Archive for the tag 'mexican food'

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I spent way too much time making this happen.

First Starbucks. Then Red Mango. Now Chipotle Mexican Grill is headed to Kings Highway, replacing longtime clothing store Beverly Boutique at East 14th Street.

Wooden fencing recently went up around 1325 Kings Highway, and permits were issued in late September allowing the interior to be reworked for the establishment of a Chipotle Mexican Grill. Since then, additional permits have been issued for interior and exterior demolition and signage.

It’s the second Chipotle in Southern Brooklyn, with the first being at Kings Plaza. There is one in Bay Ridge as well.

Chipotle is known as a healthier fast-food alternative, selling burritos, tacos and salads that might make you need to buy special products from Billy Mays’ ghost.

Kings Highway itself seems to be on the way to a remarkable turnaround. When the economy tanked in 2008, vacancy rates along the strip skyrocketed. Now national chains are stepping in to fill the gap alongside mom-and-pop businesses, including T.J. Maxx, and several new commercial developments have popped up. Perhaps the largest one currently underway is the construction of a commercial and office space on the block-long stretch between East 16th Street and East 17th Street.

Are these chains good for Kings Highway, and the mom-and-pops that have historically fueled the strip’s growth? You tell us.

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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).

limonada-1

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.

santa-fe

Photo by Robert Fernandez

A new Mexican restaurant, Sante Fe Mexican Delicatessen, is now open at 1206 Avenue U.

The new eatery replaces Eddie’s Hair Salon, on the southside of the block between East 12th Street and Homecrest Avenuue.

Has anyone been there yet? Let us know how it is. Here at Sheepshead Bites, we’re always looking for a good taco. We’ve been informed by the owner that there are no tacos. They have deli and grocery items, hot and cold sandwiches and soups and will add a salad bar.

And welcome to the neighborhood, Santa Fe!

This article was amended on July 3.

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.

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THE BITE: I order my Mexican fare solely from El Mexicano Restaurante, which I consider the best place in the neighborhood to get my taco and burrito fill. The delivery men are friendly, the food reasonably priced. So much so that fellow Bite writer Lenny Markh has already tackled the restaurant’s tacos for this column. But I still wanted to find an unexplored gem on their menu, so I took a tough look at it for this week’s piece and decided to give the Mexican Philly cheesesteak a shot.

Like so many Chinese restaurants in America, I noticed that El Mexicano’s menu also tries to appeal to the American palate by including items such as French fries and chicken wings. Looking at the photos of these American-style foods, they seemed uninspired – until my eyes fell up on the Mexican Philly cheesesteak. This is not something I would normally do. I trust them fully with guacamole, rice and beans, and any incarnation of tortilla or marinated pork, but sesame-seed sprinkled hoagies? It seemed suspect.

But this sandwich was amazing for take-out joint fare. The bread was toasted golden and slightly crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, holding in place marinated beef, salty queso blanco- a mild Mexican cheese similar to mozzarella – and a spicy mix of onions and peppers. Bonus tip: I also got a side of guacamole to go with this. This may have been an extravagant move, but I assure you they go well together.

In short, every bite of this enormous sandwich was delicious. I don’t know what possessed me to take this risk, but I’m really glad I did. I think I just learned an important lesson about… not judging a book by it’s cover?… or something…

El Mexicano Resaurante, 2102 East 15th Street, between Avenue U and Avenue V, (718) 676-2700 or (718) 676-2703.

– 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.

jumpin-bean

The much-anticipated Mexican-inspired eatery Jumpin’ Bean turned out to be a flop, closing its doors for good after less than six months in business.

Located at 3081 Emmons Avenue, the business had a troubled start. They planned for an October 2012 opening, but Sandy obliterated the interior, forcing them to start from scratch. After rebuilding, they finally opened in May to the delight of Latino cuisine lovers.

Unfortunately, they stumbled. Early reviews from our readers were not favorable. As time went on, most of their senior staff, including their general manager, went out the door.

The Department of Health closed the business in mid-September due to excessive health violations found during an inspection. They were reinspected a few days later and permitted to reopen. It’s unclear if they ever did, and now signage has been stripped from the building, as seen in the above photo sent to us by Bob D.

We first told you about Jumpin’ Bean, a new Mexican restaurant slated for 3081 Emmons Avenue, way back in early October. At the time, they had planned to open just a few weeks later.

Then Sandy hit. The entire interior needed to be redone, and all kitchen equipment replaced (the kitchen, mind you, is a few steps below street level).

It took some time, but the restaurant quietly opened its doors on Wednesday, and has asked us to spread the word to our readers.

On a related note, V & S Pizzeria on Emmons, and Munchinette and Delmar’s Pizzeria on Sheepshead Bay Road are all now open as well. Istanbul on Emmons Avenue should be opening any day now, if it’s not already.

I’m going to go get a margarita to celebrate the recovery!

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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Emmons Avenue is about to get a little more caliente, as Jumpin’ Bean, a new Mexican restaurant, is slated to open on the waterfront strip soon.

The business has taken over the storefront of 3081 Emmons Avenue, formerly the home of Marmaris, a Turkish seafood restaurant. It looks like it’s all ready to open its doors but is probably waiting for the proper permits from the city.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Jumpin’ Bean. We couldn’t be happier to see a little more diversity in our already diverse culinary scene. And we sure hope to see you in next year’s A Taste of Sheepshead Bay!

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