Reader Mail & My Stream Of Consciousness List of Things to Eat in New York When You Visit

I’ve been a blog slacker lately–updating less frequently and, more horrifically, not responding to reader e-mail. If you’ve sent me an e-mail over the past few weeks, I deeply apologize for not getting back to you. With my thesis reading and school ending and the kidney I donated to a nun, things have been quite hectic around here. I thought I would take this opportunity, though, to answer a reader question that comes up again and again. The question goes something like this:

Dear Amateur Gourmet,

I’m coming to New York with my (friend/boyfriend/husband/psychiatrist) and we need your advice on what to eat. Where should we go? What should we eat? Can we have one of your kidneys?

All the best,

Devoted Reader

Obviously, my archives are a great place to start because I’ve documented most of the meals I’ve eaten for the two years I’ve lived in New York. But that can also be overwhelming. So let me do a stream-of-consciousness list of recommendations—they will be without links, but if any of them strike your fancy, search for them in the search box on the upper right of my site. I will try to recommend both inexpensive budget-friendly places and lavish only if you’re celebrating kind of places. Here we go.

The Amateur Gourmet’s Stream-Of-Consciousness List of Things to Eat in New York When You Visit

– a bagel with cream cheese, smoked salmon, onions, tomatoes and capers at (depending on your location) either Russ & Daughters, Murray’s or (if you can afford it) Barney Greengrass (note: I’ve never been to Barney Greengrass, but I hear it’s excellent.)

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– sticking to Jewish food—take a trip to the Lower East Side and have pastrami or corned beef at Katz’s and a knish at Yonah Shimmels. There’s also a famous pickle place down there–Gus’s?–that I’ve never been to but it’s the basis for the film “Crossing Delancey.” I have a hunch it’s near Delancey.

– Let’s jump to chocolate: if you’re in Manhattan, ride the 1 train down (or up) to..hmmm..now I forget the stop, but you can find it on his web page for Jacques Torres’s Chocolate Haven. It’s worth checking out–and there are lots of souvenir chocolates for you to buy to take back home.

– Sticking to sweets, I recommend the Levain Bakery which I only recently discovered but which offered up the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had in my life. Clotilde felt the same way when she went too.

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– Get a cannoli at Rocco’s on Bleecker and a cashew bar at Amy’s Bread across the street. A cashew bar or a coconut dream bar.

– Get a slice of pizza at Joe’s on Carmine OR a whole pie at John’s just a few bits away on Bleecker. Both are excellent. (And if you really want pizza advice, go to sliceny.com and Adam will help you out!)

– Actually, if you’re in the mood for a pizza adventure and it’s a beautiful day out take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and grab a pie at Grimaldi’s. Then get ice cream at the Brooklyn Ice Cream factory. That’s a really fun day–I did that with my dad and brother (it’s documented on the site) and I’ll never forget it.

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– For fancy sweets, go to Lady M on the Upper East Side and sit in what feels like an aquarium while you eat a crepe cake with 1000 layers of crepes and sweet pastry cream. I’ve written about that too–look it up.

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– As far as ethnic food, I like the Cuban sandwich at Chelsea Havana. Not sure if it’s worth a trek but being on 8th Ave. is certainly a cultural experience. You may come home wearing leather with a rubber ball in your mouth answering to the name “Chico.”

– On 23rd street is R.U.B. (Righteous Urban BBQ) which I recommend only if you’re coming from a place that doesn’t have any BBQ at all, like Canada. If that’s the case get their pulled pork sandwich which is reasonably priced (as opposed to the rest of the menu) and tasty. Then check out the Chelsea Hotel right down the street–it’s my favorite Chelsea landmark.

– Gray’s Papaya for a hot dog. If you have room for a hot dog. It’s a New York thing.

– A cup of coffee at Joe: The Art of Coffee. You’ll probably see me there. I am there all the time. You will also see a celebrity—among the many I’ve seen: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange. Once I was working on a play with Jessica Lange sitting opposite from me and we were the only two people in there and I was like: “Whoah, Jessica Lange is watching me type. That’s cool.” Also: it’s the best coffee in New York.

– Moving up the price ladder (and notice, I’m recommending places all in the same orbit–the West Village–because that’s my favorite noshing ground) I recommend the Greek salad, the dip sampler and the shrimp or lamb pita sandwiches (souvlaki?) at Snack Taverna (it’s one of my favorites); the panini and truffled egg toast at ‘ino, the omelets at Cafe Henri (a great place to have breakfast), and the atmosphere and quirkiness of Shopsin’s. (I’ve never loved the food there but my friend Diana just raved to me about a sandwich she had there with turkey and cranberry mustard. Plus: I once saw Bjork there with Matthew Barney.)

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– In that same area but a bit more expensive is The Spotted Pig which is so trendy it oozes flashbulbs and glitter, but which has outstandingly delicious food (and the hamburger is not outrageously priced and the best you may ever have.) [Also: try the gnudi.] In the same price range and a good alternative when you find out how long you’ll have to wait for a table at The Spotted Pig is August. Get their tart flambe. It will change your life.

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– Uptown, if you want to experience the mystique of Thomas Keller without dropping a small fortune go to the Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center. Since the dining area is quite lackluster (you eat under a giant Samsung sign) why not do the smart thing and get the tuna nicoisse sandwich from the counter, along with a few perfect macaroons and take them into the park? Central Park is right there and you can’t come to New York without going to Central Park? Can you?

– Another good tip I offer you is to have breakfast at Balthazar. The breakfast at Balthazar costs just a tiny bit more than breakfast anywhere else but it’s a million times the experience. You must get the bread basket and then soak in the morning splendor of the place. You’ll probably see Judith Miller in a corner talking on her cell phone. I did.

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– In the same spirit of having breakfast at Balthazar, I gently suggest that you scrounge up $48–that’s right $48–and have lunch at Le Bernardin. Yes, that’s a ton of money but Le Bernardin is one of New York’s only four-star restaurants and having lunch there affords you the opportunity to eat four-star food at a way discounted price. You get three generous courses and you’ll leave very full. You can have a slice of pizza for dinner and not feel bad about it.

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– But if you do want to drop some dough on a great meal for dinner, of course I recommend what I always recommend because it’s my favorite New York restaurant: Babbo. Getting a reservation is killer, but do what I did with Lauren last year. Go on a weeknight around 6 o’clock (or early if you can eat that early) and ask for a table at the bar. You’ll be surprised: you’ll probably get one. And the food is exactly the same. Have the pumpkin lune—they grate a cookie on top and you’ll be in heaven.

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And that’s my stream of consciousness list for summer New York visitors. Hope you found it helpful!

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