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

Superior Croissants on the Upper West Side

Soutine, a neighborhood fixture on the Upper West Side, has been quietly turning out some of the city’s best croissants. nativeNYer finds them lighter and more buttery than the ones at Patisserie Claude in the Village, go-to spot for some croissant lovers.

guttergourmet stands by Claude and strongly recommends his hound-endorsed pain au chocolat, which can sell out as early as 8 a.m. Others put in a word for the croissants at Ceci-Cela and, in Brooklyn, Almondine.

Soutine Bakery [Upper West Side]
104 W. 70th St., at Columbus Ave., Manhattan

Patisserie Claude [Greenwich Village]
187 W. Fourth Street, between Barrow and Jones, Manhattan

Ceci-Cela [Soho]
55 Spring Street, between Mulberry and Lafayette, Manhattan

Ceci-Cela [Tribeca]
166 Chambers St., between Greenwich St. and W. Broadway, Manhattan

Almondine [DUMBO]
65 Water St., between Main and Dock Sts., Brooklyn

Board Links: Patisserie Claude’s Croissants-What’s Wrong with ME??!!

Winning Mexican in the Bronx

Taqueria Tlaxcalli has quickly hit its stride, winning over Bronx chowhounds with marvelous Mexican chow. Deven Black recommends carne enchilada (spiced pork), delicious when tucked into a torta with beans, avocado, cheese, crema and chiles, and outstanding chicken soup: rich, deep broth loaded with meat, cilantro, carrot, rice, and some corn on the cob.

Also good: tacos, chorizo burritos, guacamole, lively housemade salsas, and chicken in a sensational, complex mole that left beke grinning like an idiot. For dessert, try fresh-baked fruit-filled empanadas.

Opened late last year in the Parkchester section, Tlaxcalli offers gracious service and an uncommonly appealing room brightened by Aztec-style graphics and other art. Delivery can be iffy, Deven warns.

Taqueria Tlaxcalli [Bronx]
2103 Starling Ave., near Olmstead Ave., Bronx

Board Links: More than just spicy Mexican in the Bronx
Great Mexican food in the Bronx!!

Chinese Crowd-Pleasers in Flushing

Flushing’s current hot corner is Main Street and 40th Road, where hungry mobs jostle for 75-cent duck sandwiches and other bites. At the center of the throng are two new and crushingly popular Cantonese eateries—a street-level takeout operation and a second-floor sit-down place called Corner 28.

Those must-have sandwiches, sold downstairs only, are steamed bao filled with one or two pieces of roast duck (and a sliver of skin, if you’re lucky), sliced green onion, and a dab of sweet plum sauce. The duck is fresh, tasty, and not exactly abundant, reports surly: “At times I felt I was eating an empty bao with scallions and plum sauce.” Then again, this is a 75-cent sandwich. “Not bad for a cheap thrill,” allows designerboy01. “Maybe it’s the size that makes them fun to eat—like White Castle.” Other downstairs offerings include congee, tofu, and deep-fried battered fish (“all decent but none really memorable,” sums up surly) and a forest of hanging roast meats: chicken, duck, pork ribs or belly, and the like.

Upstairs, at the top of a narrow staircase, is Corner 28, whose short, well-executed menu includes seafood noodles, clams with basil, and beef with hollow-stem spinach. All dishes are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients and cooked with a light touch, reports lwong. Polecat fought through the downstairs crush to be rewarded with tender, succulent duck and fresh, tasty squid in XO sauce that measured up well against comparable dishes at such Manhattan Chinatown favorites as Cantoon Garden.

The upstairs and downstairs operations, though apparently under separate ownership, have two things in common: chaotic service and hordes of impatient customers. Those in line for tables in the tiny second-floor dining room must take a number, then go back downstairs to wait. “For Corner 28 to survive,” lwong suggests, “it has to continue to cook above-average food, otherwise no one will put up with the cramped quarters and the silly waiting situation.”

Corner 28 [Flushing]
40-28 Main Street, at 40th Road, Flushing, Queens

Board Links: ‘Corner 28’–New Flushing Chinatown Restaurant
Flushing’s Corner 28 and the ‘Chinese Danny Meyer’

Cheesy, Chewy Bliss in Hartford

It’s a thick-crust pizza topped with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of cheese, the kind sold in slabs at Italian bakeries. Sheet pizza, as it’s known in central Connecticut. In upstate New York they might say tomato pie. Whatever you call it, Di Bacco in Hartford makes a beautiful one: great sauce and cheese, in just the right proportion, atop a foundation of chewy bread. “Exactly what I wanted,” says pane.

A few blocks north, Mozzicato de Pasquale turns out another hound-worthy version, says westie. Toppings include cheese, broccoli, and spinach.

For something different, try the powerfully seasoned white Sicilian at Jerry’s Pizza in Middletown—a distant, tomato-less cousin to the sheet pizza: garlic, anchovies, and parsley on a lovely, olive oil-bronzed crust. It’s an off-menu item that must be ordered at least two hours in advance—well worth it, promises fosco g.

