Where to Eat in NYC while on Jury Duty in Chinatown/Little Italy and Soho

Sun Sai Gai  Italian Food Center HeroTwo Hands

 

I recently had the pleasure of doing Grand Jury Duty (luckily only 3 hours a day w/breaks) in NYC. I figured since I did the afternoon shift I could take a multi-cultural/national gastronomic journey by the Courts…which in NYC happen to be located in Chinatown with Little Italy and Soho just a few block away. You can literally eat like a Princess or Pauper in NYC depending on how well you know where to go and with this list you can feast like a God with paupers purse.

Sun Sai Gai- 220 Canal Street

Chinatown style dumplings, duck, roast pork, lunch specials over rice. I had the small bowl of Wonton Soup which was fairly large and very good with the Shrimp and Lobster sauce from the over rice menu. I haven’t had that dish in ages and this was a rock solid version of it bringing back memories of my earliest adventures with the cuisine of Americanized Chinese food( I mean this in a good way).

Dragon Land Bakery – 125 Walker Street

I…Love…Coconut Buns and this place has really good ones along with a  huge assortment of Chinatown style baked goods stuffed with Coconut, Pineapple, Red bean etc. Choose one for a little over a buck, grab a Chinatown style Sweet Coffee and enjoy. They have a variety of teas and juice drinks as well.

Nha Trang Centre – 140-48 Centre Street

Since when I was in Vietnam(as a Traveller not a Snake Eater) I spent some time in the beach side city of Nha Trang…thus, how could I not check this place out right down the block from the courts. I ordered up Summer Rolls to start and Shrimp with Lemongrass and chilies over broken rice for my entree which were both great. French iced Lemon tea to drink…lemony.

Traveller Bonus…if you should ever find yourself in Nha Trang hit the Po Nagar Cham Towers the-Petra-of-Vietnam 

Maid Cafe – 150 Centre Street

Girls dress as maids serving Coffee, Tea, Frappes, Baked goods and Japanese Rice, Beef, and Curry bowls. Pretty good coffee and home-like baked goods…and girls dressed like Maids if that’s your thing with a Cosplay Pop-up shop inside.

BreakRoom Burgers and Tacos -83 Baxter  Street

I needed a change from Asian food (as much as i like it) and while walking along Baxter came upon Breakroom Burgers and Tacos. I went big with their namesake burger that is topped with confit of pork belly, cheese, egg, tempura onion rings, jalapenos, L& T + pickles! For my side I had the Chipotle Thai Chili which had some heat but not too much. They have fries and Tempura Onion Rings available as sides.  To drink I had Mint Lemonade which was awesome and loaded with fresh Mint. I came back again to try some more from the menu and had the Bacon wrapped Jalapeno Hot Dog and a Grilled Sesame Chicken sandwich in Sambal sauce. Full review at Breakroom-best-burgers-and-tacos-in-Chinatown

Gasoline Alley Coffee- 154 Grand Street

Great coffee, usual suspects, and very good cookies (Awesome Chocolate Sea Salt)and baked goods(Muffins, Croissants) Mast Chocolate bars and bags of Beans to go

Green Bo-66 Bayard Street

Amazing Soup Dim Sim…maybe the best I’ve had. Full menu with lots of over rice lunch dishes, I really enjoyed the spicy double cooked pork. Highly recommended.

Shanghai Cuisine – 89 Bayard Street

Located on the corner of Bayard and Mulberry, thus very close to the Hogan Street entrance to the courts. I tried their Soup Dumplings, the pork only version and while keeping it Kosher tried the namesake noodles with Pork and Spinach…green and healthy:) Of note the food is good but this menu for the most part is built for groups to share and they don’t have a over rice lunch special section(which is unusual in Chinatown).


Happy Bones – 394 Broome Street

Very good coffee especially if you are looking for a flat white. Delicious baked goods as well, love the Cardamon Pistachio Cake…so good it made my Favorite-fall-2014-finds list.

Paesano of Mulberry Street – 136 Mulberry Street

Your standard Pastas, Pizzas, Entrees, Hero’s and a menu full of Lunch Specials. I enjoyed a pretty good Veal Parmigiana hero.


Xe Lua Vietnamese Restaurant – 86 Mulberry Street

Salted Lemonade hot might sound odd but tastes great. Very good Summer Rolls with Shrimp and a great Lemongrass and Chile Chicken over rice brightened a grey rainy day.


TJ’s Coffee World – 228 Canal Street

Pretty good cup of joe right in Chinatown. Large assortment of baked goods. I had their Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti, which, while very good was more like a macaroon in texture.

