Manhattan Food Guide

People are always asking me for tips on places that they should go and eat when they travel to cities to which I have been, so for New York I decided to take a bit of extra time and catalogue some of the food highlights to create a post that I can refer people to when they ask me where to eat in Manhattan.

I expected that New York would become one of my favourite cities in the world, and I was right – it’s a truly amazing place – and it’s deep and varied food scene is just one of its many facets. There is a real focus on fresh, seasonal, local produce and supporting independent and local businesses which is great.

Prices range from cheap $, to medium/affordable $$, to expensive $$$.

Momofuku Ssam Bar

$$
207 2nd Avenue, New York
(http://www.momofuku.com/restaurants/ssam-bar/)

If you are into your food, you have probably heard of David Chang. He does amazing things with simple ingredients and has really made a name for himself with his Asian fusion food. Fusion can so often go wrong, but he makes everything work, and the food was worth every bit of hype. He is a self-proclaimed pork nut, but at Ssam bar it is duck which is given top billing

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Rotisserie duck over rice with lettuce. I love roast duck and this is by far the best I have ever had. The meat was succulent; the fat melted in my mouth, and the skin was super crispy.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

David Chang is famous for his pork buns however at Ssam there is also a pulled duck bun with sauerkraut and smoked mayo. Again, worth every bit of hype it has received. Everything about this bun was amazing.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Duck dumpling soup with garlic scapes, bok choy and jicama. Also unsurprisingly brilliant.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Momofuku Ssäm Bar on Urbanspoon

Keste Pizza & Vino

$$
271 Bleeker Street, New York(http://kestepizzeria.com/home.html)

The question of “who makes New York’s best pizza?” is a divisive one at best, with a variety of opinions depending on who you talk to. What was not in dispute though, was that this new place was either at, or very near the top of every reputable list that I found. The pizzas are not the typical “NYC Slice”, but rather traditional Neapolitan style pizza done to absolute perfection. Roberto Capousicio, a cheese maker from Pontinia just outside Napoli really knows his pizza. I got the Regina Margherita – Tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, grape tomatoes basil, extra virgin olive oil. Up there as one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

My fiancée got the Pizza Insalata – Pizza sandwich filled with spring mix, prosciutto di parma, artichoke, lemon and extra virgin olive oil.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Keste Pizza & Vino on Urbanspoon

Ai Fiori

$$$
400 5th Avenue, 2nd level Setai Hotel, New York
(http://www.aifiorinyc.com/)

The dish we came here for isn’t actually on the lunch menu, but not to mind, as the two course $36 prix fixe was amazing. Ai Fiori is unashamedly fine dining and, if you look at the reviews it has received since it opened earlier this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Michelin Star coming its way next year [edit: It was awarded its first Michelin Star that very month]. The food was very rich, very tasty, and all kinds of amazing.

Vellutata – Lobster velouté, périgord black truffles, chervil.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Trofie Nero – Ligurian crustacean ragoût, seppia, scallops, spiced mollic.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Spaghetti – Blue crab, lemon, bottarga, chilies.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Ai Fiori on Urbanspoon

Rice To Riches

$
37 Spring Street, New York
(http://www.ricetoriches.com/puddy.aspx)

We just stumbled upon this place randomly and decided that it looked interesting. A different take on the frozen yoghurt craze, Rice To Riches sells unapologetically full fat rice pudding in a huge variety of flavours with toppings to match.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

A terrible photo, but I got the “Possessed By Espresso Choc Chip” with Espresso crumble. It was very nice and filling, but could do with a tone down of the sugar levels.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Pinkberry

$
Various Locations
(http://www.pinkberry.com/)

The Los Angeles chain that kicked off the recent frozen yoghurt craze has several stores across New York, and the US for that matter (and even one in London at the Selfridges food hall as of September 2011).

It tastes great, with a range of flavours and toppings and not overly sweet. The thing I love is that they aren’t stingy on the toppings – they will cram on as many as you like until there is literally no room left. Word of advice – the small (not mini) is the perfect size. Anything bigger is too much.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Momofuku Noodle Bar

$$
171 1st Avenue, New York
(http://www.momofuku.com/restaurants/noodle-bar/)

The original Momofuku – and everything that I said about Ssam bar applies to this place too – there’s more of a focus on pork and ramen here.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Supposedly Moxie is a real traditional American soda. Personally I thought it just tasted like carbonated cough syrup – not recommended!

