Pommes Frites – New York City, NY


Pommes Frites
123 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10003-8319
(212) 674-1234

I’ve discussed my never ending obsession with French Fries many times before, so i’ll endeavor to keep this short. In my experiences with  Belgian Fries from Vancouver, and and Duck Fat from Maine, i’ve developed a pretty clear understanding of what im looking for in a french fry. Crisp outside, fluffy inside, flavourful, and a bit meatier than thin fries. On reputation alone, Pommes Frites in New York is often mentioned as one of the best.

I used to wander by this tiny storefront in the East Village all the time. It’s square on my walking path from Ippudo, to Katz’s Deli and Russ and Daughters. With Caracas around the corner, there wasn’t a hope that i’d ever have the room left in my stomach to try it. Then i heard it was really good, so i figured before Arepas, after Pastrami, Akamaru Modern, and some Lox, i’d share some fries with a friend.

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Le Pain Quotidien – New York, NY


Le Pain Quotidien
922 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY
(212) 757-0775

Artisan breads, sweet pastries and pantry goods like coffee and jams are what you can expect to find in the burgeoning outlets of this chain of bakeries where one can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner items that are carefully prepared with a health conscious outlook.  Organic ingredients are incorporated in many of their menu items, as well this ecological philosophy is apparent in their building design and construction as well – loved the reclaimed wood that permeated the interior, giving it a very welcoming and warm touch despite being smack dab in the middle of a concrete jungle, albeit with Central Park only a few short minutes away.

The Le Pain Quotidien empire has now spread out across the United States (mainly on the east and west coasts) as well as places in western Europe and the Middle East.  The Canadian outlets seemingly only sprouting up in the Toronto area.  I imagine it would be a good fit in the Vancouver area as well given the local climate and penchant for things with a healthy and organic twist.

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Zibetto Espresso Bar & Manhattan Gourmet 56 – New York, NY


Zibetto Espresso Bar
1385 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY

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Manhattan Gourmet 56
1377 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY
(212) 246-4410

A sunny 86F day in NYC with nothing to do in the morning.  A perfect setup for a casual walk in Manhattan and to grab a simple breakfast to enjoy on the benches of Central Park.  As a die-hard addict in need of a stiff cup of coffee in the morning, my first stop after bypassing those dreadful Starbucks outlets was Zibetto.  Essentially a long narrow space that couldn’t be more than eight feet wide and anchored by a sleek looking, white tiled and similarly colored marble counter-top bar accented with some metallic touches, it fit with my mental image of an Italian espresso bar.

Staffed with some slick looking, white shirted gents efficiently buzzing around behind the bar, there was already a strong lineup in place, as well as some other customers enjoying their cups of hot liquid at the tiny armrest like shelves jutting out from the walls.  Clearly, its a place to have your drink in a jiffy, no lounging around here sucking up free wi-fi or anything and generally disrupting the business need of turnover on the part of the proprietors.

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Lattanzi – New York, NY


Lattanzi Ristorante Italiano
361 West 46 Street
New York, NY
(212) 315-0980

My experiences in New York City are very limited and thus the confidence and knowledge I have about where the good places are to eat is still very much a work in progress.  So much so that I didn’t even realize that I’d stumbled upon “Restaurant Row”, a stretch of 46th street in the theater district, which is home to a compact area of assorted restaurants.   With no set plan and aimless wandering on a photo walk just to get a feel for this part of town, we came upon this area with empty stomachs and just as the sun was setting and the scene was turning dark.   It was later that I learned that there is a general consensus that this area is not considered the best of what NYC has to offer, but I did appreciate the look and feel of this strip, especially for its cozy setup and ease of access to several restaurants to eat at.  For the lazy visitor to the city, its a welcome arrangement.  And in the mood for Italian, Lattanzi appeared before us and we stepped inside.

Without a reservation, we were asked to have  a seat at the bar just down the stairs from the street side entrance, and it was about fifteen minutes before a table opened up.  Typical New York, as the other patrons enjoying a drink included a pair of talkative and flirty cougars who were pounding back martinis and clearly were inebriated, and a trio of artsy-types going over some sketches of what looked to be an interior design project.  To complete the Italian experience, the bartender was a greasy, slicked back hair fellow, with a notable Italian accent.  While waiting, it was interesting to see the clientele of this place dining inside –  some older couples and groups, obvious casually dressed tourists, and then several really attractive models and their entourages had overtaken the second floor area.

