I 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
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)
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)
#1 Pick: Little Branch (West Village) $$
It’s so well hidden we walked right past this underground bar the first time. Perfect for pre-dinner cocktails. Have a typical NY martini or ask the bar tender to whip up something special depending on what you like.
20 7th Avenue South (near Leroy Street)
Blue Ribbon Wine Bar (West Village) $$
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
Brooklyn Tap House (Brooklyn) $-$$
Like stumbling upon an oasis, we found this place by accident while wandering (lost, hot and thirsty) around Brooklyn. Lots of choice and an outdoor patio.
590 Myrtle Avenue (between Classon Ave and Taaffe Place)
DBGB Kitchen & Bar (East Village) $$-$$$
For just drinks and appetizers or dinner. Amazing fried calamari.
299 Bowery (at East Houston Street)
Uptown (Upper East Side) $$-$$$
Again, for just drinks and appetizers or dinner. We had a glass of wine with fried popcorn shrimp and calamari.
1576 3rd Avenue (between East 88th and East 89th)
#1 Pick: Peels (East Village) $$
Excellent asparagus eggs benedict with homemade biscuits in place of the traditional English muffin.
325 Bowery (corner of 2nd Street)
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)
Café Orlin (East Village) $$
Again, great eggs benedict. The brunch specials are served with fresh orange juice and a cappuccino.
41 St. Mark’s Place
#1Pick: Spring Street Natural (Nolita) $$-$$$
Fresh. Natural. Organic. Free-range. All my favorite words. This is a great choice for vegetarians and non-veggies alike. The almond-veggie-cheddar burger and hand-cut French fries were perfect.
62 Spring Street (corner of Lafayette)
Bouchon Bakery (Upper West Side) $$-$$$
Located inside the Time Warner Center, this French bakery/café has a nice view of Central Park. It’s a good lunch spot, but be prepared to wait in line as it’s rather popular.
10 Columbus Circle (Time Warner Center, 3rd Floor)
Bryant Park Grill (Midtown West) $$$
Upscale, American-style cuisine. I especially remember the Caesar salad.
25 West 40th Street (at Bryant Park)
Grand Sichuan (West Village) $$-$$$
A nice and spicy Chinese restaurant.
15 7th Avenue South (at Carmine Street)
Grimbaldi’s Pizzeria (Dumbo, Brooklyn) $$
This is a legendary pizza joint so it has to go on my list. I enjoyed the fresh mozzarella and basil on mine. Whether or not it’s actually the “best” in NY isn’t the question; it’s the atmosphere that we liked: crowded, casual and authentic.
19 Old Fulton Street (between Front and Water Streets)
Iron Chef House (Brooklyn) $$$
Excellent Japanese cuisine. Probably some of the best we’ve had.
92 Clark Street
Katz’s Delicatessen (Lower East Side) $-$$
An bustling, authentic NYC deli.
205 East Houston Street (corner of Ludlow Street)
Momofuku (East Village) $$-$$$
A fun, contemporary noodle bar.
171 1st Avenue (between East 10th and East 11th)
Other fun foodie spots to check out
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
The Pickle Guys (Lower East Side)
A fun place for all things pickled.
49 Essex Street (near Grand Street)