07-30-2022
Chat Pile
Gods Country

Begrimed, blackened, cruddy, fecal, feculent, foul, impure, loathsome, miry, mucky, putrid, repulsive, revolting, scummy, slimy, slipshod, slovenly, soily, sooty, unclean, unkempt, unwashed, verminous, vile. This album is if Randy Newman suffered from lead-poisoning-induced psychosis, shaved his head and started the country's greatest noise metal band. Album of the year?

07-19-2022
Flacco's Bizarre Adventure
SUGAR ~ SH-T ~ SILK ~ SWEAT

A guitar-centered jazz quintet project of total mayhem that is also knee deep in formalism and something close to melody. If you told me it was two quintets playing at once I'd believe you. It's very much receives my common grade of This Often Isn't My Thing But I Can't Stop Coming Back To It.

07-18-2022
Young Guv
GUV IV

It's only been a few months, but I already have to update my GUV rankings!

1. GUV I
2. GUV III
3. GUV IV
4. GUV II

07-18-2022
Shearwater
The Great Awakening

This is the first Shearwater album that I'm just not sure what to do with. Don't know where to slot it in, what exactly to make of it. I'll definitely give it a few more laps and see what happens though.

07-06-2022
Goose
Dripfield

06-14-2022
Sunrise Patriot Motion
Black Fellflower Stream

This band sounds like The Cure if The Cure was a noise metal band, and it totally rules. There's a lot of metal bands out there these days doing this sort of romantic-new-wave thing, but it usually comes off as a novelty. But these guys somehow figured out how to make it work.

Although holy shit I wish they had a better name than Sunrise Patriot Motion. Like a truly awful band name.

06-14-2022
Kendrick Lamar
Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers

I've made the comment about Kendrick's previous albums that I will almost never go back to listen to them; they're simply so good, so heavy, so profound, that it's too much of an investment to sit and take them in. Like a good novel.

Likewise, I will probably not go back to listen to Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers more than a couple times this year. But this time it's just because it's kinda a sloppy mess that I have no interest in trudging through again.

06-11-2022
Wilco
Cruel Country

I know I said this about the last one, but I really think this might be the best Wilco album since Sky Blue Sky.

05-26-2022
Moon Tooth
Phototroph

My gut is that this is the worst of Moon Tooth's 3 albums so far. It's not bad by any means; I've probably listened to it a dozen times already, and honestly it's fun as hell, lots of super rad lead guitar, interesting little bits popping up here and there like any good Moon Tooth collection. But there's something smoothed-over about it—I'd say that it was their most commercial, radio-friendly album so far, if hard rock radio was still a thing. Is it a thing? Maybe it is. But there's a rote verse-chorus-verse mood to all these songs that is sucking a bit of the adventurousness out of what is usually a totally freewheeling band.

At the same time, I get this feeling that this is going to be a case where, 3 years from now, I'll suddenly be calling this "secretly their best."

05-22-2022
Five Hundred Bucks
$500

This album somehow became an obsession of mine in the last week. First of all, A+ band name. Love it. Second, that cover art. It all works. Thirdly, they have some songs that sound so much like Green Day that I was actually taken aback at first. Put off, even; it's actually weird in 2022 to hear a band go deep into Green Day veneration. For as much pop punk is still out there in the world, it's actually rare to hear a band that makes you say, "Oh shit, that sounds like Green Day!"

But it wasn't the Green Day references that ultimately won me over, it was the Superchunk references. Because, like Superchunk's last decade of work, this is adult pop punk, written by adults and for adults. What I mean is they're not afraid of chords. Good songs, good vibes, performed like total pros. There's really very little to dislike here.

05-17-2022
Warthog
Warthog

This is Warthog's 4th EP that's simply called Warthog. I'm pretty sure posting is this going to break my site. It already broke my iTunes library. But that's probably part of the plan for Warthog, because they are a spike studded steamroller powering forward with the intention of eviscerating everything in their path, even if it's just three songs at a time, once every four years. One of these days maybe they'll release a full length, call it Warthog, and finally stand in their rightful place atop the smoldering rubble of New York City.

