I Went Down A Google Wormhole For Over 30 Hours To Make A List Of New York City's 85 Best Dishes & Desserts (40-1)


**See numbers 85 to 41 here**

40. Hao Noodle and Tea's Spicy Fish Stew 

Greenwich Village - Website

"All danger of dullness is obliterated, though, when Madam Zhu’s Spicy Fish Stew shows up. It’s a Sichuanese inspiration, with a flaky fish in a lightly sour green broth so packed with fresh chiles that it brought all conversation, not to mention rational thought, to a standstill." - Pete Wells, The New York Times

39. Parm's Baked Ziti

Various Locations - Website

"Working as a food editor in the East Village of NYC is much like being a kid in a candy store. Eating out is how we research, and the lower part of Manhattan has an insanely high concentration of great restaurants to eat at — er, we mean research. There’s the roasted duck at Momofuku Ssam; pastries at Dominique Ansel’s Bakery; the cookies ‘n cream at Davey’s; and the baked ziti at Parm.

This last one has really tripped us up. The team at HuffPost Taste has become a little obsessed with Parm’s ziti. So much so that despite all the new places to eat, we’ve gone back to Parm again and again. And again. Not for the meatball parm sub, which is awesome. Not even for the mozzarella sticks. Just for the baked ziti.

There’s nothing particularly fancy about the baked ziti at Parm. It’s made with the same basic staple ingredients you’d find in your pantry at home — it isn’t embossed in gold leaf. BUT, it tastes like the sum of every dish every Italian grandmother has ever made. Taking one bite out of their ziti is like returning home to find all your friends and favorite family members waiting in your living room just to ask you how your day was. It feels good. Real good. So good that we had to figure out how to recreate the dish in our own kitchen because moving into the one at Parm isn’t an option." - Julie R. Thompson, The Huffington Post

38. Ends Meats' cured meats

Sunset Park - Website

"Take all of the best aspects of recent food movements, throw em in a food processor, and you end up with Ends Meat. You want locally sourced and farm-to-table? You got it. I can even tell you which farm they get their cows from. You want someone who cares about their craft? John butchers and cures his meats on site. You want paleo? Doesn't get more paleo than huge slabs of meat. You want vegan? Well, okay... maybe you can't have that." - Kenny C., Yelp

37. Bar Pitti's Pappardelle Alla Fiesolana

Greenwich Village - Website

"There’s a chalkboard of rotating specials and primo menu mainstays, but not many dishes can crush pasta cravings like Pitti’s pappardelle. Delicate freshly made strands swimming in tomato cream sauce flecked with smoked bacon and a generous shaving of parmigiano reggiano will leave you feeling full and in amore." - Megan Murphy, Thrillist

36. Nix's Cauliflower tempura

Greenwich Village - Website

"So everyone knows cauliflower has become one of the most diverse veggies in the last few years. You can make bread with it, pizza crust, a cauliflower “steak” and even “rice.” At Nix, they trick you into almost thinking you are eating pork steamed buns at Momofuku! The cauliflower is cooked in a tempura batter and covered in a sweet, brown sauce with sesame seeds. It’s served with the softest, pillow like buns for you to make a little sandwich with pickles, carrots, and radishes for some extra crunch. While I thought I always preferred my vegetables steamed, roasted, or baked over tempura, this steamed bun of a sandwich sure showed me. It makes you never want to eat a pork bun again. There. I said it." - Checkmark Eats

35. Clinton Street Baking Co.'s Blueberry Pancakes

Lower East Side - Website

"All I can say is, best blueberry pancakes ever.

And everyone knows it, too. The wait on weekdays can be well over an hour. On weekends? Expect a two- to three-hour wait.

I loathe waiting more than twenty minutes to be seated, but I’ll do so on occasion if I believed the food worthy. And yes, these blueberry pancakes ($15) are worth it. They’re the perfect taste (buttery, sweet, fruity) and texture (fluffy). The clincher is the maple butter that comes with the cakes—it boosts the breakfast to another level.

