The Beat's Guide to MoCCA Fine Dining – 2010 edition

9074976 The Beat's Guide to MoCCA Fine Dining   2010 edition
We posted this last year, and it was one of our most popular features ever. Here’s an updated look at the food, drink and amenities surrounding the the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington, site of this year’s MoCCA Festival.

This being New York City in April, there will be plenty of cheap, more-than-edible food nearby — we can say with some certainty that there is more good food within a two block radius of the armory than there is in entire towns in other states. Right across the street from the Armory is a little urban-style “food court” beloved of students at nearby Baruch College. You need only cross the street for student-priced fare that happens to be gourmet.

BAOGUETTE: The hit of last year’s MoCCA, and the first in a now city-wide chain of restaurants kicking off the banh mi trend; expect some lines. $5 gets you a Vietnamese sandwich composed of chicken, pate, cilantro, daikon and hot sauce on an amazing crusty roll. Can’t be beaten for a delicious bargain. They also offer pork and beef sandwiches AND hot and cold Vietnamese coffee. VIETNAMESE COFFEE IS STRONG. Be forewarned, these sandwiches are stinky and do leave you with the kind of burp halo that you would expect from a sandwich that includes radish. Also, the spicy really is spicy. WE MEAN IT. Baoguette also sells pretty good pre-packaged green papaya salads and summer rolls which are refreshing and full of veggies, but they’ll sell out pretty quick.

LATIN THING: Excellent Latin American food, big on stews, rice and beans, burritos and platters. Everything we’ve ever eaten there is delish — (sometimes it’s a little salty, be forewarned.) For those who require a helping of rice and beans to get them from day into a night at a con, this is the place. Try the Ecuadorian chicken, also cilantro infused. (Yes, we LOVE cilantro.) Sandwiches, burritos, and salads are all on the menu.

SUBWAY: Well, you know all about that, but we eat here almost every day and service is fast and efficient. Make yourself a Subway Arnold Palmer of tea and lemonade.

There’s a sandwich/coffee place across the street called EnFin, but we’ve don’t recommend it. The food and coffee are bland. The people who run it are nice, though. They do make salads and pressed sandwiches. There is also a Popeye’s across the street from the Armory, but you’ve got to be kidding. Also, there is a pizza place on the corner which we similarly don’t recommend but if you must, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

A bit further afield:

ROOMALI (On 27th between Lex and 3rd):
If it’s roti you’re after, it’s roti you’ll find here, a kind of Indian burrito composed of heavily spiced veggies, egg and the meat of your choice, chicken tikka, or lamb. Once again, very cheap — $5 for one, $10 for two. It’s around the corner on 27th Street, worth the very brief walk if you’re in the mood for cheap, fast Indian. Also, room to sit down.

201004080209 The Beat's Guide to MoCCA Fine Dining   2010 edition

LAMAZOU: If you are after a sandwich you will long remember, walk another block to 3rd Ave. and 27th. Lamazou is one of the city’s finest cheese shops and their sandwiches are ALL amazing. (See above.) The egg salad is made with Roquefort for extra kick, and all the cheeses are aged to a loamy goodness. The cold cuts are all top notch as well — Prosciutto di Parma and Serrano ham. We know people who go to Lamazou every day and just go down the list of sandwiches — every one is a journey into flavor. Also, a bargain — a half but still filling sandwich is under $6. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

But what if you want a sit down meal? Here again, the Flatiron/Kip’s Bay will not disappoint. Just a few quickies that are super close by:

BAMIYAN (3rd Avenue and 26th): If you long for the olden days at Faryab at SPX, this Afghani place should bring back memories. The food isn’t quite as refined as Faryab, but it is still fragrant and pungent. We like the chicken with apples and pomegranate, the mantu (Afghan ravioli in a spicy mint/yogurt sauce), and the pumpkin turnovers.

