My favorite eateries in the Big Apple – The Traveling Island Girl
Whenever I travel with my husband the priority is always on finding great restaurants and amazing places to chow down at. Our trip to New York City last April was no different. Below are the most memorable food experiences we had.
Eataly NYC Flatiron
Located on 5th Avenue
One of the most amazing experiences we had in the city was Eataly. I remembered the name after my cousin mentioned an amazing lunch at an Eataly in Chicago. Upon further research I discovered that Eataly is actually an international chain with 5 restaurants in the US, of which two are located in New York City and a 6th is scheduled to open in Las Vegas soon. Eataly locations can be found all over Italy and other parts of the world. The concept is easy and is based on an eat, shop and learn philosophy.
We had the honor of trying out the Flatiron loation. Calling this place a restaurant is deceiving as it is more of a marketplace, where one can shop, sample or dine on different Italian favorites. There is a cheese section where fresh mozzarella is made every day, an olive oil section, a risotto section and so on, and so forth. Sit amongst fresh ingredients in the marketplace, while you sip on Italian wine and work your way through fresh delectable dishes from the different parts of Italy.
Located on Lenox Avenue
Words will never be able to describe the extraordinary experience we had at Red Rooster. As you may recall, I am a Pescatarian and I dropped chicken from my diet a year or so ago. So, at first when one friend recommended the Red Rooster located in Harlem, I was not exactly intrigued. After all, what could they possibly have to offer a non-chicken and meat eater? But then another friend recommended it and the intrigue turned into full on curiosity. My husband and I hopped into a cab one Friday evening and made our way to Harlem to check out this place for ourselves. It was packed. People were drinking and laughing surrounding the bar while they waited for their seats. We made our way through the masses only to be disappointed by the hostess, who told us that the wait time was about an hour or longer. Not at all used to waiting this long on any kind of food in the Caribbean, we were about to give up on this adventure, when she told us that there were still seats available in Ginny’s Super Club downstairs and that it came with live music by a blues band. Yes, please! Sign us up.
Going down the dark stairs gave the feel of entering a Harlem speakeasy, which is exactly what Ginny’s is designed after. After paying the entry fee at the bottom of the stairs we were guided into a dark lounge, where the sounds of blues greeted us along with the delicious smells of the American comfort food Red Rooster is so known for. It was an experience that satisfied all of our senses. Our tastebuds danced in ecstasy along with the beats of the blues band. Our bodies flushed by the delicious cocktails made at the bar. Before you ask, the staff at Red Rooster was very accommodating in adjusting some of the dishes to meet my Pescatarian needs. All in all, it was an experience we will never forget and cannot wait to duplicate.
Bodega Negra Cafe
Located on West 16th Street
We stumbled upon this little place on our way to meeting friends for lunch at the Chelsea Market. My husband was fascinated with the outside counter facing inside that the Bodega Negra Cafe offered, so we decided to park our butts on two of the remaining stools at the counter and ordered margaritas while we waited. The weather was great for sitting outside. It appeared to have finally caught up with the spring temperatures we expected when we booked the tickets to the city and was a welcome change from the freezing temperatures we had experienced so far.
My husband’s ever expanding culinary curiosity got the best of him when he saw the ceviche on the menu. Surely one little dish while we waited wouldn’t hurt our appetite, right? One small dish and two margaritas each later we were scrambling to make it to Chelsea Market in time. We hooked up with our friends and fought our way through the hundreds of people strolling the Market, like us looking for a lunch spot. We couldn’t get Bodega Negra out of our heads. We convinced our friends to have lunch there instead and it did not disappoint. I will be completely honest (after all, that is why you enjoy reading my blog, isn’t it?) The food was not the best “Mexican-ish” I’ve had and I am sure there are much more better options in the city, but the size of the place and hanging out on the side street on a hot day was kind of fun. Besides, the margaritas were banging. Definitely a place to try if you’re in the area.
The Standard Grill
Located under the highline on Washington Street
I met up one afternoon with my friend’s daughterwho had recently moved to the city for school, wile Jimmy stayed at the apartment to work. She was taking me to the Highline. It is one of those must-sees when in New York. After a stroll on the highline we ended up at The Standard for lunch.
Trendy and popular The Standard Grill’s food was both pricey and delicious. Definitely a must try, if not just for the ambience and excellent service. The raw bar looked appealing but I went for the salmon rillettes with country bread, followed by the vegetarian burger, while my friend’s daughter opted for the roasted eggplant with spicy carrots. Add a few glasses of the crisp house rosé to that and you have yourself a winner.
Located on West 47th Street
Jimmy and I have an unspoken rule whenever we travel to any city. We try out at least one Ethiopian restaurant. New York has dozens of options but we opted for Meske on 47th street because of its close proximity to the Midtown apartment we were staying at and based on the good reviews on Yelp.
The ambience was like the wine, bland but the food was great. Mind you, it was not the best Ethiopian we’ve ever had (that spot is earned currently by Toukoul Resto Bar in Brussels) but Meske had a great variety of vegetarian options and the taste did not disappoint at all.
Located on 3rd Avenue between 50th and 51st street
To feed another one of Jimmy’s cravings, we found ourselves one morning standing in yet another line for food. This time it was for bagels, not exactly my favorite baked good but if that is what the husband wants, then bagel he shall get. Not wanting to be labeled a party pooper by him, I let myself be dragged out of the comfort of the apartment to a place called Ess-A Bagel a few blocks up, only to find ourselves in the line of all lines. What is it with New Yorkers and standing in line for food? Apparently Ess-A Bagel is very popular with locals and visitors alike, presumably because of its large selection of toppings.
There I was, cold, hungry and mad as hell, but I stuck it out for the sake of the experience. Unfortunately I thought we were going for a quick bagel grab (cause who in their right mind stands in a long line for bagels?) and did not dress for the cold. Neither did I take my phone with me, so I cannot provide evidence of this madness. We waited an hour and a half. An hour and a half…for bagels! The things I do for love.
They do have an express line for those who just want a bagel without the hoopla of having that bagel cut and stuffed with one of their delicious spreads, but we were going for the full experience. At least that is what I kept telling myself while I shivered and mentally cursed my husband.
Jimmy swears by Ess-A bagel and even returned a few days later for more (this time with extra smear). I, on the other hand am not a bagel person, far from it, but if my food-connoisseur of a husband likes it, I cannot possibly leave it out of this list. Avoid going in the weekend. Apparently that is when the line is the longest.
Morning Star Cafe
Located on 2nd Avenue
We wanted the true New York diner experience and asked the doorman in our building for suggestions. Without hesitation he sent us to Morning Star Cafe, just a short walk away from where we were staying. He did not exaggerate about the food and it seriously did not disappoint. Super fast, in-and out service and great hearty breakfast options, Morning Star Cafe quickly became part of our morning routine during our New York trip. 24 hour diners is synonymous with New York City, and can be found on every corner but take it from me, Morning Star Cafe has got to be one of the best in Midtown.
New York City has options galore when it comes to great restaurants and eateries. The above is just a laughable hint of all that is available in the city. Still, I hope these serve as great suggestions from two food-loving islanders, who dared take on the New York City food scene unprepared and without a clue of where to go to. What is your favorite New York restaurant?