STATEN ISLAND, NY – Staten Island’s restaurant landscape has a solid reputation for great pizza and Italian food, but beyond the red sauce, there’s a fairly diverse eating and drinking scene, which is reflected in statistics from the Department of Health and Mental Health (DOHMH) of the United States organized and followed by the city ).
But beware: while the DOHMH data is insightful, the process yields a database that doesn’t quite fully reflect the true breadth and nuances of Staten Island’s food offerings.
Because for better or worse, an inspector decides on the type of restaurant during an inspection, said a spokesman for the DOHMH. From “Afghan” to “vegetarian” there are more than 90 categories to choose from.
As an example of the challenges, even restaurants that make their food focus clear in their name can be placed under unlikely umbrellas. According to DOHMH, Moe’s Southwestern Grill in New Dorp is “Mexican.” Jade Island of New Springville, famous for its Polynesian slant, is “Chinese”. Mandi House of St. George’s Yemeni cuisine is tucked into Middle Eastern. The Lebanese eatery in Port Richmond is “Mediterranean”. And although the one-stop salad and burrito joint, The Burrito Shoppe and Salad Junkie of St. George says so, the city declares it “Mexican.”
What shade of food does a franchise like Taco Bell fall into in all of this? Under four Staten Island locations, they are parsed into either “Tex Mex” or “Other.”
Known for its vibrant bar scene and darts leagues, Rossville’s Unique Lounge is by official standards as “Irish” as O’Neill’s, Joyce’s Tavern and O’Henry’s Public House. (The latter is actually a British gastropub.) Pino’s Pizzeria in Rossville is considered “soul food.” Classified as Italian are Cole’s Dockside of Great Kills and Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices of New Springville, and Canlon’s of Oakwood with its Irish nachos and shepherd’s pie.
Ed Canlon describes his long-established restaurant more as “American” or “Continental”.
With halibut, swordfish, soft-shell crab and steamers topping the specials, Cole’s Ian Cole clarified, “We definitely consider ourselves ‘seafood’, albeit with an Italian influence.
TOP FOOD CATEGORIES
There are some surprises in the statistics. According to A to Z of the DOHMH – at least from A&S Pizzeria in St. George to ZZ’s Pizza & Grill at the ferry terminal – there are 107 own pizzerias. Brands dominating the list are six Domino’s — although marked as open, the Tompkinsville location has closed — plus four Pronto operations scattered across the country.
In the Asian dining section, Richmond County boasts 79 distinct Chinese restaurants –– a number that exceeds the 73 designated “Italian” restaurants. The Southeast Asia slot will land Great Kills Bahn Migos with Vietnamese sandwiches and noodles and separately New Dorp’s Pho Rainbow for Vietnamese dishes.
Staten Island is home to five Thai venues with two on the same block – Talay Thai, which moved from Dongan Hills to 154 Stuyvesant Place, and recently expanded Chang Noi Thai at 100 Stuyvesant Place. This category outperforms Polish, German, Jewish, Peruvian, Eastern European, and Cajun options.
NOT ON THE LIST
The Forgotten Borough has no Australian, Bangladeshi, Brazilian, Basque, Ethiopian, Czech, Portuguese, French, “haute cuisine”, Iranian, Sino-Cuban, Korean or Pakistani cuisines, says NYC.gov. A full 30% of facilities are known simply as “Other” and “American”.
One of those places labeled “American,” Ruddy and Dean, owners of North Shore Steakhouse, says it hasn’t been officially recognized as a “steakhouse” by the DOHMH in its three decades. Right now that title is going to two locations – Sakana Sushi and Hibachi Steakhouse in Dongan Hills and Outback at the Mall.
And although the district hosts the lion’s share of the world’s Sri Lankan restaurants outside of Sri Lanka, according to DOHMH, there is no special consideration for this particular food and cannot be tracked separately. Instead, Isle of Gems restaurants like Dosa Garden, New Asha and Ceylon Curry, all Tompkinsville, and Lakruwana of Stapleton slip into a more generic “Indian.”
Readers have wondered why the Michelin-starred Sagara Food City isn’t listed among the New York subcontinent’s restaurants and not at all in the city’s licensing system. The answer is that while it has a highly respected convenience food operation, its associated grocery store allows it to undergo inspections by New York State’s Agriculture and Markets Program.
Some fun facts are being unearthed thanks to the DOHMH site. For example, half of the borough’s 30 sandwich shops are Subways. At Burger Ward, Burger King and McDonald’s each have seven locations fighting for market share.
Checking the database, Patty’s other spots include four Wendy’s, a pair of Shake Shacks, and a Deuce of White Castles — plus Mariners Harbor’s lonely Dariy Queen Grill & Chill, a nearby Checkers, and Five Guys in New Springville .
Hamburger highlights lack independent, well-known burger havens like The Hop Shoppe in Stapleton, The Kettle Black and Duffy’s of West Brighton. You register with the city as “Other” or “American.”
HOW MANY RESTAURANTS…?
At the end of June, 1,024 licensed facilities in Richmond County were noted as operational based on information from the DOHMH.
The total number of documented active licenses ranges from 1,000 to 1,027 as of 2019 and varies slightly from month to month.
As of this writing, permanently closed locations may not be reflected in the statistics – to name a few, Vincent’s of Livingston, Mar Mar of West Brighton, Bin 5 in Rosebank and Love Earth Bakery Cafe in the Richmond Valley.
Also in the books is one of the shortest-lived restaurants to emerge in 2019 – the Shawafel House of Port Richmond. This concept married waffles with shawarma, a Je ne sais quoi one inspector suspected “Mediterranean”.