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Bobby Van’s – New York City, NY


Bobby Van’s Steakhouse
135, West 50th Street
New York, NY
(212) 957-5050

New York City has a plethora of eating options but for some reason, steakhouses come top of mind for me. From old school style establishments to the hip and trendy, steakhouses in this city seemingly have something for everyone seeking out a piece of grilled meat.

Having spent the greater part of the day flying to the east coast, further extended by the weather delays into the airport, I was in a glum mood trudging along the streets of midtown Manhattan in some windy and rainy conditions. With a hockey game on the tele that I was missing, I knew I had to find a place to eat that was showing the game. As we came upon the doors of Bobby Van’s (I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of the name of this place and the Canucks misfortunes), I could make out a long white marble topped counter bar, a packed house and some overhead screens, one of which was showing the end of the Montreal-Philly game.

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Campbell Apartment – New York City, NY


Campbell Apartment @ Grand Central Station
15 Vanderbilt Ave
New York, NY 10017
(212) 953-0409

Hidden away in a corner of Grand Central Station is one of the most fascinating bars in New York. It isn’t trendy, modern, or cutting edge, but it’s an oasis of calm at the heart of a bustling train station, and its unapologetically retro style gives you a glimpse into a piece of New York’s history. That bar is the Campbell Apartment.

Once the office for railroad tycoon John W. Campbell, Campbell Apartment was a private salon for a businessman who loved to drink. During the prohibition era, he was able to entertain clients and friends in his office, conveniently attached to Grand Central Station.

The space was renovated in 1999 to recapture the grandeur and design of the 1920’s space – dark wood, high ceilings, leaded windows, leather chairs and a very prominent bar. The detail and preservation of many of the original structures is an architecture geek’s dream.

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Russ and Daughters – New York City, NY


Russ and Daughters
179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002-1024
(212) 475-4880

There’s something about longevity that I find very appealing. Maybe it’s the human desire for “empire” building – leaving a legacy, making your mark – i have a lot of respect for places with a long history. No matter what you want to call it, the idea that an establishment has existed for generations, serving the same kind of food, is awesome.

Russ and Daughters has been in its current location since 1920 – a staggering 89 years old. An “appetizing” store, this Jewish store offers a variety of kosher treats – from lox, smoked fish, caviar, cream cheese, bagels, sweets, and other treats. They are best known for their salmon – smoked, or cured.

Russ and Daughters is divided into two sides. Sweets, and beverages like egg creams on the right, deli items on the left. The coolers on the left are loaded with goodies – house made goods  that they are happy to let you sample before you buy. Based on the selection and diversity of choices, this is a good idea. Not every style suits everyone.

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Katz’s Delicatessen – New York City, NY


Katz’s Delicatessen
205 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002-1098
(212) 254-2246

I’m a little suspicious of places that call themselves the best. The boast never seems to ring true, and more often than not, it’s a testament to ego, or the past, more than it is to what’s true today.

However, when 90% of the people who live in, or visit New York, say Katz’s is the best pastrami sandwich in New York, you have to take notice. New York is known for its pastrami, and to be the best in New York…well, as they like to think, it means you are the best anywhere.

Katz’s Deli has been around since 1888. Located on the Lower East Side, it’s part of an interesting chain of old school, high quality establishments that dot East Houston Street – Russ & Daughters, and Yonah Shimmel’s Knish Bakery are located nearby as well. The building definitely is a distinctive landmark on the south side of E. Houston – but if you don’t notice the signage, you’ll notice the lineups out the door.

Upon entering the premises, you will find very little has changed in the decor, and the menus for the past 60 years. There is typically two types of service – in theory, there is table service, but for a true Katz’s experience, take a ticket, and head to the deli counter to order your own sandwich. When you finally end up with sandwich in hand, you’ll need to pounce on one of the self serve tables that seem to free up every 20 seconds.

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Ippudo NYC – New York City, NY


Ippudo NYC
65 4th Avenue
New York, NY 10003-5220
(212) 388-0088

The New York City arrival of the Hakata style Ramen temple, Ippudo, really signified to me the just how wide spread the ramen invasion was in North America. While ramen had been gaining in popularity on the West Coast for quite some time, especially in Asian strongholds like Los Angeles, San Jose, and Vancouver, it didnt seem to have the wide spread appeal that sushi did.  Even with something like David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, it could be written off as an anomaly. Not anymore – thankfully, it looks ramen is here to stay.

