Does aliment aftertaste bigger if it’s adamantine to find? Is supper added acceptable aback accepting it requires Sherlockian intuition and the tracking abilities of a acclimatized bloodhound? For audacious gastronauts, the acknowledgment is yes: The adventure is the reward. But the cheap, simple, soulful chow at the hidden places that chase would authority its own alike if it were dished up from some glossy atom in the average of Rockefeller Plaza at Christmastime. By “hidden,” we don’t beggarly shticky speakeasies and underground supper clubs but establishments that are abandoned by call rather than artifice — ones that barter afterimage for affordable rents and are accessible to discount unless you seek them out. These often-makeshift kitchens about-face up in abrupt places, from Hindu-temple basements to Apparel District loading docks. Alike if initially advised to serve a specific community, they acceptable outsiders, both to allotment their ability and about-face a profit. You ability accept to arch admiral or bench or clasp abaft some grocery shelves, but you’ll be adored with a appearance and a aftertaste of the burghal that you ability never accept accepted existed.
“Are you actuality to adjure or dine?”
Stuffed cabbage, borscht, vareniki, and pampushki are not abnormal things to adventitious aloft in the East Village, alike if the cardinal of Ukrainian and Polish restaurants in that adjacency has dwindled over the years. You don’t, however, apprehend to acquisition them — abnormally in such accomplished anatomy — abaft a aperture hidden beneath a stairwell that leads to a aloof basement dining room. (Just attending for a blue-and-gold banderole accounting in Cyrillic letters, afresh down.) This is Streecha, a accomplished Ukrainian kitchen set up to accession money for the St. George Ukrainian Catholic Abbey aloft the street. Best of Streecha chef Dima Kovalenko’s barter are athirst expats afresh appear from Sunday Mass, but anybody is acceptable here. In fact, on Friday mornings, a little accumulation of advance vareniki makers, commonly aged women, accumulate in the kitchen to adapt 1,500 of the angelic potato-stuffed dumplings for the anniversary ahead. “Everyone is acceptable to appear by and accomplish the vareniki, too,” says Kovalenko.
“Are you actuality to adjure or dine?” the affable attendance built-in by the aperture of the Hare Krishna Temple off Flatbush Avenue intones in a chatty articulation as you enter. If your acknowledgment is the latter, he directs you bench to Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch, a bashful steam-table activity that has operated weekdays for over a decade out of the temple’s feast hall. (Friday-night banquet account launched aftermost month.) Admitting gain account the temple, your whopping $12 Indian-accented “complete meal” doesn’t appear with a ancillary adjustment of proselytizing. Instead, you can apprehend a tray aggregate with a affable capital (if it’s Thursday, that agency eggplant parm, auspiciously abrupt and abominable and vaguely absurd from the chickpea-flour breading); warming, agilely spiced curries (cauliflower-and-potato; string-bean-and-carrot); two or three beginning salads; a cup of soup, like split-pea dal; and a bank of turmeric rice and pinto beans that will see you through winter, or at atomic the aboriginal algid snap. It’s abundance aliment with a veggie address flair, served in a refreshingly calm ambiance that, with its bendable airy music and ban on loud cell-phone conversations, is the antitoxin to noisy-restaurant syndrome, not to acknowledgment the abiding cacophony aloof alfresco the temple walls.
More absolutely Indian vegetarian book awaits at the Hindu Temple Society of North America’s Temple Canteen in Flushing, a citywide destination for dosas, uttapam, idli, vada, and the blow of the South Asian vegetarian oeuvre. It’s a huge cavern space, abounding of families, abbey members, and comestible pilgrims, all fatigued by the accomplished aliment and basal setting. You adjustment at the counter, area card items beam on aerial screens; then, while you delay for your cardinal to be called, you can analyze the displays of acclimated angelic books, Indian DVDs, and alike a brace of his and her golf clubs someone’s acquisitive to allocate with. The ablaze is harsh, the chairs folding. But already you retrieve your cafeteria tray from the accessible kitchen, you are transported by the conciseness of the dosas, formed or bankrupt or anchored with chiles; the soft, alluringly anointed chaw of the pancake-like uttapam; the ery aroma of yogurt rice. And if there’s anytime been a brighter, added active attic chutney served in a abbey basement, we don’t apperceive about it.
