GOOD EATS NYC 2023 (A Blanket Thread)

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Steve, 100% agree on the small sample size point. I tend to get a little annoyed with people who have one meal at a restaurant and proclaim the “restaurant” to be wonderful or terrible. You had one meal there, buddy. Don’t be so quick to generalize. If you want to say, you had a great or terrible “meal,” fine, I’m with you.

But a sample size of one can only tell you so much. A great restaurant can have a weak moment and (much less often) a bad restaurant can hit a home run. I used to make a lot of backyard barbecue with an offset smoker. I’m not very good at it, so the results were very hit or miss. But just once, everything went perfectly with some pulled pork – my sister said, “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten” and I was immodestly inclined to agree with her. It was a great MEAL. But I would not be capable in my wildest dreams of running a great barbecue RESTAURANT.


That is not a latke. I’m sure it was good, but it’s way too thick and looks breaded.


It wasn’t breaded, however. Pure potato

Yes, it’s a knish. It must be deep-fried or something. Knishes usually have a crust.

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As a Bostonian, seeing that jersey makes me sad, despite your wonderful reports.

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What, you’ve got a problem with a team spending a billion dollars to stockpile superstars? Are you one of those nuts who believes in competitive balance?

It does still look weird seeing Mookie in a Dodgers uniform.

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Zanm, a Haitian restaurant in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, had a favorable review in the Michelin Guide and an 8.2 food rating on the Infatuation. It was a disappointment. The food and setting were lovely and the server was attentive and earnest. But the pretty food was overcooked to the point of being hard on the teeth.

I won’t spend much time on Zanmi because I think it’s probably out of business, even though Yelp still shows it as open. Its website is now shown as available by GoDaddy and there is a complaint on OpenTable from December 13, 2023 that they accepted a reservation on OpenTable but were not open when their party arrived.

Too bad.

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Chavela’s in Crown Heights is a beautiful restaurant serving impeccable Mexican food with innovative touches at the margin (like the smoked trout in the guacamole) that take it out of the realm of the ordinary.

The dishes we ordered – tacos, enchiladas, crab taquitos, and quesadilla - were all in some sense Tex-Mex standards, but the execution was impeccable, with nice flourishes, and the meal was delicious.

We chose Chavela’s in part because of its stellar reviews (including a Michelin Bib Gourmand designation), but also because we were eating with Toni’s Memphis cousin (once-removed), who is a cautious eater and we wanted a familiar cuisine for her.

Looking back, it seems amazing that Tex-Mex food is now just American food. In small-town Mississippi in the 1960s and early 1970s, Mexican restaurants were non-existent and the delicious (in my memory) Banquet enchilada TV dinners were the cutting edge of exotic food. It was not until my honeymoon (in Memphis in 1973) that I had Mexican food for the first time. We have come a long way in diversity of food in America in just a half-century.


Got rebranded as Djon Djon

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The West Indies Day Parade on Labor Day in Crown Heights is exhilarating and the beautiful smell of charcoal-smoked foods comes from so many vendors that it’s hard to choose.

We ended up at Fray’s Cuisine, which turned out to be an excellent choice for jerk oxtails, which had a real bite and were intensely smoky. Seating was on the curb and made for great people watching, including watching an elderly couple (i.e., our age) recruiting celebratory passers-by for their “revolution now.”

As best I can tell from their Facebook page, Fray’s is only open during the West Indian Day Parade, but based on our one meal there it would be well worth seeking out next year (and if you’re on the fence about going to the parade because of the clickbait scare articles about the crime there, hopefully an incentive enough to push you over the line into going and having a great time).


thats too bad, I am always hoping to find good haitian food here. Its true that we had a fair amount of m unexciting dining in haiti a well when we visited in 1977 (given the economic conditions there, people are eating to live and refinement is not common) but we did have some wonderful eating too, in Petionville and Jacmel. You would think that with all the haitians in Brooklyn a really good restaurant would emerge.

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I’m sure there have to be some great Haitian restaurants in New York. I just haven’t found them yet.

I have a friend who travels to Haiti frequently for some work he does with an orphanage there. We were planning a trip to Haiti together so I could eat. Of course, the disaster that has befallen Haiti has deferred that trip indefinitely, sadly.

One of my ESL students the last couple of years has been a Haitian man who has relocated to DC while he works on plans for the revival of civic life in Haiti (he has degrees in agricultural economics). He says that almost everywhere outside of Port Au Prince is fine, but the problem is that you have to go through Port Au Prince to get there.

I know Pete Wells was acting as much as a reporter as a food critic when he put together his list of the 100 Best NYC restaurants back in April. He wanted interesting stories that conveyed a sense of the diversity of New York City as much as he wanted to point out the “best” restaurants.

Still, his designation of Hop Lee in Chinatown (the Manhattan version) as one of his “100 Best” NYC restaurants is a little baffling (at least based on our one meal there). Hop Lee is an longtime Chinatown haunt, but there are lots of excellent Chinese restaurants with similar pedigress within close proximity to Hop Lee (including the venerable Hop Kee just a hop skip and jump away – I’ll deny any intentional puns if need be).

Our meal at Hop Lee was pretty “blah.” Nothing we got (fried pork chops, green beans, shimp in chili and spicy salt, and clams in black bean sauce) was bad but nothing sparked much interest either. Admittedly, we were slightly handicapped in ordering by Toni’s first cousin once removed, who vetoed several dishes on the grounds that she wanted to add “only one new protein per day” (she’d never had clams before). Hop Lee’s dishes were well prepared, but could have been a lot zippier. And the deep ennui of the servers only reinforced the ladck of excitement.

