Photo by Antoinette Bruno
Each week in our Chefs Off Duty series, we 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: Akhtar Nawab, executive chef of La Cenita and formerly of La Esquina.
Where is your under-the-radar place to go grab a bite to eat after you're leaving your own restaurant?
I am a creature of habit. I still love Great NY Noodletown. It is becoming more and more rare for me to eat late night; however, when I do, it's nearly always here. I was working at Gramercy Tavern when I went here for the first time. I was just a young impressionable cook back then, but what an impression. 15 years later and I still destroy it over there.
What are their specialties?
The specialties are noodles, of course, roasted meats (hanging in the window) and clay pot dishes.
Great NY NoodletownWhat are your favorite things to eat there?
They have a jellyfish salad that I am into, salt and pepper squid, roast pork, ginger scallion lo mein, roast duck, salty fish fried rice, and the money piece is the ginger scallion sauce. It is good on anything. Everyone has tried to duplicate it, and is never successful. An equally important part of the food is the staff that works there. I have seen the same faces for 15 years -- amazing. They also have a number of items written on the wall in native tongue. I haven't had the guts to order blindly there yet, as I may end up with pig bladder congee...maybe next year.
Any fun stories or anecdotes from nights at Great NY Noodletown?
So many. When I was at Craft, we used to go there with the crew. It was so much fun with the jefe Marco Canora, Jonathan and Liz Benno, David Chang, Damon Wise, and a few others. We would work hard all day, drink after work and be starving by 2 a.m. Countless times, we would talk about work, who wrecked it and who didn't that night, who the money piece went out to and always about food. It was kind of like Thanksgiving all the time back then -- just a delicious way for us all to spend time together.
Great NY Noodletown, 28 Bowery, New York; open daily, 9am-4am