Smorgasburg came to Prospect Park right around the time I was getting sick of the weekly food event. I don’t think I went at all last year, even though it’s a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Yet it was so nice out this past weekend that I went for a walk in the park, and ended up at Smorgasburg. It was nice to be back, though it’s still crowded and overpriced. But one thing that struck me on this visit was the wide variety of food on offer – Sudanese sambusas, Japanese okonomiyaki, Portuguese pastry, just to name a few. The other thing that struck me is just how good Smorgasburg has gotten for vegans and vegetarians. There’s a vegan Filipino dessert stand, as well as vegan sandwiches from Monk’s Meats. The best thing I ate was the vegan BEC (bacon egg & cheese) from ATM Vegan Deli. ATM makes vegan versions of bodega classics, and the BEC was one of the most exciting things I’ve eaten in a long while. A thin tofu patty has the creamy texture of eggs, it’s topped with mushroom bacon, vegan cheddar, and a magical vegan “yolk” sauce. I have no idea how they make it but that sauce is something special. Maybe it’s for the best that I don’t make regular visits to Smorgasburg — when I only go every few years I’m still capable of enjoying it.
ATM Vegan Deli
Smorgasburg — Prospect Park At Breeze Hill
There was a lot of press about the opening of Japan Village at Industry City a couple of months ago. Funnily enough none of the coverage mentioned that in Park Slope there has been a Japanese market for a couple of years now. Though I have to admit, I had walked by J+B Design a few times but never went in, until this past weekend. It’s the distillation of all of the good parts of Japan Village (the variety of Japanese products) without the bad parts (the crowds, the lack of public transportation, the weird layout, the lack of vegetarian options in the food court, etc.). J+B also has a good amount of vegetarian products, including some ready-made to-go meals with soy nuggets and vegetables. They sell those soy nuggets, as well as a few other vegetarian “meats”, in their small refrigerator/freezer section along with miso and Japanese pickles. There’s also a small cafe, as well as plenty of non-food Japanese products. Forget Industry City, the next time I need some togarashi or some yuzu I’m heading to J+B.
J+B Design — 300 7th St
My favorite thing at Suzy’s Roti Parlour, a Caribbean/Trini restaurant just off of Coney Island Ave, wasn’t the roti. Yes the flaky roti dough, full of tasty vegetables like sweet squash and savory spinach, was quite tasty. The doubles, fried dough filled with chickpea curry, were fine. It definitely needed a boost from the tamarind and pepper sauces. What really stood out though, was the side dish called simply macaroni pie. A square cut from a pan of macaroni and cheese, it was surprisingly light while still being intensely flavored. It’s the perfect anytime snack, and a nice foil for the bold Caribbean flavors of the other dishes.
Suzy’s Roti Parlour — 907 Church Ave
A few years ago I wrote about the abundance of Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants along Coney Island Avenue. In the last few years some restaurants have come and gone, but I haven’t really kept up. Then I got a message on Instagram from Kim, a food blog friend who seems to know about all of the new restaurants around the city, with an article about Jalsa Grill & Gravy. They had a lot of clearly marked vegetarian and vegan options, so I decided to check it out.
Everything at Jalsa is made fresh, to order. That means you may have to wait a little longer than normal for your food. It also means the food is delicious, and doesn’t taste like your usual cookie-cutter Indian restaurant. The star of my meal was the (vegan) gobi mirhci keema — small pieces of cauliflower cooked in a rich, smoky sauce full of garlic and green peppers. I normally don’t care for green peppers, but in this case they actually added both flavor and texture to the dish. Scooped up with torn pieces of fresh roti the dish was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.
The staff was friendly and attentive — after making sure I wasn’t a vegan they brought out a shot of homemade mango lassi, made with homemade yogurt. It was the perfect capper to a great meal.
Jalsa Grill & Gravy — 964 Coney Island Ave
Even those of us who write about food (however intermittently) get stuck in our food ruts. Almost every time I go to Sunset Park I end up eating at Lucky Vegetarian. That’s not a bad thing, since it’s so good. But when I read about Chuan Tian Xia over on Eat the World NYC I thought it was about time to shake up the routine. I had two amazing dishes at the Sichuan restaurant on a recent visit, and hope it was just the first of many. The cold Chengdu noodles were as garlicky and spicy as they were wobbly and slippery (which is to say very). But the standout dish was called simple “griddle cauliflower”, heated at the table in a wonderfully flavorful chili-garlic-ginger sauce. It danced right up to the edge of too spicy without going over, and the cauliflower itself was perfectly crisp. It’s been a while since I was so excited by a restaurant, but Chuan Tian Xia lives up to the hype.
Chuan Tian Xia — 5502 7th Ave
I’m ashamed to say that although I’ve spent a lot of time in the Asian side of Sunset Park I haven’t spent nearly as much time on the Mexican-Latin American side. This past weekend I stopped by a place I had heard good things about – Tacos Matamoros. I got the enchiladas de hongos (mushrooms), which come in your choice of sauce. On my server’s recommendation I got the green sauce, which had great heat and nice acidity. Topped with radishes and crema to tame the heat, it was a warming dish for a blustery wintery day.
Tacos Matamoros — 4508 5th Ave
At a ramen joint focused on beef bone broth is this particularly delicious vegetarian miso ramen. With a vegetable broth that highlights the fermented flavor of miso, some wonderfully chewy noodles, and toppings that range from fresh cucumbers to fried lotus root there is so much to like in this one bowl.
Za-Ya Ramen — 545 Court St