Each week in our new Off Duty series, we'll talk to some of our favorite chefs and industry folk around the country to find out their secret late-night spots where they like to grab a bite and a pint when their kitchens are finally closed. Next up: Noah Bernamoff and Rae Cohen Bernamoff, the husband-wife duo behind Boerum Hill's hip Montreal-style Jewish deli Mile End and its sister spot, Mile End Sandwich Shop in NoHo.
Where do you like to go eat when you're leaving your restaurants?
One of my favorites is Spicy Bampa in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. It's Sichuan and it's totally amazing. My friend John introduced me to it about a year and a half ago. I was completely blown away by it when he took me there and I've been obsessed ever since. It's a pretty small restaurant. There's no music -- it's just the chatter of guests. If you go late at night it's a little on the quieter side but I recently found that when I go there it's been really busy with a lot of young Chinese people. Everyone is speaking some Chinese dialect, which is a good sign.
What are some of their specialties?
We get a lot of the cumin sausages, lamb and fish. It's fried with a pretty thick batter and then the batter has all this cumin and Chinese five spice and Sichuan peppercorns, chilies. It's really fiery. There's so much flavor -- it's absolutely delicious. They also do really good king ribs that are basically little pork ribs that are deep fried -- they just have a great deep fryer. I also really like some of their cool veggie appetizers like the cucumbers in garlic, bamboo shoots in chili oil.
Spicy Bampa, back when it was known as Bamboo Pavilion
Any fun memories from nights out at Spicy Bampa?
We always have fun there. One little element [about it] is that if you can go early enough to Spicy Bampa, there's a really good Italian bakery across the street called Villabate Alba. They have these insanely delicious doughnuts -- I think they use ricotta -- so if you can get to Spicy Bampa early enough, you can catch the tail-end of when the doughnuts are made and what we do is we buy doughnuts and we bring them over for dessert after we've eaten, which they always let us do because they don't really have dessert.
Rae Cohen Bernamoff
What about you, Rae? Where do you like to eat after you leave your restaurants?
In our neighborhood, we like Nuevo Mexico, which is a mom-and-pop little Mexican spot. We've been living in Park Slope for six years now and it was suggested to us a few years back and it's been in regular rotation ever since. We definitely like to get over there particularly for the margaritas, which are like the size of your head and I know when your drink is as big as your face you're in for a good night.
What's also really nice is that it's a quintessential neighborhood spot and the service is very warm. The same woman has been there for many years and it's a really friendly place to end the night.
Besides the gigantic margaritas what are some of their other specialties?
The carnitas burrito is definitely what I get every time. It can keep going for hours on end. It's a very flavorful and complete meal. It's super classic. We also always start with guac at the table.
Do they make their guac table-side?
Any fun anecdotes about nights out at Nuevo Mexico?
What's good about those margaritas is most often you don't remember [your night].
Spicy Bampa, 6920 18th Ave., Bensonhurst, Brooklyn; Daily, noon-10:30pm
Nuevo Mexico, 489 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn; Sun-Thu, 11am-11pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-1am