Hangover Helper: Turkish Eggs and Eggplant at Grill 43 in Sunnyside, Queens
Update 12/30/12: This venue is now closed.
More often than not my hangovers begin around 5 a.m. I wake up dazed and confused, not so much nauseous as suddenly worried about what dried mushrooms I have in my pantry. I get out of bed, check on them, and make a note of what to buy. I lie in bed waiting to fall back asleep. I read a post I wrote two years ago and decide I have to make some edits right now. I realize what a colossally bad idea this is and get back into bed.
It's now 10 a.m. and I'm still awake. I'm hungry, damn it, but not for a gut bomb that'll send me back to sleep. I've been awake for five hours and I intend to stay that way. This is usually when the Turkish food craving kicks in.
The Turks know what breakfast is all about, food that's nourishing and comforting but all about getting your day started right. So these days I haul myself on the 7 train to Sunnyside, home to Grill 43.
Meat may be the claimed specialty here, but I'm far more impressed by the vegetables and menemen ($5.95) pictured above. This tomato and egg stew is the Turkish edition of shakshuka, with onions cooked until they're buttery sweet and nubs of egg as soft as cottage cheese. Grill 43's version adds mild green chilies for a welcome vegetal counterpoint to the onions and tomatoes; they make sopping up the pool of orange oil all the more rewarding.
Go with a friend and split two dishes: the menemen and one of the eggplant offerings. The tomatoey sautéed spicy eggplant ($4.95) is excellent but a little redundant with menemen on the table. Better is the grilled eggplant ($6), which is grilled and smoked into utter submission, then soused with "whipped garlic sauce," a kind of thin aioli with lots of garlic and some scraps of bread for body. Pile it and your eggs onto the warm and poofy house bread for best results.
Grill 43 opens at 8 a.m. daily for breakfast at a more sober hour, but perhaps more important for cloudy headed late risers: they deliver, too. It's also worth mentioning the portion size of these dishes. The two above each fill out a large dinner plate for a total of twelve bucks, and with bread they're plenty for two people. Tell me again: how much did that fancy brunch place charge you for Eggs Benedict?