One cannot go to New York without eating a bagel – or several. In fact eating a bagel in New York (and everywhere else in the USA) became a daily ritual for us. One of the most famous places to get a bagel in New York is at Ess A Bagel which luckily enough wasn’t too far from our humble abode at the Waldorf Astoria. I’m not too sure how I heard about it but it was on my ‘must do’ list of places to eat at and we were not disappointed despite waiting in line for well over thirty minutes. The line up for the bagels was snaked through the store and out the front door (I had a video but the damn thing won’t upload).
The bagel teams assembling the bagels at the front of the store were like a well oiled machine and there were so many different ingredients to get on your bagel including 18 different flavours of cream cheese with everything from raisin walnut cream cheese to jalapeno cream cheese to chocolate chip cream cheese. The choices of what you could have on your bagel were literally endless, so much so that I found it a little overwhelming. I tend to stick with tradition and can’t go past the Lox (Smoked Salmon as we call it) with Cream Cheese and Capers.Never had I heard of lox before and it took some secret Googling in the line to make sure that it was in fact Smoked Salmon. MS went for the cream cheese with turkey bacon option with extra cheese, another tried and true tradition for him because he’s a fatty. The bagels were so fresh out of the oven they were still steaming when our expert bagel maker Gavin and his buddy Mad Rican cut them open and yet some dumbasses in the customer line still wanted theirs toasted. WTF?! Because American’s love variety with their 18 flavours of cream cheese there are also 14 different types of bagel to choose from at Ess A Bagel. You can get plain, sesame, poppy, salt, onion, garlic, oat bran, cinnamon raisin, 9-grain, pumpernickel, pumpernickel raisin, everything, whole wheat everything and bialy’s (a pastry/bagel type thing). By the time Gavin was done there was that much cream cheese and lox on my bagel that it weighed half a pound! That’s a whole lot of bagel!!!! It was without a doubt the best bagel we had on our trip, and we ate a sh*tload of bagels, much to the dismay of my size 9 jeans that I’m still having trouble fitting into 2 months later. It was warm, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside with the perfect blend of lox and cream cheese and you seriously can’t beat a poppy seed bagel. Sadly for us though we went to go back another day and the line was even longer and we had a Broadway show to catch so we couldn’t hang around and I never got to go back for another *insert sad face*. One thing’s for sure though Ess A Bagel will be high on our priority list when we do return to NYC and it should definitely be on yours!
Only yesterday I was told about this hidden gem so I went down to grab a bit of lunch for my family who are doing some reno’s just up the road. The Bagus Café has been open since December last year so I don’t know how I hadn’t bloody heard of it. Living just up the road I have driven past this place many times however I had no idea they sold Indonesian food (even though Bagus means good in Indonesian). The lovely owner Sri moved up from Melbourne with her family in 2013 to open the Bagus Café.
I ordered takeaway this time however there is a handful of tables of chairs out the front should you choose to ‘dine in’. All the food is made fresh on-site which meant about a 15 minute wait for the three dishes that I ordered. Knowing the food is cooked to order I didn’t mind the wait at all. With traditional dishes like Nasi Goreng, Satay and Rendang it’s one of only two places I know in Cairns that sells Indonesian food (the other being the Bayleaf of course). For the non traditional eaters there is also a selection of Western breakfast and lunch fare including a Smoked Beef Breakfast Burrito with Jalapeno’s that sounds right up my alley.
Occupying a small space out the front of the backpackers across the road from Muddies the Bagus Café is quaint, unassuming and kind of like the real roadside experience in Indo. Located at 149 The Esplanade Bagus is open daily for breakfast and lunch from 6.45am – 3pm and for dinner on Tuesday, Thursday – Sunday from 5.30pm – 8.30pm with nothing on the menu over AU$16. Don’t forget to ask for some of their spicy Anchovy Sambal!
