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Where is the center of the NYC food universe?

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I may be accepting a job in midtown and it got me thinking as to where the best neighborhood to live would be, if I only considered access to good and diverse food. What residential neighborhood in the city has the best access to:

immediate food (good restaurants in the building and on the block)
walking distance/delivery food (10 minute walking radius or delivery)
food via subway (is there a close subway line that takes you to a stop that may have something unique or vibrant)
something special to be proud of that is on your block (ie: the best fish market, supermarket, butcher, bakery etc....)

Please help by being as specific as possible like a specific building, subway stop or intersection that you believe to be the center of the NYC food universe. Also, where are the NYC food wastelands?

Thanks!

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  1. The center of nyc's food universe is somewhere close to the Jackson Heights-Elmhust-Woodside area in Queens. Roosevelt station has the best subway access to just about anywhere.

    1 Reply
    1. Do you have an unlimited budget for rent?
      The great thing about the city is that there are great restaurants everywhere, especially when you compare them to places outside NYC. As far as supermarkets go, you might want to be on the upper west side somewhere near Fairway. Some might like to be near Trader Joe's, so it's more what your preference is.

      1. if we're talking Manhattan, i'd say Union Square is as good as/better than anywhere...i'm biased because i live here, but you have: a) the Greenmarket 4 days a week, b) easy walking to restaurants in the East Village/Central Village/Soho/Gramercy/etc, c) the N/R/Q and 4/5/6 and L lines for access to elsewhere (including very quick express stops on 4/5 to go to Grand Central area Japanese food and/or to Grand Central to catch the 7 to Queens)...

        Wastelands?...the UWS has great grocery stores, but restaurant options are horrendous...sure, there are a few "decent" places but nothing most people would ever go out of their way to get to (with the exception of the lower area near 64th where Picholine, etc are)...when i lived there for six months, it became a huge pain to have to commute to downtown for dinner...

        But as mentioned above, subways and taxis here are absurdly convenient, so you'll be fine most anywhere...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Simon

          I'm inclined to agree with Simon here. Union Square is an area where you have good shopping and restaurants in the immediate area, plus a plethora of transportation options to take you elsewhere around the city. One stop on the green line will bring you to Grand Central where you can do a quick transfer into Queens. One stop on the red line can also bring you to Penn Station where you can take NJT to Newark or LIRR to Flushing and Murray Hill. Chinatown is one stop away on the yellow line or a nice brisk walk.

          Personally I wouldn't want to live right on Union Square as it's too noisy, but a couple of blocks away you have some quiet streets.

        2. While your question is pretty broad, I'll givy you MY answer.
          If I had an unlimited rent budget, I'd pick Soho. You are in walking distance of the Lower East Side (Katz's, Economy Candy), Chinatown (HK style bakeries, bahn mi, dumplings) and the West Village (Cafe Dante, Arturo's). You can also catch the 6 or N trains to just about anywhere else you'd care to go.

          -----
          Katz's Delicatessen
          205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

          Arturo's
          106 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

          Economy Candy
          108 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

          Dante
          79 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

          1. As a tourist with dining as a high priority, my recent visits to NYC have centered on the Columbus Circle area. On foot in the immediate neighborhood, have really enjoyed Marea, A Voce and Nougatine. Within just a couple of blocks, loved Modern at the MOMA, especially at the bar.
            Going north a bit, the new action around Lincoln Center is fun.

            More casually, the Whole Foods in Time Warner is fun and great for takeout. After a run in Central Park, grab a coffee and canoli at the Ferrara kiosk just across from Trump Intl Hotel.

            Getting on the subway, I go south to the tapas places in Chelsea and then a little further south to the Meatpacking District for the wide variety of places there. Going north just a bit, I must stop at Zabars and then stroll back on Columbus or Broadway.

            Columbus Circle (formerly a wasteland when the Coliseum was there), is my current food nexus in Manhattan.

