A few months ago I moved to the culinary capital of the world and now…none of my clothes fit. But next week I’m definitely going to stop eating out and use the money I save to join a gym. And I’ll just write off the past three months as research for this blog post. I lived in New York for the first time after my sophomore year of college and that’s where I began my relationship with Manhattan food. Why is it so amazing you ask? Because there is everything you could possibly ever ask for. Just like Jay-Z says, it’s a melting pot. There are so many different cultural influences in this little metropolis, which plays out in the food. Plus, there are tons of tourists, rich people, and pretentious foodies who sit in their cubicles blogging about where they ate for lunch that day (cough, cough.) So there’s a demand, a big demand, for great, interesting, groundbreaking food, and in my humble opinion, the food delivers. The City attracts the best of the best, and those who don’t measure up get chewed up and spit out (pun intended.) It’s a tough town, but good restaurants, talented chefs, and unique offerings, thrive here.
So you might be thinking, “Isn’t this a cooking blog? Aren’t you supposed to be talking about your cooking and not other people’s cooking?” Well, as I said in my first post, I love to cook partially because I love to eat. And I LOVE to eat in restaurants. I love the whole experience; getting dressed up, ordering drinks, perusing the menu, trying new things, taking home leftovers and spending time unencumbered by TV, cell phones, and computers. I love reading about restaurants, discovering hidden gems, and being able to recommend a restaurant to friends (and subsequently take credit for the wonderful experience they had.) So if you live in NYC or visit NYC, your life isn’t complete until you’ve hit these Elizabeth Malinowski- tested, Elizabeth Malinowski-approved spots.
Special Occasion Restaurants
88 Second Avenue
I first went here last year and discovered the greatest Caprese Salad this side of the Atlantic. The Buffalo mozzarella is the size of a softball and it’s so rich and creamy that you will be tempted to eat it all yourself. The rest of the food is excellent as well. I always order the pappardelle, which comes with either a veal or rabbit ragú, depending on the night. It never fails to impress. The setting is warm and intimate and the food is so amazing that it’s worth putting up with the trendy East Village waiters, who act like it’s a privilege for them to be waiting on you.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea
17 Barrow Street
It’s touted as the most romantic restaurant in New York and it definitely lives up to the hype. From the tapered candles to the piano player, this place has Old World charm down pat. Start with the cheesy pretzel bread, it’s their specialty. There will be more than enough to take home for a midnight snack. The menu is prix fixe and will definitely take a toll on the wallet. We went during Restaurant Week when three courses are only $35 (instead of $78.) This is the way to go, you still get soak in the atmosphere but you won’t be eating Spaghetti-Os the rest of the week. The selections on the Restaurant Week menu were absolutely delicious; a lot of upscale French influence. It was a good chance to try new things and then sound cultured when you talk about the Merguez Sausage with the roasted corn succotash. One if By Land is a great place to celebrate something, (like moving to Manhattan!) and it’s touted as a famous spot to pop the “question.” Although Matt didn’t find it very funny when I kept asking which pocket the ring was in…
106 East 57th Street
Very trendy decor, very pretty people, very good steak. It’s steak the way steak should be done. Thick, crusty sear on the outside; warm deep pink on the inside, slathered with blue cheese (or a variety of sauces for your choosing.) But what really made this place stand out was our appetizer. I’ve been noticing the new trend on steak house menus is bacon as a starter. Bacon and what? No, just bacon. Thick-sliced, pan-seared, slabs on a plate, bacon. That’s it. Although this one came with a little garlic and herb gremolata sprinkled over it and the waiter suggested we fold it into the light and buttery popovers that serve as the bread on every table. But most of the time it’s just straight up bacon. It’s horrible for you, especially since you are about to consume 16 oz. of additional animal carcass. You know it’s bad, but it feels so good.
