Where to eat in New York?
I’ve been routinely asked by friends, visiting whatever city we are currently in, where to eat and what to do. I am always happy to share. As a result, I often find myself writing the same stuff over and over again. It is time-consuming and not the most effective way to deliver my message. I finally decided to write my own suggestions down, so I can share them proactively before anyone asks.
I plan to make it a series of articles for the places I know more or less, such as New York, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Paris, Hawaii, Santiago etc.
The first in the series is New York City. It’s simply because we are here at the moment and the chemistry from all my experiences is still in my blood, vivid and exciting. By no means should this be considered the ultimate guide for the best joints I can think of in New York City. I just find myself more often in these places than anywhere else. There must be a good reason for that, but not necessarily for everyone. Also, all suggestions are hyper-location-sensitive. We choose places to live with a high “walkable” score where it’s safe to go out anytime and car is optional.
Think of the West Village (Manhattan, New York).
Kesté Pizza & Vino … or simply Keste
For me, the first stop in New York is Keste Pizza on Bleecker and Morton. In the past, when I had long enough layovers at JFK (6-10 hours), I would definitely jump on a train to the West Village just to have a bite of this exceptional thin pizza crust, Napoli style. Usually I am starting to think about Keste pizza way before landing, which definitely makes me sharp focus on the baggage collection task and choosing the fastest method to reach Manhattan.
Funny enough, all tourist guides list the John’s Pizza on Bleecker across the street from Keste. I never tried that place, as their pizza doesn’t look to me the way I expect pizza to look like. It’s more like a melting pie with tons of boiling cheese and other unidentified elements on top. Everything is dripping down out of control, and subconsciously I know my stomach will rebel at accepting this product. Either way, I am grateful to John’s Pizza enormously, as they manage to keep a decent line of tourists in front of their establishment. If not for them, I am positive that these fellas would be standing in front of Keste where…..
…. there is always a waiting list for 10-20 min anyways.
Over time I have tasted different options from Keste’s menu. They have a great selection of Pizza Blancas, regular pizzas, and house specialty plus …. gluten-free anyone? I don’t recall regretting my choice, whatever I felt like ordering on any given day. Usually I go for the one with fewer ingredients. Less stuff being thrown on top tastes better to me. I particularly try to avoid any ingredient that may turn into a paste after its mandatory run through the brick oven, such as squash. Margherita pizza is a great choice in this regards. Simple and delicious!
Bosie Tea Parlor
Conveniently located on Morton street a hundred steps south from Bleecker Street, Bosie Tea Parlor will blow your mind with the best French dessert in town. Period. Although it’s my personal opinion, the French chef Damien has awards to support this claim. It comes as no surprise, because he is a third generation pastry chef imported directly from France. He knows how to make his macarons melt in your mouth. The selection of flavors is overwhelming. From lavender to rose to darjeeling to salted caramel to bacon-maple. Wait what? Yes, the bacon-maple flavor!
I like their selection of other pastries too. Because it’s a tea parlor with hundreds of fine loose leaf tea options on display, many of Bosie’s high-end designed cakes and tarts would also have tea flavors. How do you feel about a darjeeling tart, or green tea eclair, or …?
Not every tea parlor can brag about offering Lapsang Suchong tea for their customers. It’s such a controversial flavor that no shop owner around the world would ever recommend you one unless you know what you’re getting into. Some people describe it as a tea made of smoked salmon. You can’t be neutral towards this type of stuff. You either hate it to the vomiting reflex or love it like nothing else. I’ve been a Lapsang Suchong follower for years. There was time when Lapsang Suchong was the only tea I drank in the morning.
I have a personal story about Lapsang Suchong and Bosie Tea Parlor.
Once upon a time, when we lived in the hood, we noticed that a new tea joint with tons of tea jars on display had opened its doors. We love tea, so we got in. A waiter was still learning about the house tea selection. No surprise; she completely blanked out on my inquiry about availability of the Lapsang Suchong. To avoid confusion, I decided to order something else, but she was diligent and delivered my question to the guy running around behind the bar counter. Suddenly he stopped in disbelief that someone actually asked for that, looked at me with admiration, and proclaimed he had a leftover from his personal stock. Then he spent 15 minutes opening all the cabinets behind, above and beyond the counter, constantly apologizing that he couldn’t find it quickly enough. Right about the time when everyone was ready to give up and I started feeling quite uncomfortable for putting him through such a hurdle, he exclaimed he found it! A small bag of five or ten ounces of tea it was. He then went on to brew a whole teapot for me right away, and made it a treat on the house! I think they have carried Lapsang Suchong in stock ever since, just in case a crazy customer like me would ask. I always do though. Over time, Nicky, the owner of Bosie Tea Parlor, became my personal friend.
