Archive for the tag 'cafes'

Tsob Tsobe! at Coney Island Avenue

Tsob Tsobe! at 2817 Coney Island Avenue

It was with great dismay that we noticed Back to USSR pulling down its signs over the summer, after two years in business. The kitschy, Soviet-themed restaurant at 2817 Coney Island Avenue was a great place to bring people from outside of Sheepshead Bay, pulling back the curtain a bit on the area’s Russian-speaking cultures with a tongue planted firmly in-cheek.

But the storefront didn’t stay empty long. Some time in the past few weeks Tsob-Tsobe! took its place, declaring itself a”cafe lounge bar.” They redid the entire storefront, interior and exterior. Unlike its predecessor, which elevated the atmosphere with a large statue of Vladimir Lenin with kielbasa in hand, Tsob-Tsobe! is tastefully decorated and is earning kudos from Yelpers.

The online directory says it’s serving Mediterranean, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine, but we’ve learned that with local restaurants, that could mean Turkish, or it could mean the menu is a smorgasbord of Turkish, Uzbeki and Russian foodstuffs. With their website not yet built and no menu available online, we’ll just have to wait to visit to find out.

As for the name? We’re having trouble tracking down its provenance. Some Googling suggests it’s something Cossack cowboys yelled at their cattle, or farmers upon receiving a good harvest – but we can’t say for sure. Anybody able to fill us in?

red-mango-1

After a blitz of independent and local chain frozen yogurt joints opening up in Sheepshead Bay these last few years, national franchise Red Mango has staked out a location on Kings Highway.

Located at 1222 Kings Highway, it’s the second Red Mango to open in Southern Brooklyn (the first is in Bensonhurst), and the fourth in the borough.

The storefront looks small, but opens up to a larger space and upstairs dining area once inside. Employees told Sheepshead Bites that the business began serving frozen treats to customers on November 13.

Updated (November 26): The original version of this article erroneously said that Scott Jewelers, which once operated out of the current Red Mango space, had closed. It’s actually two doors down at 1220 Kings Highway, and doing better than ever:

scott-jewelers

We regret the confusion our error caused, and offer our apologies to Scott Jewelers for any inconvenience.

A previous update made the correction moments after publishing, but we’re revising this notice to make it even clearer.

coffee-spot

Local businesses in Sheepshead Bay don’t often go all out with holiday decorations, unfortunately. The exception is Coffee Spot Cafe at 1617 Jerome Avenue, which usually has something up for every major holiday. And this year you could say they’re Putin up a hell of a show. Eh? Ehhh?

The business put up a a rather creepy window decal of Russian President Vladimir Putin, complete with vampiric fangs and pointed ears. “Happy Halloween To The World,” the vampire-in-chief declares, presumably before annexing it and sucking it dry, or something.

The store went all out on the inside, as well, with decorations dangling all about. Tall people beware, you might have to bow your head not to get whacked by a fuzzy spider.

Threats to the vertically endowed aside, we’re glad to see this local business getting into the holiday spirits. Happy Halloween, Coffee Spot and President Putin!

Thanks to Lenny M. for the heads up.

 

vivibubbletea

ViVi Bubble Tea, a franchise serving tapioca-ball-filled beverages, is setting up shop at 1501 Avenue U.

Signs went up at the location last week, and it replaces Boss Dental. It will be one of several places on Avenue U where one can get bubble tea, including Kung Fu Tea across the street.

ViVi is a growing franchise, with more than two dozen stores in the metro area. They most recently opened a shop on Bensonhurst’s Bay Parkway.

The Avenue U spot will be the third location in Brooklyn.

According to the franchise’s Facebook page, the store was scheduled to have a soft opening and was serving customers this past Saturday. The above photo was taken on Wednesday, and we haven’t yet confirmed whether they’ve opened or not.

Has anybody been to any of ViVi’s locations? What’d you think?

Time to make the... (Source: NYTimes.com)

Time to make the… (Source: NYTimes.com)

So is it Shaikh’s Place or Donut Shoppe? I’ve referred to it interchangeably for years, always corrected by someone who is adamant about one or the other. Even Yelp hedges its bets.

