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There are more than 23,000 restaurants in New York City. Some are tried and tested but many open and close faster than a New York minute. Incredibly, this means if you live in New York, you can dine in a different establishment every day for the rest of your life.
Many consider the Big Apple as the center of the world. Gustatorily speaking, it probably is the core. Last century, millions of immigrants in boats traversed the Atlantic, bringing with them their hopes, dreams and exotic cuisines. Today, the surge continues. Millions of tourists, this time in planes via the JFK Airport, flock to the Land of Opportunity longing for those cuisines. For these reasons, you won’t find a city with more variety in flavors than New York.
Name it, New York’s got it. The diversity goes way beyond the best dimsum in Chinatown and the best thin crust pizzas in Little Italy. Here, every continent is well-represented: fine French and Danish, flavorful Indian and Moroccan, oriental Malaysian and Vietnamese, and exotic Cuban and Senegalese are just a few of the authentic cuisines waiting to be savored.
In New York, it’s hard to imagine just how immense the gastronomic possibilities are. Whether it’s veal breast en persillade in a 3-starred Michelin restaurant or a hotdog from a Sabrett food cart, you can be assured of a marvelous foodie experience. New Yorkers are discriminating so if it’s got their stamp of approval, it must be good.
THE CRÈME DE LA CRÈME
Now, if you’ve always fantasized about indulging in one of the best restaurants in the world, you may realize that dream in New York. Three of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2015 are in the city: Eleven Madison Park (no. 5), Le Bernardin (no. 18) and Per Se (no. 40). Their supremacy is indisputable; even Michelin has bestowed each the maximum 3 stars.
Now, if we were to refer to the bible of foodies, the Michelin Guide, then they lead us to an even wider array of possibilities. As many as 76 restaurants boast Michelin stars, with six of them having the maximum 3 stars. What does it mean to have three stars? Watch Bradley Cooper’s Burnt, and you’ll know. In the world of degustation, three stars practically elevate one to culinary immortality. To earn a star, a restaurant practically has to have nary a flaw. The food (both taste and styling), the interiors, the service and everything within the confines of the restaurants walls, have to be impeccable.
Unfortunately, dining on food by the gods is not easily accessible to everyone. Aside from the hefty price tag, you’ll need a lot of patience (sometimes as much as a 2-month wait). If a resto has a star, though, you can be guaranteed every morsel is a bite of nirvana.
Eleven Madison Park. The combination of good food and impeccable service sets the world’s 5th best restaurant a cut above the rest. “Bespoke” has certainly transcended tailoring. Here, you tell them what you can’t eat and they’ll customize dishes for you. Specializing in modern European with a New York twist, Chef Daniel Humm’s dishes are whimsical and often interactive. There’s even one dish presented with a sleight-of-hand. Try the honey lavender duck with apple and rutabaga.
Le Bernardin. Bestowed four stars by The New York Times for nearly 30 years, the 18th best in the world may be an old bloke but still reigns supreme. Chef Eric Ripert revolutionized the way of serving fish combining Japanese techniques with French flair, achieving utter seafood perfection. Like the chef, the interiors are sleek and polished you’ll need a jacket in the main dining room. The warm kingfish ‘sashimi’ and caviar in a light marinière broth is highly recommended. $190 for the tasting menu and $120 for the 4-course prix fixe.
Per Se. Currently at no. 40, Per Se has been a mainstay on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list since its 2004 opening. Headed by chef de cuisine Eli Kaimeh, the dining room is elegant with dark wood furniture, crisp white tablecloths and floor-to-ceiling Central Park views. Here, seasonal American ingredients are utilized in ever-evolving classical French recipes. The nine-course tasting menus may be steep at $250 (plus $30 for foie gras) but each serving is expected to deliver your grand expectations.
PROVEN COZY EATS. Neither sophisticated nor gourmet, it’s got critics gushing just the same. Your cravings will be more than satisfied by these easy-to-find food locals love.
Shake Shack. Since it opened in 2004, critics and tourists alike have been raving about the modern day “roadside” 100% all-natural Angus beef burgers and shakes in this Madison Park institution. Thankfully, Danny Meyer’s legendary burgers are now more accessible with more branches.
Chipotle Mexican Grill. Thanks to its health and organic advocacy, this burrito and taco specialists are very popular among fitness-focused New Yorkers. Why not? Chipotle aims to deliver high-quality food with the very best ingredients faster than a cup of Starbuck’s coffee.
Luke’s Lobster. Upon learning that lobster rolls in the city were drowning in mayo and diluted with celery, Luke Holden and his dad, Jeff, decided to bring their own lobsters which they served pure, in a griddled New England split-top bun, with no filler. The result? A cozy, kitschy diner serving authentic, good-value lobster rolls.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries. This no-frills award-winning fast-food D.C. burger joint is known for its hand-shaped, local-beef burgers cooked in pure, no-cholesterol peanut oil. In 2010, the Zagat Guide considered it the best burger in the U.S.
STREETFOOD: If you’re exploring New York on a backpacker’s budget, then fret not. New York may be classy and très chic but there’s plenty of good food that won’t dent your wallet.
Dirty water dogs. Thank your lucky stars that it’s easy and affordable to have the quintessential New York delicacy – a hotdog served in a soft bun topped with ketchup, mustard, onions, relish and sauerkraut. Just keep your eye out for one of those blue and yellow-striped Sabrett umbrellas.
Gyro Meat Platters and Wraps. You can easily find these delicious Mideast specialties piled high on styrofoams in the streets of New York. However, if you want the best of the lot, then go to the Famous Halal Guys cart on the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. You’ll know they lord it over when you see the long queues for their chicken and lamb over rice. It’s so good it spawned so many imitators like New York’s Best Halal Food, which has copied their look to a tee.
Spring Rolls. Lumpia Shack has got crowds lining up for the crispy Filipino spring rolls that come in several varieties: ground pork; roasted duck and truffled adobo mushrooms. Now, that’s the perfect fix when you start longing for Asian comfort food.
Lobster Roll. New Yorkers no longer need to go to New England for a good lobster roll. Red Hook Lobster Pound has brought them to the streets of New York. They cost a little bit more than your typical street food, but we are talking lobster here.
Breakfast cart bagels. The New York minute is so fast Starbucks sometimes can’t match it. That’s why for an even quicker breakfast, locals get their bagels and coffee from the city’s many streetcarts.