Di Bacco Food Import [Hartford County]
553 Franklin Ave., between Plymouth and Roosevelt Sts., Hartford, CT

Mozzicato de Pasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop [Hartford County]
329 Franklin Ave., at Bushnell St., Hartford, CT

Jerry’s Pizza [Middlesex County]
885 Washington St., between Boston Rd. and George St., Middletown, CT

Board Links: Tomato pie/sheet pizza in Hartford, CT?

Pumpkin-Filled Perfection at Tribeca’s Fresh Pie

Fresh Pie’s pumpkin model has everything you could want, declares Tony L. Atop a superior crust, rich with butter, sits a perfectly textured filling with just enough sweetness and spice. This easy-to-overlook shop also makes terrific apple pie with a raisin-studded filling. On the savory side, there’s a great double-crusted chicken pot pie, loaded with meat in light gravy, filled out with broccoli, peas, carrot, and potato.

The newcomer holds its own against better-known competitors, adds Tony, who ranks it ahead of board favorites Little Pie Co., Kitchenette, and Bubby’s. “The place seems pretty under the radar, but I hope they last,” he adds, looking ahead hungrily to peach, rhubarb, and other summer fillings.

Fresh Pie [Tribeca]
149 Church St., between Chambers and Warren, Manhattan

Board Links: Fresh Pie in Tribeca

Il Brigante — Promising Italian Near the Seaport

Il Brigante is a welcome bright light in the unpromising quarter around South Street Seaport. bokkyo says this newish trattoria raises the bar for the neighborhood with thin-crust wood-oven pizzas, including an exemplary margherita—tomato sauce, basil, and fior di latte mozzarella on a standout crust, “not too crunchy nor chewy, just that someplace in between that made me wolf it down.” Also recommended: mussels in white wine sauce, super fresh and cooked to a turn. “It’s rare I have a meal this satisfying,” bokkyo adds. “I do believe Il Brigante is here to stay!”

Il Brigante [South Street Seaport]
214 Front St., near Beekman, Manhattan

Board Links: il brigante–raising the bar in South St Seaport/Financial District

The Way of Tea at Gramstand

Tea—hot and cold, old-school and new—is the main event at Gramstand. jenny O is hooked on Mocha Grey Latte, a milky-chocolatey Earl Grey variation, and the bracing, herbaceous Eucalyptus Well. Also recommended: Citrus Berry, a refreshing cold beverage sweetened with Korean citrus honey, and the eye-catching Hibiscus Pear, which gradually turns from yellow to red thanks to a hibiscus leaf steeped in the sweet, fruity brew.

More traditional choices include Dragon Well green tea, Shou Mei white, and the signature Gramstandard, a Sri Lankan black tea with hints of mango and magnolia. No reports yet on the food—they serve sandwiches, pastries, and other bites.

Gramstand, which started out on Irving Place, moved in January to its current, larger space on Avenue A. It’s a warm and welcoming hangout, says westpointisland. If the tea isn’t stimulating enough, diversions include free wi-fi and Lego sets.

Gramstand [East Village]
214 Ave. A, between E. 13th and 14th Sts., Manhattan

Board Links: Gramstand

Fresh Favorites at Chinatown Bakeries

As Manhattan’s ever-shifting Chinatown creeps north and east, it leaves a trail of bao and buns. A current hound favorite is one of the neighborhood’s newer bakeries, Double Crispy on Grand Street. houdipuffy passes on the pastry counter in back and homes in on the goods displayed on the west side of the shop—especially the raisin and lemon twist roll.

On East Broadway, Sun Light Bakery has fed the recent obsessions of christinag123. Vanilla sponge cake rolls, roast pork buns, and ham-and-cheese buns. Nice apple buns, too, plus a wide selection of tapioca teas and fresh juices. To christina, Sun Light outshines the neighboring Golden Carriage. But Sweatshirt Guy (who’s also a Golden Carriage guy) puts in a word for custard buns and exceptionally good coffee at this mini-chain outlet.

A few blocks west, Greg reports exceptional roast pork buns—without onions or lumps of fat, if that’s your preference—at King Wah. (Also recommended here: raisin bread, butter bread, and impossibly light sponge cake.) Another worthy pork bun lurks behind the counter at the recently renovated Canal Seafood Restaurant. Both steamed and baked varieties are good, boasting a tasty and not overly sweet filling, says bigjeff. Lucky King is the current steamed-bun hangout of wleatherette. And two perennial favorites for pork buns, the dinerish Chatham Restaurant and Mei Lai Wah, continue to deliver the goods, aided by high traffic that ensures freshness.

Some longtime hound hangouts remain competitive, including Golden Dragon Boat and Dragon Land. At the latter, check out fried sesame balls, vegetable-filled puff pastries, and red bean-filled bolo bao (look for the crumbly, egg-glazed “pineapple” topping). May May, long celebrated for its zong zi (seasoned sticky rice with meat and vegetables in banana leaf), also serves up amazingly good lotus seed pie, says Peter Cherches, as well as sweet, restorative lemon-ginger cider.