Italian Food Center – 188 Grand Street

Pizzas, Appi’s Salads, Pastas and Heroes. I had little time so went  with a cold Italian Combo hero and cup of coffee. The hero was excellent though you are paying a premium price for the location and ambiance…however more importantly the high end ingredients. ie L&T on this sandwich is fresh basil and heirloom cherry tomatoes. 4 different Italian cold cuts and shaved Parmigiana Cheese.

Nolita Mart and Espresso Bar – 156 Mott Street

Every neighborhood should have a spot like this. Great coffee done a variety of ways including Pour Overs and Cold Brew, along with tasty looking baked goods and a full selection of Gourmet and basic cupboard food goods. Oh and Beer on tap for Growlers!

New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe – 50 Mott Street

Huge lunch menu with most entrees under $6 that come with rice and soup(hot and sour or egg drop) ! So I ordered two dishes, Chicken with Broccoli for some veggies and Orange flavored beef since I have not had it in ages. Good solid basic Chinese dishes done right with possibly the best Lunch special piecewise in NYC or the planet!


Pepe Rosso Social – 173 Mott Street

Full Italian menu with about half dozen each of Pasta’s, Salads, Panini and Entrees plus a $9 lunch special that offers a soup or salad and either a pasta or panini. I choose the Italian Burger which is made up of the high holy trinity of meats Pork, Veal, and Beef topped with caramelized onions, mushrooms and Gorgonzola. It was rather tasty as were the homemade chips and the side salad it came with…all for $10.


Pasteur Vietnamese – 85 Baxter Street

Rather large menu where even the entrees are very fairly priced and if course lunch specials over rice. I ordered up the Vermicelli with Peanuts, Shrimp and Spring rolls off the regular menu for only $9! To drink I had the Plum Lemonade served hot that was very good.

Casa Bella – 127 Mulberry Street

Good solid old school red sauce joint on Mulberry Street. Good size lunch menu and specials as well as very good Panini Sandwiches. Outdoor seating for sunny days. The Chicken with Broccoli Rabe was on Ciabatta was really good.


Red Egg – 202 Centre Street

This was one of my favorite finds. They Offer Dim Sum all the time but instead of it pushed around in carts they give you a sushi like menu to check off what you want. They offer a fairly large selection and have a great Lunch Special for under $10 that includes Soup, Rice and an Entree all in a far superior interior. For full review hit  Red Egg

Crave Coffee – 386 Canal Street

This was the furthest West spot I hit, but still a short walk crosstown from the Courts. Good spot for a cup of coffee ( they use Filicori) or to grab a sandwich or pastry. Two floors…great people watching from the ground floor. This spot led to my next find….

Pi Greek Bakerie – 512 Broome Street

Some of the best Baklava I’ve ever had…especially the Pistachio, though the Chocolate was really good too. Great selection of Greek pastries as well as dishes like Pastitsio (Greek lasagna, which is so huge a portion I had to take half of it home), Greek Salads, and meat and veggie Pie’s…Tasty Teas and Coffee to drink. The Greek coffee my Greek bud said was some of the best he’s ever had.


China Village – 94 Baxter Street

OK food, but the only place I found without lunch specials. Until they gave the lunch menu to another table and I reordered. Also where most places the service is to fast…here way too slow. They also charge for the tea $2 a pot, which I would have been OK with if I didn’t have to ask for it five(5) times! Plus, I had the pleasure of one table getting into a loud verbal fight, that the staff ignored. Worst lunch I had. Dishonorable mention and my first ever negative review.

Two Hands- 164 Mott Street

Great new Aussie spot for Coffee, Baked goods, sandwiches etc in Little Italy. They do a solid Flat White and have tasty Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies. Their upscale version of an Egg sandwich is tasty but a little pricey for it’s size. Though I think it’s more geared for the leggy Models that come to this place like Butterfly’s to a flame. They use Cafe Integral from Nicaragua for make their brews. It’s a spacious spot filled with a very good looking clientele and friendly service. Another of my favorite finds.

Pongsri Thai- 106 Bayard Street

My last lunch was here which is right by the Hogan Street entrance and always packed. I had the Pra Raam Curry that is a Spicy Peanut curry with coconut cream over broccoli with chicken. First time I’ve ever seen this dish on a menu and really enjoyed it. As much as I love Thai soups when I saw Wonton I was feeling it. It was good, though order a Thai soup here, hit the Chinese spots for Wonton soup.

