I’m surprised by how many messages I got asking for food requests from New York citizens and foreigners alike – I’m sorry I can’t reply to everyone individually but hopefully this blog post helps!
Although we were only in New York for 5 days and there were many places we didn’t make it to I think we still probably managed to eat what the average couple would’ve got through in a month 😛 So I’ll do my best to list some of my favourites including a few absolute must-visits if you’re only there for a few days!
10. Union Fare
A great food hall with a ton of different options including a great build your own Mexican burrito bowl and a toast bar where you can pick from a huge range of topping combinations or make your own. The best bit by far is the stuffed croissants though – much as I love pretty things and sprinkles I’m really not one for novelty items when it comes to food, but I decided to try one since I was there and it was a great decision. I went for red velvet (I couldn’t quite face the ‘birthday cake’ pink tinged croissant stuffed with multicoloured filling) but perhaps it would’ve been good if the red velvet was anything to go by! The croissant itself was delicious and soft and the filling was a beautifully sweet vanilla cream cheese – there was even a sprinkle of red velvet crumbs on top! If we hadn’t been heading for doughnuts straight after I think the matcha one would’ve been next on my list to try!
9. Citizens of Chelsea
On a hot afternoon we just relaxed here for several hours – it’s a lovely spot and the staff are lovely. I only got through two dishes on their menu despite being incredibly tempted by a ton of others including their pancake and chia pudding options which both sounded and looked (check out their insta!) amazing, but given the number of dessert stops we had I tended to stick to more savoury dishes for meals. Absolutely no regrets though – their short rib beef sandwich was heavenly and the salad bowl was absolutely perfect – tasty, nutritious and packed full of an array of beautifully colourful veggies 🙂 By far the most colourful thing I ate all week (besides birthday cake cookie dough!) and also one of the best 🙂
Despite the huge number of authentic looking restaurants in the beautiful district of Little Italy, Kesté serve up an absolutely amazing pizza and is a well deserved winner of many accolades. Soft, doughy crusts, a thin chewy base and the freshest of toppings – literally everything I could’ve wanted from a pizza. There might be “pies” served up on every corner of NYC ranging from sit down restaurants to 99c slices but it’s hard for me to imagine a better pizza (though it was surprisingly pricey – in London I feel like you’d struggle to spend $20 on a pizza!).
7. Breads Bakery
All over NYC you’ll see babka, rugelachs and other similarly enticing breads and pastries. I tried a few but none of them compared to the heaven served up at Breads Bakery. You can buy it by the slice, but I guarantee that after one bite you’ll be straight back in the queue to buy a whole loaf – we were anyway! It’s soft, fluffy, sweet and absolutely full of a beautifully rich chocolate filling complete with a generous sprinkling of chocolate chips. The rugelachs are like mini croissant versions of the babka, with a harder exterior and a less bready texture but a similarly soft, chocolately filling. They too were good but not a patch on the pillow soft babkas that they’re so famous for.
6. Katz’s deli
A meat lover’s dream and an NYC classic not to be missed – nowhere have I ever seen sandwiches as generously packed as these. For a small deli, you pay more than I was expecting (this sandwich set me back $22) but for the amount of meat you get it’s hardly a bad deal. It’s pretty old school – the interior and décor is definitely reminiscent of canteen dinners and you’re given a ticket on the way in which is marked up in pencil as you order from each counter (lost tickets pay a $50 penalty!) but the food is amazing.. and I love that while you’re waiting for them to make your sandwich they cut you more meat to snack on.. as if you aren’t about to be presented with an absolute meat mountain!
5. by Chloe
For anyone sceptical about vegan food, take them here and I guarantee you’ll convert them. I am most definitely not vegan (Marcus even less so!!) but we both agreed this place was astonishingly good. Pick from burgers, meatball subs and an amazing brunch menu on the weekend (sadly we didn’t have time to go back and try it) as well the most heavenly crispy fries and a huge range healthy drinks (my first taste of Kombucha – a decent tasting drink but another overhyped fad IMO!). If you go to the branch on Bleecker Street there’s also dessert place next door offering cookies, cakes and ice cream – all vegan too.
