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Aug 26, 2013 11:33 AM

What is the Spicy Mina, Chengdu Heaven, Southern Spice of today on chowhound?

What I mean, is there a restaurant around today (maybe a hole in the wall) that has received as much attention or maybe even was "discovered" by people on here? I remember there being very long threads discussing these dive-ish yet delicious places and am curious to see if there is an equivalent that I may have skipped over in 2013. Essentially I'm asking what hole in the walls is Chowhound raving about these days? Is there a consensus on anything?

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  1. Ayada, Chao Thai, and also, IMO, Nusara fall into this category.
    I am a big fan of Sweet Yummy House-- all dishes authoritatively and uniquely seasoned and never failing to give great pleasure. SYH is a sort of hole in the wall, and the delivered food comes amazingly fast, hot delicious.
    But Spicy Mina was in a category by herself.

    1. I miss Southern Spice, their biryani, chicken 65 and coconut mint curries were truly wonderful. I haven't been to their new location.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Pookipichu

        Please go to the new ... Not so new any more... Southern spice on hillside ave. Better than ever, expanded menu, same marvelous food and service. Owner/host Mani is wonderful!

      2. Is there a particular reason for great restaurants to be holes in the wall?

        Because otherwise we've got Little Pepper, Spicy & Tasty, Malai Marke, Dhaba, Chote Nawab, Szechuan Gourmet, Land of Plenty, ...

        A good dive is a great thing but a real restaurant serving terrific food is even better.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Bob Martinez

          At the risk of never having a chance to quietly eat there again, can I add Rural (興順逹) to that glorious list?

          1. re: Bob Martinez

            I don't really get what this category is. If you read the board regularly you know what people are talking about and recommending. Spicy Mina attained particular status when Jim Leff was synonymous with Chowhound. Without that factor, what are you looking for? Are you looking for great non-American restaurants in Queens and beyond that serve spicy food? Or what?

            1. re: Peter Cuce

              I am looking to see if their is anything I have missed in terms of non American, hole in the wall restaurants in the outer boroughs, that have had long threads on Chowhound with many of the posts raving about the food. The three places I listed fit this description exactly I feel. Ayada is also in there as well.

              1. re: popcornsutton87

                I think good food is where you find it. There are some people who like a place more if it's funky and out of the way. Other people are more focused on the food.

                Yes, you can have a dive that serves great food (look up my post, more than 10 years ago, on Bosna Express), but we're lucky enough to live in a world where we've got terrific real ethnic restaurants. The menus are more extensive, the ambiance is better.

                I love a good story as much as the next guy. One legged guy from Uzbekistan who cooks on alternate Fridays in a Bushwick parking lot using a can of Sterno under a pie plate. If he cooks good food, God bless him but it's a bigger better world now.

                1. re: popcornsutton87

                  What makes Ayada a hole in the wall though? I'm not trying to pick a fight, so sorry if it comes across this way, but you're going to end up with another recitation of people's favorite restaurants with a question like this. You're probably better served by reading the last few months of posts on the Outerborough board. Popular stuff will have risen to the top along the way.

                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                    Agreed on all counts. And Ayada is no dive.

                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                      S/he might mean "mom and pop" -- or another phrase that evokes a nice but modest establishment -- rather than "hole in the wall".

                  2. re: popcornsutton87

                    Been to Ayada twice in the last month. Once I couldn't get in. It's packed these days. Get there early. Heavy CH coverage for several years now, plus plenty of other media mentions. They are probably at the point to either expand or split off a chef or two and start new restaurants. Heard a kind of rumor along these lines, but nothing definitive...Try maybe Ploy Thai if you want something that feels "undiscovered", although that too has been touched on here. I've been twice and ordered from the specials menu. It was good, but that was couple years ago since last visit.

                    1. re: popcornsutton87

                      " non American, hole in the wall restaurants in the outer boroughs,"

                      It is best to poke around. I know some really special places that are quite exclusive, not in the legal sense that is, just in patronage. That is what you look for.

                      You can find whole in walls for Mexican, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, central Asia (Kakazian that is), and more.

                      Use your eyes, and location, ie: 8th ave for chinese places, 4th ave mex and south/central....

                      See my Guatemalan post just a few days ago. that place is nice. I would not disrespect them by calling it a whole in the wall, but it is not a 9th ave or Greenwich Village frilly fake. It is real Guatemalan food, for great prices, and cooked by true Guatemalan chefs.


                      1. re: popcornsutton87

                        opps that one was not Outer Boroughs

                        1. re: jonkyo

                          ". I know some really special places that are quite exclusive, not in the legal sense that is, just in patronage. That is what you look for."

