Archive for the tag 'fast food'

papusa-1

THE BITEAfter wrapping up my visit to the Brighton Jubilee this weekend, I walked up Coney Island Avenue and passed one the neighborhood’s staple Mexican joints, Tacos El Rey (3168 Coney Island Avenue). It had been a long time since my last visit, and I spotted a sign in the window declaring that the kitchen now offered up pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran treat that has long been unavailable in this area. I had to give it a try.

We have "rich" pupusas.

We have “rich” pupusas.

With a sister-in-law of Salvadoran heritage, I’m no stranger to pupusa – but this neighborhood sure is. Think of it as a pan-fried pancake made of cornmeal and stuffed with beans, cheese and other assorted awesomeness. It’s been made in the Central American nation for nearly 2,000 years, but remained the secret of a small hamlet until migration carried it across the nation, then to bordering countries and to our shores over the past half century or so.

The fillings vary depending on regions, but cheese, pork and refried beans are usually on the menu (individually, or mixed). At Tacos El Rey, they also offer shrimp, chicken, and “queso y loroco,” cheese mixed with a vine from a Central American flower bud. The restaurant charges $5.00 for a plate of two, with shrimp costing $8.00.

Disappointingly, Tacos El Rey was out of loroco when I stopped by. So I went with beans and cheese and the revuelta – a blend of chicharron, cheese and beans.

It took some time to arrive at the table, suggesting it’s not a frequently ordered dish at El Rey and had to made from scratch. To bide my time, I ordered a limonada ($3.00).

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If you’re thinking this is the lemonade you grew up on, you’re wrong (well, unless you’re Latin American). It’s made from freshly squeezed key limes, some water and a liberal amount of sugar – and then blended with ice into a heavenly froth. It is a spectacular refreshment on a hot summer day.

Just as I slurped the last drops through my straw, the pupusa arrived piping hot, followed by the traditional sides of curtido – think spicy, pickled cole slaw – and a runny tomato-based salsa.

The outside was crispy; perhaps a little overcooked to some, but just how I like it. And the cornmeal dough was grainy and a touch sweet; again, how I like it.

In hindsight, I regret ordering two fillings that were so similar. They were at first difficult to tell apart. Those that are thinking of chicharron as deep fried pork rind beware – although it shares the same name, Salvadoran chicharron is simply cooked pork meat, and in the pupusa it’s ground to a paste and mixed with the beans. While I couldn’t tell the two apart by looking them, the revuelta had noticeably more flavor.

After a taste, I heaped the salsa on top, followed by a mountain of the slaw and blissfully dug in. As good as the pupusa was alone, the curtido was the perfect companion, accentuating the grain’s sweetness with vinegar and a spicy bite. The salsa, unfortunately, added little flavor or heat and just seemed to make my pupusa wet.

The verdict? While it’s not the best pupusa I’ve had, it’s the only one I’ve seen south of Prospect Park and I’ll definitely be returning to satisfy my occasional cravings. And it was a damn good approximation – much better and more authentic than I had expected for a Mexican restaurant.

(Also: check out our previous review of Taco El Rey’s Burrito Grande and food from other Mexican restaurants.)

Tacos El Rey, 3168 Coney Island Avenue (at Brighton Beach Avenue), (718) 769-0116.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ column exploring the foodstuffs of the Sheepshead Bay area. 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.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Photo by Erica Sherman

It was just last week that Brennan & Carr was named one of New York City’s most iconic meat dishes by Eater NY. Was rival roast beef peddler Roll-N-Roaster (2901 Emmons Avenue) going to be ignored?

C’mon. Nobody puts Roll-N-Roaster in a corner. They put them on “Best of” lists. Specifically, CBS News “Best of” lists, which has to be among the best “Best of” lists because they once named us Best Local Affairs Website and obviously have good taste.

The news outlet calls Roll-N-Roaster one of eight best sandwiches in Brooklyn, describing it thusly:

While “You can have CHEEZ on anything you PLEEZ” would be enough to entice even the strongest will-powered man into Roll-n-Roaster, there are reasons galore to visit – though most do include said CHEEZ. First and foremost is the wonderful roast beef sandwich; thin slices of beef with a pink center arrive piled high on a soft bun, a sandwich that would put to shame that fast food sandwich chain that claims to make these.

One week, two local roast beef sandwiches on “Best of” lists, and never a consensus on which is better.

Congratulations to both of our meateries!

THE BITE: Roll n Roaster (2901 Emmons Avenue, just west of Nostrand Avenue) is well known for its roast beef sandwiches, late night crowds and its 1970s television commercials. But it also sells Cheez burgers, fries and “freshly squeezed orangeade,” all of which are prominently touted on their take-out bags. Talking with friends, it seems that most folks don’t stray far from the roast beef and fries when they hit the restaurant. Even the New York Times picked up on this, quoting a customer “You kind of have to get the roast beef,” he said. “They looked at you weird when you didn’t get it.”

We here at the Bite are used to being looked at weird.

So, today’s Bite brings you the “Western Cheez Burger.” It’s allegedly available rare, medium or well done and sells for $5.25. So what is a “Western cheez burger,” you ask? It’s a thin beef hamburger patty, topped with their ubiquitous cheese sauce, onion rings and barbecue sauce on one of RnR’s outstanding buns. How that makes it western I have no idea. And, don’t get me started on the cheese sauce – or “cheez sauce,” as they like to call it.

