The list of places that we love to go to keeps getting longer and longer. So we had to create an addendum to Eat-a-sode 48: Sunnyside At First Sight. As the months are getting warmer, we are finding it harder to stay in and cook. How could we with all the alluring choices we have right down the block from us? It’s becoming increasingly difficult to become a regular at any one place because of all the options we do have (but we’re trying so hard!).
This list starts with the one place we loved from the start: Salt and Fat. And with a name like that how can you go wrong? It’s almost unfair of them to start you off with popcorn, which is cooked in bacon fat. Yes, you read correctly. Bacon flavored popcorn! Just for that we would come back again and again. Then, add pulled Pork Sliders, Pork Belly Buns, and finish it off with a Rice Krispie Treat topped with Marshmallow Ice Cream. And that’s just a preview. If we came here as much as we talk about it, we would probably need to go to the gym twice a day….and a triple bypass.
We stumbled upon Café Marlene when we first signed our lease. Kristen is a sucker for all things French, especially quaint, little cafés. Gets her every time! This café has one of the better cups of coffee in Sunnyside and a great choice of wines and beers to enjoy while writing and surfing the web. At any time of the day you can find Sunnyside locals typing away on their netbooks and sipping on a latte. The friendly owners and the comfortable atmosphere make for a great Sunday.
The internal (and sometimes external) struggle of which pub to go to, Molly Boom’s or PJ Horgan’s (see Part 1), is a constant battle between K and M. Both places have their own charm and attractive qualities. Molly Bloom’s offers a more modern take on the classic Irish pub, which also includes a Beer Garden in the back that is open all year round. Their corned beef and hash was one of the best on St. Paddy’s Day and the full Irish breakfast for brunch is always something we love to have. It’s hard to say no to either. We have decided to start at Molly’s for brunch and then PJ Horgan’s for dinner, or just simply for a Guinness. Guess it’s not that hard of a choice…. just something we like to call: bourgeois problems.
As time passes and Sunnyside continues to bring in better and better places to grab a bite, this list will just keep growing! Hopefully we can somehow find time to taste it all.
www.saltandfatny.com New American Small Plates, Wine/Beer, Queens
Bacon flavored popcorn to start. Wow! It is the perfect introduction to the fabulous meal that is always in store at this amazing little restaurant, which just recently made the Michelin-Recommended list! The chef and owner is a local who is dedicated to creating small New American plates using as many local ingredients as possible. The menu changes a bit each time we stop in for a bite, but the quality of the seasonal products is apparent. It is worth losing a favorite dish to gain a new one with fresh flavors and innovative flair.
We have tried nearly every dish on the menu, and while all of them are incredibly creative and flavorful, of course there are a few favorites that have soared to the top of the list (and for the most part, remain as a staple on the menu). It is always difficult to say no to our favorites, so we always try to add at least one new plate to try each visit. One of us always has to get the Korean BBQ Wraps [hanger steak, pickled daikon, seasoned miso] and the Braised Pork Belly Tacos [pickled onions, kimchi salsa, queso fresco]…which have recently morphed into the Pork Belly Buns with cucumber kimchi, which we have yet to try. We usually ask our server for their latest favorite to help us steer our order and help us to branch out. On one visit, our server so passionately described the Oxtail Terrine, and while uncertain about what this dish actually was, it was described as sheer food porn. How could we resist? If you happen to be curious about what oxtail actually is, it is the meat that comes from the tail of a cow. In the days of yore, oxtail did, in fact, come from the tail of oxen; however, today, we simply take this meat from cattle. In this dish, the oxtail is slow cooked for several hours and then laid atop a caramelized onion purée and roasted mushrooms; it is the perfect combination of consistencies. Thank goodness Salt & Fat’s dishes are made for sharing… we could never be able to choose just one!
Then, of course, we have to top it all off with the Rice Krispie Treat with Marshmallow Ice Cream. When’s the last time you had a Rice Krispie treat? They are just as tasty as you remember. The Marshmallow Ice Cream truly takes it to the next level… just our style! The ice cream and sorbet selections are refreshing as well. The White Peach and Japalpeño Sorbet is definitely something to write home about.
Let’s not forget K’s favorite part: the complimentary probiotic yogurts that arrive with our check to help with the digestion of this not-so-salty-and-fatty (okay, maybe a little), but truly fantastic, meal.
