HOME > Chowhound > Outer Boroughs >

Discussion

NYC Food Myths

  • j
  • Jim Leff Feb 7, 2002 02:35 AM

Dave Feldman and I were commenting on how it's been a long, long time since NYC was full of great neighborhood pizzerias, and that gave me an idea.

What are other untrue/outdated NYC food reputations? I'll contribute a couple:

1. Astoria is a Greek Nabe with great Greek Restaurants (there are still some Greek people and eateries, but both in fast decline, and there are no "great" Greek restaurants there, IMO...the nabe is more thrivingly Bosnian/Egyptian/Moroccan/Brazilian/Mexican)

2. H&H are classic old-fashioned NYC bagels (those big puffy, bready pale things? A classic old-fashioned NYC bagel is dense, dark, jaw-breakingly chewy and substantial, with crunchy blistery bumps).

3. Manhattan has tons of great little Italian spots (not in my lifetime)

any others?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. c
    Craig Bodine

    Another NYC enduring chow myth is that there are thousands of great "delis" in the city. The day of the
    real NYC kosher delicatessen is long over, and the word
    "deli" is so dumbed down as to be an emabrassment.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Craig Bodine
      c
      Caitlin Wheeler

      Before I lived in NYC, I was in school in CT, and my dad would come visit from Los Angeles where I grew up and we'd go to New York for the day. He always insisted on going to these horrible delis in midtown -- because everyone KNOWS New York has the best delis! The Carnegie was always full, so we'd go to the awful ones nearby. Ugh. Last time my parents visited and insisted on deli, I took them to 2nd Ave., and made them wait.

      1. re: Caitlin Wheeler
        j
        Josh Lichtman

        |Those terrible NYC hotdogs served with care on every Manhattan corner boiled lackluster served on a wonder bun.

        1. re: Josh Lichtman

          I'll concur they are not great.

          However, did anyone ever think they were? Ive heard paeans to all kinds of NYC food, some of which were justified and some not.

          But Ive never heard anyone tell me that I had to have one of the hot dogs from the carts.

          Speaking of carts, though, there is a cart that is usually stationed on 5th avenue between 22nd and 23rd (on the west side of the street) that does kebabs and so on, that often has a line. The guy running it seems to know his customers and is really friendly.

          My neighbor in the workplace cubefarm, raves about it....

    2. NYC has great steakhouses. BS! Even worse, most of them now have a "NY Strip". A real NY place never has that, they have a shell steak. Nick + Steffs, the joint on Greenwich + Laight, Smith + Wollensky the hall of shame goes on and on...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Ivan Stoler

        What about Peter Luger? I haven't been, but everyone who has swears up and down it's fabulous.

      2. j
        JessicaSophia

        two things:

        I think New York Cheesecake being so great is a myth. Or it might just be that I'm spoiled by my mom's cheesecake. But you go to Juniors, and your cheesecake is dry and crumbly.

        Also, when I first moved here, one of my friends back home in Chicago raved about the black & white cookies. "You've got to try one!" She said. "You can only find them in New York." So I dutifully went to a bakery and bought one and found them to be bland, tasteless and otherwise unremarkable. Every so often, I'll try another one just to make sure, and always have the same result. Who the hell eats these cookies????

        23 Replies
        1. re: JessicaSophia

          Wholeheartedly agree about Junior's. Besides being dry and crumbly, they put peanuts on it - bleah. Not to speak of that "strawberry" red goo...

          But Veniero's or Ferarra's ricotta cheesecake - well, well... those are pretty tasty.

          1. re: Katerina

            There you have it, they're tasty 'cause they're not NY cheesecakes.

            1. re: guglhupf

              I don't know, I've had some pretty fantastic cheesecake at Peter Luger's, and i think maybe at Sparks or Ben Benson's. The black and white -- i agree with you, what a disappointment. But my suspicion with that is that those were NEVER good -- just pretty.

              1. re: Jason W.

                I've seen, but never tried, some beautiful looking black & whites at a bakery, take-out gourmet place on Hudson Street somewhere near Carmine, on the east side of the street. Anyone know this place? Tried the b&w's?

                1. re: Peter Cuce

                  Hi Chowhounds,
                  In williamsburg Fortunato brothers on manhattan ave makes awesome cheesecake.And a few blocks away you can pick up a killer slice of pizza
                  at San Marco Pizza on Lorimer St.My NY Food Myth is
                  you can get the best Italian food in Little Italy!

                  Happy Eatin
                  Phil D.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    Yes, there is a little bakery on Carmin Street, in between the two Joe's Pizzas, that has excellent black and whites.
                    Pick-A-Bagel also makes an outstanding b&w.

                2. re: guglhupf

                  But then again, check out the raves about Helen's Fabulous Cheesecake below on this thread. Maybe it isn't "New York"... but it IS in New York City.

                  Excuse my ignorance, I thought that the cheesecake was kind of invented in NY, didn't realize that there is a particular variety distinct from others (am not from around here, you see...) I thought the ricotta cheesecake was something thought up by Italian immigrants as a variation on the theme.

                  What's the story? Is cheesecake universal?

                3. re: Katerina

                  PEANUTS? My god, man, what is the world coming to? Do they put peanuts in their plain cheesecake, too?

                  1. re: Lindsay B.

                    I don't know... I went to a friend's party in Park Slope and she had ordered two strawberry cheesecakes from Junior's to represent, you know, "the ultimate" in cheesecake to her guests. They were topped with that red (fake-tasting) stuff and sprinkled with peanuts around the base and on top, which to me was just disgusting. (I'm not allergic, just hate the "surprise" taste of peanuts in dishes where they shouldn't be.) This was enough to turn me off their stuff for good. I mean, who in their right mind...

                    1. re: Katerina

                      Peanuts on cheesecake is a truly horrifying concept.

                      What I liked about Junior's was the style of their cheesecake. It's the only restaurant that I know of that makes the same kind of cheesecake as my great grandmother.

                      The red-good was a bit of a drawback, but there seemed to be a lot of real strawberries in there too.

                    2. re: Lindsay B.
                      t
                      The Turtle (Bay) Dove

                      No - they don't put peanuts on their plain cheesecake. What a scary scary thought. The strawberry and chocolate cheesecakes are pretty god-awful, but I'm still partial to the plain. I've only gotten a single slice once, but I also felt that the one slice, for whatever reason, was not as creamy as a whole cake. Before dismissing Junior's completely, I would suggest getting a whole plain cake - and a lot of people to share it with! Now that I'm on the subject, I think the one I have in my freezer is about to be eaten . . .
                      -Joanna

                  2. re: JessicaSophia

                    Though every "deli" seems to sell black and whites now(in plastic), when you go to a bakery that knows how to make them, they are fantastic. Still a favorite for everyone in my family.

                    As for cheesecakes, I do agree that most are overrated, including Juniors. However, Cascon Cheesecake in Whitestone, Queens is still great.

                    1. re: JessicaSophia

                      I do. I love them. The best B+W cookies, in my opinion, are at the Greek Diner type of place on 10th Avenue across the side street from St.Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. (Stavros?? may be the name of the place)

                      1. re: Zephyr

                        The only good store bought black and whites, and I have tried about 7 different brands, are Beigel's.

                        Zaro's black and whites have really failed me. Everytime I am disappointed.

                        Or if you want to go out to Long Beach, try Country Boy Bakery. I was weaned on those pups.

                        1. re: RachelMolly
                          s
                          Stephanie L.

                          I have never had anything good from Zaro's--it's a mystery to me as to their popularity.

                          1. re: Stephanie L.

                            I enjoy the black and whites at Cake Box bakery in Bay Terrace.

                            1. re: Scott K

                              I was going to say the same thing -
                              Cake Box in Bay Terrace. Grew up there and remember eating B&Ws as a kid.

                      2. re: JessicaSophia

                        Junior's was good, back when neighborhood pizza was good. It's a pale shadow of what it used to be.

                        I'd have agreed about cheesecake EXCEPT some very reliable hounds are raving passionately about Helen's Cheesecake, in brooklyn across from Ferdinando's. There's a thread on this board.

                        (note: if you missed it, you're missing lots of OTHER good stuff, too. That's why we're publishing ChowNews....which distills the best tips and info and presents them in extensive, highly-organized weekly emails complete with all sorts of look-up info. It's a great thing we're totally proud of. See sample issue via link below)

                        ciao

                        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/chownews/ny....

                        1. re: JessicaSophia

                          I think nostalgia is what sells many of the B&W cookies. I remember the bakery cookies from when I was little in Syracuse and get suckered into buying one now and then. Then I vow to make them at home again (from the Polish church ladies' cookbook). Nothing beats those. Gotta make 'em with sour milk or buttermilk for the right flavor.

                          1. re: JessicaSophia

                            IMO, cheesecake should be just-this-side-of-crumbly. Not dry, of course, but not smooth either. I want some evidence that the dish was made with cottage cheese. It's all about the texture. I like mine fairly airy, rather than creamy and mousselike. I really hate those "New York Style" cheesecakes with the layer of sweetened sour cream on top. Ugh.

                            I haven't had Junior's cheesecake since 1996, but I thought it was the bomb at the time.

                            1. re: JessicaSophia

                              Leske's, that old Scandanavian bakery in Bay Ridge makes great back & whites, not to mention great danishes.

                              1. re: JessicaSophia

                                I have friends that live in "other parts" of the country. They all crave me sending them a "NYCheesecake". I try, very hard to explain to them that, in the nicest way, that NYCheesecake, well, sucks, at best. Try a good place that will bake to order and ask for it "slightly UNdercooked" that way it will remain moist rich and dense. NYCheesecake has a crust, that alone ranks it at the bottom of every list.

                                1. re: JessicaSophia

                                  The very best Black and white cookies are made by a wholesale bakery called JMJ baking corp. in LIC, NY. Cakey and soft with a soft glaze on top.

                                  Its not one of those hard cookies with cracked hard glaze on top.

                                2. Nathan's are good (the best even) hot dogs. Haven't been here long enough to know whether they were ever good. They're not now.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: guglhupf
                                    j
                                    JessicaSophia

                                    I'm with you-- they make me queasy, or that might just be watching them slop those greasy red-tinged onions on them, and seeing the people back there sweating on a hot day.

                                    I think the best hot dogs are Gray's Papaya. I've always thought that if I became really poor I would live on Gray's Papaya's recession special, supplemented with pork buns and sesame balls from Chinatown. (eat a sesame ball and you're not hungry for about 2 days!)

                                    1. re: JessicaSophia

                                      Toujours la politesse!

                                      1. re: JessicaSophia

                                        Well, I recently got to try Gray's and thought they weren't as good as Papaya King but the price was nice. Also went back to try the dogs at Katz's and they are far superior to both Gray's and Papaya King but way too expensive. Also they slopped so much juice from the sauerkraut on, that the buns turned to mush.

                                        1. re: Brian W

                                          i don't speak from personal knowledge, but i've seen it posted numerous times that gray's papaya, papaya king AND katz's all use sabrett's dogs.

                                      2. re: guglhupf

                                        I grew up very close to Nathan's and always enjoyed their dogs..and fries...hadn't had them in a more than a few years..funny this thread came up..I was changing planes in Charlotte Airport last week and saw a Nathans!! were the dogs as good as I remember? no...but still better than most of the alternatives at the moment..and I enjoyed it if only for the nostalgia..sadly the fries were nothing like they used to be...now they used much fresher and less tasty oil to fry them in.