Among the local bakery empires, Foodaholic finds Fay Da the most consistent. Look for irresistible rice balls—in mango, coconut, taro, or green tea-red bean flavors—near the register, urges NancyC. bluehensfan has a soft spot for the Switzerland bun, a braided sweet bread iced in zigzags and swirls.

Tai Pan also has its partisans, including lutkie, who favors its buns and hot, sweet tea. SunnysideUp is partial to the triple-decker tea sandwiches: ham, tomato and sliced egg with light, sweet mayonnaise on white bread—”very British but somehow very Chinatown.”

Double Crispy Bakery [Chinatown]
230 Grand St., between Bowery and Elizabeth St., Manhattan

Sun Light Bakery [Chinatown]
160 E. Broadway, near Rutgers St., Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
162 E. Broadway, at Rutgers St., Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
79 Chrystie St., between Hester and Grand, Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
15 Catherine St., between E. Broadway and Henry, Manhattan

Golden Carriage Bakery [Chinatown]
153 Centre St., between Canal and Walker, Manhattan

King Wah Bakery [Chinatown]
25 E. Broadway, between Catherine and Market Sts., Manhattan

Canal Seafood Restaurant [Chinatown]
266 Canal St., between Lafayette St. and Broadway, Manhattan

Lucky King Bakery [Chinatown]
280 Grand St., between Eldridge and Forsythe, Manhattan

Chatham Restaurant [Chinatown]
9 Chatham Sq., between E. Broadway and Doyers St., Manhattan

Mei Lai Wah Coffee House [Chinatown]
64 Bayard St., between Elizabeth and Mott, Manhattan

Golden Dragon Boat Cafe and Bakery [Chinatown]
111 Bowery, between Hester and Grand Sts., Manhattan

Dragon Land Bakery [Chinatown]
125 Walker St., at Baxter, Manhattan

May May Gourmet Chinese Bakery [Chinatown]
35 Pell St., between Mott and Doyers, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Chinatown]
83 Mott St., at Canal, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Chinatown]
191 Centre St., between Howard and Canal, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Chinatown]
82 Elizabeth St., between Grand and Hester, Manhattan

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
135-16 Roosevelt Ave., between Prince and Main Sts., Flushing, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
4160 Main St., between Sanford and Maple Aves., Flushing, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
3711 Main St., between 37th and 38th Aves., Flushing, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Elmhurst]
8612 Justice Ave., Elmhurst, Queens

Fay Da Bakery [Flushing]
formerly Le Petit Pain
4615 Kissena Blvd., near Holly Ave., Flushing, Queens

Tai Pan Bakery [Chinatown]
194 Canal St., between Mott and Mulberry, Manhattan

Tai Pan Bakery [Flushing]
3725 Main St., between 37th and 38th Aves., Flushing, Queens

Tai Pan Bakery [Flushing]
4205B Main St., between Maple and Franklin Aves., Flushing, Queens

Board Links: Favorite Chinatown bakery?
Best Baked Pork Buns?

Detroiters Rejoice: Vernors Ginger Ale in Manhattan

Michiganders love their Vernors ginger ale, but they can’t get it in New York City. Not through the usual channels, anyway; it isn’t directly distributed here. Yet “Detroit’s Drink” turns up once in a while when retailers or restaurateurs (often Midwestern expats) bring it in on their own. Ex-Detroiter praeburn recently happened upon it at Kitchen/Market, the Mexican-and-beyond gourmet grocer in Chelsea. “Please go,” praeburn urges, “and buy enough to encourage them to keep carrying it–but please leave me a couple of cans.”

So what’s the big deal about Vernors? Fans find it more gingery—and more gently carbonated—than Canada Dry or Schweppes (whose parent company now owns the Vernors brand). To melon, it’s not as gingery as straight ginger beer, but “unique and delicious, with kind of a peppery vanilla dimension. I never drink soda unless there’s Vernors around.”

Kitchen/Market [Chelsea]
218 8th Ave., at W. 21st St., Manhattan

Board Links: Vernors Ginger Ale

Tomato Pie Worthy of Song

Come for the pie, stay for the floor show. Alfred Rossino, proprietor of Alfred’s Tomato Pie, turns out beautiful thin-crust pizzas by hand, all the while singing along to recordings of Sinatra, opera, or doowop. Billed as Roman style, his pies (no slices here) are exceptionally light and crisp, topped with fresh plum tomatoes and a scant sprinkling of shredded cheese. dan f. thinks they belong in the same conversation with top pizzas from Trenton (De Lorenzo) to Brooklyn (the storied DiFara) to New Haven.

Alfred’s pie, which draws crowds on weekends, is notable for its expert engineering, among other things: “How does he get crust that thin and that crisp with enough tensile strength to hold up the ingredients?” dan f. marvels. “Cheese is minimal; it’s mostly about the sauce and the crust.” Besides the basic tomato and cheese, recommended toppings include sausage, Vidalia onion, clams (red or white), and a distinctive cheeseless creation of tomato, garlic, anchovy and olive oil.

Alfred’s Tomato Pie [Camden County]
9 S. Black Horse Pike, at Church St., Blackwood, NJ

Board Links: Clam Pizza in NJ
Driving Baltimore to NYC tonight—looking for a casual but delicious place on the way