I didn't travel at all in 2014. Given my love for travel, I’m quite surprised at myself that I didn’t venture out. Regardless, I was still fortunate enough to enjoy some incredibly delicious meals right here in Manhattan. Aside from Manhattan though, in 2014 I discovered Brooklyn where you will find the yuppies, the hipsters, and the wannabes. With its proximity to Manhattan and amazing restaurants, Brooklyn is the next Manhattan and offers more of a neighborhood, community feel at a slightly slower pace. So without further ado, here are the 15 Best Things I Ate in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Downtown Jersey City, NJ! Better to share this late than never… be patient with me, making my way back. 🙂
photo credits: most photos are my own, however some are taken from Yelp, Instagram, or directly from the restaurant's website.
1. Pescado a Las Brasas (fish tacos) @ La Esquina Taqueria, New York City (soho)
A friend of mine introduced me to La Esquina Taqueria which serves up delicious and authentic Mexican food. Getting a weekend reservation at the Brasserie is tough though, the silver lining is you can always eat at the Taqueria without a wait. My favorite item here is the Fish Taco which is essentially grilled fish topped with shredded cabbage, red onion, chipotle mayo, and salsa verde. Another favorite is the Elotes Callejeros (grilled corn) with mayo, cheese, and chili powder. The food here is affordable, delicious, and the Fish Taco easily goes down as the best thing I ate in 2014!!!
2. Chicken Toastie @ Bombay Duck Co., New York City (greenwich village)
After a drunken night, I headed to the Bombay Duck Co. This Indian shack is open until 4 am and serves up Mumbai-style street food which is affordable and comforting. My favorite here is the Chicken Toastie which comprises of shredded chicken, cheese, green chilies, cilantro, Pau Bhaji Masala, and Maggie Hot & Sour sauce… besides that I am unable to decipher the remaining ingredients. A creamy, mouthwatering sandwich with a little kick to it. And the Masala Fries on the side seasoned with Chat Masala are to die for. This place truly brings Mumbai to New York!
3. Eggs Rancheros @ Five Points, New York City (noho)
Baked eggs in a black bean tomato sauce with Vermont Cheddar Cheese and salsa verde, and then topped with pico de gallo and tortilla strips. The Eggs Rancheros at Five Points are incredibly delicious. Five Points is also one of my favorite brunch spots in Manhattan, but unfortunately this restaurant has been renovated and the result is Vic’s – an entirely new establishment that serves Italian-Mediterranean dishes. I’ll be sure to check out Vic’s, but I’m so bummed Five Points closed.
4. Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookie, a New York Times recipe, made by my friend Lauren
You can always buy a Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookie at the store, but my friend, Lauren, went the extra mile to bake these cookies. She was sweet enough to bring me a couple and I devoured both cookies in one sitting. If you wanna bake these cookies, they will require a LOT of patience because the dough needs to be refrigerated for 36 hours to achieve the desired results. Verdict? Rich, buttery, slightly salty, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside… need I say more? These cookies are on my to-do list. Absolutely D-I-V-I-N-E! Thanks Lauren!
5. Truffle Cheddar Pretzel @ Sigmund’s, New York City (east village)
I first tried a Sigmund pretzel at the Union Square Holiday Market back in December and I was blown away. Initially I couldn’t decide between the Truffle Cheddar and the Garlic Parsley, both sound insane right? My decision became pretty easy since I love anything truffle. The truffle cheddar concoction is scrumptious, especially a hot pretzel on a cold winter day, that's perfection. I need to visit this pretzel shop located in the East Village.
6. Chocolate Brooklyn Bridge @ The River Café, Brooklyn (dumbo)
It was one of the best and most elegant birthday dinners I ever had. The River Café in Brooklyn is situated alongside the Hudson River with jaw-dropping views of the Manhattan Skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge. According to TripAdvisor, this classy restaurant is recognized as the Top 25 Fine Dining Restaurants in the United States for 2014. The service here is impeccable, the experience is extraordinary, the food is above average, but this dessert right here is outstanding and a work of art! Together chocolate and raspberry are the ultimate pairing. A very memorable birthday at The River Café!
