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Sep 2, 2010 02:05 PM

Best Specialty Foods (pupusas, soup dumplings, rillette, etc) in NYC/Brooklyn??

I'm visiting Manhattan/Brooklyn for 4 short days and looking for some delicious, mind-blowing, must-try foods at restaurants, take-out spots, street food, markets, wherever. We love all foods of all ethnicity and are willing to go out of the way to eat (or drink) something memorable. We would love suggestions for the best ____ or anything strange that we may not have tried before or can only get in NYC. We'll also be making rounds to craft cocktail bars, so suggestions for foods that will soak up the alcohol are always welcome. ;) Here's a list of some foods that we're interested in, but are not limited to:

Best Dumpling (or Soup Dumpling):
Best Chinese Buns:
Best Takoyaki:
Best Curry (any country):
Best Dosa:
Best Pupusa:
Best Arepa:
Best Tamale:
Best Taco:
Best Basque Pintxos:
Best Rillette:
Best Charcuterie:
Best Pie:
Best French Fries:
Best Biscuit Sandwich:
Best Cuban Sandwich:
Best Pulled Pork Anything:
Best Pastrami:
Best Chicken & Waffles:
Best (etc, etc, etc)

Thank you in advance, NYC chowhounds! Sorry for the broad question but I'm looking forward to checking out your suggestions!

- Christina

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  1. Are you willing to go to Queens/Brooklyn? A lot of the ethnic foods you list are better and cheaper in the Outer Boroughs. In some cases, the ones in Manhattan just really aren't that great, period, or there's very little choice/variety because only 1-2 restaurants carry the item.

    For example, for dumplings and soup dumplings, I'd rather go to Flushing.

    For best takoyaki, there's really only one or two places that even have it.

    For the Latin American items you list, I'd rather go to the Red Hook ballfields.

    For best Basque pintxos, I'd say the only real contender is El Quinto Pino (maybe Txikito but it's expensive).

    For rillettes and charcuterie, Bar Boulud. Its sister restaurant, DBGB has GREAT fries as well.

    I don't think we do pie all that well overall, nor pulled pork (maybe Dinosaur).

    There's really only a few contenders for pastrami. Katz's is my pick.

    Have you seen these or done individual searches for all of the items you list?

    Best street food/street carts in NYC:

    Best cheap eats under $10

    Please help me eat during a month in new york

    Don't leave NY without eating these foods

    Pizza in NYC

    BTW, I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour, just note that Guss' has closed so sub in Pickle Guy instead:

    Best breakfast and brunch:

    Best foodie shopping:

    Best mixology:

    Top Ten Bars for Beer Snobs

    Pickle Guys
    49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

    El Quinto Pino
    401 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011

    Bar Boulud
    1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

    240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

    299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks so much for the helpful tips, Kathryn! I'll definitely have to do some searches in the Outer Boroughs boards for good ethnic. I am actually going to be in Flushing for the two weekend days, so maybe I'll plan to eat there. Looking forward to a very delicious trip!

      1. re: kathryn

        kathryn. I have to say this: you're really really nice.

        I hope you get to see this message before the moderators take it off.

      2. Best Dumpling (or Soup Dumpling): Two different things.

        For Beijing-style dumplings (potstickers) you'll find 90% of people will likely say one of two places, Vanessa's or Prosperity, both on Eldridge St. I side with Vanessa's - I find the fillings more flavorful, the wrapper more toothsome and less greasy. Also, the stuffed pancakes (think a pizza-shaped wedge of Chinese focaccia) are far superior. Get an order of dumplings, a pancake (with duck, my preference) and sit in the park on Allen and watch the hipster play bike polo.

        For soup dumplings - you'll hear a lot of haters on Joe's Shanghai (or Joe's Ginger, their sister resto) - don't believe the anti-hype. Some people just feel the need to hate on something because it becomes popular. Like all the punks who suddenly started hating Nirvana when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" became a hit. Sorry, but Nevermind was a great frickin' album, and Joe's makes some damn fine soup dumplings.

        Best Takoyaki: Not many options, sadly, but Otafuku - a little hole in the wall with no seating in the East Village - makes some good ones.

        Best Curry (any country): "Curry" can mean twelve different things, so it's a bit hard to narrow down.