                                      3. I agree about the cheesecake and the delis, but c'mon -- you can find really good pizza in practically every neighborhood in New York, especially compared with every other city in the U.S. DiFara's, after all, is a neighborhood pizzeria. Leonardos in Carrol Gardens is good. There's a place in Windsor Terrace that I would travel a bit for. Same with Bay Ridge. I mean, let's not get absurd, here. (As happened in series Chowhound posts I remember from around a year ago, in which a bunch of food intelligencia basically concluded that there is no good Indian food in NYC, that anyone who thinks there is is sadly mistaken, and that the only REALLY spectacular Indian food is prepared by at home by Julie Sahni. Pity the poor shmucks who don't get an invite. Following this logic, you could argue that it's a myth that New York has good food at all -- that the only place to bother eating is Jean Georges, and only when Chef V. himself is in the kitchen.)
                                        Denise

                                        17 Replies
                                        1. re: Denise

                                          Pray tell where is the Windsor Terrace Pizzeria, and what it's name?

                                          1. re: Denise

                                            I share your sentiment. "There's no good XYZ in NYC" presumes familiarity with a standard of quality that many, many New Yorkers have probably never come into contact with. What exactly are we comparing with over here?

                                            I mean, it does seem extreme to bemoan a lack of neighborhood Italian places in NYC. As opposed to WHERE? Italy? OK, I should make that Italian-American places. But at least where I live (Carroll Gardens, Bklyn) there are *quite* a few. Ferdinando's, Mamma Maria, Marco Polo, even that loved and hated Sam's, and I'm not even counting the pizza joints. Are they all *great*? No. Were they ever? Maybe - probably before my time. Too bad, but I'm not going to lose sleep over that. After all, what IS the way it used to be? Not even men are.

                                            1. re: Katerina

                                              I realize my post makes me sound like someone all too happy to accept whatever dumbed-down food is pushed in front of them. That ain't quite so; but I tend to look for the best of what there IS, and not pine after something that isn't.

                                              1. re: Katerina

                                                Sometimes it seems, reading these boards from afar, that there are an awful lot of people in NYC who can't find anything worth eating.

                                                1. re: ironmom

                                                  I'll eat my words.

                                            2. re: Denise

                                              I really can't agree about the pizza. I've tried a good thirty places in Manhattan and Brooklyn and with a few exceptions the pizza ranges from bad to unbelievably horrible. I live on 15th St near 5th Ave in Brooklyn, and I've tried every single place for many blocks around. Lenny's is ok in a pinch, but truthfully, it's not very good. Without a car or a willingness to commute a fair distance, I wouldn't be able to enjoy good pizza. What's the place in Windsor Terrace that you like?

                                              1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                I suspect that the place in Windsor Terrace is Laura's Gourmet Kitchen (1235 Prospect Ave--718-436-3715). I haven't been for three years, when I lived in South Slope and was perhaps less discriminating, but I remember her pizzas being outstanding, and I also usually loved her pastas and tiramisu. Part of the fun was feeling like you'd been invited to Laura's home or maybe to the set of a dysfunctional Italian sitcom. Lots of yelling coming from the open kitchen... Anyone knkow if this place still exists?

                                                1. re: Tom Meg

                                                  Laura's pizza is better than ever. I'm not a big fan of the pastas or even the restaurant itself, but a pizza and a good Italian salad delivered from Laura's never disappoints. My vote for best pie in Park slope + neighborhood.

                                                2. re: Peter Cuce

                                                  Nino's on 3rd Ave between 91st & 92nd Street in Bay ridge is good pizzerira.
                                                  try the eggplant slice & grandma's thin crust.

                                                  gl
                                                  gt

                                                3. re: Denise

                                                  Denise, I'm not mocking or ridiculing your opinion, though I disagree with it. Please show me the same consideration. We're all entitled to an opinion here....even me.

                                                  I envy you if you enjoy a lot of pizza and Indian food in NY. I would prefer to find easier enjoyment. But a few things:

                                                  I'm having trouble understanding the logic of your conclusion that, since Difara's and a couple of others are good neighborhood pizzerias, that means that neighborhood pizza in NY is good.

                                                  In any case, I personally find 95% of pizza in NY utterly inedible, and of the remaining 5%, 4% is one step up from inedible. 99% of area slice pizzerias use ingredients from one single supplier. The one-step-from-inedible ones skillfully doctor those lame supplies. The 1% standouts manage to work outside the mainstream supply system. I've heard rumors (and my palate agrees) that the supplier is the same outfit supplying school lunchroom pizza supplies. Indeed, 95% of NY pizza does taste like school lunchroom pizza. Twenty five years ago, nearly all neighborhood pizza was at least edible, and you could find dozens of standout neighborhood spots. NY still maintains its pizza reputation from this long-gone period.

                                                  Just my opinion.

                                                  And it's a good analogy: Julie Sahni indeed represents the Jean Georges of Indian cookery (though you don't need an invite...her cookbooks are awesome, and while you can't equal her skill, your results will far surpass what you'd be served in most local restaurants). The problem is that there is very very little in the vast middle terrain between--to extend the analogy--Jean Georges and Benningtons when it comes to Indian restaurants (I'm talking quality, not price). The few exceptions (Punjabi Diner, Dosa Hutt, Mavali Palace, etc) have been extensively discussed on these boards. In fact, the purpose of these boards is to suss out exceptions to ANY prevalent mediocrity. That's what we're HERE for. Chowhounding is ABOUT being finicky, that's the whole POINT.

                                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                                    Finding good pizza is the most extreme example for me: when out-of-town friends come around, I have to drag them out to Brooklyn and in my heart I know that there are only a handful of pies worth a damn in this town.

                                                    Any other myth can at least be held in abeyance: it's easier to show a Britisher what a real bagel should taste like (or knock their socks off with a bialy) or show off the handful of decent chinese (or surpass that with malaysian or vietnamese restaurants), than to find a good slice of pizza.

                                                    In fact, typing this brings me to a realization: I more often bait-and-switch to impress...when they ask me to fulfill New York Myth X, I often find myself in the position of offering a new and improved alternative - want good Cantonese? How about trying Fujianese instead?

                                                    In fact that’s why living in New York is better than the myth…it’s epic and changing and challenging...the variety of it all...Jim’s website reads like an ideal for living in New York...for a Chowhound who is paying attention there is always some secret deliciousness [tm] to sniff out, just around the curve of diminishing results.

                                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                                      sure, whoever wrote this did so years ago, but I just signed up. So cut me a little slack. Anyway, I can't help but disagree so incredibly much with the comment of almost all NY pizza being bad. I've lived here my whole life and eaten pizza at hundreds of places. And the best pizza really is here. Not the chains like Ray Bari and Sbarro and the Ray clones. Nothing where a tourist would bother going. Just some poor shlub's place on some random corner where the guy works until 3am every day. Like Tony's on First Avenue or Sorisi in Forest Hills. The whole point of NY pizza is that it's big and generic. Greasy and cheesy and something you can eat when you got off the subway and you're hungry and just want to go to bed and it's 8pm and you don't want to cook. And you want to eat it walking home. And if it doesn't taste good cold or scald the roof of your mouth hot, it didn't do it's job. Fancy, trendy pizza is another animal. It's touch and go. Usually go. Like I said, I now live in Forest Hills and am fortunate enough to be able to say that two of the best pizza places in the city (from a fancy pizza point of view) are here. Dee's Brick Oven on metropolitan, and Nick's on Ascan. These are great pizza places. I think that everyone's aggravating "myths" are based on nothing but some form of faux nostalgia for the good old days. But in those days, people made similar comments about the world falling apart. So I guess that if we actually listen to these complainers, the farther back in time you go, the better. And one day, we'll find a point in time where the food was so good that if you dared eat it, you'd have an orgasm so powerful that your heart would rupture and you'd die.

                                                      1. re: molace

                                                        The expectations are definitely high, as a rule. Whether that "foodgasm", as you put it, ever existed as a state of being or not, NY Pizza lovers are kind of like Yankee fans. Nothing short of a championship will suffice.

                                                        That said, in your vast NYC pizza experience as you describe it, I can only hope that you've frequented workingman slice joints far better than Sorisi's. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's bad pizza. In a pinch, I would consider it passable at best. But there's far better out there, regardless of the true state of the NYC pizza scene.
                                                        P.

                                                        1. re: Polecat

                                                          "I can only hope that you've frequented workingman slice joints far better than Sorisi's. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's bad pizza. In a pinch, I would consider it passable at best"

                                                          True. But while I wouldn't invite friends over to sample their haute cuisine, when I get off the subway and I want a slice on the way home, for whatever reason I want them.

                                                        2. re: molace

                                                          "I think that everyone's aggravating "myths" are based on nothing but some form of faux nostalgia for the good old days. But in those days, people made similar comments about the world falling apart. So I guess that if we actually listen to these complainers, the farther back in time you go, the better. And one day, we'll find a point in time where the food was so good that if you dared eat it, you'd have an orgasm so powerful that your heart would rupture and you'd die. "

                                                          Perfectly stated.

                                                          Look, things change. Maybe pizza was better in the old days but maybe memory plays tricks. It's not like we can get into the Wayback machine and do a slice to slice comparison.

                                                          I do know that the overall quality and depth of restaurants in NYC far exceeds what was available 30 years ago. In place of the chow mein joints we have Chinese restaurants covering 5 or 6 different regions. Mexican places abound - try getting Mexican food in 1976. The same with Indian. Central Asian places are in Queens and Brooklyn. There are plenty of good Thai places out there along with the jewel in the crown, Sri.

                                                          Italian food in NYC 30 years ago was almost invariably the standard red sauce stuff - now you've got dozens of choices.

                                                          New York is a better restaurant city now than in those good old days.

                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            Hear hear.

                                                          2. re: molace

                                                            i happen to like dee's also, but people give a lot of flack for saying so. A&J on austin is also good, as is arianna and if you
                                                            go down to main street, alba is also great. i think some people
                                                            are afraid to try someplace new.

                                                      2. t
                                                        tom philpott

                                                        Myth: NY is a great coffee town. the Village and Soho and chelsea are full of wonderful little cafes that serve excellent coffee. Porto Rico keeps the city going with its woderful, inexpensive beans.

                                                        Reality: There are a few decent spots in above-named nabes, but NY is really only a great coffee town if you love Starbucks. Cafe Reggio, for example, is a wonderful space and i will stand in front of the machines before it's converted into a Starbucks or a Gap, but the coffee there is really execrable. Outside of those nabes its either deli dreck or Strabucks (or one of those other chains). the fanciest restaurants all buy their beans from a Philly roaster. Here in brooklyn, I can think of few great coffee houses. I like Muddy Waters in Prospect heights for its drip coffee; Ozzie's in Park slope is medicocre on a good day.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: tom philpott
                                                          r
                                                          Ray DeLaPena

                                                          Before I agree (which I do for the most part) I need a little clarification about the myth. Are you talking about American coffee, espresso-based drinks, or coffee in general? Because I have to say that the espresso and capuccino at Reggio is a level above what you can find in 99% of the coffee shops I've been to in, or out of, the city. In gerenal I agree about NY as a coffee town. To be sure New Yorkers drink a LOT of coffee and in that sense we can go toe to toe with almost any city in the world, but "great" coffee is hard to find here indeed.