Ippudo is a ramen chain started by Shigemi Kawahara, the “Ramen King” of Japan. King or not, he has definitely been credited with many advances, and pushing the envelope with the art of ramen – a modern, yet traditional approach to ramen. Each Ippudo location takes advantage of regional differences and produces a slightly different variation of their ramen – offered in addition to their traditional tonkotsu offering. In New York, that offering is the Akamaru Modern.

For more details on Hakata style ramen, please see Shokutsu’s description in his Menya review.

Once you get in, usually taking 30-90 minutes these days, you’ll be seated in a modern, understated environment. It is comfortable, and far larger than Kawahara’s original 10 seater in Fukuoka.

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Halal Cart 53rd and 6th – New York City, NY


Halal Cart
6 Ave & W 53rd St
Manhattan, New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-7000

Lineups are strange things. I’ve seen people get in line for something they had no idea they were lining up for. Lineups make the destination seem more desirable – a general herd mentality really, that if all these other people like it, then it must be worth lining up for. Or, lineups are really an indication that a place is worth eating at.

Out of all the street cart vendors that exist in New York City, my favorite are the Halal carts. They typically serve a couple types of meat – gyro, lamb, beef, or chicken, and make sandwiches or platters. So when i passed by an insane lineup at 9:30pm at a Halal cart at 53rd and 6th, I had to know what was going on. I swore that by the time i came back, if there was still a lineup, I would try what was there. At 11:30pm, the lineup had actually gotten longer.

From first apperances, this cart was nothing special. They served chicken, and gyro, and offered platters and sandwiches. Platters were $6. I didnt really understand why I was willing to brave the lineup.  A patron filled me in on what i was missing out on.

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Minetta Tavern – New York City, NY


Minetta Tavern
113 MacDougal St., at Minetta Ln.
New York, NY
(212) 475-3850

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #5 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, Walt Street Pub, is available here. Hope you enjoy the series.

Exclusivity. It’s a real pain for us common folks who love food – as some restaurants that sound like they would be an experience of a lifetime, are just extremely difficult to get a reservation at. El Bulli, French Laundry, the list goes on. While Minetta Tavern doesn’t quite fall under this category, mostly due to their generous dining hours (menu served till 1am), it is still near impossible to get in at a prime time. Normally I wouldn’t bother, but I heard they had the best hamburger in NYC. We decided to eat at 11pm.

Guarded by a “doorman”, the blinds are drawn, and there is no way of seeing inside. Many places try to generate interest – seating people near windows – to make it seem like a place you want to eat at. Minetta Tavern feels like they are trying to keep you out – they are busy enough as it is. This is by no fault of the staff – both the doorman, and the hostess, were incredibly friendly and accommodating – it’s just by virtue of their job to keep walk-ins away when the restaurant is already (likely) overbooked.

Once your reservation is confirmed with the doorman, you’re allowed into the sanctuary. An overly crowded bar, with hordes of people waiting to be seated. I’ve never been seated on time – there is always a delay – even at 11pm. Based on the celebrities who visit Minetta Tavern, I can understand all of the above inconveniences. I don’t have to like it, but I understand.

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Peter Luger – Brooklyn, NY


Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400‎

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #3 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

New Yorkers are famous for many things. Pastrami. Pizza. The Yankees. And a very brusque attitude. While visiting New York City over the years, other than some crazy drivers, I haven’t found the “New York” attitude to be all that prevalent. Impatient towards tourists? Often, yes. But unfriendly? Not at all.

One of the bastions of the New York attitude exists at Peter Luger. Famous Brooklyn steakhouse known for surly service, 5 week+ dry aged steak, and an astronomical bill. One Michelin Star. Voted best steak in New York for 24 years by Zagat, what isn’t as well known is they have a burger on their lunch menu. One that many consider to be the best burger in New York + Outer Boroughs.

The first thing you encounter upon walking into Peter Lugers is either crowds of people waiting, or the enormous bar. Everyone ends up at the bar eventually – since even with a reservation, you’re typically made to wait 15-20 minutes. Minimum. It’s not the worst place to be stuck though – reasonable  New York prices for drinks, an ok house label beer and some decent cocktails. If you’re of the male gender – expect some surly comments and banter – not always lighthearted, though it seems quite faux surly for the most part. Ladies are treated very nicely.

