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Eating my way through New York City with Friends

Unicorn Meat sticker graffiti in NYC
I'll pass on the unicorn meat - where's the good stuff?!

Allow me to take you on my tour. Drooling is encouraged. 

at Cafe Mingala
Ok, ok, so the first thing I ate in New York City was Myanmar/Burmese food. I told you I missed it! Here's why - there are NO Burmese restaurants in Chicago. NONE. I cry myself to sleep at night and have to settle with making my own. And central NYC has ONE Burmese restaurant (someone tell me if I'm wrong), called Mingala Cafe. And it was the perfect place since I was reconnecting with 3 of my old amazing volunteers from Myanmar, Hannah, Amy, and Matt that started the non-profit Burma Education.

And as tends to happen in the Myanmar community, my friends recognized 2 monks eating in the restaurant, and after talking a while, we realized we had friends in common. These monks in NYC knew one of my students in Yangon.
Burmese tea leaf salad -lephetdo at Cafe Mingala, NYC
Burmese/Myanmar green tea leaf salad at Cafe Mingala. Of course, not quite as good as at my favorite tea shops in Yangon, but it certainly fit the part. I recommend it for Burmese food fans new or old!

Pastries at Veniero's
Next up, a NYC family-run institution since 1894, Veniero's claims to be the oldest Italian Pastry Shop in the US.
Veniero Pasticceria in NYC
canolis & fruit tart at Veniero Pasticceria in NYC
Veniero's is the sort of place that you won't ask to be passed a canoli, you'll run off with it so you don't have to share! And probably their fruit tart too.

Ukranian at Ukranian East Village Restaurant
I topped this first day of touring off with dinner with my old colleague from Thailand, Gretchen, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine for 2+ years. And since I'd never really tried it, I couldn't pass up dinner at the Ukranian East Village Restaurant.
Traditional Ukranian borshch at Ukranian East Village Restaurant
Gretchen's favorite is the very traditional Borsht with dollops of sour cream of course. It's a staple of Ukraine's diet, and beets give it the beautiful red color.
Ukranian sampler platter at Ukranian East Village Restaurant
More food than I could possibly eat (thanks American portion sizes!), a potato pancake, cheese blintz, and pierogis (with cheese, spinach, and potato) all smile for the camera.

Japanese festival food at Otafuku

Otafuku restaurant in NYC
"It's Japanese festival food!" Kate immediately got excited that the closet sized Restaurant was filled with some of her favorite foods form her 2 years as a JET teacher in rural Japan.
Okonomiyaki with dried squid flakes & Takoyaki octopus balls at Otafuku restaurant in NYC
Okonomiyaki with dried squid flakes & Takoyaki octopus balls at Otafuku restaurant in NYC - SO GOOD!!!
Bessie & Kate at Otafuku restaurant in NYC copy
Kate & I eating Japanese festival style
Taiyaki at Otafuku restaurant in NYC
Look at that sweet little red bean filled Taiyaki waiting to be scarfed.

Coffee at Porto Rico Importing

Coffee at Porto Rico Importing Co, NYC
Porto Rico Importing is a sight & delightful coffee scent to behold.

Ukranian Pierogies & Cookies at Veselka restaurant in NYC
Black & White cookies at Veselka restaurant in NYC
When asking for food suggestions, one of my readers pointed to these black & white cookies. My thought? boooooring. Then you eat one and your life changes! It's the most delicious shortbread cookie with vanilla & dark chocolate fondant. Uhhhhh! Want!
pierogis at Veselka restaurant in NYC
Hearing from my friends Matt that Veselka sold the best pierogis in NYC, I couldn't pass it up. Unlike the "World's Best Cup of Coffee", these pierogis did not disappoint. Soft, melted cheese, fresh ingredients, I'd allow them the title Best in NYC.

Pizza at Lombardi's
pizza at Lombardi's Coal Oven Pizza, NYC
Hearing from multiple sources that Lombardi's is the best pizza in NYC, I had to try it out. Started in 1905, they claim to be America's first pizzeria & known popularly as NYC best pizza. I'm no NY pizza connoisseur, but light on cheese and with fluffy thin crusty, I was a huge fan.