Union Square Café
21 East 16th Street
Probably the best restaurant experience I’ve ever had. My parents took me here when I was living in Union Square, and it was the perfect meal from start to finish. I felt like we were in our own home, only with impeccable service and world-class food. It was over three years ago, but I can still remember exactly what I had. I started with braised rabbit gnocchi, which had the most deeply flavorful reduction poured all over these pillow-y gnocchi. My entrée was roasted lamb chops. They were perfection. Now, I’m sure the menu has changed in the last three years, but if your parents are in town and they want a lovely meal in a restaurant where you can actually hear each other speak, this one fits the bill perfectly.
1617 2nd Avenue (more locations throughout Mnahattan)
Whenever we get the sopressatta mozzarella pizza Matt gets all nostalgic for Rome. He says it tastes just like his favorite late night pizza in Italy. It’s pretty great stuff. A sweet herb covered crust, soft tangy mozzarella, and salty sopressatta. Four a.m. perfection.
325 East 14th Street
You get a free pizza, that’s right, a free, full size personal pizza, with every beer you order. It might not be the best pizza in Manhattan, but it’s the best free pizza in Manhattan. Back in the day, when I used to go there, the toppings were free too. Now they’re $2, so I guess the recession really affected the bulk price of pepperoni…bummer.
Madison Square Park (more locations throughout Manhattan)
If you live in New York, you’ve probably seen the wrap around lines for this little burger chain and thought to yourself, “It can’t possibly be worth it.” Well, a. yes it is and b. the line moves really fast. Apparently, they build all their restaurants in such a way that it always looks like there’s a line, so it builds hype (I learned this from a lady standing in line – iron clad source right there.) Once you get inside, you begin the magical journey I like to call the Shake Shack experience. You must, I repeat must, order the Shack Stack. Why? Oh, where to begin? Maybe with the buttery soft sweet roll or the juicy burger, the fresh tomato and lettuce that are so good I’m not even tempted to pull them off (I usually don’t like to get mixed up with a lot of vegetables when I’m trying to house half a cow). I could start with the tangy yet creamy secret Shack Sauce, whose ingredients I still can’t quite put my finger on. No, no. I think I’ll begin with the part that separates the Shake Stack from every other burger; the deep-fried, cheese-stuffed Portobello mushroom. I’ll repeat that for those of you who just had a minor seizure trying to wrap your head around the deliciousness: a deep-fried, cheese-stuffed Portobello mushroom. Think of it as a really big jalapeño popper, but instead of a jalapeño, there’s a big, meaty, flavorful Portobello mushroom. So the Shake Stack goes like this: bun, burger, cheese, deep fried cheese stuffed Portobello mushroom, lettuce, tomato, Shack Sauce, bun. When you take a bite, the cheese in the mushroom bursts and all this melted Münster and cheddar cheese come oozing out and cover your whole burger like a blanket of cheesy snow. Then you black out for about the next ten minutes while this wave of hamburger heaven washes over you. All of the sudden, you look down and your hands are empty. It’s over, depression starts to set in. But fear not, you still have your cheese fries.
331 West 4th Street
I hate to say it but I was taken to this place by a non-New Yorker. My Hollywood brother led us here one hot August night, after hearing it had the best burger in New York. Buried deep in the West Village and deep inside a dark tavern of a restaurant – you will find it – the Mecca of burgers. The Bistro Burger. A giant, juicy, succulent burger topped with sharp cheddar, raw onions, and crispy bacon. After you demolish this thing, you sit back with a warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment and think to yourself, “That’s exactly what a burger is suppose to taste like.” Wash it down with a pint of McSoreley’s and you’ll start contemplating buying a pair of black skinny jeans and moving to Christopher Street. Did I mention the burger is 7 bucks? Go. Go now.
So these were about half the restaurants I intended to include but the post was getting too long and I could feel people getting bored with me. So I will have to save some for a later date. Including last night’s adventure – Ramen War 2010. What’s a ramen war you ask? Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with actual combat or Cup O’ Noodles, but it does include eating a lot of Ramen with my friend Jeanette. Get excited for that post.
Tonight I’m cooking grilled cheese and tomato soup, in honor of it being a yucky, rainy day in New York. But not just any grilled cheese and tomato soup…so come back tomorrow. Stay hungry people. (Yes I ripped that off from the new Cooking Channel tagline, but I was all out of creativity.)