Hattie B's hot chicken nashville tennessee fried chicken

One Night in Nashville – Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

Earlier this year, I stopped by Nashville for a hot second to visit a hotel trade show (the Asian American Hotel Owners Association – long story).  The trip also had a great chicken-related benefit – the opportunity to eat at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.

I jumped out of my Uber and saw a big line – a good sign.  Luckily, I had phoned in my order in advance.  Half bird to go, baby, with mac & cheese and some banana pudding!

The order wasn’t ready yet when I checked in, so I stood by the pass and watched the goodness go by (other people’s orders…alas).  Look at all that beautiful nonsense.

I got half of my order hot, and the other mild.  Definitely get the hot – not that the mild was at all bad, but the hot was so much better.  Hattie B’s does a good brine, so that the chicken is juicy and flavorful, and the spice is a great first hit paired with the crispy skin, right before that beautiful smooth music of brined chicken grease and dark meat comes through right after like that soft bass on a slow jam.  The heat is not overwhelming (I felt like it was mostly cayenne), and builds as you eat, so you get a little bit of that delirious nose-sweat by the time you’re done, but mostly it was an excellent partner and facilitator of flavor.

Definitely some of the top chicken in the land, right up there with Willie Mae’s.

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A Day of Eating in Sunset Park

A few months ago, I took a waistband-stretching jaunt through Sunset Park, a quiet neighborhood in the southern edges of Brooklyn, eating a bunch of Chinese food (and a stop at a phenomenal banh mi shop as well).  Sunset Park sits south of Red Hook and surrounded by other names that do not yet mean much to me, like Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst.  I know each of these neighborhoods have long histories of settlement, trade, migration, immigrants, and the attendant richness of food culture that come with tides of people flowing in and out of the region.  In recent years, these areas are the landing spots of Chinese immigrants, particularly from my home province of Fujian.

Predictably, I went for the food, and made a list of places to hit up, guided in part by Andy Ricker’s Instagram:

Emerging from the 59th Street N-R station and strolling up and down Eighth Ave, I found a quieter, more residential replica of Flushing, restaurants and shops catering to the Chinese community, shoppers picking their way through crates of seafood, grandparents pushing strollers, the throat-y rap of Fuzhou dialect bursting from dining rooms and cash registers.

The first stop was East Harbor Seafood for some dim sum.  For a mid-week morning, the dining room was surprisingly packed with families, including some really big round tables full up with three or four generations, old and young.  I shared a table with two ladies talking in a dialect I didn’t understanding, enjoying my personal array of dim sum classics – steamed tofu skin, spare ribs with black bean sauce, shu mai, and a personal favorite, chicken feet, finished with a bowl of fresh silken tofu drizzled with simple syrup:

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House of Haos Robertas Pizza Bushwick Brooklyn Bee Sting

Roberta’s – Pizza and Beards in Bushwick

Disregard for a moment the disturbingly high concentration of beards and low-necked tees, the flannel everything nightmare that Bushwick can sometimes me.  Because the pizza at Roberta’s is sufficiently delicious enough to offset any visceral reaction you might have to the amount of hipsters.  The Bee Sting (spicy soppressata, hot honey, tomatoes, mozzarella) and the White Guy (mozz, ricotta, garlic, olive oil, sea salt) are the two I’ve had most often, and ones that I’d go back to again and again.  Particularly the bee sting – I wouldn’t have ever thought to put honey on a pizza or with soppressata, but here we are, in a new age of Brooklyn consumption.

House of Haos Robertas Pizza Bushwick Brooklyn Bee Sting 2 House of Haos Robertas Pizza Bushwick Brooklyn Bee Sting

White Guy. Ricotta, grana, garlic with speck @robertaspizza @urbanspacenyc. #eeeeeats

A photo posted by Hao Wang (@houseofhaos) on


Other pizzas eaten: the Millenium Falco (sausage, basil, onion, tomato, parmigiano) and the Cheesus Christ (mozz, taleggio, black pepper, parm, cream).  The latter is a commitment, an expectedly gooey and umami-pumped experience of food coma, but if you’re especially hungry, it’s a solid choice.

House of Haos Robertas Pizza Bushwick Brooklyn Millenium Falco House of Haos Robertas Pizza Bushwick Brooklyn Cheesus Christ

The crust at Roberta’s is fluffier and more doughy than my ideal pizza crust – which will always and forever be Nancy Silverton’s at Pizzeria Mozza – but with a good char in the oven, it does the trick just fine.  The topping flavors are bold and that’s what I go for.

Sometimes though, the line at Roberta’s can get real long – I’ve heard two hours or more for weekend lunches.  That inconvenience, more than anything else, is the tough part to navigate, especially if you’re trekking from Manhattan and have some modicum of schedule you want to stick to.

