New York City is known for having amazing food. It’s just a fact. But during my last trip to NYC, I realized something else, too. Eating in New York isn’t just about the food; it’s the whole experience of each restaurant, diner, bakery, etc. and the memories created enjoying that food. I think the following are some good examples of what I’m talking about:
Ess-a-Bagel – When my friend and I found this place on Yelp, we laughed because we could only seem to pronounce the name if we said it with a fake Italian accent (seriously, try it), but it turned out to be the real deal! Not only was this shop perfectly situated just a block from our hotel, but the bagels were always hot, fresh, and delicious. In fact, they were so good I thought I might be having heart palpitations until I figured out I just wasn’t taking enough breaths between bites (it’s sad, but true 😉 ). The point is you’ll never run out of delicious bagel/spread combinations to try here!
Primavera Pizza & Pasta – Pizza was our first and last meals in New York, and both times, we came to this pizzeria just a block and a half from our hotel. It’s a small shop with maybe 4-6 tables, but it serves great, authentic New York style pizza. We specifically chose this place because we could order the pizza fresh so the cheese is still hot and gooey. It was the perfect meal to warm us up from the cold and keep us satisfied for hours after.
Magnolia Bakery – This well-known bakery is a MUST for anyone with a sweet tooth (Hint: why my mom and I stop here every time we’re in NYC). When you walk inside, every baked good on the other side of the glass case will tempt you, but I highly recommend you try the mini cheesecakes. They are rich, moist, and super flavorful! Because the bakery is standing room only and because we have no self-control, we usually just stand on the sidewalk outside of the shop and eat ours right there. The last time we attempted this though, there was a bit of a mishap. My sister, trying to be polite, held the door open for my mom as we left the bakery, but what she didn’t notice was that my mom’s scarf had gotten tangled around her hand, practically strangling my mom as she attempted to move forward. My mom’s reaction? Yell “You’re choking me!” in a tone that sounded more like she was annoyed than like she was in immediate need of oxygen, which is why it took us all a moment to realize what she was saying and react. Anyone watching would have probably figured out that we don’t wear winter clothing much.
Insomnia Cookies – Sadly, there is only one of these franchises in my city so whenever I am up in the North East, I always take advantage and get myself a box of Insomnia Cookies. A few snickerdoodles, some double chocolate, and one or two m&m cookies. . . they’re all worth trying, and with their warm and gooey centers, these cookies truly taste homemade. Another option, if you really want to indulge yourself, is ordering the ice cream cookie sandwich. You choose any of their rich, creamy ice creams to sandwich between the warm hug of two cookies and it’s perfection!
Wo Hop – This place was my mom’s go-to restaurant in Chinatown when she still lived in New Jersey. After years of hearing her reminisce about it, I was excited to finally experience it for myself. When we arrived, the line of people outside the door, standing in the drizzling rain, assured me that this restaurant was still a hot spot. Inside, the aesthetic is very unique with dollar bills lining every inch of three of the walls and a mirror lining the fourth wall. It’s a tight space down there, but our waiter still managed to get our order of fried wontons to our table with what looked like an orange, sweet sauce on the side. I asked my mom if the sauce was sweet and she said yes so I dipped a wonton in and went for it. . . either we had a miscommunication or she was trying to kill me because the next thing I know I am choking on the dry heat that’s exploding in my mouth. I felt like a dragon as the burning sensation traveled from my mouth to my throat to my nostrils. There was a lot of gagging and coughing and sipping the 4 ounces of water that they served us in tiny glasses until I could finally speak again and warn everyone that the orange sauce was NOT sweet.
Tad’s Steaks – This restaurant was a great casual dining option. Not only can you enjoy a juicy steak dinner, but the food’s also served very quickly. The hard part is finishing what’s on your plate because the serving sizes are hefty. All in all, it’s a budget-friendly and time-friendly spot.
DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections – I had never been to a place that only sells edible cookie dough before, and it blew my mind. I love cookie dough so actually being able to eat it without the possibility of getting sick felt like a miracle. I tried the “brookie dough,” which was brownie batter and chocolate chip cookie dough swirled together. It was rich, creamy, and super indulgent. They also served cool flavors like “dunkaroo” and “gimme smore.” If it wasn’t a plane ride away from me, I definitely would have tried every flavor by now. It was so good!
Bonus: DŌ is so close to NYU, we basically felt like we were on campus as we walked to the shop from the subway. You get to take in beautiful glimpses of the old brick buildings and vast courtyards.
Paesano – If I had to choose one restaurant to dine at for the rest of my life, this one would be it. It is simply the best Italian food I have ever had. . . nothing is ever lacking in cheese or flavor. And the string lights that hang throughout the restaurant only add to the warm, cozy atmosphere.
Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery – How could I talk about places to eat in New York without mentioning Junior’s? To be honest, I don’t even like cheesecake, but every time I’m in New York, I feel obligated to have a slice of Junior’s anyways! It’s an experience in itself, eating this luscious, silky cheesecake. Doesn’t matter what flavor you try. They’re all incredible (although I recommend any of the chocolate ones). Plus, if you visit the restaurant near Times Square, it’s got a vibrant, retro diner vibe going on.
All photos edited and/or contributed by Caitlyn Cuello.