118A Eldridge Street, Lower East Side, 625-8008

Of the four northern Chinese dumpling stalls in Chinatown, this is my favorite, offering pork-and-chive pot stickers, boiled-beef sandwiches on wedges of homemade sesame bread, vegetable-filled hot and sour soup, and the legendary chive box—ask for “chives and egg pancake”—a half-moon pie filled with scallions, vermicelli, scrambled egg, and, sometimes, baby shrimp. The box is prepared on the spot and cooked to order. Also look for the jar of summer kimchi at the carryout window. Best of all: Most selections are $1, and there are bags of frozen dumplings to take home. Sietsema ¢


59 Maiden Lane, Financial District, 483-0117

This gourmet grocer vends the usual juices, sodas, and sandwiches from their front porch, but on an adjacent griddle find sizzling gozleme (“Turkish panini,” $3.99), a Turkish specialty that arose during the Ottoman Empire as the Anatolian answer to the French crepe. The thin dough is stuffed with either potatoes or feta cheese, both laced with fresh dill and parsley, folded into a square, grilled to brownness, then given a final lick with the butter brush. On warm summer days, I prefer the salty cheese version. Sietsema ¢



342 East 6th Street, East Village, 979-2900

Named after a curry-crammed London street, this newcomer presents English-style Balti cooking, plus other regional Indian specialties. It offers what might be the city’s hottest dish: phaal—choose chicken, lamb, shrimp, or mixed vegetables. The thick brick-red sauce delivers an alarming and lingering burn. Though the menu brags, “We will require you to sign a disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage after eating this curry,” it’s a disappointing bluff. What they will do if you finish is give you a free bottle of beer and inscribe your name on a chalkboard over the bar. Sietsema $$


432 East 13th Street, East Village, 228-7900

The East Village finally has its answer to Park Slope’s Coco Roco: a slightly upscale café that aims to popularize Peruvian food for the hip masses. Located on a quiet side street, the café spills a few tables onto the sidewalk; inside, pictures feature liquid-eyed peasants that could have been painted by Keane. The appetizers are especially good, including causa—a potato ball festooned with mayo-dipped chicken; a tangy fish ceviche; and, best of all, cold lemony mussels heaped with chopped onion and cilantro. Arriving tardily, the entrées lagged somewhat, with a tart chicken escovitch and aji de pollo—chicken again, this time in a thick yellow gravy—being our favorites. Skip the dry beef stew. Sietsema $$


205 Allen Street, Lower East Side, 353-9494

Just when you thought Manhattan already harbored every kind of Japanese specialty restaurant that you could find in Tokyo, another unique one pops up. Win49 specializes in kushikatsu, a coinage that designates anything breaded, fried, and skewered, in the combined spirit of the fried pork katsu (simply, “cutlet”), and the tiny shish kebabs called yakitori. Fish, pork, shrimp, potatoes, and even asparagus are all fair game, and you can combine these brochettes with side dishes to form bento-box lunches. Also on the menu is an appealing array of sushi rolls, the best of which is made with salmon skin gobbed with sweet sauce. Sietsema ¢


359 East 12th Street, East Village, 614-0155

Noodles are the foodstuff of choice for many budget-conscious diners during this economically challenged era, and this new closet applies techniques of haute cuisine to inexpensive starches. Thus are sauces and aromatic oils squeezed from plastic bottles to perfume the plates and provide extra sensory diversion. We liked the mushroom-stuffed spring rolls; the substantial salad of baby greens, sweet grapefruit, and yellow beets hosed with a salty citrus dressing; and the soupy soba noodles dotted with raw tuna and pickled ginger. The “tower of shrimp wontons,” however, was a big disappointment: no dumplings, but a stack of faux Doritos with a niggling schmear of chopped shrimp salad. Sietsema $

