You’ve circled Central Park in a horse drawn carriage, stared dreamily at the Empire State and maxed out your cards at Macy’s. But wait, you didn’t stop for a bite yet? You’re in the Big Apple, buddy; cut yourself a slice.
New York food blogs laud the local’s opinion. Rightly so, you say. Of course you’re going to trust a native New Yorker’s top tips on the city’s best Reuben or root beer float. But there’s a cultural question here. If you’re not quite sure what a Reuben actually is, what use reading a rave review of one? Coming as you do from the land of fish & chips, wouldn’t you feel safer in the hands of a fellow Brit whose empathy for your tastes and mores would result in road tested recommendations you could rely on? That’s where I come in. When I went on a New York holiday I was kind enough to take notes on the eateries I encountered, and compiled the following little New York Food Guide.
So, join me for breakfast in Brooklyn? Actually, we’ll start in Manhattan over a spot of brunch, shall we?
Dimes is a cool little café on Division Street near the Manhattan Bridge. Tables are limited and popularity high so queues are common. Egg based brunches and super healthy acai bowls, as well as being tasty, double up as convincing alibis as to why you’re really there – to people-watch and eavesdrop into the lives of the ultra trendy fashion set that frequents the place.
Eschewing healthy options (just a bit), The Great Jones Café at 54 Great Jones Street in the heart of the Bowery dishes up, frankly, the best Creole chicken wings in town. Served simply with grated carrot and shredded red cabbage, they’re reassuringly messy and wash down deliciously with one of a selection of crisp Mexican lagers. The Margaritas and Cajun Bloody Marys are popular here too, as are the legendary jukebox and avuncular bartenders.
For a pretty commendable attempt at a pub – complete with live Premiership football matches and a menu featuring Shepherd’s Pie – amid the cosmopolitan chic of Manhattan’s East Village, try Dempsey’s (number 61 2nd Avenue). Familiar food may indeed be available but for authentic American fare go for Pork belly Sliders in a hoisin barbecue glaze, or the (huge) House Burger featuring ‘Murray’s Tickler’ cheese.
Taqueria Lower East Side is a hustling bustling Mexican restaurant located at 198B Orchard Street in the, you guessed it, Lower East side. Come evenings it’s abuzz with chummy chatter, laughter and the clinking of glasses as patrons gather to tuck in to good grub and watch baseball games on the wall-mounted TVs. The chicken flautas, steak quesadillas and fish tacos tasted authentically Mexicano and were supported by a pretty decent wine list.
Brooklyn bound now and first up we have the hip diner Five Leaves – 18 Bedford Avenue. It’s towards the Greenpoint corner of Williamsburg so still attracts a fashion-forward crowd of bearded bloggers and artisan aesthetes. I was recommended the Moroccan Scramble – merguez sausage and scrambled eggs with chickpeas and avocado on sourdough toast – and it didn’t disappoint. The coffee’s good too but, despite being so customary in the land of the free, does not accommodate free refills.
Just down the road from Five Leaves next to McCarren Park, Park Luncheonette (332 Driggs Avenue) is another diner with imaginative breakfast ideas. Breakfast pizza anyone? That was a bit too progressive for my palette so I stuck to familiar territory and plumped for the two-eggs-any-style plate, with skillet potatoes and house-made focaccia. Fab.
Time for a cuisine u-turn now. Khao Sarn Thai is, as its name implies, not an American food establishment (even if my server’s name was Barbie). You’re looking at solid, dependable Thai favourites like chicken sataes and peanut curries plus the opportunity to accompany them with such fruity refreshments as lychee mojitos. It’s bit of an institution around these parts – 311 Bedford Avenue.
Jimmy’s, 92 Calyer Street, is a cosy bar with a comfort-food-inspired menu. A country duo was performing heart-warming ditties as we had a couple of beers (Carling Black Label, funnily enough) and perused the specials. We decided to share the shrimp hushpuppies, chicken Caesar kale salad, Cajun corn and pinto beans. The atmosphere was neighbourly and, together with the great service, music and food, made for an excellent evening.
Photos courtesy of the author © Kenwood Travel.
Scanning expertise courtesy of Ashita.