August 18, 2015

My 80-something favorite places to eat in New York City

Check out the full Google map here! Red = restaurants, food trucks. Blue = bakeries, ice cream, desserts. Green = shops, markets, food halls.

UPDATE (February 6, 2016): I added six more places to this list: Mimi's Hummus, Court Square Diner, Sundaes and Cones, Nom Wah, Golden Steamer, and Cannelle Patisserie. I haven't made any other updates in regards to venues that have moved or closed or received downgraded reviews in the New York Times. The information in this post is only good up to August 2015. END UPDATE

Whenever people ask me for food recommendations in New York City, I think, "Arrrggghhfffwwgguh I wish I had a post that listed all my favorite places, but that would take a bajillion hours to write and I am too lazy, so I guess I'll just inefficiently repeat the same information to people for the rest of my life until I die."

UNTIL NOW. Right beyond these metaphorical doors.

[Attempts to dramatically open a set of French doors to unveil the post beyond, but the doors are kind of stuck and wobble open most gracelessly, revealing a small pile of dirt-dusted poop nubs supporting a neon green plastic clothespin. You know, much like this.]

TA-DA.

My choices in this post do not necessarily represent the best of NYC. Many of my favorite restaurants and other food destinations are steeped in nostalgia or picked due to close proximity to work/friends/home. Sometimes I don't have any particularly strong reason for picking something as my favorite. None of these places are new. At some point I became less interested in trying new things, preferring to stick with what I already knew I liked. I mean, it's not like food can get any better, so why bother, amirite? Just kidding, I'm probably missing out on a bajillion awesome brain-altering delicious things because I am lazy and am rapidly approaching "get off my lawn" age.

Here's my full list of favorites minus the dumb words and photos. For dumb words and photos, keep reading!

Pizza: Totonno's, Motorino, Paulie Gee's, Best Pizza, Prince St. Pizza, Pizza Suprema

I don't consider myself a pizza snob, but while living in Taipei over the last year, I had to learn to lower my pizza expectations to zero. Otherwise every bite I took would be accompanied by criticism of the crust/cheese/sauce/toppings/some combo thereof and self-loathing over being critical of pizza in Taipei. Taipei doesn't owe me good pizza. (I only ate pizza a few times. I was curious. It was not all terrible.) Eating pizza in NYC can really ruin you for pizza in other places. So you should eat as much of it as you can. Here are some of my favorites.

plain pizza
Plain cheese pizza from Totonno's.

Totonno's for classic New York pizza, open since 1924. I'm ashamed to say I've only been there once. What am I doing with my life.

Yay pizza!
Clam pie from Motorino.

Motorino for their cherry stone clam pizza or brussels sprouts (and pancetta) pizza or colatura di alici pizza.

YAY PIZZAS!
Table 'o pizza at Paulie Gee's.

Paulie Gee's for...um...ok, there are a lot of choices here. Whatever you choose will probably be awesome. I don't have a favorite, but I particularly like the Cherry Jones. A big plus: they have lots of vegan choices. Another big plus: the owner Paulie Giannone is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Greg + best Pizza
I don't have a great photo of Best Pizza's pizza, so you get this instead. (Hi, Greg!)

Best Pizza for slices in Williamsburg. They also make great sandwiches! And probably other stuff, but I haven't tried the other stuff.

Prince Street Pizza
Prince Street Pizza.

Prince Street Pizza for square slices, in particular the classic and the pepperoni. THE CRUST IS SO. VERY. GOOD.

mm pizza!
Kåre at Pizza Suprema.

Pizza Suprema for fresh mozzarella and basil slices near Penn Station. Back when the Serious Eats office (my former workplace) was located in Chelsea, Pizza Suprema was our go-to delivery pizzeria for good reason.

HONORABLE MENTION:

PIZZA!
Bar pies from Margot's Pizza.

Margot's Pizza is an infrequent pop-up pizzeria born forth from the hands of my friend/former co-worker Adam Kuban. It's awesome, but I'm just giving it an "honorable mention" for now since there are so few chances to actually try it. Once they go brick-and-mortar I would upgrade it from HONORABLE MENTION to a most coveted REGULAR MENTION.

Burgers: Shake Shack, The Breslin, Diner

shack burger
Shake Shack's ShackBurger.

Once upon a time a million Internet years ago, when I was first assigned to edit A Hamburger Today, I decided I should eat as many burgers as I could in the name of research. I soon figured out Shake Shack was my favorite and decided eating other burgers was sort of a waste. Shake Shack's ShackBurger is my ideal burger—just the right size with just the right condiments on an ideal squishy-soft Martin's potato roll. I like their vegetarian 'Shroom Burger, which is less "mushroom burger," more "fried cheese patty burger." (Out of their ten locations around the city, my favorite location is the original in Madison Square Park.)

Lamb burger
Lamb burger with thrice-cooked fries at The Breslin.

But a few years ago I tried The Breslin's lamb burger and realized there is room for more in my Burger Hall of Fame. It's hard for me to believe any other lamb burger could be better.

burger, composed
Burger from Diner.

Diner used to be my fave spot for a big-ass burger, until I made the mistake of eating a whole burger by myself. That was five years ago. Before then, I had always split the burger and something else with a friend. Eating the whole thing gave me my most intense burger hangover. I will go back someday and split the burger. We had such good memories together.

Pastrami: Katz's

Reuben
Pastrami Reuben from Katz's.

I haven't tried much pastrami in the city. It was one of those things where I thought I may try all the famous delis in the city to find the best, but then I ate at Katz's and though, "Nope, I'm done now." And while their pastrami in all its smoky, meat-kernel fall-apart glory doesn't need extras, I've grown fond of their pastrami Reuben stacked with Russian dressing, slaw, and cheese.

