New York City Eats

I have just returned from a two week holiday in New York City and I am already feeling the nostalgia. It was my first time visiting the United States and was definitely a change from my norm back in Australia. It really is the city that never sleeps. I spent 12+ hours of my day roaming the streets checking out the sights, catching up with friends and most importantly eating all the wonderful food that the city has to offer. What I bring to you today is a snapshot of the tasty delights that I consumed whilst in the Big Apple. It is by far not an exclusive list of places that are worth visiting but are the highlights of my short stint.

 

Bagels – Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway, Upper West Side) $

Bagel

 

Oooo la la first New York bagels. I went with simple cream cheese on a plain bagel just for starters. The shop was everything I expected from a bagel place. It was a little local bakery filled with customers and pretty much raining bagels. As the mornings were quite cold while I was there, bagels served as a perfect warm start to my jam-packed days of sightseeing.

 

Pizza – Famous Famiglia Pizzeria (Corner W 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue)* $

New York Slice

I was never really into “just cheese” pizza. It always seemed so uninviting and pedestrian. Well my thoughts have changed about cheese pizza forever since my first taste of a New York Slice. Homemade, rich and flavoursome tomato sauce base, a generous amount of cheese melted to perfection on a crispy thin base. Oh and bonus, they’re basically giving them away with slices ranging from $1 – $4. There were a few of these stores around the city but this was my local.

 

Bacon and Egg Roll – BEC  (148 8th Ave) $

Bacon and Egg Roll

Okay not going to lie, main reason I went to this place is because of the name. Alas, the food was actually
really good! If you want to switch it up from bagels for breakfast then have a wonder down 8th Avenue and get yourself a classic bacon egg and cheese on fresh ciabatta. I am a big fan of runny yolk and this place cooked the egg to perfection.

 

Deli – Katz Delicatessen (205 E Houston St) $$$

World famous deli both for their pastrami and also Pastrami Sandwichtheir movie features (When Harry Met Sally anyone?). I walked in here and was immediately intrigued by every little thing in the place. From all the photos along the wall of past visitors (both famous and non) as well as the enormous counter and diverse selection of food available to diners. I had pastrami on rye with a generous side of pickles. It was a battle to eat but worth it in the end and reaffirmed why people flock from all over the world to visit. Due to its popularity and fame, it is quite pricey for what it is. Best is just to not think about it and just eat there anyway.

Italian – Amici II (165 Mulberry St, Little Italy) $$

Lobster RavioliIs it even a trip to New York without a visit to Little Italy? I had a wander through Mulberry Street not really knowing what I was looking for but then stumbled across this quaint looking restaurant, dimly lit but filled with life (and a very enthusiastic waiter). I was spoiled with choice. The menu was filled with traditional Italian dishes with all the pasta made fresh in-house. I ended up going with the lobster ravioli with absolutely no regrets. It was so rich in flavour and the “flamingo” sauce complemented the fresh pasta perfectly. I paired this with a cocktail and devoured the free bread with homemade garlic and herb oil. Molto bene!

Fries – Food Stand at Yankee Stadium $$ 

Have you even been to America unless you have had a Cheese Frieshot dog, cheese fries and a soda? Well I had all three…in one day. Only managed to grab a photo of the cheese fries because they were the most glamorous looking of the trio. I didn’t even want to think about what the “cheese” sauce was made from or if it even was cheese but I ate it anyway happily because there is just something so satisfying in devouring junk food. I only do it sparingly so that when I do, I get the ultimate satisfaction and no guilt.

Brunch – Le Garage (157 Suydam St, Brooklyn) $$

Poached Eggs and ChorizoI spent my second week in the borough of Brooklyn and was lucky enough to have a wonderful friend show me around her local neighbourhood. But first, brunch. This place reminded me a lot of home. Quirky cafes, poached eggs, you name it. I dove straight into my chorizo and eggs whilst sipping on house made mimosas. What a time to be alive. This place is a bit out of the way from where most tourists reside but it is worth a look at if you want to feel a bit more local during your stay.

 

Burgers – Shake Shack (1 Old Fulton Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn)* $

My oh my, people rave on about this place for a reason. Shake ShackThe burgers are so fresh and flavoursome, it almost makes you feel like you’re not eating fast food. We went with the original Shackburger accompanied by cheese fries and a soda each. Enough said, you need to try this whilst in New York City (especially since this is the city where it originated). Get on it.

 

Poke – Sons of Thunder (204 E 38th St) $

Poke bowlI really wanted to try poke whilst in the United States even though this is a Western American dish technically. As per reviews on Buzzfeed and Instagram, I landed at this place on the East Side that was thriving. I happened to be around at lunch hour and the place had a huge line (always reassuring). I went with a half salmon + tuna over white rice + avocado ($1.5 extra). Overall I was satisfied with the dish. I had confidence that the ingredients were all fresh due to the turnover of trade. It is a generous portion and would probably get mixed greens instead of rice next time.

