Ryan Martinsen

New York City Food Recommendations

I love New York and I love the food in New York City. I used to live there and not a week goes by where I don’t miss the delicious variety available therein.

Any time a friend or family member visits New York my wife and I send them a list of our favorite spots. I’ve been meaning to post the list here for some time, preferrably before our recommendations are too out of date.

So here it is, finally.

First up, Applebee’s in Times Square!

I kid. I kid. Please don’t go there.

Brunch:

Hot buttered cider

Community Food & Juice
Our favorite affordable brunch place. It was a 20 minute walk from our apartment so we used to go there on Saturdays. All of the brunch offerings are good. Mariah’s favorite is the veggie sandwich and the Farmer’s Plate. I like their french toast and pancakes best.

This is also the location of Mariah’s favorite hot drink in all the city. It’s called the Barnard Bear, “some glorious combination of mint, lemon, apple cider, and butter and it’s to die for.” I usually get the hot buttered cider (pictured) which is also really good.

It’s kind of out of the way, located by Columbia University.

Jane
Ridiculous vanilla bean crème brûlée french toast. I’ve only been here once. I met a group there late because I was actually supposed to be elsewhere for a friend’s birthday brunch/lunch, but I failed to dress appropriately and wasn’t allowed in the restaurant. I still feel badly about my failure to not dress like a slob, but the french toast at Jane was delicious. It’s probably even more delicious when eaten without slob guilt.

Norma’s
Expensive, but amazing food. I highly recommend it. Just don’t buy the orange juice (which is awesome, but $9). That is, unless you actually want to spend silly amounts of money on orange juice. It really is delicious orange juice.

I am ever so slightly obsessed with orange juice.

Burgers:

The Spotted Pig
They’ve got a $20 burger that will blow your mind unless you absolutely hate blue cheese (I am not overly fond of blue cheese, but still love this burger). It’s actually Roquefort cheese, which is a type of blue cheese.

Shake Shack
Easily the best inexpensive burger in the city. It holds its own against more expensive burgers.

Do not pass this up.

Joy Burger Bar
Scrumptious. Also inexpensive.

Also known as The Burger Joint That Saved Valentine’s Day In 2011.

Burger Joint
A hole in the wall inside Le Parker Meridien hotel.

Black Shack
If, like me, you sometimes (i.e. often) need a super amazing chocolate peanut butter shake, this is an excellent choice. I think the burgers taste like fancy Burger King (i.e. not mind-blowing in my opinion, but I accept that you may be into that sort of thing).

Pizza:

Weirdly, I wasn’t that adventurous when it came to pizza so I don’t have much to contribute here. The first two are definitely worth it, maybe read the reviews for the next two to see if they’re what you’re looking for.

Lombardi’s Pizza
If you ever think to yourself, “Self, let’s go to Ray’s Pizza!”, your next thought to yourself should be, “NO NO NO NO NO NO.” Just don’t. Do yourself a favor and eat this delicious pizza instead.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria
More delicious pizza. I think it’s against some sort of New York law to have a list of restaurant recommendations and not include this one. Be prepared for a long wait to get in, even in the dead of winter.

Vezzo
Went here once and had a good experience.

Patsy’s Pizzeria
Good traditional New York pizza.

Gourmet Mac & Cheese:

S’Mac
Seriously, this stuff is amazing. Mariah likes the Mediterranean best (it has spinach and goat cheese) and I like the Buffalo chicken.

MacBar
S’Mac is better, but this is a good second.

Max Brenner
Bacon Mac. Mmmmmm.

Cafeteria
Fancied up comfort food with pretty good mac & cheese. I don’t recommend the chicken and waffles unless you’re really into that (I’m not).

+1 if you’re into deep-fried Oreos.

Restaurants:

Mixed berry cobbler with ice cream

Westville
An excellent selection of veggie side dishes. Mariah would often just order 3 or 4 sides and make that her meal. I’d usually get the salmon, trout, or maybe a turkey burger with avocado. I’m a fan of the mixed berry cobbler (pictured), but our favorite dessert is their strawberry rhubarb pie. It is glorious. The sweet potato fries are among the best I’ve ever had.

Once, Mariah made the mistake of not ordering sweet potato fries. She grabbed one of mine, dipped it in the chipotle mayo sauce we were trying for the first time, and took a bite. And then she was gone. The entire world had disappeared—there were no sounds, no husband, no cousins, and no waitress. There existed nothing save her, the sweet potato fries, and the chipotle mayo from heaven. I waved my hand in front of her face and ate her food, but to no avail. I was nothing. Finally, in a desperate and risky attempt to bring her back to the land of the living before both her and the fries disappeared into the void between the worlds, I placed my hand over my fries. I will never forget the look I got.