05-17-2022
Billy Woods
Aethiopes

I haven't listened to all of this album yet. It might take me another year. But this is a Billy Woods album we're talking about, so that's actually a compliment. This man writes and he writes dense, and you don't exactly breeze through William Faulkner novels at the beach, yknow?

05-11-2022
Undeath
It's Time... To Rise From The Grave!

Every year lately it seems that there's one death metal album that becomes a surprise critical darling, embraced and championed in the wider music blog-o-world rather than just in dirty little metal circles. Blood Incantation maybe started the trend a few years ago, but after that we had Necrot, Tomb Mold, uh okay maybe those are the only ones. But 2022 is the year of Undeath.

The talk about Undeath is how funny they are. Like yes they're very serious and accomplished death metal musicians, but they're doing it all with a smirk and tongue in their cheeks. And I can see that I guess, in that death metal has a long history of bands trying to be as ridiculous as possible, and here it's mostly in the lyrical content. Even just the song titles: "Fiend For Corpses," "Head Splattered Seven Ways," "Human Chandelier." And the title of the album, It's Time... To Rise From The Grave!, places that ellipsis and exclamation point for maximum goofiness.

But the music is very serious, and it's very much good enough to become the annual death metal darling. I can't even get into that much detail about it, because really it's "just" death metal. They're not expanding its cosmic psych boundaries like Blood Incantation, they're not injecting mathy mania into it like Tomb Mold. They're just very good at making death metal music. The riffs are hooky brain nuggets, the solos are melodic and memorable and rad, it just comes together in ways that death metal bands always want to come together but usually miss an element or two. Much like the protagonist of "Fiend For Corpses," it goes down real smooth.

05-03-2022
Romero
Turn It On!

Speaking of bands from Philadelphia...

Upon hearing the first song or two, I was totally smitten with this band. Power pop melodicism, Thin Lizzie guitar licks, pure energy, awesome. Then about halfway through, I realized they sounded exactly like Sheer Mag. Also, it should be noted, a Philadelphia band.

05-02-2022
DEVIL MASTER
Ecstasies Of Never Ending Night

This album fucking rips so fucking hard. Black Metal horror with punk rock energy and NWOBHM licks. And most importantly: memorable hooks and genuine musicianship. There's this melding of black metal and punk that's been happening for a couple years (or has been happening since Venom existed, really), random bands from Belgium and wherever else popping up on Bandcamp mixing and matching but always recording to tape and photocopying their artwork to death—but this is the first time I've heard it really work. And it really, really works.

I just want to add, too, that this band is from Philadelphia. There's something going on in Philadelphia in the last few years. Like, if I see a band is from Philly, I'll be way more likely to give it a listen.

04-27-2022
Pillow Queens
Leave the Light On

This album is good, but in the last year I've decided that In Waiting is actually one of my favorite albums of all time. So yeah, this isn't quite as good.

03-29-2022
Walter Martin
The Bear

Walter Martin does it again. Although he doesn't do it quite as well as he did with Arts + Leisure, which remains one of my favorite albums of the last 10 years. Still. This guy.

06-11-2022
Mariscos El SubmarinoQueens
Ceviche

Who knew that I loved ceviche? Raw fish dowsed in citrus and seasoning, I don't know, doesn't sound like my thing. But after an eye opening experience at Caleta 111 a while back, and now my local NYT-approved "hidden gem" of a Mexican ceviche place Mariscos El Submarino, I think I'm on board with this whole endeavor. And when I say NYT-approved, I really mean that Submarino has been appearing on every Best Of list in a bunch of different publications this year. You'd usually assume that means it's some sort of cool new hotspot, but there's truly nothing cool about this place. And not even in a "cruddy little hole in the wall" way. Their logo is a clip art cartoon of a yellow submarine with a (probably offensive but not really?) stereotypical Mexican mustache on it. I mean I guess there is a certain string of Bushwickian thinking that would lead that to be cool, but just trust me that it is not that. The walls are covered in other fish cartoons, and the entire place is inhumanely lit with bright white fluorescent lights.