Katz's is usually super crowded aside from breakfast hours. It's one of few restaurants that I'm happy to go to even when it's overrun by tourists.

Fried Chicken: Pies 'n Thighs, Bobwhite

For a real NYC fried chicken expert's opinion, aka not mine, check out Donny Tsang's favorites. Some people might say they want to try all the fried chicken in NYC, but Donny will actually go out and try all the fried chicken in NYC. Good man, he is.

Fried chicken box with mac and cheese chicken sandwich with fries Choco peanut butter crunch pie
Fried chicken, fried chicken sandwich, and pie from Pies 'n Thighs.

I'm happy to see that my two favorites are also Donny-approved. Pies 'n Thighs is my go-to spot for fried chicken. They put squeezy honey bears on every table, along with other condiments. I hadn't lived until I first squeezed honey onto my fried chicken. Now I squeeze honey onto almost every bite of fried chicken when possible.

If you're like me and can't finish a whole chicken box (three pieces of fried chicken plus a side and biscuit), order the Superbowl. It's three sides plus a biscuit, but for an extra dollar you can get a piece of fried chicken as one of the "sides", so you end up with a much more reasonable piece of chicken plus two sides, along with a gigantic biscuit.

Fried chicken supper Bobwhite Onion rings
Fried chicken and stuff from Bobwhite.

Bobwhite also has honey-filled syrup dispensers to make your honey-dripping fried chicken dreams come true. I've been deterred from visiting in the past because it's on Avenue D and to me that means "far," but it's not that far from a subway stop. I'm just lazy. Anyway, it's a good thing there's a walk involved.

Falafel: Taim, King of Falafel & Shwarma

falafel pita sammich trio!
Pita sandwich trio at Taim.

Eating at Taim pretty much ruins you for eating any other falafel in NYC. When I found out they were opening a second location near my old office in Chinatown, I chewed my arms off with fervent anticipation I mean I was pretty fruggin' excited, yes. It is my favorite combination of warm, soft pita stuffed with hummus, salady bits, and fried chickpea balls.

[I don't have a photo from King of Falafel & Shawarma. I am sad. I MUST RECTIFY THIS.]

Despite what I said about not needing to eat any other falafel in New York City, you should also try the food truck King of Falafel & Shawarma. It's a different kind of falafel that's just as awesome. They have two trucks, one in Astoria and one in Midtown Manhattan.

Hummus: Mimi's Hummus

masabache hummus warm pita Shakshuka
Hummus, pita, and shakshuka at Mimi's Hummus.

For six years, Mimi's Hummus had just one location in Ditmas Park. It's not inaccessible by any means, but I was too lazy to go more than a few times. I suuuuck. If you don't live in Ditmas Park, it's worth hopping on the Q train to try it out. ...Or maybe you won't have to, as last year (after I moved out of NYC, wah) they opened two more locations in Manhattan: one on 14th Street, and one near Grand Central in the UrbanSpace food hall. Aside from their hummus and pita, I also like their shakshuka. Or anything else. I'm pretty sure everyone on the menu is good. Yup.

Pasta: Otto, Rubirosa

Pasta alla norma gelato English Peas & Prosciutto
Pasta alla norma, gelato, and peas from Otto.

A plate of pasta (my favorites: pasta alla norma, or something with taccozette), maybe a vegetable side (peas and prosciutto, or corn and fregola), and a cup of gelato is one of my favorite meals. Otto does it all incredibly well for reasonable prices. If you only get one thing though, go for the gelato. They also make pizza, but I find the pasta better by a factor of a buttload. Admittedly, I haven't eaten the pizza in ages, so maybe it's not that bad anymore.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with meatballs Rubirosa Kåre + pizza
Spaghetti and big-ass meatballs, and Kåre eating pizza at Rubirosa.

Whenever I'm in Little Italy passing sub-par Italian restaurants stuffed with tourists, I want to yell, "OH GOD YOU GUYS, GO TO RUBIROSA, IT'S JUST UP THE STREET, SAVE YOURSELVES!" Of course, I'd never actually do it because "death by the hands of pissed-off restaurateurs" does not sound fun. Also, Rubirosa is crowded enough already. Unlike Otto, their pizza is also really good. Unlike Otto, there's no gelato to cap off your belly full of pasta. Not a big deal; you can just walk a few blocks to A.B. Biagi for dessert.

Pupusas: El Olomega Cart

Pupusas
Pupusas from El Olomega.

If you've never tried pupusas before, get yourself to El Olomega, a food cart that's only open on weekends by the Red Hook Ball Fields. They specialize in the Salvadoran corn patties stuffed with cheese and meat/beans, flattened to a pancake-like thickness, and cooked on a griddle until mottled with crispy bits. Alternating a forkful of accompanying curtido (cabbage slaw) with every bite makes it even better.

Meat Tornado: BZ Grill

Pork gyro sandwich
Pork gyro sandwich from BZ Grill.

Unfortunately, BZ Grill doesn't actually call their pork gyro a meat tornado, but look at this thing! This beautiful thing full of chipped meat. Adam Kuban describes it best. Get the feta-topped fries as well. You're already eating a meat tornado, may as well go all the way.

Georgian Food Coma Time: Pirosmani

Adjaruli khachapuri Adjaruli khachapuri Fried potatoes with mushrooms

Few places fill me with more excitement than Pirosmani. And few places make me think, "I am doing something horrible to my body right now," as much as Pirosmani. But it's worth it. At least, once a year. You can't miss their adjaruli khachapuri, aka "cheesy eggy butter bread boat" because it's a bread boat filled with cheese, a raw egg, and a pat of butter that you smoosh together in the center before savagely tearing the whole thing apart and shoving its cheese-dripping breadflesh chunks into your face. Their imeruli khachapuri, like a pizza with cheese outside and inside, is also beautiful. My favorite non-cheesy-bread dish is their fried mushroom and potato. It is what it sounds like.

