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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the NY Chowhound community.

A Quick Trip to Italy, by Way of Middle Village

Uvarara means rare grape, and the Italian wine bar of that name is indeed something unusual for Middle Village, Queens. Hounds report home-style bites and well-chosen wines, served in a comfortable old-world setting.

The menu offers salads, meat and cheese platters, house-baked flatbreads and focaccia, panini (including a standout with bresaola, pear, and Gorzonzola), and the like. A section of small plates called piattini includes simple rustic dishes such as grilled shrimp or vegetables, meatballs in tomato sauce, polenta with mushrooms and fontina, and fagottini (zeppolelike fried dough purses) stuffed with cheese and tomato. Baked semolina gnocchi, with butter and Parmesan, is a smart order—amazing stuff, says pellegrino31.

This is a family operation with an inviting vibe and a friendly staff that knows the food and wine; “you feel like you took a trip to Italy,” says NYMike, “even if it’s just for a night.”

Uvarara [Middle Village]
79-28 Metropolitan Avenue (at 80th Street), Middle Village, Queens
718-894-0052
Location

Board Links: Uvarara (Middle Village, Queens)–worth visiting
UvaRara: New wine bar in Middle Village, Queens
Atlas Park Dining

Wonder Where They Got that Terrific Cake?

Doma Café, the popular West Village hangout, serves a superb coffee cake, but it’s not baked there. Nosher knows who bakes it: Jay+Dan. This small custom and wholesale operation, whose slogan promises “freshly baked bliss,” also makes a wide variety of cakes, cookies, and other treats.

For those who have enjoyed the carrot cake at Eisenberg’s, the ageless Flatiron lunch counter, foodluvngal has found out where it’s from. A baker named Kimberly makes it, and she fills custom orders as well. It is the most delicious you will ever eat, swears foodluvngal: “It ain’t cheap, but it’s so worth it.”

Doma Café and Gallery [West Village]
17 Perry Street (at Waverly Place), Manhattan
212-929-4339

Jay+Dan
212-662-6304 or info@jayplusdan.com

Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop [Flatiron]
174 Fifth Avenue (between 22nd and 23rd streets), Manhattan
212-675-5096

Board Links: Best coffee cake?
carrot cake delivable to mid-manhattan

An Eye-Opening Breakfast from a Doughnut Shop

Park Slopers who order their scrambled eggs nice and soft are nearly always disappointed at the local breakfast spots, laments bigmackdaddy. But Seventh Avenue Donuts (unlike Dizzy’s, Second Street Café, Park Café, etc.) gets it. Its eggs are rich and buttery and cooked to order to optimum softness. Ask for a side of grits, which are deep in corn flavor.

Beyond breakfast, this 24/7 eatery turns out a tasty griddle-cooked burger and surprisingly great chicken soup, with firm chunks of meat in a mellow house-made broth (“not the watered down canned saline stuff you usually get,” bigmackdaddy notes). Prices are gentle, among the lowest in the Slope, reckons Woodside Al. Oh, and the doughnuts are decent, too.

Seventh Avenue Donuts [Park Slope]
324 Seventh Avenue (between Eighth and Ninth streets), Brooklyn
718-768-0748

Board Links: 7th Avenue Donuts
Need great Breakfast place PARK SLOPE

Home-Style Latin Goodness

The steak sandwich is the signature dish at Los Hornitos, a homey Latin American spot in Wappingers Falls, and markp can see why. Tender griddled sirloin is tucked into a billowy house-baked roll with Muenster cheese, mashed avocado, tomato, and mayo. A lively pepper-and-onion salsa cuts the richness. (The only sandwich to come close, markp adds, is at Atlantic City’s fabled White House Sub Shop.)

Further evidence of a kitchen on its game comes in the creamy potato-lentil soup and a memorable lunch plate of fried chicken cutlet with rice and tender, smoky red beans: “Just perfectly cooked. Ultimate comfort food.” Don’t miss the treats in the bakery cases; markp reports a delightful tres leches cake with fresh strawberries and real cream and butter (“No cheap commercial bakery ingredients here”). Los Hornitos is named after a restaurant in Santiago, Chile, once frequented by owners Monica and Hector Lorca, but the menu ranges all over Latin America. Look for meat stews, roast pork, ceviche, empanadas, fried plantains, and tropical fruit smoothies.

Los Hornitos Bakery [Dutchess County]
In Dutchess Shopping Plaza
1582 U.S. Highway 9, Wappingers Falls, NY
845-298-8683

Board Link: Los Hornitos: pan-Latin gem in Wappingers

Welcome Winter Tidings from the Shake Shack

Chowhounds have mobbed the Shake Shack since the day it opened—except for a few weeks every winter, when it’s been closed for the season. Now the annual hamburger hibernation is history. Barring unexpected snags, the three-year-old fast-food stand in Madison Square Park will stay open year-round. Don’t worry about shivering over your Shackburger: The plan is to fire up heat lamps above the tables.

Shake Shack [Flatiron]
In Madison Square Park, between 23rd and 26th streets and Fifth and Madison avenues, Manhattan
212-889-6600

Board Link: Shake Shack now open year-round?

A Bargain Bird and a Bowl of Soup

Jackson Heights hounds who love the roast chicken at Pio Pio—but not the churlish service at its takeout shop—have found a cheap, friendly alternative nearby. Empire Chinese does moist, tasty, falling-off-the-bone roast chicken. A half bird is $3, a whole one is $5.85. There’s also a combo (D1 on the menu) of a half chicken, steamed vegetables, and rice for $4.75. “This is a huge meal and so very good,” declares Mike V.

