New York, New York. So good they named it twice. Honestly I barely even know where to begin with a travel guide for NYC, and I’m by no means an expert – you could live there for a decade and have hardly touched the sides – but I have been a few times so hopefully I can pass on a few tips I’ve gathered along the way on how to enjoy this iconic, crazy, brash city to the best of your ability – and eat magnificently well whilst you’re stateside.
There are enough ‘must eat’ restaurants in New York City to keep you going for months on end, so it’s hard to know how to whittle it down to the truly great ones, especially when you have limited time stateside. One place that comes up repeatedly as an unmissable is Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side – also known as the place where Meg Ryan faked that orgasm in legendary rom com ‘When Harry Met Sally’.
Frequently cited on the New York tourist ‘top places to eat’ lists, I’m now ashamed to admit it took me five trips to the Big Apple to make it to Katz’s for one of their absolutely massive pastrami sandwiches. That was a mistake and I hold my hands up; this should be on everyone’s first time NYC hit list. I wasn’t even sure how I felt about pastrami until I went to Katz’s, and now I’m thinking about where I can get my next fix back in London; I have seen the light. Each sandwich is made to order in front of you at the counter, and they’ll give you a few slices of the beautiful red meat to try whilst they work to compile what has to be the biggest sandwich you’ve ever seen in front of your eyes – fitting that much meat between two relatively thin slices of rye is a feat in itself. I find that some of the ‘must eat’ dishes in New York can be faddy, but the pastrami on rye at Katz’ is anything but. From the first taste of that melt in your mouth meat I was a goner. It is hands down one of the best things I’ve eaten in NYC and certainly one of the best sandwiches of all time.
Considering the fact this place is by all means a (very large) deli and you’re being served up your food on a plastic tray, it’s not cheap. A pastrami on rye with mustard and pickles on the side will set you back around $25, but this is New York and honestly you and the big city will get on a lot better if you immediately anaesthetise yourself to the cost of everything from the moment the wheels of your Boeing 747 touch down at JFK. At least you get your monies worth; the obvious advantage of Katz’s sandwiches being so big means you can take the other half away to eat later – or go and split one with someone else. Either way, I’m reckoning Sally ordered the pastrami on rye, and you definitely want what she’s having.
205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
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As far as Jewish delis on the NYC hit list go, Katz’s is the big one. Made famous in When Harry Met Sally during that scene – you know the one, don’t make me do it – and notorious for the frankly ridiculous size of their pastrami sandwiches. But the rumblings I’ve been hearing from no less than five separate friends in their latest New York recommendations is lesser known to those this side of the pond: NY institution Russ and Daughters.
Sitting pretty on the Lower East Side, this Jewish deli specialises in smoked fish and is well known for it, having been in business for decades. On the family deli’s 100th anniversary, the Russ and Daughters Cafe was born, situated just around the corner from the original outpost. I decided that on this trip, Katz could wait. I needed that board of smoked salmon and all the trimmings.
The joy of dining solo is you can often grab a single seat at the bar whilst couples and groups wait in line for a table to be seated, as was the case when I dragged myself from Astoria to the LES for the sole purpose of bagels and coffee one Friday in NYC. I’d overheard the couple sat next to me at the bar say they had waited for over 45 minutes, so clearly Russ and Daughters are doing something right. Luckily I swooped right on in as a solo diner.
The downside of dining solo of course, is that you can’t get away so easily with ordering loads on the pretense of sharing it all, which led to a difficult choice between the small plates. I settled on trying knishes for the first time – potato and caramelized onion encased in dough that had been baked, served with a mustard sauce. They were great, but I must report that the latkes the couple next to me ordered with wild salmon roe and creme fraiche looked amazing, and I did have a bit of food envy. The fishsticks also sounded brilliant – Gaspe Nova smoked salmon and scallion cream cheese in a rye crust served with two sauces for dipping – cocktail and tartare. An order for next time for sure.
Of course I’d already chosen my main because have you seen those boards loaded with bright smoked salmon, red onion, thick tomato slices, capers, dill and cream cheese on Instagram? I mean, you may not have done, but trust me, they will make you salivate. I chose a toasted poppy seed bagel to accompany the board and it utterly lived up to expectations. 100% would buy and ravish again. Boards also come with sturgeon, smoked sable or kippered salmon if you’d rather mix it up from the classic, and can be ordered as platters for groups of 3-4 people, though they look huge, so I reckon between 5 would be fine too – after all these are American sized portions.
There’s also plenty of caviar on offer if that’s your bag, along with a handful of salads and soups (Matzo ball soup is of course on the menu). Eggs complete the offering, the sunny side up eggs with Nova smoked salmon and potato latkes sounding like a great shout, as well as the Eggs Benedict served on challah bread (i.e. the greatest of all the breads). A strong sweets menu makes you wish you had two separate stomachs for sweet and savory; the cinnamon babka french toast with apple compote, candied walnuts and creme fraiche being reason enough to go to Russ and Daughters with friends so you can ‘order one on the side to share’.
The thing about New York is there is a constantly evolving mass of must eats in the city, and once you find the ones you love, you want to return on every visit along with trying all the new recommendations on your list (oh, the struggle is real). Russ and Daughters is absolutely on my ‘return to’ list – go try it and see for yourself.
