Since so many of you are paying attention to this Z-List for some reason, I figured I might as well help you out with a little map. The same map appears at the bottom of the Z-List page.
Since so many of you are paying attention to this Z-List for some reason, I figured I might as well help you out with a little map. The same map appears at the bottom of the Z-List page.
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.
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…
Twice a year the Hummus Whisperer and I are freed by our spouses to ride with the winds between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan while enjoying culinary freedom. This time our tour included a neighborhood in Brooklyn, a romantic deserted island, a burrito, and a whole lot of butt texting. All photos and texting courtesy of an Iphone 5 fresh off a broken lock button, which meant butt calling and but texting galore before I realized that the top button no longer does it job. I would call people while talking to them.. “Excuse me… oh its you”.. “What?”
We parked near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge as always, and this time we opted to stay relatively close for a breakfast snack and explore the area of Boerum Hill. Walking on Smith st reminded me how much I miss that area. I dont know if it was a hangover symptom but you can actually hear birds singing in some of the relatively quiet and tree lined side streets. Smith st. has some of the best concentration of fine dining/bars/food stores in Brooklyn. It was slightly truer before Michelin Starred Saul moved to the Brooklyn Museum.
Our first food stop was Shelsky’s, a mini Russ and Daughter’s with an attitude if you will. The plain bagel with cream cheese and a silky smooth Gaspe Nova was just what we ordered! Great loxy flavor without the R&D pain (I’m talking about both Russ & Daughters and the lox our R&D dep’t consumes).
After our little picnic in Brooklyn Borough Hall, we picked up a bike and crossed Brooklyn Bridge which was relatively quiet at 10 am. Plenty of bike lane wary tourists still but not wall to wall zoo as before.
On the Manhattan side not too far from the bridge I noticed a large Asian group practicing Falun Dafa (or Falun Gong) meditation. This practice which disciplines Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance, got so popular in china in the 90’s that it was quickly banned by the government as it was seen as a threat. I was told by a Chinese woman that a million Chinese followers have either died or imprisoned over the years and the rest of the world cant do much about it. Seeing this group was a sharp reminder that we take our freedom for granted.
Riding in Chinatown is not the most pleasant ride, but always interesting. There arent too many neighborhoods out there where you get a sense of community like here. At some point on Hester street we saw people dancing in a park. Where else do you see that at 10 am? HW and I debated whether to show them a few moves of our own but we had an appointment with dumplings, Prosperity Dumplings. Four meaty, greasy (in a good way) pork and chive dumplings for a buck. You cant get a better deal than this in NYC – its not economically feasible. Last week I tried the recently opened Mimi Cheng’s dumplings in East Village which is getting some press and lines out the door. While they were good, for $8 per 6, I would take Prosperity any day.
We continued to ride to the East Village for a desperately needed thirst quencher and its pretty clear where we are headed since we get this drink on every one of those rides. The Grasshopper at Liquiteria, a popular neighborhood fresh juice joint. They used to make it fresh on the spot but now you can find it in the fridge on the left. Try it with some Gray Goose for a much smoother Citibike ride
We now head North to the romantic portion of the trip to 60th, riding entirely on 1st ave which has a great bike lane btw. Both of us making it to Roosevelt Island for the very first time. I always thought I would make it with Mrs Ziggy one day, never with the romantically challenged Hummus Whisperer. It took us about 30 minutes of aimless walking and some bus shuttle hopping to nowhere to realize that god invented Google for a reason. Apparently we need to head to one of the ends, the closest one. So we head south and now I see what the hoopla is all about. Nice park along the water, another park, NYC’s only monument ruin (an old smallpox hospital), and right on the tip, FDR Four Freedoms Park. This is got to be one of New Yorks most stunning parks, and what a setting. FDR’s huge bust overlooking the island brought me back to my old FDR high school in Brooklyn where I learned how to write properly (you guessed it, the school is now closed!)
We headed back to the mothership island, and straight to a game I call Amazing Citibike Race. Its where we realize that the area around us is suddenly short on bikes and we have to scramble. For 15 minutes we had to scramble and run around while constantly checking the bike app. We split, we texted (both real and butt) and at some point some running was even involved, until we got the bikes.
We cruised 2nd ave all the way back downtown. I must say the east side (2nd and 1st) is much friendlier for bikers than the west side (8th,9th). Our best eating is still to come. Well, we haven’t eaten much as you can see and I’m approaching the elusive 1000 word mark (what the hell did I write about). We nixed the two Ivan Ramens and opted for an infamous burrito, and one particular place in Brooklyn that I feel embarrassed for visiting for the first time.
The chicken Burrito at Missions Cantina was a burrito revelation. I’ve had some crafty burritos over the years but this one may have topped them all. The main difference.. no rice. The lack of rice meant less heaviness (a welcome plus in the summer) letting the rest of the ingredients shine. And the toasty flour tortilla is crispy, thin but holds its own for pleasant mess-free eating. I want to come back for the wings and tacos.