4. Dough doughnuts
The biggest and best of all the donuts we ate in NYC (and we ate a lot!!). I knew they were going to be good as I’d seen them in Wholefoods (and I rate Wholefoods decisions on what to stock very highly!) but I wanted to go to the actual store to get some to try.. and I definitely recommend that you do the same. There are big glass cabinets displaying all of their different doughnuts.. and they are huge! There are so many different flavours to try, ranging from the classics like cinnamon sugar and lemon poppy to more exotic flavours like Hibiscus and passion fruit to some absolute food heaven in the form of salted chocolate caramel, double chocolate brownie, alfajor and almond praline (some of those are seasonal/rotating flavours though.. cry). After much deliberation Marcus chose the mocha almond crunch and I went for the dulche de leche, both of which are available all year round and both of which I’d highly recommend. Mine came crammed with toasted caramelized almonds and it was absolutely heavenly – best of all despite it’s size it was remarkably light and fluffy – no easy feat for a donut half the size of my head!
3. Black Seed bagels
Undoubtedly the best bagel I have ever, ever eaten. Soft, chewy and available in a range of flavours with the option of every filling you could dream of, it’s easy to see why they’re so well known. You can see them knocking out hundreds of bagels from their giant oven and my friend said if you go near closing time they’ll throw in some extra bagels for you too! I tried a couple while I was there – a “classic” cream cheese and smoked fish (I went for something a little different though – herb cream cheese with smoked trout and pickles) and a turkey melt, both of which were divine. The turkey melt was warm which made the bagel even softer, but for me you can’t beat the classic cream cheese on a bagel! I was tempted by a third – they do AB&J! – but doughnuts were calling (food with holes was an unplanned theme of the afternoon!).
Number one and two were by far the hardest decisions on the list.. I originally started off with them the other way round but then Marcus asked me if we were to go back to NYC for one snack only what would I choose, and I answered immediately.. so I guess that made it easier!
2. Levain Bakery
Possibly the most well known place in NYC and I felt like I’d been waiting for years to try one of their cookies! I can honestly say that this is by far the best cookie I’ve ever eaten and you really can’t take a trip to NYC without a trip to the famous Levain bakery. Their classic chocolate chip walnut cookie is literally everything you could want from a cookie – crispy on the outside and an incredibly soft and gooey part-baked centre packed full of chocolate chips and walnuts. If you eat them immediately (I challenge you not to!) they’re served warm and you can get a cup of milk for dipping too – literally food heaven. If you’re going straight home (we sadly weren’t) I’d definitely recommend getting some to take back to freeze.. we took some to St Lucia with us and they barely even lasted the plane journey! We got our first lot of cookies from their original store – a tiny little place with just a counter inside, where you can queue for quite a while.. but on the day we went their second location had opened literally 2 minutes’ walk away. Naturally we had to try that branch too (quality control 😉 ). It’s hard to see why anyone would queue at the original – their new branch is huge with no queues, the same cookies (obviously!) and also offers tea, coffee and other drinks with a big area (with AC!) to sit and relax 🙂
1. Milk & Cream cereal bar
I thought long and hard about whether this should be number one or not but truthfully if there was only one place I could go back to in NYC it would be this! If you think the wait for Levain is long wait until you go here! The queue was all the way down the street (and even inside the shop it’s long and several people deep!). I had to convince Marcus to wait in line and after over half an hour even my patience was wavering – it’s just ice cream and some cereal toppings after all right? Wrong. So, so wrong. This isn’t some silly cereal-killer cafe type hype where they fob you off by throwing some cereal and a few chocolate chips in a bowl; each one is personalised and actually requires time and effort to make (hence the queue). You can pick a bowl, cup, cone or milkshake but in my opinion going for an bowl (just cereal with toppings) or a milkshake (everything just blended together, like any milkshake place) is kind of a waste – their ice cream is so, so good. You pick a cereal or two and they blend it with either vanilla or cookie dough ice cream, then you pick toppings and if you get a cone there’s birthday cake, red velvet, pink vanilla or waffle. All of them looked amazing, but the waffle cones were the biggest, so you can guess what I chose! Somehow by blending the cereal with solid ice cream they get the most heavenly soft serve with an unparalleled flavour. I went for cinnamon toast crunch and it was honestly the best ice cream I have ever eaten. Sweet, smooth and cinnamonny with crunchy cereal pieces scattered throughout – it might not have sounded as exciting as some of the other cereals/combinations but for me it couldn’t have been more perfect. You get one topping as standard but obviously I added extras (cookie crumble, cookie dough and teddy grahams coz they’re cute!). They have specials too, and I was tempted by so many of them – all of the combinations sounded perfect! I reckon even the fruit ones would’ve been incredible (though let’s be honest.. chocolate always wins!) Marcus went for the ‘cookie crisp carnival’ which was (predictably!) amazing (cookie crisp, chocolate chip cookie dough chunks and oreo blended with cookie dough ice cream and topped with cookie crumble and cookie dough) but I have to say I genuinely preferred mine – I’m still dreaming of the incredible cinnamon toast flavour they managed to create!
