If you know anything about me, it’s that I love food. I look at, write about, and talk about food everyday at my day job. I plan meals I’m going to cook, meals that I’m going to eat and new restaurants to try. So it was natural that while in New York, I was going to eat as much as humanly possible. That said, given my small appetite, it’s a tough challenge! It has become a running joke among my friends, that I don’t eat very much and that they can have my leftovers. People know if they go traveling with me or go out to eat with me, they get to benefit from extra food!
I put together a humongous list of restaurants and places to eat, more than I could ever dream to eat in my one visit, but I was sure going to try! New York City, if anything, is food heaven. I mainly concentrated on places that were quick and on the inexpensive side. With many fabulously famous restaurants in the city, and no one to enjoy them with, I decided to save those for another visit. Plus, I can never bring myself to have a meal by myself in a restaurant. Maybe one day I will work up my courage to do it..
Here is the best of what I ate during my trip in NYC. Warning! This is a long post full of delicious bites! Stomachs, be warned.
When you say you’re going to New York, everyone tells you to you to have a slice of true New York pizza. When I think of NY style pizza I think of thin crusts, picking it up and folding it over, and lots of cheese oozing off of the slice. But once in the city, pizza is a sensitive topic in New York. Ask anyone and they will take you to the best slice in the city and each person will have a different opinion.
My pick of choice was the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn under the shadow of the Brooklyn bridge. It’s history is a story that could be the basis of a movie; like many other immigrant stories it told of an underdog overcoming challenges, coming out on top and headed off into retirement, but not for long.
Turns out, the original owners and creators of Grimaldi came out of retirement and opened up another pizza joint – right next to their former business and in their former space. So if you’re looking for the real authentic Grimaldi pizza you should be going to Juliana’s. Word on the street, at least according to the Gothamist and Serious Eats, is that they’re better too. Next time!
Even in the middle of the afternoon, between lunch and dinner, there was a long line to get in. They managed to turn tables fairly quickly and we only had to wait 30 minutes. We ordered a margarita with pepperoni and shared.
The pie that came out of the oven that day was superb. It was everything that I thought it would be. Cheesy, thin crusts and delicious. However, I found the overall pizza to be rather greasy which could be good or bad, depending on the individual. I wonder how the other institutions of the pizza world fare? Next time!
1 Front St, New York
The Hot Dog
Everyone has an image in their head of going to New York and picking up a hot dog or two from a city cart. You see it in movies and TV shows all the time.
Except you probably shouldn’t. The nicknames for these carts? Dirty water carts.
While I don’t know if the water is actually dirty, but I’m not taking chances. A little research and you’ll find there are two chains to grab a hot dog at: Gray’s Papaya and Papaya King. What papayas have to do with hot dogs? I’m not so sure.
I went with Gray’s Papaya because of their advertised “Recession Special”: two hot dogs and a drink for $5. Not a bad deal. For my drink I picked their namesake: the papaya drink. It didn’t taste very good and gave me an upset stomach. It was very bland and didn’t taste at all like the fruit (which I love).
The hot dogs were okay, but nothing spectacular. It can’t be missed. You can see the restaurant, if you can call it that, with its bright yellow with neon signs flashing every direction from a block away! Despite the average hot dog, this place is an institution and pretty popular in pop culture as well.
2090 Broadway (between 72nd St & 73rd St)
After a day wandering midtown, we wanted to try something different, and seeing as how we were close to Koreatown, we went with Korean food. After a quick search on Yelp, we settled on Pocha 32. Let’s just say the experience was interesting.
Through a small set of doors, you climb up a narrow staircase into a greenish, dark room with a low ceiling. All around you are fishing nets dangling from the ceiling and walls. Inside are slips of paper left from previous patrons. A very surreal experience.
Everyone was ordering the watermelon soju which comes in a giant watermelon. We didn’t get one as they require passports as a form of ID, but I totally would have had I been carrying my passport! We didn’t have to wait to get a table, but soon after we sat down a line started forming. It’s clear that this place is popular.
We ordered one of the most popular items on the menu: the budae jjigae. I had never had this before and was pretty surprised by what we received. It looked like a huge mess in a pot.
Budae jjigae developed as a result of the Korean war. Due to the lack of meat immediately after the war, Koreans took US Army food like hot dogs, and spam and put them into a spicy stew made with gochujang and kimchi. In this version, mixed in as well were ramen noodles, rice cakes, pork slices, a few veggies and to top it all off? Cheese! This dish is a true fusion of Asian and Western junk food. It was certainly a mix of really strange things that I wouldn’t normally put together in a pot.
I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if it weren’t mind-numbingly spicy. By the time I had one bowl of the stuff, my mouth was on fire. I also really didn’t enjoy the cheese in it, that was just a bit too strange for me.
15 W 32nd St #2
Nan Xiang Dumpling House
After reading and hearing all about the fantastic Chinese food available in Flushing Queens, of course I wanted to check it out. In Vancouver, we’re spoiled by how many great Chinese restaurants there are in the area. So much so that Chinese food anywhere else usually disappoints. I was determined to find something great in Flushing.
Did I? Sort of. We went to Nan Xiang Dumpling House which comes highly recommended on Yelp, Urbanspoon and Serious Eats proclaimed them possibly the best soup dumplings in the city. Maybe it was too hyped up or maybe I didn’t order the right things, but it was just okay. Nothing spectacular, but for my brother, who was starting school in the city, it was good to know that he had options.
