As 2011 begins some great meals in NYC
I spent the past weekend in NYC, flew there on Thursday and enjoyed the long Martin Luther King weekend as a chance to visit friends and family and to have a mini-vacation with my girlfriend. We both worked on Friday while in NYC but still manage to have a large number of great meals while we were in NYC.
If you are my friend on Foursquare you may have seen my checkins from this past weekend, unfortunately it doesn’t look like I can easily share my checkins history publicly but this post is an attempt to summarize some of the best places we found over our long weekend. NYC is always changing but all of these spots are great options, some are old favorites others are new (at least to me) discoveries from this past weekend.
Thursday – fine, vegan dining at Kajitsu
After we flew in and checked into our hotel, we went to Kajitsu in the East Village where we had made a dinner reservation at the Chef’s counter (only available by making an over the phone reservation but they take OpenTable for regular reservations). Kajitsu has two Michelin stars and serves Japanese zen temple food. Everything on their menu is vegan and they offer two tasting menus (a $50 4 course and $70 8 course option) along with a few ala carte dishes and sake pairings. The space is space and minimalist but the food is amazing in the details and complexity. Living in San Francisco we were familiar with Japanese temple cuisine from local standouts such as Cha-Ya and the now closed Medicine Eatstation though Kajitsu offers a far more refined and fine dining version of the cuisine. A fantastic meal whether you are a vegetarian or not and one of the cheaper 2 Michelin star dining options available anywhere in the world, though both my girlfriend and I far preferred our meal at the only 1 Michelin starred Ubuntu in Napa.
Sweet Revenge – amazing cupcakes in the West Village
Friday morning before going off to work my girlfriend and I walked up to the West Village from our SOHO hotel. We were looking for coffee and a quick breakfast, didn’t have any particular spot in mind or very high expectations but we stumbled into a fantastic place which we returned to later on Friday. Sweet Revenge is a small bakery in the West Village. In the mornings they offer coffee, cupcakes, savory breakfast cakes and a few other options (yogurt etc). We both enjoyed our savory breakfast cakes which were light and very flavorful with fantastic sauces on the side. In the evening after work we returned to Sweet Revenge to pick up a hostess gift of one of each of the six cupcake flavors they had made that day to bring to a friend’s house where we were having dinner. Each of the cupcakes were unique with fantastic cakes, fillings and frostings. Not too sweet but just right well balanced and light with a lot of flavor. Some of the best cupcakes we’ve had and in a city (and nation) where the cupcake craze has no sign of stopping Sweet Revenge is a great place. If we had dined in, they offer wine and beer pairings with their cupcakes and they serve until midnight or later most nights.
Saturdays Surf Shop – fantastic coffee in a great shop in SOHO
I, along with many others, read about Saturdays in Monocle (see http://www.monocle.com/sections/edits/Web-Articles/Style-directory-Shopkeepers/) where in their Oct 2010 issue they featured Saturdays Surf Shop in an article. This is a small great store selling their own label of clothing, surfboards and related books and other objects along with offering fantastic serious coffee and in nicer weather a beautiful hidden back patio seating area. On Friday I bought a great cappuccino and after a brief time spent browsing the offerings walked to my next stop and meeting.
Torrisi Italian Specialities – amazing sandwiches and a great prix fix dinner in SOHO
My sister suggested Torrisi as an option for picking up lunch nearby before we visited. We ordered nearly one of everything on the lunch menu – bringing a spread of sandwiches and vegetable sides along with fresh mozzarella made earlier that morning. Everything was amazing, flavorful, local ingredients and fantastic flavors. This is Italian food done by serious chefs with the best local ingredients and great attention to detail. Every evening they offer one of the best deals in NYC with a $50 prix fix dinner which I hope to return and experience.
Before we picked up lunch we stopped by my favorite bookstore in NYC, McNally Jackson. This amazing independent bookstore, with attached cafe, offers one of the best book shopping experiences in NYC and indeed anywhere in the US. Fantastic selections with a friendly knowledgable staff and a store that innovates. Later in the weekend we returned to test out their new print-on-demand service using a printer from Unbound Books which offers you the ability to get any public domain book and many other books with publisher permission, or your own book, printed in a few minutes while you shop or enjoy a coffee in their cafe.
