NYC Dining: Kabab Cafe

July 26, 2009

Ali’s Kabab Cafe
2512 Steinway St, Astoria, NY 11103
(718) 728-9858

Ali Kabab Cafe, Astoria NY by you.

Ali Kabab Cafe on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens. This tiny storefront could be easily overlooked by a passer-by given the dozens of Middle Eastern restaurants and stores on that block. Don’t pass this one up.

Lately I’ve been taking more flights in and out of New York’s LaGuardia airport given that fact that I have been giving more and more of my airline business to Delta, who has a substantial presence at LGA in both the main and Marine Air Terminals. The side benefit of this is that LaGuardia is right next to the town of Astoria, which houses one of the largest Greek and Middle Eastern communities in the United States.

The main strip of Steinway Street, which used to be predominantly Greek 20 or 30 years ago is now more of an enclave of Lebanese, Palestinian and Egyptian stores and cafes. One such cafe that I had always wanted to visit but never really had the opportunity to eat at is Ali Kabab Cafe, a tiny, cramped but eclectic cafe that rightfully boasts some of the best Middle Eastern food in the New York metropolitan area.

I do have to warn you that if you eat at Ali’s, you are not just going there for the food, which in and of itself is creative and phenomenal and will not be like any Middle Eastern food you have ever eaten before.

You’re going there to be a guest of Ali Al-Sayed, who is a character that can only be described as an intellectual entertainer. If you strike up a conversation with Ali, you had better be prepared to listen, because this guy is a student of art, history and politics. If you have any interest at all in Egyptian and Middle Eastern culture, you’re in for even more of an experience. Just ask him questions about the stuff hung on his walls and you’re going to get an earful. He is the closest thing to a culinary ambassador that Egypt has in New York, or perhaps the United States.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry link below” for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


NYC Dining: Pastrami Queen / Orwasher’s Bakery

July 17, 2009

Pastrami Queen
1125 Lexington Ave # 2
New York, NY 10075-0429
(212) 734-1500

Web Site: http://www.pastramiqueen.com

Pastrami Queen, NYC by you.

You’re definitely know you’re not getting Asian-Fusion cuisine when you see a sign like this.

The old school New York Jewish Deli is going extinct. We have perhaps less than a dozen notable places in Manhattan, let alone the five boroughs that conform to the classic Jewish Deli archetype where you can get a good Pastrami or Corned Beef sandwich, and I may even have to downgrade that dozen to less than a handful, including Katz’s, 2nd Avenue Deli (which re-opened in 2008 in a new location) , Carnegie, The Stage, Sarge’s and Junior’s (which has really focused on its cheesecake business now more than anything else, although they do a great burger). All of those landmark delis are either downtown or in Midtown. Other fine examples, like Liebman’s in the Bronx, are lesser known but are part of the city’s restaurant culture that is in rapid decline.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


NJ Dining: Green Door Cafe (CLOSED)

June 30, 2009

Green Door Cafe suffered a devastating fire on July 30, 2010. The owner plans to rebuild, but the restaurant is closed until further notice.

Green Door Cafe
1 Highwood Avenue, Tenafly NJ
(201) 567-8226

Green Door Cafe, Tenafly NJ by you.

Green Door Cafe’s Storefront in downtown Tenafly, NJ.

As a few of you may be aware, I am a resident of the sleepy hamlet of Tenafly, which is situated on the northeast side of Bergen County, adjoining the towns of Cresskill, Bergenfield and Englewood. Tenafly, while being a wonderful residential neighborhood, has a bit of an unfortunate reputation of being the town that eats restaurants.

One of the restaurants that recently got the axe was Blockheads, an outpost of a NYC-based burrito chain. So I was rather surprised this week as I was driving by its former location to find Green Door Cafe, a self described “Doorway to real food” which only serves “proteins which are antibiotic and hormone free or organic” and produce that is “organic or locally farmed seasonally. We restrict our purchases to foods raised naturally without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.”

I was expecting the place to be owned by a bunch of hippies wearing hemp clothing. What I wasn’t prepared for was being greeted by the former owner of Blockheads when I went in, Leon Bell. “Hey! Jason! The Off The Broiler Guy!”

