Please forgive the photo vomit below but I had a really hard time deciding what not to share, because I just spent an entire week in New York and ate what felt like all the food in the city and walked miles across it every day. It felt like fall and it was glorious! So basically anything you aren't seeing was just too terrible of a photo (despite my very low bar) or more taxidermy photos (I had so many photos of cute taxidermied animals but how do you top kittens?).
As usual, I bounced right off the red eye and went full tilt until I couldn't stay up anymore. On Saturday my friend Ginny and I started with avocado toast at by Chloe and then overstuffed ourselves with veggie burgers (see more on that below!) and Swedish candy, with a few timely stops for mezcal cocktails and perusing Fishs Eddy for all the kitchen wares I don't own. We stayed in Brooklyn to recover on Sunday with all the pies at Four & Twenty Blackbirds for breakfast, taxidermy, shuffleboard, and too much ice cream. Then we went to Modern Love for dinner and Isa served us and we only took one sneaky selfie with her in the background. So glad we didn't embarrass ourselves or anything!
by Chloe: This was my second trip to this vegan spot, this time in the Flatiron location. I still haven't had anything bad here, and whatever quinoa hash browns are, I like them!
Sockerbit: Do you like gummy candy? Do you like sour candy? This is the place to go. They have a huge selection of any flavors and shapes you could dream of, and if licorice is your thing, they have that too (but, ew). Get a bag of candy and carry it with you while you walk the city for a week, you won't regret it.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds: Go with friends and try everything! But if you can't do that get the Salty Honey or Black Bottom Oat, or whatever seasonal fruit variety is baked under the streusel. Eat it all in two minutes so by the time you get the extra whipped cream you ordered, you have a real excuse to eat it with a spoon.
Ample Hills Creamery: If you love ice cream, this place is heaven. They even sell it in a flight so you don't have to choose any less than 6 flavors! But be warned, what they call "mini" scoops you probably call "one is enough."
Modern Love Brooklyn: The Post Punk Kitchen and Isa's cookbooks got me through all my short-lived vegan stints, and when I found out she was opening the Brooklyn outpost of her Omaha restaurant the very week I arrived, I knew I had to go. The nicoise salad was sublime and if all baba ghanoush tasted like hers, I'd be claiming eggplant as one of my favorite foods.
All vegan eating ended after the weekend. On Monday I finally found Shake Shack! It does exist! I also tried a cronut and I hated it so much. So. Much. I'm just glad I didn't wait in a line for it. I walked the length of the High Line and up to Central Park to work off the sugar hangover in time for a shack burger and fries, then walked some more before joining friends at a Lower East Side bar to watch the Presidential debate. I ate my feelings about that the rest of the week with mountains of pastrami, fried chicken, rugelach, and more ice cream. I had my first old lady-like "this restaurant is too loud" experience at Dirty French (maybe that's why Aziz went there for lunch?), then ended the trip with an early morning stroll to Donut Plant and one last hit of Shake Shack at JFK.
Dominique Ansel Bakery: I know, I said I hated the cronut and I did, truly, but I also had a kouign amann and holy cow that man knows how to bake one of those.
Shake Shack: Sure, this is glorified fast food, but glorious it is.
Katz's Delicatessen: It's a different ordering experience, involving tickets and an upclose view of all the pastrami that exists in the world, and sure, you might wake up in the middle of the night needing to chug a glass of water after eating here, but it's so worth it. Go classic, get the pastrami and the plate of pickles that comes with. You don't need anything else.
Breads Bakery: Look, I ate an entire chocolate babka this week. In three sittings. I'm not going to apologize for it because this place, unlike another certain famous seller of babka and rugelach, actually produces pastries that are moist and soft and as close to the perfect rugelach I ate in Jerusalem as I've had since. And I just found out in writing this paragraph that they ship nationwide. Ruh roh.
Cafe Gitane: We Californians think we own the avocado toast game. We are so very, very wrong.
