New York, New York. The king of cities. Bustling, frenetic, funny, edgy, and with literally thousands of places to eat.
Here’s a quick round up of the places we ate on a recent short break in the New York, based in the much-recommended neighbourhood of Williamsburg, over in Brooklyn, about five minutes ride from Manhattan on the L train.
First off, the grandfather of New York pizza is Di Fara’s in Brooklyn, but Brooklyn is a massive place, and after we realised it’d take the best part of an hour on the subway to get there, then having to face into an infamously slow and somewhat unpredictable service, we decided to give the relatively new Williamburg branch a go instead. Housed in a really good food market type place on N 3rd Street, this outpost is said to be the twin of it’s more famous brother, and it did not disappoint. I’d go as far as saying that this was the best pizza I’ve had outside of Italy. Light, and tasty dough, with a good zing of acidity through it, topped with perfect combinations of ingredients and excellent tomato sauce and slices of mozzarella. So good we ordered more.
For a very good brunch, Rabbithole on Bedford Avenue, a decent walk along from the Subway station, is a good bet, although brunch on a Saturday is somewhat ubiquitous. Good burgers with excellent fries, nice, light omelettes stuffed with smoked salmon and capers, and salads of roasted root vegetables, nuts and a sesame soy dressing. The salad in particular was excellent – fresh, vibrant with plenty of bite and substance. The restaurant itself is very beautiful and normally packed. The yard at the back is a lovely spot.
Barbecue in the States is very different to barbecue in the UK. Think low, slow, smoky as opposed to furiously grilled to the point of cremation on the outside and raw on the inside. Places aping the American incarnation of barbecue have been popping up all over the UK, with varying degrees of success, but here’s something much closer to the real deal in Mable’s Smokehouse and Banquet Hall, which despite the rather grand title is a laid back bar/pub with a very, very good resident grill team.
The menu will not surprise, and nor is it meant to. It’s big chunks or slabs of meat, often smoked, always cooked for a very long time, and frequently pulled apart. It’s glorious.
Lastly, Diner. This is a restaurant housed inside an old 1920s railway car that somehow ended up parked on the corner of Broadway and Berry Street. I’ve no idea why this happened, but I’m glad it did.
Yes, it’s quirky, and yes, it’s a bit of a gimmick, but this is a railway carriage with some kitchen attached to it. Grilled corm, burgers cooked on the rare side of medium rare and perfectly seasoned, light and tender chicken served over tomatoes and sprouting broccoli, liverwurst, a rich and heavy pate. We couldn’t manage dessert.
One quick honourable mention, this one not in Brooklyn, but just over the Williamsburg Bridge, a healthy walk away and well worth it for the views of Manhattan from the middle of the bridge, Katz’s Deli, equal part Lower East Side institution, tourist magnet and regular sandwich pit stop. Sandwiches are enormous, vast platters of pastrami wedged between thick slices of bread. Be warned – you do not need a whole sandwich. one between two is plenty.
You also might not get what you ask for. We ordered a cold beef sandwich but were told that we didn’t really want that, we wanted a hot brisket sandwich instead, which was a bit of a surprise, but the waiter guy turned out to be correct. We did want that hot brisket sandwich after all. Also, don’t lose the ticket they give you on the way in. I don’t know what the ticket is actually for, but it seems important and dire things are said to happen if you foolishly misplace it. Just do what they say and don’t question it, because the bloke on the door is really big.