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A Taxi Driver’s New York Food Tour: Day 2

Banana pudding. Pineapple upside-down cake. Fried chicken and waffles. [The best?!] Collard greens in the city. Mac and cheese. Scottish ale. Stewed pork and spicy lamb cumin noodles.

Day 2 of the New York City food tour with my food-obsessed friend from Canada tasted pretty good.

Here’s our feast in pictures, with coordinates:

Breakfast: Make My Cake. Caro caught an episode of “Throwdown” with Bobby Flay that featured Make My Cake, whose German chocolate cake drew the Food Network star to their Harlem bakery. Flay won the baking contest, but we still wanted to try banana pudding and pineapple upside down cake.

In our throwdown, banana pudding ($4.50) was the clear winner (bananas weren’t too ripe and the thick pudding had just enough vanilla to push the fruit to the center without taking over). Pineapple upside down cake ($4.50) tasted like canned pineapple on top of moist yellow cake (but it paired perfectly with the $4 Scottish ales we downed at dba bar hours later). I’ll be back for pudding – and red velvet cake.

Make My Cake
2380 Adam C. Powell Blvd. (139th St.)
Harlem, NY 10030
Tel. 212.234.2344
Open: HOURS: Sun 9am-5pm; Mon-Fri 8am-7pm; Sat 9am-7pm
Slice of cake: $4.50-5

Lunch: Amy Ruth’s. Caro has a special relationship with fried chicken, so it seemed logical to hit Amy Ruth’s, where they’ve been making their Alabama grandma’s recipe for over a decade. The chicken was on par with the near-perfect rendition I tasted at RCL Enterprises a few months ago, but the sides were even more mind-blowing. Mac and cheese was a savory cheese noodle pudding and collard greens were stewed with just the right amount of pork fat – no bitterness at all. The waffle under my fried chicken – fluffy and egg-yolk rich – stood up to multiple applications of maple syrup. Yes, we wanted a nap after this meal, but we also had the strength to walk 30 blocks.

Amy Ruth’s
113 W. 116th St (at Lenox/Malcolm X Blvd) – Harlem
Tel. 212 280 8779
Open: Mon 11.30-11pm; Tues-Thurs: 8.30am-11pm; Fri 8.30am-5.30am; Sat 7.30am-5:30am; Sun 7.30-11pm
Prices: Chicken & waffles: $9.75; Fried chicken with 2 sides: $13.25

Photo by Dennis G. on Yelp

Snack: El Aguila. Carolynn also has a special relationship with chicharron, so she picked up $1.25 worth of fried pork skin at El Aguila, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in New York. We were too full of soul food for their tamal oaxaqueño – we’ll probably make a return trip to Spanish Harlem for its sake.

El Aguila
137 E. 116th St./Luis Munoz Marin Boulevard – Spanish Harlem
New York, NY 10029-1385
Tel. (212) 410-2450 ‎
Open: 24 hours

Dinner: Xi’an Famous Foods. Manhattanites did a happy dance when this Flushing-based Western Chinese restaurant opened two outposts on the island. Caro and I practically jumped for joy when we tried our $6 plates of house-made noodles. For her: stewed pork (which had the tenderness and slight sweetness of pulled pork). For me: spicy cumin lamb (Central Asia and the Silk Road are at work in this one, and cumin clings [irresistibly!] to the thick, chewy pappardelle-wide noodles). Bean sprouts and celery checked the heat on both our plates, but our esophagi were still on fire when we went to sleep.

Xi’an Famous Foods
81 St. Mark’s Place (near 1st Ave.) – East Village
New York, NY 10003
Open: Weekdays & Sunday: 12PM-10PM; Fridays & Saturdays: 12PM-11PM
Noodle dishes: $6-7
3 other locations

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