Peanut Butter & Co: Not Just for Kids

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The Elvis

Pregnant Lady

Peanut Butter & Co.
240 Sullivan Street, West Village

Everyone has their favorite flavor of Peanut Butter & Co.’s fun jarred peanut butter (mine is dark chocolate), but when was the last time you went to their little West Village eatery? The store does not use organic bread or locally sourced peanuts, like others in the neighborhood, but that’s not the point here. This is kid food at it’s finest. After all, what’s more of a beloved children favorite and a secret grown up treat than peanut butter? The menu here reads like Willy Wonka kidnapped by Skippy: sandwiches such as cookie dough surprise, peanut butter BLT, and fluffernutter, and desserts like PB&J pretzel sundae, and peanut butter brownie blast sundae. We love the signature Elvis ($7.50), grilled maple pb sandwich, stuffed with banana, honey, and bacon. It is a great salty, sweet treat. We also had the Pregnant Lady ($6.25) with pb and bread & butter pickles. It’s an unusual combo, which wasn’t my favorite, but my pregnant lady sure dug it!

PB & Co. is really fun, and definitely underrated. I am not sure why they have not spread all over NYC or even the country, but bring your kids, or just yourself here, and enjoy.

I’m a Sucker for a Good Brunch

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Seersucker
329 Smith Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Finding a good brunch is the hardest dining puzzle to solve. Nearly all standard eateries serve it, and usually offer omelets, pancakes, and french toast. So when I find a decent one, with menu options that deviate from the norm, plus offer a welcoming atmosphere and service, it’s a job well-done. I hadn’t heard much about Seersucker, because I don’t go into the heart of Brooklyn much, but I think it’s pretty solid. For Brooklyn, the service here was unpretentious, and the neighborhood is beautiful, filled with families, great shops and eateries.

And the food… I had 2 eggs with biscuits and sausage gravy ($11), that does not photograph well, but made up for it with rich and creamy Southern flavors. The biscuits were soft and flaky, as they should be. Spud loved her chili special where the meat and beans were improved with crumbled cornbread, sour cream and scallions, topped with a fried egg. Yes, they have omelets, but they are filled with quality sausage and vidalia onions, and the French toast is a chocolate croissant with a maple bourbon butter sauce. That’s how you do it friends.
***Breakfast served all day!***

Thursday Travels: Eating Charleston

New York and San Francisco are the undisputed top culinary cities in the U.S., with excellent eateries for every type of cuisine, but don’t overlook smaller cities when searching for food meccas. Pound for pound Charleston, South Carolina may be the top food city in America. I am a big fan of small cities with strong regional cuisines, like New Orleans and Santa Fe, but based on my delicious research, Charleston’s food scene is even more eclectic and serious. The population is only 122,689, which is equivalent to a few square blocks of NYC, yet Tripadvisor.com lists 525 restaurants for the city, which isn’t even big enough to have its own Zagat survey.

Here’s visual proof that Charleston offers unbelievably delicious grub. And these are only the cheap eats!

Best Deal : $9 AYCE in this tiny town 1 hour from Charleston

Best Deal : Dukes Bar-B-Que. $9 AYCE in this tiny town 1 hour from Charleston.

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Everything was great: signature hash, pulled pork, fried and bbq chicken, mac & cheese, hush puppies, greens and slaw, and of course sweet tea. Yup, $9.

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Best Breakfast: Charleston’s Cafe. Waffle and fried chicken sandwich with eggs, bacon, cheese and grits.

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Also at Charleston’s Cafe: Charleston’s Breakfast of eggs on fried green tomatoes with country ham gravy served with chippers & sweet potato biscuit.

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Best Experience: Bowen’s Island Restaurant. A big shack at the end of the road on a small island. This place barely looks inhabited, but open the door and everyone is having a good ole time!

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At Bowen’s Island hundreds of people chow down on huge plates of fried fish and shrimp or platters of shuck your own oysters. Plus Bowen’s Island Oyster Stout. Amazing.

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Best Truly Local Grub: Fried Pork Chop with Spicy Tomato Jelly from The Early Bird Diner. This dish was profiled on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives and is out of this world. The tender fried pork combined with the hot & sweet jelly make for a comfort food dream.

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Also from The Early Bird, country fried steak with butter beans and cheesy smashed potatoes. Yum.

