Belle Harbor Steak House (Rockaway Park, N.Y.): Back to the Basics

There’s something to be said for a solid, old-school meal.

What this means varies, of course, depending on where you are. In the U.S., I’ve always relished the mom-and-pop low-key restaurants that still roll out unfussy, decades-old standbys — hot turkey platters, melts, meatloaf and more. (If you’ve read “A Tiger in the Kitchen,” you’ll know what a meatloaf obsessive I am.)

I find myself craving these meals when it gets a little chilly. And so on a recent rainy day, we found ourselves heading over to a little restaurant called Belle Harbor Steak House in Rockaway Park, New York.

I’d caught a glimpse of the menu a few days before and it seemed like just the place to warm you up on a cold drizzly afternoon …

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Rockaway Taco (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): A Delicious Reprise

It isn’t truly summer until you’ve had your first fried fish taco. (So I believe, anyway.)

Going by this policy, summer still hadn’t hit for me in early August. This late in the game, that certainly had to be fixed.

So on a recent morning, even though I had only just been to Rockaway Taco in New York‘s Rockaway Beach a few days before, I decided it was time to return …

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Thai Rock (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): Sweet-Tooth “Thai”

Every few days or so, a craving will kick in.

If I haven’t been cooking or if I’ve been on the road, unless I’m in Asia, I’ll start to really need the taste of Asian food of some sort. So, after a few days of lovely fish sandwiches and hot dogs at Rockaway Beach, I started sniffing around for something a little closer to home.

And then I remembered a sign on a building by the water: “Thai Rock.” And off we went …

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Breezy Dogs & Shakes (Breezy Point, N.Y.): A Dog Day of Summer

Lunchtime on a hot summer’s day and two small boys are very silently perched on a bench near Fort Tilden Beach.

They’re still; their eyes a little glazed. Finally, one breaks the stupor to very slowly say, “These are soooo good.”

The source of their trance is at their elbows — two almost empty cups of thick, cold milkshakes and the carcass of lunch. At this point, sous chef and I have just gotten off a sunny bus ride all the way to the end of the Q22 line at Rockaway Beach, all in search of this mythical Breezy Dog food truck we’d been reading about.

From the look of the fog these boys were in, lunch was starting to seem worth the ride …

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Rockaway Taco (Rockaway Beach, N.Y.): A Surfside Start

You get an inkling that a place is good if everyone who finds out you’re going somewhere for the weekend says you absolutely have to eat there.

Friends, your hairdresseryour hairdresser’s wife. You get the idea.

So on my first visit to Rockaway Beach in New York, I knew there was one place I had to find and hit: Rockaway Taco  …

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The Lobster Roll (Amagansett): A Hamptons Classic

It’s hard to mention visiting the Hamptons to anyone in New York City without them assuming you’ve been to the Lobster Roll.

This festive roadside shack in Amagansett has been serving up lobster rolls to year-rounders and the well-heeled beach set since 1965 — clearly, the folks there are doing something right.

After years of visiting the Hamptons, I was starting to feel it was a little remiss to not to at least try the place once. So on a recent summer weekend at the beach, chef Simpson and I decided to take a break from cooking and headed over to Amagansett …

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Kong Bak Pau: Braised Pork Belly Sandwiches


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Picnics have never been my favorite thing. Bugs, heat, grass, dirt — need I say more?

The picnics of my childhood in Singapore, however, were another thing entirely. The urge to organize one would only occasionally grip my family. But when it did, we’d find ourselves by the beach on a clear Sunday, inhaling the salty breeze as we unpacked plastic bags of food on wooden picnic tables. We’d have sandwiches and fried snacks; an uncle would fire up the beachside grill for the chicken wings we’d marinated.

So when my hungry Let’s Lunch group decided on fall picnic food for our monthly virtual lunchdate, I immediately thought of my bygone Singaporean excursions.

The perfect food for this occasion? My mother’s kong bak pau — a sandwich made up of a Chinese mantou bun filled with braised pork belly …

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Hotel Delmano: The Last Toast of Summer


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Labor Day weekend in the City and it can feel as if the world has fled to the beach.

For the less privileged, this is prime playtime in New York, however — packed restaurants are emptier, exclusive bars suddenly become accessible.

With Hurricane Earl nowhere in sight, the sky is a saturated cerulean; a light breeze cuts through the waning warmth. We are in Williamsburg, my writer friend Mr. B and I, for an afternoon of nursing our disappointments at not being at a beach ourselves. But mostly, to catch up on this Writing thing that we do.

“I want you to check out this bar,” he says, “I think you’d really like it.”

And so we find ourselves sliding into seats outside the Hotel Delmano, watching the too-hip rompers and ankle boots and tousled-just-so hairdos amble by.

The thing here is the cocktails. It’s mid-afternoon — but a holiday weekend, we reason — so we decide to oblige …

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