Category Archives: Eating Out

JB’s Burger Opens on Smith

Provence en Boite’s newest spin-off a couple of doors down on Smith Street promises delicious burgers, hot dogs nestled in baguettes, salads and ice cream, sort of a laid back, faster food version of the bistro that moved into the neighborhood from Bay Ridge a few years ago.

Given the apparent success of Oaxaca Tacos nearby, which is also working on its own spin-off for 4th Ave., near Carroll Street, JB’s Burger should do a roaring trade too. Named for Executive Chef and co-owner Jean-Jacques Bernat, who with his wife Leslie Bernat, runs Provence en Boite, the newly opened JB’s Burger takes over the space once occupied by Patois, and most recently by La Petite Provence.

Here’s hoping the burger/hot dog formula works better than the couple’s short-lived La Petite Provence, which offered much the same fare as the restaurant proper but in the small-plate style sweeping New York.

With the sun shining at last, there’s been a crowd outside and a lot of buzz about the newest burger joint; my husband spied a burger on his way home one evening and commented that it “looked really good.” I’ll give it a try next time I’m in a burger-beer mood and report back.

JB’s Burger is at 255 Smith Street in Carroll Gardens; 718 254 0007.

Ring in Spring With Tacos, Markets and Ball Field Feasts

Yay! Finally something useful is moving to a street I frequent. First Oaxaca Tacos opened around the corner from us on Smith Street, making for the first fast, friendly and delicious place for delivery or a quick late-night meal at the bar. Now, Oaxaca is opening an outpost on 4th Ave., between President and Carroll Streets, which is wonderfully convenient for me, since it’s right around the corner from where my children go to school.

Fourth Ave. is otherwise pretty barren, save for Root Hill Café, Brooklyn Lyceum a bit further down and the down home Latin American food at Yomaris Restaurant. So the addition of Oaxaca Tacos is most welcome. I already predict after school visits for a quick bite, or stopping in for a late lunch when I arrive too early for school pickup.

I’m a fan of the soft tacos, especially the fish, or the bowls of rice and beans with chicken mole or carne asada and all the trimmings. There’s no opening date yet beyond early April  for the new Oaxaca at 250 Fourth Ave., according to the website, but the sign is up and the bodega it replaces is long gone.

What a nice change to have something I like in a useful location. From our Carroll Gardens address we manage to be just far enough away from everything we utilize; walk up to Henry Street for bread and bagels (Mazzola + Marius), hike up Court Street for Citibank and CVS, down to Atlantic Ave. for cheese, olives and pita bread (Sahadis + Damascus Bakery), Atlantic again to cruise Urban Outfitters and soon Barneys Co-op. Now if we can get someplace on Smith Street, near Degraw please,  to get a good cup of coffee and a fresh baguette, I’ll stop complaining.

Oh, and speaking of good stuff, I should mention that the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket, which sets up outside of PS 58 and across from Carroll Park, resumes Sunday, April 11.

Also good news for fans of tacos and beyond, the beloved Red Hook Ballpark vendors will be setting up their stalls again May 1.  And the satellite vendors at the Brooklyn Flea’s Fort Greene and Hanson Place venues will be at your service from Sunday, April 11.

Spring is in the air at last …

Meat Pies and a Flat White?

Where do local Aussies want to hang out when they want to be around other Aussies, or at least drink a Coopers beer, nosh on a sausage roll or watch a footy game? Here are a few places in New York that I go if I want a slice of home.

For a decent meal, some kangaroo or barramundi perhaps, there’s the perennial favorite Eight Mile Creek in Soho. We’ve spent many an evening in the upstairs dining room or the heated outdoor area, enjoying top-notch Australian wines and slightly more elegant food than befits the misguided Crocodile Dundee stereotype that America has too long embraced. It’s one of the few places I’ve been able to find good pavlova too.

Tuck Shop in the East Village is the place for a quick cup of coffee – that’s a flat white where I come from – and a meat pie or sausage roll. And the lamingtons and vanilla slices are about as good as you can find in NY. I was here for Australia Day, the Aussie version of St. Patrick’s Day celebrated January 26, and the staff was great. The server treated us to lamingtons and threw in an extra one for me to bring home to the kids. A lamington for the uninitiated is an Australian childhood favorite; a slab of white sponge cake, filled with strawberry jam, dipped in chocolate syrup and dredged in shredded coconut.

