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I’m not Catholic, but I love the pope. As far as papal history goes, Pope Francis is about as cool as they come. He’s a refreshingly open-minded man of the people. He blesses pizza, advocates for the environment, and generally seems like a fun-loving kind of guy. Since Pope Francis will be plenty busy while in the U.S., I thought I’d lend a hand and plan a 40-hour eating tour of NYC for him. Ranging from essential New York classics to spots every do-gooder must pay a visit to, here are the spots worth a #blessed visit.
5 p.m. — Arrives in New York through John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Shake Shack: Pope Francis will probably be hungry when he hops off the plane at JFK, and where better to begin his New York food tour than an establishment that is loved, revered — some might even say worshipped — by New Yorkers of all faiths? Yep, we’re talking Shake Shack. I’d recommend he keep it classic with a ShackBurger, shake, and fries (no word yet on where the pope stands on the crinkle-cut vs. natural-cut fry debate).
6:45 p.m. — The pope holds an evening prayer service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Photo: Courtesy of ABC Kitchen
ABC Kitchen: Following his packed evening prayer service on Fifth Avenue, the pope will no doubt want a place to calm down. I recommend he head to ABC Kitchen. Not only is the popular restaurant well versed in how to handle visits from high-profile figures — President Obama has held a fundraiser there, and President Bill Clinton has been spotted there — it’s also a champion of the sustainable food movement. Since the pope is a noted supporter of environmentally friendly food practices, he’ll feel right at home at this earth-conscious eatery.
City Winery: For an after-dinner drink, the pope will love City Winery for two reasons. One: He loves him some vino. In fact, he loves it so much the president of the Italian Sommelier Association even named Pope Francis an honorary sommelier. And two: City Winery supports a variety of causes, donating about 10 percent of their profits every year to charities. Their mission statement says they “feel fortunate to be in a position to leverage our resources including our space, wine, human capital, and energy for philanthropy.” If that doesn’t sound like something Pope Francis — who himself has launched a major anti-hunger initiative — would support, then I don’t know what is.
2 Bros Pizza: Grabbing a dollar slice after a night of drinking is just about as authentic a New York tradition as it gets. If you’re thinking, “Pope Francis probably doesn’t want to eat some cheap pizza — much less the likes of 2 Bros,” keep in mind that not only does he love pizza so much that he has said the one thing he “would like is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza” — but also, the pope is a humble man of the people. It doesn’t get more man-of-the-people than a slice from this prolific (and cheap) NYC chain. Not to mention, I’d be willing to bet that if Pope Francis ditched his papal garments and threw on a Yankees cap, not a single head would turn when he rolled in and ordered two plain slices and a can of soda for $2.75.
8:30 a.m. — Pope Francis meets with the United Nations General Assembly.
Photo: David Brabyn/Corbis
Bagels. Just bagels: If there’s one thing New Yorkers love as much as (if not more than) pizza, it’s bagels. The pope has an early start today — and just might have a little wine hangover from the night before — so some warm, freshly baked, hole-y carbs (pun intended) will be exactly what he needs. It’s hard to go wrong with bagels in New York, so he should swing by the nearest shop and grab an everything topped with the schmear of his choice. Bonus New York points if he throws some lox on there.
11:30 a.m. — A multireligious service is held at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Superiority Burger: After he presides over a religious service downtown, I’m guessing the pope might be hungry for a light lunch. Not only is this burger shop one of the hipper spots in NYC right now, it’s also totally vegetarian. Since the pope is an active advocate of more humane treatment of animals, this is the perfect grab-and-go spot to hit.
Alphabet Scoop: It’s going to be a warm weekend in NYC, so Pope Francis will want to cool down with a cup or cone from Alphabet Scoop, conveniently located a couple of blocks from Superiority. The papal posse will love this shop not only for its artisan ice cream but also for the charitable mission at its core: to “change lives one scoop at a time.” Alphabet Scoop trains and employs youths in the life and job skills that will help them advance in school and the workforce.
4 p.m. — The pope visits Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem.
Photo: Courtesy of Snowday Food Truck
Snowday Food Truck: If the pope is looking to grab a bite to eat before his Central Park procession at 5 p.m., I recommend he skip the questionable street hot dogs and hit up the Snowday food truck instead. Not only has Snowday won some major accolades for its food — including an award for best food truck in NYC 2015 — it also supports a serious cause. Run by Drive Change, an organization that employs previously incarcerated young people to prepare them for reentry into mainstream society, this truck will be the perfect snack spot for the ultimate do-gooder. An added bonus: Since it’s mobile, it can come to him, working perfectly with his busy schedule.
6 p.m. — Mass is held in Madison Square Garden.
Rosa Mexicana: After his sure-to-be-sold-out appearance at MSG, the pope will want to refuel with a hearty meal. Not only will the Mexican food at Rosa Mexicana give him a dietary change of pace, but it will also allow him to contribute to the restaurant’s varying charitable missions. Rosa Mexicana gives back to local communities by “supporting causes dedicated to hunger relief and schools” and is a national sponsor of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises money to fight against pediatric cancer.
Dominique Ansel Bakery: For a quintessentially New York dessert that also gives back, I turn to none other than the notorious Cronut. Now, the power play here would be to send a devoted follower to wait in the winding Cronut line in the morning in order to have him ready for a post-dinner snack. Not only is it practically a New York rite of passage to eat one of the famed pastries, but it comes with some added charitable clout: a history of supporting the Food Bank of New York City through the Cronut Project.
Photo: Andrew Burton / Getty Images
Katz’s Deli: After such a hectic couple of days, the pope might still be hungry for a late-night fourth meal. In that case, I’d feel remiss bidding him adieu before he got the chance to eat at one of New York’s historic delis. Perhaps most historic of all is Katz’s Delicatessen, where he should order, of course, the legendary pastrami on rye.
8:40 a.m. — Pope Francis departs New York for Philadelphia through John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Coffeed: Before heading off to the airport, the pope should get his caffeine fix at one of Coffeed’s NYC locations. This “city-based, locally-sourced, charity-minded café” donates 3 to 10 percent of its gross revenue to worthy local charities. It says its goal is “to become one of the most charitable companies in the world,” and I think a visit from the pope himself would be an excellent place to start.
Did we miss something the pope absolutely must eat while visiting our fair city? Let us know in the comments!