DHABA (Lexington between 27th and 28th):
The Armory is smack in the middle of Curry Hill so you won’t have any trouble finding good Indian food. We like this one best — the menu includes authentic Indian dishes as well as “British” curries. We like the chaat — various mixtures of Indian salads with chickpeas, mint, rice krispies, tamarind, potato, and coriander. $6 gets you a VERY generous portion. Warning: when they say hot, they mean hot. We had a run-in with some spicy cauliflower that left memories for a lifetime. This place is good for groups, but it does get crowded.

On the same block: Bhatti, Cinnamon and two other Indian grills that JUST OPENED. As opposed to the anonymous pre-fab Indian you get on 6th street, Curry Hill is starting to be more of a place for gourmet chains, some of them imported from India.

EAST (3rd Ave and 27th):
Excellent sushi served on a conveyor belt. Everything here is very fresh and authentic. However, the place is small and if you go for dinner you will probably have to wait. NOT good for groups…unless you are going for the karaoke bar upstairs.

COFFEE: Wondering how you’re gonna stay awake after last night’s parties? Try Gregory’s, on Park between 25th and 26th. They have all the necessities and IT’S NOT A STARBUCKS. Plus, FREE WIFI if you’re in a jam. They sell a lot of sandwiches and salads, but they are all pretty tasteless, and soaked in olive oil, esp. the salads. There’s also a Chock Full o’ Nuts and a 7-11 on 23rd Street around the corner if that’s how you roll. Plus the requisite and ubiquitous Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. BTW, have you noticed how shitty DD’s coffee is these days?

Also: FIKA ESPRESSO BAR– 407 Park Avenue South (Between 28th and 29th) — if Swedish coffee is your thing, this is the place, especially the espresso, which has the nutty, caramel flavor of real espresso. The regular coffee here is pricey but STRONG. We haven’t had any of the pastries but they look pretty good. Not cheap.

DELICACIES: KALUSTYAN’S (123 Lexington between 28th and 29th): If you like to cook, this is a MUST SEE. Although it bills itself s an Asian spice store, they have gourmet delicacies and staples from around the world, including some Brit treats: Future Mr. Beat buys his brown sauce, Branson pickles and disgusting Marmite here. The spice selection is dizzying, with every kind of sauce or spice blend or special ingredient from Asia — fish sauce, tom yum paste, ras el harout, dried apircots, black garlic, preserved lemons, rose water, 117 kinds of honey…your mind will boggle and your foodie imagination will run wild. PLus there is a little deli upstairs that sell’s reasonable Indian food. It isn’t dirt cheap but prices are reasonable.

AVOID: CURRY IN A HURRY. yes you CAN eat it, but with better alternatives, why do it? Also, their health inspection notices are always horrible.

BARS: We still miss Puck Fair more than the Puck Buillding. It was so easy to roll out the front door of the old MoCCA and meet someone for a drink or a bite. At the new venue, there is no one definitive bar for a swift one. Sadly, Murray Hill/Flatiron bars are mostly ghastly sports bars beloved of an obnoxious jerk/jock crowd. You will find the many Irish bars of the neighborhood get the job done (although none are a bargain) but avoid anything that looks vaguely trendy. You will regret it and pay the price with your immortal soul. Here are a few mainstays that welcome Our Kind:

RODEO BAR< (3rd and 27th):
This is our local, so no sass about picking it. Decent Tex-Mex grub, free peanuts and happy hour. Don’t try to make change after drinking one of their frozen margaritas.

MAD HATTER (360 3rd Avenue, at 26th): A decent enough bar around the corner that doesn’t get too crowded with douchebags. Has a pool table and garden patio, so if the weather’s nice, a decent place to sit and drink a beer outside. Warning: DO NOT EAT THE FOOD. It’s really dire. We mean it. They even know how to ruin nachos.

UNKNOWN BAR WHERE ROCKY SULLIVAN’S USED TO BE (129 Lex, next to Kalustyan’s): Just what it says. A brand new Irish bar that we don’t remember the name of and have yet to go to. Could be awesome….or shit. Who’s with us?

