Eating and Drinking around New York

Nathan's at Coney IslandGuidebooks are filled with recommendations for great restaurants, in every neighborhood and in all price ranges. I cannot possibly compete! So, instead, this list contains a few of my own suggestions, as well as restaurants that my guests have recommended to me. For restaurants on the Upper West Side, click here>> and for Harlem, click here>>

Grazing, nibbling, and people watching are a favorite New York activity. Food halls are especially fun, and several are located near popular sightseeing destinations. Eataly currently operates two locations: Flatiron District on 23rd Street off 5th Avenue, and Downtown at the 9/11 Memorial plaza. Stroll through Eataly’s grand space and shop, dine at one of the restaurants and cafes, each specializing in a particular cuisine, and attend a cooking class, wine tasting or other special event.

For a French food hall experience, try Le District. It’s located in Brookfield Place, in front of the North Cove marina, a short walk to the 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park and the Staten Island and Liberty Island ferries.

For a taste of Spain, try Despaña Fine Foods and Tapas Cafe on Broome Street in SoHo.

For additional grazing and nibbling experiences, plan your weekend to include a visit to one of our terrific food and flea markets.  Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Flea, any one of our many NYC Greenmarket Farmers Markets, and Chelsea Market all offer adventures in eating and people watching. Check their websites as some are seasonal, and locations change.

Chinatown for dim sum: 88 Palace, 88 East Broadway, 2nd fl., nr. Forsythe St. , 212-941-8886. Dim sum brunch! A huge, noisy place, and low prices. It’s located underneath the Manhattan Bridge, inside the 88 East Broadway shopping mall and up the stairs. My guest Kal from Israel and I ate until full for only $15!  Joe’s Shanghai is well-known: 9 Pell Street, also 24 West 56 Street. The famous, classic place to enjoy soup dumplings. Weekday lunchtime is crowded, with lawyers and jurors from the courts, but you won’t wait long. You sit at a large group table. It’s great fun! For something smaller and calmer, I’ve always liked Nice Green Bo, and 66 Bayard Street. Shanghai Kitchen, 67 Bayard Street, btwn Mott and Elizabeth, 212-513-1788. Amazing 66 Restaurant, 66 Mott Street, just south of Canal St, 212-334-0099. Mei Li Wah Bakery, 62-64 Bayard Street, 212-966-7866(take-out rice noodle rolls, steam buns, congee, desserts, teas & coffee.) Chinatown also has great Vietnamese and Thai restaurants. On a cold day, there’s nothing like a bowl of pho.

I’m old-fashioned and partial to restaurants that have been around “forever.” When I lived in Greenwich Village in the 70’s, I ate regularly at Elephant and Castle, where delicious omelettes, caesar salads, Indian pudding and more are still served by friendly and attentive waitstaff, and at the Cornelia Street Cafe, which also has terrific live music, poetry readings, and other performances. Another old-timer (founded in 1923!) is Li-Lac Chocolates. They’ve moved from Christoper Street to Jane and Eighth, but the pralines are still heavenly.

Coppelia* is a terrific, upscale Cuban diner on West 14th Street. The mojitos and ropa vieja are muy sabrosos and the restaurant is open all night!

Fast food? There’s life beyond McDonald’s: When you’re out and about and want a quick lunch, Cosi, Au Bon Pain, Pret A Manger, and Le Pain Quotidien are “chain” restaurants that offer satisfying sandwiches, salads, and desserts at reasonable prices, with fast services. Eat in or take out and sit in a park and watch the world go by. (Try lunch in Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library.) The food carts that dot midtown and downtown Manhattan can also be great choices. I’m a fan of the “halal” carts that are rapidly replacing the iconic hot dog vendors. Read this article about the halal cart at 53rd and 6th Avenue — it’s my favorite when I’m in Midtown.

Coney IslandConey Island may be synonymous with summer, but you can enjoy an “off season” visit too. Take the subway out to Coney Island in the afternoon; get off at the last stop, Stillwell Avenue. Stop at Nathan’s for a hot dog with sauerkraut and mustard, and then walk east (turn left) along the boardwalk or in the soft sand. As you stroll, notice how the ethnicity of the beachgoers changes; that’s the diversity of New York’s neighborhoods. In about 30 minutes you’ll be in Brighton Beach, home of our large and vibrant Russian community. Stop at one of the restaurants along the boardwalk — Volna or Tatiana — and enjoy a cup of borscht, a smoked fish platter, and any of around 20 vodkas. As the sun sets, head back to Coney

At Coney Island in the summer, catch a minor league baseball game with the Brooklyn Cyclones. And every Friday night in July and August you can enjoy New York’s best fireworks, from your blanket on the beach.  Or try the famous rides at Luna Park. Myself, I like to watch from below. I feel a thrill as I look at the Parachute Jump and the wooden Cyclone roller coaster, because I know that my parents and grandparents spent happy days there. For every Brooklyn kid, a warm day meant heading to Coney.

I love the food of the Middle East. Way out in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, you will be dazzled by Tanoreen, where — since 1998! — Rawia Bishara pays tribute to her mother’s kitchen in the Galilee. Tanoreen is known as the best Middle Eastern restaurant on New York, so make a reservation.

For a view of Central Park, Robert at the top of the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle, offers a stylish brunch or a meal or an afternoon drink or dessert. You can request a window table, but it won’t be guaranteed. Shopping at the Time Warner Center next door.

If you’re going uptown to the Cloisters, consider the New Leaf Restaurant, right in Fort Tryon Park! In a beautiful setting, New Leaf features innovative American cuisine from of our local greenmarkets. New Leaf is an enterprise of the non-profit New York Restoration Project (NYRP), and proceeds support NYRP’s mission of creating a greener, more sustainable NYC. Live jazz on Friday and Sunday evenings. The Indian Road Cafe features good food, music, and other special events in a cozy space overlooking the northern tip of Manhattan, where the Hudson and East Rivers meet.

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