Every fashion-lover's favorite time of the year...
New York Fashion Week!
When the glitterati descend upon NYC in a flurried downpour of designer fabulousness, Gucci mules and all.
My first time attending last year was a dream come true! I drank up so much inspiration in the five short days of NYFW -- it was one of the most exhausting, amazing, busy, crazy experiences of my whole life. And the decision to not go this September was a HARD one. I hemmed and hawed over it until last week!
But ultimately the timing wasn't in my favor so I'm on my couch at home in Chicago, dreaming of Prada bags and sunrises on the Brooklyn Bridge.
So in honor of the FOMO I know I'll be feeling all weekend, I'm sharing some of my absolute favorite restaurants in NYC.
I'm not a professional food critic, or even a "professional" foodie (I prefer the phrase "aspiring amateur"). So please do keep that in mind.
All I promise you are MY favorite restaurants in NYC. In no special order.
Each and every one of these spots has won a special place in my food-loving heart for a very delicious reason. From tiny hole-in-the-walls to celebrity hot spots to vegan ice cream shops -- these are 15 of my favorite NYC restaurants.
15 Of My Favorite NYC Restaurants
1. Le Coucou
One of NYC's best French restaurants. And also one of it's most beautiful.
Le Coucou will not only impress you with it's incredibly well-seasoned and well-sourced dishes, but the swanky interior in the heart of Soho is so unbelievable photogenic as well.
Warning: This spot can be rough on the wallet for dinner. Head here for breakfast or lunch to avoid the crowds and enjoy the experience at a much more reasonable price.
2. Russ & Daughters
The ultimate NYC Jewish deli and my personal spot of choice for lox and bagels (if you can stand the wait)! This gorgeous, bright little spot will win you over with it's perfectly done comfort food and beautifully cured fish.
I've had some of the best meals of my life here -- the matzo ball soup is a PARTICULAR favorite. Especially on a cold day. Or a hot one. On any day really...
Just be aware that wait times here can be rough, even on weekdays. Come early, come with your entire party, put your name in the queue, and then walk around the neighborhood while you wait -- the pre-dining exercise will help you feel better about yourself when you order two entrées and eat them in record time.
My personal choice for sushi in NYC is almost always Sugarfish.
This is L.A.'s hottest sushi spot and they only have one location outside of California, right in the heart of NYC's Union Square. It's small and always crowded but certainly worth the wait. The fish just MELTS in your mouth. And the sake selection is particularly interesting if you're into that.
But one of my favorite ways to eat Sugarfish is actually to have it delivered to my hotel. Sugarfish fixes up their sushi in the cutest carry-out bento boxes making it a ridiculously delicious AND Instagrammable meal... not to mention one you can enjoy in your pjs!
Oh Rubirosa. This little Soho pizza shop had been on my must-visit list for months before I finally made it here.
And then I kicked myself for weeks after for not having tried it sooner.
I certainly haven't tried most of the pizzas in NYC but of the one's I've tried, this is by far my favorite.
Order the Tie-Dye pizza (pictured with me above) -- it's a vodka sauce pizza with pesto swirls and mozzarella... otherwise known as heaven on earth. I've had many pizzas in my time but this one was perhaps the very first I've ever eaten faster than Hubby. The flavors are just so addicting...
Luckily here in Chicago, Pizzeria Bebu does a pizza in homage to Rubirosa's called the "Ode to Rubirosa" so I can get my fix on a regular basis. At least until Rubirosa opens it's Chicago storefront!
5. Daily Provisions
SO many people recommended this spot to me before I tried it.
And not just in a casual "hey, you should try this place when you're there" sort of way.
More like a "you should plan an entire trip to NYC just to go here" sort of way.
And I'm happy to report that the legends really do stack up to reality. While Daily Provisions is easily one of the smallest bakeries I've ever eaten in, don't let it's small size fool you -- this spot packs a flavor PUNCH.
My favorite include an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with avocado (a drippy mess of deliciousness to eat) and the everything croissant. Designed as a hybrid between an everything bagel with lox and a stuffed croissant, this delicious pastry is as unique as it is delicious. Just be sure to grab A LOT of napkins...
Hubby has spent a lot of time in Midtown for work so we've pretty much tried EVERY decent restaurant around there. And while there are a few delicious spots to be found, generally the food in this neighborhood is overpriced and uninspired.
Until we discovered Empellón.
A brilliant Mexican spot offering haute couture tacos without any pomp. Much of the menu changes seasonally (practically day-to-day) but if they offer roasted shrimp in any form, order it. Hubby and I shared a roasted shrimp platter here last summer... 14 months ago... and I'm STILL dreaming about it. And desperately trying to find a spot in Chicago that does anything similar.
Also be sure to order the cucumber margarita (if that's your thing) and the guacamole with seven salsas. Each salsa is completely different, ranging in spiciness from completely mild to face meltingly-hot. But they're all guaranteed to be delicious.
One thing Empellón does really well is sauces. Every time I've been here I've found myself embarrassingly licking my fingers and plate. The sauces are downright addictive.
So addictive, I bought their cookbook after my very first visit.
7. Momofuku Milk Bar
There are several of these legendary little dessert shops around NYC so it's easy enough to pop in for an ice cream cone after dinner one night.
Order the famous cereal milk soft serve with cereal crunch... it'll take you right back to kindergarten! And it makes for the one of the most Instagrammable desserts in all of NYC. And all without a wait of more than usually 5 minutes.
