There aren’t too many cabbies in this world who can pull off a purple fedora and “make a potato salad that’ll slap your mama.” Constance Marie Barnes is one of them. The diminutive cabby, whom I met in 2010, also recommended what is to this day one of my favorite restaurants on the planet (The Door, in Jamaica, Queens) and inspired me to get my hack license.
It’s both sentimentality and gratitude that lead me back to The Door every time I come to New York City. On this visit, as on every visit, it was a joy to eat here, though I was a little apprehensive at first: They’ve renovated the restaurant since I was here last, and I was afraid all the new elegance might somehow impact the food, make it more undemocratic. Not so.
Besides new signage, new lighting, a tiled fountain in the foyer, hand-painted murals on the walls, and a lot more tables, The Door has added a take-out wing that’s open until 11pm from Sunday-Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. This is wonderful news for all of us, but especially for those of us who happen to be stuck at JFK, which is just a 10-minute cab ride away.
In other words, if you’re driving a cab and you’re hungry, or if your plane is delayed and you’re hungry, you can now pop over to The Door’s new take-out counter and get a small portion of curried goat to go for just $8.50 (or a large portion for $10) and find sustenance approaching the sublime. I’m not exaggerating. I can count on one hand the dishes I’ve tried time and again that taste even better than I remember. This curried goat is one of them.
Curried goat at The Door may be the reason Constance Marie can’t be a vegan, but, as is the case with all food-loving New Yorkers, the list of things she loves to eat is long and constantly changing. Lately, she told me, she’s been stopping at Bread & Honey, a grocery store cum deli cum salad bar cum diner for the “culinarily curious” in midtown Manhattan. According to their website, they prepare each and every one of the 50-plus dishes on their impressive buffet in-house.
Last week, not long after landing in New York City, I beelined it to Bread & Honey, where the man behind the counter was working his first day at the grill, which meant that he didn’t quite know how to make the Spicy Korean BBQ burger, which was supposed to be a “Bulgogi marinated fresh ground beef patty topped with our homemade kimchi, sauteed onions, julienned carrots and scallions and generously drizzled with gochujang aioli on a Brioche roll,” but turned out to be a conventional burger with kimchi. I have to tell you, though, that that kimchi did wonderful things — things few, if any, pickles are capable of — for this burger. I can only wonder how much better it might taste if it were prepared as described on the menu.
Point Brazil in Astoria, Queens is another of Constance Marie’s new favorite places I got to try the last time I was in New York. This is where sisters Elzi and Erli Botelho Ribeiro, who come from Bahia on northeastern coast of Brazil, make dishes they describe as “simple Brazilian house wife cooking” and sell them for $6-8 a pound.
On Saturdays and only on Saturdays, you can try their “Taste of Bahia”, a $12-platter of vatapá (creamy shrimp and coconut milk stew), caruru de quiabo (okra gumbo with onions and ginger), bacalao salad, and moqueca (whitefish stew with coconut milk). On Saturdays and Sundays, they serve a solid feijoada.
If you happen to go on another day of the week, Elzi and Erli cook 14 or so dishes for their hot bar (e.g. meatballs, oxtails, beef stew with yuca) and make a cold bar with salads and fruit. “The buffet’s greatest strength,” writes Dave Cook in The New York Times, “is not vastness — though there’s plenty to choose from — but freshness. Rarely does a pan run low.” For a lot of Point Brazil’s fans, and there are a lot of them, the churrasco station is the highlight: Whether you’re in the mood for top sirloin, chicken or pork sausages, or chicken hearts, it’s a good place to give in to your carnivorous desires.
163-07 Baisley Blvd
Jamaica, NY 11434
Open: Sun-Thu: 8am-11pm; Fri-Sat: 8am-12am
Bread & Honey
941 Eighth Ave. (bet. 55th/56th Streets)
New York, NY 10019.
38-01 31st Ave
Astoria, NY 11103
Open: 7 days, 7:30am-10pm