Friday, January 30, 2009

F & J Pine Restaurant, Bronx (Van Nest)

As much as some diners shrug off old-fashioned Southern Italian restaurants in favor of more upscale, refined Northern Italian dining spots, sometimes people just want to have a heaping plate of chicken, veal, or pasta at a reasonably-priced, unpretentious red-sauce joint. And if you happen to be in the Bronx, you have seemingly endless choices, including a local favorite in the East Bronx (in the Van Nest neighborhood) called F & J Pine Restaurant.

A family-friendly spot in a close-knit working-class part of the Bronx, F & J Pine Restaurant is a popular place for weddings, birthday parties, and other events because of the large rooms available within the restaurant. Their everyday menu features mostly familiar Southern Italian dishes such as pasta fagioli, linguini with clam sauce, baked ziti, chicken cacciatore, and grilled sausage. They also have a variety of pizzas and heroes. There is a pretty wide price range at F & J Pine Restaurant, but many of the dishes cost less than $20.

If you have been to F & J Pine Restaurant in the Van Nest section of the Bronx, please let us know by posting a comment here. Thanks!

Here is the address for F & J Pine Restaurant:
F & J Pine Restaurant
1913 Bronxdale Avenue
Bronx (Van Nest), NY, 10462

The phone number is:
(718) 792-5956‎

And here is the Web site for F & J Pine Restaurant:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Le Toukouleur, Brooklyn (Bedford Stuyvesant)

The Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn is sometimes seen as a section of the borough to avoid, but "Bed-Stuy" has a lot to offer, including a number of interesting dining spots that also happen to be off most people's radar. One example of this is a French-African restaurant called Le Toukouleur that would probably be hugely popular if it were in Greenwich Village or Brooklyn Heights. But because it is in the heart of Bed-Stuy, it remains little-known.

Le Toukouleur has is an exotic-looking place with African art and decor mixed with trendy, modern touches. The menu at Le Toukouleur has a mix of mostly French, North African, and Caribbean items, including escargot, butternut squash soup, saltfish cakes, braised lamb, seafood stew, steak tartare, and prawns, and for dessert, banana creme brulee and apple tarts. Meals are very reasonably priced, with most entrees coming in a well under $20.

If you have been to Le Toukouleur in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, please tell us about it by posting a comment here. Thank you!

Here is the address for Le Toukouleur:
Le Toukouleur
1116 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn (Bedford Stuyvesant), NY, 11216

The phone number is:
(718) 611-0607

And here is the Web site for Le Toukouleur:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gaetana's, Manhattan (West Village)

I just returned from another trip to Manhattan and went to several good restaurants. But perhaps none stick in my memory as much as a cozy little Italian restaurant on the edge of the West Village called Gaetana's. This dining spot, which is located near the Hudson River at the corner of Christopher Street and Greenwich Street, is quite an impressive place, but it gets little coverage in restaurant guides, books, or Web sites. Perhaps this is because it is indeed out of the way, just far enough from Bleecker and W 4th Streets that folks don't even know if its existence.

The inside of Gaetana's is perfect for a date, as it is dark and romantic with warm lighting throughout. But it is also a place for families, friends, and workmates, as it is casual and low key. The food that we ordered there was mostly excellent, including the fire-roasted red peppers with roasted garlic, the lentil soup, the pumpkin ravioli with sage and butter sauce (on special that night), and the chicken pomodoro (which had an outstanding red sauce with a zesty, hearty flavor). Even the bread that came at the start of our meal was top notch, and it came with a nice dipping oil with lots of black pepper in it. Prices for our meal were bordering on cheap, with prices in general at Gaetana's coming out to around $10-20 for most meals, not including a soup, salad, drinks, etc.

If you have also been to Gaetana's in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan, please let us know by posting a comment here. Thanks!

