Continuing the What to Eat in NYC miniseries. Part 1 is here. Ethnic food is a big part of our daily diet hence it requires its own page. What should you target in NYC of course depends on where you are coming from, but these are generally the areas of excellence in NYC…
Eat Thai – NYC has a thriving Thai food scene, and for reasons unknown to me the area known as Hell’s Kitchen is leading the Pad pack. New Thai restaurants keep opening and existing ones keep multiplying right next to each other. Yum Yum 1,2,3 all on the same block, and Wondee Siam with its three locations is another example. But my favorites are Pure Thai Cookhouse with its vibrant menu, and fun vibe, and Larb Ubol specializing in Isan (North Thailand) cooking. Lately however I’ve been cheating on those two with an old timer, Pam Real Thai. Outside of HK, you got the great Somtum Der in East Village, and the popular Uncle Boons not too far. Zabb Elee is another excellent Isan, and if you can somehow make it to Pok Pok in Brooklyn, you are in for a treat. While not exactly Thai, the Laos inspired Khe-Yo is quite unique in itself and deserves a mention
Eat Indian – We eat a lot of Indian food, and the scene overall is fairly competitive. Between Curry Hill and Curry Row in the East Village alone you have a slew of very good options. In the East Village, guidebooks and TV shows may direct you to the Gimmicky Bricklane Curry House, but I suggest heading to Malai Marke around the corner. In Curry Hill you have Chote Nawab, the vegetarian Vatan, and the southern flavors of Kokum and Anjappar. Moving uptown, Moti Mahal Delux is part of a worldwide chain known for their butter chicken, and newcomer Awadh across in the west. But if you are mesmerized by the Times Square lights and cant leave, Basara on 9th may do the trick
Eat Middle Eastern -Middle Eastern plays a big part in our Mediterranean diet. You got a few mini empires fighting for the top rights. Einat Admony with Balaboosta, Bar Bolonat and Taim is perhaps the biggest Israeli name at the moment. While Taboon continues to be a strong option in midtown, especially now with its original chef coming back. Baby sister Taboonette dishes out unique healthy[ier] street food in Union Square. Modern Lebanese hot spot Ilili has been around for some time now. Gazala showcases her Druze specialties in two location, Gazala’s and Gazala’s Place. And Zizi Limona in Williamsburg is a product of three veterans who know how to treat the classics well. Speaking of which…
Eat Falafel – While visitors seek that perfect New York Cheesecake, keep in mind that we New Yorkers argue more on who has the best Falafel. Is it Taim in the village? Is it Azuri in midtown where watching Ezra make it is like watching Picasso paint. Or is it the nostalgically cheap Mamoun’s. None of the above. Top marks go to Nish Nush which is yet to be discovered by many locals, and those who did will certainty not appreciate me touting it. But the others, especially Taim’s marvelous platter, and Azuri’s sandwich and Shawarma will do you just fine.
Eat Ramen – We are in the midst of a ramen revolution in NYC, and I dont hear anyone complaining. Except for Mrs Z perhaps who wants to go to Ippudo now on a regular basis including Jewish holidays. In Hell’s Kitchen alone you can feel that craze. Even former none ramen establishments are joining the fun. The delicious Akamaru Modern at Ippudo is leading the pack, while the Spicy Ramen at Totto is not far behind. Ivan Ramen in Gotham West is another option, though I would be tempted to get the Smoked Salmon Donburi, formerly known as Smoked Whitefish Donburi instead. But to get a fuller taste of the Ivan without sounding too dirty, one must go to the downtown location. One option that gets overlooked by many is Bassanova in Chinatown with its fiery and unusual Green Curry Ramen. And while you ate it, give the lemon and pepper Ramen a shot as well.
Eat Chinese – Some folks familiar with the Chinese scene here, may be asking themselves at this point, how is this guy going to cover our entire Chinese arsenal in one paragraph. I cant, and I wont, but I’ll offer a small glimpse just like with the rest. Some of the best Chinese Food is offered outside of our many Chinatowns, like the Szechuan Gourmet empire (I frequent the one on 56th st). A recent discovery for me is Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns and their addictive Shanghai style soup dumplings. Talking of which, Prosperity Dumplings is perhaps the biggest value in town, and that’s saying a lot. Mission Chinese Food is the hottest Chinese play in the city right now, and may even be when you read this a year from now. Han Dynasty, a Philly chain is doing a lot of things right seems like. And do check out at least one of our Chinatowns. Dim Sum in Golden Unicorn, or if you feel adventurous, East Harbor Seafood Palace in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, followed by cruising along tourist free zone 8th ave.
Eat Mexican – Lower your eyebrows and listen up. The notion that there’s no decent Mexican in NYC is sooooo 2013. In the last few years a slew of exciting young chefs like Alex Stupak has given us some very cool options. Stupak perhaps is leading the rat pack with the Empellon empire… Empellon Cocina is the flagship, Empellon Taqueria is the high end Taqueria, while the new Empellon Al Pastor is the more basic Taqueria highlighting the namesake Al Pastor. Other options include Tehuitzingo, the fine taqueria in Hell’s Kitchen and its bigger neighbor Tulcingo Del Valle. Visitors flock to the more polished and Toloache practically in Times Square, and while I don’t have any quarrels with it (I recommended it myself), I tend to feel more at home in the previous two. Los Tacos #1 at the Chelsea Market is another great option if you can brave the crowds, though I would opt for something more along the lines of Otto’s Tacos which is in the process of opening a branch in Hell’s Kitchen. Another one to consider is Mission Cantina, home to the best Burrito in NYC, not surprisingly coming from the Mission neighborhood in SF
Eat Eastern European – Perhaps this is more for the Coney Island bound tourists who should keep in mind that there’s much more to downtown Brooklyn than a Hot Dog. The area adjacent known as Brighton Beach is loaded with all sorts of great Uzbek, Russian, Georgian and even Uzbek/Korean delights. Consider Cafe Glechik on Coney Island Ave, sort of a Russian institution in the area. Or perhaps Tone Cafe, aka Georgian Bread for the great Adjaruli Khatchapuri. Uzbek/Uyghur specialty Kashkar Cafe is an absolute gem, and one of my favorite restaurants in whole of Brooklyn. For a livelier Uzbek filled with Russians on a daily basis there’s Cafe Nargis a few blocks north on Coney Island ave. Cant leave Manhattan but still want a small taste? Veselka, Oda House, and Uncle Vanya in midtown should be able to take good care of you. Unless you are a vegeterian
Eat Tapas – Basque, other Spanish, Mediterranean tapas galore all over. In Chelsea alone you can Patata Brava to your heart’s delight, starting with tiny Tia Pol and ending with Toro near the Chelsea Market. In the East Village you have the fun Cata, and lately I’ve been itching to go back to her sister Alta. Tertulia has its fans in the West Village, while I’ve been enjoying its sister El Colmado in Gotham West Market lately. Many locals are in love with Casa Mono, but I need a bit more convincing. And watch out for newly opened Espoleta, some big names behind this project
Eat Miscellaneous – Do you honestly need more ideas? I didnt think so. But all of this is just scratching the surface of what the greatest food city in the world has to offer. In Staten Island for example, you can take advantage of the large Sri Lankan community by trying the museum-like Lakruwana, San Rasa or New Asha. Vietnamese food, while still lagging behind other cities, is getting better. Try Co Ba and Co Ba 53. How about some Korean like Danji, Jungsik, HIT Korean Deli or Food Gallery 32. Filipino inspired? We got plenty of that too.. Lumpia Snack Shack, and Maharlika are just some
Overwhelmed? Join the club. I only live here.