GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE

GEORGE'S

                                     

According to studies done across all five boroughs there are officially too many diners in New York City to even come up with a number. And unless you're a diner that's lasted a long time in any one particular neighborhood and have amassed a loyal following who helps spread the word around, it can be easy to not get any love from city foodies or much attention in general. George's, located on 2369 Westchester Ave in the Bronx, is one of the most outstanding diners the city has to offer. Offering a various assortment of foods from classic breakfast dishes to fried chicken & fries, cuban sandwiches, wraps, salads, burgers, etc., the twist to this place is simple: they make all of it taste delicious and they PILE ON the food. At George's they do not skimp on servings. These guys do not play around and are very much in the business of making you fall right asleep once you have one of their massive plates of food. Regardless of what you order or what time of day you order it everything will taste absolutely amazing. aAnother highlight is the efficient service that can always be found here

GEORGE'S SPECIAL 

GEORGE'S SPECIAL

 

 

 

THE PIZZA TRILOGY

If you've ever made the mistake of getting into it with someone from New York City about where to get the best whatever to nom on then maybe you've witnessed the ghastly sight of your head growing legs and detaching itself from your entire body because of pure boredom. That exchange of words is officially the longest conversation you could have with anybody. Just like the options given to you in the city when it comes to what to eat, there are just too many opinions of where the good food is at. Well, we're here to talk about pizza. Specifically, thin crust pizza. And more specific than that, we're talking thin crust pizza in the Bronx. In the Throggs Neck area of the borough there are 3 pizzerias that stand out with two of them being, and this is the God's honest truth, some of the best pizza I've ever had in all of New York. Whoo! Dramatic, ain't it? I hate speaking in absolutes but the pizza I experienced at two of the spots left me no choice. So let's begin our adventure at Louie & Ernie's. Located on 1300 Crosby Ave on a sleepy street in a very cute neighborhood, this is your best bet for some of the most delicious traditional thin crust pizza you'll find pretty much anywhere. Their cheese to sauce ratio (which is very important, people!) is on point and their crust is baked perfectly. Thin, crunchy and most importantly it will not weigh itself down no matter what toppings you put on top. It would seem somewhat counterproductive of me to ever suggest just one topping to try here. It's nothing you won't find at other pizzerias but it's not so much about the individual ingredient itself, it's more about how they compliment the already amazing pizza. Tomatoes, sausages, pepperoni, chicken, all these and more are just phenomenal on one of their slices. L&E's is a perfect example of a hidden gem. A place that for the most part only the locals know about. And while that can be somewhat of a blessing, it's time for this spot to get the love it truly deserves from outside folk. 

WHITE PIZZA (Louie & Ernie's)

WHITE PIZZA

PEPPERONI PIZZA (Louie & Ernie's)

PEPPERONI SLICE

CHICKEN PIZZA (Louie & Ernie's)

CHICKEN SLICE

Within decent walking distance of Louie & Ernie's, and bypassing one of the coveted pizza spots in the neighborhood (we'll get to that one later on), you'll find another outstanding example of where to find exceptional pizza. Tommy's, which is located on 4033 East Tremont Ave, continues with the thin crust tradition and it's easy to start piecing together the fact that the Bronx kind of knows what it's doing when it comes to the world's most perfect portable food. Since Italian Americans make up such a large chunk of the residents who live in the area it only makes sense that the pizza be this good. Old school authentic. And every bite is unreal. The cheese to sauce ratio is great but unlike Louie & Ernie's the crust here is a little less stronger than theirs. But that's no reason to fret. You're still going to love every single bite of their delicious, oily, cheesy slices. Though I'd be remiss not to mention the fact that the one thing that really stood out here more than any pizza slice I consumed was their Sicilian pizza. I'm not even that crazy about Sicilian slices but whatever they got going on at Tommy's is hands down one of the tastiest I've ever had. The bread is really what it's all about when it comes to that one. It not only literally holds the ingredients together but the taste is unique enough to have you questioning why in the hell you've allowed yourself to eat such mediocre Sicilian slices for so long. All in all, Tommy's is a spot that if it were located somewhere in the West Village would probably be getting its spot blown up all the time by The Village Voice or hipster foodies online. But it's not in the West Village, it's in the Bronx. And travelling to the food is half the adventure.