Blueberry pancakes with maple butter, a side of bacon, and either a Bloody Mary or glass of OJ make for a transcendent brunch." - Christine Ha, The Blind Cook

34. Pasquale Jones' Clam Pizza

Nolita - Website

"The key elements to a clam pie are soft mollusks (freshly shucked, out of the shell), and a touch of cream to evoke a white New England chowder (one day they’ll make a Manhattan clam pie). Some folks like to add something green (a touch of cilantro or parsley) and that’s precisely what elevates the Pasquale Jones version to greatness —chef Ryan Hardy tosses in a few strands of broccoli rabe. The greens crisp up under the oven, mimicking the wispy shape of seaweed and packing a gentle bitterness to offset the salt and fat. Perfect." - Ryan Sutton, Eater

33. Momofuku Nishi's Caci e Pepe

Chelsea - Website

"Italians have many pasta rules. One of them is no cream in the cacio e pepe. Ditto butter. So who knows what they would say about chickpea hozon, the cheesy, miso-like, fermented-chickpea paste that stands in for Pecorino Romano in Momofuku Nishi’s ceci e pepe? What we say: brilliant, innovative, and, yes, delicious. Respectful of tradition in its own way, too. And even if most Roman cacio e pepe scholars would not condone it, they could probably get behind chef Josh Pinsky’s springy housemade bucatini." - Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite, New York Magazine

32. Le Coucou's Tout le lapin (all of the rabbit)

SoHo - Website

"The star of the show, by virtue of sheer volume, was tout le lapin. Diners torn between horror (the whole rabbit?!) and altruistic resignation (if I’m going to eat a rabbit, I should not waste any of it) were relieved to find only the edible parts, in three preparations: a dry roulade topped with “rabbit-bit vinaigrette”; moist meat stewed in a broth piquant with turnip, carrot, and parsley; and the “hind quarters” on the bone, delicate and savory, doused in an irresistible onion-mustard sauce." - Shauna Lyon, The New Yorker

31. Pies 'n' Thighs' Chicken Biscuit

Williamsburg - Website

"I immediately tore into the chicken biscuit. Oh my God! Regardless of how late it was, this was pretty amazing. The biscuit may have been the best I’ve ever had. It was crispy and firm on the exterior, but had a buttery flakiness as I bit into it. Sandwiched between the biscuit was a piece of chicken breast that had been battered and fried. As if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing was slathered with hot sauce and drizzled with honey. Once again: Oh my God!" - Eat This NY

30. Emily's Emmy Burger

Various Locations - Website

"The burger is served with a dollop of "special sauce," a house made aioli spiked with red pepper, and comes with a side of hand cut fries and a few gherkins for color. It is, like all great burgers, a study in synergy and balance. Yes, it diverges from my simple cheeseburger ideal, but there's an undeniable appeal to this burger precisely because of the complexity of its flavors and textures — the voluptuous mouthfeel of the beef, the gaminess and funk tempered by the sweetness of the onions, the gentle tang of the cheese playing off of the pretzel...this should still be considered a destination burger." - Nick Solares, Eater

29. Indian Accent's Soy Keema

Midtown West - Website

"The soy keema is a marvelous thing, too. This version is less like the original keema, a stew of ground lamb and peas, than it is like an energetically spiced filling for a vegetarian sloppy Joe. I’m seeing a takeout window with lines outside on 57th Street. It’s possible I got the whole idea from the delicious tiny rolls, perfumed with lime leaves, that accompany the keema on a skewer, looking like marshmallows ready for a campfire." - Pete Wells, The New York Times

28. Untitled's Chocolate Chip Cookie

Meatpacking District - Website

“While there are some truly great cookies in New York—Maman's being the newest addition to the all-star list—they can seem a bit boring, especially in the age of Cronut-inspired, over-the-top hybrid desserts. But Uskokovic’s chocolate-chip cookie at Untitled is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive desserts in New York right now.

The $8 cookie is served warm out of the oven, with a miniature glass of floral milk that’s infused with Madagascan bourbon vanilla. It’s a bit crispy on the outside, with a soft, melting, fudge-y interior.

