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Changes in the Jackson Heights low 80s

JH Jill Jan 16, 2007 07:09 AM

I see that some of you have noticed that health food store expansion on 37th Ave between 83rd and 84th. There are some interesting things, though not cheap. They have some organic produce and lots of juices, frozen foods. Haven't have time to look at it all. Then, on the corner of 37th/84th, across from El Chivito, the Texas Steakhouse & BBQ has just opened in the old Italian place that briefly was El Cisne Ecuadorian. I haven't tried it yet. It's not cheap but reasonable for a steakhouse. The space is kind of pleasant, very open with dark wood tables, lots of windows, a bar. Then, there's a new Uruguaya Bakery opening up next to C-Town near Cafe La Nueva.

Anyone tried any of them?

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  1. e
    esteban Jan 16, 2007 02:09 PM

    the uruguayo bakery is owned by the la nueva folks--the address was on the calendar that they gave out prior to the end of the year.

    1. h
      Helen F Jan 16, 2007 03:24 PM

      An older thread anticipating the opening of Texas Grill was revived last week, once the doors opened. However the discussion is short of comments about the actual food. (It's mostly people, like me, griping that it is isn't the place we fantasized it would be.)


      So, -has- anyone eaten there, and if so, how was it?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Helen F
        JH Jill Jan 16, 2007 08:59 PM

        Well, After reading this, I decided to try the Texas Grill on 37th (the official name). I can report that it is a pleasant place with nice comfy chairs and big inviting windows, and plain but pleasant mustard walls and dark wood bar with flat screen TV. The waitress basically spoke English, and later I talked to the female half of the owner couple - she's Colombian, he Mexican from the capitol - and she was extremely nice.

        The food was not impressive on this visit - though I must say that we just had appetizers and dessert because we didn't want a big meat lunch. I was hoping for a good bowl of chili con carne or something, but as of yet they have no real lunch menu. We ordered the chorizo nachos, guacamole, chicken quesadillas and some flan for dessert. The nachos were pretty, the chorizo tasty, but they lacked something. There was mesclun, olives, tomatoes and cucumber and black beans, but little melted cheese. They were OK. The chicken quesadillas were very disappointing a bit of cheese on top and a tiny bit inside with unseasoned shredded chicken breast - bland! She told me they use mozzarella for the cheese. They really needed melted pepper jack and some seasoning for the chicken. The guacamole was served nicely and was the real thing with quality ingredients, but again, it lacked something, maybe a little zing, some garlic. The flan was served very prettily and was OK, but we thought it was made from a mix, not from scratch.

        Overall, it was a disappointing experience. And since 3 apps plus 2 sodas came to over $30, it isn't cheap but not overly pricey, just pricey enough that it'd better be good. I gave the owner some feedback since I'd like them to succeed and be a tasty alternative in my area. She told me that they plan on serving breakfast, omelets and stuff. She says that most of the patrons so far have been Americans and they don't want spice and have loved the steaks. To be fair, I'll have to try the steak or ribs or seafood, but appetizers should get you pepped up for the meal. These certainly didn't. They've got to "kick it up a notch," in my opinion, to compete with El Chivito across the street, which serves great steaks as well as yummy canneloni and ravioli, as well as a mean rice and beans. I think the problem is that these are people who are not necessarily cooking THEIR food; they're cooking what they think Americans want to eat and in the process dumbing it down to blandness. It does have cleanliness and style.

        1. re: JH Jill
          Helen F Jan 17, 2007 10:16 PM

          Hmm, sounds like the place lived up to people's (low) expectations. Sorry you had a disappointing experience, but thanks for trying it and reporting back, in the best chowhound tradition. I'm sure I'll give it a try sometime, when I need a steak fix.

          It would be great it they served a good breakfast, and great coffee, and, and....

          1. re: JH Jill
            orzabelle Jan 17, 2007 10:17 PM

            I'm thinking about going in and asking them if they might do draft beer (don't know about this - may be too late as they've already put the bar in & maybe this isn't easy after the fact?). I would eat at ANY place that was 3 blocks from me and had draft beer. I was very excited seeing the place go in, but the menu bummed me out. Thought it woudl be something different and it doesn't seem to be.

        2. s
          SparklieGirl Jan 17, 2007 09:53 PM

          I haven't tried the restaurants, but I have been to the expanded Natural Foods store. I didn't buy a ton of things, because I think the prices are a bit high (though I don't mind paying a bit more than Whole Foods for the convenience), but I was very pleased to see the bulk offerings in the back of the store (beans, oatmeal, spices, etc.). I bought some organic oatmeal ($1/lb) and was happy with it -- I don't know how that price compares, but it seemed reasonable to me. I did buy a few bags of frozen fruit, and was disappointed to find that there was tons of ice among the fruit. It may have been just from starting up, but it seemed as if they had let the packaged defrost and refroze them. For $4.50 a bag, I wasn't impressed.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SparklieGirl
            esteban Jan 18, 2007 12:27 AM

            yes--it is sort of expensive, in the great tradition of natural/health food stores, but at the moment nearly everything in the store seems to be roughly 20% off

            as to the ice situation--this was a problem in the stores previous incarnation. i think that you are right about the defrosting and refreezing. while it was the only place around that stocked van's frozen waffles (which my kids love for breakfast). i stopped buying them because they were icy and got soggy in the toaster. pretty nasty--i get 'em when i get to fairway now. my hope is that there will be both better refrigeration and more turnover in the new place, so that we can trust the frozen stuff a bit more.

          2. m
            Mike V Jan 17, 2007 10:27 PM

            I haven't been to Texas Grill but neighbors went on Saturday evening for steak dinners and were very pleased. I plan to try it in the near future and will report back.

            1. m
              Mississippi Mike Jan 18, 2007 04:54 AM

              We tried Texas Grill for lunch last weekend. Mostly I can reiterate what others have already said. Menu is not exciting and expensive for the neighborhood and for what they're offering. Most Tex-Mex plus steaks. We had fajitas and steak salad. Meat was good, if underseasoned. Portion sizes were just ok, especially with price as a consideration. Guac was real, which pleased me, but was on the bland side- it needs significantly more lime plus some red pepper and coarse salt.

              They didn't have the kids menu items available and they didn't have coffee (at all) which I'll chalk up to start up woes. I'll agree that the atmosphere is promising, but what is up with the waitresses' uniforms? Short skirts and over-of-the-shirt-bustiers that somehow manage to be offensive without being even remotely titalating. Bad decision.

              Staff was clueless but friendly. I'll be back but I don't have high hopes.

              1. s
                seneca Jan 18, 2007 05:26 AM

                Maybe they took the uniform idea from a restaurant a few blocks further up -- called El Listo Pollo or maybe it is El Pollo Listo. It is kind of a family-style place with these kind of cozy booths that make you feel like you are sitting in a gazebo. But then you see the waitresses' uniforms and it strikes you that maybe it's NOT a family place. I think maybe it's Hooters Columbian-style.

                2 Replies
                1. re: seneca
                  JH Jill Jan 23, 2007 01:41 PM

                  I didn't think to mention the uniform disaster in my review, but yech! I met one of the owners, and they are new. I believe that Listo el Pollo is Peruvian, and these people are a Mexican- Colombian couple. I think the booths in Listo el Pollo are left over from the previous occupant, which was a Polynesian-style restuarant that used to serve pu-pu platters.

                  1. re: seneca
                    Jim Leff Jan 28, 2007 05:56 AM

                    Listo El Pollo is both Hooters AND a family place, serving Colombian in a Polynesian tikki setting. It's very very trippy.

                  2. j
                    JHTom Jan 22, 2007 04:57 PM

                    We had dinner at Texas Grill on Friday night. What a mess! Sat down and waited about 15 minutes before a waitress came close to the table. She took our drink order, we waited another 10 minutes before she saw me glaring at her and went over to the bar to put the order in (She and the other waitress had been busy hanging out and talking to the cashier.) Then she came over and told us the busboy was getting our drinks. waited a few minutes, turned around and the busboy and the bartender seemed to be figuring out how to get our drinks to the table. When they found a tray, we finally got our drinks. I had asked for red wine and a glass of water, I never got the water and the wine tasted like it was there only to be used for sangria.

                    Around this time, the people at the next table managed to set one of their paper napkins on fire with the candle on the table. They stood there and stared at it, one of the busboys picked it up and made the unfortunate choice of running towards the kitchen, fanning the fire. He almost made it to the kitchen doors, but the fire had grown into an impressive ball and he had to drop it and start stomping on it while all the other workers stood around and watched. This was my favorite part of the evening.

                    I ordered the porterhouse ($20) and then became nervous when she seemed surprised that I asked for it 'rare.' I had to remind her it came with a salad and a side. I ordered the house salad and "house fries". My friend ordered the steak fajitas. She left before I remembered I hadn't picked a dressing for my salad.

                    Waited, waited, waited. She showed up with my salad and had put a peppery-ranch dressing on the side. Then she turned to my friend and asked him if he wanted a salad! He said yes and she said 'Hold on a minute' and left. I stared eating my salad- which was pretty good for a house salad. Everything was fresh and crisp. Tasty onions tomatoes and cukes and the chosed salad dressing was pretty good.

                    I had taken a few bites of the salad when she came back with my friends salad- and my steak! I told her I just started my salad and the waitress giggled and said 'I know, sorry.' I ate the salad as quickly as I could so my steak wouldn't get cold.

                    The porterhouse was about 10 inches across! Unfortunately, it was about 1/4 of an inch thick and about half of it was fat or grizzel. I realised that it was too thin to be able to cook it anyway but medium. However, I do have to admit that the actual meat was pretty tender and very juicy. When I was in college and living in a dorm, the cafetria would have one night a month that was steak night and fry up a huge pile of 'steaks' for us. This reminded me of that, except this was cooked much better. The plate of fries were not bad, but nothing great and my friend said his fajitas was just OK.

                    This place obviously has some real work ahead of it to get into shape. From how my steak was cooked, it showed some promise- though maybe not with those steaks. But right now you have to wade through a lot to see that glimmer. If they are still open in 6 months I may try them again for lunch- though with much lowered expectations.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: JHTom
                      Mike V Jan 22, 2007 07:54 PM

                      So sorry to hear about your not so pleasant experience. You mentioned lunch next time. Do they have a Lunch menu?

                      1. re: Mike V
                        JH Jill Jan 23, 2007 01:43 PM

                        I mentioned the lunch menu too. They have no sandwiches, soups or snything like that. I told them steak sandwich and a good Tex-Mex chili would be perfect for the weather for lunch. Nobody does a real chili around here. But they don't appear to have such plans. They're working on breakfast now - omelets and such. I hope they can improve on JHTom's experience. What a disaster!

                        1. re: JH Jill
                          Mike V Jan 24, 2007 10:59 AM

                          Jill, many thanks for your response. I'm much more of a lunch person rarely eating out for dinner. I would also welcome lunch especially the Tex Mex chili you mentioned to the owners. It's possible they may not do lunch since so few restaurants in the area do a strong lunch business except for Jahn's, Jackson Restaurant, Taco Bell and the Chinese places. It's really not cost effective hiring a waitstaff and cook with low turnout. I walked by this afternoon and noticed the sign for the Cocktail Hour Monday thru Thursday. They may have picked this up from Novo which does a busy Cocktail Hour. NOVO has a sign in the window which gives prices which Texas Grill doesn't. I did notice in the window a sign written in Spanish listing two specials. This doesn't bother me that the sign is in Spanish but it does bother others. They should also consider doing a Sunset Special that is so very popular at Uncle Peter's Continental. I hope they get their act together and succeed.

                          1. re: JH Jill
                            Mike V Feb 1, 2007 12:56 PM

                            Jill: Texas Grill is now serving a $7.50 Lunch Special. Today was Creolle Soup, Breaded Steak, Rice & something else with the rice which I've forgotten. Sadly, only one couple dining. They're trying. I plan to stop by for lunch next week.

                      2. o
                        orzabelle Jan 23, 2007 01:47 PM

                        I am still so bummed about this place. They aren't going to last 6 months, but if the owners would do a bit of research on what is missing here, they could easily become a neighborhood fixture. Breakfast isn't going to save them, either.

                        1. k
                          KateC. Jan 30, 2007 12:33 PM

                          Sorry this is a little off-topic, but has anyone tried the mysterious prepared food in the far left-hand corner of the deli in the Jackson Heights Met grocery store on 37th? They have rice and black beans, eggs and chorizo, noodles, and a bunch of other stuff. It's shockingly good! But not always there. When I bought it at noon on a Saturday, they had almost run out and said the plates that were there were reserved for people who had ordered them. Also, can anyone recommend the ceviche at any of the Peruvian restaurants?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: KateC.
                            Jim Leff Jan 30, 2007 02:36 PM

                            Sounds like a real find; congrats! I'll watch for it.

                            As for ceviche, a cab driver recommended a place on like 110th or 111th street, but I lost the info. I'll go look around. If anyone finds it, please say so!

                            1. re: KateC.
                              welle Jan 31, 2007 12:12 PM

                              My favorite Peruvian is El Sol on Northern blvd. (around 107th st), also try their fish chowder, and I've never had but people always order heaping dishes of fried calamari - look really delicious.

                            2. h
                              Helen F Jan 30, 2007 01:27 PM

                              I have never seen that prepared food before - how intriguing!

                              I like the ceviche at Inti Raymi. I unfortunately never tried La Pollada de Laura, whose ceviche was much beloved, and now it's too late.

                              I think there have been some JH ceviche discussions here pretty recently, it might be worth a search.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Helen F
                                KateC. Jan 31, 2007 01:53 PM

                                Thank you all for the great recommendations. I look forward to escaping my Murray's chicken rut.

                              2. p
                                pynchoff Feb 3, 2007 06:51 AM

                                El Sol is on Northern and about 87th Street. Great ceviche

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: pynchoff
                                  KateC. Feb 3, 2007 06:58 AM


                                  1. re: pynchoff
                                    welle Feb 3, 2007 02:31 PM

                                    oops, you're correct - why in the world I wrote 107th st?..

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