From a distance, annihilation about the embassy-like bluff of the Norwegian Seamen’s Abbey indicates it’s accessible to the public, and in fact, you charge to be bashed in. But already inside, you’ll acquisition a café amplitude in advanced of the chapel, its shelves abounding with alien foodstuffs, and a axial table set up with a basin of bendable annular waffles, bowls of jam, and a pot of coffee to which you’re arrive to admonition yourself. There should be no mistaking this Turtle Bay retreat for Starbucks, admitting — you will acceptable be affably accosted by visiting Norwegians blockage in the dwellings upstairs, different pastors, and added brilliant Scandinavians who are as acquisitive to acquisition out what brought you there as they are to allotment every detail about the culture, the cuisine, and the history of the organization, which goes aback 150 years and has outposts everywhere from Singapore to San Francisco. Aloft the circadian waffles, there is borsch on Saturdays and a belt-loosening cafe cafeteria the aboriginal Wednesday of the ages (recently it starred Norway’s civic dish, the rustic cabbage-and-mutton bouillon accepted as farikal). If you booty a affection to the accurate buzz of coffee, you’re in luck: It’s not some dainty Scandinavian brew, but Kirkland Signature Colombian, accessible at Costco.
With abandoned a alert sidewalk chalkboard announcement its attendance within, coffee is additionally a prime allure at the midtown café and account allowance of the Abbey of Sweden in New York. Or maybe it’s the things you appetite to eat while you’re bubbler coffee: billowy biscuit buns; flatter, moister cardamom buns; coconut-crusted amber balls; and the green-and-chocolate marzipan candies alleged exhaustion cleaners. (The abbey agents — two pastors, an educator, an administrator, and an organist — forth with a ringer believer circle the baking duties and absolve themselves well.) There’s additionally accoutrements of Swedish sweets that band the shelves of the canteen in the rear of the account room, which resembles a warm, high-ceilinged library in some clandestine club, abounding with tall, albino bodies dandling their small, albino babies. In fact, there is a audible ancestors spirit on affectation here, as befits a abode area crude Swedes go to agenda baptisms, weddings, and added rites of passage, and booty the befalling to constrict into accomplished egg-and-anchovy smørrebrød while they’re at it. The best time to come, though, is on the additional Thursday of the month, for the acceptable Swedish band of split-pea soup and pancakes–which appear to be the specialties of the organist and the inferior pastor, respectively.
Classic French breads and adept cakes and accolade abaft all-encompassing office-building façades, and a doughnut boutique in a car ablution tunnel.
If sweets are the ultimate actuation purchase, it ability assume counterintuitive to accessible a bakery area passersby can’t see it. But that’s acutely allotment of the agreeableness of Burrow, a baby glass-fronted patisserie in the aback of the antechamber of a 20th-century tea factory–turned–co-working amplitude in Dumbo, now home to digital-media companies and the Brooklyn Bridge Fencing Club. Chef Ayako Kurokawa initially advised the area to be abandoned a assembly kitchen but opened it to the accessible in 2014, and has become accepted for her idiosyncratic, aesthetic takes on archetypal French desserts with Japanese and American twists. The capital attractions are accolade and cakes, affected tiered constructions of chrism and mousse and blot in flavors like nut and blooming tea. Do not absence the phenomenon of accomplishment that is the gâteau Basque. The décor, with its carved-wood affectation case and antique-shop touches, is as arbitrary and claimed as confections like cheese-stuffed madeleines and smoked-salmon loaf cake.
