I want to tell you everything about New York and how in love I am with this city. There’s something about walking in its streets that makes you want to do it everyday for the rest of your life. I can’t say the same about taking the subway, but you get my point. It’s an amazing place, but I don’t think my writing can ever do it justice.
Aside from working (yeah, sigh), mindlessly walking around, drinking beer, lounging on park benches and scouring for cheap kicks, what I constantly did in three weeks was eat (a lot). I consumed a copious amount of beer, ice cream, and pizza because that’s what New York is all about (at least that’s the part of New York I can afford).
So how do I tell the story about my trip? Let me show it to you through food.
New York is a goddamn dream for pizza lovers. You can find a slice of plain cheese for as cheap at 99c! I could’ve eaten pizza there everyday and die a happy, fat girl.
While I did not discriminate (I ate at Doughboys–pretty mediocre, but still pizza–like every week), I still did my research on where to get the best slice in New York. All blogs pointed me to Bleecker St., where I found Joe’s! I don’t have a sophisticated palate, so I can’t break it down for you why exactly Joe’s is good, but believe me, IT’S SO GOOD—from the slightly burnt crust to the sauce—everything works. If you want to eat inside the store, you have to do it quickly and while standing up.
Would it be sacrilegious to say Artichoke Basille‘s creamy artichoke pizza is better? Oh my god, the best thing I ate my entire New York trip. I still think about that huge-ass slice up to now. The sauce was so dreamy (like a carbonara on your pizza) and the crust wasn’t chewy at all the morning after (because who can really finish one slice of New York pizza in one sitting?). I regret that I didn’t get to eat there again so I promise it will be my first meal when I come back.
Smorgasburg Prospect Park
It was a perfect spring Sunday morning for some brunch at the park. We went all the way to Brooklyn (if you’re coming from Queens, you’d know what I mean) for some Smorgasburg! It’s a seasonal outdoor food market with close to 100 vendors and all the varieties of food you can think of. As with any food markets, it can get overwhelming trying to figure out what to get.
Naturally, we were attracted to anything meat! We were torn between pulled pork and cheese steak (I was having cheese steak straight from Philly the day after so I passed), but we ended up getting a big fat slab of beef rib with horseradish and arugula relish from Carnal. SO GOOD. (But when you see the oil, you just have to look the other way.)
Cheese was also an easy choice for me. The raclette craze is sweeping over Manila, but I hadn’t tried it. I now get why people are going gaga over it, because seeing the melted cheese slide from the wheel to your sandwich is something else. But I admit, the taste underwhelmed me, although this more on my lack of culture (I don’t know jack shit about cheese) than anything.
If you can’t decide what to get next, sometimes, you just have to follow the line. That’s what I did for dessert. There were so many stalls selling all sorts of iced treats (there’s even Ube halo-halo, which is getting super popular in New York), but Malai Ice Cream was attracting visitors left and right so it was hard not to line up as well. I ordered a scoop of lemon cardamom ice cream and paid extra for a five-spice cone because I LOVE anything tart and I LOVE anything red.
Dad asked if I wanted tacos after, and I declined. Now every time I’m hungry, I think about that moment I said no to food and this hunger is my karma. WHO THE HELL SAYS NO TO TACOS. (I’m just realizing now that this trip was more of what I didn’t get to eat than what I did.)
I admit that we didn’t enjoy Smorgasburg to its full potential (that’s what you get for having a health buff Dad), but it was still a great day for food.
My favorite things
You will NEVER go hungry in New York. There’s a restaurant or a food stall at literally every corner of this sprawling city. At my Dad’s work place, you can get pizza, ice cream, pastries and bagels or get something healthy at Trader Joe’s without walking more than a hundred steps.
In Queens, it’s even more diverse. Filipino restaurants line the streets of Woodside from 61st (where Jollibee is) up to 70th (where all the lutong bahay are) while it becomes everything Mexican–from food to toys–when you walk towards the 76th.
In the middle of that (72nd St.) you can find one of my favorite things, gyro! Whether it be lamb or chicken, I can never stay away from it. I’m lucky that in New York (and elsewhere, really), there’s a gyro food truck always available. (Sad story, though. I got food poisoning from the leftover chicken gyro. I had to stay away from it for the rest of the trip.)
From Queens, we went all the way uptown to the Bronx for the most decidedly American meal—chicken fingers with salty garlic fries and a huge-ass soda. It’s the perfect thing to eat at Yankees game—no mess, finger food. I would’ve gone for a beer to go with this if it wasn’t fucking freezing at the stadium that day.
I don’t mean this as an insult, but America in general doesn’t seem to be a fan of keeping fit. Their serving portions are out of whack; it could feed three people back home and what they consider a small soda is equivalent to the largest cup in the Philippines. So most of the time, we couldn’t finish our meals.
But I can’t say the same for these tacos from Chelsea Market, which I finished in less than 5 minutes! 😂( Thanks for the tip, Charm!)