But the ceviche! Wow! I mean, I guess wow, because I thought it was delicious, and seemingly does every food writer in New York. But like I said, I truly have only had ceviche like 3 times in my life now, so hell if I have any idea what makes it good or bad. But just on pure enjoyment alone, hell yeah, I'd say this is some excellent damn ceviche.

06-11-2022
98k HamburgerQueens
Chicken sandwich

So I'm trying this new burger-slash-chicken place in my neighborhood (well rather, the adjacent and heavily Chinese and Taiwanese neighborhood of Elmhurst), 98k Hamburger. It's fairly new, I'd seen it before and thought that I'd give it a shot some day. It's mostly unremarkable from the outside, other than they have an odd logo that almost looks something like a gun scope? Who knows.

But as I'm waiting for my order inside, I see that there's some sort of crossed-rifle military or paramilitary crossed-gun insignia stenciled on all of their seats. Very odd, definitely not an accident, but suddenly their gun scope logo makes some sort of sense. I don't really understand the design decision, maybe they just got the chairs from some surplus outlet that made them for a different client?

But then I go around the corner from the register after ordering, and in the hall leading to the bathroom there are these giant vinyl wall graphics, both high contrast, like comic-book style black and white. One is a woman in a military hat holding a small machine gun. One is a guy with a stocking cap pointing a handgun towards the camera. WTF? So aggressive! But weirdly familiar?

Then I look further down the hall into the open door of the bathroom, and when I see the vinyl design on the bathroom wall suddenly it all makes sense; my god, this is a PUBG themed restaurant.

A quick google of "98k PUBG" showed me that the Kar 98, aka the 98k, is a very popular sniper rifle in the game. And that the crossed rifles of the military insignia on the seats were indeed the silhouette of the 98k. I further noticed the phrase "Winner winner chicken dinner" vinyled on another wall, which initially made sense for it being a chicken restaurant, but suddenly made way more sense in the context of a fucking PUBG themed burger and chicken place randomly on the streets of Queens.

It's so weird! The oddest part being how they don't like really go for it, y'know? If you don't notice the rifle insignias, or go back to the bathroom and see the PUBG logo behind the toilet, you wouldn't really guess what's happening. Because otherwise the restaurant is a very average, plain, independent fast food counter, playing some adult-contemporary Chinese pop music on the radio and the weather channel looping on a TV in the corner.

And yes the chicken sandwich was a winner.

05-26-2022
Chun YangQueens
Toffee cheese foam cocoa latte

Best toffee cheese foam cocoa latte I've ever had.

05-22-2022
PARTEAQueens
Taiwanese pork chop sandwich

This place Partea (formerly Play Date, I don't know if the rebranding is a step up or down), is right in the heart of Flushing, and is basically an arcade that only contains claw machine games. I'm sure if you're into that thing it's probably pretty fun. But up front, they also serve bubble tea, and an assortment of fried chickeny things, and fries, and maybe some simple dumplings. I never thought much of this place walking by it, until one day they were advertising this new Taiwanese pork chop sandwich. Now, I'm sucker for a fried pork loin sandwich, which basically are impossible to find here, and I did once have a Tawainese pork chop (also in Flushing), and thought it was delicious. So yes, I was immediately interested. A few weeks later I was finally in the right place at the right time, so here we go!

You might notice above that I posted a picture of the advertisement, rather than the actual sandwich. This is because the actual sandwich I was served looked perfect. Exactly like the professional photo. It was remarkable really. And it tasted nearly as ideal. Subtle, not some extreme taste explosion, but just a really nicely marinated and seasoned pork, some five-spice flavor vibes, fried just about perfectly, topped with some cole slaw and that was it. Honestly, it was good enough that a restaurant could basically use it as the cornerstone product of the entire menu. Like "Omg you have to go to this new Taiwanese pork chop sandwich place!" The fact that it was just a new menu item at this place that sells boba tea and hosts claw machine parties is pretty wild.