Frankly, I love that “cheez,” whatever it is. Is it real cheese or some sort of evil corporate concoction that is oddly addictive? Strangely, it’s nowhere to be found on RnR’s website menu. Some people claim that it is “Cheez Whiz” which is made by Kraft and available in your local supermarkets. Others claim it’s an invention of Roll n Roaster owner, Nick “Buddy” Lamonica. I really don’t care either way. The cheez sauce is one of my reasons for visiting RnR so frequently.

And it saves the Western burger. This thin burger patty arrives burned, dry and flavorless no matter how you order it, but is covered with the  cheez sauce that brings both flavor and much needed moisture. It is then topped with a very sweet Kansas City-style barbecue sauce and a couple of perfectly cooked, whole onion – not chopped – onion rings. While the actual burger patty itself is nothing special, the toppings and the bun make this a worthy meal.

Roll N Roaster, 2901 Emmons Avenue, just west of Nostrand Avenue, (718) 769-6000.

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, fishmongers  or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Wow, talk about a survivor. Jimmy’s Famous Heros located at 1786 Sheepshead Bay Road (between Emmons Avenue and Shore Parkway) is celebrating its 75th anniversary all month long.

Opened on February 1, 1938, Jimmy’s has survived the Great Depression, World War II, the massive inflation and oil embargoes of the  1970′s and the Great Recession of our time. Bowed, but not defeated by Superstorm Sandy, Victor Spadaro and his crew turn out some of the best sandwiches in Brooklyn.

So, what do they do to celebrate? They bake a cake. Not just a cake, but a cake that looks just like one of Jimmy’s famous heros, Nicole Bochen created this life size replica of a ham and cheese hero. Of course, it’s with the works!

Congratulations Jimmy’s. Here’s to another 75 years of serving the Bay.

THE BITE: Connie’s Pizza (3845 Nostrand Avenue) is one of the survivors of Sheepshead Bay. With Pathmark closed and a Subway shop located almost next door, it has to be.

Enticed by a large sign in the window offering $5 heros, I ventured in for lunch and ordered.

Find out how it was, and why certain shenanigans are ruining the restaurant’s reputation.

THE BITE: A Mexican-Hawaiian take out restaurant? Only in New York City.

Empire Tortillas Aloha Teriyaki Grill (3556 Nostrand Avenue) is one of those anonymous storefront takeout joints that line Nostrand Avenue from Avenue U to Avenue Z. This nondescript takeout restaurant could pass for any cheap fast food joint, and I’ve passed it by for years, never giving it a thought.

Until recently that is.

One cold day last month, I stopped in for the first time. I was immediately greeted by the friendliest woman I’ve ever encountered in a takeout restaurant. It was an odd time of day and the staff was all seated at a small table and eating their lunch. As she stood to greet me, I explained that I was only picking up a menu and that I didn’t want to interrupt her meal. She handed me the menu saying, “Please come back, you’ll enjoy your food.”

Well, I have come back and I have enjoyed my food, mostly. But what continues to impress me most about Empire Tortillas Aloha Teriyaki Grill is the customer service. These folks are friendly and work to keep the customer happy.

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THE BITE: Twenty-twelve has to be the year the Mexican restaurant established itself in Sheepshead Bay. We’ve seen the opening of El Mexicano Restaurant, and the soon to be open Jumpin’ Bean on Emmons Avenue, as they join La Villita as part of the smattering of  Mexican restaurants in the neighborhood. I’ve also noticed a few Mexican food booths popping up in the various groceries and doughnut shops of Avenue U. I endorse this trend.

Tacos El Rey, while not quite in the neighborhood, and not quite new, is probably the granddaddy of them all. Located at 3168 Coney Island Avenue, this nondescript hole-in-the-wall has been quietly serving up authentic Mexican food for more than 10 years.

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THE BITE: Looking for a new place for lunch? Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II (2556 Coney Island Avenue) is trying something new; the hot table. Hoping to rebuild its customer base after the hurricane, Sarajevo II is offering up a hot steam table of home-made dishes for your mid-day indulgence.

Choices vary every day as the offerings of the hot table are created by a former employee who was coerced out of retirement after cooking for the highly praised Cevabdzinica Sarajevo Restaurant in Astoria. Hey, it’s all in the family. Cevabdzinica Sarajevo in Astoria is owned by Saed’s father. Saed is the owner and manager of Cevabdzinica Sarajevo II.

This woman, whose name escapes me, creates eight or nine different dishes for the “Hot Table” each and every day. There are three or four standards, from soups to rice, and four or five specials that change daily. The hot table ($7.00) is available from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. I was a bit confused by the rules, but apparently you can choose to have one or all of the dishes from “the table.”

“It’s just like eating at home. Eat all you want,” said Saed. Let’s be clear, though. This isn’t “all you can eat” for one price.

On my last visit, we purchased a plate of rice, meatballs in an interesting sweet and sour sauce and Bosnian moussaka. I was intrigued by this Bosnian moussaka. It fit in perfectly for “The Bite.” This is the first time I’ve seen Bosnian moussaka offered in the neighborhood.

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Photo by Robert Fernandez

Oh. My. Goodness. Isn’t this America? We thought this was America. We believe it is, and, yet, in less than six months two fast food chains – McDonald’s and Burger King – have shuttered in Sheepshead Bay. It must be a tough economy…

We noticed it yesterday, but we’re told the 2481 Knapp Street location closed on Saturday. According to a worker who was there yesterday taking out kitchen equipment, the landlord refused to renew the lease.

The employee does not know what is planned for the property, which is now entirely stripped of all Burger King signage, except for the large sign on the pole in the parking lot.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this.

Source: The Urbanographer

Brighton Beach bar and restaurant Kebeer has carved out a section of its storefront to make way for The Burger Shop, capitalizing, perhaps, on the bar’s popular $5 burger-and-soda deal.

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