I’ve been to New York two times now, and I have fallen irrevocably in love with the city. The fast paced life, the fact that you can walk/use public transport to go just about anywhere, the crowded subways, the ever-so-packed streets, and how no one ever follows the pedestrian signs – I think it all reminds me of being in Chennai. I never thought I’d say this, but the crowds – oh how I miss the crowded streets in Chennai.
And like all people who collect souvenirs when they travel, I collect food. And that doesn’t necessarily just mean buying ingredients or food to take back home.
So I made this list of must-eat places in New York, so the next time you find yourself walking through the streets of New York, you can find some time to squeeze in the following places, for the brilliant food they offer.
#1 – Central Park – A Veggie Burger at The Loeb Boathouse Express cafe Website
Nestled in the heart of the city, Central Park is probably one of the first names that comes to mind when you think of New York. And buried at the heart of this gorgeous park, is the Loeb Boathouse. Sitting right by the lake, overlooking the still waters disturbed only by the ripples from the numerous boats and ducks cruising through, this restaurant makes for a very romantic setting.
While dining at the actual boathouse (that we see in so many movies) might require reservations (or at least a significant wait time) and a pricier menu, the Express cafe, just behind the fabulous boathouse, is a much quicker fix. Though it doesn’t have the gorgeous lake view that the boathouse boasts of, it does serve the most delicious veggie burger I’ve ever had the fortune of tasting. The patty is simply ‘magic’ served piping hot between sesame seed buns. A multitude of textures and tastes ravage your tongue as you bite into this burger. I am salivating just thinking about it. The piping hot, soft, juicy patty grilled to perfection, and the cold crunch of the lettuce, sitting on a juicy tomato slice… ahh…. heaven! And I am obligated to say that my husband (who would pick this burger over me any day of the week) ‘found’ me this burger. I am usually a chicken burger gal, but when in Central Park, I am fully veggie!
They also have outdoor seating, swarmed by these curious birds. Do any of you know what bird this is? I’d love to know! They were absolutely fearless, jutting in and out between the benches, under our legs, looking for crumbs.
If you should find yourself at Central Park, I implore you, try a veggie burger at the Express Cafe by the lake.
#2 – A slice of pizza from Front Street Pizza, Brooklyn
80 Front St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
The Brooklyn pizza is it’s own class of food, and is an integral park of the culinary pilgrimage one must take when in New York.
We stumbled upon the Front Street Pizzeria one hungry afternoon, just before we were to begin walking down the Brooklyn Bridge, crossing the East River over to Manhattan.
We were originally supposed to stop at Grimaldi’s, but seeing the long line of people waiting outside their doors, and because we were hard pressed for time, we moved on and stopped at Front Street Pizza.
And I did not regret stepping in. In fact, the second time around, Grimaldi’s was empty but I still walked on till I ended up outside Front Street Pizza. And it was just as good as it was the first time. Maybe the next time I am there, I will try Grimaldi’s.
For those of you who haven’t had pizza in New York (like me during my first visit), it is a revelation. The thin crust, that almost bends under your hold, and the marinara quite unlike any other, and the simple toppings that does not take away the limelight from the gorgeous marinara – it is just perfect.
They sell by the slice, so you can try multiple flavors in one meal. At $2.50 a slice, it is an experience worth enjoying without hurting your pocket at all.
One or two slices should sate the hungriest of stomachs. Just one slice for me though, because I need room for them fries.
The true taste of Brooklyn, one slice at a time.
#3 – Cupcakes at the Magnolia Bakery, Grand Central Station Website
Made famous by the popular series ‘Sex and the City’, Magnolia Bakery is home to Carrie Bradshaw’s favourite cupcakes. Although I’ve known about this bakery for quite sometime, I did not think they have a branch located within the Grand Central Terminal. I’ve always been quite fascinated by the Grand Central station, especially the Grand Central Market. And as I was making my way around the dining concourse below the grand foyer, I found the Magnolia bakery, tucked away in a corner. Jumping like a little girl, I got my cupcake (chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream frosting – which they affectionately call – ‘chocolate on chocolate’), and tons of pictures (with their permission, of course).
These two beauties (Chocolate on chocolate, and red velvet with a cream cheese frosting), I smuggled back home to Atlanta. I was particularly fascinated with the packaging, because I was carrying this box (like it was treasure), for more than 12 hours, through the streets of New York, on a bloody cold and rainy day, and they protected the cupcakes perfectly! I can perfectly remember how I was holding on to the bag, as though I was holding on to the last ray of sunshine on a gloomy day, desperately waiting for the time when I can finally dig in.
The Magnolia Bakery is located in 5 locations in New York – Bleeker St, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, Bloomingdale’s, and the Upper West Side. It is also located in Los Angeles, CA and Chicago, IL.
While the Grand central store was not so crowded, the one near the Rockefeller Center (Avenue of the Americas) had a line when I walked in at 10 p.m on a weekday. And I perfectly understand why so many people would wait in line for a single cupcake here.
If you see the Magnolia Bakery sign, walk in for a cupcake, and instantly brighten up the rest of your day, no matter how gloomy it is.
And as for the Grand Central Market Place, it is an experience in itself. I know that these pictures do not do it justice, but I hope it will entice you enough to plan a visit.
#4 – Blue Bottle Coffee, Rockefeller Center Website
|Image Source: BlueBottleCoffee.com
Although the Blue Bottle Cafe is not specific to New York, this is where I had my first cup. And I came back the second time around too. They are a small chain of coffee houses where you can get excellent drip coffee, made right in front of your eyes. And according to their mission statement, they get customers coffee made from freshly roasted beans (within 48 hours of roasting), and freshly ground right before each cup is made. The aroma that blasts you as you walk into their doors is like being hit with a coffee bullet. That in itself should suffice for those that need a caffeine boost. The coffee is interesting too. The experience of watching the coffee drip right in front of your eyes, which accounts for a small wait before each cup, is a small trade-off for the freshness of each cup. The cafe is small, and white, giving it a very neat, modern and sleek look. An experience not to be missed!
#5 – “Curry Hill” on 28th + Lexington Ave
Walk down Lexington Avenue past 28th Street and you’ll find yourself transported back to India. Fondly called “Curry Hill”, you will find tons of restaurants and grocery stores with a very familiar cuisine – Indian. Hotel Saravana Bhavan, a name all Indians, particularly South Indians are much familiar with, is where we chose to dine, although we were spoilt for choice. We almost had to regret that we could only chose one. Some other familiar, and popular names are Anjappar (Chettinad), Vatan (Gujarat), Bhatti (Indian grill), Haandi (Punjabi) and Chote Nawab (which features dishes from Lucknow, Hyderabad, Andhra and Kerala).
But be warned – If you are looking for food that tastes exactly as it did back home, steel yourself to be slightly disappointed. While the flavors would be exactly the same, the spice levels will be lacking, so as to not upset the native patrons of the city. But it’s a small price to pay, especially when we are given the privilege to eat food from home, while being so far away from it.
I hope you enjoyed my list. What are your favourite places to eat in NY? Let me know!