their jams on Roberta’s housemade bread with fresh ricotta for $4. Yum. The name itself is brilliant; they need tee’s and would’ve done Sid Vicious proud.
Grady’s Cold Brew Coffee Extract – $15 buys you about 8 servings, Cafe Du Monde style. Perfect for summer, cheaper than buying a cold brew system and saves you time as well.
There are more places than the above mentioned… and even though I’ve been to the Smorgasburg 5 times, I still haven’t tried every vendor.
3300 Overland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Open Tues-Sat, 5:30pm-11:30pm
Cash, Visa and MC
Chego comes to us from the brilliant folks at Kogi BBQ. It opened in April 2010 and is no secret to locals, foodies and critics …though it sadly took me over a year to discover it.
The restaurant is located in a tiny strip mall on Overland Avenue on the Westside of LA. It’s South of I-10 and if you blink, or are too busy texting while driving (like most of us) you’ll definitely pass it. I suggest driving slower and parking on the street, to save yourself the stress of cramming into the miniature parking lot.
Main dishes at Chego come in huge bowls with rice and heaping Fred Flinestone size portions, so come hungry with an entourage to try everything! All entrees have different sauces, seasonings and flavor. There is something for everybody, even if you are a (gasp) Vegetarian or (double gasp) Vegan.
At Chego, you order at the counter, take the given number and wait for your food to be brought to you, whether you’re eating in or doing take out. There are food runners who will graciously check in and offer to bring you amenities, but they are NOT servers. Chego is always busy, and these runners work their tails off non-stop. So on that note, you should tip generously, while politely declining their services and fetch your own eating utensils, sauces, water and to go lids. It’s all laid out nicely by the beverage refrigerator behind the kitchen.
On the menu front, you can order apps such as a Ooey Gooey Fries; (use your imagination to guess what might be in this heavy dish) – hint: Sambal, a Kimchi Sampler and a (fancy) “Twelve Dollar Salad” which will only set you back $7 (not 12). For entrees, it’s all about the Chubby Pork Belly. This dish has a generous helping of Kochujang-Lacquered Kurobuta (pork belly), pickled watermelon radishes, water spinach, cilantro, Cotija cheese, peanuts and a fried egg, all topped on a bowl of rice. The Beefy T Bowl has a mountain of rib eye over chili hot rice. For those of you who don’t partake in meat (shame on you!), order the Buttered Kimchi Chow, which is a bowl of rice with veggies including Kimchi, Edamame, garlic and of course, the fried egg. Oh, it’s topped with Chicharrones (fried pork rinds), but you can order without. I get this dish with Pork Belly. There are some fun, often off the wall weekly specials, including this week’s “My Mind Is Playin’ Tricks On Me” which is corned beef hash fried rice w/ Tabasco and egg. If you can still find room in your belly, order the Tres Leches Cake for dessert. They often sell out of this, so if it you want it, order with your entrees.
All entrees at Chego are under $10, the portions are gigantic, the food is delicious and always delivered promptly. Most importantly, you will never leave hungry.
After discovering Chego, I ate there 2-4 times a week with foodies from both coasts and have done tons of take out even though I am no where near it! Seriously, I love Chego and will sit in bitchy LA traffic, (along with it’s bad drivers) to eat their creative, inventive and satisfying food. Chego is dope and doesn’t even need a review, but I give it 10 stars. If you live or are visiting LA, just go already! What is NOT to love about Chego?
2100 East Cesar Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90033 (323) 264-7201
Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-8pm, Sundays, 11am-5 pm
Cash, MC and Visa are accepted
Earlier this month, my trusty foodie friend Jeff, in town from New York, told me about a new taco establishment called Guisados. I had never heard of this place, but any opportunity to explore a new taco joint in an ethnic neighborhood is exciting to me, especially when it gets a high accolade from the other coast.
Guisados is in East LA, in a neighborhood called Boyle Heights on Cesar Chavez Boulevard. It’s primarily a Hispanic and Mexican area filled with many local restaurants and bakeries as well as a great spot to find (cheaper) gas in the Southland.
