Archive of Ethnic Foods In NYC
A look back at urban foraging in recent times
In 2007, we collaborated on an idea to open a shop that purchased food from interesting ethnic stores, markets and vendors from all over the 5 boroughs of NYC. The concept, though ill fated, produced some interesting research. As we delved into this project we came to learn that we shared a love for foraging both in the woods and on city streets.
Recently, we came across some of the research notes that Jori worked on while foraging, and as we were reading through them we found that they are still relevant. This is a cool peek into some places we were visiting and buying from, places that contribute (or contributed) to the diverse and colorful food landscape of New York. These are places that anyone who really loves food and lives in New York should make a point of visiting.
Please note: While we and the editorial team at Food Republic did our best to find out if these shops are still in business nearly five years later, it's worth double-checking if you plan on foraging yourself. Tweet @zakarypelaccio if you have any questions about these places described below, or other urban foraging questions.
February 19, 2007
Only offer fried for their savory empanadas and a choice of fried or baked for the sweet empanadas. The varieties are very unusual; they seemed more Americanized than authentic in terms of the filling choices. For example, pork and rice, chicken parm, pizza, etc. I ordered a pork. The dough is great; it looks like a curry puff. It had the tiny bubbles and flaky skin. It was not very greasy for being fried. The filling was mediocre; it was dry and a bit bland. The red sauce was good, spicy and vinegary. The jalapeno sauce was good but nothing spectacular.
They offer baked or fried for selected savory empanadas a choice of baked or friend for sweet ones.
I ordered 1 baked beef and 1 fried beef. Again, the filling selections are unusual and do not seem authentic. The fried was terrible. It made my mouth and teeth feel like I drank a glass of VERY tanic wine…that sort of moisture sucking, rubber feeling on the teeth. The baked was much better but quite ugly. The fillings were really unimpressive.
37-18 34th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11103
Cevapi: The sausages are great, salty and juicy. The bread is sub par…pretty generic and un-impressive.
Meat Pie: Very good. Moist, flakey dough with a salty beef laced with lots of onions.
Cheese Pie: Same dough as meat pie. Cheese is simple, bland in flavor. Not dry and crumbly like a farmers cheese, but tastes like a farmers cheese with butter.
42-10 30th Ave.
Astoria, NY 11103
Kajmak: the mom of the shop in the store makes this every week. She makes 150#. It is excellent!!! All products are easily sourced. Spoke with the daughter, Adisa, about the project and she is really excited and was helpful. She gave me her distribution product list and price list and said she would get me one from a Polish company out of NJ and a Bulgarian company out of AC. They gave me lots of samples to try: Albanski L juti Sudzuk (hot sausage), Bosanski Sudzuk (smoked sausage), Smoked dried beef, Milcho dairy spread, Paparika spread.
34-04 31st Ave.
Astoria, NY 11106
Can accommodate orders for anything they make. They have a warehouse in Queens where we would pick up. Got the number and name of the sister who deals with sales.
Cevapi: Good. Had it after it cooled. Sausages are a little fatter than Sarajevo, but not as flavorful. It is HUGE. The bread is homemade and very good. It is thick and airy and has a nice elastic chew to it. It is topped with black and white sesame seeds.
Burek Rolls, Meat: I was asked if I wanted cream on top, I said yes, it tastes like sour cream. Love the dough, a little bland with the salt, but I think maybe it is supposed to be?? The beef inside the roll is the same beef as the pljeskavica patty, just not grilled. It is a basic, ground cooked beef flavor, not much added to it but a little onion and salt and pepper. Potato: The dough is the same as the meat. The flavor is very simple. It has moist, tender, thick shavings of potatoes inside. There is not much else to it other than the potato and a little onion. Very good with the yogurt (see notes below)
Pasuij: Nothing amazing. It is northern beans and smoked beef. It could be great if it were executed better.
Pljeskavica: HUGE!!! The meat and bread are okay. The bread is thick and airy, similar to the cevapi here but much larger.
Yogurt: This is made in house. It is thin and supposed to be sipped while eating the burek. Very good, tangy, fresh.