Uzbek and Uighur: Kaskar Cafe

Cafe Kashkar Manty (meat dumplings) Naryn Meat skewers
Various tasty things at Kaskar Cafe.

I barely know anything about Uzbek or Uighur cuisine, but the little I've eaten, I've liked. Kaskar Cafe (warning: autoplays music) has a special place in my heart for some reason. I first went there in 2006 and I like to go there whenever I'm make a rare trip to Brighton Beach.

Tuna Melt: Classic Coffee Shop, Eisenberg's

Tuna melt Classic Coffee Shop Classic Coffee Shop
Tuna melt from Classic Coffee Shop.

Too many tuna melts feature monstrously bulbous piles of tuna salad sheathed in poorly melted cheese atop dry bread in dire need of a butter slathering and a good toasting. In the wee-est of space, Classic Coffee Shop churns out a tuna melt that hits all the right buttons. It's got a good tuna-salad-to-bread ratio, the rye bread is well toasted and buttered, the cheese is melty, and I can eat the whole thing with the confidence that when the time comes, removing my pants will not be a struggle. Wash it down with an egg cream and the combo will set you back less than $10.

Tuna melt, not open-face Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop
Closed-face tuna melt from Eisenberg's.

Eisenberg's closed-face tuna melt (they also do an open face, which I haven't tried) is also great, and I do love sitting at Eisenberg's long counter.

Cute Diners: Cup and Saucer, Square Diner, Court Square Diner

Cup and Saucer Luncheonette Cup and Saucer counter Breakfast
Cup and Saucer, plus breakfast.

I love classic diners, the sort that look like they've barely changed in decades out of love, not neglect. The food never blows me away, but I don't really go to diners for the food. I go to feel nostalgic for a time period I've never lived through, and for basic American foodstuffs that are at least adequately tasty. Cup and Saucer Luncheonette on the eastern edge of Chinatown is one of my favorites. It dates back to 1940! You can sit along the counter or along the windows that look out on Eldridge Street; there are no booths or tables. Everything I've eaten here I've liked, and the service is friendly. I am also overly charmed by the name Cup and Saucer. For reasons unknown, I feel compelled to shorten it to "Cup 'n Sauce" or "Cuppy" or "Cup'n".

Interior Square Diner Interior
Square Diner has that magical diner glow.

Square Diner is another diner with old-school charm. It's also not square. Which makes it cuter? Maybe? From my two visits, the food isn't that memorable, but it's good enough for me to want to go back.

[Photos to come!]

Court Square Diner may not ooze old-school charm, but it is legit old, first established in 1946. The current owners gave it a facelift in 2009, giving it a classic, clean diner look. Comfortable, nothing too flashy. As far as I can tell from their Facebook page, the restaurant has appeared in a few TV shows, which doesn't surprise me. I recognized it when I was watching Jessica Jones.

I only went once so I don't have much to say about it. The service was friendly and my giant plate of chicken tenders and fries was just what I wanted to eat after midnight. Hooray for 24-hour diners!

Tacos and Cemitas: El Tenampa

Suadero taco and lengua taco El Tenampa Mm cemita
Tacos and a cemita from El Tenampa.

El Tenampa is my favorite taco shop in the city. That might not mean much considering 1) I used to live two blocks away from El Tenampa and thus only had to expend the teeniest bit of autopiloted effort to get there, and 2) I am the opposite of a Mexican food expert. But some of my other friends who live farther away and know more about Mexican food than I do love it too. So. I trust 'em. It hits the rights spots of "Stuff Robyn Likes": no-frills environment (it's in the back of a Mexican grocery store), no-frills menu, large selection of meat fillings (my favorites are lengua and cabeza), inexpensive, and a toppings bar including all-you-can-spoon guacamole. Get more menu recs from Serious Eats.

Breakfast/brunch: Shopsins

So Good Mr. E sliders Bingo sandwich cinnamon mini doughnuts Mac and cheese pancake burgers?
So many foods from Shopsins.

This shoebox of a kitchen tucked in the southwest corner of Essex Street Market is the stuff of legends and/or nightmares thanks in part to the infamously belligerent proprietor, Kenny Shopsin. I've seen him curse out a passing stranger for asking one of his diners an innocuous question. I've seen him talk sweetly to a kid as the kid was leaving the restaurant. I once ate at Shopsins on my birthday with my former boss, Ed, and Kenny said I was stupid for wanting to eat there on my birthday. Ed is friends with Kenny from way back. When Kenny signed his cookbook for Ed, he inscribed it with the loving message, "Fuck you, Ed."

Anyway, I love Shopsins. It probably shouldn't, but Kenny's personality only enhances that love.

Why else do I love Shopsins? Because the menu is an onslaught of hundreds of items across over 50 categories, most of which you'll find nowhere else, most of which is awesome. Maybe. I assume most of it is awesome because I sure as hell haven't eaten most of the menu. The double-sided one-page (well, one long page) menu is kerned within a compressed inch of its life and changes periodically ever so slightly. I'd love to calculate how long it would take to try the whole menu under a host of nearly impossible factors (like eating breakfast and lunch every business day with the maximum group of four, blah blah something), but I want to publish this post before I die, so nope. Also, after I graduated high school my brain's "How to Math" chunklet surveyed its shriveled up brain chunklet neighbors and was like, "Yeah, I am done with this, peace out," and it has yet to return. Study the menu before you go to prevent an indecision-induced meltdown.

