Eat Like a Local in New York City

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Travel Features >> Eat Like a Local in New York City

Eat Like a Local in New York City

January 20, 2012

Food, glorious food! And New York (more specifically Manhattan) has a smorgasbord of restaurants catering to every palate under the sun. Every street in the City has cafes, restaurants and bars that you could walk into, to quench your thirst or stave your hunger. So how on earth do you choose a restaurant where the ambience is good, the food delicious, and it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to feed your face! From pastrami to pizza, tacos to tandoori, satays to steaks – all is available. Since it is hard to put together a list of the best restaurants in New York, we have a list of restaurants where the locals eat. Logic being, that if the New Yorker dines here, it is tried, tested and pretty darn good. So, venture forth!

Dos Caminos
For some sumptuous Mexican fare, head to Dos Caminos. If you can make a reservation before hand, do so, as there is bound to be a waiting time and the longish queues speak volumes for the food. Start the evening with the signature frozen margarita (a mango one preferably, if it is in season) and then order the appetizer, guacamole and/or the plantain empanadas. For main course choose from a variety of enchiladas, tacos and quesadillas on the menu. They won’t disappoint. As they say, you don’t have to go south of the border for great Mexican fare– just head to Dos Caminos ‘for the real thing’!

Must Try: Grilled Shrimp Quesadilla and the Guacamole
Where: 825, 3rd Ave at 50th
Price: $$$$ Expensive as Mexican food goes, but hey, it is mid town and mid town is expensive! Make a reservation, especially if you plan going on a Friday or Saturday night

Fatty Crab
Fancy some Malaysian cuisine? Well, not wholly Malaysian, but a little Singaporean, some Indonesian and a bit Chinese with hints of Indian influence. So let’s call it a fusion of south eastern cuisines. Whatever you choose to call it – it is delicious. From mild coconut flavoured curries to spicy soups, lightly charred satays to noodles and dumplings that melt in your mouth. Start with the quail egg shooters, followed by the watermelon pickle and crispy pork. Wash it down with the mellow Tiger beer. Chef Zak Pelaccio alternates between the two outlets and yes, there is more to this restaurant than just the food. The servers are an interesting motley crowd, some who have been there for years and they are as much a part of the experience as the food at Fatty Crab!

Must Try: Slow Braised Short Rib Rendang
Where: There are two restaurants: 643 Hudson St, between Horatio & Gansevoort Sts and the other in the Upper Westside at 2170 Broadway
Price: $$$ Moderately priced. Be sure to make advance reservations especially at the Hudson St outlet or you will encounter snaking lines!

Gramercy Tavern
This restaurant in the Flatiron District gets a thumbs up for everything. A wonderful ambiance, service with a smile, personal adaptation of a dish on the menu to your taste, the freshest ingredients, and amazing food! Chef Michael Anthony is one of the most innovative chefs in America and is known for his techniques of braising and poaching. Under his charge the menu has been revamped and as he says, he wants the ‘restaurant to be consistently delicious and not just consistent’. With a mantra like that, it is hardly surprising that the Gramercy Tavern scores every time!

Must Try: Smoked trout or lightly Smoked Lobster, the Braised Lamb shoulder and do not miss the Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding
Where: 42 E, 20th St. near Park Ave South
Price: $$$$ There are two sections in the restaurant – one an informal tavern setting and the other a more formal dining room. They do not take reservation in the tavern, but you can reserve a table at the formal dining section

Katz’s Deli
Want a quick bite on the go? Try Katz’s, the Jewish Deli that’s been in business since forever! The corned beef and pastrami are the best you will get in the whole of New York, and are still hand cured in this day and age. A menu that has frankfurters, knockwurst, brisket, pastrami, salami and of course the famed corned beef is bound to delight and more than satisfy the hungry soul. This is the deli that has had many celebrities frequent it and even had a movie shot here - ‘When Harry met Sally’. Thousands of New Yorkers flock to Katz’s every week and its popularity is ever growing. Surely thousands of New Yorkers can’t be wrong!

Must Try: Pastrami on Rye and the Corned Beef Sandwich – guaranteed to please your palate!
Where: 205 East Houston Street
Price: $ Highly affordable

Land Thai Kitchen
This little restaurant serves what they call ‘inspired Thai cuisine’ and inspired, it truly is! From the appetizers to the main course right down to the dessert, the food is pretty authentic and as good a meal as you would get in Bangkok. The Thai born chef and his wife have done a wonderful job of setting up these two restaurants. The Larb Chicken Wrap is an innovative presentation of the ubiquitous Larb Kai salad and the Wok Cashew Nut with shrimp is melt in your mouth delicious. The rest you will have to sample once you are there!

Must Try: Spicy Beef Salad and the Wok Cashew Nut with Shrimp are enough to transport you to Bangkok
Where: Upper Westside 450 Amsterdam Avenue, W 82nd Street
Price: $$ Moderately priced. They do not take reservations, so be prepared to wait a while to be seated especially at dinner time

The city’s most delicious pizzas are served at Lombardi's in Nolita. Lombardi's was the first pizzeria in New York opening as they did in 1905. After shutting down in the mid 80s they reopened ten years later in 1994 with the pizza quality, as good as ever. The locals as well as tourists come to try the legendary pizzas that are fired in an old fashioned coal oven. Crusts that are super thin, topped with fresh mozzarella and tomato, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with strings of basil – the pizzas are the best you get this side of the Atlantic. They do not serve pizza by the slice here, so the whole pie is what you will get. Oh, and don’t let the queues outside scare you away. The wait will be well worth it!

