July 10, 2013 by skeeta79
Ok, so it’s taken me a while to get the fingers typing – it’s been over a month since I returned from the whirlwind two week adventure in the ol’ US of A. Oh how I wish I was still hanging out Friends-style in my Manhattan apartment with a coffee shop downstairs…more on that later.
Between Philly, Boston and NYC I made a reasonable dent in eating out and about. Fran and I figured we were walking around 10kms a day – the only reason I’m not a human bagel. Oh, for the love of Daniel Craig, to be eating proper bagels, fresh in the morning…and the seppos even provide blended cream cheese and strawberry to schmear on…giddy up.
So the plan is – I’m just going to list places – less tangents, more facts – strap in:
This was ‘family time’ so probably less about food consumption (and also about trying to stalk Bradley Cooper running in his rubbish bag a la Silver Linings), however if for some bizarro reason you are in Wayne, go eat at Savona – Italian, yumbo. Philly was where I got a real introduction to US-style Frozen Yoghurt – FroYo for short – and the establishment of the FroYo Ho’s. Anywhere that has self serve stations and goes cookie dough tap, cake batter tap, and then look lets stop stuffing about – here’s a tap in the middle that combines the two for your convenience is always going to be a winner. Jeannie and I also had great coffee at a place in Philly city centre (which not surprisingly had an Aussie couple doing exactly the same thing at the table next to us)…cant remember the name – if you’re going let me know, I’ll hook you up.
I did ZERO research on eating in Boston…shocking…thankfully Fran got in a day before me and started to suss things out.
Figs (on Beacon Hill) – go and have a look in your kitchen for a full sized baking tray. Now imagine really yummy gourmet pizza that size plus some hanging over the edge. Sounds good? Uh, yeh it is.
Going a bit Ivy League and heading over to Harvard, we stumbled upon Mr Bartleys Burgers. Warning, it is a completely jam-packed burger joint, which looks quite touristy and I imagine is even busier when university is in. But give it a go – the burgers are really, really yum. Dont be fooled by the old dude sitting out the front (might be Mr Bartley) who gets you to wait outside for a table and makes out like you can pre-order only the yellow part of the menu. These are the bigger, fancier burger meals with sides etc. Would be just as delish but inside is a blackboard menu with just straight burgers. Do order the sweet potato fries as a side – even if you share. These burgers are more expensive than you’d get elsewhere but I think they are worth it…oh and it’s CASH ONLY.
If you’re in Boston and planning on doing the Freedom Trail, can I suggest doing it in the morning and then hitting up Little Italy for lunch. It’s what all the cool kids do…well they would if they knew. And check out Antico Forno – it’s allegedly one of the most authentic Italian restaurants…who knows, but it’s good. We arrived right on opening and it was pretty empty but it was the middle of the week and I get the feeling that dinner might be a very different story. There is nothing flash about the restaurant – dark brick walls and decor that would’ve been in vogue when the first Godfather film was made. And if it was, then they’d be forgetting horses heads and eating the caprese salad – so, so simple but the best mozzerella *drool*. Both the pizzas and pastas are done in the brick oven (ie pastas are either baked or steamed in parchment paper). Dont bother with the gnocchi, but the Linguini Al Frutti Di Mare was amazing…enough for two and only $14.
Dessert was a pistachio cannoli from Mike’s Pastry…I took a photo but it looked very ordinary compared to how good that bit of ricotta in crispy shell really was. So here’s a photo of the outside signage so you’ll recognise it when you’re there. There’s around 20 different flavours so the hoardes of people might also give it away.
Right, this is where food got serious – I’ll deal with that first then the coffee situation.
First night in NYC we were pretty knackered and didnt have a decision making brain cell between us so decided we’d get Chinese take-out like we were living the American sitcom dream. Hunan Manor on Lexington Ave was literally 50m from our door and being true to our cause we had to try Moo-Shu Pork…soooo glad we did – sooooo good. There’s a reason it’s the dish of choice for a writer is putting together a TV script. We got some other chicken dish but it paled in comparison. Moo-Shu for the win.
When you are wandering around towards the lower end of 5th Ave, gazing up at the wonder of the Flatiron Building, stop in at Eataly – even if, like us, it’s just to observe. What looks like a cafe-restaurant is actually a block-deep undercover Italian food hall / market place. And it’s full on. There are restaurants, there are deli style market counters, there’s a cooking school. We would’ve loved to stop and eat but it was 45 minute wait for a slice of pizza and a glass of wine…if you could find a seat. It would also be awesome on a nice day to go and stock up with bread and cheese and meats and have lunch in Central Park.
