The first thing that impressed me was the decor. The space has a nice open feeling to it and features some nice splashes of color, making it feel slightly upscale - but not so over the top that you don't feel at comfortable.
Next the food was a real pleasure to eat, and the menu had a nice wide range of choices. I also appreciated that fact that their menu was very vegetarian friendly, which makes a real difference for me. In my book you always get extra points when there are not one, but several items that a veggie can order - and Taco Chulo passes with flying colors.
Taco Chulo is the kind of place where you can go on your own or take a party of friends to hang out on a Sunday (did I mention they have a fully stocked bar?). The service was pretty fast and friendly, yet not too in your face which is very good if you're hanging out with friends. And last but not lest the pricing was very reasonable.
The Williamsburg Nerd rates Taco Chulo:
+ Bonus Points for being Veggie Friendly
318 Grand Street (btwn Havemeyer & Marcy)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Phone 718-302-CHULO (2485)
PLANET THAILAND 212 or "PT212" as it will become known, is pleased to announce its official opening in New York City at the end of May 2006, after a decade of successful business in its first and original location in Williamsburg. Planet Thailand ranks #1 as Brooklyn's most popular Thai eatery and hotspot. The Manhattan outpost, PLANET THAILAND 212, is located at 30 West 24th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, New York 10010, standing apart as a distinct and colourful, new enterprise with a history, within the rapidly redeveloping, landmark environs of Madison Square Park and the Flatiron.
Paramount to the dining experience at PT212, will be affordable sushi and Thai delights in abundance. The PT212 menu is nicely edited with all-time (Pad) Thai and sushi favourites, but allows for the chef team's daily inventiveness via a daily-evolving "East Meets West" Specials Entrée Menu, and a dedicated sushi bar seating six.
Requisite exotic cocktails are served at a large concrete bar in artful glassware or a simple coconut shell, and may be enjoyed while listening to pleasant sounds of a live DJ spinning nightly, and at a tasteful decibel level. All elements of cuisine, comfort, style and function have been well conceived to serve the needs of the city's most discerning revellers.
Ventilation is state of the art, which can be a concern in any large Asian eatery, but here creates the perfect balance. The Bissazza-tiled, gold-leaf and chandeliered, unisex loo facilities are not to be missed, as they are conveniently located both up and downstairs.
It's funny, not being an insider I never quite looked for ventilation as being such an important factor - but I can see their point...
If you're looking for a way to make someone say 'yes', coffee can help. Moderate amounts of caffeine can have an impact on the extent to which we can be persuaded, finds research published today in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
The Australian researchers from the University of Queensland found that with caffeine consumption we are more likely to attend to, and agree with, persuasive arguments.
The experiments involved asking people their attitudes about voluntary euthanasia before and after reading persuasive arguments against their initial beliefs. Prior to reading the arguments, the participants consumed orange juice with either caffeine (equivalent to two cups of coffee) or no caffeine (placebo).
The level of 'systematic processing of the message' was found to be increased by caffeine as shown by increased agreement with the arguments, greater message-related thinking and better argument recall.
Now even though Zocalo uses the term "TexMex fast food" that's a bit of an unfair description. Not only did the food taste great, but if you sit down the presentation is nice (real plates!) and the service is very warm and friendly. The have all the standard items that you would expect to see like burritos and nachos - but there are a few neat items on the menu that you wont see at most other places. For example the "Zocalo Burrito" features eggs mexican style and onions. The prices are very reasonable too, about $5 to $7.50 for a range of burritos - although budget minded hipsters can go for $2 tacos. There are only a few vegetarian items on the menu, but the ones that are there taste great and they seem to be willing to alter the ingrediens for you.
