There is so much to do in NYC. But what do you do if you’ve seen the Empire State Building, Rockafella Centre and Top of the Rock? If you’ve strolled through Central Park, Little Italy, Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales? If you’ve toured the UN, the 9/11 Memorial and all the museums? At least twice. Well, I say it leaves guilt-free space in your itinerary for eating your way around the city.
On my recent trip to NYC – my fourth bite of The Big Apple – I was able to really get a taste for New York. Food is a huge part of my travelling experience – I’d prioritise eating a croissant in Paris over the Louvre any day. So, here are my top 10 must eats in NYC:
1. Bagels: Ess-A-Bagel (Upper East Side)
You’ll need to get here early and line up, but the bagels are the best in NYC. They have every flavour of bagel, cream cheese and filling that you can possibly imagine. And the bagels have the perfect balance of density and chewiness. You’re also likely to meet some pretty interesting people in the line – locals, Americans and travellers alike.
831 3rd Avenue, Upper East Side
2. Donuts: Doughnut Plant (Lower East Side)
I predict that donuts will be the new cupcakes in Melbourne any day now. Americans – New Yorkers in particular – have really turned fried dough into a delicacy. I took it upon myself to sample as many donuts as possible in my 2 weeks in NYC and Doughnut Plant was a hands-down winner. The creme brûlée is a popular favourite, with caramelised brittle toffee on top and a gooey creme brûlée centre. The peanut butter and jelly also looked pretty amazing. All donuts are hand-crafted and only use natural ingredients with no trans fats. So kind of guilt free, right?
379 Grand Street, Lower East Side
3. Chicken & Waffles: Habana Outpost (Brooklyn)
I had fried chicken and waffles for breakfast in Miami once. It was a good introduction to the flavour combination but kind of clumsily put together. Habana Outpost have really got it right. You can order the roscoe skewers – chicken wrapped around a wooden skewer and covered in waffle batter, fried and served with icing sugar and maple syrup. It was delicious. They serve Mexican and Cuban food – most famous for their Cuban sandwich – and the tacos are some of the best I’ve had. Ever. Sunday night is movie night too, so you can sit outside and enjoy an old classic on the projector screen.
757 Fulton Street, Brooklyn
4. Tacos & Margaritas: Los Feliz (Lower East Side)
This little taqueria / tequileria on the Lower East Side has an impressive cocktail list and amazing Mexican dishes. I highly recommend the cucumber and lavender margarita, octopus ceviche and the mahi mahi tacos. There’s also a bar downstairs, slightly hidden away by a concealed staircase. A really great place to start your night on the Lower East Side.
109 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side
5. Burgers: Shake Shack (Madison Square Park)
Now, I’m not the biggest burger fan usually. The main reason I wanted to try Shake Shack was because it always seems to feature in movies set in NYC. I went to the original in Madison Square Park and ordered the classic Shake Burger, Fries & Shake. The burger is a bit on the small side but it’s really fresh and flavoursome. I had to line up for 20 minutes at lunch time, but the wait wasn’t as long at other locations (like Brooklyn). It’s definitely a must-try in NYC for the taste and experience.
Madison Square Park, Madison Ave. and East 23rd Street
6. Pork Buns: Momofuku (East Village)
This place is a well-known must in New York – it’s an award winning noodle bar. If you can’t get into Momofukus (there is usually a line), just pop next door to Booker & Dax – it’s a speakeasy style cocktail bar serving bar food from Momofuku, including the pork buns. Delicious is an understatement.
171 1st Avenue, East Village
7. Biscuit & Iced Coffee: Donna Bell’s Bake Shop (Midtown)
This is just a regular cafe in Midtown but the buttermilk biscuits and iced coffee were the best I had in the city. (Note: In the USA, a “biscuit” is like a scone in Australia). The iced coffee is no slow drip, cold pour – as you’d expect in Melbourne – but it’s freshly ground organic coffee chilled overnight. Plus, it’s really a local’s secret – it’s not packed with tourists like many of the popular NYC spots.
301 West 49th Street, Midtown
8. Ramen: Totto Ramen (Midtown)
A small ramen bar with a big following. There are no reservations so get there early to avoid waiting too long (I arrived at 6.30pm on a Wednesday and waited 50 minutes – as a solo diner – for a spot). It was worth the wait though. I had the Totto Chicken Paitan Ramen with the seasoned boiled egg (recommended by the hostess). It’s cheap, quick service and really tasty. I’ve heard the pork buns are pretty great too.
366 West 52nd Street, Midtown
9. Ice Cream: Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (Brooklyn Heights)
This is that really thick, creamy – almost chewy – ice cream that tastes as homemade as it gets. Plus you get to enjoy it while taking in views of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. If you’re after something a bit more out there, The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the East Village also does some interesting ice creams. They are all soft serve cones with a twist – I had the Salty Pimp (salted caramel swirls and dipped in chocolate). I don’t think it was necessary worth USD$6 but the locals in the East Village raved about it.
Corner of Old Fulton and Water Street, Brooklyn Heights
10. Fancy Dining: Buddakan (Chelsea)
Any girl (or guy!) that’s watched Sex & The City will recognise Buddaken – it’s where Carrie and Big have their wedding rehearsal dinner. And they chose well! The Asian-fusion dishes are made to share and are pretty reasonably priced for the elegant venue and location. Highly recommend the Edamame Dumplings! I wasn’t a huge fan of the cocktails here so save that for later. If you can, try to go the The Standard Hotel for a rooftop drink before dinner – it’s just around the corner. Make sure you get reservations for Buddakan well in advance.
75 9th Avenue, Chelsea