The menu at Guisados is focused on eclectic and interesting taco combinations. There is a variety of meats which include Chicharron (Pork Skin), Tinga de Pollo (Chicken), Steak Picado, Chuleta (Pork Chop) en Salsa Verde and Cochinita Pibil (Marinated Pork). For the non-meat eaters, you can order the Mole (Chili) Poblano, Calabacitas (Summer Squash) or Quesadilla. Guisados also offers a weekly special or two; Fish and Shrimp, respectively on my visit last week. Each taco variety has it’s own distinctive memorable flavor and comes with a unique salsa and topping. The fresh Corn Tortillas are made daily by hand from the Mexican deli/shop next door. The large tacos are a tasty bargain at $2.50, but the real deal is the filling sampler: 6 mini tacos for $6.50. The variety usually consists of the first 6 tacos posted on the menu. Don’t ask about a Salsa Bar or Tortilla Chips at this authentic gourmet taco eatery, because there isn’t one.
Guisados also serves house made gigantic Tamales at… $1.50 a piece! Alcohol is not served, but you can order a refreshing Agua Fresca of Limon, Horchata or Jamaica.
Guisados has been opened since December, 2010. The owner, Armando Delatorre, is one of the friendliest entrepreneurs you will meet in the Mexican food community. He sat and chatted while I ate my taco sampler, and brought me a special Lengua en Ranchera Taco (now how did he know Lengua was one of my favorite taco toppings), along with a Quesadilla made with a special secret cheese and some house made tortillas to go. After my my filling taco feast, Armando took me next door to demonstrate how the Masa is made for both the tortillas and tamales. A week prior to my visit, The Cooking Channel was at Guisados with popular Food Network celebrity chef Aaron Sanchez, shooting an episode of “Heatseekers.” Guess what Aron’s favorite taco was? No doubt Guisados will become the next hot LA taco spot!
Back in early 2009, LA was treated to a soft opening for a Korean Food Truck called “Kogi”, serving Korean Tacos as well as other Korean themed delights. 2 years later, Kogi is a successful phenomenon with 5 trucks. Since the emergence of Kogi, The Southland has seen a plethora of over 100 Food trucks; some still in their glory, others short lived or calling it quits.
Unless you consider yourself a professional food truck eater with the time and cash to spare, (remember, food trucks take pride in serving their specialty themed cuisine/dishes and will run you more than the few bucks you’d pay for a tasty Double Double Animal Style Cheeseburger at In-N-Out)… it’s almost impossible to accurately keep track of which truck is where and when. I’ve found that even with the magic of Twitter, not all trucks are on top of their tweets, updating their various social networking sites/blogs or websites.
Despite this, on-going LA traffic and getting to a designated truck before they shut down (early) or run out of grub, I’ve managed to hit a handful of these culinary vehicles. Here’s the skinny:
THE GOLDEN TICKET(S):
Ludo Truck – Perfectly fried and seasoned delicious non-greasy gourmet chicken balls, with dipping sauce options that aren’t even necessary, so don’t bother. Their flaky large Lavender Honey Biscuits are also damn amazing, but those run out fast, so get there early. Also, you gotta love their logo!
Grill ‘Em All – Creative heavy metal themed mind blowing burgers. “The Behemoth”: grilled cheese buns, cheddar, bacon, beer soaked onions, pickles Grandma’s Mosh Pit BBQ Sauce, is a gourmet headbangers masterpiece! The Grill “Em All logo reminds me of Metallica in their heyday and the menu at Kumas Corner in Chicago, whose t-shirt reads, “Kill ‘Em All”!
Lardon – Not so new, but their Baco Taco is genius (see previous review) and now, the original bacon truck is offering Bacon Street Tacos. Process this if you will: the corn tortillas are fried in bacon fat!
Papaya King – Yes! New York’s Papaya King had a truck, briefly roaming and grilling in the Southland to promote the opening of their highly anticipated late night free standing Hollywood location. My well-done Classic was the same price and just as tasty eating it from their UES location on E 86th.
Kogi – Will always be king of food trucks, even if they franchise. The food is super tasty and reasonably priced with big portions. They also create over the top weekly specials, that will make your belly burst.
Curbside Cravings – Under the radar Filipino filling eats and a variety of meats including their Tocino (Pork Patty) Burger and Crispy Lechon Kawali – aka deep fried slabs of Pork Belly.
The Mighty Boba – Creative, reasonably priced Taiwanese Food. It isn’t the Flushing Mall Food Court, but nothing will top that!
