“Where should I eat when I come to New York City?”
… is the most Frequently Unanswered Frequently Asked Question on this site. If you’ve emailed me or left me a comment asking the same in the last 9 years, odds are good that I didn’t respond. I never meant to be rude; I just didn’t have a response. I’m ridiculously uncomfortable telling people where and how to spend their hard-earned money; maybe I went gaga over a triple-digit steak for two (hi, North Fork Table and Inn! I love you.) that you know you make better on your grill every Friday night; maybe there’s a restaurant on 7th Avenue I went back to once a week for three years (until they changed owners, sigh) for the artichoke salad alone — it’s my weird thing, perhaps not yours. Plus, there’s nothing exhaustive or carefully considered about my choices. I’ll never be a restaurant reviewer; I’d be too much like this guy.
But! We love going out to eat. It’s not always a restaurant, sometimes it’s just a little something-something we picked up en route to the playground. Sometimes, we mapped out a walk to a playground just because it would take us by something tasty. Essentially, I’m always enamored with some food outside my apartment and so I’ve decided to take a list-type approach instead. It will be updated whenever I find something new to obsess over. I kind of hope it is today.
A sporadically updated list of my favorite tasty things in New York City:
Barbuto | West Village | favorite restaurant; if you skip the legendary kale salad, potatoes, pesto pasta, hangar steak and/or chicken, we can no longer be friends
Cafe Gitane | Soho | the avocado toast that launched the avocado toast trend over a decade ago
Cafe Gletchik | Brighton Beach | potato vareniki, siberian pelmeni and much more Ukranian deliciousness
M. Shanghai | Williamsburg | my favorite soup dumplings, vegetable wontons in spicy peanut sauce, beef in “awesome” sauce and string beans, anywhere
St. Anselm | Williamsburg | everything comes off a grill and is exquisite; we’ve never had a bad meal
Decoy | West Village | not easy to get a reservation but when you do, I dare you to find a better Peking Duck anywhere
Emmy Squared | Williamsburg | Detroit-style pizza and so many good starters, it will be tempting to fill up on them (but don’t do it, unless you like leftovers, in which case: do it)
Maison Premiere | Williamsburg | great place for celebrations of the oysters and champagne variety and more; a little bit Paris, a little bit New Orleans
Mimi Cheng’s | East Village | just dumplings, which are all excellent and made with quality ingredients
Motorino | East Village | when ramps are in season, I always get the ramp pizza, recreated here
Ngam | East Village | exceptional Thai in a city with mostly mediocre, the pad thai especially is a revelation
Parm | Soho | Italian-American sandwiches that manage to be delicious and yet not as guttingly heavy as expected; Italian combo sub, chicken parm and omg those ice cream cakes
Via Carota | West Village | a new favorite from the chefs behind Buvette and I Sodi, obsessed with every single dish on the changing verdure menu, chicken liver toasts. we often skip the pasta and split an entree or two, which are all tiny; they make a mean Negroni
Back Forty | Soho | great food, even better drinks including my two favorites, ever: the black and red and their house cocktail, which I riffed here. get both and some bar snacks; thank me later.
Donna | Williamsburg | rum-driven cocktails
BAKERIES, SWEET STUFF and ODDS-AND-ENDS
Balthazar Bakery | Soho | sure, they’ve got amazing breads and pastries, but I’m mostly obsessed with the almost bittersweet chocolate sable cookie, which I attempted here
Breads Bakery | Union Square | insane hamantaschen selection, famed chocolate babka, almond croissants
Davey’s Ice Cream | East Village | best pistachio I’ve had outside Italy, chocolate almost truffle-decadent and my husband’s favorite cookies and cream
Doughnut Plant | Lower East Side | my favorite: the crème brûlée; husband’s: valrhona chocolate
Ess-a-Bagel | Stuy Town/Peter Cooper | our favorite NYC because the seed application alone is legendary; they recently reopened after a very dark year where they’d lost their lease
Fresco Gelateria | East Village | ludicrously good homemade croissants, ferrero chocolate/hazelnut gelato and the nicest service in town
Joe’s Pizza | Greenwich Village, East Village and Williamsburg | every New Yorker has a favorite slice; this is mine
Orwashers | Upper East Side | 99 year-old bakery with awesome black and white cookies, homemade bread, doughnuts filled to order with your choice wonders, and, oh, and a pb&j bar
Zucker | East Village | chocolate roses, avocado challah toast with za’atar, party balls
GROCERIES and SPECIALTY STORES
All The Greenmarkets | Union Square + Grand Army Plaza especially | there’s a reason why NYC Greenmarkets are so special: every single thing, including the flour for bread, is grown within a 100-mile radius of NYC; you’d be crazy to come to NYC in the summer and not walk through Union Square piled high with everything fresh and delicious on earth at least once
Buon Italia | Chelsea Market | Italian specialties, but mostly I load up on my favorite pasta, Setaro, which is inexpensive to boot
Despaña Foods | Soho | imported Spanish specialties including amazing selection of sherry vinegars, jamon, tinned fish + great simple tapas and sandwiches
Kalustyan’s | Kip’s Bay | stock up on every spice on earth; the most enchanting baklava selection. the mujadarra and vegetable soup from the tiny cafe upstairs are excellent
Murray’s Cheese | Greenwich Village | famous for a reason; not to be missed if you love cheese
New York Cake and Baking Co. | Madison Square/Chelsea | if you’re a baker, it’s not to be missed
Pickle Guys | Lower East Side | have been there since before pickles were hip; old-school Jewish pickles and more; amazing fresh horseradish for Passover, really nice staff
Saxelby Cheese | Lower East Side | 100% American farmstead cheese, mostly from the Northeast; a unique selection!
Bonnie Slotnick | East Village | possibly the greatest place on earth for a cooking lover, Bonnie sells used cookbooks and is an encyclopedia of cookbook knowledge; she is almost always there and one of the nicest people in New York; the shop recently relocated from its longtime home in the West Village
Kitchen Arts & Letters | Upper East Side | a (new) cookbook store with passionate staff
* I kind of hate having to say this at all, but just wanted to footnote that I still have a ‘no free stuff’ policy on Smitten Kitchen. Everything listed on this page is a reflection of something we sought out on our own, and paid for with our own pocket change. And Jacob’s. We shake him down all of the time for loose change.