Part of what makes this cookie so special is that it's always served fresh: The Untitled team bakes it throughout the night, at precisely 375 degrees for only seven minutes. This allows for a crispy exterior, without drying the cookie out." - Sierra Tishgart, Slate

27. Roberta's Millenium Falco

Williamsburg & Midtown East - Website

"I was absolutely ready to call Roberta’s pizza a sham, a construct of self-reflexive Williamsburg hype and lifestyle branding that I, a lifelong Angeleno, wanted to believe was true about a particular kind of NYC existence. Instead, I’ll call it the best sausage pizza I’ve ever had." - Danny Chau, The Ringer

26. Faro's Squid Ink Strozzapreti

Bushwick - Website

"On to the eight pastas, which are the heart and soul of Faro. While many of them evoke Italian models, they are unique things onto themselves. The squid ink calamarati ($17) sees the chef playing a little joke. The recipe deploys a pasta shaped like squid rings, and actual squid ink generates its glossy midnight hue. But it uses no actual squid. The ink makes the pasta richer, an effect that’s goosed up by a sauce of curried coconut milk. We are already in nutsy pasta territory here, but a half lobster tail and claw flopped on top makes the dish even more surreal — it’s a pasta Salvatore Dali might have invented." - Robert Sietsema, Eater

25. Barbuto's Pollo al Forno

West Village - Website

"Next, came the famous pollo al forno. The chicken is served just as a plate. Side dishes must be ordered separately. The pollo al forno is plated with the roasted quartered chicken placed in the center while the salsa verde tops it. This was the best chicken I ever ate.

The chicken skin is spiced and butter is added to allow a delicious crispiness for the roasted chicken. The chicken itself is something that everyone should experience.

I have never had a chicken dish from a restaurant that was not overcooked or too done. The pollo al forno was roasted to perfection. It was moist and juicy. Tyler Florence did not lie about how good it was.

“Is this what heaven tastes like?” Suarez said about pollo al forno." - Erin Mahoney, SFC Today

24. Jacob's Pickles/Maison Pickle's Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese

Upper West Side - JP: Website - MP: Website

"There aren’t many reasons for me (or you for that matter) to go to the Upper West Side. I find the culinary scene lacking and I’ve been to more than my fair share of Lincoln Center performances. I also live in Brooklyn so the UWS is basically China to me. And if I’m going to trek up to China, it better be god damn good.

The food at Jacob’s is like a cheat day for your cheat day. It will literally f**** kill you and I don’t even care. The menu is southern inspired and they have tons of beer, pickles, and biscuits to bring your way. Portions are massive; you could split each dish with 3 people. They have some of the best, juiciest fried chicken on the planet that you can get on fluffy pancakes, or in a sinful bacon & cheddar biscuit. The show stopper for me was the insane buffalo mac n’ cheese with giant chunks of chicken and oozy cheese." - One Hungry Jew

23. The Grill's Prime Rib

Midtown East - Website

"...the prime rib is among the most delicious things I've eaten this year, carved thick or thin at your elbow — this time, the ritual makes sense — and set in front of you along with a meaty barbecued bone in a dark mustard and spice crust." - Pete Wells, The New York Times

22. Lilia's Agnolotti

Williamsburg - Website

"...it was the chef’s agnolotti that haunted our pasta-lover dreams since first bite. The supple, hand-shaped parcels—stained the color of the sun from sprinklings of heady saffron—cradle a soft spoonful of tart sheep’s milk ricotta that threatens to ooze out into the honey-laced butter sauce at the hint of a fork prong. A crush of dried tomatoes punctuates that gorgeous golden pool, anointing it with bright, welcome acidity. This, quite simply, is what bliss tastes like, people." - Time Out New York

21. Beach Bistro 96's Tapioca

Rockaway Beach - Website

"The crepe is moon-white. Folded, it looks like a beaded clutch, studded with pearls from the world’s tiniest oysters.

The pearls are hydrated tapioca flour, sifted into a dry hot pan until they stick together. The result looks brittle, but under the teeth it sinks and clings, as chewy inside as Japanese mochi.

...the crepe may come engorged with guacamole, whole spinach leaves and relaxed, if not quite melted, mozzarella; or, for dessert, strawberries striped with condensed milk, under an anarchy of coconut flakes like a parade’s morning after.

