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

Cafe Collage: Coffee Artistry on Bleecker Street

Java hounds are buzzing about Cafe Collage in the Village. It’s mellow in mood but exacting about its coffee, which comes from the specialty roaster Intelligentsia in Chicago. Open since October, Collage pulls espresso drinks with care and offers an unusual French press option, reports stevebookman. Choose your beans, which are ground to order, and you’ll be given a press and a timer (depress the plunger after four minutes).

There’s ample seating, free wi-fi, and croissants, scones, and other baked bites from Balthazar and Brooklyn’s Baked.

Cafe Collage [Greenwich Village]
189 Bleecker St., at MacDougal, Manhattan
212-505-2205
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Village: cozy coffee & bakery places?

East Ocean Palace: Cantonese Find in Forest Hills

East Ocean Palace is just what many Forest Hills chowhounds have been waiting for: a reasonably authentic Cantonese seafood house. “We’re thrilled to have some real Chinese out here,” says Polecat. “I wouldn’t say it is on par with the very best in Chinatown, but it can certainly hold its own.”

Recommended: braised fish with bean curd, rice noodles, salt-baked fish, chicken casserole. Shrimp is exceptionally fresh and well prepared, in dumplings, black bean sauce, or the crowd-pleasing Hong Kong specialty with walnuts and mayonnaise. Lunch specials are a deal: entree, soup, and rice (white or fried) for $5 or $6.

Focus on Cantonese chow, especially seafood, and eat in the restaurant. Takeout orders and dishes from other regions (hot and sour soup, eggplant with spicy garlic sauce) have been disappointing.

East Ocean Palace [Forest Hills]
formerly Golden Pond
113-09 Queens Blvd., between 76th Ave. and 76th Rd., Forest Hills, Queens
718-268-1668
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new chinese restaurant on queens blvd near kew gardens courts
Jade Eatery and Lounge–Forest Hills
East Ocean Palace Forest Hills

Harlem’s Best Rugelach

“Rugelach by a Brother,” it says on the window at Lee Lee’s. And sure enough, alongside bread pudding and red velvet cake, this Harlem bakery makes better-than-decent rugelach. They boast satisfying weight, buttery yet crisp dough, a sweet (but not too sweet) interior, and a dusting of cinnamon and sugar, reports rose water. Just one flavor: the classic cinnamon and nut. ScottStuff suggests calling ahead to see when the next batch will be ready and showing up right then.

“The man who runs the show is slow-moving, eager to chat, and lovely,” rose water adds. Beyond baked goods, a sign on the door advertises grits, eggs, and biscuits for $3. No reports yet.

Lee Lee’s Baked Goods [Harlem]
283 W. 118th St., between Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.) and St. Nicholas
Ave., Manhattan
917-493-6633
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Harlem Rugelach
Rugelach
ISO Rugelach

Pho Mac: Surprising Vietnamese on Staten Island

Pho Mac brings something unusual to Staten Island: genuine Vietnamese food. Open since November in the Graniteville neighborhood, it makes great spring rolls, lemongrass chicken, grilled pork chops, and pho, with tender meat in delicious broth, according to our first report. Prices are gentle: $10 to $13 for most entrees, $7 for big, filling bowls of soup, and just $6 to $7 for rice plates, which are served not only at lunchtime but all day.

“Usually we have to travel to Brooklyn for any authentic Asian food in this culinary wasteland,” writes Sandinyc. “The question is how long can it last on Staten Island?”

Pho Mac Vietnamese Restaurant [Staten Island]

1407 Richmond Ave., near Christopher Ln., Staten Island

718-982-9292

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New Vietnamese on Staten Island

Royale: Backyard-Style Burgers in an East Village Bar

New York City’s latest hamburger contender is the East Village watering hole Royale. Hounds rank the well-reviewed newcomer up there with Corner Bistro and a step above neighborhood hangout Paul’s. “The burger lives up to the hype,” promises mas. It’s a loosely packed Black Angus patty, flame-broiled to order with a pleasing char, served with nicely melted American cheese on a toasted brioche bun from Tom Cat Bakery.

“They reminded me of burgers you would have in a backyard straight off a grill,” says wingman, “very juicy with a great bun.” duaoj1 approves of their manageable heft and height, which allow beef, bun and add-ons to fit comfortably in each bite.

Wedge fries are simple and good, though some find them under-seasoned. There’s a bacon option, but it’s skippable. And some detractors complain of overcooked and underwhelming meat. “Drinking helps the burgers at Royale,” sniffs sarapeater.

Royale [East Village]
157 Ave. C, near E. 10th St., Manhattan
212-254-6600
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Royale
Royale
ROYALE–‘out of burgers’ at 8pm

At Brooklyn’s Flatbush Farm, a Hearty Fall Harvest

Flatbush Farm deals in simple comforts, hearty seasonal fare that’s well suited to cold weather. At this congenial hangout that replaced Bistro St. Marks, hounds recommend pork goulash, spaetzle with mushroom ragout, spiced tuna belly with beans, and braised lamb shoulder with bubble and squeak, among other things.

