After much anticipation we boarded flight AA101 to JFK, New York. Seven hours of snoozing and homework reading for me (George Motz’s Hamburger America) while Lu preferred to systematically take down every entertainment system in a row radius of our seats (it was a pretty empty flight so we had about 15 seats to choose from), and we touched down on a slightly snow kissed New York.
And so the journey begins…
Our home for the next 10 days, Bushwick, a charming area of Brooklyn, a stones throw from Williamsburg and the sub trend Bedford Avenue. Our host, Ben Baptie (Legend). Lu and I have both been to New York on previous trips but this would be our first times residing in Brooklyn. As slightly experienced New Yorkers we only had one thing on our minds when it came to a first meal… Pizza, and not just any pizza, a New York slice of cheese. Simple, affordable, delicious. This pizza, as with all the other numerous slices we devoured during our stay did not disappoint. In short, I love New York pizza.
So with that I’ll move on to some of the other food establishments we encountered in this visit. The place that wins hands down as ‘food of the gods’ goes out to Fette Sau BBQ, a converted auto body garage in Williamsburg. Fette Sau dry rub various cuts of locally reared pork and beef, before in-house smoking with again a locally sourced blend of red and white oak, maple, beach and cherry wood. The end product, BBQ heaven. You queue canteen style and order meat by the pound, adding sides from the numerous options, we went for Burnt End Baked Beans (unreal!) and Guss’ Half-Sour Kosher Pickles, as well as the standard offering of Martin’s Potato Rolls. Everything we tried was delicious and smoked to perfection. Fette Sau offer sauces for your meat, but as they say, “though we offer sauces, we think the flavour of our meat and dry rub is best unsauced”. They’re not wrong. Not only do Fette Sau offer the best BBQ in town (rated best BBQ in NYC by Zagat since 2009) they have numerous craft beers brewed in-house, and also boast the best American whisky list in NYC. We sampled a couple of very easy drinking whiskeys advised to us by the friendly bar staff.
Next up we have Corner Bistro in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, this Irish dive bar with its dark interior and wood carved tables has been a drinking tavern for locals since 1827. The menu is short, a couple of sandwich options and the famous Bistro Burger, a thick 8oz burger whose only flourish is three crisp strips of bacon and a slice of American cheese, served on a toasted white squishy bun with lettuce, tomato and a thick slice of white onion hidden beneath the burger. The ingredients are simple, a mixture of locally sourced chuck and sirloin is freshly ground at a butcher round the corner on 14th street, and each and every burger is cooked to a blushing pink medium. Juicy, flavoursome and simply delicious. Three of us devoured our Bistro Burgers in under five minutes, washed down with the local $3 draft pale ale.
Next up, not American but Japanese street food at tiny East Village shack Otafuku. Otafuku’s speciality is the Japanese fast food Takoyaki, a golf ball sized ball of wheat flour batter with a chunk of octopus nestled inside, the exterior is thin and crisp, giving way to an almost molten soft interior. Takoyaki come in a tray of six with a drizzle of japanese mayonnaise and rich takoyaki (similar to teriyaki) sauce, topped with sprinkles of green laver (seaweed) and a pile of wispy bonito (fish) flakes. Sound weird? Only if you don’t like the taste of rich and creamy batter balanced with the sweat and salty sauces and toppings. Takoyaki for me is up there with the best bowls of ramen when it comes to Japanese food, I rarely find it on menus in Japanese restaurants in London so it was a very pleasant surprise to find a vendor solely concentrated on dispensing hundreds of these tasty explosion balls.
Last but not least something for everyone’s sweet tooth addiction, the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. Starting life in the summer of 2009 as the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck serving up ice cream to the streets of NYC, winning over hoards of New Yorkers with their imaginative toppings such as wasabi pea dust, Dulce de Leche, olive oil and sea salt. Big Gay Ice Cream now holds down permanent locations in Manhattan’s East Village and West Village. We opted for the Salty Pimp, a regular wafer cone topped with soft whip ice cream, drenched with caramel sauce and a generous amount of sea salt. The ice cream is then dunked in a pool of melted dark chocolate that solidifies to give a super thin layer of dark chocolate crunch to the exterior of the soft whip. This is a sweet, cold, bitter, salty delight of an ice cream.
This blog post could go on forever given the endless amount of restaurants, food trucks and vendors in New York City where you can sample all manner of cuisines. Additional places we checked out during our visit included Dirty Bird To-Go, locations in Chelsea and Tribeca, offering Buttermilk Dipped Fried Chicken served with coleslaw, corn bread and if you’re greedy like us, mac-n-cheese. The chickens are all-natural birds, humanely raised in Pennsylvania Amish County. Another hamburger worth mentioning can be found at P.J. Clarke’s in midtown Manhattan. P.J.’s was established in 1884 and in that time has seen many great names pass through its doors, Jackie Kennedy was a regular luncher, Buddy Holly proposed to his wife in the dinning area, Frank Sinatra ate here so many times he had his own table (#20) where his picture now hangs over the table. The dark dining room walls are covered with an amazing collection of old photographs of past patrons and the grand mahogany bar boasts an elaborate drinks selection.
And with this I’ll call it a day on NYC eating establishments. Many a delicious meal has been consumed and many more will follow. Due to the winter blizzards that have been hitting the northern east coast of America we have decided to alter our original route, and will now take the Hudson Tunnel from Manhattan to New Jersey before heading south for a first stop at Philadelphia… and a Philly Cheesesteak.
Oh, and the wheels that will be taking Lu and I on this great American road trip. Our 1993 Dodge Caravan, named “Hendrix”.