                          why don't you name them? that would probably helpful for the OP

                  3. Though obviously not new, imho, the only place that really meets most of the OP's requirements is the basement level of the Golden Mall.

                    1. It's hard to give you an answer, other than what has already been said, especially since you have already gotten answers from some of the most respected mavens of the OB board. I would follow their advice and just read through the threads. From looking at your profile, you seem to kind of blow into CH briefly every couple of years, at least as a poster. Perhaps you are a regular reader, even if not a poster? In either case, there is the other part of your answer.
                      This site is so widely read by food world professionals of all kinds that I don't think anybody here is going to recommend anything that might qualify as a "dive" at this point. For example, let's say, hypothetically, that I know some amazing cooks who sell low-priced high-quality lunches and dinners out of their homes or cars - I would NEVER post it on this site, since the health department or whatever would be on their ass tomorrow. Although I feel friendly towards (most) of my fellow posters on site, this isn't a place for private friendly conversation. It's real public.

                      30 Replies
                      1. re: ratgirlagogo

                        ok so let me rephrase my question. What are the most popular inexpensive (under $20) ethnic restaurants amongst chowhounders currently in the outer boroughs?

                        1. re: popcornsutton87

                          Some restaurants attract a high level of praise here. Maybe a bit too much. Not as bad as cronuts or ramen burgers but sometimes more than they deserved. It used to happen here with some frequency but over the last 3 or 4 years that's gone away. When some of those restaurants are mentioned it makes people a little sensitive.

                          Now that you've clarified your question let me list some of my favorites. These places did *not* all open over the last year. In fact most of them have been around for quite awhile. You know what? They're still terrific.

                          Bosna Express

                          One of the few hole in the walls pn my list. Bosnian burgers in Ridgewood. I'm linking to an old post because it's really detailed. The place has not changed a bit - I was there in July and it's still great.

                          Cevabdzinica Sarajevo

                          More Bosnian, this time in Astoria near the Museum of the Moving image. The cevapi are really good and you can get the same burger as at Bosna Express but it's not served on their great bread. (They supply the bread on the side.) Definitely worth a visit.

                          Rosamunde Sausage Grill

                          Is German "ethnic?" If it's really good I don't care. Rosamunde serves about 13 different types of sausages at gentle prices.

                          Great Taste Dumpling Dumpling

                          Good dumplings - 5 for $1. Originally this place was a branch of the frequently mentioned Prosperity Dumpling in Manhattan. The Sunset Park location changed names and possibly owners but otherwise it's still very good. The atmosphere is a couple of steps above similar joints.

                          Ba Xuyen
                          4222 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11232

                          An old favorite of the board and still unsurpassed. They serve the best banh mi in the city. Sunset Park, Brooklyn. They close around 6:00PM so plan accordingly.

                          Nha Trang Palace
                          5908 8th Avenue (at 59th St.
                          )Brooklyn 11220
                          Good Vietnamese in Sunset Park. The pho is terrific as are their various salads that feature grilled meats. It's a sitdown place with gentle prices.

                          Tacos Matamoros

                          Mexican in Sunset Park. Great tacos and cemitas.

                          Little Pepper

                          On the high end of your $20 limit but one of the best Sichuan restaurants in NYC. It's in College Point. If you don't have a car I'd get a cab/car service from the Flushing subway stop.

                            1. re: scoopG

                              I'll add one because I just visited last night again on the spur of the moment and I think it fits your bill:

                              Kofte Piyaz

                              Turkish in Sunset Park. Try the red lentil soup and the eggplant and the almond pudding. But I've yet to have anything bad on the small menu. Small place, run by one guy and his wife. Always a nice experience.

                            2. re: popcornsutton87

                              No need to rephrase. I totally get what you are getting at and I have two words: Astoria Seafood. And it is a dive if ever there were one! If ever I decide to write a love poem to Queens and to Seafood, this place would be the inspiration. In unrelated news, I am pretty sure I saw Spicy Mina's husband the other day in Hicksville. I miss the old ChowHound where people didn't feel the need to split hairs over semantical issues.

                              1. re: ZenFoodist

                                At least someone gets it. Thanks for the rec

                                1. re: popcornsutton87

                                  Lol the truth is Astoria Seafood gets almost NO press on CHowhound, but it's a gem. I'd never do an actual write up on it here because it's already crowded enough, but if people are willing to sift through all this stuff, then they deserve to know about it. I had the good fortune to have Le Bernardin, Sesuit harbor cafe ( our fave spot in Dennisport) and Astoria Seafood all in the same week last month, and AS was the meal I kept dreaming about ;) They are used for the next week or two for vacation, so wait a bit before you go.