A few of the many other places we visited which deserve a mention (I’ve probably missed some so there might be quite a few edits to this post!)
Milk & Cookies bakery – a great dessert place offering a huge selection of cookies, gelato and other amazing treats. Although you can’t go wrong with a cookie sandwich the blondie I had was probably the best thing I had from there – a brown butter walnut blondie with birthday cake cookie dough and speculoos icing topped with pretzels and chocolate – it was every bit as amazing as it sounds! Whilst the cookies were good and the flavours were nice they were served cold (possibly to avoid melting the gelato?) so they were harder and less chewy than I’d have liked. The birthday cake ice cream was nice, if just another novelty item, but it was surprisingly subtle with the flavour not being too overpoweringly sweet. A great (and very Instagrammable!) dessert, but I wouldn’t have been heartbroken if we’d missed out on a chance to go (we went early on before discovering other places and I definitely regret going back twice!).
Gramercy Tavern – an absolutely lovely fine dining restaurant in the heart of Manhattan. I’ll write a separate blog post about this place but if you’re keen for a more refined dining experience (without the pretentiousness) then Gramercy absolutely fits the bill – a choice of a la carte or a tasting menu with absolutely incredible food and flawless service in a relaxed and casual restaurant.
City cakes – novelty over substance, but a 1/2 pound cookie is every greedy person’s dream! Whilst Marcus went for the normal chocolate chip I went for the Nutella stuffed one which actually turned out to be pretty sickly (shocker I know..). It certainly wasn’t anything groundbreaking – by far the most exciting thing about it was its size but it was a decent cookie and it was nice to feel satisfied for once rather than wanting to immediately demolish 20 more!
Magnolia – I can see why this place is popular amongst true Americans and they offered a decent selection of cakes alongside their favourite banana pudding, but for me personally it was over hyped and I wouldn’t go back.
La Colombe – one of many, many coffee stops (iced coffee was a saviour in the heat!). I don’t feel like you can really taste the quality of the coffee when it’s iced but this was probably one of our favourites 🙂 We also loved Birch coffee – I think there are several branches around NYC!
Dominique Ansel – a tough one to rate! Don’t get me wrong – there’s absolutely no denying that Dominique Ansel is a world class bakery but 45 minute queues and a constant stream of people in and out in the narrowest of spaces? Too much hype in my opinion. We got (several!) cookie cups and they were good, undeniably so, but they were pricey ($5 for what is essentially a bite!? I could’ve eaten 20!) and more exciting on paper than in reality. The cookie tasted good, and the chocolate on the inside melted beautifully but the vanilla in the milk was so subtle that I couldn’t taste it and the cookie cups disintegrate at an alarming rate – I ate two of mine before Marcus got to the table with our coffees for fear of the entire thing collapsing! Not to mention that navigating to the seating area at the back past the ridiculous queue of people is far from ideal when trying to balance a full cookie cup! I’m not disputing the fact that it’s a great place – he invented the cronut for goodness’ sake – but if you only have a few days in NYC I wouldn’t bother.. whilst his creations are beautiful, so are most French patisseries and there are other branches all over the world too.
Jack’s wife Freda – the first of many brunch spots we visited (we managed more brunches than we had days in NYC!) and probably one of my favourites. I got the breakfast bowl – poached eggs, red quinoa, kale, spaghetti squash, tomato, avocado and a spicy green sauce with a side of sourdough with butter and jam. The sourdough it was more of a baguette than the sliced, toasted bread I was expecting but it was still pretty good, and the breakfast bowl was delicious! Marcus got a grilled sandwich with duck prosciutto, cheddar béchamel, Gruyere and a sunny side up egg and whilst it didn’t look the most exciting it tasted bloody good!
