Social Eatz’s Kung Pao Chicken Sandwich is a Home Run
I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first walked into Social Eatz. I’m not sure if that hesitation stemmed from the idiosyncratic theme of regularly replacing “S”s with “Z”s, the bubbly cartoon logo, or the fact that the owners of Circle – a nightclub near and dear to this contributor’s heart, but certainly not known for their food – are the majority investors of the restaurant. On the other hand, backing from the Chace restaurant group (OBao, Spot Dessert Bar, Ember Room) and Top Chef All Star, Angelo Sosa, in the kitchen certainly gives Social Eatz a note of credibility, not to mention star power.
Like Sosa’s previous project, Xie Xie, the menu is heavily driven by Asian inspired sandwiches and is rounded out with soups, salads, and appetizers. And while approximately half of the menu is under the ML accepted price threshold, Social Eatz presents a unique opportunity to eat a Midtown lunch at a “Celebrity Chef” restaurant – and indeed it is possible to eat very well for under $10.
For the sake of my obsession with Korean tacos, Social Eatz’s version ($9) were a must-try for me. An order comes as two tacos, stuffed with skirt steak – nicely charred for a good smoky profile, meaty, tender, and a mite bit sweet – on a single layered wheat tortilla (Lo siento Mamacita). The flavor also finds its legs from a napa cabbage slaw, fresh cilantro, lightly pickled carrots, and what I think was a mayonnaise based sauce with notes of kimchi. It’s a good attempt at Korean tacos, but falls short of the versions I’ve tried at Korilla and Bann Next Door. The overall flavor profile is also oddly focused on the sweet side – given my experience at Xie Xie, I believe that Chef Sosa has a major sweet tooth – and a squirt of Sriracha is needed to bring any semblance of heat. For $9, it might not completely satisfy the hungrier among us, but if you must have Korean tacos, you could do far worse than this version.
On the other hand, Sosa hits a home run with the Kung Pao Chicken sandwich, which at $9 is not only a filling lunch, but also packs a whole heck of a lot of flavor in each bite. The sandwich deconstructs the elements of kung pao chicken, which prominently features peanuts as one of the primary flavors. Instead of using the whole legume, Sosa uses what is ostensibly peanut butter mayonnaise, giving the sandwich well rounded elements of sweetness and nuttiness to play with the soy and sesame marinated chunks of chicken.
This dish also comes with a small tin of fries, which I’m sure were appetizing at some point in their life, but were served cold and stale on my visit. I’ll give Social Eatz the benefit of the doubt as the dining room was empty during my visit, which spells certain doom for fries unless they’re cooked to order.
Filed under the category of “Delicious but insubstantial” was the ‘Imperialist hotdog’ ($8), which is composed of a house made chicken sausage, split and stuffed with a sweet onion relish and served on a toasty bun. As tasty as this dish is, it’s not enough for a meal and the addition of any of the sides would bring you well over the $10 mark.
Given Chef Sosa’s pedigree at high end restaurants such as Jean George, Spice Market, and Buddakan, he does a good job of restraining himself, creating food that’s not only a decent value for money, but also refined and flavorful. Despite the gimmicks and the fact that it’s one of the pricier Midtown lunch approved restaurants, I can get behind this opening – the food is simply good eatz.
The + (What somebody who likes this would say)
- Good Asian inspired sandwiches to replace the void left by the closing of Xie Xie and Mantao
- The food, even the items under $10, is very tasty
- Is that Angelo Sosa I see? *Swoon*
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I’m not 100% full unless I spend more than $10
- Everything is so dang sweet!
- Top Chef Season 7 kind of sucked, and Angelo totally sabotaged Amanda, Tamesha, and Tiffany
Social Eatz, 232 E 53rd St (btw 2nd & 3rd Ave), 212-207-3339