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Pork Bun – Hoisin, scallion, cucumber. So succulent and amazingly tasty.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Kimchi stew – Braised kimchi, pork shoulder, rice cakes. This was super tasty, and so filling that I couldn’t even finish it and barely felt like dinner that night, which ended up being quite late as a result.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Goat ramen – Piquillo, red shiso, soy egg. Also super tasty.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian

$
119 West 56th Street, New York
(http://www.parkermeridien.com/eat4.php)

Another one of those divisive questions is “What’s the best burger in New York”. After a bit of research, we found a few places to try, and Burger Joint was by far the best. To find it, you have to walk through the lobby of the Le Parker Meridian hotel and then turn into the alcove to the side of the red curtain. Behind the curtain is something completely unexpected in such a fancy hotel!

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

The burger might not look like much, but when you bite into it you’ll see why for almost 8 years it’s been considered one of the best in this city. A succulent meat patty cooked exactly the way you want, with lettuce, tomato, mayo and mustard in between two white buns, and then a combination of the following (“the works” if you want it all): once piece of white and one piece of yellow cheddar, onions (not cooked).

About as simple as you can get from a burger but the quality of the ingredients, and how it comes together is just amazing. We ate here three times and even at 4pm on a weekday, during their “quiet” period, all the tables were full. At dinner, there was a line to get in.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien on Urbanspoon

Shake Shack

$
Various Locations
(http://shakeshack.com/)

Shake Shack is a place that’s become a chain in recent years due to huge popularity and expansion in this city. My thoughts about it were mixed. it was certainly cheap which I guess is part of its appeal as for the price it’s clearly better than your standard burger chain, but the burgers themselves, especially after eating at Burger Joint, just didn’t really make the grade in my opinion – primarily because they were too greasy.

I would, however, recommend going for their drinks – shakes, concretes, custard/soft serve etc. I had a pear and ginger custard (which is like soft serve and custard combined) and it was very tasty and had a good balance of flavours.

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

where to eat in manhattan new york food

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

The Spotted Pig

$$
314 West 11th Street, New York
(http://thespottedpig.com/)

This place is pretty well known and widely regarded as kicking off the Gastro pub scene in New York. It’s often frequented by chefs, part owned by Iron Chef Mario Batali – you get the drift.

Does it live up to the hype? Yes.

Chicken Liver Toast. I’ve had a lot of goose and duck liver in my time, but had never actually tried chicken liver until now. It’s got its own thing going on and is very good.

Crispy Pig’s Ear Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing. I must admit I was surprised when this dish came out and literally had an entire pig’s ear on the plate. Can I please recommend that you be a bit adventurous and try this dish, as the crispiness, texture and gelatinous portions of the pig’s ear really are something amazing.

Prosciutto & Ricotta Tart with Marjoram. Not as “adventurous” as the above, but brilliant nonetheless.

Shoestring fries. Probably the best fries I had on this trip. So thin and crispy, and ultra-tasty.

The Spotted Pig on Urbanspoon

Co.

$$
230 9th Avenue, New York
(http://co-pane.com/)

Another pizzeria that constantly came up around the top of my list in my research, the pizzas from Co. are less “traditional” than those at Keste, but not at the expense of being amazing. Co.’s Roman style pizzas have a beautiful crispy, wood fired base and quality ingredients – you can’t really go wrong.

Ribollita soup – Tomato, savoy cabbage, cavolo nero, cannellini beans, parmesan, mirepoix, chili.

Chicken Liver toast.

Meatball pie (Co. call their pizzas “pies”) – Tomato, mozzarella, veal meatballs, caramelized onions, olives, aged pecorino, oregano.

Co. on Urbanspoon

Doughnut Plant

$
379 Grand Street, New York
(http://www.doughnutplant.com/)

Seems like cupcakes are old news in New York, and the current emerging craze is doughnuts. Certainly something that America has always been known for but, as with most things, the new places are focusing on the quality of their ingredients and the depth of their flavours. The doughnuts from here were really great – you’ll never want to eat a Krispy Kreme again after coming here – in a completely different league.

