Whatever your reasons for visiting New York, you should make the most of the incredible opportunities for eating dishes from its diverse range of cuisines.
And while the Big Apple is home to some of the finest of fine dining restaurants, it’s also possible to eat very well for surprisingly little money. Of course, you’ll probably want to have at least one burger, but don’t waste the chance to explore some of the city’s other culinary delights…
1. Best for a Cheap Feed (and Hangovers)
XIAN FAMOUS FOODS, 68 KENMARE STREET
Jason Wang’s no-frills hand-pulled noodle shops are the places to head for when you’re in need of flavour and carbs to set you straight after a hard day (or night). There are several branches across the city but the menu’s the same in each. We loved the spicy cumin lamb noodles and dumplings. Lamb is not a big feature of US menus – apparently half of Americans have never even tasted it. A bargain.
Details: xianfoods.com; several branches across the city.
2. Best for Sharing Plates
WILDAIR, 142 ORCHARD STREET
Co-owned with another trendy spot, Contra, Wildair takes a few reservations but is mainly for walk-ins. It couldn’t be described as comfortable – all the seating is on high stools, much of it along counters on the walls and at communal tables – but the people-watching makes up for it, as does the food. Don’t miss breakfast radishes with seaweed butter, nor the confit bacon toast with pickled pineapple and nduja butter. The wine list is natural, biodynamic, and pricey.
3. Best for Pizza
RUBIROSA, 235 MULBERRY STREET
Even on a mid-week afternoon, after a tour at the Tenement Museum (Under One Roof was our pick and I’d recommend it; not all of the tours are as good) there’s a waiting list for tables at Rubirosa. The pizzas are thin and crisp, and a large one topped with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rabe between two ($30) is – as we discovered – way too big. Located on a quiet street populated with interesting shops (including one, McNally Jackson: Goods for the Study, that will appeal to stationery obsessives), you’d have no idea that behind the low-key exterior lies one of the buzziest restaurants in the area. The tables are tiny and close together, so it’s not a place for sharing secrets.
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4. Best for a Grown-up Dinner
KING, 18 KING STREET
Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer (above) are Ballymaloe graduates, which is always a good start. And the bottles of new season Capezzana olive oil lined up to dress dishes – liberally – as they come off the pass augur well. The pair worked at the River Café in London, before moving to New York to open King and that influence is apparent. Carta di musica – rosemary-scented Sicilian flatbreads – and light, ethereal truncheons of panisse (chickpea fritters with more than a hint of sage) are gorgeous, as are the puntarella e finocchio alla Romana, charred mackerel (this kitchen is very good at fish) and quail panzanella with winter leaves, pagnotta (Italian bread), rosemary and anchovy. Booking essential… and it’s not cheap.
5. Best for Dumplings
THE BAO, 13 ST MARK’S PLACE
On a Sunday morning, if you want brunch but not eggs benedict, head to St Mark’s Place in the East Village, once the beating heart of New York’s punk and underground scene, and now a rather sad imitation of its former self. There, up a few steps, you’ll find The Bao, where the dumplings are the business, and you’ll fill up without spending a lot of money. The clientele is mainly Asian, and the soup dumplings – where the soup is actually inside the dumpling (how do they do that?) – are a specialty. Watch a YouTube video before you visit so you know how to eat them, but there are also instructions on the back of the menu.
6. Best for Fish
CERVO’S, 43 CANAL STREET
Down in Chinatown, this tiny, cramped, noisy little Portuguese restaurant serves some of the best fish in town, alongside good cocktails. This is gutsy, full-flavoured food with a menu populated by uncompromising dishes of shrimp heads, anchodinas, and Boston mackerel. The fries should not be missed. Prices are mid-range and wines surprisingly reasonable for New York.
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7. Best close to the Met
FLORA BAR, 945 MADISON AVE
After a morning at the Met, taking in some culture, eschew the pedestrian food offering in the museum itself in favour of a stroll south down Madison Avenue to the Met Breuer (which used to be the Whitney). On the lower level of the building, overlooking the planting to the front, is Flora Bar. There’s a coffee shop, but the restaurant is properly grown-up. Raw seafood is a specialty; the seafood platter (with optional Imperial caviar supplement) will set you back $195. We shared tuna tartare with hazelnuts and basil, burrata with Meyer lemon and fennel, endive salad, and lamb ribs with yoghurt and mojo verde… and an utterly delicious semi-freddo the size of a baby’s head. Not a cheap eat, but not ludicrous either.
8. Best for Modern Mexican
CLARO, 284 3RD AVENUE, BROOKLYN
This is a brunch and dinner spot in the Gowanus neighbourhood, a nice area to stroll around while you work up an appetite. The food influence is Oaxaca – the culinary capital of Mexico – from where the corn for Claro’s menu is sourced, and the restaurant makes its masa, cheese, chorizo and moles by hand. Claro is gluten-free, and largely organic; the food is ideal for sharing. Mezcal is, as one might expect, a big deal. There’s an outdoor patio which is lovely when the weather is good, and from where customers can see the tortillas being pressed and tostadas cooking on the wood-fired comal. There’s a good bar next door. Mid-range in terms of price.
9. Best for Persian Food
SOFREH BROOKLYN, 75 SAINT MARK’S AVENUE
Owned by Nasim Alikhani – who left Iran for New York in her 20s, three decades ago – this contemporary Persian restaurant on the first floor of a brownstone opened last autumn and immediately received the imprimatur of the New York Times’ critic, Pete Wells. This is not the everyday food of Iran, but rather the sophisticated fare of special occasions and celebrations, made with some ingredients not found in Alikhani’s homeland, such as scallops and pork. We loved the beef tongue sandwich, smoked eggplant, herbed rice and pomegranate steak. Wines are reasonably priced.
10. Best near the High Line and Whitney
MIZNON, 75 9TH AVENUE
The Chelsea Farmers’ Market can feel like a tourist trap, but it’s the obvious place to head in search of food if you are walking the Highline or visiting the Whitney (where the 2019 Biennial runs from May 17 to September 22). Tucked away in the middle is the unmissable Miznon, serving Mediterranean street food from Israeli chef Eyal Shani. One of the standout food experiences of a recent trip – a falafel burger and pita with roast beef – for less than $15 per head. Big flavours, great for vegetarians.
For anyone on a budget, be warned that wine prices in the city are hefty – many restaurants we visited on a recent trip had nothing on offer below the $60 mark – and that you should factor in a tip of 20pc.
Katy travelled as a guest of Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), which flies direct from Dublin to JFK and Newark, and from Shannon to JFK. See more tips on what to see, do and eat in the city and its boroughs at nycgo.com.
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