It actually wasn’t what you might think. It was not a face of anger or malice, but instead a face of pleading so pure that it could not be denied. I relented. After that she remained, thankfully, on earth. And I was able to eat some of the fries.

Tenzan
Fantastic sushi at good prices. You won’t regret it. Really.

Alice's Tea Cup

Alice’s Tea Cup
A large variety of tea including 30 different kinds of herbal tea, the most amazing scones (especially the pumpkin scone), and delicious little sandwiches (especially the chicken, apple, and goat’s cheese one).

To men who think they’re too manly for a tea house or some other nonsense: Man up. This place has delicious food.

Robataya
Amazing, though costly, Japanese food. Mariah says, “I ate the best Kobe Beef of my life here and it was worth the silly amount I paid for it.” This place is as close as we ever got to the real deal outside of Japan itself. They even have a fancy toilet in the restroom.

Call in advance because it might not be worth the cost if you don’t get to sit at the grill.

Don’t get the gyoza. It was weird.

Vynl
For the nachos. Seriously.

They’ve also got some decent truffle mac & cheese.

If you have difficulty hearing other people in loud environments, you may want to avoid this one.

Max Brenner
It’s famous for dessert, but the food is really good too. I recommend their BALT (BLT + Avocado) sandwich. We also like their bacon mac & cheese, chicken satay, and spicy chicken & 3 cheese pizza.

If it’s cold, Max Brenner has delicious hot chocolates. Way better than what you can get at Starbucks for about the same price.

Baoguette
Tasty Vietnamese sandwiches near Madison Square Park.

Max’s
This is the best Italian food Mariah’s had in the city and it isn’t too pricey.

Dafni Greek Taverna
Really good Greek food close to the theater district so it’s a good place to hit up before a play, but it’s far enough off the main path that it isn’t over-run.

The Kati Roll Company
Indian fast food. Quite delicious. Especially good if you’re in a hurry or need something to go.

Crepes:

Creperie
A little hole in the wall that churns out delicious crepes.

Le Grainne Cafe
Fun little French cafe.

Yorkville Creperie
Way out of the way, but if you happen to be in the neighborhood be sure to stop in.

Crepes on Columbus
Good crepe place near the north west end of Central Park.

Desserts:

Levain Bakery
They make unholy cookies. The chocolate peanut butter cookies are my favorite. It’s entirely plausible that they’re the world’s best chocolate peanut butter cookies, ever.

Remember Lembas from The Lord of the Rings?

In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” before departing Lothlórien, Legolas commented to Merry and Pippin that “one small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man.”

Were it not for the nutritious aspect of Lembas I’d be entirely confident that J.R.R. Tolkien saw the future and based Lembas on the cookies made by Levain Bakery.

16 Handles
Our favorite self-serve frozen yogurt shop. We frequented it frequently in the summer months and occasionally in the winter because it’s that good.

Bomboloni
Italian filled donuts… filled with stuff like raspberry goo or crème brûlée, not Italians. They also have gelato.

I think of this place at least once a month, if not more.

Root Beer Float at Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain
This is a really fun restored 1920s pharmacy complete with sodas, jerks, milk shakes, and other delectable edibles.

You simply can’t go wrong with a root beer float made by a real jerk.

If Mariah and I had gotten married in New York we would have done a reception or something here.

Momofuku Milk Bar
Weirdly awesome cookies, cereal milk soft serve (which I didn’t like, but has to be tried), cakes, truffles, pie, and more.

Magnolia
Really good banana pudding, but the cupcakes aren’t as good as those that can be found at Crumbs.

Max Brenner
Lots of good dessert choices.

Try their hot chocolate if you’re there in the winter. It’s way better than what you get at Starbucks and costs about the same.

Food Trucks:

Waffle Truck
Try the spekuloos spread.

Calexico
There isn’t a lot of good Mexican food to be had in NYC. This truck does a pretty good job.

The Tamale Lady
Excellent authentic tamales. Not a food truck. It’s just her (or a friend or family member) with a big pot and a cooler hanging out in front of the Mexican Embassy.

Her arroz con leche is also particularly good, though you probably shouldn’t spill it on your phone like I did.

Milk Truck
I never found this one, but Mariah did and very much enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwich she obtained there.

Nutella almond ice cream smashed between snicker doodle cookies

Coolhaus Truck
Nutella almond ice cream smashed between snicker doodle cookies, among other things.

Thai Pot Stickers
I can’t find a link for this one, but it was usually in the Financial District and had a sign that said… ‘Thai Pot Stickers’. They were excellent.

Food Vendors at the Red Hook Ball Fields
A collection of food trucks that congregate around baseball and soccer fields, specializing in food from various Latin American countries. It’s been years since I visited this place, but what I remember was lots of delightful food.