                                  1. re: ZenFoodist

                                    Thanks ZenFoodist. I've been wanting to go, but I hear that the odor and the flies are off-putting during the hot summer months. Based on that information alone, I think I will wait till the weather cools down a bit before I venture there.

                                2. re: ZenFoodist

                                  I've eaten Mina's food at Angon and in Queens. Except for one stellar meal it was average, sometimes worse than that. But Mina herself became a cult figure. I am not nostalgic for the Chowhound that made her into the Madonna of Lourdes.

                                  In it's early years CH sometimes confused a good story with good food. Dives were celebrated because they *were* dives. You'd read about a place, think that it was going to be wonderful, and then when you finally ate there you'd wonder what all the fuss was about.

                                  It's different now - the posts are more accurate.

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                    i agree with that, i think some people still get lost in the idea of the place or food vs the actual taste, but its definitely gotten better

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      Yep. The ratio of reality to myth is much higher now. It also helps that the ethnic dining scene has never been better.

                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                        i dont know why im even bringing this up, but my first memory a terrible chowhound experience was when people were raving about that green sandwich from that little fujian stand underneath the bridge on east broadway bc calvin trillin wrote some garbage about how this was one of the places he goes to in his chinatown tours or something (not sure why anyone decided this guy was some chinese food expert). That thing wasn't just not good, it was awful and people were just raving about it; my gf told me chowhound was garbage after that (thankfully i didn't listen to her).


                                        1. re: Lau

                                          I remember the love for that greens sandwich. It was more meh than awful but was confounded by the raves.

                                          I will second Cevabdzinica Sarajevo. Really good mixed meats plate and their ajvar is excellent. As authentic as you can get outside of the Balkans.

                                          1. re: MVNYC

                                            yah it was one of my first experiences on chowhound, my very first one was bahn mi and che cali in little saigon in CA, which was so positive that ive been on chowhound ever since

                                            1. re: MVNYC

                                              That is nice to know. Thank you.

                                              i know of a few Balkan places and it seems to be the places that budgeted very little on interior decoration and exterior looks that serve up some of the best food from that region.

                                            2. re: Lau

                                              HAHAHA I was fooled by that too, I can't believe you remember that.

                                              I get what the OP is saying, these little CH-unearthed gems all happened to be ethnic-cooking holes in the wall back then but with the boom in foodie interest and number of restaurants actually serving great previously-hard-to-cuisines, there don't seem to be just a handful that us diehard foodlovers are buzzing about. Sounds like Balkan might be the new mini-wave here.

                                            3. re: Bob Martinez

                                              Hmm. As someone who has been on here since the 1990s, I'm not sure I agree. Thanks to a few great posters (And you know who you are) this board has never been better if you want to find great Chinese and Southeast Asian eats, but in the past I felt it was more wide-ranging and enthusiastic. I miss that enthusiasm, even if it was sometimes misguided. Or maybe it's just the nostalgia of a long-time poster.

                                              1. re: missmasala

                                                "... this board has never been better if you want to find great Chinese and Southeast Asian eats, but in the past I felt it was more wide-ranging and enthusiastic."

                                                I think a big reason for the concentration of posting on Chinese restaurants (and Indian restaurants too) is because the number of good places has exploded in the past 10 years. The posts reflect that, as well they should.

                                                With that in mind, there's still no reason why people can't post about other cuisines. By all means, everyone is welcome step up to the plate and do that. There's nothing to stop them.

                                                I'm all for enthusiasm but it needs to bear some relationship to reality. Otherwise the board becomes a parody of itself where we celebrate quirky restaurants *because* they're quirky and the food is a distant second.

                                                At it's best CH can discover terrific restaurants. Frank Bruni used to read the boards regularly - that's how he came to write about Spicy & Tasty, Sripraphai, and Szechuan Gourmet.

                                                Sure, there's room for the well chosen dive - I mentioned Bosna Express and Great Taste Dumpling earlier - but the food at those places is actually good.

