Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

Tacos in Morningside Heights

With the new taco emoji, it seemed only fitting that I scout out places to get tacos around campus. My two finds: Taqueria y Fonda and Cascabel Taqueria (both of which are on seamless). Both places have delicious tacos that are quite traditional. You will not find hard shell tacos stuffed with ground beef. As delicious as those tacos are, they are not true to the Mexican specialty. Instead, an authentic taco consists of a double-layered corn or wheat tortilla filled with a variety of fillings: seafood, chicken, pork, or vegetables. Tacos are native to Mexico and predate the arrival of the Europeans to such lands. The word tacos was used by the colonizers, at the time, to describe the indigenous food. Thus, tacos are a lasting part of Mexican history.

My favorite kinds of taco are pastor, pollo, carnitas, and chorizo. Tacos al pastor are filled with thin pork slices marinated in a combination of dried chilies, spices, and pineapple. Traditionally al pastor is cut from a spit, similar to shawarma (a Middle Mastern meat spit, usually made with lamb). It is said that Arab immigrants, especially Lebanese, brought this style of cooking meat to Mexico. Al-pastor meat is usually sweet with a spicy zing to it. Pollo tacos are filled with shredded chicken that can be marinated in a few different ways depending on the chef. Carnita tacos are filled with slow braised pieces of pork in oil. The meat is extremely tender and mildly flavored since it is not usually heavily marinated in spices. Chorizo tacos also do not incorporate many other ingredients. They are only filled with pan-fried pieces of chorizo, which is a spicy pork sausage. The basics of a taco are the same from establishment to establishment; they are just served with different toppings and sauces.

Taqueria y Fonda is a very modest setting with little seating that serves up very simple, no-frills added tacos. All tacos come topped with cilantro, tomatoes, grilled onions, a slice of lime on the side, and a choice of mild green tomatillo sauce or spicy red sauce. The only difference is the filling, of which there is a large variety (vegetarian as well).


The tacos at Cascabel Taqueria come two or three in a serving and are more individualized than those from Taqueria y Fonda. Each kind of taco comes with its own toppings and a choice between four different sauces varying in levels of spiciness: roasted tomato, tomatillo, Diablo, and habanero. The al pastor taco is topped with grilled pineapple, sautéed onion, and avocado. The pollo taco is marinated in chipotle seasoning and served with avocado and green onion. The carnitas taco is topped with pickled red onion, roasted chili, and crispy rice. The chorizo taco is topped with onion and cilantro. The toppings for the tacos at Cascabel are more tailored to the dish and balance the flavors well, but they are not entirely necessary since, as Taqueria y Fonda proves, every taco is set topped only with cilantro, tomatoes, and grilled onions.

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The tacos at both places are equally delicious. Cascabel is more of a place to go out to since it has a lively atmosphere and plenty of seating. Their tacos are filled with more of a mix of flavors, whereas the tacos at Taqueria y Fonda do not contain a mix of ingredients, but are still very flavorful. There are only two or three tables in the entire restaurant so it is definitely a better option to order out from. These are the two best options for tacos in the vicinity of Morningside Heights, but better finds are sure to be found in Spanish Harlem, which I hope to visit soon.


A Vegan’s Heaven in the Village

This time when I chose a vegan restaurant to visit, I decided to stray a little further from campus and I found Red Bamboo on 140 W 4th Street in the Village.


The restaurant has a very calming and cozy feel, making it a very nice place to go if you are stressed. I decided to get take-out from the restaurant and it only took them 10 minutes to make my food! So, if you are very hungry after making the trek from Morningside Heights, luckily, you will not have to wait long! And my trek was truly worth it!!

Popcorn shrimp
Popcorn Shrimp

I decided to start off my meal with an appetizer. I chose the popcorn shrimp because one of the things that I miss the most after becoming a vegetarian is shrimp. The vegan popcorn shrimp were absolutely amazing! The shrimp I got had the same texture and taste of real shrimp! The shrimp were fried perfectly and the sauce that came with them complimented them very well. I will definitely be going back to get more!!

Classic blt
Classic B.L.T.

