Even before our plane landed in New York, Evan and I had a comprehensive list of food that we wanted to eat. We only had 10 days, and we knew it would be a challenge. But we were up to it. Sure we can get most types of food in Be’er Sheva, but let’s be honest – nothing beats New York. So what made the list and what did we miss? Read on to find out:
Agave: The truth is, I can only recommend one thing on the menu at Agave, but I do so whole-heartedly. I’ve been dreaming of their Juevos Rancheros since I first had them in September. They come topped with meaty, tender chili and an enchanting mole sauce that has completely bewitched me. They recently changed the menu so it’s more expensive ($18.95) but comes with unlimited mimosas or margaritas at brunch, which they are not shy with. The other brunch items look good and are all equally massive in size. 140 7th Ave. at Charles St., (212) 989-2100 www.agaveny.com
Bouchon Bakery: If you’re in the mood for schmancy pastries and happen to be near Columbus Circle, it’s hard to resist ducking into the insanely modern, corporate Time Warner Center for a delicate brioche or over-sized pastel macaroon. While getting a seat requires fighting your way through some fur coats and confused tourists, the treats are a worthwhile indulgence. 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd Fl., (212) 823-9366 www.bouchonbakery.com
Caracas Arepas Bar: Conveniently located right next to Luke’s Lobster (see below), Caracas Arepas Bar is a must try. Arepas are dense Venezuelan corn cakes that are turned into messy, filling sandwiches with countless varieties. Because I can’t resist anything with plantains I went with the De Pabellón, which comes with shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains. 93 E. 7th St. at 1st Ave., (212) 529-2314 www.caracasarepabar.com
Corner Bistro: A trip home would hardly be complete without a visit to our old haunt, the Corner Bistro. Little has changed in the 10+ years that we’ve been going there: the bartenders are the same, Frankie still greets us by name and with hugs, and the prices are a relic in this day and age. Since we had already eaten sliders earlier that day, we skipped the monstrous Bistro Burgers in favor of the usually unnoticed chili, which hit the spot as the blizzard howled outside. 331 W. 4th St. at Jane St., (212) 242-9502 www.cornerbistrony.com
Cowgirl Hall of Fame: Home to childhood birthday parties and kitschy get-togethers, I’ve been drawing on the paper tablecloths at Cowgirl since I was a kid. I celebrated my 21st birthday there with fried chicken and margaritas served in a cowboy boot. But for all their kitsch, the food is actually pretty crave-worthy. They are home to my favorite salad of all time, All Chopped Up, which comes in a bowl as big as a kitchen sink and has everything in it but the kitchen sink. Their Frito Pie is also damn good, and comes right in the Frito bag. 519 Hudson St. at 10th St., (212) 633-1133 www.cowgirlnyc.com
Fornino: While this ended up on my list by accident, I’ve been meaning to try this Williamsburg pizza spot for years and was not disappointed. Showing up at an off hour in the early twilight of new year’s eve ensured us a table at this usually crowded restaurant. A simple baby lettuce set the tone, the Ortolana was flavorful if a bit soggy, and the white Spinach pizza was the star with mozzarella, ricotta, spinach, Pecorino, pine nuts, and white truffle oil. 187 Bedford Ave. at N. 7th St., (718) 384-6004
Funayama: This is our neighborhood sushi spot that is a required stop (or four) on any trip home and for most birthday celebrations in Evan’s family. We missed all you can ate, but still ate all we could especially on our last night when we shared a boat (and tempura, and gyoza) with my sister. While their spicy crunchy tuna is my favorite we tried to focus on things we couldn’t get in Israel like eel and scallops. Alas, they were out of uni. 24 Greenwich Ave. at 10th St., (212) 989-2500 www.funayamainc.com
The Grey Dog: I was at Grey Dog a total of three times between two of their locations, so I guess that puts it at the top of my list (topped only by Murray’s Bagels). While not the cheapest cafe food in town, it’s just so darn good. My usual favorites are the BLT or the Grilled Chicken Press. This time I also enjoyed some breakfast and a satisfying bowl of turkey chili. The place gets crowded, so have patience and be rewarded. 90 University Place at 13th St., (212) 414-4739 www.thegreydog.com
Grey’s Papaya: I remember when Grey’s Papaya opened on 6th Avenue and 8th Street and that fateful day that my dad and I skirted our regular hot dog vendor just to try these new hot dogs. I don’t know what happened to that nice vendor (he always used to let me sit in his chair while I ate), but Grey’s Papaya is going strong. Ok, it’s not quite as good or quite as cheap as it used to be, but the grilled hot dogs still hit the spot. And the recession special – $4.75 for two hot dogs and a juice (my favorite is papaya) – is hard to beat. 402 6th Ave. at 8th St., (212) 260-3532
Jing Fong: Dim sum was top on my list, and it couldn’t have worked out better that we got to go with good friends and family. Dim sum is really best enjoyed in a large group so you can try as many things as possible, grabbing whatever you can from the carts as they whiz by. I’m always partial to anything in dumpling form, and there were no shortage of those. Although there was no need for it to work it’s magic this time, dim sum might possibly be the world’s best hangover cure (move over, Gatorade). 20 Elizabeth St., 2nd Fl. at Canal, (212) 964-5256
