Across the river, along Broadway in south Williamsburg, the dining scene is flourishing. There’s the storied Peter Luger’s Steakhouse, the popular Andrew Tarlow spot Marlow and Sons, and the Michelin-starred Meadowsweet by chef Polo Dobkin.
A newer addition, Streets BK, adds a little oomph to the scene.
The spacious, airy restaurant serves street food dishes from around the world, allowing diners to sample Caribbean, Latin American, Asian, Mediterranean, and African cuisine, all in one go.
And true to the spirit of street food, the dishes here are aromatic, flavorful, and pungent. Executive chef Ronald Stevinson crafted the menu based on his travels to different countries, recreating dishes that impressed him.
“I would often visit the villages and places where the natives eat to get a real sense and taste of the flavor profiles,” Stevinson said via email. But he also noticed that tourists around him were reluctant to try these foods because of their perception that street food is not sanitary.
Stevinson thus came up with the idea to feature international street foods in a sit-down setting. He works with consulting chef Roblé Ali, who has cooked for President Barack Obama and Hollywood A-listers, to test recipes and add new menu items.
The Caribbean dishes are particularly stellar, perhaps because Streets BK’s owners are of Caribbean ancestry. The Doubles ($7) is a popular sandwich served by street vendors in Trinidad and Tobago, consisting of curried chickpeas smushed between two pieces of fried flatbread. The bread is the perfect vehicle for soaking up the saucy mash, with its fragrant but punchy mix of spices. You’ll get your hands dirty, but that’s part of the street food charm. Luckily, the restaurant provides plenty of handwipes.
If you want an extra kick, the sandwich comes with a trio of sauces: tamarind, mango chutney, and a sauce made from shadon bennie, a Caribbean cilantro-like herb.
The Bake N Shark sandwich ($14) is another must-try. The dogfish shark is fried into crispy-thin discs, and lightly seasoned with black pepper. With some coleslaw, lettuce, and tomatoes, there is a delightful crunch to each bite.
As for the foods from Latin America, the Open Face Humitas ($15) surprises with its layered flavors and inventive presentation. Stevinson revamps the South American dish, which is typically made of ground masa and corn wrapped in corn husk. He opens up the corn husk wrap, so that the masa mash becomes a dip for a batch of paper-thin, crackly yuca chips. He uses coconut milk, in place of the traditional heavy cream, to cook the mash inside, giving it an intense viscosity similar to cheese fondue.
The corn’s natural sweetness permeates, but seconds later, a hint of heat rises from the back of your mouth—the taste of smoked ancho chilies. If you fancy even more spiciness, the humitas come with a coconut-black bean dip that might bring a few tears to your eye.
Chilies figure into many of the dishes here. The Peri Peri Wings ($14), for example, showcase African chili peppers of the same name. Stevinson marinates the wings with the chilies overnight, cooks them on the grill and then in the oven, then tosses them in a mango-peri peri glaze. The chilies’ heat comes through gradually, first tingling your tongue, then your lips. Together with the smoky char and the touch of sweetness from the glaze, the wings will have you licking your fingers.
In the Da Nang/Hong Kong Prawns ($17), chilies flavor the sauce that sits below the enormous crustaceans—each about 6 inches long. The order comes with two pairs of prawns, one in a chili sauce with herb oil and shallots, the other in sautéed tomatoes, garlic, and chopped chilies. I was fonder of the former; the spicy sauce complemented well the intensely funky, salty taste of the head-on shrimp. The latter is sweeter and has a slight tangy note.
These large-sized prawns are a street food in Hong Kong and the Da Nang region of Vietnam, according to Stevinson. He said the dish was inspired by one of the owners’ mother-in-law, who is from Da Nang.
In cooler weather, the Turkish Mashup ($15) will bring comforting warmth to your stomach. Red lentils are cooked into a toasty, garlicky stew, strewn with sweet, grilled cauliflower and soft, roasted eggplants. You can feel the warmth of each hearty spoonful as it goes down, bringing you further and further away from the cold.
Dessert varies daily according to the chef’s liking and is not written on any menu—the servers explain the options for each night. On one visit, Stevinson and his team served their take on the classic Latin American layered cake tres leche. Here, it was deconstructed, transformed into a pool of cream, made of condensed milk and guanabana, a fruit native to Central and South America with a flavor like bananas and coconut melded into one. The cream, whipped into peaks and lightly toasted, covered pieces of moist cake that soaked up all the sweetness. Though the dessert is fruity, it is less cloying than your typical tres leches cake—a welcome change.
If you’re looking to try something different the next time you dine out, Streets BK will wholly satisfy your curiosity.
Friday & Saturday