Also take note of Shopsins' limited opening hours and rules before you go. From Wednesday through Saturday it's open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Sunday it's open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. No parties larger than four, and each person has to order at least one meal. No outside food or drink. Only food photos are allowed, so don't try and snap photos of Kenny in the kitchen.

My favorite items on the menu are the burgers/sliders, sandwiches, doughnuts, mac and cheese pancakes, milkshakes....breakfasty things...anything fried, probably. Um. That might not help much, sorry. If you're getting the shaky sweats just thinking about the prospect of having to choose something, I recommend trying the So Good, a double-decker grilled cheese French toast sandwich mountain with egg.

Shopsins is not a place for cheap eats. The prices seem steep, but they're not crazy in the great scheme of things. Some dishes are big enough to last two meals.

Sandwiches: Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop, Alidoro, Ba Xuyen, David's Brisket House

Spicy Rizzak Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop Veggiest Of Them All
Spicy Rizzak and Veggiest of Them All from Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop.

Tiny's Giant Sandwich Shop was my go-to sandwich shop during college, and ten years later it's still my go-to sandwich shop. Back then you could get a small sandwich for $5. Now the sandwiches start at $7, which is still a good price. Tiny's is open from breakfast through dinner, unlike many sandwich shops that only open through lunchtime. Do people not want sandwiches for dinner? Why? SANDWICHES = ANYTIME FOOD.

La Porchetta
Thinly sliced porchetta, sweet peppers, and arugula sandwich from Alidoro.

Italian sandwich shop Alidoro is one of those shops that closes before dinner. Sigh. But better lunch than nothing at all.

banh mi!
Shredded pork and pork skin banh mi from Ba Xuyen.

Ba Xuyen is my favorite banh mi shop. I'm not sure if it's worth going out of your way for, but if you're in Sunset Park it's worth stopping by.

Reuben
Reuben from David's Brisket House.

I used to live a block away from David's Brisket House and yet I rarely went there. I AM AN IDIOT. I MISSED OUT ON SO MUCH SLICED MEAT. You don't have to. They make brisket, pastrami, corned beef, and more. It's all good, meat pile-y stuff.

Greek: Telly's Taverna

Free loukoumades Grilled Octopus Greek Style Fried Potatoes Small dip combo
Loukoumades, grilled octopus, fried potatoes, and dips from Telly's Taverna.

At the end of your meal, Telly's Taverna gives you a plate of free loukoumades—light, fried dough puffs coated in syrup. This may or may not be the main reason it's my favorite Greek restaurant. ...Ok it is. I also like their non-fried-dough matter. For a more trustworthy opinion, this place is Max Falkowitz-approved, and he is good at food.

Union Square: Taboonette

Pulled pork rice plate
Pulled pork rice plate from Taboonette, I miss you.

I didn't know how to categorize this one. Taboonette is what comes to mind if I'm near Union Square and want to eat something awesome. Actually, even if I'm not near Union Square I'll go out of my way to eat at Taboonette. They have a "Middleterranean" (their own description) menu of rice plates, pita sandwiches, and salads. My favorite is the pulled pork rice plate with jicama slaw and spicy mayo, but ever since my spicy food sensitivity kicked the life out of my lungs, I've mostly ordered the chicken shawarma. They have good vegetarian options too.

Japanese: Cocoron, Chuko, Cha-An, Curry-Ya, Go Go Curry, Ootoya

Cold sukiyaki soba
Soba from Cocoron.

Soba: Cocoron all the way. It's one of my favorite restaurants of everywhere and everything. They offer all kinds of combinations of cold soba and hot dips, or cold dips, or in hot soups, or salad, or vegan, or more.

Miso ramen
Miso ramen from Chuko.

Ramen: I've been to Chuko more than any other ramen shop in the city because one of the best friends lives next door to the restaurant and Chuko is our default answer to "Where are we eating dinner?" But if Chuko weren't awesome, we wouldn't go there so often.

Christina is ready
Christina is so ready for dessert at Cha-An.

Tea and light meals/desserts: Cha-An is a super chill spot for sharing tea and desserts with friends. For savory stuff, they also make a few simple rice bowl meals.

Baked Japanese classic curry
Baked curry at Curry-Ya.

Curry: For curry baked with cheese and egg and other more "gourmet" curry options, Curry Ya. For basic, inexpensive katsu curry, Go Go Curry.

Tonkatsu
Tonkatsu from Ootoya.

Rice 'n stuff: Ootoya is my "I want some comforting Japanese meat and rice thing in a nice setting" restaurant.

Bread: Orwashers, Sullivan Street Bakery, Grandaisy

pizza bianca
First pizza bianca from Sullivan Street Bakery.

The first time I went to Sullivan Street Bakery in 2005 I tried their pizza bianca—chewy, crusty flatbread topped simply with olive oil, rosemary, and salt. At the time it was only a buck a slice (I'm not sure how much it costs now), possibly the tastiest dollar-food you could buy at the time. Over the year I frequently returned to try other breads and pizzas. They were all great, but the pizza bianca remained my favorite, and it continues to be one of my most favorite gluten-powered substances of all time.

pizza bianca grandaisy Alex got a pizza thingy!
Pizza bianca and zucchini pizza from Grandaisy.

And then during one visit in 2006, I walked down Sullivan Street to find that Sullivan Street Bakery was GONE. WHAAAT. It was replaced by Grandaisy Bakery. Whose breads appeared to be almost the same. Because its owner, Monica Von Thun Calderon, had been the longtime business partner of Sullivan Street Bakery's owner, Jim Lahey. When they split up, Monica kept the Sullivan Street location and turned it into Grandaisy Bakery. So if you're wondering why Sullivan Street Bakery is not on Sullivan Street, that's why. And neither is Grandaisy Bakery, because that first location closed years ago. My college memories are dead.