If your local train stop is the Marcy J line this place is perfect for grabbing dinner before heading home. Zocalo also does take-out and delivery and arre open up from around 11am to 10pm every day.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
P.S. So for all of you wondering what Zocalo is a reference to, it seems to be a great square in Mexico City that pays tribute to the native Mexican culture:
I just read a review of Capone's at 221 North 9th Street, this place sounds good:
"It never hurts to have a gimmick, and that's especially true when you're running a joint on the bar-infested streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. One place to have confronted this problem head-on is Capone's, which hands out free 10-inch or so cheese pizzas the way most places serve bar napkins -- one per drink. Made fresh and with a good, chewy crust, the pies easily surpass many of the often plasticky slices sold for $1.75 in this fair city. (If you want a topping, they'll charge you $2 for the first one, and $1 after that.)"
Here is the official website:
It looks very hipster friendly too:
Forget Con Ed, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon — the one true monopoly in Williamsburg is the Kellogg's Diner. It's the only place for miles around that's open 24 hours a day seven days a week. Being a night owl the diner has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, it's never been about the food but being able to escape an apartment at 4:30 am. It's also a great place to people watch and it's the spot for hipsters to hang out after clubbing.
So I'm sitting there today and I notice that the entire deli wing of the establishment has been walled off — it seems the diner is planning some renovations to upgrade the place (including the quality of the food from what I understand). What scares me is that there is suppose to be a short period of time (I was told maybe February) when they'll close for a while and gut the interior. The only thing that makes me nervous about this is that sometimes an establishment can go under, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. I also hope that when they come back they stay open 24/7. In the meantime if you want to see their vintage bicentennial decor while enjoying the most greasy onion rings in all of Brooklyn you better get over there.
Photo found via the chomper.
Up until now for Mexican in Williamsburg I've always had to walk west over the BQE to get good Mexican (places like Zocalo, Buffalo Cantina and Taco Chulo) so I was very happy to discover Taco Bite which just opened on Rodney by South 4th just a block from my apartment on Keap Street.
The first thing that hits you is that the food is authentic and tastes great. My "regular" on the menu is their vegetarian burrito which always includes fresh veggies in addition to the usual rice and beans and always includes some chips and a very sharp salsa. I haven't tried it yet but they also have fried ice cream on the menu which looks amazing. In addition to the usual Jarritos they also have margaritas and espresso too. The decoration and service is nice, so you wouldn't mind hanging out there with your friends for a relaxing afternoon.
I haven't checked it out yet but they also offer a breakfast menu which includes non-Mexican treats like waffles and pancakes (they open at 7am if you're an early bird). Most nights they're also open late until 10pm, and on Friday and the weekend they're open until 11pm — although on Mondays they're closed. If you like to order in they have free delivery for orders over $10 (and they accept credit cards):
Taco Bite Restaurant
310 South 4th Street (by Rodney)
Brooklyn, New York 11211
For my Memorial Day brunch I was craving a breakfast burrito in a hurry, so I was in a bit of a fix as I found out that both Taco Bite and Buffalo Cantina were sadly closed. But lucky for me I hiked up a few blocks to Taco Chulo and it made up for my wandering around Havemeyer.
While I wasn't able to jot down the name of the above dish (it was the first item on their menu and started with the letter "M") I was quite blown away: It featured eggs with tortilla strips, cheese, jalapeños and crema (which was like a light sour cream). On the side they had amazing seasoned home fries, fresh black beans and a refreshing radish salad. I hadn't noticed this item on the menu before, but I know I'm going to try it again (and again).
What I like about Taco Chulo is that they're very vegetarian friendly, in fact I always enjoy it there because there are more than a few items to pick from on the menu. It's also great that they're able to combine a nice looking establishment with a sense of being relaxed, which is perfect for brunch.
318 Grand Street (btwn Havemeyer & Marcy)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Phone 718-302-CHULO (2485)
Update: The name of the dish is Migas! Yummy...
Manna is located at Grand Street and Lorimer and serves Middle Eastern food. The main draw to me is that fact that it's open 24/7 which in itself is a selling point since Uncle Mina retired and Kellogg's Diner is on hiatus.
As a vegetarian I like the fact that they have plenty of choices for me on the menu — their platters are the best thing to order. The baba ghanoush, tabouli and falafel are good bets, although I've had mixed results with the hummus so far. I'm also not impressed with the quality of the pita bread, they don't have whole wheat and my thinking is that even if the pita is average heating it up helps.