It was a cold night in Bris-Vegas and I had a craving for sour cream and guacamole. My friend MD, that I was staying with in Newmarket, claimed there was a great little Mexican joint just down the road from her place. And so it was decided, we were to go to Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant. Getting a table there was a different story, particularly since it was a Saturday night and we only called up to make a booking that afternoon. The earliest that we could get into Pepe’s was 8pm that night. Although I was starving, as were the rest of the group we were going with (most of us had just competed in the Spartan Race earlier that day), we figured we had no other ideas for dinner so 8pm would have to do. At about 7.15pm that night MD got a phone call from one of the Pepe’s staff saying that our table was ready. We got organised and headed down arriving at about 7.45pm.
We went in and asked for our table but it turned out that there was some sort of mix up and our table wasn’t ready after all. Anyway during the slight kerfuffle whereby MD and her two housemates sorted shit out at the bar I took the time to look over the large range of ‘Hot Sauce’ in the cabinet near the counter as well as numerous bottles of Tequila. I have no idea which ones were the good ones or not but I do know from my high school days that Coyote Tequila is probably the cheapest and nastiest. Heads up for my readers: do not be irresponsible and go to the Cairns Show after having a shot competition with your friends. (Disclaimer: despite my misgivings as a teenager and my inappropriate use of tequila I think I turned out pretty good so don’t judge me too harshly. Like most people my age I did go through the typical teenage binge drinking stage not that I condone it). These days if I do ever shot tequila, something that only happens very rarely, I tend to go for the Patron Coffee Liquer Tequila. Premium stuff that won’t strip your teeth of their enamel and it actually tastes gooooooood.
So anyway about 5 minutes later the staff organised our table (I have no idea what the problem was because I never asked) and we took a seat. The restaurant was super busy and what I thought was just a tiny little restaurant from the outside turned out to be far bigger than I had originally perceived. The restaurant seated probably about 120 people, but that guess is probably way off. The waitress handed out our menus and my friend MD and her housemate SB decided that they wanted to have a shot of tequila. After having a look over tequila menu and having no idea which one to order they asked the waitress for a shot around the AU$10 mark (Patron was too expensive) and off she went. About 10 minutes later another staff member returned with their tequila shots as well as a small ‘dish’ each of some sort of Mexican tomato sauce and a slice of lime. He gave them a quick rundown of the process and off he went again. The deal was they were to shot the tequila, shot the tomato sauce (it was kind of like a chaser) and then suck on the lime. Shot glasses clinked, cheers were made and shots were downed. Both MD and SB agreed that it was unique but pleasant way to have a shot of tequila.
Over in my corner I was having a bit of a tussle with myself over just what to order from the menu. MD had told me that Pepe’s also had really yummy breakfasts and after reading over the breakfast menu I had my heart set on the El Rancheros Grande but unfortunately it was a breakfast dish and only available at breakfast of course (sometimes I just feel like breakfast food for dinner). Again I made a mental note to return to Pepe’s for breakfast, granted the dinner was a hit. The table had already agreed to order an entree of Jalapeno Poppers – Jalapenos crumbed, stuffed with cream cheese and served with delicious jalapeno jelly AU$14.90 to share around. Down the end MD ordered the Burrito – Flour tortilla filled with chicken, beef, beans or chilli con carne then baked and topped with chilli sauce lettuce and cheese, served with rice or beans $16.50 while across from me SB and MD shared the Double Enchilada – Corn tortilla filled with cheese, your choice of beans, chicken or beef then baked with a rich tomato based enchilada style chilli sauce (a different style of chilli normally served with burritos) served with rice and beans for AU$22. And next to me TM ordered the Taquitos – Two corn tortillas rolled up with beef or chicken, fried and topped with chilli sauce, lettuce and cheese, served with Mexican rice for AU$14.50.
For me it was a bit touch and go between the Pulled Pork Tamales – Slow Cooked BBQ pulled pork and corn polenta, steamed in banana leaf parcels, served with Chilli Con Carne and Mexican Salad for AU$24.50 and the Chimichanga – Flour tortilla filled with cheese, your choice of beans, beef or chicken, deep fried and topped with chilli sauce, lettuce and cheese, served with rice or beans for AU$16.50. In the end MD’s boyfriend PS and I simply couldn’t go past the deep fried goodness of the Chimichanga.
