23 Feb Food Guide New York 2020
What’s the world’s food capital? The answer is quite obvious – at least to us. New York should claim this title as its cuisine is heavily influenced by all parts of the world. From street vendors and old diners to Jewish soul food and fine dining, the range is not only incredibly broad but also reflects New York’s highly diverse population. In a time when new walls are built and nationalism is on the rise, food can bring us all together. Come to New York and see for yourself! In this food guide we take you on a virtual tour to our favorite places. Let’s start the day with the most important meal!
Breakfast & Brunch
La Bonbonniere (West Village)
It’s somehow good to know that even the West Village with all its fancy brunch spots and fine dining names can still do things – and with things we mean breakfast – the old school way. If you’re looking for a traditional American breakfast without any pretentious gimmicks, La Bonbonniere is the place to go. Here, they serve classics like egg and cheese sammies, pancakes, French toast and heavily filled omelets. And don’t forget to order some bacon as a side! While hip brunch spots promote their bottomless mimosas, La Bonbonniere has bottomless coffee like all good diners. Make sure that you have some dollars on you as this is a cash only place.
Sonnyboy (Lower East Side)
Your friendly neighborhood place — that’s how we would sum up the experience at Lower East Side’s Sonnyboy. Although we only had breakfast and brunch here, this place is an all-day spot for unpretentious, highly seasonal food. The mornings at Sonnyboy are wonderfully relaxed – especially during the week. No hurry, no rude people, no noise. To us, here has been the perfect start into the day more than once. Foodwise there are also no bad choices. Their harissa folded eggs are a very tasty variation of a traditional omelet. House made granola, a crispy chicken sandwich and a winter breakfast with poached eggs, halloumi and mushrooms are some of Sonnyboy’s other breakfast choices. If you like the vibe and food here, you might also want to check out their sister-restaurant Banter near Washington Square Park.
Shoo Shoo (Nolita)
Shimon Maman is a well-known name when it comes to Mediterranean and Israeli cuisine. After leaving 12 Chairs Café back in 2018 – a place we loved for many years – he was looking for new opportunities. Shoo Shoo Nolita is his new “baby”. It has a very Mediterranean feel. Big windows, an airy dining room and lots of light contribute to that inviting atmosphere. Shoo Shoo aims to recreate Tel Aviv’s café culture with a New York touch. The dishes put a clear emphasis on organic and seasonal ingredients. Brunch is also served on Fridays – another plus. Plates like the “Shoo Shoo Breakfast” and the “Shookshooka” blend brunch favourites with Israeli staples like hummus, tahini and challah bread. Now we crave a trip to Israel even more.
No matter if you want a satisfying breakfast or a savory brunch, Sadelle’s is the place to go. We are not sure if they make the “best bagels in NYC” but their baked goods came pretty close to bagel heaven. But Sadelle’s is more than just a bagel restaurant. They are famous for their “Sadelle’s Tower”. You can choose between a selection of fish (the house salmon being our first choice) and salads (egg salad, tuna salad, shrimp salad) or simply take both, if you are really hungry. Of course, all plates come with a fresh bagel of your choice: Plain, sesame, poppy, everything, pumpernickel, cinnamon raisin and so on. While the tower plates are the stars here, we would also like to mention Sadelle’s mouth-watering egg dishes. It’s a really tough choice and you will probably want to come back rather sooner than later.
The Bonnie (Astoria)
Get on the N- or W-train and leave Manhattan to have brunch at this cute spot in Queen’s Astoria neighborhood. That’s exactly what we did and we didn’t regret it (that’s of course a massive understatement)! The Bonnie is a classic neighborhood joint, an exceptionally cute bar-restaurant-hybrid that does food and drinks extremely well. While we yet have to return for dinner, our brunch experience was already quite remarkable. At The Bonnie, laid-back vibes and great hospitality come across a highly satisfying brunch menu. Whether you prefer the sweeter/lighter fares or the more heavy dishes like their famous brunch burger, chef Nick Testa’s food will make your day. The green eggs with ham and the breakfast panna cotta are only two of many standouts. As a mouth-watering starter or a slightly sweet finish The Bonnie’s “Lemon Poppy Dutch Baby” should be on everyone’s brunch list. It’s so good!