BUT NO FEAR, Sullivan Street and Grandaisy both have locations elsewhere, and they're both temples to the bread gods.

Orwasher's baguettes
Orwasher's baguette, flayed open for your benefit.

Orwashers came out number one in Serious Eats' 2013 baguette taste test, among 22 contenders. If I had lived any closer to the Upper East Side, I would've eaten so, so many of their baguettes. As for the other breads, I have yet to try them (sobs), but here are some recommendations from bread expert Andrew Coe.

Arepas: Arepa Lady, Caracas Arepa Bar

So many arepas de choclo
AREPA MOUNTAIN from the Arepa Lady cart.

AREPA LADY UNTIL I DIE! AREPA LADY UNTIL THE EARTH HAS CONSUMED MY ROTTING FLESH or I HAVE BEEN CREMATED! AREPA LADY FOREVERRRR!!!

...I am a big fan of Maria Cano, aka the Arepa Lady. After over 20 years of running her insanely popular late-night-and-weekends-only arepa food cart in Jackson Heights, in 2014 her family finally opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant with more topping/filling choices than you'll find at the cart. Now you don't have to wait until 10 p.m. on a Friday night to achieve a corn-'n-cheese coma. Life is beautiful. (But you can wait if you want; the food cart is still in operation.) My favorite is the plain arepa de chocolo, a griddled corn pancake topped with butter and a pile of crumbly cheese, then folded over in half.

De Pabellon
De Pabellon from Caracas Arepas Bar.

Caracas Arepa Bar does not inspire the same madness, but it's still worth checking out. My favorites are the De Pabellon and the Reina Pepiada. You can read about all the options in this Serious Eats review of everything on the menu. I prefer the more spacious Brooklyn location to the tiny East Village outpost.

Ribs: BrisketTown (Pork), Fu Run (Lamb)

Neon sign Table o food Brisket chunks BrisketTown
BrisketTown

Of course, you should get the namesake brisket at BrisketTown, but I might like the pork ribs more. I'm basing this on the one time I ate them almost three years ago. A magical time. I hope they are consistently magical.

muslim lamb chop
Muslim lamb chop from Fu Run.
Candied taro!
Candied taro!

Fu Run's Muslim lamb chop is one of my favorite meat dishes of all time. It's a mound of fatty, fall-off-the-bone tender lamb ribs smothered in cumin seeds. I haven't eaten it in years after my spicy food sensitivities kicked in, so one of y'all will have to tell me if it's still amazing. My other favorite dish is the candied taro, chunks of taro coated in melted sugar that you dip in cold water so the sugar hardens into a candy shell. It's one of the few awesome desserts I've come across in a Chinese restaurant. I don't recall much about the other food; you can read more about the restaurant in this Serious Eats review.

Chinese Noodles: Xi'an Famous Foods

Liang Pi Cold Noodles
LIANG PI...no longer for me.

Xi'an Famous Foods' liang pi cold skin noodles is one of my favorite noodle dishes of all time, but I can't eat it anymore due to my spicy food sensitivity. [Insert river of tears.] Please eat it for me. Tell me what I'm missing out on. Make the river of tears flow until I am a dry husk of a human.

Go-To Chinatown Chinese: Shanghai Cafe Deluxe

Shanghai Cafe Pork and crab soup dumplings DISCO PARTTYYYY
Much food at Shanghai Cafe Deluxe.

I've been going to Shanghai Cafe Deluxe since college (back when it was just lowly Shanghai Cafe, not yet upgraded to deluxe), and it's been a staple ever since. It's the place I bring people to when they want to eat somewhere in Chinatown but don't have a strong preference for anything. They're probably most famous for their soup dumplings. I can't say I've ever been blown away by their food, but I haven't been disappointed either. I'm also fond of the radioactive rainbow squiggle dance party taking place in their ceiling. It take me back to '90s roller rink birthday parties.

Dim Sum: 88 Palace, East Harbor Seafood Palace, Nom Wah

People frequently ask me for dim sum recommendations. I frequently fail them. I'm not that picky when it comes to dim sum. I've eaten some subpar dim sum in NYC, but most of it has been good. Nothing has ever changed my life. My two favorite places are also two of my friends' favorites, which is probably the main reason why I've gone to them over and over again.

interior
Chandeliered goodness at 88 Palace.

I like 88 Palace mostly for the funky location on the second floor of a mall under the Manhattan Bridge that I would otherwise never feel compelled to visit.

table o stuff PALACE OF SEAFOOD, GUYS crowded
Food and stuff at East Harbor Seafood Palace.

East Harbor Seafood Palace seems to have more choices than other dim sum places. Or maybe my friends and I have better cart luck here.

Nom Wah interior Eric + dim sum
Nom Wah, plus Eric!

Nom Wah is the outlier here. It doesn't offer the quintessential dim sum experience of sitting in a huge hall surrounded by crowded round tables and aggressive cart ladies trying to push their dishes on you (or the opposite problem of cart ladies not appearing even though you want their dishes). But maybe that's not what you're looking for. At Nom Wah you order your dishes from a menu with clear descriptions. They may not offer as wide a variety of dishes as the larger dim sum halls, but their menu is large enough, and it covers the basics. You also don't have to worry about getting there early for the best choices, like my friends and I would sometimes do at the larger dim sum halls.

Even if Nom Wah seems like more of a place for tourists than locals, it's earned its spot as a dim sum destination for being the oldest dim sum restaurant in the city, open in some form since 1920. It underwent a much-needed upgrade in 2010, with a renovated interior and better quality food. If you want to see what it used to be like, here's a post I wrote about my pre-renovation visit.

Chinese Sponge Cakes: Kam Hing Coffeeshop

Kam Hing Coffee Shop's sponge cake
Fluffy sponge cake innards.

