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Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Hamid Rashidzada's Alphabet City (and East Village)
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Hamid Rashidzada is what you'd call a community fixture, having lived in Alphabet City for the past 22 years. Along with his partner (and fellow Mercer Kitchen alum) Greg Seider, Hamid owns both Summit Bar, a narrow, 1960's-inspired cocktail lounge, and the year-old Prima, a classic French fish restaurant. Thus far, his ventures have been as local as possible: many of Summit Bar's cocktails are shaken with herbs from Hamid's own rooftop garden. Likewise, Prima is strictly a neighborhood affair, featuring a menu designed by the chefs of nearby Motorino, Bowery Diner (the coffee program comes from Ninth Street Espresso). You'd be hard-pressed to find a better guide to Alphabet City dining than the former vegetarian with a taste for a bacon cheeseburger deluxe. Below, Hamid shares his off-menu pizza sandwich order and other secrets only a local could know.
Pizza, slice: The Turkish guys at East Village Pizza know how to make a really good slice. The tomato sauce isn't sweet, and they use good cheese.
Pizza pie: My friend Mathieu, who owns Motorino, makes some of the best Neopolitan style pizza. I get the brussels sprout and pancetta pie.
Burger, cheap: Odessa is a classic, Greek-owned, 24-hour diner with an affordable bacon cheeseburger deluxe. I get the fries disco-ed. I only go here at like, 3 AM: that's why they call them disco fries. I've been getting this for more than 15 years.
Burger, fancy: The Black Iron burger is classic. To me, a burger is a bacon cheeseburger deluxe. I get it medium rare with cheddar cheese, fries, and veggie fries, which are string beans fried in batter. They're delicious.
Coffee: I go to Ninth Street Espresso every morning. I get a six-ounce espresso, which is like a miniature latte because it comes blended with milk
Sandwich: It's an off-menu item. At Gnocco, Federico the pizzaiolo makes these cool sandwiches where he takes the pizza dough, cooks it like a loaf, and adds bresaola marinated in lemon juice, fresh arugula, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and parmegiano reggiano. The marinade cooks the bresaola a bit so it's like a crudo-style dish. My puppy goes crazy for it too.
Bagel: I get a plain toasted bagel with two slices of provolone, sliced tomato, butter, salt and pepper from the Yankee Two Deli. They know my order there.
Delivery food: Westville East is my healthy delivery option. I order a range of the vegetables, the mac 'n' cheese, the simple grilled chicken, and one of the crazy salads. It's a really clean, no-frills, simply-cooked product, the way I would cook at home if I had the time. It's the kind of food you'd make at a barbecue with your friends.
Dive bar: There's a social club on the second floor of a building on Avenue C, called Speakeasy. It used to actually be a speakeasy, but they've been legal for about 8 years. The owner Vito is the master of ceremonies; he provides the hospitality. I play pool there and drink a Negro Modelo and a Johnnie Walker Black: neat, uncut.
Cocktail bar: One of our guys from Summit partnered to open Wayland across the street. That's my favorite place to go for cocktails right now. They play really cool nostalgic live jazz on the upright piano, and it feels very impromptu. They have a new spring cocktail menu, so I tasted a Michelada the other day that I fell in love with, made with a smokier mezcal.
Ice cream: Chikalicious Dessert Bar serves a la carte items. They do some crazy stuff, like a great, old-school soft-serve ice cream. When we got mentioned in the Times, I bought Chef David the strawberry shortcake and he loved it.
Takeout Chinese: I'm addicted to the General Tso's chicken at A & C Kitchen. I've been going there at least ten years. They make a battered chicken in sweet and sour sauce—it's all the parts of the chicken, so each nugget tastes different. I get that with white rice and plain steamed broccoli. I ask for $2 extra broccoli.
Falafel: Mamoun's is a staple. I get the falafel with salad and white sauce, but I steer clear of their spicy sauce.
Late-night eats: After I finish work around 4 AM, I go to Bereket. I get the ground spicy chicken kebab platter, which comes with Turkish-style white rice and a tomato-cucumber salad with sumac.
Date night: Edi and the Wolf is very sexy for dinner or brunch. It's dark, with a lot of interesting details, since the designer/partner is a set designer. I order the sirloin steak, which is an adequate portion (not too much meat), and it's sliced to order. My wife gets the chicken. I get an Austrian-style beer and she gets an Austrian white, depending on whatever Edi suggests.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: Café Mogador does something very special—they don't stop service from the moment they open to the moment they close. They just keep changing menus. I've been going for 22 years. I usually go for lunch, and always get the mixed platter (baba ganoush, hummus, tabouleh, and salad, served with warm pita), and then the mixed grill, which is a combination of vegetables, chicken, lamb and merguez kebabs, served with basmati rice. It's so delicious. I also love the lemonade they make there, and I usually get a Duvel that gives me a nice afternoon buzz. It works really well with those two platters.