7. Red Velvet Cake @ Piece of Velvet, Brooklyn (fort greene)
And speaking of Brooklyn and desserts, Piece of Velvet is my favorite go to dessert spot in Brooklyn. This cute bakery boasts up to 24 different flavors of “velvet cake”… and so you will encounter flavors such as, Red Velvet Cake, Pina Colada Velvet Cake, Coco Velvet Cake, Caramel Velvet Cake, Pineapple Velvet Cake, well, you get the idea. All the cakes here are deliciously moist and the cream cheese frosting seals the deal, but my absolute favorites are the traditional Red Velvet Cake (seen below), Blueberry Velvet Cake, and Pineapple Velvet Cake. For cake this decadent, I am willing to put on a few pounds.
8. Almond Croissant @ Choc-O-Pain, Downtown Jersey City (harsimus cove)
The Grove Street neighborhood in Jersey City is up and coming. You’ll find cute little bakeries and cafes, wine bars, lots of new restaurants and brunch spots. One of my favorite coffee spots is Choc-O-Pain, they make an excellent cup of coffee, not to mention this amazingly delicious Almond Croissant. Each bite is loaded with butter, and then I close my eyes and savor every bite. Scrumptious, and oh so worth every artery clogging calorie.
9. Fried Macaroni and Cheese @ The Cheesecake Factory, locations everywhere
Yes, I realize The Cheesecake Factory is a chain, but it is one of the few chains I don’t mind eating at when I am in the mood to indulge. Whenever I go to Cheesecake Factory with my family/friends we split the Fried Macaroni and Cheese appetizer, it is so rich and satisfying. Creamy mac and cheese on the inside, marinara sauce topped with Parmesan cheese on the outside. Heavenly!
10. Strawberry Cupcake @ Georgetown Cupcake, New York City (soho)
One of my favorite bakeries in Manhattan is Georgetown Cupcake. Out of the few cupcakes I have tried here, my favorites are the Salted Caramel and the Strawberry Cupcake (seen below). The Strawberry Cupcake is light, airy, and not too sweet, the frosting is berry-like and just perfectly sweet. It’s the ideal combination! A must-do when visiting NYC.
11. Cake Batter Cupcake @ Molly’s Cupcakes, New York City (west village)
And speaking of cupcakes, another favorite bakery of mine is Molly’s Cupcakes, I can’t walk out of here without indulging in the Cake Batter cupcake. It literally tastes like cake batter, if you know what I mean. On the inside, you’ll find a creamy custard filling. Unlike many other popular bakeries, Molly’s cupcakes are uber moist, not dense whatsoever and not overly sweet. And the best part is they have enough seats here so you can actually slow down, grab a chair, and enjoy a cup of tea/coffee with your cupcake.
12. Feta Cheesecake @ The Greek, New York City (tribeca)
The Greek opened up in Manhattan's Tribeca district back in 2013. The food, ambiance, and service here are spectacular, but it was this Feta Cheesecake that had me at hello. Now, let me just say I have an aversion towards feta and pungent cheeses in general, but you won't experience any of that strong cheese flavor in this cheesecake. Sweet, slightly tart, and creamy Feta Cheesecake... this dessert was surprisingly delicious!
13. Phoenician Fries @ Ilili, New York City (flatiron)
Trendy and hip, Ilili is one of Manhattan’s best Middle-Eastern, Lebanese restaurants. The drinks here are amazing… especially the From Beirut with Passion. My other favorite item are the Phoenician Fries that comes with a side of this garlicky, mayo, chipotle sauce. It’s blissful!
14. Chicken Enchiladas @ Maya, New York City (upper east side)
Earlier in 2014, I headed to Maya for some good Mexican food. The drinks and guacamole are both great, but the shredded Chicken Enchiladas here are so flavorsome and topped off with a salsa verde and crème fraiche. It’s too bad Maya is located all the way on the Upper East Side, it’s a trek, but it’s worth it on a lovely spring/summer day followed by some shopping at Bloomingdales.
15. Strawberry & Ricotta Toast @ Baba Cool Café, Brooklyn (fort greene)
Newly opened in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene district, Baba Cool Café offers a few items on their menu, and so far everything I’ve tried here has been really good. Additionally, their coffee is robust in flavor and just perfect on a cold winter day. This Strawberry & Ricotta toast below looks pretty ordinary, I mean, it’s just grilled toast with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and then a spread of ricotta on top, and then some strawberries on top with a drizzle of honey. The taste though is delectable. I love a sweet and savory combination and I never knew how good plain ol’ ricotta can taste on grilled toast. Baba Cool serves simple, yet unique combinations, and so far nothing here has failed to disappoint.
Question: What is the best thing you ate in 2014? Item, restaurant, location? Share!