I don’t know what to call NYC in foodie terms. Do I call it the city of the gourmand (because I eat way beyond what is normally considered to be healthy), a foodie’s paradise (utterly inadequate), Sin City (eating that much dessert must be a sin in some part of the world) or what? If the world is not my oyster, the food of the world is definitely my oyster in New York City.
The first month I was here, I decided that since every block is choc a bloc full of eating joints and food from literally everywhere (sticky Turkish ice cream or Filipino ice anyone?), I would never have to repeat a restaurant ever. Why on earth didn’t I take into account the fact that I would come to love some food so much that I would need to make weekly visits to the same place? Or bug certain food vendors for that particular flavor of ice cream sandwich I enjoy?
If I do end up going to other restaurants, I will put up another list. Until then, here goes a list of my favorite eating spots/joints/things in NYC in no particular order.
1. Masssawa: A cozy Ethiopian joint a block away from the house. This is my go-to place when friends visit the city and reminds me of Indian food. Soft candles sit on the tables and make the experience of communal eating (from the same plate and with fingers, no less) even more intimate. I have been known to get drunk on the Ethiopian honey wine called Tej that they serve as dessert but I like to order as soon as I get there. The injera reminds me of dosas and the ful hits the right spot. Oh, and they always refill your supply of injera or pita.
2. Eileen’s Cheesecake: I think R had a foodgasm the day he ate one of Eileen’s cheesecakes. He loves most cheesecakes and would eat it anywhere but refuses to touch any but Eileen’s now. Rumor has it that she uses ricotta cheese which is what makes it melt in your mouth.
3. Baldies: A Hester Street Fair vendor. Baldies serves a Chaco Taco which is 2 scoops of ice cream held in a taco shaped waffle and drizzled with chocolate sauce and sea salt. I make it a point to eat one whenever I can.
4. Max Café: On the Columbia University campus, Max Café is warm and welcoming. The crostini’s are fantastic with the figs, sundried tomatoes and goat cheese crostini being my favorite.
5. New York pizza by the slice: Thousands of tiny shops all over NYC. These remind me of chai wallahs or the paan shops in India – a little bit dingy, tucked away and full of customers. I can eat a full meal for $2 - $3.
6. Dominique Ansel’s Bakery: People line up for the cronuts as early as 8 am but I like the kouign amman a lot more. The flaky buttery and tender dough with a sugar crust is what he should be known for.
7. Roberta’s Pizza: I found these people at the Smorgasburg Festival in Brooklyn and then ate some more pizza at the Grub Street Food Festival as well. They make the original wood fire pizza (if they weren’t so amazing, I would be worried about the environment) with a slightly charred crust and you do not need anything more complicated than a margherita.
8. Saravana Bhavan: This is our go to place on Sunday afternoons when we want to pig out and take a cab back home only to fall flat on the bed and sleep. Idli, dosa, vada, chhaas – typical South Indian cuisine that may even be better than food in South India. Just do not, under any circumstances try the kaima idli.
9. Hangawi: Hangawi feels like a safe haven. We usually eat here to celebrate special occasions and technically, it deserves its own post. It is a Korean vegetarian restaurant which also has lots of vegan and some gluten free options. Since I don’t have any pictures, however (since the food they serve is usually over by the time I realize that I have to take pictures), that intention will remain a thought.
We usually stick to the sesame leaf tofu patties and the vermicelli noodles in stone bowl rice. The bitter almond ice cream is a treat as well.
10. LuAnne’s Wild Ginger All-Asian Vegetarian: This is my go to place (again, vegetarian) when I need to eat some take out for lunch. This is one of the few places where I can wildly experiment with the menu and order without wondering if I will get some sort of meat on my plate. Courtesy these two vegetarian restaurants, I’m learning to appreciate Asian cuisine like never before!