Category Archives: Brooklyn

The Bedford

My friend Nina from The Food Joy set up an event here at The Bedford as a way to gather up all the crazy Instagram influencers in one place for a post-holiday holiday party, and to provide some well-deserved promotion for this awesome Williamsburg gastro-pub.

I only sampled a few of the many items that came out, but everything I tasted was excellent.

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Let me get right down to business:

The Bedford Plank Burger is a grass-fed, custom blend patty, topped with grilled onions, garlic aioli, chili-ketchup and American cheese.

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Very simple construction with top level execution.

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This baby was so tasty. I will definitely be back for another one of these. It comes with an amazing side of crispy battered fries as well. This is an excellent buy at just $14.

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I also tried this open faced kielbasa sausage and egg sandwich.

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The sausage is split and grilled, then set on a bed of wilted spinach atop a slice of sourdough, with a smear of grain beer mustard on the plate for dipping. Great for breakfast!

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I also tried the ricotta gnocchi with roasted cherry tomatoes and chorizo. The sauce was creamy and tangy – very nice.

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Last but not least, beer braised pork shank!

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This was super tender, as you might expect. The outside had a good crisp as well. Great quality meat from the Niman ranch.

I also tried the mint julep creme brulee, which was very creamy and interesting (I didn’t shoot it). However I did shoot these two items, which I did not try: flatbread and dandelion salad.

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I definitely recommend this place. Not only is the food good, but the cocktail and beer menu is very nice too.

THE BEDFORD
110 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Bonnie’s Grill

Demetri Kontakos, the owner of Bonnie’s Grill for the last two years, recently invited me into his establishment for a press review. Bonnie’s has been a Brooklyn staple for about 15 years and running. I had heard great things about Bonnie’s wings, so I was excited to hoof it out into Brooklyn and give them a shot.

I love a simple countertop style joint. No fuss, no glitz and glamour: just really good fucking food. Bonnie’s is exactly that kind of place.

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Some people get excited about a fancy joint with buttoned up waiters, candle light and white tablecloths. Not me. I get excited when I can see people working on my ticket right in front of me.

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And somehow I was a big Bills fan when I was a kid. Probably because they had an awesome looking bovine as their logo. And Bonnie’s is a proud Buffalo style establishment.

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Speaking of Buffalo: the wings. They get fried up to a really nice crisp here – none of that rubbery skin bullshit that you get from other places. And the sauce is really flavorful: you can get mild, medium, hot or hotter. I can take a lot of heat; in fact I enjoy it. So next time I will be trying the hotter wings. This time we went with hot, and it didn’t have us tearing up and sucking down water.

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We did suck down a cream ale, though.

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These are a great bargain at just $3.50, but if canned beer isn’t your thing, every weekday from 4pm-7pm is happy hour, where drafts are just $4, and they run three or four pretty good handles.

But back to all things Buffalo… Check out this gem: beef on weck!

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I love regional food quirks. Beef on weck is one of those quirks that hails from Buffalo, or western New York, generally. Essentially, what you have here is sliced roast beef with horseradish and some meat juice on a kummelweck roll (kaiser style, with fennel seeds and coarse grain salt on top).

Anyway this fucker was pure and simple. You can mess with it a little if you want, and add jalapeños and cheddar, but then you’re screwing with the integrity of a traditional sandwich.

And speaking of traditional, by now most of you know how I like my burgers: simple, nothing fancy. The classic American cheeseburger reigns supreme. So that’s what I got here.

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The patty is 80/20 lean/fat, so the masters at Bonnie’s develop a really great crisp on the outside of the burger. The cheese melts down so nicely and surrounds the patty with even more crisp.

There’s a ton of free toppings you can go with. I went with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and jalapeños. By the way: cheese is even a free topping here. But the kicker for me was that these guys kinda read my mind when it comes to the toppings. Notice how thin the tomato and onion slices are? I hate when the toppings end up making a burger eight inches tall. This was perfect.

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And speaking of perfect… the fries!

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Golden and crisp, and deftly seasoned with salt. And the chipotle mayo is a great way to enjoy them.

Another side I tried was the soup of the day, which was lentil and sweet corn. Very hearty and soulful.

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I can’t say enough positive things about this place. I just wish it was closer to my apartment! I’m near Central Park and this is near Prospect Park. But I highly recommend this place. So freaking good, and the staff are all really nice – ask for Alex and Rick when you go.

BONNIE’S KITCHEN
278 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Van Leeuwen

I’m not really big into the whole artisan ice cream fad that’s sweeping NYC. Don’t get me wrong: I, too, will “scream for ice cream” now and then. As you probably have figured out, I’m more of a savory guy than a sweets guy. But who doesn’t like ice cream, right? It’s just that my soft spot when it comes to ice cream is soft serve. Typically vanilla, and Carvel if possible; no sprinkles either, and in a cheap-ass wafer cone, too. I know, I know. That’s boring crap. But it’s my boring crap. It’s what I like.

