Long, messy Brooklyn post (Asian, coffee, tacos, and more)
The new site has gotten me to be more chatty. Other posters on the outer borough board, I guess, see the new site as some form of cyber duct tape that has been taped to their cyber lips.
Thanh Da, the new Vietnamese sandwich place on 57th Street and 8th Ave in Sunset Park. Nice sandwich, particularly the bread, and the thing was actually spicy due to the presence of both jalepenos and some kind of red hot sauce. But overall, it seemed to lack cohesion and that certain something-something.
Olympic Pita: not new, but what a great place. The falafel on dafa bread was amazing--best to let the counter guys fill it, they know best.
The Chinese take-out place by the Prospect Avenue R station makes the best MaPo Tofu I've ever had from a storefront joint. I've never eaten anything else there...
The pho place on 86th Street and 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge is related to the famed palace of pho on Avenue U (I forget the names, but this board has crowned it the pho king of Brooklyn). But the 86th Street place, while much better than the location would suggest, just isn't as snappy as the Avenue U one.
Also in Bay Ridge, Banana Leaf, the Malaysian "bistro" in Bay Ridge, can actually pull off some non-fusiony homestyle dishes. When I ate there for lunch (roti canai and mee goreng noodles--both great) everyone in there was Asian, including a couple of ethnically Malay guys. All seemed pleased.
There is a small Korean grocery store next to Banana Leaf...this is a sign, along with a lone Korean restaurant on 3rd Ave, that Brooklyn may finally be getting a small share of NYC's Korean population.
Indeed, there IS a Patel Brothers Indian grocery on 45th Street and 4th Avenue in Sunset Park. And it's clean, has a small selection of fresh produce, and the usual array of spices and legumes. Hooray.
Tacos: La Flor de Piaxtla across from Sunset Park. Tiny, yummy tacos, like Taqueria D.F. used to make a long time ago (now they can barely boil water without messing it up).
I urge all South Slopers to try El Centenario deli (20th and 5th) for tacos and such. They even have a menu and will deliver. Their carnitas, the last time I was in there, was truly special.
Coffee news: I tried Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint, and it was superb. When I was there, though, they weren't using Seattle-based coffee beans, but instead were featuring Counter Culture coffee from Durham, North Carolina. I'm not aware of anyone else using those guys in New York. Still, I felt a little silly going all the way up to the middle of nowhere Greenpoint for an espresso. So, back at home, I still like Gorilla more than anywhere else. Yes, they are a dark-roast enterprise, but it's fresh, locally-roasted, strong stuff, and, well I just like the place. If you like your coffee drinks milder and milkier, then I'd recommend Mule on 4th and St. Marks or Regular on 11th. Both great places, but not my cup of tea.
I bought two types of beans from D'Amico and Sons--a study in Bipolar coffee-ness. The Costa Rica was stale, tasteless, and highly acidic. Just dreadful. On the other hand, the freshly roasted Viennese blend--the only blend they have listed as a medium-dark roast--was absolutely incredible. Balanced, crisp, cocoa-y, nice medium acidity.
This patel Bros. place is a real mystery to me. I've seen it mentioned several times on this board but when I stroll down the block to check it out, I can't find it. Is it open on weekends? Is it below or above 4th ave?
On to some hopefully useful tidbits: I sampled some (new-ish?) carts in sunset park after my unsuccessful patel bros quest and found some good stuff. On 5th and 46th, next to Taco Mix cart (which also looked really good) there's a fruit cart with delicious lime/lemonade and humitas. On 49th street and 5th, there is a papusa cart (with a big blue umbrella that advertises a healthcare provider) with really excellent papusas, made to order, on the spot.
I second that pupusa cart. I was exploring this Sunset Park area for the first time on Friday afternoon (8/4/06), craving some Mexican food that could compare to the stuff I ate out west once, or even to a really great place in New Castle, DE. A pupusa from that cart was the best thing I had, and that's not even Mexican. It came with that tasty coleslaw-type stuff that's usually served with pupusas. Yum. I asked the burly guy if they're from El Salvador and he said "my mom is from Guatemala but yeah, the food is Salvadoran." (Actually I think I might've had an even better pupusa out here in Newark, NJ, where I live, which also came with a nice red sauce, but I can't remember the name of the place. I should go back there and try some more stuff and then post about it on the Tristate Board, but I wonder if anybody would ever notice. Nobody talks about Newark except for the Ironbound Portuguese/Spanish stuff, and I don't normally experiment much without CH tips. Yeah, I know, I'm a wussy.)
Following some (possibly outdated) Sunset Park tips from this board, I went to the taqueria at the back of the La Fe grocery store on 5th at around 55th. I had chiles rellenos because they looked really good. They were good, but not great. A great value, though, at $3 for a lot of food. There was some nice white cheese in there too.
And I also tried a pig ear taquito from the orange stand on 46th just off 5th. As with everywhere else, tamales (and pozole) only on weekends, so I really should've gone on a Saturday or Sunday instead. Not bad, but my least favorite of all the things I tried. The pig ear was reasonably tasty and smelled really good on the grill, but I really didn't like the consistency or texture of it. But really cheap, so hey, I'm glad I tried it. I asked them how long they'd been there and they said four months or so. So, I guess not the same people who used to be at this location and were reported to be sooooo great.
Also ate at the lunch counter in La Flor on 5th near 40th. I had huarache con carne, I think. Again, good but not great. Maybe Jim Leff's "mischievous-eyed Mexican Prozac grill woman" isn't there anymore. Although of course that was a report from '03, and it's been an eternity in restaurant-time since then. Note to self: Duh.
Then, following other chow tips, I walked over to 8th and hit the Northern Dumpling place on 49th. Nothing on 5th could compare to those five dumplings for $1. Yowza! Now THOSE were fantastic, possibly even better than any I've had in Manhattan.
Then I got on the B11 bus crosstown to DiFara's. I was NOT expecting that slice to be SO COMPLETELY awesome. Holy shit, that was superb. Oily, but in a good olivey way. Slightly sweet. More cheese than tomato sauce, but for once I didn't mind that *at all*. It was hot in there, though, waiting 30-40 minutes for a slice when there wasn't even much of a line, but it was worth it, even though I hate heat.
re: coffee--That Costa Rican must have been the one that I tried about a month ago. After that, I was ready to write D'Amico off, but I'll go back and try this Viennese. As soon as I'm through the bag of George Howell beans I just got. I've also been wanting to try Grumpy--thanks for making the trip and reporting back.