Essential NY bites
Am looking to do an independent walking tour of Manhattan with the plan being to go from the lowest point and ending the walk in Harlem. Along the way, we plan to stop at places that serve quintessentially NY food and/or atmosphere. We know we want to stop for capuccino and pastry in Little Italy and probably visit bars like Chumleys and McSorleys along the way. We also will probably not be looking to include high end restaurants as we expect the walk to take all day and with the exception of dinner, won't want to allocate 2-3 hours to eat. We also know that we eventually want to end the walk in Harlem with dinner at Sylvia's. Since we will be covering a lot of territory, can you offer any suggestions?
Start off at Front Street at Jack's for a cup of coffee, it's a neat coffee house, then you could go through Chinatown and have some dim sum, then Little Italy for cappucino as you said.
At 57th and 8th is a street cart that serves the very NY (via the Middle East) Halal dishes. Order one dish of "gyro over rice with white and hot sauce," walk 1/2 a block to the 57th Street Starbucks to sit down, and share this very NY dish.
You might want to consider including my (in)famous LES food tour. While you walk the streets of this interesting, historic neighborhood, you get to do what you have in mind, i.e., sample food emblematic of NYC. Here it is:
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 – though not mandatory, it is a tradition -- 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, where it’s cash only. To pay by credit card, go to the counter at the rear where the salamis are sold. 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.
Enjoy and Bon Appetit!
Katz's on the LES for pastrami on rye, then McSorley's in the EV for some ale and a cheese, onion and cracker snack platter... walk that off some... a bagel and a shmear perhaps at Ess-A-Bagel on First Ave after that ... walk that off ... somehow include Patsy's Pizza on 1st Ave and 117th in there too in East Harlem before heading over to Sylvia's. You will definitely have loaded up on carbs by then...and hopefully you won't explode.
I've recently done a variation on RGR's tour with a few friends.
I start off in the east village at Momofuku Noodle bar for some of the best fresh vegetable dishes anywhere and possibly some of their excellent pork.
Afterwards it's a short walk to Katz's to share a pastrami sandwich and a Dr Browns. Next it's off to Il Lab for a palate cleansing lemon and basil sorbet.
I have once finished there and twice moved on to another food stop. Once we went to Stanton Social for some small plates and once we went to chinatown for some noodles and then more ice cream at Famous Chinatown Ice Cream factory.
It is also very possible to stay in a few block radius in the east village and eat an amazing assortment. Start with Momofuku and then a shared chicken shwarma sandwich from Chickpea, a dessert or two from Chickalicious, a few rectangular dark truffles from Black Hound, and possibly a cone of fries and a few sauces from Pomme Frites is all you need ;o)