Of note, I didn’t go to any of my usual spots so these are all new finds for me for the most part. I also didn’t do any research, I just walked around, looked at menu’s and sometimes searched the web for reviews. Also, I usually found a spot and had lunch within 45 minutes, so if you’re rushed for time it’s already factored in. I found a number of great new spots and that’s not even including the old school Italian gourmet food joints on Grand Street and a great Chilean Wine shop. NYC is loaded with the best food in the world from all around the world. Embrace it, the world is your Oyster…eat it!

Empellon Al Pastor: Mexican Street Food with a Michelada Menu

Green Michelada Empellon al Pastor

I kinda have a thing for Micheladas ,so when I heard that Alex Stupek was opening another Taco Joint based on Mexican Street Food with a Full Bar and Cocktail Menu offering a variety of versions of said beverage I was so in. I started with their Green Beer Michelada made with Tomatillo  instead of Lime juice , rimmed with Nori salt  with Tecate  Beer. While my bud and I waited for a table or bar seating to open up(you place your order at the bar, then find a seat and they deliver it to you. fast, very)

Once we got a seat (after letting some girls take the first seats to open up, Chivalry is not dead) we ordered up some Guacamole and Chips. It was chunky, freshly made and top notch. I choose from the Taco selection the Al Pastor Pork Pineapple and the Red Chile Pork. I decided to go with not one but two sides the Braised Kale with Green Chorizo and the White Beans Chilmole. I needed another beverage and  ordered up another from the Michelada menu, this time the Emoticon made with Yuzu, White Miso , surrounded by Togarashi Salt with Mexicali cerveza another hit especially if you like I love Yuzu. The Tacos were great and come with a far amount of meat, but their sides are even better, do not skip them.

Empellon al Pastor is a cool looking space inside, plays great music, the crowd is friendly with a good vibe, food is $4 each for everything and the cocktail menu rocks(I still need to try the Loaded Micheladas and their Margarita’s). This Taco Joint is another home run for  the Empellon Empire.

Guac Emoticon

Empellon Al Pastor is located at 132 St. Marks Place

Red Egg: Dim Sum by Day, Dim Sum all Night

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    It was what I originally mistook for some cool Street Art that drew me to Red Egg in what has turned our to be their sign so speak painted on their buildings wall. I popped in to check out the menu and when I saw their Dim Sum Menu and that it’s served all day/every day(most places only serve it during the day at lunch) and a lunch Special menu I knew I would be back the next day. Instead of serving their Dim Sum pushed around in carts they give you a sushi like menu to check off for what you specifically want. They offer a fairly large selection and thus far I enjoyed the Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) and some of my new favorites the Pork, Cilantro and Shrimp Dumplings. Light wrappers stuffed with tasty delights. Their hot sauce adds some nice heat in addition to using traditional soy sauce.Red Egg also has great Lunch Specials, for only $7.95 you get a Soup, Entree and Rice. My first visit I had their Chicken Corn Soup to start with the Beef with Olives and bitter Mellon with Brown Rice (rarely found in Chinatown). This was a nice twist on the classic usually made with blank beans and peppers . On my next visit I started with the Hot and Sour soup that packs more heat then most version I’ve had(Read:Very good thing) and for my Entree the Scallops in Black Bean sauce with Red Onions. I was  pleasantly surprised this was available on the lunch menu and that the dish was so full of delicious perfectly cooked Bay Scallops.

Red Egg’s interior is far superior to its neighbors. It’s  primarily black with red curtains, green plants and cool lighting hanging from the ceiling. Aside from lunch it would be great for dinner with a group or date(that craves Dim Sum). With delicious and more refined food then most in the neighborhood with a decor that blows pretty much the others away…add Red Egg to your Dim Sum, Lunch Specials and Best Chinese food lists.

Red Egg is located at 202 Centre Street

Butter Lane Cupcakes on East 7th East Village NYC

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What I love about Butter Lane is that you can choose from 3 different base cake flavors

Vanilla
Chocolate and
Banana! I love Banana cake…

and then choose from about a dozen different buttercream flavors that vary from Cream Cheese to Raspberry to Dark Chocolate drizzled with Dulce Con Leche. They are small to mid sized and only $3.25 each. So I got three…all Banana based and chose the

Sea Salt Chocolate drizzled with Dulce con Leche
Coconut
Pistachio

I did manage to make myself eat only one per day…but now I need more…

Butter Lane Cupcakes is located at 123 East 7th Street

Brooklyn Winery: A Winery Thrives in Brooklyn

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I was invited to attend a Wine Tasting at the Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg via Gogobot recently and learned more about Wine in 30 minutes while enjoying 9 of their wines over another 30 minutes then I ever have reading books and articles in magazines on the grape. Brooklyn Winery opened 4 years ago and with the exception of owning a Vineyard and growing the grapes they produce their own vino from grape to glass in what used to be a Disco in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

