02/08/16 10:23am

When Carnitas El Atoradero closed its doors last spring, the news inspired laments far beyond the pint-size storefront in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Many a food blogger had documented their obsession with the authentic Mexican fare owner Denisse Lina Chavez had been serving, luring mole-lovers to a quarter of the Bronx that doesn’t usually get many visitors from other parts of the city.

El Atoradero started as a tiny temporary taco operation run out of the back of Chavez’ small Mexican grocery, and quickly expanded into a not-much-more expansive restaurant next door. The eatery continued to attract fans as Chavez whipped up mouthwatering Mexican dishes with imported ingredients that she sometimes risked life and limb to track down. A lease dispute led to its close last year, but Mott Haven’s loss is Prospect Heights’ gain. Brooklyn resident Noah Arenstein (a partner in Bushwick’s Arrogant Swine and a loyal fan of Chavez’ culinary creations), had the brilliant idea of reopening El Atoradero in a space he’d already been working on (formerly home to the short-lived Mason & Mug).

So just half a year later, the newest incarnation of El Atoradero is here, with Chavez trading in her hole-in-the-wall for a full-size restaurant that’s much larger than its four-table predecessor, and complete with upgrades like a custom masa machine for fresh tortillas made on-site, plus a few Brooklyn-style additions (think blood orange wheat ale and $4 Mexican coke). The new Atoradero features returning favorites like picadita rellena–a shallow boat of masa (corn dough), slightly thicker than a tortilla and filled to the brim with a meat of your choice, and quesadillas with squash blossoms or huitlacoche (a Mexican corn fungus).

Perhaps the most notable new addition is the fact that the new masa machine turns out exclusively blue-corn creations, which makes for hearty tortillas that stand up to Chavez’ very saucy meats, and sturdy blue-corn chips to dip into her delicious guacamole. The Mott Haven pricing did not come along for the ride (that would probably be too much to ask given Prospect Heights rents these days), and it’s perhaps safe to say that $15 cemita sandwiches and $20 plates of cochinita are unlikely to be luring many Bronxites down this way any time soon.

Mole enchiladas (Photo: El Atoradero, Instagram)

Mole enchiladas Photo: El Atoradero via Instagram


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11/30/15 9:10am
Liz Kwon and Chelsea Altman's new restaurant White Tiger brings Korean flavors to Prospect Heights. Photo: White Tiger

Liz Kwon and Chelsea Altman’s new restaurant, White Tiger, brings Korean flavors to Prospect Heights. Photo: White Tiger

White Tiger, a Vanderbilt Avenue hotspot-in-the-making from chef Liz Kwon and Chelsea Altman, the owner of a host of neighborhoody spots around Brooklyn including Allswell in Williamsburg, doesn’t have a lot of competition in Prospect Heights, or beyond. The restaurant, which opened earlier this fall, seems determined to prove that it’s more than just the only Korean spot around. Prioritizing the inventive over the homestyle, White Tiger eschews tradition and aims to please a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood above all. If Kwon’s menu is somewhat hit or miss, White Tiger–named for the national animal of Korea–is still a solid choice for a memorable night out.

This is in no small part due to the strong–in more ways that one–cocktail list: The namesake White Tiger ($9) is a tropical take on a margarita with coco lopez and red chili. The Southie ($10) is reminiscent of a dark and stormy with lemongrass ginger syrup, and The Citrus Moon ($11) is a perfectly sweet and unusual blend of flavors (moonshine, rice wine, chamomile) that balance each other beautifully. The Naughty Kimchi, an interpretation of a Bloody Mary, is the only cocktail misfire: It’s just too thin and watered down, and leaves you wanting a great version of a kimchi Bloody Mary, which sounds delicious.


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07/28/15 11:28am
The Cherry and Balsamic Shrub at James in Prospect Heights can be served with or without alcohol. Photo: James

The Cherry and Balsamic Shrub at James in Prospect Heights can be prepared with or without alcohol. Photo: James

A few years ago a friend and I were at a fancy bar where they encouraged you to give the bartender a vague description of what you wanted to drink, and presto-magic!–she would create a brand new cocktail on the spot. “I want something icy, fruity and fantastic,” said my date, and some minutes later he was sipping a drink that combined fresh blackberries, gin and a blackberry shrub over pebble ice. It was indeed icy, fruity and fantastic. Ever since I’ve ordered any drink on a cocktail menu listing a shrub as an ingredient.