Russ and Daughters Cafe: 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Open every day between 10am and 10pm, bar weekends when they open at 8am
Russ and Daughters Deli: 179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
+1 212-475-4880Open every weekday between 8am and 8pm, Sat 8am – 7pm and Sundays between 8am and 5.30pm
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It’s been ten years since my first trip to New York City, and subsequently my first Burger Joint burger. Back then it was one of the best burgers I’d ever had, and I’m delighted to confirm that it remains so a decade later. Hidden away in the reception area of Le Parker Meridien hotel near Central Park, a quick peek around a nondescript curtain will reveal a luminous neon burger sign, indicating that one of the best burgers of your life is nearby. The original NY Burger Joint is tiny with just a couple of booths, the walls scrawled with famous patrons’ autographs from floor to ceiling. The newer Greenwich Village joint is much bigger but still retains the casual, fun vibe of the original – the scrawled walls are still a feature, as is the signature neon lighting the way to New York’s best burgers. The life size gold and white zebra just happens to be a bonus of the Greenwich Village branch.
As with most places that serve up the best of the best, the menu at Burger Joint is simple and small: burger ($8.75), cheeseburger, ($9.25) or either of those doubled up ($13.50 – 16.50). Keeping things small-scale means you can do a few things well (as shown with Bleecker), and oh how well Burger Joint does it. The patties are ridiculously juicy and packed with flavour, the bright yellow cheese melted perfectly between the two burgers (yeah – two, I went double, and you should too). The bun is your standard burger bun, which doesn’t hold up the weight of the meat too well but also, a brioche roll would just be too…much – too fancy for Burger Joint. The result is a messy meal, but I am a firm believer that burgers are best served that way.
Get ‘The Works’ and your cheeseburger will come with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup, mayo AND mustard, plus bacon. You know it makes sense. The fries ($3.50) are good – not the best, but thin cut, crunchy and plentiful, though if you’re going double you’ll be pushed to finish it all, especially if you’re after one of their thick milkshakes too. Speaking of drinks, at the original they are kept simple – beer, shakes, sodas. At the Greenwich joint you’ll get a full bar, and am pleased to report that the $12 margaritas are up to scratch.
Honestly, writing this makes me yearn for NYC and these filthy burgers, but I’ll just go eat my salad at my desk and browse Sky Scanner for a cheap flight back, don’t mind me. Make sure you add this place to your NYC foodie hit list else I promise you, you will regret it. You’ve got to have NYC’s best burger on there, haven’t you? After all, if you’re going to do something, do it properly – and that’s certainly something Burger Joint does.
Le Parker Meridien, 119 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019, USA
Update: the West Village branch has sadly now closed but there’s a new branch in Brooklyn instead. Also found in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Seoul, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
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Well who knew, dreams dough come true. Of course New York of all places has dreamed up somewhere this magical: a place to buy cookie dough by the scoop, pimped up with different flavours and toppings. Only in NYC.
Opened in January this year in Greenwich Village, Cookie DŌ serves up safe-to-eat, uncooked cookie dough for $4 a scoop, and people are literally queuing for hours to get their mitts on some of the sweet stuff. After I accidentally left a half eaten Levain cookie in a dive bar instead of delivering it home to my cousin’s wife as promised, I was instructed that under no circumstances could I go to DŌ without bringing some back to make up for my faux pas. On the weekends DŌ has queues of 1.5 hours upwards, so being nearby on a weekday afternoon I thought I’d try my luck on skipping the peak time wait – as much as I love cookie dough, time in NYC is precious and two hours can be better spent. The place looked clear! Success! I walked up to the door: ‘err sorry, the queue starts across the street’. Of course it does. Told it was approximately a 40 minute wait, I promptly joined in line and waited my turn, happy to wile 40 minutes away in name of the dough.
Luckily the stress of picking a flavour keeps you entertained whilst you wait. Cake batter with sprinkles and white and milk chocolate chips? Gimme S’more, made with DŌ’s signature cookie dough with added Hershey’s, toasted marshmallows and graham crackers? Or how about the Chocolate Dream made with brownie batter, Oreos and chocolate chips? You see what I mean? It takes a while to choose so it’s almost a good job there’s a queue. It’s worth noting that gluten free is well catered for too, the owner of the store being so herself.
Once you’ve picked your sweet, sweet poison you also need to decide if you’re going to have straight up cookie dough or make a sundae, an ice cream sandwich or maybe a milkshake…are you going to pick up a cookie bomb cupcake or a cookie bar too? There are so many questions to be answered waiting in line for Cookie DŌ that it’s borderline existential crisis. Once you do make it in, there’s a freezer full of cartons of the good stuff to take away to store at home for emergency cookie dough cravings, which is good news as you’ve spent the better part of an hour questioning everything you know about a) cookie dough; b) your sanity at your preparedness to wait in line for so long for dessert and c) run through every regret you’ve ever had and will this be one of them? The cookie dough will ease the pain of your queue-inflicted existential crisis, so you may as well stock up now you’ve made it to the front. The dough will last 3 weeks in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer, so no worries at all if you got too big for your boots, ordered two fresh scoops and couldn’t make a real dent in it because it really was so sweet – don’t look at me. It’s like I forgot cookie dough is basically just sugar.
I eventually landed on two flavours: Heavenly, which was what it says on the tin, made with sugar cookie with Nutella, caramel bits, chocolate chips and sea salt; as well as Salty and Sweet, mixed with salted caramel, dark chocolate chips and sea salt. In hindsight they were a bit too similar to be a good pairing, though both delicious. The shop had a couple of seasonal flavours on, one of which was Snickerdoodle – cinnamon flavour, which would have been a shout.
But was it worth the wait? Guys, it’s cookie dough, of course it was worth it. This is the only place in NYC offering cookie dough like this, it’s new and it’s a fad, so naturally there is going to be hype around it. The hype is deserved, but I don’t think it’s worth any more than an hour’s wait, so do try to go on a weekday when it’s less busy if you can – there’s too much fun to be had in NYC to wait for too long, even if it is DŌlicious.
550 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012, USA
Open: Tue, Wed, Sun between 10.00 and 21.00; Thu, Fri, Sat between 10.00 and 22.00. Closed Mondays.
One scoop $4, two for $7 and three for $9.