        Best Taco: For tradional ones, Pinche is probably the best option in Manhattan. If you're willing to venture out to Sunset Park, though, Tacos Matamoros and Tacos Xochimilco are both great and super-cheap. For more fancified ones, I'm fond of the relatively new Los Feliz on Ludlow.

        Best Rillette: I don't know that there's one best. There are a lot of great rillettes to be found. Actually, the house-made duck rillette at Dean and Deluca is pretty damn fine. Very meaty, flavorful. Get a half pound and some crackers and keep it in your hotel room for late-night snacking.

        Best Charcuterie: Again, many good options. You could go all fancy at Bar Boulud, I suppose.

        Best French Fries: Tie - Balthazar and Les Halles. Guess I'll side with Les Halles since they're cheaper.

        Best Cuban Sandwich: ANother that will inspire debate, but my #1 for a few years running has been Cibao on Clinton Street. Also, they have the best mofungo - lots of crispy pork bits, great flavor. Get a Cubano and a Mofungo and it'll feed two people, easily.

        Best Pulled Pork Anything: I'll say I'm one vote against Porchetta, because I'm sure a lot of people will recommend it. I found it a greasy, underseasoned mess. And while it's not "pulled" pork, the pork buns at Momofuku are a must-try. Also, if you've got a big group, you could do the Bo Ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar or the "Down Home Pig Pick'n" at RUB BBQ. RUB also makes a decent Pulled Pork sandwich.

        Best Pastrami: Katz's. Don't believe the haters, they're full of it. See: Soup Dumplings, above.

        Best Chicken & Waffles: For chicken AND waffles I'd say Amy Ruth's in Harlem. But there's better just plain fried chicken without waffles - the legendary Charles' Pan Fried Chicken for traditional, or Henry's End (Brooklyn) for a more sit-down dinner kind of place.

        Best (etc, etc, etc):

        Best Noodles in Broth, I - Ramen: something that can start fights here. You'll have a good bowl at Setagaya, Ippudo, or Momofuku Noodle Bar. The advantage to MNB is you can also get the justifiably famous pork buns. Two birds w/ one stone.
        Best Noodles in Broth, II - Pho: I'm all about Cong Ly, though Pho Grand is certainly good as well. Lots of people will start horsesh*t debates about which Pho is most "authentic" (as if there even is such a thing as "authentic" Pho) but those two are for my money the best in Manhattan.
        Best Noodles in Broth, III - Hand-Pulled: I'm awful fond of Lam Zhou, a little hole in the wall on East Broadway, not to be confused with Lam Zhou, a decidedly inferior (though much cleaner) place with the same name on Division. Also of note, Super Taste and Sheng Wang - across the street from one another on Eldridge. They're like the "Gino's vs. Pat's" of Hand-Pulled Noodles.

        Best BBQ: RUB (As mentioned above) for pork or, my preference, Hill Country for brisket & burnt ends.

        Vanessa's Dumpling House
        118 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

        Hill Country
        30 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010

        RUB BBQ
        208 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011

        Charles' Country Pan-Fried Chicken
        2837 8th Ave, New York, NY 10039

        Momofuku Ssam Bar
        207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

        Amy Ruth's
        113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

        Cong Ly
        124 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

        Joe's Shanghai
        9 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

        Super Taste
        26 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

        Momofuku Noodle Bar
        171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

        Les Halles
        15 John Street, New York, NY 10038

        Les Halles
        411 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016

        Prosperity Dumpling
        46 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

        Joe's Ginger
        25 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

        Bar Boulud
        1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

        236 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003

        65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

        72 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

        Pinche Taqueria
        333 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

        Los Feliz
        109 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

        Henry's End
        44 Henry St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

        Tacos Matamoros
        5717 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

        Tacos Xochimilco
        4501 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220

        7 Replies
        1. re: sgordon

          sgordon, have you dined at Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing? I think what they do there is a notch up from any Manhattan contenders because the broth seems really clean and less oily than the competition. I'm not sure how they do it!

          1. re: sgordon

            I have to agree with the "haters" about Joe's Shanghai's xiao long bao: an overly thick and doughy skin hiding a pretty mediocre, greasy broth does not make a good impression. Agreed with kathryn on Nan Xiang. It's clearly the best option in NYC.

