I’ve thought long and hard about how I was going to write about all the food I ate in New York. Should I organize it by categories? By days? For now, before I overwhelm you with all the food talk, I’m going to start on a high note with my top 5 favorite things I ate in New York City.
Oh New York – why is the food so good there?! Seriously, I ate some of the best food OF MY LIFE.
I feel like everything is so good in New York, Whenever we’re walking in the city, Ray and Carmela will point to a place every 2 feet and comment “this is a famous place”, “this place has the best [insert food]”, “this place makes really good [insert another food]” and so on. Seriously, it seems like that EVERY place is really famous for something. There are a million good places in one block. And I love that NY is full of little mom and pop shops instead of chains. No wonder I gained 7 pounds in 3 weeks.
These foods in my top 5 are truly the BEST I’ve ever had in my life. As in, I cannot imagine anything else topping them. I may as well stop eating pizza or cookies now because nothing will measure up to what’s on this list (but let’s be real – I’ll never stop eating pizza or cookies). I loved and hated putting this post together because I’m so far away now (plus I’m on a salad diet), and this post forced me to relive every delicious bite that I no longer can get my hands on.
Okay, let’s get onto them.
1. Di Fara regular pizza (Midwood, Brooklyn)
Di Fara is the reason that no other pizzas will ever measure up.
This is the top pizzeria in New York according to many food authorities. The reason it’s SO good? The same old man – Dom DeMarco, a pizza making legend – has been making all the pies himself since 1965. His children help out with the operation of the shop. It’s a true family business.
Usually Di Fara has a huge line with over an hour’s wait time. It’s a tiny corner shop that only seats around 10 or so people inside. We were lucky and saw no line when we arrived on a Sunday evening. But even if it seems like there’s no line, it’s deceptively slow. We waited more than 20 minutes just to make eye contact with someone to put in our order. And then another 20 for the pie. It’s slow because Dom is the only guy who makes all the pies one by one… and he likes to take his time, for the simple reason that he enjoys making pies.
Basically, this guy works as slow as the sloths in Zootopia.
But it’s sooooo worth it. This was no doubt, the best slice of pie I’ve ever had. We got the plain pie (cheese and basil), but it was packed with flavor. He uses a combination of three cheeses that is absolute perfection – fresh buffalo mozzarella, grated gran padano, and finally a sprinkling of shaved parmesan on top for an added layer of flavor.
The crust was also really interesting. It’s different from both the classic NY thin crispy crust and Neapolitan style. It’s super thin and surprisingly chewy, with crisped edges. Just perfect (and yes, I know I’m using this word a lot).
A pie is quite expensive at $32 for a regular round, and we spent about $25 in taxi fare to get here, but everyone in our group can say that they were SO glad we went and that it was 110% worth it. Our only regret is that we didn’t get to try the square pie.
(Warning: We were all suuuuuper gassy afterwards, but we did have a lot of other dairy products that day so we can’t pinpoint it to Di Fara’s deadly 3-cheese combo.)
2. Russ & Daughters lox bagel (Lower East Side, Manhattan)
Russ & Daughters is a small deli famous for their smoked salmon and other fishes. As you walk in to the tinnnny store, you’re just assaulted with all sorts of smoked fishes in their display. They even have caviar that costs thousands of dollars!
But they’re known for their smoked salmons. They have about 10 different varieties. They have stuff I’ve never even heard of, like pastrami smoked salmon. I’m a huge sucker for smoked salmon on bagel and cream cheese, so I wasted no time ordering a lox bagel.
I have never had so many choices before, and quite honestly, I don’t really know the difference between one kind of salmon to the other. But the display has signs that describes each. It said that the gaspe nova salmon is the classic New York lox, so that’s the one I went with. I got it on a toasted everything bagel with horseradish dill cream cheese and onion and capers.
We watched as my sandwich was being made. She put just the right amount of cream cheese so it’s not too much and evenly spread out the capers. Then she so very carefully sliced each slice of the salmon and stacked them on top. It was ridiculous how many slices they give you!