They are small artisanal batch producers and they source their White’s from NY’s Finger Lakes and the North Fork and from the West Coast their Reds. The tour I went on was not only very informative but a lot of fun and as stated, you get to taste 9 different wines(I believe it’s $35 pp and you get keep your Brooklyn Winery glass)! Plus when done, you can re-sample some(pours were generous) My favorites were the Steel Cask and Neutral French Oak Chardonnays, the Pinot Noir from Los Carneros and the Petite Sirah. Bottles are available to purchase with most Whites in the low $20′s and Red in the early $30′s. I picked up bottles of the Steel and Oak Casked Chardonnays .

Fun Fact- White wine is made w/o the skin, Red made with the skins, orange is white with skins in,

Rose red with skins pulled during process. How did man figure this out….trial & error.

Brooklyn Winery is a beautiful looking place inside and they do Weddings and Events(You need to book in advance. It would be a great place for a date or a group outing the way it’s laid out. I highly recommend the Tasting Tour or simply pop by to taste their goods. You too will likely leave with a bottle or two.

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Brooklyn Winery is located at 213 N 8th St, Brooklyn

Favorite Fall 2014 Finds

We are pretty much about half way through the Fall of 2014 and I put together a list of my Favorite finds. The list is primarily Food centric with some Gear and Gifts for you and yours…
Baxter, Bayard, Grand and Mott Streets. These streets are loaded with great places and while I’m familiar with Grand and Mott I found that there were sections east and south respectively that I need to hit more often. A number of these Fall Finds are on them…
Bravest – Best Sports Bar Burgers

Brooklyn Winery Wines – Made in Williamsburg and good, very!

Breakroom Break Burger (topped with pork belly confit, tempura onion ring, sunny side egg and L&T!

Croxley’s Sports Bar Beer selection. Huge selection of Craft brews and love their many variations on the Black and Tan.

Cata’s  awesome Tapas and Gin & Tonics menu

Davey’s Ice Cream – Twists on the classics giving them some more depth and awesome specialty flavors like S’mores, etc

Faherty Brand- Flannel Shirts, this Brand is not just for great Board-shorts and Bikini’s. Their Flannels are awesome…so soft she will want to touch it, if not “borrow” it

Happy Bones Coffee’s Cardamon Pistachio Cake…

La Esquina’s Brunch dish Huevos Chilango -Two Poached Eggs, Quinoa Potato Crisp, Chorizo, Tomatillo, Avocado Salsa. Muy Bueno!

Lemonades Hot, Cold, Regular, Salted or with Plum at the various Vietnamese restaurants in Chinatown

Michael Harding Oil Paints at Jerry’s Palette Shop. Ultra high quality Oil Paints made the way the Old Masters made them

Mimi Cheng’s Dumplings…These are not your Momma’s Dumplings…they are better, much. Monthly specials as well such as this month’s Thanksgiving Plate Dumpling

Mainsai ‘s Teas Hot and Cold. Their main products, cool nautical bracelets with Anchors or Fishing Hooks, leather Journals, etc are pretty cool as well

Mast Brewed Chocolate – High end Single origin and flavored chocolate brewed like tea but rich in flavor w/o the extra calories. Likely how the Aztecs drank it.

Moleskin – New 7 1/2 X 7 1/2 sketchbooks. Quite simply the best sketching journals and love that they are finally adding new sizes

Nolita Market – Every hood should have a little market this good. It’s a Coffee Bar up front with awesome beans from around the country and back stocked with Basics and Gourmet delights.
Paragon Sports Hiking/ Trail running shoe selection is second to none. Great service provided by knowledgeable staff as well.

Pi Bakerie – The Gods on Mount Olympus crave their Baklava especially the Pistachio version. Great Pi’s, Salads, and Greek Coffee

Puro Chilean Wine Shop – Great selection of Vino from Chile including the Carmenere grape unique to the region. They offer tastings via their Cruvinet

Red Egg – High quality Chinese on the outskirts of Chinatown offering  All Day, Every Day Dim Sum and very good lunch specials. Of note, nice Jet Black interior

Red Flower – Read an article on the need to relax, keeping electronics out of the bedroom and importance of sleep and how the scent of Lavender helps. I’ve been here before for gifts so popped in for a candle. Of note, the Ocean and Moonflower are pretty cool as well and available as bath products.