Russ & Daughters Cafe: I got my halvah ice cream! It was close, since the menu almost led me astray with the offer of a babka ice cream sandwich, but I stayed true to the mission and ate my pre-dinner sundae while making awkward small talk with the bartender. The menu also described a shrub as like "the beverage equivalent to the process of pickling," which begs the question, why am I not drinking shrubs?
Veggie Burger Crawl 2016
Remember how I mentioned those veggie burgers up top? Well, there were a lot of them! My friend Ginny is usually up for whatever crazy food adventures I plan when I visit New York, and when I asked her to go on a veggie burger crawl with me she didn't hesitate (thanks, Ginny!). We picked five to try, inspired completely by this New York Times article, but removing any patties made with beets or belonging to a bigger chain (so no Shake Shack).
So who won? Well, our methods were entirely unscientific, based on gut reactions and just general enjoyment, but there was a clear winner and a very clear loser. Here are our rankings:
1. Superiority Burger: We tried the Superiority Burger, a patty of fresh veggies, grains, beans, and a potato starch slurry to bind it all, served with muenster cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, and dill pickle.
This burger had great flavor, a great example of doing simple extremely well. And it came out piping hot, which until we were served this one I didn't even notice the previous two hadn't been super hot (to be fair, this place is so small it's generous to call it more than a counter, so the burger only had to travel maybe two feet from griddle to table). This is a burger aiming to mimic the feel of fast food, and does that very well. Bonus points for muenster over american cheese. The burger is very small but leaves room for sides, which you definitely want to order here, and there is a larger option available.
2. by Chloe: We tried the Classic Burger, made with tempeh, lentils, chia seeds, and walnuts, with pickles, onion, beet ketchup, and special sauce on a potato bun.
The patty was kind of generic tasting, like a really good version of a garden burger, though it was a good value and was good overall as a whole. I didn't even dock points for the beet ketchup.
This burger was pretty excellent, but it's really too bad we tried it right after Superiority Burger. It was a good patty with structural integrity, though very small. It was also a ridiculous price, only $2 cheaper than the beef burger on the menu, and it felt more like we were paying for the location instead of the food. It was tasty but I wouldn't buy it again at the current price.
4. Momofuku Nishi: We tried the Impossible Burger, a patty made up of plant-based, lab-derived "meat" that "bleeds" on a bun with lettuce, tomato and sauce.
This one is only sold until it runs out, so we were excited we showed up early enough for brunch to actually get one. The tomatoes weren't great, the lettuce was kind of sad, and overall there was not a lot of flavor. The patty is creative, sure, but pretty flavorless. It has a realistic look if you need your veggie burger patty to look like meat, but it was also creepy! It was a good value as the only one we tried that came with fries, but the fries weren't good so that was a bummer.
5. Toad Style: We tried their Cheeseburger, a mix of cremini mushrooms, red onion, green lentils, steel cut oats, chia seeds, garlic, and spices, topped with almond cheese, aioli, ketchup, lettuce, onion, tomato, and pickle.
The flavors here were pretty generic tasting again, and the patty had very little structural integrity. It felt mismatched with the bun, and tasted a bit over-spiced. Our enthusiasm for veggie burgers at this point was muted, to say the least, which I'm sure didn't help, but it wasn't a burger that calls me back.
Winner, winner, veggie burger dinner:
In the end, it came down to overall enjoyment and the entire "package" each place was offering. Superiority Burger had a clear point of view and executed it perfectly; eating that burger felt like indulging in a fast food craving, minus the meat or the gross feeling afterward. Some of the burgers, like that at Nishi, just tried too hard to mimic what they weren't, i.e. meat, and the result was a burger that looked great but tasted like sawdust. Toad Style and by Chloe had versions with more flavor, but they still seemed too much to be aiming to replace the meat version. The NoMad Bar had a truly great burger, but it was the same size as Superiority Burger's offering and $10 more, which was hard to stomach, honestly. But truly, all were pretty good with the exception of the burger at Nishi, but I'd even recommend trying that one at least once, if only for the weirdness of it. But the clear winner was Superiority Burger, and it's going to be on my permanent NYC rotation from now on.