The insider's food guide to New York City-from trusted New York food expert and TV/radio host Michael Colameco
New York is the food capital of the United States, with an incredibly rich and diverse dining scene that boasts everything from four-star French restaurants, casual neighborhood bistros, and ethnic restaurants from every corner of the world to corner bakeries, pastry shops, and much more.
Now Mike Colameco, the host of PBS's popular Colameco's Food Show and WOR-Radio's "Food Talk", helps you make sense of this dizzying array of choices. He draws on his experience as a chef and New York resident to offer in-depth reviews of his favorite eating options, from high-end restaurants to cheap takeout counters and beyond. His work has given him unprecedented access to the city's chefs and kitchens, allowing him to tell you things others can't. He offers inside information about different establishments, giving a detailed and sometimes irreverent sense of the food and the people behind them.
- Goes beyond ratings-centered guides to offer detailed, opinionated reviews by an experienced chef and longtime New Yorker
- Recommends restaurants, bakers, butchers, chocolatiers, cheese stores, fishmongers, pastry shops, wine merchants, and more
- Entries include basic facts, contact information, and a thoughtful, personal review
- Includes choices in every price range and neighborhood, from Tribeca to Harlem
Whether you're visiting for a weekend or have lived in New York for years, this guide is your #1 go-to source for the best food the city has to offer.
Mike Colameco's Best Cheap Eats Under $25 in NYC
Tough economic times call for creative solutions. While this book already has a lot of restaurants categorized as “moderate” and “inexpensive,” here is a sampling of places which all offer great value. It should also be noted that due to the difficult economic environment we are all experiencing, many restaurants are running “restaurant week” pricing all year long for lunch, which translates to $24.07 for three courses, plus tax and tip.
8 Maiden Lane
When I used to do live radio six days a week, many of them from the studios of WOR nearby on Broadway, I’d pop in here for a quick a falafel sandwich and was never disappointed. What started as a takeout-only joint nearby expanded to this 50-seat BYOB spot due in great part to the quality of the food and word-of-mouth reputation. The Middle Eastern menu features shawarma, various kebabs, baba ghanoush, meat and vegetable pies, and vegetarian platters. I also like the rice pudding and bizarre custard pudding with chocolate.
19 West 46th Street
In a neighborhood chock full of restaurants, mostly all bad, it’s easy to view this part of town as a culinary flyover. But once in a while New York will surprise you. Akdeniz is a decent and inexpensive Turkish restaurant specializing in good vegetarian dishes and seafood. For starters, the baba ghannouj is smoky and rich and the cacik (the cucumber yogurt mix scented with garlic and laced with chopped mint and dill) a good foil. Kebabs, lamb chops, and chicken in various guises are available, but I’d opt for the whole grilled fish on the bone—sea bass, trout, snapper, or dorade—all farm-raised but good especially cooked this way fresh off the grill. The wine list is short but okay, with a few notables from Turkey like the white Beyaz or Cankaya. For dessert, the Turkish pudding or kadayif are good options.
Community Food and Juice
Everyone I know that lives anywhere near here, which is to say the Upper West Side northward through Harlem, just loves this place. And what’s not to love? Though urban New York by location, there is something very Bay Area about the scene. Think Berkeley, as in organic, certified green, no bottled water (just filtered in re-useable containers), really solid cooking, great friendly service, and inexpensive, market-driven seasonal food to boot. From breakfast through dinner, they’ve got you covered. Start your day with good fair-trade coffee and house-made granola, blueberry pancakes, or brioche French Toast. For lunch, try the famous bowl of beets with creamy whipped goat cheese and toasted pistachios or the rice or udon bowls, veggie burger, or natural grass-fed beef burger. For dinner, shrimp pot stickers, really good crab cakes and any of the salads make for good starters. Also, seasonal house ravioli or panko-crisped chicken both come in under the $20.00 mark. My favorite desserts of theirs are the Key lime meringue pie and the dulce de leche sundae. With a full bar and food this good, it’s well worth the trek uptown anytime for a visit.
119 First Avenue
I usually get my Korean fix stepping off the N, Q, R, or W at 34th and walking south two blocks, but should you find yourself in the East Village, Dok Suni’s will do just fine. Run by a mom-and-daughter team, the room is always busy. The food, especially the more traditional Korean side of it, is very good. There is a hip soundtrack, and not surprisingly, unlike their midtown counterparts, the place is packed with that Gen “X” and “Y” crowd living nearby. The good-sized menu is in English mostly, mixing traditional dishes with some new wave, fusion concepts. Their dumplings are good, and the kim chee pancake dipped in soy and vinegar is good to share. Essentially there is something here for everyone—noodle lovers, vegetarians, meat heads—and very good options as well, such as hot and spicy broiled squid, redolent of that ubiquitous red pepper paste, or the dish billed as fish jun, a white-fleshed fish egg, battered and then pan sautéed, served with a soy vinegar dipping sauce. A full bar is available, but beer or roast barley tea works best with this food.
