A friend who we visited while in New York told us; ‘you will find the best and worst of everything in New York’. This proved to be true in every sense, and food and coffee are no exception to this rule.
There are over 18,000 restaurants/cafes/eateries in NYC. Adjusted for all the Starbucks, McDonalds, Donut Kings and Subways, there is still only about 1 great find to every 100 terrible ones. Not to say that I would want to change this… it’s how you know when you have really found a gem! And while I think it is a good idea to have an idea of where you hope to eat/drink, otherwise you could end up overwhelmed, sometimes the best finds are the ones you just happen upon. This is exactly how we came across Caffe Falai, our favourite food experience of the trip.
Here are the gems we found…
Central Park to Hudson River & West 59th Street to West 125th Street
114 East 60th Street
There are a few dining options on offer at the boathouse. My suggestion would be to sit out and lap up the sun alongside the lake, with a drink and light snack from the canteen. We had the roast beef burger and chili (con carne) which was canteen not too bad, although i wouldn’t have minded a few nachos to accompany the chili instead of the strange, salty little fish shaped crackers that were served with it. But the cold Coronas and the great lakeside location are what it’s all about here. Alternatively, if you want something a little more formal, the restaurant itself offers fine dining.
356 West 58th Street
This bold, urban designer hotel is a magnet for young professionals and anyone with an eye for style. With a number of spots to indulge in a drink and a bite to eat, all contrastingly designed, there is something to suit your every mood. The ‘private park’ is a little slice of central park just off the hotel lobby. Brick walls are sprawling with ivy and the place is decked out with moroccan inspired outdoor furniture. Don’t forget to check out the ‘library lounge’ and the amazing interior of the ‘hudson bar’ which has to be seen to be believed.
le pain quotidient
60 West 65th Street
While it might be a chain, each store makes their beautiful loaves and pastries in store, and the rustic environment created by french farmhouse style decor and furniture made from reclaimed wood, makes each store feel unique and boutique. It is a far cry from the traditional sterile feel you get from a standard restaurant chain. The bakery/eatery was started by a belgian artisan baker whose methods are traditional, using only stone ground flour, salt and water to create his bread. The idea of the communal table is to remind people that even in a big city like New York, there is still a community. The menu is fresh, simple and organic where possible. Tartines are their signature offering, with toppings like hummus and curried cauliflower with diced cucumber, tomatoes and basil pesto. Paired with homestyle lemonades and other delightful fizzy drinks, the fresh offerings here make for a great accompaniment to a hot sunny summers day.
366 Columbus Avenue
An institution in NYC, at first we weren’t completely sold. The contents of the burger didn’t let us down, but like most burgers we had come across in the big apple, the buns seemed unimpressive, white, soft, processed and lifeless. But as explained by new york locals, it’s where people go to taste the roadhouse burgers of their youth. Its about recreating and reliving a burger from their childhoods, not perfecting or replacing it. The burgers they pump out are a little piece of nostalgia between two pieces of soft, lifeless bun. When put like that, I would say that shake shack is worth a visit if not for the burger buns, then at least for sentimentality’s sake. They also get 2 thumbs up for being conscientious when it comes to the environment? Their operations are carbon neutral, they practice composting onsite, their cooking oil is recycled into bio-diesel fuel and sustainable materials are being used in the construction of every newly opened shake shack.
things to see on the upper west side…
american museum of natural history & hayden planetarium
the dakota – the apartment building on 72nd street and central park west where musician john lennon was murdered in 1980… yoko ono still lives there
the mad museum (museum of modern art, 2 columbus circle) – very cool design stuff here
Between 14th Street and 59th Street, from the Hudson River to the East River
224 West 20th Street
Australian founded cafe grumpy was the first of our boutique coffee discoveries on our coffee tour of New York. Hidden in amongst residential apartments in Chelsea, this nook like spot is not particularly obvious or standout. The signage is an iron oval shape with a grumpy face cut out, hanging above the door. Don’t come here for breakfast, their food offerings are minimal to non existent as the main event is the coffee roasted in house at their Brooklyn roastery and cafe, served in brightly coloured ACF cups.
