10. Fatty dog at Upper West Side Fatty Crab – The sausage is prodigal, a fat homemade link laced with a scalding Southeast Asian XO sauce. Add a good bun, fronds of cilantro, pickled purple radish, pickled cuke spear, and smear of wet mayo, and you have one great and gloppy bar snack. 2170 Broadway, 212-496-2722
A bar snack is a beautiful thing. Just as you feel like you’re going to pass out from hunger, you remember that the place where you’re drinking with friends has the world’s greatest bar snack, a morsel so good you could order a dozen and never be tired of them.
A few ground rules. 1. The place must be at least as much a bar as a restaurant; 2. The snack must be a snack and not an entire meal; 3. No nutritional obsessions will be tolerated (such as low fat, low carb, or plenty or omega fatty acids); 4. The snack has to go well with any kind of alcohol, and that includes sake, fernet branca, and even peppermint schnapps!
Here in ranked order are our 10 nominations for that bar snack. And we’re drooling just thinking of them now.
9. Vobla at KeBeer – This small salted and dried fish – known by the English name “common roach” — is the delight of Russian drinkers, but you must know how to approach it. Don’t simply chew on its head and tail between quaffs – instead carefully pull it apart, discarding skin and bones and eating the small tidbits of flesh as a salty counterpoint to the alcohol. The best part: the roe inside the roach. 1003 Brighton Beach Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-934-9608
8. Frito pie at Mable’s Smokehouse – You don’t need to be a Texan to appreciate Frito pie, an impromptu bar snack that involves sluicing a torn bag of corn chips with chili con carne, then heaping the top with melty cheese. Stepchild of nachos, only saltier and denser, this splendid snack demands to be washed down with beer, but we’ve tried wine and cocktails, to which it provides a nice class-hopping contrast. That’s sour cream on the left, not vanilla frosting.44 Berry Street, Brooklyn, 718-218-6655
7. Herbed fries at the Sparrow Tavern – The food at this low-profile Astorian gastropub is a zillion times better than it needs to be, and the herbed fries are the biggest “must-try.” While fries dusted with dried or even fresh herbs are common enough, Sparrow’s fries has a #winning combination of fresh rosemary and parsley and – here’s the kicker – they come entangled with caramelized onions, for added sweetness. 24-01 29th Street, Queens, 718-606-2260
6. Nuts, sour cherries, and injera at Red Rooster Harlem – If you didn’t look too carefully, you might think this pile of crunchies and squishies was just some tired trail mix. How wrong you would be! The swatches of crisp fried injera play hide-and-seek amid dried sour cherries that blow raisins out of the water, while toasted nuts, each with its own competing spice combination, add a welcome stick-to-your-ribs protein component. 310 Lenox Avenue, 212-792-9001
5. The Cuban at Bar Emerson – This drinking establishment has an admirably compact list of vittles that features pressed sandwiches and Niman Ranch hot dogs. The best of the former is a riff on the Cuban sandwich. The hot embrace of the sandwich press scores grooves in the toast, while the interior oozes ham, cheese, and pickles. 561 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, 347-763-1310
4. Okonomiyaki at Rockmeisha – This not-always-on-the-menu treat means “cook what you like” in Japanese, but at wrestling-and-rock-themed gastropub Rockmeisha, it means a filling of meat and vegetables encased in a crumply and savory pancake, with a drizzle of brown sweet sauce. Bonito shavings wave at you from the top.11 Barrow Street, 212-675-7775
3. Devils on horseback at Five Leaves – Dates wrapped in bacon may sound like an odd combination to eat as a bar munch, but the collision of sweet, salty, and smoky goes well with any alcohol. While you can find these concentrated bites in several bars around town, at Five Leaves in Greenpoint (where the ghost of Heath Ledger still hovers), the devils on horseback are cooked longer, crisping the bacon and ramping up the sweetness of the already sweet dates. 18 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-383-5345
2. Jicama, mango, and cucumber pickles at Strong Place – This homemade pickle assortment sings of summer, and the bright fresh flavors – accented with lime and chiles – will make your mouth jump up and shout, and we can’t think of anything that goes better with the extensive list of craft brews on tap, at this bar with a bistro in back. 270 Court Street, Brooklyn, 718-522-0913
1. Buffalo chicken wings at Old Town Bar – The city of Buffalo can puff up its matted plumage in pride for this sainted invention. It has traveled all over the world, delighting drinkers with the combo of sour, salty, greasy, spicy, and crisp. Thanks to all the twitterers who answered our request for best wings – our fave remains O.T.B., where you can enjoy them in dark-wooded Victorian splendor, the smell of malt in your nostrils. 45 East 18th Street, 212-529-6732
Next: A few more Old Town photos (click to enlarge)