            Joe's Shanghai
            24 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

            1. re: sgordon

              Best french fries - The Breslin

              Best burger - Minetta Tavern (black label)

              Best dosa - Saravasaas

              Best pastrami - Sarge's

              Minetta Tavern
              113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

              The Breslin
              20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

              1. re: sgordon

                i fear that putting momofuku noodle bar's ramen in the same category as setagaya and ippudo isn't fair. while MNB's ramen may score some points for "originality" / "something different", by traditional ramen standard it's just not up to par.

                1. re: mow mow

                  It's broth. With noodles in it. If the broth is good (yes) and the noodles are good (yes) and the other stuff they throw in there is good (yes) then it's a good bowl of soup.

                  "Traditional" is a word that means less than nothing to me. What is the "par" line for this supposedly traditional ramen?

                  There's nothing about "traditional" that means "good" in the slightest. I would debate there even IS such a thing as "traditional" ramen - or traditional anything, really. I could find you six different shops in Tokyo making it six different ways. On the same block.

                  Perhaps Momo's Ramen simply isn't to your taste. That's fine. Personal taste. My gf finds theirs a bit on the salty side. (She also doesn't jibe with David Chang's bizarre aversion to "seats with backs" but that's another matter...)

                  And given the other menu items available, I think a meal is much more interesting at MNB than at either of the other options.


                  Kathryn, hcbk - haven't been to Nan Xiang, so I can't comment. Were the OP in town for more than four days I'd probably recommend doing a Flushing Day, sure - but it seems like they'll be pretty busy in Manhattan / Brooklyn. It's a bit out of the way for someone trying to pack as much possible into a short period of time.

                  That, and I think the soup dumplings at Joe's are just fine. Everyone's definition of what the "perfect" dumpling is will be different, of course, and I can't see sending someone on an hour-each-way trip just to get some that are marginally better. A soup dumpling is, in the end, a soup dumpling. It's either going to be good or bad, but - aside from, perhaps, the foie gras soup dumplings at Anissa - it'll never be anything mind-blowing. To add two hours of travel time to a person's day for one (or even two) items is just overkill.

                  Okay, now who's gonna throw shade on my Pho and hand-pull recommendations? C'mon, wouldn't be chowhound without a Pho debate...

                  1. re: sgordon

                    Yeah, I wouldn't head out to Flushing just for Nan Xiang. It's better as one stop among many during a Flushing food crawl.

                    1. re: hcbk0702

                      sorry it sounds like i've pissed you off somewhat with what i say about momofuku's ramen. yeah taste is subjective. i'm just saying it's far from authentic. and if you like the authentic stuff, like setagaya and ippudo, you may not like it. but you may too. it's like americanized chinese food or brown rice sushi roll with mango in it. you may like it, but it's just a different beast.

                      we can get philosophical about how to define "traditional", blah blah, but to me personally I think neither the broth nor the noodle was any good - broth too salty and lacks complexity and depth, noodle tastes old and got this "flour" taste which is characteristic of cheap noodle from chinatown - so it's really not worth the hype and the price and the wait to get a seat for that bowl of noodle, etc. and it's not like i'm a die-hard traditionalist about everything. i rather like the food at the ssam bar, for instance. it's just that this ramen thing doesn't work for me. again, taste is subjective and it may work for you. but i think for some people, the hype comes from the fact that this was one of the first popular ramen in NY. if they hit the market after ippudo and setagaya have gotten the mainstream attention, i feat momofuku's noodle wouldn't really be as popular as now. and then there's the chang hype. so i think it's just over-rated (not necessarily chang in general, but this ramen thing in particular).

                      btw, ippudo also has good appetizers too. and also pork pun, which is arguably just as good as MNB's.