...The ones here are among the best I’ve had, barely there puffs like held breaths, with stray volcanic fissures and an escalation of texture, from thin crispy shell to implosion.." - Ligaya Misha, The New York Times

20. Nobu's Black Cod With Miso

Various Websites - Website

"Nobu Matsuhisa did not invent broiled miso-marinated cod. But his preparation at Nobu has been copied endlessly over the last three decades, and it’s still the dish you must order on your first visit to Nobu, even at the new location, open April 6. (It might be the thing you decide to order on your second and third visits, too.) Nobu’s recipe involves black cod marinated in a combination of miso, sake, and mirin for three days before cooking. The result is a piece of fish with a sweet/savory burnished crust, and flaky, buttery interior." - Eater

19. Blue Ribbon Brasserie's Bone Marrow

South Village - Website

"It's one of those dishes that sounds strange until you taste it for yourself the first time, then you're hooked." - Eater

18. Daniel's Pressed Duck

Upper East Side - Website

"You've heard of molecular gastronomy. This is muscular gastronomy, performed tableside, as an awed dining-room audience gapes. A captain leans into the wheel of an ancient (circa 1934) duck press and squeezes the bejesus out of a carcass. Out comes savory juice for a pan-sauce reduction to be poured over marinated, roasted meat. The best reason this year to shout "Voilà!"" - Alan Richman, GQ

17. Shuko's Spicy Tuna Roll

Union Square - Website

"...he handed me a spicy tuna roll that would casually knock over my ideas about spicy tuna rolls, and spice, and tuna...In run-of-the-mill sushi bars, the spicy tuna roll is a cheap firecracker of questionable provenance. Nobody who has had Shuko’s version, though, is going to forget it. The heat comes in gusts that keep getting stronger until you can’t do anything but hold on. The chiles scour your tongue, cauterizing it. The melting oils from the tuna belly blanket your entire mouth, trying to restore the peace. The two sides, almost evenly matched, fight for control, and you are the battlefield." - Pete Wells, The New York Times

16. Delaney Chicken's Spicier Chicken Sandwich

Midtown East - Website

"In the world of chicken sandwiches, the McChicken is the pawn, the Chick-fil-a is the knight, but Delaney is king. 

Yes, it comes at a price, but it's a price well worth paying from time to time when you've just had enough of chicken sandwiches made up of ground up meat or thin slices. The chicken is a thick, generous hunk of meat that's been brined to the point where it's both flavorful and tender. No two hunks of meat will look the same. The outside is delicious and delightfully crisp with great flavor. And of course, you can't have a chicken sandwich without a slice of pickle and mayo, which complete it." - Steve L., Yelp

15. Momofuku Ssäm's Bar Five Spice Rotisserie Duck Ssäm

East Village - Website

"The lettuce and sauces arrived just before the duck did and were the ultimate excitement-builder. I felt about these the way I feel at a concert when the lights dim after hours of standing around, listening to crappy opening bands. Not that our starters were crappy. You know what I mean.

The duck arrived on a platter the width of the table with scallion pancakes, rice dripping with duck drippings, and what must have been every herb in the kitchen. From my vantage point, it looked like a glistening little duck breast lost in the forest.

I took a few slices and tried to keep them intact as they threatened to separate into pieces in all of their tenderness. I grabbed a scallion pancake and found it pleasantly salty and soaked through with oil, like a funnel cake...the crispy shallots and hoisin were just the right combination of crunch and thick stickiness.

This dinner will stick with me for a while. I’ve had some good duck, but this was some good duck." - Katie Ett, donuts4dinner

14. Los Tacos No. 1's Adobada Tacos

Chelsea Market & Theater District - Website

"There are certain foods I would not hesitate flying halfway around the world to try. The marinated pork adobada taco ($3.50) is one of those foods.

This is what you want. This is why people put Los Tacos No. 1 on their food bucket list.

The taco might have been small in size, but it was filled to the brim with pork, onions, cilantro, salsa, and guacamole on a handmade corn tortilla.

All you foodies out there will appreciate the fact that the tortilla was made fresh by hand, from masa. Each tortilla, grilled to order, resulted in a soft and spongy blanket perfect for toppings. Just the right thickness without having to layer two tortillas.

Nothing beats a freshly made tortilla. Don’t even get me started on those tortillas you get from the supermarket which tastes like cardboard. You won’t find those here.

The star of the taco, the spit-roasted pork was sliced fresh to order, al pastor style. The pork was cooked to a perfection that only happens in my dreams. The edges of each piece were crispy and charred, giving each bite a texture that complemented the juicy and tender melt-in-your-mouth pork.

