7 days + 1 hungry Canadian pastry chef + 1 food-obsessed New York cabbie + 2 skinny wallets + 5 boroughs of spectacular restaurants = a New York taxi driver’s food tour.
The delicious marathon with my food-loving friend from Canada continues. Here’s what I made her taste during days 3 and 4 of our New York City eating tour. Are we missing anything?
Banh mi sandwiches at Num Pang are creative riffs on the traditional pork banh mi. From mackerel with basil oil to veal meatballs with hoisin, they’re almost always delicious. I’ve tried nearly every one on the menu, but peppercorn catfish ($7.50) is still my favorite. Caro sampled 5-spiced pork belly with pickled pear ($7.50), a beautifully balanced pile of sweet, sour, fatty, spicy and salty. Pear checked pork, and cilantro, carrot and radish slid around the dense, chewy Parisi bun (the perfect foil for Num Pang’s chili mayonnaise).
21 East 12th St # 2 (near University Place) – Union Square
New York, NY 10003-4403
Tel (212) 255-3271
Open: Mon-Sat 11am-10pm; Sun 12pm-9pm
Prices: Sandwiches from $6.75-8.75
One of Caro’s three jobs is cooking in the deli at Whole Foods in Vancouver, so she couldn’t resist scoping out a sister store in the States. While she gaped at the beer room in the Bowery location (they can’t sell alcohol at supermarkets in Canada), I wandered around and sniffed cheese.
I waved her over when I found this Robusto. The cheese tastes like what might happen if cheddar and Gouda had a love child – and it’s made in the Netherlands especially for Whole Foods. We ate tangy, sharp, rich slices for breakfast with rosemary bread.
Whole Foods Bowery
95 East Houston St at Chrystie – New York, NY 10002
Tel (212) 420-1320
Open: 7 days, 8am-11pm
Price: Robusto costs $14.99/pound, but you can sample any cheese in the store for free.
L.A. Burdick is famous for hot chocolate, but their cannelles ($1.25) – orange-infused caramelized custard pastries native to the Bordeaux region of France – are just as remarkable. One of my favorite ways to chase a banh mi sandwich from Num Pang.
5 E 20th St – between 5th & Broadway – Flatiron
New York, 10010
Tel. (212) 796-0143
Open: 7 days, 9am-9pm
Prices: cannelle ($1.25); hot chocolate ($2.50 for a small)
There is a lot of great coffee in New York City, but the best of the best is at Cafe Grumpy. If I could find parking on 20th St., I’d come here to caffeinate on every shift. I can’t seem to tear myself away from their cappuccinos to try the drip coffee, which is something truly special, according to New York Magazine, “Rather than conventionally brewing drip coffee, Grumpy has invested in two Clovers, the brainchild of a pair of wired engineers from (where else?) Seattle. Each cup is made fresh, from bean to brew, in about 40 seconds.” Not surprisingly, Caro’s caffe americano was spot on.
224 W. 20th St. – near Seventh Ave – Chelsea
Open: Mon-Thurs 7am-8pm; Fri 7am-9pm; Sat 8am-9pm; Sun 8am-8pm
Prices: Cappuccino $3.50; Americano $2.00
Note: Grumpy hosts regular cuppings where you can taste specialty coffees from around the world. Join their mailing list for details.
3 other locations
There may be better New York-style pizza somewhere in Gotham, but my heart belongs to the original Patsy’s in Spanish Harlem. There’s magic in that 78-year old coal oven, and you can taste it for $1.75. Dough is chewy, floppy, and heat blistered, and tomato sauce toes that elusive line between sweet and tangy. A thin layer of good mozzarella tops off the slice that Sinatra used to have flown to L.A. when he was hungry for pie from his native coast.
2287 1st Avenue (near E.118th St.) – Spanish Harlem
New York, NY 10035
Tel. (212) 534-9783
Price: $1.75 per slice
NOTE: You may see other Patsy’s around Manhattan, but their pizza cannot compare to the original in Harlem. It’s all about that old coal oven.
When Caro and I came to the unfortunate realization that there’s no way we can taste all that’s delicious in New York in a week, we decided to hit Chelsea Market and do a little progressive snacking.
First stop: Amy’s Bread, where we munched on black sesame and semola, raisin and fennel breadsticks ($1.25 each). Amy’s is one of the only bakeries in New York that wins a stamp of approval from a French friend of mine. As an aspiring baker, Caro admired the perfection in Amy’s dough and the simple genius of her flavor combinations.
Caro isn’t a huge ice cream fan, but I dragged her to the L’Arte del Gelato stand at Chelsea Market to see mastery at work. One taste of hazelnut (made with nocciole from the Langhe region in Piedmonte, Italy) and another of mascarpone (which tasted like sweet, frozen butter), and we ended up sharing a small cup ($4.25). The only thing missing was a Roman fountain.
High on hazelnuts, we wandered into the Filling Station to taste olive oil, vinegar and flavored salts. Caro couldn’t resist buying a bottle of the best sesame oil we’d ever tried, along with a jar of white truffle salt ($18.95). Imagine a musky flower coming into bloom on your tongue, and you can understand what compelled Caro to splurge on this salt.
75 9th Ave at W. 16th St. – Chelsea
New York, 10011
Tel. (212) 243-6005
Open: Monday – Saturday: 7am to 9pm, Sundays: 8am to 7pm
See a list of all the vendors here
Woorijip isn’t the best Korean food in New York, but it’s probably the best cheap Korean food in New York – and it’s one of my favorite spots to pick up something quick and energizing when I’m on duty. Where else can you get poached salmon, brown rice, snow peas and salad for $6? Egg pancakes are delicious here, and Caro’s steamed spinach ($2.50) with sesame hit the spot.
12 West 32nd St # 4 -between 5th and 6th Aves. – Koreatown
Tel. (212) 244-1115
Open: 7 days, 8am-3am; Prices: Feast for $10 or less.
Caro and I hit the midpoint of our food tour on the rooftop of the La Quinta Inn on West 32nd St., also known as Mé Bar. This is one of the coolest spots in Manhattan to drink a good (bottled) beer and admire the Empire State Building from up close. The crowd is unpretentious and the Belgian abbey ale is delicious. Just walk into the La Quinta, take the elevator to the 14th floor and turn right. You’ll sidle up to the bar feeling as if you’re in on a wonderful secret.
17 W 32nd St – (between 5th Ave & Broadway) – Midtown West, Koreatown
New York, NY 10001
Tel. (212) 290-2460
Open: Mon-Wed, Sun 5:30pm-12am; Thu-Sat 5:30pm-2am
Prices: Beers (including Belgian abbey ale, Brooklyn Lager, Anchor Steam): $6