Eating the city: New York City, USA

In a city as big as New York and a stomach that can only physically expand so much, it’s impossible to eat everything. So, in order to save precious gut real estate for the good stuff, let me run you down the goodies you need to save space for when you visit.

 

1. Walnut chocolate chip cookie from Levain Bakery
Multiple locations
https://www.levainbakery.com

Not particularly cheap at USD$4.00 but they’re the size of grapefruit, FULL of melty chocolatey and nutty goodness, and can you really put a price on happiness? If you want to eat in, get there early or prepare to wait around – it’s a tiny space, so it fills up and the line ends up out the door pretty fast!
Read more here

 

2. Patrami & mustard on rye from Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St
https://www.katzsdelicatessen.com

This is one of the classics of NYC, and there’s a good reason for that. Family run for several generations, they’ve served everyone from Harry & Sally to NYC Mayor de Blasio and Senator Bernie Sanders (I know that because they were sitting at the table next to us a few weeks ago!). And if the USD$22.00 price tag puts you off a little, remember how much you’d pay for that much meat at a BBQ place – just because its between bread doesn’t mean you’re not getting your money’s worth!
Read more here

 

3. Brisket and burnt ends from Mighty Quinn’s BBQ
Multiple locations
http://www.mightyquinnsbbq.com

Tender, juicy meat with soft, melty fat… and those perfect burnt pieces off the ends to finish it all off. Heaven! These guys know how to make meat perfect, and don’t forget some mac & cheese on the side. Prices vary depending on your order, but it’s good value for money for such high quality.
Read more here

 

4. Any and all of the pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn
439 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn
http://www.birdsblack.com

Brooklyn’s amazing, but even if it wasn’t, it’d still be worth going to just to get your pie fix from these guys. They have a sweet little pie shop on a street corner, with a chalkboard hanging over the counter announcing the day’s offerings (around USD$6.00 per slice), and REAL tea and coffee to go with it!
Read more here

 

5. A salmon & cream cheese bagel from Russ & Daughters
179 E Houston St
https://www.russanddaughters.com

This is the bagel dreams are made of, in whatever combination you decide on. I can’t go past the scallion cream cheese, and while it’s damn near impossible to narrow down the fish, I’d strongly recommend the cured Scottish salmon and the smoked sable. Prices vary depending on your fish, but they’re kind enough to slice off a bit for you to taste before you commit.
Read more here

 

6. Hot dogs from Papaya King or Nathan’s Famous
Papaya King: 179 E 86th St
http://www.papayaking.com

Nathan’s Famous: Coney Island or at a Bulls game at the United Center
https://nathansfamous.com

Two NYC stalwarts, two great dogs. From Papaya King you’ll be wanting the two hot dogs with sauerkraut & mustard and a papaya drink combo. I wasn’t sold on the papaya juice drink with a hot dog, but its actually a weirdly good combination! And at Nathan’s, you just want a dog with a little ketchup and mustard. Amazing!
Read more here and here

 

7. Tea and scones at Alice’s Tea Cup
Multiple locations
https://alicesteacup.com

I’m a big fan of Alice, so I was stoked to find this wasnt a completely tacky themed cafe. They do breakfast and lunch, too, but I was there for tea and sweets. You can get a large pot (6 cups) of tea with two scones of your choice (they have a rotating selection daily) for USD$20.00, and they’ve cleverly switched to a tip-included-in-the-price system to make things even easier. Selecting you tea is the hard part, with dozens to choose from – I like the Mauritius black tea with a hint of vanilla, and of course their signature Alice’s tea; you can also purchase any tea from their menu to take home!
Read more here

 

8. Deli sandwich near Sunset Park, Brooklyn
5th Avenue between Green-Wood Cemetery and Sunset Park

It doesn’t really matter where you get it from or what’s in it, the whole walk up 5th Avenue to Sunset Park is lined with these little delis. It’s a bit of a climb to the top of the park, so grab some sandwiches on fresh bread piled high with just-sliced deli meats for a picnic in a spot that overlooks the Manhattan skyline.