IF YOU MUST:
SHAKE SHACK (in Madison Square Park, 23rd and Madison):
This place is famous in all the guide books and yes, they do make a very good burger at a reasonable price. (We don’t eat burgers, but once a year we make an exception at Shake Shack.) Unfortunately you will probably end up standing in line for at least half an hour for a burger or Chicago-style hot dog because tourists line up all day. This place is so big time that they give you a buzzer like you would get at TJ McEatalot to know when your order is ready. We can’t really recommend it for a weekend, (we go on a weekday or rainy day when the lines aren’t so long) but it is an institution and the park is beautiful. Alternative: Head over to New York Burger, get it to go, and “go” to the park!

BONUS TIP: Whatever you do, don’t accidentally wander towards Park Avenue…you’ll soon be in the land of the $15 martinis and Danny Meyer.

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Comments

  1. Grady Hendrix says:

    Just a few additions:

    BAR WHERE ROCKY SULLIVAN’S USED TO BE – this is now The Whiskey Rebel. Avoid. It’s really terrible.

    TIFFIN WALLAH – for the best Indian food in the area, and the best lunch deal, this place on 28th Street between Lexington and Park is awesome.

    LES HALLES – wanna go Old School steakhouse? Anthony Bourdain’s old stomping ground is about as authentic as you’re gonna find in this neighborhood. Service is a bit surly, and it’s very expensive, but it’s a steakhouse. You expect that. It’s on Park between 28th and 29th. And there are free potato chips (big, homemade ones) on the bar during happy hour (5 – 7).

    RESTO – excellent Belgian restaurant with lots of pork, great fries, and a lip-trembling selection of many beers. On 29th between Lexington and Park.

    BEST BAR – hands down, the best bar around is Blue Smoke, on 27th between Lexington and Park. It’s a BBQ restaurant so the bar is usually crowded unless you get there between 5 and 6. But the snacks are great, the beer and booze selection is extensive, beer is super-cold (which is important) and the service is great.

    AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE – Brother Jimmy’s on Lexington and 29th (or is it 30th). Terrible, overpriced, bad, rude.

    BEST PIZZA – if you want fancy Italian pizza, then head up to Vezzo’s on 30th and Lexington (right on the corner). Thin crust and cheap and a nice place. You could have a good dinner here and feel very happy. If you want it sloppy and on the street, Ray’s Pizza on 26th Street and Lexington (right on the corner) makes the best street slice in the ‘hood. Plus, they have hot sauce as a condiment which a lot of places don’t. Slices are $2.50.

    BEST DISTANT BAR – Waterfront Ale House. True, it’s on 30th Street and 2nd Avenue (about a ten minute walk, maybe 15). But the beer selection is nuts, the bar food is great, the popcorn is free, and the vibe is laid back as all get out. A better alternative to Blue Smoke if you can make the walk.

    BEST BRUNCH – if you’re willing to wait in lines, Penelope’s on the corner of 30th and Lexington is the place people swear by. I think it’s overrated but enough people love it for lunch, brunch and dinner to make me realize I’m in the minority.

    HIPPER THAN THOU TERRITORY – if you’re up to walking over to 29th Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue (15 minutes, maybe 20) you’ll find the Ace Hotel which contains Stumptown Coffee (which is amazing coffee), The Breslin (a restaurant/bar which serves a lot of pork) and a giant lobby with free wifi, a bar and more hipsters than you’ll find anywhere else outside of Williamsburg. It’s like going to the zoo. But don’t feed them (they don’t eat).

  2. I am a fan of Jaiya Thai at 28th & 3rd. (Although I liked them better before their interior was re-designed.)

  3. Shake Shack’s Saturday custard flavor this month is “pancakes and bacon,” which might resonate with certain cartoonists I know.

  4. Paul G. says:

    I’m one of those Penelope lovers Grady mentions. Wonderful comfort food. The waits for brunch are insane, though. It’s a little easier to get a table for dinner, though.

    And, yes, go to Lamazou. Amazing sandwiches, wonderful owners.

  5. Jillian Tamaki says:

    SARAVAANAS.

    http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/saravanaas/

    All-veggie, light Indian. Dosa, dosa, dosa.

