Archive for the tag 'restaurant review'

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.

THE BITE: When asked what type of restaurants are needed in Sheepshead Bay, I’ve always answered that we need another Thai place. Well, after having that discussion for more than a decade, my desire has finally been fulfilled. We have a new Thai restaurant in the Bay.

Located at 3682B Nostrand Avenue, Thai Basil, which opened in early December, is dishing out “Thai fusion” dishes to all comers. I’m not sure what they mean by Thai “fusion,” as most of the dishes presented on the limited menu appear to be found in just about any Thai restaurant, but I’m pleased to see a new food choice in the ‘hood.

For the Bite, I sampled an array of dishes from the lunch menu that should represent the restaurant well. Pad Thai, considered by some to be the national dish of Thailand, Massamam Curry, cited by CNN as the “world’s most delicious food,” and Ginger Joy, a dish I never heard of before.

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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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THE BITE: It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is tomorrow. This has been one tough year and I’m having a hard time coming up with things to be thankful for. As I reflect on all I’ve faced this year, an interesting conundrum has arisen. With all the crisis I faced – hell, we all faced – this year, yet lived through, is there really a reason to be thankful? It all depends on how you look at it.

Which brings me to this week’s Bite. One of the results of Sandy’s visit was the lack of food available in the neighborhood during and immediately after the hurricane. Some homes and businesses were wiped out and had to rely on the kindness of strangers for their daily meal. In some cases that kindness came in the form of a “Meal Ready to Eat,” or MRE, courtesy of the federal government. 

Keep reading to see what this is all about. It ain’t pretty.

Arbuz owners and staff cleaning off the furniture just days after the storm.

THE BITE: The Bite’s been laying low as Sheepshead Bay struggles to recover from Hurricane Sandy. With so many still without power or heat, it seems a bit insensitive to write about a newly discovered food dish. Now’s the time to help our neighbors rebuild.

Many of our restaurants and food mongers who came out for this year’s A Taste of Sheepshead Bay are still recovering and some are already back in business. Please do your best to help support the businesses that support Sheepshead Bites and the community. Without their support we wouldn’t be able to bring you our coverage of the neighborhood. No one else provides the local news when you need it,  like Sheepshead Bites.

Rovshan Danilov, the owner of Arbuz, put it best. “We need Sheepshead Bay back. We need the businesses to return. We need the customers back. We need the landlords to understand and work with the small businesses of the Bay.” We’re all in this together.

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Photo by Lenny Markh

THE BITE: I like to eat where our readers send me. I’ve had some interesting recommendations in the past couple of years, but this is the first time I had a recommendation from a reader who also follows Serious Eats. Not only does he follow Serious Eats, he follows recipes from my friend and fellow food writer, James Boo.  This elusive reader has such high regards for the lowly scallion pancake, he actually makes them at home using James’ recipe.

This reader, who will remain anonymous at his request, highly recommended the scallion pancakes at New Star Restaurant (2212 Avenue X – between East 21 and East 22 Streets) which happens to be walking distance from my home.

Oddly, I had never been to this restaurant. Of course, I had to go.

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Photo: Robert Fernandez

THE BITE: I don’t know when donuts took control of the police, but when I was a kid, the stereotype was always a cop and a cheese danish. I guess as Dunkin’ Donuts and the various 24-hour chains replaced the small mom-and-pop bakeries, donuts were just easier to obtain. The cop on the late night beat needed coffee to stay awake, and what better accompaniment than a donut?

Forget the donut – let’s go back the to cheese danish!

At A Taste of Sheepshead Bay this week, I was re-introduced to one of my favorite neighborhood institutions, T & D Bakery (2307 Avenue U – between East 23rd and 24th Streets). Their outstanding offerings of made-to-order canolli and mini pastries, reminded me of the wonders of the “mom-and-pop bakery.” It made me ask, and I hope it made you ask, why haven’t I been there lately?

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Photo by: Erica Sherman

THE BITE: I recently spent some time in the farthermost reaches of Sheepshead Bay, near the intersection of Avenue U and Nostrand Avenue. Many folks will argue that this neighborhood is not part of The Bay, but part of Marine Park. Sorry, folks, but I disagree. When it comes down to brass tacks, it doesn’t really matter to us here at Sheepshead Bites. We have always featured items about Sheepshead Bay and the neighborhoods that touch us. Call that area Sheepshead Bay, call it Marine Park (or as the new TD Bank on Nostrand and U likes to refer to it, Marine Park South) it really doesn’t matter, it’s still part of our ‘hood.

I had a chance to stop into Zeeeeee Bagels (2803 Avenue U – between East 28th Street and East 29th Street) for lunch. Now this little spot has seen more than its share of eateries in the last few years and I wondered how this latest incarnation was faring. I was pleased to find that Zeeeeee Bagels is fairing very well, thank you very much.

One of the things that caught my eye, was the naming of their sandwiches. They’ve come up with some interesting names for their wares. There’s the “Avenue U” (roast beef, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers), the “Nostrand Avenue” (roast beef, ham, turkey, swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing), the “Grease Ball” (prosciutto, soppressata, pepperoni, fresh mozzarella and roasted peppers) and the “Messy Beast” (Cajun roast beef, melted mozzarella, and Lugar toast bread, whatever “Lugar toasted bread” is). I could go on and on, but the sandwich that caught my eye was “The Gravesend” – a crispy chicken melt with cheddar and roasted peppers.

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THE BITEI’ve said it before, one of the greatest things about living in our neighborhood is the vast variety of foodstuffs available. With just about every continent represented, one can find himself eating his way around the world. But, to really experience it you need to be adventurous. And by adventurous, I don’t just mean be willing to try new foods, but you need to be willing to try new ways of eating.

Writing the bite, I need to be careful about how I report the foods I choose. What’s new and exciting to me may be old hat to you. I just hope I choose well and select items that reflect our neighborhood’s increasing diversity.

1001 Nights, 35 Neptune Avenue, bills itself as a ” Middle Eastern” restaurant, but offers food styles from across Asia. Diving deeper into their website, 1001 Nights drops all claims to be “Middle Eastern” and proclaims itself  “one of the most sought after Uzbek restaurants in NYC.” I don’t really care which area wins, I simply enjoyed the food.

Parmuda samsa ($3.95), is one of the Uzbeki foods. Offered in the “traditional dishes” section of the menu, parmuda samsas are described as “a dish in honor of the twins, revered in the Orient – the conjoint pair of mini-patties with meat.” Intriguing, no? Who are these twins and why they revered? Hell, if they can cook, I’ll revere them too.

Keep reading; Robert says “boobs” a couple of times.

THE BITE: I can’t remember the last time I had a calzone. I’m struggling to remember the last time I had one and the only memory that comes back is a date with Dorothy in my senior year in high school. I remember making some fairly crude comments about the calzone. But, hey, they worked. Let’s just say that it was a memorable date.

Back to today. Calzones are and Italian version of stuffed bread. They are made from pizza dough, traditionally stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, baked and served with marinara sauce on the side. Many pizza places in the area will add pepperoni or sausages as well. It’s really up to the chef as there are no fixed rules. At Pizza Cardo, 1730 Jerome Avenue, they offer up five different calzones from four cheese to sauteed vegetables. I chose a spinach and mushroom calzone, $8, for my dining experience.
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