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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Walt Street Pub – Red Bank, NJ

Walt Street Pub
180 Monmouth St
Red Bank, NJ
(732) 741-5936

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 #4 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, Peter Luger,  is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

I remember one of the first food bloggers i ever read. This was really before blogging was all that popular. In one of his posts, he discussed the Walt Street Pub – a small pub in Red Bank, that served up some amazing burgers.

I’ve had images of that burger burning in my head ever since, and had to include the Walt Street Pub when exploring New York’s best burger.

Located on the idyllic south shore, Red Bank looks nothing like a foodie haven. More like a speed bump on the commuter highway to NYC. The drive out from the city took quite a while – and upon exiting the car, I knew the experience would be completely different from the any of the establishments in the city.

The pub itself has a homey sports bar feel. There was a friendly bartender, and a friendly server. The place was near empty.

The Walt Street Pub is famous for their wings – mild, hot or “killer death”. These wings were voted the “best in town” – by whom, I have no idea. And in terms of Red Bank, maybe not the biggest town. They were, however, quite tasty. Basted in very hot sauce, the wings were amply sized, and fried to a crispy exterior. I’m definitely in the wing camp that prefers a drier wing to a soaked, wet wing. The wings themselves were very juicy, with a nice crunch to them. The heat was a bottled hot sauce type of vibe, but I enjoyed these a lot.

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Foodosophy & Politics of Foie Gras – understanding, and misunderstanding of a touchy issue

Hate to interrupt the burger stream, but I read a letter today that I felt was important to get out there. It’s discusses the strengths and faults of the Foie Gras debate, and more importantly, gives a balanced view on food-related issues in general that should reinforce to anyone the importance of getting educated on the issues and challenges our society faces, especially as it relates to food.

Beware my soapbox, but I believe the key part in all this is to GET EDUCATED. Don’t hear a story and feel like you have the facts. Don’t project your own personal values onto an issue and assume you know what’s going on. We’re all guilty of that to some extent. The best thing all of us can do is to continue to talk, study, and understand the challenges we face together, and the best way to address these problems.

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Peter Luger – Brooklyn, NY

Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400‎

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 #3 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

New Yorkers are famous for many things. Pastrami. Pizza. The Yankees. And a very brusque attitude. While visiting New York City over the years, other than some crazy drivers, I haven’t found the “New York” attitude to be all that prevalent. Impatient towards tourists? Often, yes. But unfriendly? Not at all.

One of the bastions of the New York attitude exists at Peter Luger. Famous Brooklyn steakhouse known for surly service, 5 week+ dry aged steak, and an astronomical bill. One Michelin Star. Voted best steak in New York for 24 years by Zagat, what isn’t as well known is they have a burger on their lunch menu. One that many consider to be the best burger in New York + Outer Boroughs.

The first thing you encounter upon walking into Peter Lugers is either crowds of people waiting, or the enormous bar. Everyone ends up at the bar eventually – since even with a reservation, you’re typically made to wait 15-20 minutes. Minimum. It’s not the worst place to be stuck though – reasonable  New York prices for drinks, an ok house label beer and some decent cocktails. If you’re of the male gender – expect some surly comments and banter – not always lighthearted, though it seems quite faux surly for the most part. Ladies are treated very nicely.

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Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien – New York City, NY

Burger Joint
Lobby of Le Parker Meridien
118 W 57th St
New York, NY
(212) 708-7414

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the next week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #2 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The first review, Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, is available here. Hope you enjoy the series.

There’s something about secrets that appeal to people. It’s nice “being in the know”. Having access to an experience others don’t. They are out there too. Secret restaurants, like Totoraku in LA, or many other secret supper clubs dotted around each metropolitan city, guarded tightly like the crown jewels of the foodie community.

Hidden in the corner of the lobby of Le Parker Meridien is a secret – not through lack of information, but by obscurity of location. The Burger Joint. Hidden behind floor to ceiling curtains is a small burger operation that is the complete oppose of the Meridien Hotel vibe. Dirty, small, with a great buzz.

Marked by a simple neon burger, these days it’s easy to find by the lineup.

Once you round the corner, you find a bustling community of people drinking draught beer (Sam Adams) and chowing down on burgers and fries. Tables are sticky and dirty, bussing your own tables usually ends up that way, and tables are had on a first come first serve basis. You better be aggressive – camp someone who looks like they are leaving, or be willing to push your way through when you see someone getting up. Being polite means you end up standing there for 30 minutes, holding your rapidly cooling burger, looking despondent.

