Best Of Eats & Drinks
BEST BURGER TO END THE BURGER BATTLE
24 E. 12th St. (betw. 5th & University Pl.)
The burger battle was some sort of offshoot of the comfort food conflict that all started with those damn cupcakes. So, we tried the whole slew of new burger joints, but it wasn’t until we happened upon Stand that we finally found a burger to end the madness. Not only are all the variations bold in their embrace of their beefy-ness (especially the back & egg cheeseburger), but the fries are addictive and the shakes are incredible (made with Il Laboratorio del Gelato). We only hope they expand the bar, so we can hang out there with the cutie drink slinger and keep ordering the fizzy gin concoctions with cucumbers made with hunky, beefy love.
BEST STREET-LEVEL MEXICAN FOOD
137th St. & Broadway
It started with the tamale lady. She was there morning, noon and night, hawking her homemade tamales: pork, chicken, cheese, as well as sweet varieties, all for $1. Yes, these moist, amazing concoctions—wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed in a little plastic bag with a napkin and plastic fork—go for less than you pay for one of those stale pretzels and would constitute a gourmet meal at many lesser restos purporting to vend authentic Mexican vittles. But it didn’t stop there. Now the busy subway stop for City College students and new-to-New York immigrants has a roasted corn-seller, empanadas, fresh fruit, fresh juice and frozen ices (depending on the season). The original woman who started the whole scene is still there, and now she has an incredible Oaxacan tamale made with mashed plantains (a steal at $2), cups of arroz con leche and ladles out cups of champurrado as well.
BEST BAR TREND THAT NEEDS TO BE KILLED
Here’s a notion: Let’s make bar owners track us down. We’ll hide behind faux phone booths, beneath taco shacks and down long, dark alleyways. Stupid, right? Welcome to the modern-day speakeasy phenomenon. During Prohibition, bars played cloak-and-dagger with the law out of necessity. Nowadays, the owners behind PDT, La Esquina and The Back Room equate social currency with asinine gimmick, concealing their lounges with CIA levels of secrecy. This publicity stunt would be more believable if “hidden” bars didn’t announce their openings with a press release.
BEST REASON TO KEEP EATING PROCESSED FOOD
Have you savored steamed field greens picked from an abandoned Bed-Stuy lot, the one fertilized by feral chickens? Or oysters plucked from the Gowanus Canal? No? Come on, a little gonorrhea contamination won’t kill you. Much. Such is the lunacy of the latest ill-advised food trend: locavore. It’s not enough for holier-than-thou gourmands to eat organic; now they must eat organic food harvested within their local watershed. Um, we live in New York City. We moved here to escape nature, not eat it.
BEST REASON TO RIDE BAREBACK
25 W. 51st St. (at Rockefeller Pl.)
We once rode a bull in a bar converted from a K-Mart located in a sprawling Southern suburb. So, of course, the idea of being able to ride a mechanical bull in the heart of NYC got us a little hot and bothered. For the most part, the food at Johnny Utah’s remains in the shadows and the drinks, like the Mexican Heat magarita, are really there to help facilitate the ladies to ride that faux-fur hump until they get all jiggly and fall in a heap of laughter. And isn’t that what always makes for a perfect evening?
BEST NEW LOCAL BREWERY NOT BASED IN NEW YORK CITY
Until recently, our incomparable thirst was sated by buckets of fiercely local Sixpoint Sweet Action and Brooklyn Lager. Then we met Pleasantville, New York’s Captain Lawrence. Since brewmaster Scott Vaccaro unleashed his liquid arsenal in early 2006, the brewery has built its reputation on bold, palate-challenging quaffs. Some comrades prefer the citrus-scented Liquid Gold, but our sobriety-obliterator is the Captain’s Reserve. This double-strength India Pale Ale is marinated in a mountain of bitter hops, smoothed out with the creaminess of half and half. It’s heaven in a glass, and tasty enough to make us swear off Brooklyn Lager forever.
BEST LESBIAN SPORTS BAR WITH $5 BLOODY MARYS
249 4th Ave. (betw. President & Carroll Sts.), Park Slope, B’klyn
Though we may look like namby-pamby hipsters, our Midwest rearing means we adore crappy domestic beer, bloody steaks and football. Watching the hut-hut-hike action at most sports bars, however, is a testosterone-drenched nightmare. So every Sunday, we pedal to Park Slope’s lesbian super-club Cattyshack and plop onto a stool. About a half dozen TVs broadcast every game, intently ogled by a motley mix of ladies, gents and an odd cross-dresser or two. A spread of wings, chips and sundry salty nibbles is free and spicy, and pint-size Bloody Marys pack an olive-filled wallop, urging us to cheer—if our dear Cincinnati Bengals ever did anything right.
