Halal Cart 53rd and 6th – New York City, NY


Halal Cart
6 Ave & W 53rd St
Manhattan, New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-7000

Lineups are strange things. I’ve seen people get in line for something they had no idea they were lining up for. Lineups make the destination seem more desirable – a general herd mentality really, that if all these other people like it, then it must be worth lining up for. Or, lineups are really an indication that a place is worth eating at.

Out of all the street cart vendors that exist in New York City, my favorite are the Halal carts. They typically serve a couple types of meat – gyro, lamb, beef, or chicken, and make sandwiches or platters. So when i passed by an insane lineup at 9:30pm at a Halal cart at 53rd and 6th, I had to know what was going on. I swore that by the time i came back, if there was still a lineup, I would try what was there. At 11:30pm, the lineup had actually gotten longer.

From first apperances, this cart was nothing special. They served chicken, and gyro, and offered platters and sandwiches. Platters were $6. I didnt really understand why I was willing to brave the lineup.  A patron filled me in on what i was missing out on.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Au Petit Cafe – Vancouver, BC


Au Petit Cafe
4851 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5V 3R9
(604) 873-3328

The Vietnamese subs (Banh Mi) of my youth were all fairly consistent – crunchy, mouth sawing bread, nuoc cham, mystery meat, cilantro, pickled carrots, onion, cucumber, and hot peppers. And they were cheap. Dirt cheap.

Phase 2 came about with the Americanization of the Banh Mi – Sate Beef and Chicken, Curry Chicken, things like this. The extra sauce made the bread a little soggy, but made it less painful to put down. I liked the new flavors, but the original sub was still  my favorite.

Then a trip to Vietnam redefined what a great Banh Mi could be. Great fresh bread, wonderfully flavoured house made meat, different sauces, pate, butter(!!), fresh veg. These deli sandwiches were so much better than what you could get on the street, which were, in turn, so much better than the Banh Mi of my youth.

Enter Au Petit Cafe – Vancouver’s best known Vietnamese Sub restaurant. Already extensively covered by other bloggers (like our friend’s at Chow Times, Vancouver Slop, and Sherman’s Food Adventures), I will try not to duplicate everything they’ve said. But as they’ve pointed out, the location is in a tiny space on Main.

They have some fairly sparse seating for inside – so most people get their Vietnamese subs to go. If there’s space, the owners always encourage you to stay. I suggest calling ahead – they are often sold out (they run out of bread).

Continue reading

Toronado Pub – San Francisco, CA


Toronado Pub
547 Haight St
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 863-2276

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all the American readers on Foodosophy. In honor of US Thanksgiving, I’ve imbibed a tremendous amount of beer. Making this post, well, a lot less verbose than my usual posts.

In honor of the beer I’ve imbibed, I would like to introduce you to Toronado – quite possibly the best pub in North America. I say quite possibly because I haven’t been to every pub in North America. But I have a hard time imagining a better pub from a beer standpoint.

Toronado is not about the decor, or the atmosphere, unless you like quirky, unkempt beer snobs in irreverent t-shirts boasting loudly after one too many, while the strong smell of stale beer wafts over each slightly sticky table. While this doesn’t make up all their patrons – it is a bit of hyperbole, certainly, and there really are a diverse number of people who love the Toronado – it certainly makes up a good percentage that will give you the evil eye when you need to slide by them and actually try and get a beer from the bar.

Continue reading

Duck Fat – Portland, ME


Duck Fat
43 Middle St
Portland, ME 04101-4213
(207) 774-8080

“Duck fat – who doesnt like duck fat??”

Everyone has a weakness – and for me, it’s french fries. Cheesecake, chocolate, ice cream – some people like their sweets,  I’m a deep fried potato and salt guy. So when I heard of a small shop in Portland Maine making amazing french fries, more specifically Belgian fries, I knew I had to check it out.

Duck Fat, in Portland Maine, serves fairly simple sandwich shop type fare. Soups, sandwiches, salads, some diner type food, and some of the most amazing frites you’ll ever taste. It is a fairly humble establishment that uses some very fine, fresh, local ingredients. While it is simple fare, there’s nothing ordinary about it.

