Destination: New York City
Mode of Transport: Local’s Guide to the best food in NYC
Dish Our Town’s New York, A thru Z: This is part 1 of 3 and completely updated
Make sure to read Part 2: New York M- P and Part 3 New York Q – Z.
Part 1 : New York A – L
“A” is for Alphabet City.
Avenues A, B, C and D. It stretches from Houston Street to 14th Street. The Puerto Ricans named it “Loisaida” for Lower East Side. That was my childhood neighborhood, where at the age of 12, we were able to purchase slices of Dulce de Leche at the counter along with an eight pack of 8 oz. Budweiser nips from the Bodega on Avenue A. No I.D.’s necessary those days, just don’t pull any shit. Someone was always ready to kick your ass.
Currently, we live exactly where I grew up, and this neighborhood has changed dramatically. Give Avenue A a walk and visit the many little eateries, bars, cafes and shops a visit. In my book it’s the closest thing to our version of the Left Bank of Paris.
“B” is for Bemelman’s Bar.
My daughter was a fan of the Madeline book series when she was a young girl. The illustration is forever ingrained in my mind after having read the books to put her to sleep for years. The books were written by Ludwig Bemelman who took residency at the Carlyle Hotel for a few years many years ago. Now there is a bar in the hotel named in his honor. As a gift to the hotel, Ludwig, who was also an artist, gifted the hotel with a mural, which sensibilities match the art work in the books. The bar is surrounded by his work. Bemelman’s may be one of the last great hotel bars in New York. Come any evening and enjoy an old fashioned, women garbed in fur, and some Gershwin being played on the piano.
“C” is for Chinatown.
Big Wong & Shanghai Asian Manor
Gritty and smelly? Yes, but there’s nothing like it. Where else can you find, old Cantonese men, hanging out with old Italian guys that still wear pinky rings? Nowhere else. The cuisines offered in this Chinatown is as diverse as China itself. There’s Canton, Hunan, Xian, Shanghainese. Walk along Mott Street and see glistening Roast Duck hung by the window (Big Wong, being the best, on Mott right below Canal). Continue to head south on Mott to Mosco Street and you’ll hit Shanghai Asian Manor. Order their famous Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) and appreciate the complexity in the preparation of what the Chinese consider to be “simple” food.
106 Mosco Street
For a real down-home, no frills experience, go halfway down Mosco Street (address 106) and you’ll find a fried dumpling place, literally out of a hole in the wall. For $1 you get 5 delicious pork and chive dumplings. With a dash of their special sauce (which I believe is simply soy sauce and vinegar) and a touch of Siracha, your good to go. Few snacks are more satisfying and more affordable than this. Go back to Mott and take a quick left on Bayard and you’ll find great Hand Pulled Spicy Noodles and Cumin Lamb Sandwiches at Xian Famous Foods. By now, you get the point, there’s lots to choose from. Need a recommendation, ask the Italian guy with the pinky ring, I’m sure he’s got his favorites.
“D” is for DiPalo.
When the rest of Italian-American food purveyors decided to become adequate, the DiPalo family kept a higher standard. They continue to represent their heritage with great pride. They singlehandedly put the vowel back in Italian-American cuisine. When everyone else is selling you “the DiPalo family kept a higher standard.
They continue to represent their heritage with great pride. They single-handedly put the vowel back in Italian-American cuisine. When everyone else is selling you “Muzzarell”, the DiPalos sell you Mozzarella made in their own kitchen. You’ll also find Proscuitto here, not “Proscuitt”. There is real mortadella here. The strange, delicious, cold cut, that inspired, ironically, bologna. I can go on and on, but I advise you see, smell and taste yourself. If you’re lucky, you’ll have Lou or Sal DiPalo themselves help you. With every tasting, comes a heavy dose of storytelling. Just be prepared to be there for a couple of hours. Recently, businesses have come and gone in the Little Italy neighborhood, but Di Palo’s who have been here for a hundred years is still standing strong and they ain’t going anywhere. DiPalo’s is at the corner of Mott and Grand.
