Where To Find Me In Queens
I tend to mostly eat in Queens these days, as that’s where I have lived and worked for a long time. In Jackson Heights, I love a bowl of pho and a hot Vietnamese coffee from Thai Son. I also love the roast chicken at any of the Pollos Mario outlets, and the Colombian baked goods at La Casa de Los Antojitos, Seba Seba and La Abundancia. There’s a great Burmese café inside the subway station at 74th Street-Roosevelt Avenue, selling delicious fermented tea leaf salad, mohinga, and more.
A Dependable Bowl Of Regional Laksa
In nearby Elmhurst, I love a bare-bones Malaysian restaurant called Taste Good Malaysian. I always get the Penang-style assam laksa, which has a sour tamarind and pineapple broth, hunks of fish, and noodles. This place has a total lack of pretence, and excellent food.
Homemade Tortillas In Long Island City
In Long Island City, Casa Enrique does beautiful, thoughtful Mexican cuisine. The homemade tortillas are the best, there’s a wide variety, and they do a very good tres leches cake.
Three Classic East Village Addresses
In Manhattan, I love Superiority Burger which does a very good vegetarian burger but also some truly delicious sides and salads, and various sandwiches based on marinated and griddled yuba (tofu skin), that are fantastic, along with superb gelato and sorbet. It feels great to support a small, passionate, independent business in a time when chains are growing like a malignant fungus. And for the same reason, I love Hearth, chef Marco Canora’s independent Italian restaurant, which has been in business for nearly 20 years. The food is so good and honest. I always try to circle back to Veselka in Manhattan’s East Village, where I lived for many years. The pierogis (dumplings), stuffed cabbage and blintzes are utterly reliable and comforting.
A New East Village Favourite
At Ernesto’s, chef-owner Ryan Bartlow is sharing his extensive experience with Basque food. The plate of Iberico ham layered with freshly fried potato chips is an instant classic, as is the hearty, soulful tripe stew called Callos de Joan. There is plenty of natural wines, a robust cocktail menu and desserts that combine the best of Spanish flavors and sensibility with French technique.
The Perfect Neighbourhood Spot (With Great Dessert)
My favorite place is The Queensboro, which is a great neighborhood place opened by my friend chef Tony Liu and his partners a few years ago. Tony has cooked in some of the best restaurants in the world and he has now brought that skill to our neighborhood. Great salads, pizzas, pastas and really excellent desserts: the menu specials reflect Tony’s vast experience with Spanish, French and Eastern European cuisine, and the cooks in his kitchen will often make Mexican, Ecuadoran and Venezuelan specials, too. And it’s a place that our super diverse neighborhood has really embraced. Since COVID changed everything for restaurants, they have taken the lead in supporting community initiatives to make sure that people in need are being fed, and in general they are great neighbours.
Cravings For Italian
For excellent pizza, head to Vesta or Milkflower in Astoria, Louie’s in East Elmhurst, or Scarr’s in Manhattan’s East Village.
Where I Bring Friends In The Industry
I would direct friends to Dosa Delight, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant in my neighborhood, and-or Cositas Ricas, for some meat-heavy Colombian food and fruity drinks. Otherwise, there’s also Joe’s Steam Rice Roll in Flushing.
Celebrating Special Occasions
If I’m celebrating in a post-COVID world, in which we can comfortably gather in dining rooms again, I might head to Keen’s Steakhouse in Manhattan. The steaks are reliably excellent and the room and service have been unchanged for decades. It’s an unreconstructed steakhouse experience. For an extraordinary seafood experience with top-notch service, there’s also Le Bernardin. I also love Dirt Candy for a fun, delicious and dynamic vegetable tasting menu. Chef Amanda Cohen makes fun, playful, delicious and exciting food that’s changing the way people think about vegetarian food. Her cooking is also served in a comfortable atmosphere without a whiff of patchouli.
Selected Works: Appetites: A Cookbook (2016), World Travel: An Irreverent Guide and Bourdain: The Oral Biography (to be published in October 2021).
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