STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The dining restrictions of one year ago might be a distant memory as new restaurants blossom in the borough. So, it’s time to celebrate their arrival and take a taste of a broad mix of cuisines ready for the sampling.
Come along on the eating journey starting on the North Shore with Staten Island’s fourth Vietnamese restaurant.
From appetizers of rice paper-wrapped greens and tofu or shrimp to hot bowls of pho soup and a few vermicelli noodle salads, there’s a lot going on in this tiny bubble tea and Indochinese sandwich shop.
Located diagonally across from the Manor Road Post Office, the mainstays of the menu are just that — banh mi — presented on a hero roll.
Some options include the classic version — ham, ground roast pork, julienne of gently, sweet-pickled veggies with mayo and butter — or the veggies-mayo-butter toppings centered on shredded chicken, shrimp, fried fish and vegetarian “meat.”
The Banh Mi House is open daily at 11:30 a.m. until 9:45 p.m. (10:15 p.m. on weekends) and closed Tuesdays.
THE GREEK AVOCADO — 4164 Victory Blvd., Travis; 718-338-0600, Thegreekavocado.com
Tom Moudatsos brings “Greek food for the next generation” to the West Shore in the former home to a hookah lounge and, prior to that, Scooby’s bar. In the days prior to his full blown grand opening (coming later in September) he’s offering a build-your-own souvlaki or quesadilla with a generous addition of avocado in the mix of protein and veggies. This kitchen also presents, as the name suggests, Greek fare of souvlaki, gyro and falafal with sides of rice, horiatiki salad, pita and white sauce.
As the restaurant gets settled in its new home, dessert is where a diet will run wild with baklava, chocolate, pistachio and vanilla rice pudding plus a karidopita (walnut cake) sundae and kataifi.
The original Greek Avocado sprouted at Mike’s Dakota Diner — 921 Richmond Ave., Graniteville; 718-489-4005. Hours at this new Travis spot are 10:45 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. daily.
PANINO RUSTICO — 895 Huguenot Ave., Huguenot; 718-605-6464, Paninorusticosi.com
The little yellow fiat finds its logo in a fourth home with a second Staten Island location for the operation, established originally in Brooklyn, and then Grant City, at the foot of Todt Hill. This Panino is exclusively a to-go and delivery gig with a handful of salads, really delicious iced coffees and teas, plus its signature sweet and savory crepes. There are dozens of panini from which to choose — and you can build your own by virtue of substitutions on plain, whole wheat or “everything” panini.
Some of the yum on the menu dressed up with various cheese, broccoli rabe, fresh basil and olive might include prosciutto, pastrami,Italian tuna, soppressata, chicken grilled or as a fried cutlet, mortadella, sausage and steak. Plus, there are classic parm of chicken, meatball and eggplant.
Hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and closed on Sundays.
3 ST. GEORGE RESTAURANTS: EXPLORING EMPIRE OUTLETS EATS
There’s quite a bit happening in food at Empire Outlets in St. George. It’s good to see the tourists exiting the ferry and staying awhile in the outdoor shopping complex.
CLINTON HALL is “softly” open with a limited schedule. The sole food at this time is a signature lobster roll to go along with mixed drinks, wine and cold beer.
Hours to start will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. Entertainment includes giant Jenga and Connect Four plus a foozball table. Right now the space also is rented out for private and corporate events.
WASABI STEAK & SUSHI, at Empire Outlets, 212-660-9393; Restaurantwasabi.com is the first of the Ohio-based restaurant operation to land in NYC.
In a more formal dining room, this sprawling hibachi place overlooks Richmond Terrace from its fourth level perch. Guests can sit around the grill or at deuces alongside windows overlooking Empire Outlets.
There is a bar but the liquor license is forthcoming. So, it’s soft drinks for now.
Sushi, bento boxes and plated dishes are available in this sit-down area. But there is a more casual section intended for sushi ala minute starting at around $20 and up, bubble tea plus a create-your-own rolls option.
In the more formal room, lunch hours are Thursday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner hours are Monday through Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 8:30 p.m.
The last seating for hibachi is 8:30 p.m. During “siesta” times the casual dining area is open.
On the ground level of The Outlets is a novel introduction of BAKE CULTURE — an Asian bakery with various sweet and savory breads. The colors on the cakes and pastries are stunning.
Among the specialties of the house are fruity-cream cakes, fruit tarts, chocolate bread, egg and lava tarts plus fried chicken sandwiches and steamed buns with pork and hot dogs.
Bubble tea here is quite interesting with both food and drink served in handsome packaging. There are a few seats inside and around The Outlets. Bakecultureusa.com/menu.
Empire Outlets hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. — EmpireOutlets.nyc.
JUICY LUCY — 4318 Amboy Rd., Eltingville; 718-317-7427; JuicyLucyBBQ.com.
We’ve mentioned this casual fast food place earlier this week but to recap: the Kentucky Fried Sandwich with its house-made pickles, coleslaw and crispy chicken thigh-cutlet on a brioche bun is worth the trip from all points of the island.
Delivery options such as DoorDash and Grubhub are coming in early September. Right now, the staff themselves are delivering within a four-mile radius.
Hours are Tuesday through Thursday from noon until 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from noon until 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 9 p.m.
NEW ASHA — 322 Victory Blvd., Tompkinsville; 718-420-0649
And we’ll toss this one in the mix for our final food spot. Let’s look at New Asha as a “new” eatery for now as it reemerges on the borough’s food scene after a long closure for kitchen renovations. Happy days are here again for Sri Lankan food fans as curries and lentil-centric daals are better than ever. Buttery roti bread is a great accompaniment to meals and a must-have item to scoop up some of the delicious saucy dishes.
Sit down at a few tables with a cold soda or Indian beer for a casual bite. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].