Mexican Fiesta – Tacombi (255 Bleecker St) $$

My first proper meal in New York City was at Tacombi, a Mexican place located in Greenwich Village. We had chipotle corn, guacamole and homemade corn chips and tacos (of course). I had a pork taco and a crispy fish taco (yum). The meal was filling, flavoursome and located in a really cool garage vibe place to give a street food feel. This food was accompanied with cocktails including a pina colada for me. All in all, night and money well spent.

Southern BBQ – Virgil’s Real BBQ (152 W 44th St – Times Square) $$

My friend and I were in desperate need for mood food on the day we discovered this place and it definitely delivered on what we needed. First up was BBQ wings with a blue cheese sauce (the full size wings and not the teeny ones that disappear in a second). I then followed this up with a pulled pork sandwich, house cut fries and homemade pickles. Let’s just say I was full for the foreseeable future. Even though it was close by to Times Square, it was tucked away a bit away from the action so you could escape the controlled chaos that is Times Square. Tasty, friendly service and moderately priced.

German – Retagast Hall & Biergarten (113 N 3rd Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn) $$

After a long day of sightseeing around the popular neighbourhood of Williamsburg, we decided to park ourselves at the long bench tables at Retagast Hall. My friend expressed how great the sausages were here so was keen to try them out. I had Bratwurst on a pretzel bun (yes that’s a thing) and loaded with homemade sauerkraut. I was spoiled with choice for mustard. I ended up going with the most German option available. As well as this we decided to split one of the giant pretzels! It was warm, fresh and the way every pretzel should be. There were also pickles on the side. Yes!

Greek – Souvlaki GR (116 Stanton St) $$

If you’re having Greece nostalgia like my friend and I were and you are unfortunately not in Greece, then this is the place to go. It is decked out exactly like the Greek Islands with the white and blue colours protruding from all angles. They even had the pink flowers and blue chairs as part of the decor. We started off with Greek fries which consisted of house cut fries covered in herbs and feta. Next up it was souvlaki pita which mimicked a mini “Gyros” but a bit more glamorous. Finally, we finished up the meal with loukoumades drizzled in honey and sprinkled with nuts. Food babies for days.

A few other places I visited that are worth mentioning that I didn’t manage to capture any decent photos from are as follows

  • The Meatball Shop (170 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn) – $. Perfect for lunch or late night feed.
  • Gray’s Papaya (everywhere) – $. Hot dog cravings sorted within seconds.
  • Magnolia Bakery (Grand Central Dining Concourse)* –  $. Cupcakes and fan girl moments.
  • Gallow Green (542 W 27th St) – $$$. Beautiful rooftop with light meals and cocktails.

So that’s it! I was spoiled with choice and have barely even scratched the surface on one of the most incredible cities in the world. Can’t wait to go back.


* Places indicated with a * are found in multiple locations. I have included the address of the location that I visited/frequented most.

Price scale 

$ – giving it away

$$ – a happy medium and well justified

$$$ – I really loved it and forgot about my whole food philosophy for a second

 

 

 

 

My Tips for Surviving Europe on a Budget

So I may not be Rick Steves or a writer for Lonely Planet but I have definitely picked up some handy tricks and tips along the way in order to explore Europe with a limited amount of cash. Thanks to both friends at home and abroad for their help and inspiration for this post. Oh and Tyler Cowen.

Find yourself a free walking tour

For those who have never done a free walking tour, the basic concept involves a guide who doesn’t work for a wage and is rewarded for his/her work with the tips of the tour participants i.e. you. I find walking tours an excellent way to find out a load of info about a city in a short space of time. The guides are normally locals or people who have lived in the city for an extended period of time and so they know their bit. Tours are also a great way for solo travellers to meet people (more often than not you meet fellow travellers staying in the same place as you making meet ups super easy post tour). If you really did enjoy the tour, don’t be a stinge and tip the guide please (and write them a fabulous review on Tripadvisor)

Find a supermarket

Not a mini market, but a supermarket where you would normally do a full grocery shop. This will become your new favourite place for breakfast, snack purposes and bottled water (if tap water is not potable). If you’re paying a euro for a bottle of water, you’re paying too much. Some good supermarkets that I recall visiting include Lidl, Tesco, Biedroska (Poland) and basically anything German.

Eating out

So you’re in the beautiful city of Nice (for argument’s sake). A good way to figure out a well priced restaurant is to set yourself up a “price index”. Basically, you pick a dish or two that is served at basically every French restaurant in Nice (for this example I will use Niçoise salad). For this to work and you to keep things as simple as possible, you need to assume the salads are exactly the same. Oh and look around you, if you are in the middle of the Old Town Square then yes, prices will be double so branch out into the side streets or less populated areas to avoid the tourist price gouge.

Never settle for the first offer

This could be anything from souvenirs to pretzels. It is always highly likely the place around the corner has it for a euro or two cheaper (with that difference being able to buy you some gelato or something). Also in some countries, it is perfectly acceptable to negotiate a better price. I found this a lot in Turkey and in any kind of market or bazaar with stalls as opposed to structured shops.