I got the classic BLT for my entrée because I was really interested in trying Red Bamboo’s version of bacon. The tempeh bacon was also really good and it  had a very similar taste to real bacon. The sandwich also included whole wheat bread, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and vegan mayonnaise. The mayonnaise didn’t taste exactly like real mayonnaise, but in some ways it was actually better. It was a little less thick than real mayonnaise and had a little bit of a different taste, which actually went better with my sandwich than real mayonnaise would have. I definitely will have to get this sandwich again!

I loved everything about Red Bamboo and I will definitely be going back sometime very soon. Everything I tried tasted absolutely amazing and now I know that there is a place that makes great substitutes for the food that any vegan or vegetarian misses. I will definitely be recommending this restaurant to everyone I know, whether or not they are vegan or vegetarian!

Mission Chinese: Sichuan Cuisine Survives on the Lower East Side

Mission Chinese Food, which opened in 2012, serves spicy Sichuan-inspired cuisine; the restaurant has had lines out the door pretty much since opening.

And then in 2013, the restaurant was shut down due to sanitation issues.

But it’s been a while since then, so I cautiously ventured down to the Lower East Side with a friend to indulge in some chili-doused chicken wings. We hadn’t made a reservation, and at first it seemed we would have to wait. But there was an area in the front where they serve the whole menu, and we’re not picky sitters.


Since it’s Sichuan-inspired cuisine (Sichuan is the province with the spiciest cuisine in China), we figured we had to order several spicy dishes, and balance it out with a couple of milder dishes.

matcha noodles

The first dish we got was the green tea noodles. This was probably my favorite of the things we ordered; the bitterness of the matcha contrasts spectacularly with the savory noodles and sweet hoisin sauce. The crunch of the thinly sliced radish adds a textural contrast in comparison to the soft ramen.

rice cakes with thrice-cooked bacon and tofu skins

Mission Chinese seems to have textural components of their food down. Chewy, starchy rice cakes, crunchy cucumber, fatty, soft bacon; all doused in a super-spicy, umami, garlicky sauce. Top it with raw scallions and cilantro and you have a winner.

chicken wings
chicken wings

The chicken wings were so good, but they were far too spicy for me. I had one; my friend had five. Imagine: delicious chicken wings, with a nice crispy skin; then imagine dumping an entire container of chili flakes on them. Wonderful, but dangerous.

pork belly and radishes
pork belly and radishes

If pork belly is on a menu, I can’t not order it. This was the other non-spicy dish; I thought the mint didn’t go so well with the pork belly and radish, but besides that the dish was excellent. A light, sweet sauce cut was with the slight bitterness of greens. The pork belly was soft, and the radishes added a nice crunch.

And then—a complimentary treat!


These were not spicy, and they were a perfect bite at the end of the meal. Spinach, egg, and (I think) tapioca. An interesting combination, but it worked.

The bathroom is in the basement. One must walk past the kitchen in order to get to it. The kitchen was filled with shouts of “hot!” “order in!” and “yes, chef!”

There’s nothing like a fast-paced, energetic kitchen to get the blood pumping and get a diner looking forward to a meal. Go to Mission Chinese. Even if there’s a wait. You won’t regret it—though your mouth might after a couple of chicken wings.

Mission Chinese,

171 E Broadway

Atmosphere: Young, hip, upbeat.

Noise Level: Loud.

Recommended Dishes: green tea noodles, pork belly and radishes

Price Range: $$

Hours: 5:30–12, Tues-Sat; 5:30-11, Sun–Mon.



Your Neighborhood Bakery

With the cold winter months quickly approaching, now is the time to soak up the mild weather and take advantage of the spots that are easily accessible from campus.  After a long day full of classes and other commitments, I find myself in need of a way to unwind, without paying subway fares or venturing too far away from Barnard.  A walk to the local Silver Moon Bakery & Cafe, located on 105th and Broadway, provides an opportunity to explore the neighborhood (and the exercise to use as an excuse for buying many pastries).

The exterior of the bakery
The exterior of the bakery

The blue awning and outdoor seating of the bakery provides an inviting welcome to the space, and you feel right at home before you even step inside.  Once I walked in, the excitement of being in a new bakery hit me once again.  I immediately walked straight to the pastry display case, to drool over the wide variety of pies, cakes, and pastries, with everything from apple pie to chocolate mousse and blueberry ginger muffins.  I was so focused on choosing the perfect dessert that it took me a few minutes to see the shelves piled high with breads of every shape and size.

