It’s been a busy but very enjoyable few weeks. Trips to New York and Scotland one after the other before diving straight back into work haven’t allowed me much time to get words onto screen.
The fact that New York has 77 restaurants with at least a single Michelin Star should demonstrate just how well the city is doing when it comes to food. Should you need any more convincing of just how well not just the city, but the entire country is doing, back in April one of their restaurants was named the best in the world at the Worlds 50 Best Restaurant Awards. The restaurant in question is Eleven Madison Park, a short walk from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. Before I’d even finished dotting the ‘I’s’ and crossing the ‘T’s’ in the Travel Agents I had decided I was going and not a single person or event was going to stop me. Except of course a closure for refurbishment. That would do the trick.
Not to worry though, I wasn’t going to let this minor hiccup beat me. Que Twitter. There isn’t much you can’t do on Twitter. Stalk your favourite celebs? Easy. The very latest news? Twitter knows about it before it’s on lunch time TV. Ask for recommendations on places to eat whilst in The Big Apple? Best place to do it. Did I get a response? I did. Several in fact. The best bit being that I managed to get to all but two of the suggestions.
For our first real taste of the US of A, we headed down 5th Avenue to Eisenberg’s. One of very few proper old school sandwich shops left in the city, there was only ever going to be two sandwiches in the running. For me, it had to be a Hot Pastrami Sandwich. The pastrami was delightful and not in short supply. Succulent, juicy, tender pieces of meat with a strong smoky flavour were housed between two pieces of dry bread. I bit through the beautiful Pastrami straight onto bread that instantly robbed my mouth of any moisture. Up until this point, the sandwich was maybe a notch above good. In all the excitement, I dived straight in forgetting about the side of Gherkins that came with the sandwich. Mind you, so did the waiter, bringing them to the table along with an apology mid-way through. This made it a sandwich quite literally of two halves. The palate refreshing nature of the Gherkins was exactly what I was looking for and made all the difference to my mid-morning snack. My partner opted for what I consider to be the only other REAL option and an American staple. The Grilled Cheese. A Lime-Rickey was the drink of choice to wash all of this down. My initial thoughts were twofold: One, just how moreish it was and two, how it tasted like a bag of Haribo had been emptied into a blender, blitzed, added to some fizz and served, which by the way, is no bad thing.
The next suggestion would emerge as one of my personal food highlights of our week-long trip. Founded by New York restauranteur Danny Mayer, Shake Shack is a hamburger and milkshake chain that started life in 2004. Originally operating out of a Food Cart in Madison Square Park just yards from Mayer’s formerly owned Eleven Madison Park and with popularity on the rise a permanent kiosk was built, where it still stands today. They’ve since expanded to a total of 134 locations, including three in London. A Double SmokeShack was the order of the day, a burger made up of two freshly ground 4oz 100% angus beef patties, cheese, smoked Niman Ranch bacon, chopped cherry peppers and shack sauce. All of this sandwiched in what has to be the best burger bun I’ve ever eaten. Carrying a distinctive buttery note, the potato bun used was actually designed to prevent burger slippage. I loved it so much that I may or may not have returned to have another before our departure back to the U.K. Once again, going for two patties rather than one and slightly more traditional in its build, my partner opted for the name sake ‘Shackburger’. Still a cheeseburger at its core, only this time accompanied by lettuce, tomato and shack sauce. With both burgers, chips to share, a large handmade lemonade and a shake coming in at a few cents over $33 this is the very definition of value for money. Should you ever get to New York, take a detour to the guys at ShakeShack. You won’t regret it.
A second suggestion was to get Pizza in Little Italy. Something I’d admittedly not even considered. The place recommended to us was Lombardi’s, America’s very first Pizzeria. Our instructions were to get there before opening time. At first, I thought this was odd to say the least. I mean, who wants Pizza at 11:30am? Apparently, as I discovered, quite a lot of people. Heeding the advice given, we rocked up about 20minutes early, to find a que already formed. Doors swung open and within a few minutes the restaurant was full. Having eyes bigger than our stomachs we ordered a large pepperoni and not long later a 16” pizza arrived at our table. I’m used to ordering large pizza’s, back home it’s not a problem. Let me tell you right here and now ladies and gents, 2” makes all the difference. At least, that’s what I’m told. Evidence of the coal oven used to cook these New York style pizzas are ever present on your fingertips as you pick up each slice. The pizza is fantastic, like, as it would turn out, a lot of food I ate in New York. If I had to criticise, the paper plates we were presented with wasn’t in-keeping with the rest of the vintage décor and quite frankly, made me feel like a child.
Less than a 5minute walk from the craziness that is Times Square lies ‘Broadway Bites’. A seasonal street food market popping up during the Summer and Fall. Take a walk through the market to discover a diverse range of offerings from local chefs and producers. Over our time in New York, we managed to work our way around the majority of the stalls, here being some of our most memorable. Hank’s Juicy Beef was our first stop, ordering a junior version of the signature sandwich. Slow roasted Italian style beef accompanied by marinated peppers was spooned into a buttered French roll. Hank’s beef really is juicy. Packed full of flavour, this was a wonderful late evening snack.
Next up came a S’More Taco from Squish Marshmallows. A milk chocolate Taco houses your choice of 3 marshmallow flavours which you can mix and match as you please. My partner being the one with the sweet tooth ordered 2 Birthday party marshmallows and 1 S’Mores. For even the sweetest tooth this was a touch on the sweet side.
On our penultimate day we went back, this time heading for Don Don NY and a Chicken Katsu Curry. Sticky white rice formed the foundation of the dish with breaded chicken, shredded white cabbage and a curry sauce making up the remainder. Rather filling this would turn out to be our last meal in New York.
Thriving more than ever, I’m pleased to report that New York is no longer a city living off McDonald’s, Wendy’s and $1 a slice Pizza, (although you can still get all of the above if you wish). The food scene is just as diverse as the people who live there, making it probably one of the best weeks of food we’ve had.
Shake Shack: 10/10