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Best Classy Dish: Pimento Cheese appetizer from Magnolia’s. This dish was profiled by Tyler Florence on Best Thing I Ever Ate and is really a great intro to pimento cheese. The sharp cheddar with hints of pimento, peppers and olives make for a delicious dish. Plus it looks nice too.

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Best Brunch Dish: Magnolia’s banana pudding stuffed french toast with
peanut butter syrup and applewood smoked bacon. This salty sweet behemoth will blow your mind!

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My Favorite: The Big Nasty at Hominy Grill. This place is my favorite eatery in Charleston with amazing Lowcountry classics like She-crab Soup, Shrimp & Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes, and The Big Nasty, fried chicken on a biscuit with sausage gravy. I had it 3 years ago and couldn’t wait to devour it again.

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Best Local Cake: Hummingbird Cake from Hominy Grill. Pineapple, banana and pecans star in this Southern classic, which is similar to carrot cake.

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Best unique dessert: Coca-Cola Cake from Jestine’s Kitchen. Super sweet and cakey.

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Best Burger: Po’s Tavern’s Black Cat with grilled onions, chili, bacon and pimento cheese. It’s a beast.

Expand Your Brooklyn Horizons

There are so many fascinating neighborhoods in the 5 boroughs, that even after more than a decade and a half of residing here, I am still learning about new ones. So many have changed in that time, and most for the better, from a culinary perspective. Two years ago I was not aware that Ditmas Park existed. But like so many Brooklyn hoods, it is now popping up in restaurant reviews, real estate ads, and word-of-mouth all over the city. In my two visits to Ditmas Park, I have marveled at the huge free-standing one hundred year old houses on gorgeous tree-lined blocks, complete with yard sales and children playing in the streets. It’s a little slice of suburbia transplanted to the middle of Brooklyn. Two blocks over the streets lined with dollar stores, checking cashers, and bodegas accepting food stamps. Like much of Brooklyn, this neighborhood appears to be fighting an internal struggle for its identity.

The Farm on Adderley
1108 Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

The Farm on Adderley does not have this struggle. As one of the most well-known eateries in the area, it is firmly planted on the hipster-friendly side of town, and has been a favorite here since 2006. As the farm name suggests, it is dedicated to quality seasonal ingredients, and has a nice outdoor space. Naturally, it does a booming brunch business. On a recent visit we enjoyed the Adult Grilled Cheese ($9) of cheddar, apple, caramelized onion, on multigrain. It is a simple, but delicious combo. Spend a few bucks more for the excellent Red Flannel Hash ($12) of red potatoes, corned beef & red beets, sunnyside egg, beet mustard, and salad. While red flannel hash is a breakfast staple in New England, it is unique in these parts. Corned beef and potatoes are a natural combo, but the beets and beet mustard provide a more layered flavor profile, brought together with the runny egg.

Between the garden patio and menu at The Farm, and the amazing architecture of the surrounding blocks, Ditmas Park is worth exploring for an afternoon. Broaden your horizons and push into new neighborhoods, at least you will find good eats.

Smorgasburg: All Sandwich Edition

Yes, this is another Smorgasburg post. Yes, we have been quite obsessed with this weekly Brooklyn food festival. But time is running out people, there is only one more week of Smorgasburg for this year. By Thanksgiving dozens of amazing cheap eats will again be dispersed around the city for the long winter. So go now or at least eat vicariously through our photos…

Incredible Schnitzel on Pretzel Roll from Schnitz

Braised Pork Belly Buns from Bite Size Kitchen

Sunday Gravy and bread from Sunday Gravy

Goodwich Ice Cream Sandwich from The Good Batch

Washed down with the best slush I have ever consumed from Kelvin Natural Slush Co.

A Couplet for Coppelia

We are so happy to find this new Cuban diner
Their menu is full of comforts for many an all-nighter
The Cuban Nachos ($8.95) topped with meaty short ribs
Made me want to savor the flavor on my fingertips
The Pan de Lechon is a steal for $7.95
It is well worth a long walk, ride or drive
The avocado shake is certainly Spud’s new fave
It’s a treat that she constantly craves
Pricier mains include ropa vieja and lomo saltado
They are so good, they them, you gotto!
We love this new Chelsea winner
It’s a comfort destination, brunch, lunch or 3 am dinner.

Coppelia 24/7 Latin Diner
207 W 14th St bet. 7/8, Chelsea

Smorgasburg: Second Helpings

WeCouldEat everything at Smorgasburg! We just can’t seem to get enough of this weekly Brooklyn outdoor cheap eats orgy. As I mentioned in my first Smorgasburg post, this place features dozens of the best food vendors in NYC all in one place. It can be overwhelming here, so I like to go in with a bit of a plan.

In my second Smorgasburg visit we went with American classic comfort foods. We devoured the popular porchetta sandwich ($10) from Porchetta, which is simply just meat on a roll, which tells you just how juicy, tender and flavorful this boneless Italian pork is.

Next, we visited New England by way of Brooklyn for the shrimp roll ($10) at the Red Hook Lobster Pound. This classic is sweet maine shrimp tossed in a roasted garlic & tarragon mayo and served on split-top bun. Perfection.

Act III was a slammin’ sausage from Brooklyn Bangers. This beast was topped with the classic combo of mustard, ketchup and kraut and was so satisfying with its full flavored meatiness, trumping your average hot dog by a mile.

For dessert, what is more American than PB & J? We were fortunate to stumble upon the PB & J bar from Cutie Pies. This bar packs a ton of flavor in a solid, filling, crumbly square. It’s a nice treat to round out our day.

The Best BBQ You’ve Never Heard Of

Most of the places I write about are hyped in the pages of Time Out, New York Magazine, or The Times, but sometimes I get a personal recommendation, and discover a relatively unknown gem. When this happens, it’s like Christmas morning, and I get a little giddy. Thanks to our foodtastic friends, and Jackson Heights residents, Kim & Jared, we unwrapped a new (to us) dive bar that serves some of the best barbecue in all of Queens.

Legends Sports Bar / Ranger Texas Barbecue
71-04 35th Avenue, Jackson Heights

I would normally have walked right by Legends, a typical Jackson Heights, sports bar, which it very much is upfront, but further back it turns into Ranger Texas Barbecue  serving some of the most tender smoked meats in NYC for extremely low prices. This place changed from Pearson Texas BBQ about 10 years ago, and the new owners kept the smoker, and formed this hybrid joint. Spud and I shared the creatively named Meat Sampler Platter of brisket, pulled pork and 2 kinds of ribs for only $13. With superb corn bread, decent creamed spinach and onion rings, the total was still about $10 per person. All the meat was very moist, with the brisket being the standout. The mild and spicy bbq sauces help add a kick. Kim and Jared ordered  the pulled pork and pulled chicken by the pound, which they very much enjoyed. Let me be clear about the ambience, you will be eating out of plastic containers with Gun ‘n’ Roses blasting from the bar, but if you are into excellent barbecue for very little money, this is a place for you.

Cheap Lunch: Beyond the Sandwich

If you happen to find yourself off of work on a weekday, (perhaps during the aftermath of a hurricane), a great local lunch deal can really help to brighten your day. While there are zillions of great individual deals out there, I find that Asian restaurants offer the best bang for your precious bucks. Of course every Chinese take-out joint offers a $5 or $6 plate with egg roll and fried rice, but since you have the time, broaden your horizons for more interesting  fare.

Two of WeCouldEat’s favrotie local Astoria lunch deals are at Watawa and Seva, which both earn Zagat food ratings of 25. Watawa is our go-to fave for delicious sushi and beautifully prepared  Japanese dishes. Their $8.50 lunch deal for miso soup, a sizable salad, and 2 rolls can’t be beat. There are about 10 choices of rolls, but we always seem to gravitate towards the shrimp tempura and the spicy crab rolls. Bonus: A third roll will only cost an extra 3 bucks. The new expanded dining room now offers a large bar, if you want to prolong the afternoon (or evening)…

Seva Indian Restaurant presents a definite contrast with its small, bustling dining room.  They are all about the flavors here. Seva’s lunch deal is just ridiculous: choice of soup, choice of 10-12 entrees, and basmati rice for only $7.50! That’s the price of a mediocre ham sandwich in Midtown. Seva is generally considered to  serve the best quality Indian fare in Astoria. The butternut squash soup I had was had deep, yet mellow flavor, and was very satisfing. The entrees selections offer half chicken & lamb selections, and half vegetarian. You can’t go wrong here with stewed vegan staples like aloo gobi matar and chana saag. Bonus: for an extra $4, split an order of their large crispy vegetable samosas. That still brings your total to under $10. Not too shabby!