05-22-2022
Arepas CafeQueens
Arepas de pernil

I don't have a lot to say about Arepas Cafe, other than that it was excellent, and I want it on the record here for when the day comes 6 months from now that I'm putting together my best of the year list.

Although it's funny that, considering that my neighborhood is deeply and thoroughly Colombian, with 200 different places to get arepas, but it was this cafe in Astoria that really knocked my socks off.

05-17-2022
Umami BurgerManhattan
Burger

I think people don't like Umami Burger. I don't know what the whole deal is, but I know that the place, or places, started opening something like 7 or 8 or 9 years ago, one of the first like "fuck you we make expensive fast food under the guise of culture" sort of places that are now a little more commonplace. I remember seeing one or two Umami Burgers in random spots around town, but truly never thought much about them or heard anything.

Then earlier this month I started seeing sponsored Instagram posts and ads raving about Umami Burger's new recipes from our new chef! Seems like a bad sign when your entire chain has a new chef and you're seemingly starting from scratch. The problem was: those burgers looked real good in the photos.

So after a while, I discarded my shame, gave into social media advertising, and looked up the nearest Umami Burger. There's not many left. I also could not help to notice that its Google star rating was dire. Like 3 or 3.5 stars, which sounds okay until you realize that almost everything of even decent quality gets an easy 4 stars practically by default. Geez. But like, how bad could it be? So I ventured to some new glitzy food hall, not in the uber-glitzy Hudson Yards mall, but across from it, and got me a damn Umami Burger.

How bad could it be? Guess what? That was a sneaky red herring on my part! Because this burger was fantastic! Like, nearly perfect. I can't think of a thing to critique with it, and it truly was an umami burger, rich and savory and clearly had something beyond just beef going on in the patty. MSG? I don't care, it worked. It automatically jumped into the top, let's say 5, maybe even 3, burgers that I've had in this city. I also got some Japanese-pepper spiced fries, which were tasty, but more importantly came with this side of black garlic aioli, which was even better than the burger. Just absolutely mouth watering and addictive.

So I don't know what the deal with Umami Burger was. Maybe it sucked? Maybe it got too big for its britches? Maybe they started cheaping out on ingredients after a while? Maybe it got bad reviews because people didn't like paying $20 for a burger and fries? I can understand that. All I know, is I went to this "new" Umami Burger, sure I payed a little more than I would've at Wendy's (but not that much more than Five Guys), but I got one of the best burgers I've had in years.

05-10-2022
Dallas BBQQueens
Barbecue ribs

If I asked you to name some iconic New York restaurants, we could all probably guess what might get listed. Katz's Deli. Russ & Daughters. Joe's Pizza. Momofuku. Shake Shack. Magnolia Bakery. Peter Luger.

But there's one place that, if you aren't from New York, I promise you didn't name, but if you've lived here for even a year or two, I could just as easily promise you did. And if you grew up here, it might actually be the first place on your list. Dallas BBQ.

Dallas BBQ is not a great barbecue joint. This isn't where you line up to get incredible platters of smoked brisket and sausage, nobody is about to even consider making an argument that it can compete with whatever other hometown barbecue joint you have in mind (such as, say, Hometown Barbecue down in Red Hook). Dallas BBQ is essentially Applebees. It's an affordable, big, loud, family-friendly sports bar-ish restaurant, which probably sells more chicken wings and margaritas every night than it does racks of ribs. There's about a dozen locations around the city, and as far as I can tell, it's solely a New York chain. And people love it.

