People don't really wander into this borough—like they do into Brooklyn and even Queens, hoping to stumble on some gem of an ethnic eatery—but the Bronx actually has a lot going for it, if you know where to look. Dotted throughout the borough are some great Mexican taquerías, African eateries, and old-school Italian joints. Skip Manhattan’s Little Italy and head to the Bronx's Arthur Avenue for a real red-sauce treat; it's a much more authentic Italian-American neighborhood and a great place to carb-load.
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Jackson Diner37–47 74th St. 718-672–1232
Kabab Café25-12 Steinway St. 718-728–9858
Named for the hotel, which itself is named for the up-and-coming neighborhood, north of Madison Square Park, the NoMad is brought to you by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, the masterminds behind much-lauded Eleven Madison Park. The atmosphere is a blend of lively and sophisticated—plush velvet chairs and drapes for the hip young crowd that frequents the place. The food is similalry vibrant yet simple: seared scalllops are paired with pumpkin, juicy suckling pig goes very nicely with pear confit and mustard. The poached egg and quinoa dish unexpectedly transforms into a stew once the yokes are broken. The restaurant's piece de resistance is the whole roasted chicken for two, which looks basic until the foie gras and black truffles are uncovered. Have a nightcap in the dimly lit and atmospheric Library Bar, which has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and comfy chairs.
Neighborhood folk and Manhattanites alike flock to Jackson Diner for the spicy, authentic fare served in generous portions. Popular choices include chicken tandoori, South Indian lentil doughnuts in a tangy broth, and any of the curry dishes, as well as the many vegetarian specialties. Check out the daily massive lunch buffet, or stop by in the evening and try a subcontinent-inspired cocktail, like mango juice and vodka. There's now a location in Manhattan at 72 University Pl., but it's not quite the same experience as the Jackson Heights original.
Middle-Eastern restaurants are a dime a dozen in NYC, but Egyptian-Mediterranean spots are a rarer find, attracting celebrity chefs and TV personalities like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. This charming yet eccentric 16-seat café, which excels at interesting homestyle dishes, is a true hidden treasure. The menu changes nightly, but think of the fare here as Egyptian-accented comfort food: exceedingly tender lamb stuffed with pomegranate is always great. For the super adventurous eater, try the grilled lamb brain or lamb tongue. When it's available, the roasted goose in a saffron sauce is a must.
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