My petite travel guide to New York City

New York City: Once it’s in your heart, it’ll never leave you…

This is my sentiment when I think of New York City. I was lucky enough to travel with one of my best friends to the United States end of last year/start of this year and since we are both lovers of food and shopping, we decided that it was a must to stay in New York City for 3 weeks. New York City delighted all our senses and I immediately fell in love. Through all my travels, I have frolicked and enjoyed my time overseas but I have never felt this kind of emotional attachment to a city. The food culture is unbelievable and so diverse, the people were extremely friendly to us and loved our Aussie accents (I’ll admit that we played it up a bit after finding that out) and you could always find something to do at any time of the day/night.


Through my compulsive planning, I had aggregated a list of almost 200 eateries to stop by if we were in the area. Obviously we weren’t able to get to the majority of them as we also discovered hidden treasures along the way, but all the places that we did get to try, were fantastic. We did not have a single bad meal in the United States which could also be the reason why we were so smitten.

My information is based on my travels during Dec 2011 so some things may have changed since then.

Arriving at JFK airport, we lined up outside the airport for a cab. Cabs from the airport to Manhatten have a flat rate of $45 but adding on tips and the airport toll, we paid $60. Travelling around Manhatten, we mixed it up between using a 2 week pass for the subway and also catching cabs. The subway is very convenient unlike our system in Melbourne, and if you use an app to figure how to get from A to B, it is a good way to keep costs down and sometimes even faster than catching a cab. For cabs, we usually ended up paying roughly $10 to get from one side of Manhatten to the other side. Update: I’ve read that the cab fare from the airport to Manhatten has increased to $70 in total.

When we first arrived in NYC, we stayed a few days at a hotel near Times Square. It is very convenient from a touristy, sight-seeing perspective however we later moved to Hampton Inn located in SoHo which we loved. The location was 5 minutes walk from the heart of SoHo and the atmosphere is so much nicer – great shopping, amazing restaurants and we actually felt like we lived in NYC, instead of being tourists. SoHo > Times Square any day. We booked our SoHo hotel in advance and paid $165 per night during the Christmas period. If I visited again, I would stay in lower Manhatten again – East Village, SoHo or LES.

Personally I trawled in and out the streets within the SoHo area as there were high end designer brands such as the flagship Chanel boutique, a Bloomingdales department store to the well known brands like Zara, Gap and Topshop and smaller boutiques. I visited 5th avenue once on Christmas Eve which was a huge mistake as the crowds were insane but definitely worth the visit to see all the Christmas themed decorations in full blast and decked out high end stores.

I just want to make it clear that I am, in no way, an expert on food in America. Australia isn’t exposed to authentic Mexican food, good old Southern BBQ or delicatessens like Americans are so this is all based on my experience. On the issue of tipping, 15% is the general consensus or to make it easier, just double the tax figure on your bill. For bars and clubs, we were advised by bartenders that $1 tip per drink is fine.

Tribeca Taco Truck:
We found this taco truck whilst walking the streets of SoHo. There was quite a queue formed up and we were ecstatic to finally experience our first ‘legitimate’ taco truck meal. For a mere $3 per taco, every single taco we devoured (visited 2 times) were delicious – I especially loved the salsa verde and avocado crema on the tacos.

taco truck

Tribeca Taco Truck on Urbanspoon

Ground Support Coffee:
I’m sure that you are all aware of the rumour that American coffee is bad. I can indeed confirm that it is much worse than you think. People will line up 15 minutes to order a Starbucks coffee and a further 15 minutes for it to be made. Our regular coffee stop was only 5 minutes walk from our hotel, provided good brews, albeit slightly too hot for our melbournian standards.

ground support.jpg

Ground Support on Urbanspoon

Saturdays Surf NYC & Joe The Art of Coffee:
Saturdays Surf NYC is well publicised on blogs and tumblr sites and I suppose the design is appealing? The coffee was okay and service was bad. On the other hand, the people at Joe The Art of Coffee were friendly and made a great macchiato, still too hot though. They sure love their coffee hot!


Joe The Art of Coffee on Urbanspoon

Whole Foods:
I fell in love with Whole Foods, especially for their large variety of ready-to-eat cup up fruit tubs.


Momofuku Ssäm Bar:

We went here to try the famed Momofuku pork belly buns which unfortunately came up short for me. Ms L’s bun was stuffed with slices of lucious pork belly whereas, sadly, mine was filled with slices of fat. Still, it’s still worth a visit to at least one of the Momofuku spots.

La Esquina:
One of our favourite dining experiences in NYC. We booked a month in advance after exasperating calls at 2am (10am their time) in an attempt to try and get through the constantly busy tones. Good mexican food. We also stopped by late at night for take away tacos, which in our inebriated state, were absolutely-f—ing-deeeeeelicious.

la esquina
Extremely busy on weekends for brunch, I had the foresight to make a booking the night before. When we arrived, we still had a short wait. They offer complimentary cocktails with selected brunch items. My crawfish cakes were delicious but had some fragments of shell in it so they took it off the bill for me – great customer service!

Dragon beard candy is a handmade traditional Chinese sweet which involves a complicated process to reveal a combination of desiccated coconut, ground peanuts and sesame seeds wrapped with silk-like strands of sugar. We located him after several attempts on a corner street in Chinatown. Worth our efforts, as the man behind the cart was so cute despite his limited English and it was such a tasty treat.

Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien Hotel:

We arrived 2pm to find a 30 minute queue already formed – darnit, we had thought we were clever to go after lunch crowds. They have a limited menu, ordering is hectic and finding a table is a game of first in, best served. The burger was simple and delicious.

burger joint
Isola Trattoria and Crudo Bar in the Mondrian hotel, SoHo:
The Mondrian Hotel in SoHo is amazingly luxurious and whimsical. I would have loved to stay here but visiting the bar was good enough. Great setting and atmosphere with amazing drinks made by the friendly bartenders.