            -----
            Zabar's
            2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

            The Modern
            9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

            Whole Foods
            10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

            Marea
            240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

            Nougatine
            1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023

            A Voce
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

            1. scscr, it might help drive the conversation better if you can tell us:
              - where in midtown you'll be commuting to (cross streets) -- neighborhoods convenient to midtown East are different from midtown West
              - favorite cuisines, both to dine out and to get delivered - Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, etc?
              - if nearby bars (beer, wine, cocktails) matter to you, and if so, which -- for example, the East Village has the best cocktail bar scene in Manhattan, not so much Gramercy or Murray Hill
              - same for pastry shops and coffee shops -- for example the West Village and Greenwich/Central Village has Payard, Claude, Bosie, Mille-Feuille, which are all French patisseries
              - whether you want somewhere more lively or more quiet on weekends
              - if you plan to cook at home (not all neighborhoods have great farmers markets, grocery stores, fishmongers, butchers, cheese shops, etc) -- you might care if you are close to Union Square Greenmarket, Eataly, Whole Foods, or Chelsea Market, etc.

              -----
              Patisserie Claude
              187 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

              Union Square Greenmarket
              Broadway and E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

              Whole Foods
              40 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

              Bosie Tea Parlor
              10 Morton St, New York, NY 10014

              Eataly
              200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

              Francois Payard Bakery
              116 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

              Mille-feuille
              552 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

              6 Replies
              1. re: kathryn

                Will do and I appreciate the responses so far. I did this on the Los Angeles board when I was moving to LA and they came up with the intersection of Melrose and Highland. I like Cortez's response as he was able to identify a specific building (10 Columbus w/ Per Se et al, Whole Foods, subway access etc...) and thanks for all of the other detailed responses.

                I didn't really mean for this to be a thread about where I should live, but since that is the way it is being interpreted, I will try to be more specific....
                I'm looking at two jobs...one at 555 5th and the other at Ave of the Americas and 42nd. I may also be able to work from home, which would not make commute an issue.
                Favs for delivery....
                Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Sushi. Really anything if it is good. I would be upset if I could not get decent chinese delivered (I'm from LA and Seattle and am not expecting much from Manhattan Chinese, but ANYTHING would be an improvement on my current local in Miami!!!)
                I don't drink, but we go to bars socially. My wife drinks wine daily so a good selection of wine bars would be ideal for my wife. Places with a good happy hour would also be welcomed.
                Walking distance to Sushi, Bistros/cafes and Mexican are at the top of my priority list.
                A more quiet residential location is ideal for me but there needs to be at least a few places open late in the area.
                My wife and I are both home cooks. The food in Miami is terrible so we make it at home instead. We make pizza, chinese, sushi, indian, thai and italian along with standard french and american classics. A good day would be to pick up some baked goods, a fresh protein, some veggies and cook a great meal later that night.
                I would like to live close to a good market (or block with good butcher, baker, produce etc...) I'm guessing that we can hop on a train and pick up specialty items throughout the city so the shopping portion is not really an issue,or is it?

                -----
                Per Se
                10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                1. re: scscr

                  First: don't get your heart set on a specific building to live in as it might be condo or co-op, or have a terrible landlord, or vermin infestation, etc. Finding a place in Manhattan is more of an artform where you have at best a neighborhood or zone of blocks in mind.

                  > I didn't really mean for this to be a thread about where I should live

                  It's what happens when you try to ask for delivery recommendations! :)

                  > I'm looking at two jobs...one at 555 5th and the other at Ave of the Americas and 42nd. I may also be able to work from home, which would not make commute an issue.

                  OK, so 46th and 5th Ave vs. 42nd and 6th Ave? Not really a huge difference, and you can easily commute via any line that goes through Times Square, Bryant Park, and Grand Central without a transfer. That leaves most of Manhattan up for grabs.

                  The only lines that may be *slightly* less convenient would be living near the A/C/E, which will get you to Port Authority on 8th Avenue (unless you make a transfer elsewhere). But it's not that bad a walk from 8th Ave to 6th Ave either!