                                                          1. re: Ray DeLaPena

                                                            You guys are totaly right - there should be more excellent coffee in NYC. I think Oren's sells the best coffee in NY.

                                                            1. re: nerdybird

                                                              Oh man, I so agree. Com'on Peet's. We need you here!

                                                          2. re: tom philpott

                                                            myth: that little italy is the place for great italian pastries

                                                            1. re: tom philpott

                                                              That sure is a myth, and it's one I'm not even aware of. New York has been famous for its bad coffee for at least 50 years. It has been called "swill" or "dishwater" for decades.

                                                              I know that there are places to get a great cup of coffee here but they really don't count when you consider the dynamic of this city. We are a coffee-in-a-bag, drink-on-the-job city, not a linger-at-the-coffeehouse city. Everyone drubs Starbuck's, and they are not so good, but they did one thing: They helped bring up the level of competition for luncheonettes and coffee shops in general. People will no longer accept the "dishwater" that was once handed out. I suspect that Latinos also had a hand in the coffee revolution in NY. When they started working behind the counters in large numbers the coffee started to improve. Before them, Greek diners were notorious for bad coffee, but when was the last time you heard someone taste their coffee and remark, "They need to change the sock!"

                                                            2. n
                                                              Nina Wugmeister

                                                              What about roasted nuts on the street? Every time I try them they're either stale or completely artificial tasting, or so sweet they make me gag. And the whole chestnut thing is a myth in itslef...they're always dried out, not fresh, and bland.

                                                              1. Thanks for helping to debunk H&H. That one's a particular pet peeve of my Mom's that I've "inherited."

                                                                1. Great thread! It's at the heart of chowhound's mission to debunk the mythical and experience the real.

                                                                  Two myths that NYC does not deserve:

                                                                  Myth: Chinese food in NY is bland, boring, and Americanized. (I've heard this even in recent years from West Coasters and Londoners.)

                                                                  Reality: The evidence is all over this site, going back years to many regional cuisines and styles.

                                                                  Myth: Service in NY is rude/unprofessional.

                                                                  Reality: Whenever I travel I'm struck by how slow and unprofessional food service elsewhere is. In Europe, while not "unprofessional," many servers seem to have a civil-servant attitude to the work. I think this myth perpetuates because New Yorkers set the bar very high and will complain about things other places take for granted.

                                                                  21 Replies
                                                                  1. re: lucia

                                                                    I totally agree with you about New York service. I think service is better here than anywhere I've visited yet. However, I can't agree with you about the Chinese food. I come from London, and I've tried very hard to find decent Chinese food in New York. However, I've been disappointed over and over again despite many recommendations from various sources suggesting different places throughout the boroughs.

                                                                    1. re: Sharon
                                                                      n
                                                                      Nina Wugmeister

                                                                      Sharon, where have you tried?

                                                                      1. re: Nina Wugmeister

                                                                        I've been here five years, and I've tried so many horrible Chinese restaurants. I used to live near Chinatown, and I went to many of the places discussed on these boards, and I've been horribly disappointed. I've been to places in Queens that were supposed to be top-notch and been disappointed once again. I've been taken to the "fancy" places in Manhattan and probably had the worst food of all at those places. I know there might be one or two nice places hidden away somewhere that I haven't been to yet. It's just that I was so shocked at the overall horrible level of the Chinese food when I came here. I never thought the Chinese food in London was particularly good until I moved here and started tasting some of the sweet, bland, nasty overcooked garbage masquerading as Chinese food here.

                                                                        1. re: Sharon
                                                                          n
                                                                          Nina Wugmeister

                                                                          Well all I can say is that we had some truly great food at Funky Broome on Saturday (see thread). Give it a shot. Have you tried New Green Bo?

                                                                          1. re: Nina Wugmeister

                                                                            I was at New Green Bo last night and tried the Dave Feldman-recommended fried pork dumplings--they were very tasty, just as he said. Nice texture to the wrapper, a little peanut-y taste. I also had the bean curd skin soup with bean thread noodles, which had a great-tasting broth in addition to the bean curd skin wrapped around small pieces of meat. There were also little vegetable pickles floating around in there--I didn't know Chinese soups had this condiment.

                                                                            1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                                              I believe there are 2 different types of CHinese food (and I don't mean cantonese vs sichuan). THere's authentic Chinese food as in Grand Sichuan International and suburban Chinese food where you would get the dish General Tao'c Chicken and order chicken fingers. I happen to enjoy both and while I think that NY has great authentic CHinese food, I really miss the suburban variation.

                                                                              1. re: Kiki
                                                                                c
                                                                                Caitlin Wheeler

                                                                                Ah, but is it a lack of suburban Chinese food experience that is preventing you from having it, or your guilt over ordering General Tso's chicken at an authentic place? There is a Shanghai restaurant near me that does fantastic soup dumplings. Other posters on the board have recommended their eel dishes, and their menu features many authentic Shanghai specialties. They also do a mean General Tso's chicken (I know because I also like suburban Chinese food, and do have a craving for the Good General from time to time.) So if a place's authentic food is good, you might want to give the old standards a try.

                                                                                1. re: Kiki
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  silver queen

                                                                                  Grand Sichuan and New Green Bo and Sweet n' Tart and Funky Broome are good as far as it goes, but absolutely pale before the kinds of Chinese food you can find in Vancouver, Toronto, the SF Peninsula and the San Gabriel Valley. It's not that the places here are particularly ``inauthentic,'' whatever that means. They're just insufficiently realized.

                                                                                  1. re: silver queen
                                                                                    j
                                                                                    josh lichtman

                                                                                    Grand Sichuan and New Green Bo and Sweet n' Tart and Funky Broome

                                                                                    Are all very Zagatized joints. search the city and you find Chinease food bliss.

                                                                                    1. re: josh lichtman

                                                                                      Yeah, it's impossible to enjoy a place if it's well-known. So what are these "non-Zagatized" joints that you love so much. Don't hold out on us.

                                                                                  2. re: Kiki

                                                                                    I have a weakness for what we used to call "borough Cantonese", the only Chinese food available in the outer boroughs when I was growing up in Queens. We used to go to Lum's on Northern Boulevard on special occasions and if Dad was feeling flush, order 2 from Column A and 1 from B rather than the reverse! Great spare ribs, shrimp toast, lobster Cantonese, Sweet and Sour pork, Wor Shu Opp - the list goes on. Sure it was Americanized and highly "inauthentic" and if you asked for chili sauce they would have brought you ketchup, but it was fun and filling.

                                                                                    I live up in Riverdale, and the Golden Gate on Johnson and 236th still serves that cuisine. It's now a comfort food for me, and two or three times a year, I just have to have some (with Wonton soup, of course, and plenty of fried noodles to toss in it).

                                                                                    1. re: Stan
                                                                                      b
                                                                                      Barry Sakowitz

                                                                                      Lum's unfortunately burned down about 9 years ago. Anyone know whether it reopened elsewhere? I am seeking a restaurant that would offer foods similar to Lum's: Roast Pork Turnovers served with sweet scallion sauce, Lobster or Shrimp Dow See (Special Black Bean Sauce without all the vegetables), Lobster Rolls with chunks of fresh lobster meat, etc. etc. This place was special to me and I traveled to it from New Jersey for over 30 years until it burned down. Any information anyone has would be most appreciated.

                                                                                2. re: Nina Wugmeister

                                                                                  I'll give it another shot. I guess the thing is not that I doubt that you can find a wonderful meal if you're willing to seek it out, it's that it's so hard to find even a passable meal when there are SO MANY Chinese restaurants here. In London, a lot of the Chinese food isn't that terrific, but it's really not that hard to find a decent restaurant that consistently produces the goods.

                                                                                  1. re: Sharon
                                                                                    j
                                                                                    josh lichtman

                                                                                    New Green Bo is Shangai as Funky Broom is Cantonese. very different. If your looking for solid Hong Kong food, Jade Palace in both brooklyn and queens is very good as ocean palace on 8th ave in sunset park. The Cantonese rest a few doors down from new green bo is very good, esp the meats. ask for richard. they also do wonderful things with seafood.

                                                                                3. re: Sharon

                                                                                  is it possible that growing up on a different continent you're just used to a DIFFERENT chinese food? you're going to chinatown places that cater to chinese immigrants and saying THEY don't know what good chinese food is? ludicrous.

                                                                                  1. re: madrigalq

                                                                                    Actually, the best chinese food can now be found in Flushing or Brooklyn's Chinatown (Sunset Park). It's a bit of a myth that the best Chinese food in the country can be found in Manhattan's Chinatown. I believe a lot of the best restaurants fled/went OOB after 9/11.

                                                                                    1. re: AngelaH

                                                                                      "It's a bit of a myth that the best Chinese food in the country can be found in Manhattan's Chinatown." Definitely a myth! I didn't realize people are making that claim.

                                                                              2. re: Sharon

                                                                                The only place I've had better service than NY was in Japan, and that extends to any consumer experience, not just in food.

                                                                              3. re: lucia

                                                                                Agreed on the Chinese food. I rarely bother any more. (Used to live in San Francisco.)

                                                                                1. re: lucia
                                                                                  r
                                                                                  Ray DeLaPena

                                                                                  I don't know if we can debunk this one totally. I wholeheartedly agree that restaurant service does not deserve the bad reputation it gets in the city. Places like Sam's & Ferdinando's can't be topped for me. However, service overall is most decidedly worse in NY than other places. Especially in grocery stores or other shopping establishments. How many times have you been checked out without ever having been looked at? Or perhaps you're familiar with standing in the middle of a conversation between the checkout person in line 9 and 10 like you are no more than an annoying disruption? Forget asking someone where something is if you can't find it. One time my wife asked for a little help finding something in a store, and when the employee said "I'm not sure." and walked away, my wife made the mistake of following (assuming the employee was leading her somewhere) only to find out that she was just following this person to wherever their next hang-out was to be. I suppose that within the context of restaurants it's a myth but we can't wholly deny that we deserve this one.

                                                                                  1. re: Ray DeLaPena

                                                                                    I do agree with you about shop service. Sometimes its hard to remember you're in a market, not the DMV.

                                                                                    But I was thinking of table service, which in NY is generally civilized. In a NY restaurant if the server spills your coffee when it's put down, you take note. Likewise, if there is no bread on the table or service is slow, you notice. In my experience, this sort of thing is more like the standard in many places, and you notice when it is better.

                                                                                2. So from an southern guy who has been to NYC twice (and will probably return in March) and loves hot H&H bagels on the Upper West Side near the... (dang, what's the theater's name where the Allmon Bros play 2 weeks every winter?), where do I find the BEST bagels?

                                                                                  18 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Tater

                                                                                    You're thinking of the Beacon Theatre. As for Bagels, there are many better than HH. Different folks prefer different types. I still like Ess-A-Bagel.

                                                                                    1. re: Zephyr

                                                                                      My favorite bagel place is Hot Bagels on Houston between Ludlow and ORchard.

                                                                                    2. re: Tater

                                                                                      Best in Manhattan right now are at Koessar's Bialies (they used to have so-so bagels, but something happened). 367 Grand St. They don't bake them themselves, though. I've never succeeded in figuring out their source. Anyone want to pitch in an hour per day to stake 'em out and watch for the delivery truck (and note the name)?