Shrubs combine vinegar, fruit and sugar, as well as herbs, spices, vegetables and other enhancements to make a sweet-tart syrup. Combined with soda water or mixed into a cocktail they’re a refreshing punch of flavor that makes the most of seasonal produce. Don’t let the vinegar deter you, or the hisptery mixologist vibes for that matter, shrubs are easy to make and delicious to drink. (more…)

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06/22/15 10:46am
Fancy-pants plates make way for a fantastically simple burger at Franny's family's latest (Photo: Rose's)

Fancy-pants plates make way for a fantastically simple burger at Franny’s family’s latest. Photo: Rose’s

When Franny’s, one of Brooklyn’s long-beloved pizza institutions, moved into a new, larger space two years ago, owners Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens branched out into the original spot with Marco’s, an upscale Italian trattoria. When it opened, I found Marco’s quite tasty but definitely too pricey for the neighborhood, and while it got some stellar reviews, the neighborhood seems to have agreed, as Marco’s shuttered just over a year later.

The Franny’s team has held on to the space though, and their latest incarnation seems to have taken that criticism to heart. Rose’s Bar & Grill, which debuted a few weeks back, couldn’t be further from the refined, four-course ambiance that set the tone at Marco’s. (more…)

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12/04/14 9:18am

Earlier this year we partnered with UncommonGoods to launch the Brooklyn Flag Project. We challenged design-minded folks from all over the borough to create a flag reflecting their neighborhood, with the promise that the top three would be produced for sale by UncommonGoods. Along with former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Tina Roth Eisenberg–the graphic designer known as @SwissMiss, and UncommonGoods founder David Bolotsky, we helped winnow down a fantastic field of entries to eight finalists.

UncommonGoods awarded cash prizes to the top three winners, but decided not to produce the flags for sale after all–they told us that they had hoped to see flags from a wider variety of neighborhoods, though we thought the entries from East New York, Bay Ridge, Flatbush, Coney Island and Ditmas Park nicely rounded out the multiple flags designed for Greenpoint and Fort Greene–locales that lots of graphic designers call home. Even if you can’t buy one of these to hang from your fire escape, we think it’s worth taking a peek at the winners. And, as a bonus, we’ve added in our favorite entry that didn’t win (we’re suckers for a squirrel).



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11/10/14 11:00am
Gus Vlahavas from 2006 (David Chiu)

Gus Vlahavas in 2006 (David Chiu)

Gus Vlahavas, the longtime owner of neighborhood institution Tom’s Restaurant in Prospect Heights, died last Tuesday, DNAinfo.com reported. The news hit hard for me personally as Gus was one of the first people I interviewed when I was a student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism covering the Atlantic Yards beat in 2006. When I first started reporting on the area, I was quite nervous because I really didn’t know anyone–I was extremely shy and scared that I was not going to have any sources. But when I first stumbled upon Tom’s Restaurant, Gus greeted me very warmly. He probably knew from the beginning that I was a journalism student (perhaps the press pass, reporter’s pad, and my anxious expression were dead giveaways) and kindly offered me a tea and answered my questions patiently and gregariously. Since that first meeting, I must have visited Tom’s Restaurant four or five times, trying to get a sense of who he was and the history of the establishment, which in itself was fascinating. Miraculously, I don’t think Gus ever saw me as annoyance as I peppered him with questions (if he did, he didn’t show it), and he even let me record audio of him for a slideshow presentation about the restaurant as well. (I still have that project and I hope to somehow upload it for posterity’s sake).

Given the type of person he was, it’s not surprising that so many people from the neighborhood spoke very highly of him. Had he not been so kind and willing to give this budding student reporter a break, I probably would have had a hard time making it through that semester. I was pained to hear about his death, and by the fact that I hadn’t been back to Tom’s in a while, and I wish had stopped by,  just to at least say hello to Gus. 

The following is the story about Gus and Tom’s Restaurant that I wrote for my first reporting class, eight years ago.

RIP Gus. Thank you so much for everything. (more…)

10/06/14 9:37am


There’s just no such thing as 9-to-5 anymore. New York’s happy hour scene, however, hasn’t evolved to match the modern workday–most still start and end early. We’ve rounded up the best happy hours that stretch past 7pm, because nobody deserves a discounted drink more than someone who works a ten-hour day.

The Bearded Lady, 686A Washington Ave., Prospect Heights Here, happy hour isn’t over until the Bearded Lady sings. This stylish Prospect Park corner spot may not offer the cheapest drinks in town, but their cocktails are the real deal–no watered down well drinks here. Until 8pm on weekdays all cocktails are $8. Sidle up to the spacious bar or grab a table and sip an Old Fashioned or a Ginger Prince–a tasty take on the Dark and Stormy. The menu rotates, but expect a whimsically-named selection, heavy on rum or tequila-based concoctions. On weekend nights–including Sunday–The Bearded Lady hosts a $1 oyster happy hour after midnight, offering succulent locally-sourced slurpers.