John’s Pizzeria: Although now there’s a line around the block to get in, John’s Pizza used to be a local gem where children had birthday parties and gruff waiters took your order. The waiters are still gruff, but it’s way harder to get a table. Take out seems to be the way to go (although then you can’t carve your name into a booth). The pizzas are as good as ever with charred bottoms and a sweet, natural tasting sauce that makes the pie. 278 Bleeker St. at Cornelia St., (212) 243-1680 www.johnsbrickovenpizza.com
Luke’s Lobster: I’ve been dreaming about Luke’s lobster rolls since summertime and have been waiting for the cold weather to try the lobster bisque. Although they’ve now got two locations uptown, we always head to the original in the East Village. The rolls are toasty and retain their crunch even though they’re soaked in butter, and the lobster filling is meaty, buttery in flavor, and super light on the mayo, just the way I like. The bisque was perfect for a cold winter’s day, thick, creamy, and complete with little lobster treasures. 93 E. 7th St. at 1st Ave., (212) 387-8487 www.lukeslobster.com
Mark: The menu at Mark is understated; they offer plain sliders, bacon sliders, fries, a few kinds of beer, and milkshakes. The sliders are reasonably priced and hefty, and all come topped with cheese and sauteed onions unless otherwise specified. And the bacon in the bacon sliders is more than just an afterthought – cooked bacon is chopped and incorporated into the burger meat before it is cooked, ensuring delicious smoky flavor with every bite. Mark is our gold standard for sliders. The beer selection is small but good. 33 St. Marks Place at 2nd Ave., (212) 677-3132 www.stmarksburger.com
Murray’s Bagels: If you ask us, these are the best bagels in New York, hands down. A controversial statement we know, and ask 10 New Yorkers and you’ll get 10 different answers to where to get the best bagels. These bagels are of the firmer variety, so if super soft is your thing look elsewhere. A variety of cream cheeses and bagels is available, just whatever you do, don’t ask them to toast your bagel (they just won’t do it). They’re coffee’s not bad either. 500 6th Ave. at 13th St., (212) 462-2830 www.murraysbagels.com
Sammy’s Noodle Shop: If we could have, we would have ordered Sammy’s on our way from the airport. Instead, we did as soon as we got home. Although Israelis love their Asian food, Chinese cuisine hasn’t worked its way into their repertoire. We went with the old standbys of chicken with broccoli, scallion pancakes, vegetable dumplings, and little juicy buns. 453 6th Ave. at 11th St., (212) 924-6688
Wogie’s: Wogie’s is another bar with a lot of positive memories associated with it. A Philadelphia-style cheese steak spot, Wogie’s has the best waffle fries on the planet plus excellent wings (or, as we call them, wangs) and cheese steak sandwiches. Cheap beer and a wait staff who knows and loves us rounds out the experience. But seriously, even if the bartenders don’t know your name it’s still worth the trip. 39 Greenwich Ave. at Charles St., (212) 229-2171 www.wogies.com
Beer: We like our beer, and New York is an excellent place to sample some of the country’s best craft beers. I remember having a quiet beer at the Blind Tiger when it was on 10th and Hudson, before anyone had ever heard of it. Now in it’s no longer new digs on Bleeker and Cornelia, it’s often loud and crowded, and sometimes smells funny. But it’s also a great place to curl up next to the fire (yes, they have one) and sample some of their wide selection (although it was surprisingly unseasonal for the winter). If you happen to be in Midtown (God forbid, I know – we were heading to Korean karaoke), then Rattle ‘n’ Hum on 33rd and Madison is a great spot with a massive selection on tap and in bottles. Their bar food isn’t terrible either. Finally, if you’re in the East Village then Hop Devil is a good choice with a decent rotating selection of craft beers and excellent proximity to Criff Dogs for a late night snack.
Cocktails: We were so busy eating and drinking beer that we were barely able to fit in fancy cocktails, which was really a crime. This time around we tried a new place, Cienfuegos, which is a Latin/tiki-inspired bar. The atmosphere is great and I enjoyed my cocktails but there are a few places I’d go again first (namely PDT, Death and Co., Little Branch, Flatiron, The Randolph Room, etc.).
Coffee: If you’re in Manattan, Portland import Stumptown is worth the trip from wherever you are. It’s my favorite coffee in the country. Their super smooth, never bitter coffee is expertly prepared by uber hip (but so nice!), vest-wearing baristas in the Ace Hotel on 29th St. If you’re in Williamsburg, San Francisco import Blue Bottle is the place to be. If you have the time it’s well worth it, but be forewarned that your hand-crafted, specially dripped coffee could take upwards of half an hour to prepare. And for a superb cup at a local spot, Jack’s on 10th St. in the West Village is our number one go to spot (sorry, Joe, but your quality has gone way down). In my brutally honest opinion, these are the only three places in the city worth going to specifically for their coffee (controversial? Yes.).
What’d We Miss?
How could we possibly have left anything off, you ask? It’s a big city, and we didn’t hit even close to all our favorite places, and barely tried any new ones. Italian food was completely left off, ironic since it’s my favorite. Criff Dogs was just closing when we arrived one night, as was Kyo Chan Korean fried chicken. We didn’t eat Spanish food at Sevilla or steak at Angelo and Maxie’s or Peter Luger. I had a lot of Chinese food, but there was no room for soup dumplings, maybe my greatest disappointment. But New York, you haven’t bested us yet. We’ll be home again in July…