As we were making our way around in city a cab, I remarked to my wife that you would probably be able to eat at a different restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for an entire year straight, and still have plenty of untapped locations for the future. And so it goes in New York City. According to the all-knowing interwebs, Manhattan alone is home to around 24,000 different restaurants, with constant openings and closings. Factor in surrounding boroughs like the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, and that number skyrockets. Long story short: NYC is, without a doubt, the biggest eating hub in the country. There’s no shortage of options, regardless of what you’re craving.
New York City is not just home to a litany of options; it is also one of the dining destination in the country. But ironically, prior to our trip, I had only been once (a work trip nearly a decade back). Basically, there was a lot of catching up to do. During our trip, which revolved around a Saturday evening show, there was no shortage of food exploration. And though we had some reservations in place, the sheer volume in offerings allowed for plenty of surprise. Here’s what we found on our three day trip:
Where We Stayed: The Beekman (123 Nassau Street, New York, NY 10038) Based on the pictures floating online, I had high expectations for The Beekman and their incredibly photo-friendly atrium. The hotel lived up to those pictures: the historic building housed a nine-story atrium which looked directly up into a skylight and floor upon floor of mesmerizing balconies. The restaurant on the ground floor, Fowler and Wells, hosts the best seats in the house, where you can look up into the atrium, all while surrounded by comfortable leather chairs and banquettes, mahogany bookcases, and intimately placed tables. Similarly, the adjoining Bar Room is a sight unto itself: a long, dark wooded bar with plenty of stools, makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
What to Do: Frankly, there is too much to list. Though our primary reason for heading
into the city was to see a Broadway show, we thoroughly enjoyed playing tourist during a long weekend. The views of the city are plentiful, and you can head to a number of skyscrapers to check out a bird’s eye view. We took our turn heading up to the top of 30 Rockefeller Center, but amazing views can also be had at the observation decks of Empire State Building in Midtown, or One
World Trade Center on the southern tip of Manhattan. And while we’re talking the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial right next door is an awe-inspiring and utterly humbling site to take in.
Back in Midtown, Central Park is sprawling, and offers greenery in an otherwise fully developed city. If you’re in the mood for shopping, there is retail therapy of all variety throughout Manhattan. And though we went for one specific show, Broadway has dozens of shows throughout the week that you can treat yourself to.
For those night owls: in the city that never sleeps, there’s always something to see, do, or eat. Don’t stress, there are late night eats, sweets, drinks, and events for all.
Where We Ate:
Augustine (5 Beekman Street, http://augustineny.com/) – This take on a French bistro located on the ground floor of The Beekman does breakfast right. Good, strong coffee, eggs cooked the way you like (Eggs Any Style) thick cut potatoes that make up a solid hash, and a tomato Provençal make for a delicious start to the day. The addition of bacon or Cumberland Sausage help to complete the meal. Pastries are baked by the legendary Balthazar, so you know they’re done right (we can attest to the Monkey Bread). The decor fits the billing: old-school tiling, antique light fixtures, leather banquettes, and a long, metal bar in the center of the restaurant screams Paris. Service is easy, breezy, and friendly. The only knock: be prepared to spend some cash as the restaurant is pricey. Reservations: accepted
The Bar Room (5 Beekman Street, https://www.fowlerandwells.com/) – Are we listing a second Beekman dining destination? Why, yes, we are. But The Bar Room offers a beautifully appointed bar with that fantastic view of the aforementioned atrium, and a genuine old-timey feel. The bar itself is a deep, rich mahogany colored wood, with intimate lighting, and leather backed barstools. It’s the type of bar where I’d want to pull up a stool and stay for several rounds of drinks and good conversation. Reservations: walk-in only
Dominique Ansel Bakery (189 Spring Street, http://dominiqueansel.com/) – Dominique Ansel is the creator of both the Cronut, and the countrywide Cronut craze. These days it doesn’t appear as though people are still lining up at 5AM outside the bakery to grab one of the pastries, but there was a small line by 9AM the Sunday we made our way over. My suggestion: head to the bakery and skip the line by opting for some of their other fantastic offerings. First and foremost: the DKA, Dominique’s take on the Kouign Amann. Flaky, buttery layers of pastry baked with a crisped, sugary exterior is perfection. Almond Croissant is a filled to the brim with marzipan and flaked almonds in one of the best takes I’ve had. Finally, give one of the savories a try: we happened upon a Ham and Cheese Croissant that day, but given the quality of everything we tasted, there’s no wrong choice. Reservations: walk-in only (though you can pre-order your Cronut)
Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue, 101 Liberty Street, https://www.eataly.com/) – Mario Batali has two of his all-encompassing Italian market/restaurant/watering holes in New York City. Eataly is home to a fresh market featuring Italian specialties, meats, cheeses, pastas, baked goods, sweets, and imported groceries. It also houses a bakery for breads and pizzas, a wine bar, and several fast-casual restaurants where patrons can grab a bite to eat. Take a couple of hours, wander through the fantastic selection of goods, check out a cooking demo, and make sure you go hungry. Reservations: not needed