We ordered of course, the xiao long bao soup dumplings as well as an order of fried rice cakes. The dumplings themselves were pretty good. Very flavourful and the soup was just right. The rice cakes were okay, but didn’t have much flavour. My grandmother could make a better dish.
There are so many places to eat in Flushing. I could really just go there for a month and just eat and eat and still not have tried every place!
38-12 Prince St
Oh the things that I have heard about Shake Shack. I was really looking forward to this meal. Instead of fighting the crowds at their Madison Square Park location, I went to another one on the Upper West Side.
We picked up a concrete as well as a couple of burgers and fries. For our concrete we went with the Shack Road – chocolate custard, chocolate truffle cookie dough, marshmallow sauce and almonds. Each location has different combinations so it’s fun exploring all the options. I found the concrete to be overly sweet, but it was satisfying in the New York City heat! But it sure melted quickly. The burgers were good. I ordered the single ShackBurger while my brother got the SmokeShack which he really liked. The sauce on it was really good.
366 Columbus Ave
Hidden inside a dark corner of Le Parker Meridien hotel, you will find this unassuming secret burger place: the Burger Joint.
Except it’s not so secret because even though I was there in the middle of the afternoon, the line stretched out the door and almost into the lobby of the hotel. It can be easy to miss the unmistakable neon burger sign, but it’s there down a hallway on one side of the check in desk.
I ordered their hamburger with everything (except onions – ew) with a side of fries. I loved their fries – definitely better than Shake Shack. The burger was pretty decent as well, but I think Shake Shack had a slight edge on them. Either way, this was a tasty burger and I’d definitely go to this secret, not so secret, burger place again.
119 W 56th St
Num Pang Sandwich Shop
What I would do for a banh mi sandwich? There is something just so perfect about the slight tanginess of the pickled veggies (especially the daikon!) against the savory meats. This one that I picked up from Num Pang Sandwich Shop was no different.
I grabbed their pulled pork banh mi from their location inside Chelsea Market. While it wasn’t the best pulled pork (I found it a bit on the dry side), the spicy honey sauce drizzled on it was tasty and soon had my mouth on fire. This is a great location to pick up something and enjoy along the Highline.
Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave
I wrote about this previously as well naming it the best thing I ate while in New York. I still stand by those words. At least until the next time I’m in the city!
205 E Houston St
I have already written about this place in my best meals of 2013 roundup, but as a refresher, this bagel was delicious. Freshly made, lightly toasted with a generous helping of salmon spread. The everything bagel had a perfect balance of poppy seed to sesame seed to salt to everything else ratio. With bagel places a dime a dozen in New York, this one was definitely worth the visit. I’ll have to try everything else next time!
The Worst Bite
Okay, I lied when I said I was only going to write about the best of what I ate. I thought this would be worth a mention. I did not enjoy my meal at Veselka I’ve had plenty of Ukrainian food before, but this didn’t live up to expectations.
From all the rave reviews it just was a major let down. The portions were small and the plates pricy. Not worth the hype in my opinion, but maybe we picked the wrong items off the menu. We ordered their pierogi and their blintzes.
Despite all that, this restaurant has a lot of history and is worth supporting.
Wafels and Dinges
Anytime I see the opportunity to have a Belgium waffle I take it. I’m constantly in search of the perfect Liege waffle. I ate so many of these during my time in Maastricht in the southern Netherlands and so far nothing in my search has come close. So naturally when I stumbled upon the Wafels and Dinges cart, I made a beeline for it. I ordered a Liege wafel which comes with one topping or Dinges as they refer to them. I choose strawberries. The waffle was light and fluffy, slightly sticky. Not the exact the same as the ones I had in Europe, but it made for a great snack while walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.
194 E 2nd St
Follow them on Twitter for updates on their truck locations.
Brooklyn Ice Cream Company
Looking for the perfect way to end a meal? How about a scoop or two of ice cream from the Brooklyn Ice Cream Company? That is exactly what we did after our pizza even though we were stuffed. Located a short walk away from Grimaldi’s, we picked up some ice cream before wandering around Brooklyn for a bit.
The Brooklyn Ice Cream Company churns their own ice cream on location in small batches. The original location, the one we visited, is located in a fireboat house, giving it a distinctive charm. They advertise as using only pure and natural ingredients which sounds good to me.
Be prepared for a massive line! It went out the door and down the pier area. While scouting the area, we found a smaller cart that was also selling their ice cream. My brother opted to share a cup of ice cream with me. Our picks? Coffee and Vanilla Chocolate Chunk. This ice cream was rich! The coffee flavour was intense and I loved biting into the chunks of chocolate. Definitely worth making the trip across the Brooklyn bridge. Plus, you get a great view of Manhattan. Remember: they’re cash only!
The Corners of Old Fulton and Water Street
Sunday – Sunday 12 pm – 10pm
Good to Know
Posted on the windows of every restaurant are letter grades given by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. These letters are a result of annual inspections for food safety. It gives you some piece of mind knowing that the random restaurant you’re going into has a pretty good sanitation record. Find out more about it at Untapped Cities.
Have you been to New York City? What are your favorite bites in the city?
P.S. See what I ate on my second visit to New York: Eating New York City 1.0