                                                                                      Even these aren't like the really old-fashioned ones. All the bagels in town are lightning/puffing up. Hey, people like them that way. You can no longer find the archetypal dark, dense, small, chewy, malty bagel these days. I'm ready to give up, 'cuz I sound like one of those musty language curmudgeons, griping about bastardized words in spite of the inevitable flow of language. These pale bready jive things truly are the new definition of "New York Style" and I am a raving hold-out.

                                                                                      Maybe I should grow my fingernails real long and save every piece of paper that comes into my apartment....

                                                                                      ciao

                                                                                      1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                        The change in the their bagels came when the new ownership took over, and they became truly kosher, closing on Friday night(our night to stock up, unfortunately). My understanding is that the people who owned the bagel shop around the corner, bought Kossars.

                                                                                        1. re: Linda

                                                                                          thanks, linda!

                                                                                          so you think the bagels are made right around the corner? wow, right under our noses. and I'd never heard a WHISPER about that bagel shop.

                                                                                          Anyone been there to confirm they're the same bagels?

                                                                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                            Jim, afraid that I gave you misinformation, I searched the web for more info on those bagels. I still think that the new owners had a connection to the bagel store that WAS around the corner(don't know if it still is will have to check). However, check this out:http://www.kossarsbialys.com/Bagel%20...

                                                                                            Kossars claims they are making those bagels, with videos of the process...and they even say they have a "newly installed Middleby-Marshall rotating shelf oven" for the baking part. Although they never say if it's actually on the premises.

                                                                                            1. re: Linda

                                                                                              You've more than compensated for the disinformation with this interesting new tidbit (can I get that video from Amazon.com?).

                                                                                              I'd been wondering about this situation; coulda
                                                                                              sworn that those bagels aren't sold anywhere else within twenty miles. If they are indeed doing them themselves (which I'd HEARD wasn't the case), that vindicates me. I'd hate to think there's some great little bagel place I'd not discovered.

                                                                                              Wait a minute....what am I SAYING??? I'd LOVE to think that! I NEED to think that!!

                                                                                              I'm having a crisis. Excuse me while I binge on Rasberry Ginger cereal.

                                                                                              ciao

                                                                                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                OH MY GOD, ****GREAT**** LINK!!!

                                                                                                We've hit the motherlode!!!! Downloadable MPG movies! And EVERYthing!

                                                                                                Thank you!!

                                                                                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                  I could have sworn on my taste buds that I saw the great one rolls trays of bagels and put them in the very oven at the very store at Kossars.

                                                                                                  Me and my buddy were hungry for some carbs after a night of drinking at the ludlow area. We were there at around 3am. This was last year.

                                                                                                2. re: Linda

                                                                                                  There is a Gertel's around the corner on Hester St., which has bread but I'm not sure they have bagels. They do have excellent whitefish sandiwches on onion rolls -- probably the last place in NY you can get a whitefish salad sandwich for under $4.

                                                                                            2. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                              Anyone nearby might want to check out Bagels on Bartow in Co-op City. They still make the really dense, chewy style bagels Jim is talking about.

                                                                                              1. re: Bronx Bill

                                                                                                Which leads to the final food myth: that this town is "sewn up", food-wise, and there are no surprises left.

                                                                                                Thanks, Bronx Bill. What a pleasure to know about this.

                                                                                                ciao

                                                                                                1. re: Bronx Bill

                                                                                                  There are two main bagel stores in Riverdale, both owned by the same folks (one is kosher and is closed Saturday but open Sunday while the other is not kosher and reverses it's closing dates). Although they should be identical, I prefer the kosher one (Rolen Bagels) on Riverdale Ave around 237th Street. Their bagels are crusty, nicely chewy and come in the traditional varieties (no blueberry(!) or oat bran). Of course, I prefer my bagels toasted, so what do I know?

                                                                                                  1. re: Stan

                                                                                                    Thanks Stan for the Bagel tip! I tried the Rolen bagels and Biayle today. I've not seen blisters like these on bagels for a long time. The bagels are chewy and light, with a shiny and crusty coat. There's the flavor of the flour that's so simple and vital that's often missing in other bagels. The pumpernickle is quite intense, almost making me sneeze with it's strong scent. Most of all, I appreciated the plain bagel because it restored the believe that a plain bagel is NOT suppose to taste like cardboard, and that if a bagel is good, you don't need to put anything on it. Now I can say good-bye to H & H's "stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth" bagels forever, or at least, until they change their recipe.

                                                                                                2. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                  Month's ago, I asked the older guy who works there where they were making the bagels and he said in the basement. I took him on his word and headed out the door to start scarfing on a warm bagel... maybe he's just keeping up a front? I'll ask again as I live nearby and stop by almost weekly to fill the freezer.

                                                                                                3. re: Tater

                                                                                                  When I first came to NY I too thought H&H to be great. Perhaps it did help that they were delivered fresh every morning to my corner store. Sesame or cinnamon/raisin or poppy were my choices.

                                                                                                  On exploring the city I was surprised that Zabar's, right next door to one of the biggest H&H locations did not carry H&H. I had had bialys and bagels flown from Zabar's to New Orleans. And then I learn that Zabar's doesn't bake. And their Bagels were not from H&H. From Columbia Bagels 2836 Broadway, New York, NY 10025 (212) 222-3200. Right there walking distance from our Columbia housing.

                                                                                                  And now there is Kossar's to explore. It has been years since I have gone to Zabars. Perhaps they have switched to Kossar's as well.

                                                                                                  1. re: wrayb

                                                                                                    Yessir, let's hear it for Columbia bagels!!!!!!!!!! They are GOOD. (Although on a visit to this former neighborhood of mine I was dismayed to see the price has risen to $.60 from the $.55 of my memory. Tsk, tsk.) They also seem to have become slightly puffier than they used to be - ?? - but still delicious, especially when still warm... The pumpernickel is particularly tasty, and with cream cheese and lox...

                                                                                                    Those guys are open 24 hours. They are at Broadway and 110th, NE corner, right by the subway stop. They became my first NY food addiction when I came here 5 and a half years ago.

                                                                                                    1. re: Katerina

                                                                                                      Glad you chimed in with NYC value added address.

                                                                                                      Last night when I was posting when I should have been sleeping I could not remember exactly where Columbia bagels is. Looking it up in superpages.com gave me the address but double checking online map sources did not make me feel confidant about the block. But now it comes back to me. Next the the 110 Market, by the bus stop. The hard decisions of the past: of going to market and picking up bagels at 1am or trusting that I will get up early enough to make the trip in the morning.

                                                                                                4. t
                                                                                                  tom philpott

                                                                                                  Is it me, or did it used to be a lot easier to get a wonderful fallafel (pardon my spelling)? I lived here for a summer in 1989, and i survived on the stuff. I would wander into a random shop front, and be transported for about 2 bucks. I remember a great one on 6th ave and about 10th or 11th, and others all over the Village and the rest of the city. Now, with a few marvelous exceptions (bow in the direction of Hell's Kitchen, where the great Azuri's resides), most of the fellafel that you get seems mediocre. for example, I like Rainbow down by union square, but by no means do i *love* it.
                                                                                                  I think there may be a general idea that NY is a great fellafel town--I know i spread it before moving hear 3 years ago. And i think it might be wrong.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: tom philpott

                                                                                                    ya gotta come out to steinway street in queens for the best falafal. try el-rawsheh (i'm sure i'm spelling that wrong) which is a great little market around 28th ave. egyptian, i think, but i'm not sure.

                                                                                                    1. re: tom philpott

                                                                                                      I can't verify that they're still there (help?), but Moshe's Kosher Felafel (a food van) used to be parked on either 45th or 46th Street just East of 6th Ave. I'm a felafel fan (currently working in NJ and surviving on felafel from "Jerusalem" on Rte 10 in Livingston), and to my mind, Moshe's was the best in town. Fresh, well seasoned, served with plenty of tahini and/or hot sauce AND a pickel! If they're still around, give it a try.

                                                                                                    2. I totally agree with the first two (I don't totally agree with your description of a NY bagel, but I agree that H&H is not it). The third -- well, there are a lot of decent Italian spots, but not many great ones.

                                                                                                      A couple of other myths:

                                                                                                      -- New York is full of great, cheap delis (there are some great ones, but many are overrated -- Carnegie, Stage, etc.)

                                                                                                      -- There are no good Mexican restaurants in NYC (most of my LA friends still believe this). (There are, in fact, lots of good ones, tho admittedly not as many as in LA)

                                                                                                      26 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Dan

                                                                                                        do you think your LA friends are talking about mexican cuisine or about the california interpretation thereof? because it seems to me that there may be a lot of mexican restaurants out here, but you will not find a place that serves the kind of burrito you get in california. you just won't. nothing is more disappointing than biting into one and getting that distinct flavor that is curiously similar to the dominican rice and beans next door. it's tasty, but it's not what you'd find in a california burrito. then again, in the bronx, the "real" mexican restaurants i've been to serve carne asada that tastes like shoe leather and the burritos come with a slice of melted processed "american" cheese on top. i don't know if these traditions are mexican, californian, or new yorkian(?) but they're definitely not tasty.

                                                                                                        that said, i freely admit i haven't gone out to queens to check out what seems to be the haven for mexican food, and i eagerly anticipate doing so. believe me, this "no good mexican food" myth about new york is one i'd be elated to see shot down--especially if it involved a fantastic chile relleno!

                                                                                                        1. re: Maggie

                                                                                                          Please offer specifics about this "great Mexican food" in New York City. One of the great tragedies of moving here from California is the total lack of even halfway decent burritios. The salsa's all wrong, the tortillas come wrapped in wax paper (not foil)! I could go on. But burritos aren't the whole enchilada, of course. What NYC Mexican have you liked? Please enlighten me.

                                                                                                          1. re: Adam B.

                                                                                                            First of all, check out the mexican neighborhoods in NYC. Check out Jackson Heights/Corona, Spanish Harlem (116th/3rd-2nd), Sunset Park, or in the Bronx (don't know the specifics) and see what the mexican immigrants are eating. Yeah, the burritos are not up to what you might be accustomed to from California (but that's a cali thing anyway), but the food is still good, and seemingly getting better. And work on your spanish.

                                                                                                            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                                                            1. re: Eric Eto

                                                                                                              Most Mexican immigrants to NYC are from Puebla. I don't know where they're from in California or the culinary significance thereof, but that may account for the difference (especially re burritos). Two restaurants in the Bronx I and others have posted about that are pretty fantastic are Real Azteca, 163rd Street between Southern Blvd. and Simpson St (Hunts Point stop on the 6 train), and La Espiga IV at SOuthern Blvd. between 149th St and Avenue St. John (149th stop on the 6 train). Less good but decent is Tulcingo, on Gerard between McClellan and 167th (167th stop on the 4 train).

                                                                                                              1. re: JackS

                                                                                                                It's good to know there are some consistencies between boroughs as well. In Queens, a couple of my favorites include the original branches of La Espiga (103rd just south of Roosevelt) and also reliable is the Tulcingo on Roosevelt and 82nd. Also, thanks for providing the subway stops for the bronx joints. I'm gonna have to try out Real Azteca once the weather warms up.