Find where the locals eat

A good way to find these places is via these few pointers

a) The menu at the front of the restaurant is not in English

b)  The words “Tourist Menu” are not mentioned at all

c) They specialise in one form of cuisine and are not catering for the masses

Basically, these places are cheaper, more authentic and the quality of the food is much better. Finding these places may involve some wandering around but hey you’re in a beautiful city so it’s the best of both worlds.

Where should I snooze?

As a solo female traveller, I opted not to utilise the site “Couchsurfing.com”. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, but for me personally, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to use it. This would be the ultimate budget accommodation as it’s free. However, to give myself (and my parents) peace of mind, I went with hostels. Two apps you need in your life – Hostelworld AND Hostelbookers. Not everyone out there is aware that each booking site gets allocated a certain number of beds and so you may have heard of an amazing hostel however it may not be showing on one app. However, if you check the other you might just be lucky enough to score a bed. As for choosing your pad for the night, big things I look at are location, security and facilities such as kitchens.

  • Location – if you can walk to every awesome place that you want to see, then you are in a great location. I personally hate trying to figure out public transport in foreign cities and so I always make sure my hostel is located in the centre of all the important things.
  • Security – getting things stolen is not fun for anybody so make sure you pick a place with a super high security rating. Bonus if your room has lockers AND locks are provided. Most hostels have safety deposit boxes free of charge at reception too.
  • Kitchens – so as much as I would have loved to have gone out every night indulging in restaurant food, I knew I had a limit on funds and so if you score a good hostel with a kitchen, you will be able to whip yourself up nutritious meals on those nights when you don’t feel like foraging for food (or those mornings when all you want is bacon and eggs).

Make friends with people in your room

Because…

a) Friends are awesome and make for fun adventures whilst travelling

b) They have most likely been there slightly longer than you and may have interesting info about the city

c) With friends, come friends who may potentially know a local in that city which means access to a whole new realm of possibilities like underground bars and secret hideaways.

Raid your hostel reception area

They normally have a stack of free maps and guide books with some offering discounts at partnering restaurants. They also have an array of things to entertain yourself with if you decide to have a quiet afternoon to yourself (oh and if you’re lucky they have free unlimited tea and coffee! Win!)

Choose your transport wisely

So majority of backpackers travelling Europe will be venturing to more than one city. So to find your way of getting from A to B there are a few options for you. As a solo female traveller, I decided not to use car sharing services however, I would if I was travelling with another person. Second best priced alternative I found were buses. There are hundreds of companies around Europe and a handy place to find a decent portion of them is through an app called “Go Euro”. Through this app, you can do point to point trips and it will show the prices for bus, train and plane (save yourself the hassle and don’t fly between cities unless you’re travelling from west to far east for example). This app also provides the nifty feature of letting you book your transport directly through the app! So much time and money saved. Also, two birds one stone idea is if you’re travelling a long distance (in transit for about 7 hours plus) then opt for an overnight bus. You will arrive in the city early, give yourself another full day and also save on a night’s accommodation.

So there you have it, this is some of what I’ve learnt whilst being on the road so hopefully when you decide to jet off abroad you will be able to use some of these tips to better plan your trip. No time like the present.


Featured Image: Appropriately chosen photo of Nice, Côte D’Azur from Europe 2014 where I did my first ever walking tour and also where I first utilised the price index concept. 

Spiced Popcorn

I’m having a bit of fun with popcorn lately! I am a major advocate for buying a bag of corn kernels and popping your own! Microwave popcorn presents itself to health concerns such as excess salt and fats (if you get the extra extra butter kind). At least with homemade popcorn on the stove top, you can control the exact amount of every little thing that goes into it. All in all, your body will love you and you can still have the satisfying snack minus the guilt. My recipe today is something I thought up off the top of my head in about 30 seconds. We have an array of spices in our kitchen so I thought why not chuck a few together and see what happens. Turns out, a delicious and marvellous creation happens! It was too good not to share, so here’s how you do it! (Aside: I made this for one portion so i’ll scale up the recipe to cater for more people – or just for those of us who can’t control ourselves)

Spiced Popcorn 

What you’re going to need

1/4 cup corn kernels

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil (you can cook it without oil but chances of burning dramatically increase)

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon mixed herbs

salt and pepper to season

saucepan with a lid!

Method

1. Mix up all the spices in a small dish

For those out there who have never made popcorn on a stove, I’ll just run through it 

1. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat

2. Add the corn kernels and then place the lid on top of the saucepan. (Make sure to pick up the saucepan and swirl the popcorn and oil around just by gently shaking the saucepan to reduce chances of burning)

3. You will hear the popcorn popping! Once the popping reduces and stops, take off the heat.

4. Add as much spice mix as desired. Stir until all the popcorn is coated.

Enjoy!

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