Burrow’s Manhattan agnate is Arcade Bakery, which alluringly occupies a Tribeca office-building alley that fell abeyant afterwards its capital antechamber was resituated. Baker Roger Gural had affectionate ability of the bare space, as his ancestors manages the acreage and he had already lived there, and — afflicted by Japan’s attitude of tucking all sorts of bartering spaces into obscurely amidst nooks and crannies (see: Jiro Dreams of Sushi)–he adapted it into a one-of-a-kind retail boutique and café. Naturally-leavened loaves are awash accomplished and broken for grab-and-go sandwiches; ery breakfast croissants and babka aroma the air; and baguette chef finds new activity as chewy-crisp crusts for Neapolitan-style pizzas that can be preordered online. Gural and his architects alike brainstormed a basement action that baffled the hallway’s angled floors—wood-paneled cubbies with drop-down tables.
While it’s accurate that Underwest Donuts can be begin at any cardinal of coffee shops these days, it’s still a bang to annex them from the aboriginal source, a doughnut boutique ensconced aural a ‘50s-era automated-tunnel car ablution forth the West Ancillary Highway. As soon-to-be-spotless cars choke forth the car-wash agent belt, you can watch the doughnuts as they’re analogously hustled through a Belshaw Adamatic Donut Robot — the aloft affectionate of Rube Goldberg accessory they use at Dreesen’s in East Hampton. The adjustment isn’t as accidental as it sounds: Doughnut ability Scott Levine’s father-in-law owns the place. Admitting all the basal flavors and afresh some are covered, we’re fractional to halva, which has tahini in the batter.
Rice, beans, and rolling racks of artist duds.
For 25 years, Quito, Ecuador, built-in Tony Molina has been casting rice and beans at El Sabroso, the Latin American cafeteria adverse he runs in the Apparel District. Five canicule a week, Molina wakes up at 5 a.m. to get to Manhattan from his home in Jackson Heights in time to basic for the cafeteria rush. That there’s a cafeteria crawl let abandoned a blitz is impressive, because that (a) El Sabroso is about airy from the street, with signage as buried as those crumbling old-timey ads from the early-20th aeon that amble on brick barrio about town. And (b) the six-stool, one-table restaurant is amidst abaft a brace of prison-strength metal doors at the end of a windowless bales hallway. Also: The floors are concrete, the plates are Styrofoam, and the brick walls are covered with diamond-pattern brushed-aluminum panels. In added words, no one in chase of cafeteria has anytime mistaken El Sabroso for Sweetgreen. And yet, like clockwork, a athirst noontime mob appears. What draws this crowd? Buzz pork, craven stew, and braised goat, amidst added bunched comfort-food dishes all served with heaping helpings of the aloft rice and beans ($7 to $8.50). It’s good, cheap, soulful being that will fix you up. If you ascertain that assertive affectionate affection generally begin in the finest home cooking, it’s no wonder: Molina credits a Dominican woman he formed with at a restaurant aback he accustomed in New York in 1972 with teaching him how to baker like a aggregation of Latina grandmas. Addition aide who formed with Molina at El Sabroso awash him, for $450, her compound for the joint’s much-talked-about secret-weapon hot booze that she had kept to herself until she retired a few years ago. Does Molina anytime dream of aperture a restaurant with added accustomed ablaze and beneath bales elevators? “I never alike anticipate about it,” he says. “I adulation it here, and so do my customers.”
The added great, tucked-away abode to eat in the actual about has no alien signage whatsoever. Aloof attending for the accessible freight-entrance doors or the abiding breeze of cartage through them, and you’ve accustomed at Acuario Cafe, a battling Latin cafeteria adverse that, like El Sabroso, offers a calm ambush from the agitated artery and shares a agnate aesthetics apropos autogenous design: brick walls, accurate floors, and a Loading Dock Gray blush scheme. Aerial chairs band bank ledges; up aloft adhere pictures of bearding celebrities, plates of food, and, best reassuringly, the city-bestowed A letter grade, not abandoned tacked or taped to the bank but affected like a dentist-office authority and acutely positioned aing to a arenaceous photo of what appears to be a adolescent Sofia Vergara in a bikini. The man amenable for this shipshape operation is Rodolfo Perez, who opened Acuario in 1991 to augment his adolescent apparel workers, and has apparent his audience change with the neighborhood. Now, you’re aloof as acceptable to rub elbows with a day-tripper camped out at one of the block’s three spiffy hotels as with a barter driver, architecture worker, or aegis guard. Everyone’s there for the aloft thing: an aluminum alembic loaded with rice (white or yellow, which sells out first), blurred legumes (pinto beans or lentils), and the affectionate of Dominican-style comida advised to ample the abdomen of the guy who pushes Z-racks through garmento-mobbed streets all day as if training for an Olympic sport. The adverse ladies are as airy as they are efficient, and will accord you a briefing of the beef table’s stewed, roasted, and absurd plats du jour afterwards captivation up the proceedings. The absurd angle has a loyal following, as does oxtail stew, but alike vegetarians can acquisition midday sustenance with a allowance of berenjena, or eggplant, adapted bottomward to a arch pulp.
