BBQ Chicken

25 W 32nd StNew York, NY 10001 • (212) 967-8093 • bbqktownnyc.com

Welcome to the Korean Pret of fried chicken. A confusing, and yet surprisingly accurate description made only more confusing by the name, because there’s very little barbecue to speak of. That said, there is chicken in virtually every imaginable sauce you could want, fried, jerk, barbecue (naturally), grilled, thai, coconut, general tso, sesame, honey, spicy. It’s like Forrest Gump talking about shrimp. All pre-made for a quick grab-n-go mission (hence my Pret comparison) or there is a pretty extensive amount of seating if you want to sit and take in the rather nonexistent decor. It’s also very reasonably priced by Manhattan standards, making it one of the only options for lunch in the area under $20.

But here’s the thing, the bowls are all pretty damn yummy. Some served up with rice and potatoes. Others with rice and veggies like their bibimbap. And some are just piled high with poultry. But all of them are surprisingly good. They have other things as well, but chicken is clearly their bailiwick. Oh, and best of all, they have beer! Take that Pret!

Midyeci Sehmus Usta

Şehit Uğur Öztop Cad. Gündoğan, TK 48965 • +90 535 9492313sehmususta.com

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This is not just a restaurant, this is a movie in the making about a kid who comes from nothing and manages to build an empire… out of stuffing mussels with rice. Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t be a great movie, but it is truly inspiring to see what this man, Sehmus, has managed to achieve since 1981, when he first started selling midye dolma (stuffed mussels) out of a street cart. A head-scratching concept to say the least, because shellfish from a barrel on wheels sounds like the recipe for E.coli if ever I heard one. In fact, back when my wife and I first visited Bodrum together nearly 15 years ago, she tried to get me to try the mussels from one of the street carts and I looked at her like she had seven heads. Granted they were all very pretty heads, but seven nonetheless. That said, after trying a small sampling of three, I immediately ordered another dozen. And every year the number has grown exponentially to 24, 30, 40- even 50 pieces in a single order. Praise be Sehmus! I have seen the light!

And I’m not the only one. Somehow this mussel man (see what I did there?) managed to assemble a family owned and operated network of street carts stretching from Izmir all the way to Bodrum and everything in between. A veritable army of street vendors all carrying a product so consistently great they could give Penn Tennis Balls a run for their money. Too obtuse? Penn used to have a long running ad campaign about how “amazingly consistent” they were. But I digress.

Which brings me to today. Finally, the man, the myth, the legend, has decided to settle down, planting roots with his first brick and mortar restaurant, located in Gundogan, serving up mussels in every way shape and form. In fact, the menu almost reads like that scene in Forrest Gump where he goes on and on about all the ways you can cook shrimp.

But fret not, because the dolma are still the best on Earth. And if you’re not close to Gundogan, that’s okay too, because the army of street vendors is still on the march.

One caveat, however. The rest of the menu doesn’t quite hold up to the dolma. The midye casserole is just okay- be sure to ask for it aci (spicy) and without cheese (one of those rare dishes that’s better sans). Another zag from expectations is that I much preferred the fried calamari over the grilled variety, which is rare for me. And last but not least, the seafood with rice was also a big snoozer. But hot damn are those dolma good! So go for those, some raki or Efes, and eat so many you turn yourself into a dolma. Sage advice if ever it existed.

3 teeth

Smithfield

138 W 25th St. New York, NY 10001(212) 929-9677smithfieldnyc.com

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To quote Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Fortunately this is where I step in and tell you, because while the looks of this place scream typical sports bar, there is a gastronomic star lurking beneath its flat screen televisions.

Let’s start with the most noteworthy of details, for example Pilsner Urquell on tap, served in bulbous glass steins of awesomeness. So right off the bat you’re ahead of the curve, but sit tight, because Smithfield is about to drop an Ultimate or two.

The first being the shrimp buns, so nice we ordered them twice. And not only are they an Ultimate, but they could teach the dim sum in Chinatown a trick or two. A perfect contrast in textures and flavors. I practically wanted to curl up in the bun and spoon the shrimp I loved it so much.

The other borderline Ultimate was the mac ‘n cheese. Served in a cast iron skillet with just the perfect amount of crunch to gooiness. And the blend of cheeses was up there with the best of them. So well balanced it’s enough to make Chicago tightrope walker Nik Wallenda green with envy.

After that, things slid a touch toward expected, like the pulled pork sliders, which were good, but not great, and ideally needed a little slaw.

The Jameson wings were also good, but compared to the rave reviews fell miserably short, mainly because they are FAR from spicy, so false advertising there.

And bringing up the rear were the flatbread/pizza and fries. Both sounded much better than they are- damn your wisdom Gump!

Dessert, however, rallied back to greatness with a very strong apple crumble and an okay-by-comparison chocolate torte.

But as hit and miss as this sounds, for a sports bar, I have to tip my hat, because the hits where as big as anything on Sportscenter.

4 teeth