Food Favorites in New York City

October 21, 2012

The best thing about a growing interest in food is how it changes your travel. There are many places I went before I cared about food and culture, and now when I return it is a much different experience. A much more fulfilling and cultural experience, I might add.
This was definitely the case when I traveled to New York City in early October. I was headed there for a business conference and decided to go up the weekend beforehand to do some exploring. Since I saw all the major monuments and attractions on my first visit, this left me plenty of time to seek out some interesting foods tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the city. 
Most of the places I visited aren’t off the beaten path. Some are pretty well known. But you definitely have to venture outside the tourist pockets to find them. 
I have a lot of food to share so instead of lengthy explanations for each, I’m limiting myself to 3 phrases or sentences to describe the atmosphere and the food. So here you go. Short and sweet, but oh my goodness was it all delicious!
Momofuku Noodle Bar (my favorite meal).
I had this on the agenda from the day I booked the trip. I ordered the daily special – Corn Ramen with pork shoulder, poached egg and bok choy. 
Corn Ramen
Atmosphere: Packed but seated quickly. Excellent for single diners. Friendly staff.
Many of the ingredients come from area farms listed on the black board.

Lots of bar seating and shared tables and Momofuku Noodle Bar
Food:   Still dreaming about it. Corn as fresh as that from my Dad’s garden. Perfect balance of broth, meats, veg and noodles.
Pure Thai Cookhouse
This was an unplanned visit, and I found the restaurant through Yelp. I ordered the Ratchaburi Crab & Pork with the handmade egg noodles as a soup. (Sorry. iPhone photos only on this one.)
All the good restaurants feel like a walk-in closet. 
Atmosphere:  Quaint and packed full. Be pushy to put in your name (lots of people are waiting for takeout). Incredibly helpful, friendly staff.
Food:  Amazing handmade egg noodles. So many great dishes coming out of the kitchen including mine. Love that they went to the trouble of labeling the tap water. 
Chom Chom
I had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow food blogger Michelle of Taste As You Go and she planned a lunch for us here – my first Korean food experience aside from BBQ. I ordered the Bibimbap with Bulgogi. 
Atmosphere: A quiet corporate lunch spot. Friendly staff. Much more relaxing than other spots I visited on the trip.
Vegetable sides that came along with soup and another fresh vegetable appetizer.

Food:  The bulgogi (marinated beef) had outstanding flavor. Loved the spicy vegetables served with it including kimchi. So much food (unexpected for the moderate price).
Bibimbap with Bulgogi
Halal Guys Street Cart
Okay, this one needs a little explanation. On Saturday evening I walked down to Times Square and on my way back I noticed one particular food cart with a line wrapped around the block. Intrigued, I checked out Yelp and learned about the Halal Guys at 53rd and 6th . Sunday night I went back and got in line myself. I ordered the combo (chicken and lamb) platter with rice. Oh, and it’s only $6!

Atmosphere: Well, it’s a food cart. Get there early, the line forms quickly (the website says they open at 7:00 pm, but I got there about 10 minutes early and they were serving). They have other locations, but the original feels more lively!

Lamb, chicken, rice, pita and lettuce served with white sauce and hot sauce on the side.
 Food: Flavorful gyro meat with pita – you can’t go wrong. The white sauce everyone describes as tzatziki tasted more like ranch dressing to me. Truth to the hot sauce being HOT, and I love spicy food.
Doughnut Plant
I had to try this place for the history and the unique flavors. I went to the location in the Chelsea Hotel, and I selected the seasonal yeast nut doughnut –  Orange Blossom Cashew.
Atmosphere: A little tight, but crowd is constantly moving. Staff was a bit disorganized, but eh, it’s a doughnut shop. Limited seating at this location.
There was a lot of construction outside. Fortunately I found this sign!
Food: Oh my goodness that was a good doughnut – slight orange flavor with the sweetness of cashews, light and airy. Highly recommended for an afternoon snack. Coffee was delicious as well.
Bouchon Bakery
Yes, it is packed with tourists, but if you live in a place where access to a real macaron is limited, you must go. I managed to squeeze in between the breakfast and lunch rush, about 11:00 am on a Sunday, and there was barely a line. I ordered the Pistachio Macaron.
Atmosphere: Peaceful when I was there. Shoulder to shoulder when I walked by at breakfast. Friendly staff.
Food:  The macaron was like eating a cloud. A sweet, slightly nutty cloud with a barely crisp lining. If you can describe a dessert as heavenly, this would be it.
Momofuku Milk Bar
I went to the Midtown location, and I can now tell from the website that my impressions had a lot to do with that specific location. For those big fans out there, you probably won’t like my opinion. I thought it was a bit overrated (I know. I know. It’s just me.) Maybe it was the atmosphere or maybe the cost. Overall, I felt like things were fairly priced at all the places I visited. The ice cream was good, but wow it was expensive for the little serving size. Not that I needed more, just comparing it to other treats with similar ingredient quality and draw that I had on this trip. I ordered the Kaffir Lime-Caramel ice cream.
Atmosphere: Dark. Small. Staff was, um, adequate, not overly friendly.
Food: The flavor of the ice cream was as unique as it sounds – I liked it. I do wish I could have tried the cereal milk ice cream too. Others bought cookies, maybe that is what I should have gone for.
I had to check this place out after seeing it on No Reservations. I ordered the Terimayo Dog with grilled onions, teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed, and the Wasabi Fries. 
Atmosphere: Warm, lots of cooking going on. Friendly, helpful staff. Not a bad place to sit for a quick lunch.
Food: Loved the onions and the teriyaki on the hot dog. The bun was fresh and didn’t seem to be your standard packaged variety. A little too salty for me (both the dog and fries), but definitely worth trying.
Unfortunately, no pictures from this one. I stepped in out of the rain and it was a little too hectic to get out the camera. But I will say this was the best bubble milk tea I have ever had. Seriously. I ordered the cold almond tea and it was the perfect balance of tea flavor and sweetness. I actually felt sad when my cup was empty!

