A few years back, I was living in the East Village and Alphabet City area and was truly disappointed and amazed to find that that section of the city was utterly and hopelessly bagel-less. What a travesty! I was forced to trek the ten blocks north all the way up to Gramercy to get a decent bagel. Obviously that doesn't sound like a hell of a lot of distance these days compared to my current bagel trekking situation on the West Coast, but back then that seemed like an extraordinary hike for a simple bagel in New York.
What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too. Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin! And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.
There's no doubt in my mind that chef Sam Mason is a genius. He in fact runs his ice cream shop OddFellows sort of like a mad scientist would run a lab – inventing crazy concoctions that truly nobody has ever thought to do before. Take, for instance, his famed Chorizo Caramel Swirl Ice Cream – that's a flat-out bonkers idea to do to ice cream. I can admit that I was a little disappointed to find that it wasn't available during my visit (not that I wasn't able to find other amazing insanities to try).
I completely ignored the opening of Huertas in the East Village when I first heard about it. All too frequently I find myself disappointed by tapas joints, so I often don't bother to give them a chance. But, then I read a glowing write-up from my most trusted food writer – Robert Sietsema that made me completely reconsider. My tastes pretty much always fall directly in line with his, so I knew that if he loved the place, I was probably gonna love it too.
Let's face it, New Yorkers love to drink. And with bars that stay open 'til 4 AM, it's bound to get out of hand from time to time. I know that I, for one, love to drunk eat after a big night out and in my opinion there's no better place in the East Village to do it than at Crif Dogs.
*Editor's Note 10/15/15: I'm sad to report that Purple Ginger has permanently closed. In NYC, people love to wait in lines. Brunch lines often last over an hour and I'm not down with that. I like to have places that I can get into on a moment's notice. I've been going to Purple Ginger since it opened but it's perpetually empty. This has nothing to do with the food, it's top notch. It has everything to do with their location on 6th and B which clearly doesn't get enough foot traffic for a restaurant like this to survive. Even on a Saturday at 12:30 in the East Village during peak brunching hours, it was pretty much empty. What I'm saying is, go. Because with food so consistently delicious and generously portioned, I don't want them to fold.
I want to share one of the most fun, excessive, over-the-top meals I've recently had with you all. On the northern edge of the East Village on 1st Ave. at 13th St. there's a cool, newish place called Jeepney. You won't be able to miss the gigantic, bold, yellow signage. Jeepney is a self-described Filipino gastropub that serves hearty Filipino specialties alongside Southeast Asian inflected cocktails. Jeepney is owned by the Maharlika guys and has the same hip, cool vibe as the sit-down spot. I've gotta warn you though, the hip decor at Jeepney isn't exactly Safe For Work. On this particular Thursday evening, Amy and I were accompanied to dinner by two of my close friends from Foodspotting, Meng and Dr. Klein. We had all heard great things about a special feast at Jeepney served every Thursday (and has subsequently expanded into Wednesdays too) by reservation only called Kamayan (kuh-MY-uhn) Night. We were all very excited to check it out. Before arriving that night, I had no idea what I was getting myself into except that there was going to be a massive amount of Filipino food that we would be eating it with our hands!
In NYC, the Blue Ribbon brand has turned into a veritable mini-chain with restaurants spanning a variety of cuisines and levels of formality including high-end sushi, casual southern-influenced cuisine, and a modern American brasserie. Possibly the most hype has been about their very popular Brooklyn Bowl location, where they serve an array of fast casual pub food to the bowling masses. At Brooklyn Bowl, people go absolutely crazy for the fried chicken. This exact chicken recipe from that menu has since become the primary focus of the Blue Ribbon empire's latest spin-off, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken. This East Village spot opened to a ton of press and buzz, so my expectations were understandably set high.
Now that the weather is cooling off and Winter Is Coming, I find myself craving a huge, bowl of steaming hot noodle soup. As a lover of all Asian foods, more often than not, when I want soup I go for one of the many Asian varieties. Whether it's hand-pulled, knife cut, needle noodles, ramen, pho, soba, udon, wonton, or something else there's a huge variety of flavors and textures you can have when it comes to Asian noodles soups. The following is a list of the places I'd go if it's feeling dreary outside and I'm in the mood for a comforting bowl of Asian noodle soup.
A friend from college recently moved from Philly to NYC. His apartment is in the East Village on 10th Street between 1st and A, which I consider to be a great area for food and drinks. I know a ton of great, cheap eats in the neighborhood since I used to live nearby, but we were still struggling to decide what to get. In a stroke of genius, I remembered that the Famous 53rd and 6th Halal Guys were opening up a brick-and-mortar location on the north edge of the East Village as well as a cart that had already launched. On this Saturday night, we wanted something quick, cheap, and tasty to prime us for the night of drinking ahead and this sounded like the perfect option.