¡Órale! Gourmet Taqueria Close To NYC

In the mood for Mexican food while in New Jersey, Yelp led us to Órale Mexican Kitchen. There were several taquerias with great reviews but the photos made Órale the first choice.

Note: if you are in Manhattan, Jersey City is a two-minute ride under the river on the PATH train ($2.75). It leaves from Oculus Center, by One World Trade.

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We parked and passed another taqueria and thought, if Órale looks disappointing, we can check out this one, but right away we had a good feeling from the artwork on the restaurant facade. Inside the place was buzzing with activity. The restaurant walls are brick and filled with colorful and fun Mexican death-themed graffiti art.

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The restaurant pays attention to detail along every wall and in every corner. Beautiful, sculptured melted wax.

I always like to wash my hands after touching the menu and before touching any food. These people didn’t forget any attention to detail in the bathroom.

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The waiter brought us tortilla chips and guacamole, but also three of their own sauces, in bottles. Two were spicy (very!) and one not so much.


 

CrIspy Halibut, Maggi, Lime, Naked Guacamole, Chipotle Aioli, Corn Tortillas

I was very happy with the presentation of these beautiful crispy halibut tacos (with maggie, lime, guacamole and chipotle aioli) but these five savory, gourmet tacos cost $23! You won’t be dining here every day, but it’s a wonderful treat… sometimes… and it doesn’t lower my opinion of the restaurant. If you come on a Tuesday and are willing to pay in cash, they charge half price!

My husband ordered the carnitas tacos: Braised crisp pork belly, marinated red onions, salsa verde and cilantro, at $17! The place to save money would be the delicious desserts. They are expensive, too, but they are huge!

Órale Mexican Kitchen isn’t cheap, but it’s special. I can prepare an ordinary meal myself. I love to cook, though, so I always try to taste every ingredient used and then copy the recipe. I’ll be making the chipotle salsa and I’ll let you know how it comes out! 😉 But apart from that, I prefer to dine out less frequently but in better places.

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The New Jersey tram (light rail) system connects several nearby New Jersey cities.

While you are in Jersey City, enjoy the stunning New York City skyline at the riverfront, just a 10-minute walk from Órale Mexican Kitchen. As you walk there, you’ll pass the tram (really, light rail) that connects several New Jersey towns. The difference between a tram and a light rail is the speed. You find trams within a city.

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We will be going back, and probably soon. On the last Sunday of every month, you can enjoy mariachi music. Choose a favorite before you go (Qué Bonita Es Mi Tierra, Cuando Salga La Luna) and be ready to request it!

Are you prepared for the worst???

What would happen if your wallet and your phone were stolen while you were traveling?

Which Pizza Is Better, Grimaldi’s or Juliana’s?

You’ll find two iconic pizzerias in the trendy DUMBO section of Brooklyn. As you know, I’m always recommending a visit to DUMBO, both here and on Instagram, so of course I have to help you find a place to eat while you’re there.

The two pizzerias are Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s. We’ve eaten at both so here’s our review of which one you should choose.

How Popular Are Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s?

You’ll have to stand in line, outside, to be seated at either one. The wait can be long, too. Our last visit to Juliana’s was in January, a slow month, and we waited 45 minutes. Juliana’s is rated number one on TripAdvisor, Yelp and Zagat’s.

Grimaldi’s

Grimaldi’s is cash-only. The employees are very friendly and hard-working. We were there last on a hot day in September and we were lead to a table upstairs. It was very hot and we asked for another table. The employees understood completely and were happy to give us the very next table downstairs where it was much cooler.

Grimaldi’s or Juliana’s: Our Pick
We ordered a simple margarita pie and waited about 25 minutes for it. This was perfect since it gave us time to relax and talk.

When the pizza came, it was absolutely delicious. We ate the entire pie ourselves and then left full and happy.

Juliana’s

So who is the owner of Juliana’s? Pasquale Grimaldi, the founder of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. In 2011, Pasquale Grimaldi sold his pizzeria, along with the iconic name. The following year, when he and his wife, Carmella, decided to re-enter the business, they no longer had the rights to their own last name. Juliana was Paquale’s mother.

Juliana’s homemade mozzarella cheese
We ordered a specialty pizza this time: cherry tomato, bufala mozzarella, garlic and sea salt.

Juliana’s dining room is small. As we waited outside, we saw more and more people leaving the restaurant but no one else was being seated. The sign outside said they were “stoking the coal oven and would re-open soon… whatever that meant. Once the restaurant was empty, they let everyone in and people headed straight to whatever tables they could find. Like musical chairs, we were almost left standing, but we realized this was a free-for-all and grabbed a table. It was a poor start.

The service at Juliana’s is also very friendly. We ordered wine and were happy to wait the 25 minutes for our pizza so we could relax and talk.

The pizza arrived and it was very flavorful. The mozzarella is homemade and therefore very fresh. The pizza wasn’t oily, but fresh and healthy, just like we found at Grimaldi’s and Lombardi’s in Little Italy, Manhattan (see our review).

