Chicago Hound Visiting NYC - Need food destinations
I have 4 days in NYC for feeding my food addiction. We have reservations at Asia de Cuba and WD-50. I now need food destinations. Shops, specialty stores, hole in the wall eats...
Is Zabars worth a visit? Any cookware stores?
I want to go home sated and with a suitcase full of items I can't live without.
Any ideas for me?
The strip of Houston west of Essex should not be missed. In addition to the obvious Katz's for pastrami, there's Russ and Daughters, a long-standing family "appetizings" store. You can buy smoked fish and other delicacies to take home, or you can just regard the place as a kind of big deconstructed bagel (they sell bagels and bialys) waiting to be put together and eaten in a nearby park - if the rain ever stops.
Thanks to Wilfrid for providing me a nice segue to suggest my (in)famous Lower East Side eating "tour." It includes Katz's, Russ & Daughters, and a number of other places where the food is emblematic of NYC. Plus, it will give you an opportunity to walk the streets of one of the city's most interesting neighborhoods. I'm appending the tour here:
LES Food Excursion:
For the quintessential NYC deli experiences, no place beats Katz's, on the corner of Houston (pronounced "how-stun") & Ludlow Sts. You're there specifically for the pastrami sandwich. When you enter, you will be given a ticket. Instead of opting for table service, do what the "natives" do and get on line for counter service. When you reach the counter, put a $1 for each sandwich in the counterman's tip cup and order pastrami on rye. He'll give you a piece to taste. If you like it (the best pastrami is juicy and has some fat on it), tell him o.k., and he'll make your sandwich, give you some sour pickles, and punch your ticket. Then, continue along the counter for sides – the cole slaw is good -- and drinks. Find seats at a table in the center of the room. (Tables along the wall have menus on them and are reserved for waiter service.) When you’re done, take your ticket to the cashier in front. It's cash only. Note: For the purposes of this tour, unless you have a gargantuan appetite, it would be best to share one sandwich in order to leave room for more tastings along the way.
When you exit Katz’s, turn left and continue along the same side of Houston St. You will come to Russ & Daughters, famous for all sorts of smoked fish and many other goodies. It's not a restaurant, but they make sandwiches to go.
After leaving the Russes, continue west a couple of blocks until you reach Yonah Schimmel's. Get a tasty potato knish, and make sure to ask them to heat it up.
Now it’s time for the quintessential NY drink – the egg cream. So, reverse yourself and head east on Houston until you come to Avenue A. (Note: Avenue A becomes Essex St. on the south side of Houston.) Turn left on A and head north until you get to the block between 7th St. and St. Mark’s Place. Look for a hole-in-the-wall candy shop, closer to 7th, with an overhead sign jutting into the street that says, “Belgian Fries.” (The place’s official name is Ray’s, but there is no signage to that effect.) One of the women behind the counter will make you a delicious chocolate egg cream.
When you’re finished licking your lips, go back to Houston St. and make a left (east) one block to Norfolk St. Turn right and walk down Norfolk until it ends at Grand St. Two places to look for at the corner of Grand and Norfolk: Kossar's, for freshly baked bialys (another very NY food) and the Donut Plant (self-explanatory).
Next, walking west along Grand St., you will come to Orchard St. Turn right. At 87 Orchard, snack on a pickle from Gus's World Famous Pickles.
Then, continue to 97 Orchard, b/t Broome & Delancey, where you will find the Tenement Museum. The tour will show you what life was like for immigrants to NYC at the beginning of the 20th century. ( http://www.tenement.org
Once you have finished the tour, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, right next door at 95 Orchard, is a must for some of the best gelato anywhere.
If your sweet tooth is still not completely satisfied, the final stop on this tour should do it. Continue ahead (north) on Orchard, crossing Delancey, then one more block to Rivington St. Make a right and you will find Economy Candy at 145 Rivington.
Note: It’s best not to take this tour on a Saturday since some of the spots are closed because of religious observance. Also, Donut Plant is closed on Mondays.
For cookware, I highly recommend Bridge Kitchenware, on 3rd Av. & 45th St.
Broadway Panhandler, on 8th St., b/t B'way & University, is a popular cookware shop though, in my view, not as good as Bridge.
In the realm of specialty shops, you might want to visit Kalustyan's, on Lexington Av., b/t 28th & 29th St. Every inch of space is filled with a mind-boggling array of Indian and Middle Eastern products.
This should get you started. As the conversation continues, perhaps more suggestions to come.
I second all of RGR's fine choices. And for the LES Noshing Tour I always like to add the addition of Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery's cupcakes (way better than Magnolia's IMO).
I like Zabar's a lot and to me, it is worth a visit, but it can get super-crowded and hectic. Additionally, don't forget that they sell lots of cookware upstairs.
Some specialty stores that you might enjoy: Kee's Chocolates, The Yogurt Place, Murray's Cheese, Beard Papa, Roll & Dough, Junior's (cheesecake), Veniero's (or Rocco's), Patisserie Claude, perhaps Essex Street Market or Chelsea Market.
Don't forget about street food: "The Cart" that serves halal food after sundown is at 53rd St & 6th Ave. across from the Hilton.