We booked the Greenwich Village food tour before we arrived. There was a lot of history and talking and walking, we enjoyed learning new things and hit up some spots that we definitely wouldn’t have known about. I tried the best soul-warming cookies and the lightest, cloud like water-baked cheesecake in my life.

Katz’s Delicatessen:
This has been featured in some movies and is known as the best place to go for pastrami on rye sandwich. A towering sandwich which we had to split between 2 people, it was tender, moist and fell apart. The enormous cucumber pickles were crazy and a good addition.

Rub BBQ:
We had to try ribs while in the States so after researching, we decided on Rub BBQ. The baby back ribs with onion strings and coleslaw were fantastic. Juicy, pink, fall off the bone meat. I only wish I had more chances to try the rest of the popular rib joints.

Congee Village:
One of the places that I still rave on about is, surprisingly, a Chinese restaurant. My friends don’t believe that I had the best congee in my life there. It’s true. Served in a hot pot, the congee is bubbling hot, so simple and rejuvenating  The hot and sour soup was also amazing and we took it away to have as a midnight snack – totally worth making the hotel microwave a mess after it semi-exploded (we ran away). We visited at least 2 times and had to wait 1.5 hours for a table (Christmas day) – eating Chinese on Christmas day is a tradition of sorts in America, who knew.

Russ & Daughters:
Famous for their bagels, I have to agree that the Lox (Smoked Salmon) and chive cream cheese bagel I had was ridiculously good.

Per Se:
Rated #6 best restaurant in the world, I managed to secure a cosy table for 2, after a week of waking up at 1:55am to press redial repeatedly and failing before I managed to get through the busy dial tone. The full degustation, in short, was amazing and worth every cent. Proper review to come shortly.

per se

Momofuku Milk Bar:
On a drunken adventure, we found ourselves at Momofuku Milk Bar. In that state of mind, we wanted everything in our sights. We settled on a red velvet and a cereal milk soft serve with cornflake crunch as well as an extra serve of cornflake crunch as well as crack pie, b’day truffles and a compost cookie to take home for later. The red velvet soft serve was mighty rich but the cereal milk was a winner for me, especially with the sweet and crunchy cornflake crunch. The crack pie was intensely sweet and I felt as if I was eating something I shouldn’t be – most likely true given the recipe ingredient list!

milk bar
Balzathar is an institution in SoHo so we made a reservation for Sunday brunch. The breakfast dishes had french influences and everything was tasty. They stuffed up one of dishes so while waiting, they offered us a complimentary pastry each.

Crumbs Bake Shop:
I came here to fulfil my Red Velvet cupcake craving as I had read Magnolia bakery’s cupcakes as being overrated. I can’t attest to that but Crumb’s red velvet was rich and sweet with a delicious cream cheese frosting and the chocolate cupcake was also good.

Mama’s Food Shop:
We didn’t make it all the way to Harlem to try the Fried chicken so this East Village (now closed) spot was the most convenient. The Fried chicken wasn’t freshly cooked, yet it was still audibly crunchy and well seasoned. Next time I will make it to Harlem though.

Chelsea Market:
Chelsea Market is popular as a foodie destination and they had plenty of stores to sample their goods and having lunch there, I had so many options at my disposal. The caramel and chocolate brownies at the Fat Witch Bakery were sinful!
And you know what one of the best things about NYC is? You can get buffalo wings, chilly cheese fries, jalopeno poppers and cheesey fries delivered to your hotel room at 3am in the morning. Amazing.

Things to do:

  • Time Square
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Broadway Shows – Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Lion King, Wicked etc
  • Central Park
  • Strawberry fields in central park – John Lennon memorial W67th st entrance
  • Ice Skating in Central Park
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (UES)
  • Greenwich Village – we did a food tour here
  • Washington Square Park
  • Alamo Cube
  • NYC Ballet (Lincoln Center Above Midtown West)
  • Brooklyn Tour
  • Brooklyn Heights
  • Wall Street
  • World Trade Center
  • Tribute WTC Tour
  • St. Paul’s Chapel
  • 9/11 Memorial
  • Charging Bull in Bowling Green Park
  • Battery Park
  • Statue of Liberty
  • New York Stock Exchange building
  • Staten Island Ferry around Manhattan Island
  • Madison Square Garden
  • Empire State Building – go in the morning
  • Macy’s Hearld Square
  • High Line Park
  • Museum of Modern Art – Free every Friday 4-8:30pm
  • Top of the Rock (Dusk/Sunset)
  • Radio City Music Hall
  • Chelsea
  • Meatpacking district
  • Chelsea Market
There are simply so many things to do in NYC and even in our 3 week stay there, we weren’t able to visit all the places that we wanted to.

View of 9/11 memorial from afar

The 9/11 memorial up close

The scene where marble-mouth Serena made her debut on our screens – xoxo Gossip girl

View of New York City skyline from the Staten Island ferry

“New York New York, the city so nice they named it twice.” Ever since coming back, I’ve fantasized about living there but alas that would involve some serious money saving – something which is hard to do with Melbourne’s ever-evolving food scene and my insatiable stomach. If you are travelling there anytime soon, I am hulk-green with jealously but I hope you have a great trip! Soak up the bright lights of Times Square, watch as many broadway shows as you can, stroll the neighbourhoods like a local and eat your body weight in delicious food. And hey! If you have any questions in relation to NYC, I’ll be happy to answer to the best of my ability. xx

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