Queens Eats: Rincon Criollo

Rincon Criollo in the Corona neighborhood of Queens, is a classic cuban-style family restaurant. Easily accessible from the city (half a block from the 7 train Junction Boulevard) this place is a must stop if you are in the neighborhood to do fun things like visit the Louie Armstrong House or have an Italian Ice in Corona Park. Fried pork chops, with big slabs of onion; cooked perfectly.
 Shrimp in Spanish sauce. Really flavorful, spicy and boiling hot. Best served spooned over some white rice so you can enjoy the sauce.
 An taste-tantalizing trio of yuca (cassava) in a sticky and starchy rich garlic sauce, fried sweet plantains, and of course Moros y Cristianos (black beans and white rice with bacon, the name is an comedic allusion to the Islamic conquest of Spain, and subsequent Christian Reconquista).
 Close out the meal with an espresso and a Dulde de Leche (made by boiling down sweetened condensed milk, it goes well with a bitter coffee).

Rincon Criollo 40-09 Junction Blvd Corona, NY 11368

Spumoni Gardens – Brooklyn 

L & B Spumoni Gardens, a Bensonhurst, Brooklyn staple (opened 1939) has the best squares in New York City.

I’m not sure how to define Spumoni Garden’s squares. They are not exactly a grandma slice, they are definitely not a typical Sicilian slice, it’s just kind of it’s own thing. A Sicilian slice with the sauce on the top. Each square has its own personality; the saucy center square is just as coveted by the grabbing hands at Spumoni Garden’s picnic tables as the crispy corners.

 Another thing to note: Spumoni Garden’s has a full menu’d Italian restaurant indoors, so if you want, don’t be afraid to chase your squares with a chicken parmigiana hero…

According to wikipedia: Spumone (from spuma or “foam”), plural spumoni, is a molded Italian ice cream made with layers of different colors and flavors, usually containing candied fruits and nuts. I actually find it lighter and more refreshing than typical American ice cream, and really a nice way to follow up a heavy carb-filled cheese feast.

L&B Spumoni Gardens 2725 86th St, Brooklyn, NY 11223

The Brisket Sandwich from Frankel’s

Frankel’s Delicatessen in Greenpoint, Brooklyn gives even the most famous delicatessens in NYC (like Katz’s) a run for their money. This newcomer into the Brooklyn scene has brought with it some traditional Delicatessen recipes, with care to make them super delicious.

Above is the brisket sandwich, this was a behemoth. I highly recommend getting this; and splitting it with a loved one or else it will be a night-ruiner.

The latkes were crispy and yummy, but were lacking in size. I mean, c’mon it’s made out of a potato… basically the cheapest thing to grow on earth. You can afford to make them bigger or just give me a few more. But hey, the sandwiches are huge.

Above is a side-by-side comparison of the pastrami reuben sandwich with the big brisket sandwich. Both are safe bets. I really think the pastrami here is on par with the best in New York City.

Frankel’s Delicatessen 631 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint Brooklyn

NJ Eats: The Belmont Tavern

There’s really nothing better than some old school Italian comfort food. The Belmont Tavern in New Jersey is just about the most comfortable comfort food you can find this side of Naples. What appears to be a quiet nondescript local bar in Belleville, NJ opens up into a bustling restaurant, with families and couples warming themselves over a plates of macaroni in a dimly lit wood-paneled nooks. There’s a gruff but very friendly staff, and a cast of characters at the bar directly out of “The Sopranos.” Shoot.. I even saw Furio’s signed headshot on the wall.

What to get: The Belmont Tavern is a family style restaurant with big bowls to share for the whole table. Start with a carafe of wine, the shrimp “Beeps” (fried shrimp in spicy marinara sauce) and the clams oreganto; then the cavatelli with “Pot Cheese” and an order of the dangerously spicy sautéed hot peppers. Finish with the Chicken Savoy and some espressos. Bread and escarole salad for the table is included.

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Clockwise: Chicken Savoy, Shrimp “Beeps,” Clams Oreganto, and Cavatelli with Pot cheese.

Pro Tip: Get there early on the weekend! There will be a crowd. Please note: special thanks for the tip Paulie G!