After lunch we walked over to the across from NYU location of Think Coffee which is a local to NYC small coffee chain with four locations. Each with very serious fair trade sourced coffee, fantastic barristas and great food and drink. I really enjoyed my coffee from a small roaster in Ethiopian while my girlfriend enjoyed her cappuccino. The space across from NYU is huge with plenty of tables and wifi and a space even on a holiday weekend filled of students and others working.
Refreshed we walked up to Chelsea where we enjoyed a cool winter walk along the High Line. We then descended and explored Chelsea Market. Inside of Chelsea Market are many fantastic NYC restaurants and food purveyors, we only sampled a few and need to return many more times to try everything. Perhaps the highlight of this visit to Chelsea Market was our dinner at The Green Table in Chelsea Market. We were a group of six and managed to snag a reservation when another large party canceled. We shared some fantastic mac and cheese and a Brussels sprouts hash as started and then each ordered dinner. My burger was among the best I’ve had anywhere. Highly recommended for seasonal, local cuisine with a menu that changes with the seasons and fair prices.
For dessert my girlfriend and I joined a friend of ours who was also visiting NYC from SF in going to one of her favorite places in NYC, Veniero’s Pasticceria & Cafe. A historic cafe and bakery in the East Village with a line that seemingly never ends on a weekend evening, the desserts were well worth the wait and as we looked at the rows upon rows of cookies, pastries and cakes it made us wish for a moment that we lived in NYC and could cater a party with desserts from Veniero’s.
Sunday we had amazing Mexican food for breakfast and award winning BBQ for dinner. Yes, we were still in NYC.
For breakfast we again walked up to the West Village to return to a Mexican restaurant my girlfriend remembered from a past visit to NYC, La Palapa. There we found some of the best Mexican food I have had in a restaurant – not just the best I’ve had in NYC by far but among the best I’ve had in any city anywhere. Fresh, authentic and very flavorful. They have two locations one in the East Village and one in the West Village and the owner has a recently published cookbook.
After our very filling late breakfast we spend the afternoon shopping in SOHO. Then I took my girlfriend to one of my favorite places in the Lower East Side, Teany. Teany is a vegan tea shop owned by Moby. I am a meat eater but this is one of my must visit places whenever I’m in the Lower East Side. We shared some fantastic vegan coconut cake and enjoyed very tasty beverages. I had a great pot of tea and my girlfriend had a cappuccino made with tea which she greatly enjoyed. A friendly, small place always worth a visit.
We then walked from the Lower East Side up to the amazing new Eataly which is 50,000 sq ft of Italian food and drink across from Madison Square Park. While new to the US this is a chain with multiple locations in Italy and Japan. If we lived in NYC we would shop (and eat) at Eataly regularly. In fact the produce and fruit prices were reasonable and the selection quite great – I bought some kumquats as a snack for less than I pay at farmers markets here in SF.
For dinner we walked two blocks down 24th st to R.U.B (Righteous Urban Barbeque) which is a competition worthy barbecue restaurant in NYC. They were out of their famous burnt ends so I ordered a half slab of ribs while my girlfriend (who is vegetarian) ordered one of their drinks and their vegetarian pulled portobella sandwich. We started with their fried green tomatoes. An excellent meal and amusingly my vegetarian girlfriend’s half of the meal was more expensive (though to be fair that was because I didn’t order a drink).
Overall a fantastic day of eating where we managed to do to things that in the past weren’t supposed to be possible in NYC – have great Mexican and have great BBQ.
Our flight was in the mid-afternoon so we wanted to have a hearty brunch before we checked out and left for the airport. We were going to meet my cousin for breakfast but her work schedule prevented that so instead we decided to walk around SOHO near our hotel and find someplace to eat.
We lucked out and found The Cupping Room Cafe which has been in SOHO for over 30 years in an amazing space which was a former coffee wholesaler. While when we entered it appeared to be a smallish place, we quickly realized that the restaurant is L shaped with a lot of seating, a large bar off the other entrance and a beautiful main space with fireplace and lots of character. The food was tasty and fresh and the service was friendly. Definitely a great space which we may return to on future visits. In the evenings they frequently have live music and local seasonal menu. All for very reasonable prices. Definitely a great find.