Davelle (Lower East Side)
It’s easy to overlook this tiny place on the Lower East Side. Davelle is a cute Japanese restaurant that is also open for lunch and dinner. In the morning they make very instagrammable toasts – both sweet and savory. While the “Berry & Cream Cheese” is the social media darling, we ordered their chocolate banana toast. More than yummy! If you want to have a breakfast or a small bite here, make sure that you aren’t in a hurry. Every dish and every toast is prepared with Japanese accuracy. In this fast moving and often crazy world, Davelle offers some very welcome contemplation.
Fairfax (West Village)
There’s something very Californian about this all-day neighborhood café in the West Village (hence the name Fairfax and the pictures of the LA Lakers on the wall?). The space is bright and the cozy interior with the different sofas and tables reminded us more of a private living room than a traditional café. In either case we immediately felt welcome. There are a couple of solid breakfast/brunch options like yoghurt and granola, omelet, avocado toast and of course their signature Israeli breakfast with hummus, pita and soft-boiled eggs. We guess the latter is their bestseller. As they do not take reservations, they might be a wait especially on the weekend.
Oxalis (Prospect Park)
We hope you find your way out of Manhattan at least once or twice. When the weather is good, you should head over to Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. It’s the better Central Park! While strolling around Brooklyn Botanic Garden or Prospect Park Zoo you might get hungry. On weekends, brunch is the national sport of many New Yorkers. A great brunch option in this part of Brooklyn is Oxalis. By definition a neighborhood bistro, chef Nico Russell already earned a Michelin star in Oxalis’s first year. It’s a beautiful place with a light-flooded bar space and intimate seating. Their 30-Dollar-brunch-menu offers great value for money and some very visually pleasing and flavorful dishes. The same can probably be said about the “Carte blanche” dinner menu (70 Dollars per person). We definitely have to come back for that experience!
Sunday in Brooklyn (Williamsburg)
Despite its name we would recommend this Williamsburg all-day café/restaurant not for a Sunday brunch unless you are willing to wait an hour or more for a table. During the week it’s stress-free to brunch here. Yes, they offer brunch also from Monday to Friday starting at 10 AM! Sunday in Brooklyn are famous for their pancakes with hazelnut maple praline and brown butter. So if you have a sweet tooth, you don’t have to think twice about your order. Otherwise you might opt for the spicy “Eggs in Purgatory”, the biscuits & gravy or the classic cheddar scramble with some bacon. When the weather is good, grab a table outside for some people watching. As you are in Williamsburg, there’s probably no better entertainment.
Eisenberg’s (Flatiron District)
When you have been in business for over 90 years, you probably know a thing or two. Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop located right next to the famous Flatiron building is another NYC landmark – for many good reasons. Since 1929 they serve high-cholesterol Jewish deli-style food without any pretense. They managed to preserve the old-school charm of a classic American diner/deli. The portions are generous and more than delicious. If you are looking for a gluten-free option or a low-carb breakfast, look elsewhere. Eisenberg’s sticks to its promise of “feeding New York” on “high cholesterol”. Breakfast is served all day as it should be. Classic Jewish-diner fare include their famous Reuben sandwich, the chopped liver or the challah French toast. All of Eisenberg’s food will warm your belly and your soul. This is a cash only place.
Michaeli Bakery (Lower East Side)
We are in love with Israeli/Jewish pastries like babkas, rugalachs or challah bread. For all this sweet treats Michaeli Bakery is our new favorite place on Lower East Side. Freshly baked every day by chef Adir Michaeli and his team the sweet and savory pastries of this cute bakery near Manhattan Bridge make people happy. It’s as simple as that! They also make some vegan pastries that taste as good as the rest of Michaeli Bakery’s baked goods. In either case – vegan or not – grab your breakfast and coffee. After that you are ready to explore this beautiful city. And instead of buying some silly, overpriced souvenirs get their cookies for your loved ones at home!
