Monday, September 10, 2012

Dekalb Market

I noticed about three weeks ago that I was coming up on 1000 posts. Crazy. I thought back to my 500th post, my Pasadena Taco Adventure with Tim and Elizabeth. Should I do something to compete with that? I considered taking the subway to Central Park and walking home (about 6 miles), stopping for pizza at a dozen places. 

But that seemed too similar to the Pasadena Taco Crawl, and, to be honest, it didn't even really sound like all that much fun. 

Then I thought about making a whole bunch of burgers. I have a lot of recipes I've thought up. Some are silly, some are offensive, some are my renditions of restaurant burgers. But I just didn't have the motivation. 

It occurred to me that I was overthinking things. I didn't need anything grand in scope, just something fun. That's all this blog is about anyway: It's not for money or work, it's just about fun. And that's when I realized what I wanted to do. 

I've been lucky enough to visit some great urban spaces in America. Some of my favorites? The Brooklyn Promenade, one block from where I now live. Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland. Rittenhouse Square in Philly. City Market in Kansas City. President Clinton Avenue in Little Rock, a string of restaurants and bars with back patios looking out on the Arkansas River. Eutaw Street in Baltimore, a short stretch wedged between Camden Yards - my favorite baseball stadium I have visited - and the B&O Warehouse.

The first few weeks after I had moved to Brooklyn, I was going out for walks almost every day. Some of them lasted five or six miles and I saw plenty of the area. (It had gotten to the point that I was more familiar with the neighborhoods than Elizabeth, who, before she moved to California in 2008, had lived here for more than three years.)

But it wasn't until I had been here for almost two months that I came across Dekalb Market, even though it's less than a mile from where I live. It's a collection of salvaged shipping containers in a vacant lot. There are retails shops and, more important to me, lots of places to eat. This might not crack the list I presented to you a couple of paragraphs ago, but I really like the place.

True, I've yet to see something inside one of the container shops that I would actually like to own, but that's not the point. It's just cool to see different stuff. (Elizabeth's dad spent twenty minutes inside one of the shops one evening admiring toys he used to play with when he was a kid.) I've walked past the place on weekends with parties going on and big crowds; that's not my scene. And I've seen it some evenings when it appears lots of people hang out there not to buy anything or interact with anyone but rather to use the free wi-fi. The idea of the place might be better than the actual execution, and it's not terribly surprising to hear that it's disappearing at the end of September to make way for a high-rise. But I still like the place.

My favorite time to be there is the weekday lunch, when it's mostly tourists and workers from nearby office buildings. A couple of weeks back I was waiting for my sandwich on a pleasant warm afternoon and it occurred to me: eat a bunch of different meals here and write them up for my 100th post.

First let's take a look at some photos of the market:

And now, some of the things I've eaten:

Elizabeth wanted the blueberry mint lemonade one day, so she got it, and I gave it a try. It was one of the drinks that was refreshing for a few sips, but I don't think I could drink more than that. She loved it, though.

I had a Hawaiian iced tea - it was a little too sweet for me, but not bad on a hot day.

I picked up a braised short rib and brisket sandwich from Mayhem & Stout, adding "Dragon Sauce" (an Asian-style barbecue sauce) and "spicy slaw." This was a great sandwich. The meat was tender and juicy, the sauce had a bold sweetness to it, and the slaw's spice was only slightly noticeable. The latter may sound like a dig but it's not: I really liked how all three ingredients complemented each other.

One of my favorite bloggers - Fritos and Foie Gras - joined me for lunch at Dekalb Market one day. To start, we split a braised short rib sandwich on grilled bread. While I may not have liked the short rib as much as the one I had from Mayhem & Stout, I liked the sandwich every bit as much. The meat was still good, and the arugula fresh, but what really tied this sandwich together was the horseradish sauce. It was, I feel confident in saying, the best horseradish sauce I have ever had.

I don't remember the last time I ordered a root beer. It's possible I never have in my adult life. But it was an incredibly muggy day and I felt like that would be refreshing. It was.

On another, solo trip to Cheeky's, I had the fried chicken on a biscuit. It was the best thing I ate at Dekalb Market; it was one of the best things I have eaten all year. I watched the guy batter and fry the chicken breast right in front of me; 30 seconds after it was done frying it was in my mouth. So it was very hot and crispy. The gravy and cabbage were an awesome combination and the biscuit was flaky and warm. I don't know if my year-end review will be 20 items like last year or only 10 items like 2011... either way, this sandwich will be there.

