North of Sunset Park, grocery store and taqueria El Tenampa offers a tempting mix of filling sandwiches and tripe soup with all the Mexican groceries and snacks that you could hope for. Here's how to make the most of your visit.
Sunset Park, Brooklyn
While I can't say that the food court at Fei Long Market deserves a pin to merit its own excursion, it's certainly worth having on your radar. If you're shopping in the Fei Long market or passing through Brooklyn Chinatown when that irrational hunger hits, let it lead you to the food court.
The crowds form early for dim sum at this Sunset Park favorite. Follow them for some very good dumplings, prompt, agreeable service, and the kind of palatial ambiance that makes dim sum so much fun.
While tasty, the vegetable dishes at Metro Cafe lack the irresistible kick of peppercorns and hot chiles, and seem intended as a more neutral counterpoint to meat-heavy Suchuan classics such as mapo tofu, hot pot, and cumin lamb.
These fried buns at Sunset Park's most notable dim sum parlor walk the line between savory and sweet.
Kofte Piyaz is principally a Turkish meat house in Sunset Park that looks like a small diner. Gyros, sujuk (Turkish sausage), and meatballs (the namesake kofte) dominate the menu, but it's the Lentil Soup that has me thinking about the restaurant days after my meal.
Rice noodles are the mainstay of Yun Nan Flavour Snack in Brooklyn's Chinatown. Their menu is a pared-down affair. For some reason, items one through six are left blank, so the menu actually begins with number seven, their cold-dressed rice noodles. The rest of the menu comprises mostly those same rice noodles in various soups.
The are two broths at Mister Hotpot: a spicy one with lots of chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, what have you, and a not-spicy one. You can order one broth for your meal or split the pot and get both. While the spicy broth is perfectly fine, it's that non-spicy "special broth," made with pork bones and various spices—cinnamon, star anise, and a more esoteric Chinese spice called cai guo, that will outperform most. It is the most important thing about Mister Hotpot, this broth of theirs.
Huddled under the BQE overpass, on a somber stretch of Third Avenue otherwise characterized by liquor shops and 24-hour "video" stores, is a breath of fresh air: Rossman Farms, a purveyor of a staggering variety of fruits and vegetables sold at jaw-droppingly low prices.
Celebrate Dias de los Muertos with pan de muerto, an eggy, yeasted sweet bread with a cross of bones baked on top, from Panaderia La Espiga Real.
When Tacos Matamoros is too crowded, head south to the sequel: Tacos Matamoros II, for the same owners, the same menu, and the same delicious chalupas.
I'm not shooting for the moon at dim sum. Is it fresh? It is piping-hot? Check? Check? Well, alright, then. The steamed rice rolls were the best of my recent meal at New Spring Garden, which serves a respectable dim sum, at times great.
The cart at 45th Street and 5th Avenue in Sunset Park may not have a name, but they do have a short and sweet menu of esquites, elotes, and gorditas, plus homemade juices and a green sauce that leaves you breathless.
These days, local tortillas, rounds of cotija cheese, and fresh serrano chiles are about as difficult to find in a supermarket as a box of Domino sugar. Neverthelss, as Mexican ingredients become more available, it can still be difficult to find the rare stuff. Enter Atlixco Deli Grocery, a grocery with two locations, one in Sunset Park and another in Jackson Heights, sprinting above and beyond in their selection of obscure Mexican goods.
It may be small and scummy, but Alimentos Saludables, a tamale outpost in Sunset Park is serving the real deal: a true Mexican breakfast of champurrado, arroz con leche, and some of the best tamales in the city, if you catch them on a good day. Plus—a tamale sandwich!
When Taqueria Xochimilco slipped away a month or so ago, I was crestfallen. Taqueria la Paz has opened in its place, with new owners, a different menu, and a cheery awning featuring a hard-shell taco wearing a mustache and a focus on breakfast classics.
There's a lot more to Sunset Park than just tacos; our crawl through the neighborhood made some surprising finds, including Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche and a breakfast torta that could stop a hangover dead in its tracks.
Ishwer Patel has owned this independent grocery in Sunset Park for 30 years. The welcoming staff, carefully curated stock, and ready to eat meals are all major draws of this Indian grocery, mere footsteps from the 53rd Street R train.
Almost everything is well prepared at Tacos Cachanilla, a Sunset Park taqueria, from the handmade tortillas to the platters of barbacoa blanca to the freshly fried chile rellenos. And if you order wrong? The three house salsas and some excellent rice and beans will boost you in the right direction.
The tamales from La Güera, a modest taqueria in Sunset Park, are fantastic renditions of a perfect, portable food. Tamales ($1.50) sit at the front in an Igloo cooler, all the easier peddle to pedestrians and still warm at midday. There are smoky mole tamales with dark black centers, cheese and green chili versions, and sweet pineapple-infused tamales that sometimes hold dried plums. But the phenomenal banana leaf-wrapped oaxaqueño tamales that are cause for celebration.