New York – On a budget
By Franz Scheurer
New York, being a city that never sleeps, needs a lot of places to eat and drink. Some of the most recognisable names, like Nobu, Vongerichten and Masa are set up there in their gastro-temples, but the average travelling foodie might find it impossible to get in at short notice and even tougher on the budget.
But you can eat cheaply and very well in New York. Look out for some of the pizza places along 8th Ave, near 42nd Street. Good Italian style (thin) and New York style (thick) pizzas are available and any New Yorker will tell you that pizza was invented in New York.
If you are not particularly fond of the light style of American beers I suggest a visit to the Times Square Brewery on 42nd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenue. They make four styles of beer, all excellent and quite potent and their ‘Dunkel’ (similar to an Australian old) is superb. They also serve snacks, which are really quite good.
If you’re looking for a good breakfast, I’ll offer two alternatives: head to Chinatown and find yourself a Chinese restaurant that does Yum Cha or head to Greenwich Village and have breakfast at ‘The Pink Teacup’. This old-fashioned little café, hidden in a small side street, caters mainly for African Americans and serves southern-style food. Their breakfasts are phenomenal and you’d better bring a very healthy appetite. Try the fried catfish with grits or the eggs (any way you like) with the beef sausages and bacon. Flavours are terrific, value for money is excellent, service is friendly and efficient and the clientele is friendly, chatty and informative. The Pink Tea Cup, 42 Glover Street, near Bleecker Street, Soho.
If you want to go to Yum Cha, the place I recommend is ‘The Nice Restaurant’, 35 East Broadway, tel.: 212 406 9776. Yum Cha flavours in New York are not as sharp and defined as we are used to in Australia, but there is consistency throughout the meal. Every dish is elegantly presented, succulent, crisp, soft, doughy, gelatinous or whatever is expected and required. One of the better Yum Chas I have tasted. The chicken feet are especially good as are the turnip cakes. They open early, the tea is exceptional, value for money is superb and the Shin Tao beer is cold.
If you have some time up your sleeve head to ‘Kitchen, Arts and Letters’, the ‘Books for Cooks’ of New York. What a fabulous store! They do mail orders via Internet, fax or phone. Nach Waxman is the owner, they’re at 1435 Lexington Ave, and can be contacted on: 212 876 5550 or email@example.com
I have never really liked Mexican or TexMex food. I find it bland, stodgy and uninspiring. However the Sous Chef at the Hilton Times Square, recommended his mother-in-law’s restaurant, specialising in authentic Mexican food. Although prepared for an average meal, we went and visited ‘The Great Burrito’. It’s a tiny restaurant, seating less than twenty, but Gustavo had called ahead and we had a table waiting for us. We asked them just to bring food, and I must say that some of the dishes were exceptionally good. All four soups were superb; a thick black bean soup, a salty and satisfying chicken and vegetable soup, an unctuous tortilla soup and a superb and spicy chile poblano soup. Various dips came out at the same time and the green jalapeno dip had so much heat that it took my voice away for a few seconds. All the mains were good but the stand out dishes were the ‘Mixiotes de Pollo’ (pieces of chicken coated with chile sauce, wrapped in parchment and steamed in beer, served with rice, beans and soft tortillas), and the ‘Enchiladas de Mole’ (corn tortillas filled with grilled chicken, topped with mole sauce, sliced onions and cheese, served with beans, tomato and sour cream). I’ve had mole before, but never this complex. Also noteworthy was the quality of the soft tortillas. Absolutely stunning and they would have worked perfectly as a substitute for Peking Duck pancakes. Although not licensed there is a shop almost next door that sells Mexican beer, which works a treat with the food. The Great Burrito Mexican Kitchen, 405 Amsterdam Ave, Tel.: 212 724 5151
Stuck for dinner? Again, Chinatown offers a huge variety of Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants. One we liked was ‘New Eastern Villa Restaurant’, owner Pak Ping, in 66 Mott Street. Tel: 212 226 4675. They serve a mixture of Chinese home cooking and Cantonese restaurant fare. One of the more interesting dishes was a type of stonefish, which gave us all a funny tingling sensation on our extremities. The food is good, clean, clear flavours, the only disappointment being the eel, which was too skinny to be very flavoursome.