Last year I fell deeply in love with the cemitas sold from the taco trucks on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York. Then I traveled to Puebla, Mexico, their source, and discovered that the sandwich I loved was an imposter. This is the story of how I learned to love both (recipes included).
'New York' on Serious Eats
Cemitas are a type of Mexcian sandwich that originally hails from the State of Puebla, but they've taken on a life of their own in New York City. This recipe creates a cemita sandwich as served in the restaurants and taco trucks of New York, in particular along Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. These are gently warmed sandwiches served on a griddled sesame bun with taco-meat fillings of your choice, avocado, lettuce, tomato, chipotles, refried beans, mayo, and queso Oaxaca, a Mexican string cheese, that's hand-shredded into hairlike strands. Papalo, a floral Mexican herb, adds its own special flavor. This is a cemita con todo—with the works.
Unlike in Mexico (not to mention LA, San Francisco, and Chicago), New York lacks a quality tortilla industry. The corn isn't the same. The nixtamalization process, which breaks down the gluey hemicellulose in corn, is different here, and the common practice in Mexico of using a natural alkaline called tequesquite, isn't a thing here. But New York has an upside: great sandwich bread.
If you live in New York, you've probably visited Brooklyn Brewery. But the outer boroughs have lots of fantastic new and lesser-known breweries, too—spots that'll get you excited about today's beer scene. Here are seven impressive breweries to add to your next beer crawl, plus tips on what to drink when you arrive.
Much has changed since our first babka survey of New York five years ago, and there are more ambitious contenders for the Best Babka crown than ever before. Here are our votes on the best.
The pantry of Dennise Chavez's Carnitas El Atoradero puts the rest of New York's Mexican kitchens to shame. While the city is home to the largest concentration of Poblanos outside Puebla, it's still difficult to find fresh, quality chilies, herbs, and spices. Here are just a few of the ingredients that go into her jawdropping moles and Pueblan dishes.
"People used to say, 'the streets in New York are paved in gold,'" Laura Silver said to me over the phone. "No they're not. They're paved in knishes." Born in Brooklyn and bred in Queens, Silver is the world's leading authority on the knish, and she knows just how vital it is to Jews'—and New Yorkers'—culinary heritage, even if everyone else forgets about the poor thing.
Beecher's Cheese in Seattle and New York makes their signature Flagship, a Cheddar-Alpine hybrid, in full view of customers in their stores. Here's how it's done.
Most of our favorite cheeses have one thing in the common: They tend to have some age. While some cheeses are best eaten the day they're made, others take time. And mold. And the right temperature and humidity. And a bat cave to linger in until they're ready to emerge fully formed. Here's what happens in those caves when the humans aren't watching.
Imagine if tuna salad had a silky texture and a delicately smoky and oily flavor. That's whitefish salad. Acme Smoked Fish, a standard-bearer of the form and certainly the largest producer in New York City, makes over 5,000 pounds of whitefish salad every day. Wolphram Alpha tells me that's the equivalent of 1.3 small cars or 40% of an elephant. Of fish-mayo salad. Every. Day.
Next to dumplings, I don't know a better gateway dish to other cultures than meatballs. So if you're looking to expand your culinary horizons, take yourself on this meatball world tour of New York, the tastiest non-Italian meatballs I can find.
I've had a egg- and toast-loaded three months of eavesdropping while eating my way through New York's diners, as many as I could without getting divorced, and have come to the inescapable conclusion that they are as essential to our way of life, our democracy, and our sense of community, as any other American institution we have right now.
"The bialy is more of a secret love," says Jane Ziegelman, the director of the Tenement Museum's culinary program. "Everyone knows you can love a bagel. Not everyone knows you can love a bialy."
"It's like a yeasted fruitcake with all of the good stuff and none of the bad," says baker Zachary Golper of his best-in-class stollen. It's a dense, buttery loaf perfumed with citrus zest, orange blossom, and rum. The crumb is stuffed with a delicate almond cream, and the whole thing is "baptized" after baking in a bath of clarified butter, then finished with powdered sugar as fluffy as the season's first snowfall.
The dining room of Staten Island's New Asha is all styrofoam and steam tables. But when you step into the back kitchen, it's a wholly different world. Bamboo steamers gurgle over pots of boiling water and jars of homemade spice blends line the walls. A hand-powered drill and a machete are on hand to transform hirsute whole coconuts into snowy white mounds of freshly ground flesh.
New York is home to many great restaurants. But how many of them offer truly great desserts? I'm not talking about having one beloved signature item that's been on the menu for years. I'm talking about places that offer ever-changing, reliably delicious desserts that are worth staying around after your meal.
Whether you're sticking to the tourist mainstays of midtown or venturing to the far corners of the city, this master guide has everything you need for your New York trip.
New York is one great noodle town, but my new favorite bowl comes from a forward-thinking restaurant hugging the eastern border of Chinatown, where some excellent noodles take inspiration from an unlikely source: linguine with clam sauce.
Welcome to Astoria, home of the city's greatest Greek food and shawarma. It's where neighborhood sausage shops and Italian delis are still part of daily life, and where cafes line the streets with games of backgammon and strong mint tea, or tiny cups of even stronger coffee with flaky phyllo pastries. Here's how to eat it all.
Riccardo Romero has a dream, and arepas play a starring role. "I think arepas have a shot to become the next great American food," he says. He should know, as he's serving some of New York's finest.