Staten Island, New York – Staten Island’s restaurant landscape has a reputation for great pizza and Italian food, but beyond red sauce is a diverse eating and drinking scene that is regulated and tracked in statistics from the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).
Beware, though: Although the DOHMH data is insightful, the process produces a database that doesn’t fully reflect the true range and nuances of Staten Island’s food offerings.
A DOHMH spokesperson said this is because the inspector makes a decision to inspect the type of restaurant, for better or worse. From ‘Afghani’ to ‘Vegan’, there are over 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 of New Dorp is “Mexican.” Jade Island in New Springville, famous for its Polynesian flair, is a “Chinese” island. The Mandi House of St. George’s Yemeni fare cut to the “Middle East”. The Lebanese restaurant in Port Richmond is “Mediterranean”. And while the salad and burrito department store, The Burrito Shoppe and Salad Junkie from St. George, say so, the town declares it “Mexican.”
What shade of dining does a franchise like Taco Bell fall into all of this? Of the four locations in Staten Island, it is analyzed into “Tex Mex” or “other”.
By official standards, Rossville’s Unique Lounge, known for its lively bar scene and darts association, is as “Irish” as O’Neill’s, Joyce’s Tavern, and O’Henry’s Publick House. (The latter is actually a British restaurant.) Pino’s Pizzeria in Rossville is considered “Soul Food.” Pigeonholed as “Italian” are Cole’s Dockside of Great Kills and Ralph’s Italian Ices of New Springville, as well as Canlon’s of Oakwood with Irish Nachos and Shepherd Pie.
Ed Kanlon thinks of his long-running restaurant as “American” or “Continental.”
With halibut, swordfish, soft-shell lobster and steamers topping the specials, Ian Cole of Cole explained, “We definitely consider ourselves ‘seafood,’ albeit with an Italian influence.
The best food categories
There are some surprises in the stats. According to DOHMH’s A to Z’s — at least from A&S Pizzeria in St. George to ZZ’s Pizza & Grill at the ferry terminal — there are 107 dedicated pizzerias. The brands that dominate the list are six Domino’s brands – although they are indicated as open, the Tompkinsville location is closed – as well as four Pronto operations scattered across the land.
In the Asian eating section, Richmond County can count 79 distinct Chinese restaurants—a number topping 73 “Italian” restaurants. Landing in Southeast Asia is Bahnmigos of Great Kills with Vietnamese sandwiches and noodles, and, separately, New Dorp’s Pho Rainbow for Vietnamese fare.
Staten Island plays five Thai locations with two on the same block – Talay Thai, which has moved from Dongan Hills to 154 Stuyvesant Place, and recently expanded Chang Noi Thai at 100 Stuyvesant Place. This category outperforms the Polish, German, Jewish, Peruvian, Eastern European, and Cajun options.
Not in the list
NYC.gov says the “Forgotten Borough” does not contain Australian, Bengali, Brazilian, Basque, Ethiopian, Czech, Portuguese, French, “fine cuisine,” Iranian, Chinese, Cuban or Pakistani cuisine. 30% of establishments are simply identified as “other” and “American”.
The owner of Ruddy and Dean’s North Shore Steakhouse, one of the places he calls “American,” says it hasn’t been officially recognized during his three decades as a “steakhouse” by the DOHMH. At the moment, this address is moving to two places – Sakana Sushi and Hibachi Steakhouse in Dongan Hills and Outback in the mall.
And while the town is home to the lion’s share of Sri Lankan restaurants in the world outside of Sri Lanka, there is no definitive consideration for this particular food, according to the DOHMH, and it cannot be tracked separately. Instead, Isle of Gems restaurants, such as Dosa Garden, New Asha and Ceylon Curry, all Tompkinsville restaurants, and Lakruwana of Stapleton slip into a more general “Indian.”
Readers wondered why the Michelin-rated Sagara Food City was not included in NYC’s Subcontinent Restaurants and not in the city’s licensing system at all. The answer is that although it has a much-appreciated ready-to-eat process, the grocery store that accompanies it allows it to undergo inspections through the New York State Farming and Markets Program.
Some fun facts have been discovered thanks to the DOHMH page. For example, half of the 30 sandwich shops in town are Subway. On Burger Ward Road, Burger King and McDonald’s share a market with seven locations each.
If you’re going by the database, other pie places include Four Wendy’s, a pair of Shake Shacks and the deuce of White Castles—plus the Dariy Queen Grill & Chill of Mariners Harbor, which is close to Checkers and Five Guys in New Springville.
Notable hamburger spots are missing well-known independent burger havens like The Hop Shoppe in Stapleton, The Kettle Black and Duffy’s of West Brighton. They register in the city as “other” or “American”.
How many restaurants…?
As of late June, 1,024 authorized institutions were indicated to operate in Richmond County, based on DOHMH information.
The total number of active licenses documented has ranged from 1,000 to 1,027 since 2019, fluctuating slightly from month to month.
At the time of writing, indoors may not be definitively reflected in the stats – to name a few, Vincent of Livingston, Mar Mar of West Brighton, Bin 5 in Rosebank and Love Earth Bakery Cafe in Richmond Valley.
The books also remain among the shorter-lived restaurants to appear in 2019 – Shawafel House of Port Richmond. This concept married pancakes with shawarma, a je ne sais quoi One inspector thought he was “medium”.
Pamela Silvestri is the Advanced Food Editor. It can be accessed at [email protected].