Last Thursday afternoon, my buddy and I went on a journey through Nolita. I had purchased a voucher from Scoop St for their Taste of Nolita food festival, which ran Wednesday through Friday. The voucher was redeemable for selected signature items from six eateries in the neighborhood. The food lineup featured succulent fares from Tacombi, Tartinery, and Oxley’s Carvery, fusion hot dogs from Asiadog, pastries from Ceci-Cela, and decadent desserts from Eileen’s Special Cheesecake.
Since we were only available on Thursday for a few hours to take advantage of this, we decided to share the voucher between the two of us. It was definitely enough food for the both of us. We started our journey walking down Elizabeth St, right off Houston St. First stop, Tacombi at Fonda Nolita. We walked into the large garage, which was filled with metal tables and chairs, a counter/bar on the side, and an old school taco serving Volkswagen truck. The place had an outdoors feel in an indoors environment. Very casual and laid back. There’s free wifi too!! We walked over to the counter, showed them our voucher, and in exchange, they provided us a ticket to bring over to the Volkswagen truck, to ultimately obtain our taco.
Here, we tried their taco al pastor. The soft taco had pieces of marinated pork and pineapples filled inside a tasty fresh tasting tortilla. The pineapples added a nice sweetness to the taco, and there was a good mix of flavors. The best part though, was definitely the meat. It was very well marinated and each bite had tons of flavor. The meat stole the show for sure.
We’ll have to come back another time to try out their other tacos. Each taco on their menu are $4 and they have a vegetarian option too. There’s tacos for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. Nice place to chill, eat tacos, drink horchata, and enjoy the outdoors indoors. Did I mention there’s free wifi?
We continued our walk down Elizabeth St. At the corner of Prince St, we found ourselves standing outside Cafe Habana. We looked at each other and said, “grilled corn!” It wasn’t in our plans, but since we were right there (and adventurers!), we just had to stop by and enjoy one of their Mexican styled grilled corn. The grilled corn is always a treat. The mayo adds the perfect creaminess with every bite and the cheese and other ingredients add a nice tanginess. Highly recommended!
After devouring our grilled corn, we walked over to Spring St to Ceci-Cela.
This small bakery offers their croissants and pastries to go in the front, and has a small cafe with waiter service in the back. They pride themselves with the best croissants in New York. Here, we were offered a choice between a small plain croissant or a chocolate croissant. We went for the chocolate croissant. The croissant was slightly flaky and added well to the texture. There was a good amount of sweetness. The amount of chocolate in the croissant was small, but added a nice chocolate accent.
The next spot was a just down the block and around the corner on Mulberry St, Tartinery. This French bistro has a modern and chic decor. Upon entering, there’s a set of stairs that leads to a larger dining area downstairs on the left, and a bar/cafe area to the right. Since it was a quiet mid afternoon, we took a seat over at the bar. The room was very well lit, the bar was filled with an overwhelming collection of wines and beverages. Since they were also offering drink specials, we ordered a bottle of Biera Corsa Pietra Amber.
We shared the croque monsieur tartine, an open-faced sandwich topped with cooked ham chiffonade, gruyere cheese, and bechamel sauce. It was a nice simple dish. The ham had a very sharp taste and the cheese complimented the ham well. They have so nice variety of tartines on their menu; we’ll have to come back to try the other varieties some time.
The chalkboard walls were neat, especially in their “pi pi room.” Behind sets of sliding doors, there’s a cup of chalk by the sink, and the walls are filled with random tags and scribbles. Did I mention it’s labelled “pi pi room?” Maybe I’m easily amused, but it totally got me chuckling a bit. The service was very friendly and a relaxing atmosphere. It looks like a nice spot for after work bites. We noticed that they offer Lunch Prix Fixe menus for $13 during the day too.
Next, we headed east to Mott St for a bite at Oxley’s Carvery. It’s a simple, small carving station/sandwich shop. There’s a chalkboard menu on the wall on the right. Straight ahead, you can see all gorgeous and succulent display of meats, each clearly labelled with the first letter of the meat it represents. There’s no place to really sit, except for that one bench right outside on the sidewalk. Here, we got to choose between any of their signature sandwiches or one Yorkshire pudding platter duo with pulled pork and braised beef. The sandwiches they had on the menu for the day included: Turkey with cranberry sauce, gravy and stuffing, Black angus beef (which has been slow braised for 18 hours) with sauteed onions and horseradish cream, and Pork shoulder with apple chutney and spicy slaw.
We went for the pork shoulder sandwich and sat on the bench on the sidewalk. The pork shoulder sandwich had a great mix of tastes. The meat was tender and moist. There wasn’t a lot of seasoning and it kept the natural taste of the pork very well. The apple chutney added an unexpected but pleasant sweet flavor.
I’d be interested to come to try their other sandwiches. The sandwiches are $7-$9 each normally, and they also offer platters too. The turkey sandwich sounds great to me. It’s a nice Thanksgiving combination of ingredients, mm… and there’s cranberry sauce too.
Next, we walked over to Stop #5: Asiadog located on Kenmare St. The place is small and simple, with wood paneled walls, bamboo plants by the window, and like two tables. I’ve heard about and seen Asiadog at various food events in the city, but never had the chance to try their hot dogs. They are known for the Asian-inspired toppings that they offer for their hot dogs. Here, we got to choose any one of their signature hot dogs with a choice of topping. Since we’ve been eating mostly meat dishes so far, we ordered a Veggie dog with Sidney topping. The Sidney topping consists of a Thai style relish with mango, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and fish sauce. The hot dog was great. The topping was light and tasty. The combination of flavors worked very well, especially with the sweetness of the mango and the slight saltiness of the fish sauce.
I would definitely want to return to try out their other creative toppings. Like the Vinh, Banh mi style topping with pork (or veggie) pate, spicy aioli, cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeno and cilantro… or the Ito, Japanese curry and kimchi apples. The Ginny sounds great too, housemade kimchi and nori flakes. Aside from the hot dogs, they also have a Korean BBQ Bulgogi burger, a Pulled Pork Sammy with Ginger BBQ Sauce, and a Kimchi Pancake corndog, which all sounds so fantastic. Topped with kimchi or slaw, mm… that’s just great.
Lastly, we walked over to Cleveland Place for dessert! I’ve always been a fan of Eileen’s Special Cheesecake. She’s such a sweet lady and her variety of cheesecakes are cute and delightful. The shop is small, with a couple tables, but people are always friendly. We picked up a mini Hampton coffee cheesecake, which came topped with a chocolate covered espresso bean. Her cheesecakes are always a treat. Since I’m lactose intolerant, I had to limit myself to one spoon of the delicious cheesecake, accompanied with my usual Lactaid pill. I made sure to savor that spoonful while it lasted… so creamy, light, perfect coffee flavor and just slightly sweet. I definitely recommend checking out her variety of cheesecakes. She also ships them too! I was happy to find out that she does offer a dairy free cheesecake on her menu. However, it’s my special request only.
It was a fun afternoon of eating and exploring, and checking out just a small selected handful of the eateries the neighborhood has to offer. We’ll definitely have to come back to these spots, drag a couple of friends, and try out some more of their menu items. And that concludes our Taste of Nolita adventure.