With each bite, I could immediately taste a good kick of heat from the red chili vinegar marinade. Controlling the heat was a generous amount of creamy, almost refreshing, guacamole. This guacamole wasn’t the chunky type you’re used to, more of a puréed version. Balancing out the spicy and creamy explosion of flavors was a hint of sweetness and acid from two small slices of pineapple.

This taco was legit. You need to try it for yourself." - The Travel Mentor

13. Keens' Mutton Chop

Midtown West - Website

"The mutton chop at Keens, a 26-ounce saddle of lamb, skirted with fat and nearly two inches tall, can wear whatever label it pleases, because it provides about as much pleasure as a carnivore could want...Go ahead and call it legendary. In more ways than one, it warrants that tag." - Frank Bruni, The New York Times

12. Cosme's Corn Husk

Flatiron - Website

"I doubt you’ll taste anything this year as good as husk meringue with corn mousse ($12); Olvera pulverizes corn husk leaves into a powder that’s blended into a traditional meringue, in which he enfolds an intense pudding of corn puree, cream, and mascarpone. It’s sweet, savory, crackly, silky, and completely enchanting." - Michael Kaminer, New York Daily News

11. Mekelburg's Baked Potato

Clinton Hill - Website

“How the hell do you make a baked potato unforgettable?” is not a question most people are dying to answer, but at Mekelburg’s, a subterranean grocery and restaurant in Clinton Hill, the kitchen delivers two salt-roasted, irrefutable answers.

One holds a puddle of melted Raclette, the runny Swiss cheese dribbling forth and stacked with sour cream, pickled peppers, and a slab of crisp, deeply smoky pork belly; the other contains an appetizing counter’s worth of hot-smoked sable, the buttery fish mingling with creme fraîche and caviar. Hulking and affordable (at $8 and $10 respectively), both esteemed tubers prove that elevated comfort food doesn’t have to feel cliché." - Zachary Feldman, Village Voice

10. Raoul's Burger

South Village - Website

"The best burger in America is not easy to get. But sweet Jesus this thing is great...it is worth going early and going alone to eat Raoul's burger. And here is why. After ten years of rigorous hamburger puritanism, and an rancorous animosity towards any burger that isn't topped with American cheese and doesn't come on a white squishy bun, I have at last been won over by a gourmet specialty burger. Powered by a potent, piquant au poivre sauce, a separate au poivre mayonnaise, a sweet, brisket-heavy LaFrieda blend, topped with a little yarmulke of triple-cream St. Andre cheese, wilted watercress, cornichons, and served on the most delicate of challah buns, this is, in my opinion anyway, the must-have burger of 2014.

...I've gone four times in the last two weeks. And I'm going back soon. I'm not going to get into what it tastes like, and why you should go there, because frankly I'm hoping you don't. I wouldn't even write about it at all, but I feel a responsibility to my fellow burger-fetishists, and to Eat Like a Man readers." - Josh Ozersky, Esquire

9. Dizengoff's Hummus

Chelsea - Website

"Several times sitting at Dizengoff’s curving red counter I’ve heard customers exclaim, "This is the best hummus I’ve ever tasted!" And I wondered, "Could it really be the best?

...The flavor is limited to a single strong and lingering note: cumin. The texture is fluffy; almost unbelievably so. In fact, as you sit mopping it from the inside of your black plastic container with a torn fragment of pita, it threatens to detach itself and ascend to the ceiling. Yes, it’s the best hummus in town.

By itself, hummus would forever remain a condiment or a side dish. So what goes in the middle for your further dipping pleasure is of supreme importance...Five hummus variations priced from $10 to $13 are available, but part of the genius of the place is that the roster is always shifting, making a visit to Dizengoff a culinary adventure.

Currently, the (topping) choice is coarsely ground chicken in red oil with Persian spices, which is beyond delicious. In fact, it’s my favorite topping of all those I’ve tried over the last four months." - Robert Sietsema, Eater

8. Babbo's Beef Cheek Ravioli

Greenwich Village - Website

"One of the singular pleasures of eating out in New York City in the early years of the new century is the arrival of a plate of steaming beef-cheek ravioli at Babbo, Mario Batali's flagship restaurant on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village.