                  If you want good Chinese delivery outside of Chinatown, it's going to be tough.

                  I'd say live:
                  1. near Chinatown
                  2. near the Szechuan Gourmet/Lan Sheng corridor on 39th st between 5th and 6th Avenue
                  3. near either the St Marks Place Grand Sichuan (between 2nd and 3rd Ave) or the Chelsea Grand Sichuan (24th and 9th)

                  The other Grand Sichuans aren't as good. The 7th Avenue one (where I live now) has its ups and downs but is overall decent, but it's not as good as my old one (St Marks). I've heard mixed reports too about the UWS one.

                  The Thai delivery in Manhattan is pretty spotty, too. I'd say the best are probably Zabb Elee in the East Village (they'll go west to 6th Ave though!), Rhong Tiam near the Flatiron Building, maybe Pure Thai Shophouse in Hell's Kitchen.

                  For good Indian delivery, the best place to live is near "Curry Hill" in the 20s near Lexington. Unfortunately I've only ever had mediocre food on the row of Indian restaurants in the East Village, 6th Street.

                  For Mexican, there is a lot of bad Mexican in Manhattan, sadly. In HK you'd have easy access to Tehuitzingo and Tulcingo Del Valle. Downtown near Nolita you'd have La Esquina and Pinche Taqueria. In the East Village, La Lucha.

                  However, a lot of the good Mexican places don't deliver, even if they are cheap/casual. We usually walk to Dos Toros (there's one near Union Square and another in the West Village, it's more Cali-Mex though) when the craving strikes. Tacombi is another new one that I don't think delivers either.

                  For sushi, you can probably find a decent place nearby you (something along the lines of Takahachi in Tribeca or East Village). I assume you'll probably want pretty standard maki rolls delivered; the only successful nigiri sushi I've had delivered came from Kanoyama and Nori in the East Village. There are tons of good, not super expensive sushi places in the EV. Won't be your best sushi meal ever, but sometimes you just want some decent sushi delivered, right?

                  > I don't drink, but we go to bars socially. My wife drinks wine daily so a good selection of wine bars would be ideal for my wife. Places with a good happy hour would also be welcomed.

                  You'll probably also want to consider how far away you live from Astor Wines & Spirits, the premiere wine and liquor store in Manhattan.

                  > Walking distance to Sushi, Bistros/cafes and Mexican are at the top of my priority list.

                  Just taking into account your non-delivery needs, maybe somewhere in Soho/Nolita? Some of the blocks are pretty quiet at night, you just need to be able to survive the tourists on the weekends.

                  You could walk to Blue Ribbon Sushi, Niko, Ushiwakamaru, Balthazar, Tacombi, Papatzul, Pinche Taqueria, Hecho en Dumbo, and there are tons of coffee shops nearby like Ground Support. Not really sure about Chinese delivery though.

                  > A more quiet residential location is ideal for me but there needs to be at least a few places open late in the area.

                  I don't think you'll be able to find an area that is entirely residential unless you move to a complex like Stuyvesant Town. Many blocks are mixed use anyway. I think what you want is to live on a street (runs east-west) rather than an avenue (runs north-south) . At least while you're "on the grid," the streets are quieter than avenues.

                  > My wife and I are both home cooks. The food in Miami is terrible so we make it at home instead.

                  However, given the density of restaurants and convenience of delivery food in NYC, you might find your habits changing. Some people I know can only really find time to shop and cook on the weekends.

                  > I would like to live close to a good market (or block with good butcher, baker, produce etc...) I'm guessing that we can hop on a train and pick up specialty items throughout the city so the shopping portion is not really an issue,or is it?

                  Yes and no--it depends what your working hours are like. I find that I end up making a lot of stops at different specialty stores rather than one big market.

                  The Greenmarket is 4 days a week. Also it closes at 6pm (some farmers leave earlier if sold out) and the best produce is gone by late morning--also not all the farmers/producers come on all days, so your preferred egg/meat/etc. vendor may be only Wednesdays and Saturdays or something.

