Top 10 best foods you need to eat in
Around mid-October, I was spending a lot of time working “hard” and my natural instincts were to GET THE HELL OUT! I was feeling a winter trip somewhere I could proper freeze my tits off but still be ecstatic about being there. At the time, my cousins, who grew up in Staten Island, had just come to visit for my sister’s wedding and they’d gassed up the idea of a New York trip a little bit too – BIG UPS.
Since I hate skiing (like, who wants to be cold AND workout AND wear dead garms?) and considering the man had never been to the USA, New York at Christmas time seemed like the one.
The last time I’d visited the States it was 2015 for my cousin’s wedding and I only had three days total before I went over to the West Coast. So really, I’d done fuck all exploring of the city. This time around, we knew we’d need a week there (in hindsight, we coulda done even more) and we were lucky enough to be able to stay with my cousin in Manhattan. Knowing we had a week to see as much as possible, we decided to split our time between my cousin’s in Manhattan and three days in a Brooklyn hotel.
I had two main things on the agenda: food and creps. But first, I had to clear customs.
With Baghdad as my birth place, I was predictably pulled aside and questioned about my background, religious beliefs, level of Arabic and intentions during my stay in the holy land of America. All this even though I’d been for an interview at the US Embassy and been approved a 10-year visa prior to booking my tickets.
After being spoken to like a piece of shit by the officers, I’d kinda made my peace with the possibility that I may not ever get my basic bitch Times Square photo – imagine the tragedy of that FFS! How embarrassing after getting my New York-themed nails and so many IG reminders to my millions of fans that I was gonna be in N-Y-Fuckin-C, just to be shipped back to L-D-Not.
Luckily, that wasn’t the case and I was let out to feast on the city’s finest food and lap up its sickest scenes.
Again, we were very lucky to have some local links in the city and our first night involved a rave inside an arcade shop with quite literally, the weirdest, freakiest and most amazing mix of people; think cool rapper types, proper neeks, hipsters, posers, techno heads, trannies and me.
On our second evening, we headed to Bed-Stuy for a bashment night at a small and very local spot called Lovers Rock, before ending the evening at a house party in China Town. Wave Gang business.
Towards the end of our trip, we were invited to a friend of a friend’s birthday party at Hotel 50 Bowery. If you're thinking "wow, what a fancy affair," then you’d be ABSOLUTELY CORRECT but the music was just pure perfection. Banger after banger...tunes I hadn't heard for years and hearing them in that setting has become a cherished memory – LOL. That’s something that has to be said of the city – the music always bangs.
So, where did I indulge my glutinous side? NGL, I was eating round the clock but I’ve whittled it down to the 10 top picks of New York’s restaurants and one very average pizza place to avoid also.
BELIEVE THE HYPE
This place doesn’t really need an intro but hey, I’m here to educate. Katz’s first opened in 1888 and although it had already built up a reputation, it was made even more famous after the late-80’s film When Harry Met Sally – the deli even has a hanging sign pointing out the table where the actors sat during that naughtyyyy scene.
The first thing that has to be said about Katz’s is that you really feel like you’re in New York. Yes, there are loads of tourists, but the staff, décor and buzzing atmosphere were more than what I had anticipated for such a world-renowned spot. But unlike a certain pizza place (read on), that reputable status is completely justified. The melt-in-your-mouth pastrami is pure perfection; you can tell it’s been properly pickled, rubbed in spices and slowly smoked for that unbelievable taste. To this day, I can’t stop thinking about it. The only let down was the bread.
My top tips for enjoying Katz’s:
Don’t go at bait times. Weekends and lunch times are nuts – you’ll find queues around the corner. We hit it up on a Monday around 5.30pm and it was a breeze.
It’s $22 for the classic pastrami sarni and they’re fuckin huge and overloaded, so share one unless you’re an absolute beast.
Do NOT believe the hype
Wow, where to begin with this utter let down and overly hyped place?..
Maybe the fact that so many people told us to go and while I’m so appreciative of tips, it seems no one thought it important to mention that you feel like a piece of shit during the whole “dining” experience.
How it works:
Wait outside until they open at 5pm, which didn’t happen because the staff were all late and proceeded to clean up the mess from the night before as we shivered in the cold like utter mugs. Once it does open, you give your name and wait until 5.45pm to sit down, then you get an hour to “enjoy” this apparent God-given experience. I guess if you’re not the first few tables waiting before 5pm then you’re in the next slot at 6.45. So sick, man.
It’s quite simple really; marinara sauce, mozzarella and your choice of around eight toppings. Now, I love the simplicity, after all, it’s pizza and therefore if all the ingredients are good then it should be perfect. Well, that wasn’t the case. While the base was light and crispy, the marinara sauce was mediocre, the cheese was whatever and the salami lacked in any sort of flavour. Don’t get me wrong, I was so utterly HANGRY that I devoured the whole thing but my other issue, apart from the overrated pizza itself, was the waitress handing us the bill before we’d asked. Sorry, what? I’ve waited outside, in the freezing December air, been told I have an hour to eat, then handed the bill after 20 fuckin minutes. NAHHHHH, B.