Saturdays Sweatshirts- Best Sweatshirt ever…though more for watching then playing Football or for the Beach as the sun sets. In a word…Epic.

Under Armors new Soho store is awesome with all their great gear and a friendly staff to help find what you need. I like their Cold…Zip Necks and their Super Hero Logo Compression Tops. Even found gifts for my impossible to buy, yet sweet Sister-in -Law.

Zucker’s Bagels breakfast special. Not only one of NYC best Bagels, not only, only $4 (add .50 for choice of flavored) but comes with Le Columbe Coffee!

Cata on Bowery: Magnifico Tapas con G&T’s y Vino’s

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I love the food of Spain and their thing for Gin and Tonics so when I heard about Cata I needed to head over for some Tapas. Cata is dimly lit, romantic and has a cool vibe making it ideal for a night out with a special someone or a small group of friends. It has a very long bar with seating, high tables in the same room for from two to six, a back room and a downstairs(that I didn’t get a chance to explore as of this time). Cata is known for it’s large Gin and Tonic menu(over 20!) with a great selection of Gin favorites and Gins I’ve never had before with large variety of botanicals. I had the Anise G&T followed by a the Chili and loved both. My dining companion enjoyed a very nice White Wine, the Spanish equivalent to a Pinot Grigio, I believe a Verdejo.

However, as good as the drinks were, it was the food that really blew me away. We ordered up a few items from the Tapas menu that included the Deviled Eggs topped with Oysters and the Bombas of Jamon, Manchego in a spicy tomato sauce which melt in ones mouth, followed by the Quail Eggs Benedict. From the Entrees we choose the Duck Ravioli which turned out to be a beautiful melding of  the earthly flavors of mushrooms and truffles with texture provided by the parmigiana crisp topping them. We loved everything with the Duck Ravioli and the Quail Eggs Benedict being our favorites. If you’re looking for a great spot for Tapas, something different then your usual fare and a great selection of drinks and vino in a sweet setting with service to back it up add Cata to your Best of, and Go to, to Impress lists…



Cata is located at 245 Bowery

Breakroom: Best Burgers and Tacos in Chinatown

Breakroom Burger

I needed a “break” from the food of Asia (as much as I love it) and while walking along Baxter came upon Breakroom Burgers and Tacos. One look at the menu and I was in. I went big with their namesake burger that is topped with confit of pork belly, cheese, sunny-side egg, tempura onion rings, jalapenos, L& T + pickles! You literally need a boca grande about the size of a Xenomorph (Alien fans…you know what I’m talking about here)to eat it. For my side I had the Chipotle Thai Chili which had some heat but not too much and sold me on their Tacos without having one. They have Fries(w/cheese and Chili topped) and Tempura onion rings(they are good, very) as well. To drink I had Breakroom’s Mint Lemonade which was delish and loaded with fresh mint. I came back again to try some more from the menu and had the bacon wrapped jalapeno Hot Dog and their Grilled Sesame Chicken sandwich in Sambal sauce. If you’re in the Chinatown area and looking for something other than the usual fare, here’s your spot.

Breakroom

Breakroom is located at 83 Baxter Street

Gitana Rosa Presents Dress Code by Nikolina Kovenlenko

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I attended the opening for “Masquerade” during the Summer and when I heard that Nikolina Kovenlenko was previewing a new series of works titled “Dress Code” I stopped by to check out her new works and for some inspiration as well. Once again Nikolina explores our self absorbed superficial world which in this series she juxtaposes famous figures from the Old Masters who find themselves in modern day settings such as a children’s Playground and a high end Spa’s Roman like baths. In Swimming Pool my favorite thus far from the new series beautiful women chill in the water and lie out among Roman like columns oblivious to the personification of beauty itself, Venus, they are so self absorbed. These women and the children in the Playground piece are caught in their respective “comfort zones” yet missing out on so much by not stepping out of them. Nikolina continues to push us past our overly commercialized world and to look within to find our true selves.

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Gitana Rosa is located at 430 West 25th Street 4th floor

Mast Brothers Brewed Chocolate

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Mast Chocolate recently opened up a Brewed Chocolate spot next door to their factory and retail, store on N 3rd. You choose from the same great chocolate used for their legendary chocolate bars a Single Origin (Peru, Madagascar, etc) or a Flavored Chocolate (Chili, Almond, Maple etc) and its brewed like a Tea with hot water but still has that rich chocolate taste. Add a splash a milk if you like, I did. Add this to your Hot Chocolate spots as the weather begins to cool out there…

Mast Brewed Chocolate is located at 105 A N 3rd Street