Pastries on display
Pastries on display

From baguettes to boules to rolls, Silver Moon Bakery handcrafts all of its breads, ensuring freshness and variety.  Though I knew an entire loaf of bread was a strange item to take back to my dorm room (Editor’s note: is it, though? ), the appeal of the sourdough boule convinced me that it was worthwhile.  A feeling of contentment spread over me as I left the bakery, now armed with a berry tart and my very own sliced loaf of bread.  Paired with a hazelnut spread I bought later, the bread was the perfect combination of a crunchy outer crust and a chewy inside and just what I needed to get through the rest of my homework.

My bread in all of its glory
My bread in all of its glory
My delicious fruit tart, reminiscent of summer days
My delicious fruit tart, reminiscent of summer days


Try Thai!

One of my dreams is to go to Bangkok, a known food capital of the world. I remember the first time I tried Thai food (of course I was having Pad Thai), I immediately loved the fresh flavors and the mix of savory and sweet found in each bite. I try to seek out traditional and delicious Thai restaurants, but I know none can come to close to anything I would have if I were to visit Bangkok. So hopefully one day I will be able to visit, and even write a blog on it!

Thai food is very aromatic and full of spice and flavor. Each dish usually incorporates a blend of at least three taste senses: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and bitter. Each of the four regions of Thailand has their own kind of cuisine. Thai food also shares similarities with the cuisines of its neighboring Southeast Asian countries. In fact, many dishes in Thailand came from China, but, over time, Thai cuisine has developed its own unique flavors and preparations. Today, Thai cuisine is one of the most popular around the world.


Thus, it is no surprise that I found an abundance of Thai restaurants while in Hell’s Kitchen. I do not at all regret my choice to go to the cozy Pure Thai Cookhouse. The delicious meal is very much worth the 15-minute wait. We began our meal with the daily steamed dumpling special. They were stuffed with chicken, crab, and shrimp. They were delicious with a firm filling that kept the taste of the shrimp and crab (the chicken helped to keep the filling together) and the dipping sauce to dip them in was even better – a salty and vinegary sauce with chili flakes to add spice. Along with the dumplings we ordered fried tofu with a peanut and tamarind dipping sauce. The tofu without the sauce lacked a bit of flavor, but the sauce with its crushed peanuts made the dish worth ordering. This dish was the only one that we ordered that was subpar, but the sauce is definitely worth asking for on the side. It has the characteristic mix of salty, sweet, and sour that is typical of many Thai dishes. Unfortunately, I did not manage to get any pictures of these two dishes, because we were to eager to begin.


Next, we ordered wok curry paste with pork, pad see ew with beef, and ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles. Each dish had its own blend of flavors and each was better than the next. The wok curry paste with pork included a spicy sauce that was not spicy at first, but lingered and became spicier over time. It included a variety of different textured vegetables (bamboo shoot, thai eggplant, and string bean) that balanced well with the pork.


The pad see ew was a sweet and salty compliment to the curry. The flat noodles were drenched in the brown sauce with pieces of scrambled eggs and broccoli, cauliflower, and beans. The crunchiness of the cauliflower and broccoli countered the softness and slipperiness of the noodles so that it did not become too overwhelming. Cauliflower is not often added to pad see ew dishes. It was a nice addition, but the broccoli does a better job of absorbing the sauce.


The ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles had the simplest flavor, mostly sweet, but were made with delicious homemade noodles. It included big pieces of crab and pork loin. It was hard to eat these together with the noodles, but all of individual pieces were so good.


Overall the meal was absolutely delicious, and I will definitely go back to Pure Thai Cookhouse sometime soon!


Peacefood Cafe: Any Vegan or Non-Vegan’s Paradise

Everyone loves dessert, and luckily, Manhattan is home to numerous bakeries for all of us dessert lovers in the city. The problem is that it is almost impossible to find a good vegan bakery, even in Manhattan. I made it my mission to find a good vegan bakery and I found the Peacefood Cafe, which is both a vegan restaurant and vegan bakery.


The cafe is a nice, casual, and cozy spot to have a meal with a friend, while enjoying their many vegan options. It is definitely a stress-free atmosphere! It is located in the Upper West Side on Amsterdam and 82nd, so it isn’t too far from campus. They also have another location in the Village.


