Los Tacos No. 1 in NYC

New York City is a foodie heaven because of how diverse it is. When it comes to food cuisines you can find a huge amount of options spread along just once city block. Still, most of us have our food favorites and tend to stick to what we know when it’s time to pick a lunch spot or dinner date location. But as a foodie, it’s your duty to venture out and find new places you love. Otherwise, you might miss out on some of these hidden gems right outside your door. Besides, are you a really a foodie if you don’t take advantage of all the great food NYC has to offer?

A plate of tacos from Locos Tacos
Los Tacos No. 1 is perfect for the foodies who loves a good taco. Photo by Los Tacos No. 1

1. Los Tacos No. 1

New York has no shortage of great Mexican spots to fulfill all of your taco needs. However, this hidden gem has sat on top of my best tacos list for two years running. Located inside of Chelsea market, Los Tacos has some of the most authentic Mexican tacos that I’ve tasted in the city. It’s a small shop located in a food hall, which means that if you’ve never ventured into Chelsea market, you probably have never heard of it. The set-up of this spot allows for you to watch your tacos being made and then they’re handed to you for your enjoyment.
Price: $
Location: Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue. New York, NY 10011 (Multiple Locations)

2. Verde on Smith

Brooklyn’s restaurant industry has been booming over the last few years, but this cobble hill location has been around for quite some time. If you visit during brunch hours, you can try their thick cut brioche French toast or the rosemary potatoes, wash them down with unlimited mimosas and raspberry, mango, or peach bellinis. Outdoor patio seating means you can soak up some sun and fresh air during NYC’s warmer months. They even have big tables for those group brunches we love so much. If dinner is more your thing, their dinner menu is full of Italian goodness.
Price: $$
Location: 216 Smith St. Brooklyn, NY 11201

Verde on smith bubbly

3. Cuba Restaurant and Rum Bar

Delicious Cuban food paired with Cuban inspired drinks? Yes please! Cuba is a quaint restaurant nestled among the busy streets of the west village, which is why many people may overlook it. The name says it all, as Cuba serves up some Cuban favorites such as vaca frita, ropa vieja, and of course mojitos! Upstairs is a bit tight, but no worries, they have another level downstairs with extra seating and its own bar. On some nights, you can enjoy your meal while a live band plays!
Price: $$
Location: 222 Thompson St. New York, NY 10012

4. Lemongrass Grill

I almost didn’t put Lemongrass Grill on this list because I love how low-key and chill even though NYC is always bustling. Located on court street in Downtown BK, Lemongrass Grill has everything that you need in a Thai spot: nice ambience, great appetizers, affordable entrees, and two-for-one cocktails. Yes, TWO-FOR-ONE! The drink special is just one reason you should be visiting Lemongrass Grill soon. The service is always prompt and the appetizers and entrées are delicious. You’re guaranteed to leave full and satisfied. They also have pineapple fried rice that is served inside of a pineapple, so you can eat delicious food in a new way and stunt for the gram (we won’t judge)!
Price: $
Location: 156 Court St. Brooklyn, NY 11201

thai

5. El Jeffe

Have you ever been craving Mexican and Caribbean food, but had to settle on just one of the two? Well fret no more, because El Jeffe has created a menu and dining experience that allows you to enjoy both at the same damn time all without leaving NYC. Fried shrimp tacos, jerk pork nachos, and grilled fish rice bowls are just some of the dishes you can try here. They have frozen margaritas and Mexican beers available to wash down your food too. Don’t forget to order yourself some delicious Mexican corn!
Price: $$
Location: 1483 Fulton St. Brooklyn, NY 11216

 

Mimosaholics Need This List

Do you often find yourself questioning where you should brunch this weekend? Or maybe you’re tired of the same NYC restaurants. This NYC Brunch guide gives you 6 weeks of Food Before Love Favorites that will change how you eat .

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A sermon is something that speaks to your soul and that’s exactly what my meal at The Food Sermon did.