PLAIN SLICE, PEPPERONI & SICILIAN SLICE (Tommy's Pizza)

PLAIN, PEPPERONI & SICILIAN SLICE

And what's literally in the middle of these two fine dining establishments? Emilio's Pizza. Or as the outside sign proudly boasts "The Original Emilio's Pizza." Whether it is or not makes not one iota of a difference to me. Located on 3843 East Tremont, this is the big brother of the Emilio's located in Morris Park. And if they've got over there what they've got over here then I'm going over there as soon as I'm done eating every single pizza over here. Now, the first thing you'll notice about Emilio's is that they do not go the thin crust route. Nope. This is, for all intents and purposes, a more conventional pizzeria. But what makes it really shine are their insanely delicious pizza toppings. As good as their plain slice is (and it is pretty good), you can't come here and not have their garden pizza, or their incredible chicken pizza, and you'll do yourself a disservice if you don't try out their Sicilian slice with lasagna toppings or their "Deep Dish" chicken & garden salad pizza. Yes, you'll find all your favorite toppings too (is announcing the fact that no matter which pizzeria you go to you're destined to find pepperoni even necessary?) but that's not the point. The point here is gluttony. If Louie & Ernie's and Tommy's represents the best of what you can do with a classic slice, then Emilio's is the guy who comes into the kitchen drunk, makes a mess of the place and pops out with delicious and funky pizza pies for everyone. While the other spots keep it classy, this joint is all about having fun and scarfing down a giant pizza with awesome toppings.

LASAGNA SICILIAN (Emilio's Pizza)

LASAGNA SICILIAN

GARDEN SALAD PIZZA (Emilio's Pizza)

GARDEN SALAD PIZZA

DEEP DISH CHICKEN & GARDEN SALAD PIZZA (Emilio's Pizza)

DEEP DISH CHICKEN & GARDEN SALAD

CHICKEN PIZZA (Emilio's Pizza)

CHICKEN PIZZA

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON, THE HOLY SPIRIT. RAMEN.

WELCOME TO TOTTO RAMEN

WELCOME TO TOTTO RAMEN

I will admit that my interest in ramen was pretty much non-existent until I reached the apex of having been hit with its imagery all over Instagram. (Yes, of course, I've had Cup O' Noodles. Who hasn't? But that ain't food.) I felt like I was being personally attacked by the endless amounts of pictures of people lifting up their ramen noodles at restaurants or posting behind the scenes footage of them lifting up their noodles or using any one of the countless social media sites to post pictures showing evidence that, yes, in fact they're lifting noodles. Oddly enough, I started getting more interested in grabbing a picture of a bowl of ramen more so than I was interested in actually tasting it. I just wanted a pretty photo. Luckily, I decided to have my first official plate of restaurant ramen at Totto Ramen, located on East 52nd street, and it delivered. To start off, a plate of Teba Gyoza, which are fried chicken wings stuffed dumplings. Almost immediately I questioned how in the hell that food concoction came to be. But as soon as I took a bite I didn't care for the answer. These were very delicious and a part of me kind of wished I was dealing with boneless chicken wings. The dumplings compliment the chicken so wonderfully and together they make for such a necessary few moments of chewing that I hated that I had to deal with a bone all up in my face. But nevertheless, a total win. I ordered the Miso Paitan as my main dish. It comes with pork, half boiled egg, scallions, bean sprouts and onions. A bowl filled to the brim and popping with flavor, I loved my food from the first slurp. Totto Ramen has gotten a lot of press and I can see why. From the layout to the restaurant where you're seated towards the back of the room, giving it the vibe that you're about to be taken to meet someone very important and/or dangerous, to their options and their efficient service. Go here if you love ramen or if you have an addiction to lifting noodles. 

MISO PAITAN

MISO PAITAN

TEBA GYOZA

TEBA GYOZA

THE NAME'S SMITH. THE SMITH.