I once tried to visit every bakery in Manhattan's Chinatown and taste all of their egg custard tarts. "It'll be fun," I thought, while future-Robyn shook her head. One of the Serious Eats interns agreed with me. Poor girl. By combining our powers, we tasted egg custard tarts from over 40 bakeries. I don't know if we actually found all the bakeries in Chinatown, and even if we had, the list would be outdated by now. I found my favorite egg custard tart (circa 2011), but I didn't find my favorite Chinese bakery.

At least I have a favorite Chinese sponge cake bakery. Kam Hing Coffeeshop was my "treat myself" detour before going to work. For under $2, I'd wake up with the help of a palm-sized, squishy-soft sponge cake washed down with a hot milk tea. Their chocolate chip-flecked sponge cake is also good.

Chinese Steamed Buns: Golden Steamer

assorted stuff Golden Steamer omg look at all these buns
Golden Steamer.

Golden Steamer was my favorite spot for cheap-ass breakfast/lunch/snack back when I used to work around the corner at Serious Eats. My favorites are the pork and vegetable steamed buns, pumpkin buns, and salted egg yolk buns. One bun is pretty filling, but they also have mini buns/pastries if you want something smaller.

Bubble Tea: Teado

Mm, watermelon icy juice Lime kumquat drink, mmm Litchi and grapefruit juice soda with aloe vera Teado
A bunch-o drinks from Teado.

I'm not actually that into bubble tea, which makes me feel like a bad Taiwanese-American, but I have my reasons. Bubble tea and I once had something, back when I was less crochety and wrinkled. My breaking point happened sometime during college. One hot summer day while walking around Chinatown, I wanted to refresh my innards with a cup of cold bubble tea. Cold bubble tea, I did get. Refreshed, I got less so. I don't have a transcript of my thoughts, but they probably went something like, "I HATE CHEWING THESE BALLS, I JUST WANT LIQUID, GET OUT OF MY STRAW, BALLS, UGGH SO MUCH CHEWING, SO MUCH THIRST, SO MUCH BALLS," etc.

However, I still love tapioca ball-less tea drinks, and for all my tapioca ball-less tea drink needs I head to Teado, a tiny bubble tea shop run by a young Taiwanese couple. In the winter I go for hot ginger milk tea or regular milk tea, and in the summer my favorite are watermelon slush or lime kumquat. I can't tell you how the tapioca is, but my trusted, bubble tea-obsessed friend Lee Anne says Teado's tapioca is among the best.

Polish: Lomzynianka

Lomzynianka Polish Platter side slaws n stuff
Lomzynianka, combo plate, SLAW PARTY.

I know almost nothing about Polish food. I love Lomzynianka because it's a cute, cozy, friendly spot that looks like it was decorated by someone's grandmother. ...And I like the homey food, especially the accompanying slaws.

Late Night Williamsburg: The Brooklyn Star

The Brooklyn Star Smoked Marrow Bones Fried Pig Tails Biscuits
The Brooklyn Star and edible friends.

I've always been happy at Southern-style The Brooklyn Star. It's open until 2 a.m., which served me well one late night after Kåre arrived on a late flight from Norway. My knowledge of late-night eats is slim because I am an old lady who likes to stay in at night and bathe in the glow of the Internet until the first REM cycle kicks in. The only choices I could think of were Veselka or Brooklyn Star. We went with the latter and were rewarded with fried pig tails, cornbread, and other foods you're probably not supposed to eat at 1 a.m. but whatever, my digestive system can go to sleep when I say it can.

Special Occasion: Del Posto, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Per Se

As someone who is rather cheap, I found these restaurants worth the high price. I don't eat much fine dining, so my opinions aren't especially informed. Nor eloquent. Nor poetic. "I LIKE FOOD. FOOD IS GOOD." I'll keep this short.

Heritage Red Wattle Pork Tenderloin signs Lidia's Sweet Pea Cake
Some of the goods from Del Posto.

Del Posto's lunch special is $49. Totes worth it.

fresh veggies on pointy things Veal! Salad
Some of many courses at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is a 35-minute train ride away from New York City. You can make a special day out of it. When I went there for lunch in 2011 they offered a four-course lunch for $85, but now their website only mentions a $218 option. :[

Starin at the pork
Starin' at pork at Momofuku Ssam Bar.

I've eaten Momofuku Ssam Bar's bo ssam meal a few times over the last eight years. I'm still not tired of it. I think it's way better than the fried chicken meal at Noodle Bar.

butters Course 4: Noilly Prat Veg Dessert 2: PB & J
30% of my meal at Per Se.

My dinner at Per Se is the most expensive meal I've ever eaten. (Back then in 2010 it was $275. Today it's $310.) I wouldn't mind going back for a five- or ten-year reunion.

Ice Cream: Eddie's Sweet Shop, Sundaes and Cones, Ample Hills, Oddfellows

Two-scoop sundae with mashmallow goo and fudge
Marshmallow sauce at its mallowest from Eddie's Sweet Shop.

As an adult, Eddie's Sweet Shop fills me with the multi-hued, bouncy joy that can only be captured by Rainbow Bunchie. If I could hop in a time machine and visit Eddie's as a kid, I expect my head would simply explode, unable to contain the happiness burning through my face. And then I'd die. So it's a good thing I've only been to Eddie's as an adult.

Eddie's doesn't win for their quality of ice cream. It's good ice cream. But the draw is excessive toppings that splodge over the edges of the ice cream bowl like God intended (MARSHMALLOW SAUCE, MARSHMALLOW SAUCE FOREVER), served in a legit old-timey ice cream parlor with an elegant marble counter and friendly neighborhood charm.

taro and black sesame, OH YES
Black sesame and taro ice cream from Sundaes and Cones.

