Oh no you didn’t… Oh, yes I did! A post on.. well.. everything. I’m not writing about pizza or Indian food, or where to get the best Cheesecake, this is a post on everything. A one time stop for the confused visitor that knows only what he reads in his guide book, and Trip Advisor ranking. In other words, just a tad smarter than Klauss. I have news for you Mr visitor. We New Yorkers don’t eat Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders. Well, the last one on occasion, but having the word “Manhattan” in it should not automatically qualify it for the guidebooks.
A month ago at our company we had visitors from Minnesota. When we ordered food for lunch, there was a moment that shook me a little. One member of the Minnesota gang pointed to something and said “What’s that”. To which I replied “this my friend, is a Falafel”. Locals eat more falafels than Cheesecakes, Knishes, and Manhattan Clam Chowders combined in NYC, but you would never guess by just reading the guidebook. Let me help set you straight
I will try my best to make it as comprehensive as possible, and update as often as I can. Something to chew on before I leave for yet another trip to Turks (lobsta calling my name). But there’s a chance I may forget a few things, so I would appreciate some help via comments if that indeed happens. Its essentially a guide to help you understand what you should be targeting in NYC. Here we go…
Eat Pizza – Yes, we eat a lot of pizza. Every block where I live has these 3 essentials. Pizza, Bagels, and a pharmacy to help you cope with all that pizza and bagels. There’s great pizza everywhere in NYC and I’m not going to even attempt to name all the best spots, but here are a few
Slice – You have the usual suspects like Joe’s on Carmines and Di Fara in Brooklyn, but the truth is that there are plenty of solid slices out there and the 50th best slice is not really that far behind the 2nd best slice taste wise. Consider Sacco in Hell’s Kitchen, Prince Street Pizza, “Best Pizza” in Williamsburg might very well be best with their wood burning oven slice, and for something a bit different and not very New Yorky consider the thin squares at Merilu. BTW, for those Di Fara bound, the pilgrimage may cost you half a day of travel and waiting for quite a while for your slice. Not worth it if yo ask me, but if you must…
Pies – While the guide books will guide you across the bridge and make you stand for 30-90 bone chilling minutes on a long line (and fail to tell you that the real Grimaldi is actually next door dishing them out at Juliana’s), you can get similar or better quality all over the city. Consider Capizzi in midtown, where you will not find any long waits whatsoever. Or how about the thin vodka pies at Rubirosa, an offshoot of the great Joe and Pat’s in Staten Island. For your fancy Neapolitan pies there are a lot of great options and I strongly suggest to try at least one. Consider Motorino, Don Antonio, Keste, Paulie Gees, and Roberta’s at a food festival near you (if you cant Bushwick it). You can even get a decent pie in Eataly. Also consider the Neapolitan archenemy, the mighty Roman pie at Marta. Well, its not very mighty with its matzoh like thickness, but its quite delicious, not to mention everything else Marta offers. You can have a great meal here without even touching the pies
Eat Burgers – As with pizza this is a very difficult topic to cover as there are so many choices, and so many kinds. You are not only dealing with a plethora of Burger joints but you also have them on just about every French/Italian/American, you name it menu and everyone trying to outdo each other. For your fast food smallish burger, yes, I suppose Shake Shack will do, and the pain that comes with it (long lines, fighting an old lady for a seat). But head to Gotham West Market, and you can find another solid burger at Genuine Roadside where you’ll find no lines, and no old ladies to fight. Try the terrific Chicken Sandwich too while you at it. For the middle of the road, regular burger try Corner Bistro, Island Burger and Shakes and the rest of my Hell’s Kitchen picks I outline here
For the fancier stuff, Minetta Tavern’s Black Label is still the king, as one of a few burgers out there where the meat is so good, you can get it practically naked. Meaning the burger! Also consider Minetta’s sister Cherche Midi’s much hyped burger these days. Bowery Meat Company uses the same supplier for its excellent patty (though I wish the fries would have been better). Other solid players include the Breslin’s terrific Lamb Burger, Bar Sardine’s popular Fedora burger, The Gender’s burger with beef aioli, and the Spotted Pig with its addictive fries. But if you’d point a gun at my head and make me choose one, I would ask you to please put the gun down, then proceed to kick your ass and call the cops. Once you are out, I would direct you to the NoMad Bar where you’ll find the best combination of quality burger, fries, and ease of getting a table (No reservations tho)
Eat Bagels, Lux – No shortage of great bagels all over town. With Absolute Bagel, Pick-a-Bagel in midtown, Ess-a-Bagel, and Murrays you pretty much have all the corners covered. And while Russ & Daughters doesn’t bake their own, their Brooklyn Supplier is as old school and solid as they come. R&D is an icon, and so very touristy for good reason. But once you experience it, consider something like Shelsky’s in Brooklyn, or Nordic Preserves in Essex Market, for much of the quality and none of the pain.