Lunch & Dinner
Dante (West Village)
We are wondering what’s not to love about Dante. Dante would also be a good entry to the “All Day” section as the café/bar/restaurant near Washington Square Park provides great Italian food and drinks from all-mornings to late in the evening. The bar with their first-class selection of aperitivo drinks earned the top spot on last years “World’s 50 Best Bars” list. Therefore, you can also find Dante in our first NYC Bar Guide. But also when it comes to food this place won’t disappoint even your most skeptical Italian friends. The salumi misti platter is excellent and worth every dollar. At Dante all pasta is hand- and house-made. For your little slice of Italy in New York go to Dante and avoid the tourist traps of fake “Little Italy”.
Crown Shy (Financial District)
Honestly the Financial District is not among our favorite areas. During the day, brokers, bank employees and tourists populate the streets and at night the scenery becomes nearly deserted – anonymous and cold. But lately there’s a damn good reason to reconsider. The reason is called Crown Shy. Situated in an impressive Art déco building on Pine Street the elegant, yet cosy restaurant is the first solo project of famous NYC chef James Kent (ex-NoMad) and restaurateur Jeff Katz. The stunning design of the place with its high ceilings, big windows and marmoreal floors becomes the stage for an elaborate fine dining experience without any pretentious affectation. You can spot a picture of Biggie right next to the open kitchen and all of the staff – including chef James – wearing pretty good kicks. The menu draws inspiration from New York’s diversity, European techniques and childhood memories. Every plate was an explosion of different flavors and textures with the roasted short rib as the standout dish. Make sure that you leave some room for dessert as the creations by pastry chef Renata Ameni live up to the hype. We will take a closer look at Crown Shy’s high-class cocktail menu in our next bar guide.
Llama Inn (Williamsburg)
Llamas are somehow strange animals. Initially they look cute but they can also become a little dangerous if they try to defend themselves. You can google it if you want! When a restaurant calls itself Llama Inn, it piques our curiosity. This place in North Williamsburg is well worth a visit and – unlike the llama – not dangerous at all. Instead, you will have a good time, lots of great food and in the end probably a new culinary favorite. Just try to be a little adventurous and don’t get scared by beef hearts with broccoli and burrata or clams with turmeric and carrots. All plates of the Peruvian-inspired menu are meant to be shared. Start with some skewers and a ceviche. After that you will forget all reservation and crave more food. Llama Inn’s cross-over cuisine is full of flavors and highly addictive. We usually opt for a seat at the kitchen counter from where you get interesting insights into the work routine of the kitchen staff. There is also a Llama San restaurant in the West Village with a little different agenda. It offers fine dining and a very unique Omakase experience (145 Dollars).
Contra (Lower East Side)
When someone asks us for a fine dining restaurant in NYC, we don’t hesitate to recommend Contra. This place on Orchard Street never disappoints. It offers a 89 Dollar tasting menu in a very laid-back, almost casual setting. Forget all the pretentious bullshit of other fine dining restaurants. Contra gets it all right – the food, the atmosphere, the impeccable service. And we have to mention their playlist with our favorite bands The National and Foals on heavy rotation. What else can you ask for? Also, the dishes not only look great, they taste even better. Something like “fresh tofu” that initially might sound trivial, becomes a highlight at Contra. The same thing could be said about their desserts that easily exceed our already high expectations. There is also a vegetarian option and a three course menu at the bar available on a first come, first serve basis. Mexican-born chef Fabián von Hauske Valtierra and his co-partner Jeremiah Stone are not only behind Contra’s Michelin star rated cuisine, the duo also operates the casual wine bar Wildair (next door to Contra) and the recently opened People’s Wine shop & bar on Delancey Street. Despite their youth they already have a big impact on how New York nowadays defines fine dining.