                                                                                                                1. re: Eric Eto

                                                                                                                  Is there another La Espiga branch? Where is it and how does it compare? Do they serve the same menu?

                                                                                                                  1. re: chowbabe

                                                                                                                    There are a couple branches of La Espiga in Queens. I don't have exact addresses but one is in Corona on 103rd or 104th (near National St), and one in Astoria by the N/W tracks near Broadway (I think). Best to do a search and you'll find it.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Eric Eto

                                                                                                                      Thanks. Is one better than the other? Same menu?

                                                                                                            2. re: Adam B.

                                                                                                              it's my understanding that burritos are not very authentic mexican cuisine. what you miss are califorina style burritos and this is new york so you are understandedly disappointed here. maybe a california person will open up a place and make that style, but it doesn't seem like california immigrants are too interested in doing that so far. too bad i love those cali burritos too.

                                                                                                              1. re: mrnyc

                                                                                                                Did any of you guys catch the article about the NYC woman who took the bus all way to Boston just to get a burrito from Anna's Taqueria? I eat at Anna's several times a month, but the idea that anyone would travel across town, let alone across state lines to eat there boggled my mind. It's a good, cheap, CA-style taqueria. Reading about the lack of California-style Mexican in NYC, I'm beginning to understand its long-distance appeal.

                                                                                                                1. re: Lindsay B.
                                                                                                                  n
                                                                                                                  NYT article on burrito trip

                                                                                                                  I know, that was crazy--she essentially took an eight hour day trip just for a burrito. I don't know, I like burritoes but it would take a lot more than a burrito alone for me to ride eight hours on the bus.

                                                                                                                  1. re: NYT article on burrito trip

                                                                                                                    I dunno, I'm thinking of doing it to try Difara's pizza.....(g)

                                                                                                                    1. re: galleygirl
                                                                                                                      c
                                                                                                                      Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                      The trip clearly wasn't about the objective quality of the burrito; it was about her inability to replicate her cherished food memory in another place. This may or may not be a defensible idea, depending on you POV, but I think traveling to try something NEW is a bit different. A quest for a new experience. One of the Chowhound Hall of Fame stories I've heard was from someone who said she spent a day driving 400 miles in Maine, in a blinding rainstorm, in search of the perfect doughnut. (Unfortunately, I don't think she posts here, and even more unfortuately, she didn't say if she found that doughnut and if so, where!)

                                                                                                              2. re: Adam B.

                                                                                                                If you're willing to try the outer boroughs, i recommend this place in the other direction:

                                                                                                                Mission Burittos in Hoboken, NJ (4th Street b/w Garden and Park... a short walk from the PATH train).

                                                                                                                This place is run by 3 guys from Mexico, but only 2 are there at one time (the other one goes back to Mexico for 4 months, then he comes back and another one goes back "home", and they rotate, working 8 months straight, 7 days a week... then 4 months off again).

                                                                                                                It's a "hole in the wall" type of place that i would never go into if it wasn't recommended to me, but the food is truely amazing (the chicken in the burrito is pulled from the bone and spiced up fantastically!)

                                                                                                                It's mostly take-out, but there is a counter there that you can eat at (i'd say <10% of their business is dine-in), or on a nice day take a meal and eat at the park across the street.

                                                                                                                1. re: Adam B.

                                                                                                                  as close as i've come to the california burrito experience is the cosmic cantina on 3rd avenue around 13th st. the right kind of cheese, sliced and melted right onto the inside of the tortilla. decent ca-style salsa, etc. while not up to par with my favorite place on irving street in san francisco, it's the best i've found in nyc.

                                                                                                                  1. re: lacy

                                                                                                                    Oh, are you a L'Avenida fan? That is one fine burrito, for sure.

                                                                                                                    To previous posts, I'm well aware that California Mexican (and the oversize SF burrito in particular) is probably a far cry from "Mexican" Mexican, but it's still a particularly delicious offshoot of that cuisine — characterized at its best by a freshness of ingredients (especially in the salsa and grilled meats) and strong, clean flavors. These characteristics are lacking in any comparable foods I've tried in the New York area. So, my apologies for bashing New York Mexican food — I should have specified the burrito.
                                                                                                                    Thanks for tips.

                                                                                                                2. re: Maggie

                                                                                                                  Please offer specifics about this "great Mexican food" in New York City. One of the great tragedies of moving here from California is the total lack of even halfway decent burritios. The salsa's all wrong, the tortillas come wrapped in wax paper (not foil)! I could go on. But burritos aren't the whole enchilada, of course. What NYC Mexican have you liked? Please enlighten me.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Adam B.

                                                                                                                    OMG! Imagine, no foil!

                                                                                                                    If you learned to love the Mexican food north of Tijuana and are looking to duplicate that, then, unless you like that quaint health food store inspired product put out by the California Burrito Co chain, I am not sure if there is any Mexican food in NYC for you. Perhaps not in Mexico either.

                                                                                                                    If you instead open your taste buds for related but different, then come visit Queens and taste. I am still exploring. I am from Texas. In my travels throughout the southwest I was told of California-types who think they know Mexican/Latin food and disparage all other. I've had Honduran, Guatamalan and Mexican (DF) friends who would totally avoid the subject of food around Californians. "Californians think they know Mexican food and that what everyone else is doing is wrong." I was told. I haven't been confronted by this behavior/attitude until now. And it seems like it pops up regularly on chowhound. tsk. tsk.

                                                                                                                    I can go into restaurants not expecting to find moles of D.F. Mexico or Oaxaca nor the chiles rellenos of the southwest and still find good to great food. Like flautas with savory white cheese crumbled over them from Taco Veloz (61-17 Roosevelt) and the food of Taqueria Coatzingo and Taqueria Tulcingo and other places. Look for Eric Eto posts. He grew up in L.A. CA, perhaps you can trust him.

                                                                                                                    Hmmm. Come to think of it, Eric's Mexican food taste buds seem fairly open and flexible, so there may be hope for the rest of you California people.

                                                                                                                    PS: I do sympathize with the person who described processed cheese/leather asado as the only thing they've been able to find so far. And I appreciate the "burritos aren't the whole enchilada" comment. Still I had to rewrite this 3 or 4 times to try to keep from straying too far into the flame war zone.

                                                                                                                    Damn. All this chatter makes me want to make a trip over to Coatzingo to check out their mole and chiles rellenos for you. But already got my jammies on. And I am trying to not to eat big meals this late at night.

                                                                                                                    Well, when I try them I will report back.

                                                                                                                    1. re: wrayb
                                                                                                                      s
                                                                                                                      silver queen

                                                                                                                      The difference between Los Angeles Mexican cooking and NYC Mexican cooking can be summarized as follows:

                                                                                                                      In Los Angeles, while the dominant Mexican restaurants do in fact serve the Chicano equivalent of abundant red-gravy Italian-American restaurants, it is possible to find the cooking of pretty much every Mexican state, if not subregion. There are 7 million people of Mexican descent in greater Los Angeles, which is pretty damned close to critical mass. The Mexican-born residents alone form a vast city larger than, say, Guadalajara. There is not one restaurant serving the cuisine of Veracruz, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, D.F., Sinaloa, Baja or Michoacan, there may be dozens, if not hundreds.

                                                                                                                      In New York, there is nothing close to critical mass, and while a couple of places in Corona come close to passing muster, the variety of regional cooking is pretty limited. Puebla is not the part of Mexico you most want to be around dinner time.

                                                                                                                      1. re: silver queen

                                                                                                                        I beg to differ. I have been in Puebla several times. Oh boy, you eat well in that town! They invented there classics as Chiles en Nogada and Mole Poblano. You do want to be in Puebla at dinner time. Or lunch time. Or brunch (almuerzo) Or Breakfast

                                                                                                                        1. re: silver queen

                                                                                                                          Your point about the number of Mexican Americans in LA vs. NY is true. But why dis Puebla? And what region of Mexico is it that features the burrito that Californians in NY lament about? Although, true, South CA could be considered a region of Mexico.

                                                                                                                          In my previous message I tried to point out that there is Mexican food in NYC (and NJ) and some of it very good. But it is best enjoyed when approached on its own merits not on how it matches with remembered taste of the land of freeways and wide boulevards of dreams.

                                                                                                                          By the way, your post spurred me to browse the 2000 census. Looks like the number of Hispanic Americans in CA nearly out numbers the total population of NJ and nearly half the total of the state of NY. If numbers mean anything you South Cali chowhounds have an embarressment of riches.

                                                                                                                        2. re: wrayb

                                                                                                                          hey! californians are people too! give us a chance! but i'll give you the benefit of the doubt and imagine that you meant to reply to adam's post below, since i don't recall mentioning anything about foil. (i hate foil on burritos. little pieces stick on the tortilla and then you eat them. that's no good.)

                                                                                                                          in my original post i implied that perhaps this no-mexican myth is more appropriately labeled a no-cal-burritos myth. once one moves here, it becomes obvious that there are a lot of mexican people have also found NYC attractive (and now i know many are from the puebla region). to maintain that there is no good mexican food here, in face of the realities of social geography, would be ridiculous irrespective of where in jackson heights i've eaten. and californians are not ridiculous ;)!

                                                                                                                          yes, i did lament the unavailability of the california burrito specifically (as have other posters), and i stick by that. but i admitted its dubious mexican-ness. in college we called them "food logs," because that's what they are, but they can be mighty tasty.

                                                                                                                          and i simultaneously disclosed the fact that i haven't tried any of the recommendations i've seen on this board. (actually, that's not true. i tried los dos rancheros. don't know if it is mexican as you've defined it, but i had the perfect side of beans.) eventually i'll get out there, especially given the abundance of tips in your post and below. just be patient, and i'll do the tasting for myself!!

                                                                                                                          1. re: Maggie

                                                                                                                            Why, some of my best friends are... well, some of my acquaintances who seem to be reasonable people have lived in CA. And I do subscribe to the SF and LA editions of ChowNews. Can't we all just get along.

                                                                                                                            It is curious how burritos have become a sort of comfort food to many people. But this and related subjects would best go on the General Board.

                                                                                                                            In the meantime I will do my best to find the best chiles rellenos from Corona to Elmhurst and report back.

                                                                                                                            And it seems that Kevin has encouraging words for those seeking a

                                                                                                                            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                                                                            1. re: wrayb

                                                                                                                              ...eagerly anticipating results of the borough-not-burrito-chile(s)-relleno(s) taste test...

                                                                                                                        3. re: Adam B.

                                                                                                                          Try California Tacqueria on the Corner of Court Street & Bergen Street in Cobble Hill. The guys there are from East LA and make a good facsimile of a Southern California burrito, imo.

                                                                                                                          Kevin

                                                                                                                          1. re: Kevin

                                                                                                                            Not horrible as far a NYC Mexican goes, but I would categorize the food as closer to a SF/Texas fusion than LA Mexican. For me the kiss-of-death is the stewed tomatoes in the salsa.

                                                                                                                    2. maybe not a myth but a big disappointment for me are the pierogies in nyc. those bland little things? people, you want your pierogies? come to cleveland my friends for the real deal. they are served at every blue collar bar and counter, polish or not. pierogi lovers, turn up the sound, click on the website below and weep:

                                                                                                                      Link: http://piepal.com/bottom.php?server=p...