If you can’t decide what to eat at Chelsea Market, Los Tacos makes it easy for you. Lines are always long, but the wait isn’t (at least when I went there). You give your order at the cashier (the women manning them were nice), give the ticket to the cooks, then wait at the side of your meal. You can either eat there at the bar or by the window or get it to go. I ordered two pieces of Carne Asada ($3.75 each) and a glass of Horchata (my first time to have this) and ate them at a nearby park. My idea of perfect lunch!
Something for my sweet tooth
Full disclosure, I tried watching my weight the entire trip (operative word: tried). I had worked SO HARD to lose close to 10 pounds before the trip, and I honestly didn’t want to waste it. But being surrounded by food made that impossible. So instead, I tried to avoid the killer—sweets. Again, tried, and again, failed.
Let’s just start with the ice cream. I probably had one scoop every day, because as with everything in New York, it’s never just ice cream. There’s always a pleasant twist there somewhere and you have to try it to find out.
But out of all, I think the best is Morgenstern’s at Lower East Side. This was my friend Charm’s favorite ice cream place, and for good reason! I ordered a small cup of the burnt hazelnut, and the combination of salty and sweet got me wanting for another scoop (but I didn’t order another. I still have limits 😬). It was phenomenal! The line gets really long, though, so it’s not a bad idea if you go there with a friend so you can chitchat while waiting. They have countless of flavors available including coconut ash, their best seller. They will willingly give you a free taste to help you decide.
Over at Greenwich Village, there’s also no shortage of places to get your sweet tooth fix—from historic coffee shops to eccentric donut stores. I joined a food tour conducted by Free Tours by Foot (which I highly recommend, by the way—I’ve taken 4 tours with them and all are great) so I got to eat highly-recommended places in that neighborhood.
We made stops at Pasticceria Rocco where I got a mini pistachio cannoli, OatMeals where I had a warm oatmeal bowl with toasted coconut with almonds, Doughnut Project where they sold bagel donuts (and others that I can’t imagine eating) and Varsano’s chocolates, where everything is homemade and hand dipped!
At Upper West, I also got to visit the famous Levain Bakery. I got their signature Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie and the dark chocolate type and ordered ice coffee to go with it. Levain Bakery is just a few blocks away from Central Park and the cookies were good company that afternoon.
Would you believe me if I said that one of the few things I miss all the time from the States is Panda Express? (That’s what happens when you eat there all time your first US trip—now it’s what America is to me 😂). The grim reality is there’s not even a branch within a two hour flight of Manila, so I cannot NOT eat at Panda Express when I step on US soil (I’m not that hard to please).
But unlike in the West Coast where Panda Express is practically everywhere, I have to go to Queens Center food court at Elmhurst to get my Orange Chicken fix. I don’t really mind the travel because that mall is awesome and my love for Panda Express runs DEEP.
…and so is my love for those Chinese take out stores (it’s amazing how they still use the same take-out box I see on the TV shows). There will never be a trip where I won’t eat anything stir-fry from there.
I also made several trips to Flushing Main St., where you can find the Chinatown in Queens (I think it dwarfs its Manhattan Chinatown cousin). For some reason, I really love the vibe here. The busy streets, the chaotic sidewalks and the smell of Chinese food give off this energy that you won’t get elsewhere (Here’s the reason why I’ve visited Hong Kong one too many times). Dad doesn’t like the chaos, but I still managed to drag him there for dinner on Mother’s Day (I think it helped that it’s just the last station of the 7 train 😂). We were in and out of that place in 30 minutes.
And of course, I ate at Jollibee. It will always bring me back home wherever I am and I’m pretty sure that’s what other Filipinos who dine there feel too. I wanted to avoid Chicken Joy until I got back to Manila (I wanted it to be the first thing I eat), but after two weeks of American food, I caved. 😄 I guess you can take me out of the Philippines, but you cannot take the Filipino out of me.
That’s not everything. There were lots of hotdogs, fries, bagels, biscuits and pretzels that didn’t make the photos (because I ate them right away). It’s surprising that I didn’t gain weight (or maybe I’m just a lucky SOB).
But I still can’t believe there are still must-eats that I haven’t tried.
First is pastrami and eye at Katz Delicatessen (I mean, c’mon) in Lower East Side. Real story is that I planned on eating there on my last day in NYC but ran out of cash (their sandwiches cost $20). What an embarassing reason, but it’s the real one. 😂
Next is steak for same reason as above. The fact is whether you’re dining in Manila or in New York, Wolfgang Steak and Pete Luger are hella expensive. I’m sure it’s well worth it, but I was at that point where I chose shoes over food. Not next time, though.
Another is cheesecake from Juniors at Broadway. My friend and I went there on a rainy Sunday but it was still packed to the brim.
Oh, and note to self, next time, spend an entire afternoon at Chelsea Market.
All the more reasons why I need to come back. Soon.