Photo by Emily Anne Epstein/Corbis. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.
I was once on a trip with four other New Yorkers and a guy from Colorado who, after spending enough time with us, surmised that if he moved to NYC he would be a fat drunk because “all you guys talk about is your favorite places to eat and drink.” It’s true. There are just so many inventive and delicious that it’s impossible not to spend 75 percent of your income frequenting them. This also means that finding the best of the best palate pleasers can be tricky. To help you home in on the most memorable NYC food, I’ve rounded up a list of my most life-changing meals. Most of these I’ve had a least one dream about. What are your favorites?
1. Di Palo Burrata at Black Tree
Black Tree burrata. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
You can purchase a batch of burrata from lower-Manhattan Italian specialty store Di Palo Fine Foods, eat it with a spoon, and it’ll be delicious. But head to farm-to-table eatery Black Tree on the Lower East Side and you’ll get to pair the creamy dollop with toasted ciabiatta bread, olive oil, and sea salt — and one of Black Tree’s creative pickle backs, like pear and Barr Hill gin or watermelon and Due North rum.
2. Specialty pizzas at Tavola in Hell’s Kitchen
Delicious Tavola pizza. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
At Tavola, the rustic cuisine is inspired by chef/owner Nicola Accardi’s agriturismo (farm-stay) travels throughout Italy, where he was influenced by the different regions and their fresh, local cooking. The menu focuses mainly on Puglia, Sicily, and Rome, and its star is the Neopolitan-style pizza, cooked in a 7,000-pound wood burning double oven crafted from Vesuvio volcanic clay. The Margherita is classic, but it’s worth branching out to the speciality combinations, like the Puttanesca Piccante (Gaeta olives, capers, anchovies, plum tomatoes, and sharp provolone) or the Viddana (fire-roasted artichokes, fried zucchini, red peppers, plum tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella).
3. Burgers at Sugarburg
The kale salad with a juicy burger at Sugarburg. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Simple pleasures: Pair one of Sugarburg’s 100-percent grass-fed beef burgers with a glass from the bar’s sprawling selection of beers and whiskey, and you’ve got a perfect Williamsburg meal. I like to throw in a kale salad (roasted beets, brussels sprouts, roasted almonds, parmesan cheese, and honey lemon dressing) for the illusion of health, but you could opt for their Cajun version of poutine instead.
4. The Lou at The Chocolate Room
Cacao goodness at The Chocolate Room. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
One of my favorite sweet spots in Brooklyn is The Chocolate Room in Carroll Gardens, where you can order a half-hot-chocolate-half-coffee drink called the Lou. The cocoa is dark and made in house, and the coffee is fair trade organic from the Brooklyn Roasting Company. Pair it with a scoop of housemade ice cream topped with, what else, hot fudge.
5. Chicken Lamprais at Sigiri Sri Lanka Restaurant
Chicken lamprais (and black pork curry) from Sigiri Sri Lanka Restaurant. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
This Dutch-influenced dish is a bed of rice topped with chicken, fish cutlet, boiled egg, ash plantains and eggplant. It’s all wrapped in banana leaf and baked in a low oven. You can order it medium to very spicy, depending on your bravery.
6. Chilaquiles at 983 — Bushwick’s Living Room
Look at those chilaquiles! (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Brunch in Brooklyn is an all-day activity. Spend yours feasting on the chilaquiles at the adorably hipster Living Room — fried egg, crema fresca, stewed tortillas in tomatillo salsa, topped with queso fresco — washed down with Bloody Marys served in mason jars.
7. Sicilian Slice at L&B Spumoni Gardens
You don’t have to decide between pizza and spumoni at L&B Spumoni Gardens. You should definitely have both. (Photo: L&B Spumoni Gardens)
The thick Sicilian slices at L&B Spumoni Gardens are famous for their unusual design, in which slathers the sauce is slathered on top of the cheese, creating a texture and flavor worth traveling deep into Brooklyn for. The family-owned institution has been serving pizza in the Gravesend neighborhood since the early 1900s, and they (along with anyone else who’s ever eaten here) will tell you that no meal at L&B is complete without a scoop of homemade spumoni, which has also been in the family since the beginning.
8. Pickled Pineapple from The Pickle Guys
Colorful pickle barrels at The Pickle Guys. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
As soon as you walk in to this tiny Lower East Side shop, you’ll be surrounded by colorful pickle barrels brimming with numerous varieties of typical pickles as well as more unusual brined vegetables and fruits, including tomatoes, carrots, watermelon, and my favorite, pineapple.