791 Fairview Ave.
Ridgewood, NY 11385
Spoke with the mother/owner about the bread. She would sell the bread and meats. Wants me to talk to her son, she took my number and information. I am waiting for him to call me back.
Pljeskavica: This is by far the BEST. The bread is absolutely amazing. It is thin like a pita, but a bit larger in shape. It is moist, airy with a perfect chew and a perfect amount of salt. The lamb patty was excellent as well, simple with onions and lamb, but still a great gamey flavor.
25-56 31st Street
Astoria, NY 11102
Only willing to sell bakery items at wholesale prices. Most of the stuff they make that day and bake it off early a.m. and sell it all. They will not sell any uncooked. They do carry two types of spin pies (spinach or cheese) that are imported from Greece and are frozen and they will sell those through their Warehouse. I got the number to the warehouse, will call and see if they would send me a product list and a distributor list, doesn’t seem likely, they are rather stingy with their contacts. I bought a slice of each kind of feta they carry (8: 7 imported, 1 domestic from upstate). I will have to report on this tomorrow, I am going to explode from tasting so much food today.
March 22, 2007
Boro Park / New Utrecht / Bensonhurst
Jori & Robert Sietsema
Ate lunch at a new Hungarian Diner called Aahun, Inc and had a “pot roast” sandwich. This was not your average pot roast, it was a dry roast butt of pork and sliced and placed between a roll. It got me thinking though. What if we do a pot roast sandwich, like a real pot roast with the stewed gravy and vegetables and put it in a thick crust hoggie? MMM…
5802 13th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11218
Interesting jarred items like gooseberries in light syrup and lekvar, apricot butter, and super tasty pickled hot chillies, fefferoni’s, that are golden yellow and hot, hot, hot!!
Queen Ann Ravioli and Macaroni
7205 18th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11204
All homemade pasta, dried in every shape and size, fresh in traditional shapes, but they have special kinds often. Filled pasta and gnocchi frozen. Gave me a product list, but there are no prices.
Villabate – Alba
7001 18th Ave.
Brooklyn NY 11204
This is an old school Italian pasticceria. They have quality cookies and Sicilian cakes. They have chocolate pudding that is made with pigs blood. I forget the name, but I know Zak will know what it is called. We can place orders and pick up, they say they don’t do wholesale prices but I am sure they will work a deal if we want to use their stuff and we are good customers.
Faicco’s Pork Store
6511 11th Ave.
Great store, great products. They have another store on Bleecker in Manhattan and they make the same sausages their as well, same recipes. We can order from either location and they pretty much only wholesale their meat products but if there is something we really want from them that is special, he said he could work a deal.
Saint George & Angel Michael Mart (now closed)
6612 11th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11219
Tiny Egyptian market with all kinds of olive oils, honey, molasses, ghee, carob beans in the pods, grains, pickles, etc. Most of the products on the shelf were from:
Mina Global Trading
53 Idaho Lane
Aberdeen, NJ 07747
Apparently there is a very large Egyptian community in Jersey. Anyway, I will call about product list and prices. Really great store though!
March 20, 2007
Jori & Zak Pelaccio
Taste of Russia
219 Brighton Beach Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11235
The fish case had labels from local companies.
Eastern Star Distribution and NY Fish Corp. I can call them for a product and price list.
Pickles: Nothing to comment on and again, Zak and I agreed that making them in house would be best and most consistent.
Sweet Fried Cheese: Dense, not great. A bit bland and pasty.
Sweet Cheese Dumplings: Weird and not sure how to implement them into a dish of their own or with something else???
Stuffed (pressed) Potato: Looks a bit like a football, a flat football, or a perfect chicken breast. Filled with meat and pan fried, but not battered. This is so good and will sell like crazy!!!
Sweet and Sour duck leg: Salty and delicious. Lightly battered and fried and then coated in a sweet and sour sauce. Seems to have a bit of Chinese influence. Maybe an South-Eastern Russian delight?
Zucchini Blintz: Cheese and zucchini patty that they called a blintz. Very tasty, slightly sweet from the cheese and lightly fried.