Korilla BBQ

$
Location changes daily.
(http://korillabbq.com/)

This place won NYC food van of the year 2011 and for good reason. Korean Tacos originated on the East Coast, and kBBQ has really made them popular in NYC. It’s what you think, and then it isn’t. Essentially it’s what you eat when you go out for Korean BBQ, in taco/burrito form. It works – brilliantly. Being a van, it’s location depends on the day – you check their website or twitter to find out where it’s going to be that day.

We asked for the most popular thing on the menu and got the Ribeye burrito with bacon and kimchee fried rice, red kimchee and Korean BBQ sauce. This thing really is bastardised food done right, and unlike anything you’ve tried before, although really it isn’t!

Korilla BBQ on Urbanspoon

Marea

$$$
240 Central Park South, New York
(http://www.marea-nyc.com/)

This was our splurge for the trip. Two Michelin starred, high end Italian restaurant with a focus on seafood and pasta that is considered “genius”. It completely lived up to the hype and was an amazing meal. The menu also changes slightly depending on what’s fresh and in season, so a few things that we ordered are currently not on the menu.

Not sure what the appetiser was – you drink it and it was delicious.

Scallops on something pears with something.

Sea urchin on something.

The much hyped Fusilli – Durum wheat pasta, red wine braised octopus, bone marrow. It was every bit as amazing as it’s hyped up to be.

Capesante – Roasted sea scallops, polenta crocchettes, speck, braised mustard greens.

Branzino – Wild striped bass, roasted cauliflower, charred scallions, marble potatoes.

Sorbetti – Saffon Pear, Concord Grape, Raspberry Rose.

Nocciola Pralinato – Hazelnut, dark chocolate, lemon, mint.

Petitt fours

Marea on Urbanspoon

Caracas Arepa Bar

$
93 1/2 East 7th Street.
(http://caracasarepabar.com/index_2.php)

I’d never tried Venezuelan food before, so decided to try this place I’d heard about. They do a few different things, but the main menu item is the Arepa, which is a kind of cornflour pita which is baked and grilled as to have an ever so slightly crisp outside and a soft, fluffy inside. They are filled with a variety of flavours. It was a really good meal and quite different to what I’d expected.

Tinto de Verano – Sparkling wine based cocktail, similar to Sangria.

De Pabellon Arepa – Shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese and sweet plantains.

Reina Pepiada Arepa – Chunky chicken and avocado mix salad.

Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon

The Rest:

A few places which I actually didn’t take any photos of but are still worth a mention:

Joe, The Art Of Coffee

$
Various Locations
(http://www.joetheartofcoffee.com/)

This place has a few locations around New York, and is a good option for those of you who won’t be venturing out of Manhattan too often. We went to three different locations, and each time the coffee was very good.

Sheng Wang

$
27 Eldridge St, New York

This is a hand pulled Noodle place that had brilliant noodles and was very cheap. It’s a tiny and narrow place, probably seats 40-50 people and the guy making the noodles is in the main dining area at the back before the kitchen, and you see him making the noodles with a thud as they hit the bench a few times every minute.

Well worth a visit for a very tasty, cheap meal and a bit of a show with the noodles being made in plain view.

I hope you enjoyed this guide, and get to try some of the places on here some time. If you have any other tips, would like to discuss your experiences at any of the above places, feel free to do so below. I’d love to hear what you all have to say about food in this amazing city.

Also, if the passage of time has made any of what I’ve written redundant, please let me know so that I can update the entry.

For more great food tips click here to check out my Brooklyn Food Guide.


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2 Comments

  • LES says:

    I’m a New Yorker and I can say that this post, despite being a few years old, highlights a few of my favorite spots in the city.

    On a side note, I am right now on vacation in Vietnam and am using your HCMC post to navigate the street food scene. Thank you!

    • Paul says:

      Thanks Les. Hopefully I can visit again sometime soon and make my way through the best of the places that have opened up since I was last there. I hope your Vietnam vacation is going well. Let me know if you discover some further great food places.

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