In a few short months, we’ll publish our Best of NYC™ issue, our annual love letter to what’s great in this town. In anticipation of unveiling dozens of our favorite restaurants, dishes, and drinks, we’re counting down, in no particular order, our 100 favorite dishes from around the boroughs on the Village Voice Fork in the Road blog. Here, a taste of what we’ve showcased.
Lower East Side
198 Orchard Street
Movie posters, Lakers paraphernalia, and Mexican kitsch dominate every square inch of wall space in this hallway-size Los Angeles–style taqueria on Orchard Street where the noise from the crowd can escalate into a brain-thumping din. Take the edge off with a margarita, and then ask for the carnitas, which make the room fade away entirely. A carnitas taco comes piled liberally with hot, peppery pig that’s been slow-cooked into tender strands and crisped around the edges. Each bite renders a cascade of velvety pork juice, which blends with tart lime, piquant onions, and fresh cilantro in a soft corn tortilla. For more pork, opt for the tostada, which supplements the carnitas with ripe avocado, salty queso fresco, a drizzle of crema, and a pile of lettuce on a crunchy flat corn shell.
253 West 11th Street
Tartine has always offered a menu of simple French fare, and the list looks particularly plain now amid the faux-comfort food that graces more stylish tables. But in addition to a worthy renditions of steak au poivre and a French onion soup, this restaurant offers a nearly platonic version of steamed mussels, served fat, taut, and pinkish-orange in their shiny black shells, bobbing in a light but complex broth that’s inflated by onion, lightly redolent of the sea, and so imbued with garlic it’s almost tart (you’ll definitely want to share with your date if you plan on mouth-to-mouth contact later in the night). The dish comes with a bucket of addictively crispy, pencil-thin fries that get even better after a soak.
Clay Pot Catfish
112 Harrison Place
Falansai owner Henry Trieu did time in the kitchen at San Francisco’s Slanted Door, a restaurant that went a long way in putting Vietnamese cuisine on the map in this country. He draws from that experience and his own heritage—his Chinese father lived in Vietnam for several years—for the menu at his Bushwick restaurant, which forgoes pho to showcase other areas of the culinary canon. One standout is the clay pot catfish, so named for the vessel in which it’s cooked. A lifted lid unveils supple hunks of white fish swimming in a surprisingly delicate broth redolent of caramel and layered softly with subtle pepper. Topped with a couple fresh scallion shoots, the stew is best ladled over a mound of steamed rice.
Cookie Monster Ice Cream
12-09 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City
Malu, a small parlor tucked into a space next to a Long Island City convenience store just a short 7 train ride away, turns out dozens of worthy flavors of ice cream—some of which are customer suggestions—that range from classic vanilla to baklava to blueberry honey graham cracker. We’re most partial to the Cookie Monster: Powdery chocolate wafers and crunchy chocolate chip cookies are crushed into an ethereally creamy base that’s ribboned with soft hot fudge and studded with more chocolate chips. You’re going to want at least a double.
Hungry for more? We post a new dish daily at villagevoice.com/forkintheroad