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: mrnyc

                                                                                                                        Thanks mrnyc for bringing up the "pierogi issue" - or pyrohy to us Ukrainians.

                                                                                                                        My mother was born on East 5th Street. We grew up with vats of homemade pyrohy made by both grandmothers. Nanny was big and round and so were her pyrohy. Grandma was small and petite and so were hers! Both pyrohy were outstanding and completely different from each other. Neither was better than the other, though.

                                                                                                                        I have been to every joint in the East Village trying to find some that are half as good, but none come even close. I hear good things about some Brooklyn places.

                                                                                                                        I can't believe I would order pyrohy via mail order, but I will take you word for it and give Cleveland a shot. It's sad.

                                                                                                                      2. I have been lucky enough in the last 3 years to see a marked improvement in the quality of pizzerias in my neighborhood. Whether I go to Picasso Cafe and let Michael work his magic with a Pizza Bianca and a bowl of tagliatelle bolognese or I head over to Pizza 33 for a slice of margherita pizza the way it should be made, I have choice where I didn't 5 years ago.

                                                                                                                        1. Gosh, Jim, did you want to test the server or something when you thought up this thread?

                                                                                                                          1. Thanks everybody. I never realized what a lousy food town this is. I'll try to remind myself next time i am eating a pastrami sandwich from Barney Greengrass that it is actually a myth that it is good. Next time I am enjoying a warm sourdough bagel from H&H, I'll try to remember that I should not be enjoying it. Next time I have fresh grilled sardines at Gennaro's, I'll tell myself that NYC has no good neighborhood Italian places. And that taco cart on 104th and B'way, just terrible, especially the beef. Patsy's pizza does not come close to the Domino's I used to order in college in Baltimore. This is only the UWS of Manhattan that I did not realize was terrible.
                                                                                                                            Boy, I have a lot to learn. Thanks
                                                                                                                            Jake

                                                                                                                            ps I've been to Mexico six times and never had a burrito there.

                                                                                                                            pps Nathan's hot dogs???? BTW Burger King doesn't have the best burgers either.

                                                                                                                            26 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: jake pine
                                                                                                                              c
                                                                                                                              Caitlin Wheeler

                                                                                                                              Jake, I think you've misunderstood. It's not that there are no good neighborhood Italian places, pizza places delis or bagel places, it's just that there is a myth that New York is full of them. My relatives in California are always saying things like -- Oh, you live in New York. All the pizza must be good. Or, you live in New York. You must go to delis all the time. There is good pizza here, but there is a lot more bad pizza, and it does take some work to hound out the good chow, a lot more than 'furriners' seem to realize.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

                                                                                                                                This whole thread is pretty amusing to me. I dont think I've misunderstood, I dont think people collectively realize what this sounds like. This is the most ridiculous self-pity/loathing I've heard since Woody Allen began his movie career, or Eddie Whitson pitched in the Bronx.

                                                                                                                                Let's take Jim's percentages. 1% of the Pizza places in the city are great. How many pizza places are there in the city? I looked in the Manhattan Yellow pages and stopped at 200. I wasn't half done. There are probably over 1000 pizza places in the city. If there are 10 great ones, that's pretty damn good.

                                                                                                                                The Mexican myth??? These people aren't talking about Mexican food, there talking about Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex. What we have is Latino food. In my experience, people elsewhere equate Tex/Cal-Mex with Latino food. We, here, understand there is Dominican, Cuban, Haitian, Argintinian, Peruvian, Ecuadorean, Chilean, as well as Mexican (I'm sorry for those cuisines I've left out). They are all different, and all represented somewhere.

                                                                                                                                The bagel myth. I personally love Kossar's and H&H and Ess-a-bagel and columbia hot bagels and Lenny's bagels and the bialy place on Houston, so from my standpoint, the myth is reality.

                                                                                                                                The deli myth. We talked about this one recently. To me, just because you cant get good kasha varnischka doesn't mean there are no good delis. You say Kosher delis, maybe I'll agree, but any Jewish deli that I cant get a Ruben at is not worth going to for me anyway, so I dont count that. In Manhattan: kATZ'S, Russ & Daughters, Zabar's, Manganaro's, Barney Greengrass, Lenny's Gourmet (great sandwhiches, lousy steam table and salads), etc. For me, good delis are not hard to find.

                                                                                                                                The cheesecake myth? I personally love Barney Greengrass', I also like Junior's plain, and embarrassingly enough, I like the Harvard club's. For ricotto kind (not my favorite, but still good), Ferrarra's IN LITTLE ITALY, is great.

                                                                                                                                The Chinese food myth? So SF's dim sum is better, and a handful of other cities have more "authentic" Chinese food. I love the restaurants I go to so I dont really know what to say. I think the Roast baby pig at NYNoodletown is as good as pork should taste. If it can taste better, great. I hope to taste better some day.

                                                                                                                                The Nathan's myth? See my comment in my above post.

                                                                                                                                The Pierogi myth?????????

                                                                                                                                1. re: jake pine

                                                                                                                                  I agree. I think the reason we're all on this board is because we already know a lot of these myths exist and want to find the real good stuff. And sme of thes eposts are ridiculous. You can't get a good steak in New York? You need to go to Cleveland for Pierogis?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: jake pine

                                                                                                                                    in other words...is the glass half full or half empty?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: becky

                                                                                                                                      The glass is full, and there's a case on ice.
                                                                                                                                      jake

                                                                                                                                    2. re: jake pine

                                                                                                                                      Perhaps the problem isn't that there aren't good delicatessens to be found in this grand metropolis, it's that it's a destination that often needs to be planned on and to which you may need to travel. You can't just run out from your office or apartment, hit the deli, and get some real food. Most "delis" have pre-made salads, plastic-wrapped cakes, and processed meats.

                                                                                                                                      Sorry to say that these places aren't lacking business.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: jake pine

                                                                                                                                        It may interest you to know that neither Barney Greengrass nor Russ and Daughters are "delis" (of the Jewish variety), nor is Manganaro's (of the Italian variety). And that's a major part of the problem. These places are OK, but they are pale representations
                                                                                                                                        of what they were, and, worse, have now been lumped into some sort of poly-ethnic food identity.A place that sells primarily fish (like Barney G & R&D) is known as an appetizing store. If you had a pastrami sandwich there, I'm amazed.

                                                                                                                                        With all due respect, New York is now so transplant
                                                                                                                                        populated that most sense of chow authenticity has been lost.There's just not much institutional memory left. Part of this is a natural evolution, but not inevitable. While blackened food has scourged Louisiana,it seems like more of the authenticity is preserved there than here.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Craig Bodine
                                                                                                                                          j
                                                                                                                                          Josh Lichtman

                                                                                                                                          Russ and Daughters is very authentic and its proprietors are serious about smoked fish. My Grandfather used to go many many years ago and he said that it only got better.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Josh Lichtman

                                                                                                                                            No kidding. I find it difficult to belive that anyone could call Russ & Daughters "a pale representation" of anything. The fish there is phenomenal. My parents and grandparents who all grew up here also agree that pickled lox, herrix and such are better there than they ever remember having in their youth.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Josh Lichtman

                                                                                                                                              I think the point of Craig's post was that a place like Russ & Daughter's is (or was) more properly called an "appetizing store" and that as compared to the way it (and places like it) used to be, it has transformed from its original emphasis to carry more and more types of food and other things, the result being that it has moved away from being a traditional appetizing store, into the amorphous world of "deli".

                                                                                                                                              I think Craig is lamenting the change in emphasis at many such stores, the underlying theory being it is better to stay great at one (or a few) thing(s), than to attempt to branch out with results being all over the quality map.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: jake pine

                                                                                                                                        Who on earth said you shouldn't enjoy H&H bagels? There are lots of revionist things I like. I love a good egg roll or General Tso's chicken myself. I don't happen to like H&H Bagels, but that's just me. While it's undeniable that they're representative of a modern trend toward bigger, puffier, lighter bagels, your liking them doesn't make you any more wrong than I am for disliking them. I happen to miss the old style of this particular food. And that style is nearly extinct.

                                                                                                                                        As for the other stuff, you've mentioned worthy last gasps of many things. One purpose of this site is to uncover such places, so you're preaching to the converted. But I'm really puzzled as to why several posters aren't able to differentiate between the concepts of "a lot" and "a few". Let me try once more: NY is rumored to have a lot of great Italian neighborhood places. It does not; it has but a very few. NY is rumored to have a lot of great neighborhood pizzerias. It does not; it has but a very few. Same for old-fashioned sit-down full-menu delis. Hope that clears things up for you.

                                                                                                                                        In Sonoran Mexican cuisine they do make burros, which are essentially burritos, though the burritos we know were indeed perfected in San Francisco. And I like 'em. But, hey, if you're a stickler for original authenticity, I'm surprised you can manage a single bite of that warm sourdough H&H bagel!
                                                                                                                                        : )

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                          I guess part of the difference is that I see the word authentic in the same way I see the word popular or fashionable. It is interesting to note, but I don't really care. I only care about how it tastes to me, not to other people. I take note of the modifying descriptions and eat or don't eat. I like burritos. I just think it's silly to say that Cali has better burritos than NYC so NYC does not have good Mexican food.

                                                                                                                                          I also dont think the bagel myth/rumor specifies dense, dark and chewy. I think most people who come here from elsewhere will be satisfied that the plethora of bagel places is routinely better than from whence they came. I know I miss them when I leave.
                                                                                                                                          jake

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                            It's exactly that kind of language that's so annoying -- "it does, it does not" -- like it's a fact that cannot be disputed, delivered with no explanation. what's wrong with neighborhood italian in NYC?

                                                                                                                                            People on this board rave about bunches of great niehgborhood italians from Marino's on the upper east side to places in Bay Ridge and Staten Island. I certainly don't feel like I'm ever at loss for one when wandering around the city.

                                                                                                                                            In the e. village alone i can think of at least 2 I like -- Max and Lavagna -- and I love the brick oven pizza at 3 of Cups.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jason W.

                                                                                                                                              Brick oven pizza doesn't count. That's a different animal, with different supplies/suppliers. My gripe is with slice pizza.

                                                                                                                                              I'm as relativist as they come, but some things are not matters of opinion. Big, puffy, and bready was not the way they once made bagels. Does that make this newer style "wrong"? No. Are people "wrong" to like them? No. Things change. My personal taste is more for the old style, and it's really hard to find 'em.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                                Jim, I agree with you on bagels. So far the best I have had in Manhattan are at Bagelfeller's on W 48 St btwn 5th & 6th Ave. Not puffy, but chewy. When I lived in Whitestone I always brought a couple of dozen bagels into work on Sunday from Utopia Bagel on Utopia Pkwy and 20th Ave. At 8 AM they are still hauling fresh bagels out of the ovens and selling them immediately. Keep them in the paper bag but discard the outer plastic bag as that makes them rubbery. The few times I was in there on a weekday the bagels didn't seem as good. If they have twists, be sure to try one.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Brian W

                                                                                                                                                  Yeah, Oasis used to be real good, but I haven't had any luck at all with them in the past....wow, five or six years or so. You really think it's a different scene on weekends? If so, I'll check it out

                                                                                                                                                  i also remember (and suspect you do, too) when Little Neck Bagels were good, just north of the expressway in the shopping center off Little Neck Pkwy. No more. Most people don't like small dense crunchy chewy bagels.