BEST RESTAURANT, FROM SOUP TO NUTS
Young City Fish Balls
21A Eldridge St. (betw. Canal & Division St.)
Trench-coated pedophiliacs beware: This underground Chinatown destination doesn’t traffic in odd kinks featuring pubescent boys and frisky aquatic creatures. The focus is on Fujianese fish balls, the beef-stuffed marriage of a dumpling and matzo ball. Order these springy orbs in a mild oceanic broth (not a full-on seafood assault) paired with a side of peanut-sauce-slicked noodles. It’s a treat far more rewarding than most sexual experiences.
BEST BAR TO BUY $3 CORONAS & A RUMBA
85-12 Roosevelt Ave. (betw. 85th & 86th Sts.), Jackson Heights, Queens
When we’re forlorn, we hop the rattling 7 train to Jackson Heights and assuage our loneliness with $3 Coronas, ear-splitting salsa music and a twirl with a sexy ballerina or two. At this fog-shrouded, disco-ball Mexican club, a dozen ladies linger around in lingerie and heels, ready to salsa or rumba—with you and your pocketbook. An hour of chaste hip-shaking (no beneath-the-belt extracurriculars) costs about $40. We recommend shelling out for a single dance, then self-medicating with lime-topped Coronas until your little black cloud breaks.
BEST BAR TO GET DRUNK DURING HAPPY HOUR
322 2nd Ave (betw. 18th & 19th Sts.)
Despite our newfound ability to buy drinks at bars—instead of smuggling in six-packs and a flask—we still won’t blow more than $5 for a drink. It contradicts our moral code, just like kicking puppies or mocking ugly babies. Gramercy’s basement-level 3Steps understands our tight pocketbooks all too well: Until 9 p.m., the lounge’s $13 cocktails are a cut-rate $4. Forget bottom-shelf vodka: 3Steps’ mixologists follow a fresh fruit-and-herbs script, serving muddled gems like citrus-mint martinis, cucumber cosmos and sugar-ringed lemon-drop martinis. The cocktails are terrific, brain-fuzzying knockouts—and a cost-effective way to kill your liver.
BEST FROZEN SAMOSAS OUTSIDE OF BOMBAY
3727 74th St., Jackson Heights, Queens
Sometimes Lean Pockets just don’t cut it in terms of fast, easy frozen food, and that’s where a trip to Patel Brothers comes in. The key to this chain Indian grocery store is bulk. It’s where you go to stock up on value packs of spices and frozen Indian dinners. The extensive freezer section boasts a fine array of Indian meals, including saag paneer, lentils, chicken tikka, tandoori chicken and more. There are also huge bags of frozen samosas—which is the ultimate snack in times of need.
BEST NEW PIZZA SLICE IDEA OF THE 21ST CENTURY
Waldy’s Wood Fired
Pizzeria & Penne
800 6th Ave. (betw. 27th & 28th Sts.)
It’s easy to lament the passing of the once ubiquitous cheap NY slice. Sure, you can find it, but the quality has disappeared. So, step in the wood-fired pizzeria. There are others that offer more attitude and complex provenance (ovens direct from Italy!), but we enjoy the no-nonsense approach and gourmet toppings. Lamb and lemon? Yes! Prosciutto and asparagus? Give us more! It’s enough to make us forget those days of folding a slice and draining it into a pool of orange grease.
BEST REASON FOR PENNY-PINCHING DRUNKARDS TO BRAVE THE LOWER EAST SIDE
$2 Buds at St. Jerome’s
155 Rivington St. (betw. Suffolk & Clinton Sts.)
Weekends on the Lower East Side are a no-go zone of cattle-car crowds comprising gelled dudes and screechy bimbos. But valiant boozers willing to swashbuckle through the maddening throngs are rewarded by an incomparable deal. Every day until midnight at dark, narrow rocker dive St. Jerome’s, shaggy-haired cool kids line up to suck down two-buck bottles of Bud and Bud Light. Order two, five or even 10 at a time: Hell, you’ll need them all just to stomach stepping back outside.