Pirogi: Had meat, cherry, cabbage and they were all mediocre. The meat, which was chicken, was the best.
Stuffed Cabbage: Too much dill and again, we should make this ourselves.
Fried dough: SUPER dense.
M&I International Food
249 Brighton Beach Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11235
I don’t think there is anything here other than the smoked fish they do themselves, which is excellent and the cured and/or smoked meats they do themselves as well. These products are excellent.
Smoked bacons and fats: Always good, have to get them on Saturday or Sunday as they run out of most of their selections by mid week.
Blood Sausage with Bulgur Wheat: Mealy and bland.
Blood Sausage: Tight, beautiful slices with texture. Really tasty, the best I have tried yet.
Skinny Beef: It’s like an Oscar Mayer hotdog with a lot of garlic.
Beef/Pork hard Salami: Really tasty. Lightly smoked. Solid, hard, tight grain. Nice chew with larger specks of fat. Could slice this really thin on bias and fry them and serve them as chips at the bar??
Veal Sausage: Good, soft, tight texture with a delicate flavor.
Liverwurst: Not good at all, tastes like cat food.
Smoked Kielbasa: Beautiful color. Has the general garlic flavor that is predominant in kielbasa.
Pork Sausage Ring (cooked): This is fine; it was already cooked, nothing amazing. Taste like pork sausage but it did have a nice chunky texture and was seasoned perfectly.
This store also carried Turkish breads from Taskin Bakery which is somewhere in NY…I just need to find it and get a product list and price sheet.
February 22, 2007
Jori & Robert Sietsema
SCARY!! This is serious ghetto and they don’t speak English and hate white people, so even if the product was good, which it’s not, we couldn’t really do anything about having a relationship.
Grilliot: Great concept, we can execute so much better.
Shwarma: Very, very very good. Turkey meat that is juicy and tender, not dry at all. The pickle in this particular one is excellent.
7216 5th Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11209
Lots of delicious mid-east pastries. They are a little heavy on the rose water, but I like that flavor.
Yo Yo Fritaille (now closed)
Peppas Xpress Chicken
I found this to be very good, Robert insists on Danny, so I didn’t approach them about possibly selling us the rub and sauce until I have tried Danny.
Danny Jerk Chicken (now closed)
Peppas Xpress Chicken it will have to be…which a fine compromise, I really liked it!
6909 3rd Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11209
Small store, and it’s expensive. They carry lefse, which is impossible to find anywhere. The maker is the distributor, so it would be easy to order from her. They have lots of Swedish jams, cloudberry in particular and interesting mustards. Almost everything is imported through Minnesota. Apparently huge Nordic population there, go figure.
Carolina Country Store
Great Store. They have a family business in N. Carolina and they make, smoke, process all the meats there and bring it up in a truck every 2 weeks. We can order anything, just give ample time to get the order in and buy in bulk since you might not be able to get it again for 2 weeks. Great sage sausage, bacon is fantastic, the pepper bacon is a little strong, not really edible so it would be perfect for braised greens. Cracklin’s, cornbread mixin’s, black walnuts in bulk, souce (southern head cheese), country ham, pig jowls, everything….
Houston & Sons Trucking
Place is apparently booming in the summer. It was sketched out when I got there. This guy started a trucking company to move people from the South to NY. He then started filling up his truck with southern goods for the southern community in Brooklyn and has this tiny hut on the side of the road. He has neat jarred stuff like sorghum syrup, and jellies from Georgia, nice cornmeals. In the summer he also has melons, he is supposedly known for that.
February 20, 2007
Rego Park/Forest Hills
A&D European Market (now closed)
Uzbekistan Community Center (now closed)
Oksana’s International Foods (now closed)
King of Latvia II (now closed)
92-09 63rd Drive
Rego Park, NY 11374
Just call them 2 days in advance for large orders. They can fill any order and they deliver to multiple places in Manhattan already, so we could opt for delivery with them.
Cheberechnaya Special: Super funky lamb. Too much funk to serve.
Cheberechnaya Meat: Delicious! Dough is great, the filling is simple and great.
