Visitors will quickly discover why New Yorkers are passionate about food. The city boasts an amazing variety of delicious choices, haute cuisine to street carts, with prices to match…enjoy this Foodie Travel Guide to New York City.
Foodie Travel Guide to New York City
New York has always had a reputation as a culinary melting pot. From Jewish delicatessens to Mexican taco joints to the United Nations Delegates’ dining room, people can enjoy a staggering range at every price range. They can order a hot dog at Gray’s Papaya or a hamburger at DB Bistro Moderne. Diners are a New York institution found in almost every neighbourhood, serving from breakfast through dinner with a wide variety of choices from snacks, sandwiches, and salads to full meals, all at moderate prices. The city’s top-drawer restaurants take pride in serving the very best of French cuisine.
Fashions in Food
Fashions are vital in New York, and the contemporary fashion is for famous-name kitchens fronted by celebrity chefs, both homegrown and from as far afield as London, Paris, and Italy. Current stars include Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Ducasse, and Daniel Boulud.
Another current fashion is to preface food styles by the words ‘haute’ and ‘real,’ stressing the quality and authenticity. ‘ Haute Italian’ describes Italian cuisine at its most elaborate, for example. Menus that change with the seasons, stressing foods fresh from local farms, are points of pride for many restaurants, as are organically grown vegetables and preservative-free meats and poultry.
While ‘vegetarian’ has graduated from a regular option to a mainstay, with vegan choices increasingly available, the extreme theme is continue with diets containing the prefix ‘free’ (‘dairy-free’ or ‘wheat-free,’ for example). These terms are sprinkled over all but the least fashionable menus in New York, making it possible for everyone to find suitable food, whatever their dietary requirements.
Food Trends by Area
Some of the world’s finest and most expensive restaurants – the Four Seasons, Le Bernadin, and Alain Ducasse’s Adour at the St Regis to name but a few - are located in Midtown. Many Manhattan mainstays are here too, with the longevity prize going to the fabulous nonagenarian Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal.
For Midtown dining, ti pays to do your homework. While spontaneity is fun farther Downtown, in Midtown it’s best to make reservations, especially to dine before or after the theatre. Restaurants here, especially the more expensive ones, often have formal dress codes. Men are suited (or at least jacketed) and women go groomed for a glamorous night on the town. Many Midtown restaurants are closed Sundays, and for lunch on Saturdays, as their corporate customers have gone.
Chelsea, Soho, and Tribeca
The Meatpacking District is good for both dining and posing, even if the patrons are often wafer-thin models who look as if they never eat. Chelsea Market, at Ninth Avenue and 15th Street, is heaven for food fetishists – a dozen or so bakeries, meat markets, kitchen suppliers, and other stores of gastronomic bent, along with trendy dining places.
Once Soho gained recognition as an artistic centre, people began streaming here in search of ‘the scene.’ The restaurant tariffs reflect Soho’s now-dominant chicness, but there’s no need to go hungry, or to pay through the nose. You can shell out for a steak at Balthazar, but you can also each for plenty less at Fanelli Cafe.
In bordering Tribeca, the star element plays a big part, this time in the shape of actor Robert De Niro. Now one of Tribec’s most famous diners, he moved here in 1976, and began investing in restaurants such as Nobu, and the Tribeca Grill. He promoted his ‘hood’ as a cool area in which to hand out, and it still is.
East Village and Lower East Side
While once there was little reason to venture into these neighbourhoods, and certainly not at night, they now come alive then the sun goes down, and, for many New Yorkers, the best two reasons to visit the Lower East Side and East Village are to drink and to dine.
The once-mean streets of the Lower East Side, an enclave of immigration in previous centuries, are now very much the domain of hipsters. To witness this renaissance, check out the restaurants around Ludlow and Clinton streets. Even once-lowly Bowery is becoming a restaurant mecca. For a taste of the area’s heritage, however, visit Katz’s Delicatessen (“When Harry Met Sally” fame) or seek out the colourful, inexpensive Indian restaurants along Sixth Street between Second and First avenues, known collectively as Curry Row.
For a look at the East Village scene, check out hip bars and restaurants along avenues A and B, although expect to feel old if you’re over 40, unfashionable if you’re wearing a colour other than black, and out of sync if you show up before 10 o’clock.
Upper West Side
This part of town, home to the Lincoln Centre and the focal point of the New York Jewish community, is good for understated neighbourhood dining. Columbus Circle and the Lincoln Centre area have fine-dining choices, long topped by Jean-Georges. The arrival of the Time Warner Centre upped the culinary sweepstakes (with the price tags) even higher, with Michael Lomonaco’s highly regarded Porter House New York, Thomas Keller’s ‘edible art’ at Per Se, and the always-booked Masa, current holder of the highest price tag of any Manhattan dining experience. Keller’s Bouchon Bakery offers light meals and decadent desserts with a far less stratospheric tab.
Upper East Side
With sky-high real-estate prices and stores to match, the upscale Upper East Side is where ladies of leisure like to lunch. You can dine very well indeed in this part of town, and the neighbourhood demographics supply the sort of crowd that appreciates upmarket dining. Many of the neighbourhood’s best restaurants are old standbys that seem tailor-made for special occasions, or to wine and dine a client or a visiting in-law. The neighbourhood has attracted chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Philippe Bertineau, in search of customers with refined taste buds and big dining budgets.
For the most part, the best restaurants are concentrated in the western part of the neighbourhood, on leafy streets lined with palatial townhouses and white-glove apartment homes. In general, the farther east you go, the younger the restaurant crowd becomes – Second Avenue, especially, is noted for its noisy bars and eateries catering to restless singles on the prowl.
Weekends are when New Yorkers stroll instead of sprint. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, restaurants are filled with Manhattanites enjoying a slow start to the day, eating brunch in the company of a friend, with a partner or spouse, or alone with the newspaper or a book. Sunday brunch in particular is a local tradition.
Most restaurants offer a set-price brunch menu, but here are some stand-out choices. In the heart of Central Park on the edge of a pond dotted with colourful rowboats, the Boathouse wins the prize for charm. The menu is good, too; try the smoked salmon frittata, French toast or steak and eggs. For the best French-inspired brunch, head for Balthazar in Soho, and dip your croissant into a gigantic cup of the house hot chocolate. For bohemian appeal, head over to Brooklyn, which excel s at laidback weekends.
Before you Travel to New York
Make sure that you do your homework on Visas before you travel to the USA. If you are from a participating country you may be eligible for an ESTA visa. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization and was introduced in 2009. Travellers who are spending less than 90 days in the US and who are from a participating country may apply for a Visa Waiver. The ESTA Visa Waiver Program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and you can find out more about US Visa requirements at www.estafasttrack.org.uk