Fowler and Wells (5 Beekman Street, https://www.fowlerandwells.com/) – The flagship restaurant in The Beekman also happens to be the latest for chef/restauranteur Tom Colicchio. With a take on American fare, F&W offers updated interpretations of classic
dishes. Ricotta on Brioche Toast with Rhubarb Chutney & Thyme had great textural contrast (crispy and buttery toast; smooth and creamy ricotta; crunch from rhubarb) with well-balanced sweet and tart flavors. Grape Hollow Farm Eggs with Sugar Snap Peas, Chanterelles, Bacon Lardons and Ramps is bacon and eggs, elevated. With plenty of umami provided by bacon and mushrooms, the peas provide a sweet contrast, and the ramps that scream springtime. The only miss: Porchetta with Fried Egg, Cranberry Beans, Niçoise Olives, Swiss Chard and Lemon Confit, which seemed great on paper, but left a little too much fat on the pork, and a broth that was overpowered by olives. Service is efficient and helpful, and the customer service shines when the kitchen replaces the subpar pork without a second thought. Reservations: recommended
Plaza Food Hall (Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, http://www.theplazany.com) – Tucked away on the bottom of the Plaza Hotel, the food hall features plenty of local vendors offering everything from artisanal cakes and pastries to dumplings and vegetarian sandwiches. Our sandwiches at No. 7 Sub included the refreshing Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar (turkey, avocado, and black bean hummus) and the texture-centric Zucchini Parm (fried zucchini, fontina, sweet onion, BBQ chips, and pickled jalapeños). Quick, delicious, satisfying. Reservations: walk-in only
Pure Thai Cookhouse (766 9th Avenue, https://www.purethaicookhouse.com/) – A tiny
little gem of a restaurant that a local friend brought us to prior to catching a show. The menu is no frills, the staff friendly, and the service quick. Given the size of the dining room (all the tables are tightly packed, with no-back stools), that’s not a surprise. But the food speaks for itself: Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodles feature housemade egg noodles, generous pieces of lump crab meat, and a roast pork that punches up the dish with delicious richness and salt. The noodles are toothsome, and with just a touch of chili sauce, the dish is perfection. Pad Kee Moa with Chicken sees the kitchen’s take on Drunken Noodles; the always fantastic stir fried rice noodles getting freshness from snow peas and baby bok choy. Simply put, if you happen to find yourself in Midtown, find your way here. Reservations: walk-in only, must be a complete party
Union Square Cafe (101 E. 19th Street, https://www.unionsquarecafe.com/) – Of all the places to make a reservation at, we chose a spot that recently celebrated 30 years and a recent move. Why? Because Union Square Cafe (projecting the beliefs of its founder/owner Danny Meyer) espouses pure devotion to its customers. Case in point: even with a move, they ensured the bar in the new location was the exact same length as the original. That loyalty to customer service is evident throughout our meal: genuinely friendly without being overbearing, and in a particular highlight, a manager coming over to offer her contact information to ensure I could get a recipe for one of the dishes that I asked about. The food: simple, satisfying, and beyond delicious. Housemade sourdough bread was addictive. Fritto Misto contrasted a light, crisp batter with tender calamari and halibut pieces. Ricotta Gnocchi were pillowy clouds lightly sauced with a simple tomato sauce and sharp, salty Pecorino Romano. But the best dish of the night (and the best thing I’ve eaten thus far this year) was Heritage Chicken Tortelloni. The tortelloni were a symphony of flavors; rich without being heavy; and delicately sauced with pea tendrils tossed in butter and parmesan. Needless to say, I’m already plotting our return. Reservations: highly recommended
Still on the List: Here’s a quick take on the places we look forward to trying during future visits!
Babbo (110 Waverly Place, http://www.babbonyc.com/) – Mario Batali’s fine dining Italian spot will be celebrating its 20th birthday in 2018. In those two decades, Batali has managed to push Italian cuisine beyond the dated stereotypes of checkered tables, Sunday gravy, and massive portions. Just like every new restaurant popping up around the country, Babbo has a profound respect for the ingredients they put forward in their dishes. The only difference: they’ve been doing it for longer.
Eleven Madison Park (11 Madison Avenue, https://www.elevenmadisonpark.com/) – Yes, it’s a bit of a pipe dream. But when a 3-star Michelin restaurant also happens to be named the #1 Restaurant in the World by San Pellegrino, and happens to be within 3 hours by train? It’s going on the must try list. Eleven Madison Park is currently at the peak of fine dining, both in this country, and around the world. We can only hope to partake at some point down the road.
Marlow & Sons (81 Broadway, Brooklyn, http://marlowandsons.com/) – A restaurant that optimizes seasonal and fresh, Marlow & Sons features a daily changing menu which is kept short and sweet: fresh oysters, five starters, three entrees, and a side. If it’s good enough for locals, and hailed by Eater NY, you know it’ll pass muster for us.
Roberta’s (261 Moore Street, Brooklyn, http://www.robertaspizza.com/) – For quite some time I’ve heard about the pizzas at Roberta’s, and it’s always been glowing. Though not too long ago you might say that people were willing to make the trek to Brooklyn for a dinner, the borough is now its own culinary hub. Roberta’s is one of those original must-try locales across the bridge, and is still going strong.
New York City is a sprawling hub of people and places. A three-day trip hardly does the dining scene a lick of justice. There are cuisines, cultures, and customs that are available throughout the boroughs that we did not even touch. This food is representative of the folks that are profoundly proud of what they have to offer. Having said that:
You’re only a train ride away, so you can be sure we’ll be back soon.
Love, Chew Party of Two