One of the best ways to get to know the city you're in, is try their food. However, Manhattan is HUGE - it's x4 bigger than Sydney and has x6 times the population, so you can imagine how many restaurants, cafes, bars and food carts exist in this amazing city.
Below are the no brainers, the jewels that don't hurt the pocket, and are essential to the New York experience.
This place is a New York institution, a Lower East Side classic and also, the oldest deli I've been to. Serving Jewish comfort food to hungry locals and tourists, the most popular item on the menu would have to be the Pastrami sandwich. It was incredible, pastrami never tasted this good and just melted in your mouth. It was quite the sandwich, although it only had a few elements: hot pastrami, mustard, rye & pickles on the side - this will set you back around $19. You're probably wondering why it cost that much. Firstly it was MASSIVE, I shared it with my boyfriend and was pretty full afterwards. Secondly, when it comes to these things, there is no room for logic - there is only room in your belly to fill, so fill it well with a Pastrami sandwich!
GET: Pastrami sandwich
THE MEATBALL SHOP
Think Build A Bear. Now think meatballs. With over 20 meatball variations the likelihood of you being disappointed is small. Once seated, grab a pen and mark your order on the laminated menu. I suggest with going with whatever is on special - which happened to be the chicken cordon bleu meatball that I paired with parmesan cream sauce. You can pretty much have your chosen ball or balls on a baguette, slider, brioche bun, naked (on its own with sauce), with a side of pasta, polenta or even salad. Amazeballs! It doesn't stop there as menu isn't just limited to meatballs. In addition, they have ice cream sandwiches, ice cream floats & cookies (which I didn't get to try). One more thing - they have a brunch menu which is only available on the weekend. WEIRD! I noticed they only do brunch on weekend here. No joke.
GET: whatever is on special/ sliders or a meatball smash
THE HALAL GUYS
Chicken and rice. Sounds boring, but its quite the opposite really. The Halal Guys have gained a lot of street cred over the last 20 years serving up halal gyro platters consisting of chicken, lamb gyro (or the combo that has both) with rice, lettuce and pita bread. Nothing fancy, but you can't eat it without their signature white sauce. The best part is that the sauces are all self serve so you can pretty much pack it on. Its open till 4am, so perfect for a late night/early morning feed or even lunch if you prefer. Did I mention it was $6?
Beware - there are many halal food carts in the city that do gyro platters, BUT the one on 53rd & 6th is the one to go to. Its hard to miss, right near the Hilton and theres generally a queue.
GET: Combo (chicken & gyro) + plenty of white sauce!
MOMOFUKU NOODLE BAR
The pork bun mecca. Although its not listed on the menu, you can still order it along with other flavours like shrimp, brisket and shitake. The buns are great on their own but also a nice accompaniment with the ramen. Now, the ramen here is pretty special. So if you're keen, try the Momofuku signature ramen, its the OG and most popular with its rich pork broth, chewy alkaline noodles, tender pork belly & shoulder topped with a poached egg. Also, service is is really pleasant, atmosphere is buzzing and you can count on them to have a sweet playlist.
GET: buns, ramen, smoked chicken wings
I'm no vegetarian but one of the main reasons why I go to Shake Shack is mainly for their veggie burger aka the Shroom Burger - a crisp fried, cheese stuffed portobello mushroom, encased with lettuce, tomato and shack sauce on a soft, buttery potato roll. Once you bite in, molten cheese lava seeps out of the mushroom. I love cheese so much, so I don't care if my tongue gets scolded, but yeah..be careful. The normal burgers are great too, but watch out for the Smoke Shack burger - its a heart attack.The shakes are delicious and true to flavour and pair well with fries. I also appreciate that they have a menu for dogs. With multiple locations across NYC, you shouldn't have any excuse for not going, unless of course you have limited time in the city for which I then would feel sorry for you.
GET: Shroom burger, shake (DUH!)
COST: $5-$10 burgers & $5.50 for shakes
Other notable spots include:
- Joe's Shanghai (dumplings)
- Lombardis & Artichoke Pizza (pizza)
- Dan Dan Noodles (noodles?)
- Empanada Mama (empanadas)
- Buttermilk Channel & Sweet Chick (chicken & waffles)
- Red Hook Lobester Pound (lobster rolls)