My former boss is planning a trip to New York City this fall, so he asked me about things to do there. I found that, while I could point out touristy things like Rockefeller Center and St Patrick’s Cathedral, my focus remains on the important stuff – food.
You see, after 20-odd years living away from NYC I still obsess about food I just can’t find elsewhere.
Like PIZZA. Yeah, there are pizzerias everywhere, and some have the balls to call themselves variations of “New York’s Best Pizza.” But there’s just no comparison.
An example… the first time we packed up the van and drove back to NY, we stopped at my sister’s house in Ridgefield Park NJ. We were hungry but it was after dinner time, so we decided to hit a pizzeria near her house.
Now, while Bronx residents will argue with Brooklynites over which borough has the best pizza, we all agree that Jersey pizza sucks. Still, when we sat down to eat the crappy Jersey pizza it was the BEST pizza I’d had in a long time. Even my kids, who have never really tasted NY pizza, thought it was light years better than the stuff back in Texas.
So it’s not just me. Basically, the worst pizza in NYC is better than the best pizza anywhere else. (I’m looking at you, Chicago!)
And don’t even get me started about a good Sicilian pizza…
What else do I miss? Ethnic foods are a big thing around the country, and NYC is no exception. Up the block from where I grew up is (still) a Jamaican bakery featuring Jamaican patties and cocoa bread. I drool just thinking of them, and try to get over there whenever I return to the area. Sure, you can sometimes find them in the freezer section at the store, but that’s nothing like getting them fresh out of the oven.
Ditto White Castle hamburgers. Not an ethnic food, but they also sell a poor substitute in the freezer section. You haven’t lived unless you’ve stood on line for an hour with the (other?) dregs of society at 2am on a Thursday waiting to get a dozen of those bad boys.
Other great ethnic foods include real Chinese food from Chinatown, prepared by Chinese immigrants. Or Jewish deli staples like potato knishes with mustard or a great pastrami sandwich (like I had at the Stage Door Deli.)
Like pizza, another great NYC food that is faked around the country is the bagel. You may think Einstein’s makes a good bagel, but you haven’t eaten a bagel until you’ve ordered one with lox and cream cheese. I guarantee you won’t be able to eat the whole thing, and you’ll be in heaven the whole time.
Street food like Sabrette hot dogs with onions and kraut… hot soft pretzels with mustard… Cookies and pastries from a real Italian bakery…
I really need to plan another NY trip, I’m getting really hungry.