I previously wrote that the streets of New York are made of sausages. Well I ate those $2 sausages and they are really good. Those of you who follow me on instagram will know that I pretty much ate all of New York this Easter. Sandwiches larger than my head, ice cream sundaes in a bucket, a new obsession with bagels and so many brilliant burgers – in the name of research I had to try them all. Consequently here is my guide to the most epic meals and super sweet treats you need to taste in the Big Apple.
A couple of blocks north of Times Square you will find an all-American deli that serves sandwiches bigger than your head – no word of a lie! The 72 year old Carnegie Deli, home to award-winning sandwiches and made to order cheesecake, is surprisingly cavernous. We were shown into what the waitress jokingly called the ‘VIP room’ but was just another room full of diners adjoining the main restaurant. The thing to order here is the pastrami sandwich; the deli cures, pickles and smokes all their own meat. The boy opted for a pastrami and corned beef whopper called the Woody Allen but I wimped out and went for a chicken and bacon club. Well, I thought I had wimped out. In reality my sandwich was just as big as his and I had to get half boxed up to bring home. I later read this on their website, “All of our gargantuan sandwiches are overstuffed with at least one pound of meat.” Told you they were big. Darn tasty too!
So we quickly learnt that New York delis serve very big sandwiches but it also seems to be the thing to hang photos of all the patrons on the walls, both famous and not so (happy to send mine in if you would like!). The walls at both Carnegie and Katz Deli’s were full to brim with pictures of visitors and they both put pickles on our tables when we arrived, which we didn’t touch (yuck!)
The Katz Deli on New York’s Lower East Side dates back to the late 1800’s! As famous now for its pastrami and beef brisket sandwiches as being the place where Harry Met Sally, I found myself obsessing over something else altogether – the cream cheese bagel. There is something about that yellowey, chewy dough, crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside that I can’t forget.
Katz operates a ticket system, you grab one on the way in and it gets marked as you work your way down the counters ordering everything in sight. Choose a seat by the wall if you would like table service but either way don’t lose that ticket, you’ll be in trouble on the way out if you do.
If you are a fan of the film (I have to confess I haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally yet but will definitely watch it now!) you can sit in the exact same seat as Sally. It is identified by the sign which hangs above it stating ‘Where Harry met Sally.. Hope you have what she had.’ The bagel is so good I nearly did!
I had read about the fabled burgers and frozen custard (called Concretes) of Shake Shack being served in Madison Square Park, so when I googled the location and realised they has opened one (Mayor Bloomberg cut the ribbon) down the road from us in Brooklyn I jumped for joy. This place has a simple self-service menu but boy do they do those burgers well. And the shakes – you just gotta try it for yourself. A most satisfactory dinner was had here, and all for less than $10.
The Brooklyn Shack also offers 3 custom Concretes unique to the area, including the ‘Fudge-eddaboutit’ which uses a specially made, single-origin chocolate from local boys Mast Bros. with chocolate custard and cinnamon fudge sauce. Drooling yet?
So I have to thank local New Yorker Lara Nicotra for the introduction to the best lamb burger I have ever tasted (and I didn’t even think I liked lamb burgers.) The Breslin is part of a line of super trendy properties linked to the Ace Hotel, whose lobby we walked through after dinner and it looked more like a Shoreditch bar than a place you check in to. Like so many other places in New York this restaurant has a no reservations policy (unless you are a guest of the hotel) but there is a buzzing bar you can pass the time in and the burger is worth a 45 minute wait, for sure. The chargrilled lamb is topped with a giant chunk of feta cheese and served alongside thrice cooked chips. The atmosphere is as great as the menu – a superb choice Laz!
Mighty Quinns BBQ
I can also thank Lara for the indirect introduction to this place. Lara sent me a little link in preparation for my trip to New York, it was for the Immaculate Infatuation website. Although the name does not suggest it, this is a super food blog, the writers of which have reviewed every eatery in New York worth visiting. The boy put in a search for BBQ and meat in New York and came up with this place.
You smell Mighty Quinns first, then you spot the hipster queue outside, and then you follow your nose into a sparse restaurant filled with people hungrily gorging on giant ribs and pulled pork. We spent far longer waiting for a table here than I would have liked (it was over an hour), as it seems the crowds have kept coming since the Immaculate Infatuation write up and I genuinely think the lady with the clipboard just forgot about us. But when we were eventually allowed to order (it’s another self-serve joint) the ribs were some of the biggest, juiciest, melt-in-the-mouth, moreish, finger-licking good meat I have ever tasted. The slaw was pretty good too.
This was another Immaculate Infatuation find. There are a couple of Bill’s, we tried the one in the Meatpacking but there is one near the Rockefeller Centre too. Bill’s doesn’t try to be too cool, the decor in the Meatpacking was typical American Sports Bar-esque, but they serve really, really good burgers. I think I may have enjoyed Bill’s Burger more than the one at Shake Shacks but it’s a close call. Maybe I should go back and try them both again?
You say ‘cheesecake’ to a New Yorker and they say ‘Junior’s’. The original Junior’s diner was just around the corner from our hotel in Brooklyn so we piled in with the after church crowd on Easter Sunday and ordered a slice. Basically there is New York cheesecake and then there is Junior’s cheesecake. You suddenly realise this is how cheesecake is really supposed to taste, I’m never going down the frozen dessert aisle in the supermarket again.
So Lombardi’s came up in my previous post about the ‘pizza wars’ in Brooklyn as it was the first pizzeria in the States. Another popular, no reservations joint, there was a queue out the door for this place even in the middle of the day, but for research purposes we stuck it out and gave the margherita a go. Now this was a sizable and very tasty pizza, also cooked in a coal fired oven and tasting like a little piece of history, but as my partner rightly pointed out, we’ve had better – in Italy of course. In my humble opinion if you are looking for the best pizza in New York you need to cross the bridge and get to Grimaldi’s. If you are looking for THE BEST PIZZA EVER, however, you need to get on a plane ’cause you’re in the wrong country mate.
Chelsea Market was one of my favourite unexpected finds in New York. We were wandering around the Meatpacking District when a giant sign with the word ‘market’ in it caught my eye on the side of a converted warehouse. Inside was a long line of bakeries, gelaterias, artisan food stores and also a place selling books, just to reconfirm I had found my idea of heaven. Eleni’s cookies featuring everything from designer handbags to yellow taxis caught my eye and interest. They make up little box sets containing everything the modern woman could want – lipstick, iphone, sunglasses – and they are all edible. Brilliant.
So has this whet your appetite for a bite of the Big Apple? What are your favourite NYC eats and sweet treats?