The bakery part of the restaurant had many vegan desserts, which all look like they must be made with diary products. Upon walking in, I even wondered if their desserts were actually vegan! In place of the dairy products normally found in these desserts, the Peacefood Cafe uses healthier options, such as avocados. Not only are these desserts vegan, but also many of them are even gluten free.

From left to right: chocolate chip cookie sandwich and raw chocolate mousse pie
From left to right: chocolate chip cookie sandwich and raw chocolate mousse pie

I had a chocolate chip cookie sandwich and a slice of the raw chocolate mousse pie. The chocolate chip cookie sandwich was two large cookies with chocolate inside, which made them stick together. Without the chocolate inside, the cookies were some of the best I have ever had. The chocolate inside was so rich in flavor that it made the cookies taste even  better. The mousse pie was made with avocado, which made me a little nervous to try it, but it was amazing! The taste of the avocado was undetectable and if anything, it made the chocolate taste even richer in flavor. I will definitely be going back to the cafe to get both of these desserts again!

Mango Lassi
Mango lassi

I also had a mango lassi while I was at the cafe, which I was a little nervous about because it is a yogurt-based drink. The mango lassi was pretty good considering it was vegan, but it wasn’t as good as the non-vegan ones I have had in the past. The yogurt used in the drink tasted like regular yogurt, but the lassi tasted too much like yogurt and did not have enough of a mango taste. Overall, it was good, but I think I will try a different drink next time.

I look forward to going back to the Peacefood Cafe to try more of their vegan options! I definitely would recommend this cafe to anyone looking for a nice to spot to eat and hang out with friends or anyone looking for a good take-out place. This cafe is great for both vegans and non-vegans, alike!

Economical in East Harlem: Restaurant San Cristobal

In the thousands of times that I’ve visited New York City in the past, I had never spent time in Harlem. Now that I’m living here, I’ve made it a point to experience all parts of Manhattan.  So, when a friend from home came to visit this past weekend, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to charter new ground. Thus, we journeyed North-East, out of the Mo-Hi bubble, and into Spanish Harlem. While Harlem houses rich culture, it also houses rich food. After walking around a bit, we came across a notable gem: Restaurant San Cristobal, also known as Cafe Ollin.

Restaurant San Cristobal is a small  Mexican restaurant. Walking through their doors was like walking into Mexico. The quaint little restaurant is covered with Mexican-style ornaments and they play traditional music.

The decor was almost as amazing as the food (and their prices). We each  ordered our own tacos and shared one of their famous tortas (a kind of sandwich), all for under $20.


I had ordered the “chicken taco con todo.” What delighted me most when seeing this dish come out was how green the avocado was. All ingredients were fresh, which was reflected in the quality of the taste.


This is their traditional “cemita” with breaded steak. It is a sandwich filled with black beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado, oaxaca cheese, and chipotle. The chipotle added the perfect bite to this sandwich, satisfying all taste buds.

So, he next time you’re in the mood for Mexican and are planning on getting Chipotle, consider Restaurant San Cristobal. It’s authentic Mexican food that will probably end up costing you less.


Coffee, Tea, Muesli? Chalait’s Healthy and Vegan Offerings

As an avid espresso finder, I have traveled around the city finding my favorite cappuccinos, macchiatos, cortados, and lattes. Each borough has always rewarded me with amazing cups of jittery happiness, but then I’m usually hungry for a snack to go with my cuppa.

But when I look at the glass counter for a sweet treat to pick out, all I usually see are chocolate croissants, sugar covered pound cakes, huge chocolate muffins, and the bigger-than-your-head cookies. As a health-focused consumer of foods, what am I supposed to eat at these places? Am I supposed to stick with the cantaloupe and pineapple filled fruit cups every time?

Chalait in the West Village offers some other options.

I like to study around NYU quite a bit, and one time I popped into a very bright and very minimalist decorated coffee shop called Chalait, and I’m so glad I did. As I walk in I do see the croissants and muffins in a small shelf, but then I look up and see a huge menu of healthy options, as well as some shelves on the side of the store bursting with raw bites, quinoa salads, and chia puddings.

I sighed with happiness, ordered, and sat down waiting for deliciousness to come to me.

Muesli Toast with Agave, Pumpkin Seeds, and Seasonal Fruit!

