Shifting one stop West on the L train this week puts us at Third Avenue and 14th Street, an area on the food uptick since the opening of Whole Foods and more recently Trader Joes. Although the immediate area lacks any real stellar restaurants, there is an abundance of places to grab a good bite to eat and even a little Japantown that has been brewing on 9th Street for a few years.
Some places we like to grab a quick bite nearby:
Daphne's Caribbean Express – a casual place that we used to always get homemade patties on the way to the Greenmarket. We have since enjoyed the Oxtails ($9.50) and Jerk meats ($6.95) a few times.
Roll-N-Roaster – this shop specializes in hot Roast Beef sandwiches ($4.45), but does confidently makes unique round, and thin fries that are quite good. Bonus point for being able to get hot cheese poured over any menu item.
99 miles to Philly – competing right up the block in the sliced beef sandwich category, this cheesesteak ($6.50) shop with the catchy name does a very good job, but does not rise to Carl’s (or Jim’s) levels. We like the fries ($2.25) a bunch and they do add the nice touch of giving you a Goldenberg Peanut Chew with your meal.
Mariella Pizza – in a city overrun with bad slice joints, it is nice to know that Mariella’s has not changed since we first arrived in the city over a decade ago. The crust on the above average slice ($2.25) has some character, the tomato tastes fresh and lively, but there is just still too much cheese for our liking. Thankfully, this is the one thing you can change with a knife and fork. We bet some of the other food is good, and when we recently stopped by a few friends of the owner were enjoying a full meal with a bottle each for BYOB.
Pop - over on the super short fourth avenue, Pop has been serving delicious mini-burgers well before the trend took over all around our fair city. We did the low slung couches and numerous other plates of hand held foods. We love the modern decor that was a precursor to places like Centro-Fly and owner Roy Liebenthal's other places in the Meatpacking area, unfortunately the NYU-ish crowd reminds us how old we really are.
9th Street still turning Japanese:
It seemed to start with Otafuku and their Takoyaki, but over the last decade a plethora of Japanese businesses have opened up showcasing a handful of non-Sushi selections. The well-regarded, and always busy, Soba-ya serves up soba and udon noodles as well as a wide variety of appetizers. Yakiniku West brought Japanese BBQ (with some Korean dishes thrown in) to the city long before the new crop of robata spots – which are admittedly a cut above the quality here - arrived. One of the latest arrivals is Panya, a bakery that also serves a wide variety of croissants, sandwiches, coffees and teas. Everything is made from scratch and the people are real nice.
The crown jewel of the block is the Sunrise Market, a second floor micro market that stocks various Japanese dry goods, fresh vegetables, as well as a good selection of value priced, quality meat and fish. There are also piles of containers with ready to eat salads, snacks, and drinks.
Other Japanese businesses, ranging from day spas to haircutters, also have put down roots on the block.
Of random note:
Right on 14th street just East of Third, a few clones of some other neighborhood spots have opened. Chickpea (soon), Friend House, Bite all have opened outposts.
Obligatory Trader Joes details:
The wine store is not open yet, but looks to be real close as the aisles are much clearer. After a few visits and marveling at the prices (4 avocados/$2.99, Clif Bars/$0.99, 12 taquitos/$3.19, TJ labeled Naked Juice/$1.99) as well as deep selections for some items (butter) Gothamist thinks we have the TJ formula down. This place is great if you are looking to fabricate quick meals using their stir-fry kits or frozen vegetables, need staples for your pantry, are hosting a cocktail party for which you need canapes, or wish to buy brown bag lunch supplies for a week.