Hop Lee was definitely good, but nothing more.


We were headed to Astoria for Egyptian seafood when I stumbled on the United Nations of Food blog, which had a post from 2015 that said that Leli’s Bakery was the only restaurant in NYC that had Maltese food in the form of pastizzis, a pastry that resembled Balkan burek.

I was immediately interested because it’s easy for me to slip into a “check the box” mentality and I’d never had Maltese food before.

So we swung by Leli’s around 6:30 pm for a pre-Egyptian seafood amuse bouche and found that they were open and had a few pastizzis left. We got a beef and pea version. As you’d expect, by late afternoon it was a little hard, but still savory. Good, not great, at that time of day is all you can expect. But I did check the box by “Maltese cuisine.”


Sabry’s Seafood is an Egyptian seafood restaurant on Steinway Avenue in Astoria. It is right next to AbuQir, another Egyptian seafood restaurant, which Pete Wells in the NYT rated as one of the “100 Best” restaurants in NYC in April 2023. Toni strongly insisted on Sabry’s, however, since she’d seen a charming YouTube interview of Sabry’s owner. Since our experience with Pete Wells’ “100 Best” list had been very mixed, I didn’t bother arguing the point. I’m glad I didn’t because our meal at Sabry’s was excellent.

The fresh fish are laid out on ice for your review. We chose grilled sardines for an appetizer (along with a very simple green salad and baba ghanoush) and Egyptian style bronzeiny (branzino), which turned out to a grill-blackened version, somewhat similar to New Orleans-style blackened redfish, and came to the table still steaming from the grill.

You might think it’s hard to mess up fresh fish, simply prepared, but in my experience a lot of restaurants, including some pretty expensive ones, manage to do just that, usually by overcooking the fish. Not Sabry’s. The whole meal was delicious, from start to finish.


Teranga is a West African restaurant in the Africa Center at the 110th Street entrance to Central Park in East Harlem. It gets almost worshipful reviews, with Time Out and the Infatuation both putting it in the top 25 restaurants in the city and the NYT gave it a very strong review as well.

But we were there on a weekday in September and their website said the Harlem location is now only open on weekends and on weekdays they are located in Midtown at 601 Lexington Avenue. This turned out to be a “food hall” called the Hugh.

Huge disappointment. This is basically old-fashioned mall basement food court food. I had the Super Suya bowl with beef suya. Very gloppy and the suya was a far cry from the glorious suya I’d had last summer at Rodo Foods in Bed-Stuy. I guess I’d call this good comfort food, but that’s probably a bit generous.

I’d be interested if anyone has eaten at the Africa Center location and whether that location lives up to the hype.


I’m going to do a very quick hit review of Sofreh, a really excellent Persian restaurant in Prospect Heights that deserves a more careful review.

I’m giving only a cursory review because (a) my quick iphone photos turned out very badly and (b) we were having dinner with friends and were so focused on the conversation that I didn’t make very good mental notes about the food. Plus, our dining companions, who were over three decades younger than us, secretly paid the bill, which left me without a receipt to remind me of what we’d ordered.

I know we had an elegant meal in an elegant setting, with dishes that included lamb shanks, an outstanding watermelon and feta salad, and a cauliflower steak. But I’ll have to leave it at that.

We were regaling our (much younger) friends about our latest adventures in NYC, including a cringeworthy open mic session at the Eastville comedy club where we were only two in attendance and were referred by every aspiring comedian who performed as “the audience” – they were about equally split between treating us like their grandparents and apologizing for every offensive joke or making our age and presumed infirmities the butt of their jokes.

We were also talking about our meal the night before at Chuan Xia Tian and how interesting and nice the HO people we’d had dinner with were when the female half of the young (cis) couple – a lifetime New Yorker and a food connoisseur – exclaimed, “Wow! You got to meet Dave Cook! That’s wonderful!”


I thought I was about to finish up this listing of “where we ate in NYC in Aug-Sept. 2023,” when I realized I’d accidentally omitted Miss Ada, an outstanding Israeli restaurant in Fort Greene, which was one of the top four restaurants where we ate during our stay (along with Le Bernardin, Indian Table, and Foxface Natural). The name is a play on “Masada,” the last stand of the Jewish rebels in the second revolt against Rome, back in the second century AD.

Miss Ada has a Michelin Bib Gourmand designation, but that was not why it was on our “don’t miss” list for this year’s trip. Last year, we ate at an excellent nearby restaurant, which I won’t name, on a lazy Sunday afternoon and got into a long conversation with our twenty-something server, about all manner of things (including his just starting out on an elementary school teaching career, a subject on which my wife had a lot of advice based on decades of experience).

When we praised the food at this lazy Sunday lunch, our server was emphatic in saying something like, “Yes, we’re good. But you really really need to go to Miss Ada just down the street. That is a really special restaurant.”

He was right. Miss Ada was loud, with an open kitchen, and packed with people having a good time, and the food was superb. For appetizers, we had standards – lamb shawarma, muhamarra, hummus, and kale salad - and for an entree hangar steak with corn succotash – all superb, with maybe a slight, tiny caveat on the hangar steak, just because it was the last large dish in a large meal (after a long month of a lot of large meals).

Kale salad

Hummus & muhamarra

Miss Ada open kitchen

Hangar steak with succotash

This was a memorable evening. I highly recommend Miss Ada.