Chalait offers different kinds of “toasts”, whether it be avocado, sunrise, or plain Nutella. I ordered the muesli toast with fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, and agave for that morning. I couldn’t even believe that what I was eating had ZERO preservatives, and was made of such pure ingredients. They even spent so much time meticulously plating each dish to keep the dishes looking as beautiful as their latte art.

Aside from their toasts, each of which I tried every time I visited here, Chalait also has many raw snacks, and one of my favorites is the Tangy Pineapple and Cocoa Banana Bites. They are completely raw, vegan, and gluten free, and best of all, guilt-free!

Tangy Pineapple and Cocoa Banana Bites PC: @chalaitnyc
Tangy Pineapple and Cocoa Banana Bites PC: @chalaitnyc

These are just a few of the many delicious and healthy options you can pair with your favorite espresso at Chalait, and I definitely will be returning next week to try something new! While every coffee-shop may not have raw brownie bites and chia puddings, you can always find something guilt-free to go with your coffee. If not, enjoy your well-made cortado and grab a snack from the bodega next door!

Heading West: Underwest Donuts

A brave dessert aficionado’s pursuit of all things fried, glazed, and sugary.

Located at 47th Street and 12th Ave, Underwest Donuts is an unassuming doughnut shop. It’s actually inside a carwash, and the shop itself is just a counter where a few friendly employees dole out freshly fried doughnuts to anyone who wanders through.


For such a small shop, there was a fairly extensive choice of doughnuts, and I bought an array to bring back to campus. I ordered three of the “special doughnuts” (pictured below), and one of the regular sugared doughnuts upon recommendation from guy behind the counter. He actually fried the dough and rolled it in sugar in front of me, to emphasize the freshness.

Maple Waffle

The Maple Waffle is one of the newer flavors, and it has a very strong maple flavor, but in a good way that seems to transport you to the Vermont wilderness.

Pumpkin Ginger

The Pumpkin Ginger doughnut was a little strong for my taste; it tasted strongly of ginger.

Dark Chocolate

The Dark Chocolate was my favorite – it had a rich chocolate flavor without being overly sweet.


(Pictured, clockwise from the top: Pumpkin Ginger, Maple Waffle, Dark Chocolate, and Sugared)

Final thoughts: Were these doughnuts amazing? Absolutely. Would I go back? Not a chance. Getting to Underwest Donuts was such a pain – it’s too far West, and to get there you have to navigate the Hell that is Times Square. However, if you’re looking for genuinely good, fresh doughnuts that aren’t downtown, you’ve found your haven.



Underwest Donuts: 47th Street and 12th Ave

Bun Breakdown – Momofuku

Whenever a friend comes to New York from out of town, I reliably bring them to Momofuku Noodle Bar. I’ve been a number of times now, and since I’ve tried almost all of their buns—save the chicken meatball one—I thought I’d write a breakdown of each.


The Pork Bun: (Be warned: This bun is not on the menu. They make tons of them every day, but you’ve got to know to order them. ) The pork bun is probably the most famous bun that momofuku makes. Two slices of pork belly, hoisin sauce, scallions, and lightly pickled cucumbers. It’s a perfect combination. The sweetness of the hoisin sauce melds with the fatty pork; the fat is then cut by the scallions and cucumbers.


The Brisket Bun: This is the most beautiful bun, albeit a strange combination. (They have since changed the set to horseradish, pickled red onion, and cucumber , actually, but I haven’t had that.) The mayonnaise served with this bun went with the meat, but the shredded lettuce? A little lame, in my opinion. The brisket itself, though, was brilliant.


The Shiitake Bun: This comes with the same set as the pork bun, and I wouldn’t have ordered it, except that a chef recommended it and my mom (who I was with at the time) prefers vegetables to meat. Interestingly, I found the lack of fat in the mushrooms preferable with the hoisin to the fatty pork belly.


The Shrimp Bun: Oh, man. This one is a winner. Served with spicy mayo, pickled red onion, and iceberg lettuce, the bun contains crushed shrimp shaped into a patty and fried on a flat-top until crispy.


The Fried Egg Bun: Finally, this one was a special in September. Pork loin, fried egg, bacon, chives, and hollandaise. The bun was delicious, but more impressive was the method for keeping an entire fried egg that size: the eggs are slow-poached in the shell beforehand, so they don’t spread out like a raw egg when they’re cracked onto a hot surface.


Which bun is your favorite?