Pickled Cabbage: Ehhh.
Samcy: Super delicious, flat, thin sort of pastry dough filled with meat and then fried.
Pelmini: We can get these uncooked and frozen. They are great.
Monia & Misha
64-46 108th Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Very excited, can fill any order. Most stuff is imported, but they make a few items themselves. I bought a lot of the savory baked goods and pickles. Nothing here was worth getting in the future. They had some okay pickles but I think Zak and I agree that we should make our own pickles and have a pickle program at BFD.
119-08 94th Ave.
Richmond Hills, NY 11419
I came in to eat lunch, but found that they make everything from scratch and it is all very excellent. They would do business with us, but they want to see the space and check it out before agreeing on anything. I am not sure they have ever done resale before. I think perhaps packaging this style food, like the stewed chick peas or eggplant and kheer and paneer we can have in the retail store up front for people at lunch to grab and go if we can’t see fit on the menu itself??? It is quite excellent though, honestly some of the best Indian I have had.
March 23, 2007
Elmhurst / Flushing
Jori & Robbie Richter
68-38 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11367
This place is fantastic!! They have small and regular size split pita, they have small and regular size fluffy pita not split. They make challah that is so delicious and they make full loaves of small rounds that would be really great as the bread for the table on a chunk of wood with some premium butter. I would say the small rounds are about 6-8 inches in diameter and about 4 inches tall. Spoke with Isaac about doing wholesale. He is working on a product list and price sheet. We would have to pick up, interested and asked me to call when we are closer to opening and placing orders.
69-66 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11367
This is an Isreali spice store. Everything in the store comes from their other store in Bat-Yam, Isreal. Beautiful dried herbs and spices, rice and grains, chili sauces, etc all packaged in their plant in Isreal or here in this store/factory. Below is a lost of some of the things I bought.
Shata peppers: Small dried red chili, hot, fragrant.
A bunch of different mixes to add to rice when cooking, I bought the pistachio mix with fried garlic chips and toasted pistachios and fried herbs.
Black Nigella: Used mostly in pastry or ontop of breads. It is a seed that is used like a sesame seed or poppy. Slightly bitter, great texture and crunch.
Cinnamon bark: Delicate, beautiful aroma. Did not smell “dusty” like some cinnamon sticks do to me.
Tanjin: Made in house. A fruit spread that is supposed to be served warm with roasted chicken.
40-17 82nd Street
Jackson Heights, NY 11373
This is a Columbian grocery store. The meat market is beautiful, whole pork belly and flanks of beef uncut or cleaned of the fat. House made spicy sausage and housemade Columbian sausage. They did not speak great English so I was unclear what was in The Columbian sausage other than pork. They had a wide variety of grains with the brand name of “Incas Food Brand” which come from:
Peruvian Import Co. Inc
Passaic, NJ 07055
Could be interesting to check it out and see what they have. Also found Columbian cheese that is made in Glendale NY. One cheese is called “Tita” and looks like fresh mozzarella and it is wrapped in a banana leaf with a crumbly consistency. What I purchased had gone sour (not in a good way) so I am not sure how it tastes. The other cheese I got is “quesito cuajada Colombiano EL PAISA. Delicious, salty, sort of a mix between feta and provolone. Seems like it would crumble but holds shape and I am sure it melts nice. The same company makes all sorts of arepa as well. The distribution company is:
70-06 88 Street
Glendale, NY 11385
All products are labeled with a “made in NY”,
Shahi Sweet & Foods (now closed)
37-38 72nd Street
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Tiny, tiny hut near corner that has large orange sign out front and you can smell the aromats from miles away. You enter and it is a small counter filled with roti and all flavors of paratha (flat breads). There are about 7 woman in the back making dough and cooking the bread and 1 woman in front bagging them and working the register. Nobody there spoke English when I went in, but word is there is a woman that does speak English. Tasty stuff!
February 16th, 2007
Brooklyn / Bay Ridge / Flatbush
Jori & Robert Sietsema
Quality Meats (now closed)
172 Bedford Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Kielbasa: Great texture, very juicy, coarse grain, large pieces of pork incorporated. An even golden brown casing color. Mild initial flavor with strong garlic after taste.