In terms of service is pretty good and the place is clean, although the only problem during the Summer months is a lack of air conditioning (of course many folks do the take out thing). So for me right now Manna is my default destination after hours when I'm hungry and looking for something healthy.
Update from July 27th 2008: I went back and tried one of the desserts which was just amazing! The only problem was that the hipster behind the counter didn't know the name of the dessert (he also should have heated it up as well). So if you're dropping in on Manna late at night give the desserts a shot.
Grand St & Lorimer St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Link: Yelp Review
Being a vegetarian I often dread going to a new restaurant because I always hit that issue of "will there be anything on the menu for me?" On average I can always find at least one thing, and my favorite places will often have multiple items on a menu. Things are better than they were say twenty years ago, but it's still hard (and I'm just a vegetarian not a hardcore vegan or anything). So to me Foodswings is quite a blessing — it's a nice oasis for me.
Located on 295 Grand Street it's a nice small place just a few storefronts off of the main drag at Havemeyer. If you're a vegetarian with a big thing against "mock meat" this isn't going to be the place for you - them menu is loaded with everything from faux Chick'n Nuggets a Philly Cheese Steak. I guess I should also point out that this is by no means "health food" the point of this place is that it's a "vegan fast food joint" (although it should be noted that all of the items are indeed not vegan — but that's alright with me). What Foodswings is perfect for is vegetarian comfort food: An example of this is the A-Diggity Dog shown above which features two soy hot dogs with all of the guilty fixings like relish and sauerkraut.
Shown next to the soy dogs is a classic vanilla shake — again this isn't healthy for you but tastes great (although one should note that the scale of said beverage isn't too bad). In fact one of the strong points of Foodswings is the shakes and they do have an amazing variety, their menu features everything from a Vegan Hurricane to a Mojito float. The prices are very reasonable and the service is always good and as a plus they do deliver. They are closed Monday, but make up for it by the fact that they are open most weekdays until midnight and up to 2am on Friday and Saturday.
295 Grand Street, Brooklyn NY 11211
A few months ago I was informed that Kellogg's Diner would be "closed for renovations" by a waiter. Everyone I know in the Burg claims to hate Kellogg's — in fact I've been told about tales of food posing. But the cold hard fact remains that within 11211 there are no other 24 hour diners to be found! Adding to that I've found that "closed for renovations" can often be a polite way of saying "closed for good". One of the reasons for that even if the owners want to change a few things sometimes the lack of cash flow or going over budget with construction can doom a restaurant before it reopens. And making matters even more desperate for yours truly Uncle Mina has retired and his nieces don't like keeping the joint open up late.
So I've been pretty happy to notice that actual renovations were taking place at Kellogg's Diner. The entire exterior is now gentrified, err "modernized" — that is if you can call a faux 50s exterior modern any more. Gone is the bodega in the back, it was looking like Kellogg's Diner was getting serious even though essentially they are a monopoly as the only place you'll find another 24/7 diner is in Manhattan.
If you peek though the windows (as shown below) the Bicentennial era interior design is history. The new decor looks — well it looks slightly more up to date than what we had before, and if nothing else there seems to be a flat screen TV glued to the wall:
But then my heart breaks upon spotting this little poster in the window! Sadly it looks like our good friends at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have shut down Kellogg's before it could reopen:
So this begged the question: How could they be closed down for health code violations if they didn't have any food in the place? So I did some research and what I read next made me a bit sick. I made the mistake of looking at the last inspection notice for Kellogg's and was a bit shocked (but maybe not surprised) to find out that they didn't close to remodel but were in fact shut down by the DOHMH! This report was from April 9th, 2008. I guess for now my health is safe, but without a 24/7 diner my mental hygiene is hurting a bit. I hope Kellogg's has learned their lesson has has cleaned up their act.
The old Kellogg's Diner was a local landmark for one reason: it was the only place on this side of the river where you could find a diner that was open 24/7 no matter what. The flip side of this was everything else — the food was terrible, the service was non-existent, they had health code violations and even the shabby non-chic decor was hard on the eyes. That said beggars can't be choosers and it was what it was.