“E” is for the Ear Inn
One of the greatest debates in New York, is which holds claim as being the oldest bar in New York. There’s McSorley’s, Pete’s Tavern, Fraunces Tavern, and Paris Cafe to name a few. I think they’re all great, but one that is not nearly as frequented is the Ear Inn located west of fashionable SoHo toward the Hudson River. No frills here, just a warmth that those who came off the ship many decades ago must have felt when they first set foot on our great nation. It was hard those days, so they must have needed a drink. In their honor, you should have a few here.
“F” is for Fiorello’s.
Lincoln Center is the the home of the Metropolitan Opera House. Its interior is arguably the most beautiful in the New York. Before delving into some culture, grab some good upper west side Italian grub, right across the street at Fiorello’s. If you can hold off, come after the performance. They are known for their very thin crusted pizza, but it’s the dessert that everyone comes for, which includes the best chocolate mousse topped with homemade whipped cream in the city. It’s also favored by the artists that perform at the Met. It’s not uncommon to be there at the same time as the likes of Placido Domingo.
“G” is for Gotham West Market.
After having experienced the likes of La Boqueria in Barcelona and Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, we returned back home pining for anything that closely resembles the atmosphere found in those true food emporiums. We remained unsated until this place opened up. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, found under this one roof are Ivan Ramen, Genuine Roadside, El Colmado, to name a few.
If you’re unfamiliar with these places, Ivan Ramen is considered one of the best Ramen purveyors in the City. Genuine Roadside is a creation of the AvroKo group that also brought you renowned restaurants such as Public, and Saxon and Parole. This more casual offering is their homage to American standards you find along the road while going cross country. El Colmado, is an authentic pintxos experience, the best we’ve found to date outside of Spain itself. Oh and yes, I suggest sharing and visiting as many stalls your stomachs can muster. The market’s is location is 600 11th Ave. (between 44th and 45th).
“H” is for Halal Guys.
A visit to New York is not complete without having something to eat from the food vendors that are scattered throughout the city. Yes, there are the venerable hot dog vendors; but these days the cart that has people lining up are the Halal Guys. They have a chain of brick and mortars these days, but for an authentic feel, visit the original stand that sits at the corner of Sixth Avenue, West of the MoMA. Order a gyro pita with some hot sauce and white sauce, and join the construction guys sitting on the stoop, enjoying one of the best quick sandwiches found anywhere.
“I” is for Ippudo.
This is Bailey’s favorite Ramen Restaurant in the whole City. Ramen is her favorite food, so, in essence, this is one of her favorite restaurants, period. Ramen is definitely having a moment and there are many ramen restaurants that are considered to be rated higher than Ippudo. But if you asked my daughter, who has tasted the competition, she will tell you that Ippudo’s tonkatsu broth is unequaled. Both Brenda and I agree. Lines can be long, and at times you may feel rushed through your meal, but it’s all worth it. Bailey prefers the original location at 65 4th Avenue (between 9th and 10th St.)
“J” is for Jones Wood Foundry.
We spent 6 months in the UK, and if there is one thing we miss most, it would be the pub scene. Hard to find a true public house in New York. Those which call themselves as such are usually just like any other bar that has music blaring and multiple televisions showing multiple sporting events. Hard to talk, as one does in most pubs in the UK. Good food is hard to find in most of these said places. Thankfully, there’s Jones Wood Foundry. Along with excellent service, comes the interior sensibility one would find in London, per se, and great British grub such as Scotch Eggs and Fish and Chips. Be sure not to leave without having their pudding. Find Britain in New York, here.
“K” is for Kyclades
The mother ship is located in Queens, but the satellite is now in the Lower East Side. We have been to Greece, and this destination brings as right back to those beautiful islands. Just one taste of the octopus, grilled just right, with a dash of lemon and olive oil, all you need to do is close your eyes and I swear you’ll feel transported. Not to be overlooked during your visit to the restaurant is the strip of First Avenue, which is filled with some great plans to have dessert or a night cap.
“L” is for Laduree.
There are two locations in the city, but one on Madison Avenue captures the Parisian luxury bakery best. Come early before shopping or visiting museums and score one of the 4 small tables and order a coffee along with a croissant to start the day. Before leaving, be sure to purchase some of their world famous macaroons to snack on throughout the day. A few blocks north of Laduree is the Met Breuer, where you can spend some time appreciating some of the best modern art installations found in the world.
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