Check out the the new westside location of the Whitney Museum, get tickets to Fun Home, and by all means walk as much as you possibly can because you're going to need to burn calories like mad. Food is a competitive sport in Manhattan — and we know you are up for the challenge. Here are 10 ways to get off to the races.
By street food we don't mean something off a fancy food truck — or, for that matter, the Olive Garden truck we saw near the Flatiron building one day during a recent visit to New York. (Horror!) Do New York street food the old fashioned way with a hot pretzel, a hot dog, or a dipped cone. Don't forget the sprinkles. This won't be your fanciest meal, but it's a New York must. You won't really feel like you've been in the city unless you've had that hot dog.
Scallion Pancake at Nice Green Bo Restaurant
There are dozens of small, white-walled, linoleum-floored, formica-topped table restaurants in Chinatown. Ask a knowledgeable friend to recommend a favorite and you might end up at Nice Green Bo, which has been in operation for decades and serves the best bowl (and by bowl we mean vat, for around $4) of chicken and corn soup we've ever had. It was hard to resist asking for a second order of scallion pancakes, a simple dish served perfectly, but we needed to save room for the $1 boba tea across the street. Chinatown is a wonderful place to wander (the fresh, exotic produce in the markets is incredible) and you can't beat the prices if you know where to look.
A Cookie at Momofuku Milk Bar
Pastry chef Christina Tosi is popping up on all the Food Network shows, it seems, which may be why the lines at Momofuku mastermind David Chang's sweet side, Milk Bar, are longer than ever, even with new locations (and pop ups) opening all the time. But you'll want to wait 15 minutes for a compost cookie and a cereal milk soft serve. Really, it tastes just like your milk once the cereal's gone — which will be a good or bad thing, we've heard both from friends who've tried the sweet/salty/slightly odd concoction. Don't forget a cold brew. It's calorie-free and it tastes like chocolate. How do they do that?!
Chicken and Crepes at Dirty French
This was one of the best meals we ate all week. Dirty French (a fancy newish offering from Rich Torrisi, Jeff Zalaznick and Mario Carbone) is located on the ground floor of the Ludlow Hotel, right across the street from the infamous Katz's Delicatessen. Skip the pastrami (and, frankly, the grit) next door and opt instead for hot pink roosters and some of the prettiest tile we saw all week. No detail goes unattended here, and that extends to both the food and decor. The drinks, as well — we sampled a tequila cocktail with (really!) yogurt in it. Not bad. Our favorite dish was the chicken and crepes, served (sort of) Peking Duck style with juicy, delicious roast chicken breast sliced and ready for the light crepes, followed by a platter of legs and thighs, accompanied by several sauces. Don't skip dessert. The lemon tart is incredible.
A Potato Knish from Yonah Schimmel
A few doors down from Katz's is Russ and Daughters. Before dinner at Dirty French, we grabbed babka and halvah to go (skip the fish, it's not going to fare well unless you're headed straight home) and then hit Yonah Schimmel for a potato knish. They have new-fangled knishes here like chocolate, but the classic is potato, and trust us, it will stay good till you get it to the fridge after dinner — and make a perfect breakfast the next day. There's nothing fancy about this tiny spot, and we hope it always stays that way.
Charred Snow Peas at Ma Peche
There's a stairway at the back of the Milk Bar on 56th Street leading to the basement home of David Chang's only midtown restaurant. Sit at the bar and ask for the dim sum menu, then wait for the carts to come by. The menu is limited — pork belly buns (order that), Momofuku's famous fried chicken (order that), a few other dishes, and charred snow peas. Definitely order that. Fresh and crunchy, complemented by pork and peanuts, this sweet, spicy dish is best washed down with a cocktail like the Ginger Ninja. Cocktails at lunch, you ask? No worries — you're on vacation. Note: This place actually delivers. (Literally and figuratively.)
Any Bagel at Black Seed Bagels
If you want to see a hipster cringe, march up to the counter at Black Seed Bagels in Nolita (directly across the street from our favorite jewelry store, Erica Weiner) and ask for a bagel — just a bagel. What? The skinny, bearded guy will ask. No salmon belly? No scallion-infused cream cheese? No thank you — you want to taste one of the best specimens of bagel the city has to offer. Both the sesame and poppy seed are excellent and we intend to order one of each flavor the next time we're there. For research purposes, of course.
Hibiscus Blossom and Truffled Popcorn at The Campbell Apartment
If you happen to find yourself anywhere near Grand Central Station and looking for a proper drink in a memorable setting, good luck. The pickings in this 'hood are slim. You might want to head west to the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis, or all the way up north to Bemelman's Bar at the Carlyle. Or you can dive into the heart of the train station and — after a little twisting and turning and a couple level changes — find yourself at the doorway of the Campbell Apartment. You won't be alone, this place is packed with knowledgeable commuters appreciating the stunning decor in this tiny, wood-ceilinged bar, backed with stained glass and stocked with beautiful cocktails. As the story goes, a business magnate named Campbell worked and sort of lived out of the space back in the day, sitting at his desk in his underwear so as to avoid creasing his pants. Everyone kept their pants on the night (okay, nights) we were there — but we can't guarantee what might happen after two Hibiscus Blossoms, a tea-infused gin cocktail best paired with truffled popcorn so good we made several friends at the bar by offering samples.
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"Twinkie" at Empire Cake
Chelsea Market is awesome, iconic and a lot of fun to walk around (or crawl, if the typical crowds are on hand). But we didn't see any baked goods nearly as tempting as those we found across the street in the old school case at Empire Cake, a little bakery that specializes in knock-off Twinkies. Yes, you read that right and you've got to try one — you'll never go back to Hostess. There are several varieties of stuffed and iced snack cakes, including a giant "Swiss Roll" the size of a large grapefruit. Feeling dainty? They have teeny tiny, adorable black and white cookies (and a red velvet variety!) that will leave room the next indulgence.
Brunch at Balthazar
Just about everyone has a Happy Place in Manhattan, and this is ours. This French-style bistro is mammoth, yet manages to feel homey — which might be because the food is always top notch with service to match. Our favorite meal at Balthazar is brunch, which gives one the change to linger over a Bloody Mary or a French 75 (don't forget, New York liquor laws won't let you order till noon on Sunday, so plan accordingly) and a menu including puff pastry with mushrooms and asparagus, Eggs Benedict, and French Toast. After brunch you'll find yourself on Spring Street in the heart of Soho — the perfect starting point for an afternoon of city wandering. Enjoy.
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