Forget trailing the internet for the best places to eat in New York, here’s all you need to know.
Prior to heading to New York, or any other of your travels, you sit for hours trying to research the best restaurants, coffee-bars and food joints; it is something i do for every journey, but, what do you learn from travelling to New York having done the same thing? You turn up, realise you’re in NEW-FREAKING-YORK, and notice that there are a million more food-joints to explore. What you learn from travelling, is that it’s not just about the food, but the atmosphere and ant other perks. You also realise that some of the greatest foods, are too far out from where you’ll be exploring, or sometimes, it’s just not what you fancy that night. So here’s my guide.
I’ll have what she’s having.
-When Harry Met Sally
LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN, 922 7TH AVE
I come from London, a place where there are a ton of Le Pain Quotidien’s, yet my first American breakfast, was in fact, one from here (and the second-to-last). Maybe it was a feel for home, or the fact that from the early hours, the place is buzzing. Couples, families, business meetings and those alone, who write in leather bound journals and who periodically order coffee, organic of course. It’s a great place for organic food, great service and some of the best people-watching you could desire in such an eclectic city.
What to order? The SMOKED SALMON BREAKFAST was my favourite, but with options from pastries, to granola and frittata’s, you’re bound to make a good choice.
ASTRO, 1361 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS
Astro is exactly what you need. This family-run diner is buzzing from the early hours, and there’s reason for it; the food! If you’re lucky, you’ll be seated in a booth, or in the best spot- the bar. The coffee is hot, the pancakes are perfect and the eggs are served in every way, but it’s the french toast i couldn’t get enough of. Served alongside sausages and a slice of orange would not have been my first choice, but i ordered it and never looked back. It’s the place for comfort food, a filling breakfast and a great bunch of smiles to get the day going.
Macy’s, 151 West 34th Street
Macy’s may be an unconventional one for the conventional traveller, but with a choice of four eateries, you may have just your spot. Head down to Cucina & Co, a restaurant you’ll see rather frequently in NYC; but there at the Macy’s branch, you’ll find the greatest salad bar quite possibly ever! Paying by the weight scares me, but it was all too tempting. Stuffed vine leaves, octopus salad, roast veg, pasta, turkey… you name it, they had it! I filled a box at around $20, and it fed me from 1pm-5pm! Yes, thats right, i had my lunch there in Macys, saved some for just before going into the Empire State Building, and then some for after. Money-Well-Spent.
FIKA, 41 W 58TH STREET
For great Swedish coffee and unique chocolates, head to Fika. There are severel locations, but my local was on 58th Street. It’s a place of european lifestyle and food-culture, something i know very much about, so Fika in New York was a special find. I couldn’t resist the chocolates in the cabinet, so i went straight for the Goats Cheese Chocolate; delicately wrapped in a chocolate shell, is the smoothest of goats cheese mixture, It was both sweet and salty, and the perfect afternoon treat; You can also choose from: Cinnamon Tabasco, Burnt Caramel, Keylime Pie or a Lingonberry Chilli, to name but a few fancy creations.
The coffee beans are roasted in Brooklyn, the food is the finest of Sweden and the chocolates are made daily. There are a selection of fresh juices and also some great chocolate gifts; my favourite was the bottle of ‘Chocolate Pills’ (roasted and caramelized hazelnuts and almonds, 70% dark chocolate, cocoa powder).
THE WAYFARER, 101 W 57TH ST
On the corner of the street, lies an American seafood grill where, during the morning hours, breakfast is served. It’s uber-trendy and spacious and it’s a nice place to head for a more fancy breakfast. Unfortunately though, due a waiter forgetting about us for twenty-five minutes and then a broken teapot, our experience was somewhat shadowed. A little miserable is not the way to begin, and thus we only went there once. However, when the food arrived, i was rather impressed.
For starters, it is a hard menu to choose from. Nearing the end of our trip, we knew we wouldn’t be going back so do you choose the challah french toast, Belgium waffles, buttermilk pancakes or eggs Benedict. It was one of the most well put together menus of the trip. I opted for the Mediterranean scramble for the simple fact that i was craving eggs. Bad start aside, it was one of the best scrambles i’ve had and though breakfast served with potatoes is not something i am used to, i finished the entire plate!
Whole Foods, cOLUMBUS cIRCLE
Don’t underestimate the greatness of Whole Foods; it’s like a God to New Yorkers. Whether 4pm or 9pm, it’s buzzing with commuters doing their grocery shopping and buying their dinner. The place is ridiculously big, and filled with all the sorts of food you could imagine. It’s almost worth renting an apartment or lodgings with a kitchenette because you’ll want to cook the fresh fish, humongous steaks or even their frozen pizzas! The bakery is enticing, the smell of the coffee calls you and the sushi couldn’t look any better if it tried! I don;t think i’ve even been so excited… which either shows the greatness of the place, or my over-fondness with food. Either way, grab some food, take it to Central Park and have yourselves a very great day!
The Plaza Food Hall,1 W 59th St
Whether you’re eating at one of the bars, the communal tables or taking the food away, you won’t be disappointed. Lobster, sushi, steak, crepes, frozen yogurt, salads… the list goes on! For one, you’re in the plaza, and that’s a whole other story. The lights are perfectly dimmed, the location is second to none, and of course, you get to pick a selection of foods, and then say you ate at the plaza. Not quite the Plaza experience for all, but it’s a start! We had a selection from Luke’s Lobster (some Lobster Rolls and Cape Cod Chips), a Kaiso Salad and tuna salad from Sabi Sushi, which unfortunately had far too much lettuce! Crudités from the Todd English food hall.
Out in front, sir. A limosuine and a piz-za! Compliments of the Plaza Hotel.
-Home Alone 2
Everyone must try Applebee’s (205 W 50th Street). It’s like a sin not too. It’s an all-American chain with unlimited coffee and smiling faces. Set in and amongst Times Square, it’s a great place to eat before heading on your way out. For the price you pay, the food is worth it. The Portion sizes are good and the atmosphere is buzzing.
Sarabeth’s (Park Avenue South) is another must! Though top on my list and right next to the hotel, i never had a chance to eat there, just walk past it twice a day and leer at those having the best time! Always busy, so be there, or be square! Since it was shown in Gossip Girl, the place has become even more popular, but TV aside, i walked past frequently and was rather happy with what i saw. Highly Recommended… And everyone keeps mentioning their lemon ricotta pancakes!
Burgers! America in general, you can say, is known for a great burger, and now with the rise of gourmet foods and fancy burgers, all you crave is the simplest, most humble burgers of all. That’s where Shake Shack comes in. Having ours at JFK airport was the perfect goodbye to New York. We ordered: a Shack Burger, Fries, a Hot Dog, Organic Brewed Lemonade and were happy, though some may have called it ‘overly ecstatic’, either way, sometimes the humblest of foods are the greatest.
You must buy several Starbucks and walk along famous streets or infant of famous film locations. It’s the ultimate touristy thing to do. Their menu spans far further than London and the food is even more diverse. Being there in the Autumn months meant pumpkin cookies and Pumpkin Spiced Latte mix to take home! They sell cake pops, cheese boxes and a menagerie of drinks including shaken ice-teas!
Coffee at Ralph’s is great! See my specialist post on that here.