My first bite into this sandwich was pure bliss. The quality of the lox was just spectacular. It’s so incredibly fresh and juicy. And the balance of the cream cheese, sour capers, onions, and fish was just amazing.
This isn’t cheap either at $15 for a sandwich. But it one of the best sandwiches of my life!
3. LeVain Bakery chocolate chip cookie (Upper West Side, Manhattan)
Omg, how do I even begin to describe this heavenly doughiness? LeVain is known for their super XL sized cookies. Each cookie is seriously the size of like 3 normal cookies.
Levain manages to make the PERFECT cookie texture – so soft and chewy on the inside with slightly crispy edges. So you get the crunch and chew in one bite. I really love the almost cookie-dough texture of the inside. The cookie is generously dotted with walnuts and nice chunks of gooey chocolate chips throughout. It’s just bursting with deliciousness. Every bite has the perfect ratio of dough to chocolate. The dough is also not too sweet so it never feels cloying.
This is my perfect cookie texture and level of sweetness. Ray’s friend, Jay, got us 2 cookies to share, and as soon as I had my first bite, I almost wanted to keep them all to myself. I have had other cookies from famous bakeries since and have felt disappointed. Levain has set the cookie bar impossibly high.
Even though this is #3 on my list… I think of all of these, I most want Levain in my life right now. Because I won’t be in the mood for pizza or lox everyday, but I can definitely eat this cookie everyday.
4. Four & Twenty Blackbirds pies (Gowanus, Brooklyn)
I LOVE pie… but again, as I’ve developed more refined taste buds, I’m more picky with them. This little bakery in Brooklyn makes the best pies I’ve ever had. What I really liked is their creative flavors, which are constantly changing.
Who can pass up flavors such as salty honey, salted caramel apple, brown butter pumpkin, and hojicha cream?
Well we sure can’t, so the only solution is to get one slice of each. And when blackbottom oat came out fresh from the oven, Carmela rushed over to the counter. (Don’t worry, actually 5 of us were sharing this, so it’s not that unreasonable.)
These pies make me wish I knew how to bake my own. Because I want to replicate the recipes so I can just eat them whenever I want. That salted honey is PURE HEAVEN for a honey lover such as myself. And the blackbottom oat doesn’t look amazing, but turned out to be the best of the bunch. It has a melted semi-sweet chocolate layer at the bottom of a creamy brown sugar filling, topped with a crunchy oat layer – the perfect flavor combination!
Ooh I found the recipe. Maybe I’ll try my hand at making it someday!
5. Joe’s classic New York slice (West Village, Manhattan)
The 5th spot goes to another pizzeria. It’s fitting for me to have 2 pizzerias on my list, seeing how I loved NY pizza so much. Joe’s is so different from Di Fara, but it’s (almost) just as good. You go to Di Fara if you have time to wait for a fancy pie; you come to Joe’s if you’re in the mood for a good ol’ greasy slice.
Joe’s is an institution in New York. It achieved a new layer of fame when Spiderman (Tobey Maguire version) worked here as a delivery boy in the second movie.
This joint deserves its fame. It serves up perfect classic thin crust New York slices. The crust is super thin (just how I like it) and just the right amount of crispy. It has the perfect ratio of crust to sauce to cheese, so nothing overpowers another.
The location on Carmine street is small but efficient. It’s a stand and eat kind of place. Pizzas are sold by the slice and the line moves fast. I was lucky to get a pepperoni slice fresh out of the oven and it was DELICIOUS!
Di Fara is like for a special weekend. Joe’s is like the kind where if I lived down the block, I’d come in and grab a slice everyday.
Now I’m officially hungry and crying over the fact that who-knows-when I’ll be able to get my mouth on these again. New York, thanking you for giving me some of the best foods of my life. But a part of me will be sad and deprived now until I can return.
Have you been to NYC? What was the favorite thing you ate?
I ate a TON more! Stay tuned for more food posts!