Burritos and Ice Cream Sandwiches: Two Lower East Side Favs Get A Reboot
With some of New York City's most talented and innovative chefs running kitchens in taco joints, fried chicken spots, bakeries, ramen-yas, and pizza places, it's little wonder that these sorts of new restaurants, which traditionally would feature the same menu for decades, are instead used almost as laboratories, with new creations, and even whole new concepts, introduced at a thrillingly frequent pace. Examples abound, from Christina Tosi's Momofuku Milk Bar, which is constantly baking up new surprises, to the aptly named Ramen Lab, which actually brings in guest chefs from all over the world for two or three weeks to play with their Sun Ramen noodles. Anyway, two spots in my regular Lower East Side eating rotation recently revamped their offerings, and I'm pleased to report that both are terrific, and deserve a visit from you if you haven't been in a while.
Danny Bowein's Mission Cantina
First, Danny Bowein, whose Mission Chinese Food is one of the biggest hits of the past few years (and rightly so), has once again done a changeroo of his in-my-opinion equally great Mission Cantina. Remember when it was pretty much just tacos? And then Bowein added all sort of fancier, more "daring" (but still delicious) dishes? Well now he's doing all (or, at least, mostly) California Super Burritos at Mission Cantina, and they are terrific. The best one I've had so far is the Fried Chicken–the bird courtesy David Chang's Fuku, with avocado, Russ & Daughter's salmon-skin chicharron, pickled jalapenos, spicy honey, pepper-jack cheese–but the incendiary Chinese burrito is almost as good, with mapo tofu, rice, and chinese sausage. There's even a new salsa bar in place, with lots of pickled veggies and super-hot sauces, and you are free to go to town. Mission Cantina is located at 172 Orchard Street, at the corner of Stanton, and is open daily fior lunxch snd dinner.
Sam Mason's Oddfellow Sandwich Shop
And then there's the dessert-genius Sam Mason, who rose to so-called avant-garde cooking fame for his incredible dishes at wd-50, but has since focused his attention almost exclusively on (sometimes crazy-favored) ice cream at his brilliant and wonderful OddFellows. Mason's Williamsburg location is staying the same, but the East Village parlor is now called The Sandwich Shop, and offers three distinct styles of that excellent frozen treat. There are the Odd Pockets, which is ice cream, sauce, and a crunchy topping put inside a brioche bun, then pressed for just long enough that the outside bread gets warm while the ice cream interior remains cold. I've had the Bacon version, and it is amazing. There are also a couple of "Signatures" on the new menu, which Mason describes as a "modern twist on the ice cream sandwich with layers of gooey and crunchy", and which have been sold out both times I've gone. Finally there are the DIY creations, for which you choose from the dozen daily ice cream flavors, sandwich your scoop between one of a half dozen cookies, then ring with a crunchy topping. My concoction was Toasted Coconut Milk Chocolate ice cream within dark chocolate cookies, dipped in homemade coffee crispies, and my goodness that was a great dessert. OddFellows Sandwich Shop is located at 75 East 4th Street between Second and Third Avenues.