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Worst ethnic place you've been to

I thought it would be fun for people to share the sorriest excuse for ethnic food they have have had the horror of experiencing

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    1. Lord, there are so many. I have a particular hatred for Sea, the "Thai" restaurant on 2nd Ave. I think they make most of their sauces out of melted lollipops.

      2 Replies
      1. re: small h

        You should try Spice. Their sauces taste like disappointment.

        1. re: JungMann

          I can't stand Spice either, but at least disappointment has a little complexity! Once I ordered mushroom soup from some Japanese place, the name of which I have erased from my memory. It was 4 raw white mushroom slices floating in hot water. Austerity? Apathy? Nihilism? I like this game.

      2. I'd have to say delivery from Tina, a Chinese place near Gramercy. We ordered three or four dishes and all I remember is throwing each of them away.

        1. Primorski in Brighton Beach - was like $45 a person for black bread, bad vodka, and some unidentifiable inedible spreads, and there was a guy in a silver tracksuit with a synthesizer singing disco songs.

          Spice Market in the Meatpacking District serves up completely bland faux Asian food at ridiculous prices for tourists that don't know any better.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ShinjukuAce

            I like Spice Market.
            But I don't need my Asian food to be "authentic" and wouldn't know it if it was.

            I wanted to love La Taza d'Oro on 8th Ave, but it kinda sucks.

            1. re: il Trifulau

              I wouldn't go so far as to say La Taza de Oro sucks, but there are things they do well and things they do not so well.

              If you want to try bad ethnic food, pretty much any restaurant on East Sixth street should do the trick. And add Bombay Grill and Ghandi Cafe to the mix. Those restaurants have done more than "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" to malign South Asian foodways.

              A couple "in-the-know" Californians dragged me to Mary Ann's for "authentic" Mexican. It was about as close to a Mexico City taqueria as Gonzalez y Gonzalez. Little Italy is pretty much horror after horror, as well.

              1. re: JungMann

                La taza de oro had GREAT FOOD back in the day until about 15 years ago. Nowadays I would not include in this list by any means, but the food is just not memorable.

                1. re: JungMann

                  just wrote a short note on Gonzalez y Gonzalez but basically, if you do get stuck there with a large group, order the large ceviche as an entree (it's listed under apps). it's probably the best thing on the menu.


              2. Since I consider whiteness to be an ethnicity too, I'd have to say Silver Spurs -- any branch. A poor excuse for an all-American diner experience.

                1. The worst excuse for Chinese I've ever had was Shun Lee on the Upper West Side. I was shocked at how atrocious the food was, and the prices for that glop were outrageous.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: billyeats

                    If you mean the Shun lee by Lincoln Center, I find that difficult to understand why. I've been eating there for years and years and agree it is pricey, but have never, never had a bad meal. And it is one of the few places that knows how to make a Manhattan.

                    Ditto for the East side branch.

                    1. re: Stuartmc910

                      Really, Stuart? Maybe it was some sort of "off" night for them, but it must have been way off because seriously it was some of the worst Chinese I have tasted. The sauces were disgustingly syrupy and I know this word gets over-used but, cloying. Nothing seemed fresh and even the rice seemed...crunchy? I was disappointed. I hope for their sake it was just an anomaly.

                      1. re: billyeats

                        Totally agree on shun lee. Our three dishes consisted of gummy boiled chicken with broccoli that had been microwaved until yellow, beef doused in msg with three slices of green pepper, and stinky sesame shrimp. Didn't drink, somehow ended up spending $250. You do realize that the majority of the Chinese population eats far better for far less!

                      2. re: Stuartmc910

                        We used to go pretty frequently to Shun Lee West after the movies, and enjoyed the food - and they make excellent 'classic' cocktails and have pretty reasonably priced white wines that are good with the food. But, as I've done more exploring of Chinatown, and more Chinese cooking at home, I'm having trouble justifying spending the money that it costs to eat there, particularly for dumplings, etc. I do really love their Shrimp in XO sauce, and their Peking duck is quite good. Now, if I'm going to spend that kind of money for 'upscale' Chinese food, I'd rather take a cab down to Chin Chin.

