‘Believe the Hype’ Column by Christine Stoddard: Standout Asian Cuisine & Migration of Two Kinds

By Christine Stoddard | [email protected]

The best meal I had on the go this week–and, yes, I am so often on the go–was the Braised Chicken Congee Bowl at Maya Congee Café. Though I have passed the Fulton St. location in Clinton Hill on many occasions, this was my first visit. Decked out in red and gold, the quaint spot, which houses a small market, cheerfully reminded me that it was Lunar New Year. We are in the Year of the Dragon, which happens to be my Chinese Zodiac sign. How fortuitous.

View of Maya Congee Café front door. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Chino Grande

Now, my best sit-down meal of the week goes to Chino Grande, owned by Josh Ku of Win Son fame. Nestled on Grand St. in South Williamsburg, the Asian/Latin fusion restaurant even boasts regular karaoke. While I did not stay to sing my heart out, I have no regrets. The chic Mid-century design immediately pulled me in, setting a tone of relaxed sophistication. The green booths felt serene and the friendly staff contributed to the comfy atmosphere. My date and I delighted in the Chips (plantain, taro, and sweet potato) with the Sauce Caddy (Green Sauce, Ketchupmayo, Spicy Duck Sauce). We also shared the Crab Rangoon Toast and Pilón Smashed Cucumbers, and each ordered a Chorizo Egg Roll. For large dishes, I was very pleased with the presentation of the Twice Cooked Chicharrón de Cerdo (leeks, shishitos, fermented chili paste) and the lightness of the Salchicha Arroz Chaufa (longaniza, lap cheong, chorizo, red peppers, peas), which was the most guilt-free fried rice I can remember tasting. For a cocktail, I opted for the popular Chiquita Chinita (Mezcal, Red Bull Pepper, Toasted Rice), while my partner ordered the Ni Haody! (Rye, Jujube, Black Walnut, Sweet Vermouth). We finished with the tantalizing Ice Cream Sandwich (Maria cookies, guava, and cheese), which just so happened to combine some of my childhood favorites.

Chips and sauce caddy at Chino Grande. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Hardware & Discount Store

My biggest shock in the local business community this week was seeing that Fulton Home Center and Hardware Corporation is moving. You, like me, may better know this neighborhood shop simply as “Hardware & Discount Store,” as that is what’s printed on its awning. It is, or shall I say was, located near the Nostrand Ave. stop on the A/C. Now it is moving to 1507 Fulton St., by Kingston and Fulton. According to hand-written signs taped to the windows, the shop lost its lease after 40 years. I popped my head inside as movers cleared decades of inventory, and briefly spoke to the understandably frazzled owner, who took my business card and then had to get back to work. Any tips are appreciated.

Sign taped to the window of Hardware & Discount Store on Fulton St. in Bed-Stuy. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Floyd Bennett Field Migrant Shelter Bus Service

Family tent shelter at Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Ever since I heard about the migrant family shelter opening at Floyd Bennett Field, I have had concerns. The park is a known flood plain; on virtually any visit after a rainstorm, I have noticed soggy ground and huge puddles. In January, a rainstorm sent the city scrambling to relocate 2,000 parents and children from the tent shelter to James Madison High School in Midwood. Some Madison parents protested and there were complaints about how much sense the last-minute, poorly planned move made for a one-night respite.

Q35 bus stop outside of Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Christine Stoddard.

Apart from the flood plain issue, I have wondered about public transportation there. I have only ever driven to Floyd Bennett Field, located on the tailend of Flatbush Ave., going toward the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge. There is a no-man’s-land quality to the park, which is littered with abandoned buildings and empty lots. The Q35 bus stop, which you will find just outside of the park, is a solid 5-7-minute walk from where the shelter tents are stationed. Make it 10 for the parents walking with younger children and strollers. In the nearly two hours I observed there on a windy Friday afternoon (after-school hours), the bus came three times. Many migrants waiting for the bus did not have proper winter coats. Their situation is dire.

Large empty lots stand in the way between the family shelter and the Q35 stop at Floyd Bennett Field. Photo by Christine Stoddard.