And when I say "people," I mean people. Like, the actual "real" (scare quotes) New Yorkers that actually make up the majority of this city. Alec Baldwin has probably never been there. Your friend who lives in Bushwick has probably made fun of it in passing (although a fake Dallas BBQ lookalike was featured in Broad City as the location where Abbi and Ilana celebrate their anniversary every year, so it's possible your Bushwick friends once went there ironically). But for a ton of people in this city, Dallas BBQ is the place that you go for your son's birthday, or where you get drinks after a softball game, where your family goes after church, where you meet up with coworkers for happy hour every week, where teenagers can afford to go eat with friends on a Friday night. Like I said, it's Applebees. But as a friend of ours—a Queens native—put it: Dallas BBQ is for New Yorkers.

I'd usually jump in here and say, "And unlike Applebee's, it's actually good!" But honestly it's been so long since I've eaten at Applebees that I have no idea how that place holds up at this point in my life. Maybe it's fine?? But Dallas BBQ: yeah, it's actually pretty good!

Despite all my snark up there about Bushwick cool kids eating at Dallas BBQ ironically, I'd be lying if I said our visit there wasn't at least a little tongue in cheek. Like maybe 20%. But really it was just like, we felt like having some loud sports bar food, felt like going somewhere cheap and easy, and just said "Fuck it, let's actually go to Dallas BBQ and check it out!" I knew going in that they didn't actually have a ton of barbecue options. But I was slightly disappointed that the only ribs they offer are babyback ribs. Which, despite what Chili's would want you to think, are the crappiest cut of rib. Which is why Chilis and Applebees and Dallas serve them. They're cheap compared to spare ribs. But all things considered, these ribs were good! They were tender enough, not too fatty (I'm looking at you, Gentle Perch), and the sauce was tangy and had just enough personality that it didn't feel generic. I got a baked potato on the side, and it's pretty fucking hard to screw up a baked potato, so they nailed that too. Erin got some honey-lemon chicken which was fried, not smoked, which was disappointing, but still not too bad. And she also got a margarita the size of a tractor tire; almost everyone there seemed to have ordered a margarita the size of a tractor tire, I imagine that's mostly what keeps the place in business.

There's always talk and discussing and hemming and hawing about "real New Yorkers" versus transplants, locals versus tourists, rich versus mega-rich versus middle class versus poor. I don't want to say that Dallas BBQ is somehow in the center of it all bringing all those factions together—it's not that. But it absolutely is a place for "New Yorkers." Most people in this city aren't eating at Russ & Daughters every weekend. They can't afford Momofuku, probably haven't even heard of Balthazar or Eleven Madison Park, and absolutely don't care about whatever new hot pop-up is opening in Gowanus. But going to Dallas BBQ is the highlight of a lot of people's weeks. If you're ever in town, you absolutely don't need to go there, and I think there's something nice about that.

05-02-2022
All'antico VinaioManhattan
Italian sandwiches

All'antico Vinaio is a very famous sandwich shop in Florence. I know this because every article I've seen about the new All'antico Vinaio pop-up in Hells Kitchen makes sure to tell you how popular All'antico Vinaio is in Florence. You just have to go. I've also noticed that a ton of the people I've seen in line for this new pop-up are speaking Italian to each other. So maybe there's actually something to it.

I finally braved the line last week and tried one of these very famous sandwiches. They're good! But, honestly, despite what your friend who once spent a semester in Italy might tell you, you can probably find an equally good sandwich at a handful of other high-end delis around town, without having to debase yourself lining up down 8th Avenue.

05-02-2022
Red RoosterHarlem
Shrimp and grits, fried chicken

This is something of a Music & Food first—or at least a most. I don't really feel like going all the way back, but I happen to know that Harlem's Red Rooster is one of the first posts on this site, way way way way way back over 10 years ago. Long enough ago that I don't really care to go back and figure it out. But here I am again, posting about Red Rooster, easily the longest amount of time in between posting about the same place twice on here.