Bosie Tea Parlor has since opened a location in East Harlem. This is where their main supply is coming from. Another place has opened recently in Columbus Circle
Malatesta is a cash-only establishment with a great nostalgic interior, reminiscent of a place you could easily stumble upon in Italy. They serve homemade pasta and some seafood choices from the specials of the day. I like their bowl of mussels and bruschetas for starters. Panacota for dessert is unbeatable! The menu prices are very reasonable, so you may be surprised at how inexpensive great food could be in the one of the most expensive hoods of Manhattan.
On weekend evenings you may encounter a wait line of 20 to 40 minutes, but the wait is totally worth it. To minimize the wait time come earlier, before 8 PM. You may get seated right away.
Malatesta has a sister restaurant, Malaparte, just a few blocks up the street. The food is good there too, but more expensive. I also find that it lacks the Malatesta’s original charm with waiters speaking with a thick Italian accent.
Taïm Falafel & Smoothie Bar
Taïm Falafel & Smoothie Bar was recommended to me as soon as we arrived in New York by a nice landlord Joe who showed us his apartments in the West Village. I recall we were passing by a falafel joint, and I showed signs of excitement. He mentioned that there is a better place he always goes to on Waverly Street at Perry. I remembered the name Taïm, which means Delicious in Hebrew.
It really is delicious!
Taïm has a variety of Mediterranean food choices. My personal favorites are Mixed Falafel Platter and Sabich Platter.
Like everyplace nowadays, Taim Falafel has a mobile option too. It’s a food truck. Depending on the day of the week, it shows up in Downtown, West Soho, or Flat Iron. Check Taim’s food truck schedule if you are into catching them.
Another cash-only place is Cafe Gitane (Gipsy’s Cafe – translation from French). They serve Moroccan-style French cuisine with a take away/delivery option. For some historic reason I prefer their SoHo/Nolita location on Mott Street, even though their West Village place was always around the corner. Cafe Gitane in Soho just feels more appropriate for the type of cuisine and ambiance they offer.
It’s a completely unpretentious place with limited outside sitting and a tight room to sit inside. Whether it’s their old-fashioned magazines, green waiters’ dresses, or other decor elements, this cafe gives me an impression that I have traveled back to the seventies, to some seaside town in France.
I usually order Moroccan Couscous, which is served with tiny chunks of red pepper, eggplant, raisins, pine nuts and hummus (optionally with amazing Merquez sausages). I usually wrap up with bread pudding which is very special, soft and smooth. A small piece of dark chocolate on the side of your cup of coffee is a little treat with a long-lasting impression. I will walk for 30 min any day just to have another lunch or dinner at Cafe Gitane. To make this task easier, CitiBike just installed a bike station right in front of Cafe Gitane. Today I can do this in five minutes by bike.
Le Pain Quotidien
There are Le Pain Quotidiens in every part of Manhattan. In the past some of my French connections commented that Le Pain Quotidien isn’t up to the level they are used to. Perhaps, but hey, at the end of the day we are not in Paris either. Also, keep in mind that Le Pain Quotidien is not French, but Belgian. Perhaps this is where the difference is coming from.
Le Pain Quotidien (Daily Bread in French) is where my daily supply of baguettes comes from. Not only in New York but in Buenos Aires too. On top of that, I often enjoy their croissants, organic jams, coffee, hot chocolate, tartines, quiches, soups and many other quality options. One undisclosed trick I use in the morning is to order a croissant with coffee. With a croissant you can request the complimentary jams, three big jars on a rack. Mornings that start on such a positive note typically kick off a very pleasant day.
A couple of unique things about Le Pain Quotidien: they provide a communal table for customers to share, and some of the locations offer bakery classes.
Using Le Pain Quotidien’s iPhone app for payment is swift and allows you to earn free goodies, such as a tartine, a drink, or a pastry. I am so blessed to spend most of my time within walking distance of one Le Pain Quotidien or another. I feel like they should offer some sort of lifetime subscription for people like me.