If you just want to satisfy a pizza craving, go next door to Roberta’s take-out shop and grab whatever you were going to wait for an hour and a half for, plus a few gloriously good sticky buns for the road.  Speaking of sticky buns, if you do take a seat in the restaurant, they have (or had) a dessert sandwich of a big scoop of ice cream stuck between halves of a warmed-over sticky bun, buttery and salty and sticky-sweet.  Phenomenal and impossible to eat with two hands.

The take-out menu is more limited and doesn’t have the veggie and meat dishes that the restaurant offers, but it does cover the greatest hits, so do what that what you will.  I haven’t tried enough of the veggie dishes to vouch for them as much as they are hyped elsewhere, but as long as you’re not sacrificing pizza consumption I’m on board with whatever you do.

Roberta has branched out to the city as well, as an integral part of the Urbanspace experience, first at Mad Sq Eats, then Broadway Bites, and now at Vanderbilt, the upscale food court that Urbanspace has installed near Grand Central.  Oh, and you can get their frozen pizzas in a bunch of Whole Foods in the city.  Good job on the expansion, fellas.

Roberta’s (Google Maps)

Roberta's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

House of Haos Untitled Whitney Meatpacking NYC Berry Peanut Crunch Cake

Modern Lunch – Untitled at the Whitney, NYC

Untitled (Google Maps) sits on the ground floor of the new Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art, a glass temple to vegetable-driven cooking that’s increasingly caught on in New York.  All that smack dab in the middle of the human crush of glorified day drinking, family outings, and tourist throngs curious about the High Line that is the Meatpacking District.  Food aside, it’s simply a gorgeous place to take it all in.

House of Haos Untitled Whitney Meatpacking NYC Passe 2 House of Haos Untitled Whitney Meatpacking NYC Bar
Space in New York, in almost any capacity, feels like an extreme luxury, so to see Untitled’s soaring ceilings and uninhibited glass enclosure is like walking into the foyer of an unexpectedly wealthy friend and thinking daaaaaaayum.  Good on ya, Danny Meyer.

Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern’s head impresario, oversees the kitchen.  Union Square Hospitality Group is behind the venture, as well as the upstairs cafe.

The food is meant to share, portions relatively small, the plating bordering on minimalist, the flavors a dance of sharp and broad and muted.  There’s spice but only barely (the chili in the leeks), there’s an earthy chlorophyllic sweetness on full blast (the kale & sugar snap peas in the fried & roast chicken salad), there’s rich crab umami in the crispy croquettes, smeared with aioli.

House of Haos Untitled Whitney Meatpacking NYC Charred Leeks Chili OrangeHouse of Haos Untitled Whitney Meatpacking NYC Fried Chicken Salad Snap Peas Kale Continue reading

House of Haos Morgensterns NYC New God Flow Milk Toast Honey Raw Milk Ice Cream 2

The Old and the New – Morgenstern’s, NYC

Morgenstern’s (Finest Ice Cream) feels in some ways like an anachronism.  Like a soda bar or something, a page out of old Archie.  Or something from a Michel Gondry movie, an All-American ice cream shop off a lonely stretch of Bowery (Google Maps) murmuring with junkies and others just barely hanging onto the margins of society.

House of Haos Morgensterns NYC Storefront House of Haos Morgensterns NYC 2

On the other hand, Morgenstern’s makes damn good ice cream, so who cares about the throwback paper caps and the retro menu.  But then again, the menu isn’t all that retro, with nods to Kanye and chef collaborations, is both cloyingly hipster and creative.

House of Haos Morgensterns NYC Toppings House of Haos Morgensterns NYC Toppings 3 House of Haos Morgensterns NYC Ice Cream ConesRaw egg and coffee cluster.  Vietnamese coffee.  Mango passion fruit.  Luxardo cherries, toasted coconut toppings.  Smooth strawberry.

House of Haos Morgensterns Bowery NYC American Egg Smooth Strawberry Toasted Coconut Luxardo Cherries Continue reading

House of Haos Little Park Tribeca NYC Beet Risotto

Little Park and Upland – NYC

The best way I can describe Little Park (Google maps) in Tribeca’s Smyth Hotel – is a stylish picnic.  One that you would plan for a date, somebody whose sensibilities include Soulcycle or design magazines and to whom you want to say, “hey, I do eat other things besides Shake Shack and fried chicken.”  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

You bring her here to impress her with some beetroot risotto and the airy tempura of avocado squash & blossoms.  Sure, there are also duck and scallops on this picnic, because you want to ball out a little.  But those come later.  After you eat your vegetables like the cultural connoisseur you are (“za’atar is an ancient spice blend,” you will say, because you checked Wikipedia while she was in the bathroom).

Different from the way that Upland (Google Maps), in Gramercy, is also a picnic.  Your date might also enjoy Upland, and if she’s game to split the short rib for two or she goes fingers-first for the crispy duck wings, confit’d and crisped, slathered with yuzu kosho, then it’s time to consider getting more serious.