So Which Is Better, Grimaldi’s or Juliana’s?

There was no clear winner. You will be happy at both pizzerias. Like in our previous review of the famous Lombardi’s, this pizza is less greasy and much healthier than the typical NYC pizza. It’s also more expensive.

The typical NYC pizzeria is very informal and people ask for a slice (i.e., a piece of a large pie, cut into eight sections). Some people walk with their slices and others bring them to a table. This is how almost every New Yorker eats pizza. But eat this too often, and you’ll have to shop for larger clothing.

You’ll be happy at either one, but the next time I’m in a position to choose, I will choose….. Grimaldi’s, not for the quality, but for the atmosphere.

Aixa’s Recommended Reading: Where to get off the NYC Ferry

Take #iconic NYC Photos eBook by Aixa

Don’t Miss Lombardi’s Pizza If You Visit New York

We didn’t know what to expect as we headed to Lombardi’s Pizzeria. Over 5,000 reviews on Yelp and an average 4-star rating gave us hope, but we also read specific reviews like these:

“…they nickel and dimed us over everything. $8 for a cheap house wine, $10 for a pitcher of soda, $4-$6 per topping”

and

“Don’t settle for Lombardi’s pizza, even if it’s legendary”

It made us worry.

So Why Were We Even Thinking of Eating at Lombardi’s?

In 1887, Gennaro Lombardi, an Italian immigrant from Naples, opened a bakery in New York City’s Little Italy. In 1905, Lombardi began selling pizza to improve sales. Today, the Pizza Hall of Fame recognizes Lombardi’s Pizzeria as being the first pizzeria in the United States.


This customer couldn’t wait to get home 😉

The majority of the customers during our visit was New Yorkers.

America’s first pizza
On their 100 year anniversay in 2005, Lombardi’s sold large pies for 5-cents, the original 1905 price.

The Best Pizza In New York

Despite a couple of poor reviews among its 5,000, the pizzeria ranks no. 6 on Yelp’s list of the best NYC pizza. But New York is very big. So if you’re visiting this section of the city, you would probably narrow your search to this area. That would push Lombardi’s to the no. 1 spot

How Good Is Lombardi’s Pizza?

Bruschetta

Heaps of fresh chopped tomatoes with a touch of vinegar and a little salt were served on large wedges of toast with olive oil.

Pizza

The dough isn’t refined. You can tell by the color of the pizza crust. The tomato sauce was minimal and the mozzarella fresh, with basil leaves and absolutely no grease at all. This felt like olden day pizza, minimalist and healthy.

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Beverages

We had seltzer with blood orange juice mixed in for a healthy break from sugary soft drinks, but the usual Coke and Sprite are on the menu if you really want it.

Everything was tasty and we left feeling good.

The price didn’t make us feel good, though. Our meal for three people, pizza with no extra toppings, three non-alcoholic beverages and an appetizer of bruschetta came to $52! Cash!


New York-Style Pizza

Normally, pizza in New York is very inexpensive, served in large triangular slices for just $2.50/slice. Most people can eat two slices so three people can fill themselves up with three sodas for approximately $20.

In fact, NYC-style pizza by the slice was invented for those who couldn’t afford an entire pie. Pizza today is still sold by the slice. The slices are large so people fold in half.

Final Decision on Lombardi’s Pizza

 

😋👍 Eat there for the thrill of being a part of history.

😋👍 Eat there for old-style pizza with healthy ingredients and without all the grease you’ll find in more common pizzerias.

☹️👎 Avoid Lombardi’s if you didn’t leave space in your budget.


Would We Return?

We love Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews for the quantity of reviews, but I prefer  restaurant recommendations from people I know. When I began this blog I didn’t think I’d be including restaurants, but a recommendation from someone you know and trust is important.

So yes, we would return to Lombardi’s Pizzeria if we were in the area.

What is your favorite place to eat pizza? Let me know in the comments…

Aixa’s Healthy Dining Recommendations

Healthy Dining In New York

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Le Pain Quotidien: Affordable Gourmet Dining in the Heart of Manhattan

When our Insta-friends @cla_es (Mexico City) and @utterlyunladylike (private account) (Madrid) posted their meals from Le Pain Quotidien, highly recommending the restaurant Le Pain Quotidien, we knew we had to try it.

Le Pain Quotidien is a popular gourmet chain of restaurants around the world. There are 21 locations in NYC alone!

So what exactly makes Le Pain Quotidien gourmet?

Gourmet implies high quality, special presentation and high sophistication. It once implied exclusivity but from dining to craft beers to specialized coffee, it’s become accessible to many more of us.

My Meal (bottom of the embedded Instagram photo above):

Prosciutto, Ricotta & Fig tartine with apple, arugula and honey ($14.95)

My husband’s meal (top of the embedded Instagram photo above):

Grilled chicken & smoked mozzarella melt with arugula, tomato salsa and basil oil ($14.95)

A tartine is an open-faced sandwich. Here, they are served on organic whole-wheat bread.

