Top 5 things I ate in New York CityWritten on November 25th, 2021 by Jonathan Tsang
NYC has pretty good food. NYC has a LOT of good food. I had to narrow down my top 5 favourite things I ate in NYC to make this list.
What you will notice from this list is that it doesn’t include $100+ omakase meals or all you can eat steakhouse meals because I never/rarely ate those in NYC. Most of the time I am eating hole in the wall random restaurants that are off of the beaten path. No doubt a $300 omakase will be good, but that isn’t my go-to when I’m hungry on a Friday after work.
A constant theme of this list will also be me complaining about food costs in NYC.
- Everything bagel from Absolute Bagels (Upper West Side)
- Carne, pollo, and adobada tacos from Los Tacos No 1 (Chelsea Market)
- Tonkotsu Ramen from Ramen Spot (Williamsberg)
- Chirashi bowl from Izakaya Mew (Midtown)
- Kimchi fried rice from Five Senses (K-town)
- Green curry from Thai Villa (Union Square)
- Cereal milk soft serve from Supermoon Bakery (Lower East Side)
- Pork floss bun from Taipan bakery (Flushing)
- Natas from New Flushing bakery (Flushing)
5. Roast Pork Sandwich from Federoff’s Roast Pork
Starting off this list is a sandwich that is native to South Philadelphia. It’s admittedly not a “beautiful” sandwich to look at, but it’s well constructed and tastes good. You got moist sliced up roast pork, bitter and crunchiness from the broccoli rabe all served on a soft hoagie roll.
My biggest gripe with this sandwich is that for a large 8” sandwich you pay $17. We are nearing levels of SF-poke bowl for $25 levels of pricing here. The sandwich is by no means “massive” and the sad reality is that really is just meat, bread, and veggies. Albeit it is really tasty. The one thing stopping me from eating it more is it’s pretty expensive for what you get.
4. Birria tacos from Chofi Birria
Full disclosure, this place isn’t even in NYC. This place isn’t even in the state of New York, it’s in Union City in Jersey. I found this place randomly since I lived near it in Jersey.
For reference, I have been to Birria Landia in Brooklyn. (photo above of the really famous birria taco truck) Personally I think Birria Landia is overrated, overpriced, and portions are small (probably a side effect of becoming youtube popular). I think Chofi Birria is a much better alternative.
Chofi Birria: I ordered 3 tacos + consomme (consomme comes with it if you order 3 tacos) is $12.
Birria Landia: I ordered 2 tacos + consomme (consomme is ordered separately) is $10. (hypothetically 3 tacos would be $13)
Not only does Chofi Birria give larger, better tacos but you can get more. It makes sense that Birria Landia can charge more though, since it is more well-known and Chofi Birria is in Jersey (which is inconvenient for the people in the city). If I was in Union City for something, I would definitely stop by Chofi Birria if I get the chance. Could they be slightly cheaper? For sure. But for a city/list of fairly overpriced food, this is probably the most “budget” eat.
Solid birria tacos and probably my pick for best birria tacos that I’ve had so far in New York area.
3. Katsu Sandwich at Hi-Collar
I love the St. Marks Place area right by NOHO and NYU. Hi-Collar is on the street parallel to St. Marks Place on East 9th. Google/Yelp will categorize this place as a “coffee shop”, but it is so much more. This place does authentic Japanese coffee shop/snack food.
This $16 katsu sandwich is served with limited servings every day. The katsu is crispy, the katsu sauce adds a slight tangy taste, and the bread is super soft. It’s really good. My only gripe? It’s $16 and pretty small. If it wasn’t for that, I’d be okay with eating katsu sandwiches every day.
I know I can only put one food per place, but Hi-Collar’s omurice is pretty good too. This is a omurice with cheese and katsu on top of it. This is an insane $15 (demi-glace sauce) + $6 katsu on top + $1.95 cheese = $22.95. Rest assured I do not eat here every day, despite my desire to do so. My wallet was feeling a bit lighter coming out of here.
2. Matcha Molten Lava Cake from Spot Dessert Bar
Before you express disappointment that I put a dessert at #2, remember that this matcha molten lava cake HAS to be good for me to put it #2.
Spot Dessert Bar is an iconic dessert place on St. Marks Place. (and yes there is a Flushing location with Flushing exclusive desserts. It’s also significantly less busy, so I recommend going to that location if you are in Flushing) This place is fairly tiny and booking ahead of time is necessary at peak times on weekends especially if you have large parties. (Even getting a table for 1 sometimes is a ~30 minute wait)
I love a lot of their desserts and if I have to pick one, it’s their signature matcha molten lava cake. This dessert is a perfect balance of hot and cold. The hot and cold contrast works perfectly. You have molten matcha lava and a scoop of cold matcha ice cream.
The price tag of $12.45 is a BIT pricey for a standalone dessert. (and to be honest the dessert is a little small in terms of quantity) but hey, it’s NYC and I’ve complained about pricing on pretty much every entry here so far, so I’m gonna continue to. There are definitely dessserts where the ratio of quantity to price is more, but if we’re going off of the best dessert (albeit a little small), this is my pick.
If you ever end up at Spot Dessert Bar and want a close 2nd for best dessert (from the regular menu, not counting rotating options) I would go with the cookie camp. (photo above) It’s a marshmallow cookie in a cast iron pan topped with condensed milk ice cream and has pretzels, topped with chocolate sauce. The sweet and salty is what is at work here, and it gives more quantity than the matcha molten lava cake.
tl;dr book ahead of time or go to Flushing location
1. Chicken and Waffles from Clinton St. Baking Company
If you want to eat at this place during peak brunch times (weekend at 9-11am), go book a reservation RIGHT NOW. I mean it. If you are lucky you can get it for next month. This place is popular. It’s a fairly popular place and unfortunately I also love the food, which means I eat here sparingly. My favourite meal here is their chicken and waffles with their maple tabasco sauce.
This chicken and waffles is a bit different. It is 3 white meat chicken breasts on a waffle served with a maple tabasco sauce. The sauce is a bit sweet, bit spicy, and a great accompaniment to the chicken and waffle.
At this point I think it’s expected something like this is $18. Is it terribly overpriced? Not really. They give you a fair amount of food. Could it be cheaper? Yeah, but at this point if they make going here any more enticing, it may be impossible to book a time to eat here.
I’ve only gone twice. The first time the chicken breast was juicy. Second time, mine was a biiiiiit dry. The biggest challenge of this place is booking a spot. It is fairly easy to get a spot at an off-peak time (dinner), and if you’re cool with eating brunch food at 6pm, I’d recommend that. I called one time and we booked a party of 13 people at Clinton Street Baking Company for dinner. (I wouldn’t recommend trying to squeeze into the place with 13 people, but it is doable)
Their entire menu looks delicious and I want to try the eggs benedict or other brunch offerings one day.
NYC has some insane food choices in both quality and diversity. Is it expensive? Yes. Are the best places always busy? Probably. Is it usually worth it? uhhhh….depends.