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Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien – New York City, NY


Burger Joint
Lobby of Le Parker Meridien
118 W 57th St
New York, NY
(212) 708-7414

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the next week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #2 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The first review, Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack, is available here. Hope you enjoy the series.

There’s something about secrets that appeal to people. It’s nice “being in the know”. Having access to an experience others don’t. They are out there too. Secret restaurants, like Totoraku in LA, or many other secret supper clubs dotted around each metropolitan city, guarded tightly like the crown jewels of the foodie community.

Hidden in the corner of the lobby of Le Parker Meridien is a secret – not through lack of information, but by obscurity of location. The Burger Joint. Hidden behind floor to ceiling curtains is a small burger operation that is the complete oppose of the Meridien Hotel vibe. Dirty, small, with a great buzz.

Marked by a simple neon burger, these days it’s easy to find by the lineup.

Once you round the corner, you find a bustling community of people drinking draught beer (Sam Adams) and chowing down on burgers and fries. Tables are sticky and dirty, bussing your own tables usually ends up that way, and tables are had on a first come first serve basis. You better be aggressive – camp someone who looks like they are leaving, or be willing to push your way through when you see someone getting up. Being polite means you end up standing there for 30 minutes, holding your rapidly cooling burger, looking despondent.

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Shake Shack – New York City, NY


Shake Shack
Madison Ave and East 23rd St.
Southeast Corner of Madison Square Park
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of the week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #1 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. Hope you enjoy the series.

Looking for the best burger in New York City was a pretty easy proposition to get behind. There’s a lot of existing intel out there on burgers, they are relatively affordable, and they taste pretty good. After all, who doesn’t love a good burger? With a theoretical clean bill of health, I started with the Danny Meyer institution, Shake Shack.

No burger place in New York is more divisive than the Shake Shack. On one side, you have the raving fanatics who love the fresh, hand formed Pat LaFrieda patties, American cheese, basic condiments, and secret Shack Sauce.

On the other side, you have people who despise the long long lineups, the one hour waits, and the “good, but nothing special” aspect to the burger itself.

I had to find out for myself.

I showed up, post lunch, around 2:30pm hoping to dodge some of the legendary lineups. I’d been told that if i want something around lunch time, i had better show up before they opened at 11am, or else im looking at 30-45 minutes. Minimum. Weekends, more. The wait ended up being roughly 10-15 minutes to order. Not bad. Another15 minutes for our burger to arrive, we got in and out in under 30 minutes. Great timing.

They’ve separated their lineups into an A and B line. B line can get custards, paraphernalia, and milkshakes. Hot items, stay in line the long (A) line.

When looking over online reviews of the Shake Shack, one of the most common associations was to In N Out Burger.  Both in simplicity of composition, and in taste.

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Lupa Osteria Romana – New York City, NY


Lupa Osteria Romana
170 Thompson St
New York, NY
(212) 982-5089

In the world of Bastianich and Batali, if you’ve been to one, you know exactly what to expect when you walk in the door. While every one of their restaurants has a place – specially selected to ensure that each new restaurant is different enough from the previous, every restaurant is intended to offer you the same formulaic experience – good food, good service, exceptional value. While they are all good restaurants with different themes, I think my favorite of the lot is Lupa Osteria Romana. While places like Babbo, Mozza, Otto, Spotted Pig, and a slew of Las Vegas projects typically command more attention, Lupa delivers everything i’m looking for in a restaurant experience.

The food at Lupa is described as a “casual Roman trattoria” – and while they do serve a Roman style of meal – three courses, emphasis on pork and seafood, it is more modern Roman than any sort of traditional cena. What they do manage to do though is offer is a reasonable selection of affordable (especially for the quality), high impact dishes.  Secondi’s are mostly quite seasonal, so they change up more often than other “always on the menu” standbys.

We started with some house made salumi. It was very good, as most charcuterie is at Batali restaurants.

For a Primi, i chose one of my favorite dishes – Trippa alla Romana. The creaminess of the honeycomb tripe mixed with the tomato sauce, pecorino romano and mint create a very rich, yet fresh tasting dish. A fantastic rendition of tripe – perhaps even better than my old standby, Trippa alla Fiorentina. I may personally prefer omasum, or leaf tripe, commonly served in Chinese restaurants, but for honeycomb, this was great stuff.

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Black cod with fava beans on potato puree. It was fresh, light, and tasty. A well prepared piece of fish perfectly cooked.

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