The amount of excellent food available in New York City is dizzying — even during a pandemic — yet mediocre meals somehow keep worming their way into our lives. With Eater editors dining out sometimes several times a day, we do come across lots of standout dishes, and we don’t want to keep any secrets. Check back weekly for the best things we ate this week — so you can, too.

May 2

A hunk of bread stuffed with carnitas and topped with pickled red onion bathes in a pool of watery red salsa.

The torta ahogada at Cruz del Sur.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Torta ahogada at Cruz del Sur

I don’t think of Mexican sandwiches as lacking in representation in NYC, maybe because the city is already home to excellent versions of the pambazo, guajolota, mollete, and cemita. But what about the torta ahogada? This salsa-soaked sandwich is ubiquitous in its hometown of Guadalajara, where I first tasted it as a hungover college student, but it’s considerably harder to find here. (Calaca, in Bed-Stuy, offered one before closing last year, and there’s a $14 version on the menu at La Superior in Williamsburg.) Cruz del Sur, a restaurant that opened in Prospect Heights this month, is this torta’s latest home, where it’s served with tongue and stomach meat on a roll perfect for sponging up the salsa it’s served in ($15). Wash it down with a strawberry horchata, a specialty of Guadalajara, for a regional meal with few homes in the five boroughs. 622 Washington Avenue, near Pacific Street, Prospect Heights — Luke Fortney, reporter

A black broth with squid rings, scallions, and red chiles on top.

Squid ink soup at Lum Lum.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Muk Tom Dam Lum at Lum Lum

Lum Lum is a brand new Thai restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen run by sisters Sommy and Mo Hensawang, occupying the former premises of Pam Real Thai Food. The menu is compact, but loaded with surprising dishes. While the soups at many Thai restaurants are pro forma, here the rather unusual muk tom dam lum is offered ($14), said to be a recipe from the pair’s grandmother. The hearty squid soup is thickened with ink, giving it a brooding opacity, and the taste of lemongrass predominates. The soup bobs with slivered red bird’s eye chiles, making the bowl a pretty picture and sending the heat level soaring. This is one of a new crop of Thai restaurants in town that refuses to tamp down strong flavors. Add an app to this bowl of soup and you’ve got a full meal. 404 West 49th Street, near 9th Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen — Robert Sietsema, senior critic

Sunday Sauce at Casa Rustica

One of my favorite pre-pandemic traditions was swinging by Frankies 457 in Carroll Gardens for the Sunday sauce-style pork braciole, a blend of fork-tender meat and red gravy. Frankies no longer lists the preparation on its menu, but I managed to find a semi-comparable version in, of all places, Smithtown. Casa Rustica simmers meatballs, sausages, and slow cooked beef in a tomato sauce and pairs it all with firm noodles. The dish really hit the spot with its umami-rich fruit, al dente rigatoni, and achingly tender meat. Incidentally, I hear that Frankies is doing a tomato-braised short rib with polenta these days, so maybe I’ll swing back for that. In the meantime, Casa Rustica is getting the job done over here on Long Island. 175 West Main Street, near Elliott Place, Smithtown, Long Island — Ryan Sutton, chief critic

An overhead photograph of a tray of chicken biryani, served with a banana leaf and a side of yogurt raita.

The Malabar Biryani at Sona.
Stephanie Wu/Eater

Chicken biryani at Sona

I’ve been meaning to visit Sona since it opened, and finally had a chance to over the weekend. The menu was a mix of classic Indian fare and modern versions of beloved dishes, in a way that reminded me of my favorite fine-dining Indian restaurant, Indian Accent, in the Thompson Central Park hotel. The standout at Sona was the Malabar Chicken Biryani ($32), served under a banana leaf and with a side of yogurt raita. The rice, studded with cashews and raisins, was impeccably fluffy, and the deboned chicken thighs were full of flavor. And the portion was more than enough for two — with leftovers to spare. I’ll be back for their new brunch and lunch, which just launched last week. 36 East 20th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South, Flatiron — Stephanie Wu, executive editor

A takeout cardbowl bowl filled with brown soy noodles, yellow wontons, Chinese barbecue pork, and few sprigs of cilantro with a side of borth.

Wonton mee at Chard.
Bao Ong/Eater NY

Wonton mee at Chard

The wonton mee ($12) at Chard — a narrow takeout joint with a menu of “Asian soul cooking” just steps from Union Square — was bound to be a standout dish for me because it features two things I can never eat enough of: dumplings and noodles. A generous amount of soy-braised noodles served as the perfect foil to slices of sweet char siu, delicate wontons, and a dab of spicy sambal. I’d sip the side of broth, which was full of nasal-clearing white pepper, between bites of the springy egg noodles. It’s the type of comforting dish that has made chef Salil Mehta’s restaurants (Laut, Laut Singapura, and Wau) popular across NYC. 17 East 13th Street, between University Place and Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village — Bao Ong, editor

A white plate filled with a pile of blackened pancakes with scoops of butter melting on top.

Griddle cakes at Breakfast by Salt’s Cure.
Erika Adams/Eater NY

Griddle cakes at Breakfast by Salt’s Cure

Okay, let’s get this out of the way: A griddle cake is a pancake. But Breakfast by Salt Cure’s owner Chris Phelps has cornered the market on this particular type of pancake ($10), made from an oatmeal-studded batter and fried until the edges are crispy enough to snap off. On a recent visit, I found that this is a good thing: Crunchy edged pancakes are less boring, and, despite the appearance of a good char throughout, the pancake’s steamy innards were light and eggy. Generous dollops of butter served as a fine garnish. This doesn’t exactly unseat Chez Ma Tante from NYC’s crispy pancake throne, but it’s a respectable new entry on the scene. 27 1/2 Morton Street, near Seventh Avenue South, West Village — Erika Adams, deputy editor


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