 

9. Noodles and dim sum in Chinatown

Let’s be honest; where there’s a Chinatown, there’s good food. And New York’s is no different. Get yourself over there and just start walking. It’s just like being in Asia, which means the menus are often difficult to decipher, and there are more options than you’ll know what to do with. And, it’s cheap. Enjoy!

 

10. New York Cheesecake from Eileen’s Special Cheesecake
17 Cleveland Place
https://www.eileenscheesecake.com

Because how can you possibly go to New York without trying the namesake cheesecake?! You can get a little personal one for yourself (USD$5.00), or a nice big one to share (or, for yourself, no judgement), and in all sorts of flavours as well as the original.
Read more here

 

11. Crack pie & birthday truffles from Momofuku Milk Bar
Multiple locations
http://milkbarstore.com/main/

We live in a time where sugar’s been proven to be more addictive than crack anyway, so may as well skip the drugs and go right for the sweet stuff! The pie is basically pure butter and sugar, and the truffles are sugar with sprinkles, but they taste so damn good you just can’t help yourself!
Read more here

 

12. Bomboloni from Sullivan Street Bakery
533 W 57th Street
http://www.sullivanstreetbakery.com

Soft, airy, pillowy balls of dough, fried to golden perfection and filed with silky smooth custard. Off you go.
Read more here

 

13. A bit of everything from the Chelsea Market
75 9th Avenue
http://chelseamarket.com

There’s a whole basement full of food here, from vegan sushi to Aussie sausage rolls, herbal teas to artisan pastries, pizza slices to microbrew beer. If you can’t find something here you like, there’s something wrong with you!
Read more here

 

14. Gyro platter from The Halal Guys
Multiple locations
https://thehalalguys.com

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and a gap in the market for halal food in NYC led to one of the city’s greatest creations in the Halal Guys. The meat (served street side from a cart) is probably better than any you’ve had in a restaurant, and starting at around USD$8.00 for a platter, you won’t even need dinner later!
Read more here

 

15. Burgers! Fancy ones from Five Napkins, simple ones from Shake Shack.
Five Napkins: multiple locations
https://5napkinburger.com

Shake Shack: multiple locations
https://www.shakeshack.com

I’m a real burger lover, and my two NYC favourites fall on both ends of the spectrum. For something a bit fancier, try the Original 5 Napkin with gruyere and caramelised onions (around USD$17.00), and for a quick and cheap option, get yourself a ShackBurger for just USD$6.00. Both amazing. Just get both.
Read more here and here

My favourite Chicago eats

I had fun mentally re-eating all the good stuff I had in New York… let’s do it again!

This week, I’m going back to Chicago. Initially, I only agreed to add it to the itinerary because husband wanted to go; I really didn’t know much anything about the city, other than it’s home to the Chicago Bulls, and as children of the 90s/the Jordan era who both grew up playing basketball, that’s obviously our NBA team of choice. Other than that, it was a bit of a blank city for me.

After spending almost a week there over Christmas, though, my opinion changed completely; I loved that city. I can’t tell you why, either – it was just one of those places that felt good to be in. Beautiful buildings, the gorgeous river than runs through it, friendly people, and amazing food. The food scene reminded me a lot of Melbourne, actually, which may be one of the big reasons I loved it so much! We ate a lot in that week, and it was hard to narrow it down to the favourites, but here they are….

