You could dine out every night of the week for at least a couple of decades without visiting the same New York City restaurant twice. By this time, old favourites will have closed and new ones opened. Just like the big apple itself, there is something for everyone here. We look at some of the top places for those with a huge appetite who like a challenge, for the romantic couple and for the growing number of vegetarians and vegans who may be looking for some New York holiday foodie ideas.
Man vs Food, New York
You may have seen the program in which Adam Richman tours the USA taking on eating challenges. If you have a spectacular appetite, you might save some holiday money by beating the challenges and even pick up some kudos into the bargain. But beware, even the host of the show only wins a little over half his challenges, and he’s a pro!
Brick Lane Curry House - 99 2nd Avenue, New York
Wherever you go in the world, restaurants will claim to offer an ‘authentic’ taste of [insert national cuisine here] but there is always a flavour of the host country. Here’s a twist; this New York curry house promises, an authentic British-Indian experience, but the cheddar cheese topping on one dish reminds you-you're not in London’s Brick Lane. Here you can sample what the restaurant’s own website describes as “an excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavor. (sic) … If you do finish your serving, a bottle of beer is on us, as is a certificate of completion and your picture in the (P)hall of fame.”
Various meat, fish and vegetarian options are available from $17 - $23 or the challenge; finish the regular sized but (potentially dangerously) spicy curry, to win … a beer and some bragging rights.
The Ainsworth (multiple locations)
The USA; home of the burger, where they put cheese on almost everything. The Ainsworth is a chain with several restaurants across New York and beyond. The Mac Burger Challenge is a crazy mish-mash of American stereotypes. Gargantuan burgers, melted cheese and a money-making opportunity. Yes, if you can finish off this $60 meal consisting of three complete mac’n’cheese burgers, a side order of fries, more mac’n’cheese and a pickle spear in 45 minutes you win $500! Wait, there are rules… this prize is not available for “professionals” with experience. You have to book your challenge in advance and they Google you to check!
Lunchbox - 1612 Forest Ave, Staten Island
This quirky, retro restaurant is definitely not for the health conscious and when it comes to the challenge, choose your poison offers a choice of challenges:
- 151oz milkshake – Choice of flavours, a 150oz glass + 1oz shot glass, both topped with whipped cream - time limit 20 minutes.
- Death Wish - 6 Buffalo wings marinated in spicy hot sauce + super-hot red chipotle chillies + Ghost Chili extract. Time limit 10 minutes eating without utensils or napkins and then nothing to drink until 10 minutes after you have finished – feel the burn!
- Motherload – 8lbs of ‘sloppy joe’ on a 16” bun, topped with 1lb of melted cheese and ¼lb of onion and a 24oz drink. Time limit for this one is 30 minutes for TWO people using one utensil of their choice.
The cost of each of these is $25 and if you succeed you get the meal free, plus a t-shirt and your picture on the wall-of-fame.
Romantic places to eat in New York
Being the setting for well over 2,000 films including ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s' and ‘When Harry Met Sally’, there are some amazingly romantic places to eat in New York. As ever, naming just three won’t be easy. An honourable mention goes to Katz’s Deli which not only featured in a ‘Man vs Food’ episode but also is the location where that scene in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ was filmed.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea - 17 Barrow St,
The name deserves some explanation; it refers to the events leading up to the American War of Independence. If the British were coming by land there would be one light shone in the steeple in Boston, and two if they were coming by sea. Setting aside history this restaurant features on lists of the most romantic restaurants in the world, never mind just in New York. Opened in 1973 in a historic carriage house dating back to 1767. There is a fixed 3-course menu for $100 or a 7-course taster menu for $150 with some optional extras. The beef Wellington is highly recommended.
Zenkichi - 77 N 6th St, Brooklyn
This one is so secluded you may struggle to find the entrance, so intimate you dine in your own enclosed booth with bamboo curtains and have a buzzer to summon your waiter. You can order a-la-carte, but the seasonal ‘Omakase’ (fixed price taster menu) with vegetarian and wheat free options is recommended. Special dietary requirements can be catered for with advanced warning. It would be a shame not to go for the sake of pairing as well since they boast having a selection of 30 of the finest ‘Junmai’ (pure-rice) sakes.
Buvette - 42 Grove Street, West Village
Opened in 2011 by chef Jody Williams, despite being wholly American, this little slice of Paris in New York is so French that they opened a branch in Paris. There’s one in Tokyo too. It’s a small place and you can’t book in advance (except large groups booking the banquet table), consequently, the queue can end up on the street. If you can’t get a table in the evening, try breakfast, it is open from 7am right through till the early hours of the next day.
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Places to eat in New York for vegans
With vegetarian/vegan lifestyles on the rise, the range of choice for those who prefer a meat-free/dairy-free diet is increasing. Even those who don’t want to make the switch would benefit from taking a break from meat at least once a week and the most hardened carnivore may find something worthwhile among the many vegan places to eat in New York. To narrow it down, here are some of our top vegan restaurants in New York.
Candle 79 – 154 E. 79th St.
The history goes back to 1984 when Bart Potenza established a health food shop named ‘Healthy Candle’, he teamed up with Joy Pierson in 1987 and in 1993 a lottery win paved the way for the first Candle Café. Since then, the more upmarket Candle 79 opened in 2003. The focus here is on top quality organic vegan food without any overt attempt to mimic meat dishes, with starters such as Grilled Artichokes $18 and mains such as Za'atar-Roasted Cauliflower for $23.
Red Bamboo – 140 West 4th St.
Despite the name, and outward appearance, Red Bamboo is not exclusively oriental and makes no attempt to offer an authentic Chinese experience. Vegan spring rolls and tempura jostle for space on the menu with soy buffalo wings and Caribbean spice seitan. There is a lot of emphasis on meat alternatives, with soy and seitan standing in for pork, beef and chicken in everything; from sweet-and-sour to salmon. As such this may not suit the vegan purist but may keep the peace in a split party with meat eaters as well. It’s not too expensive either; with nothing above $14 on the menu.
Urban Vegan Kitchen – 41 Carmine St.
Formerly ‘Blossom on Carmine’ and part of the established ‘Blossom Du Jour vegan fast food chain, it became ‘UVK’ only in 2016. The mid-priced menu created by Timothy Pakron (aka the ‘Mississippi Vegan’) provides a range of vegan comfort foods that take inspiration from American classics like mac’n’cheese or BLT, as well as veggie classics such as fried okra. They are also a hub of the vegan community and organise regular events including live music and lively discussion groups.
Honorary mention - The Impossible Burger
Developed in California, the ‘Impossible Burger’ is the closest thing to a real meat burger using only vegetables that could satisfy all but the most entrenched carnivore once and for all. They are everywhere in the USA from huge fast food chains to upmarket burger restaurants.
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