We planned our recent trip to New York City with a couple of things in mind. I knew that I didn’t want to try to cram in all the sights in our short time there, nor did I want to lug around my DSLR and spend all my time snapping photos. So we selected a couple must-eats, and tried to keep it fairly simple, inexpensive, and allow time for exploring!
Starting with my favorite first: After watching this documentary about eccentric Greenwich village restauranteur Kenny Shopsin, there was no question that “slutty cakes” at Shopsins would be high on our NYC list. They’ve since moved to the Essex Street Market, and locals say Kenny has tempered a bit with age, but Shopsins maintains their 900-item menu, as well as the strict ban on parties larger than four.
Pancakes are a luxury, like smoking marijuana or having sex. That’s why I came up with the names Ho Cakes and Slutty Cakes. These are extra decadent, but in a way, every pancake is a Ho Cake.
– Kenny Shopsin
I went with the Zazie cakes; cinnamon, plantains, goat cheese, and nutella, and naturally they were fantastic! While you can splurge on some of Shopsins’ menu offerings, my 2-stack of pancakes was more than enough food for me, and just $9.
Also delicious was the pumpkin donut: fresh fried, smothered in pumpkin and fresh whipped cream. So good! If you can’t make it to Shopsins, there’s a recipe book available (now on my wishlist! stumbled across it while searching for the documentary–which sadly is out of print and will set you back $200).
Next up, New York pizza! I put together a short list of popular Manhattan slice shops, and we set off on a sampling tour–but were so full after two stops that we had to call it quits (don’t ask me to explain how this is possible. i’m disappointed in me, too). Stanton Pizza was my favorite for their thin crust basil and fresh mozzarella slice, a new standard against which all Ohio pizza will be measured, and inevitably fall short. It was also a bargain, at only $2.50 for the slice, plus $1 for a can of soda.
In our wanderings the evening of our slice tour, we stumbled upon Mimi Chengs, and found a little space in our stomachs for Taiwanese dumplings. We snagged a sidewalk table for people watching, and 8 hearty pork dumplings for $10.
I wish I’d been able to sample more than one ramen, but we both chose the Tokyo Shoyu ramen…and honestly, I was a little disappointed. Some of the difference lies in Orkin’s signature rye noodles, which I don’t believe are served in his Tokyo shop. Beyond the noodles, which could be chalked up to personal preference, the broth just didn’t have the wow factor of richness and complexity I remembered from Tokyo. It was also one of the most expensive spots we ate at, with a bowl of ramen starting at $15. I’d give them a second try, but maybe I just need to head back to Japan to get the authentic ramen I’m craving.
And now I can finally weigh in on great the East vs West coast / In-N-Out Burger vs Shake Shack debate! And guys, as much as I love California, I think I have to side with Shake Shack on this one. But only if there’s no Five Guys available. Because they trump both. The Shack Burger was a great classic burger, though there’s way too much going on with the toppings and sauce on the Smoke Shack burger. They definitely score points for their perfectly crispy fries!
And finally, classic 24 hour hot dog shop Gray’s Papaya. Their no-frills dogs can’t compete with my beloved Dirty Franks, but there’s plenty to love in the all beef franks, selection of fruit juices, and great prices ($4.95 for two dogs and a drink). They were only a block from our hotel, and made the perfect late night snack!
Do you have any NYC restaurant favorites, or spots that are high on your to-eat list?