New York

Brooklyn Tap HouseI have a cardboard box with “To Write About” marked on the lid. It’s filled with all sorts of papers, business cards, notes I’ve scribbled… all tangible reminders of the places we’ve been and things we’ve eaten over the last few years. The box is about to overflow, primarily because of a bulky set of guidebooks and scraps from our trip to New York last year. Sébastien and I spent two weeks in spring 2012 eating our way through Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Now, some friends are about to take the trip – the perfect excuse for me to finally clean out my box and share our favorite finds.

We found our preferred spots thanks largely to friends’ recommendations and to a couple guidebooks (Time Out’s 1,000 things to do in New York and Knopf Mapguides New York were indispensable). As on all trips, some of the best finds came by just strolling the streets.

Here’s our list of “musts” if headed to New York. I’ve included a rough indication of price per person (not including tip, which should be 15% to 20% of the bill): $ under 10 / $$ 10-20 / $$$ over 20.

Sweets and Bakeries

#1 Pick: Doughnut Plant (Lower East Side and Chelsea) $

The best doughnuts we have ever had and excellent coffee drinks. You will become addicted.

Lower East Side: 379 Grand Street (at Essex Street) / (212) 505-3700

Chelsea: 220 West 23rd Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues) / (212) 675-9100

Read my review here.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (Dumbo, Brooklyn) $

You should go here for the chocolate sauce and the views of the Manhattan skyline.

Fulton Ferry Landing, 1 Water Street

(718) 246-3936

Magnolia Bakery (Greenwich Village) $

A must for cupcake fans. There are five locations around the city, but this one on Bleecker Street was the first to open in 1996.  Some believe they are responsible for all the cupcake hype over the last decade. The desserts are delicious, but don’t get the coffee, unless you like wondering if there’s actually coffee in it.

401 Bleecker Street (at West 11th Street)

(212) 462-2572

Pasticceria Rocco (Greenwhich Village) $

An Italian pastry and coffee shop. They’re open late so good for an after-dinner treat.

243 Bleecker Street (between Cornelia and Carmine Streets)

(212) 242-6031

Doughnut Plant

Bars

#1 Pick: Little Branch (West Village) $$

It’s so well hidden we walked right past this underground bar the first time. Perfect for pre-dinner cocktails. Have a typical NY martini or ask the bar tender to whip up something special depending on what you like.

20 7th Avenue South (near Leroy Street)

(212) 929-4360

Blue Ribbon Wine Bar (West Village) $$

A tiny place that happened to be hosting a book reading the evening we were there. We listened while sampling a variety of red wines from the Northeast and a white Riesling from Canada.  We also shared a cheese plate with cheeses primarily from Vermont and Mexican honey.

34 Downing Street

(212) 691-0404

Brooklyn Tap House (Brooklyn) $-$$

Like stumbling upon an oasis, we found this place by accident while wandering (lost, hot and thirsty) around Brooklyn. Lots of choice and an outdoor patio.

590 Myrtle Avenue (between Classon Ave and Taaffe Place)

(917) 202-1801

DBGB Kitchen & Bar (East Village) $$-$$$

For just drinks and appetizers or dinner. Amazing fried calamari.

299 Bowery (at East Houston Street)

(212) 933-5300

Uptown (Upper East Side) $$-$$$

Again, for just drinks and appetizers or dinner. We had a glass of wine with fried popcorn shrimp and calamari.

1576 3rd Avenue (between East 88th and East 89th)

(212) 828-1388

Peels Coffee

Brunch

#1 Pick: Peels (East Village) $$

Excellent asparagus eggs benedict with homemade biscuits in place of the traditional English muffin.

325 Bowery (corner of 2nd Street)

(646) 602-7015

Artisanal (Midtown East) $$-$$$

A French-inspired bistro and wine bar. I had excellent oeufs cocotte.

2 Park Avenue (entrance on 32nd between Park and Madison)

(212) 725-8585

Café Orlin (East Village) $$

Again, great eggs benedict. The brunch specials are served with fresh orange juice and a cappuccino.

41 St. Mark’s Place

(212) 777-1447

Lunch/Dinner Restaurants

#1Pick: Spring Street Natural (Nolita) $$-$$$

Fresh. Natural. Organic. Free-range. All my favorite words. This is a great choice for vegetarians and non-veggies alike. The almond-veggie-cheddar burger and hand-cut French fries were perfect.

62 Spring Street (corner of Lafayette)

(212) 966-0290

Bouchon Bakery (Upper West Side) $$-$$$

Located inside the Time Warner Center, this French bakery/café has a nice view of Central Park. It’s a good lunch spot, but be prepared to wait in line as it’s rather popular.

10 Columbus Circle (Time Warner Center, 3rd Floor)

(212) 823-9366

Bryant Park Grill (Midtown West) $$$

Upscale, American-style cuisine. I especially remember the Caesar salad.

25 West 40th Street (at Bryant Park)

(212) 840-8500

Grand Sichuan (West Village) $$-$$$

A nice and spicy Chinese restaurant.

15 7th Avenue South (at Carmine Street)

(212) 645-0222

Grimbaldi’s Pizzeria (Dumbo, Brooklyn) $$

This is a legendary pizza joint so it has to go on my list. I enjoyed the fresh mozzarella and basil on mine. Whether or not it’s actually the “best” in NY isn’t the question; it’s the atmosphere that we liked: crowded, casual and authentic.

19 Old Fulton Street (between Front and Water Streets)

(718) 858-4300

Iron Chef House (Brooklyn) $$$

Excellent Japanese cuisine. Probably some of the best we’ve had.

92 Clark Street

(718) 858-8517

Katz’s Delicatessen (Lower East Side) $-$$

An bustling, authentic NYC deli.

205 East Houston Street (corner of Ludlow Street)

(212) 254-2246

Momofuku  (East Village) $$-$$$

A fun, contemporary noodle bar.

171 1st Avenue (between East 10th and East 11th)

(212) 777-7773

Union Square Greenmarket

Other fun foodie spots to check out

Union Square Greenmarket

A “world-famous” open-air farmers’ market at Union Square Park. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 8am to 6pm.

Whole Foods Market (many locations, including Upper West Side)

A very popular grocery store, with ingenuous checkout lines – you’ll see what I mean.

10 Columbus Circle

(212) 823-9600

The Pickle Guys (Lower East Side)

A fun place for all things pickled.

49 Essex Street (near Grand Street)

(212) 656-9739