The Young Gourmand

Exploring New York City, One bite at a time

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Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque

EAST VILLAGE- 103 2nd Ave, New York, NY ‎10003

   Suddenly, New York City has its own barbecue culture. Cue’ wizards from our country’s great regional orthodoxies have made their way here and in a matter of years, slow cooked brisket, smoked sausage, pulled pork, and ribs have become the subject of food blogs and the source of neighborhood buzz. Some of the best include: Fette Sau (Williamsburg), Blue Smoke (Gramercy), Hill Country Barbecue (Gramercy), Dinosaur BBQ (Harlem), BrisketTown (Williamsburg), John Brown Smokehouse (LIC), Fatty Cue (West Village). 

Hugh Mangam, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten trained chef from NJ, may not have been interested in joining that list, but he certainly has with ”Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque”. In fact, many consider MQ’s to be at the top of it.

Hugh first hit the NYC cue’ scene via Smorgasburg, the open air food-lovers market on the Williamsburg waterfront. Every Saturday, he would haul in pounds of his smoked make-your-mouth-water brisket and make all of the other vendors at s’burg jealous with his long lines and giddy patrons. Not two years later, the East Village brick and mortar store was in the works. 

Given Mangum’s background, its no surprise that the BBQ at MQ’s is focused on high-quality ingredients and that it does not follow any one particular style. The restaurant’s website states: “Our barbecue is the merging of two great barbecue traditions: Texas and the Carolinas”. Accordingly, the “Texalina” style shys away from thick, heavy sauces, but does lightly glaze the meat with a sweet vingear based concoction. Patrons are then given the option to add as much sauce as they would like at the table. For an extra punch of seasoning and an important textural note, the meat carvers hit all dishes with a liberal dash of Maldon sea salt flakes before they hand it over to you.

 A few weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening,  I was able to experience all of this in person with a visit to 102 Second Avenue with some friends. The large fast-casual style space was packed with excited people chowing down on slow cooked meat. A line wrapped the carving station where slabs of glistening ribs, juicy brisket, and sweating pork shoulder were piled. As we waited, we had a perfect line of site; watching men and women in black gloves cut, rip, and shred meat in an almost medieval fashion. 

The menu has all of the BBQ staples: brisket, pulled pork, smoked sausage, spare ribs and chicken. They also feature the “brontosaurus” beef rib: a massive foot long piece of blackened meat that hangs off of of an equally large, prehistoric looking bone. If you so choose, you can add some house pickled vegetables to your dish at a nominal charge. 

I felt I needed to have the full experience, so I ordered an unnecesssary amount of food. The “carver” grabbed a giant fist-full of pork and slopped it on a brioche roll, and also piled in a few huge spare ribs and some slaw. After we all received our orders, we sat down with some ice-cold beers and feasted like savages. The pulled pork sandwich was moist, fatty, and delicious- perhaps the best I have ever had. There was a good smoke taste to the ribs and they had a perfect crusty char that bursted with flavor. Friends enjoyed brisket sandwiches, burnt ends, more ribs, and sides of sweet potato casserole and burnt end baked beans. The portions were more than generous, and we all left completely satiated. 

If you like BBQ, a visit to Mighty Quinn’s is a must. During the week, you will wait in a bit of a line, but the fast-casual layout makes it such that you rarely have to wait for a table. Indeed, this is some of the best tasting meat in NYC. Clearly, others agree; the success they have enjoyed over the past year already has them expanding to Battery Park City’s “Brookfield Place”- a revamp of the World Financial Center space- in 2014. 

Mighty Quinn's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Filed under barbeque barbecue BBQ mighty quinn's east village nyc food foodie the young gourmand NYC food pulled pork restaurants

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La Lanterna di Vittorio

GREENWICH VILLAGE- 129 MacDougal Street New York, NY 10012

Greenwich Village is my favorite neighborhood in Manhattan. It is home to some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, its old-world manhattan aura is preserved by vintage shops and original architecture, and NYU’s “campus” keeps things young and somewhat irreverent.  

Central to the neighborhood is MacDougal St. A vibrant, yet somewhat bizarre collection of stores, falafel stands, and comedy clubs. On any given evening, you will find waves of tourists, locals, and college kids roaming around from place to place. Within the chaos, lies some pretty iconic food establishments: Minetta Tavern, Mamoun’s Falafel, and Artichoke Pizza to name a few. There are also some hidden gems; and a friend and I stumbled across one this past week.

