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Recap: Bon Appetit Grub Crawl

When you move to a new city, especially one as big as New York, it can sometimes be intimidating to explore all the restaurants in your hood on your own. So, when Bon Appetit invited us to attend their 2015 Grub Crawl, I thought it would be the perfect chance for me to explore the foodie culture in NYC.

The Crawl had two legs: one in Clinton Hill during the day, and one in the “new” Chinatown at night. I opted for the Crawl in Clinton Hill, as I hadn’t had a chance to venture out to that neighborhood yet, and was excited to see what it had to offer.

I was not disappointed! When I got off the subway and headed to Habana Outpost, the check-in location, I was greeted by the most colorful building in all of Brooklyn. The decor and the feel inside the restaurant matched the look on the outside: funky, colorful, and fun.

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While we waited to be assigned our Crawl groups, we tasted the food. Among other things, Habana Outpost was featuring sandwiches, grilled corn, chips & guac, and – of course – margaritas! The Mexican-style grilled corn and the avocado & white cheese sandwich were the standouts for me.

The cojita cheese on the corn melted in your mouth, and was the perfect salty component to the sweet corn. The sandwich had tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and a thick piece of soft, white cheese. The flavors complemented each other perfectly, and it was a very light dish.

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This would definitely be the perfect place to meet friends on a hot, summer day in Brooklyn for a refreshing margarita. For more on Habana Outpost, New York’s first solar-powered restaurant, visit their website.

After we finished, it was time for our group to head out and officially start Crawling! We trekked over to our second stop, Sisters. And I’m not exaggerating when I say trek. It was about a 15 minute walk, and it was HOT! This Bitch needed a drink. So, it was a good thing that Sisters was serving some of the best hand-crafted cocktails I’ve ever tasted. The first cocktail was their version of a Daiquiri on the rocks. It wasn’t nearly as sweet as your regular Daiquiri; it was much more tart, with shavings of fresh lime on the top. I loved it! But the second cocktail tasted just like summer. It was a spin on a frozen Pina Colada, but with a bit more kick. I could picture myself sitting on a beach somewhere with my toes in the sand, sipping this cocktail.

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As for the food, the pulled pork sandwiches didn’t really do anything for me. They were just alright, and I thought there was too much bread in relation to the amount of pork on the sandwich. The oysters with mignonette and the fried artichokes with a lemon aioli were another story.

I had never had a fried artichoke before, but I will definitely be heading back to Sisters to have them again. It’s hard to describe how well the flavors and textures went together. They oysters tasted really fresh, as if they had just been pulled out of the ocean.

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I loved the overall feel of Sisters, with its open dining area and bar lit by natural sunlight from the skylight. For more on Sisters, visit their website.

Our next stop was The Finch, a seasonal American spot. More delicious hand-crafted cocktails awaited us. I opted for The Berganmonster: Earl Grey vodka, made in-house, with green tea syrup and lemon. I kid you not, this drink tasted EXACTLY like sweet tea and was probably my favorite cocktail of the Crawl. My boyfriend went with the Tarragon Gimlet: Pueblo Viejo blanco tequila with tarragon and lime. He mentioned it had a bit of a vegetal taste, but overall, it tasted similar to a margarita.

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My favorites in the food department were the lemon saffron arrancini with asparagus and the egg salad on toast with smoked bluefish. The sweetness of the egg paired surprisingly well with the smokiness of the bluefish, and I liked that it was served on a crostini so that it was bite-size. The arrancini was a little messier, but so worth it – it had the same texture as a risotto ball, and the flavors worked really nicely together.

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I was a huge fan of the ambiance. The kitchen was totally open to the dining room, with white-washed brick walls and marble countertops. It had a very clean, crisp, and modern vibe. For more on The Finch, visit their website.

At this point in the Crawl, we were starting to get pretty full and were ready to get off of our feet. So, we were relieved when we arrived at No. 7 and were asked to sit down so that we could be served our food, family style. No. 7 is known for its blend of Korean and Eastern European flavors, so we were intrigued to see what dishes they would feature. The chef presented us three dishes: fried chicken, asparagus salad, and double-decker broccoli tacos.

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I’m from the South, and let me tell you, this was some of the best fried chicken I’ve tasted in recent memory. The inside was perfectly juicy, while the outside was crispy and flavorful. The asparagus salad, while an inventive dish, was probably my least favorite dish of the day; it was essentially chopped asparagus, tossed in what tasted like greek yogurt with a hint of lemon juice.

I was a bit apprehensive when it came to the broccoli tacos – Chef Tyler Kord joked that he was inspired by Taco Bell, but they really did look like it could have been featured on their menu. But instead of meat, there was broccoli, and instead of sour cream, there was black bean hummus. I was pleasantly surprised. Fields mentioned this was the best vegetarian dish he’d ever eaten, and that he would gladly come back for more. For more on No. 7, visit their website.

The organizers at Bon Appetit knew what they were doing and saved the best for last. We ended the Crawl at Speedy Romeo, a well-renowned pizza joint in NYC.

Before the main course, they brought out some appetizers, including caesar salad spears, grilled octopus, and Kansas City strip steak. I love octopus, so I was excited to see taste Speedy Romeo’s version of one of my favorite dishes. The octopus itself was really tasty, but I wasn’t a fan of how they paired it with a small piece of potato. The potato was really dry and didn’t allow the octopus to really shine.

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Then it was onto the star of the show: the pizza. They served two versions, the Speedy Romeo and the Saint Louie. The Saint Louie pizza was served St. Louis style, with cheese straight from the city itself, and topped with Italian sausage, pepperoni, provel, and pickled chilis. While this pizza was amazing, my favorite was the Speedy Romeo. We got a sneak peek, as it’s usually a speciality pizza they only serve during summertime. It was served on grilled dough and was topped with housemade ricotta cheese, heirloom tomatoes, lemon and chili. The tomatoes were shipped in fresh from Pennsylvania and marinated in sugar, salt, garlic, and basil.

Holy. Pizza. No joke, I think this is the best pizza I have ever tasted in my entire life. The ingredients were so fresh and savory. I HIGHLY suggest you take a trip to Speedy Romeo and try some for yourself. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. For more on Speedy Romeo, visit their website.

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The Bon Appetit Grub Crawl was a really fun and interesting experience, especially if you’re a foodie like this Bitch. It’s a great opportunity to try foods you haven’t tried before, while also exploring the neighborhood. The Crawl also offers a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurants, and allows you to hear first-hand from their head chefs, sous chefs, and mixologists. If you’re interested in attending a Grub Crawl, check out their website for future events.

Ann Louise

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