Best NYC Food: Brunch, Bagels, & Boba

I love to eat. Gourmet food, junk food, organic food, street food… for me, trying new food is always a highlight of travel. I will spend $3/night on a shady hostel and drop $50 on a world-famous steak in the same day. My first blog post about my recent (and first ever!) NYC trip, therefor, is about fooooooood. I’m not saying these places are THE BEST NYC FOOD EVER. Just that they were the best I went to.

In an amusing article ranking the 50 states by “how fun they are to get fat in”, New York is #7. In another, less on-the-nose but equally comprehensive state culinary ranking list, it falls at #3. These high rankings are in large part due to New York City itself.

North Dakota (the beautiful, underrated state where I currently reside), on the other hands, falls at #47 and #49, respectively. This, as far as food goes, is actually a generous ranking. Anything spicier than plain ol’ black pepper will send the corn-fed customers running, and ranch dressing as a rule goes with absolutely everything. Ranch dressing never gets old, you betcha!

I’m starving, y’all. Needless to say, I was very, very excited to spend a few days eating in New York City!

Here is my little food tour, consisting of places I either researched, happily stumbled upon, or got recommended by New Yorker friends. If you’re going to NYC anytime soon, or just live there and haven’t hit these up yet, I would strongly recommend the following to literally anybody:

 

Momofuku Milk Bar

Momofuku Milk Bar NYC
The low-key, red light greasy spoon-esque storefront to Momofuku Milk Bar, in the Financial District.

I had not heard of Momofuku Milk Bar until my hostess/old college roommate, Cassie, told me about it. Their whole thing seems to be unique takes on classics (I know, isn’t that everyone’s thing in NYC?), such as Birthday Cake Truffles (exactly what they sound like) and Bagel Bombs (round everything bagel outside stuffed with yummy cream cheese). Besides being fun, unique, and cute, the food was DAMN GOOD. Like, really damn good.

Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake Truffle
BIRTHDAY CAKE TRUFFLE. THE END.

Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake Truffle

Momofuku Milk Bar Bagel Bomb
The outside of a bagel bomb (like the outside of an everything bagel, right?)
Momofuku Milk Bar Bagel Bomb
… and the INSIDE! Creamy, scallion-y (I think?) cream cheese.

Katz Delicatessen

Claaaaaaaassic.

This was the only places I already knew by name, knew goin’ in, I wanted to eat at in NYC. I wish I had done a little more research, because it was an EXPERIENCE. It was loud, crowded, and generally confusing. So for anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of a Katz pastrami, but someday plans on doing so, let me just tell you how I looked like an idiot. So you don’t have to!

You go in and there is a guy at the door giving out tickets. DO NOT LOSE THIS TICKET. Even if you buy nothing. Apparently, that was a thing this door ticket man was very concerned about.

Katz Delicatessen counter
Long line of sandwich cutter gentlemen to choose from at Katz Deli

Go up to literally any guy (they were all guys when I was there) behind the counter and place yo order, when you’re ready. I got half a pastrami sandwich and matzo ball soup, keeping it classic. They also give you bomb dot com pickles. Okay, holy moly, it was SO CROWDED inside, so I asked for mine packed up to-go. He wrote what I got on the all-important ticket.You pay on the way out, aforementioned ticket in hand, in a terrifyingly fast-moving line. The poor cashier got yelled at by ticket door man for not making the line go fast enough, and I thought the line was going pretty fucking fast. These city folk, man! Always in a hurry.

Katz Delicatessen NYC pastrami
Pastrami sandwich from Katz. Picnic for one on the High Line, anyone?

P.S. IT’S CASH ONLY, GUYS. That could’ve been soooooo bad, especially considering how psycho they are about the line at the register. I’m sure it’s written somewhere obvious but I sure as heck didn’t see it.

Katz Delicatessen NYC Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo Ball Soup. One big matzo in salty, zesty broth. I ate this super fast, considering it was in the 90s in the city that day!

Boba Guys

Boba Guys NYC Jasmine Tea
Yummy Jasmine Milk Tea at Boba Guys. LOOK AT THAT ROO. Or is it a wallaby?

