Friends in Town from Chicago
I have two girl friends coming into town from Chicago tomorrow.
The problem is, I just moved to NYC 7 weeks ago and have hardly had the chance to find all of the good eats. I hear the some of the best ethnic dining is in the outer boroughs, plus, we'll be spending a lot of time in Brooklyn, per their request.
I know this is a general inquiry, but if any of you have suggestions for semi-cheap to cheap eats in either Brooklyn or Queens, it would be greatly appreciated. I'm talking the MUST tries!
I'm looking for all meals, but breakfast is the least important. Things off the beaten path, fun hang outs (we're in our late 20's/early 30's), but NOT trendy. Picture artsy, tattooed, Peace Corps types.
Willing to get on the subway and go wherever...plus I can't really narrow down a specific area, so maybe your suggestions will help me build an itinerary.
I would say for cheap/semi-cheap must-tries in Queens, Sripraphai would be at the top of the list. It's right on the #7 train (69th Street stop) or the Q32 bus at 64-13 39th Ave, phone 718-899-9599. It's closed on Wednesdays but call to make sure they're not on vacation or something. Many people believe it to be the most authentic Thai restaurant in the U.S. There is debate about that, but it is probably our best-known place. Also check these boards for Spicy Mina (on Bway off R train) which is Bangladeshi. Then you might look through the postings for Flushing, which is at the end of the #7 train. That's an adventure in itself and contains many wonderful restaurants from different regions of Northern and interior China. Spicy and Tasty on Prince street near Roosevelt is one of the best known, but you should check the board for people's latest favorites.
We also have many wonderful restaurants from other parts of the world, but I think most of the stand-outs in Queens, in the inexpensive category, are probably Asian. You would be hard pressed to find better restaurants in these categories in other boroughs, if I may be so Queens-centric.
I grew up in Chicago and live in Brooklyn and, as wonderful as Sripraphai is, you can get just as good if not better in Chicago. A Queens option that is a lot harder to find in Chicago is Tangra Masala, on Grand Ave just south of Queens Blvd. near the Grand stop on the G-V-R line. Indian-style Chinese, dishes that are "tangra masala" something, "Manchurian" something (dry is better), and the lollypop chicken are outstanding.
DiFara's pizza, beaten to death on these boards, does live up to the hype, and not replicated in Chicago. Q to Ave J, at East 15th & Ave J.
Waterfalls on Atlantic Ave between Clinton & Henry (take F train to Bergen) has delicious Syrian food; the vegetarian platter can feed a family (it's so good that I eat meat and still prefer it).
I second Mina.
Chicago doesn't have much in the way of Brazilian or West Indian food (according to my family at least). For relative affordable Brazilian, check out Churrascuria Girrosol in Astoria, on 28th Avenue between 33rd & 34th Streets (N train to 30th Ave). Definitely not for vegetarians, but the meats on skewers are great, and I love the feijoada.
For West Indian, cheap, there are good Trinidadian rotis are at Nio's, Church Ave & Rogers (2 train to Church), and tasty Jamaican jerk chicken (strictly take-out) at MacKenzie's on Utica and Carroll (4 train to Utica, walk South) or, if you want to stay closer to Manhattan and/or eat in, Mo-Bay on Dekalb across from Brooklyn Hospital (near Dekalb stop on R/M/Q/B). If you're really perapatetic, take the A train out to Leffers Blvd. in Queens, and walk down Liberty Avenue for Guyanese food paradise. Most of the roti joints there are great ... I remember Anil's in particular (I think 121st and Liberty) and a Trini place with "Spicy" and "tasty" in the name (not to be confused with the Sichuan restaurant in Flushing). Definitely something you can't get in Chicago.
I won't argue with your Brooklyn suggestions except to say that if Chicago is anything like California, churrascarias are popping up all over the place (many not owned by Brazilians). They may not be as good - I haven't tried Giraossol. And I've tried lots of Thai (and lots of good Thai, being from the OC), but many people from all over the country believe Sripraphai to be more authentic than the vast majority.
I was almost going to mention Tangra Wok (see my recent post here) for Indian-Chinese, but I wasn't sure if it was in the must-try in Queens category. It's certainly becoming one of my favorites. I haven't tried Tangra Masala, to be honest, but I have been to their other ho-hum location on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside and have heard not-great things about the Grand Ave location. I would highly recommend the experience at Tangra Wok for Asian Fusion.
I would say that if you are planning on *splurge* one night you should do al di la, a wonderful italian in Park Slope. Prices are reasonable, but I tend to not contain myself when I am there are get too much and it gets pricy. But they have the most wonderful pasta, for less than $15. Long wait un less you get there early, but worth it. My husband's family is from Chicago, and they have been consistenly impressed when we've taken them there.
Don't get me wrong, I looove Sripraphai. The problem is that in my periodic trips back to Chicago to see the family, I've had Thai food that I also looove. To the extent Chicagoans visiting NYC might want to try something they can't readily get back home, I thought it was worth pointing out.
And I don't know how to account for negative comments about Tangra Masala on Grand Avenue. That place rocks my world. I guess just chalk it up to difference of taste. I'll agree that the branch in Sunnyside isn't as good.
I also love a number of Thai restaurants I go to in Southern California, where I learned to love Thai food long before NYC had much of it, but none of them are anything like Sripraphai (or like it was last time I went). That said, I do think the Indo-Chinese experience is something new for most of us. I am going to make it a point to try Tangra Masala since it has such fierce partisans on this board. I'll let you know what I think.
I just got back from Chicago and I have to agree with Jack. I'm afraid Sripraphai isn't much competition for Spoon, TAC, and probably several others of the better Thai places in Chicago. I think Thai and Mexican are the last cuisines I'd suggest to a Chicagoan.
I can't think of a more fun place to eat than Kabab Cafe in Astoria (closed Monday). Hang out with Ali and let him cook for you.
I also think that DiFara's or Totonno's in Coney Island would be great fun, and an adventure.