New York, light of my life, city of my dreams, home to the world’s pickiest eaters. Whatever you want, you can find in New York.
Hate gluten? So does everyone. On a paleo diet for the week? Not a problem. And if you have a really specific craving, chances are, so does someone else in the city, and that someone else has started a dedicated restaurant to fuel other people who have that craving too.
It is a city where options are aplenty, and you’re spoilt for choice no matter what about: activities, things to see, places to go, meals to experience..
Let’s cut to the chase. The idea for this post was conceived because I found myself trouping all over town, meeting friends for meals, and rolling my eyes back in pleasure both at the company and at the food. Have I had a bad meal in New York? Sure. But they are few and far between. Here are the top eleven places I’ve been to and recommend for those very specific cravings that are bound to hit:
1. For the Veggie Lovers: Westville
I like my vegetables, don’t get me wrong. But I have never felt this way about veggies until Westville. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so strongly about vegetables until Westville happened to me.
(Of all the places on this list Westville is the only place I don’t have a photo of because I’ve always been too crazy impressed by the food to remember to snap a pic of first, and this I deeply regret. But it’s okay, just google it if you want to know what it looks like!)
Westville… Is insane.
It really changed the whole veggie game for me. The way they season their vegetables really brings out the flavours of the food – I’m quite picky with my vegetables, and I’m not the most adventurous when it comes to trying new things, but I’ve never had a bad dish at Westville. It’s the place I first tried many things: brussels sprouts, plantains, artichokes, and I loved them all. You can get either a meat and veggie dish, or just a market plate of four veggies. One’s instinct would be to go for the meat+veggie combo, but I’ll say go for the market plate. I really cannot get enough of Westville’s vegetables. They have four outlets scattered across New York, but only the Hudson branch takes reservations. Be prepared to queue a little while for the others (they don’t seat you till everyone in your party is here) but it’s well worth it.
Each outlet has a slightly different menu, my favourites are the East and West Village branches!
2. For the Burger Fanatics: Bareburger
Move aside, Shake Shack. (Cue gasps. Did she really? Yes, I went there.) I’ve never understood the American obsession over Shake Shack, which to me tasted like an oily heart attack (did I get a dud? Everyone else I know adores it), but if you’re really into burgers, consider the Bareburger chain.
They sell organic and all natural burgers, and ever since touchdown in New York, people have been emailing me and snapchatting me nonstop to recommend Bareburger to me, so I finally dropped by the Wall Street branch sometime towards the end of my trip.
The great thing about Bareburger, and the main draw, I would say, is how infinite the possibilities are. You can get a burger to cater to any taste. They have plenty of vegan and gluten-free options (very popular for people looking for a guilt-free indulgence), as well as the more exotic meats (elk or ostrich burger, anyone?). And if you’re looking for an all American classic beef burger, they’ve got that too. Your burgers are either completely built to order, where you pick what you want from bun to meat to sauce, or just customisations of their classic menu. And the prices are on par with most burger joints in America, so you’re not paying exorbitant amount for the options you’re given. I’m not a huge burger fan to begin with, but I would recommend!
3. For the Late Night Hungry Birds: Ktown
Five Senses Korean Restaurant
New Wonjo Korean BBQ
Is it strange that I would go all the way to America just to eat Asian food? But I’ve always adored Asian food and culture, and Ktown (which is really just a street) is one of my favorite areas to hang in New York City. Many of the restaurants on Ktown are 24 hours, and there are karaoke joints and massage parlours aplenty. My two favourite restaurants there are Five Senses, which does a killer kimchi fried rice and seafood pancake, and New Wonjo Korean BBQ, which is exactly what it sounds like – a freakin great korean table BBQ. Both of these places are open 24/7, and serve up fantastic korean grub – perfect whether or not you’re starting to feel a little homesick.
One more thing – along that street, there’s also Woorjip, a cantina style place for korean food. They charge $7.99 per pound for food that you pick from a hot/cold buffet line, and you can sit in this cafeteria like area to eat. Soju is cheap there too, so we spent many a late-night snacking on korean food and soju, playing cards. Such a gem of a find!