                                                                                                                                                  ciao

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                                    Oasis is the place in Fresh Meadows by the LIE, right? I never liked them, and we tried them in the early 1980s.

                                                                                                                                                    Utopia was always good on the weekends but I moved from that area in 1994 so things could well have changed.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                                      but what about the flats (larger, flatter rings), esp. sunflower at L'il Neck. Very tasty.

                                                                                                                                                      Agree that soft, chewy bagels are undoable. Prefer bagel chips, and maybe they'll please start sorting chips as per topping , i.e. garlic, onion. But in that crusty crowd, those would be first to go.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                                    Bagel Hole in Park Slope on Seventh Ave near 12th St. they are utterly faithful to the proper notion of the smaller, chewier bagel.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                                      There's a bagel place called Eli's in Matawan, NJ that still does the small bagels. Whenever I visit my parents, there's always plenty in the freezer, but I have to "adjust" as now I'm totally used to the bigger NY ones.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Stephanie L.

                                                                                                                                                        thanks, sounds great.

                                                                                                                                                        I looked it up: Eli's Hot Bagels 1055 State Route 34 # C  Matawan, NJ (732) 566-4523     

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Jason W.

                                                                                                                                                      I agree with you especially on the "neighborhood Italians" point - they're always there when I need 'em. But how do we prove Jim wrong? I think I could cover the Cobble Hill/Carrol Gardens area with a resounding "Yes, we have neighborhood Italian restaurants on just about every corner". But until we have canvassed the whole city we won't prove anything, so I guess we'll just have to politely disagree.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Katerina

                                                                                                                                                        I think it hinges on the word "great" (as in "people think NYC is filled with great neighborhood Italian restaurants but it isn't"). And since "great" is a matter of opinion, there's no "proof" either way. Just opinions.

                                                                                                                                                        My opinion is that there are only a tiny handful of great (or even very good) neighborhood Italian places in this town. Your opinion may differ.

                                                                                                                                                        Katerina, I'm delighted to provide this forum for you and thousands of others to express opinions in a warm environment. I don't often get to join in the chow talk, because I'm so busy running things, but when I do, it's to have a pleasant time chatting with a friendly bunch of fellow hounds, regardless of whether all agree or disagree.

                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for your "polite disagreement", if only temporary.

                                                                                                                                                        ciao

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                                                                                                                                          Well, I'll try to be more than "temporarily polite"...

                                                                                                                                                          :>)

                                                                                                                                                          We're getting into psychological territory here, but I cannot help adding this:

                                                                                                                                                          The neighborhood Italian restaurants we have in Carroll Gardens may not be great by your standards, as someone who has scoured the greater NYC in search of great food for the past 25 years (or more?). But where do these myths live, who perpetuates them, how do they come to be? The prime myth-bearers are NOT current NYC residents. The myths were created by ex-NYers and embraced by starry-eyed visitors from elsewhere. When our friends from even as near as upstate NY come visit (not to speak of my family from Prague or my husband's parents from Cincinatti and Kansas City), you'd better believe they are blown away by the restaurants we have here - by the roasted red peppers and portobellos marinated in balsamico, by the pasta con le sarde, even by the modest penne alla vodka. The waiters speak English as a very second language, the music is cheesy Italian pop and the patrons behave like they owned the place. Everyone loves it and goes home telling all that New York has the greatest neighborhood Italian restaurants in the world. (I'm sure they believe it in Cincinnati.) So to them, the myth is true, even though to you it may not be. But what would life be without myths? And more importantly, what would *marketing* be without them??? (=joke)

                                                                                                                                                          In a nutshell, I believe it's not for us that the myths are, and it's not for us to disprove them. If you've got your suitcases packed, you don't want to hear about the percentage of actor/waitresses who actually make it big in Hollywood.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Jason W.
                                                                                                                                                        j
                                                                                                                                                        JessicaSophia

                                                                                                                                                        Yeah, I just discovered Max's a couple of weeks ago---- YUM! We had a really great meal there very late one Friday night. I had the most delicious ravioli in a browned butter sauce. The waiter, a young kid named Milos, (who's the owner's son) was so utterly charming and attentive.

                                                                                                                                                    3. re: jake pine

                                                                                                                                                      I think this thread is great, and what I love about New York. There is no accounting for taste, yet everyone has a (strong) opinion about what is the best; a quality, which, in this context must forever remain unknowable. Still, it's the discussion that gives me leads on places and dishes to try. I'm not from around here. Compared to New England there is considerabley more variety in NYC. I think that's a real understatement and probably applies to much of the US. I grabbed Jim's book (since I don't have a ton of money yet still like to eat out) and that led me here. I mostly just read, sometimes I toss in my two cents. I've gotten some wonderful leads from this site and some that haven't worked out so well.(I still haven't gotten a 'great' meal at NGB) But please keep arguing over how many angels can share the head of a pin. It's fun reading, and provides some really great ideas.

                                                                                                                                                    4. Whatever...

                                                                                                                                                      Sounds like the same old story in the vein of "things just ain't what they used to be."

                                                                                                                                                      New York may not be all that it was yesterday, but then it also wasn't all that it is today.

                                                                                                                                                      By the way, if Italy was your idea of the last place for good pizza, you'd better hurry: Sbarro's have now opened there, too.

                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: interloofer

                                                                                                                                                        Ok, there is a bit of cranky lamenting going on, but isn't that one of the privileges of old age? Really, I think most people on this site are the furthest thing from the curmudgeonliness that you're describing. A poster below says it so well, I'll just quote him:

                                                                                                                                                        "In fact that’s why living in New York is better than the myth…it’s epic and changing and challenging...the variety of it all...Jim’s website reads like an ideal for living in New York...for a Chowhound who is paying attention there is always some secret deliciousness [tm] to sniff out, just around the curve of diminishing results." (keithk)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: interloofer

                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, and Taco Bell's been in Mexico for years. Considered very exotic by young office workers and they love that shiny franchise decor.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Great thread.

                                                                                                                                                          I'm not sure the argument should be debunking food myths, compared to recognizing the changes.

                                                                                                                                                          Foods that people have picked out: Deli, Cheesecake, Pizza, Neighborhood Italian, Greek.

                                                                                                                                                          Now keep in mind is that over the decades, tastes, demographics, economics, dietarary preferences change.

                                                                                                                                                          I'll bet per capita consumption of Pastrami and Cheesecake are way down since 1970.

                                                                                                                                                          I'll bet since 1970, these facts are true: Number of Italian restaurants as a percent of total restaurants has dropped. Average amount of time spent eating lunch has dropped. Average rent adjusted for inflation has skyrocketed. If these facts are true, they may explain why there's not so many good quality 'neighborhood Italian' and pizza joints.

                                                                                                                                                          Also, I'll bet percent of population of Greeks and Italians are way down.

                                                                                                                                                          Not many choose to regularly eat the fat-laden classic Jewish cuisine on a regular basis anymore.

                                                                                                                                                          On the other hand, look how far Thai, Chinese, Japanese, sushi, Mexican, and Middle Eastern cuisines have come.

                                                                                                                                                          UD

                                                                                                                                                          1. Another myth that MUST be debunked is that the prepared food @ Zabars is good. In fact anything that Zabars actually cooks is bad to the point of almost being unedible. If you look at their "appetizing" counter you'll see how most of the prepared food is laying in thick, lifeless and nasty sauces.
                                                                                                                                                            That said, Zabars can not be beat for the following:
                                                                                                                                                            Kitchenware, bread department, smoked fish counter(well Murrays is better, but Zabars is damn good for the freshly cut goods), dairy/cheese (yeah I know that Fairway is good and Dean + Deluca is really good but also way too expensive for all but the investment banker set), spices (non-exotic ethnic).

                                                                                                                                                            It's quite a shame, but then again the neighborhood is not known for its food knowledge. I should know I've lived there for over 20 years and it's a crying shame what passes for good food around here.

                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ivan Stoler

                                                                                                                                                              I dont think I've ever heard anyone say the prepared food at Zabar's is great. So I dont think it is a myth. What Zabar's is known for are the other things you suggested. They are not myth, they are reality.

                                                                                                                                                              The UWS really gets a bad rap. Within 5 blocks of each other, there is Fairway, Citarella, Westside market and Zabar's along with several places that get both good (Big Nick's) and bad(Ruby Foo's) play here. H&H is also on this stretch. All these stores, especially the first four mentioned would not be able to have stayed in existence for as long as they have if the people inthe neighborhood cared so little for food.

                                                                                                                                                              This brings me to debunking my myth: that the food on the UWS is bad. I think the food, especially the marketing is great.
                                                                                                                                                              jake

                                                                                                                                                            2. Personally, I think the biggest myth about NYC dining is that it's the be-all/end-all of dining in the universe as we know it.

                                                                                                                                                              In my opinion, there's not a Spanish restaurant in Manhattan that I've been to that comes close to those in NJ....the Korean restaurants in Queens and Northern NJ beat hands down any one I've been to in "Koreatown" (and I think I've been to just about all of them)...the best Indian food I've ever had on a consistent basis was in Asheville, NC (no, I'm not tripping); there are absolutely incredible New American and French restaurants throughout suburbia, which, if you factor in price, give very, very strong competition to their counterparts in Manhattan...the best fusion I've ever had is a Thai-French place in Montclair, NJ called "deja vu"...

                                                                                                                                                              And don't get me started on Italian restaurants....

                                                                                                                                                              Anyway, I love many restaurants in Manhattan...but there's lots to be said to those who never venture beyond its culinary confines...

                                                                                                                                                              Seth

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Seth Ruffer

                                                                                                                                                                Yeah, but NYC brings together close-to-the-best or at least very good examples of every cuisine you've named. All those places you've mentioned may be good at one particular thing, but NYC takes a good stab at all of them.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Seth Ruffer

                                                                                                                                                                  "I think the biggest myth about NYC dining is that it's the be-all/end-all of dining in the universe as we know it."

                                                                                                                                                                  Well...you seem to mean Manhattan, and I'd agree that while there's amazing food, it's not all it's cracked up to be. But the tristate area is, of course, a miracle.

                                                                                                                                                                  Right with you on NYC Spanish (I never did try Meigas, I'm afraid), though I'm even pickier than you, I don't even like the Jersey places. I've spent far, far too much time in Spain (playing jazz) not to be totally jaded.

                                                                                                                                                                  Re: Koreatown, if you go for the one single best dish in every restaurant, you can do quite well IMO. If you order "what you feel like", it's a minefield (pajun? KABOOM!). Indeed, the hinterlands have far better all-purpose (well...at least multi-purpose) places.

                                                                                                                                                                  JIM

                                                                                                                                                                2. It may have been said already somewhere on this thread,but things have obviously changed as the immigrant population has changed,moved on to the suburbs,etc.A lot of the small businesses are family affairs,and siblings either are interested in continuing things as they were,or want nothing to do with the food business.Unfortunately,a lot of good tradition and technique is unwritten,and dies with the practitioners.The continual turning over is what's wonderful,and sometimes exasperating about New York.My hope is that our local government will create incentives that help small businesses to start up...

