I love NYC. Every opportunity I get I take off to NYC. On my visits I spend a lot of time searching for good food. Needless to say I have eaten a lot of food during my visits. Considering the amount of food that I have tried, I find interesting the one’s that are memorable. On average, the best food I have had were from establishments that I stumbled upon by chance. Although I research most of the restaurants before I pay them a visit, on occasion I will pick a random place, and generally I walk in to these establishments with low expectations. Here are some of the meals that have stuck with me and in no particular order.
**Some of the pictures are not great, but then again, I had not planned to take pictures because I was not expecting much.
Ella Cafe, Brooklyn
Bedford Avenue is one of my favorite streets in Brooklyn. One late afternoon after doing some shopping, I realized that I had not done my research and therefore I did not know what restaurants were good in the area. I tried to find a restaurant or coffee shop with WiFi but to no avail. So I randomly chose a restaurant and found myself at Ella Cafe.
Unfortunately they did not have WiFi and that really annoyed me. I could have asked before sitting if they had internet access, but I did not, so I decided to stay anyway. What restaurant does not have WiFi these days? After perusing the menu, I decided to get the grilled salmon with 2 sides (you choose the 2 sides from a list). For the sides I chose grilled asparagus and macaroni and cheese. Odd combination, I know, but it totally worked.
When I received my meal I was excited by the size of the macaroni and cheese. It looked delicious. As I began to eat my meal, I noticed that the asparagus was perfectly cooked; not to soft and not too hard. The skin on the salmon was nice and crispy, but sadly the salmon itself was overcooked. You can usually tell in advance when salmon is overcooked because you can see the white fat on the salmon. The macaroni and cheese was just right. It had the right amount of cheese, the pasta was perfectly firm and not overcooked and it paired great with the grilled salmon and asparagus.
Ella Cafe was a pleasant surprise. If the salmon had been cooked for one minute less, it would have been a near perfect meal.
On one of my trips to NYC I stayed in Brooklyn, and just down the street from where I was staying there was a pizzeria called Roberta’s that was easily missed. I learned later that people travel from far and wide for Roberta’s pizza so there is no need for them to get a bigger sign.
I arrived at around 4pm, so the dinner rush had yet to begin. I walked to the back of the restaurant and sat at the bar. I looked around me while I waited to get a menu and noticed that they had an enclosed patio that was very popular since it seemed that every patron had chosen to sit there rather than inside.
As I skimmed through the menu I knew that I had to get a pizza. I find it silly when a restaurant is known for a dish or item and people order something else. When unsure about toppings, I go for the safe bet; Margherita Pizza. The toppings on this pizza are basil leaves, mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. As I was giving the order to the bartender he put a different menu in front of me and said that I could order from this menu. This other menu was for orders made before 3pm, and had cheaper prices, though the choices were the same as the dinner menu. Score!
It took about 15 minutes for the pizza to arrive and it was quite large for one person. The only way I can describe the pizza is that it tasted fresh. You could taste each individual ingredient and none were overpowering. I hate when people compare dishes to the one they had in a different country, but yes, this pizza brought me back to Italy.
Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, East Village
I went to Artichoke pizzeria on a food tour. I like creamy pizzas so I was excited to try this pizza. The line to get in the restaurant was pretty long, but the staff was efficient and we were served quickly. I advice that you share a slice because the combination of cream, garlic and cheese makes you feel full very quickly. I was leaving to Toronto that evening so I took half of the pizza with me on the bus home. It tasted just as good 10 hours later.
Heights Falafel, Brooklyn Heights
I was wandering around Brooklyn Heights one evening when I decided to pick a random restaurant for dinner. I was craving rice and salad, so Heights Falafel seemed appropriate. The restaurant is quite small, but they have several stools with tables and several dining tables. It was cozy but not suffocating. I was surprised by the prices, and even more surprised by the amount of food you got for under $10. The ingredients in the salad were fresh, the chicken was tender with little fat, and the hummus was creamy and not too garlicky.
Freda’s Caribbean & Soul Cuisine, Upper West Side
On our last night in NYC several months ago, I wanted my brother and I to have dinner together. My brother and I have pretty similar taste in food so he let me choose a restaurant. I was browsing on my phone the restaurants that were near where we were staying, and I read several positive reviews for a restaurant called Freda’s that was located only a couple of blocks north from where we were.
The restaurant when we walked in felt like a simple family owned establishment. I have learned never to judge a book by its cover. We were greeted immediately and given menus. When I am ordering food with friends, or in this case my brother, I want everyone to order a different meal for several reasons. 1) So that I can try their dish; 2) So that I can take a picture of it for my Facebook page or for a future blog post.
My brother and I went back and forth several times on what we wanted to order and came to an agreement. To be honest, I was expecting my meal to be swimming in onions and since I had forgotten to ask for onions to be omitted. I was bracing myself for an unpleasant meal. I took a small bite of the collard greens expecting the worst, and instead I tasted an array of flavors and ingredients, none of which were onions. I went ahead and tasted each individual component alone and then combined, and knew immediately that I was in food heaven.
This meal falls under the top 5 meals I ever had in my life. When I return to NYC in the next couple of months Freda’s will be my first stop.
Rice with beans, plantain, macaroni and cheese, sweet plantain and oxtail.
Rice with beans, jerk chicken, candied yams and collard greens.
Defonte’s Sandwich Shop, Gramercy
I was not a fan of sandwiches, unless it was a grilled cheese. One afternoon my brother was on the hunt for a sandwich place called Defonte’s. When we finally arrived I could not decide on what to get. When I am stuck I always ask for their best seller. But as I was about to ask I became engrossed by the chicken cutlets. You see, I love chicken parmigiana, and these cutlets were marinating in tomato sauce with mozzarella cheese, and they reminded me of one of my favorite dishes. So I ordered the chicken cutlet sandwich with tomato sauce, parmesan cheese and mozzarella, and my brother ordered their most popular sandwich, The Sinatra Special (steak pizzaiola and fresh mozzarella).
After receiving our sandwiches we walked outside to their outdoor sitting area and instantly began to rip apart the wrapping like it was Christmas morning. We split the sandwiches and began to eat. Wow! The bread was soft with just enough of a crispy coat for added texture, and they certainly were not stingy on their filling. The chicken cutlets were huge! The chicken was tender and all white meat with no fat. The steak was perfectly seasoned and it easily fell apart (I hate tough meat) and both sandwiches had lots of mozzarella. Oh I love cheese!
Now I cannot say that I hate or dislike sandwiches because generalizing to all sandwiches is no longer appropriate. Instead I say, I dislike all sandwiches unless they are from Defonte’s or it’s a grilled cheese.
My brother and I are excited about our next trip. We plan to visit NYC, Boston and Philadelphia in a span of 2 weeks. Oh the food we will have. Can’t wait!