This place is the perfect example of great marketing – keep 'em waiting outside, make it look all busy, serve up pizzas quick, get ‘em in and out and do it relentlessly and hope no one clock how obscene the whole thing is. I’d always said I wouldn’t wait like that for food and the first time I did…NEVER AGAIN.
NO PICS COS THEY'VE HAD ENOUGH AIR TIME AS IT IS TBH.
Don’t be put off by the tiny, extremely busy gaff – head straight to the back till and take your pick of the boiled or fried dumplings.
I chose pork & chive, chicken & basil and a hot & sour soup. The crispy dough and perfectly seasoned meat of the dumplings make them the perfect quick-stop snack in the city, oh, and they’re fuckin cheap too!
My cousins put this as their best slice spot, as well as many other certi Gs, so we had to check it out. It first opened in 1975 by Naples-born Pino “Joe” Pozzuoli and has since become an NYC institution. We went for classic pepperoni and it was utterly divine. The marinara sauce and slightly spicy pepperoni, as well as the hundreds of celebrity photos on the walls, make it a truly authentic New York City pizza. If Ben Affleck says it’s the best, then it’s the best, ok?!
BREAKFAST & BRUNCH
First of all, like the whole of the city, anywhere that truly bangs doesn’t stay a secret for long and with the high population of hungry Yanks comes queues and disappointment. Sooooo…make sure you book.
This Korean restaurant is a YOU-NEED-TO-BOOK kinda place. We went for Saturday brunch and naturally over-ordered. We indulged in the gochujang tuna & nacho, black sesame tofu, grilled pork sausage with shishito peppers, Han dumplings, Korean fried chicken and three lots of beef bulgogi.
My top picks would be the tuna nachos, the tofu (which came with fried onions and black sesame sauce) and the Korean fried chicken. For the proper experience and a bit of everything, get the beef bulgogi – mmm baby.
I’m all about tasty sharing food but I also massively fucks with the basics. For no-frills, but entirely thrilling in its own capacity, and an all-American, Brooklyn’s finest experience, it has to be Kellogg’s Diner.
Just outside Metropolitan Av station, this place is everything you’d expect. I’m also a strong believer of “When in Rome,” so I fulfilled all my childhood dreams and ordered corned beef hash, while the man got blueberry pancakes. I’m not gonna pretend it was a culinary treat like no other, but with a Brooklyn street-view booth and the server refilling our coffees like we were in a fucking movie, it was the perfect hangover meal.
For a bite of New York with a Southern twist and a hip hop feel, then Sweet Chick is the one. Co-owned by Nas (AKA the love of my life), this Lower East Side spot has it all going on: a relaxed yet buzzing vibe, a long list of cocktails and of course, proper comfort food.
I’m not massively a fried chicken gyal (get over it) but this place came highly recommended and the man loves his chicken & waffles.
He ordered the cherry waffles and I went spicy. To my surprise, not only was the chicken spicy but so were the waffles. Grape soda was a nice nostalgic match to the food.
I'd recommend this place for date nights. Note: no reservations.
This tiny Williamsburg spot is perfect for small sharing plates and serves up everything you'd expect at a Pan-Asian restaurant, from BBQ Korean beef and Chinese greens to spicy plum chicken and wasabi octopus salad.
We ordered a mixture and everything we had was so fresh and full of flavour, especially the spicy cold peanut noodles, takoyaki (baked octopus balls) and pork belly peking buns.
Check out this cosy little restaurant for date night and a tasty selection of saki cocktails.
You can’t not go Little Italy but with so many options it’s hard to pick out the gooduns. If you’re looking for a more up-scale restaurant, chic décor and great cocktails then head to Dante.
We all ordered a different cocktail and each one was just as delicious (when I say delish I mean STRONG AF) and the food was phenomenal. I highly recommend the pork belly, the burrata and the pappardelle with wild boar ragu.
Inside a swanky midtown Manhattan hotel lies a *not so* secret burger joint called…Burger Joint. Walk down a dark, unsuspecting corridor and behind a red curtain awaits an extremely small and buzzing restaurant.
It opened in 2002 and since then, word has definitely got out with the walls covered entirely in posters and scrawlings of past guests.
The menu is simple: literally burgers, fries, coleslaw and pickles. I’m a massive burger fan and while the back story, settings and huuuuge pickles ticked certain boxes for me, the patty itself tasted unseasoned. After looking into it, I found out chef Emile Castillo prefers not to season the beef at all, saying: "I don't season because it covers up the quality of the meat. You don't need it," he explains. "Also, salt can dry out the beef if you add it ahead of time."
Yeah, cool, but it deffo needs it a little sprinkle of the good stuff, bro.
SUTTIN SWEET & LEGENDARY
Lemme end this ting with a slice of the sweetest dessert ever: Junior's. This place has built up a reputation for the best cheesecake in New York and has been in the same spot in Downtown Brooklyn since 1950.
Walking into Junior's was like stepping back in time and it proper felt like the 50s. A good British comparison would be like a Harvester and that goes for the clientele as well, who seemed confused by our FIYAAHHH swag when we walked in.
Anyway, there's not much to say except the cheesecake slices are huge and very much PIFF. If you don't make it all the way to the OG spot in Brooklyn, then you can sample the famous goods on Times Square.
Now, lemme keep dreaming about biting into dem massive pickles please. Byeeeee.