  6. The Beat says:

    Oh yeah, Penelope’s is my go to breakfast spot — mm pumpkin waffles. Weekends the wait is insane — 90 minutes — but on weekdays you can walk right in. I hold all my weekday breakfast meetings here.

    Grady, thanks for the word on The Whiskey Rebel. It looked kinda dire. The Waterfront is another local.

  7. Also, if you keep kosher like me, besides Tiffin Wallah there’s an indian place called Madras Mahal on Lex and 27th that’s none too fancy but ain’t that bad:

    http://madrasmahal.com/

    Personally, I’m looking forward to my morning Slurpee on the way to the show. There’s a 7-11 on 23rd street that’s convenient if hiking from the train.

  8. Gary Dunaier says:

    The Beat wrote: “Also, there is a pizza place on the corner which we similarly don’t recommend but if you must, don’t say we didn’t warn you.”

    Are you talkin about the same Ray’s Pizza on 26th Street and Lexington that, according to Grady Hendrix, “makes the best street slice in the ‘hood?”

    I’m a pizza guy and I went to Ray’s last year, and I liked it, so I’m with Grady on this one. I preferred the sicilian slices over the regular ones.

    To me, Shake Shack is overrated. And I say that ONLY because of the long lines. I like their burgers, but I just don’t think they’re worth the time you have to spend on line waiting to order them.

  9. Penelope is a delight (but keep calling it overrated to keep away the crowds). A relaxing place to visit, especially on a nice day.

  10. Can you tell me what’s in that sandwich in the photo?

    I would like to attempt to recreate it here in the Busiek Culinary Labs. It looks delicious.

    I see ham, pickles, some sort of cheese, what looks like a very rustic mustard, and something else, but I don’t know what.

    kdb

  11. If you’re near Madison Square, there are a lot of fast food joints between Broadway and Third Avenue along 23rd Street.

    Google Maps has “street viewed” almost all of Manhattan. If this is your first time to the City of Dreams, take a virtual tour around your hotel and the Armory.

    For public transportation, visit: MTA.info

    If sightseeing, I recommend Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building.
    The Morgan Library and Museum is at 37th and Madison, and contains numerous ancestors to the modern comic book. (For you hipsters, letters from J.D. Salinger are currently on display.)

    If you need a cheap map of the city, request a free Manhattan Bus Map from any subway clerk. (It will show bus routes, subways, all to scale. No index, but most of the streets and avenues are numbered.) Bus maps exist for the other burroughs as well, but no index makes them a bit more difficult to use.

    If you wish to purchase a map, my favorites are:
    MapArt Manhattan (beautiful, lots of detail and information)
    VanDam (local, detailed, their street atlas is amazing)
    The New York Mapguide, published by Penguin. A small 64-page street atlas, with lots of tourist information, as well as little tidbits on the maps themselves.

    If taking a taxi, give the driver the intersection of where you wish to go, as building numbers are not always standardized. (Compare 1972 Second Avenue to 1972 Broadway.) Write down the cab number when you enter, in case you leave behind a bag full of diamond rings or a Stradivarius violin (only in New York…), or wish to file a complaint. Also request a receipt… you can probably claim it as a business expense.

    Fifth Avenue is the dividing line between East and West.

  12. Kurt, I’m sorry to say the sandwich cannot be recreated in home labs unless you have your own cheese cellar. Lamasou ages its cheeses in their basement, and they are extraordinary. However I”m guessing that’s serrano ham and manchego cheese with cornichons and sundried tomatoes on a ciabatta. YUM

  13. Oh… one more thing… while perusing information on the 69th Infantry Regiment (which is housed in the Armory), I discovered the regimental cocktail: two parts champagne and one part Irish whiskey.

    Having walked past the Armory on September 17, 2001 on the way to Wall Street, having seen the outside of the building covered in missing person fliers, I’ll be drinking a toast to the Fighting 69th.