4. For the Bougie Boozies:Berry Park in Brooklyn
Berry Park is a rooftop bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, home to hipsters. It serves up a mean frozen Piña Colada (pictured above) against a killer Manhattan skyline backdrop. It also does happy hour every weekday from 2-7pm, with $5 drink specials. If it’s known to be a bar, though, you ask, why is it in this list of great eats?
Because it does a sick bowl of fries.
Seriously! We ordered the Park Fries with Bacon on the random recommendation of a user on foursquare, and it blew us away. The perfect accompaniment to your boozy frozen drink, and a seriously great bowl of fries, plain and simple. Good for sharing between three to four people. Head there half an hour before sunset to get a good seat on the roof, then watch the sun slowly cast Manhattan in a dusty golden glow as it sets. Perfection.
Berry St., Brooklyn, 718-782-2829, berryparkbk.com
5. For the Satisfying Quick Bites: Pokeworks
I first fell in love with Poke in HongKong of all places, where we stumbled upon a poke shop called Pololi along Graham Street in Central Hongkong, and have been searching for a similar experience ever since. Poke (pronounced po-keh) is a hawaiian dish: it’s fresh sashimi marinated in different sauces, and if you like sashimi, you’ll love this.
And now it’s in New York. The Poke trend has started sweeping the city (the week I was there, two more poke places opened), but the one I tried and recommend is Pokeworks, in the city centre. You can make your own poke bowl or just order one of their sets – I ordered their ahi-tuna set on a salad base which was really good. The queue gets pretty long (we waited twenty minutes in the rain), and it’s mostly a takeout place, but the shop is only a couple of blocks over from Bryant Park, so if it’s nice out you can get a bowl and have it in the park. Again, this place is great because of the sheer number of options you have, and also because of the high quality of each and every one of the options. Of course, this might result in FOMO if you can’t decide which add-ons to throw into your bowl, but who said this has to be a one-time thing?
63 W 37th St
New York, NY 10018
b/t Avenue Of The Americas & 5th Ave
6. For the Best Steak and Egg Brunch You Never Knew You Needed: Cafe Orlin
I had no idea steak for breakfast was even a thing until New York. But now that I have, I can’t stop raving about it. What a fantastic way to start your day. And in such a phenomenal place too.
Cafe Orlin is a cute little middle-eastern inspired cafe on the East Village, which offers both indoor and alfresco seating. Alfresco is very popular when the weather is nice – I’d suggest you do that. It’s owned by the same people who started Cafe Mogador one street over, and its vegetarian friendly menu means that it’s a great place to come with friends who have dietary restrictions even when you’re craving steak. It’s not even that their steak has been done in any particularly unique way – it’s just that every single thing on that plate is done seriously, with dedication and with love. One can tell. The steak and eggs are the main draw, obviously, but the potatoes? Ace. That multigrain toast? Perfection. And the coffee? Don’t even get me started.
Cafe Orlin is also really centrally located, smack in the centre of the East Village, which means that even if you dont want to get your coffee from there, there are plenty of really great coffee joints in the neighbourhood – Abraco, for instance, or Mud Coffee. It’s even right across the road from Porto Rico Importing Co., a great coffee bean shop.
41 St Marks place.
7. For the Romantic One Night Splurge: Asiate, Mandarin Oriental New York
Fair warning: Asiate will probably blow your budget for fanciest meal in New York. But what an experience.
Asiate sits on the top of Mandarin Oriental New York, overlooking Columbus Circle. It’s a posh asian-american fine dining restaurant that essentially operates on a fixed-set menu, and it’ll set you back about a hundred fifty USD thanks to the tips. Generally, nicer places get a better tip, it’s just a service thing. What makes this restaurant so memorable is equal parts atmosphere and food. The service of the place was just ace: I don’t think I’d dined anywhere in the city that had better or more attentive service staff, and each dish was exquisite. But the view – oh, the view! It was breathtaking. So romantic. My girlfriend told me a story of how she went on a date here, one wintry afternoon in New York, and got caught in a snow storm. The date wasn’t much to shout about, she said, but witnessing the snowstorm over New York City while nestled high above in the gorgeous restaurant was magical.
