Last week I was lucky enough to spend a week in New York ahead of my upcoming move. The aim was to get the first visa stamp and hopefully begin to look at potential flats. We stayed (and will still be staying once I go back) in the largely gastronomic lacking area of Murray Hill. Shockingly, I hadn’t planned for where I wanted to eat. I know. Duncan was rightfully a little annoyed too. ‘What do you spend all your time doing?’ and a fair question too. My reasoning being that we will be there for 2 years, so I have plenty of time to wing it and discover little unknown places rather than immediately hit up all the places that appear on ‘Top 20 places to eat in New York’ lists that get published so frequently.
In a combination of curiosity over Five Guys opening in London this year, I moseyed on up the 7 blocks or so to the midtown location. Seemingly organized chaos with much yelling of ‘Two in the door, I got one in the door’ followed by ‘I got 6 minutes on docket #15, I need those fries!’. Hectic, but the line did move quite quickly. The basic burgers are all quite similar; all beef, with the option of no cheese, cheese, bacon or both. Next choose your size. Like the blogging nerd that I am, research told me that the ‘Little’ size would be more than enough for me, which turned out to be a correct assessment. Rather generously, all the toppings are free – if you so wish, you could create quite sloppy epic burger, but asking for a burger ‘all the way’ gets you lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, ketchup and mayo. Amidst all the yelling I very politely asked for a little cheeseburger all the way, Cajun fries (regular fries are available too, but honestly if Cajun anything if on offer, you say yes) and a regular drink (free refills).
Despite the little size, it still filled up most of the free space in my stomach. As for the taste? It was ok. Nothing too amazing. I didn’t try Shake Shack this trip, but memories of a Shake Shack Burger 4 years ago do outweigh Five Guys unfortunately. The grilled mushrooms didn’t really add too much, and I kind of wish the onions were more chunky and played a larger presence flavor-wise. Fries weren’t crispy, but still had a good flavor to them. Five Guy are clearly proud of their ‘tatoes as the name of the provider was clearly written next to the tills. Cajun spicing was a little overwhelming and by the end I was wishing for non-Cajun.
In spite of my lackluster opinion, it truly wasn’t a bad burger, I just didn’t see the hype about a basic fast food burger and I don’t know how well it will be received here in London. Opening in Covent Garden will attract the tourist market, but I think Londoners will want more for their burger pounds.
I think one of things I will like the most about New York is how easy it is to discover places. Like S’mac (short for Sarita’s Mac and Cheese). Indeed, an entire place dedicated to melty cheesy pasta. There are (boring) vegan options should you want them but life is for living on the edge and I ordered the Cheeseburger mac and cheese in ‘Nosh’ size. The picture makes it look much oilier than it was. That’s not to say, it wasn’t rich and didn’t sit in my belly rather heavily in the hours that followed; just that it wasn’t as oily as the picture looks. Did it taste just like a cheeseburger? No. Just ground mince through mac and cheese.
Strolling through the dining concourse at Grand Central, I spied a Magnolia Bakery. Everyone knows cupcakes are boring, but I’d heard about the banana pudding they did and snapped up a small tub. Slices of fresh banana layered through banana flavoured cream with just a touch of condensed milk and layered wafer biscuits. Crazy delicious, I just wish there was more of the wafers to give the pudding a bit more texture.
The other half has been traveling back forth to New York for the last 6 months and every time I endured photos of every single visit he made to Baohaus on 14th Street. Owned by Eddie Huang, the place serves Taiwanese buns. One each of the wagyu, original pork belly and fried chicken, these were all as good as Duncan had led me to believe. The fried chicken was my pick for favourite. While the fillings change, the toppings of peanuts and coriander all pretty much stay static. The music is loud, the tables are walls are covered in scribblings from customers and is altogether fun. More of a snack rather than a full meal though.
Out of pure laziness, I need to still scroll through my phone for photos of tacos we ate at Salvation Taco. A newish opening helmed by April Bloomfield, the interior of Salvation Taco was nothing short of delightful. Fairy lights strung up everywhere and against the back wall were grey cement bricks, with large gaps where brightly coloured toys were placed. Sharing some chips and salsa, as well as a plate of tacos, the most prevalent taste was sadly chilli. All the taco’s and even the dip proclaimed as ‘mild’ was still pretty spicy. Best of the bunch were the fish tacos; battered and fried, these were tart from the pickled salad and lovely and bright with a squeeze of fresh lime. A lemon flavoured cocktail with a dusting of vanilla and cinnamon was fragrant and refreshing. A good place for a light dinner with a side cocktails as long as you can handle your chilli!
I saved the best for last. Luke’s Lobster. Sweet, delicious lobster. Located on the magical 7th street in the East Village; there is Luke’s Lobster, The Big Gay Ice cream shop as well as cupcake stores and coffee shops. $17 gets you a golden toasted brioche bun stuffed with lobster meat tossed in a hint of butter and mayo and secret spices, a drink and a packet of crisps. Initially underwhelmed by the size, I was proven wrong, once I picked it up. You could use the thing to do bicep curls, it was so dense with lobster. Easily the best thing I ate that week. Special mention to the drink selection which goes past the boring usual coke option and offers Maine Root soda. I had the Mandarin & orange flavor and could not believe just how darn tasty it was. Crab and prawn rolls are also sold, but let’s face it – it’s not called Luke’s Crab.
And now for a new section to the blog where I share things I have learnt about my new city, its people and the culture.
Things I learnt about New York this week:
– That joke about American tea being not very good is THE TRUTH. It’s all terrible. I managed to find a box of Twinings Earl Grey, but there was still something about the taste that didn’t seem right. No need to panic though – I’ll head back with 2×100 Earl Grey boxes which should last me till my first visitor who will hopefully replenish my stocks.
– New Yorkers are fearless. There is simply no fear there. With an entire footpath to walk around us on, one woman felt the need to push between Duncan and myself. A scoff was elicited that prompted her to turn around and inform us that she had ‘said excuse me!’. I’ll do my best to toughen up.
– Normally I hate the word ‘hipster’ – I feel the word is lazy and overused. However New York hipsters are really something else. What did one hipster say to the other hipster at brunch? I wish George Bush would come back into power just to make things interesting again. This is not the punchline to a joke; I really did hear this being said.
– New Yorkers have a pretty high tolerance to chilli, especially in Mexican restaurants. If they say something is mild, do not believe them. You will still burn your tastebuds and break out into chilli-sweats.