Belmont Tavern, 12 Bloomfield Ave, Belleville, NJ 07109

Manhattan Eats: Puff Cha

What are Puff Chat? Two things: A Thai Curry puff specialist on the west side of Manhattan, and a sort of a cross between enchiladas, croissants and samosas.

Below are my freshly ordered (and neatly packaged) Puff Cha: Original curry, crab rangoon, basil, pork, beef, chicken:

I actually thought that despite the description on the menu, these curry puffs were the least similar to empanadas. They were super light and flaky, like croissants but with a decidedly Asian flavor spectrum. (They also came with a little saucer of peanut dipping sauce on the side). When selecting your Puff Cha, definitely go with a broad selection, and at least six of them. The winners in my opinion were the beef and the crab rangoon.
  
The spicy pork ramen was also really delicious and lived up to its spicy description, don’t be tempted to adjust the spice level, there’s definitely no need for any additional Sriracha in this bowl.


An easy way to to cool off a post-ramen inferno; order a Thai iced-tea with some super sweet and rich condensed milk. Proof!

Puff Cha 457 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019

Matunuck Oyster Bar

Have you ever eaten oysters fished directly from the bay and shucked directly onto your dinner plate? The Matunuck Oyster Bar in Kingstown, Rhode Island actually farms its oysters right in front of the restaurant. You can enjoy a cocktail and an ocean breeze as they shuck your oysters straight out of the bay.

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A fantastic raw shellfish sampler. This is the perfect match with an icy cold dry martini. The clams were briny, the oysters were ice cold and tasted like the deepest ocean water, the shrimp cocktail was perfectly tender.

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The raw bar troops ready for action.

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A dirty martini and some raw shellfish, a perfect match.

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Clams in butter, white wine, and linguine. In the back, really REALLY delicious jambalaya.

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Poached and chilled lobster, with all the appropriate implements for cracking and smashing.

Matunuck Oyster Bar 629 Succotash Road South Kingstown, RI 02879

Schwartz’s Montreal

Every foodie worth his salt that visits Montreal or the Lower East Side in New York City tend to make their way to one of two meccas of smoked meats. I am pre-disposed to like everything in New York City better, as I’m a long time resident and food fanatic. However, I think I have to tip my hat to Schwartz’s in Montreal.

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The sandwich speaks for itself. “Smoked Meat” as opposed to pastrami. The rye bread acts only as a delivery system. They ask you how fatty you prefer it. I went with the medium, which was perfect, tender and delicious. My only complaint about the sandwich is the mustard. It’s too yellow. Give me some spicy brown.

The other great part of Schwartz’s is the poutine. AKA gravy fries with cheese curds. Katz’s definitely does not have this… and it’s delicious.
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“Schwartz’s” La Charcuterie Hebraique de Montreal 3895 Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal, Canada. schwartzsdeli.com

Photo: Blueberry Pancakes

Blueberry pancakes from Carl’s Oxford Diner in Oxford, Massachusetts. The BIGGEST portions of food I’ve ever encountered in a diner. Also, Carl’s is essentially an ‘All you can Eat’ establishment. If you are ever able to actually finish one of their impossibly mammoth portions of omelets, waffles, links, etc. they will just place another plate of bacon or hot cakes in front of you. Proof!

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Carl’s Oxford Diner, 291 Main St Oxford, MA 01540

Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Co.

Snack time in Greenpoint!

I’ve lived in Greenpoint for several years now, and I was always pretty horrified by the lack of any seafood markets and/or restaurants in this neighborhood (not to mention ZERO good Chinese options). However, as the years advance, and Greenpoint has become the hip place to be, fish-centric options not only exist now, but they are pretty darn good. Case in point, the brand new Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Co.

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I really like this new addition to the neighborhood. Super casual, clean, with lots of energy and bright light. A steady stream of customers that were being served promptly and efficiently rushed in and out like ocean waves breaking on the beach. It was fun to sit right at the counter in front of the cooks and watch them work.

On the right- salmon Tartar on special- it was fresh and tasty, but it could’ve used some capers to give it a little more zing.

The fish tacos though were amazing. They went especially well with an icy cold four dollar Narragansett tall boy in a can. Definitely check these tacos out and compare them to that other Greenpoint mainstay, Calexico. You will not be disappointed… Proof.

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Greenpoint Fish and Lobster Co. 114 Nassau Avenue, Brooklyn