You know that the burrito was good when the ride across Manhattan bridge becomes a little more difficult. I felt like telling everyone passing me “dude, I had a burrito.. without rice, more beans”. Manhattan Bridge is a solid alternative to Brooklyn if you don’t want to share the lane with pedestrians taking selfies of themselves getting hit by bikes.
Pok Pok, the Hummus Whisperer’s favorite restaurant in NYC was our last stop. Although I’ve been a big fan of Andy Ricker, I somehow never made it before. The new location in Red Hook looks like a simple diner, but the food is anything but. We only had room for 2 dishes and one of them had to be the wings I kept hearing about. Very solid meaty delicious wings that were plenty sweet and plenty of spice. I liked the Cha Ca La Vong even more (below). Catfish marinated and fried to flaky perfection with all sorts of herb action, rice vermicelli and tangy pineapple-y sauce. Now I really cant wait to come back for more. Great finish to a wonderful day
One of those meals that stays with you for a few days. You think about it when you have your boring scrambled eggs in the morning, and your gloomy salad with kale for lunch a couple of days later. All while you sit there massaging your cat, with soft classical music in the background, sporting a scar. That’s how I pictured Bobby Flay in his new Mediterranean hot spot in NOHO (cat in Spanish) named right after a cat went between his legs while waiting for the real estate broker. But instead of sitting holding a cat, he was in the kitchen doing his thing.
In a city packed with celebrity spots, one does not need to eat in one to have a great meal, and a great meal is certainly far from a guarantee. But this was one of the most enjoyable meals in recent memory (well, 3 months is just about as far as I can go these days — thankfully I have this blog to remind me). With the “5:30 or 10” hotness at the moment, I opted for the senior citizen slot of 5:30. The hostess seemed a little puzzled when I asked if “We are team #1” much to the horror of my kids. Perhaps to clarify the “Amazing Race” reference, I should invest in one of those Travelocity gnomes (though the dude is scarier than some people I know without makeup)
The space is quite striking. It has a spacious, warehousy, rustic, modern but casual feel, with no neighbor in sight. A rarity these days. Though they are taking it slow at the moment and not trying to fill the room. Some prefer to wait until the establishment settles down into a comfortable groove, but not Ziggy. Bring on the uncomfortable groove. With the entire town watching they simply can not afford to make a mistake. Flay is in the kitchen even on a Sunday night. A slew of hostesses, 3 of which helped with our coats. Employees outnumbering guests roughly 3 to 1. The kids had a blast counting the number of times their water was filled (12 times, mostly when it was above 3/4 full). Overall however, no issues whatsoever.
Bar menu — Pick 3 for $17. The 11 layer scalloped potato and the duck liver were quite delectable, but the Eggplant with Manchego and Oregano solidly triumphed above the rest.
Appetizers– Expertly cooked oven roasted Shrimp with Diavolo oil, garlic chips and chile that provided a nice punch. A notch above the average Gambas dish at a tapas joint near you. Octopus was quite scrumptious and when you get it as tender as this, its most enjoyable. The pungent green pepper and salty bacon bits just added to the joy. Pizza with lamb sausage was just a good pizza with lamb sausage, missing the drama of the other dishes. Perhaps losing to Giove is still not sitting well with Flay. Dish of the day nominee… Scrambled Eggs! A Revelation! Almond Romesco (spanish red pepper sauce), Boucheron cheese, super fluffy eggs… what a combo. I suggest trying this without the accompanying oily tomato toasts which have no business being there except to complete the otherwise naked dish
Mains — Crab Risotto (enlarged app) was original and exceptional. Mushroom and Kale paella with egg and artichokes was a glorious combination of flavors and textures, especially once you mix the sticky “Socarrat” from the bottom and the egg. The Halibut was one of the better “white fish with red broth” dishes I’ve had, all due to the addictive saffron tomato sauce with mint and couscous and a perfectly cooked fish.
Dessert —Espresso soaked bread pudding – somewhat flat, more like a weak tiramisu. Not gonna win any awards in NOLA. Chocolate Crema Catalana with hazelnut was much more like it. Like a sick chocolate hazelnut Creme Brulee with that toasty crust and richness beneath. Complimentary Sherry, and exceptionally fresh Biscotti capped off this awe-inspiring meal. I’m a fan!
324 Lafayette St
Recommended Dishes – Eggplant (bar menu), Shrimp, Scrambled Eggs, Octopus, Crab Risotto, Halibut, Mushroom and Kale paella, Chocolate Crema Catalana
So you’ve decided finally to go on a “Holiday” to New York City. Mazal Tov! You probably read by now in your guide books that NYC is the greatest food city in the world. And you are probably waking up every morning thanking god for the gift that keeps on giving, the TripAdvisor Rankings. Between the rankings, the guidebooks, and all the great recommendations by your neighbor’s house sitter Betty (you must go to bubba gump you must) who eloped to NYC last year with 75 of her closest friends, you are all set. Right? Not exactly. Lets take a moment and examine what is wrong with the above plan, and come up with a new one.