Boxcar Lounge, 168 Avenue B (between 10th and 11th), East Village The East Village may have undergone a major transformation in the last several years, but the Boxcar Lounge is the same as it ever was. This unpretentious spot offers a happy hour every weeknight from 6-10pm. That’s right, until 10pm, all drinks are two-for-one. The same deal applies on Saturdays and Sundays from 6-8pm. So bring a friend and get a buzz on with what the bartender might claim is the best Manhattan in town. We’ll let you decide whether or not that’s true. On warmer nights, have a seat in the backyard garden. Otherwise, park yourself at a worn leather barstool and chat up some colorful, friendly locals. (more…)

09/19/14 1:11pm


We’re excited, and a little sad, to announce the fourth and final Brooklyn Based-Brooklyn Brewery Immersion of 2014: Saturday, Oct. 11 in Prospect Heights.

It’s been an excellent Immersion season, drinking and eating our way through the South Slope, Greenpoint and Bushwick, and we can’t wait to spend the day hanging out on Vanderbilt Avenue. On this Immersion you’ll get four complimentary beers, one each at Plan B, Woodwork, Dean St. and Berg’n (for a quick detour over to Crown Heights), plus lunch at either Citrico or Dean St. Get your $20 ticket here.

As usual, you’ll get a stack of Walking Around Money in a nifty envelope featuring a map of the neighborhood and all the deals, beers and food specials we have in store for you. Meet us at Woodwork between noon and 2pm to pick up your WAM (consider it your ticket for the Immersion–you won’t get very far without it) and get started on a fantastic fall day in Prospect Heights.  (more…)

09/09/14 9:00am
Mashed avocado on multi-grain toast--avocado toast--is more than the sum of its parts. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Mashed avocado on multi-grain toast–avocado toast–is more than the sum of its parts. Photo: Annaliese Griffin

Blame it on the Aussies. Thanks to a special E3 visa, Australian professionals have been arriving in droves, and bringing with them a demand for Down Under café cultureThe hallmarks of these cafés? Top-notch coffee and a small-yet-satisfying “brekkie” menu, including an Aussie staple: avocado toast.

A subset of the general NYC toast renaissance (no, we’re not kidding), avocado toast in its purest form involves smashed (not sliced) avocado seasoned with citrus and salt, spread atop a thick slice of toasted multigrain bread. This simple combination of crunch, creaminess and tang has launched a thousand copycats with additions from runny eggs to dukkah–an Egyptian spice blend.

Here we bring you the roadmap to crispy, crunchy avocado toast perfection: the seven best slices in all of Brooklyn. (more…)

08/11/14 9:22am
Meaty skewers at Bar Chuko and mozzarella and kimchee topped rice cakes. Photos: Bar Chuko

Meaty skewers at Bar Chuko and mozzarella and kimchee topped rice cakes. Photos: Bar Chuko

The okonomiyaki at Bar Chuko arrives still dancing. The savory grilled pancake is topped with shredded cabbage, bits of bacon, pickled ginger and Japanese mayonnaise, but most noticeable is the hefty pile of bonito—dried, fermented flakes of tuna so thin and delicate that, fresh out of the hot oven, they wiggle back and forth as if still alive. Of course, they’re long dead, with their fishy flavor well preserved, but once your food stops dancing, this is still an exciting dish.

Bar Chuko opened in June on Vanderbilt Avenue, just across the street from the excellent and always popular Chuko Ramen. The newer spot hasn’t generated much buzz among Brooklyn foodies yet, perhaps because of the misleading “bar” moniker, but Bar Chuko is actually more about the food than the drinks. It’s one of several new izakayas to hit Brooklyn, inspired by a very social type of Japanese drinking establishment where after-work business-folk stop in for lots of sake and (often) all-you-can-eat small bites of food. Of course, New York restaurateurs have translated izakaya the same way they did tapas, taking it to mean “tiny, expensive plates.” Yes, here’s yet another spot where you can easily drop $40 a person on food and drinks, but still wonder where your entree is. Not a bad business plan by the Chuko folks, who have filled their new Bar Chuko with hungry patrons waiting for their tables at the ramen shop across the street. (For less spendy izakaya fare, head to Sake Bar Hagi in Manhattan–it’s nearly impossible to spend more than $30 a person here, and you’ll leave drunk and stuffed.) (more…)

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