One of my colleagues is planning a trip to America in the next few months, and I told her I’d be happy to help by contributing some “places to eat” lists. Anyway, it got me thinking about some of the great food cities I’ve visited, and my favourite meals in those cities. It’s a topic husband and I come back to a lot; usually it starts with us out for lunch or dinner…
“How good is this burger?! So much cheese…”
“Remember that burger we are in New York?”
“The one at 5 Napkin?”
“Yeah, that one… man it was good…”
“Even better because we were so tired and cold and hungry.”
“That’s right, it was the day we spent walking around Central Park…”
“Remember how much it snowed that day?! I got snow in my shoes and it melted and made my socks wet – that was crap!”
Food has a way of bringing us back, perhaps even better than photos can. It involved more of your senses – you start tasting and smelling memories, rather than just seeing them. That’s actually the whole point of the cookbook I’m putting together… but back to this post, I thought I’d revisit my favourite New York eats – delicious memories for me, and hopefully helpful recommendations for anyone on their way to New York 🙂
1. Papaya King (hot dogs)
The food: good, old-fashioned hot dogs, smothered in sauerkraut and mustard. They’re the quintessential, perfect dog.
The memory: this was our first “meal” in the city; after checking into our hotel, dropping off our bags and putting on warmer coats, we walked through Central Park to Papaya King at dusk, taking it all in. I remember seeing a squirrel for the first time in the park, taking a selfie to send to my mum, and almost crying when I realised I was actually finally in New York.
2. Dough (donuts)
The food: a dulce de leche frosted donut covered in toasted almonds – it was big and light and the perfect donut.
The memory: we ate this at Smorgasburg, basically an indoor food hall at the Brooklyn Flea Market. I loved Brooklyn, because it reminded me so much of my beloved Fitzroy/Collingwood area back at home, and being such a familiar setting I felt like I blended right in.
3. Sullivan Street Bakery (bakery)
The food: bomboloni – Italian-style, filled donuts. A vanilla and a chocolate one. And tea, and coffee.
The memory: it was another freezing cold New York morning, and I remember very clearly sitting in this beautiful old bakery, at a slightly rickety wooden bench, with a hot paper cup full of tea that I spilled a little when I took the lid off, because it was filled to the brim. It was dimly lit, with the morning sun still struggling to push its way through the clouds, and I was so content…
4. 5 Napkin Burger (burgers)
The food: The Original burger – big, fat and juicy, full of beautiful melty cheese and caramelised onions, and it was magical. Still one of my favourite ever burgers.
The memory: good heavens above, I was so damn cold… we’d spent about 4 or 5 hours walking around Central Park in about -8 degrees Celsius with nasty wind gusts. The highlight was visiting the Alice in Wonderland statue; it’s an all-time favourite book of mine 🙂 I remember being seated, telling husband what to order for me, and immediately running to the bathroom to run my hands under warm water and then under the hand dryer for a few minutes.
5. Katz’s Deli (sandwiches)
The food: a potato knish, and a big, fat, pastrami with mustard on rye.
The memory: oh man, we were so excited about this one… we’d seen Adam’s Man Vs Food episode several times, and couldn’t wait to finally try this iconic sandwich for ourselves. We arrived first thing in the morning, and felt like we were sitting in a movie set with the place still empty bar us and 2 other small tables of patrons. We were also really grateful we’d walked there (not so grateful for the grey, sludgy snow we had to walk through), because there were serious calories consumed.
6. Russ & Daughters (bagels & appetizers)
The food: an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese and Scottish smoked salmon.
The memory: a few hours after the Katz’s Deli visit, and a few more kilometres walked, we dropped into Russ & Daughters, because I wanted to try a bagel with cream cheese and salmon, just like they do in the movies and stuff. I know, but screw it; when you’re in New York, you embrace the cliches.
7. Levain Bakery (bakery)
The food: probably the best chocolate chip cookie in the world. Also, a delectable chocolate chip stuffed brioche.
The memory: It was another freezing cold start, with the most snow either of us had ever seen. We again walked through Central Park to get there, and I remember making my way down a set of stairs and feeling like I was in a fairy tale. I was in my own world taking photos of the perfect whiteness, oblivious to the fact my husband was taking photos of me, too. Defrosting in the warm little store with my cookie was the best!
8. Momofuku Milk Bar (sweets)
The food: crack pie and birthday truffles. We had them in Toronto, and again in New York. Magical, magical pieces of sugar.
The memory: we were walking back to our hotel at the end of another long day/night, delirious with exhaustion and excitement. Then, I saw the neon pink sign; we stopped mid-stride, looked at each other, and ran in. We walked the few blocks back to the hotel with our goodies, collapsed onto our bed, and stuffed our faces like little kids with their lolly bags after a big party.
9. Crif Dogs (hot dogs)
The food: hot dogs. Lots of them. The BLT, the Jon-Jon Deragon, the Tsunami
The memory: we’d heard about this place on Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, and were pretty keen to give it a try when we saw him there with Mr Momofuku David Chang. We were the only ones there when we arrived, the guy who was serving us was so much fun, and we had the best time just being there. It was the second last day of our week in New York, and we had a blast stuffing our faces with hot dogs and laughing and talking about the past few days!
10. Four & Twenty Blackbirds (pie)
The food: the most magical black-bottomed oat pie and a pot of Earl Grey tea.
The memory: this is one of my strongest travel memories. We’d spend the day in Brooklyn, and I wanted to try the pies here after seeing them all over Instagram, but we also wanted to cross the bridge back to Manhattan before dark so I could get some photos. We/I got so caught up in my pie, we didn’t realise the sun was rapidly going down outside; by the time we got out, dusk was coming and we hauled ass to the Brooklyn Bridge. We didn’t get to photograph it in daylight; we got the most perfect dusk light and sunset we could have asked for, and one of the most magical moments I’ve ever experienced.
11. The Halal Guys (street food – Middle Eastern)
The food: gyros bowls, only USD$7.00 and chocked full of rice, lamb & salad. And topped with pita bread.
The memory: this was our last meal in NYC, and it was the best way we could have possibly ended the week there. It was cold, but not raining, we joined the line and waited patiently for our bowls, and the line moved pretty quickly. We were served with smiles and laughs, and left the cart to find somewhere to sit and eat. I remember vividly sitting on a cold floor outside a fast food restaurant and I was wearing a black and white flowered dress with black tights and knee high black boots. We were amongst dozens of other people who were sitting around the streets with their dinner, all kind of exchanging smiles when they realised they were all eating the same thing, like we were all united in our choice of street food over restaurant fare, and we were all pretty happy with ourselves.