Meet ‘N’ Potatoes – Influenced by the fat meat sandwich filled with french fries at Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh. Take a digestive enzyme and order the loaded fries with Pastrami, coleslaw, tomatoes and Provolone Cheese.
Shrimp Pimp gets points for their name, but their menu hasn’t inspired me to eat or fork out the bucks.
Ahn Joo – (More) Korean bites
Tapa Boy – The Original Filipino Breakfast Truck!
Grindhaus – Quentin Tarantino is probably so honored. They also have a free standing sausage store on Hollywood Blvd. The duck sausage, even at $14.99 a lb is delightful.
In-N-Out – It does exist, but I’ve only seen it parked at movie studio lots
Buttermilk Truck – how can you say no to Red Velvet Pancakes?
The Grilled Cheese Truck – A cheese filled heart attack waiting to happen…
The Greasy Wiener – NJ style hot dogs cooked to perfection but slightly pricey.
Don’t bother: (for real!)
The Cheeseball Wagon. Great catchy colorful logo, that probably has every fat and skinny child screaming for more… but anyone who enjoys (good) food will find their eats mediocre, sloppy, messy and over-priced.
Enjoy the random food truck slide show. I will add more photos to this as the trucks keep on comin’!
M. Wells Diner
21-17 49th Avenue
Long Island City, NY
Open for brunch, 10a-4pm Tuesday through Sunday and for dinner, 6p-10pm, Tues-Thurs only. Closed Monday.
Accepts major credits
I don’t know anyone who lives in Long Island City, but apparently, it’s become another slightly cheaper destination to live outside of Manhattan. LIC is one stop from Grand Central off the 7 train. The second stop is Hunters Point, where within steps of exiting, you will land at M. Wells Diner.
M. Wells Diner is owned by husband and wife team, Hugue Dufour and Sarah Obraitis. The diner car has a classic feel with an open kitchen and a long counter. M. Wells opened its doors in July of 2010, initially only serving breakfast/lunch or what they call “brunch.” A few weeks ago, M. Wells started dinner service on Tuesday through Thursday. The menu is not what you’d find at your traditional NY or NJ greasy spoon diner. Instead, here at M. Wells you can look forward to creative, intelligent, delicious comfort food kicked up about 5 notches above your expectations. Signature favorites include the Egg Sausage Sandwich with cheddar, picked jalapenos, and tomato on an English Muffin, Beef Tartar with a poached egg & greens, and their (plain) cake donuts. You can also indulge in adventurous delicacies such as pickled pork tongue, a seafood cobbler, a 5 star special of the day and an excellent cup of freshly brewed Oslo (beans) Coffee, which will only run you a buck fifty!
I paid my second visit to M. Wells last weekend. We arrived after 3pm, in hopes of sitting down right away. Much to our surprise, there was a line out the door, but everyone ended up being seated within 15 minutes… yes, communal seating at large wooden tables can totally rock. We shared a table with an entourage we believed to be Russian, who spoke their own language throughout their meal. They ordered an assortment of food which included caviar with crepes, Cubano and head cheese sandwiches, red wine and lots of… vodka (but of course!) It was refreshing not to be sitting next to the typical whining starving actor or musician. In fact, most of the eaters at this late hour consisted of families of different ethnicities as well as older couples. I also loved how the front of house manager served and checked in on us regularly.
We began with the house made biscuit which was light, flaky and moist. The apple butter accompaniment added the perfect amount of sweetness. For our first starter, we had the Escargot and Bone Marrow, topped off with shallots and sauteed with a red wine puree. Spread some of this creamy goodness on a few toast points and you are a satisfied customer. Next up was the highly anticipated giant Beef & Lamb Burger, I’d been reading about. The well-seasoned medium rare burger was oozing with juiciness on a brioche bun with grilled onions and… New Jersey Ketchup. What I want to know and still don’t, is how do you define New Jersey Ketchup? Hungry for more, because I want to try everything… we ordered the Bacon Hash, which came dressed with a poached egg and brussels sprouts. The bacon was more like a tender piece of pork belly with minimal fat. There was some sort of hash brown or latke underneath this mountain of goodness that made the dish even more delicious. Remember, you can never go wrong with bacon, pork belly or fat. This dish was definitely my favorite of the entire meal. Nothing we ordered was over $10, and the service was impeccable. If I lived in LIC or off the 7 train, I’d probably come here every day until I’ve tasted everything on the brunch (and dinner) menu!
