I’m doing an unusual one, I’m skipping the queue a bit since there’s a bit of a timeliness issue with this review (I’ll be returning to my Réunion reviews shortly). Last weekend, we managed to score a screamingly-good deal on hotel tickets to the NoMad Hotel in Manhattan through Jetsetter.com, so we decided to make a three-day weekend of checking out various eateries, museums (in particular, the new Whitney Museum and the Tenement Museum), and other sites that had been on our to-do lists for a while, while enjoying a nice hotel (and it’s associated cocktail bar, which we also rather like). Interestingly, however, in the two weeks leading up to our visit, several different sources all pointed me to an interesting new place opening to a bit of buzz in Astoria: Burnside Biscuits. These ranged from a NY Times article, something got posted to my twitter feed, and two NY-area contacts mentioned it to me on Facebook, and the various online reviews were very positive. So we decided to check it out. What I hadn’t realized is that Burnside Biscuits hadn’t even had their grand opening yet. I was a bit surprised how quiet Burnside was for a dinner on Friday, and our server said, “Oh, that’s because we are still doing our soft open.” Well, whatever various social media work they’ve been doing is working, since I certainly got the word, and I’m not that high up on the New York City food blog food chain. And it got us a nice little, quieter-than-normal intro to a place.
On our way up to our rental condo on the North Shore, every time we were leaving Kaneohe and heading north on the Kamehameha highway, we ran into two places that triggered my “Offbeat Eats” sense. One is an older place on the West side of the road called the Hygienic Store, which is basically a convenience store (the name comes from it’s former life as the “Hygienic Dairy”). We never made it in there, so we’ll have to save it for another trip. But across the street is some sort of abandoned business, but out in the parking lot are two food trucks that make up Mike’s Huli Huli Chicken. There was something cool about the hand-scrawled sign for chicken that make me interested, and when my friend Mark in Kaneohe mentioned that they were actually really, really good, we decided to follow up on it.
As I mentioned in my review of El Pollo Rico, it has been a long standing tradition of mine, on every trip to the Ballston area, to go out for pollo a la brasa (a.k.a. Peruvian chicken). Back when I started that tradition, there was basically one place in the area to get such chicken: El Pollo Rico, but in the intervening years a lot of other chicken places opened up. I had been to, and enjoyed many others, but one I hadn’t been to was Super Pollo (which has a half dozen or so DC area locations). But on my latest trip to Ballston, some traffic backup coming in from Dallas cut into my schedule a bit, and instead of my usual El Pollo Rico stop, I decided to instead hit Super Pollo, since it is literally right next to the client I was visiting.
This last week, we spent an extended weekend in Montreal. While we always enjoy a good trip to Montreal, this time we were coming for a specific event, Mondial De La Biere, Montreal’s Beer Festival. This was their 20th year of operation, and Mondial consistently has a good range of both Canadian and foreign brewers come in for a surprisingly low-key event (compared, to say, the Vermont Brewers Festival, there’s no entry fee, just beer tickets, and the crowds are surprisingly light). But one does not subsist on beer alone, so the trip also gave us a chance to both check in on various Montreal favorites, as well as check out some new (to us) places. Our first dinner in Montreal this visit came form meeting up with my friends Rick and Sarah (also in town for Mondial), and their buddy Nick (with daughter in tow). Nick, a Plateau resident, came up with our dinner locaiton: Nouveau Palais, up in the Mile-End neighorbhood.
My last day on this year’s trip to DC had me visiting several clients in Arlington. One of these had me walking between Virginia Square and Clarendon Metro around “late lunchtime”, and it was impossible for me to resist another trip to El Pollo Rico for pollo a la brasa (a.k.a. Peruvian chicken). Starting, oh, around 15 years ago at least, pollo a la brasa joints seemed to start popping up all over Arlington. Indeed, I can think of at least a half dozen off of the top of my head. But El Pollo Rico is one of the older ones. It’s also better and cheaper than some of its competitors (although I admit I have yet to do an exhaustive review of Arlington pollo a la brasa joints, fun as that would be), so between that and its location, it’s my go-to joint for chicken in Arlington…
Some times the voyage is just as good as the destination… While in New Orleans, I wanted to make it a point to pay another visit to Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Since my last visit here in 2001, this place has been through a lot, including being featured in John T Edge’s Fried Chicken book, getting a James Beard American Classics award in 2005, and getting seriously damaged in Katrina later in 2005. Long respected as one of the area’s (and heck, the country’s) best fried chicken places, Willie Mae’s is well off of the normal tourist beat, being up in the 7th Ward on St Ann, and a healthy hike from our hotel…
As part of a project at work, I travel fairly regularly (at least 4 times a year) to Edwards Air Force Base, which involves at least 7 hours of flying, usually arrive late at night and leaving late in the morning (since the return flight is usually a red-eye). So, we’ve come up with a tradition that every trip out there, we stop at Roscoe’s House of Chicken n’ Waffles, either as a way of restoring our spirits after a day of flying, or as a way of preparing ourselves for an upcoming red-eye flight (since it’s basically dinner and breakfast at the same time) Roscoe’s itself is an institution. Unless you’ve either been to Harlem, or been to Roscoe’s before, most people haven’t run into the particular combination of fried chicken and waffles served at the same time.
Okay, I admit, I’m close to running out of breakfast places to review, so I decided to start reviewing some lunch spots on days when I haven’t brought a lunch from home. However, I’m trying to focus on the more unique places, the out-of-the way spots, the locally-owned businesses, the hidden gems, and the good deals. And, most importantly, the places that are close enough to my office and fast enough that I can grab lunch, bring it back to my office in Etna, and eat it at a reasonable pace all within about 45 minutes or so. Today, it was Jake’s Market and Deli on Mechanic Street (a.k.a. the Mobil Station). What brings me to this particular gas station on a Tuesday at lunchtime? Chicken.
It’s not often that a restaurant draws me in right off of the street, but Mr Chicken in Watkins Glen, NY did exactly that. While heading to our camping spot at Watkins Glen State Park, right at the entrance to the park we noticed (and, just as importantly, smelled) Mr Chicken. The overall effect just screamed “chicken”, so we had to check it out.