I’ve started this blog with many ideas; some are written down and will hopefully be explored at some point, others are fleeting thoughts that every now and then keep coming back to their nest like migratory birds. I’m not doing great with time lately, an excuse I’ve used way too often lately – my life is a constant struggle between the need to sleep and the want to do things. Tiredness always wins in the end. I’m here to tell you about what I ate in NY so I’ll cut to the chase.
Food is a big part of the travel experience for me so I’ve been trying to compile a list of places I enjoyed in the Big Apple. I know mostly where (and what) I want to eat before I decide what exactly I want to visit. Sure, it’s enriching to see all the tourist spots, to wander on streets and try to blend in the way locals do, to visit museums, but it is all the more wholesome of an experience when you top it off with great noms. Food is a great experience and an interesting way of connecting with different cultures.
I actually had a huge list for NY which, considering the size of the beast, proved pretty unrealistic. I’ve ticked off a fraction of what i wanted to try and these are my highlights.
Calexico – Green point We actually stayed in Greenpoint, a neighbourhood with a lot of food options. It is also the Polish neighbourhood of Brooklyn, so there were Polish restaurants and supermarkets on every corner. But on our first night in NY I really fancied Mexican and quickly found Calexico. I had the fish tacos and husband ate the burrito. Their food was nicely presented, fresh and vibrant but being in NY I hoped I’d find Mexican to blow me away (not even sure why) which wasn’t quite the case. Still, the place was quirky and had a nice, young vibe; considering it was in a residential area, it delivered a perfect, laid back start to our holiday and I’m glad we picked tacos over pierogi.
Ivan Ramen Yes folks, I watch Chef’s Table and I cry because I find food and people’s relationship with food quite emotional. So I was really excited to try Ivan’s Ramen. Being all hyped up after a day of wandering the cold streets, I made the mistake to not book (thinking of it, at the time they were probably just taking walk ins. I always try to book when possible and if there’s a place you really want to try out, I suggest you do the same, you’ll save a lot of heartache). Luckily we were told they’d have a table ready for us in an hour so we thought we’d take the opportunity to explore the area a bit.
It was dark, cold, my feet were hurting. We drank a few boba teas next door the whole time and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. Boba Guys was good, and I dig their branding. I digress. Back at Ivan Ramen, we were given a table right by the entrance and had to spend the entire meal dressed up in our coats because it was just so cold. The place is tiny, and tables are really close together so unfortunately this was not the most comfortable experience. We both had the steamed pork buns to start with and they were exquisite, a real explosion of yummyness that my taste buds still remember and dream of. The pork was tender and the picked daikon accompanied it beautifully. I’m also pretty confident we both had the Tokyo Shio ramen and felt a bit let down. I’m not sure whether by this point I was frozen stiff so I could not taste anything or whether I was so mad with the entire experience, but I did not really like this ramen.
I would give this another chance because I need to know whether it’s the experience that contributed to how I perceived the food. Happy to eat for the sake of research, I am.
(little disclaimer – second picture is not actually from this restaurant)
FUKU If you love food and watching food related programmed then you’ve probably heard of David Chang. For me, this fried chicken joint from David seemed like a no brainer. I can’t remember exactly what we both had (it was chicken) but I do remember going back to the till for seconds. This was truly delicious fried chicken, with a lot of complementing flavours. I never knew fast food could be so delicious.
The Bagel Store You know the rainbow bagels you see on Instagram? Well, they mostly come from this place. I didn’t get one of those because fake coloured food just doesn’t appeal to me, but we did come here for bagels twice. Cream cheese and bacon rashers in a soft, warm and chewy bagel is something you can’t forget too soon. We did spend quite a bit of time inside to decipher the menu and decide. They have many fillings and quite a few types of bagels too, so if you’re indecisive like me, maybe check out the online menu and don’t make a fool of yourself in store, just a thought (the guys in there are really nice and helpful tho!).
Juliana’s Pizza Originally we wanted to eat next door (Lucali) but I had a last minute change of heart. We got there right before midday and it seemed like the right time – we managed to get in and find a table straight away. In the next half hour a long line had formed outside. This place is popular and it truly deserves its renown. The pizza was huge but very very thin and we could have easily shared another (we had saved space for the occasion, I remember skipping breakfast that day). I also had the Manhattan special black cherry soda which I couldn’t find anywhere else. I’m not much into fizzy drinks, and yet I still dream of that one. Juliana’s is very busy, very loud, I guess very Italian in a way. You can see the pizza being cooked and get close and personal with the people at the tables next to you which I enjoy because i’m nosy and like to see what everyone’s having (and silently judge…) but I can appreciate it’s not everyone’s cuppa.
Milk bar I’ve been moaning of how cold NY was only to go and eat ice cream in the middle of the night, outside, at -15. No regrets. The icecream here is pure art. If you like corn flakes and the taste of pure joy sprinkled with childhood memories, do yourself a favour and go try it. Christina Tosi, the mind behind Milk Bar, is a huge inspiration to me and the cereal milk ice cream is truly the best and most original flavour I’ve ever come across. I’m sure a tear froze halfway down my cheek.
Sweet Chick – Williamsburg This one was easy: fried chicken (really good fried chicken. You might think it’s an easy find. You are wrong). Waffles. Maple syrup. Foodgasm. Having the chicken and waffles was a bit of a weird combo for me, so I reserved half a waffle and had it with maple syrup instead of dessert. I really liked this place, had a nice vibe and it fitted perfectly with our little wander round the record stores in Williamsburg.
Junior’s near Broadway This was probably the most American dinner we’ve had during our stay. There was a LOT of food – but I think I mostly picked this place because I’d heard rumours about their egg cream. Egg cream is a concotion that does not contain eggs, nor cream; mostly an unhealthy mix of milk, soda and some sort of syrup. Colour me unimpressed – not something I had again but possibly something I’d consider trying now that I’m not pregnant. Not a lot can be said about the food at Junior’s, but I could write a few pages about their cheesecake – we’ve had it many times (once for dinner because you can get away with murder when you’re busy growing a human). My favourite was the red velvet cheesecake – you get a doorstop of heaven and it comes at a price on your hips and in your wallet but it’s definitely worth it.
Katz Deli I’ll let you in on a secret. Every now and then, when I’m bored and hungry, I have a peek at the KATZ online menu. This is the meal that made the trip – the pastrami sandwich is out of this world delicious. The rye bread is perfect for soaking up all the meat juices and its specific taste really complements everything else going on in that sandwich. You might think the sandwiches are huge (they are) so it’d be a good idea to share, however sharing this food is my life’s regret. This is a tourist attraction (When Harry met Sally anyone?) and really good food joint in one, what’s not to love. PS: if you’re in the area, visit the Strand bookshop – you’ll love it. If you’re veggie or vegan, skip Katz and just go straight to the bookshop although the pickles and chips are pretty decent on their own, too.