Some of the Yelp reviewers say it’s gone downhill under the oppressive thumb of government regulation and bureaucracy which, if true, is a food tragedy.

It’s very much out of the way. You can get there by taking a ferry to IKEA (free on weekends) and walking for a short spell.

Miscellany

Chelsea Market
This place is a conglomeration of stores and eateries. We highly recommend Ronny Brook’s milk bar (milkshakes), Amy’s Bread (cupcakes, cake, and bread), Jacques Torres (amazing cookies), and Witchcraft (brownies).

Eataly
A conglomeration of Italian food stores and eateries.

Christmas Markets
If you happen to be in NYC near Christmas time, go to all the Christmas markets. You’ll find good shopping and fun treats.

Conclusion

Clearly, this is more than can be done on one vacation and it barely scratches the surface of delicious things to be ingested in NYC. But I feel compelled to include a lot of choices in the hope that you’ll pick at least one or two things that sound good to you and avoid the tourist traps like Ray’s Pizza and other horrible, but popular establishments.

Books I read in 2013

My favorite New Year’s resolution to make is how many books I’m going to read in the coming year. Last year, however, I set my goal too high at a ridiculous 52 books. It quickly became clear that I was going to fall far short of my goal and I felt somewhat discouraged as a result. I decided to be less ambitious for 2013 and set my goal at 35 books.

I ended up reading 39 books I hadn’t read before and re-reading 4 more.

Here are the 39. Goodreads has a much better list view with ratings and dates for the curious or those afraid of this big blob of text:

The Summer Tree (The Fionavar Tapestry, #1), by Guy Gavriel Kay
A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, #14), Robert Jordan
Seeds of Rebellion (Beyonders, #2), by Brandon Mull
The Wandering Fire (The Fionavar Tapestry, #2), by Guy Gavriel Kay
Fablehaven (Fablehaven, #1), by Brandon Mull
Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven, #2), by Brandon Mull
Grip of the Shadow Plague (Fablehaven, #3), by Brandon Mull
Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Fablehaven, #4), by Brandon Mull
Keys to the Demon Prison (Fablehaven, #5), by Brandon Mull
Holes, by Louis Sachar
The Truth (Discworld, #25), by Terry Pratchett
Thief of Time (Discworld, #26), by Terry Pratchett
Tarnished Knight (Lost Stars, #1), by Jack Campbell
The Darkest Road (The Fionavar Tapestry, #3), by Guy Gavriel Kay
2001: A Space Odyssey, by Clarke, Arthur C.
MongoDB and PHP, by Steve Francia
Programming in Objective-C, by Stephen G. Kochan
Chasing the Prophecy (Beyonders, #3), by Brandon Mull
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master, by Andrew Hunt
The Gate Thief, by Orson Scott Card
The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, by Alan Cooper
Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay
Guardian (The Lost Fleet, #3), by Jack Campbell
The Rithmatist (Rithmatist, #1), by Brandon Sanderson
Monster Hunter International (MHI, #1), by Larry Correia
Earth Afire (The First Formic War, #2), by Orson Scott Card
Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations, #1-2), by Michael J. Sullivan
Night Watch (Discworld, #29), by Terry Pratchett
Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1), by Robin Hobb
Monster Hunter Vendetta (MHI, #2), by Larry Correia
Monster Hunter Alpha (MHI, #3), by Larry Correia
Steelheart (Reckoners, #1), by Brandon Sanderson
Rise of Empire (The Riyria Revelations, #3-4), by Michael J. Sullivan
Heir of Novron (The Riyria Revelations, #5-6), by Michael J. Sullivan
Monstrous Regiment (Discworld, #31), by Terry Pratchett
Going Postal (Discworld, #33), by Terry Pratchett
Thud! (Discworld, #34), by Terry Pratchett
Mitosis (Reckoners, #1.5), by Brandon Sanderson
Making Money (Discworld, #36), by Terry Pratchett

And the 4 books I re-read:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter, #1), by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter, #2), by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter, #3), by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, #4), by J.K. Rowling

Not that I need a reason to re-read anything, but the particular reason for this re-read was that I wanted something fun and light to read that I could put down mid-sentence without effort. It’s hard to put down a good book you’ve never read before when you’re right in the middle of a big action sequence, even if the bacon is burning. I didn’t want that sort of struggle while preparing holiday meals.

Cities I visited in 2013

While not as exciting as my travels in previous years, these are nonetheless the cities I spent one or more nights in during 2013:

  • Kaysville, Utah
  • New York, New York
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Riverton, Utah

Where did you go?

See where I went in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Previously,

Read more in the archives