I also had the pleasure of seeing this organization at work.

I’ve read about them and the wonderful things they do to feed the hungry numerous times . They were collecting day old bread and bagels from a shop when I walked by.

This trip had me wanting to return to NYC soon. I know I only scratched the surface with my food-finds. What are some of your favorite NYC eats? 
I searched lots of sources for this trip, but I have to give a shout out to The Real Bohemian and Near Afar for all the great food tips!

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  • Michelle October 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Looks like you had a wonderful trip! So glad you liked Noodle Bar as much as we do. You’ll have to read about our David Chang Christmas a couple of years ago here.

  • emily (a nutritionist eats) October 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Wow, what an amazing food trip! Those are the best! The last time I was in NYC I didn’t get much time to explore the food scene, but I did have a NY bagel with about 2 inches of salmon cream cheese. 🙂

  • Rona Roberts October 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    What an excellent post, Lori. Love the focus on foods not so readily available here. It takes a lot of work to do this kind of post, and I appreciate it. By the way, of all these I’ve only been to M.Milk Bar, and (though I could eat very little from there because of the gluten issue) I agree with you on all counts.

  • Danielle October 22, 2012 at 7:02 am

    I loved this post! My mom and I are planning a trip to the city this spring, so I’m already searching for places to eat (: There are definitely some on your list that I want to try. So many places, so little time!

  • maureen October 22, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I love NYC. Thanks for the food-o-rama tour. It’s a good thing you’re a runner! Although walking in NYC can burn calories w/o the running. Ha!

    So many good eats, so little time. It’s a rare thing indeed to find a quiet spot to eat.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen October 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    I love when bloggers share some of their favorite food finds. Last April was my very first ever trip to NYC and I fell in love. I’m intrigued by all your reviews most especially the halal guys. Looks so tasty!!!

    Denise @ Creative Kitchen

  • Lori October 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Michelle – I’m intrigued! Headed over to check it out now.

    Emily – It was all so good! And the one thing that I didn’t get around to trying was a bagel! I can’t believe I passed it up.

    Rona – Thank you so much! And I do appreciate knowing I wasn’t completely of base with Milk Bar.

    Danielle – I hope you have a great time! Just let me know if you have any questions.

    Maureen – Ha, ha! I’d be lying if I said this kind of stuff wasn’t part of the reason I run. I did manage to get in two runs in Central Park and a lot of walking so I came back not too terribly over budget, so to speak.

    Denise – It’s such a great place. So much to explore. The Halal Guys were a surprise find. I like having my agenda, but I love when I find surprises too!

  • Joanne October 23, 2012 at 6:39 am

    I’m so sad I didn’t get to eat my way through NYC with you! But you did eat at some of my favorite spots. 🙂 I’ve never even seen that ice cream flavor at Milk bar…usually I go to the one by 14th street even though midtown is closer. Union Square is just a much nicer place to hang in than midtown!

    I’ve actually never been to Bouchon OR doughnut plant. What is WRONG with me.

  • Marianne (frenchfriestoflaxseeds) November 7, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Woohoo Japadog! A Vancouver institution that has made it to the big city of NYC. I have eaten my fair share over here, and I gotta say I love the Terimayo Dog – nice and simple. You should come to Vancouver sometime and try out the original.