La Cuisine du Bronx
It's got everything from Puerto Rican mofongo to Honduran baleadas to soul food to steaks, from Jamaican jerk to African shredded goat to Albanain bureks to Soho-style artsy burgers.
I haven't been to any of these restaurants, even though one of them is in my old neighborhood: Dukagjini Burektorja on Lydig Avenue. Lydig Avenue! My heart swoons to see that name in print. Last time I was in the neighborhood was in March 2002, on one of my ritual revisits, with my brothers, that have become sadly less frequent since none of us lives in the city -- or in the state, for that mattter -- anymore.
I'd love to try all those restaurants -- discovering great down-home eateries is my passion. But if I were to pick two of the mentioned places to try for nostalgia's sake, the choice would be easy:
"If it's been too long since your last tongue and coleslaw on rye or chicken soup with kreplach, Liebman's Kosher Restaurant is a beautiful sight. Open since 1953, the restaurant makes wondrous corned beef, homemade pigs in blankets, and increasingly rare round knishes. (Brooklynites still mourning Shatzkin's might want to make a pilgrimage.) Liebman's is one of very few places in New York that still make their own pastrami and slice it to order; one of the owners, Yuval Dekel, said he rubs a whole brisket of beef with pepper, sugar, and salt; then he smokes it, and then steams it "until the proteins in the meat just give in." Mother's Bake Shop, two doors down, has excellent babkas and black-and-white cookies."
It's in Riverdale, which is a considerably more upscale neighborhood than my Pelham Parkway, but I can afford it now.
I can't write anymore, I have to get something to eat.