WELCOME TO THE SMITH

THE SMITH

If there is one thing that anyone can connect to The Smith, which has various locations in the city, its their Instagram famous skillet roasted Mac and Cheese. It seemed to me that the point I should take away from all of the postings I see of people putting up their cheese covered pasta pictures is that the only thing that matters at The Smith is their Mac and Cheese. While I can't speak for every single item on the menu I'll say two things: they have other good stuff to eat here and also their Mac and cheese is indeed EVERTHING. Ooey, gooey, cheesy and all around scrumptious, this has got to be not only the best M&C I've tasted (maybe ever), but one of the most impressive you'll find anywhere in New York. Whether you think $15 for such a simple dish is overpriced or not I'd suggest you have it first before jumping to any conclusions (the crunchy crust on top will have you freaking out). A special shout-out goes to their Avocado Toast which is presented to you beautifully on a giant plate holding a very handsome serving of organic whole wheat toast, red pepper flakes, lemon and insanely good poached eggs. What I loved most about The Smith other than their grub options was the ambience. An upscale casual type of joint you'll easily find people dressed to the gills just seats away from someone rocking a backwards hat and Pumas. And that's one of the things that genuinely makes this place great to visit. It's a reliable spot to go to and always hosts a diverse crowd. You can stop by here for great food, awesome drinks and a great, energetic vibe that suits anything from lunch dates to dinner dates and everything in between.

SKILLET ROASTED MAC & CHEESE

MAC & CHEESE

AVOCADO TOAST

AVOCADO TOAST

THE EASY RIDER (hibiscus infused tequila, dry sherry, spanish vanilla liquer, lime juice, aromatic bitters)

THE EASY RIDER

PERFECT PEAR (Williams pear brandy, organic ginger, liquer, french herbal vermouth, lemon, soda)

PERFECT PEAR

BRONX BURGER HOUSE

WELCOME TO THE BRONX BURGER HOUSE

If I were ever involved in an intense game of "Never Have I Ever" the option of yelling out "Never Have I Ever travelled two hours to eat a burger!" is now non-existent. And that's due to the fact that that's pretty much what I did over the weekend. And boy oh boy, what an adventure. If there's anything you need to know about the Bronx upfront it's that it's big. Not just big. But expansive in an almost cruel way. Like it doesn't want you to find its corners or short cuts or cul-de-sacs or even its dead ends. It wants to tire you if you dare yourself to explore it.

But I'm not one to back down from a self imposed challenge. Especially one that involves exploring my own city. No matter how far. And no matter which borough.

The one thing that I felt I hadn't seen enough of (or had enough of) in the Bronx were burgers. Really, really, tasty and GOOD burgers. Not diner burgers. Not restaurant burgers and certainly not takeout burgers from the local fried chicken joint. But the type of burger that could easily be a trendy Manhattan bar's secret weapon. 

For years and years I had heard of Bronx Burger House located up in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. So far up north that you're literally a sneeze away from Yonkers which you can walk to after you stuff your face and marvel at the fact that the Broadway you associate with mid and lower Manhattan is the same Broadway that leads you into Westchester County.

Now, full disclosure: if you don't have a car or don't have the means to overpay for a cab ride you're gonna have to take a train and a bus to experience what I consider to be one of the best burger joints in New York City. It's a shame that the Bronx gets paid seemingly little to no attention when it comes to food giving so many people the impression that there's nothing to eat but fast food and arroz con pollo. But the truth is the Bronx can't hide its secrets forever. Not if you know where to look.

As soon as you go inside you get the feel of walking into an old-timey neighborhood bar, which of course it isn't. The place is just a few years old but knows exactly the type of vibe it's going for. This is a modern sports bar that also doubles as a pub that also masquerades as a meeting ground for hipsters that also has the ambience of a small, intimate upscale restaurant, which it isn't. And to be honest had this place been the latter I wouldn't have cared for it.

At first my girlfriend and I were worried because the service was spotty. It took a while to get a waiter to pay any mind to us. And then soon after we had two waiters and about twenty-two minutes in to our visit we had a third one. Clearly there was a miscommunication. But in my head I chalked it up to three people who were duking it out over who could win the honor of serving us our burgers.
 

THOMAS MONSTER BURGER

burgerphile.The place is cute and small. Easily an area that could get loud and overcrowded during brunch hours or during a Sunday football game. But when we went it was pretty empty and very relaxed. And I didn't mind that at all. It made the place feel more intimate. 

The Thomas Monster Burger was the way to go. After sifting through their options it didn't make any sense to go any other route. A giant double beef patty burger topped with special sauce, bacon, lettuce & tomatoes. Basically, it's an INCREDIBLE version of a McDonald's Big Mac and the fact that this baby doesn't have like a shrine somewhere on the internet boggles my mind. 
 

The Bronx Burger House is an awesome spot and a very impressive burger joint. A must for any true burgerphile.