The Eclectic Gourmet Guide to Greater New York City

A book review

Nothing excites a certain type of New Yorker more than discovering a new, offbeat, off-the-beaten-path, usually ethnic restaurant where the food is authentic, the quality high, and the prices so low it’s hard to believe you’re still in New York. They delight in dragging visiting friends and relatives to little known corners of the Bronx for spicy calamari and linguine or to Harlem for succulent smothered pork chops. These places are secret treasures these New Yorkers keep to themselves, sharing the intelligence only with a handful of trusted friends, hoping against hope that the newspaper food critics (for whom “chowhounding” has become very chi-chi) won’t “discover” them and ruin it for everyone.

Well, so much for that. Jim Leff, New York’s Chowhound-in-Chief, has gone and blabbed big time in a thoroughly knowledgeable and frequently witty book that bears the cumbersome (but accurate) subtitle, “The Undiscovered World of Hyperdelicious Offbeat eating in All Five Boroughs.”

Jim will tell you how to find boureks (which you’ve probably never heard of) in the Bronx (which you’ve almost certainly never thought of as a tourist draw). He’ll point to New York’s best Indian food in a diner (two of them in fact). He’ll reveal the hidden shrines of New York style pizza in a city where pizza is practically the state religion. He’ll take you by the hand and show you where to find the kind of home-cooked comfort food that mama used to make — if your mama is Korean, that is. Or Tadjik. Or Malaysian. Or Brazilian. The list goes on.

I really should hate Leff for writing this book, for telling the world about Dominic’s, the Jackson Diner, the Cabana Carioca, but his mastery of his subject is so profound, his enthusiasm so infectious, and his voice so enjoyable and so New York that, after the first wave of anger subsides, reading his book is like a conversation with an old friend.

So if you’re headed to New York, especially if you are on a budget, grab a copy of this book and devour it. You’ll enjoy some of the best food in the world and maybe save enough money in the process to pay for your ticket to the Big Apple.

Here’s another great source of information for chow hounds.