The delicate pasta triangles glisten beneath a velvety sauce made of crushed squab liver livened with capers and anchovies. Soft shavings of pecorino Romano wilt in the sauce's heat. At the pressure of a fork, the dough gives way to the soft, buttery ooze of a melting beef interior, and the scent of Sunday gravy travels up from the plate on a magic carpet of shaved black truffles.

Accompanied by a glass of Barolo, and consumed alongside a person of beauty and intelligence, the beef-cheek ravioli at Babbo represent a pinnacle of the fine dining range in Manhattan." - Sam Sifton, The New York Times

7. Levain Bakery's Chocolate Chip Walnut or Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie

Upper West Side & Harlem - Website

"The two blocks to Central Park with your hot cookies are possibly the longest walk you will experience...I saw cookie casualties everywhere, people who couldn’t make the three blocks and instead sprawled themselves on strangers’ stoops.

What makes Levain’s cookies so irresistably delicious? These mammoth cookies are baked to perfection– crispy on the outside, properly gooey on the inside, made with the purest, highest-quality ingredients. Even after they have cooled off, days later, they still manage to retain the addictive texture and flavor." - Souvenir Finder

6. Marea's Fusilli With Red-Wine-Braised Octopus and Bone Marrow

Midtown West - Website

"I've been lucky enough to travel all over Italy. I'm talking forming-gnocci-with-the-back-of-a-fork-in-nonna's-mountain-kitchen Italy. But the best bowl of pasta I've ever had was in Manhattan.

The Fusili with Baby Octopus and Bone Marrow that Chef Michael White serves at his Central Park South restaurant Marea is--can I say it?--genius. Yes, genius. Because the binder that brings the hand-rolled pasta, the San Marzano tomatoes, and the red wine-braised baby octopus together is none other than bone marrow. (Serious Eats details how it's done in The Making of Michael White's Fusilli at Marea.) The pasta is topped with mollica (Italian breadcrumbs) for a bit of textural contrast to that rich sauce. Perfezione. I mean it.

The first time I had it, I felt like streaking through Central Park screaming "It's been done! The pinnacle of pasta has been reached!" Each visit to Marea since then (and there have been many), the fusilli has been consistently that good. (But no, the streaking has not happened.)" - Julia Bainbridge, Bon Appétit

5. Xi'an Famous Foods' Spicy Cumin Lamb Noodles

Various Locations - Website

"The most popular item on the menu and for good reason, this is the very best of everything Xi'an Famous Foods has to offer, and one of the 50 NYC foods you need to eat before you die. Unless you've eaten a lot of Northwestern Chinese food, which typically uses this balance of cumin and a bit of heat, you've probably never eaten anything quite like this -- or quite this good. Located along the Silk Road, the Chinese city of Xi'an had access to spices of the Middle East, including cumin, and was influenced by a sizable Muslim population. The cuisine persists today and finds a delicious and authentic embodiment in this dish, which is distinct from the more common Chinese cuisines found in America. The bits of spiced lamb are sautéed with red onion and hot peppers, for a spicy, aromatic mix that clings perfectly to the noodles. I've taken many NYC visitors on days-long eating tours across the five boroughs, and when it's all said and done they most often point back to one thing as the most memorable: these lamb noodles." - Bison Messink, Thrillist

4. Hometown Bar-B-Que's Brisket

Red Hook - Website

"At Hometown, the line can wrap around the huge, picnic-tabled dining room and continue out the door, filled with customers waiting to order plates of ribs, bowls of beans, and, if they’re smart, servings of New York’s best brisket. Visiting Hometown can be trying as an overall experience — there are a lot of baby strollers — but the brisket is fantastic, offering an excellent blend of meaty substance and smoky fat. Most notable is pitmaster Billy Durney’s intensely peppery and smoky bark; you will wish every bite were crusted with it. But even those that aren’t are imbued with oaky flavor and tender as all get-out. Take a bite and let it melt on your tongue, close your eyes, learn to love the strollers, and you’ll achieve barbecue Zen." - Mary Jane Weedman, New York Magazine

3. The Arepa Lady's Arepas

Dekalb Market Hall - Website

"When people ask me to name my favorite food in New York, I inevitably answer--without hesitation--"arepas from the Arepa Lady." This saintly woman grills Colombian corn cakes on her street cart weekends after 10:30 p.m., and they are magical. 