Clover Club (Cobble Hill)
This is a food guide. Nevertheless, we mention this great Brooklyn bar that is also an excellent dinner spot. Its cocktail menu made Clover Club famous. But with all the praise for their drinks and spirits selection, sometimes their food is forgotten. We want to put Clover Club’s food in the spotlight. Order their prime beef burger medium rare. It’s all we ever wanted from a burger and more. The patty is juicy, tasty and together with their house-made avocado ranch it’s simply a winning combo. Enjoy the neighborhood vibes at Clover Club and of course get some cocktails!
In the heart of Brooklyn, you will find a small, intimate and very cute neighborhood restaurant called Hart’s. And when we say small, we mean really small. There are only a couple of tables and some seats at the bar. Reservations are therefore highly encouraged. This is a perfect date spot off the beaten path (but the subway from Manhattan is literally just two steps away). Whether you come around for a romantic dinner or primarily for the food, in either case Hart’s will take good care of you. The plates are all perfectly prepared, made from fresh ingredients and very tasty. Overall, Hart’s offers really good value for money. For a welcome twist on the sometimes dull “burger game”, order their grass-fed lamb burger with some marinated anchovies. Wine lovers will also be quite happy.
Cosme (Flatiron District)
Things can get tricky at Cosme and with things we mean reservations. Tables go faster than some hypebeast kicks. If you overcome that obstacle, you can finally enjoy a truly remarkable dinner experience. Cosme marks the first US outpost of Mexican chef Enrique Olvera. His much acclaimed fine-dining restaurant Pujol in Mexico City can be found in almost all of the world’s best restaurant rankings. With Cosme, Olvera and his business partner Daniela Soto-Innes bring the idea of modern Mexican-inspired cuisine to the Flatiron District. You better unlearn everything you might know about Mexican food. Cosme is for sure on another level! Even if some dishes sound familiar like the “fluke tostada” or the “tataki al pastor”, the simple descriptions of Cosme’s highly ambitious menu don’t do justice to the explosion of flavors that will knock your socks off. The crispy and juicy duck carnitas are probably their standout dish. Be prepared to spend a big amount of money, but the overall experience is worth its heavy price. Their bar program is excellent as well.
Post (East Village)
A little tucked away in the East Village this all-day spot on Avenue B could easily become your best companion. In the morning they serve breakfast (brunch on the weekends), later lunch and of course dinner at night – 7 days a week. It’s a very small place with only a couple of counter seats, some tables and many lovely details. Did you notice the phone? It reminds us of LA’s Freedman’s. At Post you must order the biscuits. You can eat them plain with some butter and jelly, with different meat and vegetarian options or with gravy. They also have a vegan option – this is the East Village after all.
Russ & Daughters Café (Lower East Side)
To a New Yorker Russ & Daughters needs no introduction. It’s more than a staple, it’s a true institution of Jewish deli traditions. While the shop located on East Houston Street has been there for more than a century (!), the intimate, likeable calm and incredibly homely café on Orchard Street offers excellent Jewish food from early mornings until late in the evening. You can’t have a meal here without a bagel and some of their house-smoked fish. The little pickled herring bites on pumpernickel or their chopped salad with whitefish are as satisfying as most of their breakfast dishes. Their Egg Benedicts come on house-baked challah bread. To die for! While other restaurants come and go, Russ & Daughters are here to stay. And that’s a damn good thing!
Veselka (East Village)
The things said about Russ & Daughters can equally be said about this East Village gem. Veselka is another staple and a constant companion during all of our New York trips. Established in1954 this cozy place offers Ukrainian soul food and East European specialties like pierogis, borscht, bigos (a delicious stew), kielbasa sausages or goulash. Despite the filling portions make sure to leave some room for their award-winning blintzes – a Ukrainian-style crepe filled with farmer’s cheese. Did we mention the pies? Veselka is open 24 hours on 365 days a year. You can have breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late-late-late-night meal here. Every meal is more than satisfying and every visit a treat for your soul.