This is always my choice for a sweet late-night snack too!
(Find details for my dress in this post)
8. Egg Shop
One of my first stops whenever I land in NYC without fail.
This tiny Nolita shop (there's a bigger one in Brooklyn now too) may serve the best breakfast sandwich you'll ever eat.
Egg Shop does all sorts of riffs and variations on the traditional egg sandwich. Personally, I'm always a sucker for any of their sandwiches that come with chimmichurri but there really is something for everyone here.
The biscuits and breakfast potatoes are solid too. As are the homemade jams. Actually I've yet to have a bad dish here at all -- it really is THAT good.
9. Dominique Ansel Bakery
Home of the original cronut.
Dominique Ansel Bakery was one of the very first spots I put on my NYC Restaurant 'Must Try' list YEARS ago. In 2015 I went on a quest to try my first cronut and wasn't at ALL disappointed.
What is a cronut? A hybrid donut croissant. A flaky, delicious pastry stuffed with filling and iced.
It's sinful in all the best ways a donut/pastry can be.
Each month DA Bakery changes the flavors of their cronuts so check their website before you go. Some flavors ARE better than others and there's only one choice of flavor each month.
But I do think a cronut pilgrimage is worth the journey -- just be sure to get there an hour before opening to be sure you'll get one. Or you could be REALLY smart and reserve yours online 2 weeks in advance here. Because, despite being famous for YEARS now, DA sells out of it's cronuts every. single. day.
Whenever I travel I always try to steer away from the "hottest" hot spots because generally I find them to be over-crowded, over-priced, and underwhelming. Fame often comes at a price when it comes to quality!
So Balthazar was never really on my NYC radar.
But after watching Victoria Beckham have lunch here immediately after her NYFW show last year, I couldn't resist checking it out.
(Am I the only one interested in everything Victoria Beckham does?)
And while Balthazar does suffer from the inevitably slow service and indifferent staff that comes from being such a celebrity hot-spot, the food -- I am happy to say -- is worth the trip. Delicious, light french fare served with some decently powerful cocktails in the heart of bustling Soho. What more can you ask for?
Hubby and I have been several times now and while we enjoy their dinner, we've found that we really prefer to have lunch at a small bistro table in the bar area. While there can still be a significant wait (this is one of those restaurants that reservations are really helpful at), we have been able to walk-in and immediately be seated.
11. Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
My girlfriend Jill took me here on our last trip to NYC -- she generally likes to eat vegan and had heard marvelous things about their vegan ice cream.
And because they offer regular ice cream too, I agreed. Because who says no to ice cream?
But ironically enough, I ended up trying a vegan ice cream there (charcoal chip, hence the dark color) and LOVING IT. I couldn't believe the silkiness and creaminess they got without using dairy.
And now I'm a complete convert!
12. Jack's Wife Freda
If I had to eat at just one NYC restaurant for the rest of eternity, it'd probably be Jack's Wife Freda. Just like Empellón, I bought their cookbook immediately after my very first visit.
Jack's Wife Freda is a rather polarizing restaurant, people either love it or are completely indifferent to it.
I belong decidedly in the "love it" category. Any place that will serve me a side of grilled halloumi is automatically a win though...
Their fresh Mediterranean fare is balanced well with their solid coffee and juice selections. I go nuts for their chimmichurri shakshuka and their rose-water waffles. And I generally find the service to be pretty fast -- great for a quick brunch before shopping around Soho.
13. Maman Bakery
My friend Anna pretty much begged me to stop here on my last NYC visit. She regularly has her husband stop here when he's in NYC on business to pick her up a box of cookies. Just cookies.
All I could think was "how good can these cookies possibly be?".
And then I tried them for myself...
One bite of their nutty chocolate chip cookie and you'll be converted too. It is one HELLUVAH cookie.
Rich, luscious and dark without being too sweet? No wonder these cookies made Oprah's list of favorite things in 2017.
My best tip is to stop here right before you leave for the airport. You can grab a massive box of cookies to fly home with (and you'll get VIP treatment with the TSA personnel who are all hoping you'll share). They really are THAT good.
14. Win Son
My friend Michelle took us here on our last girl's trip to NYC in June. I'd never even heard of it but she talked it up for almost two days straight before we went. She'll actually Uber straight there from the airport, suitcases and all, every time she's in NYC.
And now that I've tried it for myself, I completely understand why.
Taiwanese-American fusion tucked into East Williamsburg? It'll blow your mind. And isn't likely to be a spot ANY of you have tried (unless you live in the neighborhood that is).
Be sure to order the piping hot scallion pancakes and any specials they're having. Everything is good but the specials are particularly noteworthy. As is the great change in pace from Manhattan -- this is now my go-to choice for a casual, off-the-beaten path dinner.
Oh, Taiyaki... you adorable little Chinatown ice cream shop, you.
This spot is completely overblown and overhyped on social media.
But it's also shockingly solid ice cream in adorable, house-made stuffed waffles based on an over 100-year-old Japanese tradition. There's a huge range of American and Japanese flavors but all are presented as an Instagram-worthy sundae that's worth the 20 minute line and five-minute wait.
Forgo the more cliché unicorn sundae (or just plan on making two trips) and try one of their more exotic flavors. I absolutely love their matcha!