Ann’s Snack Bar
1615 Memorial Drive
Atlanta, GA 30317
Open Monday-Saturday, 11am – 9pm
Atlanta has always been one of my favorite places to visit for it’s cultural and culinary aspects. The city is completely spread out and like Los Angeles, you spend a lot of time in your car, Garmin in hand, sitting in traffic. But despite the challenge of getting around, Atlanta has some of the best eats in the South. Last month, I was fortunate to be working in that great city. Before leaving the Capital of Georgia, I was instructed by my trusted friends that a visit to Ann’s Snack Bar must fit into my hectic itinerary, to complete my Southern burger quest. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal voted Miss Ann’s burger the best in the US. Now that’s a tall order!
Ann’s Snack Bar is located in the Kirkwood area on Memorial Drive. Pay close attention and don’t speed, because if you drive too fast (like I did), past the parking lot with a Rolls or Bentley, you have missed it. The snack bar is counter seating with exactly 8 stools. There is a television, fridge and at the grill is 67 year old Miss Ann, who has set rules about eating at her restaurant, which include no mobile devices, keeping your elbows off the counter, waiting outside the seating area until one opens up, no cursing or smoking and most important, having manners and addressing Miss Ann properly. If you can get pass this, along with (patiently) waiting outside in the patio for anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours… then you are ready to experience the world famous “Ghetto Burger.” Miss Ann is the sole full service cook/restaurateur. She makes every burger, one at the time, in the order it was received. The grill is often thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed and the counter is spotless. The “Ghetto Burger”, with everything on it has 2 beef patties, American cheese, onions, fresh tomato slices, lettuce, bacon, chili and Miss Ann’s special secret seasoning. You can order it with fries, but I wouldn’t bother. The burger is a massive piece of delicious edible art, that probably weights over a pound. Cutting it in half makes it easier, but however you choose to eat it will work, even with a knife and fork. The $8 burger is super juicy, cooked to perfection Miss Ann’s way on the medium side. The no frills burger bun is lightly grilled and all of the ingredients and toppings just melt together to form the most delicious mouthful of burger ever. You will savor every bite until you really can’t eat anymore. I don’t know how anyone can finish this; I ended up bringing half of it back to New York… and yes, it was just as tasty the next day! Other menu options include the “Hood” burger; which features two lean cheeseburgers topped with bacon and coleslaw, the chili dog; a deep fried hot dog doused with chili, or just regular burgers or cheeseburgers. But if you are serious about your burgers and have made the journey to Miss Ann’s, then order the “Ghetto Burger.”
Miss Ann has a steady clientele consisting of locals, business professionals and celebrities. However, since the Wall Street Journal accolade, Miss Ann has been visited by thousands of curious burger lovers internationally, along with food critics from the NY Times and most recently, NBC Nightly News. So if ever in Atlanta, stop in at Miss Ann’s for what I think will be the best burger you will ever eat.
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture
630 Bedford Road
Pocantico Hills, New York 10591 (914) 366-6200
Open Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm.
Blue Hill Restaurant hours:
Dinner: Sun, Wed & Thurs, 5pm-10pm and Fri & Sat, 5pm-11pm. Open for lunch on Sunday, 11:30a-2pm.
A visit to Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, (even in the dead of bone-chilling winter), is a must for foodies, farmers or anyone wishing to escape stressful city life; whether you live in New York or are visiting from far away. Located in Pocantico Hills, 25 miles north of Manhattan, the barn is open year round and easy to get to on Metro North via Tarrytown, followed by a short 10 minute taxi ride. The mission of Stone Barns Center is “to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all.” The 80 acre barn is a spacious free-flowing wonderland, filled with seasonal animals which include: sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows. There is a greenhouse, vineyard, hay barn, herb and flower garden, bee hives pastures and vegetable fields. Visitors are all welcome to freely roam the premises or take a guided tour. Stone Barns offers cooking, farm and gardening classes, films, workshops and other special programs. The weekly outdoor “Farm Market” is held May through November and indoors during winter months. Stone Barns is also the home to Dan Barbers Blue Hills (at Stone Barns). The restaurant offers a 5 or 8 course prix fixe meal at dinner. There is no menu; you are served what is locally grown and in season at the time of your visit. They also offer Sunday lunch. For a light snack, Blue Hill Cafe offers sandwiches, salads, coffee and baked items. At the cafe, you can also purchase Blue Hill jams, and other locally produced goods. Enjoy the slide show below, for a taste of what to see and explore at the barn!
