Eater critic Robert Sietsema’s 10 favorite dishes during the coronavirus pandemic


Since the city has been locked down to fight the coronavirus, our ability to buy food from restaurants is limited. After the city halted indoor dining on Monday, March 16, a small proportion of restaurants remained open for transportation and delivery, although that number increased significantly. While many of my friends have gone for delivery, I have never liked using delivery services, not only because they usually take a big chunk of the profits, but because they put delivery people at risk. Delivery men wait long intervals to get food from restaurants, navigate stuffy streets avoiding traffic, and enter dozens of apartment buildings a day.

Much better, I thought, to collect the food myself from the restaurant and consume it nearby. It is a calculated risk that I am willing to take.

Over the months, outdoor restaurants were finally created. I felt safe in these spaces, not only because they were outside, where the possibilities of transmission are less numerous, but I enjoyed eating in the midst of the hubbub of the city, and these institutions are one of the most visible signs of the era of the pandemic. Nevertheless, I chose my establishments carefully, choosing places where a safe distance was assured.

Although I cook a lot at home and shop at farmers’ markets because I don’t feel safe in crowded supermarkets, I have eaten a lot of good food in restaurants over the past four months. Here are the 10 best things I swallowed, in ranked order. This list is offered with immense gratitude to those who continued to cook and serve during the pandemic. Note that while my usual lineup spans all five boroughs and New Jersey and Long Island, I’m currently limited to areas that I can reach with my bike. Maybe soon I will brave the metro again.

10. Fish skins to Dante West Village

Fried chicken skins have gradually become a thing over the past few years. They were popularized in Charleston at Husk ten years ago. But the fish skins? Salmon skin has always been popular in Japanese restaurants, and perhaps Dante’s recipe was partly inspired by this cuisine. The pickled, crunchy fish skins ($ 10), which dissolves in the mouth, are additionally flavored with Chinese salted egg yolk, which adds color to the epidermal pile and increases richness. 551, rue Hudson, rue Perry, West Village

9. Tacos Birria chez Flip Flops Birria Tacos

Hailing from Jalisco, but reaching us via Tijuana and LA, birria is a miraculous goat or beef stew, laced in Chile, the latter more common here. Although the phenomenon is currently limited to places serving birries, appear regularly. The latest to offer the dish is the Chinelos Birria Tacos van parked near the East River waterfront in Hunters Point, Long Island City. At three tacos for $ 10 it’s a steal, the beef is tangy, plentiful and bright red. The tortillas were first dipped in gravy, and on request you can get a cup of stew on the side to dip the tacos in as you eat, as it does. 48th Avenue and Center Boulevard across from Gantry Plaza State Park, Long Island City

8. Salad of flamed beets and nectarines at Wildair

Wildair has recently reopened with a modest presence on the streets and a fascinating throughout the day menu of sandwiches, salads and other small dishes. I’m always a fan of salads with fruit in savory dressings, and this is one of the best. The badger flamed beet and nectarine chunks in this salad ($ 8) are somewhat similar in size and color, but the former is firm and the latter firmer, with an herbal flavor and slightly oily texture. Seasonal Nirvana! 142 Orchard Street, between Rivington and Delancey streets, Lower East Side

Beetroot orange salad and nectarines, cut into cubes.

7. Chicken with basil Terra Thai

This siamese newcomer from Alphabet City comes to us via Boulder, Colorado. So far, it only offers five take-out options, all priced around $ 10 and side dishes, which is a steal. My favorite, the Chicken Basil, is considered Bangkok’s street food. The poultry is made into well-cooked tendrils, interspersed with sweet peppers and powerfully flavored with the leafy herbs and chili peppers, perfect when dumped over the rice in the adjacent plastic container, which also has a baked sweet potato as a bonus. steamed and a poached egg. 518 E 6th Street, between avenues A and B, East Village

Minced chicken in a black baking tray with rice, a poached egg and pumpkin.