BEST BUDGET-PRICED BEER TO DRINK WHEN YOU’RE BROKE
Despite scraping together dimes and pennies to get snockered, we can’t stomach skunky, rot-gut malt liquors like King Cobra and Hurricane. Instead, our imbibing needs are met by bottom-shelf Ballantine. It’s the tastiest low-cost suds bought with a fistful of change. Eons ago, Ballantine was America’s fourth-leading brewer. Though the brand has tumbled from prominence, the XXX Ale remains a delicious revelation: It’s rich and hoppy, minus the metallic ting plaguing inexpensive hooch, too delicious to be hidden inside an insulting brown paper bag.
BEST $1 BLOB
The pirozkhas at M&I International
249 Brighton Beach Ave. (betw. Brighton First St. & Brighton First Pl.) Brighton Beach, B’klyn, 718-615-1011
Before hitting Brighton Beach and eyeballing Russian men in butt-hugging Speedos, we like to stock up on this Russian supermarket’s deep-fried pirozkhas: a $1 rendition of the classic knish. At the sidewalk window, tended by brusque babushkas, we select from mountains of crisp, golden oblongs of spongy dough packed with mashed potato, egg and onions, cabbage or mysterious minced “meat.” Two pirozkhas will assassinate our hunger, while three makes our bellies as big and round as those of the hairy men parading down the boardwalk.
BEST FALAFEL MAN NAMED MOHAMMAD
Mohammad & Mahmoud
5th Ave. (betw. 17th & 18 Sts.)
Street food can be a gamble, but great service and food can be had if you know where to look, and sometimes you’re served a bonus. Monday through Thursday, when Mo, as he’s known along Fifth Avenue, parks his cart in front of the Gap and fires up the grill a little before noon, a line quickly forms. Greeting everyone warmly, often by name, he prepares falafel stuffed with grilled eggplant and schwarma to order while referencing highlights from your team’s recent matches—Premiership, La Liga, or MLS—culled from an impressive cable soccer package. By the time our order’s ready we’re updated as to Fulham’s recent trades and league standing; and occasionally receive travel recommendations or updates about his son’s black belt status.
BEST DOUGHY ALTERNATIVE TO THE HYPER-PACKED DUMPLING HOUSE
46 Eldridge St. (betw. Canal & Hester St.)
Instead of cursing the onto-the-sidewalk lines at Chinatown’s Dumpling House, we trundle a couple blocks down Eldridge Street to Prosperity Dumplings. This closet-size shack’s menu replicates Dumpling House’s goodies and prices, right down to its five-for-a-buck namesakes. We nab an always available counter seat and stick to freshly made boiled dumplings and noodle soups, served steaming and lickety-split—and without the maddening hordes of guidebook-clutching tourists desperately waving $1 bills.
BEST BAR TRANSFORMATION
Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge
Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge
200 Flushing Ave. (at Washington Ave.), Clinton Hill, B’klyn, No phone
Few bars are more frightening than this graffiti-adorned lounge with blacked-out windows and a split personality: Before 9 p.m., this seamen hangout—a bank of six security cameras tracks your every move—is a grubby dive where friendly female bartenders serve stiff $3 cocktails in plastic cups and freebie bags of potato chips. At the stroke of 9 p.m., drink prices double and bartenders retreat to the bathroom. They return wearing skin-tight bikinis, revealing crevices where well-lubricated customers are encouraged to insert hard currency. We recommend parting with a few bucks and running for your life.
BEST BAR TO BEHAVE LIKE A 20-YEAR-OLD WHEN YOU’RE 50
Finnerty’s Irish Pub
221 2nd Ave. (betw. 13th & 14th Sts.)
Despite our graying hair, we occasionally enjoy blacking out, waking with a pasty tongue, a pounding head and our body blanketed with bruises. To accomplish this, we stumble to Finnerty’s Irish Pub. Since relocating from Third Avenue several years ago (thanks, giant apartment tower), this NYC-centric dive has upped its debaucherous ante, serving poverty-priced beer pitchers and pint glasses of mixed drinks. We prefer plopping $20 on the bar, then sucking back enough PBR tallboys paired with whiskey shooters until our brains regress to high school intelligence and we slur sweet nothings to nubile coeds, before blissfully forgetting the whole sordid affair in the a.m.
BEST HOLDER OF THE VILLAGE IDIOT’S VIOLENT, BEER-SOAKED SPIRIT
Cheap Shots & Beer
140 1st Ave. (betw. St. Marks Pl. & 9th St.)