There’s a second location too, at St Marks Place, and hot off the presses, they just got a license to sell beer and wine. As part of the long-awaited coup, Tuck Shop is introducing New York to the Esky. For $30, you can get six beers at the table in a mini Esky to keep it extra cold. The St Marks Place location also has Billy Tea, Tim Tams, beloved Vegemite and other Aussie treats for sale.

And while you’re downtown, the Sunburnt Cow and Bondi Road Fish + Chips are great spots for drinks and eats. Yep, you’ll get meat pies, burgers, lamb chops, fish+ chips – all the usual drinking food with a fun, laid-back vibe. I hear there is a The Sunburnt Calf now on the Upper West Side too, but I’ve yet to check it out.

The Australian is where you go for very large glasses of red wine (and very large headaches the next morning!) and non-stop sports action. Sports junkies are glued to the TV screens for cricket matches and rugby league, and the proprietor, a former rugby league player himself, will happily shoot the breeze about the game. Great place to take visiting sports writers or wannabe sportsmen.

If you’re in Brooklyn, the coffee and meat pies at The Pie Shop in Prospect Park come straight from the ovens of DUB Pies  (Down Under Bakery), which started out with its prime storefront on Columbia Street. The coffee is good, the pies and sausage rolls are pretty decent, there’s catering and delivery to boot, and chances are you’ll hear an Australian or New Zealand accent working the counter.

Then there’s Sheep Station on Fourth Avenue, Park Slope, where the shearer’s burger (a burger topped with beets, pineapple and a fried egg), lamb chops and fish + chips are worth the trip to the otherwise pretty barren block. There is a fireplace too.

If you just want to read about Australian food, hit the newsstand at Barnes & Noble for the occasional good, out-of-season and pricey Australian food mag. Donna Hay’s breezy, beautifully styled magazines channel Martha Stewart but with that laid back Aussie feel. And there’s usually a Vogue Entertaining + Travel lurking on the shelves.

No Soup For Me?

The Soup in Question

I was skeptical to say the least, but oddly fascinated by the concept of cooking tuna in a soup. Applying heat to a fresh, ruby-red chunk of tuna is sacrilege in my book. So what was my dear friend thinking, urging me to come over for a bowl of her latest creation; an Ecuadoran style tuna soup. I’ve not been to Ecuador, and being born and bred in Australia, have little knowledge of the style of cooking.  But for me, tuna is all about sashimi, keeping it raw or just seared, at most. I did grow up with fish soups, mind you, but the ones my maternal grandmother made were a hearty mix of sturdy white fish, perhaps some fat prawns for good measure, but never tuna.

Yuca, another dominant ingredient in this soup, was also foreign to me.  I’ve since learned that it also goes by the names cassava or manioc, and is a long, slim tuber (like a long potato) with bark-like skin. It’s often sold in bins outside NY bodegas, or cut and peeled in the frozen section of most supermarkets. All that said, there are  few things I won’t at least try. so I agreed to go and just look at the soup, and see if perhaps I dared a taste.

Well, I had it all wrong. The soup was utterly delicious. The chunks of tuna were poached in a fish stock and doused in lime juice, a smattering or red onions and fresh chopped tomato, then all kind of bound together with nuggets of sweet, starchy yuca.  Even my kids lined up for bowls; thinking they were eating potato cooked in broth.

I haven’t made it myself yet, but I am already thinking to replace the tricky-to-prep yuca with some potato and/or a handful of rice to make it a more substantial meal. And I will definitely toss in some fresh red chilli to balance the lime and give more bite. My experimental friend was inspired to make the soup after tasting a version at the Red Hook ball fields where for some 30 years cooks from all over Latin America have gathered at weekends to sell foods from their homelands. I guess that’s where I’ll be going come spring, once the food sellers set up shop again.

Meantime, here is a  recipe for the tuna soup or Encebollado De Atun that won me over.