Beers and wines are well chosen, and cocktails are worth a look. Two winners: the pear martini (vodka, limoncello, pear cider) and Grandpa Frank’s Slammer (brandy, vermouth, bitters). Beyond food and drink, expect an inviting vibe, welcoming service, and quirky, seductive decor that forktomouth sums up as “Euro-farm-estate-Gothacary.”

Detractors complain that prices are too high and the chow crosses the line from hearty to heavy. A weekend brunch choice, Toad in a Hole (egg and cheddar over bread), is made with overly thick brioche, says foodpyramid: “I felt like I’d ingested a brick by the time the meal was over.”

Flatbush Farm [Park Slope]
formerly Bistro St. Marks
76 St. Marks Ave., at Flatbush, Brooklyn
718-622-3276
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Flatbush Farm–good tuna belly and lamb
Flatbush Farm–Not so good

Chico’s: Carolina ‘Cue and More in Guilderland, NY

Chico’s shows its barbecue chops in Carolina-style pulled pork: tasty and smoky with ample bark, reports jkent. It’s first-rate ‘cue, especially for the Northeast, and surprisingly true to Carolina tradition, says bbqfan. He faults only the thick, sweet sauce, a substitute for the thin, vinegary one served down south.

But Chico’s barbecue ranges beyond Carolina, including solid “St. Louis-style” ribs and smoked, fried chicken wings. Most meats come in platters or in ample sandwiches made on excellent rolls. Service is casual, friendly, and efficient.


Chico’s BBQ and Restaurant [Albany County]
2490 Western Ave. (Rte. 20), near Rte. 146, Guilderland, NY
518-456-0940
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Chico’s BBQ–Guilderland NY

At Peanut Butter and Co., Elvis Lives

The king of the sandwiches at Peanut Butter and Co. is the Elvis: a grilled number stuffed with bananas, honey and, of course, peanut butter. Bacon is optional–but not for billyeats, who insists on it: “It is an awesome sandwich with the bacon–as it should be eaten. Really decadent and delicious.”

billyboy goes for the Seinfeld (peanut butter, honey and cinnamon on a toasted bagel), The Heat Is On (spicy peanut butter, grilled chicken, pineapple jam), and the aforementioned Elvis with bacon. “I don’t think the drugs are what did him in!” he adds.

Dissenters dismiss this place as a one-trick pony (two tricks, if you count jelly). “It’s good for peanut butter and jelly, but there’s limits to how good that can be,” carps icejew, who also observes that everything on the menu will make you thirsty, and drinks are expensive.


Peanut Butter and Co. [Greenwich Village]
240 Sullivan St., between Bleecker and W. 3rd Sts., Manhattan
212-677-3995
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Peanut Butter & Co.

Top-Notch Tavern Burger at Tierney’s in Montclair, NJ

Tierney’s Tavern turns out a surprisingly excellent hamburger, possibly one of the best in New Jersey, swears tamerlanenj. It’s nicely griddled, agreeably greasy and juicy, and the bacon version is loaded with crispy pork.


Tierney’s Tavern [Essex County]
136-138 Valley Rd., between Claremont Ave. and Van Vleck St., Montclair, NJ
973-744-9785
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A Burger at Tierney’s, Montclair

Great Goat at Coimbra and Other Jersey Iberian Tips

On Newark’s Spanish and Portuguese scene, Coimbra is the bright spot these days. If roast goat is among the specials, get it. Fabulous stuff, raves candace–pleasingly gamy meat, served with rice, potatoes, and broccoli rabe. Also noteworthy: shrimp in green sauce, pork with clams and potatoes, and free roasted chestnuts after your meal.

“Coimbra is the bomb,” writes Jim Leff. “Everything’s good and hugely authentic (and I’ve eaten a lot in Portugal).” Pass on the usual suspects and stick to the specials, he advises, and you’ll be rewarded with homey, lusty chow. Jim adds a service tip: “Not much English. Be nice to your waiter, who expects to deal with paisanos. Don’t be too high-maintenance or you’ll ruin the place for other gringos.”

Casa Vasca, a past hound favorite, continues to deliver the goods. But it does just a handful of dishes really well, cautions Jim, including razor clams, goat, and tortilla (potato omelette). To that list, Ike would add shrimp in garlic sauce or green sauce. Jim suggests sitting at the bar, not in the dining room, and going for a pitcher of sangria, red or white. “If you think you don’t like sangria,” he adds, “prepare to change your mind.”

In Belleville, Solar Do Minho makes hound-endorsed Portuguese seafood and grilled meats. Recommended: crab-stuffed swordfish, shrimp in garlic sauce, meltingly tender fried calamari. Rodizio meats are first-rate and not over-salted, as at many other places. “We have been there many times and have never been disappointed,” says nizza.


Coimbra Bar and Restaurant [Essex County]
637 Market St., at Somme St., Newark, NJ
973-491-9811
Locater

Casa Vasca [Essex County]
141 Elm St., between Prospect and Pacific, Newark, NJ
973-465-1350
Locater

Solar Do Minho [Essex County]
15 Cleveland St., near Quinton, Belleville, NJ
973-844-0500
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top portuguese/spanish/brazilian eats in newark area