Tucked in the northern corner of the street, adjacent to the entrance of Washington Square Park is a small Italian cafe by the name of: La Lanterna Di Vittorio. We entered via an elevated stoop and as I walked in the door, I felt like I was transported into a coffee bar from the 60’s.  Tiny candlelit tables dot the small front room and a barista station and desert refrigerator serves as a divider to the massive outdoor garden in the back which seats most of the cafe’s patrons. Finally, a narrow staircase to the right of the garden entrance leads to a subterranean jazz bar.

There was a certain mystique about this place. Maybe it was the music from another era dribbling out of the speakers, maybe it was the fact that we were perched over a crowded village street, or perhaps its because this is one of those few places in New York thats hasn’t changed in a long time and does not intend to any time soon.

One thing that struck me were the various names. “La Lanterna di Vittorio” stands for “Victor’s Lantern”. That is the name on the awning, so one would assume, the name of the establishment. However, the business card calls it “The Fireside Caffe”, their website calls it “La Lanterna Caffe” and the jazz bar below, also part of the restaurant, is titled “The Bar Next Door”. When I asked the waitress about the disjointed nomenclature, specifically about why it was called “The Fireside Caffe”, she simply said: “Because we have a fireplace”. It was just this sort of quirkiness that made this place special.

Once we were seated, two leather-bound menus thudded onto the table. There were 8-10 laminated pages, the first two dedicated to food, the rest to cocktails, hot beverages, and desserts. The food menu was what you might expect of an Italian cafe; soups, salads, crostinis, panninis, charcuterie, cheeses, and pizza. 

After cocktail orders were in, we decided on a couple of the small 10” pizzas- the classic Margherita, and the Pizza con Gorgonzola e Noci (Gorgonzola, Walnuts, and Olive Oil). 20 minutes later we were sinking our teeth into some pretty respectable thin-crust pies. They had that nice char on the bottom from a coal or wood-fired oven and were made with some high-quality ingredients. I can’t say this was the best pizza I’ve had in the village, but it was certainly praiseworthy. Several cocktails and a few slices later, after somewhat reluctantly refusing dessert, our waitress brought along some chocolate grappa on the house to cap off the night. Delicioso!

Needless to say, this experience was more about the atmosphere than the food. The ever expanding and ever changing food scene in New York has brought a lot of uncertainty to places like these, but I hope Victor’s Lantern (or whatever it’s called) sticks around for a while, because I would like to come back! Come here for a light meal, a nightcap, and some good conversation.

La Lanterna di Vittorio on Urbanspoon

Filed under Food Foodie restaurants nyc nyc food Greenwich Village Italian The Village italian food the young gourmand

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Katz’s Delicatessen

LES- 205 East Houston Street, New York, NY

Every time I am headed down East Houston street and I see that tall, narrow, white sign with red block letters that simply reads: “K A T Z ‘S”, my heart pumps, my palms sweat, and my mouth waters. This place personifies my love for New York food and it is a must visit for any first time New Yorker.

  Here’s a nice shot of a 3 AM Jewish Deli feast with friends. Pastrami on a roll with coleslaw, russian and swiss, those big wide fries, and of course, the kosher dills and sours. 

  I would say I have been to Katz’s too many times, but I don’t think such a thought should exist.

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon

Filed under Katz Katz's Deli sandwiches Rueben deli New york new york city food foodie restaurants theyounggourmand

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Cafe Orlin

EAST VILLAGE- 41 Saint Marks Place  New York, NY 10003

A lot of people ask each other: “What’s your favorite meal of the day?”. The answer can be one of 3 things, and we all know the choices. When people ask me that question, I always wish there was a fourth choice: brunch. There is almost nothing better than a Saturday or Sunday afternoon brunch in New York. Its an obligatory activity, and in my opinion, if you go to the right place, it can make your whole day and perhaps your whole weekend.

  Like everyone, I have my list of favorite spots, and as of 2 weeks ago, Cafe Orlin in the East Village joined that list. The first clue that this place is legit comes from the swath of people you will encounter on the sidewalk as you approach the restaurant on St. Mark’s place. They are waiting for a table and so will you. 

  After 40 minutes and a strong cup of coffee from Porto Rico Importing across the street, we were seated. The menu is pretty standard brunch fare that skews a bit Mediterranean/Middle Eastern. A quick scan of neighboring tables had me assume the menu favorites:

Diana’s breakfast: two eggs served with humus, tabouli, & pita

Pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon yogurt

I ordered the eggs blackstone which consists of: crisp bacon, oven roasted tomatoes, perfectly poached eggs and an ideal amount of hollandaise. This cost a mere 14.95, and it also got me incredible fresh squeezed orange juice, and a very nice cappuccino. Friends had eggs florentine and the pumpkin pancakes- both were very satisfied!

