New York is indisputably one of the best cities in the world for good food. So it would be no easy task to hit up a fair selection of recommended restaurants on any vacation – especially given how many different restaurant lists I effortlessly managed to gather (about 6) before I headed there for a friend’s wedding in August.
I compared and combined the lists. But ultimately, it was an overwhelmingly impossible task to decide which restaurants to visit, and then also score a reservation only 1-2 days in advance. So instead of sharing a list of recommended restaurants (I don’t dare to claim knowledge in this area), here are some of the best casual bites I had in New York City – the ones that don’t require reservations.
Levain Bakery: Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies
My sisters would know; I’ve been creepily obsessed with photos of the thick, gooey-chewy-looking chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery for years. If you’ve been on social media, you probably did not escape the stream of short videos of Levain’s customers breaking open this epic monster of a cookie.
A friend asked, “so what’s your list of must-visit restaurants while in New York?” I said, I only have ONE. In spite of the anticipation, the cookie lived up to every bit of my expectations. It had the crispy baked exterior, with chewy soft interior. It was not too sweet, but very chocolatey. It was definitely worth that 25-minute Uber ride in traffic just to get here.
Luke’s Lobster: Lobster Roll
This one was not on any list. We had just taken a long walk, all the way from Wall Street and then across Brooklyn Bridge. When I saw their signage of “Voted the best lobster roll in New York” I was sold.
The lobster was super fresh and juicy. I liked that the sauce was very mild, such that the fresh and pure lobster taste was still apparent. The bun was also buttery and perfectly toasted.
Chelsea Market: Very Fresh Noodle’s “Dry Lamb”
While I’m not recommending any restaurants, I can highly recommend a visit to Chelsea Market. We loved the interior design and upbeat vibes. It’s also aptly located right next to The High Line, which is another ‘must-see’ for tourists.
We sampled a number of delicious items, but six out of six of our group unanimously thought the spicy hand-pulled noodles from Very Fresh Noodles was the single best highlight. The noodles were thick, with a nice al dente chewy texture. This worked so well with the intensely flavourful sauce in the “dry” version of the noodles, and the almost-excessive portion of sliced lamb. It’s quite heavy – so I’d suggest sharing this between two, especially if you’re sampling other things from the market.
Smorgasburg: Beef Brisket Sandwich
Another place we really enjoyed was Smorgasburg, an outdoor food market which runs every Saturday in Williamsburg (Brooklyn). There were rows of tempting stalls, so make sure you arrive with a completely empty stomach… and you’d probably want to check out all the stalls before caving into every temptation you see! It was great food coupled with great vibes and a beautiful view of Manhattan from across the river, especially on a warm-ish summer day.
My personal favourite at Smorgasburg was this beef brisket sandwich, served with potato salad. You can choose between having just the lean meat, or the soft (read: fatty) meat – we got mixed. The meat was so tender and juicy, while the bun was soft and buttery.
Prince St Pizza: Pepperoni Pizza
While Levain cookies were the only item on my New York food bucket list, New York Pizzas need to be on yours. Their pepperoni slice is much thicker than usual – those who grew up with Italian pizzas in Europe may say “this is not pizza… it’s a cake,” yet inadvertently fall in love with it, for what it is – a New York Style pizza.
It was heavenly delicious and satisfying for a 1am meal, but admittedly, an hour or so later, I did feel it was a bit too greasy.
If you’ve been to New York recently, what were your favourites?