NEW YORK FOOD STAPLES FOR FIRST-TIMERS

As some of you may know, I recently received my bachelor’s degree from UCLA, and as a graduation gift, I was privileged enough to be taken by my parents to New York for four days. When it comes to traveling, the most important thing to me is eating good food. And I mean good food. Shoutout to Yelp, Worth It, and Jerry Truong for suggesting the following places.

(Side Note: There were unplanned restaurants that happened to be near where we were visiting that we ended up eating at. I didn’t document the food, so they will not be included in this blog!)

NEW YORK BAGELS

Best Bagel & Coffee (in Midtown on W 35th Street)

Photo: Egg Salad on Whole Wheat Bagel

So this was the first eatery we stopped by at upon our arrival in New York. Unfortunately, we arrived at 3:45PM, 15 minutes before their closing time, so only cold sandwiches and a limited amount of bagels were available. We had just eaten lunch, so we decided to snack on a whole wheat bagel egg salad sandwich and a whole wheat bagel whitefish salad sandwich. 

The filling tasted great. The salad contained the right amount of mayonnaise, and the fish and egg flavors were prominent. (Side note: I didn’t try the whitefish salad, but my parents approve.) The whole wheat bagels were very tasty. They were denser and chewier than other bagels I have tasted before but not in a negative way where it’s hard to eat. Given the fact it was almost closing time and that these were probably not as freshly baked, the bagels did not taste stale, and overall, both sandwiches tasted good.

One personal complaint I have about the place is the customer service. Yes, it is 15 minutes from closing time, but it was quite obvious that the server at that time was not pleased to see customers. However, there was still 15 minutes until the place closed, and they still had available products that did not require opening the kitchen which we chose instead.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Ess-a-Bagel (in Midtown on 3rd Avenue)

Photo (from left to right): Banana Nut Cream Cheese on Pumpernickel Bagel, “A Great Any Time of Day Tuna Melt” on Whole Wheat Everything Bagel,  “A Signature Favorite” on Whole Wheat Everything Bagel

The flavors of the fillings in this bagel shop is ridiculously delicious. The banana nut cream cheese had the right amount of sweetness, and the banana flavor did not taste artificial. The nova (fillet of brined salmon) on the “A Signature Favorite” provided the umami flavor and paired really well with the fresh vegetables and the toasted bagel. A Great Any Time of Day Tuna Melt” was also good, but it did not stand out compared to other tuna salads I have tasted. The cheese could have also been more gooey.  The bagels themselves were also dense, chewy, and moist.

One thing to be aware of are the long lines. We arrived around noon, so lunch hour = very busy. The line moved slow, but once you ordered, it was relatively quick to get the food.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

NEW YORK DESSERTS

Levain’s Bakery (in Upper West Side Manhattan in Amsterdam Avenue)

Photo (from left to right): Double Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Chip, Chocolate Chip Walnut, and Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Aside from the three cookies shown above which I took to-go to share with my parents, I ordered another chocolate chip walnut cookie to eat right away. It was the BEST cookie I have ever had in life. I remember biting into it, and I literally thought to myself, oooh these textures (dancers understand lol). The outside had a nice crisp, but the inside was warm, moist, and gooey. This flavor had the right amount of sweetness, and the walnuts gave another texture change within the soft interior. This flavor was my favorite with the double chocolate peanut butter chip cookie and the double chocolate chocolate chip tying in second. The full-on chocolate flavor was sweet but was cut by the creaminess and nuttiness of the peanut butter chip. The sweetness of the latter cookies was quite overwhelming, and eating 1/3 of the cookie was enough to fulfill my sweet tooth. The chocolate chip walnut cookie, however… well…. I can eat those forever.

If you’re not going to eat the cookies right away (which is what happened to 3 of the 4 cookies I ordered), just keep them on your counter. Over time, the interior of the cookies become denser and more similar to chocolate fudge bites. Still tastes great to the buds though.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Eileen’s Special Cheesecake (in Nolita on Cleveland Place)

Photo: Plain (middle and right), Strawberry (bottom), Cookies n’ Cream (left), and Salted Caramel (top) Cheesecakes

I couldn’t visit New York and not have cheesecake. I mean, come on. I found out about this place through Buzzfeed’s series called “Worth It”. These were the best cheesecake ever. I remember diving into it with a fork, and I was able to cut through it with such ease without it falling apart. So texture? Yes. As for flavor, they were ALL good. However, the strawberry and cookies n’ cream weren’t anything extraordinary. Just the plain cheesecake itself was enough to satisfy my palette flavor-wise. But if you want something with a bit more of a kick, the salted caramel stood out the most to me. The right of amount of sweetness and saltiness with some texture change because of the topping.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Bibble & Sip (in Midtown on W 51st Street)

Photo: Earl Grey (bottom left), Black Sesame (bottom right), Chocolate Hazelnut (top right), and Matcha (top left) Cream Puffs

The only other cream puffs I have ever had was from Beard Papa’s. I like the texture of this pastry better which was soft and flaky. As for the flavor, the amount of filling was just enough and paired really well with the outer part in terms of sweetness. The matcha flavor did not have a powdery aftertaste like other matcha-flavored desserts. The chocolate hazelnut had the right amount of chocolate flavor. My favorite were black sesame and earl grey because they were unique and bold.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

NEW YORK PIZZA

Joe’s Pizza (in Times Square on Broadway Street)

Photo (from left to right): “Supreme” and Caprese Pizza

I found out about Joe’s Pizza through “Worth It” as well. This place was quite hyped by other friends, but to be honest, it’s not the best pizza I have ever had. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. I enjoyed that the crust was thin, and the tomato sauce base was tangy and tasted fresh. I couldn’t try the “Supreme” because I don’t eat red meat, but the caprese pizza was good. I wish there was more cheese on it, but that’s just because I love cheese and pizza should be cheesessssyyyy.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Guantanamera (in Midtown on 8th Avenue)

Photo (from left to right): Seafood and Vegetable Paella

I just found this restaurant through the Hilton hotel on our last night in New York. I have never had Cuban food before this, but it was really delicious. We ordered other food besides the entrées shown above, and they were all good. The rice in the paellas were perfectly cooked, and the seafood were tender and provided a lot of umami.

The highlight of this place was customer service. The servers were so accommodating and kind that we returned for our last meal in New York the next afternoon. I particularly enjoyed the live band which plays every night. I highly recommend this place if you want Latin food and amazing customer service.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Pommes Frites (in Greenwich Village on Macdougal Street)

Photo: “Double” size fries with sweet mango chutney, smoked eggplant with Parmesan and basil, and Vietnamese pineapple sauces (from left to right)

I LOVE potatoes, so when I heard about this place, I knew I had to try it. The fries were perfectly, well, fried. They were crispy on the edges but softer in the middle. But the highlight… the SAWWWCCEEEES. So, freaking, good. I was skeptical of the flavor names, but they allow you to sample them beforehand so no worries. The customer service was also amazing. Got some fellow Filipinos behind the counter. Y’all were so kind!!

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

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