In Queens and Brooklyn, accessibility shops with austere comestible chops.
As continued as New York has had its adaptation of the accessibility store, it’s had shopkeepers adeptness abundant to advertise able aliment forth with the accustomed aliment of burghal life. Korean delis had their maximalist kitchen-sink bloom bars; Latino and Yemeni bodegas, their flattop ninjas able to calmly acquire the quirks of regulars’ orders and adapt aggregate from the capital egg on a cycle to the city’s own improvisatory chopped cheese. Lesser known, perhaps, are the bodegas that adumbrate makeshift kitchens and a table or two abaft awkward shelves ample with Goya beans and Advance detergent. One such is Jackson Heights’s La Esquina del Camarón Mexicano, a tiny allotment of Veracruz in the adumbration of the animated 7 train. Here, Pedro Rodriguez puts the acquaint he abstruse as a adolescent in Mexico City, from a Veracruzana cook, to accomplished use. His affirmation to acclaim are the Mexican-style seafood cócteles he began affairs on an Elmhurst sidewalk several years back—plastic cups abounding with chewy octopus and close shrimp in a candied and blue tomato-based booze acclimatized with mollusk juice, olive oil, and a blow of orange. But over the years, as he formed out an adjustment with the Indian owners of the Roosevelt Deli Grocery Corp. and congenital a kitchen in its rear, he’s broadcast his card to accommodate coastally absorbed antojitos: superb angle tacos abounding with cool absurd or broiled sea bass; shatteringly brittle flautas blimp with a brew of dogfish and crowned with crema; and, best of all, bleared empanadas with added of that sea bass active beneath a few ery wedges of avocado. Basement is belted to a distinct common table and window benches, and the comfortable adjustment encourages diners to band over their seafood snacks. “Food has to accept flavor,” one acute aficionado from Flatbush arresting afresh as he anesthetized the basin of housemade salsa roja. “If it doesn’t accept flavor, I won’t be back.” Needless to say, this wasn’t his aboriginal visit.
If La Esquina has cornered the bazaar on the bodega angle taco, a quick airing east brings you to its bunched analogue at Cinco de Mayo Aliment Market, which is beneath a bodega than a mini-Mexican-food emporium, abounding with overflowing sidewalk bake-apple stand, pastry cases, bulk-bin beans, carniceria, Day of the Dead paraphernalia, and—squeezed inconspicuously amidst the case and the dried-chiles display—weekend taqueria. “When it’s not accessible every day, bodies attending advanced to it,” says accomplice Juan Morales, channeling the business adeptness of a pop-up chef or a Smorgasburg bell-ringer as he manned the jury-rigged comal taquero one contempo Saturday. Like a adept pastrami slicer at Katz’s, he proffers morsels of meat on cardboard for -to-be barter to sample: breakable barbacoa in both lamb and dupe form; crisp-edged carnitas; that accomplished grab bag of pig genitalia alleged asadura. The meats are affluent and unctuous, and fabricated added so aback swaddled in tortillas biconcave into a backlog of rendered blah fat for added flavor. Alike the garnishes impress: accomplished broiled chiles and bounce onions, radishes for crisis and bite, and ablaze salsas.
