The Bite: 2011 In Review

THE BITE: The origin of The Bite is clouded in mystery and I’m content to leave it that way. Let’s just say it involved beer, broads and a flaming pie. It has been great fun checking out the food stuffs of Sheepshead Bay and I’ve learned a lot about the neighborhood I’ve called home for more than 20 years.

The Bite is just over one year old, and in that time I’ve wondered into most of the food mongers of Sheepshead Bay. I’ve learned more about Eastern European foods than I ever thought possible. I’ve learned that a good deal of the “Russian” restaurants and businesses of the neighborhood aren’t “Russian” at all. I didn’t know the subtle differences between the foods of Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Uzbekistan and all the other former Soviet republics. I still don’t know everything about their foods, but I’m learning and enjoying myself in the process.

I was really surprised to learn of the strong Turkish presence running the food industry of the ‘hood. It seems like the restaurant scene here turned Turkish overnight with places like Masal, Liman (open for more than 10 years), 1001 Nights and Istanbul thriving.

Most of the  old-time standards of the bay are still here and prospering. Thankfully, none of the old school places have closed in the past year. Maria’s Restaurant, Jay and Lloyd’s, Jimmy’s Famous Heros, Anthony’s Place, Randazzo’s, Brennan & Carr, Roll-n-Roaster, Chicken Masters and the rest are still plugging away.

I mourn some of the places that have shut their doors over the past year. I was really pulling for Taste of Romania, whose in-house smoked pastrami showed such potential.  Others like the arrogant Chipp seemed doomed from the start.

As I look back over the year’s posts what strikes me most is the diversity of food available in our neighborhood. We’ve got foodstuffs from just about every continent. I’m honored that I got the chance to expose this to my neighbors.

The Bite failed to start “the great roast beef sandwich rivalry of 2010,” which I hoped to generate with reviews of  many roast beef sandwiches in the nabe. My top two are still John’s Meat Market with its cold roast beef and Wheeler’s with its hot roast beef on garlic bread. Hmm, I may head over there for lunch today.  Sorry Roll-n-Roaster and Brennan & Carr, as legendary as your food is, it just doesn’t stack up.

We’ve done a poor job in chronicling the more expensive restaurants of the Bay. Hopefully the funds will be there to fix that next year. Also – breakfast! C’mon folks, where do you go for breakfast?

We’ve been accused of only covering “unhealthy” foods. I disagree. The Bite’s been all over the map in terms of healthy and unhealthy foods. We’ve covered salads, soups and fried chicken. It all balances out in the end.

Ned has suggested that I name my favorite Bite to end the year and I guess by that he meant my favorite dish. I’m not going to do that. I will tell you that my favorite Bite, meaning my favorite post, was the post about the angry lobster roll at Clemente’s. It’s hands down my favorite post that I’ve written to date.

I will tell you that out of all the restaurants we’ve tried, Nargis was the most surprising. Let’s face it, we have an abundance of kebab houses in the neighborhood now and most are indistinguishable from one another. Nargis surprised the hell out of me with great soups, salads, samsas and of course kebabs. But it was their French fries that blew us away on our first visit. It’s hard to believe that such a simple dish can stand out when faced with such tough competition.

Thanks for reading The Bite all year. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we’ve enjoyed eating around Sheepshead Bay. Now we’re asking you – where should The Bite bite next year? What dish haven’t we discovered that needs to be brought to the attention of your friends and neighbors? Don’t be shy, let us know!

The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.