If you're in Chinatown and thinking about getting ice cream at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, DON'T. DOOOOON'T. You're much better off heading to Sundaes and Cones in the East Village. They specialize in Chinese/Asian flavors, like black sesame, taro, lychee, mango, and more, but they've got plenty of good classic flavors, too. My favorites are black sesame and taro.

Banana split
Banana split from Ample Hills.

Ample Hills churns out fun, original, kid-friendly ice cream flavors (and a few soft serve flavors). They may or may not still offer this monstrous sundae for ten. My favorite flavors are Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Salted Crack Caramel.

Miso cherry butterscotch and cornbread
Miso cherry butterscotch and cornbread ice cream from OddFellows.

OddFellows also churns out fun, original flavors, some a bit higher on the fancy-pants scale (passion fruit saffron, lime tarragon).

Soft Serve: Big Gay Ice Cream, Dessert Club Chikalicious, Ray's Candy Store, Rita's, Any Ice Cream Truck

Salty Pimp
Salty Pimp from Big Gay Ice Cream.

Head to Big Gay Ice Cream for the Salty Pimp, a cone of vanilla soft serve drizzled with dulce de leche and dipped in a thin chocolate shell. It was my favorite thing from Big Gay back in 2009 and it's still my favorite. Or try one of their other soft serve cones and sundaes enhanced with crushed cookies/pretzels/lemon curd/pie crust chunks/Nutella/pumpkin butter/etc.

DESSERT TIME
Cookies and Cream Sundae and something probably lesser from Dessert Club Chikalicious.

Every time I go to Dessert Club Chikalicious I want their cookies and cream sundae. Every time I'm there and order something that isn't a cookies and cream sundae, I'm sad it's not a cookies and cream sundae. I'm not actually an inquisitive dessert eater. All I want is a jumbly pile of cookie chunks mortared by vanilla soft serve.

Pistachio soft serve
Too much soft serve from Ray's Candy Store.

Ray's Candy Store is a 24-hour soft serve shop that also sells fries. And hot dogs. And beignets. And fried Oreos. And fried bananas. And chicken fingers. And lemonade. And egg creams. ...Yeah, it's not a soft serve shop. It's an everything awesome shop. A shop that serves my dream birthday party menu. (I just realized I can make this happen. I'm an adult. I can do irresponsible things with money.) A hole-in-the-wall snack dive bar without the bar. Ray's has been open since 1974 and looks like it hasn't changed much since then. I hope it never does.

Mm custard and Italian ice
Custard and Italian ice from Rita's.

Rita's is a chain from Philadelphia. No, not a place you'd go out of your way for. ...But I have ventured to the Upper West Side to get me some Rita's because it's their only location in NYC and I love their thick, marshmallow-esque soft serve layered with Italian ice. The soft serve by itself would be too much; the Italian ice by itself would be too little. But with their powers combined I achieve HAPPY TOM HAVERFORD.

Ice cream truck
Random ice cream truck.

And don't forget about ice cream trucks. They're all over the place in the summer. I prefer my soft serve dipped in a chocolate shell or coated in crushed cookie bits.

Gelato: A.B. Biagi, L'Arte del Gelato, Otto

Gelato A. B. Biagi A. B. Biagi
A.B. Biagi in its happy bright yellow glory.

L'Arte del Gelato used to be my favorite gelato shop until A.B. Biagi opened in 2013. Unlike L'Arte del Gelato, A.B. Biagi was within walking distance of my office. Very dangerous. L'Arte is still good for a wider selection of traditional flavors, though. Dolce Gelateria is run by one of the former co-owners of L'Arte. Otto is primarily a sit-down restaurant, not a gelateria, but you can stop in just for gelato or tell them you want it to-go.

American Bakeries: Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Robicelli's, Two Little Red Hens, Levain Bakery, The City Bakery

Pudding case The Nog
Pudding case at Sugar Sweet Sunshine, and a cup of The Nog.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine is most well known for their cupcakes, but I like their trifles and puddings much more. They have the best variety of any other bakery I've been to. My favorite is The Nog made of pumpkin cake, egg nog pudding, and whipped cream smooshed together.

Cupcakes!
Banofee cupcakes from Robicelli's.
Cupcakes
Rows of cupcakes at Two Little Red Hens.

For cupcakes, I'd rather go to Robicelli's or Two Little Red Hens. Two Little Red Hens has lots of traditional flavors, while Robicelli's has some more playful seasonal flavors besides traditional goods. Robicelli's has the added goodness of being run by awesome husband-and-wife team, Allison and Matt.

Chocolate chip walnut
Chocolate chip walnut, my favorite cookie from Levain Bakery.

Levain Bakery is famous for their boulder-like cookies that the Internet tells me weight about a half-pound each. I still remember the first time I ate one. I ate the whole thing by myself in one day. I don't recommend this. You're best off sharing this cookie right away when the chocolate is still melty. You won't enjoy it that much if you overdose and get a cookie-ache.

Raphael haz cookies
The City Bakery's chocolate chip cookies, because I don't have a good photo of their pretzel croissant. Wah.

Once upon a time I loved the chocolate chip cookies from The City Bakery (autoplays music), but some years ago my tastes changed and I found their cookies to be a bit too sweet and buttery and something else I can't pin down. "WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT?" you may ask, saliva violently spittling forth. I don't know. I mean, I won't punch you if you try to give me one, they're just not my ideal chocolate chip cookie. I also used to love their famous ultra-thick hot chocolate until one day when I drank too much of it and that night discovered a new kind of jittery pulsating nausea teetering on the edge of hallucination that has yet to be duplicated by any other substance. But my feelings about their pretzel croissant have never changed. It's still one of my favorite breadstuffs. Read more about it at Serious Eats.