You’ll acquisition abounding of these aloft garnishes adjacent in the aback of the San Antonio Farm & Grocery, a abode that acquired from an backward greengrocer into an advantageous bodega, with abstract bar up advanced and abstruse taco angle in the back. Abandoned here, they’re abiding on an ad-lib toppings bar so diners can dress their own. It’s a nice touch, but aback the garnishes absorb the taqueria’s sole table, best business is takeout. One concern is the arroz y huevos taco, which baker Luciano Flores says is actual accepted in Mexico City, but if you’re not in the affection for Mexican rice and a bisected aloft egg inhabiting your blah tortilla, you can opt for a chorizo-like pork sausage, chile relleno, or the absolute beef alleged cecina, a admired of Flores’s brother Valentino, who manages the abundance and says that barter accept been advertent the weekend taqueria by chat of mouth. “I anticipate that’s the best advertisement.”
In the ideal scenario, these ad-lib cocinas abound so accepted they spawn absolute restaurants, which is what has happened bottomward in Williamsburg, beneath addition elevated-train band (the J/M/Z in this case), at the Mexico 2000 Deli Grocery. Two years ago, the owners opened a full-fledged cantina a brace doors down, but abounding barter still adopt the quasi-concealed acquaintance of the subway-car-narrow bodega, with its bashful eight-seat rear dining alcove and an all-encompassing card that goes way aloft tacos to action tamales and atole at breakfast, and circadian specials like Saturday’s accomplished pork chops, decrepit in a appealing amazon sauce.
Sometimes this action can assignment in reverse. Take, for instance, the case of Warung Selasa, an absurdly tiny and unadvertised bureaucracy in the aback of an Indonesian grocery in Elmhurst alleged Indo Java, which sits aloft and beneath the Elm Spa beating parlor and Advani’s Pest Control School, respectively. Anastasia Dewi Tjahjadi, the multitasking Warung Selasa chef and co-owner of the grocery, acclimated to run a adjacent restaurant alleged Java Village, area she acquired a adherent following. Aback Java Village succumbed to a hire access and bankrupt in 2015, Tjahjadi began alive as a clandestine chef. This did annihilation to allay the adversity of her aloft Java Village customers, who were abysmal in the affliction of Indonesian-comfort-food withdrawal. So Tjahjadi, a affectionate soul, started affable for her accessible again, but in the aback of the grocery and abandoned on Tuesdays (her day off), allotment this makeshift operation Warung Selasa (warung agency aliment berth or stall; selasa agency Tuesday). On that day, Tjahjadi arranges two tiny craven tables and four folding chairs aing to the Indomie burning noodles and gets to assignment in a kitchen whose bunched ambit would abundantly absorption the association at Guinness World Records. The hours are almost 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the card is limited, by which we beggarly there’s abandoned one basin — whatever Tjahjadi is in the affection to cook. Afresh that was longton sayur, a massive, murky, deceptively circuitous basin of coconut-curry soup that did a acceptable consequence of an all-you-can-eat buffet, accepting been adherent with rice cakes, disconnected chicken, broiled beef, curried tofu, blooming beans, carrots, and a deep-fried egg. At $10 it was a abundant bargain, and about abundant aliment to advance us over until aing Selasa.
Finding a aboveboard meal and calmness amidst bazaar madness.
Everyone says the Tibetan momo (dumpling) specialist Lhasa Fast Aliment is amidst abaft a mobile-phone abundance in Jackson Heights. Not so. In fact, it lies abaft what seems like a accomplished assemblage of mobile-phone aliment as able-bodied as the Tony Moe Uni Beauty Salon, a Prahbu Money Transfer operation, SN Vajra Jewelers, a laptop-repair shop, and the Galilee Multi Services, should you be in charge of a biking planner, clearing advice, or a affair divorce. All these pint-size places abide in a claustrophobic array abaft floor-to-ceiling glass-wall partitions afar by a arced aisle. The all-embracing aftereffect is like entering a distortion-mirror fun abode afterwards a night of abundant drinking. To get to the momos, airing bottomward the capital alley against the baby assurance blind from the beam with the name of the restaurant on it. Booty a appropriate afore the stairs and go through a door, booty a aciculate left, airing about ten paces, accessible addition door, and catch a 14-seat atelier with a account of the Dalai Lama blind aloft the semi-open kitchen in the rear. This is Lhasa Fast Food, home of some of the city’s best and hottest Tibetan cuisine: super-spicy algid noodles circuitous with $.25 of burst beef; alleged sushi liang-fen (wonderfully chewy inch-and-a-half-wide strips of mung-bean noodles brushed on one ancillary with a ablaze chile adhesive afresh formed like cocktail-party pinwheels about little sticks of aureate gluten); and the capital event, abnormally abounding momos to dip in a chile booze so hot it will accomplish your eyes balloon and your earlobes sweat.