Here is the address for Gaetana's:
143 Christopher Street
Manhattan (West Village), NY, 10014

The phone number is:
(212) 675-3913

And here is the Web site for Gaetana's:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Rambling House, Bronx (Woodlawn)

Way, way up in the Bronx, about as far as you can go and still be in New York City (and indeed right at the Yonkers border), is a close-knit Irish neighborhood called Woodlawn. It is a place full of Irish bakeries, pubs, and restaurants, and is a fine place to grab a burger and a Guinness while listening to traditional music. One such place is The Rambling House, a truly authentic Irish pub and restaurant located in the heart of Woodlawn on Katonah Avenue. It is a place you can go to hear traditional Irish seisuins over a pint or two, and in the warmer months, you can opt to sit outside where a number of table are set up out front.

The menu at The Rambling House is a mix of authentic Irish cuisine (bangers and mash, lamb stew, shepherd's pie, chicken curry, fish and chips, toasties) and more American pub grub and entrees (chicken tenders, quesadillas, burgers, ribs, meat loaf). Prices are reasonable, with most entrees being under $20.

If you have been to The Rambling House in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, please let us know by posting a comment here. Thanks!

Here is the address for The Rambling House:
The Rambling House
4292 Katonah Avenue
Bronx (Woodlawn), NY, 10470

The phone number is:
(718) 798-4510

And here is the Web site for The Rambling House:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cheburechnaya, Queens (Rego Park)

Let's face it; while most restaurants can be classified in one or maybe two categories, there are some dining spots for which it simply can't be done. Take Cheburechnaya in the Rego Park section of Queens, for example. Is it Kosher? Middle Eastern? Bukharian? Russian? Uzbek? Tajik? Well, the case can be made for any/all of these categories of cuisine. But no matter how you categorize Cheburechnaya, the bottom line is that its menu is varied and fascinating, with many dishes that you may actually have never heard of.

Cheburechnaya, which is a short distance southwest of Forest Hills and Flushing, is a fairly large restaurant with a capacity of about 100. Its menu, as mentioned above, is varied, with such exotic items as chebureki, samcy, grilled branzini, sea bass kebabs, veal liver kebabs, and lamb heart kebabs. The menu also features some more familiar dishes as pea soup, salmon steak, humus, spaghetti and meatballs, and grape leaves.

If you have been to Cheburechnaya in the Rego Park section of Queens, please let us know by posting a comment here. Thanks!

Here is the address for Cheburechnaya:
92-09 63rd Drive
Queens (Rego Park), NY, 11374

The phone number is:
(718) 897-9080

And here is the Web site for Cheburechnaya:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cafecito, Manhattan (East Village)

It wasn't all that long ago that and much of the section of Lower Manhattan called "Alphabet City" was seen as a place to stay away from. But much of this part of the East Village has greatly improved, and some parts are now quite popular with locals and tourists alike. And along with the improvements to Alphabet City are an influx of interesting restaurants, including a Cuban dining spot on Avenue C called Cafecito. Casual, reasonably priced, and unpretentious, Cafecito is a gem of a place that is popular with folks who live in the neighborhood, but is nearly unknown outside of Alphabet City and the East Village. It is small--and can fill up quickly on weekends--but weeknights seem to be fine for grabbing a seat right away.

Authentic Cuban food is the name of the game at Cafecito, with some dishes that might not be familiar to some. Included on the menu are chicken and beef empanadas, roasted corn and black bean fritters, homemade chicken soup, a breaded steak sandwich, grilled chorizo with onions and cheese, char-grilled skirt steak with chimichurri, boniato (sweet potato) hash, and pulled roasted chicken. Sides include yuca fries, plantains, and saffron rice. And for dessert, there is flan as well as a flourless chocolate cake.

If you have been to Cafecito in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, please let us know by posting a comment here. Thanks!