So, you know this whole eating caper has me thinking I’m a bit of an Anthony Bourdain, searching out the hidden gems for great food…which led us to what is meant to be the best NY tacos, in Hells Kitchen. In the back of a convenience store. Right in the back. Next to the toilets. Dont be fooled by Tehuitzingo’s website – there’s nothing fancy you literally walk down the back, order off a handwritten sign, sit at a bench with bar stools and hope for the best. And the tacos come in a serviette. Unlike Bourdain, I didnt grow up around Hell’s Kitchen, and certainly dont speak any form of Spanish/Latin American, other than ‘taco’ (oh and I’m not a celebrity chef – details shmetails) so picture two white girls trying to cross the cultural barrier in the back end of a very non-touristy taco den. Meanwhile true to form, I was drawn to ‘pig skin’ taco (Fran sensibly chose straight beef). So I’m thinking crackling, I’m thinking good times (I’m thinking $2.50 for a taco, how could it go wrong)…I ask the cook if it really meant the crackling pig skin. ‘Si, pig skin’. Now lets cut to the reality (after the Mexican guy sitting next to us had to tell us that our order was up)…Imagine pork belly. Now take away the meat at the bottom. Take away the crackling at the top…imagine just the fat wrapped in a soft tortilla…I just dry retched at the thought of it again. But I tried it. Never again. Fran had also cleverly asked me to check how hot the red sauce was as a condiment…to be honest I could barely taste anything after a drop of the most explosive chilli sauce so perhaps the pig fat in a blanket saved my stomach lining. For the record, Fran’s was a MUCH better choice. And now we have a classic story. I totally dare you to go.
To make up for that ‘adventure’ and reignite my love affair with all things pig, next stop was Empanada Mama. A 24-hour empanada joint that I had found for Fran as she loves ’em. Definitely put this on your list. It’s a normal restaurant, though really, really busy because its super cheap (ie between $2.70 and $3 per empanada) and really well done. I would go back for both the food and cocktails which were really reasonably priced too. I recommend the shredded beef or a relatively plain one and then something a bit ‘fancy’ like the Cuban (slowly roasted pork, ham with mozzarella cheese and a touch of sofrito sauce). Ask the wait-staff for a recommendation, ours picked perfectly for us. Happy days.
Whilst eating said empanadas, we noticed Pure Thai Cookhouse across the road – a fairly run of the mill, modern looking Thai restaurant, and decided we would hit there for lunch one day to have a break from the all-American food overload. It might have even been the next day, it’s become a bit of a blur. Regardless, they do a really filling, well priced lunch menu – very similar to what we get at home, and the place was full of diners, which is always a good sign too.
There was one day in the week where it seemed we did a phenomenal amount of walking and eating and sightseeing…Memorial Day I think. But here’s the foodie low-down – Fran and I both share a love of pork buns and apparently ‘the’ place for the locals (or super sleuth tourists) is in Chinatown (amazing, yet true) called Golden Steamer…*snigger* seriously it sounds so wrong but is so so right. There’s no website so the address is 143A Mott St – the border of Little Italy and Chinatown. It basically looks like a chinese bakery – there’s no seating so we found ourselves inhaling these clouds of perfection on a stoop…cos that’s what you do in NYC. We each got a traditional bbq pork bun and then some other chicken/leek one…which was ok but really, just get two BBQ pork ones. Oh, and did I mention lunch came to $3.50 – total. Not each. Total. (admittedly we kept snacking during the day – but how good is that?!)
Dinner that night found us back in NoLiTa at one of the famous pizza joints – Lombardis. Apparently they are over 100 years old, and the first Pizzeria in America. They have two types of pizza – red or white and you pick from a small range of topping options. Serious about their pizza, and have earned that right…but just a hint – the large is MASSIVE. Around the corner was Rice to Riches…a store dedicated to selling 20+ flavours of rice pudding in really cool tupperware style containers
Fran and I also got to do one of the quintessential NY dining experiences and had lunch at The Boathouse in Central Park. Was definitely the opposite ambience to pork buns and empanadas, but one for the ‘to do’ list and beautifully presented (and tasting) food. Interestingly we found because gratuity is included in the bill (rather than tipping) you could sense that the level of service wasnt as full on as the usual American eateries.
So that’s a star spangled banner wrap up of just some of the many meals we consumed…next stop coffee in NY…right, who’s bringing me a bagel dammit?!