When the vomit-splattered, fisticuffs-prone Village Idiot shuttered in summer 2004, NYC became a safer, more boring place. Where else could one visit to get punched out on a Friday night? Then along came the East Village’s Cheap Shots. Typically, we come here to guzzle $7 Bud Light pitchers and play air hockey against grizzled drunkards and surly bike messengers. One night, though, we accidentally caught a comely lass’s eye. “What are you looking at? She’s mine!” a heavily tattooed brawler shouted, curling his fist into a tooth-bashing machine. Ah, just like old times, we thought, as we cowered in a corner in the fetal position.
BEST MEAT TO SWING AROUND
Quality Meat Market’s kielbasa
172 Bedford Ave. (betw. North 7th & North 8th Sts.), Williamsburg, B’klyn
When rooftop-grilling season sparks up in the spring, we beeline to Bedford Avenue’s last remaining Polish butcher and buy four or five links of kielbasa. The flesh sizzles up superbly, developing a crackly exterior that releases a torrent of tasty juices upon first bite. Yet the real reason we love the kielbasa is not for sustenance, but for smacking people in the rump. “Haiiiiii-yahhh!” we shout, swinging the attached, foot-long links like nun chucks, inflicting our greasy, misguided wrath all summer long.
BEST NOODLES TO PREPARE YOUR MOUTH FOR ORAL SURGERY
Sichuan Chengdu’s Dan Dan
Inside the J&L Mall at 41-82 Main St (betw. Sanford & Maple Aves.), B’klyn
We are not blessed with the sturdiest mental constitution, and the first time we devoured dan dan noodles at Sichuan Chengdu—a stall located inside a Flushing mall’s food court—we assumed our tether to reality finally snapped. Packed with pork, peanuts, chili oil and fragrant Sichuan peppercorns, these noodles simultaneously inflamed and numbed our mouths. “What’s happening to us?” we cried, chopsticking up chewy, insanity-causing noodles. We were receiving our introduction to spicy-and-numbing Sichuan cuisine. Now we happily devour great mounds of the Novocain noodles, finding ever-more-inventive ways to go insane.
BEST BAR TO OGLE A BRA BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD
The Wicked Monk
8415 5th Ave. (betw. 84th & 85th Sts.) Bay Ridge, B’klyn
At Bay Ridge’s The Wicked Monk, built with dark wood and stained glass shipped over from a former Irish monastery, we go slack-jaw when eyeing the Victoria’s Secret undergarment explosion tacked behind the bar. Sure, the frilly and lacy B- and C-cups are swell, but they’re built for mere bug bites compared to a bra with cups the approximate size of watermelons. “That’s the sergeant’s,” our wrinkled bartender told us once. “It all started with her.” What could we do but salute?
BEST BAR TO OGLE WOMEN WHILE EATING HOT DOGS
355 W. 41st St. (at 9th Ave)
Like its nearby Hell’s Kitchen brethren Circus and Rudy’s, Port 41 will gladly serve you free, steaming-hot frankfurters alongside your pitcher of fizzy domestic brew. But unlike Circus and Rudy’s, the bartender doling out your tubular meat will typically be busty and wearing a two-piece bikini. This is expected behavior at Hawaiian Tropic Zone, but in this old-man bar—customers likely rendered impotent by alcohol and age—the wanton display of flesh strikes us as unnecessary, though definitely not unwelcome.
BEST PRIX-FIXE TASTING MENU YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD AFFORD
The Enoteca at Del Posto
85 10th Ave. (betw. 15th & 16th Aves.)
Since our employers pay pennies, we’re judicious when splurging on meals. Mario Batali, of all folks, understands our pain. At his Meatpacking District Del Posto, the ornate dining room feeds the well-heeled, while the enoteca bar area offers a five-course, $45 prixe fixe that lets plebes feast like kings. Luscious beef carpaccio with fresh mozzarella, chewy potato gnocchi, roast cod and flourless chocolate cake are among the divinities diners can choose, accompanied by fresh-baked breads begging for a smear of creamy lardo. It’s rich enough to trick you into feeling rich too.
BEST RESTAURANT TO BRING 10 PALS, BLAST HOT-97 AND GUZZLE BYOB
465 Lincoln Pl. (betw. Classon & Franklin Aves.) Crown Heights, B’klyn
Because our friends are penny-pinching Scrooges who invariably stiff us on restaurant tabs, we turn to this Caribbean savior. The décor is blasé (plants and fluorescent lights), but the owners let you squish tables together, crank up hip-hop and party like it’s your last meal. We roll 10 deep, bringing brews and icy vodka, then go gaga with incendiary jerk chicken, gamy goat curry, steaming roti and garlicky shrimp. Why not? Entrées average $10, and each one could feed two. We’re always too stuffed for dessert, but the paltry bill is sweet enough.