Café Habana (Nolita)
Get your daily dose of Caribbean sunshine at this Cuban diner in the heart of Nolita. We can’t tell you how many times we had breakfast, lunch or just a quick bite here. The original Café Habana on Prince Street is now in business for over 20 years and – you might add – for many good reasons. The Cuban-inspired food like the classic huevos rancheros or their famous Cuban sandwich with marinated roast pork will warm up your belly. The menu offers not only good value but also many mouth-watering choices for every time of the day from quesadillas to salads and taco dishes.
Spiegel (East Village)
Sometimes all you need is a place you want to be with your friends. By chance this is the tag line of a small all-day place in the East Village called Spiegel. It became our favorite breakfast spot during our last trip to NYC. You may ask why? First and foremost, there’s the food. The Israeli style breakfast options like the spicy Shakshuka with some Merguez or the hummus with fresh-baked pita are the perfect soul food (or a pretty good hangover cure in case you need it). They only use organic eggs and fresh ingredients. For dinner you can have a great burger, the schnitzel plate or a delicious knockwurst sandwich with sauerkraut. We also love the casual vibe of Spiegel, their honest approach to hospitality and the bright, light-filled space. Forget all the trendy, instagrammable wannabes. This is the real New York!
Bar Pisellino (West Village)
Rita Sodi and Judy Williams are two of New York’s most successful and respected figures in hospitality. With three restaurants (Via Carota, I Sodi, Buvette) in the heart of the West Village and this wonderful Italian aperitivo bar they left a big footprint on the city’s culinary map. Although Bar Pisellino opened its doors in 2019 for the first time, it looks indeed like an old and very classy piece of Italy. The elegant marble counter together with the wooden interior and the small floor tiles blend into a Mediterranean beauty. From early mornings to late nights people gather inside or on the sidewalk with an espresso, an amari cocktail or some small bites like a panini or spuntini. The cocktails – overseen by Dante’s former head bartender Stacey Swenson – are authentic and way better than in most bars in Italy. When the weather is good, the seats outside are perfect for people watching. We suggest making your round and head over to Via Carota for dinner and more great Italian food. While you probably have to wait for a table (they don’t take reservations so come early), you can enjoy Bar Pisellinos distinctive ambience and aperitivo art.
Yonah Shimmel’s Knish (Lower East Side)
A food list of NYC without Yonah Shimmel? Impossible! This place on Houston Street is genuine New York, doing business since 1910 (!). Needless to say, it plays an important part in the city’s food culture. The Jewish restaurant – or should we say bakery, not really sure – does knish. This is a very traditional Jewish snack made of mashed potatoes or cheese. Different fillings like spinach, kasha (buckwheat) and mushrooms can be added. The cheese knish with chocolate, apples or cherries are a very yummy sweet snack. You probably didn’t know that “a knish a day keeps the doctor away”. No fake news here!
New York has seen a steady rise of great independent cafés and coffee roasting facilities during the last 5 to 10 years. With regard to quality and sustainability many of these small businesses helped to improve the overall coffee experience and café culture in the city. There is really no need to get your daily caffeine fix at one of the big, interchangeable café chains. We encourage you to look out for the local coffee guys. Here are some of our favorite spots with a clear bias towards Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn/Williamsburg:
Saltwater Coffee (East Village)
Happy Bones (Nolita)
Urban Backyard (Nolita)
Caffè Vita (Lower East Side)
Ludlow Coffee Supply (Lower East Side)
Kodawari Coffee (Lower East Side)
Sey Coffee (Bushwick)
Stumptown Coffee Roasters (West Village)
Café Grumpy (Williamsburg, Chelsea, Lower East Side)
Everyman Espresso (East Village)
Devocion (Williamsburg, Flat Iron)
Café Beit (Williamsburg)
Birch Coffee (West Village)
If you’re looking for bar recommendations, check our NYC Bar Guide Part 1. A sequel with more great bars is coming soon!