1 lb yuca, peeled, cored and cut into 1-1/2″ pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion diced
4 plum tomatoes diced
6 cloves garlic finely-chopped
1 gallon fish stock
1 1/2 lb tuna cut in 2″ pieces
parsley chopped
1 bunch cilantro leaves chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red onion, thinly sliced
6 limes quartered
corn nuts


Place the yuca in a large stockpot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil,
then lower the heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Remove from
the heat and let cool in the water.

Heat the oil in a separate stockpot over high heat. Add the onion and half
of the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stock, and
bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add
the tuna and yuca and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in parsley and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Immediately ladle the soup into bowls. Float some of the red onion slices
on the surface of each serving, and top with the remaining diced tomatoes.
Squeeze lime juice over the onions and sprinkle the corn nuts over the
onions and tomatoes. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side.

Serves 6

Ribs For Heart Day

Jake's BBQ Ribs or what's left of them
The Remains of a Good Rib Dinner

A table for two, tonight? Oh gosh no, replied the addled maitre d’ at Po when my husband tried for a last-minute dinner reservation, since the kids were nestled at grandma’s for the night. We had kind of forgotten about the whole Valentine’s Day, romantic couples on date -night thing and just wanted something good to eat.

It just wasn’t meant to be. All our favorite, walkable haunts were booked to the brim. Apparently we were the only Brooklyn couple who hadn’t booked weeks ahead for the chance to share the love with a roomful of strangers, who knew?  What to do, what to do. Order BBQ of course.

We’d had a menu for Jake’s BBQ in the drawer for months and finally got to try it. And glad we were; a pile of juicy, beef short ribs, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and individual, small cornbread loaves — teamed with a good bottle of red — we couldn’t have been more sated. We ate well, didn’t have to trudge through the slush AND in these tough times, we figure we saved about $100 on what we would have spent going out. All that food was just short of $30. Oh, and the neighbors’ dog gets the bones!

Next time, we’re thinking of riding the BBQ shuttle over to Jake’s for a nosh. No kidding, Jake’s will send a car to take you to the restaurant and home again, for free. What’s not to like? Jake’s BBQ is at 189 Columbia Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Comfort Food

Al di La’s addictive polenta ai funghi

Two consecutive, cold Fridays, while the children were in school, I found myself luring willing diners to Al di La Trattoria in Park Slope just to eat the same dish. For some, comfort food is a bowl of mashed potatoes, a hamburger or ice cream maybe; for me, this restaurant’s version of polenta ai funghi hits the spot. The warm, gooey, not-too-cheesy polenta is draped with vibrant kale and a tumble of braised wild mushrooms. It is deliciously unctuous – filling but not overly so. It’s the kind of comfort food you really want your lunch partner to taste, but not really! With snow falling and Friday just around the corner, I may make it a polenta ai funghi trifecta.

Smokin’ Hot

So I finally checked out the much-hyped new smoked meat joint named Mile End for the historically Jewish Montreal neighborhood where it gets its inspiration. The place was packed with a refreshingly mixed crowd, not just hip, singletons but parents with babies and older couples, no doubt in search of a taste of the Old Country. Everyone seemed happy with what they got; which was primarily smoked brisket on bread with a scrape of mustard, bagels with house cured salmon or turkey sandwiches and the ubiquitous Stumptown coffee.

The very sweet waitress, who was literally run off her feet, said they had cooked twice as much as they thought they would need and still ran out twice  that day. They would have to close for dinner just to get ahead of themselves. The scene hadn’t calmed any a few days later when friends reported lines snaking down the block, even in these chilling temperatures. I had the smoked meat sandwich and it was hearty and tasty, though that deep smoke stayed with me for the rest of the day. My son LOVED the bagels I brought home; I’m told they are flown in daily from Montreal, and their sweet crust comes from a dip in a honey-water bath before baking. The guys sharing our table had Poutine, a Montreal standard of fries, doused in brown gravy and cheese curds, which also looked good, in a rib-sticking, not-eating-again-for-a-month kind of way.

I’ll return to Mile End but perhaps to try something less manly than the smoked meat next time,  if I can ever get a seat at one of the few communal tables.  Mile End is at 97A Hoyt Street,  near Atlantic Ave. in Boerum Hill.