I recently spent a fortnight in the Big Apple, where I ate not a single apple, but did have roughly 28 meals, maybe more. None of which were bad. I repeat, everything I consumed existed within a scale of This is good to Holy shit this is the best thing I have ever eaten. I was on culinary cloud nine. I was eating ice-cream for dinner. And I know its boring to masticate endlessly over past meals, but I’m transferring my knowledge to you in the hope you will visit New York and eat as well as I did.
Tip: If you’re looking to eat on a budget in NY, then look for descriptions on Yelp or Google that describe the place as ‘no frills’ or ‘bare bones’. This is frequently lingo for stripped back decor or a pocket-sized venue, but it by no means captures the quality of the food, which is more often than not frilly and fleshy. (That sounds kind of weird and gross, but you get where I’m going).
Split pea soup, coffee and chocolate rugelach (a Jewish delicacy, like a cross between a croissant and a pain au chocolate, but adorably minuscule) from Zabar’s deli. Came to about $6 and was incredibly satisfying. The coffee is particularly good there. Plus you get to sit at a communal table and eavesdrop on old lady regulars gossiping about mutual acquaintances.
Breakfast at Veselka, a Ukrainian institution known for its 24hr service. I had its flagship dish – the pierogi – with a seasonal twist – a blueberry filling. So sweet. So indulgent.
Had an ice-cream from the Big Gay Ice Cream shop in Greenwich Village. I had the Salty Pimp, which before you start making assumptions is vanilla ice-cream, swirled with dulce de leche, sprinkled with salt and dipped in chocolate and it was a religious experience.
Dinner at Tehuitzingo Deli & Grocery, a sort-of bodega (look at me using New York lingo) in Hells Kitchen that has a sort-of food truck at the back with an astonishing array of choice. Burritos, tostadas, tacos, flautas, fajitas, enchiladas, tamales. Name a Mexican food and they will probably be able to make it for you. I had a veggie taco and tostada, both of which were incredibly spicy but tasty AF.
Brunch/Lunch at Roberta’s pizza in Bushwick. I had been warned about the queues that can accumulate at Roberta’s, such is the level of fame it has generated amid the foodie, hipster scene, so planned to stop by around 11.30am for a scandalous pizza brunch. After encountering a little bit of trouble in locating the entrance, I was promptly seated and scoffed an entire ‘Famous Original’. Toppings include tomato mozzarella, caciocavallo, parmagiano, oregano & chilli. It was sensational. I forgot to savour. I ate it way too quickly and kind of wanted another one immediately afterwards. I still think about it on a regular basis.
The only downside was on the subway from Bushwick towards Brooklyn Bridge a guy flashed his penis to me and it rather dampened my dough-based high.
Lunch at Chelsea Market, not in itself an entirely pleasant experience due to the hoards of tourists (of which I was one, I know, I’m not above them. Except I am slightly because I’ve been to NYC before and was traveling by myself, which automatically makes me less of a nuisance than the massive, meandering groups of tourists that clog everywhere. Ok rant over). However I did discover Beyond Sushi, a plant-based alternative to standard sushi and therefore a vegetarian’s dream.
I had the ‘Spicy Mang’ sushi rolls: Black rice, avocado, mango, cucumber and toasted cayenne sauce, and the ‘Smokey Tom’ dumplings: Sun-dried tomato, spinach, smoked butternut squash, and tahini. I took it to the High Line and basked in my brilliant culinary choice.
Lunch at Num Pang, a Cambodian sandwich shop that packs its delicious fillings into baguettes. I had the Spicy Organic Tofu with a ginger-soy honey glaze and took it to Washington Square Park and basked in my brilliant culinary choice. Theme appearing.
Dinner at Bar Pitti, a renowned Italian restaurant in the West Village and by far the most extravagant meal of the trip. I had spaghetti al pesto and a glass of red, and when the waiter served my meal, declared it’s time to stop with politics and fuck with some pasta (I was reading Naomi Klein’s ‘No’.)
I had Junior’s Cheesecake. This blog has been published posthumously because I actually died and went to heaven after eating it.
I had a bagel with cream cheese and slice of apple pie from Katz’s Delicatessen. It was the most beige meal I might ever have eaten, but it was reliably delicious. Katz’s could be regarded as a pointless pitstop on my culinary journey, because I’ll never get to try the pastrami on rye, which is feted by patrons and food professionals alike as the star of the menu. But the atmosphere is enough to make it worthwhile.
Late lunch at Totto Ramen. Solo dining proved itself winningly advantageous when I skipped a very long queue because I could be seated at the one stool left at the bar. It’s super tiny and minimalist, but the ramen is stunningly good. The veggie option is packed with vegetables (no kidding right?) and felt like the healthiest I’d been since arriving.
Mealtimes definitely became somewhat skewed during my trip. To save on money I was trying not to eat three time a day, and instead opted for a brunch and early dinner situation. On Wednesday I had no shame in starting the day with a slice of salted caramel and apple pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, a winsomely rustic outfit replete with a case full of homemade pies.
For dinner I went to Nom Wah Tea Parlour in Chinatown. Styled like a diner-cum-canteen, its stripped back vibe doesn’t apply to the food, which is cheap, generous and sumptuously good. I had the vegetarian dim sum and scallion and cilantro rice rolls. It came to $8 and you could’ve rolled me home I was so full. Highly recommend.
I stopped for a snack at Baohaus, a tiny, industrial-style Taiwanese eatery in the East Village that specialise in steamed buns. And by specialise I mean they knock these bad boys out of the park. For $4 you get about two bites worth of food, but they’re two of the most exquisite mouthfuls of food you might ever hope to chew. I had the ‘Uncle Jesse’ which consisted of organic fried tofu served with crushed peanuts, Taiwanese red sugar, cilantro, and ‘Haus Sauce’.
Lunch at Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village, a venerated Venezuelan restaurant that prides itself on authentic arepas. I had the ‘La del Gato’, a cornflour bun with Guyanes cheese, fried sweet plantains and avocado. I could’ve gone for more, but apparently I swallowed my pride as well as their sensationally stuffed arepa.
All this and I barely even scratched the surface, barely even grazed the epidermis (again the weird skin analogy. I’ll stop. I’m sorry) of New York’s growing culinary scene. I also had really good coffee at The Bean, DTUT, Cafe Grumpy and bought the most exquisite ground coffee from Sarabeth’s because I’m a bourgeois caffeine addict.
I then came home and purged myself on broccoli for a week.