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

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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
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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.
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3. Portillo’s (hot dogs)
The food: A Chicago dog. Obviously.
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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!
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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…
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5. Lou Malnati’s (deep dish pizza)
The food: The Malnati Chicago Classic – sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce. Simple.
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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…
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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!
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7. Doughnut Vault (donuts)
The food: A vanilla glazed raised and a buttermilk old fashioned
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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! 🙂
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Coast to coast hot dogs! Eat here: Papaya King, NYC and Pink’s, LA

Happy Friday friends! OMG it’s been such a long week… since my run on Sunday, my body has been aching like no-one’s business (I tore the cartilage in both hips a few years ago training for taekwondo national championships, had one operated on, the other ignored, and dear god they hurt like hell after a run!), I woke up a few mornings ago feeling like I was swallowing razor blades, work’s been busy (this is a good thing, just tiring!), and I’m trying to make sure I’m making enough time in the week to work on my blog and other writing. I feel like I’m putting almost all of my energy and time into meal planning so I won’t screw up this low FODMAP thing as well as practicing anti-anxiety and depression and disordered eating behaviour, I am baking up a storm over the next two days for my sister-in-law’s weekend baby shower (there is an ungodly amount of butter and eggs in my fridge at the moment), and, despite not having having made time to de-stress with my usual daily yoga,  and not having had more than 6 broken hours sleep in a night for the last few months, I am trying to keep a positive frame of mind going! I’m actually feeling surprisingly, oddly good at the moment… calm before the storm, perhaps?!

ANYWAY, back to my original point – Friday!!! If I wasn’t FODMAPing, I’d probably be heading out for some sort of delicious meaty treat for dinner. Husband and I were discussing hot dogs last night (just the standard kind of highly intelligent dinner-table conversation that goes on in our house), and I started thinking about how much I’d love one… but instead of going to get a hot dog, I’m going to flash back to two delicious dogs I had in America back at the start of the year, on opposite sides of the country. Both classics, both city institutions, both delicious, both worthy of your spare change and time to visit.

 

First up, representing the east coast…

Papaya King
179 E 86th St, New York
http://www.papayaking.com/index.php/food/

IMG_5569To quote the great man, Anthony Bourdain, “…there’s always a shining light on the hill, an old reliable, arguably the best hot dog in New York City, our best food forward in the meat-in-tube form department: Papaya King.”

With an endorsement like that, you can hardly not visit this place when you go to New York! And so we did. We actually walked the whole 3.7km (or 2.3 miles) from our hotel to Papaya King, because we had literally just gotten off the Amtrak train that took us into NYC, dumped our bags, and were ready to kill two birds with one stone – let’s see a bit of the city on our way to food!

While I’m not sure this is the best hot dog in New York (Crif Dogs, I’m looking at you!), this was certainly the best old-style dog we had there. And the papaya drink was pretty darn good too,; I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised as I wasn’t expecting much from it! Plain and simple, dog and sauerkraut, fantastic mustard, quick and friendly service, good snap on the hot dog, soft bun, happy days. It’s standing room only, so if you’re there in winter like we were, get cosy with the guy standing at the counter next to you and come together over a mutual love for good food!

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And the west coast’s delegate…

Pink’s Hot Dogs
709 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles
http://www.pinkshollywood.com/

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I have a confession to make; this hot dog was not a planned thing. We were on our way out to dinner at Umami when our walk from the hotel to The Grove took us on a path right past Pink’s. We knew we were having big fat burgers for dinner. We still stopped for a snack. Naughty fatties, I know, but when passes a city institution such as Pink’s one does not pass it by! It’s pretty exciting, as demonstrated in the photo above by the kid who just dropped for no apparent reason other than extreme hot dog excitement.

Pink’s has been around since 1939 and if the walls lined with signed celebrity photos are anything to go by, it’s still pretty popular 75 years on. We had a chat to a local lady lining up who told us she’d lived here her whole life and never had one – she only stopped there tonight because it was the shortest she’d ever seen the line! Guess it was meant to be…

We kept it simple with our order, going the classic chili dog with mustard, onions and chili, come in at around USD$5.00 including tax. It was money well spent; fantastic dog! The chili was amazing, just enough kick to help the flavour along, not enough to overpower it. The dog itself was delicious, the bun was perfect – soft enough to enjoy, not so soft that it went soggy.

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Pink’s wasn’t originally on our list of place’s to try, but it should have been – it’s not just the delicious food, it’s the experience! People there were friendly and happy and willing to chat to us strange foreigners, even though the line was deep and they could have all been grumpy and impatient… I guess that’s just the by-product of good food and service! It’s not fancy food, but it is fun, and it’s been around so long for a reason – enjoy!

Pink's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Coney Island, New York – Happy 4th of July!

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs
1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, New York
http://www.nathansfamous.com/

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So, it’s not a thing here in Australia (duh), but for all the Americans out there, Happy 4th of July! And yes, I know I’m a day early for the Americans, but it’s the 4th here, so I’m gonna roll with it! While we were in New York in January, we took a trip out to Coney Island (gorgeous!), and when we got to Nathan’s, husband was pretty excited to point out that we were at the home of the famous 4th of July Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest! We were hoping to try one, but being the middle of winter, we weren’t holding our breath – turns out we were in luck, and hot dogs were still happening! Happy days! And a delicious hot dog it was, too. I reckon on a good day I could probably polish off 10, don’t think I’d ever be able to get near the recorn 69 hot dogs polished off by current champion Joey Chestnut. In 10 minutes. Wow. If you haven’t seen this guy in action, follow this link and prepare to be amazed/impressed/horrified/all of the above. If you’re in NYC for the 4th of July and get down to the contest, tell me all about it!! Otherwise, I hope everyone gets to enjoy a delicious hot dog of some description anyway!