14TH TO 42ND


246 Tenth Avenue, Chelsea, 206-6766

Frustrated in your attempt to get into Red Cat after that Chelsea gallery opening? Right across the street, Bottino is nearly as good. Go for the octopus salad, in which the rubbery fellow is upstaged by his tasty olive-oil dressing, and skip the boring salad of underdressed baby greens. Pastas make the best main courses, especially the giant green ravioli stuffed with cheese and herbs and bathed in sage butter, but also consider the baby chicken, splayed and crusty and served on a bed of sautéed peppers. And while the weather lasts, luxuriate in one of the city’s leafiest restaurant gardens. Sietsema $$


245 Park Avenue South, Gramercy, 475-9377

Dotted with paintings of tropical fruit, the pleasantly garish interior suggests South America—but Sushi Samba is mainly a sushi bar with a wildly experimental approach. While the conventional sushi and sashimi is adequate, the ceviches really shine: one a massive salad of cooked octopus with a ginger-and-mustard dressing, another an assemblage of thick slabs of raw yellowtail moistened with garlic-soy oil—although neither is really “cooked” in acid. Call them sashimi salads. Another pleasant surprise is a Bahian-style fish chowder loaded with lobster and sporting a flavorful slick of dende oil on the surface. Sietsema $$

42ND TO 59TH


136 West 46th Street, 354-5013

The persistence of this ancient and superb Cuban lunch counter—a stone’s throw from Times Square—is a testament to the excellence of the food and the fierce loyalty of its regulars. Made right in the front window, the Cuban sandwich is as streamlined as the ’50s finned Caddies that ply the streets of Havana, and Margon gets all the basics right, from the pungent red and black beans to the crisply fried tostones. The menu rotates by weekday, and my favorite entrées include the chocolate brown oxtails, mellow fricasseed chicken, and fried kingfish. And don’t miss the best octopus salad in town. Sietsema ¢



1613 Second Avenue, 396-9787

Penetrate deep into the interior and discover a perfect imitation of a restaurant in Marrakech hidden deep within the souk, with low-slung settees and fabric-strewn sofas. Ferried on ornate metal trays, the food duplicates the pungency and style of Moroccan cooking better than that of any other place in town. Notable appetizers include moist and violently red merguez, and zaalouk—an eggplant puree closer to Sicilian caponata than Middle Eastern baba ghanoush. And even though the b’stilla is available in the authentic pigeon formulation (farm raised says the menu), I’d rather have any of the intense tajines. Sietsema $$


1048 Fifth Avenue, 288-0665

Ensconced inside the diverting Neue Galerie, Café Sabarsky is a Viennese café and konditerei, an offspring of the West Village’s Wallsé that outshines its parent. The short dishes make for perfect museum-hopping snacks, including a charcuterie platter (the most challenging feature: double-smoked raw bacon), a generous salad of jumbo asparagus in a slightly sweet lemon-dill sauce, and savory smoked-trout crepes with horseradish crème fraîche. The hungrier can move on to sandwiches, to entrées like boiled-beef tafelspitz, or to pastries, of which plum crumble sided with a cloud of whipped cream was a favorite on a recent visit. Sietsema $



2529 Eighth Avenue, Harlem, 491-3969

While most West African restaurants offer only three or four set meals at a time, this convivial Harlem establishment mounts a daily menu that features a dozen or so Guinean and Senegalese specialties. There’s always one leaf-based sauce (“sauce de feuilles,” the national dish of Guinea), made with either spinach or sweet-potato leaf, and often there’s a fricassee of chicken in palm sauce, and a peanut-laced stew of smoked fish that has the intriguing texture of driftwood. Less challenging Senegalese staples like grilled lamb chops (“diby”) and steak with onions are also available. Open 24 hours! Sietsema ¢


15 West 125th Street, Harlem, 876-6664

A sign warns that the blue-claw crabs are currently burrowing under the sand for the purposes of hibernation or reproduction, and thus you may find sand in their shells. I didn’t, but did uncover copious quantities of orange coral and lump crabmeat once I cracked the shells. Sold by the pound, shrimp done in a spicy red boil are also delicious, offered in their exoskeletons with cocktail and tartar sauces. The menu also lists lobster, king crab, scallops, and clams, in addition to coleslaw and the usual starchy accompaniments. Sietsema $