72 West 38th Street
The place to get your coffee fix on the upper side of midtown. Another haunt with alternative coffee crazed freaks behind the counter, a funly decorated space complete with hanging chandelier and a hint of grunge. Every coffee lover’s dream haven and escape from the hustle and bustle that is New York City. Again there are pastries and sandwiches but no substantial food menu.
20 West 29th Street
Stumptown is an arm off the ace hotel – it became our favourite coffee joint. The indie coffee haus and chain of three roasts its own coffee. This joint in particualr is the proud owner of 2 x synesso’s operated by some talented baristas. And you know the coffee is good before you taste it, because there is always a line out the door. Although this could also be partly the fault of the extremely slow baristas, all of whom don grandpa hats…fitting really!
16 West 29th Street
Housed in the chic ‘ace’ hotel in midtown, the breslin was the best breakfast spot we came across in our travels. So good infact that we went back twice more to sample the delights of this dark, bristish pub-like bistro. Our favourite meal on the menu was curried lentils with poached eggs, coriander and roasted garlic slices. I have since attempted this recipe at home myself (recipe to come). Please don’t miss this place.
200 Fifth Avenue
This was another WOW moment of our trip. Eataly is everything good about italy’s cuisine, in one, indoor, overflowing marketplace of italian goodness, in the middle of the big apple. The idea is to showcase the best quality produce, and to make it accessible for everyone. Their tagline explains it well ‘we sell what we cook & we cook what we sell’. The marketplace showcases each type of produce with their own little shopfronts – fresh meat, cured meat, fish, pasta, pizza, sweets, coffee, wines, beers, breads, fresh fruit and veg, gelati… the list goes on. Each one of these shopfronts then has an accompanying restaurant or cafe, an opportunity to taste the food that they sell. I have an inkling that alot of people come here to taste the food, not buy the products, becuase they do such a damn good job of it, anything you would attempt at home would just be second rate! They also have cooking classes available. We chose to dine at the pasta restaurant, and we weren’t disappointed. We were served warm bread in a cute brown paper package (no string) with delicious olive oil (availble to buy ofcourse). We ordered a beautiful salad to start; shaved asparagus with broad beans and shaved parmesan; so simple, so Italian! Josh’s pasta was spaghetti in a simple butter and lemon sauce with loads of pepper. The pasta was the hero so didn’t need much else; freshly made, chunky and al dente. I had orrechiette with pork and fennel sausage, brocollini and a thick lemon sauce.
230 Fifth Avenue
The chillest (made up word I know) pool party in town, without the pool. Pina coladas, cold beers, calamari and yellow and white striped umbrellas; I feel like i am in LA or Miami, not NYC, except for the fact that i have an unobstructed view of the empire state building. did I mention this place has spectacular views? On the rooftop of 230 Fifth Avenue is a vibrant, buzzing garden and lounge bar. The food is fun with tasty American and Asian inspired morsels, great cocktails, and if it is a hot day like it was when we were there, each table has its own battery operated fan that sprays water… NYC thinks of everything! And I just found out that in winter, they heat the rooftop, and supply cozy fleece hooded red robes and oversized blankets!
things to see, midtown
visit times square to soak up the lights and buzzing energy, or to take in a broadway musical
5th ave shopping
cooking class at eataly
take in the view from the rockefeller centre
view the works at moma
lower manhattan / chelsea / meatpacking district
mostly south of 14th Street
265 Lafayette Street (nolita)
Looking through the window, the restaurant looks a stark yet welcoming wash of white, white walls, tiny white tiles, white benchtops, white chairs, white decor. the food is modern italian served in perfect portions. We were served surprise bellinis to start. And then had an avocado and micro herb salad with a truffle dressing – just beautiful. I ordered gnudi and Josh ordered a lamb ragout pasta dish, accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine, it was just magical. (or perhaps that was the bellini doing it’s thing!) We walked away grinning from ear to ear. This is what New York dining is about, pleasant surprises hidden amidst general averageness, just waiting to be discovered and savored.
