There is no place like home, folks! I get back to New York once or twice a year which is not nearly enough. However, for the last 11 years, my life has been in Chicago (another fabulous city) and time marches on at a rather fast pace. I am in NYC for 2 weeks (yay!) and I have wasted no time trolling the streets for the very best of New York eats. Below are a few of the spots (by neighborhood) which you don’t want to miss whether you are a resident or a visitor to my hometown:
Upper East Side – New York Eats
Caffe Noi is a cozy little spot that will meet your coffee and free WiFi needs. I love it because it is not overrun with people. The baristas know what they are doing here and you will be surrounded by local, creative types who are writing screenplays and such.
(1465 2nd Ave. , 4 blocks north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train; 2 blocks east and 2 blocks south of the 77th/Lex stop on the 4, 6 trains.)
Sable’s is a New York staple for great bagels, bialy’s and smoked fish from lox, to salmon to whitefish to caviar. I stopped in for my ritual smoked tuna salad on an everything bagel and a pickle. PERFECTION!
(1489 2nd Ave. – 5 blocks north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train; 2 blocks east of the 77th/Lexington stop on the 4,6 trains.)
The Sweet Shoppe is owned by a husband and wife team who will take you on a trip down memory lane with their retro selection of hard-to-find candies and chocolates. I found the “Ice Cubes” chocolates from my youth that my Bensonhurst nana used to keep in the fridge for me! They have great ice cream and gelato from a local vendor, so stop in for a cone or a milkshake. This place is the size of a postage stamp but it’s so easy to get lost once you’re inside.
(404 E. 73rd St. – 1 block east and 1 block north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train.)
Jones Wood Foundry offers a transportive experience on the Upper East Side at this British-inspired pub. They serve great pints and some tasty food, including the rotating selection of pot pies, like this chicken and kale version.
(401 E. 76th St. – 1 block east and 4 blocks north of the 72nd St. stop on the Q train.)
Mo Il Gelato is a teeny, tiny hole in the wall with big flavors in the form of gelato. You want to stop in here whether you are having a good day or a bad day because the lovely Italian owner has the flavors you need to celebrate or cure whatever is ailing you. I love the Nocciolo (hazelnut-chocolate) and the pistachio gelato. Not into gelato? No worries, they also have hot soup!
(956 Lexington Ave. – 1 1/2 blocks north of the 68th St.-Hunter College stop on the 6 train.)
Harlem – New York Eats
Red Rooster has been on my list of restaurants to visit for some time. Chef Marcus Samuelsson who is half Ethiopian and half Swedish is the owner and his ethnic influences are evident in the Southern comfort food dishes served at this sexy, Harlem spot. I loved my dinner so much that I am planning my return for lunch or weekend brunch before I head back to Chicago.
I recommend that you make a reservation and bring some friends because you will not be satisfied sampling only one dish. Chef Samuelsson’s Swedish meatballs with lingonberries, pickles, and perfectly roasted potatoes are a must-do!
I usually pass on mac ‘n cheese these days because it tends to be too heavy, drowning in cheese and way too underwhelming. Red Rooster blazes a trail with its own take on the classic by reinventing it as Mac ‘n Greens. This version has less cheese, large rigatoni, and savory greens. I thought I detected some harissa in the mix which would explain the spicy and smoky element I loved so much. Just do it!
If you love jerk spice, you need to try the “Low Country Cat” which is Red Rooster’s jerk catfish with a wonderful red tomato rice and lima beans. So heavenly!
(310 Lenox Avenue – Outside of the of the 125th St. stop on the 6 train.)
Lower East Side – New York Eats
Russ & Daughters Cafe was the long overdue addition to the landmark Russ & Daughters appetizing delicatessen around the corner. This is where you want to come to get your lox, whitefish, sable and matzo ball soup. The sweet side of the menu has you covered with decadent treats like babka French toast and honey cake. I could go on but you should just plan a visit.
The pastrami-cured salmon with Muenster cheese, sauerkraut, and mustard on an everything bagel is a thing of beauty. Wash it all down with an egg cream!
(127 Orchard St. – 2 blocks west and 1/2 block north of the Delancy St. stop on the F train.)
Rose and Basil is, quite possibly, the cutest and most original bakery in New York. The owner is creating cakes, chocolates and coffee drinks infused with rose oil extract from roses imported from her Romanian mom’s garden! The sweets are organic, often vegan and gluten-free. She is serving La Colombe coffee and espresso which are my favorite coffee roasts.
Rose and Basil is located at 104 E. 7th St. – 7 blocks north and 1 /12 blocks east of the 2nd Avenue stop on the F train.
Veniero’s cafe and bakery has been a New York institution since 1894 for good reason. You want to come here when you need a cannoli, tiramisu, Napolean, eclair, cheesecake and much more. It’s a large place so get comfy, unbutton your pants and don’t feel guilty. Veniero’s is a rite of passage for New Yorkers and wannabes.
Veneiro’s is located at 342 E. 11th St., 3 blocks south of the 1 Avenue stop on the L train.
Chelsea – New York Eats
I have family in Chelsea; therefore, I always find an excuse to head over to this west side neighborhood for some tasty meals. Last night, my brother-in-law and I caught up over some Thai food at M Thai which is a sleek space with a traditional Thai-American menu. The prices are right and the presentations are appealing I liked the bright, spicy basil tofu with brown rice because it is perfect in its simplicity.
Enjoy a quiet meal at M Thai, as it is never overrun with people.
(8th Avenue, 3 blocks south of the 23rd St. stop on the A, C, E trains.)
L.I.C. (Long Island City) – New York Eats
Before I moved to Chicago, I lived in Long Island City (L.I.C.), which is the Queens neighborhood closest to Manhattan. It is only 2-3 short stops from midtown Manhattan on the #7 or E trains and its boom in 2005 continues today. There are new restaurants and bars stretching from the East River and Vernon Blvd to Court Square.
John Brown Smokehouse is slinging Kansas City-style barbecue and it is fabulous. I tried the ribs, burnt ends (a signature item) and the mac ‘n cheese which are all great.
(10-43 44th Drive, 3 blocks east of the Court Square-23rd St. stop, along the E and M trains. #7 train is just an extra block west.)
The Mill Coffee Company is right near John Brown Smokehouse and it is a great addition to the L.I.C. neighborhood. Check out their interesting strawberry-flavored coffee drinks.
(44-61 11th St., 3 blocks east of the Court Square-23rd St. stop, on the E and M trains)
All of these outstanding New York eats will take you from morning to night.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the local trains and buses to these outstanding New York eats. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, parking and road rage. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!