 

1. Do-Rite Donuts (donuts)
The food: A traditional buttermilk glaze

The memory: Ohh I loved this place! Our first day in Chicago, it was cold like I couldn’t believe, and it was Christmas Eve! We were on our way to the Christkindl Christmas Market, and noticed a giant donut pointing the way to a cute little store. We grabbed a donut and some hot tea, pulled up our hoods and sat out the front in the cold to take it all in… a kindly old man sitting on the table next to us struck up a friendly conversation, and it was the most wonderful welcome to any city we’ve ever had!
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2. Au Cheval (diner, burgers)
The food: The Au Cheval cheeseburger with a fried egg; same thing everyone else was ordering!
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The memory: The wind was like little frosty daggers this day, and after a morning of sight-seeing, we couldn’t have been happier to get into Au Cheval and escape the cold! After much pre-trip Googling, Au Cheval’s fried egg cheeseburger seemed to be the must-try burger for Chicago, and it didn’t disappoint. We were lucky enough to get a seat at the counter where we watched the most well-oiled machine out together the most spectacular looking (and smelling) food for the Saturday lunch crowd; it was mesmerising, and really made us think of Chicago as a proper food city.

 

3. Portillo’s (hot dogs)
The food: A Chicago dog. Obviously.

The memory: Another day of walking and walking and more walking, we finally found ourselves in the neighourhood of a Portillo’s, and it was finally Chicago Dog time. I remember sitting on the second level of the restaurant watching over all of the happy people and families with their tables of dogs and fries, and thinking how lucky we were to have made it all the way across the world to enjoy something as simple as a hot dog, which so many people would completely take for granted!

 

4. Billy Goat Tavern (burgers)
The food: Double cheezborger. No fries, CHEEPS! No Pepsi, COKE!
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The memory: This was another exciting one – we love watching travel shows, especially the ones that are food heavy. And on all of the travel shows about Chicago and food, the Billy Goat Tavern shows itself. We sat there in the crowded sub-street level diner with our burgers re-hashing the Bulls game we’d been to the night before, and talking about how long ago it felt that we were sitting on the couch watching this place on TV wondering if we’d ever actually get there…

 

5. Lou Malnati’s (deep dish pizza)
The food: The Malnati Chicago Classic – sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce. Simple.

The memory: I know that “real” Chicagoans don’t do deep dish pizza, but to enjoy it, you just need to not think of it as pizza. It’s a quiche pizza hybrid. A quizza, if you will. This was one of the deep thoughts that was discussed over dinner, sitting at a high bench table, finally out of the -15°C cold. Sometimes we just act like kids…

 

6. Rubi’s Tacos (street food – tacos)
The food: Pork tacos – amazing!!!
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The memory: Market and street food are two of my favourite things, and when we came across Rubi’s with a massive line, we figured we should probably join it – I remembered reading somewhere they did the best tacos. When we realised no one in the line was speaking English and there was no real menu, we figured a) we were definitely in the right place for breakfast and b) it was lucky I knew how to order pork tacos in Spanish. Sitting among the crowd, we stood out like green elephants, and really enjoyed feeling so out of place – that’s what travel is all about!

 

7. Doughnut Vault (donuts)
The food: A vanilla glazed raised and a buttermilk old fashioned

The memory: A tiny little place with the delicious smell of fried dough in the air and nowhere to sit – it felt just like being back in Melbourne! Another freezing day, we got there nice and early, grabbed our donuts and enjoyed them outside – I remember my butt being freezing against the cold concrete sidewalk we were sitting on, my fingers being sticky as all hell, and the two of us giggling like we were two kids who’d stolen a piece of birthday cake. Good times in Chicago! 🙂

Eat here: The Great Burger, Tokyo

The Great Burger
6-12-7 Jingumae, Shibuya
http://www.the-great-burger.com/

Hey guys! I’m in Tokyo!!! I cannot even tell you how much I already love this place, even after only two days.. It is incredible! I understand now how it’s possible that I’ve never heard anything bad about it; it is pristine clean, the people couldn’t possibly be nicer or more helpful, there is SO much to see, and the food is truly outstanding!

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While I’ve been enjoying the actual Japanese food, I couldn’t come here and not try something called The Great Buger, given what a committed burger lover I am, and especially after Googling them and seeing how perfectly Instagram-ready they are.

