If someone asks you how big is New York City? Just say “Too big,”. It really is. Over a week, I ate my way through the big Apple and found many places irresistibly yummy! Despite a sore foot, I merely covered an area in Manhattan that spans from the Upper East till Downtown.
Although I could never really finish the city, I think I did pretty well food wise and here is an almost complete list of places where I dined sorted into 2 price categories.
NYC Essentials (<$20)
An iconic burger places with occasional collaborations with top chefs that is neither too commercialised to be a joint nor too unique to be a one-off boutique burger place. But if you are having one of those “days”, what better than a shack burger paired with fries and a happy ending of peanut butter shake. Happy days!
Start the meal with a basic Gyoza before calling a main of Hakata Style ramen. Black garlicky oil on an already amazing porky broth? Damn it was heaven without the line.
If Hide Chan was North Pole, then Totto Ramen would be the South Pole. Different from start to end, the only thing similar between the two is its owner. At Totto Ramen, enjoy a Chicken Paiten Ramen so amazing it makes one dreams of it at night. This is a legit pork alternative. Beware, queues are long.
With popular places like Junior’s in the area, it is easy to overlook this relatively unknown diner. Yet this might be your best bet for quality breakfast pancakes. Crispy, fluffy and cooked through with perfection, it was all too hard to ignore.
Being the first does not necessarily makes you the best. But the best itself could not be anymore subjective. Old school fit up in this humble little eatery maintains its olden day charm. Come in solo or with the brood, Nom Wah has got you covered. When you crawl out of the bed during winter, know that piping hot dim sum is not too far away.
I had one shot to get a taste of New York Pizza into my busy schedule. Thankfully, a slice at ABP did not disappoint. With the Artichoke slice spanning across two plates topped with their famous cream base sauce, stringy cheese and caramelised artichokes, this might be NYC’s best value bite yet at just $4.50 a slice.
An aluminium wrapped takeaway box with a Middle-Eastern scent is the biggest giveaway that someone is holding a box of faithful mixed platter and rice from the infamous Halal Guys. From street culture to fast-food joint, the Halal Guys are set to dominate. Cult descriptions of nuclear red rice topped with pieces of meat and lashing of white sauce is just the beginning of a happy end to the night. Operating till 4am, now Twilight has no reason to exist.
Chelsea Market (Chelsea)
So much to eat, so little space to put it in. Here you can enjoy soup, fresh seafood, independent farmers’ produce, Mexican, Korean, pastries or simply just have a stroll. From clothing shopping to a filling in a hungry stomach, I love this place. Located indoors for your convenience too. After the market, head to the Highline Park just outside Chelsea Market for a mile of enjoyable walk to aid digestion. It is heaven on rails.
If fine dining has always been a part of your priority undertakings to understand the culture a city was built upon, these finer establishments might be the thing you are looking for. NYC is a city of swag, so common delights can become fancy and clearly so when acknowledged by the headmasters at the Michelin corp.
Fine Dining at NYC
Classy, sleek and inspiring. This Jean Georges spinoff has more finesse in its fried chicken than a French bistro does with its Foie Gras. Its seasonal menu takes simple life pleasures and make it into something special. The courteous service makes dining here a bliss.
Why is this fine dining? This is because a $30 burger including tip ands tax is pretty damn fine! But after 26 years of my life, this 1 Michelin star eatery has delivered what I call the “IT” burger. With a claim like that, many people will have high expectations I know. But as mentioned, the thick spread of Roquefort cheese on the brioche bun with a juicy patty shows that the Spotted Pig means business. But that is IF you enjoy the Spotted Pig's take on the classic cheese burger.
The full tasting menu brought my bill beyond the $50 mark. But a bread course, 4 seafood courses, a seasonal dessert and petit fours make this a bargain. Sit down and let the jumbo scallops, sensational pastas, lobsters, crabs and briny sea urchins make their appearance as part of a seafood orchestra by Marea. Top level service makes progressive dining here a seamless experience.
Another Michelin rated restaurant. If a sushi master pressing sushi is artsy, prepared to be wow-ed by these handy skewer chefs. Head to tail movement at its finest, see Chef Atsushi Kono coordinate the delicious transformation of the pedestrian chicken protein into something amazing.
One surprise after the other, the Gramercy Tavern is like a roller coaster ride in your mouth. High and lows in this Modern American X Asian fusion delivers the best bang for your buck of the lot. Ranked 1 star by the Michelin guide, the inventive savoury menu will keep your buds craving for more. But when it comes to a sweet ending, good or bad really comes at the toss of a coin. However, at $60 plus service charges, the tavern is a lunch time gem.
The Japanese culture is big in the States and Sushi Azabu the front runner for no-nonsense sushi exclusivity without the overwhelming price tag of the more mainstream establishments. Do not expect California rolls or heavy lashings of pretentious Kewpie to make their mark. Instead, Shim prepares sashimi prawns, tuna, sea urchins and other fresh offerings served on divine sushi rice.
Food business in NYC is big business. NYC residents are fussy and no trend is always there to stay when you are at the top of the class. Evolution counts for survival. Thankfully, with a superbly variable price tag, there is something for everyone. Whether it is Asian or Western, Chinese or Japanese, Italian or American, be prepared to eat. But prices in the big Apple can quickly add up especially if you do not watch the cheque due to taxes and tips which usually bumps the bill up by a minimum of 25%. So, do tell me what you think if you hit the big Apple and try out the food I had. Note that all opinions here are a from a hungry traveller's perspective which is one that is open and receptive. If you come here acting all big headed with a mindset from home, it is likely that you will have different views.