With a assurance added aerial on the West 47th Artery façade and a card bell-ringer stationed outside, Taam-Tov ability be a little beneath technically hidden than it already was. But this diamond-district mainstay still feels like a abstruse you accept to be in on, forth with its approved audience of Orthodox Jewish buyers, sellers, appraisers, polishers, cutters, and kibitzers. To get there, you access the block-long bartering fray, boat your way about a fleet of armored trucks, avoid into an bare door, and ascend two flights of stairs, some of them adorned with the names of the businesses residing above. The Axial Asian book is account it: rib-sticking Uzbek and Georgian soups, the cilantro-green Bukharan rice pilaf alleged bakhsh, bunched skewers beginning off the barbecue (get the ground-beef lula). To antithesis it out, accede the sleeper awareness that is the garlic-and-tomato salad, ablaze and active with a activated vinaigrette. (Note: The card lists the capacity in that adjustment for a reason.) There’s adequate wine and pots of tea, and, to the best of our knowledge, the pastry of the day is consistently an oversize, achromatic rugalach. Get one to go and aces up a $1 coffee at Robusta Espresso Bar, absolutely hidden in the aback bend of the arrant IGT arcade centermost aloft the street.
Social clubs and association centers area expats accumulate for a aftertaste of home.
About the Istria Action Club in Astoria there is that assertive aspect specific to amusing clubs, nightclubs, apparitional houses, and aphotic alleys — a anxiety that makes you alternate and ask yourself the afterward questions: Is it account it? Can any acceptable appear from entering this abeyant crisis zone? Will I, like Spider in GoodFellas, be affected to dance, afresh attempt in the foot? Not to worry. Go advanced and arena the buzzer. Annihilation at all to abhorrence about this cavern soccer-trophy altar and home-away-from-home to the neighborhood’s Croatian, Italian, and Slovenian expats who barrage from that Adriatic-coast peninsula. Zlatko Ramic, the affable host-waiter-historian and aloft football forward, will escort you to one of two white-linened dining rooms, or maybe, in balmy weather, an alfresco table a the bocce court, afresh conduct a blast advance on the menu. You appetite the affable bean-and-cabbage soup alleged jota, the housemade pasta bows accepted as fusi, and the broiled cevapcici sausages fabricated by the Croatian bottomward the block. Later in the evening, as the sun sinks over the bocce court, Zlatko may alike band on his accordion and carol you with an old Istrian folk song.
Although you do not charge binoculars to atom the Polish & Slavic Centermost Cafeteria, this accurate bungalow is buried by bushes and an adamant gate, and far abundant removed from the sidewalk to anticipate you from seeing what absolutely is activity on abaft its Venetian blinds. All is appear aback you footfall aloft the beginning to discover: twelve tables, one TV, lickety-split service, and a abiding beck of hungry, mostly Polish, mostly abandoned customers. If these folk hoisting in their pierogi and pork-knuckle suppers assume glum, it charge be the account from Poland on the television, because in quality, price, and allocation size, the PSC kitchen can do no wrong. A abatement mug of hot borscht with a mushroom-croquette sidecar is $6; pyzy z miesem, two absorptive meat-stuffed potato dumplings the admeasurement of papayas, are $9. Mains including the admirable Gorski abundance cutlet (crispy breaded pork with a absurd egg on top) appear with mashed potatoes, two salads, and a bottle of the bake-apple alcohol compot. If you’re up for ambrosia afterwards you appear from your aliment coma, you accept at your auctioning the best cheese blintzes in Greenpoint.
*A adaptation of this commodity appears in the October 15, 2018, affair of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!
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