                    2. Cafetasia is disgusting. Don't do it.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: DarthEater

                        oh yeah, cafetasia is craptastic. yuck.

                        1. re: petitechoux

                          Agreed. Everything is sweet on the menu and the servers are miserable for some reason.

                          1. re: sing me a bar

                            Try a shot of Hoisin sauce with every mussel. ughhhhhhhhhh

                      2. Bello Italian Restaurant in Hells Kitchen. I'm pretty sure that they just re-heat Chef Boyardee and garnish it with chopped parsley.

                        Any of the $9.95 prix-fixe Indian places on 6th St.

                        Sushi Samba

                        1. Umbertos clam house. Mussels were stinky and I had trouble shoo-ing the flies away.

                          1. Wo Hop in Chinatown

                            If we go outside of NYC, I can mention tons more.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              I'm not sure if it was Wo Hop or Hop Kee but we had a really bad meal at one of those places not too long ago. Maybe it was a time warp back to what 'Chinese/Cantonese' once was skewed into being for western consumption but regardless, it was not very good.

                              Note to self, don't let the future mother-in-law pick restaurants in future. Actually I don't think my fiance will allow that to happen again. Lol.

                              1. re: dhs

                                I haven't been to Hop Kee, but I can attest that Wo Hop is crud. I think the allure is really in the nostalgia for generations who made that their Chinatown destination, because I certainly can't imagine people are going there for the food.

                            2. I don't know whether Veselka counts, since I have no idea what they're trying to do there, but if so, this one tops my list. The food is OK, but the ultra-hip, attitude-packed servers and fairly high prices for food that's nothing special make the establishment itself a joke.

                              Sea, like a previous poster said, was the worst Thai food I have ever eaten. Except all the sauces I had tasted like peanut butter glopped thickly over some wilted veggies.

                              1. El Faro, if that's the name of the "Spanish landmark" in the far west Village. We had a tasteless (both entrees tasted exactly alike), overpriced, uncomfortable, meal there one weekend night, that was unredeemed by anything except fleeing as quickly as possible.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: efdee

                                  Agreed, El Faro is foul. Gloppy cream sauce on bland fish and sangria made of Kool-Aid.

                                2. Lemon Grass on the Upper West Side at Broadway & 94th. I think the only reason it survives is because it's close to the Days Inn & unsuspecting tourists eat there.

                                  1. Any Indian place on 6th ST between 1st and 2d Ave.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. mcdonalds. worst ethnic american food i ever ate

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: thew

                                        I don't consider McDonald's "ethnic American food.

                                        1. re: JPerry

                                          i think the whole phrase "ethnic food" is pretty ridiculous, and i was sorta trying to get at that

                                          1. re: thew

                                            I hear you. Would "foreign" be ok? Maybe not, 'cause people might want to trash lousy Southern barbecue or TexMex or lobster rolls. Do you have a preferred term?

                                            1. re: small h

                                              no i don't. i don;t see any reason to lump, say, thai food, mexican food, and bulgarian food into one category. (same reason i don't care for the phrases people of color, or drugs,but those are different conversations)

                                              1. re: thew

                                                Ok. Well, this thread looks to be about restaurants that try and fail to serve palatable food from a particular region, distinct from less specific "seafood" or "new American" or "diner" or "steak"-centric establishments, which don't divide geographically. As such, I think it's valid. Because "worst steakhouse you've ever been to" would also be valid. Agree? Disagree?

                                                1. re: small h

                                                  i agree for the most part, but then i would still say mcdonalds is ethnic american food.

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    "Being a member of a particular ethnic group, especially belonging to a national group by heritage or culture but residing outside its national boundaries:"

                                                    Outside USA.