9. Lamb Kebabs at Savoury NYC
Lamb kebabs from Savoury NYC. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Savoury NYC, located on the Upper West Side, specializes fusing Northern and Southern Indian cuisines into a modern style. That means everything is made fresh in house and uses very little oil and ghee, making it lighter and healthier than you might expect.
10. Pretzels & Beer Cupcakes at Prohibition Bakery
Grown-up cupcakes galore: Pretzels & Beer is made with ale, pretzels, Nutella and white truffle; Dark & Stormy features Gosling’s rum, ginger beer and lime; and Birthday Cake has vodka, lemon and hazelnut liquor. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
The boozy cupcakes at Prohibition Bakery on the Lower East Side don’t just taste like the cocktails they’re named after, they feature the same ingredients. Brooke Siem, a classically-train chef, and Leslie Feinberg, a baker and bartender, started the business on a whim, thinking it sounded like a fun idea. Apparently, customers did too, and the business quickly took off, allowing adults to get in touch with their inner-child in a grown-up way.
11. Artisanal Popcorn at Pop Karma
Pop Karma’s artisanal popcorn is seriously addictive. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Popcorn is one of my all-time favorite foods, and my favorite artisanal popcorn joint is Pop Karma, where you’ll find flavors like Spanish Barbecue, Masala, Zen Cheddar, and Pure Caramel. If you ask me, however, the best is the White Truffle Cheddar, supremely addictive and satisfying.
12. Green Tea Shaved Cream at Snowdays
Green tea shaved cream topped with condensed milk from Snowdays NYC. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Snowdays takes the concept of Asia’s shaved ice desserts and makes them even more decadent by adding cream. The dessert is hand-shaved daily and uses local organic dairy from New York’s Hudson Valley. Try the green tea matcha flavor topped with condensed milk — light, fluffy and sweet!
13. Homemade cupcakes paired with wine and beer at Sweet Revenge
Sweet Revenge is a fun venue for unique and tasty pairings. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Dessert at this West Village bar-bakery in the West Village makes for a fun evening. I love the signature Sweet Revenge, peanut butter cake with a ganache center and peanut-butter-fudge frosting paired with Juan Benegas Malbec (Argentina) or Weihenstephaner Hefe Weiss (Germany).
14. Bahn Mi at Bánh Mì Saigon
Bánh Mì Saigon serves up delicious and spicy handhelds.. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
The traditional Vietnamese sandwiches at at Bánh Mì Saigon in Nolita are delicious, especially the spicy BBQ pork with jalapeños and pickled carrots.
15. Lobster and a free sailing on the Hudson River
At the North River Lobster Co., you’ll sail the Hudson as you crack lobsters. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
One of my favorite NYC discoveries has been a three-deck lobster boat restaurant called the North River Lobster Company, offering a sailing along the Hudson River, beautiful skyline views, fresh lobster, and mason-jar cocktails — for free! Well, you pay for the food, but the 45-minute sail itself is complimentary and you can stay for as many trips as you like.
16. Ice Cream from Scratch at OddFellows
The flavors at OddFellows Ice Cream go beyond the usual: Try black pepper strawberry or miso cherry. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
OddFellows Ice Cream in Williamsburg and the East Village sells totally made-from-scratch ice cream, even pasteurizing their own base — an extremely rare thing to find in the U.S. The flavors are as atypical as the methods, using local cream from the Battenkill Valley Creamy and chef-driven methods — none of which is surprising since this man behind the ice cream is pastry chef Sam Mason, who made a name for his quirky, creative approaches at wd-50 and other groundbreaking restaurants. Some favorites here: Black Pepper Strawberry, Saffron Passionfruit, Oatmeal Cookie Dough, and Buttermilk Honey Blueberry, although keep in mind that flavors rotate. You’ll just have to come back to try them all.
17. Pastrami Sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen
Katz’s Delicatessen huge pastrami sandwich will keep you well fed for day. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Open in various forms on the Lower East Side since 1888, Katz’s serves a melt-in-your-mouth pastrami sandwich that’s the size of your head. The corner deli is a crowded tourist spot, yes, but it’s also beloved by locals. For a reason: It’s worth it.
18. Simit at Simit + Smith
Your new breakfast staple: delicious Turkish bagels from Simit + Smith. (Photo: Jessica Festa)
Bagels are the essential New York breakfast, but the Turkish simit is a strong rival. Crispier and thinner, the version at Simit + Smith is served with Turkish figs and dish of ricotta topped with pepper and honey.
This post originally appeared on Jessie on a Journey.