eat. shop. love. nyc.

Taste of 7th Street was SO worth it

I finally got the chance to try some of places on 7th St. that have been on my to-eat list for quite some time: Caracas Arepa Bar, Luke’s Lobster, and Porchetta. I was already familiar with Butter Lane’s delicious little cupcakes and Xoom smoothies were new to me. For just $18 each, I bought tickets to the Taste of 7th St. food festival and it was worth every single penny.

We started off on a slushy Saturday afternoon at Porchetta, where they seemed to have the mass service thing down to a science. The line moved quickly and we got our snack size porchetta sandwiches almost immediately. We ate them outside while we waited in line for Luke’s Lobster, and Michele, an Italian native, told us that porchetta (pronounced porKETta), a savory, slow cooked, moist and fatty pork roast, is typical street fare in Italy. According to Wikipedia, the body of the pig is gutted, deboned, arranged carefully with layers of stuffing, meat, fat, and skin, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, traditionally over wood. Porchetta is usually heavily seasoned with garlic, rosemary, oregano, fennel, and or other herbs. The porchetta sandwich at Porchetta NYC was pretty oregano heavy and stuffed between crusty Italian bread. I’d take this street food over hot dogs and halal carts any day.

We finished our porchetta sandwiches and made it to the counter of Luke’s Lobster, where we were handed snack size lobster roll of cool, lightly seasoned knuckle and claw lobster meat (no fillers!) stuffed inside a warm, buttered slice of toasted bread. Phenomenal. The lobster was perfectly succulent, and while two of our crew prefer warm lobster, we all thoroughly enjoyed the rolls. It was definitely the highlight of the food crawl! Easily the best lobster roll I’ve ever had: succulent, lobster-y, and unadulterated, just the way I like it.

Luke’s has gotten a lot of coverage in the press. Luke Holden, a young investment banker from Maine, grew up working in his family’s seafood business. He opened Luke’s with his dad Ben, using the family’s seafood business in Maine to source fresh, high-quality seafood for his little Manhattan takeout shop. Within hours of being caught, the lobsters are steamed, picked, and individually wrapped before they’re sent to Luke’s Lobster in New York’s East Village.

I just saw on the Luke’s Lobster Twitter that they’re still giving away complimentary samples of their Maine shrimp rolls with any purchase! Lobster rolls are $14 for the regular size, and $8 for the snack size pictured above. We actually ordered a crab roll on Saturday and got a free snack size Maine shrimp roll, both very good, but they didn’t blow my mind like the lobster roll did. Must… get… back…

After two sandwiches, we were pretty thirsty so we got in line at Xoom, where their custom orders, four blenders, and gigantic smoothies were making the line move pretty slowly. If I were they, I’d have offered just one flavor (maybe two if I were feeling particularly generous) and called it a day.

We ordered two Paint it Blackberry and two Yo La Mango smoothies. They were huge, maybe 20 oz. or so (12 oz. would have sufficed). The blackberry was tasty, but there were too many seeds, and the mango was more banana-y than it was mango-y. Also, it was really effing cold outside.

We shivered while waiting in line for an Arepa de Pabellon (A8) at Caracas Arepa Bar, which was the longest and most insufferably long line of the day. It took us 30 minutes to get in and order, and then we were told to come back in an hour to pick up our arepas. I mean, I get it: you don’t want to compromise the quality of your product so you decide you’re going to make everything to order. But if you know you can only grill 8 arepas at a time and it takes 10 minutes to grill and 1 minute to stuff each, why not make the arepa dough and pockets the night before, refrigerate or freeze them, and then just reheat to cut down on cook time? After all, based on the number of tickets sold, there should have been some estimate of the number of arepas that would have needed to be made, and with a little more prep I think the line could have moved much more quickly. Also, the quality of the product ended up being compromised anyway because the poor guys in the kitchen were working at full steam, trying to turn out the arepas as quickly as possible while working cross-eyed.

An arepa is a Venezuelan pocket sandwich made of ground corn and stuffed with various Latin-y delights. The De Pabellon arepa pictured above consists of black beans, white salty cheese (maybe queso fresca?), stewed shredded beef, and sweet plantains. I wasn’t all that impressed, but that might be because we waited a total of 2 hours before we got to eat, and even then, we didn’t get fresh arepas because they just gave us 4 that had been made for another customer who never came back to pick them up, so they’d been sitting out for a while. Still, I love the idea of the arepa, and I’ll be back on a normal day when there aren’t 500 others waiting in line with me, and I will choose a different stuffing, probably chicken or pork. No picture because I was famished by the time we got the sandwiches and I forgot. Sorry!

Finally, we headed over to Butter Lane to pick up our two cupcakes each. One of our comrades had valiantly offered to brave the cold and wait in the cupcake line while we waited for our arepas indoors at Caracas. I’ve had Butter Lane many times before, and I am partial to the banana cake and French buttercream frostings. Unfortunately, there wasn’ much of a selection by the time we made it to the counter so we took whatever was available. The American frostings are too sugary for me, but I did really like the maple syrup frosting.

As one commenter noted on the original Taste of 7th St. post, I, too, would like to see another food crawl like this one for St. Mark’s St. I’d want banh mi from Baoguette, falafel from Mamoun’s, a Crif dog, Korean fried chicken, a crepe from The Crooked Tree, yakitori skewers from one of the Taishos, and pita chips with hummus or babaganoush from Hummus Place. Yum!


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SO happy you enjoyed the crawl!

Comment by Dave Ambrose

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