Whats wrong with the TA rankings: Everything, and nothing. Its just totally meaningless, especially in NYC. TA is a great traveling tool, but
pretty much totally useless in NYC as far as restaurants are concerned. The main reason for its uselessness is that there are much better research tools in NYC. (more on that later). But lets discuss the rankings for a second shall we. They are so flawed and so out of tune with reality that’s not even funny. The top 50 at the moment is a bizarre mishmash of classics and places I never even heard of. First of all the TA algorithm puts some major weight on the number of reviews. So older establishments may be higher than better reviewed younger ones. And then there are those that have 27 remarkably high reviews that made it all the way to the top 20. And not to mention that 25 of them may be coming from all their employees and families. I always recall this one particular place in Milan where the owner single-handedly put his place #1 with a bunch of obvious fake reviews. At some point he mistakenly gave himself one star, and that followed with 4 quick glorious reviews with a similar language. And once real reviews started coming in, he found himself arguing with every reviewer
But fake reviews don’t have much of a bearing on the busy NYC listings. Tourists do. TripAdvisor is predominately used by tourists, and its especially true in NYC. While you may see locals contribute in other towns and countries where there’s not much of a choice other than TA, in NYC locals use other sites like Yelp. Now, couple the tourist factor with the high volume factor I mentioned above and you can see why something like Basso56 will be near the top as its heavily reviewed by tourists thanks to its location near Times Square. Besides Basso, at the top of the Italian chain on TA at the moment you can find other Italian behemoths like Rafele, Piccola Cucina, Via Della Pace – places I never even heard of. But if you need more convincing than “Ziggy never heard of”, why not just go to Chowhound where all the NY foodies hang out and pull threads that discuss the best Italian in town. You will not find any of those places mentioned. What you will see mentioned are places like Maialino (#95), Babbo (#602), Marea (#194), Lincoln (#882), or even Ziggy fave Costata (#2605). TA numbers are all over the place as you can see, well outside of the top range for the unsuspecting tourist. So while you are eating a Carbonara with cream and bacon at a high ranked theater district place near you, locals out there enjoy the real thing with Guanciale and egg at Maialino.
Same applies to using the rankings everywhere else in the world. My favorite restaurant in our adapted home of Turks and Caicos is Caicos Cafe, rated #20 at the moment, pretty low in T&C standards.
Now, its time to ditch the guide book. Ok, wait.. pick it up.. its actually quite useful for many things. But not so much for food. Yes, you will get some good tips on some NY icons like Katz’s and Russ and Daughters that I recommend. But then you have something like pizza (namely Grimaldi’s) and bagels that NYC is so famous for. While you will not easily find better pastrami than Katz’s, you will easily find better pizza than Grimaldi’s. Actually, all you need to do while standing on line at Grimaldi’s with the rest of the tourists is look to you left at Juliana’s window to see where the real Grimaldi is doing his thing nowadays. But you dont even have to leave your neighborhood in Manhattan to get great pizza that is arguably better than Grimaldi’s.
Besides pizza, your guide book will mislead you in other areas. E.g. Hell’s Kitchen is not a safe area, the place for Italian is Little Italy, and Times Square is a foodie paradise. Your guide book may be up to date as far as facts are concerned (MoMA hours) but not concepts. Little Italy is now a block inside Chinatown riding one of those concepts. There are no Italians living there. Another thing to keep in mind is that the food contributors to the guides may not be necessarily “foodies”. Rick Steves for example does not strike me a foodie, and to follow his advice in Italy or anywhere else is Europe in this day and age is pretty silly. Eating at guidebook recommended establishments and high ranked TA spots also means eating with other tourists who are doing exactly the same thing. Some may find comfort with that, but if you are reading this blog chances are you want to eat where the locals eat.
And as for your neighbor Betty recommendations go, treat them like meeting your dentist at the supermarket. Smile, and move on. Unless Betty, is an avid Eating With Ziggy reader and/or does any of the following…
Read Chowhound – as I mentioned, this is where many of the NYC foodies hang out, and where I get many ideas. Chowhound is probably my wallet’s single worst offender.
Read Yelp Reviews instead of TA reviews. I already touched on this, and its fairly simple. Locals use Yelp, tourists use TA.
Read or Subscribe to Grub Street – You can get all sorts of interesting ideas there, especially from the power rankings. Same idea applies to Eater, or Serious Eats.
Hang out in the TripAdvisor NYC Forum. You dont even have to participate. Its amazing how much knowledge you can get just by reading the forum for a month or two. There are plenty of locals who contribute on a daily basis, and you can also find many discussions on dining by using the search feature
And the most important tip…
Read EatingWithZiggy. Whats so funny. Where do you think I derive my ideas from.
Happy eating, and happy planning!