The interior is modest, with a small amount of  seating. Most spaces are counter spaces that ring the exterior walls.

Continue reading

Bobby Chao’s Chinese Cuisine and Dim Sum – Calgary, AB


Bobby Chao’s Chinese Cuisine and Dim Sum
#18 – 34 Edgedale Drive NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 207-7840

When you look at Chinese cuisine, I find it to be an interesting study in regionalism. While we often lump “Chinese” food together into one category, I can think of no other culture that has such a clear differentiation in ingredients, styles, and techniques between regions. Whether it’s four, eight, or ten defined regional styles (with thousands of provincial distinctions), the differences between regions can be as pronounced as the difference between most countries.

I think I sometimes forget just how big China really is – and that regional differences, climate, and local ingredients are bound to strongly impact how a cuisine develops. In fact, based on how old  Chinese culture is, are we looking at the future of other large countries – say for example the US,  and what lies in store thousands of years in the future? Very strong, independent culinary identity based on geography?

In Calgary, the lines between regions in Chinese cuisine are blurred- mostly because there aren’t a lot of restaurants that present “pure” cuisine. In fact, i’d argue that there are none, but the most predominant cuisine is almost always Cantonese. Not a huge surprise based on the makeup of the Chinese immigrants in Calgary itself.

While most Chinese restaurants are concentrated in a small area between 4th Ave and 16th Ave N, in the deep Northwest there are small enclaves of high quality Chinese restaurants. One of my favorites, Edgemont Palace, was a standard for years before a variety of unfortunate incidents removed it from the consideration. Bobby Chao’s is another of those establishments.

Continue reading

Bukchigo Jangguchigo – Coquitlam, BC


Bukchigo Jangguchigo Korean Restaurant
Unit c-341 North Road
Coquitlam, BC
(604) 931 – 7400

In an instant, transported halfway around the globe.  That’s how I felt when I stepped inside this completely Korean enclave, that was essentially a minsok jujum (Korean-style drinking spot) and called Bukchigo Jangguchigo.  Tucked in the corner of an L-shaped strip mall on North Road, driving into the lot southbound is a virtual impossibility, given the high volume of traffic coming the other way and the not-so-friendly Burnaby/Coquitlam drivers who always seem to be in a hurry to get home…

With some tables occupied by some younger twenty-something groups as well as some older gentlemen, all speaking Korean, it reminded me of my experiences eating out on the streets of Seoul.  On previous visits to this mall, I had always been curious to step inside, as I could make out boisterous customers all seemingly have a good time, much in the mold of the crowds at Guu in downtown Vancouver.

Continue reading

Minetta Tavern – New York City, NY


Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St., at Minetta Ln.
New York, NY
(212) 475-3850

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #5 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, Walt Street Pub, is available here. Hope you enjoy the series.

Exclusivity. It’s a real pain for us common folks who love food – as some restaurants that sound like they would be an experience of a lifetime, are just extremely difficult to get a reservation at. El Bulli, French Laundry, the list goes on. While Minetta Tavern doesn’t quite fall under this category, mostly due to their generous dining hours (menu served till 1am), it is still near impossible to get in at a prime time. Normally I wouldn’t bother, but I heard they had the best hamburger in NYC. We decided to eat at 11pm.

Guarded by a “doorman”, the blinds are drawn, and there is no way of seeing inside. Many places try to generate interest – seating people near windows – to make it seem like a place you want to eat at. Minetta Tavern feels like they are trying to keep you out – they are busy enough as it is. This is by no fault of the staff – both the doorman, and the hostess, were incredibly friendly and accommodating – it’s just by virtue of their job to keep walk-ins away when the restaurant is already (likely) overbooked.

Once your reservation is confirmed with the doorman, you’re allowed into the sanctuary. An overly crowded bar, with hordes of people waiting to be seated. I’ve never been seated on time – there is always a delay – even at 11pm. Based on the celebrities who visit Minetta Tavern, I can understand all of the above inconveniences. I don’t have to like it, but I understand.

Continue reading