                                                1. re: missmasala

                                                  Totally miss the enthusiasm, missmasala. I check the Outer Boroughs boards a couple of times a month but with nowhere NEAR the frequency of those early days when Jim first started CH. I actually just stumbed upon some old, saved copies of Down The Hatch which predate Chowhound and were my first introduction to Jim. Looooong time ago....For the last 5 or 6 years, Facebook has become the preferred vehicle for documenting my food adventures, especially those in my beloved Underbelly of downtown Flushing and the Murray Hill Korean enclave near my home in North Flushing. Things change. We're getting Off Topic though ;)

                                                  1. re: ZenFoodist

                                                    >For the last 5 or 6 years, Facebook has become the preferred vehicle for documenting my food adventures, especially those in my beloved Underbelly of downtown Flushing and the Murray Hill Korean enclave near my home in North Flushing.

                                                    I really miss your reports from out your way. Even though it's the best and most authentic Korean food in NYC, Chowhound gets only sporadic posts from that area these days.

                                            4. re: Bob Martinez

                                              For what it's worth:

                                              I myself dug Spicy Mina, though with two caveats: the place was hit or miss to the point where some statisticians might have called it stochastic; and there weren't (and aren't) so many blow-you-away Indian places in Queens that the bar was all that high.

                                              I had an Indian colleague whose husband and other close relatives are restauranteurs. She found herself faced with a catering emergency and asked me, a lover of Indian food, for a recommendation on very short notice. I told her to go to Mina. Bottom line: her family found the food utterly underwhelming.

                                              That was toward the end of the run of Spicy Mina. Again, I myself thought she was quite talented, but it's necessary to leaven her legend with some perspective.

                                            5. re: ZenFoodist

                                              ZF - I always love new recs for hole in the walls, but you must be a mind reader to come up with that based on the OP's "Essentially I'm asking what hole in the walls is Chowhound raving about these days? Is there a consensus on anything?"

                                              I know where Astoria Seafood is, but have never been. What's good there? Do they specialize in one type of prep over another, fried, grilled, etc? Or can they do many equally well? Can I assume that prices are reasonable based on the "dive" description? I couldn't find a menu on line anywhere.

                                              1. re: el jefe

                                                Seems to be market price based on the fish. You browse the day's selection and decide what you want. I think their best prep is the simplest--grilled and served with lemon. It's all pretty basic and delicious mainly because the fish is so fresh. Love this place both for eat in and to buy fish to take home and cook.

                                            6. re: popcornsutton87

                                              If I can add a personal favorite - De Hot Pot in Prospect Lefferts, for the best doubles I've ever had (they also have roti and a big assortment of stews and sides, but I keep coming back to the doubles). If you're lucky they'll have some house-made sorrel to wash it down with. (Always a surprise to me that there isn't more love for West Indian food on this board.) Very limited seating, but the park is a short walk away.

                                              De Hot Pot
                                              1127 Washington Ave (right where Washington runs into Flatbush)

                                              1. re: linda313

                                                Post about what you love and other people will check it out and spread the love. That's how love gets made on the board - there's no overseer. This is not a cuisine I've explored a lot but I might go there today based on your rec. thanks.

                                                1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                  Do check it out. I know there's no overseer of love, obviously (though what a great job title that would be). It's just that I'm new to Brooklyn, intrigued by West Indian food (not something available to me in Detroit), and surprised that searches on this board didn't turn up much in the way of recommendations. If I ever manage to drag myself away from De Hot Pot's doubles, I'll report on my findings.

                                                  1. re: linda313

                                                    Doubles are one of my favorite things, so I will definitely check out De Hot Pot. There have been more posts on West Indian food in the past, but lately not so much. Two of my faves shut down a few years ago, and I've been looking for others to replace them.

                                                2. re: linda313

                                                  Thank you.

                                                  I love roti and go to some shops here and there.

                                                  I shall check this one out.

                                                  I love west indie food too (and their beer.....soca ...etc) .

                                                  They are all over, and many. Nice to find a suggestion for one.

                                              2. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                Excellent point, ratgirlagogo. The friendly conversation part, I believe, is what I miss most. In addition to living in FIushing, I own a business that is exclusively Asian and am fortunate to have access to a whole list of "cooking ay yis" who prepare a wide span of Asian foods- from Burmese to Uyghur- and then deliver to your door. That sort of thing. For a pittance. It is the subculture and very common amognst the upper middle class population with which I work. In the earlier days of Chowhound, those gorgeous first coupIe of years of its existence, I would have felt comfortable enthusiastically sharing such info with other people who I am certain would have cherished it; these days I fear divulging such "secrets" for the reasons you stated above. A different place. Not better or worse in my estimation. Just different.

                                                1. re: ZenFoodist

                                                  Yes, that's the kind of thing I meant. It's not just Chowhound, it's a different internet these days. Better in lots of ways, but not as much fun in others.