We live here, so we know all about Sheepshead Bay’s hidden culinary gems. There are the little bodegas with back-room burritos, the strangely decorated bars on quiet side streets with staggeringly cheap lunches, and the waterfront eateries that manage to go below radar. There are food carts that survive despite rhyme or reason (a hot dog cart by Doody’s? Really?), and dim sum dining where we don’t know what we’re ordering. There’s fried chicken where a sweatshop used to be, and a bagel place that’s been there so long no one knows what came before.
These are our treasures, and they’re known only to us locals.
That was, at least, until Village Voice’s Robert Sietsema began plundering our neighborhood a few weeks ago. Several of the venerable food critic’s recent pieces have eyed the nabe’s gastronomical glories. And all of them sing our praises.
It started with a pair of Sheepshead Bay restaurants featured in his “Where Am I Eating?” contest, in which he shows a close-cropped photo of the food and lets readers work from there. That was back in April and May, when he focused on Liman and Marmaris (the latter of which was way too difficult to guess).
On the heels of that victory, he made his return to Marmaris in a dual review with competitor Halikarnas. Sietsema gave both the thumbs up, and marveled that the neighborhood’s “prices [are] about half of what you’d expect to pay in Manhattan.”
But if that wasn’t enough, the man found himself at the humble Donut Shoppe on Avenue U. The neighborhood staple for those using the Avenue U train station, Sietsema was quite pleased to find a local donut hole. Of ours, he swooned, “The glazed donut – bedrock of the menu at any of these places – is superb, light as a single rolling paper and only partly shiny; in other words, not committing the cardinal sin of being too sweet.”
Of course, Sietsema’s visits are written from the viewpoint of an outsider, and he misses some of the best local quirks about these places. For instance, he didn’t know that Halikarnas and Marmaris are engaged in culinary combat. Just a block away from one another, the owners of these places compete viciously, and neighborhood whispers suggest there’s a dollop of ill will – so sharing a review must’ve irked both establishments. He also doesn’t speak to the best part about Donut Shoppe: it’s one of the few places open late, making it a required stop after a night of heavy drinking. And if you speak Spanish, it’s a ball to hear the workers mutter about the gringo customers.
But that’s okay that Robert didn’t write about those things. We know it because we’re local, and we’re glad that he caught the flavor of these establishments and is bringing it to a wider audience. Now let’s cross our fingers and hope the hipsters aren’t up for the “trek” down to Sheepshead Bay…