I don't know her name; such knowledge would detract from my appreciation of her as an archetype. While I speak pretty decent Spanish, I've never been able to fully follow her conversation, but it doesn't matter. I go when I'm feeling blue, stand under her umbrella, and feel a healing calm wash over me as she brushes the sizzling corn cakes with butter. Zen master-like in her complete absorption in the task, she grills the things with infinite patience and loving care. 

Everyone adores the arepa lady. The people on the street treat her with reverence and respect; there's always a small entourage of hangers-on standing around her cart or sitting on folding chairs. Fast cars and smoke-billowing trucks zoom down the street, the 7 train crashes by overhead, partying Latinos cavort up and down the block, but the arepa lady's peacefulness absorbs it all, transforms it, and gives back...corn cakes. 

The arepas themselves are snacks from heaven. Coarsely ground corn, fried in pancakes about six inches in diameter and an inch thick, slathered with butter and topped with shredded white cheese, they're brown and crunchy, chewy and a little bit sweet, the butter and cheese imbuing the whole with salty dairy meltiness. 

Nearby, others grill arepas on street carts, but they are not The Arepa Lady (look for the tiny, ageless woman with the beatific smile). They all use the same ingredients and similar grills, but only her arepas have that certain cosmic expansiveness. You try one, and first reaction is "mmm, this is delicious." But before that thought can fully form, waves of progressively deeper feelings begin crashing, and you are finally left silently nodding your head. You understand things. You have been loved. 

I've brought Malaysian designers, Russian cookbook authors, Catalan drummers, and German set-painters to the arepa lady on the way home from shamefully gluttonous food outings. Way too full to object very forcefully, clutching their sides in pain, I drag them there for the proverbial "one more bite." Her sanctified vibe somehow coaxes them to try a nibble, and suddenly eyes brighten and appetites rekindle. My guests invariably swoon over the things, even when sampled after binges so overindulgent that they had sworn never to eat again. The magic of the arepa lady gives them the strength to eat on. " - Jim Leff, NY Press

2. Peter Luger's Porterhouse

Williamsburg - Website

"There are no lobsters at Peter Luger. There are no major credit cards, either. And those looking for a great wine list will be disappointed. But Peter Luger does have one thing: the best steak in New York City.

You know the steak is great before you even taste it. You know it from the fine, funky, mineral aroma that wafts across the table and announces that this is a piece of meat. When the waiter appears with the platter, he stands there spooning a mixture of butter and meat juices across the sizzling porterhouse in an exercise of pure theater. He is merely prolonging the moment, allowing the aroma to revive all your primal instincts as he stretches out the time until you can actually sink your teeth into the flesh. Finally he serves, slowly doling out slices of fillet and sirloin. As your mouth closes on the incredibly tender piece of beef, aroma and flavor come together, exploding on the palate.

Some people order lamb chops, which seems inexplicable to me; the chops are thick and powerfully delicious, but I'd rather eat steak. Others, who have been dragged along by ardent carnivores, console themselves with salmon. I tried it once, just for science. It was a fine piece of fish, but I felt cheated. The steak's the thing here, an enormous porterhouse charred to perfection over intense heat. It is so good that if you're not careful you find yourself gnawing on the bone, picking the marrow out of the middle and generally covering yourself in greasy goodness.

In the current climate of anti-fat hysteria, steak for most of us has become an occasional treat. Since I have only a limited number of steaks in my future, I'd like to eat them all at Peter Luger." - Ruth Reichl, The New York Times

1. BAOHAUS's Chairman Bao

East Village - Website

"For $4, you get a lily-white bun — the bao — brimming with Niman Ranch pork belly, glossy with fat and topped with the classic Taiwanese condiments: peanuts pulverized to a powder and tossed with red sugar; suan cai (pickled mustard greens), and a fistful of cilantro.

Dissenters will quibble that you can get gua bao for less in Chinatown. Not with this quality you can’t.

God is in the details. The buns are steamed in lotus leaves. The pork is flash-fried, and then simmered in rice wine, soy sauce, rock sugar, ginger and star anise — a technique called “red cooking” in Mandarin — plus cherry Coca-Cola, which adds a hint of caramel." - Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times

Have a favorite dish you think we left out? Leave it in the comments and we'll consider adding it to the list (if it meets our criteria listed at the beginning).

Michael Simonson5 Comments