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


OTB Economic Stimulus Dinner I: Chengdu 1

April 26, 2009

I’m happy to report that our first OTB Economic Stimulus dinner was a fantastic success. On April 25, 2009, 14 foodies converged on Chengdu 1 restaurant in Cedar Grove, New Jersey for a night of major league, mouth numbing and mucus membrane burning Sichuan goodness.

Related OTB Post: NJ Dining – Chengdu 1

Chengdu 1
89 Pompton Ave (Pilgrim Shopping Plaza)
Cedar Grove NJ, 973-239-7726

Web Site: http://www.chengdu1nj.com/

OTB Stimulus Dinner I Collage by you.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


NJ Dining: Ultimate Banh Mi Sandwiches at Mo Pho and Saigon R.

April 25, 2009

MoPho
212 Main St, Fort Lee, NJ
(201) 363-8886

Saigon R.
58 W Palisade Ave, Englewood, NJ
(201) 871-4777

Related Article: Saigon R. and Mo’ Pho’

If you’ve been following the latest trends in the New York City dining scene, no doubt you’ve read and heard about the most recent Vietnamese sandwich craze — also known as the Banh Mi that’s sweeping the Metropolitan area. If you take trends at face value, you’ve probably also read the reports from Eater that the Banh Mi has “Run its course”.

The fact of the matter is, the Banh Mi is the right sandwich at the right time. And let’s face it, here in New Jersey, we’re a little slow on the uptake when following up on New York City trends. But I submit to you that when we set our mind to something, and when we get around to it, we do it better than anyone else.

The Making of the "Oink Mi" Ultimate Vietnamese Sandwich by you.

A few weeks ago — prior to the publication of the New York Times article which catapulted the Banh Mi into the front and center collective foodie consciousness — Chef KT Tran (of Mo Pho and Saigon R. fame) decided that she needed to add some new offerings to her menu, and I suggested Banh Mi, particularly as I knew KT could put her creative skills and 30 years of Vietnamese cooking expertise behind it. KT’ and her family have operated Vietnamese restaurants since the 1970’s in the New York Area, and we’ve been very lucky to have her in Northern New Jersey, where her bold Southeast Asian flavors are tailored to meet the tastes of a very diverse customer base.

The Making of the "Oink Mi" Ultimate Vietnamese Sandwich by you.

A typical store-bought Banh Mi from New York’s Chinatown. Usually these go for 2 or 3 dollars apeice. But there’s not much meat on this thing.

Fully aware of my past “Ultimate Sandwich” exploits with Chef Christine Nunn, at Picnic Caterers, Chef Tran knew she had to up the ante in over-thet-top sandwich insanity, particularly when competing with Nunn’s Rendevous at Burger Mountain, the Ultimate BLT and the Foie You.

We knew of one weapon in the Vietnamese culinary arsenal that could hold up to these giants: PORK. And lots of it.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


A Visit to D’Artagnan

April 18, 2009

D'Artagnan and Ariane Daguin, Newark NJ by you.

D’Artagnan is one of the most important suppliers of luxury proteins and ingredients to many of the nation’s top restaurants.

My chef friend Christine Nunn, of Picnic Caterers in Emerson, was recently invited over to visit the D’Artagnan facility in Newark. For those of you not familiar with D’Artagnan, it is the premier supplier of luxury ingredients to many of New York City’s top restaurants. What D’Artagnan is most famous for, however, is that it is one of the largest (if not the largest) distributors of domestically produced Foie Gras in the United States. Rachel and I decided to come along and take some photos, so we could show you what this very impressive operation is all about.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »


Introducing OTB Economic Stimulus Dinners

April 4, 2009

lastsupper by you.

The economy, as we all know, is hurting. Bad. Really bad.

In recent weeks, I’ve watched my co-workers and colleagues, my closest friends and several members of my family lose their jobs. And over the last several months I’ve seen favorite restaurants and food-related businesses starting to drop like flies. I dread every single time I have to log into the blog software in order to post a (CLOSED) update to a restaurant entry. Now it seems like I have to do it several times a month.

What is the solution? Our government is doing its best to try to stimulate the economy. And just about everyone is making sacrifices, no matter what your income level is.

Some people — like my former partner in eGullet, Steven Shaw — would suggest that we stop spending money, that we sit back and ride this thing out. That we all eat out of our cupboards for a week or a month, that we hide under our blankets and cuddle up for the big storm and then hope everything is all right at the end. I firmly believe this is the wrong thing for us to do, people.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Read the rest of this entry »