Anyhow, with a set-up like that I you might get a sense that I am super critical when it comes to scooped ice cream, because I generally don’t dig it the same way everyone else does. And then once you trust me in my ice cream criticalness, I could tell you something like “HOWEVER, AFTER TRYING VAN LEEUWEN, I AM A CHANGED MAN,” and you’d lick it up, thinking “Well, it must be good if the guy who hates ice cream even likes it.”

Well, that’s sorta what I’m doing. But I’ll be honest: I’m not really a changed man, per se. I will still choose soft serve vanilla Carvel over the best ice cream in town, but I now understand the draw to these new artisan ice cream joints.

We tried an array of scoops. Six, I believe. The lemon meringue, butternut squash, and sour cream apple flavors really stood out as amazing.  (Those are my wife’s cake balls that we put on top)

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And a few of these were even VEGAN! They pull it off. You’d never know you were eating hippie food.

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I actively disliked Morgenstern’s, but I truly enjoyed Van Leeuwen. But get this: I was there with ice cream aficionado JustAFoodieNYC. This guy is legit. He eats more ice cream than anyone I know, and he’s been at it since he was a kid. A true ice cream enthusiast. I trust his judgment; he is to ice cream what I am to steak. Anyway, Van Leeuwen is one of his top picks, but he tells me that Ice & Vice is even better. So I will have to give that shit a try soon.

VAN LEEEWEN
204 Wythe Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Carnem

Carnem overall score: 83

Every once in a while I score a Groupon deal for a steakhouse. This particular deal came out to be about $28 for $60 worth of food at this relatively new steak joint in Brooklyn. Check out the verdict:

Flavor: 7
While this had the trimmings of an 8/10, I took a point away for two reasons: (1) relatively little amount of spinalis (fat cap), and (2) some pretty thick grey banding.

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The meat itself was dry aged for 28-days, so it just started to develop that nice funky and earthy flavor.

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At 38oz on the bone, this was enough for two. It had a buttery flavor with a good crust on the outside.

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Despite the grey banding, it still retained a good amount of juiciness and my wife and I finished it all.

Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 9
All cuts served here are prime, Certified Angus Beef quality, with most being dry aged for 28 days. They offer two types of hanger, three versions of a filet, a rib eye for two (pictured above), a porterhouse for two, and two sizes of strip loin. I was bummed that they didn’t have a single cut rib eye on the menu, for one, but they did have a wagyu rib eye on special this particular night.

Portion Size & Plating: 8
Portions here are good. Plating is rustic yet pretty, as you can tell by the skillet and wood serving platter for the steak.

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Price: 8
While the porterhouse is a bit pricey at nearly $70/pp, it is a big 42oz hunk of meat. The rib eye for two was a bit closer to normal at $104 for 38oz. However the pricing comes in very close to the midtown Manhattan range, so make sure you pick up that Groupon deal to offset this a bit. All in, this was about $168 after the $60 credit was applied, including tax and tip.

Bar: 8
This joint offers a nice variety of cocktails featuring fun and unique throwback spirits. They also have a nice wine selection both by the glass and by the bottle, and you can even get the finer wines served by the glass through a Coravin type method of pulling a glass of wine out of a still-corked bottle through a needle.

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The bar itself is oriented perpendicular to the street, but it is a nice area for sitting and hanging out.

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Specials and Other Meats: 9
In addition to the 12oz wagyu rib eye that was on special, they also offered lamb and veal dishes. The regular menu boasts pork chops and chicken as well. This is a fairly strong showing.

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
For starters, we tried two items. First, this grilled pork belly wrapped in cotton candy.

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This was pretty fun, and the hunk of pork inside was substantial for just $3. Next up was the Spanish charred octopus, as recommended by our waitress.

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I’d say this was about one large tentacle’s worth of meat, with some roasted, halved fingerings and bacon. It was tasty! Good call.

For our side, we went with the creamed spinach.

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This was sort of a flop. It wasn’t very creamy, and the texture of the spinach wasn’t leafy. It seemed like a high quality frozen spinach.

For dessert, we went with both the waitress’ and host’s recommendation: the fried oreos.

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This was absolutely fantastic. It came with three battered and deep fried oreos and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Then some chocolate sauce was drizzled on top. Despite being full from our meal, we devoured every bite of this shit.

Seafood Selection: 8
Sea bass, salmon, lobster risotto and seafood paella grace the menu here in terms of seafood. Not bad, but maybe one more item like a whole roasted fish would do the trick. Then again, you’re coming here for beef, right? You should be.

Service: 10
The service here is impeccable. Wait staff, bussers, host and bartenders are all working at top notch levels. And since I always do it here, let’s talk about the table bread:

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The bread itself was a bit hard and dry, but the garlic and herb whipped butter was super smooth and tasty.