  We got out of there for under 20 dollars a piece and we were all stuffed to the brim. Get there, wait it out, and leave happy. Brunch at Cafe Orlin made my day and my weekend. 

Cafe Orlin on Urbanspoon

Filed under cafe orlin brunch food foodie east village restaurants eggs new york nyc

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GRAMERCY- 2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY

Restaurant week in New York City is an interesting time for dining out. I label this time interesting because for many, it affords the opportunity to try a restaurant that is otherwise too costly or difficult to get into, but the experience is often soured by large crowds, a limited menu, and in some cases, a very frustrated restaurant staff. Even in some of my “successful” outings of the past, I have often found myself wondering: “What’s that place like when its not restaurant week?”

For that reason, for this summer’s NYC restaurant week, I chose one place to attend. A roman-trattoria inspired, Danny Meyer owned, fine dining Italian restaurant nestled into the western corner of Gramercy Park (inside the Gramercy Park Hotel). Ironically, the day before our 8:30 pm reservation, I realized that Maialino was only participating in restaurant week for lunch. Enthusiastically, the next night, we went to dinner for the real deal…prices and all!! 

Before you even walk in, the charm of this place is undeniable. If you are on foot, any way you approach the restaurant, you are sucked in by the beauty of the 19th century buildings that make up the park’s neighborhood. Beyond the heavy glass and steel door and down a half a set of stairs is a contemporary, yet homey, establishment.

Despite the great vibe, our service was surprisingly mediocre for a Danny Meyer spot- it took about 15 minutes after our reserved time to be seated, and from there the wait staff seemed more focused on the tables that did not have two twenty-somethings sitting at it. A mix-up with our drinks from bar to table was also a bit bothersome. 

The food rundown goes a little something like this:

1. Some pretty incredible rosemary infused foaccacia and those delicious crunchy long italian breadsticks- on the house with a good olive oil.

2. Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with OO and Anchovies- Some high quality dairy and a nice prelude to the pasta.

3. Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Bucatini all’Amatriciana- The pastas were outta this world. Fresh tasting, perfect al dente texture, and aptly sauced. Both dishes introduced my first experience with guanciale, (AKA Roman Bacon). It is definitely intimidating when you read about it, but delicious in a well prepared dish of pasta

4. Suckling Pig for two with Fingerling Potatoes- the namesake dish for this restaurant (Maialino in Italian translates to piglet.) This was a special for the night, but was surprisingly pedestrian. A rather bland “crispy skin” topped a rather small pile of pork that was moist, but lacked seasoning. I was dying for some sort of flavor to pop out as we tore through this final dish, but I got nothing. The fingerlings were great, the “maialino” just did nothing for me.

  After another glass of wine and some more breadsticks, the bill arrived. I thought to myself, “Wow! This is definitely not a restaurant week sponsored meal!”. Although we had a few drinks and an appetizer, I can definitely say I have spent this amount of money elsewhere and had a much better meal and experience.

 Overall: This restaurant has an incredibly authentic italian vibe and is a great intimate setting for a special occasion. With only one experience, I can pretty confidently say that you will get a nice meal, but you will definitely pay for it. I am sure the service issue is not prevalent, as DM places just don’t operate that way, but you may find the waitstaff giving disproportionate attention to the high-roller types. I hear brunch is the best meal at this joint, so I plan to go back again!

Maialino on Urbanspoon

Filed under danny meyer mailino food rome italy gramercy park gramercy restaurants new york restaurants foodie the young gourmand

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I am going to start baking bread.
Baking bread using the most primitive techniques requires immense knowledge and aptitude. To bake a great loaf of bread is a remarkable skill.
I am going to start baking bread.
I make this declaration after watching a video promoting the new(ish) book from the folks behind the legendary Tartine Bakery and Cafe in San Francisco. There is something addicting about this video for me. I am now reading (studying) Tartine Bread. Chad Robertson has inspired me.
I am going to start baking bread. 

I am going to start baking bread.

Baking bread using the most primitive techniques requires immense knowledge and aptitude. To bake a great loaf of bread is a remarkable skill.

I am going to start baking bread.

