The top 10 NYC restaurants I miss eating at since I moved abroad
One of the best things about New York City is the delicious and diverse cheap food culture. Yes, you can go to places like Per Se or Masa and you will have amazing meals. Or, you can go to the dive Mexican joint around the corner and have an amazing adventure for your taste buds for 1/100th the price. Literally. New York may be an expensive city but it’s not due to lack of food options. Even as a broke writer, I managed to eat incredibly welland now as I roam the world, exploring primarily through food and street art, I miss certain favored spots in NYC. So do me a solid when you’re visiting the city and go eat at them for me. I’d hate for them to not to be there when I return.
1.El Rancho Burritos
“This place is a total dive. It just happens to be one I highly recommend.”
Incredibly delicious dive. I’ve been going to El Rancho Burritos for over a decade and will patronize it forever. I took my sister there when she visited me back in 2007 and she insisted on visiting it both days for lunch when she returned to the city in 2012. Both. Days. And I had to negotiate her into trying it the first time because it looked so sketchy. I ate there at least weekly, even when I no longer lived in the neighborhood. I have no shame. This place is a total dive. It just happens to be one I love.
I highly recommend: trying something fun. It’s so cheap that if you hate it, you can just order something else. Now that I’ve tried everything on the menu I will eat (no meat for me!) I tend to pick the cactus tacos or the alcapulco burrito and some horchata.
Always horchata, even in the dead of winter.
2. Cho Dang Gol Korean
“I have been here with friends who are 100% Korean…”
I love eating a variety of different cuisines but as someone who definitely doesn’t eat meat and who only rarely eats seafood, Korean food is generally a nonstarter. I’ve tried Korean food all over the world, including in Korea and the only place I will happy return to, over and over again is Cho Dang Gol Korean. I have been there with friends who are 100% Korean and know how to cook Korean food/have lived there/etc and even they love this spot. They make their own tofu, so even if you’re terrified of tofu, be sure to at least try the little free bowl of it they’ll bring to you.
I highly recommend: kimchi jeon (I don’t even like kimchi and love this), mountain bibimbap, mushroom stone bowl, haemul soon dubu jigae (tofu soup)
3. Tal Bagels
“guys behind the counter are hilarious”.
Because New York City bagels are the best…and I’ve been to where bagels were invented (Krakow, Poland). I get really specific about locations for a reason and you really should go to the Tal Bagels on 1st avenue. I don’t care if you’re staying literally above the one on the Upper East Side. It’s a pleasant walk or a quick cab ride to the one on 1st Avenue so don’t be lazy. I have tried all the famous bagel shops in the city and this is easily the best one. The guys behind the counter are hilarious.
I highly recommend: The whole wheat everything bagel, untoasted, with tofu scallion cream cheese and some of their smoked salmon + 1 black and white cookie.
4. Zenon Taverna
“family owned and cash only”.
Growing up, one of my best friends was Greek and her mom was an amazing cook, so I’m pretty picky about my Greek food (surprise surprise!) This place consistently exceeds my expectations, even though I have gone dozens and dozens of times and know how amazing it is. My memories just don’t live up to the actual eating experience. Yes, I realize it’s a pain to get from Manhattan to Queens but this is 4 short stops on the NQ and the food is well worth the small amount of extra effort. Zenon Taverna has been family owned and cash only for over 25 years.
I highly recommend: the saganaki, the briam (on Saturday) and any of the meze meal. Come hungry because it’s a lot of food but is so good it’s next to impossible to stop eating once it’s in front of you.
5. Blue Ribbon Sushi
“straight delicious basic rolls”.
I love places like Koi and BONDST for fancy sushi rolls but when I want straight delicious basic rolls, with an emphasis on amazing sushi and sashimi, I go to Blue Ribbon Sushi in Soho. There are other Blue Ribbon Sushi locations but go to the one in Soho. It is light years better than the one near Columbus Circle.
I highly recommend: California Roll, Smoked Sake Smoked Salmon sashimi, Twana Arctic Char sashimi, Smoked Hamachi Smoked Yellowtail sashimi, Masuno Suke King Salmon sashimi, Masu Tasmanian Sea Trout sashimi.
6. Vatan Indian Cuisine
“even the fiercest carnivores among my friends manage to enjoy a meal there”.
I was going to tell you to go to Pakistan Tea House but it, sadly, has been taken over by Baluchis so go to Vatan instead. It’s vegetarian but the food is so delicious that even the fiercest carnivores among my friends manage to enjoy a meal there. The sheer abundance of the yummy food and theDisneyworld take on an Indian village decor probably doesn’t hurt either.
