Aaaand here it is, the last post about NYC! This one is all about the fooood, which could equally be described as one of the best, and one of the worst, parts.
It's quite hard to eat healthily and cheaply if you don't know New York (which we didn't). We weren't that interested in either because frankly, we were on holiday and when else can you binge-eat pancakes if not on holiday? Plus, it's not like it was a swimsuit sort of holiday (actually, it was an as-many-layers-as-possible holiday because it was sooo coooold).
I know, I know, get to the food already - the picture above? That's Katz's Deli, as featured in When Harry Met Sally (apparently - I've never seen it). Anyway, the sandwiches are amazing, and we got a hot tip from a tour guide when we went on a food tour - go to the counter to get served, and tip the cutter who is making your sandwich. They give you loads of different fillings to try and are particularly generous when making your sandwich! I had garlic sausage and James had pastrami, and we seriously didn't need anything to eat for about 10 hours afterwards. Deeelicious.
The food tour we went on was fine, but to be perfectly honest all the walking tours we went on had stops for food - it seems like New Yorkers are very proud of their culinary expertise, and we did sort of like how it made the tours a bit more interactive.
One of the best areas for an unusual mix of food was Soho/Little Italy/Chinatown - they're really close together so you have quite a broad range of flavours within a relatively short walking distance. The Ferrara bakery in Little Italy does amazing patisserie, and is surrounded by Italian delis selling cheese, ravioli and salami.
It's fair to say New York has a lot of bakeries and other places geared towards people eating on the go - it made me feel better seeing so many people eating in the street/on the tube, heading somewhere - because sometimes life is too busy to have a sit-down lunch (take note, the awful person who made this account). The Vesuvio Bakery is a sort of conservation project - formerly a family-run bakery, it has been taken over by City Bakery but retains its old fashioned interior. It sells massive cookies and baker's muffins, which are a good-looking doughy, pull-apart mess covered in cinnamon sugar.
The Dominique Ansel bakery is still there despite being shut down in July, and continues to produce "franken-food", the latest being frozen smores, I believe. We didn't go because who wants to get up at 5am to stand in a queue for a cronut? (It was an actual possibility, since jet lag meant we woke up at the crack of dawn every day, but just... no).
Pizza places are also ubiquitous, but apparently there are some frightful ones, so we stuck with a few key recommendations, like Percy's Pizza in Greenwich Village and Sacco pizza on 9th Ave, which were both amazing and cost like $1 a slice. Some other hot picks around 9th Ave were:
Amy's Bread - more on which later
City Sandwich for their pastels (Portugese custard tarts)
Papaya Dog for hotdogs and kanishes (deep fried potato stuffed pastry)
Azuri falafel was also recommended on our tour, and the falafels were decent and cheap, but you need to be able to tolerate horrible service - the owner asked James if he had change, and before James could even answer, sarcastically said "of course you don't". It was acknowledged that he could be a grump before we even went in, but seriously mate, tone it down.
We also checked out Rice to Riches (below), a rice pudding shop which is sort of jaw-droppingly expensive. They make up for it a bit with their signage (wouldn't have thought you could get away with this!) but $9 for rice pudding for two is pretty steep, even if it is butterscotch flavoured.
Above is Chelsea Market, which contains lots of nice little eateries and some very Oscar-the-Grouch style interiors.
Amy's Bread was one particularly nice bakery we tried - above is their almond French toast. We also tried their cashew slice (delicious), chocolate sourdough twist (chewy) and a black and white cookie. These are particular to New York apparently - they're a bit like Jaffa cake sponge covered in white and chocolate-flavoured icing. A bit sweet for my tastes but James loved them and insisted on getting a pack any time we went near a Starbucks (not often, I might add).
Before I go, here are a few of our most disappointing places/places to avoid foodwise:
Appleby's - we never go to chains unless they're decent ones like Byron or Wahaca, but we went here for breakfast one day because it was pouring. Don't go. There were bits of green stuff in my coffee and the food was super-bland. Basically Macdonalds.
Nathan's Famous - worst hot dogs, worst cheese sauce, worst everything. Made even worse by the homeless man sitting nearby who stunk. This is what happens when you need a quick lunch near a train station on Thanksgiving.
Vincent's - we were all set up for this amazing tomato sauce you would sell your granny for, then we had the world's most average pizza.
Balthazar - I don't totally regret this one, because we did get pleasantly drunk, but there is one in London too and I have eaten better French food in small independent restaurants (I mean, I lived in France for a while, so that is predictable, but this was overpriced for what it delivered. Brasserie Zedel in London is comparable and much, much cheaper. My best recent London finds are Pachamama for to-die-for Peruvian food and Flesh and Buns for Japanese steamed buns, meat and smores you get to roast yourself).
And here are two more that are definitely worth visiting, and that get consistently great reviews -
Dough Doughnuts near Union Square (especially the Dulche de Leche and Hibiscus flavours)
Club A steakhouse - a TripAdvisor find, the food here was perfect, as was the service, and the complimentary lobster ravioli... and the complimentary dessert...
Treehaus - this was across the road from our hotel and we ate there most mornings because it was convenient and the food was sold buffet-style and by weight, so you could have something different every day. Cheap, quick and easy.
And a few more of my likes and dislikes aout NYC in general:
Taxis - so cheap! So everywhere!
Bottomless coffee - I feel restaurants over here need to adapt to this, fast.
The subway - $30 for a WEEK'S PASS. What are you doing, TFL?
New York Pass - entry to 80 attractions, must have saved us a ton because we went EVERYWHERE with this, including about 4 tours.
Getting engaged - goes without saying!
Landing - the prettiest flight landing ever, with all the multicoloured lights sparkling on the water.
Our hotel - very budget, very tiny, but we were only sleeping there and it did the trick for a cheap place to stay.
The pollution - especially the street food carts, which seemed to run on coal. If you stood too near them, your hair smelt like a smokey bonfire.
The homeless/crackhead problem - there are a lot of crazy-seeming people on the street that make you want to cross the road by shouting, loudly, or trying to talk to you. Maybe I'm too used to London where nobody talks to anyone? Anyway, it was unnnerving for like two days, then it was fine.
Our guidebook - it was two years out of date, which appears to be an eternity in New York time - we were sad that the Beekman Tower had closed down when we got there, and there were a few logistical errors. I usually love Lonely Planet so make sure your guide is up to date!
Queues - JFK's Customs line is a joke, especially when to you it is 4am and you're in a queue for like 2 hours. Apparently Newark is a much more pleasant airport, so we'll try there next time. Some other places has horrific queues, including Serendipity and the Statue of Liberty, so, being impatient, we just didn't go.
Weather - Oh MY GOD I've never been so cold. If you go in the winter, wear SO MANY LAYERS (Uniqlo's heattech stuff is good, but you'll still need a tshirt, jumper and warm woolen or down coat on top). My one last tip is comfortable, warm shoes - you'll walk tons if you go, but don't compromise waterproofing for comfort either, because you'll regret it! I found short welly boots with woolen socks did the tricks.
I hope this will help anyone heading to New York soon - any questions, just ask!