 

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Eat here: Crif Dogs, New York, USA (hot dogs)

Crif Dogs
113 Saint Marks Place, NYC
http://www.crifdogs.com/

Ahh Sunday afternoon, that bittersweet time of the week when you realise you still have a few more hours of relaxation before shit gets going again for another week. I generally read for an hour each day on week days, catching the train to and from work, but I’ve been trying to set aside a little time on Sunday afternoons to read a little, too. It’s just nice to unwind and get away from a screen for a while, you know? This week I’ve been reading Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour” (I’ll post a little something on that this coming week, because it’s a great read). I find it impossible to read anything he’s written now without reading it in his voice. That soothingly sarcastic, slightly psychotic voice that lulls me into a sense of maniacal comfort every time I flick channels and find him on my screen.

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We heard about this place (as we heard of so many others) from “the great man” as my husband refers to him, Anthony Bourdain, on his New York episode of The Layover. He visits Crif Dogs and it’s hidden bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell) with a man who I have great respect and love for, David Chang; they order a few dogs, and Chang orders a side of tater tots with gooey melted cheese for Bourdain, knowing he’ll appreciate it. All seems quite friendly and civilized, until we hear Bourdain tell Chang that it’s “only out of deference to him that he’s not thrusting his ****” in the melted cheese, such is his love for it. Needless to say, being the immature children we are, this line has been repeated countless times over perfectly lovely, otherwise civilized meals of our own.

Anyway, we were excited to be visiting and tucked into (left to right)
– BLT: bacon wrapped dog with lettuce, tomato and mayo
– Tsunami: another bacon wrapped dog with teriyaki sauce, pineapple and green onions
– Jon-Jon Deragon: dog with schmear of cream cheese, scallions and everything bagel seeds

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Honestly, couldn’t flaw any of them. That simple little BLT was magic, they all were, actually, and I’m starting to understand how Bourdain felt now. The dogs themselves were probably the best hot dogs I’ve ever had, and while there were heaps of options, they were all kept relatively restrained, with only a few toppings on each.

I wish we had hot dogs of this caliber in Melbourne…

 

Crif Dogs on Urbanspoon

Eat here: Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C., USA

Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U St NW, Washington, DC
http://benschilibowl.com

I know I said I was gonna suspend regular posting until I got home, but some of this stuff is too good to wait, and I was missing regularly posting and yeah.. So here’s another one!

We’re big fans of shows like Man V Food and all things Bourdain, so we’d seen and heard a bit about Ben’s Chili Bowl in the lead up to this trip, and we were keen on trying it.

Our second day in D.C. proved to be just as wet as the first, but we still managed to have walked around 12km around the city before lunch time, so we decided to visit Ben’s to load those burnt calories back on again. Great choice.

We turned up to the U street location around 12.30 today (Sunday) to find a line out the door, which kept up for the duration of our visit. We ordered the original chili half-smoke and tucked ourselves into a booth to get stuck into it – we turned around and noticed the table beside us was the one that President Obama infamously sat at when he visited.

The dogs were fantastic, more of a sausage than a frank, absolutely delicious. The chili was great too, a little bit of a kick, heaps of flavour, and plenty of it; surprisingly it actually didn’t make the bun soggy which was good news. We also found we had a side of chips thrown in!

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So yeah, great food. What was even better was the gentleman pictured above in the bottom left corner; he came over to our table to say hi, welcome to Ben’s, and asked how the meal was. Amazing, we said, worth the trip from Australia. Well, that did it; we became celebrities! He insisted on taking our photo for us, obliged most happily when I asked if we could get a photo with him – he asked another diner to please take our picture, informing him that we were Australian and he was so happy to have us with him. He also insisted on introducing us to the lovely lady in the photo top right, one of the owners and family members of Ben.

The hot dog was fantastic, but my goodness the people just made it! It was the best experience, we felt super important being taken around the restaurant with other diners staring at us, shaking hands and chatting happily.. If you’re visiting, go for the hot dog and stay for the gorgeous people 🙂 it’s a DC institution for a reason!!

Ben's Chili Bowl on Urbanspoon

USAdventure days 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19: Chicago

Stayed at: Homewood Suites by Hilton, Downtown.

Ate at:
donut at Do-Rite
– Portillo’s hot dog
– Al’s #1 Italian Beef
Eataly!!
– Billy Goat Tavern – double cheese the best!
– Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
– Doughnut Vault
– cupcake at Magnolia Bakery
cheeseburger at Au Cheval
tacos at Rubi’s
– Stan’s Donuts & Coffee

Got up to:
– Blackhawks V Jets NHL game
– Navy Pier
– Christkindl Market
– Cloud Gate and Millenium Park
– high tea at The Drake on Christmas Day
– Bulls V Lakers NBA Christmas Day!
– Wrigley Field
– Lincoln Park
– North Avenue Beach
– Magnificent Mile
New Maxwell Street Market
– Wicker Park & Bucktown

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