I was born and raised in the shadow of the half-constructed Freedom Tower, both of us growing simultaneously, and as a young Downtowner, I felt as though our growth was connected somehow. So, when family and friends visit New York and I am not there to show them around, I send along this list, sure to fill a few perfect days.
Whether you are a first-time visitor or a native, you have inevitably heard endless claims for the “best New York slice” or the “best bagel.” It is imperative that you form those opinions for yourself, and here are all my other favorites you may or may not know yet. Whatever your price range and preferred mode of transportation, these stops will leave both your stomach and heart satisfied with the best flavors in the city. Eating in Downtown NYC is an experience that will indefinitely connect you better to its history, culture and people.
By Downtown Neighborhood...
Your first stop mandates dim sum, whether at Nom Wah Tea Parlor (which has fabulous outdoor dining) or at the lesser-known Vegetarian Dim Sum House. If neither calls your name, The Great NY Noodletown’s Cantonese food is a local favorite, where the Singapore chow fun has never failed to impress. Be sure to save some room for the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, a quick walk through the beautiful neighborhood. In this small ice cream parlor, you will be delighted by flavor combinations you have likely never encountered before, artfully crafted into a cone with an array of thrilling toppings. Their Lychee Rose flavor is worth the visit alone.
Nom Wah Tea Parlor (10 Kenmare Street)
Vegetarian Dim Sum House (24 Pell Street #1)
The Great NY Noodletown (28 Bowery Street)
Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard Street)
I adore a quick stroll between dinner and dessert, not only to make room for the next round but to become better acquainted with the neighborhood. However, between Rubirosa Pizza and Ferrara Bakery & Cafe’s famous cannolis, you may not find yourself able to leave charming Little Italy. Ferrara’s has been a staple spot for dessert since 1892, and it is easy to find by the enormous ice cream cone hanging from the side. Located between Soho and the East Village, you can enjoy the city’s vibrancy in whichever direction you wander next.
Rubirosa Pizza (235 Mulberry Street)
Ferrara Bakery & Cafe (195 Grand Street)
You may already know that the East Village holds New York’s prime nightlife, but before you run off, grab a famous pierogi at Veselka. Or, if you are up for a moment of enjoyable chaos, sit down at the infamous Panna II Garden for some decent tikka masala and unforgettable (potentially claustrophobic) memories.
Veselka (144 Second Avenue)
Panna II Garden (93 First Avenue #2)
If you’re interested in a more upscale evening, Via Carota’s Italian food simultaneously impresses the young crowd and your in-laws alike. Head over to Katana Kitten for an inventive menu that spans both the drink and food menu. You cannot leave without a taste of the Katana Kitten Grilled Cheese, with nori sandwiched inside the melting layers.
Via Carota (51 Grove Street)
Katana Kitten (531 Hudson Street)
My favorite restaurant...
Kiki’s (Lower East Side)
With home-style Greek food and wonderful ambiance, Kiki’s has never disappointed the hordes of friends I have sent. It is relatively inexpensive and the food is simultaneously mind-blowing, simple, and bursting with fresh flavor. The restaurant spans two corners, yet getting a table can be a bit difficult, so if you are going for dinner it is best to go before the crowds.
Kiki’s (130 Division Street)
Famed for its chicken and waffles, Sweet Chick’s menu includes vegetarian options so that nobody misses out. Suitable for any time of the day, but a favorite of mine to enjoy in the afternoon.
Downtown location: 178 Ludlow Street
Also in Brooklyn at: 164 Bedford Avenue
46-42 Vernon Boulevard
341 Flatbush Avenue
Urban Vegan Kitchen
With creative approaches to classic dishes, this restaurant is entirely vegan. The ambiance is almost as wonderful as the food, and non-vegans alike will enjoy the Chick-un & Waffles on lovely Carmine Street.
41 Carmine Street
A New York classic, any of the locations offer classic brunch options and promise to leave you satisfied. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, with big portions and incredibly charming staff. I once recommended it to a friend who told me her parents fell in love sitting at a Grey Dog brunch, so it could be well worth your time!
Manhattan locations at:
244 Mulberry Street
49 Carmine Street
90 University Place
242 West 16th Street
55 West 26th Street
Morgenstern’s Ice Cream!
For foodies and picky kids alike, Morganstern’s is a perfect end to a summer day in New York. If you are in a daring mood, you can try the new Pineapple Salted Egg Yolk flavor, or stick with an equally delicious classic flavor. There are dozens of options and all are made with texture and quality in mind.
88 West Houston Street
2 Rivington Street