6. Sopska and Kafana

The dog days of summer are upon us, when you can fry an egg on the black roof and it’s not chilly even in the evening. While there are a lot of dishes that I enjoyed one evening literally sitting on the street in Kafana, one of the few Serbian restaurants in town, the one I remember most is this pronounced version of the Balkan salad “Shopska”. Here very ripe tomatoes were juxtaposed with cukes and clouds of feta cheese – which didn’t bring rain, but tasted great nonetheless. Oh, the cooling effects of a good salad. 116 Avenue C, between 7th and 8th streets, East Village

A bowl of tomatoes, cucumbers and fluffy white ricotta.

5. Chorizo ​​and cemita with potatoes Tulcingo del Valle

Nothing beats a cemita Pueblan sandwich for great flavors in a small package. In this case ($ 10.50), the sandwich is loaded with sausage and potatoes, but those provide a small portion of the flavor and texture. Plus, avocado lends slickness, Oaxacan cheese lends dairy richness, and there’s extra weight and nourishment from refried beans. But the flavor that stands out the most and sets cemita de la torta apart is papalo, an oblong green leaf that smells of brush fire and adds a flavor not found almost anywhere else in the city. 665 10th Avenue, between 47e and 48e rues, Hell’s Kitchen

A sandwich wrapped in waxed paper halves held side by side, oozing ingredients.

4. Jerk Chicken at Peppa’s

On a Saturday bike ride through Bedford-Stuyvesant, I couldn’t resist stopping at the brand new Peppa’s, just off Nostrand in the north of Crown Heights. The chicken (half for $ 9) was as good and cheap as I remembered, potent in its spice blend containing allspice, but also slightly tangy in its vinegar dip. The bird has retained its spectacular succulence, and damn if I didn’t want this mini-chain to establish a branch in my neighborhood. Also remember to order festival, a linear shaped donut, it’s the natural accompaniment to jerk chicken. 791 Prospect Place, between Nostrand and Rogers avenues, Crown Heights

A round aluminum container of jerk chicken.

3. Koong karee Soothr

Gradually, the amazing flavors of Thai-Chinese hybrid cuisine from Bangkok crept into the city. The latest is at Soothr in the East Village, which has what you might call a subspecialty in this collection of recipes. Koong karee ($ 18) is a dish associated with Yaowarat Road, the center of the capital’s Chinatown. The shrimp are submerged in a dense egg sauce, like you might find in some of New York City’s oldest Cantonese restaurants. It makes a very rich sauce indeed, especially when added with curry powder and Chinese celery. 204 East 13th Street, between Second and Third Avenues, East Village

Shrimps in a thick yellow sauce.

2. Smoked bamboo pork with Happy Hot Hunan

Hunan cuisine makes a lot of smoked, dried, and pickled ingredients, and this wonderful stir-fry ($ 17.95) emphasizes the smoky part of the equation. Pork belly has been processed extensively by this method, making it taste more like Carolina barbecue than American breakfast bacon; while bamboo shoots also have a smoky taste, but in a more creamy way, as if the smoking of dairy products is a phenomenon. Pickled red and fresh green peppers add a level of heat rarely found in American barbecue. 969 Amsterdam Avenue, between 107th and 108th streets, Upper West Side

A white plastic bowl containing a stir-fry.

1. Uyghur pilaf Caravan

No dish symbolizes the Silk Road better than this Uyghur pilaf ($ 12.99), known as plov, polo, and fried rice on other Central Asian menus. Rice cooked in lamb’s juice filtered through cheesecloth provides its base, sprinkled with the boiled lamb that results from the formation of the broth. Also boiled with the rice are sliced ​​carrots, which give color and sweetness to the dish, reminding us of the nomadic origins of many inhabitants along the Silk Road, where the range of vegetables available is limited. The wonderful yet simple flavors of this elementary dish are further amplified with Asian cumin, almost unbelievably tangy in this context.. 200 Water Street, between Fulton Street and John Street, South Street Seaport

Rice and carrots with small pieces of lamb on top.

551 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

791 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, NY 11216
(718) 450-3976

200 Water Street, New York, New York 1008


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