What we ate (on multiple visits)…
- Petite Sirah, ’09, Lot 96, Sonoma, CA (K)
- Double White Beer, Southampton Bottling (M)
- Witte, Ommegang, Wheat Ale (M)
- Persimmon Salad [baby arugula, Italian speck, spiced candied walnuts, goat cheese, lemon-honey vinaigrette] (K+M)
- Korean BBQ Wraps [hanger steak, pickled daikon, seasoned miso] (K+M)
- Braised Pork Belly Tacos [pickled onions, kimchi salsa, queso fresco] (K+M)
- Oxtail Terrine [caramelized onion puree, roasted mushrooms] (K+M)
- Yellowtail Tartare [scallions, yuzu gel, cassava chips] (K+M)
- Pappardelle Pasta [ramps, mushrooms, slow cooked egg] (K + 2)
- Passion Fruit Panna Cotta with Lychee Ice Cream (K+M)
- Rice Krispie Treat with Marshmallow Ice Cream (K+M)
- Homemade Ice Cream & Sorbert [Apple Miso, White Peach Jalapeño, Thai Iced Tea] (K + 2)
K: This is definitely my favorite spot in Sunnyside. It is always consistently delicious and is so innovative. I dream about the Korean BBQ Wraps… Though not a huge fan of raw fish, I find the Yellowtail absolutely amazing; it’s become one of the staple dishes each visit.
M: If you like great food, good beer, and simple desserts then you have to go here. The one problem with this place is that there is not a bar to hang out at and have more beers and snack on that popcorn after the meal. Guess I can’t have it all. Need to get there soon to find out what’s new on the menu.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- A super modern eatery with a cozy atmosphere that is always jam-packed with locals.
- Food/Drinks- 4: Stellar! Wouldn’t change a thing!
- Tip Worthy- 5: The New Yorker 25-30%
- Coordinates- 4: Neighborhood- Centrally located!
- Restaurant Return Rate- Forever Green!
www.cafemarlene.com Panini/Crepes, Wine/Beer/Coffeehouse, Queens
Step off an urban street in Sunnyside and into this quintessential European café. Although it feels overwhelmingly French, the owners of Café Marlene have been inspired by European cafés far and wide. With the primary influence being the acclaimed German-American stage and film actress Marlene Dietrich, the ambiance and offerings of Café Marlene seek to recreate the feeling of the “Golden Age” of 1920s-Hollywood. The copper-clad ceilings, black & white portraits of the glamorous Marlene, and gold-trim & red velvet accents will definitely transport you back in time.
The European-style café/coffeehouse scene has made quite a statement in the last decade, and we hope it remains and grows throughout NYC. The relaxed atmosphere of the coffee-and-tea house meets wine bar creates a unique locale that is relevant for patrons from morning till night, with a slew of options from breakfast to dinner. Café Marlene offers just this. The wine and espresso bar take up nearly half the space of the first floor of this establishment. Bistro tables and chairs line the other half, which will certainly force you into close quarters with your neighbors. But this is the point! Get cozy, be social… this is why we love this place and what makes it such a special place.
In addition to some of the best coffee around, build-it-yourself crepes, fresh and tasty salads, and a thoughtful beer and wine selection (they have the chilled, effervescent Italian red: Lambrusco!), Café Marlene also hosts musicians, actors, and other aspiring artists in their “subterranean” performance space. You can sip on a drink and enjoy some live entertainment on a budget. Around the holidays, K+M attended a performance which was a series of comedic vignettes about the harsh realities of the holiday season. We were thoroughly impressed with the actors of the Unity Stage, as they had us from tears to stitches the entire evening. Check Café Marlene’s calendar for the latest news on upcoming events.
So, pull up a chair and plan to stay awhile in this cozy, comfortable coffeehouse. Experience extremely hospitable service and a feeling of the old world. You may even feel like you’ve stepped into the living room you’ve always wanted! Warning: sometimes doing your work becomes difficult as you will just want to talk to those around you! Guarantee: you will leave humming La Vie En Rose for the rest of the day and you’ll just count the minutes until your return.
What we ate…
- Arugula Salad (K)
- Crepe with Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers, Pesto (K)
- Crepe with Goat Cheese, Roasted Red Peppers, Ham (M)
K: This spot is very reminiscent of Max Cafe… a cafe very near and dear to me in my old ‘hood, Morningside Heights. It feels so homey, I never want to leave! I love everything they have to offer, especially the Lambrusco!
