50-something restaurants, four boroughs (no Staten Island – alas!), a sell-out crowd of very hungry New Yorkers, food bloggers and those who love them converged at Monday’s Choice Eats extravaganza in the 69th Armory on Lexington Ave.
I went with a very specific mission: to find the very best cabbie-friendly foods among the eateries present.
I got a little sidetracked by the shrimp rolls from Luke’s Lobster (dressed with mayo, lemon butter, and a dusting of tarragon) and Fatty Crab’s dark chocolate (with chili, almond and Maldon salt) before settling into a search for restaurants specializing in cheap, fast, and tasty that also happen to be near taxi stands (or reasonable parking options).
It didn’t take long to find deliciousness that fit that description in the form of a cachapa (corn pancake) with chicken, vegetable mayo and lettuce from Patacon Pisao.
The restaurant is headquartered in Queens (85-22 Grand Ave, Elmhurst), but they also sell Venezuelan patacones – meat-filled sandwiches dressed with sour cream, cilantro, lettuce and tomato that use crushed green plantains instead of bread – from a truck that’s usually parked on West 202nd St. in Inwood. Legend has it that the hardest place to find parking in Upper Manhattan is wherever Patacon Pisao’s truck happens to be.
Haitian griot – small chunks of fried pork marinated in sour orange juice – from Krik Krak (844 Amsterdam Ave near 101st St., Upper West Side) was as impressive as Patacon’s cachapa. Rich and fatty and balanced out by a scotch bonnet pepper and cabbage hot sauce, it was so good I forgot to take a picture.
“Once a cabbie hangout dominated by a busy bar, Krik Krak has become a proper Haitian eatery,” says New York magazine. This cabbie is definitely going to spend some time there.
Pork also stole the show at the Congee Village booth (100 Allen St & 207 Bowery, Lower East Side/Bowery) in the form of bite-sized ribs (salty, sweet and sour) that overshadowed the ho-hum walnut shrimp they were serving. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven past this Chinese restaurant and been tempted to pause. Now I know it’s worth stopping.
When it came to tasty/fast/cheap that’s worth a detour to Queens, it was a tie between two dishes: soothing buckwheat soup from Mustang Thakali Kitchen (74-14 37th Ave., Jackson Heights) and kadavi (silky, delicate chickpea flour noodles) from Rajbhog Sweets & Snacks (72-27 37th Ave., Jackson Heights).In the end, they ran out of gua bao (Taiwanese steamed buns) with beef and pork at Baohaus, easily the most mobbed booth of the night. And I discovered that the Argentine offerings at El Almacen (including break-apart tender beef braised in mate) probably go beyond a taxi driver’s salary.
By 9pm, it became more about eating for sport than for pleasure, and that’s just about when I left – with a bag of swag and a handful of new places I know I can hit while I’m on duty.
More photos from Choice Eats