  14. michael says:

    that sandwich pic is AMAZING!!!!! O.O

    :D *drooling*

  15. So the sundried tomato is deeper in the sandwich? What’s the white spread? More cheese, butter, something else?

    If I’m not going to be near NYC any time soon, the Busiek Culinary Labs can still attempt the sandwich, even if it will not be precise.

    kdb

  16. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    A word on Shake Shack – if you just get an ice cream (I’m sorry, “custard”) or non-shake drink, there’s a separate line with for that with only two or three people in it and you get your order in a minute or two. Since the ice cream is awesome, this is totally worth it if you feel like sitting in the park and eating ice cream after lunch.

  17. Christian says:

    Dear Heidi,

    Please do one of these for SDCC as well.

    Ktnxbai.

  18. Always good to discover the culinary leanings of comic creators, I say…

  19. As if I didn’t have a big enough reason to want to visit the Big Apple :(

  20. AwesomeDude says:

    The Hairy Monk on 25th and 3rd is my favorite bar in the city.

    Order Nachos, and ask for the chili on the side. That way you get more chili and now it’s in a convenient bowl!~
    The turkey sandwich is also delicious.

    However, it is a Red Sox bar, so be warned.

  21. I am determined to find out about that sandwich. I don’t think that’s Serrano ham. Neither does Ann.

    I’m so determined to find out what’s in that sandwich, I’ll buy it for someone attending MoCCA. See:

    http://busiek.com/site/2010/04/free_lunch_at_mocca.php

    kdb

  22. Looks like Westphalian Ham, Kurt.

  23. Shake Shack is alright but the wait isn’t worth it.

    Vezzo is the best thin crust pizza in the neighborhood.

  24. Chris says:

    As a big sushi fan, I really like East [3rd Ave between 26th and 27th Sts]. I even got their discount card which gives me 10% off their restaurants. It’s $20 but you get $20 in gift certificate and an additional $10 in gift certificates for your birthday. Great deal.

    And the conveyer belt is really neat.

  25. Synsidar says:

    Serrano ham, at least in these photos, does look different from the ham in the sandwich. The sandwich appears to have Manchego cheese, though. Lamazou’s sandwich menu lists only two with Manchego cheese.

    SRS

  26. We were thinking it was Black Forest ham, Raf, but Westphalian ham looks pretty similar.

    I’ve heard from a volunteer, and e-mailed back. So I may know later today!

    kdb

  27. Jesse Post says:

    THIS THREAD HAS MADE ME SO HUNGRY!!!!!!! Off to lunch, sorry early afternoon meetings.

  28. While getting new specs at the PearlVision near Madison Square, I asked the staff for recommendations:

    230 Fifth Avenue
    rooftop lounge. roomy. smart casual dress code. food and drink. Reviews mention the B&T crowds.

    Planet Thailand 212 30 W 24 St.

  29. Chris says:

    If anyone likes pizza, I heartily recommend Totonno’s on 26th St and 2nd Avenue. It’s some of the best pizza in NYC.

    http://www.totonnos.com/

  30. Anonymous says:
  31. michael says:

    EXCELLENT detail in that snadwich report!

    thanks all!! :D

  32. Baoguette was everything I thought it would be. Perfect lunchtime food on Saturday and ultra-convenient. There was a lot of stuff on my sandwich that I wouldn’t necessarily eat normally, but I decided to just go with it (I had the beef sandwich). Man, was it delicious–very rare beef, great sauce, and unbeatable baguette.

    Went to Bhatti for lunch today–small space, but extremely delicious. Had the Rogan Josh (a spicy lamb dish) with unbelievably good naan.

    and on two straight perfect weather days in NYC, it was a pleasure just to walk around.

  33. Karen says:

    Post-MoCCA comment: Baoguette is closed on Sundays.

    Curry Leaf, on Lex & 27th, appears to be affiliated in some way with Kalustyan’s, and has the best lamb korma I’ve had in NYC. It was pretty empty at lunch both weekend days that I went.

  34. Performers have more invested in a regional accent that contributes to their public persona than people in other professions. I complain about Bonos haitches in the HIV spots, but I suppose he feels it necessary to stay in character, even while doing international philanthropic work.

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