Alexander Poulus was working as an engineer five years after graduating from NYU, but when his uncle Gus, the founder of Papaya King, offered to bring him into the company, he couldn't refuse. For 35 years, he has seen the Upper East Side location (which is about to celebrate its 75th anniversary) through stolen tip jars, windows shattered by brawling drunks, and of course the snappy service of countless hot dogs that are “Tastier Than Filet Mignon.”
Hill Country BBQ, we've learned from owner Mark Glosserman, has officially signed its lease and begun construction at 30 West 26th Street, just a few blocks from Blue Smoke and RUB . Isn’t it bad medicine to open so close to a pair of established, busy barbecues? Says Glosserman: “It's a great spot, and the price was right, and we're in a big office building, so there will be a lot of traffic even though it's a side street. We have a lot of faith in our product.” No doubt. But we actually like Hill Country's chances. New Yorkers have shown a willingness to go the extra mile to eat great barbecue: Daisy May's BBQ sat on a desolate stretch of Eleventh Avenue and didn't even have tables; RUB ran out of meat every night; Blue Smoke barely had any smoke flavor during its first year, as a result of chimney malfunction. Glosserman hired the best barbecue cooker in the city, Robert Richter. If Hill Country delivers the goods, New Yorkers will support it … right?
Following the lead of newcomers Izakaya Ten and Zenkichi, the once-formal Takayama has reinvented itself as Ariyoshi, an izakaya with a sushi bar boasting a lengthy menu of tempura, yakitori, noodles, and assorted plates like veal-liver sashimi. Though sake barrels and light boxes decorated with bamboo give the narrow, high-ceilinged space a serene vibe a world away from the noisy Japanese St. Marks dives (there’s also a small private room in the back), the prices are reasonable: $2 for two gelatinous hunks of beef tendon in a stock of octopus, egg, radish, and tofu (there are ten other varieties of oden stew, too), and $2 for a skewer of salted chicken hearts. The toro tartar, one of the priciest dishes at $13, is a tuna portion large enough to feed two, topped by a quail egg sitting in a nest of flying-fish eggs. They're not serving cod sperm yet, but the manager says he’s considering it. Daniel MaurerAriyoshi, 806 Broadway, nr. 12th St., 212-388-1884.