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Red Hook Redux: Brooklyn Crab – NYC

Brooklyn Crab is a seafood shack with a distinctly neighborhood feel, and fewer noticeably commercial tchotchkes on the walls than you’d otherwise expect, given the sometimes-on-weekend profusion of bros & the women who love them.  Depending on your seat, you’ll have a view of Brooklyn, the Red Hook Fairway building, or the waterfront, the Statue of Liberty vaguely in the distance.  But it’s this neighborhood vibe that lingers, just 20 easy minutes (via water taxi) from downtown Manhattan.  Almost Floridian or Orange County-esque.  And what a relief to escape to a place like this.

Where the Cajun shrimp are plump and juicy, bathed in cayenne & lemon & celery salt.

House of Haos Brooklyn Crab Red Hook NYC Cajun Shrimp

Where you order crab legs steamed in butter, with a side of clarified butter for dipping.  Where you alternate between using the tools and your teeth, methodically extracting the salty-sweet fruit from its crunchy husk.

House of Haos Brooklyn Crab Red Hook NYC Crab Legs Butter House of Haos Brooklyn Crab Red Hook NYC Crab Leg

Where you put butter even on the corn, because it’s just right thing to do, goddamn it.

House of Haos Brooklyn Crab Red Hook NYC Corn ButterBrooklyn Crab
24 Reed St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
(Google Maps)

House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Lamb Ribs

Estela – Soho, NYC

Estela feels like such a neighborhood spot, the entrance as if you’re stepping into your college buddy’s second-story walk-up on a Saturday night, bottle of something in hand, pile of boots and ballet flats strewn around the door, your mind on that one girl you met last time and wondering if she might show up tonight.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC The interior is dim, vaguely shimmery from candlelight, shrouded by hushed conversations, dates and hip parties, a good energy spilling over from the crowded bar.  You want it to be a hip friend’s apartment, somewhere that if smoking were still a thing, there would be the faraway scent of that and perfume and jazz.

And fancy ginger ales.  With beautifully cubed ice.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Ginger Ale Surryano country ham.  Because, why not?  Fat and salt in a relatively primal form.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Country Ham A simple, elevated presentation of crunchy leaves of green (kale?).  But underneath this lardo-brushed canopy, some seared scallops, simple and sweet, sweetness that surprisingly held up its own to the herbacious, textured sweetness of sugar snap peas. House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Scallops 1 House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Scallops 2 Fried arroz negro with sepia and romesco.  So many layers of savory in this dish, as well as texture – the rice, the slippery bits of cuttlefish, and the tangy spread of romesco.House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Black Rice House of Hao's Estela Soho New York NYC Black Rice Uni Sepia  Continue reading

House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Smoked Ribs

Pork Pork Pork – Lunch at Cochon, New Orleans

God bless the humble pig, and all the amazing things that come from it.  House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Menu (These are just fresh house rolls with soft, whipped butter – I don’t think there’s pork in these, but I wouldn’t be surprised, I guess).House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Fresh Rolls Butter I think the shrimp did have some pork in it (a deeply smoked bacon in the broth), and some scallions to liven it up.House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Gulf Shrimp These sticky, saucy ribs, with minty watermelon relish, had a nice balance of fleshiness, fat, and tenderness.House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Smoked Ribs Head cheese, chunky and unctuous, gelatinous, umami-rific.  The pickles and the mustard helped provide some counterbalance, if you want it.House of Haos Cochon New Orleans Head Cheese Continue reading

All Good Things – The Creole Creamery, New Orleans

There’s nothing quite like a really good ice cream parlor.  I grew up with a Graeter’s near my house, and that was a place we could gather after a movie or a study night (mostly study nights, in my high school days), or pick up some scoops during a slow week when I could sneak off-campus.  At Graeter’s I had my first scoop of black cherry flavor, which to this day remains one of my favorite flavors.

Creole Creamery has that distinctive neighborhood feel, of something both comfortable and lively, like it’s been there the whole time, even if it’s new.  There are families and kids and hipsters and old-timers.  There are wide booths with smooth leather seats and bright lights, and there’s the faint sweetness – the lightly toasted, vanilla perfume of cones and waffles.  Plus, the uptown location of Creole Creamery has that old-school soda fountain feel to it, retro chic.  But those are more stylistic embellishments.  I was there because I’d heard nothing but rave reviews about the ice cream.  Even the owner of Brennan’s loves Creole Creamery.House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana Storefront So many choices, and many uniquely New Orleans flavors (including king cake, when we last visited).  Creole cream cheese, Satsuma orange.  Banana cane malt.  Lavender.  Cafe au lait.  House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana 2 The sampler.  Six mini-scoops of amazing.  We had two of these.  With mostly different flavors.House of Haos Creole Creamery New Orleans Louisiana SamplerWe are serving this at our wedding, in case you were wondering.

Creole Creamery
4924 Prytania Street, New Orleans, LA 70115
(Google Maps)

Creole Creamery on Urbanspoon