I’m a big fan of bubble tea. I grew up in Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan and a delightfully huge selection of bubble tea. This is going to SHOCK  you, but the rural Midwestern area where I live now doesn’t have much (read: anything) in the bubble tea department.I found Boba Guys literally by googling best bubble tea in NYC, and it came up on list after list. Plus, it’s only a few blocks from Katz. Two birds, one stone!

Sarabeth’s

Sarabeth's NYC brunch
Cream cheese and lox scramble, blueberry ricotta lemon pancakes, and mimosas for DAAAAAYYYYYZ.

Cassie and I stayed up embarrassingly late Googling brunch places in Manhattan. And then half those places had no reservations left for the upcoming weekend.

Sarabeth’s had a couple locations. Their Upper East Side one had reservations available for exactly when we wanted to eat (AKA no earlier than 10:30 AM, for goodness sake). My first hella swanky NYC brunch being on the Upper East Side could not have been more perfect. And yes, for two of us (including mimosas) the total was triple digits, and we had to RUN to make the reservation we were so sure wasn’t too early, but it was all worth it. Such a beautiful, intimate yet open and family-friendly, light and sunny brunch!

Augustine

Augustine brunch NYC breakfast sandwich
I just got a breakfast sandwich. But you know, it was the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had.

Because God is good, I got to eat at two swanky, well-known brunch hotspots in Manhattan. The second was Augustine, much closer to our Financial District home base. Again, reservations necessary (though we only made ours the night before).

Augustine had a decidedly more *fancy* vibe than the more casual Sarabeth’s. The crowd also seemed older, and fewer families or even just 20-somethings like us.

Bierocracy

Bierocracy NYC beer
THE TALL GOBLETS in question!

Long Island City, baby! So we didn’t even order any food here, but it had such a fun vibe to just grab beers and catch up. Also, we all ordered “tall” beers and got comedically huge GOBLETS.

We sat at the edge of the restaurant, by the street, and I had seriously never seen a set-up like that. We were still in the restaurant, but it was totally open to the sidewalk? Which was cool? But made me slightly uncomfortable? The lighting was so mellow, just before sunset, and just really chill.

Friends drinking beer Bierocracy
Wellesley College ultimate frisbee team reunion at Bierocracy!

 

More restaurant suggestions, at which I must have just been in too much culinary bliss (or just had too many sakes) to bother taking pictures:

SriPraPhai

Low-key Thai place in Queens. My college friend and NYC native, Katrina, a total foodie who tries new restaurants constantly, says this is her all-time favorite restaurants in the city. The selection is massive and overwhelming and as far as I can tell, all amazing. We got scallion pancakes, chicken skewers and peanut sauce, crispy duck with rice, a curry, and drunken noodles. All were SO GOOD.

Sugarfish

My first omakase sushi experience! This, for all you people as classless as I used to be, is where the sushi chef basically makes you whatever he/she feels like. It goes course by course, they just keep bringing you surprise plates of heaven. This… was probably the best meal of my life (okay, no, second best). No joke. I did take a Snapchat of it, but completely forgot to take real pictures because I was in actual awe.

The thing that sucks about Sugarfish is that they don’t take reservations, so we had to walk in and hope for the best before dinner rush time. Some people wait for hours, apparently. We got lucky; two people were leaving the bar right when we approached and there were no more parties of two on the waitlist that evening, so we WALKED IN. On a Friday. At a hip NYC sushi restaurant.

Ippudo Ramen

Hey, pro-tip, there are two locations. I was supposed to meet Cassie and her boyfriend at one of them, and totally went to the other. OOPS. I am horrible at navigating the NYC subway, it turns out, so correcting that mistake too a good 45 minutes. They’re very good pals, so they waited up.

The ramen here, after so much effort, BLEW MY MIND. Blew. My. Mind. I have seen friends’ Instagrams of ramen at ramen restaurants and thought “oh, that’s cool, but I make that for $0.99 with a little boiling water”. No. I didn’t understand. But I understand now.

Also, this restaurant made me love sake. Nigori sake, specifically. After having the first sake I truly loved with my spicy ramen dinner here, I can’t get enough sake in general. It’s like after I ate fresh olives in Greece, I magically stopped hating olives and became objectively obsessed with them.

 

 

Well, that’s all she wrote. What’d I miss?