I highly recommend: the sole $32 prix fixe, all-you-can-eat three course meal. Order it and pace yourself. If there is anything you super love, you can ask for more of it, but go hungry because it is a lot of food and so yummy you’ll be sad to leave anything behind.
7. Rizzo’s Fine Pizza
“best for delivery or pick up”.
It’s New York City. I couldn’t not have a favorite pizza recommendation so here you go. There are 3 locations and while I tended to frequent the one in Astoria, they’re all excellent. Rizzo’s is best for delivery or pick up, not dine-in which just makes it perfect for summertime picnics or movie nights in the winter. You can get your pizza with a gluten free crust or with vegan cheese so just about everyone can enjoy a slice or eight.
I highly recommend: the verdura, the fantasia, the margherita and the garlic knots.
8. Room Service Thai
“The chandeliers all lit up”.
I used to swear by Pam Real Thai but a few years ago, was sorely disappointed several times in a row (stubborn me kept going back and trying something else) until I finally gave up and gave in to my friends insisting that Room Service was better anyway.
I’m still not sure it’s better than Pam Real was at it’s peak, but it’s definitelymy favorite Thai place in the city now, and this from someone who spends 3-5 months/year in Thailand (as a tourist, Thai government. I promise I’m only spending money and not taking anything out of the local economy.)
I highly recommend: going at night. The chandeliers all lit up and the fun music will make you expect terrible food because the ambiance is so great but the food is just as amazing as the ambiance. Get at least one of the soups: Tom Kha or Tom Yum and a noodle dish. Pad Thai is my favorite, despite being such an obvious choice.
9. Jing Fong Dim Sum
“Go with a group and a sense of adventure”
Go hungry. Go early. Go with a group and a sense of adventure. Jing Fong is an old school dim sum place where they will seat you at tables that hold 8 people. If you are 2-4 people, you will likely be seated with strangers, which can be a lot of fun. It is a huge banquet hall with a sea of tables and a menu you should ignore, opting instead to pick interesting looking plates from the servers who are wheeling carts of food around the hall. Many of them won’t speak English so it might not be the best option if you have food allergies or a very strict diet. I do okay by having my carnivorous friends sample everything first.
I highly recommend: shrimp dumplings, rice noodle roll with shrimp, the steamed greens with soy sauce,the mochi in the shape of a carrot, trying interesting looking things.
10. Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery
“better than Magnolia or Billys or Buttercup or Butter Lane”.
Of course I wasn’t going to leave you without a little sweet something to wrap up your food tour. Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery is by far my favorite cake spot in the city. It’s better than Magnolia or Billys or Buttercup or Butter Lane (are you catching onto the fact that NYC has a lot of cupcake shops?) I’ve tried them all and Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s cupcakes are the yummiest. You can custom order a birthday cake, cupcakes or mini cupcakes (my favorite) or just pop in one day and try out a few (dozen). They’remoist and lovely and so full of flavor without being overly sweet that my mouth is watering right now thinking of them.
I highly recommend: Ooey Gooey, Lemon Yummy, Sassy Red Velvet and Pistachio
If (or I should say when) you go to any of these places and love something you’ve had, feel free to tag me in your inevitable Instagram photos with @amnashamimnyc. My family would like to see me but I’m having trouble summoning the motivation to come home. Some delicious incentive wouldn’t hurt…..
El Rancho Burritos $
359 W 45th St (b/t 9th Ave & 8th Ave)
Cho Dang Gol Korean $$
55 W 35th St, b/t Avenue of the Americas & 5th Ave
Tal Bagels $
977 1st Avenue, b/t 53rd St & 54th St
Zenon Taverna $$
3410 31st Avenue, Astoria, Brooklyn
Blue Ribbon Sushi $$$
119 Sullivan St, b/t Spring St & Prince St
Vatan Indian Cuisine $
409 3rd Ave, b/t 28th St & 29th St
Rizzo’s Fine Pizza $
17 Clinton St, b/t Avenue B & Houston St
Room Service Thai $$
690 9th Ave, b/t 47th St & 48th St
Jing Fong Dim Sum $
20 Elizabeth St, b/t Canal St & Bayard St 9th Ave, b/t 47th St & 48th St
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery $
126 Rivington Street, b/t Norfolk St & Essex St
Amna Shamim also encourages you to screw work, and go have a picnic.