… is the most Frequently Unanswered Frequently Asked Question on this. If you’ve emailed me or left me a comment asking the same in the last dozen years, odds are good that I didn’t respond. I never meant to be rude; I just didn’t have a response for two reasons: 1. 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 one time 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. 2. There’s nothing exhaustive or carefully considered about my choices. I’ll be a restaurant reviewer; I’d be too much like this guy, nor do I aspire to be. I live in the Lower East Side and thus, most of my usual haunts are there too. Want more objective NYC considerations? Try Eater or Grub Street or The New York Times for restaurant reviews.
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.
Related: In December 2017, I wrote down everything and everywhere I ate for a week for Grub Street. You can read it here.
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. [Sadly, now closed]
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.