BEST DRINK TO ENTICE YOUR EX-GIRLFRIEND INTO SLEEPING WITH YOU, NON-ALCOHOLIC DIVISION
Wicked Hot Chocolate at Jacques Torres
66 Water St. (betw. Main & Dock Sts.) Dumbo, B’klyn
We spent staggering sums on alcohol to entice our ex-girlfriend into sleeping with us—until we found this low-cost Spanish Fly: Jacques Torres’ Wicked Hot Chocolate. Ancho chilies, chipotle and cardamom are infused into thick, molten chocolate shavings. “Oh, this makes me feel…good,” our ex-girlfriend said, drinking deeply. She smiled as brightly as if she just chugged six gin and tonics, tucking her fingers into our back pocket and squeezing our rump. Thank you, Mr. Torres, thank you.
BEST RESTAURANT TO OVERDOSE ON HOLIDAY CHEER
281 3rd Ave. (at 21st St.)
Most of the year Rolf’s is an overpriced, underwhelming relic serving boa constrictor–size bratwursts atop hills of sauerkraut. But come Christmastime, the wood-hewn room morphs into the North Pole on acid with stained-glass windows, garlands, frighteningly cherubic dolls, angels and Christmas lights bright enough for the blind to see. We prefer to sit at the bar and suck giant steins of German beer, watching fat, jolly families eat wiener schnitzel. The cherry scene even infuses us Jews with holiday cheer, though that’s probably just the beer talking.
BEST BAR TREND THAT NEEDS TO BE KILLED, PART II
When did bars turn into big-kid Chuck E. Cheeses? In kinder, simpler times, all drinkeries needed to succeed was liquor, a pool table and a crate of beer. But now bars employ god-awful gizmos and doodads, none more heinous than Skee-Ball. All night, we’re tormented by the crash of wooden balls, the epileptic flashing of lights and the mirthless shouts of grown-ups trying to recapture their lost youth—and realizing their beloved childhood games are pointless money-wasters. Thanks for besmirching our youth, bar owners. Mind if we borrow your skull for an impromptu game of Whack-
BEST CHILL BAR TO HAVE A CHEAP EXCUSE TO BOOZE FROM 5 PM TO 4 AM
998 Amsterdam Ave. (betw. 109th & 110th Sts.)
Happy hour is a brilliant concept: You just finished work, it’s the middle of the week, you’re demoralized, tired, hungry and generally crabby, and you need a little something to unwind. It helps that it’s a little something at a reduced price. But two happy hours is either pure genius or incredibly dangerous. Sip, a hip, arty little bar in the Upper West Side has a 5-7 pm special on all beer, wine and mixed drink and the same special between 2-4 am. If you end up staying all the hours in between, we won’t blame you: With the colorful, mostly local clientele and the hospitable, ever-present owners, it’s hard to leave.
BEST EAST VILLAGE BAR FOR A FIRST DATE
41 First Ave. (betw. 2nd & 3rd Sts.)
There’s nothing like a first date, a time when hope springs anew and judgment runs high. So don’t fuck thing up right away by going to a douche bag drive-in chock-a-block with toolboxes. A safe bet is d.b.a., where the lighting is dim, but not in an overtly sexy way. The bar’s selection of beer and whiskey is also sure to impress while affordable prices keep you from seeming pretentious. Located smack between the East Village and Lower East Side, it’s close to a million other bars—and also near the B, D, F, V, 4, 5, and 6 trains, in case the date goes really well.
BEST WEST VILLAGE BAR FOR A FIRST DATE
281 Bleecker St. (at Jones St.)
They say love is blind, but some soft lighting and strong drinks can’t hurt either. Blind Tiger keeps things blurry with a dark wood interior and a roaring fireplace—perfect for those first date cuddles. Also, with a wide selection of beers, drink strength can be adjusted relative to how well the date is going. The crowd is jolly, and prices are in that perfect “I’m sensible, but not a cheap date” range. Most importantly, the West Fourth Street subway station nearby makes a quick getaway easy.
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Taking Back Damrosch Park
Wonders of Childhood, On Display
Shelly Silver’s Sketch Artist Speaks
For Silver, All Politics Is Local