                                                                                                                                                                  1. j
                                                                                                                                                                    Jeffrey Davis

                                                                                                                                                                    Well, I'm writing from the west coast, a little more than two years since I last lived in Astoria. But this still sounds strange to me. Certainly there's much to be said for the Egyptian/Croatian/Mexican mix growing there (yes!), but Greek still seemed strong before I left. Perhaps the myth simply over-rated it? There's a great 'middle' consistency to the Greek food there that seems to contrast the complaint about Indian, Italian, etc. Maybe no big stars, but for a few bucks at a random cafe, fantastic! But then, I also like retsina.

                                                                                                                                                                    So, anyone with more recent firsthand knowledge or criticism?

                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jeffrey Davis

                                                                                                                                                                      "Perhaps the myth simply over-rated it?"

                                                                                                                                                                      No way. Fifteen years ago Astoria was a Greek wonderland. It was a thriving food scene. But gradually things changed:

                                                                                                                                                                      1. The original immigrants to the nabe (including all the good cooks and their most knowing clientele) started moving (or dying) out, and the second generation is never as interested in restaurant work (which is more attractive to immigrants) as their parents (old old story).

                                                                                                                                                                      2. The nabe lost its hermetic Greekness as many other groups started coming in, and this also reduced the magnetic attraction (or is it "weak force") keeping the community together.

                                                                                                                                                                      3. Zagat (and the rest of the press) pumped up a few places--mostly ones that had been reviewed before (and were conveniently close to the subways so they were obvious to outsiders and critics)--to the point where they were filled to the rafters with people who didn't know real Greek food (and so could be served food with many corners cut...you wouldn't believe the travesty of a meal I had at Elias Corner, which was once great, last year). The other places, already beset by problems finding chefs and clientele in this declining nabe, are withering.

                                                                                                                                                                      4. in light of above, anyone wanting to open a new greek restaurant must either appeal to the second generation kids (those few who haven't moved out) with flashy neon and stylish Greek inflected cooking (the only second generation in NY that broadly wants to eat their parent's style of cooking are the Filipinos in Woodside), or appeal to the gringo/zagat set via an Epcot sort of set-up with all the $$ going into the animatronic bouzouki players (yes, that's exaggerating). And they have no great old chefs to draw from. Any old places left in the dust by the Zagat--annointed restaurants who seek to get back in the game must do likewise. So they're all pandering or fizzling out, or both, and (may I restate this once more) there's no one left to cook; Stamatis has a lock on the one or two good guys (though it's russian roulette figuring out which branch they're in on any given night, or ordering dishes they didn't personally supervise).

                                                                                                                                                                      That's the short version. I've also typed up a long version, I think in our "articles and special reports" section.


                                                                                                                                                                      "There's a great 'middle' consistency to the Greek food there that seems to contrast the complaint about Indian, Italian, etc. Maybe no big stars, but for a few bucks at a random cafe, fantastic!"

                                                                                                                                                                      good point, and very well taken. There is a pretty sizeable number of not-terrible, fairly-authentic Greek places (which can't be said for a lot of other food types), and we'll miss them when they're gone...and they may be gone pretty soon. But they are the vestiges of a great empire, and I knew it at its full glory, so it's sad. I've never found in the past five years a single place in Astoria that makes 1. authentic Greek food 2. at a high level of quality 3. with reliable consistency (though you can find a handful of places that waver on any one of those variables). There used to be a dozen or so (maybe even more before my time).

                                                                                                                                                                      ciao

                                                                                                                                                                    2. The whole "city that never sleeps" schtick is a broad myth that extends to NY restaurants. At some good places it's hard to get seated after 10 pm. I don't necessarily have a big problem with that--I actually think it humanizes businesses here and find it similarly charming when places shut down for a week or two for vacation (cf. the poor minimum wage schmuck working the graveyard shift at a suburban Taco Bell that never closes). But calling New York a 24-hour town is a canard. We roill up the sidewalk at 11 o'clock. Now madrid...that's a city that never sleeps (except from 2-4 pm.)

                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Poindexter

                                                                                                                                                                        Depends on the neighborhood. Koreatown never sleeps, or at least never closes.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                                          lol! way to bring this old warhorse of a thread back from the grave guys -- it was a goodie.

                                                                                                                                                                          besides koreatown, don't forget the scattered cabbie joints too.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. This thread requires resucitating - as the subject of myths is, indeed, timeless.

                                                                                                                                                                        I'll throw one out there:
                                                                                                                                                                        To expand on the comments about the quality of the cart hot dogs, NYC is just not that great a hot dog scene, period. Granted, you can get a good dog here or there (my place of choice now being the big juicy bad boys for a buck at Chinatown's Jumbo Hot Dogs), and many people still swear by old stalwarts such as Nathan's and Grey's and Papaya King. But compared to the Chicago scene or any number of huts and lean-to's peppering the Jersey landscape, New York City is, in my opinion, sadly lagging behind. We need more passion in the dogs here, more inventiveness, more rippers, red-hots, what have you. Crif, with their deep fried variety, bacon-wrapped or slathered with avocado or what-have-you, might be a step in the right direction, but, to be a great "Dog town" - as NYC is often referred to as being - we need more dogs with style, panache, personal touch. Not just another place serving up Sabretts.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Mnhattan certainly does have some great little Italian places. If Lupa is too big and known, then I submit Cafe Taniti Baci as one (7th Ave. South and W. 10th).

                                                                                                                                                                          1. about pizza places in ny...there are so many that of course many will be bad. However, the mediocre slices of midtown still are soooo much better than what you can get in most places outside of the New York area. Yes, there are a few places outside of NYC that have a decent slice, but there are far more with bad pizza. Take a trip down south and look for a "real" slice. Good luck. There are good slices all over the new york area. Maybe you might need to skip the first one you see and walk a block further, but it truly not a difficult find, be realistic. Same goes for Italian food.

                                                                                                                                                                            It also seems that people are focusing on Manhattan too much. Let's face it, the immigrant population of NYC is long gone and so is their food. Take a ride to any of the outer boroughs and you will find some great fare. How many great Italian places will you find in Bay Ridge or Bensonhurst...many of them. You just can't expect ALL of them to be great.

                                                                                                                                                                            I currently live in Astoria and it is still very Greek. I walk one block and I can go to several small food shops that each have a dozen types of olives and same for feta. Agnanti, S'Agapo are both excellent IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                            Bagels are truly preference. You can find smaller bagels anywhere, just don't go to the "big names". Ess-a-bagel, which gets rave reviews and is above referred to as better than H&H are waaaay bigger than H&H. At least H&H have a hole in the middle. Again, I ask you to travel to another part of the country and find a good bagel as easily as you can find one here. In most cases you will wind up with a pre-sliced, stale imposter of a bagel. Lender's will be your best option.

                                                                                                                                                                            the city that never sleeps...aside from waffle houses, where else can you find so many bars/restaurants/diners open past 2 am. Heck even H&H is open 24hrs, but enough about them...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. Astoria still has at least one good Greek Restaurant left...
                                                                                                                                                                              Stamatis.....Actually has 2 locations, one is on 29th st & 23 ave and the other is on Broadway not sure of the cross street somewhere in the 30's I believe !!
                                                                                                                                                                              Excellent Greek food !!!

                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: VinSin

                                                                                                                                                                                Stamatis has taken a few hits on this board, but I agree with you. Everything, from the grilled squid to the succulent kebabs to the fresh and plentiful Greek Salad has been a hit in my book. Plus, the friendly service, and, after all, how can you go wrong with the seagulls hovering over you as you eat? I have also heard good things about Telly's Taverna, a block or so away.
                                                                                                                                                                                P.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. I think the biggest myth of all is that you can get better food from "X foreign country in NYC". It's a big diverse city, but it doesn't begin to contain all of the goodness of the entire world.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. Imagine if y'all tried to find a mate the way you try to find this imaginary utopia of pizza/cheesecake/indian food, whatever. You better like cats. In the end, there are very few better cities to live in for food than NYC. You think finding good pizza is hard here? Try buying a SLICE of anything in most cities in this country. Damn near impossible.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Let's be provocative.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Myth: New York City has world class food.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Reality: While the best regionally (Anyone from Montreal or Toronto want to complain) NYC does not compare well to European or Asian cities. Guide books basically admit to inflating NYC grades. NYC does have better variety, quality is uniformly lower all around. The variety is mostly due to a recent immigration wave which may not hold up with the new anti immigration politics. The improved quality may be cyclical having more to do with a temporarily robust local economy. I have also noticed the first Chinese and South Asian restaurants in places like Athens Greece.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Geo8rge

                                                                                                                                                                                      But variety is extremely important and I think that in itself makes New York world-class. I can eat Chinese food all day, every day, because that is my background. (I certainly wouldn't bother with it in Athens, though). But as much as I love Mexican food, Italian food, Japanese food, Turkish food, etc, I couldn't possibly eat any of that every day. In New York you can get everything, and if you work a little, you can find quite excellent renditions of most of it. Within 4 boroughs (because I don't really have the means for traveling around Staten Island) I can travel the world every day, every meal, for a surpisingly long amount of time.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I can't comment on the pizza remark that kicked off this thread because NY-style pizza isn't my favorite anyway, but I'm always happy with the eating scene in NYC.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Geo8rge

                                                                                                                                                                                        When you say that NYC doesn't compare well with Asian cities, which cities do you mean, and are you talking about food quality in terms of variety or just food quality in general?

                                                                                                                                                                                        Having spent a lot of time in Tokyo, I have had the opportunity to sample some pizza and pasta there. Although some of it has been what I consider to be an interesting take on Italian food, most of it has not been all that good. Granted, Tokyo is a gigantic city, unthinkably vast by NYC terms, and I don't spend a huge portion of my eating time on Italian while I'm there. This has just been my experience thus far.

                                                                                                                                                                                        If you perouse this site, you will find that a great many NYC hounds who are into foods of all nations are painfully aware that they are not eating anything close to the real thing. The Chinatown boards, in particular, are a reminder of this. In your opinion, are they doing it any better in Athens? If so, what would you attribute it to?
                                                                                                                                                                                        P.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Also to be provocative, I'll say what I believe to be the biggest, most widespread, and (in my opinion though not anyone else's)most insulting MYTH of all: You can't get anything in New York that you can't get better somewhere else (with the trivial and again, in my personal opinion, insulting exception of pastrami and maybe bagels... though I've heard of bagels made in a wood-burning oven in Montreal)

                                                                                                                                                                                        About one example of NY being underestimated: Chinatown
                                                                                                                                                                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                                                                                                                                        I should add that, even if true, it does not mean that NYC is not a world-class dining destination. If you have a contest with many categories, a contestant finishing in fifth place in each category could be the overall winner, if every other contestant finishing in first place in one category finished toward the bottom in every other category.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. A big NYC myth to me...if it was on "Sex and the City" it has to be good. If Sara Jessica Parker and her size 00 friends will break their diets and eat it...

                                                                                                                                                                                          Magnolia cupcakes, H&H bagels, Pastis....just to name a few.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MrsT

                                                                                                                                                                                            perfect perfect perfect

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. I understand the comfort of "borough Cantonese" as you call it, but you've gotta admit there's so much more going on at Szichuan place...more interesting veggies, funkier combinations, less emphasis on fried things.

                                                                                                                                                                                            BTW: I work in Riverdale and think the food scene is sorely lacking in general. If you've got any recommendations, I'd gladly check them out.