Locations all over Manhattan
Some good, fresh mexican with a side of corona and lime. Yes, it’s a chain, but one that i endorse because it is healthy as far as chain food goes. And tastes damn good. And it’s about the burritos not the nachos. And it’s more traditional mexican than something like taco bell or montezuma’s. And they support local farms that are sustainable and respect the animals. And I wish someone would open one in Brisbane, to give fast food mexican a good name. I think it would take off.
848 Washington Street
Towering over the popular highline in the fashionable meatpacking district, the standard is the place to be. This unique building near the Hudson river houses a stylish, boutique hotel complete with gourmet hotspot restaurants and bars. Visit the biergarten and try the chicken wurst and spicy pork wurst, served with sauerkraut, relish and a tasty german breadstick – the best! Make your way up to the rooftop bar for fantastic views, fake grass, a frech crepe, and perhaps even a warm spa. Enjoy live djs in the living room any night of the week, or dine in the award winning the standard grill – the options are endless!
the chelsea market
75 9th Avenue
After being miserably disappointed with what was on offer at the Quincy markets in Boston, I was pleasantly surprised with the Chelsea markets…a fantastic indoor, chic (what isn’t in Chelesa?) market place with an array of eats to choose from. You can tell that every store holder is completely passionate about what they are producing, and the result is amazing, fresh and original products from beautiful, intricately decorated cakes and biscuits to artisanal breads, crepes, organic iceblocks, coffee, wines and much more. There are also a number of social, low key style restaurants/eateries that are worth a visit. One I wish I had known about before chowing down on 2 crepes and an ice block, is Friedman’s Lunch – a bustling little restaurant serving American style home food from fresh market produce.
the spotted pig
314 West 11th Street
I would go back here simply for the old-school party bites on offer including devils on horseback and deviled eggs… and for the best chips ever (I never thought I would say that about slices of deep fried potatoes..but seriously). I’m talking a massive pile of delicous potato shards which have been deep fried with garlic slices and rosemary leaves. Josh loved what I like to refer to as a bit of wank on a burger bun (that’s roquefort with a wagyu beef patty). It wasn’t that it was bad, and almost every table had atleast one of these on it, but again, the bun itself tasted lifeless and over-processed. But i guess that’s the way the Americans like their buns. There are also some other great, hearty english pub style meals on offer. Also, just a note, you can’t reserve tables, and you can wait 45 minutes on a tuesday night at 11:30pm…atleast that is what we did! They’re obviously doing something right.
things to do in the area
shopping along bleecker st – my favourite for boutique stores
eating a cupcake from the famous magnolia bakery (bleecker st)
sunning it up on the highline – beautiful man made, green public space that tunnels through the standard
visiting the apple store buying yourself some nic nacs (not the main apple store, but still pretty unbelievable)
take the free ferry across to staten island to get some good shots of lady liberty… go to the lower deck – nobody goes there
other buroughs of ny…mainly, brooklyn
Brooklyn is where all the cool kids hang out. Its like a small, sohobo (like it? i just made it up), Chic community of young creatives, and I like it. We tried to fit in by buying skateboards and rolling with the homies, but we stood out like a sore thumb. Oh well, it was fun anyway.
williamsburg ‘smorgasburg’ green food market – brooklyn – saturday
East river waterfront (btw. North 6 and 7 Streets)
If you have a chance to visit Brooklyn on a saturday, don’t miss these great organic markets. Less about selling raw organic produce and more about vendors selling food and drink made from organic produce, this is a great place to go for lunch. Do me a favour and head straight to ‘porchetta’ selling the most moist, melt in your mouth roast pork on a wholesome, to die for bun you have ever had – no condiments or anything else are required – the herby pork juices and fats just soak into the bread. I’m not a massive pork head, but this is just amazing, and what all pork should taste like. Finish off with a refreshing organic juice or iceblock.
the bedford cheese shop
229 Bedford Avenue
Cheese, cheese and more cheese. And bread. Beautiful old fashioned cheese shop which sources cheese from around the world. It has a better range than anything we found in Manhattan.
things to do in brooklyn
walk over the brooklyn bridge from downtown manhattan
walk the streets of williamsburg/dumbo and discover the boutique shops and stores
soak up the sun and enjoy beautiful views of manhattan from eastriver state park on the waterfront