For my first edition of Plantains Before Love, we dined at The Food Sermon, a quaint first come first serve seating Caribbean restaurant nestled in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Upon immediate entry the restaurant was aesthetically pleasing! The simple décor and wooden benches were reminiscent of a local restaurant on a tropical island with beautiful white tiles lining the walls to add a modern twist. Through the speakers played old school calypso and classic island tunes my father would love.

Now onto the reason why we’re here…the food! The menu is build your own bowl style with the basics: a meat, rice, beans, and gravy. The meat options are lamb, jerk chicken, salmon, and tofu for the non-meat eaters. Rice options are brown and white rice. Beans are red beans and chickpeas with either a bold coconut ginger sauce or a spicy tomato sauce to complete the bowl.

For my bowl I had the jerk chicken with white rice, red beans, and spicy tomato sauce! By the time we ordered the dinner rush had started so the cashier did warn us there would be a thirty-minute wait but we are absolutely okay with that. One of my fellow Food Before Love insiders had visited The Food Sermon before and assured me it was well worth the wait.

Our meals came in a little less than the expected thirty minutes, piping hot and plated to perfection. The bowls were assembled picture perfectly just as displayed on their site.

Jerk Chicken Bowl with White Rice, Red Beans, and Tomato Sauce

After taking my picture I dug in and was immediately satisfied! The jerk chicken was actual jerk chicken and not a poor imitation that unfortunately is too common nowadays. It was made with a jerk season versus jerk sauce. So if you are not a fan of spicy foods I would suggest you stay away from it. The rice and red beans were cooked to the perfect texture, not too mushy or too hard. I did have some reservations about the tomato sauce when ordering because of the tanginess tomato sauce can sometimes have but I also wasn’t in the mood for ginger. That wasn’t a problem with this sauce. It was perfectly flavored and not too robust like a spaghetti sauce.

All of the components and their seasonings worked together to make the bowl a non typical Caribbean dining experience. The best way for me to describe my meal is hearty! The portions are also very generous. I was able to leave a great size back for lunch the next day. I asked for some extra tomato sauce to take home and the next day the meal was just as amazing as the night before.

I give The Food Sermon not only thumbs up but all ten fingers and toes up! I plan to make my way back to the restaurant in the next week. My only warning would be the spacing, I would advise going just as they open if you plan to dine in.

Until next time Foodies!

Bon Appetit!

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Pokebab

We recently hosted a meet up at Pokebab, a bright and quaint Poke (pronounced Poh-Kay) Bar in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Poke, which is native to Hawaii, is a dressed raw tuna salad with fresh toppings such as scallion, cucumber, and seaweed salad. This restaurant had more of a Japanese influence so ingredients such as edamame, masago, oshinko and ponzo are available.

As I entered, I immediately felt a warm and inviting environment. The restaurant was brightly lit with earth toned decor. The relaxing ambiance and neutral decor allowed all of the vibrant colors of the fresh toppings to stand out. This enabled me to build a Poke Bowl based off of how the options looked rather than the taste. I haven’t had many of the Hawaiian and Japanese vegetables and flavor options before eating at Pokebab and I am excited that I was able to explore the diversity of Island flavors.

This restaurant offers a fast-casual dining experience (think Chipotle but with Poke) allowing customers to create their own unique Poke Bowls, Poke Burritos, and Poke Salads. Already being an extremely indecisive person, I did not know where to start. When it was my turn to order I froze and quickly chose the Classic Poke Bowl. The sweet counter person who made my bowl made many suggestions and gave me an array of sauces to sample. Their Ponzu sauce which looks similar to soy sauce is Amazing! Also their Pokebab Sauce had me licking the spoon. It’s super tasty. At one point i was just shaking my head yes to whatever she suggested for my bowl. The end result was a colorful and nutrient packed bowl with raw tuna, corn, cucumbers, radish sprouts, ginger, edamame, scallions, with their Sweet and Sour, Pokebab, and fresh Ponzu flavors on a bed of spring greens and white rice. If consuming raw tuna is not your thing, grilled chicken, seared tuna, shrimp and tofu are alternative protein options. They also have canned tropical juices available like Strawberry Guava. I sipped on an Island Iced Tea.