                  Some specialty stores don't stay open all that late. For example, Di Palo closes at 6 or so, same for Ottomanelli & Sons butcher shop. Murray's Cheese closes at 8pm. Sullivan St Bakery closes at 7pm. If you don't leave work until late, that can be an issue.

                  Luckily, Whole Foods and Eataly stay open late, but for items like meat and produce, may cost quite a bit more.

                  -----
                  Murray's Cheese
                  254 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

                  Tehuitzingo
                  695 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036

                  La Esquina
                  106 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012

                  Blue Ribbon Sushi
                  119 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

                  Kanoyama
                  175 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                  Takahachi
                  85 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

                  Pinche Taqueria
                  227 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

                  Astor Wines & Spirits
                  399 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10003

                  Papatzul
                  55 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013

                  Ottomanelli's Cafe
                  1626 York Ave, New York, NY 10028

                  Ground Support
                  399 W Broadway, New York, NY 10012

                  Dos Toros
                  137 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

                  La Lucha
                  147 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

                  Hecho en Dumbo
                  354 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

                  Eataly
                  200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

                  Tacombi
                  267 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012

                  Pure Thai Cookhouse
                  766 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

                  Zabb Elee
                  75 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                  1. re: scscr

                    Being the person that proposed Highland and Melrose to your impossible question in LA, I'm curious as to where you ended up living in LA and how that turned out for you. Please repost on the original LA thread if you care to share.

                    Interestingly enough, we've lived in the the same cities. LA, NYC, Miami...Miami isn't so bad. There's Sardinia and Epicure on South Beach.

                    I think Colombus Circle, SOHO, or Union Square would satisfy what you're looking for even if a philosophical center couldn't be agreed upon. My personal vote would be for Union Square. You have the Greenmarket, Garden of Eden, and a butcher and fishmonger on either 1st or 2nd Ave around 20th street that I used to go to. The 6 will take you right to Chinatown and Grand Central for Sushi Yasuda (haven't been since Yasuda left).

                    -----
                    Sushi Yasuda
                    204 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

                    Garden of Eden
                    7 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

                    1. re: Porthos

                      See my response on the LA thread and thanks for your NYC input.

                    2. re: scscr

                      Trust me. I know what the scene is like in Miami. You want to live within delivery distance of the best Thai restaurant in Manhattan, which is on 2nd avenue around 5th street. You will also be walking distance to Chinatown. Try a 7-10 minute walk South West of 2nd and 5th. best area in the Manhattan

                      1. re: scscr

                        Folks, we'd like to steer this conversation back toward great food neighborhoods, rather than a real estate conversation about places to live, how to commute, and so on.

                        Please recommend areas rich in food opportunities and specific restaurants that make it a great chow-neighborhood. Thanks.

                    3. The direct answer to "where is the center of the NYC food universe" is the Jackson Heights-Elmhust-Woodside area in Queens, as E Eto originally stated.

                      Whether you want to live there...well, that's your decision.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: StayHungry

                        I meant to keep this to Manhattan only, but will eventually venture off the Island for "the best". The initial response that I intended to provoke was location soley based on food, so your answers are perfect when considering the boroughs. I will keep in mind access to the 7 line for easy access to this area.

                      2. You want Greenwich Village, Noho, Nolita or Soho. Ideally, I'd pick somplace close to Astor Place to be within most east village delivery zones. There are lots of wine bars and good ethnic places in the East & West Villages. There are plenty of food markets on 14th st., but if you are really going to shop or cook lots, you don't need to be on the same block because you'll end up geting groceries delivered or using Fresh Direct. You will have good Chinese and many other Asian options, esp, in the East Village. You will not find decent Mexican south of 96th St. in Manhattan - your best CA-style option is Downtown Bakery. You can also take the N/R to Sunset Park or along the 7 line Queens for good Chinese, Mexican, various South/Central American, and other options.

                        -----
                        Downtown Bakery
                        69 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003