So, we were in the neighborhood in Harajuku yesterday and figured a burger lunch wouldn’t be a bad idea. We found The Great Burger tucked away off some side streets, and were stoked to find the line was only a few people deep (because in Tokyo, like Melbourne), people line up for ridiculous periods to get good food). This place is open from 11:30am, so our 12:15pm arrival was perfect.

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Imagine if an American diner went cute and hipster, and that’s what you’ve got here. The menu isn’t all burgers, either, they also looked to do some pretty amazing hot dogs, pastrami sandwiches and other American classics.

But we were there for a great burger – bacon cheeseburger (1350¥ + tax) with shoestring fries. I’ll go out on a limb and say probably the best shoestrings I’ve had with a burger; every single one was golden and crispy outside, soft and spudly inside. Nice.

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Burger: wow. Bacon, melty cheese, pickle relish, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and a perfectly cooked beef patty. It was juicy, a little messy, but everything was in perfect proportion, making it easy to see why it’s at the top of most Tokyo burger lists. Melbourne has a great burger culture right now, and I’d confidently say this one would comfortably stand up against most of ours! If you’re a burger head visiting Tokyo, better put this one on the list!!

Eat here: Sookie La La, Melbourne

Sookie La La
593 High St, Northcote
http://www.sookielaladiner.com.au/

In their own words, Sookie La La is a “diner style café serving sundaes, shakes, delicious Wide Open Road coffee, bagels, waffles and New York deli style sandwiches.” Sounds pretty good, huh?! This is one of those places I’ve driven past a million times, always noticed the big, simple black & white DINER sign hanging over the sidewalk, and still somehow never stopped. Until last weekend, when I decided it was finally time to get past the front window see what it was all about. I called upon one of my best friends for some girl time and delicious food, and we were not disappointed.

This cute-as-pie little eatery has everything you’d want and expect from a diner; cosy booths lining the far wall, a picture perfect little bar/counter, bright yellow and red condiment bottles on the table, and some seriously friendly but sassy staff to make you feel right at home.

They’ve made a name for themselves in the sandwich game, but the specials board was calling E’s name – she went with the cheeseburger and fries. Amazing, and she said she highly recommends trying one if it manages to stay on the specials board. She also had the most gorgeous picture perfect classic chocolate milk shake (they also have some more exotic stuff like the maple peanut butter, lemon slice, snickers and cherry ripe) complete with red & white stripey swirled straw. It even had the frothy bubbles on top. I so wish I liked milkshakes…

I heard the Cuban calling my name, because a) it seemed the most low FODMAP friendly and b) it just sounded bloody delicious, what with the ham and roast pork and swiss cheese and pickles… and fries, obviously. They were kind enough to make it with gluten free bread, too, and I think may be the first place I’ve ever been to who didn’t charge me more for my bodily intolerances! They were also more than happy to give me the honey mustard mayo on the side (on a side note, I decided to test things out and put a little on my sandwich. Didn’t end real well later on that afternoon. Fructose is definitely not my friend..), which was refreshing not to be sighed at like I was some weirdo health freak who was happy to have a meaty sandwich and fries, but didn’t want to have the fattening condiment – I swear I’m not like that!!!

The sandwich was delicious – chock full of meat, the pickles were unreal, even the GF bread was really good! And those fries… every single one was golden crunchy perfection. Not a single soggy chippy in there. Happy days.

 

I thought I was done after that, but miss E decided a sundae was in order, so we were with the most FODMAP friendly looking one – a coconut sorbet sundae with toasted coconut and chocolate sauce and some perfectly sweet and acidic berry sauce business on top. THAT’S how sundaes should be done. Big thank you to the server who suggested that we’d be total softies if we finished up  our lady date without dessert – it was the deliciously perfect end to the meal and totally worth the slight stomach ache later on!! That coconut sorbet was phenomenal!