Pokebab

Upon first taste, I drew a similarity to Sushi. Poke reminded me of a deconstructed tuna roll. With my extra toppings added it was as if a tuna roll literally let loose and had a dance party. Poke was extremely fun for me to consume and I really enjoyed how all of the many flavors and textures were able to marry into pure deliciousness.

Although the dining area was limited, we were able to join tables and enjoy our Poke Bowls. Everyone had different bowls and most of us were able to agree that the Poke was fresh and delicious. All the flavors really stained my taste buds with a happy feeling which makes me want to go back and make endless Poke Bowl combinations. If you’re ever in Williamsburg, I totally recommend that you try Pokebab at 209 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11211.

Do not forget to add the Pokebab Flavor!

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eataly-downtown-i-ravioli

As a busy New Yorker, coming across a ravioli bar like I Ravioli at Eataly Downtown is ideal for my day-to-day. While I normally frequent their Flatiron location, I happily accepted an offer from the Eataly team to visit their second location. I had never been to Eataly Downtown so I was excited to see what was in store, literally.

Though I was guided to the bar upon arrival, I loved that there was a pathway on the floors that was leading the way. Now, you never have to worry about getting lost in the hustle and bustle of lunch since it takes you directly to where you need to go. Before approaching the bar, you get to see the chefs making the fresh pasta and the variety of options. Both chefs present on my visit seemed happy to chat about what they were making for the day, and knew plenty about each variation shown. They explained the process and how quickly it would be for me to get my meal. After the chef made a few suggestions on his favorites, I was ready to try them out for myself.

eataly-downtown-i-ravioli-station
Photo by Tanya Maithai

The menu was pretty easy to choose from and so was having a glass of Rosè while I waited. The ravioli comes stuffed and there are a number of sauces available as well so you can pick your favorite day (based by sauce) to come grab your bite to eat. It wasn’t even three sips later, when my order was already up for me to grab. It was really quicker than a New York Minute, which is perfect for someone always on the go. Should you have some time to spare, there was ample seating to enjoy.

I ordered the prosciutto stuffed ravioli with the sauce of the day which was a mushroom, arugula and beef sauce. To my surprise, I was also invited to try the Pesto Trapanese, as well as, the Carbonara sauce over a bed of ravioli. I was already enjoying the pasta I ordered but the Carbonara had come to steal the show. It was creamy, with the right amount of cheese and sauce to compliment it. I found myself digging my fork back and back again into the bowl.

eataly-downtown-i-ravioli
Photo by Tanya Maithai

The best part about the experience at I Ravioli at Eataly Downtown was that you could take ingredients home with you and recreate what you’ve had. From fresh pasta to the sauces, everything is suddenly available to you for the days you won’t have time to run in for lunch. Again, completely ideal for any ravioli lover, especially one who wants to bring the taste of Eataly, home.

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There’s nothing like discovering a hidden gem and ROKC located in NYC’s Harlem neighborhood is just that.  Wedged between a couple of local storefronts, the building’s exterior is unassuming and unless specifically looking for it, you surely could miss it walking on by. But once inside, talk about ambiance. You feel like you’ve been transported to a cool bar somewhere in Tokyo!  I couldn’t wait to experience this as the latest food adventure with my Cocktails Before Love crew.

ROKC, a Japanese bar and restaurant, is actually a clever little acronym which stands for Ramen, Oyster, Kitchen and Cocktail. The extra special treat is the creative presentation and unique preparation of the excellent cocktails. They not only taste good, but they look amazing as well!

pineapple-ROKC
Photo courtesy of Rokc nyc

Upon arrival, we chose to sit at the bar.  I actually think these are the best seats in the cozy restaurant as we were able to get the perfect view of Shige, the highly skilled mixologist, bringing all these unique drinks to life. He effortlessly prepared all the cocktails during our visit and with such attention to detail, added every house-made ingredient. It was certainly a treat to watch as he whipped up all the special concoctions. Nope, these aren’t your typical, ‘let’s meet for happy hour’ drinks. ROKC does not take reservations and can get crowded as it is a small space, so I suggest going toward the beginning of the week if you would like to secure a table or just get there early and post up at the bar like we did!

