Archive for the tag 'restaurants'

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.

randazzos

THE BITE: Here on Sheepshead Bites, we’ve covered some of the recovery of Randazzo’s Clam Bar (2017 Emmons Avenue) after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the long-standing waterfront spot in October 2012. Despite heavy damage, they managed to reopen within months, which was a great source of comfort for a lot of Sheepshead businesses and locals. They are fully up and running, and serving up the seafood and Italian dishes they’ve been known for over the past several decades.

As we’ve mentioned in a previous article, Randazzo’s wasn’t always the only game in town. Joe’s Clam Bar and Rubino’s Crab House each occupied a plot on Emmons Avenue, and Lundy’s was an imposing presence in it’s heyday. But Randazzo’s is the last man standing when it comes to Italian seafood, with many of its competitors replaced by Greek, Turkish and Eastern European takes on the ocean’s catch.

Randazzo’s began in 1916 as a fish market with a small counter for quick and easy food. In the 1960s, a clam bar was added and Helen Randazzo, daughter of the fisherman founder, began making her famous red sauce in medium or hot. A larger cafeteria opened next, and pastas and more robust Italian dishes were put on the menu. Ultimately, the fish market closed and the cafeteria and clam bar consolidated, evolving into the restaurant we know today. Still a family-owned operation, Helen’s grand- and great-grandchildren now run the place.

Feeling the need to order clams and sauce to properly pay my respects to this long history, I got the red Zuppa di Clams for $18.95.

The soup arrived in an enormous round white plate, steam curling off the bright red sauce that shimmered golden with olive oil. About a dozen clams lay open at odd angles in the dish, and with just a little coercing I pulled the meat out of the shells with my fork. They were soft, slightly chewy, and very fresh, going great with spoonfuls of that oregano-spiked sauce. I asked for the hot, which wasn’t extremely spicy, but did have a little kick. A hunk of hard, white Italian bread was served alongside with butter. But with a plateful of sauce like that, who needs butter?

If you’ve come to Randazzo’s, I’d venture to say you either came for the fresh seafood, or for the famous red sauce. If you can’t decide which you’ve come for, then get both – you have plenty of options that combine the two at “The Pride of Sheepshead Bay.”

Randazzo’s Clam Bar, 2017 Emmons Avenue, (718) 615-0010.

– 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.

Source: DiFara.com

Legendary Midwood establishment Di Fara Pizza (1424 Avenue J) took to Facebook late last week and over the weekend, vowing to fight a $1,600 fine from the Department of Health for having too many chairs in the notoriously seat-strapped storefront.

Maggie DeMarco, daughter of famed dough-tosser Dom DeMarco, took to the social media site to explain a recent health inspection that left them with a B rating, saying that they had extra folding chairs in the kitchen.

Maggie wrote on Thursday:

A few years ago we purchased extra seats as we do get very crowded most of the time. We were always kind and would bring out an extra chair if someone asked … Those folding chairs caused us to get a B grade. As someone who has been doing this a very long time, I want people to know not to panic when they read grades on food service businesses . It rarely ever means anything hazardous to the public … At this time, we will no longer have anymore than 19 seats at all times.

According to city regulations, restaurants with 20 or more seats must have a public, handicapped-accessible bathroom. Di Fara does not. Their bathroom is behind the counter, in the kitchen.

On Saturday, Maggie updated Facebook fans on the developments. The city sent the business a letter offering to settle the case for $1,600 or spend a day attending a hearing. DeMarco suggested it’s a racket, and one she won’t stand for.

A business tends to settle just to avoid the inconvenience of attending the hearing. I , however will attend the hearing as I want the 19 seat rule explained to me clearer as we can not continue to pay fines for unexpected violations.

She also expressed her wish that the Department of Health assign dedicated inspectors to each restaurant, allowing them to build relationships and be subject to uniform standards on each visit – the inconsistent interpretation of regulations being a common complaint from restaurant owners.

DeMarco returned to Facebook again late last night, noting that the inspector appears to be a little ignorant of the laws. After some research, she discovered that the bathroom requirement is only applicable to restaurants opened after 1977. Since Di Fara Pizza opened in 1965, the eatery should be grandfathered in.

The hearing for Di Fara’s appeal is scheduled for March 18.

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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siam

There’s only one way a reporter of my integrity and standards knows how to report on the closure of Siam Orchid Thai Cuisine at 2259 Emmons Avenue:

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Sure, it’s not like they were the best Thai food in the world. But they were pretty much the only Thai restaurant in the area for what seemed like forever. Now we have Thai Basil on Nostrand Avenue, which is a solid takeout option, but we’ll miss Orchid’s waterfront views and fish tank full of giant, ugly fish.