87 Utica Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, 718-493-5907

After touring the Weeksville Houses, a miraculously preserved African American village founded after the abolition of slavery in New York in 1827, we dropped in at Carolina Creek for refreshment. This fish-and-chips shop specializes in fried whiting, by filet or whole fish, matched with some of the best french fries in Brooklyn, made from fresh potatoes with little bits of skin adhering. As an additional fillip, the pork ribs are also excellent, mantled with a thick sauce that’s not too sweet. The extensive menu is delivered with real Southern hospitality at this mainly carryout establishment—where you can also dine in at the lone table. Sietsema ¢


511 Myrtle Avenue, Clinton Hill, 718-398-1459

Serving the dining needs of Pratt students for the last decade, Castro’s conveys cheap Mexican meals of a rib-sticking sort. The tacos are oversize and dividable, made with two soft corn tortillas, and the vegetarian cheese enchiladas are not only stuffed with cured cheese, but have planks of fresh cheese on top as a bonus. Skip the appetizers, because all platos come with guacamole, salad (bring your own dressing), and a pile of warm tortillas. For some real heat, select puntas de res en chile chipotle—strips of beef in a brown sauce spiked with incendiary smoked chiles. Sietsema ¢


8519 Fourth Avenue, Bay Ridge, 718-745-5227

For a small joint, Karam has a marvelously ambitious Lebanese menu, central to which is a series of sandwiches made by rolling a pita around the ingredients rather than trying to wedge them into a pocket. Two excellent shawarma cylinders are always spinning. You might also select grilled mekanek (a cinnamony cousin of merguez), or one of the variety meats, including a well-stewed and vinegary veal tongue that may be the best thing on the menu. The pistachio-strewn rice pudding is a superb end to a meal that might also include green bean lubyi biz-zayt or sesame-studded falafel, always made to order. Only the baba ghanoush proved disappointing. Sietsema ¢


300 North 6th Street, Williamsburg, 718-384-5800

Williamsburg’s best bistro offers French-Caribbean cuisine with some exciting and unmodified Haitian elements thrown in. Succulent pork “ribletts”—delicious by themselves—come sided with a blistering Scotch bonnet sauce called ti-malice, and spice-massaged pork loin is regaled with a dark gravy spiked with Guinness. Compulsory at every bistro, steak frites has here been enlivened with an au poivre coating, and there’s also a whole grilled fish of the day for those who like their food more straightforward. Sit in the relaxing front room, or better yet, pick the rear room for its dramatic views of the BQE. Sietsema $$


484 77th Street, Bay Ridge, 718-921-2400

This gem replaces the late lamented Casablanca as the city’s premier working-class Moroccan restaurant. As the brown ceramic cone is doffed, the inexpensive tajines explode with flavor, and the choices are breathtaking, too: lamb with peas and artichokes, chicken with raisins and caramelized onions, and the vegetable-heavy tajine tafrawatt, featuring chicken or lamb matched with a bounty of summer squashes, pumpkins, eggplant, carrots, and potatoes. Don’t miss the North African pastries displayed on the glass counter; wash them down with a pot of sugary mint tea. Sietsema $


Southeast corner 46th Street and Fifth Avenue, Sunset Park, no phone

Just south of the park called Sunset Park is a hopping new Mexican neighborhood, and at the corner mentioned above, two opposing sheds selling snacks have recently appeared. Bright red Rico’s is emblazoned with the come-on “Tamales Oaxaqueños,” offering a changing selection. Foremost is the chicken mole tamale, wrapped in a corn husk and rife with poultry and thick inky sauce, while chicken with rajas—roasted green-chile strips—is another triumph. Wash them down with arroz con leche, a sort of liquid rice pudding, or champurrado, a chocolate-flavored corn beverage. Sietsema ¢