Topping Berries Frozen with sparkling wine rokc
Photo by N. Salter

The menu is quite impressive, boasting over 40 sophisticated and fun cocktails ranging from the classics to ROKC signatures, as well as a selection of beers, wines and sake. The menu doesn’t hint at what kind of container your drink will come in. So it was fun to order and then see the unexpected presentation Shige would place in front of you. It ranged from really beautiful antiques and/or elaborate glasses to some amazing looking works of art. My Lychee cocktail, for example – which consisted of lychee fruit, ginger vodka, house lychee juice and lime – was served inside a lightbulb perched on top of a pile of ice in an etched ceramic mug. The Berries frozen drink looked like an ice sculpture on a pedestal and my fellow foodie’s bourbon based drink, the Final Word – mixed with maraschino, Chartreuse and lime came in an ornate, ruby red goblet. Someone next to us had the Tomato Clam that arrived in a huge conch shell in a wooden box, while someone else’s drink was displayed in a bird’s nest within an eggshell! Every drink we sampled was amazing and well-balanced and even traditionally robust, warm liquors like bourbon and cognac which were favored by my Cocktails Before Love crew, had a nice spin and were surprisingly light, refreshing  and full of unexpected blends.

Hijiki-cocktail-rokc
Photo by N. Salter
Drinks-buns-ROKC
Photo by N. Salter

ROKC’s small plates consist of  favorites like its assortment of steamed buns and ramen bowls. The staff was very attentive and helped with our food selections. We started out with the oysters, which were $1.50 during the happy hour special. We ordered all the varieties, from the small and salty Sweet Petites to the larger and meatier Blue Points – they were tasty and fresh served with lemons, cocktail sauce and mignonette sauce. We sampled the pork bun which featured tender and flavorful chunks of pork belly; the shrimp bun which was doused in a spicy mayo and for our ramen, we opted for the Kyoto, a chicken and fish based broth, topped with pork belly, garlic, soft-boiled seasoned egg and scallions, deemed by our server as the most traditional choice. The melding of the spices in the broth was just right without being too heavy. Everything was delicious and enjoyable.

Honestly we could have sat and watched Shige create these killer cocktails and happily eat and drink for hours. You must visit ROKC!  I know I will absolutely return for a seat at the bar and explore more of the menu.

If you want to join in on our next food adventure, be sure to RSVP for an upcoming meet up.

Cheers!

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Emily-Burger-Brooklyn

Our Burgers Before Love crew and I took our cravings and taste buds over to Emily in Clinton Hills, Brooklyn. Emily is traditionally known for their delicious pizzas (hence instagram name @pizzalovesemily), however they also created a massively rich burger known as the Emmy Burger.

Emily-Cocktail

Emily is a cozy rustic inspired Brooklyn favorite. Seating can be limited, so I recommend making a reservation in advance, especially on their busy nights. This was not my first time checking out Emily, yet I wanted to make an extra special date to check out the Emmy Burger. As I always do, while I waited for the rest of the burger lovers, I enjoyed two of their Auntie Blayze cocktails. I knew this burger would be huge, so I saved my appetite for when the group arrived.

IMG_5117

As the group arrived we headed over to our table to get our grub on. We wanted to try everything, however in true Emily culture, we ordered a pizza pie for the table to share. We kept it plain with a classic cheese pizza topped with basil as we all knew the size of burger we would soon get.

Emily-Burger-Brooklyn

The Emmy Burger is composed of a 7oz artisanal Pat LaFrieda meat patty, EMMY sauce, caramelized onions, Grafton cheddar cornichon and a side of skinny fries. All of this comes in at a price tag of $26. When it arrived to the table, it stole the show as you could see all the beautiful layers of flavor it possessed. The Emmy Burger was so large that I could hardly wrap my hands around it in order to take a full bite. After that initial bite, flavors began to explode in my mouth. It was incredibly meaty and rich, caused by the combination of special sauces and caramelized onions. It is a perfect marriage in your mouth.

Emily is definitely worth returning to, however I suggest bringing along a friend to help you finish your burger!

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