Asiate, Mandarin Oriental
80 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10023, United States
8. For the “World’s Best Hot Chocolate”: MarieBelle Cacao Bar and Tea Salon, New York
Granted, no hot chocolate is pictured here. But I’ve had the hot chocolate, and I can tell you, it’s incredible.
Marie Belle sits on the fringe of Soho, and at first glance looks like a chocolate gift shop. However, if you walk in and through all the way to the back, there’s a tiny cafe hidden at the back of the shop, decorated with fairy lights and chocolate spice dispensers. I was brought there by a friend, a local who swears this is the best hot chocolate in the world. I don’t know about the international claim, but it’s some pretty damned good hot chocolate. You get to pick from a selection of cacao beans based on your tastes (do you like sweet chocolate? how about a cup of spicy aztec hot choc?), but even the iced (pictured above), is fantastic. Thick, rich, and decadent, these drinks are what dreams are made of.
MarieBelle Cacao Bar and Tea Salon
484 Broome St, New York, NY 10013, United States
9. For the Seasonal Lucky Bite: Taste of Times Square New York / Smorgasburg New York
The great thing about New York is that there’s always stuff going on, events of some kind or the other, fairs, street parties. Each time I’ve been in New York they’ve had food fairs, like the Smorgasburg, which runs all summer, or the Taste Of pop up food series, where different restaurants throughout the city come together to sell small dishes of their food at a fraction of what they usually cost. It’s a fab way to taste many different acclaimed dishes at once, and the atmosphere is buzzy and plain fun. Keep an eye out for these fairs whenever you’re in town!
10. For the Kale Lovers: Tuck Shop
My first taste of Kale was in Tuck Shop New York, an australian cafe specialising in meat pies. The meat pies are great, don’t get me wrong, but their kale salad is something else. It’s very straightforward – just kale, mixed with nuts, seeds, raisins, and tossed in their special sauce – but it’s amazing. I always get a portion to go and sit in the adjourning park to chow, or pick it up on the way home and eat it when I get late night cravings. The servings are huge, so you either share it or save half for another time, but it’s really addictive – one of those places I went back to time and again.
68 E 1st St #1, New York, NY 10003, United States
11. For the Jerusalem Nested Egg: Cafe Petisco
Yet another Mediterranean brunch place. New York is full of them – and I think my own fascination with them lies in the fact that we don’t get them here in Singapore much (or at all). Cafe Petisco is a total gem which might get lost in the current of trendy brunch places popping up everywhere in New York, but it’s one that’s worth hunting down. Note: it’s CASH ONLY, which means don’t turn up with only your Visa or you’ll get a nasty shock. We had a couple of items on the menu, all of which were good, but the thing that really stood out for us were the Jerusalem Nested Eggs. Seriously, can we even get that in Singapore? It was a completely new thing for me, which is rare, because Singapore is so diversified when it comes to food options already. Somebody needs to bring this here, stat!
The Jerusalem Nested Egg is basically a baked egg in toasted a jerusalem bagel with tomatoes and cheese. Sounds simple, but it’s always the simple ones that blow us away. I dream about this bagel sometimes.
Also, it’s vegetarian friendly, which seems like an important thing to highlight in an era where so many of us seem to be or have many vegan friends.
189 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002, United States
Funny story – I started this post with the initial title: “Five very specific meals in New York City”. Five! But of course, thinking that five recommendations sufficed must have been a joke. New York is stuffed and sewn with amazing restaurants, cafes, and takeout places, and I had to forcibly restrain myself from letting this post turn into a list of fifty best places.. because, what of Katz deli’s sandwiches? The smoked salmon bagels from Russ and Daughters? The good old american fare from Lucky Strike? The pasta from Acqua at Peck Slip? It’s really too hard to have everything down, and in New York City, one can never finish trying everything. There’s always something new to try, something fantastic, and special, and potentially life changing. But here are the ones that stood out for me, the ones I would go back to, and the most unique ones I could cobble together.
Go forth, try them, and let me know what you think. I hope I made you hungry – and I apologise for nothing. Thank you for the memories, New York x