This June, wouldn’t it be nice if we all got a real summer vacation? We could all use a couple of months of aimless bike rides, but these days most of us have to intentionally find ways to set our summer adrift. This column gives me an excuse—and hopefully gives you some inspiration—to wander the warming streets of Brooklyn (and beyond!) and stumble upon the things we didn’t know we needed: Guadalajaran hangover cures in Prospect Heights; piles of crispy Filipino pork and tall purple shakes in Carroll Gardens; burgers fashioned into funny faces in amusement parks. Follow me, friends! Summer 2022 is just getting started!
Sandwich of the Summer!
My sandwich of the summer is a torta ahogada, a “drowned sandwich” that’s hard to find outside the Western Mexico city of Guadalajara. Chef Hugo Orozco, formerly of the once-beloved (and now shuttered) Carroll Gardens restaurant Slowteria, pays tribute to his childhood home with this messy, savory sandwich, which is said to ease hangovers, or whatever else might be ailing you. At his new Prospect Heights restaurant, Cruz Del Sur, Orozco bakes his own birote, a super-crunchy sourdough bread, fills it with carnitas (or earthy, umami rich grilled oyster mushrooms, as a delicious plant-based alternative), and serves it in a pool of smooth, juicy tomato broth, with a fiery little bowl of chile de árbol sauce and pickled red onions on top. The cool temperature of the broth makes it possible for the bread to sop up the flavors without falling apart — it also makes the sandwich feel refreshing on a hot day.
Orozco has also spent time cooking in Tulum, and he brings some sultry beach vibes to the table in an incredible dish that’s seriously undersold on the menu as a mere “jicama fruit salad.” I’m still daydreaming about the paper-thin slices of jicama and pineapple artfully layered with cucumber ribbons, jalapeño coins, and red onion rings. The delicately sliced fruits and vegetables set a canvas for a bounty of colorful, seasonal delights, many of which come from the chef’s father-in-law’s garden: velvety golden squash blossom petals, crunchy and salty pepitas, peppery red radishes, oranges cut crosswise so their pith becomes an asterisk, spicy and spiky mizuna leaves, succulent purslane, tiny purple flower buds, and yellow-green bites of romaine. The whole affair is dusted with rusty red chile powder, balancing all the sweetness and freshness with heat.
Pair it with a mangonada cocktail, spiked with tequila and more chile, or sip a cold brew horchata, the cinnamon-dusted rice milk hitting all the right notes in a tall glass of iced coffee. You won’t want to miss the handmade tortillas so maybe also order a birria taco or a chicharron quesadilla, and maybe a creamy little layered lime pie, served in a glass jar for dessert—not because you’re still hungry but because you wish to linger a bit longer in Cruz Del Sur’s covered yard, at a well-worn picnic table among the ivy, roses, and tropical potted plants.
A new lease on brunch
Are your Brooklyn brunch spots starting to feel a little samey? If you’re looking for an alternative to your go-to avocado toast, you need to check out F.O.B., a hidden gem tucked into an unassuming storefront on Smith Street. If you’ve ever walked by, you’ve probably seen a bunch of empty tables, which isn’t a great sign, until you realize that everyone is hanging out in their tropical, tented backyard. Their Filipino brunch involves a selection of deeply flavorful barbecued meat served with garlicky rice and a fried egg. I’m a fan of the tocino, thinly sliced, sweet-salty-crispy-chewy marinated pork—basically, a pile of bacon on a trip to the Philippines—with a tangy vinegar-based dipping sauce on the side. If you prefer something sweeter in the morn, their Halo Halo Waffles are topped with red beans, jackfruit, gloriously purple ube ice cream, fresh fruit, and shredded coconut. Wash it all down with a colorful shake—purple ube with coconut pearls, golden mango with grass jelly, or green avocado with tapioca.
The food nerd’s guide to Disney
Anyone heading to the inferno that is Orlando this summer? Here at Brooklyn Based, my colleague Meredith Craig de Pietro has already written extensively on how to visit Disney World and Universal Studios without losing your mind. Meredith was less than impressed with the deliciousness of Disney food, so when I brought my kids down last month, I was on a quest for the most fun, kookiest fare we could find. The Wild Toad Brat Burger with olive eyes and a pickle tongue fit the bill for silly sustenance (and is definitely how I’ll be serving burgers at my next kid-friendly barbecue). You can’t survive a trip to the Magic Kingdom without eating, so if you’re planning a trip I shared some hard-won tips on booking tough tables and the glory of club-level dining in my Food Nerd’s Guide to Disney in my personal blog, Brooklyn DoubleWide, which is usually focused on hanging out in the Catskills.
The openings keep on comin’!
Farm to People, the locally sourced grocery delivery service, opened a kitchen and bar at their warehouse space in Bushwick.
Nabila’s is now serving homestyle Lebanese in the old Watty & Meg space in Cobble Hill.
Buka, formerly of Clinton Hill is now serving their signature Nigerian fare in Bed-Stuy
Little Rascal opened in Greenpoint with a Mediterranean mezze menu and some complicated-sounding cocktails, like the Cosmic Debris, made with bourbon, lemon, Fruity Pebbles, and pistachio cream. (I might have to try it!)
Arden has taken over the old Glady’s space in Crown Heights, and is serving wood-fired specialties, including broiled oysters with lots of fixin’s: bacon, gochujang, worchestershire, scallions, and a Ritz crackle crumble.
Slate Rooftop is now open atop the Pod Hotel in Williamsburg. They’re serving shareable snacks like Philly cheesesteak empanadas and keeping the frosé flowing.