The reason why I want to, is that, unlike that first trip a decade ago, this time I found myself completely unimpressed, and even a little sad about the state of Red Rooster. As far as I can tell, Marcus Samuelsson is still involved (at least in name), and I've never really heard any specific gossip about the place going through any dramatic changes or anything. But it feels like they've spent these years casualizing the place. I think I just made up that word, but I think you might know what I mean. Here was this Swedish-Ethiopian celebrity chef, opening one of Harlem's first real modern fine dining establishments, making a cool, modern take on soul food. Great! It was great! But the menu this time just felt plain. No spins, nothing modern, just the absolute basics. Fried chicken, shrimp and grits, some basic pasta, a burger and a chicken sandwich. That's about it. Maybe that's what the menu used to be, too! I don't remember. But I just felt deeply uninspired trying to decide what I wanted. Although I did specifically note the lack of Samuelsson's famous Swedish meatballs.

This is all well and good if the food blows you away, but it mostly didn't. It was totally average. Acceptable, sure, although maybe just slightly too expensive for what you were getting. But nothing a about the entire experience felt special at this point in 2022. Did Red Rooster lose its mojo? Did some investor or another make them dumb it down? Did the popularity of Sylvia's down the block make them want to go more traditional? Or did time and food and Harlem finally catch up with Red Rooster?

04-27-2022
Liebman's DeliThe Bronx
Pastrami sandwich

With all due deference to Katz's (10/10) and Pastrami Queen (9/10), and all the other great pastrami hubs of the east coast—this Liebman's pastrami sandwich might be the best I've ever had. Sounds crazy, sounds impossible, it's not like Liebman's has some legendary reputation or anything, it's just a dusty old place hidden away in the west Bronx—but dang. I can't imagine a better pile of pastrami than this one.

03-29-2022
Shopsin'sManhattan
Biscuits and gravy

I missed out on the original Shopsin's. And what the original Shopsin's was I barely even understand enough to be able to explain to you.

Shopsin's was—is (but we'll get to that)—a diner in lower Manhattan. It was a place that was very much the bailiwick of one man, Kenny Shopsin, and was seemingly pulled straight from his very being. It was the real version of those little local faux-dives that try to bombard you with quirks, goofy shit on the walls, maybe sandwiches that use donuts as buns. But I hear Shopsin's was legit. Kenny Shopsin was a man who loved food and the New York Mets, but mostly food, and what started as a simple diner menu over the years became an incomparable, staggering collection of items completely disconnected from one another, as he seemingly just kept finding things he liked to eat elsewhere in the city, and added it to the menu. Pancakes. Chilequiles. African curry soup. Yuzo pork sandwiches. Latkes. Fried chicken. How they were able to keep everything in the kitchen, and how the found line cooks to learn to make everything, I don't understand. But for years, Kenny Shopsin held court over his tiny little diner hidden in the corner of the Essex Market and became a Legendary New York Guy.

And then they bulldozed the place to build a new luxury high rise and food hall. Which, I guess for the best, features a shiny new Shopsin's.

So for the last few years, since learning of its fat—and Kenny's (RIP)—I never thought much about going to the place. It just felt wrong, a new gentrified Shopsin's with all the quirks and personality retrofitted to a steel and glass box, the menu no longer a mess of Microsoft Word text boxes, the furniture a 2022 retro version of a 90s version of 60s retro. I felt okay having missed out on it, and that was that.

Until this weekend, when I was in lower Manhattan and desperate for some biscuits and gravy, and heading right towards the new Essex Market. So, fuck it, I went to Shopsin's.

Okay, so, they did okay. The place is okay. The vibe is okay. I truly can't compare it to the old place, because like I said, I never went to the old place. I've barely seen any pictures, I just don't know. But all things considered, I feel like the experience here wasn't so different. The menu is still completely unwieldy (a girl at the bar next to me literally said to the waiter, "I need some help"), the staff felt like they'd been slinging Kenny's nonsense food for years, and best of all: OMG this was a damn good plate of food.

The other part is that every single plate that went out to the other tables all looked equally delicious. There's like 200 things on the menu, and as far as I can tell all of them are great, and I honestly want to go back and try at least 3 more of them. Wish I would've done it 10 years ago, but I humbly admit that I'm happy to have done it nonetheless.