The ingredients all go well together, creating a great taste, leaving you satisfied but not overly full.

Leave with fresh breath!

Affordable gourmet food at Le Pain Quotidien
FRESH BREATH: Mint iced tea with the mint leaves in the glass ($3.95). Chew the mint leaves: They’re a natural breath freshener

The Decor & Atmosphere

Le pain quotidien is French for the daily bread. The restaurant is always busy and somewhat noisy. The old wood floor creeks and the heavy wooden tables make you feel at ease. Alain Coumont, the founder, envisioned Le Pain Quotidien as a place for people to gather, talk and eat.

You can find all 21 NYC locations by tapping your map of choice:
Google Maps or Apple Maps

Need More Dining Options?

Dining At Gourmet Supermarkets In NYC & The World

How Do You Find Places To Eat When You’re Traveling?

If we can’t get recommendations from locals or from trusted blogs, we use TripAdvisor or Yelp. How about you…

Dining At Gourmet Supermarkets In NYC & The World

Eating out on long trips is expensive and, if you choose fast food, it’s unhealthy. Sure there’s a wide selection of AirBnB’s with kitchens, but who wants to cook and clean on vacation?

Gourmet food certainly sounds expensive, but take a look at the growing list of gourmet supermarkets, many with in-store seating, for just the right combination of healthy and affordable 😉👍

Gourmet supermarkets are healthy, affordable dining
This is just one of many sections at Whole Foods, across the street from Bryant Park.

Fortunately for travelers to NYC (and many other cities around the world), the list of gourmet supermarkets with dining areas, like Fairway Market and Dean & Deluca, and Eataly is growing fast. The first Eataly Gourmet Italian supermarket we ever visited was in Istanbul!

Gourmet supermarkets in-store dining
This Whole Foods Supermarket gives diners a beautiful view of Bryant Park. Although not shown in the photo, there is table seating, too.

Find the nearest gourmet supermarket to your current Manhattan location 🗺  :

Whole Foods Market with in-store dining: Google Maps – or – Apple Maps

Eataly Italian Supermarket with in-store dining 🏆 Aixa’s recommendation (but restaurant prices if you get table service): Google Maps – or – Apple Maps

Green Apple Gourmet Market (great food to go): Google Maps – or – Apple Maps

Balducci’s Gourmet On The Go (great food to go): Google Maps – or – Apple Maps

Dean & Deluca (great food to go): Google Maps – or – Apple Maps


Eataly is an Italian gourmet supermarket with several sections for in-store eating, and even a section with table service and a bar!

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Rotisserie chicken and prime rib at Eataly 😋

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☝️Did you know there are Dean & Delucas in Singapore, Japan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Thailand, Macau and (soon) London?

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Gourmet pizza, of course 🍕
☝️ You will find Eataly Italian in Istanbul, Dubai, Riyadh, Doha, Monaco, Tokyo, Seoul and Sao Paolo as well as through Italy?

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☝️Of course, all major cities have gourmet supermarkets where travellers can skip a restaurant and buy prepared food. The trick is to find them.

Two questions for you: How do you find places to eat when you’re away from home? Do you have any gourmet supermarkets where you live? Let me know in the comments.

Aixa’s Reading Recommendation 😉

Is NYC Street Food Sanitary???

 

Is NYC Street Food Sanitary???

Street food, like street art and street music, is exciting for its quality and for the feeling of discovery. Many food trucks now have restaurant-quality food but with even more creativity in its presentation.

Street food is convenient, fast and inexpensive, but before you buy that pretzel on the street corner, maybe you’d like to know how sanitary your food is…

Are NYC food trucks sanitary?


On May 30, 2017, NYC mayor Bill DiBlasio signed a law requiring food trucks to post the same letter that NYC restaurants are required to post, a NYC Department of Health alert about the cleanliness of the establishment. Restaurants receive an A, B or C with the complete findings of the health inspector available to everyone with just a couple of taps on their phones.

See for yourself

Type in the name of a restaurant here:

www.NYC.gov restaurant inspection look-up guide


The NYC Department of Health inspects food carts once a year without notice to the vendors. What do they look for? Spoiled food and a water-supply for the vendors to adequately wash their hands.


Look For These Warning Sign Not To Trust The Food Stand:

Also, NYC recommends you, the customer, keep an eye out for these three warning signs:

  1. Food handlers:
  2. must wear hair nets and clean gloves
  3. must never use the same tools to serve both raw and cooked foods
  4. must never touch ready-to-eat food with bare hands or dirty gloves

One last thing…

Vendors pay between $250-$300 a month to garage their carts and trucks at night. This fee includes hosing down the cart every night.

So would you eat street food in NYC?

Let me know in the comments…


Aixa’s Reading Recommendation 😉

Dining At Gourmet Supermarkets In NYC & The World