I’ve spent a lot of time in New York over the years. My trips tend to be hurried, though: I’m in and out for a meeting or there for part of a weekend. Friends who live in New York have gotten used to emails like this: “I’m coming to NYC next Wednesday! Free after 10 PM or before 8 AM on Thursday. Does that work?!”
I gotta hand it to my friends: they’ve made a lot of crazy logistics work. But I’ve been itching to spend some quality time in NYC, so I booked a proper vacation for the end of April. My boyfriend and I spent 5 nights in the city, with a very simple agenda: see friends and family, wander, eat.
I’ve done a pretty good job trying NYC eats over the years, even when it meant running around like a crazy person. Like the time I detoured to Zucker Bakery between meetings, or when I met a friend at Clinton Street Baking Co. for dinner so I could finally try their pancakes, or when I dashed to Dominique Ansel for a frozen s’more on my lunch break.
This time I had the luxury of 5 whole days and a trip buddy who humors my need to try ever pastry in sight. Before we went, I made a list of restaurants and bakeries by neighborhood. Super Type A? Yes! But also very helpful while wandering around!
So without further ado: here are the top 10 things I ate on my last trip to New York City.
Tahini French Toast at Bar Bolonat: When I was researching for our trip, I fell in love with the brunch menu at Bar Bolonat. I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome Tahini French Toast must be. It was indeed pretty incredible! The french toast itself is nutty, with a somewhat chewy texture. It’s complemented by halvah threads on top, plus a tahini maple syrup and fresh berries. We loved everything at Bar Bolonat, but this was my favorite. The service was fabulous, too…wish I knew our waiter’s name!
Pine Nut Citrus Babka at Arcade Bakery: I was so sad when we finished our slice of Pine Nut Citrus Babka, and wished we’d bought two! This babka was a bit more like a brioche dough, light and airy inside. The mix of citrus with pine nuts was pretty much revelatory, and I’ve been searching for similar recipes since we got home!
Sweet Corn and Pepper Macaron at Confectionary: We stumbled on this chocolate and pastry shop while wandering the East Village. Such a good find! They had a really interesting set of macaron flavors, and I simply had to try this corn and pepper combo. The macaron shell tasted like sweet corn but had a bit of a lingering kick from the peppers. The filling was just the right amount of sweet. I looked up this spot later and learned their treats are vegan!
Beef Hummus at Dizengoff Hummus: I’ve read a lot about Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, for years. So I was delighted to learn that its chef opened a casual hummus outpost at Chelsea Market. The Beef Hummus was the best hummus I’ve had in a really long time: creamy texture, incredible richness, perfectly spiced beef, chewy pita to dip in there. It tasted different from most hummus I eat, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. So I did a bit of research, and learned that many people attribute the distinct flavor to lots of high-quality tahini. Two more points for tahini!
Tahini Goat Milk Ice Cream at Seed + Mill: While we’re on the topic of tahini, let’s talk about this Tahini Goat Milk Ice Cream from Seed + Mill, also in Chelsea Market. Goat milk makes the ice cream taste fresh, while tahini lends a subtle nutty flavor. I got mine topped with bits of halvah, a sesame confection. It was a really refreshing and flavorful treat.
Spicy Lamb Cumin Noodles at Xi’an Famous Foods: I’ve gone out of my way to eat at Xi’an Famous Foods many times over the years, and wanted my boyfriend to learn the wonders of these noodles. They’re perfectly chewy, hand pulled noodles, dripping in chili oil and topped with incredibly flavorful lamb. My boyfriend loved the noodles too, so now we’re determined to find something similar in San Francisco.
Kasha Knish at Yonah Schimmel Bakery: This place is a true gem. Yonah Schimmel has been selling its knishes on the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 1890. 1890!!! Their knishes are a satisfying snack: perfectly cooked, generous on fillings, and a firm exterior.
Bird’s Nest at Damascus Bread and Pastry Shop: We happened upon this bakery as we strolled west down Atlantic Avenue toward the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It’s packed to the brim with breads, pastries and cooking ingredients. I loved the Bird’s Nest, a type of baklava filled with pistachios and drenched in a sweet syrup. We also got delicious spinach pies here.
Beet Lox Bagel at Black Seed Bagels: I’m not a huge bagel person, but that’s largely because they tend to disappoint. A friend had tipped me off to Black Seed a while ago. We made it to their Nolita shop on the last day of our trip, and I’m glad we made it happen! The bagel had a crisp exterior and perfectly chewy interior, and the lox and other toppings were super flavorful.
Black and White Cookie at Dean and Deluca: I’ve tried MANY a NYC black and white over the years, but the cookies at Dean and Deluca always take the proverbial cake. Which is fitting, because the cookie is just the right kind of cakey, with icings that are perfectly balanced (not too sweet, not too bland). I forgot to write down the name of the bakery on the cookie’s label so if you know who sells these to Dean and Deluca…please tell!
And some non-edible recs for your next trip to NYC:
- Stop by Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the East Village. She has an amazing assortment of cookbooks, vintage menus and old signs. Plus, she was a delight to chat with!
- As we wandered Alphabet City one night, we heard jazz from the sidewalk…and had to check out its source. Rue B is a small bar with awesome live music. We happened upon a jazz jam session, and loved every second of it.
- The Wyndham Garden Chinatown was a great find. We’d wanted to stay on the Lower East Side but didn’t find a good option that fit our budget. Chinatown is super close to the LES, plus it’s just a hop, skip and jump from Nolita, SoHo, Tribeca, etc. The hotel was clean and well-maintained. It also has a “sky” bar with an incredible view, which was an unexpected bonus!