Dirt Candy

As you know, I’m not a vegetarian. I tried that when I was in college and failed miserably. And that was before I became a burger aficionado. I remember scooping chick peas into a bowl then covering them with Italian dressing at the dining hall. Obviously, this mode of eating would never be sustainable. If I could eat at Dirt Candy every day, I’d happily be a vegetarian forever more.

dirt candy hush puppies

hush puppies

Situated down on Allen Street on the Lower East Side, Dirt Candy serves upscale vegetarian cuisine that is categorically artful. The spacious restaurant exudes a clean aesthetic, with a minimally designed interior and many right angles. The New York Times recently wrote a laudatory review of the place, so it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation these days. But don’t be deterred! Dirt Candy has a counter that overlooks skilled chefs creating masterpieces, which ends up being a more entertaining experience than sitting among the plebs.

Now, let’s get to what I ate.

My Lady Dining Partner (MLDP) and I sampled an array of menu items to get the full experience of Dirt Candy.

dirt candy broccoli dogs

broccoli dogs

After taking our order, a waiter brought over a small dish with bread bursting from it, much like muffins explode from the pan to form the exquisite tops. The breads were multicolored, and each portion tasted different, with the red conjuring beets and the green resembling chard or spinach. They were accompanied by a garlicky butter, which was fantastic. From the get-go, I knew this was going to be an incredible dining experience.

We began our meal in earnest with the jalapeno hush puppies, which were served with maple butter. In a word – YUM! MLDP observed that the hush puppies were more like corn fritters, but that’s not a knock against them. They were fried deliciousness, and served in ample portions, so do try this so-called “snack” when you go (and I’m sure you’ll go after reading this review).

dirt candy brussels sprouts tacos

brussels sprouts tacos

For our entrees, we opted for the broccoli dogs (two per order) and brussels sprouts tacos. Wow, both were amazing. The broccoli dogs sat upon housemade buns and were topped with a broccoli kraut, laced with mustard barbecue sauce. On the side, they gave us a generous portion of kale chips that tasted like sweet and sour pickles, and a small slaw made with microgreens. The dish was amazing.

But, the real stars of the show were the tacos. Charred brussels sprouts were laid upon a piping hot stone, and what seemed to be Bibb lettuce leaves took the place of your typical taco shells. I’ve never had brussels sprouts like this in my entire life. Their roasted exteriors were perfect yet belied a tender inside that delights the palate. A delicious guacamole, tortilla strips, a spicy and textured mole, and other fixings were alongside the main parts of the dish. This is billed as a dish to share, but I’d advise you to share everything you get at Dirt Candy so you can try many options.

dirt candy carrot meringue pie

carrot meringue pie

For dessert – and we had to get dessert given how amazing the other food was – we tried the carrot meringue pie with sour cream ice cream. OMG, this was AWESOME. The carrot filling was dense and flavorful, while the meringue that topped the carrot was expertly applied and toasted. I enjoyed the carrot crust, as well. I could take or leave the sour cream ice cream, but it was a nice complement to the carrot flavoring.

We got a second dessert from Babycakes, right around the corner, but, honestly, who’s counting?

So, in short, you have to go to Dirt Candy. Take this advice from the burger queen.

Dirt Candy
86 Allen Street (between Grand and Broome streets)
Lower East Side, New York
Take the B/D to Grand Street and walk a few blocks, or the F/M/Z to Delancey Street and walk a few blocks.

Tacombi

There’s nothing quite like Tacombi in this city. At least not that I’ve seen.

tacombi guacamole

guacamole

With a barely noticeable facade located just south of Houston on Elizabeth Street, it’s a wonder anyone finds Tacombi among the bustle of Nolita. Once you enter, you’re transported to a new world of sparkling sangria and loud Bob Dylan music and a VW bus purveying tacos parked in the center of the floor. You are handed a double-sided paper menu and are instructed to sit in one of the folding chairs beside bright yellow tables with four different kinds of “homemade” hot sauces to choose from. You notice that you’re sitting next to two sinks flanked by paper towels with signs demanding that employees wash their hands. You wonder why there are sinks in the middle of a restaurant, but take it as part of Tacombi’s charm. You notice a bright blue-and-yellow burst on the wall near the kitchen that says “Tacombi” and you consider the meaning of the word. You search for the word on Google when you get home and cannot find any sensible definition, so you’re left pondering what exactly the experience of Tacombi meant to you.

You order guacamole with chips (totopos) because this is what you do at Mexican restaurants. You enjoy the guacamole and notice a hint of spice, perhaps chili powder, within the great avocado mush. For drinks, you and your dining partner order sparkling sangria, forgoing the various juices (watermelon!) they have on the menu. The sparking sangria is served to you in giant plastic glasses with straws and you slurp it down quickly, ignoring the fruit floating throughout because there isn’t any silverware on the table to use to fish out the pieces of apple.

tacombi tacos

tacos

For entrees, you order tacos, because this is what you’re meant to order at Tacombi (they have quesadillas, too). You’ve heard that the maiz y poblano (cheese) taco is extraordinary, so you get two of those and enjoy them greatly. You also order a pollo taco because you fear spicy food and want something basic. The pollo taco doesn’t impress you, and you return to the second maiz y poblano taco. You order rice and beans on the side, because they’re delicious, and you delight in the soupy black beans mixed with short grain rice.

In addition to his various tacos (his favorite being the al pastor), your dining partner orders esquites, or toasted corn in a cup with chipotle mayo. It is delicious. This is what you had on your food tour that you went on last weekend, and your dining partner had been thinking of esquites all throughout the week.

Your waiter asks you if you want anything else, and you politely decline because Tacombi has adequately filled your gut with delicious foods. You (or your dining partner) pay the bill and you leave a generous tip because Tacombi has treated you well. You escape Tacombi and abscond into the dark, frigid night, heading uptown toward 14th Street where the energy is up and the Strand bookstore awaits you.

Tacombi

267 Elizabeth Street, between Prince and Houston

Nolita, New York

Take the N/R to Prince, or the 6/F/B/D/M to Bleecker-Lafayette.