Monthly Archives: August 2006

Kasia’s casa kielbasa.

In the 88th spot on the 2005 Voice list lies Kasia’s, a Polish diner on the corner of North 9th Street and Bedford Avenue.  Yesterday, when I could only wish for a temperature as low as 88, I paid Kasia’s a visit and tried to ignore their non-functional air-conditioning.

The friendly service was exemplary under the circumstances, though I do get tired of the community complaining that goes on any time some guy walks in with a grudge against Con Ed/Bloomberg/the Man.  Wasn’t 311 invented so people could get this stuff off their chest before they left the house?  Yeah, it’s hot, it sucks, et cetera – the idiot wind ain’t makin’ it any more tolerable, there, dude.

As to the bill of fare at Kasia’s, I fear that it’s a bit too expensive to really qualify for bargain status.  While the $9.25-ish plate of a split and cross-hatched kielbasa with a microwave-burrito-looking potato blintz was satisfying, it wasn’t necessarily the greatest thing since shaved horseradish (speaking of which, I was pleased that the jarred variety was included with the plate, along with sour cream and applesauce for the blintz).  Better bargains are available on and off Manhattan Avenue north of the park, I think.

That said, if you were geographically limited to two blocks from the Bedford L, you could do a lot worse.  And afterwards, you can slide on down a couple blocks further to the Turkey’s Nest and score yourself a beer in a Styrofoam cup AND a kickball-playing hipster girl.  I’ll leave it to you to make up your own kielbasa joke.

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Ruthie’s puts the soul back in soul food.

For our latest group dinner escapade, one of my friends (who is moving out west to go to film school) requested that we go to a place with good fried chicken.  He was inspired (proving that I’m not the only one following his column closely) by Mr. Sietsema’s recent article comparing a trifecta of bird joints, I think, and, for the first time in my group dinner history, we picked the closest and most convenient option.

Ruthie’s, at 96 DeKalb Avenue, is both close to home and close enough to Manhattan to make it an easy stopover on the way home from work.  We’re awfully glad we did make that stop, and not just because Ruthie’s was comfortably air-conditioned (this weather…).  The woman I am assuming was the proprietress (though I don’t know if her name is Ruthie) was as sweet as they come, and the food her establishment slings is beyond excellent.

The chicken itself was a revelation.  Minimally coated with flour before the frying, Ruthie’s lets the skin do the heavy lifting – keeping the juices in and providing the crunch that satisfies.  Some friends were pleasantly surprised that it lacked the kind of heavy duty coating made infamous by KFC.  All I had to say on the subject was, “thank God.”

The sides provided even more of a reason for joy.  Firstly and foremost, the candied yams were breathtaking.  Lacking all of the worst attributes of your mama’s thanksgiving recipe (particularly the overbearing sugary sweetness), Ruthie’s yams tasted like the best pumpkin pie you’ve ever had, only in chunk form.  I was tempted to ask for the recipe, but considering how good they are, it’s probably a state secret.

Mac and cheese and collards were also good options, though many were left reaching for the bottle of hot sauce provided at every table (after my own heart).  The cornbread that comes with the approximately $10 plate (with thigh-leg or breast portions and two sides) has a crust that will leave you angling to break off crunchy pieces of everyone else’s squares.  The potato salad was perhaps the most generic side I tasted, but it would not be a bad option if you were attempting to re-create a backyard barbecue of your youth.

The best thing about Ruthie’s?  They must put something special in the chicken.  For the rest of the evening, post-dinner, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and satisfaction descend upon me, and I am pretty sure it wasn’t just heatstroke.  This feeling differed from the average post-meal coma by virtue of its lack of sleepiness and the total absence of any post-grease stress disorder.  I realize that this makes me sound like a new-age-leaning crank doctor.

It might not be scientifically quantifiable, but I’ll be going back any time I need a karmic salve.


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Ironically named sandwiches in Greenpoint? You don’t say!

Last night’s dinner came after a brief (meaning I only browsed a third of the inventory) stop at EAT Records, and was obtained at the Franklin Corner Store, at the corner of Franklin and Huron Streets (one block north of India Street, which is the north exit of the G-Greenpoint stop). Having been anointed Sietsema’s favorite Cuban sandwich purveyor in last year’s “best of” issue, I was somewhat surprised to find that the store came off less as a Hispanic grocery and more as the kind of sandwich shop you’d stop at for provisions on your way to a Cape Cod beach.

The sandwiches are arranged on big index cards taped to the wall – for maximum ease in browsing, as there are more than seventy sandwiches, I recommend picking up the takeout menu. In it, find a mess of named combinations, among them two named after fascist dictators, one named after a juiced former baseball player, and still another that shares a name with the venue for a Rolling Stones show at which people were knifed by bikers on drugs. What the hell?

Nonetheless, I found the Cuban sandwich to be good, if not breathtaking. The usual Swiss cheese was augmented by American, strangely, but the effect (more gooey melted cheese) wasn’t unwelcome. The meats weren’t terribly unique, by the way, but it’s still nice to be reminded (in and amongst the prosciutto cotto) that good sandwiches can be made from Boar’s Head.

I hear there’s a good Cuban at 69th Street under the 7 train. Further investigation required.

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