So on Friday my friend informed me that she visited the re-opened spot and her first reaction was that the interior design looked like a bad 80s diner complete with sad looking lobsters on display to greet you in the front. So starving on a Sunday night I decided to check out my old haunt, and things had changed a bit — but maybe not for the worst.
Niña's 2 Restaurant & Pizzeria (located at 486 Metropolitan Avenue) was always a decent place for slices, but sadly I went there today and they were closed. Their quality had up and down points, but they were pretty much the best place in the hood for slices. I also enjoyed ordering pasta from them too. I also noticed the trucking rental place behind their location was has moved, but I don't think it's related as there was a "For Rent" sign at Nina's.
Buffalo Cantina was one of my first discoveries upon moving into Williamsburg, I've sort of always thought of it as my "old reliable" spot for very veggie friendly Mexican. Shown here are their nachos.
Buffalo Cantina, 149 Havemeyer Street near South 2nd Street
I've always wandered by the Atlas Cafe, but strange as it sounds I've never gone into the place! Well what you see on the outside is pretty much what you get on the inside, it's pretty much a study hall of geeks looking at their laptops while slipping their caffeinated beverage of choice. I did find the quality of my hot chocolate to be grand — although the only catch was that by the time I navigated over the many power cables stretched all over the floor that I forgot the password for their wifi system! That said the place is pretty much a geek home-away-from home and I'll be coming back...
The Atlas Cafe
116 Havemeyer St (between Grand St & Hope St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
While there are a ton of sushi places by Bedford frankly once you start to head east there isn't much to be found that's of high quality. So if you're like me and your stomping ground is Havemeyer while there's quite a bit of tex-mex there is little to no sushi to be found in the hood — and it's for that reason that Qoo is now my official local default place for sushi:
The quality of the sushi was good, the presentation was elegant and the service was A+. I just stopped by to have three quick rolls and the meal started with complementary edamame and ended with some nice green tea on the house. I only had three simple rolls, but each was great. Not only that but on Saturday they're open until 2am and on weekdays they're there until midnight. Add to that some nice interior design and a rare decent selection of sake and I'd say that Qoo is a keeper. I plan on returning...
Qoo Robata Bar
Neighborhood: Brooklyn/Williamsburg - South Side
367 Metropolitan Ave (at Havemeyer St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211 (718) 384-9493
Upon the demise of Nina's 2 I had experienced a sad gap of not having a local default pizzeria for straight slices. Now I did go to Sal's Pizzeria (located at 544 Lorimer St) and they did have some great grandma slices (and I will be returning) but their plain slices were more on the average.
So a friend who use to live in the hood then recommended San Marco to me and I have to say that I was very pleased. Make no mistake this isn't high end coal oven goodness, but good old fashioned slices. I'll have to make a few trips back to further explore their menu, but my understanding is that the pasta is worth checking out and that their killer secret is a high quality cappuccinos.
San Marco Pizzeria
577 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
It's funny that my photo of his place got screwed up because that sort of mirrors my experience at Comic Burger. As a long time fanboy looking for an excuse to blow my diet for just one evening I was rooting for this place before I walked into it. Being a vegetarian I always have a fear walking into any burger joint that they'll screw up my order and swap the veggie burger with dead cow. And as if Lex Luthor was the chef my fears came true!
In my never ending quest for he perfect slice I gave Curioso a shot: This place just opened up, so to be fair I have to give them some room as they were still getting their act together. I tried their veggie and white slices which were decent — the crust was nice and thin which is a plus in my book. The veggie slice was alright but not great (the ingredients took it down a notch with bland olives), so my hunch is that one should keep it simple when ordering there.
I've always walked by Mizo on Bedford Avenue, but never quite gave it a try — so recently after seeing Planet Thailand become totally packed I knew it was time to try something new. The first thing that will hit you is that the place looks great, which really ads to your dining experience if you're hanging out with friends. When I went there they had the front windows open to the street which gave the place a nice hang out feeling: