Hey everyone, sorry for the long hiatus. I wish you all a Happy 2011! Thanks for checking in on the good ol’ blog again. I’ve got a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started without any further ado…
P and I went to New York City shortly after the opening of 2011. Since we’d both been there two or three times before, we wanted to eschew the usual tourist stops and instead spend some time walking around different neighborhoods. However, neither of us had visited the must-eat locales in NYC, so a week before our trip, we had already done homework on what was good.
P had just one place on his hit list: Papaya King. I had no idea this oddly-named restaurant was a hot dog joint, and a famous one at that, but one glance at the website, which listed approval from both Julia Child and Anthony Bourdain, (look up “strange bedfellows” in the dictionary and perhaps this pair will be there) and I was in!
Frank with onions and papaya juice - a surprisingly good combo
It was actually just a tiny place with a couple of counters for stand-up consumption only. P and I were quickly ushered through the line, him getting the frank with kraut (or simply “with” as the guy yelled behind the counter) and me with the one with onions and curly fries. We both got their signature papaya juice.
- The colorful interior of Papaya King
- The “with” (notice the GIANT drum of ketchup in the background…these guys don’t mess around)
The frank was so juicy delicious that even I, the girl who doesn’t like hot dogs, contemplated getting a second one. Meaty, substantial, solid – almost like a brat, IMHO, it was so thick. Delish. The papaya drinks cut through the grease, too. Guess after 70-some years, they know what they’re doing!
Maybe it’s just because I’m an out-of-towner, but Papaya King to me embodied the no-frills, down-to-earth candor found in the heart of every New Yorker. Even the cups had a bit of that American jocular attitude I’d missed so much in HK.
Big promises from a (somewhat) small fruit
You can’t see it, but the other side of this cup proclaimed Papaya King “as vital to NYC as the subway.” I’d be inclined to agree.
Later that evening, P and I went to the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side for a show. Afterwards, everyone spilled onto the sidewalk as bars in the neighborhood sounded their last call. P and I stumbled into Katz Deli, along with – seemingly – everyone else on the LES. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera that night (the photo below was taken the following afternoon when we were in the neighborhood). If I had, I would have taken an embarrassing amount of photos, surely trying to capture the greatness of their pastrami on rye. At nearly $15 for a sandwich and some pickles, is it a bit overpriced? Sure. But it’s good. That pastrami can back it up, and paired with a side of homemade dill pickles, it’s hard to hold a grudge for too long. P was also ecstatic to find Bass Ale on tap, something he’d been searching for high and low in HK.
Katz's Deli - Enough said
When we passed Katz’s again on Sunday afternoon completely stuffed on three pieces of NY-style pizza (more on that next), we made a serious attempt to eat again. We didn’t make it, but the lesson is: it’s that good.
On Sunday, we wandered around the Chinatown/Little Italy area and stopped by Lombardi’s. We didn’t have breakfast, so we went straight for the large pizza – 18 inches of pie. The menu allowed you to pick your own toppings with a set price per topping. We picked mushrooms, pepperoni, and roasted red peppers and eagerly awaited the arrival of our pie while taking in the red-checkered tablecloths and exposed brick.
The ambience at Lombardi's (and you can see by the ladies and cameras in the background that it's quite the landmark)
The pizza took about 15 minutes and while we were properly hungry when it came out, we immediately realized our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Nevertheless, we made a huge dent in the pizza, taking down three pieces each (!). I realized the use of fresh ingredients is key to making a pizza jump from “great” to “fantastic” and indeed, all the toppings were good, especially the mozzarella. It wasn’t greasy at all, but soft and a little bit chewy. I also loved the crust. My complaint with NY-style pizza previously was that the crust was too dry and crunchy, but Lombardi’s crust was almost naan-like in texture, with plenty of chewing satisfaction.
Eighteen inches of YUM
Let’s not even calculate how many inches we ate. Let’s just say we were almost uncomfortably full for hours (is that why gluttony is a sin?), but man…was it worth it.
Our last stop during our 36 hours in New York was Harold Dieterle’s restaurant, Perilla. Harold was the winner of the first season of Top Chef and since P and I were big fans of season six, we were excited to go to our first “Top Chef” restaurant. I loved the casual feel of the restaurant, like it’s someplace you could go for a first date, a family dinner, a gathering with friends, and pretty much everything in between.
We ordered Harold’s signature spicy duck meatballs with mint cavatelli, spinach and quail egg; the housemade orecchiette with braised lamb, tomato confit, and sheep’s milk; a hanger steak to share (at this point, we were so full from everything we’d eaten the previous day and a half) and a side of edamame falafel.
The two starters were phenomenal, with the spicy duck meatballs living up to the hype. There was a little bit of a numbing kick to it, but the mint balanced it out quite well. The orecchiette was perfectly cooked to al dente, and the goat’s cheese melted slowly into the confit, creating a great tomato cream sauce.
Sorry, we got too excited and ate some of the meatballs before I took a photo. Whoops...
Starter #2, also a bit eaten
I’d take a pass on the edamame falafel if I were to ever go back (a bit too dry, even with the lemon tahini), but the hanger steak was beautiful! Medium rare, nicely cut, paired with sliced mushrooms – wow. It was also huge, as P and I split the entree and we still got a plateful. Not that I’m complaining, though.
The tater-tot-looking Edamame Falafel
Half-sized hanger steak (!)
A great meal, and a great end to our weekend.
179 E. 86th Street (between Lexington and 3rd)
(212) 396 0648
Cost: ~ $10 or less a person
205 E. Houston Street (at Ludlow)
(212) 254 2246
Cost: ~$15 for pastrami on rye
32 Spring Street (between Mott and Mulberry)
(212) 941 7994
Cost: I honestly don’t remember, but I’m gonna say it was modest (under $20/person)
9 Jones Street (between W. 4th and Bleeker)
(212) 929 6868
Cost: ~ $30-$50/person
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