Eat Your Way Around The Big Apple
I’m both a technophile and a foodie, yet I’m not of those annoying people that constantly posts their food pictures on Facebook. Recently, however, I became a bit of a convert to their check-in feature, which helps me to keep track of my favourite bars, restaurants and takeaways. Google maps is also really handy; when I couldn’t remember the name of this great little dive bar I visited the year before, I only had to do a few minutes of clicking around before — lo and behold — Google informs me that I had visited The Salon 12 months previously — Bingo! So when it came to the nearly impossible task of shortlisting the best places to eat in New York, I did some techno-digging to help jog my memory. The results, as it turns out, are worth sharing, and hopefully worthy of some likes.
The classic diner is a great place to have breakfast — or brunch — in New York, but it’s a very hit-and-miss thing. The food is not always great quality and some of the more popular places in the centre are very touristy and require a long time queuing outside for a table. Instead, head down to Old Johns Luncheonette for no-nonsense fresh food and friendly service in a quiet side street near Central Park. Most choices include a free shot of wonderfully sweet, fresh Orange Juice (honestly the best I’ve ever had) and the bacon is out of this world good. The only downside is that it’s impossible to decide whether to go for the savoury egg-based dishes or succumb to the syrup-drenched temptation of waffles, pancakes or French toast. The prices are so reasonable though, you might just decide to go for both.
After probably eating more than is strictly good for you, why not walk it off in Central Park? You can wander around for hours and never run out of things to do. Should you start to feel peckish again there’s something to be said for grabbing a bag of candied nuts or a hot dog from one of vendors, and while I usually wouldn’t recommend the restaurants located inside the park, I’ll make an exception for The Tavern on the Green. Sure, it’s pricey, OK, it’s touristy, but hey, it’s featured in that scene in Ghostbusters where Louis runs away from the giant demon dog, and that’s enough for me. There are tables outside if you just fancy a beer and some nachos too.
I have an Italian Passport and lived in Milan for a year, so trust me when I tell you that Eataly is the best Italian supermarket you’ll ever find anywhere. Sitting across the road from the iconic Flatiron building, it’s Mediterranean gastronomic Nirvana, and the perfect place to stock up for a picnic — Madison Square Park is right outside if you can’t wait to tuck into your purchases. If you’d rather eat in, head to the rooftop (it takes some finding, as the elevators are hidden away at the back and look like the entrance to a storeroom) to enjoy skyline views while ordering from the menu supplied by the deli below. Needless to say, the antipasti platters are a must-have.
For most of us, Lobster is the ultimate luxury food. And sure enough, there are plenty of swanky places in New York to enjoy them in the traditional way — as long as you’re willing to re-mortgage your house or sell your firstborn child. Nowhere, however, will you find a fresher, larger, and tastier crustacean than at the Chelsea Market Lobster Place, and although it’s not exactly a MacDonald’s, it won’t break the bank either. After you’re done staring at the mountains of freshly steamed lobsters, walk up to the counter and choose how big you want yours– I spotted one bad boy in there weighing over 7 pounds — and find a place to perch. Somehow, as you dip enormous chunks of delicious meat into melted butter, the fact that there are no seats becomes pretty irrelevant. You’re welcome.
If you’re a steak lover on a budget, you should stay well clear of Gallaghers. Because chances are that if you gaze into its wondrous meat locker (yes, they have a room with glass doors full of meat) you’ll be compelled to go in and spend an obscene amount of money. The cocktails are pretty tasty too. Just don’t look at the bill too long.
Should you max out the credit card on some fine Porterhose steak though, you can always turn to another New York classic for the rest of your stay. Everywhere you look, there are Pizza places offering reasonably priced slices. These are not only ridiculously cheap, but also hot, tasty and gigantic. Even a few dollars will buy you a feast, and you’ll be in good company, as the best places proudly display pictures of their celebrity regulars along the counter.
Top tip for a cheap night out? Head to the Village, grab a takeaway at Bleecker Street Pizza and walk a couple of blocks down to 55 Bar, which has a 2-drink per set minimum cover, but actively encourages folks to bring in or order their own food. Sit back, order a beer, and enjoy some fine live jazz with your $1 slices.
In the mood for dessert? I know just the place. Back in 2009, Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff got themselves an ice cream van with a difference. It proved such a huge hit that they went on to open two Big Gay Ice Cream shops, and on a busy West Village Saturday night, the well-managed queue winds its way around the block. My Salty Pimp ice cream cone, however, was well worth the wait.
Speaking of sweets, one is really spoiled for cake choices in New York, and asking locals what’s the best cheesecake in town is likely to spark passionate debate. Yet for me the Magnolia Bakery is hard to beat. They have a nearly endless variety of cakes, biscuits, ice cream, tarts and puddings, but if you only have one sweet treat while in NY, it should be their Red Velvet Cheesecake. Enough said.
Originally published at Alice Bonasio.