Italian cheeses, Jewish bagels, Korean sangers and Chinese noodles... Our chef maps out New York’s boroughs, one delicious bite at a time.
New York is one of the world’s greatest restaurant destinations, offering more fantastic places to eat than you could visit in a lifetime. But that’s just one part of the food scene. In a city made up of distinct boroughs, each with their own personality, it’s through the delis, food halls, sandwich shops and noodle joints that you really get to taste the city. It’s also a simpler and faster way to eat – and it’s good value.
If you want caviar, any kind of smoked or cured fish or a traditional NYC lox bagel, there’s only one choice: Russ & Daughters, a classic Jewish deli on the Lower East Side. Grab a sandwich to go or take a seat outside and watch the people pass by. The wild smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel is famous for a reason – and almost justifies flying to New York.
Near the Empire State Building, Eataly is an upmarket food hall where you can have a drink and a snack or enjoy a full meal in one of the specialised eateries. My favourite thing to do? Sit in the middle of the store and have a lovely big plate of cheese and salumi with a glass of Barolo. What a treat! Parmesan, Fontina, pecorino and Gorgonzola piled high with salami, mortadella and prosciutto – just add crusty bread for a quick and delicious lunch.
I could happily spend all day at Faicco’s (260 Bleecker Street), a butcher shop and deli in the West Village. At this old-school Italian market, I love the care the staff take, looking after their wonderful products. They’re meticulous in the way they handle every cut, even down to how they wrap each piece of meat like a prize you’re about to take home. I go there for the crunchy Italian bread loaded with freshly sliced salami, mortadella and provolone, tomato, lettuce, pickles and hot sauce. Last time, I took it outside, sat at the bus stop and ate one of the best sandwiches of my life.
There’s also Fuku, David Chang’s fried chicken sandwich place, in Madison Square Garden. It may appear unassuming and the menu is limited but don’t let that fool you. The Korean spicy fried chicken sandwich is incredible: the meat is crisp, the bun is soft and the pickles are crunchy and sharp. It’s so good and has lashings of David’s ssäm sauce – which tastes like gochujang, a fermented Korean chilli paste, mixed with hoisin sauce and is bloody delicious.
Xi’an Famous Foods is a chain of Chinese noodle joints not to be missed. My favourite dishes are the spicy cumin lamb with hand-ripped noodles and the spicy noodles seared in hot oil. The lamb is sweet and dirty at the same time, thanks to the earthy flavour of cumin on pappardelle-style Chinese noodles. When served with spicy oil and shallots, the same noodles are just insane – texture and taste bounce around in each mouthful. For contrast, the crisp, cold cucumbers are a revelation – the dressing is the perfect balance of hot, sour and numbing. No trip to New York is complete without a late-night stop here.
Bánh Mì Saigon in Chinatown does one of the best Vietnamese sandwiches in New York. All the classics are here but, for me, the pork with lemongrass, pickled daikon, carrot, cucumber and chilli sauce in a crunchy bread roll is a winner.
While the flavours might run the gamut, what these places have in common is amazingly delicious food. Visit them and you’ll really experience New York. ￼