While the New York Times is hardly the arbiter of anything Southern Brooklyn, it’s going with Shaikh’s Place.

The 24-hour donut and coffee shop at 1503 Avenue U, known for out-of-this-world, light, airy donuts (who needs the extra letters?) and a somewhat gritty storefront, got the Sunday Times treatment over the weekend, earning high praise from customers and veteran food writer Rachel Wharton.

Wharton covers the background of the place and its curious owner, a former electrical engineering student who fell in love with the rounded, holed confection.

The Shaikh of the place is Shaikh Kalam, 53, a Calcutta native who bought the shop (also 53) from its original owner, Carlo Radicella, in 1994, after Mr. Radicella had a stroke.

Mr. Kalam arrived from India in 1981 to study electrical engineering, but doughnuts interfered. He found a job at the place in 1983, when it was still known as the Donut Shoppe, “and I stayed.”

Many agree that when Mr. Kalam took over as head baker for Mr. Radicella in the 1980s, doughnut magic was made.

Mr. Kalam tried to make the sweets lighter and less greasy, tinkering with the temperature of the frying oil and the time he let the dough rise. “There’s a lot of little knickknack to it,” he mused. He said, however, that the most important step was simply that he makes 150 dozen fresh every day, beginning at 5 a.m.

Apparently, everyone the Times spoke to agrees that Kalam does a better job with the donuts than the original owner. I can’t say – I’ve only been eating from Shaikh’s for the past seven or so years. And it’s ruined me for any of the Dunkin’ crap.

As for the old signage and the interior, which the Times says hasn’t been renovated for more than half a century, Kalam is unconcerned.

“I might paint,” said Mr. Kalam, who apparently does not worry much about décor. “Once they come in, I don’t lose customers — they’re keepers.”

I get that. Genius needs no frills.

Read the full write-up.

matchaTHE BITE: Kung Fu Tea is a bubble tea chain that has been spreading, with several locations in Queens, a few around Manhattan and Brooklyn, and locations in four other states. Sheepshead Bay’s own Kung Fu Tea is at 1422 Avenue U, just off East 15th Street.

Bubble tea originated in Taichung, Taiwan, in the 1980s. The “bubble” part of the name is an Anglicized form of “boba” which refers to tapioca pearls in the tea, and is Chinese slang for “large breasts.” Finding this out creeped me out a little. Bubble tea comes with a handful of boba at the bottom of the cup, which are not very large, but slimy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside balls of starch. Also, bubble tea has primarily been fashionable with young people, including kids.

In any case, it’s up for debate which tea house in particular came up with it, but bubble tea was first made with hot tea and tapioca pearls, mixed with milk and sweet syrup. The trend spread through East and Southeast Asia during the 1990s, becoming popular in Western culture as well during the past decade. Menus now include options of fruit flavors added as syrups or blended fresh fruits, powdered or fresh milk, powdered or brewed green, black or white tea, or no tea at all, or coffee, a variety of additional toppings such as red or mung beans, jelly cubes in different flavors and shapes, pudding in the bottom of your cup, not to mention different sizes and flavors of tapioca pearls. Your options will depend on which tea shop you’re at, but basically, the choices have become endless. At Kung Fu Tea you can specify if you want less, little, or no ice, and less, little, or no sugar. Freedom like this can be exhilarating and exhausting.

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tart

THE BITE: Way back in 2009 when Ka Ka Bakery opened at 1505 Avenue U, we all had a good laugh. Ned made some puns, got a pork bun, and invited us to share in the joy of this oddly named bakery. Maybe it means something in Cantonese or Mandarin? I don’t know. Anyway, good times.

Well, a few years later, it still stands, amid heavy competition. I think there are about four Chinese bakeries within two blocks of each other on that stretch of Avenue U by the Q train station, but the pink Ka Ka Bakery sign still got a smile out of me and I went in for a quick bite.

For 90 cents I decided to go with an egg custard tart, or dan tat, which I’ve seen (and eaten) at many Chinese bakeries.