Je’Bon Noodle House
15 St. Mark’s Place
As New York has gone noodle crazy, with everyone from Jean-Georges Vongerichten to David Chang getting in the game, I’m surprised this place doesn’t get more press. It’s good, consistent, and cheap. The theme is Asian noodles in various guises, with a good amount of variety. Everyone raves about the “silver needles,” pan fried and tossed with minced pork shrimp, julienned carrot, egg, and onion, but I like the Singapore style chow mei fun laced with curry or the combo fish ball and beef ball in chicken broth just as well. They have sushi, Japanese-style skewer plates, and a good beer list, as well as a broad range of interesting salads, with nearly nothing on the menu save the sushi for more than $10.00.
Keste Pizza & Vino
271 Bleecker Street
Yet another great new pizza spot opened in early 2009, this one in the West Village, not far from John’s and a few other Bleecker Street joints that aren’t half bad as well. Keste sits next to Matt Uminoff Guitars, and one day as I was eyeing a vintage Les Paul I couldn’t afford in the window, 450 Mike Colameco’s Food Lover’s Guide to NYC I noticed something new right next door. In I marched. The long narrow room seats around 50, with the open kitchen and oven to the rear. Initially they had no liquor license, but beer was available right across the street at a deli. The menu offers a small a variety of pizza all coming from a custom-made, imported oven, as well as a few daily pizza specials, with some salads and side dishes. The ingredients for the pies are top notch: imported flour, San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, Sicilian sea salt, all sourced by the proud Pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio, who can be found forming the pies and manning the ovens most nights. The result here is a good, inexpensive, casual pizza spot as one might find anywhere in Southern Italy.
144 East Broadway
I love good noodles in any culture and in any guise; ditto for dumplings, and those are the two best reasons to visit this spot. For around $5.00, you can get a great bowl of soup filled with chewy, addictive, hand-pulled noodles, and for less than half that price, eight, that’s right eight, boiled pork and chive dumplings. Twelve dumplings will set you back $3.00. Bring your own beer and be advised that the décor is awful, the lighting fluorescent, and the staff less than vigilant, but the noodle maker performs in open view, and dinner for two can easily be done for well under $15.00.
277 Grand Street
The name may hint at the rent, the key money, or what they spent on “renovation,” as I’m not exactly sure what this place was before it was Pho Grand. The cedar walls that line the dining room suggest a giant sauna or perhaps an upstate ski lodge, but whatever, it’s a good choice for pho and other Vietnamese specialties with a budget in mind. The signature soups come in around $6.00 to $7.00 a pop. Your pho choices include a good broth redolent of Chinese five spice, studded with various cuts of meat such as the navel, which is the same cut used in pastrami, to the leaner eye round, or thinly sliced, julienned tripe, to chewy, gelatinous beef tendon, my favorite. To this, add great noodles dishes, a small multiple squid section of the menu with options listed at $7.95, and on to shrimp, beef, and chicken choices. On a recent visit I had dish billed as bo nuong vi, in which thin slices of beef are sautéed then combined with pickled carrots, sliced radish, and finely chopped mint, all wrapped in rice paper and simply eaten with the addition of a dipping chili sauce… yum!
27 Mott Street (plus other locations)
This diminutive space is a long, narrow room with natural red and painted brick walls and an open kitchen. Food may be served on disposable plates and aluminum foil takeout containers, but Pinche vies for being one the best taquerias in town, including La Esquina a few doors down. The tortillas are house-made, and the fried fish tacos supposedly made from line-caught Mahi Mahi are excellent. The decent burritos (not huge, but adequate and good), yucca fries, and the very good, slow-cooked pork carnitas are a few of the highlights. While the Mission District food police may not approve, to my mind the chow served here, washed down with good beer or a glass or two of wine, at these prices is worth the trip.
110 East 7th Street
Chef Sara Jenkins has been cooking around NYC for years now. Prior to this she ran 50 Carmine. She lived in Italy for most of her youth and really knows authentic Italian food. Here at Porchetta, the premise is simple. It’s basically a one-dish restaurant, a food stall essentially, the kind one might find traveling through Italy but rarely if ever here. It’s counter service only, with a few seats if you can snag them, but worth it regardless. Porchetta is simply Heritage breed, boneless Hampshire pork loin that is first slathered with chopped garlic, rosemary, fennel pollen, a generous dose of salt and fresh pepper, and a few other herbs and encased in rich fatty Hampshire pork belly, tied together and slow roasted. The result features crisped skin, alternating in layers with the meat and fat, served as a standalone with lovely little roasted potatoes or as a sandwich set within Sullivan Street ciabatta rolls, with a great bitter chicory salad thrown in to cover the vegetable group from the food pyramid. Simple, satisfying, and delicious.