I also caught sight of a seriously sexy dessert display on our way out, and am already pretty keen on another visit for a smoked salon bagel and some pie…

It’s no wonder the hipsters are flocking to the Northern suburbs in zombie hoards right now – with food like this in quiet little Thornbury, you’d be mental to go anywhere else! Oh, and they’re open until 9pm tonight… and back in business at 8am tomorrow… go on, you know you want to 😉

 

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Chicago classics: Billy Goat Tavern & Lou Malnati’s

While I was writing yesterday’s post on the Homewood Suites we stayed at in Chicago over Christmas, I mentioned the Billy Goat Tavern, which got me thinking about the feed we had there. It also got me thinking about one of the other classic Chicago institution we ate at, Lou Malnati’s. So once I finished writing that post, I decided to stay at my laptop and write this one, too – makes me smile just thinking about these places!

When husband and I started researching our stay in Chicago, other than the classic Chicago hot dogs, two other things kept popping up on the “must eat” lists – the cheeseburgers cheezborgers at the Billy Goat Tavern, and the deep dish pizzas as Lou Malnati’s. They’re both city institutions, stalwarts of the Chicago food scene, and have been around for a long time for a reason. Let’s visit the Billy Goat first…

 

Billy Goat Tavern
Beneath the Streets of 430 N Michigan Ave, Chicago
http://www.billygoattavern.com/

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The Billy Goat Tavern has a long, rich history in Chicago, and has been servicing the city since opening back in the 1930’s by Greek immigrant innkeeper William “Billy Goat” Sianis. The Tavern became well known for two reasons:

1. The Billy Goat Curse: Read all about it here, but basically Bill Sianis went to watch the Cubs play in the World Series with his companion, pet goat and tavern mascot Murphy, but Cubs owner PK Wrigley wouldn’t allow Murphy to enter, on the basis that he was, well, a goat. . Legend has it that the outraged and indignant Bill declared on his way out “the Cubs ain’t gonna win no more!” And that was it – they were cursed.

2. The SNL skit: “Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger!! No fries – CHEEPS! No Pepsi – COKE!” ‘Nuff said. Watch it here.

There’s only one thing to order here. The cheeseburger (USD$2.85). Preferably a double (USD$4.55). A triple if you’re really keen (USD$5.85).

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It’s not the BEST burger in the city (that honour goes to Au Cheval), but it was bloody good. Just remember to go to the condiment station before you tuck into the burger, otherwise it can be a little dry (ketchup and mustard FTW). Oh, and for fellow Australian – when they say chips, they mean CHIPS. Like, plain, chicken or salt & vinegar potato chips in an aluminium bag. Just a heads up!

Billy Goat Tavern on Urbanspoon

 

 

Lou Malnati’s
805 S State St Chicago
http://www.loumalnatis.com/

When most people think of Chicago food, after they think of the hot dog, the deep dish pizza is usually the next thing they picture. There are no shortage of deep dish pizza places in the city, but we chose Lou Malnati’s – it seemed to be up there every time we Googled “best pizza in Chicago” and it was also highly recommended by a friend who’d visited before. It’s a family business, started in the 1940s by one of the city’s numerous Italian immigrants. So what makes them stand out in a city full of pizza? It’s quality. All of their pizzas are handmade from scratch using the family recipe that’s been handed down over the generations. The ingredients are specially selected to compliment each other, and they even use the same small dairy for cheese that supplied Lou when he first started. No wonder this place was so popular.

So, we went. The line was out the door. Doesn’t sound so bad, except that it was around -15°C (or 5F), and the wait was gonna be around 30 minutes. After a few impatient (smart?) parties bailed ahead of us, we found a corner to wait it out inside; we also found out you could place your order while you waited for your table, which would cut your waiting for food time in half – happy days!

We ordered the Malnati Chicago Classic – sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce. That’s the thing with classic Italian – it doesn’t need to be complex. You don’t need 20 ingredients for a good dish. You only need a few good quality ones to create magic. And that’s what this was. Perfect, flaky, buttery crust filled with fantastic sausage, sweet tomato sauce and pizza perfect mozzarella. Believe the hype and wait out the line – worth it!

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Lou Malnati's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon