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"Rare" ethnic restaurants?

I'm from NYC, but now in Chicago. Lately, have taken up a semihobby of trying as many different nationalities of ethnic restaurants as I can find. It's fun to explore and compare/contrast.

I'm coming home for a week or two, and know there's no place better than NYC to add to my "list". Any suggestions for places a bit different than Chinese or Mexican?

The following are those I HAVE tried, or seen in Chicago, so NOT looking for in NYC (in addition to the "obvious", like Spanish, Thai, etc):

Americas: Costa Rican, Guatemalan, Ecuadorean, Peruvian, Argentinean, Brazilian

Africa: Moroccan, Ethiopian, Nigerian/Ghanaian

Europe: Hungarian, Romanian, Swedish, Cypriot, Czech/Bohemian, Portuguese, Polish

Former Soviet: Russian, Armenian, Lithuanian, Uzbek, Ukrainian

Asian/Middle Eastern: Afghan, Burmese, Filipino, Lebanese, Malaysian, Israeli, Turkish, Persian, Nepali, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Korean

So, any recommendations of Algerian or Laotian or Martian cuisine?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. go to menupages.com and there is a handy list all set for you!!

    in NYC try the Dominican food.

    1. Taim Tov on 47th Street is authentic "Former Soviet." Very good pilaf dishes especially.

      1 Reply
      1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

        i second taim tov, get their bread...they make their own and its really great (get the entire loaf as it tastes fresher)

        the plov and kebabs are a must as well

      2. Only one place in the city for Martian food, but I wouldn't recommend it.

        1. Elvie's Turo Turo is great Philipino food. It's in the east village. There's also Crystals, but I haven't been to it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mms

            elvie's is very casual ("turo" means point so the name of the restauran is point-point in reference to the buffet), krystal's is a decent sitdown restaurant in the east village, but better filpino food is to be had in woodside (Ihawan stands out). With that said, Grill 21 is quite good actually, if you're in manhattan.

            1. re: bigjeff

              just wondering if you've tried cendrillon in soho, and how that compares?

          2. Also - if you have the money, Wallse is incredible Austrian good. It's in the West Village. I've been doing an A-Z food tour of NYC (of ethnic cuisines) and a good place to start making your list is by checking the Village Voice or NYTimes list of available cuisines.

            1. * australian: public (elizabeth at spring)... kangaroo is on the menu, or wombat in brooklyn

              * indian is obvious. tho outside the more common punjabi and south indian, you can try gujarati (vatan) and indian-chinese (chinese mirch).

              * sri lankan: sigiri

              * venezualen: caracas arepas house...

              * egyptian, cambodian, basque, : a bunch of places around town... if it's different enough for ya.

              * and of course other rare find regional cuisine from countries that always have some representation.... e.g. china and japan, can be found here.

              1 Reply
              1. re: thievery

                Wombat in BK is not that good. I have been there a couple of times and each time something I try tastes like it was cooked in a mircrowave. Service is also not that attentive.

              2. You should repost this on the Outer Boroughs board.
                Also, pick up a copy of Robert Sietsema's "Best Ethnic Eating in New York City".
                Also check out the searchable eats section on the village voice:

                I'm pretty sure you can get Laotian food on Argyle St in Chicago.

                Here are a few NYC restaurants from my list. I haven't been to all of them, so I can't necessarily recommend them all. And check first to make sure they're still open.

                Kelso Dining (Panamanian)
                Izalco (Salvadoran)
                La Esquina Criolla (Uruguayan)
                Tierras Colombianas (Colombian)
                The Arepa Lady (Venezuelan street food)
                Tbilisi (Georgian)
                Pirosmani (Georgian)
                Cafe Kashkar (Uyghur)
                Arzu (Uyghur)
                Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (Bosnian)
                Djerdan (Bosnian)
                Bulgara (Bulgarian)
                Madina (South African)
                E & R (Hatian)
                Yemen Cafe (Yemeni)
                Spicy Mina (Bangladeshi)
                Sokobolie (Guinean/Senagalese)
                A & A Bake and Doubles (Trinidadian)

                4 Replies
                1. re: Joe MacBu

                  "I'm pretty sure you can get Laotian food on Argyle St in Chicago."

                  Nope. The closest Laotian resto to Chicago is all the way up in Madison, WI. Trust me, I've searched!

                  1. re: sundevilpeg

                    Is Nhu Hoa on Argyle not around anymore?

                  2. re: Joe MacBu

                    Definately go to cafe Kashkar, it is very fun, good food and great prices. It is not elegant.
                    Check out this blog post, gives you a good idea: http://www.roboppy.net/food/2006/05/c...

                    1. re: Joe MacBu

                      I've been to Tbilisi (in Brooklyn) and can heartily recommend it. The Georgian food is great and it's quite the scene.

                    2. Latin American that I didn't see on your list: Puerto Rican, Domincan, Cuban, (all over, sort of), Bolivian (Queens), Honduran (Brooklyn and Bronx)

                      Asian: Indonesian (Queens) Sri Lankan (Staten Island and East Village)

                      African: Senegalese. 116th St. Manhattan

                      There was an article in Sunday's Times on African food and culture in NYC:

                      1. While I know Chinese isn't on your list there are some really different Chinese regional cuisines (e.g., Uighur) out in Flushing, so this would be another reason to check the Outer Boroughs board.

                        1. Nomad on 2nd Ave & 5th is good generic Maghreb cuisine, but the owner is Algerian, the chef is Tunisian, and there are some Algerian and Tunisian style dishes on the menu, like an Algerian salad and the Tunisian "brik" appetizer along with the standard couscous and tagines.

                          If you get out of Manhattan, hit Tony & Tina's on 189th and Arthur Ave in the Bronx for great Albanian bourek.

                          1. I usually just look at these posts and for the past couple of years since the birth of this chowhound-now-chow site. However I don't tend to reply, didn't even officially register until last week actually, but I do disagree with some opinions that may be taken as facts, so here I go...

                            Anyhow, short cutting to your topic..

                            First off, AREPA is a colombian not venezuelan food, this was found out after much research in both countries. A colombian staple since the days of the Gran Colombia (then included Ecuador, Colombia, Panama and Venezuela).

                            And now for your feature reply..

                            If you're looking for a carribean, central or south american latin treat there's just about any bakery, cafe or restaurant when you take the 7 train to Queens and get off at 82nd Street - Jackson Heights station, personally I would walk east or north of this station for better culinary experiences of the local cultures, but really you could walk in any direction and find something muy rico!!! Specifically I would recommend LA NUEVA BAKERY or LA NUEVA CAFE on 37th Ave around 84/85th Street (one block north of Roosevelt Ave), also RICO PAN on Woodside Ave and 59th Street off the 61st Street station in neighbouring Irish-laden Woodside.

                            As for a trendy experience of traditional Venezuelan food I would recommend the great EL COCOTERO on 18th Street between 7th and 8th Aves in Chelsea, Manhattan.

                            As for a trendy experience of traditional Colombian food I would recommend the great BOGOTA LATIN BISTRO on 5th Avenue bewteen St. John's and Lincoln Places in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

                            Note that although both restauarants and countries like to label their respective cuisines as their own, in actuality they are very similar to each other.

                            As for the CARACAS AREPA BAR, it's a nice take on the arepa but quite expensive for the small delicious serving that you get, and fits in well as most places that are located in the now too-trendy-but-still-a-dump East Village.

                            And as for THE AREPA LADY, she is actually from the region of Antioquia (where the eternally bloomful city of Medellin is located) in Colombia or so she says.

                            While on the 7 train line..

                            Irish pub fare anywhere east of the 61st Street station on either Roosevelt or Woodside Aves. in Woodside,

                            Pakistani, Bangladeshi and North Indian immediately north of Roosevelt Ave off the 74th Street station.

                            Asian galore cuisine in any direction off of last stop Main Street in Flushing.

                            Good luck and welcome back!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: alexenrique

                              What about Caribbean? Jamaican, Trinidadian, Haitian? Fatman's for Jamaican, a Trinidadian roti shop in Harlem (forgot name) for some buss up shut, Le Soilel or Krik Krack for Haitian. There's Day-O for combo Jamaican/Southern fusion. Better choices for Caribbean can be found outside Manhattan though.
                              For example, I've been wanting to head out to Queens for Belizean at Village Pot, many other options ex-Manhattan.

                              1. re: alexenrique

                                Thanks for the arepa lady correction. Memory lapse on my part.
                                Since the OP is in Chicago, I would advise against the Indian subcontinent restaurants in Jackson Heights. They're significantly better in Chicago.

                                  1. re: alexenrique

                                    Colombian arepas and Venezuelan arepas are totally different and claiming that they originated in one specific country is absurd. It's a regional staple that varies from place to place......like falafel or sausages.....

                                  2. Himalayan Yak
                                    72-20 Roosevelt Ave
                                    Jackson Heights, NY 11372
                                    Phone: (718) 779-1119

                                    I went there when it was the Tibetan Yak and enjoyed it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: nixienox

                                      The Nepali food's better at Mt Everest in Evanston (a Chicago suburb), so I would personally skip this place (though the fare is decent).

                                    2. How about Kurdish? It's not in NYC... It's in Saint Paul, MN., and at the time I ate there it was the only Kurdish resto in the US. Lots of meat, rice, preserved lemon, and a very detailed family history printed in the menu.

                                      1. If you want to stay in Manhattan, you can try:

                                        Tibetan - Cafe Himalaya in EV
                                        Indonesian - Bali Nusa Indah, Sanur (indonesian + Malaysian), though there are better ones in Queens
                                        Scandinavian - Aquavit (fine dining) and Aquavit Cafe
                                        Australian - Sunburnt Cow, Bondi Road
                                        New Zealand - Nelson Blue
                                        Cambodian - Kampuchea (a bit fusion)
                                        Hawaiian - L&L Barbacue (more like a fast food chain)
                                        Austrian - Wallse (mentioned above), Blaue Gans

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: kobetobiko

                                          Kampuchea is definitely a bit trendy and a bit fusiony, but the only place I know for Khmer food since the much-loved Cambodian Cuisine closed in Fort Greene. Actually I think Kampuchea is better (I have lived in Cambodia). Try the Kampuchea sandwich, it is scrumptious and truly authentic (Khmer version of Vietnamese banh mi). And they have cool beer mugs.

                                        2. There are several Basque restaurants worth checking out. Oliva is good, as is Pintxos.

                                          1. Bumping this, as am going home again this weekend and know places open up in NYC weekly (and certainly since last year).

                                            Any new "different" ethnic cuisine out there? Since initially posting this thread, have had Algerian at Nomad, Sri Lankan at Sigiri, Venezuelan/arepas at Caracas Arepas, Uzbek/Bukharian at Taam Tov as well as Bulgarian and Indonesian in Queens, and Yemeni in Brooklyn.

                                            Looking for some new ethnic dining adventures for my trip home!

                                            4 Replies
                                              1. re: Chartrand

                                                There will be a Garifuna food expo on Saturday but few details are available and the website mentions a Garifuna restaurant in Chicago. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/649384

                                                1. For Pakistani food, try Kabab King in Queens.