On March 13, Village Voice hosted their 8th annual Choice Eats event, a culinary extravaganza featuring over 50 of the city’s greatest restaurants. Lines were down and around the block to get into this foodie frenzy, and within minutes, the Metropolitan Pavilion was brimming with hungry guests.
And the vendors had no trouble keeping up with the crowds (at least in the beginning). Rubirosa was firing out osso buco tortelloni, and Veselka reps plated potato pierogi a mile a minute; comfort food joint Wilma Jean was frying up thin quarters of bologna and Tabata’s experts were doling out piles upon piles of garlic noodles. Upstairs the Sweets section was packed with cult favorites like Doughnut Plant and Robicelli’s, just in case guests were still hungry.
During the event, I sampled bites and tastes from almost every vendor, happily stretching my stomach to capacity in the case of research. Everything was enjoyable but there were a few that stood out from the rest. Here were the five best bites I had at Choice Eats.
This Atlantic Avenue spot is known for its creative sandwiches. At Choice Eats they offered tiny pulled pork sliders on pretzel buns. What made this three-bite sandwich one of the most flavorful dishes of the night was the pork. It was salty and sweet from its Dr. Pepper braising liquid, and house-made pickles added extra crunch. With many of the vendors, I would take a bite and then quickly move on. But I greedily devoured this entire slider and just hoped I’d have room for the rest.
Oh, Ilan Hall is such a genius. The Gorbals is the Brooklyn outpost of the Top Chef winner’s eccentric Jewish-Scottish L.A. restaurant. While I can’t say that beef tongue is my most favorite protein, or one I even consider to be a good protein, his tiny bite of skewered grilled tongue was so juicy and rich. A dot of bright orange romesco and a little lemon crouton were the perfect complements.
A common problem among these food vendors was room temperature food. But this was not the case with The Meatball Shop. The pizza balls were super hot (like hot out of the oven hot). They were cheesy and meaty and tomato-y, and came with a nice piece of chewy bread. These ballers just really knew how to work the room
I was surprised that there wasn’t a lot of mac and cheese at this event, since it’s my favorite food. But Queens Comfort didn’t disappoint with their version, which was topped with a hot, peppery steak au poivre sauce with green peppercorns. That sauce combined with the short rib and the melty fontina and cheddar was just delicious. I even put my beer down to really savor this one.
While the dessert vendors were far fewer than the savory team, I thought that Butter & Scotch did a great job of providing big nostalgic flavors in tiny bite-sized squares. Their mini s’mores bars were creative and satisfying. I could have had about 10, but refrained only for the button on my jeans.
Ariel Kanter is an editor at Gilt City and contributing food writer to amNewYork. She lives and eats in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @RavenousRel and Instagram @ArielKanter for photos of meals and, occasionally, her cat Jasper.