Honey’s Sit ‘n’ Eat
800 N. Fourth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Open Mon-Fri, 8 am-10 pm; Saturdays, 8 am-9:30 pm and for brunch on Sunday, from 8 am-4:30 pm. CASH ONLY. http://honeys-restaurant.com/
I paid a quick visit to Philadelphia last month for work. My time was limited, but with the emerging food scene in Philly, I definitely wanted to hit a few places.
One of my favorite meals was at Honey’s Eat ‘n’ Sit, a busy neighborhood spot in the historic Northern Liberties area by the Spring Garden stop. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Honey’s is known and liked by locals for their home cooking using organic, locally grown ingredients. On weekdays between 8-10am, they offer a killer bargain breakfast: $3.95 for 2 eggs cooked to your liking, a (must have) Potato Latke, grits or home fries, a bottomless cup of coffee (yay), toast, or your choice of house made buttered Challah, a buttermilk biscuit or corn muffin. Naturally, I had to cash in on this one. My over-easy eggs were perfect, maybe because the eggs at Honey’s are hand gathered from free range chickens in Lancaster County! How can you top that? And when was the last time you ate a delicious Cheese and Onion Potato Latke, that was included in the price of your breakfast? The buttermilk biscuit was fluffy and moist, and though I don’t often use butter, I had to for this occasion because it was just too damn good.
The folks at Honey’s are super attentive. You couldn’t ask for better service or hospitality. The atmosphere at Honey’s is homey and cozy; like a remote location in the country, away from it all. The dining room is warm, not super bright or noisy like most popular eateries. Honey’s is a busy restaurant and there’s almost always a wait for a table. If you’re running late or in a hurry, go solo and sit at the spacious counter, where the eater next to you will automatically chat you up, try to Facebook friend you, offer (his card), a lift to your next destination and some tidbits to other good eats. Good times! Sidebar: Philadelphia peeps are super friendly and will go out of their way to be helpful. Then again, we are in the City of Brotherly Love.
Menu-wise, other breakfast items include omelettes, french toast, pancakes and a breakfast Po boy. For lunch, you can order home-made soups, salads, sandwiches or how about a half pound Black Angus honey burger? It’s a steal for $8.25! I’m also intrigued by the vegetarian chicken fried steak or the Brisket “Frito” Platter. Hungry again and looking forward to my next visit!
Check Honey’s website for daily and dinner specials. http://www.honeys-restaurant.com/
I’ve never had a solid reason to visit Staten Island but have been twice. My first visit was a round-trip ferry ride; the second was to the minor league stadium to work on a commercial. I’ve been told frequently that I’d love the Staten Island pizza scene. Getting around the island is tricky without wheels, but after researching, I realized it’s do able. Our visit to 4 pizzerias would ultimately take over 8 hours, 2 ferries, 2 buses and 2 rail rides. Locals drive everywhere and apparently no one walks in Staten Island.
JOE & PATS
1758 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10314 (718) 981-0887. Call for hours, accepts all major credit cards.
Once on the island, we board the S62 bus, which brings us to our first stop, Joe & Pats. We decided to have slices as they are served here. Since this was the beginning of our pie eating, we didn’t want to fill up. We ordered a cheese and a cheese with sausage. The cheese slice was excellent all around. The crust was thin & crunchy with the perfect snap, just the right amount of fresh mozz and red sauce. We were disappointed the sausage wasn’t cut in chunks, but sliced like pepperoni. Nevertheless, it was still delicious… and cheap – $5.60 for both. Here you can order a half, small, large or a full pie. Prices range from $14 to $30 per pizza. They also have a huge menu with pastas, salads, soups and your usual Italian fare.
We ride the S62 bus back to St. Georges Ferry Terminal to catch the Staten Island Railroad (who knew there was such a thing!) where it would take us 7 stops to Dongan Hills, home of Lee’s Tavern.