I make this declaration after watching a video promoting the new(ish) book from the folks behind the legendary Tartine Bakery and Cafe in San Francisco. There is something addicting about this video for me. I am now reading (studying) Tartine Bread. Chad Robertson has inspired me.

I am going to start baking bread. 

Filed under bread tartine bakery and cafe tartine the young gourmand

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Although I have yet to go to The Meatball Shop, based on the things I have read about the restaurant and it’s owners, I have an enormous amount of respect for this business. 

Listen to Daniel Holtzman talk about smart ways to grow a small business. Staying hungry (figuratively speaking, although I’m sure literally too), yet humble. Awesome stuff.

(Source: themeatballshop)

Filed under Daniel Holzman The Meatball Shop food new york nyc the young gourmand you had me at balls foodie restaurants new york restuarants

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Williamsburg Waterfront btwn. E. 6th and E. 7th 

Every Saturday in Williamsburg from 11 am to 6 pm, the folks behind Brooklyn Flea bring us: Smorgasburg. As the event’s name suggests, the focus here is on food. The tents of 100+ vendors are strewn about on the East River waterfront waiting for you to walk up, take a smell, taste a sample, ask a question, or perhaps make purchase. In pleasant hipster fashion, most if not all of the vendors are happy if you do any of those things. 


Sunday Gravy- Front an center in this tent is a giant dutch oven on a propane burner. The contents: a thick bubbling meat sauce made with on the bone beef and pork, meatballs, and sausage. Simple but packed with flavor. You can have it over pasta (boiled right in front of you) or my favorite way: in a scooped out piece of seeded italian bastone known as a “bread boat”. Grab a fork, a napkin, and enjoy. $5

Porchetta- This has been at NYC markets for years and at their flagship store in the East Village since 2008. I have had the sandwich at least five times and its just as good every time. Theres not enough time to go into it in the detail it requires, so in short, its a heavily seasoned, slow roasted pig whose best parts are shaved, ripped, and cracked onto a crispy Grand Daisy Ciabatta. Need I say more? $6

D’vine and Olive- Tasty infused Extra Virgin Olive Oils from California. Stand and dip for 20 minutes.

The Good Batch- After finishing my first two items, participating in several tastings and samples, and after finishing a cold refreshing Brooklyn Witte from Smorgasbar, we felt the next logical step was something sweet. The Good Batch was serving up homemade ice cream sandwiches that couldn’t be turned down. 2 giant salt dusted oat chocolate chunk cookies housed a healthy schmear of bourban vanilla ice cream. Next to the small ice cream sandwiches served at Sugar and Olivesthis might have been the best one I have ever had. $6 (its huge)

Things I plan to try next time:

1. A schnitzel sandwich from Schnitz NYC

2. Hot out of the oven pizza from Rubirosa

3. Fried anchovies from Bon Chovi

4. Mexican Sandwich from Cemitas Mexican Sandwiches

 Take the L out to Bedford Ave, and stroll down to the water for Smorgasburg- its worth it!

Filed under smorgasburg williamsburg brookyln nyc food foodie sunday gravy porchetta the good batch schnitz the young gourmand

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HOBOKEN- 301 Willow Street, Hoboken, NJ

Exiting the terminal you ascend onto a beautiful street from a seemingly distant era. Your eye is drawn to the cobblestone and fading railroad steel and looking up you notice the age-old Edwards Hotel. On the corner to your right a loud comiserating after-work crowd forms at the bar to drown the stress of the day in bar food and Bud Light. You are accompanied by droves of 20 and 30-somethings in professional attire as you walk from Hudson Place to Newark St. and you join them in dodging families walking four-across on the sidewalk, each one carrying a cupcake and a canoli from Carlo’s Bakery. Finally, you reach Washington street; a vista of sports bars, fast-casual restaurants, small retailers, and thousands of pedestrians.

Congratulations- you’re in Hoboken. 

There is a definite charm to this tiny Manhattan outpost, sometimes known as “the sixth borough” or “the mile square city”. Several parks and a one and a half mile waterfront promenade on the east side of the city afford, in my opinion, the best view one can get of the New York City skyline. Most if not all of the streets have centuries-old buildings and zoning restrictions keep new construction to four or five stories tall in most parts of the city, giving it a village feel. The culinary scene is fairly homogenous and pedestrian, but along with the city, it is growing and become increasingly varied. Washington and Hudson Streets are home to most of the city’s eateries, however some of the best restaurants are on enchanting corners tucked in the residential streets to the west.

