Posts for June 30, 2013

The Underground Gourmet's 2013 Cheap Eats List

Hybird’s fried chicken.Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Hybird
75 Ninth Ave., at 15th St. 212-989-3332
Fried-chicken drumsticks, slushies, cupcakes, biscuits, five types of Chinese potstickers, and that’s it. Surely someone has brought together on one fast-casual takeout menu a wackier collection of foodstuffs than this, the brainchild of Roots drummer Questlove (drumsticks, get it?) and gastro­preneur Stephen Starr. Or maybe not. You start to wonder. At which point you might even imagine the following preopening conversation: Starr: “Look, Quest—can I call you Quest?—I’ve been in this racket since I was in shortpants, and you can’t just offer people drumsticks and leave it at that.” Questlove: “Well, how about slushies, cupcakes, and dumplings like the ones you serve at Buddakan?” Starr: “Now, that’s what I call a fast-casual concept!” And yet, what’s not to like (except for the cupcakes, which are terrible, as all cupcakes are)? The biscuits are reasonably flaky, the watermelon-jalapeño slushies possess the perfect balance of hot to sweet that one looks for in a watermelon-­jalapeño slushie, and the dumplings are terrific. And let’s not forget the drumsticks, each one built along the lines of a Julia Child balloon whisk and battered with a super-craggy crust that, when you unhinge your jaw pythonlike and bite into it, emits a high-decibel crackle. Ka-runch! If only they’d replace the cupcakes with cronuts, then they’d really have something.
What to Get: Two drumsticks, $7.50; truffled-egg dumplings, $7.

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The 2013 Cheap Eats Superlatives

Photo: Sarah Silberg/New York Magazine

The Best New Cheap-Eats Joint Is ...
Bunker.

Bunker’s destination-restaurant status is due in no small part to its oasis-in-a-culinary-desert location on an industrial stretch of Queens that’s either Maspeth or Ridgewood, depending whom you ask. (We’ll go by the joint’s business card.) But the designation owes just as much to its quasi-tropical, slapdash charm; prices that top out at $17.50; and grub so mind-bogglingly, bowl-scrapingly good you’ll be plotting your next trek before the check drops. The Vietnamese menu is the work of chef Jimmy Tu, whose ancestry (born in Thailand to ethnically Chinese parents who grew up in Vietnam) sounds like a business plan straight out of the Asian Hipster Cuisine playbook. Combine this lineage with Tu’s French training in fine-dining kitchens, and you get a playful approach to Southeast Asian classics with an emphasis on pedigreed ingredients. You also get a roasted portobello bánh mì (with Havarti, smoked Gouda, and basil-peanut pesto), the kind of whimsical concoction that defines this moment in high-low cuisine. Service is quick and friendly, the dishes are plastic, and flatware arrives in a tin can. But then there’s the food: the shrimp-and-bacon-studded crêpe called bánh xèo, crisp and sticky on top and eggy-tender within; the primally comforting suòn nuong xá, char-grilled lemongrass pork tenderloin with a fried egg and rice; and the ca ri ga, chicken curry to end all chicken curries, served with a greasy, flaky roti to ensure that not a drop goes unsopped. Whether you visit Bunker by car, train, Citi Bike, skateboard, or covered wagon, it’s categorically worth the trip. 46-63 Metropolitan Ave., Ridgewood; 718-386-4282.

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The Return of the Super-Colossal, Economy-Size Sandwich

After years of dainty panini domination, the trend in sandwiches is toward the big, the bulky, and the overstuffed. To avoid a similar fate—and save a few bucks—go halfsies with a friend.

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Slideshow: Barbecue With a New York Accent

This past year has brought not only more and better barbecue to town but a burgeoning ’cue culture we can call our own. Here, a look at the latest cuts that set our urban polyglot approach apart from the regional orthodoxies that inspired it.

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What Shake Shack Hath Wrought: The Return of the Burger-Joint Cheeseburger

This year saw the cicadalike assault of the anti-gourmet, squishy-bunned, American-cheesed, special-sauced $10-and-under burger. Here’s how they stack up.

Key:
5/5: Burger Nirvana
4/5: Habit-Forming
3/5: Solid and Satisfying
2/5: Perfectly Fine
1/5: Take It or Leave It

1. BurgerFi’s Cheeseburger
1571 Second Ave., nr. 82nd St.; 646-684-3172; $6.57
The chairs are made from recycled Coke bottles, the tables from reclaimed wood, and the service is decidedly Danny Meyeresque. The house cheeseburger (a double) is noteworthy, too—on the hefty side with two expertly melted, strategically positioned slices of cheese, and possessing a deep, beefy flavor. Plus: good fries and great onion rings.
Rating: 4/5

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This Year’s Best Doughnuts, From Butternut to Boston Cream

1. Dough’s Tropical Chili
448 Lafayette Ave., at Franklin Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant; 347-533-7544; $2.25
In the latest flavor from this trendsetting shop, orange zest adds a bitter note to the mango-and-passion-fruit glaze, while cayenne and strips of lightly fried guajillo pepper kick it up. It doesn’t hurt that all this takes place atop one of the best yeasted doughnuts in the city.

2. Rockville Market Farm’s Butternut
At Smorgasburg, N. 7th St. at Kent Ave., Williamsburg; 802-355-0059; $1 each; six for $5
The Vermont farm’s own eggs and butternut-squash purée give these old-fashioned doughnuts their unusual ocher exterior and delicate flavor.

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Meet the Teen Chefs With Adult Tastes—and Ambition

Courtesy of the subjects

This fall, Fox will debut Junior MasterChef, which pits 8-to-13-year-olds against one another in a series of escalating cook-offs. But some teenagers are already holding pop-up dinners, hounding Michelin-starred chefs on Twitter, and hurrying to finish their homework so they can go back to figuring out the best way to pair fermented raspberries and pork shanks.

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