Dry Kielbasa: Very unimpressive. Nothing to comment about, it is quit terrible.
Liverwurst: Robert thought it had to be boiled and dropped it in the water. It melted in it’s casing. It tasted delicious still. It was really fatty with subtle garlic and nutmeg and liver laced lard. It is actually a nice idea to serve it this way, as a spread for some bread maybe?
Forest Pork Store
66-39 Forest Ave.
Ridgewood, NY 11285
Very large wholesale production, they can accommodate to any request and amount from their list. When ready to talk prices and order, told me to give them a call.
Thueringer: This is pork and veal mixed sausage. It is a long, skinny, pale in color link. It is very juicy and mild in flavor with a slight gamy quality. It has hints of nutmeg and garlic and dry oregano. We found it very strange that there would be dried oregano in it, but we did a taste test of the herb in the sausage with some dried oregano and it is definitely it.
Baurenwurst: This is secured with metal clasps on the ends, I am not sure why, I did not realize when I bought it or I would have asked. This is an average size sausage link that is dark, sort of green in color. The flavor is good. It exploded while cooking (pan seared it) and it opened and released a lot of fat, a higher percentage than usual. The ground pork released and caramelized in the fat and the crispy bits were delicious. The casing is very thick, almost inedible.
Pinkelwurst: This is a fat sausage with a thick casing. It is made with beef and pork, bacon, oat groats, sometimes goose fat. The sausage is a bright yellow from the hardened fat inside the casing. The butcher explained that you drop the log into your pot of kale and it bursts open and seasons the kale. I cut a slice and seared it just to taste it and it is delicious if you are into oaty pork and beef. I read that it is generally served along side potatoes. It would be nice to use it as a seasoning like he suggested in some sides, like potatoes or kale, etc, rather than on it’s own. It is interesting and I enjoyed it.
Landjager: This is a square, dried sausage that is hard, fatty, squirts in your mouth and coats your mouth with grease when you chew it. It has notes of caraway and a little sour component, like preserved meat or vinegar. Unusual, very good.
Bratwurst: This is a standard size link. It is all pork but has the same flavor as the thueringer without the slight gamey quality.
Weisswurst: Spongy consistence. Little flavor. Looks like a spongy, pale hotdog. Not exciting enough for me.
B&B Meat Market (now closed)
168 Bedford Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
“Rice Sausage”: I quote this name because he sold it to us as a rice sausage but it turns out to not be at all. It is a raw, un-smoked kielbasa. I pan seared it and it is excellent in flavor. It is perfectly juicy with a nice grain. It doesn’t have the large bits of pork incorporated like the cooked kielbasa does. It is mild in garlic and the casing cooks beautifully with a nice crisp when you bite into it.
Kielbasa (skinny): Sweet, mild, pretty generic in flavor.
Kielbasa: Not a very good texture. Has a strange artificial / metallic aftertaste. I hate the casing on it, it is hard to chew, it doesn’t break down at all. Very pale in color.
603 Manhattan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Headcheese: Beautiful! It is cased with caul fat and gelatin. The meat is slightly bland with season/salt but is juicy and has that mild porky gamy flavor. It is really heavy on the caraway, but I like that…it is an acquired taste for some people though.
Blood Sausage: Very mealy, has NO structure at all. Lots of barley or oat groats. Heavy on clove and cinnamon stick.
Rice Sausage: It is okay. Nice liver flavor doesn’t have that stale blood taste that some rice sausages seem to acquire. There are no overwhelming flavors, it really just tastes like liver and rice mixed together. Period.
Liverwurst: Very good. I tried it cold and the fat was consistency was perfect. The liver taste was clean and nice, not too overwhelming. Slight hint of nutmeg. Tasted like mortadella.
Dry Kielbasa: Excellent smoke! Beautiful texture and grain. Far superior to anyone else.
Kielbasa: Nice golden color, beautiful smoke. Not overwhelming with garlic, just a nice hint of it. This is by far my favorite.