There are two origin stories for this pastry:

  1. They were first baked by nuns in a monastery outside Lisbon over 200 years ago. These pasteis de nata became popular in Portuguese baking, and made it to the Portuguese colony of Macau, right next to Hong Kong, where they also took off and slowly seeped into the culinary awareness of Taiwan, mainland China, and eventually the rest of Asia.
  2. They were brought to Hong Kong and Canton (now Guangdong) by English colonists in the 1940′s and have evolved from English custard tarts with more egg and less milk. They were first popularized in China at cha chaan tengs, which were tea houses that served tea and Western-style foods and cakes to working-class Chinese at affordable prices. That was something unprecedented as Western food had previously been considered only for Chinese elite.

Whatever the true origin, I like that these are a little less heavy and less sweet than what you typically get from Western desserts. Each bakery seems to have their own specific take on these, and while you can find them in chocolate, green tea, or honey-ginger flavors at some places, plain sweet egg is the standard, and you will see some variation in texture from one baker to the next. The crust can be either buttery shortcrust or puff pastry, and the filling varies in ratios of egg yolk, egg white, milk, sugar, and gelatin.

Ka Ka Bakery’s egg custard tart has a shortcrust shell that is neither too thin nor too thick and in good proportion to the filling. The inside doesn’t come in any fancy flavors here, but it’s fluffy and not too yellow, which makes me suspect a higher ratio of egg whites. It’s got just a hint of jelly-like texture, holding everything together well enough and there’s a bit of sweet mystery liquid on top of the custard, which you can see glistening in the photo. Personally, I prefer these to be a bit less creamy and a bit more gelatinous (I’ve grown to like that wiggly texture) so I may be trying around the competitors just to see, but if you’re preference is for milky and not wobbly, these are for you.

Ka Ka Bakery, 1505 Avenue U, (718) 998-2229.

– Sonia Rapaport

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

love69

New signage went up over at 1307 Avenue Z, the former home of Puff Caffe, revealing a rebrand as Love 69 Bar & Lounge.

The change happened within the last few weeks, though we’re told it’s the same owners as Puff, which came under new management about a year ago.

We haven’t been inside, but a Yelp reviewer notes that there’s been a redesign on the interior:

Before Love 69 (a little bizarre for a name of a hookah lounge), the previous Puff cafe underwent multiple. Its fairly similar, but now they have a stage (I’m assuming they will upgrade with live music) and more importantly, a full bar!

Decor now is a rustic, western theme. Same layout and cool decorations. Theme also includes sex; you’ll notice the bathroom door with a woman taped with “69″ on her boobs and a poster in the front with about 15 different explicit sex positions. Guess they took “sex sells” a little seriously?

Welcome to the area, Love 69.

zaircafe

Zair Cafe, a new restaurant serving “Russian & Eastern food,” is set to open soon at 2223 Avenue X, the corner of East 23rd Street.

The new restaurant replaces an Eastern European luncheonette and food mart. We’re not sure when it closed down, or if it’s the same ownership.

A sign in the window says it will open soon and will also have catering options. We wish the new cafe good luck.

tulip-cafe

It was way, way back in spring of 2010 that we last reported on the waterfront cafe slated to replace the Dunkin’ Donuts at 2712 Emmons Avenue. Back then, it was to be a second outpost for Masal Cafe (1901 Emmons Avenue), called Masal Cafe Seaside, and was scheduled to open just a few months later. Then the business partners quarreled, causing delays.

Fast forward three years, and the project has been re-christened Tulip Cafe Lounge, now headed by a former partner in Masal and a partner in Yooberry (1501 Sheepshead Bay Road).

With new signs hanging from the location, construction has been moving forward. They’ve ripped out the rear wall of what once was Dunkin’ Donuts, finally opening up the space to the beautiful waterfront (it’s long been a gripe of mine that there are not enough restaurants on the waterfront itself, and not enough of them capitalize on the scenery). It appears they have a small outdoor seating area back there as well.

The owners tell us they hope to open by the end of the summer, and will feature a Mediterranean vibe. They’ll serve a full menu of Turkish and Italian dishes, along with other goodies. Above is how it looks now, and here’s a rendering we found on their Facebook page:

tulip-cafe2

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