We didn’t have to wait long after ordering until our Jalapeno Poppers arrived. There was six each so we would have gotten one each but there was a couple of sooks at the table that couldn’t handle the chilli so I ended up getting 1.5 Jalapeno Poppers. Winning! They must have only been pulled out of the deep fryer literally 30 seconds before being whacked onto a plate and delivered to our table because they were almost too hot to enjoy. You know like when you’re eating a tinned spaghetti jaffle (the best kind) and you want to eat it fast because it tastes good but instead you end up nearly burning your taste buds off? Yeah well that’s what these Poppers were like. They were yummy and spicy but they still had nothing on those good old Chilli Releno’s from El Mundo in Edge Hill. Ah the memories. The Jalapeno Jelly however was delicious and sweet and also helped soothe the temperature of the Jalapeno’s.
Before we ordered I asked the waitress how long Pepe’s had been open for to which she replied that she didn’t know and she would find out. Guess she forgot because she never came back and told me the answer. It’s not that I really care, I just like to test the staff’s knowledge on certain things. Taking home a takeaway menu for blog research I did find that Pepe’s was established in 1972 and is actually Brisbane’s first Mexican restaurant. I found it a little odd that the waitress actually had no idea. Maybe she’s wasn’t from Brisbane or something. Another 10 minutes later and our mains had arrived looking delectably cheesy.
MD said that she usually ordered the Burrito and although she kept saying how good it was she struggled to finish it off. Must have been all that tequila in her belly. SB and MD made a light meal of their enormous Double Enchiladas that they shared but they were more than satisfied in the end. TM raved about her Taquito’s and I actually thought they were really good value for AU$14.50 although probably a little bit too small for my liking. PS must have enjoyed his Chimichanga because he demolished the whole thing and then eyed off MD’s leftover Burrito.
I ordered the Beef Chimichanga because with the amount of chicken that I have been eating lately I’ll be happy if the only breasts I ever see again are my own. I certainly won’t order it by choice that’s for sure. I also ordered some extra guacamole (sml AU$2.50) and some extra sour cream (sml AU$1.50). My Chimichanga looked like a big fat deep fried pillow that made me weak at the knees with delight (lucky I was already sitting down). When I cut it open I was happy to find that the beef wasn’t mince like I was expecting but it was actually shredded. The beef mixed with the cheese inside and the crunchy tortilla on the outside was like heaven to my deprived taste buds – I knew I had made the right choice in ordering the Chimichanga in all it’s deep fried glory. And with the fresh guacamole and sour cream on the side it ticked all my boxes.
The atmosphere at Pepe’s was loud and colourful – as you would expect for a Mexican restaurant. I was really impressed with the range of hot sauces and was super excited to find a Tabasco Brand Buffalo Hot Sauce that I had never seen before. I am a bit of a Tabasco Sauce nut with my Tabasco sauce t-shirt and boxer shorts that MS has now claimed as his own. It was a bit steep at AU$12 a bottle but I guess you can expect that since the rest of the Tabasco sauce range certainly isn’t cheap anymore. The food at Pepe’s was also pretty good and by pretty good I mean it wasn’t fantastic. I don’t think that you can ever say that Mexican food is particularly outstanding because really it’s all much the same – cheese and tomato. Having said that I have had some terrible Mexican food in Cairns before and Pepe’s definitely ranks as some of the better Mexican restaurants I’ve been to. My Chimichanga hit the spot and the empty plates of my fellow diners was a pretty good sign that the food went down a treat. They might not have Stand and Stuff Taco’s on the menu at Pepe’s but they do stock one of the largest ranges of Mexican beer and Tequila in Australia. Arriba!
Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant
184 Enoggera Rd, Newmarket QLD
Ph: 3856 0966
Opening Hours: Mon 4pm – 10pm, Tues – Sun 11am – 10pm, Breakfast Sat & Sun 6.30am – 12pm