For another budget bite in the neighborhood, check out the soup of the day at Latin American places, often served in a meal-size portion. “They may be the cheapest thing in the restaurant,” Brian S observes, “and they sometimes are the best.” Mike V recommends La Boina Roja, a Colombian spot whose soup specials, priced at $6 or $7, include rice, salad, and fried plantains. Typical offerings are tripe, oxtail, short rib, fish, meatball, chicken, plantain, and cream soups of asparagus, mushroom, or corn.

Empire Chinese [Jackson Heights]
37-09 83rd Street (near Northern), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-335-3388

La Boina Roja [Jackson Heights]
80-18 37th Avenue (between 80th and 81st streets), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-6711

La Boina Roja [Jackson Heights]
77-05 37th Avenue (near 77th Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-429-2500

Board Links: terrible experience at Pio Pio to go
Best places for Soup in Queens

Fresh Italian Breads on the Upper West Side

Life just got a lot better for uptown hounds who love Italian-style breads. Grandaisy, the Sullivan Street Bakery spin-off, opened its second shop a couple of weeks ago at 72nd and Broadway.

Expect some of New York’s best filone, pugliese, and olive loaves, as well as excellent ciabatta and pane integrale; “if you love bread, this will be the place for you,” promises nativeNYer. Beyond bread, hounds have fallen hard for Grandaisy’s pizzas, including potato, mushroom, and a wonderful bianca, agreeably salty and olive oil–y. Also recommended: panini (e.g., egg-asparagus-Asiago, bresaola-arugula-Parmesan) and the appealing lineup of sweets, among them biscotti, fruit tarts, and cookies, including a knockout peanut butter sandwich.

Grandaisy Bakery [Upper West Side]
176 W. 72nd Street (at Broadway), Manhattan
212-721-9000

Board Links: Grandaisy UWS Opens Tomorrow
Grandaisy Bakery–W72 & Brdwy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At the Meat Counter, Steakhouse Memories

In Connecticut, they still miss Manero’s. Nearly two years after this old-time steakhouse served up its last surf ’n’ turf, ending a satisfying six-decade run, Greenwich hounds go all misty-eyed over its impeccably aged meats, Gorgonzola salad, crisp fried onions, house-blend steak sauce—even its singing waiters.

Minus the waiters, a slice of the Manero’s experience can be had at Greenwich Prime Meats, opened by two veteran butchers from the restaurant. Besides nicely marbled meats, the shop offers many of Manero’s greatest hits for carry-out customers: the steak sauce, the fried onions, the Gorgonzola salad. “If we can’t have Manero’s,” figures amanda3571, “then this is the perfect alternative.”

As long as you’re in the neighborhood, cross the street and drop in at the Bruce Park Grill, which billyparsons recommends for ice-cold beer and great little minipizzas. The joint wins bonus points for a congenial barkeep and a tavern rarity: regulation shuffleboard.

Greenwich Prime Meats [Fairfield County]
100 Bruce Park Avenue (near Davis), Greenwich, CT
203-861-6328

Bruce Park Grill [Fairfield County]
231 Bruce Park Avenue (near Davis), Greenwich, CT
203-869-8006

Board Links: Greenwich-Manero’s Butchers Back in Business
Favorite ‘Secret Hole In The Walls’

Superior Boba Tea, Bubbling Up Downtown

Bubble-tea buffs will appreciate the generous deal for regulars at Vivi, a shiny, chirpy little shop in Chinatown. After you’ve bought five drinks (and gotten your “VIP” card stamped), the sixth is free. But wait, there’s more: You then qualify for 20 percent off on every beverage from that day on. And it’s good stuff, says Lau, probably the best he’s had in the neighborhood—free of the odd chalkiness and cloying sweetness of many competitors. Warning to the cuteness-averse: Like popular boba spots in Taiwan, Lau advises, Vivi is a “super like bubbly type of place.”

In the East Village, they’re brewing better-than-average bubble tea at TKettle, a newish outpost of a big Asian chain. Pat Hammond reports delicious black tea with milk, just sweet enough, and tapioca pearls with a pleasing chew. “Their motto is ‘Healthy drinks in delicious way’!” Pat adds. “I’ll drink to that!” We hear word of excellent northern Chinese dumplings here as well; no reports yet.

Vivi Bubble Tea [Chinatown]
49 Bayard Street (at Elizabeth), Manhattan
212-566-6833

TKettle Drinks [East Village]
26 St. Marks Place (between Second and Third avenues), Manhattan
212-982-9782

Board Links: Vivi Bubble Tea
TKettle Drinks, St. Marks Place

At La Orquidea, Honduran from Turf to Surf

From the sprawling pan-Latin menu at La Orquidea, one smart order is a baleada. A Honduran spin on the taco, this is a thick, freshly made wheat tortilla wrapped around beans, cheese, egg, avocado, or dried beef—or all of the above, the way Brian S got it. “The meat, egg, etc. were not mixed together; each had their own zone in the Baleada,” he reports. “And it was wonderful.”

On weekends, try sopa de caracol, a hearty Honduran soup of conch in deep yellow broth loaded with chunks of plantain, cassava, and pepper. “Redolent of the tang of the sea, rich in salty flavor,” Brian sighs, “it was everything I’ve always wanted a chowder to be—but never found until now.”

This old-school joint feeds Mott Haven locals morning to night, starting with different breakfasts for Guatemalans and Salvadorans as well as Hondurans, and wrapping up with hearty meat-heavy chow for the bar crowd. “A lot of people stop by for drinks on weekend nights,” Brian adds, “and I’d guess that the big sign warning ‘No bailar! No dancing!’ is often ignored.”

La Orquidea [Bronx]
500 E. 149th Street (near Brook Avenue), Bronx
718-585-1488

Board Link: La Orquidea—great Honduran food in the South Bronx