French Bakeries: Dominique Ansel, Cannelle Patisserie

Dominique Ansel bakery Freshly baked madeleines Chocolate chip cookies
Various sweets from Dominique Ansel.

Please do not go to Dominique Ansel just for the frighteningly popular Cronut (or to be more accurate, Cronut™ pastry). You would be missing out on a butter-laden host of better desserts, which as far as I'm concerned is all of them. Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the Cronut. :( I like the idea behind it, but after trying it twice, I'd rather eat a really good croissant or doughnut. I'm a big fan of Dominique's DKA (kouign amann), chocolate chip cookies, madeleines, and flakey things...and cakey things...and savory things. Just eat everything else.

Newborn croissants Paris Brest Cannelle Patisserie
Cannelle Patisserie

I've only visited Cannelle Patisserie once back in 2011, but that visit left a deep impression that goes something like, "FRIENDLY BAKERY WITH AWESOME PASTRIES AT SUPER REASONABLE PRICES." At the time they only had one location in a nondescript strip mall in Jackson Heights about a mile away from the nearest subway station. Thankfully, in 2014 they opened a second location in Long Island City, making it more accessible for those of us who don't live in Queens.

Doughnuts: Shaikh's Place / Donut Shoppe, Peter Pan Bakery, Donut Pub, Doughnut Plant

I'm partial to old-school doughnut shops. My favorite doughnut shop is Spudnuts in Charlottesville, Virginia. As far as I know, there isn't anything quite like Spudnuts in New York City. And thus I rarely eat doughnuts in New York City. :(

Donut Shoppe chocolate glaze with sprinkles Late night doughnut selection
A most beautiful sight at Donut Shoppe.

Shaikh's Place / Donut Shoppe wins my award for "Best Doughnut Shop Sign". It's the kind of sign that makes me think, "I WANT TO EAT EVERYTHING INSIDE YOU." That's not just me, I hope. They make all the doughnut basics, and I've been happy with everything I've eaten there, which is admittedly not much. I've only stopped by Donut Shoppe on the way to Pirosmani. I have yet to try their tacos and basic diner fare. Someday, perhaps. Last year they were featured in a nice write-up by New York Times.

Donut displays Doughnuts! Peter Pan Bakery!!!
Some doughnuts at Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop.

Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop is my other favorite old-school doughnut shop. Sort of. A few years ago, Max and I and an army of interns went on a mission to Peter Pan. The mission: try every doughnut. The reality: TOO MANY FUCKIN' DOUGHNUTS. We spent that sticky summer morning in a tree-filled, sun-dappled edge of McCarren Park, a lovely area for a picnic if the picnic didn't only consist of doughnuts. I crouched in the grass with my camera, a slate cheeseboard, and a rotating stock of doughnuts, attempting to make a million similar looking fried dough rings look interesting, as everyone else masticated through 40-something doughnuts, feeling increasingly sickly and regretful. We entered with hubris. We left with none.

The doughnuts weren't bad, but they didn't taste quite as good as we had hoped for. You're probably not supposed to eat that many doughnuts at once. Yeah. Whoops. AND WE NEVER WROTE THE POST. I don't think Max could summon the will, and I don't blame him. I wouldn't be able to either. Somewhere on my hard drive are a shitload of doughnut photos with a slate-on-grass background.

...Um. Having said all that, if you're in Greenpoint, you should check out Peter Pan! The bakery is adorable. It's best if you restrict yourself to one or two doughnuts at a time like a normal human. They also make doughnut ice cream sandwiches.

Donut Pub Doughnut display The Donut Pub

I'm putting The Donut Pub on this list because I think it has the best name, and because it's the only old-school doughnut shop in Manhattan that I can think of. I don't have a strong opinion about their doughnuts besides that they're fine for an old-school doughnut shop. They also sell huge muffins, cookies, basic sandwiches, and bagels with spreads. And even though I have yet to take advantage of their 24/7 opening hours, I'm glad the option is there for my potential weird-hour doughnut cravings.

doughnuts! Doughnut Plant innards
Doughnuts, real and fake, at Doughnut Plant.

Doughnut Plant is New York City's original fancier-pants doughnut shop, with flavors like Valrhona chocolate, matcha, and peanut butter & banana cream. I think their cake doughnuts are great, but I've never been much of a fan of their yeasted doughnuts, which are a bit chewier than I prefer. You should try 'em for yourself, though.

Super Incomprehensive List of Miscellaneous Food-Related Shops, Markets, and Food Halls

These are not necessarily my favorites. I'm pointing them out as "places you might be interested if you like eating or staring at food-related things." Some places are only open on certain days during certain months. Please check websites for exact opening times.

Posted by roboppy at 12:39 AM

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» 02/27/17: The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, celebrating Chinese New Year in the valley of the BURNING SKYYYY

» 11/30/16: Shou Tian Pin (手天品), home of my favorite pineapple cakes in Taipei

» 08/31/16: I ate too much soft serve in Taiwan, and you can too!

» 08/09/16: Thank you for nominating me in Saveur's 2016 Blog Awards!

» 05/29/16: This Taiwanese food-themed deck of playing cards is my favorite souvenir from Taiwan (plus here's a map and list of the foods in the deck)

» 04/18/16: Over 50 places I'd want to eat, shop, and visit while on vacation in Taipei

» 03/26/16: My 12 favorite places to eat in Shida Night Market (plus 12 honorable mentions)

» 02/20/16: Houtong Cat Village: Of course Taiwan has a village full of cats

» 02/05/16: Favorite Taipei Things: Late night bike riding along Xindian River (plus midnight breakfast)

» 01/24/16: My 15 favorite cafes near Shida (and a bit of Taida) in Taipei

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