60 Hancock Street, Staten Island, NY 10305
(718) 667-9749. Open daily, 10:30am-1 am. CASH ONLY
Lee’s is an unmarked bar at the corner of Hancock & Garretson, steps from the SIR. We arrive, 45 minutes later. At 3 pm on a Monday, the bar is full of old drunk men, who appear retired and seem to spend a lot of time here drinking Budweiser and Coors. There are some diners in the bar area and back room. My hopes were set high for Lee’s based on recommendations; I couldn’t wait to eat! We decided on 2 personal sized bar pies; their signature no sauce white clam with cheese and garlic and a sausage and anchovy with red sauce. Bar pies run around $8-10 (depending upon your toppings/combos); regular pies averaging $15. Our server is the bartender, who appears to be the only one working. He highly recommended the chicken and peppers combo. Ick?! Our clam pie finally arrives, about an hour later. It is hard, dry, burnt, tasteless and plain sad looking… like someone left it on display, just like the mock food you’d see at malls. The pie tasted exactly the way it looked. Such a disappointment. Our sausage and anchovy pie arrived shortly thereafter. It was an improvement over the clam pie and wasn’t as burnt or hard. The red sauce, sausage and anchovy thankfully saved the pie from being dry and flavorless. The crust was a bit doughy, but edible. I couldn’t wait to leave Lee’s and move on. We ask for our bill, which took another 20 minutes. Our bartender decided not to give us our change. We’re guessing our generous tip would give us better pizza karma and make up for what the others don’t leave.
SALVATORE OF SOHO
1880 Hylan Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10305
(718) 979-PIZZA. Call for hours; accepts major credit cards.
Our next stop is a brisk 10 minute walk to Salvatore of Soho. The exterior is royal blue and resembles a Greek seafood restaurant. There is a lot of signage, neon and write ups plastered on a window. Hmm. Should we worry? Inside, the atmosphere was completely different. Red & white table cloths, proper silverware and plates, servers, and a real coal fired brick oven. Yay! The menu has Neapolitan pies and chef choices which include Clam, Calamari, Vodka Sauce, Sausage, White and Meat. We opt for the Mixed Wild Mushroom Pie with button, Crimini, Shitake, fresh herbs and a smattering of white truffle oil. Need I say anymore? The pie arrives piping hot on a proper pizza stand. The crust is bubby, has the right amount of crunch, chewiness and charring. The white truffle oil complimented the flavors of the various mushrooms and herbs. Delicious and outstanding. Right then, I knew this would be our best and favorite pie of the entire excursion and ending our pizza eating now would be the right thing to do. But temptation, convenience and the chance to eat more pie brought us to one last place. I regret we made that decision.
76 Bay Street, Staten Island, NY 10301
(718) 447-7437. Call for hours, accepts major credit cards.
Our 4th and final stop was a restaurant/sports bar called Pier 76. It’s a few blocks away from the ferry, so we figured we’d try it before heading back to the city. Pier 76 is owned by Jeremy Pappalardo, the son of Gerry Pappalardo of Joe & Pat’s. The pizza making technique and menu is basically the same as that at Joe & Pat’s. There’s a separate pizza counter/station for ordering slices, pies or to go, if you don’t want to eat at the actual restaurant. We contemplated ordering slices again, but seeing the slice options cold and stacked up on the counter didn’t seem appealing. Instead, we ordered a cheese bar pie with bacon. The pizza maker pulls a cheese bar pie out of the oven. We asked about the bacon and he takes the pie back. I see him bring a dish of overcooked bacon to the pizza station and minutes later, our bacon cheese pie appears. It was obvious he put the bacon on the same pie and re-heated the whole package. What was presented, did not look appetizing. There was something odd about the crust after the re-heat. It had curled up and crumbled, causing it to taste like a Jacobs Cream Cracker with overcooked fatty bacon. Double yuck. We each took a couple bites and had the rest of it wrapped. I was bummed Pier 76 ended up being the worst pie of the journey, especially since it was the finale of our pizza excursion.
I’m happy I took in and explored some of the Staten Island pizza scene. We chose carefully and ordered smaller pies, so our grand total ran about $27 each. Not bad for a full day of eating and filling up on pizza. But for now, until further notice, I am still partial to Brooklyn for my favorite slices and pie.