As a food obsessed parent living in the suburbs, I am ALWAYS lamenting the lack of really good food in casual settings around here. In NYC there is plenty of ethnic food, street food and even killer slice joints that you can quickly pop into or take out from for a great meal. With some notable exceptions, in the suburbs, your choices are often limited to chain spots like Chipotle, forgettable pizzerias or hunkering down in a waiter service restaurant for a full service meal. Spoiler alert: Kiddies don’t always love sitting still at a table for awhile.
For this reason and several others that I’ll get into, I was super excited when I learned that Jeff Gordinier, Food and Drinks Editor for Esquire Magazine, included Nyack’s casual Filipino newcomer, Karenderya, in his rundown of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants In America, 2018.
Casual, Homey and Crowded
When guests walk into Karenderya they are greeted by a welcome sign displaying the four simple steps to dining there: (1) Grab a menu, (2) Order off the counter, (3) Help yourself to water, glasses, utensils etc. and (4) Pick up your order when your name is called. Casual dining, indeed.
The small rub is that it seems the Esquire Magazine praise (on top of further local praise) has made Karenderya something of a hot spot. We visited at 11:30am on a Saturday, just as a staff member was literally flipping the “closed” sign over to “open,” and we STILL were not the first folks in the restaurant. In the time it took us to review the menu, two other groups walked in and ordered ahead of us. I’d estimate at least 10 additional groups walked in during the time we sat at our table to eat. And this was all quite early in the day for a lunchtime crowd - we finished up at Karenderya before 1pm.
The staff does their best to find room for everyone without rushing seated guests through their meals. For a counter-service spot, the room is rather pretty and welcoming, enticing guests to stay awhile. So if you plan to visit Karenderya, do come early to beat the crowds.
Really Tasty, Affordable Eats That Appeal to All
With Karenderya, Pasay City born Chef Paolo Garcia Mendoza aims to bring a taste of the roadside cuisine one might find in his home country of the Philippines and Southeast Asia generally to the people of Rockland County. The menu at Karenderya is split into Small Plates, Large Plates and items that can be made as either a Sandwich or a Rice Bowl. With this being our first visit, we looked to the staff for ordering guidance; and we were not disappointed with their suggestions.
We tried three dishes from the Sandwich/Rice Bowl section: The Adobo Pork Belly Rice Bowl (pork belly braised in soy, vinegar and garlic with a hard boiled egg), the Beef Tapa Sandwich (thinly sliced soy lime marinated beef with greens, crispy shallots and sambal mayo on ciabatta) and the Fried Crispy Chicken Rice Bowl (chicken thighs marinated in ginger and lime with greens, tomato and sweet soy). All three dishes were delicious and priced under $10 each. I think I liked the Fried Crispy Chicken best of the three - the meat was juicy, crisp and salty and the sweet soy gave the perfect contrast. The Adobo Pork was a mix of crispy and tender bits of pork belly with an acidic kick from the vinegar and soy - this is probably Karenderya’s most popular dish. My husband couldn’t stop raving about the Beef Tapa.
From the Small Plates menu, I demanded we get a half order (5 for $4.50) of Lumpiang Shanghai (mini spring rolls filled with ground pork with spicy banana ketchup). These were the first of our items to come out of the kitchen and they were inhaled by us in about 4 seconds. We thus decided to add an additional full order (10 for $8), putting our grand total of Lumpiang eaten on this visit at 15!!
Lastly, from the Large Plates menu, we tried Pansit Bihon with Shrimp (rice noodles with vegetables, crunchy garlic and mushrooms). This dish was $13.50 and ended up being another favorite of my kids and husband.
Karenderya was a very tasty, satisfying and affordable meal and just about a 30 minute drive from our house. I know we’ll be back to try more of the menu and to repeat some dishes. And I hope some readers will make the trip, too.
And parents, the spot is very kid friendly. My girls were so happy with their rice, rice noodles and spring rolls. There were kids at many of the other tables on our visit.
On the Subject of the Philippines
Around the same time Karenderya opened, I was asked by a former coworker and friend to help set up a non-profit that he and his Filipino-American wife sought to create having the goal of advancing the general betterment of the people of the Philippines. In just over a year since its creation, Project Phil has made vast strides in its dual initiatives to help deserving students obtain scholarships to a well established private institution in Manila, and to provide care packages and support to combat health and hunger issues faced by families in need in impoverished areas of the country, like Pasay City.
I have had the honor of sitting on the Board of Project Phil since its inception, and my involvement with this awesome charity certainly made my visit to Karenderya that much more special to me. To learn more about Project Phil, please visit projectphil.org.
A Final Sweet Note (Plus a reminder that you’re very close to the palisades center)
If lunch leaves you longing for something sweet, just walk a few blocks over to Boxer Donut and Espresso. The staff is friendly and the doughnuts are light and airy. Not a bad finish to your day in Nyack.
AND if you’re looking for some action and excitement to counteract all that eating, may I remind you that the Palisades Center and all of its family friendly bells and whistles is just a five minute drive from Nyack?!
Karenderya is located at 248 Main Street in Nyack, NY. The restaurant is open from 5pm until 8:30pm on Tuesdays through Thursdays and until 9:30pm on Fridays. Saturday hours are 11:30am - 9:30pm and Sunday hours are 11:30am to 8pm. Closed Mondays. As mentioned above, aim to arrive at opening to avoid waits.