Eat Italian – In NYC, one should take advantage of our Italian dining. Even Italians coming from Italy do so, and appreciate the wide array that NYC has to offer. From the amazing seafood of Marea, to simple neighborhood spots like Da Andrea. Consider Mercato and its southern Italian fare (real southern, not Brooklyn southern), or perhaps Bat Pitti in the village. How about All’onda, and Piora for some Asian influence. Or a taste of Emilia Romagna in Osteria Morini or Salumeria Rossi. Marta can certainly enter the discussion, and its sister Maialino is perhaps my favorite of all. If you need to choose one, thats the one. Or consider Scarpetta whose menu includes many popular staples. Babbo is possibly entering icon territory, Del Posto may be already there among the high ends, while the inventive Lincoln remains under everyone’s radar. In NYC we also have the classic New York Italian, aka red sauce American Italian cuisine that one may try. The Guide Books will direct you to the Theater District and Little Italy, but for proper tasting consider something like Rubirosa or Carbone
Eat American – This is another big topic. The one place that always comes to mind where you can get that old quintessential NY feel is Minetta Tavern. Eleven Madison Park light, The NoMad is another solid choice with its celebrated Chicken for two. In Midtown consider Betony, runner up for James Beard’s Best New Restaurant award last year. Louro is a dependable neighborhood joint with rotating menus, and theme dinners on Mondays. Consider the Dutch and its terrific fried chicken and more, which brings us to Root and Bone where the bird reigns over a solid southern inspired menu. The veggies reign supreme at Narcissa, and the Marshal is not only extremely veg friendly, but covers all the classics well. For something different consider the winter game festival at Henry’s End.
You also have a slew of Asian inspired American like the inspiring Annisa, and the David Chang’s empire, especially Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Ma Peche. Consider a visit to newcomer Tuome, featuring a young chef with an attitude.
Eat Pastrami – Yes, yes go to Katz’s. That’s not a tourist trap, but the real deal. In Midtown, Carnegie Deli keeps chugging along, while Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop in Flatironhas been raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929. Try perhaps the Montreal Jewish style pastrami at Mile End. Or for something completely different, consider the pastrami sandwich at Dickson’s the great meat purveyor in Chelsea Market where the pastrami is more marbled and comes with a smear of apricot chutney or however they do it that day. Yummo!
Eat Steak – Visitors come to NYC looking to eat steak in something called a “Steakhouse”. It’s one of the most common questions on Trip Advisor… what is the Best Steakhouse. Well, you do have the icons like Keen’s, and Peter Luger that folks will no doubt pick over Wolfgang’s which started by an employee that worked for Luger for 40 years and offers a similar Porterhouse. But the beauty of NYC steaks is that just like burgers, you can get great steak anywhere pretty much including in modern “I cant believe this is not a steakhouse” steakhouse. Consider the Bowery Steak at Bowery Meat Company, which consists of the Ribeye cap (the best part of the ribeye). The Minetta Tavern Cote de Boeuf is perhaps the most celebrated cut in Manhattan. Though for us, that honor would go to the Costata Tomahawk Ribeye which like the Cote de Boeauf, can feed a small Armenian village.
Eat French – Classic french, new and old are still plentiful in the city. You got the usual haute suspects with Per Se, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Bouley, Daniel (who am I missing. I dont want to upset anyone and get hate mail). Then you have the bistro fair like Balthazar, and yes even Minetta Tavern which I’m adding to just about every category here (they even have a take on the Italian Carbonara, called Pasta Za Za). Consider Benoit in Midtown, and Chez Napoleon may be as old school as it gets. For something different however, consider Le Philosophe for a fresh take on old classic
Eat BBQ – A few years ago, the proper recommendation would be to skip BBQ in NYC. But time, they are a changing. In midtown if you must, head west to Daisy May’s BBQ USA, in case you forget what country you are in. In Brooklyn you have Fette Sau and BrisketTown which also sells its sick brisket on the High Line in the warmer months. But the mightiest of all might very well be Mighty Quinn’s which you can enjoy in both West and East village, among other more remote locations. For the “I cant believe this is not BBQ” experience that almost no one talks about, consider Georgia’s Eastside BBQ in the Lower East Side.
Eat Ethnic – Need to take a break. More to come after these words from our sponsors… Are your menopause changes causing bleeding, irritation, pain during sexual intercourse? Try Premarin, a Virginal Cream you can count on.
Ok, I have a confession. This was not a real commercial! But, I do need to take a break, as my arm is tired and I already used all the adjectives known to me on one page
The ethnic plays will have their own page when the time comes. Stay tuned…
Ok, you said to comment, so here’s mine. There was a little teaser in your second paragraph about NYers eating more falafel than cheesecake etc, but then no mention of where to eat falafel in NYC! You must include falafel! And while you’re at it, where to eat the best hummus and all things middle eastern. No NYC “where to eat” guide should exclude these imo. Thanks 😉
Enjoy the trip to Turks, or is it Turkey?