              2. some less standard answers:

                Best Dumpling (or Soup Dumpling): shanghai pavillion on the UES

                Best Takoyaki: Tatany 72

                Best Curry (any country): SIgiri (sri lankan) ask for the black curry, sri lankan spicy

                Best Arepa: caracas arepa

                Best Tamale: one of the carts in east harlem

                Best Taco: cascabel taqueria., or el rey del sabor truck on 60th and 3rd (daytime only)
                Best Basque Pintxos: not the best but i like euzkadi anyway

                Best Pulled Pork Anything: not pulled, but momofuku sam pork bun is my fave pork in NYC
                Best Pastrami: katz's
                Best Chicken & Waffles: amy ruths

                i used to go to cong ly, but i find myself at xe lua more often for pho these days

                510 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                Tatany 72
                1400 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10021

                1 Reply
                1. re: thew

                  Forgot Xe Lua, yeah - I've been fond of them of late as well. The have a more expansive / interesting menu than Cong Ly or Pho Grand. When I'm feeling Vietnamese and I'm not JUST having Pho, they're high up on my list - especially for seafood. It's just a little further from my apartment than the other two, is all, so I'm not there as often.

                  Cong Ly
                  124 Hester St, New York, NY 10002

                  Xe Lua
                  86 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013

                2. Thanks everyone for all of your great suggestions! Just got back a few days ago and wanted to give a little recap on a delicious trip.

                  Momofuku Ssam: pork buns, pickled mussels, rice cakes and sausage. Pickled mussels stood out as the best thing there. The rice cakes were quite toothsome and greasy, but satisfying. I think I was thinking of more of a chinese rice cake than the korean tubelike ones which are more dense. Pork buns were delicious, but it's hard to go wrong with pork belly.

                  Solber Pupusas from Red Hook: they happened to be at the event I was at so I lucked out and got to eat delicious pupusa platters with bean & cheese pupusas, curtido (pickled cabbage & onions), sweet plantains, and sausage for two days.

                  Gerard's Paella: also at the event. I'm sure it was just an off day for them or something but we didn't have a great chicken and shrimp paella from them. It was a little undercooked, there was no socarrat crust, and it was a little bland.

                  DBGB: charcuterie plate, flatbread with brussel sprouts, guanciale, parsnip, and egg, and pork schnitzel. The charcuterie was pretty good and you get a ton of it in the assorted platter. I probably enjoyed the country pate the most and also wished there was triple the saucisson. The best rillette I had in NY was at Clover Club, but sadly they didn't have their pot of quail rillette on the menu this time around. That rillette has definitely set the bar high. The flatbread was extremely delicious; not sure why they said the schnitzel was one of the most popular dishes because it wasn't great or special. It made me a little sad. The roasted potatoes with it were some of the best I've had though.

                  Blue Ribbon: bone marrow with oxtail marmalade, pirogi, and duck breast. The duck breast was succulent and delicious, but the bone marrow is something that makes my mouth water everytime I think about it. What can I do to get closer to this bone marrow and have it in my life all the time?

                  Katz's Deli: the legendary pastrami is worth the hype. So tasty and the pickles were unexpectedly mild and fresh.

                  Spotted Pig: pickles, sheep's milk ricotta gnudi, and the burger. The gnudi was perfect and tender. The burger was delicious and the garlic chips and fried rosemary on the fries made them memorable.

                  Clover Club: still sad about no quail rillette, but duck fat chips with truffle creme fraiche are great drunk food. Obviously the ala minute cocktails were phenomenal, but that's for a different cocktail post about this trip. ;)

                  Vanessa's Dumplings: pork & chive fried dumplings, boiled shrimp dumplings, mini pork buns, sesame pancake with peking duck. Holy wow this was the biggest and cheapest meal of my life, not the best ever but damn satisfying. We had to pick and choose what to eat more of because we wanted to save room for other food. The pork fried dumpling was so so but 4 for $1?! Crazy. My favorite was the mini steamed pork buns that were pan fried on the bottom I think. The boiled shrimp dumplings were tasty and made me nostalgic. The sesame pancake-wich was a little bland and too chewy for my taste.

                  Porchetta: This was pretty tasty but maybe not worth all the hype. I appreciate what they're doing and we kind of came at an odd hour in the day, so maybe that's why the pork was a little dry, but still flavorful. I got bits of perfectly crunchy awesome skin and then bits of crispiness that almost broke my tooth. Glad we got that amazing ginger beer to wash it down.

                  We'll have to try some of the other suggestions next time we're around. Sad that we didn't get to try Ippudo, the uni panini at Quinto Pino, and all of the other delicious stuff you've posted about. So few days and only so much stomach space.


                  Momofuku Ssam Bar
                  207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                  Spotted Pig
                  314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

                  Vanessa's Dumplings
                  220 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

                  65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                  110 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                  299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003