Ambiance: 8
This place is really nicely decorated. It has a more modern touch, and it’s dim (they even have menus with built in lights so you can easily read them in the dark). The seats are spacious, and there’s even a backyard and downstairs area.

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Overall Summary: This is a great score for a small mom and pop joint out in Brooklyn. This is a welcome addition to the steakscape, and Brooklyn is definitely in need of more options the further you go out. I would definitely eat here again, and certainly recommend picking up a Groupon if they’re still available.

CARNEM
318 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Yaso Tangbao

Soup dumplings are some of the most amazing things to eat. That burst of thick, viscous deliciousness is like nothing else in the food world. So when two friends of mine hosted an Instagram event at Yaso Tangbao, a dumpling and noodle joint in Brooklyn, I was psyched. First, I captured this footage of the guys making the dumplings. Check it out:

Then, of course, I gorged my face off on this shit. There were three varieties of soup dumpling, the best of which was the spicy (with red powder on top).

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These are some of the best I’ve tried. The pouches never ripped or stuck to the paper beneath – and the flavors inside were always robust and packing great depth.

We also tried some other fun stuff:

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Along with a shitload of noodle dishes. The one with the meatballs was amazing. Those meatballs are really soft and tender, made with pork.

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As far as straight up meat goes, this place also slings some killer ribs.

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And while this whole fish dish isn’t on the menu (staff caught it the day before and served it to us special), one awesome thing at this place is a water cooler filled with soy sauce. Yup.

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YASO TANGBAO
148 Lawrence St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Ample Hills Creamery

This is expensive, but high quality ice cream. Below is a shot of the Mexican hot chocolate flavor (with cinnamon and spice), and of course some sprinkles on top. It rests comfortably in a cookie cone, which was delicious. If you find yourself in the area, give it a try.

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AMPLE HILLS CREAMERY
305 Nevins St
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Avlee Greek Kitchen

Some may think of Greek food as clunky, pedestrian or low-end if they’re wrongly associating the entire cuisine with easily accessible diners or budget friendly gyro joints. If this is how you currently view Greek food, then your perception will be changed once you dine at Avlee Kitchen in Brooklyn.

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Everything here is not only beautifully presented, but also perfectly executed by the deft hands of an owner and chef that’s been in the food business for his entire life. Andrew Poulos’ parents owned and operated a restaurant in Brooklyn called Promenade when he was a kid, so he grew up with the skills to open his own joint as an adult. When he opened in 2012, Poulos aptly named his restaurant Avlee, which means garden in Greek, as a tribute to the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in which it’s located.

What you’ll find here is a humble, quaint and comfortable dining room with open and visible access to the kitchen and a garden out back. Servers and hostesses will make you feel at home, and the rustic tables and decor add to that experience. In fact, one or two dishes even reminded me of a few things my mom cooks (some Greek preparations are similar to Italian cuisine).

The flavors here are subtle but complex, and the quality of the food is on par with fine dining, only without the pretentious, prima donna attitude. Andrew is a master of his art, and he is using incredibly fresh ingredients from local fish markets and his own garden. Nothing he serves has ever been frozen, and some of the more important items are actually imported from Greece. This is the real deal. This is Greek food at its best. Even something as common in Greek cuisine as tzatziki is done with perfection here. I’ve never tasted tzatziki as good as the one you can find at Avlee.

So let me give you a quick run down of what we tried with some tasting notes to go with it.

Kria Orektika (Cold Spreads)

  • Fava Mani (right – chic peas with garlic, lemon, tahini and cumin)
  • Tirokafteri (center – feta with bell, jalapeno and cayenne pepper)
  • Tzatziki (left – yogurt with garlic, dill and cucumber)

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These kinds of “meze” items are staples in Greek, Mediterranean and even North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. They’re a great way to get the party started. At Avlee, they’re $7 each, or you can get three for $14, which is clearly the better deal.

Orektika (Appetizers)

  • Tiropita (feta and egg wrapped in phyllo): these were fun and tasty little bites.

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  • Keftethakia (pan fried beef and pork meatballs with tomato basil sauce): Sans the pork, these are the exact style in which my mother cooks meatballs. The pan-seared outside really adds great texture, and rather than stewing in sauce for hours and taking on a tomato flavor with mushy texture, these remain robust and hearty through and through. Wonderful.

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  • Haloumi Stin Psistaria (goat cheese grilled with lemon oil dressing, also found on the grill section of the menu as a composed entree): Really nice firm cheese with grilled flavors and a satiating, meaty texture.

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  • Fava Fritters (pan fried chic peas with scallions, feta, herbs and spices): These actually went nicely with the cold spreads above.

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Salates (Salad)

  • Kalamaraki (grilled squid in lemon oil, served over greens): Perfectly cooked squid with great texture and grill flavors. The kalamata olives in the salad really make this dish pop.