Here is the address for Cafecito:
185 Avenue C
Manhattan (East Village), NY, 10009

The phone number is:
(212) 253-9966

And here is the Web site for Cafecito:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gargiulo's Restaurant, Brooklyn (Coney Island)

Thanks to an acquaintance of mine who grew up in Brooklyn, I have been concentrating on that borough of late, and this entry is no exception. Gargiulo's Restaurant, in his opinion, is a can't-miss place, and while it is anything but hidden to Brooklyn locals who have been coming here for years and years, folks outside of Coney Island and the rest of the borough might not know much about it. But Gargiulo's is purely old-school; an Italian restaurant where people feel like they are stepping back into the early or middle 1900s. From the huge space to the old-fashioned red sauce dishes, Gargiulo's Restaurant is indeed a throwback.

Because of its spacious digs (room for up to 400), Gargiulo's is a popular spot for weddings, as well as all kinds of parties and functions. And for those heading to Gargiulo's for a simple night out, their menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of soups, salads, and appetizers, and a number of instantly familiar dishes such as homemade ravioli, lasagne, and manicotti; several risotto dishes; entrees with sausages, chicken, pork, veal, beef, and seafood; and a variety of desserts including homemade cheesecake.

If you have been to Gargiulo's Restaurant in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, please tell us about it by posting a comment here. Thank you!

Here is the address for Gargiulo's Restaurant:
Gargiulo's Restaurant
2911 West 15th Street
Brooklyn (Coney Island), NY, 11224

The phone number is:
(718) 266-4891

And here is the Web site for Gargiulo's Restaurant:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Elia Restaurant, Brooklyn (Bay Ridge)

Many people tend to think of Greek restaurants as casual, cheap eats types of places that often do counter service or, if not, then perhaps sitdown service in little informal dining rooms. But in New York City, there are a number of upscale and high-end Greek restaurants that go way beyond the typical chicken lemon soup, spinach pie, grape leaves, and moussaka that the more casual Greek dining spots often feature. And while many of these higher end places are in Manhattan, there are also a good amount of them in the boroughs, including Bay Ridge, which is where Elia Restaurant happens to be located.

Elia (which an acquaintance of mine who grew up in Brooklyn pointed out to me, by the way) has a cozy, warm, old-world atmosphere to it, with archways, hanging lights and sconces, and wooden floors adding lots of character to the place. (There is also an outdoor patio for the warmer months.) The menu at Elia features such exotic dishes as braised clay pot baked shrimp, lamb ravioli, and rabbit stew, with prices for entrees being mostly in the $20 to $35 range. There are also a number of interesting appetizers (including baby octupus salad) and desserts (including hand-pressed Greek yogurt).

If you have been to Elia Restaurant in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, please tell us about it by posting a comment here. Thank you!

Here is the address for Elia Restaurant:
Elia Restaurant
8611 Third Avenue
Brooklyn (Bay Ridge), NY, 11209

The phone number is:
(718) 748-9891

And here is the Web site for Elia:

Friday, January 2, 2009

Lakruwana , Staten Island (Tompkinsville )

Many of the restaurants that we mention within this blog feature cuisines that people might not be familiar with (and hence, are hidden gems in part because of this). And Lakruwana in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island certainly fits into this category. Lakruwana, which is located on Bay Street (a short distance south of the St. George Terminal where the ferry to Manhattan departs), is a restaurant that features Sri Lankan cuisine, a type of food that is very rare not just in New York City, but in most parts of the United States.

Sri Lankan cuisine is a bit similar to Indian food, but many of the dishes found in Sri Lankan restaurants are much different from what you would find at an Indian dining spot. For instance, Lakruwana features such unique dishes as parippu soup (vegetarian soup with red lentils), fish cutlets (fried fish croquettes with Sri Lankan spices), string hopper kottu (rice flour nets stir-fried with garlic, onions, and chiles), chilaw prawn curry, and deviled chicken stir-fried with green and red pepper, onion, garlic, and ginger.

If you have been to Lakruwana in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island, please tell us about it by posting a comment here. Thank you!

Here is the address for Lakruwana:
226 Bay Street
Staten Island, NY, 10301

The phone number is:
(718) 420-0027

And here is the Web site for Lakruwana: