New York City: A Travel Guide for Savvy Philadelphians
What to Eat and Drink
The trend-setters with staying power.
If You Like South Philly BYOBs
Try: Carbone (181 Thompson Street, 212-254-3000) and Parm (various locations)
Why: Red-sauce masters Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi run these popular, upbeat eateries. Carbone is a Greenwich Village bistro that’s bringing back (and upscaling) Italian-American favorites like veal parm, while more casual Parm has killer hoagies and baked pastas.
If You Like Percy Street
Try: Hill Country Barbecue Market, 30 West 26th Street, 212-255-4544
Why: At this Chelsea eatery, authentic Texas barbecue is served market-style — choose your meat, sides and sweets from the counter, then grab your tray and head downstairs to feast alongside live music. Don’t miss the bourbon-laced sweet potato mash.
If You Like Sampan
Try: Uncle Boons, 7 Spring Street, 646-370-6650
Why: Thai dishes with crazy spins and creative flavors — as well as that quintessential cramped and pulsating NYC vibe — will have you wanting to go back to this Nolita restaurant again the next night. Start with the “drinking snacks” and anything (pork, blowfish tails, prawns) pulled off the charcoal grill.
If You Like Standard Tap
Try: St. Anselm, 355 Metropolitan Avenue, 718-384-5054
Why: Almost everything at this always-packed Williamsburg spot from restaurateur Joe Carroll (who co-owns Fishtown’s Fette Sau) is expertly cooked on the blazing open grill, with a focus on local brews and locally sourced giant hunks of meat. (Start with the grilled sardines and move on to the axe-handle rib eye.)
If You Like Starr Restaurants
Try: Upland, 345 Park Avenue South, 212-686-1006
Why: Starr’s newest eatery is bringing some West Coast cuisine to the Flatiron. Acclaimed chef Justin Smillie (a SoCal native) is putting out puffy pizzas, flavor-packed pastas, and vegetables that steal the show. As expected, the restaurant is glow-y and gorgeous.
If You Like Cheu Noodle Bar
Try: Pok Pok NY, 117 Columbia Street, 718-923-9322
No traditional Thai food in Philly comes close to the fresh and intense flavors at this popular and rock-and-roll Brooklyn eatery. (Start with the fish sauce wings.) If waits are long, head across the street to the Whiskey Soda Lounge for a cocktail made from Pok Pok’s signature drinking vinegars.
If You Like Vetri Restaurants
Try: Marea (240 Central Park South, 212-582-5100) and Eataly (200 5th Avenue, 212-229-2560)
Why: Marea is the pinnacle of refined Italian cuisine, with its hushed dining room and seafood-focused pastas. (Think fusilli with braised octopus and bone marrow.) For something more casual, wander around Eataly’s market, then grab a seat at one of the many dining bars … pizza or veggies, maybe?
If You Like Cantina Feliz
Try: Empellón Al Pastor, 132 St. Marks Place, 646-833-7039
Why: The newest and most accessible outpost of Alex Stupak’s growing Mexican mundo has mouthwatering tacos al pastor, guac, and tequila for days, in a creatively painted former East Village punk rock club. Make sure to order off the Michelada menu — like the version with Tecate and chipotle-spiked tomato juice.
Bar loafing is a required NYC activity, but where to begin? We enlisted the help of Max Falkowitz, a senior editor at Serious Eats, a go-to website for Big Apple eating and imbibing.
“The heart of Spuyten Duyvil — which has more than 100 bottles and draft lines — beats Belgian, with rare specialties beyond the usual sours and lambics that make up the ‘exotic’ beers at other self-professed beer-focused places.” Neighborhood: Williamsburg.
“Drinks at Pouring Ribbons are presented on two spectra: boozy vs. easy-drinking, and traditional vs. adventurous. The matrix is a surprisingly handy way to find just the drink you want, be it made with corn milk and whiskey or aquavit and fennel.” Neighborhood: East Village.
“Your average hotel bar does not have a drinking room in a library, nor the sleek professionalism New Yorkers have come to expect from the people behind Eleven Madison Park, nor drinks like the ‘Paris Is Burning,’ which melds gin with mezcal and pineapple for sweet-tart-smoky-piney layers of flavor. The beautiful, bustling NoMad Bar does.” Neighborhood: Midtown.
“Donostia is a new tapas bar that’s fast become one of the city’s most enjoyable for its low-key clientele, very good, affordable food, and sprawling Spanish wine list. You’ll find several major Spanish styles, but let the well-educated staff guide you to the perfect sherry.” Neighborhood: East Village.
“No one can help you fall in love with your very own crusty dive, but everyone can enjoy a no-nonsense neighborhood joint that looks like it’s been around for a while — and has a clientele that looks the same. At 11th Street Bar, you’ll find decent craft beers, a Shiner Bock and pickleback special, and a $2-off happy hour that runs until 9 p.m.” Neighborhood: East Village.
Originally published as “The Savvy Philadelphian’s Guide to NYC” in the March 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.