Vegans and vegetarians…avert your eyes. Things are about to get offensive.
Yes, there are quite a few meat dinners featured here, and I have a couple reasons for that. For one, I like meat. Second, a New York steakhouse is practically an American institution. It’s why there is a cut known as the New York Strip and not one called the Los Angeles Freeway.
It should probably be noted that this is the first of this three part series that I am actually writing from my new home in Los Angeles, CA. I admit that while I am excited for my new adventure, my heart is a little homesick, and I can feel my inner New Yorker bursting out of my seams.
So without further adieu, allow me to get nostalgic and hungry all at the same time by diving into my Top 10 of New York Meals.
1. Peter Lugers
“The best meal of my entire life was at Peter Lugers” – Johnny Carson
Man oh man, did Johnny Carson know his food.
The first time you go to Peter Lugers, your mission is simple. Order a Porterhouse for as many people as there are sitting at your table. Request it prepared however you best enjoy your steak – although, if I have any say in the matter, order it medium rare. Pair the meat with a couple choice sides – I’d recommend the creamed spinach and a potato selection, but above all else…don’t forget the bacon (ordered per slice).
Be sure to wash it all down with one of their desserts. I won’t lie – it doesn’t matter which dessert you order as it will always be shown up by Peter Luger’s homemade whipped cream known as “schlag.”
Still with me? Good. The SECOND time you go to Peter Lugers, request a lunch reservation and dive into their burger. I’m making special note that it should be a LUNCH reservation as that’s the only time the Peter Luger burger is available.
Ya’ll…scroll back up to that first photo. Take a moment to breath it in.
The burger is perfection – hot, juicy, and containing the flavor of a perfectly aged steak. The bun is soft yet holds up against the weight of the meat. Just…ugh…what are you doing still reading this? You’ve got two meals to accomplish at Peter Lugers. Go get on it!
People are going to try to tell you that Lombardi’s has become a tourist trap. They are going to say that it’s overpriced for pizza served to you on a paper plate and that the wait is too long to be worth it. To those people I say, “GTFO!”
As the first pizzeria in America, Lombardi’s should be treasured. It is a staple for anytime my family or I are visiting NYC (note the near identical photos between my brother, father, and me). The dough is thin enough that it doesn’t overpower the meal, but not so thin that it becomes a damn cracker (#notapizza). The tomato sauce is rich and flavorful, while their white pies infuse basil into the oil for added depth. And then…there’s the ricotta florets.
Seriously, go support Lombardi’s. Yes, it is located in Soho and will therefore seat several tourists. Yes, you will be paying NYC prices to be served on paper plates (is it odd I find this charming?). And yes, if you go during the dinner rush, you may have to put up with a hefty wait, but please tell me how that differs from any other hot restaurant in NYC?
My point is…bite the bullet and go. I have never taken a friend or family member to Lombardi’s who didn’t leave absolutely loving the meal afterwards.
3. Quality Meats
Yup, right back to a steakhouse (hey, you had fair warning).
If I’m completely honest, I can’t recall how I first heard of Quality Meats, but it somehow fell in my lap just in time for my 25th birthday. #bestgiftever
There is a lot to love at Quality Meats – the raw/rustic decor, the hushed ambience, and, oh yeah, the seriously epic cuts of meat.
I know the picture is not too impressive – my photography skills have come a long way in just 3 short years, but let me assure you that this is one of the most flavorful, tender cuts of ribeye that I’ve ever come across (and let’s just be clear in stating…I’ve experienced a lot of ribeye in my life).
As for sides – the creamed spinach served in Yorkshire pudding is unique and tasty, the corn creme brulee and pan roasted crispy potatoes are musts, and please allow me to thoroughly suggest kicking everything off with the bone marrow starter.
As for dessert? I admit I’ve never made it to that finish line. I’ve always gone in thinking “today is the day I’ll try Quality Meats desserts,” only to get overly excited and become too stuffed by the time dessert menus are passed around. If you need a tantalizing teaser, just pull up a few of their desserts on their yelp page. Those ice cream bowls look incredible!
4. Empanada Mamas
Thank the lord that after that horrible fire, Empanada Mama in Hells Kitchen has returned to us. It was a long, sad year without it.
It took moving to Hells Kitchen in 2013 for me to find this local favorite. At the time, I was working at Crunch Fitness on 54th and 8th, and I’d pass by Empanada Mama everyday on my walk to and from work.Go for the guac with plantain chips, the crisp yet gooey tostones (I’d argue the best in the city), a jalapeno margarita, and the far too many to choose from selection of empanadas. If you’re having paralysis of analysis looking at all the options, I’d always recommend the Reggaeton, Cheeseburger, or Cheesesteak empanadas.
As far as dessert empanadas go – take a dive and give the Romeo and Juliet empanada a go. It pairs mozzarella cheese with guava and the unlikely duo is to die for (I just realized how it achieved its name 😉 ).
I admit – I was terribly late to the ramen love train. My body always runs warm so I rarely seek out soups or hot beverages. Also, am I the only one still recovering from overdosing my diet with Cup of Noodles or Top Ramen during late night theater club rehearsals in high school? No? Just me? Fine.
Anyway, even with a body that runs warm, there are certain times when one needs to sweat it out with a hot bowl of goodness. The hand pulled noodles, the flavorful broth, the chili oil – Ippudo serves up a bowl of magic that I just want to climb into.
And I have some shocking news…despite what is pictured above…my favorite item on Ippudo’s menu is the vegetarian option at their East Village location. I know – stop the press – something like this couldn’t be possible…and yet, it is. Something about the flavors in the Wasabi Shoyu Ramen bowl just fills me with happiness. Also – to keep it vegetarian – they use a slightly different noodle that I *gasp* prefer to their traditional.
If you want to give Ippudo a try – you’ll have less of a wait at their midtown location, but alas, my favorite bowl isn’t available there. My honest recommendation would be to get to their East Village location right as they open for an early dinner. That has always proven the best way to beat the rush and fill your belly with warm goodness quicker.
6. Rosa Mexicano
The best margarita in NYC. I repeat – THE BEST MARGARITA IN NYC.
Rosa Mexicano is another staple for whenever my family is in town. No matter the location (Midtown East, Union Square, or Columbus Circle), Rosa Mexicano provides terrific ambience, creative decor, delicious food, and a killer margarita (La Única – get ON it!)
I seem to always order the Tampiquena De Carne Asada when I’m there, but I’ve heard terrific things about their carnitas, tacos, and anything containing the mole sauce. Also, be sure to order their guacamole appetizer prepared for you at your table. I’m a wimp when it comes to spicy food, but something about the spice they use is so good that I crank it up to a medium when I go there (hey! That’s big step for little ol’ me).
7. Fette Sau
I don’t mean to brag, but I ate a lot of BBQ during my time in NYC, and without a doubt, Fette Sau beat out all of them.
Nestled in the heart of Williamsburg, Fette Sau holds the power to drag my ass out to Brooklyn (a rare feat). Served cafeteria style, one fills up a tray by ordering cuts of meat by the pound.
Their menu changes daily based on what cuts of meat they have. If you want full reign on the selection, I suggest you plan an early dinner because their most popular cuts tend to sell out. Without a doubt, plan on trying the brisket, pork belly, and a beef rib (one is enough to feed a small village). As for sides – one can never go wrong ordering the burnt ends baked beans; however, their broccoli salad is my personal fave.
Oh Smorgasburg…otherwise known as heaven to the diehard foodies out there. Bringing nearly 100 local venders to you every weekend, Smorgasburg is quite the event.
My biggest advice…plan ahead. Pull up a list of venders and make a game plan before you get there because, surely, you’ll be overwhelmed once faced with the many options. I highly recommend Cemita’s Mexican Sandwiches and a refreshing coconut as pictured above. Dessert-wise….good luck. Smorgasburg is what introduced me to Dough donuts and The Good Batch’s ice cream sandwiches. There are far too many solid options, so again, plan ahead. Or I suppose you could always fast the day before and go for the full marathon of options the day of 😉
I truly believe Mario Batali to be the Michelangelo of modern day pasta. Really, any of his restaurants in NYC are fabulous, but I’m choosing to list Eataly for a number of reasons. For one, it’s central location. Located right next to Madison Square Park, it is easily accessible thanks to a number of subway lines. Two, Eataly is not just one restaurant…it’s more like twelve. From antipasti and fish, to meat and pasta, Eataly has literally anything and everything you could want in a meal. Oh you were looking for espresso and gelato? Don’t worry, there is an entire mall of selections for you as you make your exit.
Eataly is best described as the Italian Disneyland. No, there are no wild rides, but there is a make your own Nutella crepe stand. Pissed off about the excessive wait time for a table? Pick up a slice of focaccia to piece on while you roam the many isles of pasta, olives, and cheeses while waiting for your buzzer to go off.
Eataly is a treat for the mind, body, and senses. Apparently Mario is expanding and bringing one to LA. I nearly did backflips when I heard the news.
10. Keen’s Steakhouse
Seeing as this list started with a steakhouse…wouldn’t it be best to close it out with one as well?
Keen’s Steakhouse is one I only found about 2 years ago (#allthewastedtime). Let’s not pussyfoot around this – go there, order the prime rib. Yadda, yadda sides. Yadda, yadda desserts. The prime rib is a show stopper. It is literally a mesa of meat.
Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned. I’m tearing up just thinking about its perfection. If you need to justify the price tag, know the last time I ate at Keen’s, I had enough to take home for 3 more meals.
What’s that? You need to hear about something other than the slab of beef before you? Ugh, fine. Their wine selection is exquisite, their decor is thoroughly entertaining (look up and attempt to count the pipes), and without a doubt, Keen’s has the best wedge salad I’ve ever had.
There. Are you now thoroughly convinced? Good. See you at Keen’s. 😉
That concludes part 2 of my 3 part series on favorites in NYC. For part 1, click here. For part 3, tune in next week. I know you’ll all want to, because next week it’s all about the desserts 😉
Until next time,