Cold Weather Lunches in N.Y.C. (Setagaya & Pearl)

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There are cold days and then there are really cold days and on those really cold days you probably want to stay at home, under the covers, and never get out of bed. But then you have to get out of bed and, more importantly, you have to eat and if you’re in Manhattan running errands, you may find it difficult to find the cold weather comfort food you crave. Sure you could snarf a burrito, you could scarf a sandwich, but will that really warm you up? No, it will not. But here are two N.Y.C. dishes that will.

The first is the one you see above, a bowl of ramen from Setagaya on 1st Ave. between 9th Street and St. Mark’s place.

The ramen I ordered at Setagaya–Shio Salt Ramen–really lived up to its name: it was quite, quite salty. But once I got over the saltiness (and I usually have a high tolerance for saltiness) I found the broth (from pork and chicken stocks) to be a very clean-tasting and satisfying winter salve. Outside, it was bitter bitter cold, but this ramen melted all that cold away. The noodles were chewy and filling and all the other garnishes made the bowl interesting and fun. Best of all, they served it fast and it was pretty cheap (less than $10.)

But Setagaya ramen dosn’t hold a candle to the ultimate cold weather comfort food in New York, and that’s the clam chowder at Pearl Oyster Bar:

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I can’t imagine a more comforting, soothing, restorative bowl of warmth on a bitter cold day (except, maybe, a bowl of chicken soup at the 2nd Ave. Deli) than Pearl’s clam chowder.

It’s decadent: with bacon and cream, it’s not going to make your cardiologist happy. (And since I consumed this before my Wiintervention, I’m off the hook.) But boy did I enjoy it: its clam-flavor is authentic and real-tasting, there are little knobs of potato that make it hearty, and then you add the bag of Oysterette crackers they provide and you’ve almost got a whole meal.

But if you’re still hungry, you can do what I do and order the classic Pearl Caesar:

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The Caesar won’t warm you up, but at this point you’re already warm from the chowder. And it’s a pretty killer Caesar: with lots of garlic and anchovy, you won’t be kissing anyone for weeks. But it tastes so good you won’t care.

(This Caesar has ruined me for all other Caesars; I recently had the Caesar salad at Bouchon Bakery–which they simply call “Romaine with Parmesan Dressing” and it was incredibly timid-tasting, by comparison. I like my Caesars bold and funky, thank you very much.)

Very few of us take advantage of our misery when we’re freezing cold, but if you live in New York, you have no excuse. Get thee to Setagaya, get thee to Pearl, and defrost your soul with just a few happy slurps.

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