At Maharlika one day I ordered the longanisa: a cured Filipino sausage as fragrant with garlic as anything I have ever eaten. I loved it. Like a good piece of basturma, I was tasting garlic with each breath for the rest of the afternoon. A couple of bites contained dime-sized pieces of fat, but that was a small price to pay for how good the rest of the sausage was. The rice and veggies were very good, and if the sausage had not been here I might be raving about how good they were, but they paled in comparison to the longanisa.

Fritos wanted to try the longanisa on a bun. It looked so good, drizzled with some kind of sauce, that I had to take a bite. (She was nice enough to let me.) It was even better on a bun.

At DUB pies - Australian/New Zealand-style meat pies - I ordered a chicken pie. I could have eaten at least five of these. The chicken was tender, the veggies were crisp and the sauce was tangy. They have another shop in Brooklyn and I definitely plan to get there soon.

At this taco stand (I think it's only open on the weekends) I got myself a Korean BBQ taco. It was fine. I've had tacos like this before; some have been worse, but most have been better. And this is definitely one of the most expensive, at four bucks for a meager taco. I am glad I got it, but it's the only there here that I would definitely not order again.

Elizabeth had the carnitas taco and she gave me a bite. I liked this one much more than the Korean BBQ. Normally I like my carnitas tacos with only two things: cilantro and hot sauce. The pickled onions, cotija cheese, and salsa seemed like it was going to be over-the-top, but it ended up being quite a good combination.

Brooklyn Sliders shares a container with Cheeky's Sandwiches on the weekends. I decided to try a slider after the tacos. The pork version - with truffle basil aioli - sounded good, but I'd just had some carnitas, so I ordered the turkey.

I wasn't a big fan of the bun. It did not taste or feel fresh. The turkey was fine - nothing great, just okay. The scallion-citrus mayo was fantastic. I wished I'd had some Belgian fries to dunk in a pint glass of the stuff. Hell, I could eat it with a spoon. Ordinarily I would call four dollars for this tiny slider a rip-off, but it was worth it to get to try this mayo. (Well... it was almost worth it.)

After we were done eating lunch, Fritos asked if I was in the mood for a mini donut. I said sure, and she ordered the smallest size (seven) with cinnamon and powdered sugar. We watched the woman fry them right in front of us and then we tried them. I really liked it; she merely liked it. So she let me take the rest home. When Elizabeth got home I let her have the rest of the donuts: she absolutely loved them... even though they hadn't been hot for six hours.

So the next day we went back and got 21. (There are only 18 here... we ate three on the way home.)

And that's it for my eats from Dekalb Market. I hope you enjoyed it. My 2000th post will probably be sometime in 2016, so I'll start taking ideas now.


BT said...

Sad to see this market shutter just before our visit, but I've read they may be reopening in a new location, so there's always next time. Congrats on 1000!

Ali said...

What a fun place to have so close by. Those donuts look pretty great, and the longanisa has me salivating already this morning. As a current resident of St. Louis, I was very surprised to see Fitz's in Brooklyn! Thought they only distributed in Missouri and Illinois. Really good root beer though. Congrats on 1,000 posts!

Liz said...

I want to get one of those chicken pies and a biscuit sandwich before they close! They look so good. And of course more donuts. Fried dough covered in sugar, how can you go wrong?

Michelle said...

Congrats on 1000 and THANK YOU! So much fun to read every morning before work.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on hitting a milestone. I love longanisa, but don't eat it too often because of the potent belches they give me. My wife is a Filipina, and let me tell you, those folks love them some fat.

Anonymous said...

congrats, pp. thanks for the great writing.

Anonymous said...

what's up with action movies always ending at some port with a bunch of shipping containers around?

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

Awesome post! We need to eat together again, stat!

Nosh Gnostic said...

I would applaud but I have one Hanjin my pocket.
Congrats Justin!

JustinM said...

Thanks everyone for the kind words.

BT: We have plenty more we can do.

Ali: Ah, so it wasn't just because I was so thirsty, it actually is good stuff, eh?

Liz: That can probably be arranged.

Michelle: You are welcome.

Anon 1: Seriously, those burps were more garlic-tinged than anything I have ever eaten except perhaps really good basturma.

Anon 2: You're welcome, too.

Anon 3: Probably lazy movie-making. How many people have original ideas anymore?

Fritos: Sounds good. Your turn to come up with an idea.

Nosh: That's just gross. But funny.