                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      (sorry, can't get chowhound to not repeat my paragraphs twice in this post)

                                                      I think this is a completely valid category. "Ethinic" food is defined by ingredients and styles that were more recently introduced to us Americans from other regions. These new flavors generally become more popular when we see heavier immigration from said region. These are different foods of course, but share the characteristic of often being thought of as unique, foreign and adventuresome to many americans, especially those not living in NYC.

                                                      Indian, Thai and Ethiopian do not share the history that seafood, burgers and diner food have here in the states. This is also an interesting discussion (& helpful thread) because, since most people aren't familiar with the traditional preparations of foods from other cultures, it's hard to know if the restaurant you've found is serving an authentic or cheapened version.

                                        2. Without a doubt it was at a schizophrenic place on Atlantic Avenue, near Flatbush, in Brooklyn some years ago. The place was Sudanese-Dominican! There were a bunch of Sudanese guys at tables playing cards and our waitress was Dominican. I ordered this supposed typical Sudanese beef stew with a kind of cross between corn pudding and fufu. The starch was tasteless and the stew tasted like they opened a can of Dinty Moore and spiced it up with iodine.


                                          1. I once tried Spice Cove for some cheap, desperate lunch-time Indian delivery.

                                            - Mango Lassi - fluorescent orange (like thai iced tea) and very syrupy. Not drinkable.
                                            - Korma - fluorescent yellow and very sweet and watery. Tasted bad. Not edible.
                                            - Another curry (maybe mattar paneer?) - same fluorescent yellow color as the korma. a little more edible but not really.

                                            1. I would have to say Fresh tortilla grill.... It was a mexican/sushi place.... with a chinese guy running the whole show. Suffice to say they did neither meal particularly well.

                                              1. China 99 in on Fulton St.
                                                I ate there the first week I moved into Manhattan. This was in the 90's before you could find a decent restuarant south of Chambers.

                                                It was so bad I swore off chinese food in manhattan for 3 months until I found people whose taste I could trust to recommend something better. I am amazed they are still doing business.

                                                1. I can't be more aggree!
                                                  "I was born and raised in Ukrain. I know this culture and cuisine quite well and LOVE it.
                                                  Last weekend visiting New York we had a meal at Veselka (after reading all these praising reviews).
                                                  Let me tell you people. You ether never tasted a REAL UKRAINIAN cuisine or just have a bad taste.
                                                  We had there Borsch, mixed perogies plates (1 boiled and 1 fried) and crepes with cheese and rasberry sause (all their "signiture" dishes). We left half hungry and disgusted with the taste of the borsch and perogies. The crepes were not the best but at least eatable. Everything was served barely warm.
                                                  I didn't have such a bad experience eating in the most cheap canteen back in Ukrain.
                                                  It's a shame that this place claimes any connection to Ukrainian cuisine at all. It was very, very disappoining."

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: pyatachok

                                                    Can you recommend any good Ukranian places in the NY area? I'd love to try it.

                                                  2. Veselka, most restaurants on 6th street except Banjara (haven't tried Brick Lane yet)
                                                    Mary Anne's Mexican.

                                                    1. Now why would a huge tip be a F-U? They didn't care about you and you're not going back. What would have been more fun is if you left no tip, and they chased you out the door for it. I don't know if they still do that in Chinatown, but I remember as a kid it wasn't uncommon at places to see them chase someone out the door claiming they didn't leave enough tip.

                                                      1. Mill in Morningside Heights is pretty terrible for Korean. The only reason the place is still around, I'm convinced, is because there's no other Korean restaurant within 40 blocks. There are a few super-mediocre Korean restaurants on 32nd St. too, but Mill takes the cake for me.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: uwsister

                                                          Agreed. It makes the "super-mediocre" Korean restaurants in Ktown taste like a 5-star restaurant. I can easily walk to the Mill from where I live, but I'd rather take the subway to Ktown (or Queens, for that matter).