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Thalassina (From the Sea)

  • Lavraki (grilled whole branzino with lemon oil dressing): Great flavors here. Super tender and flaky fish, light and satisfying. Bones were easy to maneuver and skin had a good crisp in parts.

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Sinotheftika (Sides)

  • Gigandes (white beans baked in tomato, onion and dill sauce): This almost tasted like Italian Minestrone soup due to the tomato sauce. Very nice.
  • Lemon Potatoes (red potatoes roasted in lemon, oil and herbs): My favorite of the sides. The lemon on all the dishes was never overpowering. Here, it had a bit more kick but it was just what I wanted to cut the starch of the potatoes.
  • Grilled Veggies (eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions and garlic)
  • Okra (braised in tomato basil sauce with crumbled feta)

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Glyka (Dessert)

  • Baklava (walnuts and almonds wrapped in phyllo with honey syrup): Usually baklava is overly saturated with honey and rose water, to the point where one or two bites has me puckering up due to the overbearing sweetness. This one was perfect, and I liked that the phyllo wasn’t extremely crispy.

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I’m not in Brooklyn very often, but this joint is located right near the F/G stop at Carroll Street, so it’s very convenient to access from most areas around the city. In fact, I think door to door it took me about 29 minutes to get there, so I’ll definitely be back when I need a good Greek fix, especially for some octopus. On this trip, I was invited in for a press review: a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest review. My honest review: excellent Greek fare, highly recommended. Go give it a try.

AVLEE GREEK KITCHEN
349 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY 11231

Yakitori by Neal

Yakitori By Neal is a Japanese style grilled chicken operation out of Brooklyn that pops up at various locations and events around the city, like Project Parlor and Sumo Stew (at The Brooklyn Kitchen).

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I had the pleasure of tasting some of Neal’s delicious grillings at a private backyard yakitori and shochu party. Guests sampled four different bottles of shochu while nibbling on tasty yakitori skewers.

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We had chicken gizzard, heart, and thigh, and shishito peppers, bacon wrapped tomatoes, bacon wrapped mushrooms, pork belly and hamachi (both belly and filet).

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Everything from the grill was really delicious; the meats were masterfully seasoned and had a great, smoky charcoal flavor.

The shochu bottles varied in intensity and character. Two had the distinct flavor of mezcal, but with a more mellow, rounded and mild finish. These were great for drinking on the rocks or with soda.

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The other two, which were aged three and five years, were remarkably smooth, clean and sip-able. One was so light in flavor that it was almost like water, yet it had 25% alcohol.

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YAKITORI BY NEAL
Various Pop-Up Locations
Brooklyn, NY

Paul’s Daughter

Paul’s Daughter is a great place to stop for a funnel cake or some fresh clams on the half shell, as you stroll the boardwalk of Coney Island.

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Formerly Gregory & Paul’s, this joint has everything you can imagine, from hotdogs and hamburgers, to fried shellfish and ice cream. Shit there’s even pizza, cotton candy and beer.

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My wife and I went with some little necks and a funnel cake, keeping it classic and old school.

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Both items were a success for me. The clams were fresh and clean, and still nice and cold despite the 90 degree weather that day. The funnel cake was sweet, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. It was exactly the Coney food fix we were looking for.

PAUL’S DAUGHTER
1001 Boardwalk W
Brooklyn, NY 11224

Wahlburgers

After seeing an episode or two of the show about this burger chain, starring all the famous Wahlbergs and their entourage, I wanted to give their burgers a shot. Lucky for my wife and I, they opened a joint in Coney Island, just diagonally across the side street from Nathan’s.

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We went with an “Our Burger,” which is a single patty with cheese, “Wahl Sauce,” lettuce, tomato and onion. We also added some fresh jalapenos.

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I liked that the jalapenos were fresh, and the topping quality, including the cheese, was good. The burger, however, was a let down. Despite a good sear and crust, the patty itself was a bit hard and uniform in texture. It reminded me of a direct-from-the-freezer-to-the-grill backyard cookout burger. I wasn’t a fan. The bun wasn’t as soft as I’d like either. The burger price was $7.50.

The tots, however, were golden, crisp and delicious. At just $3, this is a nice add-on.

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We also tried their “Fluffanuttah” shake, but since they ran out of vanilla ice cream, we had ours made with chocolate. This is an alcoholic shake, with marshmallow flavored vodka and banana liqueur. This cost $12, and there was about half as much overflow in a second cup, so I feel this was a pretty good price.

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Overall I’d say skip this joint, though they do have a nice view from up on the rooftop, where there is also a bar that plays horrible mid-90’s music – and I’m not talking about NKOTB or Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, unfortunately. Those would  have been fun.

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WAHLBURGERS
3015 Stillwell Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224