M: One of the best coffees in Queens. A great place to hang out and people watch. The sound track is always a good listening.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- The quintessential European cafe of the 20s….think: Midnight in Paris without the actual time travel.
- Food/Drinks- 3: Pleasantly Surprised
- Tip Worthy- 4: Double the tax and then some.
- Coordinates- 3.5: Almost centrally located.
- Restaurant Return Rate- Green
With a flood of Irish Pubs in Sunnyside, it’s sometimes hard to choose which one to go to for a solid Guinness and complementary snacks. We’ve realized that each have their own unique flavors and character and depending on one’s mood, there might be one to suit your particular fancy over another. Sunnyside is choc full o’ traditional pubs… dark lighting, wooden beams, middle-aged Irish bartenders, a hint of the kegs of yore waft through the air. The pubs in this neighborhood definitely have character, to say the least.
Then, there are some “nouveau” pubs run by the new wave of Irish immigrants who have migrated here and have created venues that perfectly marry old world traditions with modern, New York City trendiness. One such place is Molly Bloom’s. Situated on the bustling Queens Boulevard, you can’t miss the welcoming signage, sounds of laughter, music protruding from the inside out.
Upon entering, the warmth of bright yellow walls and chandeliers fill the space and give this pub a cozy, yet bright and uplifting feel. Grab a seat at one of the lovely, upholstered bar stools where you can chat with locals and the Irish bartenders, or head outside to the year-round beer garden to sip on some craft brews and snack on Irish fare.
Molly Bloom’s has something for everyone. Begin your week on Monday evening with an exciting trivia night. And for the rest of your week, there are daily happy hours from 4-7pm, with absurdly great drink specials… including some extra offers for teachers! In addition to Molly Bloom’s plethora of enticing events, they offer a fabulous brunch on the weekends. Brunch includes a full-Irish breakfast, perhaps one of the best on this side of the pond (and boy, we had some pretty amazing breakfasts in Dublin!). Order your two eggs any style with sausage, black and white pudding (an Irish delicacy rarely found at most brunch spots), and baked tomato. Be sure to order the baked beans, as they do not come with the full-Irish breakfast, but certainly should! Those baked beans complete the full-Irish. In case you are wondering what black and white pudding entail, imagine a mealier sausage. It contains all the porky-ness of a sausage, but oatmeal and barley are added. The only ingredient differentiating the black and white pudding is some pig’s blood. You can figure out which one that is. Other brunch options include Brioche French Toast and Eggs any style, along with staple brunch cocktails.
Lunch and dinner options include staple pub favorites like a beef or turkey burger and fish & chips… and even a Parisian-style Ham & Gruyère Sandwich (you know, a Croque Monsieur!). In addition, there is a bar menu that includes more snacking options such as Nachos, Fries, and Wings if you are not up for a full meal but want something to pair with your brew.
K+M are so grateful this lively spot is only a few blocks from them as it truly delivers for any affair with all it has to offer: traditional Irish fare, live music (on some occasions), outdoor seating, and a perfect pint. It’s always at the top of our pub list and go-to place for either a low-key afternoon or a vivacious evening. Its ambiance and staff are welcoming and the food & drink will keep you there for the night.
What we ate…
- Guinness (K+M)
- Prosecco (K)
- Smithwick’s (M)
- Full Irish Breakfast [2 eggs, sausages, bacon, white and black pudding, toast and grilled tomato] (K+M)
- Turkey Burger with Fries (K)
- Beef Burger with Cheese & Bacon (M)
K: Although I think PJ Horgan’s pours a better pint, I prefer the ambiance at Molly Bloom’s. This is generally the argument between M and me. I feel that Molly Bloom’s revamped the traditional Irish pub and updated it to fit into the modern, trendy New York bar scene.
M: The full Irish Breakfast is the best in Queens. Love the corn beef hash here when its on the menu. Cool, modern Irish Pub.
L: A real Irish bar with a fresh feel. Solid pint of Guinness.
Our Rating Scales…
- Scene- Traditional Irish Pub Meets Trendy New York Lounge
- Food/Drinks- 3: Pleasantly Surprised (Breakfast brings it to a 3.5)
- Tip Worthy- 3: Gratuity included.
- Coordinates- 4: Neighborhood – Centrally located!
- Restaurant Return Rate- As Green as the Emerald Isle!