Alright, today I'm gonna throw it back. Back to the time when I was living in NYC and the inevitable boozy Sunday brunch ritual was both a reality and a necessity. Sure, San Francisco has a thriving brunch scene with plenty of interesting versions of Eggs Benedict and brunch cocktails, but I just haven't seen the boozy excessiveness on the same level.
I'd never thought to go to Tartinery in Nolita before, but I'll be damned if that place wasn't an absolutely perfect spot for an impressive first date. You wouldn't know it from the street, but inside the understated exterior of this restaurant there's an incredibly sexy, well-thought-out, subterranean dining room with large vaulted ceilings with exposed brick walls accented by lots of black iron and flickering candle lights. It's a really incredible space and if you're looking to put the vibe in the air, this place is perfect for that. The menu is also great for two people getting to know each other. It features a vast array of French-inspired open-faced sandwiches known as tartines. And there's a wide selection of very accessible toppings offered – so you know that picky eater Tinder first date is going to be able to find something they can eat – yes, even vegetarians.
Like I've said before, one of the dishes I find myself missing the most living out in San Francisco is the simple New York staple of a bagel with lox. I haven't quite found myself a viable replacement yet, so when I find myself back in New York I know 100% of the time I'm going to venture out to get my fix. In the time since I've left the city, there seems to have been a resurgence and revitalization of Jewish comfort food in NYC with placed like Baz Bagels and Black Seed popping up and Russ & Daughters expanding into a full sit-down cafe. After reading much about the now famed Montreal-style bagels being baked at Nolita's Black Seed Bagels, I knew I had to give them a shot. The write-ups often fall at polarized ends of the spectrum with those in the negative camp often harping on the lines, cost, portion, and quality so I was excited to check them out for myself to make my own judgements. Instead of wandering down to Nolita where Black Seed's main shop lives, I decided to head to Chef Noah Bernamoff's closer-to-home Canadian sister restaurant Mile End in NoHo – where I had heard Black Seed bagels were also being served.
Bar Ciccio is the kind of place you could walk by a million times and never notice. It's located on a strip of 6th Avenue that gets ridiculously minimal intentional foot traffic and the shop front is so understated that you probably wouldn't even realize it's open for business. In fact, the place is completely subterranean and is located down a flight of stairs frequently obscured by scaffolding, but to miss this truly authentic Italian joint would be a big mistake.
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.