Our remaining time in New York was spent more on sightseeing and meeting up with friends than searching out the best eats, but honestly, you don’t have to try very hard to find delicious food in the city. We certainly didn’t, and I had some of the tastiest, most indulgent food of my life. On Friday we saw it all: the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler Building, Times Square, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Plaza…oh, and MoMA! Tip: UNIQLO sponsors Free Fridays Nights at MoMA every Friday from 4-8 pm. The Museum is pretty packed, but for budget travelers like us, it was worth dealing with the chaos.
So we were pretty kick-ass tourists that day, but we still managed to find time to devour a bunch of seriously yummy stuff. Somewhere along our route from downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge, we came across a parade of food trucks at the South Street Seaport. The trucks set up in the middle of the plaza, which is surrounded by a slew of adorably crafty-looking shops. Among the options were New York-style cheesesteaks, Lebanese kafta, and Thai coconut chili rice cakes, but after a solid few hours of walking (and a few more to come) I honestly wanted to pile in as many calories as possible. Mac & cheese it is! Matt and I both ordered lunch from Mac Truck and I can’t speak for him, but this was perhaps the best plate of cheese and pasta I’ve ever had. I originally asked for mine with bacon, truffle oil and a little bit of Sriracha (you pay $2 for a protein, but other than that the toppings are free). I was pretty proud of my creation, until the truck guy was like “you’re gonna wanna put some toasted bread crumbs on that.” Sure, why not. What he should have said was, “if you don’t get bread crumbs your life will be incomplete.” They were the perfect textural contrast to the gooey, melty heap of cheesy macaroni. The braised applewood bacon was outstanding all by itself: sweet and smoky and so crisp. Ugh, every bite of that mac & cheese was a slap in the face to vegetables and healthy foods everywhere.
Other things that made me seriously happy:
Berry Park in Brooklyn – we got rowdy here on Halloween; there was no cover and from the rooftop bar we saw some spectacular views of Manhattan at night. The tap list is heavy on German and Belgian brews, and they were also featuring some shot specials that evening. A larger bar and dance floor were the main attractions on the bottom floor. The crowd was young, energetic and undeniably hipster. Someone may or may not have offered my sister and I some sort of pills on the dance floor.
BarBacon in Hell’s Kitchen – Yes, bacon on everything. We didn’t order it, but they offer a beer and bacon flight for $20 which pairs four “artisanal” types of bacon with four different craft beers. We showed up early on a Saturday night and had no problem getting a table, but the place was packed by the time we left. The menu isn’t wildly creative — it’s mostly sandwiches — but the bacon was downright delicious and the beer menu relatively extensive. My BLT truly hit the spot.
Draught 55 in Midtown East – We only stopped here long enough to enjoy one beer before meeting friends elsewhere, but I have to believe that with 42 rotating taps, this place has one of the best beer selections in town. Their food menu features of all your gastropub staples: burgers, fish n’ chips, bread pudding…comfort food galore. Rustic decor (think barrels, tea light candles and a gigantic stone fireplace) make for an equally warm and inviting dining room.
Blind Tiger Ale House in the West Village – Anyone who obsesses over craft beer has probably heard of Blind Tiger, which has consistently graced lists of this country’s best beer bars. Sadly both times I’ve been here we haven’t tried the food, which I’ve heard is tops (in terms of bar food) in New York City. But the beer alone is worth the trip; it’s one of those places where you can expect only the best. I’m amazed looking at the tap list today to find they had Brooklyn Dog on tap this weekend, one of the special Cleveland Beer Week collaboration brews. During prime time, don’t expect to sip your stout or IPA in peace; space is limited, fills up quickly and is mostly standing-room only.
Roberta’s Pizza in Brooklyn – We stayed just around the corner from this one-of-a-kind dining destination. Known for their wood-fired pizzas and fresh ingredients harvested straight from their Bushwick garden, the place actually resembles a prison compound for graffiti artists. Rather than wait the 2+ hours for a table, we were content to do take-out or delivery. I had to call several times around 8:30 on a Friday before someone picked up, and then was told we’d have a 2 1/2 hour wait for delivery. The next evening my sister and her boyfriend had better (quicker?) luck, and finally I got a taste of two of Roberta’s famous pies: The Beastmaster, and the Millenium Falco.
Dun-Well Doughnuts in Brooklyn – I didn’t actually go here either; Matt stopped on the way back from begrudgingly running our keys back to our Airbnb host. Dun-Well’s flavor list seems endless, but Matt made two great selections: an apple-pie type thing and a peanut butter/chocolate pretzel-topped confection. I’ve done my fair share of doughnut research, and hands down, these sumptuous beauties are the best I’ve had. If you didn’t know better, you’d never dream they were vegan.
Hamilton Inn in Jersey City – Right after devouring the above decadent doughnuts, we met our Jersey friends for brunch at this sunny corner cafe. Of course it was a zoo on Sunday morning, but they generously made room for our party of six after I called ahead. They do $4 mimosas, bellinis and screwdrivers — always a sign of a great brunch spot, even if you aren’t partaking. The eggs on my classic Eggs Benedict were perfect and I absolutely loved the crispy potatoes decked out with herbs. The coffee had been freshly made (happily I can now somewhat discern between decent and crappy coffee, yay adulthood!) I’d go back here in a heartbeat, for brunch or anything else.
And one more thing that I didn’t really eat in New York, but have been enjoying every day since: quince jam from Red Jacket Orchard’s stand at the Union Square Greenmarket. I’ve already gushed about Red Jacket’s cookbook Fruitful, and I was excited to pick up some goodies straight from source. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain when we got to the market, and it was also before heading over to Broadway for a show (go see Hedwig, everyone!) So with limited time and carrying capacity, the most practical option was the jam. This stuff is so fresh, and perfect for slathering on crackers with whatever kind of cheese you have on hand. With any luck, we’ll be seeing it soon at Heinen’s — they’ve just started stocking some of Red Jacket’s juices.
Until next time, New York! You always do me right.