NYC Edibles

We made a pact: no Starbucks while in New York City. Accordingly, the last purchase from the old stand-by was made in the Norfolk airport at around five a.m. Saturday morning. In the book of Cardinal Rules About Traveling I think “no chain restaurants” is tops. I mean, why on earth would you travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles only to eat the same food or drink the same coffee you could get in your own town? Thankfully I was traveling with my sister, a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur, which meant I was traveling with someone who had done her research. She suggested coffee shops, we collaborated on food stops, and we left a lot up to spontaneous suggestion.

We enjoyed three different coffee stops (not including the Plaza Hotel and a hot cuppa at Wafels & Dinges), five different restaurants, a desperate lunch at Whole Foods during the startling ghost-town which is The Weekend in the Financial District, Belgian waffles, the city's best cheesecake, and a skimpy serving of Ben & Jerry's. Here's the short list of our food and coffee experiences with our collaborative rating based off flavor, convenience, and price! (PC: Sarah Heffington)

Little Collins – MIDTOWN: This uber-local coffee shop on Lexington Ave. was the first coffee shop in NYC to employ the Modbar method* of coffee brewing. A self-labeled “Australian-style” coffee shop, Little Collins was the perfect way to kick off our experience of the NYC's coffee scene. It's a tiny shop but the prices are reasonable, the coffee excellent, and the food amazing. I went with “The Smash,” a hunky slice of toast topped with a bright-tasting avocado and feta mash topped with pepitas and red pepper flakes. Recommend 4 ½ out of 5. Half-point deduction for lack of seating.

*”Modbar is a new and revolutionary coffee brewing experience Completely modular with all the major hardware under-counter, all the customer experiences are beauty 'taps' that are designed for espresso, steam, and drip coffee...” -BAR NINE COLLECTIVE

Two Boots Pizza – LOWER EAST SIDE/ YORKTOWN: We found this New Orleans-inspired pizza parlor by accident and, having committed to eating there decided on the “Bayou Beast” which boasted “spiced shrimp, crawfish, andouille, jalepeno, and mozzerella.” For a reasonable price you get plenty of pizza and it is nice and crispy on the bottom as I enjoy my pizza. Loses points for the weird dusting of cornmeal which made me feel like I was eating a pizza burger on an English muffin. 3 ½ of 5 stars.

Shake Shack – TIMES SQUARE: I have been to the Shake Shack in the Buckhead area of Atlanta and loved it, but the Shake Shack in Times Square was so incredibly jam-packed it made eating a strange, gangly affair. Standing room only and even then we had trouble finding a spot to park our food as we shared a the Smoke Stack and cheese fries. Bonus: free water. 3 out of 5 stars to this particular location for the unpleasant business of eating here. Good food, though. Cannot complain about that.

FIKA – FINANCIAL DISTRICT: Unlike the others coffee shops we visited, FIKA's Financial District location was entirely empty on the rainy Sunday morning we visited, apart from one older gentleman working quietly on his laptop near the large windows. I ordered a dirty chai latte and while the foam on the latte was amazing, I was disappointed by a lack of depth in the chai flavor. Definitely not complex. The chocolate croissant, however, baked at FIKA's Midtown bakery, shattered devastatingly well and served as a foil to the lack of complexity in my chai. 3 ½ of 5 stars to this shop based off sluggish service and a lack of pizazz to their chai blend. Still a lovely place to get out of the rain and breathe a moment.

Joe's Shanghai – MIDTOWN, CHINATOWN, FLUSHING: This place, tho. We'd been craving Chinese all weekend and while watching the rats come out in Central Park around dusk (yes, the rats), we did a little research and found this decent-sounding restaurant not far from our corridor of Fifth Avenue. A more or less hole-in-the-wall treasure, Joe's seems to be a favorite of locals. I think we were the only tourists in the restaurant as we enjoyed pan-fried vegetable dumplings and a plate of “intensely chewy” Shanghai noodles topped with steamed spinach and perfectly-cooked shrimp. I highly recommend Joe's and am deducting one star based off the lack of personable waiters and the slightly above-average price for Chinese. Totally worth it though. 4 of 5 stars. I already look forward to a return trip.

Wafels & Dinges – BRYANT PARK: We worked long and hard to find this elusive Belgian Waffle joint, having heard mysteriously magnificent things about its waffles. The main difficulty in locating it was the malfunctioning of our map app in the environs paired with a heavy drizzle, having already walked twelve miles, and laboring under the delusion that it was based out of a food truck. Voted #1 Food Truck in America (there lies the deception) we knew Wafels would be worth the confusion. Let me save you the trouble: Wafels and Dinges (pronounced “Ding-us”) can be located in a gazebo-like structure in Bryant Park on the West (back right-hand) corner when facing the New York Public Library. Get your waffle. Get your hot coffee. Love it to death. I chose de s'mores wafel smeared with spekuloos, toasted marshmallows, and melted Belgian chocolate. To die for.

The Palm Court Restaurant, Plaza Hotel – MIDTOWN: Our main splurge for the trip was the bucket-list item of breakfasting at the Plaza Hotel like Eloise. Just like Eloise. On this particular (Sunday) morning the breakfast options were limited to the buffet...but what a buffet. It was more like being invited for a lazy snow-day morning banquet at Buckingham Palace and once you were done filling your plate from the dazzling table, full service began at your side with waiters dropping by to refill your coffee, pour a cup of tea from the pot, top off your glass of orange juice, or inquire about your satisfaction. I felt exactly like an elite member of the upper crust which is exactly how one wants to feel when eating at the Plaza Hotel. 5 of 5 stars. I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I had the funds.

Carnagie Deli – MIDTOWN: If you want cheesecake and you want New York cheesecake and you want cheesecake to ruin all other cheesecake for you forever more, then you'll want to dive for the immense $10 slices to be had at Carnagie Deli. Sarah and I trekked back up toward Times Square, retrieved our slices to the amusement of the waitress, and dodged back to our hotel (through a monsoon) where we proceeded to enjoy half in bed and half for breakfast the following morning. Supreme cheesecake there. I adore it. My only quibble is their choice of whole graham crackers instead of crumbs as the crust. I take issue with that but it's a forgivable sin. 5 of 5 stars, y'all. Make this stop a point on your itinerary.

Ground Central – MULTIPLE LOCATIONS: If you like a bustling, locally-loved, high-quality coffee shop with reasonable prices and swift service you will want to pin-point every Ground Central location near your hotel when you come to NYC. We visited the nearest branch to our Lexington Ave. hotel on Monday morning before heading down to Grand Central Station (oh, the puns) and were rewarded with great coffee and a charming picture of businessmen lounging in the back reading room, steaming coffee keeping company with laptops and spreadsheets. 4 ½ of 5 stars.

contraband photo of The Palm Court


  1. I am now incredibly hungry, and jealous.

  2. I'm hungry now, too. Gonna have to try several of these next time I'm in the city!
    Also, we went to the Shake Shack on 77th Street (near Central Park) and it wasn't nearly as crowded as the Times Square location. It was delicious!

  3. This was BEAUTIFUL except now I want a piece of that dang cheesecake that ruined me forever. (And, seriously, you need to watch the Eloise movies.)