Must Try: The signature pizza - Clam pie pizza is what people come here to try, so order it!
Where: Nolita, 32 Spring Street (between Mott Street & Mulberry Street)
Price: $$ Moderately priced. Carry cash with you as they do not accept credit cards

Magnolia's Bakery
If you are looking for a sweet treat to go with your coffee, go to a certain little place on Bleecker Street. Fresh out-of-the-oven cupcakes baked from scratch, Magnolia’s Bakery conjures up the most delicious cupcakes topped with swirls of velvety cream that just melt in your mouth. Choose from a variety of cupcakes: moist banana topped with chocolate butter cream, a chocolaty Devil’s food, a carrot one with a delightful vanilla swirl… the list goes on. We will leave you to choose from the array of most sinful, colourful display of cupcakes they have!

Must Try: Red Velvet cupcake with swirls of whipped vanilla icing is simply divine!
Where: There are 4 outlets: 401 Bleecker St, Rockefeller center at 1240 Avenue of the Americas, Upper Westside 200 Columbus Avenue and at Grand Central Station
Price: $$ @ $3.00 per cupcake the prices are reasonable

It is very simple. Moustache in the West Village believes in serving food that is flavorful, has a contemporary cozy ambiance and the sumptuous fare is highly affordable! Start with the freshly baked pita with dollops of babaganoush and hummus, go on to the lamb skewers and of course to the famous pitza which is the thin pita bread topped with bell peppers, tomato and cheese – the middle eastern version of our very own pizza! The atmosphere is great and prices very affordable. Be sure to carry cash to settle your bill, as they do not accept credit cards.

Must Try: The signature dish is the Moustache pitza, so do order it!
Where: 90 Bedford Street (Grove Street)
Price: $$ Inexpensive and gives a good bang for your buck!

Sushi Sasubune
The Sushi Sasubune simply has the best sushi in town. No need to scour the menu and wrack your brains on what to order. There is NO menu. You will have to eat what the chef conjures up on the day you are visiting and believe us it’s going to be GOOD. All you have to do is place your ‘trust’ in the chef and no mean chef, is Mr Takahashi. No California rolls here, but you may get a ponzu laced toru or a delicious albacore tuna – that really depends on what the chef wants to dish up. But have no fear whatever he does serve you, you are going to love it! This is certainly a restaurant with a difference.

Must Try: Since you have to ‘trust’ the chef, we cannot recommend a dish! The Omakase means chef’s choice and is a chef’s tasting menu, so go with the flow
Where: 401 East 73rd Street
Price: $$$$ A little on the expensive side but worth every dollar!

For good Indian food head to Tamarind where the menu will give you a sampling from Goa, Punjab, Bengal and Kerala. Considering the restaurant dishes up a gamut of dishes ranging from a tangy papri chaat to a tender shrimp moilley, a saucy saag paner to succulent tandoori chicken and that they manage to pull it off with aplomb, is saying something. Is the food authentic Indian? Well it is fusion food at its very Indian best, and so well done that it will have you coming back for more.

Must Try: The delicate coconut flavoured shrimp moilley and the lamb pasanda are must-orders
Where: 41-43 E 22nd St between Park & Broadway
Price: $$$$ Pretty expensive, but worth it

The Spotted Pig
If you happen to be in the West Village, stop by at the Spotted Pig a gastro-pub with great pub food on its menu. This is a lively place to down a drink, has a vibrant ambiance and an upbeat vibe. Pub food must necessarily include burgers and the burgers here are special. So what is so special about the burger topped with Roquefort and rosemary string, you may ask? Try it and you tell us! The service is friendly, the atmosphere great and the fact that they are almost always full and take no reservations should tell you a lot.

Must Try: Crispy Pigs Ears Salad and Devils on Horseback (pears wrapped in juicy bacon) are runaway hits – try them while waiting for a table!
Where: 314, 11th Street at Greenwich
Price: $$$ - Suggestion: There’s bound to be a waiting time when you get there. So go there first, put your name down and head to a nearby bar for a drink, before they call you. The wait WILL definitely be worth it!

Two Little Red Hens
How could we not put the ubiquitous cheesecake that New York is known for on this list? So here it is. The creamiest, silkiest, smoothest, most decadent cheesecakes with a thin Graham cracker crust gives you a very pleasant sugar rush. Not too sweet, with just the right hint of tart, the cheesecake sits lightly in your tummy. Five stars for taste and another five stars for the friendly service, TLRH (as it’s locally known) is the best place to satisfy your sweet craving!

Must Try: Brooklyn Blackout cake – to die for!
Where: 1652 2nd Ave, Upper eastside
Price: $$$ Expensive, but the large serving make up for the price!

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