China Max next door closed down in November. Attempts to reach the property owner were unsuccessful, so we can’t say for sure that Siam is closed for good. But it did not appear to be renovating, and there was no sign for customers.

ลาก่อน, my Thai friends. And good luck.

vittoria-1

To say we’re late with this news would be an understatement. Vittoria Seafood and Grill opened a week before A Taste of Sheepshead Bay in January, so my mind was elsewhere and I forgot to report it. But, alas, Vittoria is here, it’s open, and so far I’m hearing good things.

Located at 3081 Emmons Avenue, Vittoria replaces Jumpin’ Bean, which closed in October. It’s owned by one of the former partners of the Avenue U staple La Trattoria, which he left to launch the new eatery, as well as a colleague one of the former partners of OPM further down Emmons.

Have you been to Vittoria? What did you think?

Correction: The second partner in the venture was not a partner in OPM, as previously reported.

The following is a paid announcement from il Fornetto Italian Restaurant & Caterer (2902 Emmons Avenue), Sheepshead Bay’s premier waterfront dining experience.

ilfornetto

Click to see our special prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu.

The above is a paid announcement by il Fornetto Italian Restaurant & Caterer. Sheepshead Bites has not verified the claims made in this advertisement. If you own a business and would like to announce a special offer to tens of thousands of locals, e-mail us at advertising [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

chipotle

The above poster was spotted in a storefront window in Kings Plaza Mall on Flatbush Avenue, indicating the imminent arrival of the first Southern Brooklyn Chipotle Mexican Grill.

The chain eatery has yet to announce the expansion on their website, but Chipotle fans from the area have been urging the company to set up shop on social media. Here’s a tweet from nearly a year ago asking the company to open up at Kings Plaza and Chipotle’s response:

There are other, more recent examples as well.

Until the location opens, the closest Chipotle location for Southern Brooklyn residents is in Cobble Hill, at 140 Court Street.

Thanks to Tina H. and Randy Contello for the photo and tip.

poster

Today’s the big day! A Taste of Sheepshead Bay kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Baron DeKalb Knights of Columbus (3000 Emmons Avenue).

Sponsored by Coney Island Hospital and il Fornetto, the event is one of the neighborhood’s biggest highlights, and it’s not too late to join us.

For just $35 at the door, you’ll be served delicious food from 20 local establishments. It’s an all-you-can-eat affair, so make sure to come hungry.

Live music will be playing, and a fully-stocked cash bar will quench your thirst.

It’s too late to buy tickets online and save $5, but you can still get tickets at the door for $35. All sales at the door are cash only.

For the full list of restaurants, check the event website.

We can’t wait to see you in person!

papaya

THE BITE: Thai food is one of my (many) weaknesses. I have a special place in my heart (read: stomach) for its spicy, sweet, pungent, sour, textural goodness. Complex and varied, I never get tired of it. Today on The Bite, we’ll delve into the wonders of green papaya salad, with the help of Thai Basil, at 3682 Nostrand Avenue, between Avenue W  and Avenue  X.

Green papaya salad is a ubiquitous dish in Southeast Asia, known in Thailand as som tam (literally translated as sour pounded). It is made with papayas that are unripe so they are tangy and not yet sweet, and in this dish they are cut into long thin strips so if you didn’t know, you might mistake them for some kind of vegetable stalks. The papaya is then pounded with lime juice, chili, palm sugar and fish sauce using a mortar and pestle. Next the papaya is mixed with the customers’ choice of sliced string beans, tomatoes, shrimp paste, and dried salted tiny shrimps. In Thailand this is done street-side and swiftly put into a clear plastic bag, juices and all, to be consumed without utensils, often together with fried chicken and sticky rice.

The Thai Basil version was Americanized in a few ways: a few leaves of lettuce were added at the bottom to more closely resemble what we think of as salad; they went easy on the fish sauce; and they excluded the shrimp. Instead of slicing the papaya lengthwise with a knife, it was prepared with a grater so the pieces were smaller and soaked up the lime juice dressing really well. These changes did not bother me in the least- the salad was delicious, super fresh and crunchy. The customer here doesn’t get a choice of add-ins, it just comes with sliced  tomato and string beans, but the spiciness level is adjusted to order- I ordered it extra spicy, and that’s just how I got it. Also, it comes in a dish with a fork, so it’s a little easier to eat than out of a drippy plastic bag.

At $6.00 for a nice portion size, my stomach (and heart) were really happy with this savory mound of shredded fruit.

Thai Basil, 3682 Nostrand Avenue, (718) 891-8889.

– 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.

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