So began my friend Liz’s message to me when she came to town a couple of weeks ago. A lot of friends, and friends of friends, have been visiting lately, and so I’ve been asked to make a lot of “must-hit” lists in the past few weeks. “What do I absolutely HAVE to eat while I’m here?” is what people want to know. LAWD. To distill this place down into a list of five, or ten, or even twenty places seems impossible — especially because I have only been here a year, which is only one small step above tourist and definitely not long enough to have tried even a fraction of the food that NYC has to offer. HOWEVER, I am a know-it-all at heart (at least, according to a psychic in Koreatown, who I suspect knows what’s up), and nothing makes me happier than to boss people around under the guise of assisting them. So, should you come to visit, I do have some ideas for you. Without further ado, here is a completely subjective and non-comprehensive list of places I think you should eat in New York:
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
You have to hit some part of David Chang’s empire while you’re here, and this is my favorite (of the ones I’ve tried, at least — full disclosure, I’ve never been to Ko, Ma Pêche, or Booker & Dax). Noodle bar is also good. Milk bar is worth going to just because it’s weird and famous, but to be honest I do not love the treats there. However I would probably step on a small child to get at the sausage and rice cakes dish at Ssäm.
Dominque Ansel Bakery
If you are at all into pastry or sweets you don’t want to miss this place. Skip Bouchon and all the other famous places and just go here, it blows everything else out of the water. Get a kouign-amann.
I really like this place for cocktails if I’m in the East Village, which is not often, but every now and then I’ll make a special trip for it. They have a margarita made with kale and ginger juice, for chrissakes. A bartender once told me that tequila has “natural stimulants” and I choose to believe him, and also to believe that that is a good thing.
I have been disappointed by it on occasion, but it’s absolutely worth trying because it will at least be different and interesting and you will probably have one or two dishes that are a mouth party. Also I really love Danny Bowien, I have seen him speak and he is charming and down to earth and smart and I like his approach to food, even if for me it is occasionally a little heavy. And the Twin Peaks thing in the bathroom!
Big Gay Ice Cream
Favorite ice cream shop for many reasons: unicorns, rainbows, sundaes with salt on them, blood orange fig balsamic syrup, Bea Arthur.
I thought maybe I just loved this place a lot because it’s near my house and they have taco happy hour, but the more tacos I eat (including some I had at Empellón Taqueria) the more I think it’s just the best place for tacos, period. Also really great here: the huitlacoche quesadilla and the elotes.
My favorite place for cocktails. Really great drinks, cozy atmosphere, and off the beaten path. No sign, which is just a thing that places in New York do that you have to deal with. Also, cash only (same reason).
Pies n Thighs
The chicken biscuit here comes in a literal pool of honey butter and hot sauce. SO GOOD. The cake donuts are great, too.
Fantastic ramen. Right across from Weather Up, bonus! I have lately been trying to recreate their brussels sprouts in my kitchen and have been failing (fish sauce, peanuts…the menu is purposefully vague, damn them).
Roebling Tea Room
Really like this place for brunch. Solid food and a really lovely space.
Great pizza and simple Italian food. Oh, and AMAZING gelato (ahem).
Just eat any and all Chinese, Thai, Indian, etc. food you can get your hands on. (Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot in Flushing is pretty great, if you want a specific recommendation).
FAVORITE CHEAP EATS
Good news! It is somewhat possible to hang here without going broke.
Prosperity Dumpling (Chinatown)
A little window with all kinds of dumplings, pancakes, etc. I usually get an order of fried dumplings ($1 for six), and a sesame pancake with duck ($1.75). Best in warmer months cause there’s little to no room inside to sit.
Punjabi Grocery and Deli (East Village)
I just call this the “Indian place across from Katz’s” — it’s a little basement shop that happens to sell awesome plates of Indian for super cheap.
This is really a bar, but they give you a FREE PIZZA when you order a drink (any drink, and the beers are cheap). It’s pretty good pizza, too.
PLACES ON MY “DYING TO TRY” LIST AT THE MOMENT, IF YOU’RE INTERESTED
WHAT WOULD YOU PICK??
Share with the class, I want to add to my list.