One of those places is Zafra- a tiny, 25 seat Cuban-Lat-Am restaurant located on the corner of 3rd St and Willow Avenue. Walking in, you are consumed by the color and energy in the restaurant. The small tables are outfitted in brightly colored cloths, and the walls are adorned with vibrant oil paintings by a Cuban artist and father of owner Maricel Presilla. Other subtle Latin American details are incorporated throughout the busy little restaurant giving it a truly authentic feel.

We visited on a Saturday night, and decided to forgo the 20 minute wait for a table by sitting at the bar (due to the size of the place, expect this on a weekend). Off the bat, we noticed that although the service and back of the house were extremely busy, they were all laughing, and having a great time. As a result, we found ourselves smiling before we tasted anything. On to the food…

Like many of Hoboken’s small restaurants, Zafra does not have a liquor license, but they allow you to bring your own booze. Bring rum and they will make you a killer Mojito, bring a bottle of wine and they will make Sangria. We came in with a bottle of red wine and watched the “bartender” add a battery of ingredients, including 4 or 5 different types of fresh fruit, furiously mix it all together, and then serve us, in a giant pitcher with an old wooden spoon, perhaps the best Sangria I have ever had in my life. As we sipped from our giant wine glasses, we sorted through an extensive menu of small tapas-like plates, tamales, sandwiches, and entrees. 

To start, we decided on the ham croquettes- salty little fried potato balls filled with juicy serrano ham, served with a delicious spicy dipping sauce. In lieu of another appetzer, we decided to request a second basket of the complimentary toasted, pressed and buttered Cuban Bread. It was so basic, so expected, but something about it was enthralling; we couldn’t stop eating it.

We guzzled Sangria and picked out chunks of fruit as we anxiously awaited our entrees. We had the Pollo con Mole Oaxaqueño- a traditional chicken dish, with thick mole sauce, rice, and tortillas and the Churrasco con Chimichurri- Aregentinian Style skirt steak served with chimichurri sauce. Both entree’s were satisfying. The chicken was moist with strong, but not overwhelming flavor from the mole. The steak, melt-in-your-mouth-tender, grilled to a perfect medium rare, served with a solid chimichurri. We ate off of eachothers plates, and contemplated asking for another basket of the pan cubano to take care of some of the dishwasher’s work. 

Overall: The atmosphere of a restaurant and the attitude of it’s employees can make any dining experience enjoyable. Put authentic, well-prepared food on the plates, and you’ve got a winner. Zafra delivered on all of the above. Take a trip out to Hoboken, and stroll through the backstreets to this busy corner restaurant and enjoy a little slice of latin america.

On your way, stop at Sparrow Wine and Liquors on Washington St. and pick up a cheap, young bottle of red for the Sangria! 

Zafra on Urbanspoon

Filed under hoboken latin american the young gourmand food foodie sangria nyc food zafra steak cuban

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My Small Apartment Kitchen

O. Ottomanelli & Sons

WEST VILLAGE- 285 Bleecker St., New York, NY 

To my dismay, there is no place for a grill at my apartment. No balcony, no backyard, not even a rusty, rickety fire-escape to place a tiny weber on. So, when cooking red meat, I am left to a grill pan on a high output flame and an underpowered oven. That’s no way to mimic restaurant quality steak- but a recent post from fudehouse shed some light on a new technique I had never considered.

Instead of searing each side and tossing in the oven to finish, the video below suggests slow cooking, resting, and finishing with a hard sear. Watch it…  

After I watched the video last week, my mouth was watering (just like yours is) for steak. So I dropped by the legendary West Village meat purveyor O. Ottomanelli and Sons on Friday afternoon. The friendly butchers cut me a beautiful 20 oz. piece of dry aged cowboy rib-eye. It had great color and the nice fat marbeling that you look for in a good cut of steak. After a shower of kosher salt and pepper, 25 minutes in the oven at 275, and a minute on each side in my scorching hot cast iron grill pan, I had one of the best steaks in recent memory.

The crust was thick and hard- as if it was cooked in a 1000 degree broiler at a fine NY steakhouse. The meat was juicy and tender. On the side I tossed some field greens with toasted almonds, tomatoes, peppers, and a homemade lemon mustard vinagarette- recipe also courtesy of fudehouse. Delectable.

Hats off to Ottomanelli and Sons for wonderful meat, @fudehouse for an awesome easy to understand technique, and, well…me.

Filed under food foodie new york new york city butcher steak rib-eye west village nyc food fudehouse