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Shake Shack – New York City, NY

Shake Shack
Madison Ave and East 23rd St.
Southeast Corner of Madison Square Park
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of the week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #1 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. Hope you enjoy the series.

Looking for the best burger in New York City was a pretty easy proposition to get behind. There’s a lot of existing intel out there on burgers, they are relatively affordable, and they taste pretty good. After all, who doesn’t love a good burger? With a theoretical clean bill of health, I started with the Danny Meyer institution, Shake Shack.

No burger place in New York is more divisive than the Shake Shack. On one side, you have the raving fanatics who love the fresh, hand formed Pat LaFrieda patties, American cheese, basic condiments, and secret Shack Sauce.

On the other side, you have people who despise the long long lineups, the one hour waits, and the “good, but nothing special” aspect to the burger itself.

I had to find out for myself.

I showed up, post lunch, around 2:30pm hoping to dodge some of the legendary lineups. I’d been told that if i want something around lunch time, i had better show up before they opened at 11am, or else im looking at 30-45 minutes. Minimum. Weekends, more. The wait ended up being roughly 10-15 minutes to order. Not bad. Another15 minutes for our burger to arrive, we got in and out in under 30 minutes. Great timing.

They’ve separated their lineups into an A and B line. B line can get custards, paraphernalia, and milkshakes. Hot items, stay in line the long (A) line.

When looking over online reviews of the Shake Shack, one of the most common associations was to In N Out Burger.  Both in simplicity of composition, and in taste.

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Meshiya Hachibei – Vancouver, BC

Meshiya Hachibei
778 W 16th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 879-3357

May 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

[Apologies for the low quality images, just the first one was taken with a simple point & shoot digital, whereas the others were taken with my cell phone.  The setting inside with many customers in a close space was not conducive to whipping out the big DSLR.]

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hachibei.  Long on my to-check-out list, but never quite enticing enough to warrant it rising to the top.  In a quest for some good Japanese comfort food, we finally made the short trip out to this place.  As you can see from the outside, it was fairly plain and nothing screamed at me that I would be getting a great meal.

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Lupa Osteria Romana – New York City, NY

Lupa Osteria Romana
170 Thompson St
New York, NY
(212) 982-5089

In the world of Bastianich and Batali, if you’ve been to one, you know exactly what to expect when you walk in the door. While every one of their restaurants has a place – specially selected to ensure that each new restaurant is different enough from the previous, every restaurant is intended to offer you the same formulaic experience – good food, good service, exceptional value. While they are all good restaurants with different themes, I think my favorite of the lot is Lupa Osteria Romana. While places like Babbo, Mozza, Otto, Spotted Pig, and a slew of Las Vegas projects typically command more attention, Lupa delivers everything i’m looking for in a restaurant experience.

The food at Lupa is described as a “casual Roman trattoria” – and while they do serve a Roman style of meal – three courses, emphasis on pork and seafood, it is more modern Roman than any sort of traditional cena. What they do manage to do though is offer is a reasonable selection of affordable (especially for the quality), high impact dishes.  Secondi’s are mostly quite seasonal, so they change up more often than other “always on the menu” standbys.

We started with some house made salumi. It was very good, as most charcuterie is at Batali restaurants.

For a Primi, i chose one of my favorite dishes – Trippa alla Romana. The creaminess of the honeycomb tripe mixed with the tomato sauce, pecorino romano and mint create a very rich, yet fresh tasting dish. A fantastic rendition of tripe – perhaps even better than my old standby, Trippa alla Fiorentina. I may personally prefer omasum, or leaf tripe, commonly served in Chinese restaurants, but for honeycomb, this was great stuff.


Black cod with fava beans on potato puree. It was fresh, light, and tasty. A well prepared piece of fish perfectly cooked.

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Universal Bakery – Vancouver, BC

Universal Bakery
3815 Rupert Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 438-1920


Universal Bakery is a non-descript Portuguese bakery deep in Vancouver’s Eastside. I come here only for one thing – it is for their very good Portuguese Egg Tarts. To make the trip worth while, I also pick up a few other items – bread, sausages, and so forth. But really, I’m here for these tarts.

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