I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: New Yorkers know their food.
What is it about the Biggest Apple that makes people here so food savvy? Is it easy access to flavor from so many parts of the world? Is it a critical mass of chefs and food industry folk who create and demand excellence in restaurants? Or is it the food media, who can whip up as much hysteria around Mario Batali’s next move as sports writers can about Derek Jeter’s?
New Yorkers’ sophistication and sense of adventure around food is probably a combination of these factors. Or maybe it’s just that all the striving that goes on here whips up an appetite for the best of the best.
Yes, there are mediocre meals to be had in this town (and I’ve tasted a few of them). But I’ve never lived anywhere with such a high concentration of tremendous things to eat.
I owe a huge debt to New York cabbies for showing me the way to so much deliciousness.
But before I take off for taxi adventures in Berlin next week, I also want to thank my passengers for leading me to some great food.
I’ve spent the past week stuffing (and re-stuffing) myself with their suggestions. Here are five dishes I know I’m going to crave long after I leave New York:
Pork Ribs at Dok Suni
Rachel spent most of the ride from the East Village to the Museum of Modern Art telling me where I needed to eat. It took me a while to get to Dok Suni to try the pork ribs that make her swoon, but eventually I got around to tasting what she was talking about.
These beauties are slathered in garlic, chili, soy and sugar and will make you lick your fingers without shame. The sides that come with them – especially the rice noodle and cucumber salad (see the photo above) – underline the high quality of the food at what’s now my favorite Korean restaurant in the East Village.
Dok Suni – Map it
119 First Ave. (near 7th St.) – East Village
Tel. (212) 477-9506
Open: Open Mon 4:30pm-11pm; Tue-Fri 4:30pm-12am; Sat 12pm-12am
Pork ribs: $16.95
Tacos at Pinche Taqueria
As a native Californian, Mexican food snobbery is etched into my DNA. So I was a little skeptical when native New Yorker Adam told me I had to try the tacos at this teeny tiny restaurant/stand in Nolita.
Pinche’s tacos may not measure up to the ones you’d taste on the streets of Mexico City, but they’re enough to satisfy a craving for good Cal-Mex. They keep it simple – tortillas that approach handmade softness, carefully seasoned beef or chicken or pork or shrimp or fish or beans, cilantro and tomatillo salsa are the only ingredients – and the simplicity works.
Pinche Taqueria– Map it
333 Lafayette Street, Nolita
Tel. (212) 343-9977
Open: Sun-Mon, 10:30am to 11pm; Tues-Thurs, 10:30am to 12am; Fri-Sat 10:30am-4am
Credit cards accepted
When I visited their favorite Jamaican restaurant in Spanish Harlem a few days later and tasted oxtails, sweet plantains, rice and peas stewed in coconut milk, and house-made rum cake, I was even more grateful they’d climbed into my taxi.
Walker’s Woods Caribbean American Restaurant – Map it
2135 2nd Avenue (between 109th and 110th Streets) – Spanish Harlem
Open: 8am-11pm, 7 days a week
Oxtails, $10; Rum cake, $3
Spinach and Ricotta Focaccia at Lorusso’s
Jim Leff of Chowhound fame originally turned me on to this little focacceria when I first moved to New York, but it was Astoria-bound passenger Derek who recommended the spinach and ricotta version of Lorusso’s focaccia.
Try the plain focaccia, too, so you can get a full dose of the olive oil from Puglia that makes this bread so special.
Lorusso’s Pizza & Focaccia – Map it
18-01 26th Road (at 18th St.) – Astoria
Tel. (718) 777-3628
Credit cards accepted
Spinach & ricotta focaccia: $7
Caramel Fleur de Sel Macaron at Little Oven
I didn’t even know what a macaron was until Francophile Lily got into my taxi and told me about developing an addiction to these mini sandwich cookies when she was living in Paris.
Imagine her joy when Little Oven – a new bakery specializing in French macarons – opened weeks ago in Long Island City. Chef-owner Anna-Marie Farrier learned the art of macarons from Parisian cookie master Pierre Herme. Her caramel fleur de sel macarons are sweet-savory clouds of bliss that dissolve on your tongue.
Little Oven – Map it
12-07 Jackson Ave. (near 48th Ave.) – Long Island City
Tel. (718) 440-9438
Open: Mon-Tue, Thu-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat-Sun, 9am-5pm; Wed, closed
Credit cards accepted
Caramel fleur de sel macaron: $1.75
Have a tip for a good bite to eat in New York, Buenos Aires and/or Berlin? Tell us about it!