Here’s Where Your Political Leaders Dine Across Manhattan

With few exceptions, our local politicians all have a favorite place to dine. Many of the places they picked in a recent survey seem to suggest they are dining on the run rather than sitting down to fine dining at fancy restaurants. But it is the neighborhood places, after all, that can usually use the publicity as the survey sponsore, the Hospitality Alliance, no doubt discerned.

| 08 Apr 2024 | 01:59

While the life of the local politician is usually one of hard-working days and glamorous nights, they still need to eat. Where Gotham’s solons like to eat out was recently the topic of a survey conducted by the New York Hospitality Alliance, the lobbying group for the city’s restaurant and hotel industries. The results were interesting.

For reasons unknown, not everyone participated. Analysis of the respondents reveals no clear pattern. Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli from Staten Island answered but Staten Borough President Vito Fosella didn’t. Republican firebrand of Irina Vernikov of southern Brooklyn, participated, as did her near polar-opposite, Democratic Socialist Tiffany Caban of northern Queens.

Why wouldn’t someone answer such fun, simple questions? The explanation is likely that those absent from the survey didn’t see it it—the ways of a politician’s staff can be mysterious—as the only “political” reason to not participate would be the fear of leaving someone out: geographically, ethnically, whatever.

Though he lives in Brooklyn, Comptroller Brad Lander, an extremely political man with eyes for the mayoralty, made the politically astute aside, “So much delicious food in every borough!” before choosing Masalawala & Sons, a Park Slope Bengali restaurant, as his favorite. For his go-to dish, Lander was similarly inclusive, offering “I like to imagine the spicy shakshuka that Masalawa + Miriam [an Israeli restaurant with locations on the Upper West Side and Brooklyn] would make if they collaborated!”

If such exclamations make one think Brooklynites are loud, well, they often are. Take passionate Council Member Alexa Avilés, who chose Yafa Cafe, a Middle Eastern breakfast and lunch joint at 4415 5th Avenue–literally next door to her district office in Sunset Park. Her enthusiastic go-to order: “So hard to choose! Sunset, BAT, Chicken and Waffles and the Chicken Sandwich. Also great Yemeni Coffee!”

Though he swaggers elsewhere, Mayor Eric Adams who hails from Brooklyn, is more measured when it comes to his diabetes-beating diet, which includes Uptown Veg, a Soul Food and West Indian influenced vegetarian restaurant at 52 East 125th Street in Harlem. “Delicious, affordable, quick-service–good for a Mayor on the move,” offered Hizzoner, who favors “curry chickpeas, candied yams, collard greens.”

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine went for the Apricot rugelach at Lee Lee’s Baked Goods, 283 West 118th Street. Alvin Lee Smalls is a gifted baker—and a true mensch,” declared Levine. “His little jewel box of a storefront... makes the best rugelach I’ve ever had.”

Working our way from north to south, Council Member Carmen De La Rosa, District 10, and Yusef Salaam, District 9, which together take in all upper Manhattan, declined to participate. Don’t take that as a comment on uptown’s rich and diverse dining options, however! When in Washington Heights, this reporter enjoys the Northend Food Hall, where Buuni Coffee and the burgers at Harlem Public fortify one for walking the area’s many steep hills.

Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala, District 8 on the UES and South Bronx: chose the Tres Leche Cafe, 356 East 112th Street, East Harlem, where her all-time favorite is the Tres Leche cake “made fresh and read for my on-the-go lifestyle.”

Shawn Abreau, District 7, Saiguette, 935 Columbus Avenue at 107th Street, whose Bahn Mi he rates “10/10—no crumbs left!” with Grilled Lemongrass Pork Shoulder a favorite.

Gale Brewer, District 6, chose Gennaro Italian Restaurant, 665 Amsterdam Avenue, praising its excellent food, friendly waiters and quiet space. “I see neighbors and friends from the Italian Consulate!” Inclusive, Brewer said her go to order is “Everything!”

Julie Menin, District 5, picked Budapest Cafe, 1631 2nd Avenue. “This cafe is a link to Little Hungary on the Upper East Side, where my mother and grandmother found refuge after surviving the Holocaust.” For her go to order, Menin went with Palacsinta, “a delicious crepe filled with apricot jam and nuts and can be made in a variety of ways.”

With his choice, the carnivore Keith Powers, District 4 made a bold claim: “District 4 is home to the best burgers—from P.J. Clarke to J.G. Melon. But a personal favorite is the Burger Joint, a hidden gem in midtown,” 119 West 56th Street to be precise. Powers go-to order: “I keep it classic, a hamburger, French fries and a shake.”

Erik Bottcher, District 3, followed a similar logic, choosing Cafeteria at 119 7th Avenue, which he called “a classic in Chelsea serving American comfort food,” from where he especially favors Mac ‘n Cheese.

Carlina Rivera, District 2, made a strong homestyle pick with Casa Adela, 66 Avenue C, which she calls “an institution of Puerto Rican culture on the Lower East Side. The food is amazing and feels like you’re in your abuela’s kitchen.” Rivera’s go-to order; Chuleta (fried pork chop) with lime on the side, white rice and beans.”

Sadly, repeated queries to Christopher Marte, District 1, went unanswered. Should one, like this reporter, find themselves near Marte’s office at 250 East Broadway, some nearby standouts include the elegant Hwa Yuan Szechuan, at 42 East Broadway, where Dry Sauteed Tangy Crispy Beef is a must; the utilitarian Super Taste at 26 Eldridge for hand pulled noodle and dumplings; and, for a quick dive into neighborhood’s rich Jewish heritage, Kossar’s Bagels & Bialys at 367 Grand Street.

Pro-tip for non-locals: buy as many bialys (onion preferred but garlic and everything also available) as you can carry, and what you don’t eat now, freeze for later. Dee-lish!