Bluestone Lane – brunch on our final day.. and it was a good one! Like many other popular brunch places there are quite a few of these around NYC but we went to the one in TriBeCa and it was a lovely little spot with a modern interior and a few seats outside too. They have a decent selection of brunch dishes including a half&half (granola and avo toast) which would be perfect for indecisive people like me if it wasn’t so small! I got a full sized version of a pea and mint smash (with an added poached egg) and the granola and although it was definitely on the small side it was delicious! They have plenty of other delicious options on their menu too including cashew butter and poached fruit on toast, a couple of different baked egg dishes (we got the red baked eggs to share and they were pretty good), a bacon and egg roll (Marcus got that and it came in a deliciously soft brioche bun) and various things on toast, and the fact that they’re small means you don’t have to make many decisions – just try them all! 🙂
Beyond Sushi – another vegan spot with a few locations around NYC. We visited the one in Chelsea Market which was perfect as I could get some to try without us both having to eat there (for those of you who don’t know, Marcus is firmly opposed to sushi….. but I’m working on it!). I wanted everything on the menu, but since I also wanted to try out a fair few other places in Chelsea Market I eventually settled on the sunny side (black rice, fennel, sun dried tomato, avocado and butternut squash with almond pesto) and spicy shroom (greens, soba noodles, spicy bean sauce, enoki mushrooms, shiitake, portabella, pickled ginger, roasted cashews and fried onions with shiitake truffle sauce) – both were amazing and the sauces were divine!!
Luke’s Lobster – I absolutely love lobster and although Marcus hates most seafood he was lovely as always and insisted that I couldn’t leave without getting one. We went to one in the heart of the Financial District and it was packed with Wall Street workers, with good reason – it was so good! Choose from lobster, shrimp or crab or a trio (half portions of all three) as well as clam chowder, lobster bisque and a few other sides. I went for the classic lobster roll and it was incredible – soft juicy lobster with melted butter, an amazing dressing in the softest brioche roll – I could’ve eaten fifty!
The Doughnut Project – this was actually our first stop and it didn’t disappoint. Some of their donuts were huge!! They had a huge range but I (surprisingly) went for maple glazed bacon – when in NYC..
Wholefoods – I think I dragged poor Marcus to every Whole Foods in Manhattan (as well as a ton of other pharmacies, GNCs – protein bar heaven – and Trader Joes) but my favourite (I think the biggest and definitely the best for samples!) was the TriBeCa branch. As well as aisle after aisle of snacks, exciting chocolates and nut butters there were self-serve desserts including cookies of all shapes and sizes and this epic brownie bar!
Doughnuttery – cute donuts but I’m not sure I understood the craze. They’re just little donuts drizzled with toppings, reminiscent of any donuts you can find at seaside stalls or markets. Not a bad tasting donut but definitely nothing to write home about.
And finally – we stayed at The James Hotel in Soho. Obviously having only stayed in one hotel I can’t really compare it (or suggest that it’s the best/better than any others) but I’d definitely recommend it! We considered a number of locations but it’s location between Soho/Chinatown was perfect for us – it’s right in the middle of all of the best food places, there are a ton of brunch spots all within 10 minutes walk, the biggest Wholefoods we found in Manhattan was also under 10 minutes away and it’s close to Little Italy and the incredible Milk & Cream cereal bar – trust me, you’ll want to go every night! The view from our room was absolutely stunning too – floor to ceiling windows and a high floor meant we could see for miles around! We got a room only deal, as we obviously wanted to try as many different food spots as we could in New York but they had pastries and coffee, wine, cheese, cookies and other complimentary snacks throughout the day which was a lovely touch 🙂
Although it was quite a way from Central Park and the craziness of Times Square we liked that – it was fun to visit the more touristy areas (especially at night time) – but it was so crowded, busy and packed full of pricey, poor quality tourist traps when it came to food!
Just a few more food pictures in case you needed aren’t yet convinced that NYC is food heaven..