New York is undoubtedly famous for its diverse cultures and nothing portrays this better than the variety of cuisines available in the city. This is one part of the world you won’t be stuck for choice in as well as every budget being catered for. From cheap and cheerful street-side snacks to elaborate restaurants, fresh fish markets in China Town to the upmarket ristorantes of Little Italy, your tastebuds are in for an adventure of their own!
Only having a few days in New York as well as a busy schedule, meant we didn’t have the luxury of time on our side, but with a chef on the job and a few lucky Google searches, we came across some real foodie gems. I am excited to share with you some of our finds, including a breakfast favourite of the locals, some New York staples we couldn’t go past for snacks during the day and a couple of real dinner treasures we indulged in.
We quickly discovered that breakfast was a meal eaten mostly on-the-go by New Yokers. Coming from Australia, where breakfast is not just a quick grab-and-go snack but more a full dining-out experience, we had to change our tactic a little in search of a good start to the day. It might seem like an obvious choice, but once we discovered a hidden favourite of the locals, we didn’t look back from our morning bagel. Tucked between a row of insignificant looking buildings was bagel heaven, aptly named Best Bagel and Coffee. One could have easily walked straight past this incredible venue as it was exceptionally small and very understated, however the queue that greeted us each morning was unmissable. Even when we arrived just after opening, there was already a line out the door and down the street…if that’s not a good sign I don’t know what is!
Although this shop was super busy each day we went there, the system the guys had in places meant we only ever had to wait a few minutes to place our order. By the time we had paid and found a nook to tuck ourselves into to wait, our bagels had been prepared and were ready to be devoured. And boy was that what we did! The bagels were wrapped up neatly and served in such a way that even if we didn’t get one of the few seats available inside the restaurant, we could easily eat our breakfast as we wandered down the street.
We tried lots of bagels while in New York (come on, that’s a must!), but these were without a doubt, hands-down the tastiest. The bagels themselves were made and baked onsite, each meal was prepared to order and the fillings were generously packed in…the complete package!
Note: This hotspot has been extended since our trip, offering more space and menu options. It’s also easier to spot now with its new shop front.
Snacks / Lunch
As we were out and about exploring this amazing city from morning until night during our stay, we decided to avail of the many street food options. This meant we didn’t waste any precious sightseeing time and also that we got to try another authentic New York experience. Some of our favourites were the large, doughy, salted pretzels that were still warm on purchase! We nibbled on a couple of these one day in Times Square…the perfect snack before we popped into some of the all-consuming shops in the area, we certainly needed the sustenance.
We also tried some bagels from the street vendors, even though we’d had them for breakfast…there’s nothing like a good old reliable and you know what they say, ‘When in Rome…’. As this was more of a snack and a little later in the day, I felt I could steer away from the savoury options and sampled some of the more exciting flavours on offer such as cinnamon and blueberry. All the vendors had super fresh goods and a wide variety of spreads to add to their delicious treats. What a perfect way to immerse yourself in the experience of such a fast-paced city and have a snack on the go.
Another great option that we miss from living in Europe, are delis. We had lunch a few times during our stay in a number of different delis around the city. They are so plentiful and all very similar in their pricing and what they offer. They are very reasonable for a quick lunch and have options available for everyone as each meal is made to order. This option allows you order a sandwich or wrap type meal from a selection of salads, meats, vegetables, cheeses etc and have it exactly as you want. We also grabbed a couple of delicious homemade soups to warm us up. There was seating available in the delis so you could have a quick stop off and be refuelled and ready to go again for the afternoon in just a matter of minutes. A delicious and hearty way to keep you going until dinner without breaking the bank or spending half your afternoon searching for a suitable restaurant. A win-win!
As we spent one of our nights in New York at a basketball game (obviously, we had hot-dogs for dinner that night!), we only had a couple of nights in which we dined out at restaurants. But we made the most of those opportunities and found two really fabulous, yet very different restaurants.
The first restaurant was located in the Theatre District of the city. Le Rivage restaurant had the perfect flair considering its location among some of the most magnificent theatres in New York. Located downstairs on the basement level of the building, this restaurant paid homage to its French descent, with beautiful paintings of the French countryside adorning the walls of the restaurant floor. The atmosphere was just as welcoming and was matched by the warm and friendly service we received from the wait staff.
Starting off our night with a glass of champagne and a frosty beer from the extensive drinks list, we struggled to choose our favourites from all the tempting options on the menu. Eventually deciding on a delicious vegetarian dish for me and a duck special for Richard, we were not disappointed. The meals were tantalisingly mouth-watering and we didn’t leave as much as a morsel behind! As our trip was a couple of years ago now, the menu may have changed but I have no doubt, this long-standing eatery would impress any appetite with their offerings.
Tip: This is a great location for dinner if you are attending a show one evening. It is close enough that you can relax and enjoy your meal with the comfort of knowing you are only a short stroll away from the theatres.
Our last supper in this beautiful city was in an unforgettable restaurant in Little Italy called Gelso and Grand. This beautiful Italian ristorante was located on a corner and covered a huge area. There was seating on the ground floor as well as the lower level and we actually sat outside and dined al fresco (yes, in December…we were blessed with a mild, dry night). We sampled some of the outstanding red wines on offer, the perfect pairing for the decadent food on this menu. We had some of the freshly baked bread served with olive oil and vinegar to start followed by the melt-in-your-mouth calamari. Richard had steak for his main while I had the fish. Both were cooked to perfection and the sides of veggies were prepared and cooked with an elaborate combination of delicious herbs and presented tastefully. The service was impeccable and the only thing we were sorry about was that we couldn’t return another night to do it all over again!
Looking back on this trip and remembering all we did in just a few short days, reminds me how versatile New York City is. It truly has something for everyone and this is very true of its food scene. If you are planning a trip to this part of the world, I hope we have tempted you to try some of the interesting places we found or aroused your curiosity enough to give some of the local specialities a try.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog and if you would like to see what else we got up to on this trip, check out our previous post or pop over to our Instagram page for some visual inspiration.
Until next time…take care and happy planning!
Richard and Michelle.