206 Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick, no phone

Bushwick hosts quite a few micro taco spots—places that make it seem like you’re sitting in the cook’s home kitchen. At Asunción, a baby crawls on the floor, and apart from the deep red walls and a shrine to the Virgin up near the ceiling, there’s no attention paid to decor. Known to the locals simply as “mole,” The chile-and-chocolate sauce is fabulous: slightly coarse-textured and a little oily, so that a bright umbra forms around the edges, and thin enough to moisten a plate of soft corn tortillas and a big serving of rice—after you’ve eaten the tender poached chicken. Weekends only. Sietsema ¢



105-29 Metropolitan Avenue, Forest Hills, 718-520-8514

One of the chief summer pleasures of Queens lies in discovering and investigating antiquarian ice cream parlors. Founded in 1909, Eddie’s seems untouched by modernity. The hardwood stools at the long counter were not designed to accommodate the adult butt—kids won’t mind. In several flavors, the Cokes are concocted from syrup and soda, the 22 flavors of ice cream are made on the premises, and the soda jerk is well versed in the arcana of freezes, floats, sundaes, and malts. Very highly recommended. Sietsema ¢


161-03 Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach, 718-845-5100

Founded in 1974, this venerable Howard Beach seafood parlor looks like a radioactive jewel box on the horizon—just down the street from New York’s most bizarre Starbucks—and features excellent stuffed clams, heaped with crumbs and well browned. The shrimp, mussels, calamari, and scungilli (conch) combinations are also worth contemplating, as are the pastas, especially Sicilian baked ziti, which should be sided with an order of the potent garlic bread. A hallway lined with celebrity photos leads to a painfully bright dining room, but if the weathers fine, sit on the deck that overlooks the Jamaica Bay canal known as Shellbank Basin. Sietsema $


64-21 53rd Drive, Maspeth, 718-672-9696

Irish pizza may sound oxymoronic, or just plain moronic, but this Irish steak pub with an implanted OTB inside turns out some of the city’s best pizza. We’re not talking 900-degree, coal-fired pies like Lombardi’s, but pizza turned out in a conventional oven with a roster of exemplary optional ingredients by an artisanal pizza maker who knows how to coax maximum performance out of his equipment. You can watch the nags run and even blow a Hamilton or two as you down perfect slices. Finding this Maspeth institution—which I sought after seeing Mario Batali eating there in an OTB commercial—is half the fun. Sietsema $


22-40 31st Street, Astoria, 718-721-9422

The square Sicilian slice is absolutely scrumptious—artfully smeared with a semi-chunky red sauce that’s on the sweet side, clumped with good mozzarella, scattered with oregano. But good as the toppings are, the dough’s the thing at Rose & Joe’s, baking up light and airy, crisp on the bottom and sides, with virtually no wasted “bone” (the humpy part). The slice brought back fond memories of Boston’s North End, where pizza is sold out of bakeries and folks line up to wait for the next pie. Grab a warm slice to eat on the train. Sietsema ¢


118-16 101st Avenue, Richmond Hill, 718-849-0990

Queens’ favorite banquet hall is a stone cave decorated with cherubs and other Roman statuary, making you feel like you’re an extra in a kitschy movie. Thursdays the doors swing open to the general public, and a $24.95 fixed-price meal is provided that includes a belt-busting five courses, each with several choices. While the food quality is uneven, who cares? Eat the stuff that’s good and pick at the stuff that isn’t. In the solidly good category find a rigatoni vodka rich with cheese, and a substantial swordfish fillet heaped, in the Sicilian style, with toasted bread crumbs. The best dessert is the selection of fresh fruit. Sietsema $$



19 Corson Avenue, St. George, Staten Island, 718-442-8909

In a rundown and topographically spectacular section of St. George, this establishment looks like a grocery store until you penetrate into the interior and find a trim dining room and a large open kitchen, where a talented family of cooks toils ceaselessly over their expansive menu. Blintzes (called “creps”) are fresher than you’ve ever had them, and neither do the chunky soups disappoint, including a thick lima bean tomato with little islands of sausage and ham. Offered with three sides, beef stuffed with bacon and a well-browned chicken roll jammed with cheese and vegetables are two of the more interesting entrées. Sietsema ¢