Cheesecake at Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecake & Desserts
Going to eat inside the beautiful Grand Central Station, felt like stepping back in time. They're famous NY eateries I'm so glad I didn't miss.
Grand Central Station reflection, NYC
Grand Central Station's reflection at night. It's slightly grainy since I took it with my iPhone 4S, but even in low light, it's a decent camera!
inside Grand Central Station
Main terminal in Grand Central Station feels like walking back in time.
pumpkin cheesecake at Junior's Cheesecake in Grand Central Station, NYC,
Pumpkin Cheesecake from Junior's in Grand Central Station was definitely fabulous. I like my cheesecake not overly cheese tasting, and this one was creamy and wonderful.

Oysters & Crabcakes at Grand Central Oyster Bar, NYC
Coming from middle America, far from salt water, I typically don't put salty sea creatures in my mouth. However, my east coast friends were determined I change this. As scrutinized and savored as a fine wine, these little creatures are a delicacy I don't quite understand. To me they're slimy sea-dwellers, but I try everything at least 3 times.
Oysters on a half shell at Grand Central Oyster Bar, NYC
Freaked out by their slime, I learned I liked oysters on a halfshell with a bit of cocktail sauce, vinegar, saur kraut, and probably anything else they would have given me. I think this was the equivalent of a child drinking coffee with heaps of coffee & milk, but I thought it was pretty great.
Maryland Crabcakes at Grand Central Oyster Bar, NYC
I made Dennis, a loyal Marylander, shudder slightly ordering a Maryland Crabcake in NY, but there was no denying it was fantastic.

So, now you're thinking, what can she eat from there? How can you top oysters & pizza & canolis & octopus balls?! One Word: Chocolate!

Chocolate at Serendipity 3

A long time fan of the movie Serendipity, on my previous 2 trips to NY, I was quite disappointed not to make it there. But Dennis & Kate are my new travel eating soulmates, and were very willing to indulge in all the right ways.
Bessie, Kate & Dennis at Serendipity 3, NYC
Finally making it to Serendipity! - with Kate & Dennis
frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3, NYC
Serendipity's Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate (their spelling, not mine), is divine. And I don't say that lightly. It's pure liquified chocolate iced, covered with whipped cream, and topped with chocolate flakes. We each got multiple brain freezes from this concoction, that although painful were worth powering through.
ice cream sundae at Serendipity 3, NYC
Hello Chocolate! The clever owners of Serendipity have a bill minimum, so we were *ahem* forced to order this lovely number: the Forbidden Broadway Sundae with blackout chocolate cake, ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream. Almost enough to make a girl forget how much she misses Asian food.

More than eating?

So if you're wondering what I was doing in New York, besides eating amazing food, the answer is making some work connections & reconnecting with great friends.

Bessie, Jodi & Shannon at Book Launch at Housing Works, NYC
The big event was Jodi & Shannon launching their books - my friends are authors! Jodi's Food Traveler's Handbook and Shannon's Volunteer Traveler's Handbook are great tools for travelers looking to add depth to their experiences. I've known these ladies for a few years, mainly seeing them in SE Asia, and it's so exciting to see where life takes us.

friends at Book Launch at Housing Works, NYC
And one of the best things that can happen for a traveler is to have their friends from totally different spheres meeting in one place. Clockwise is Matt, Gretchen, Amy, Kate, and I, gathering with a joined passion for travel. Matt & Amy are 2 of the 3 awesome volunteers that I know from Myanmar, Gretchen is my former wonderful colleague that managed the Burma Volunteer Program, and Kate is one of my dearest friends since 2001 that I met through studying in London.

tea with Drew, Shannon, Bessie, Jodi, at Teariffic, NYC
We had a little travel friends from Chiang Mai Asian bubble tea rendezvous with Drew Meyers, Shannon from A Little Adrift, me, Jodi from Legal Nomads, and Mike from Life with Lindy. I also reconnected with a number of travel bloggy friends including the lovely Sherry from Otts World & Matt of Nomadic Matt, and finally met Can Can from Mom Most Traveled.

I can say resoundingly, New York was wonderful. And as a dear friend in Korea once told me, a meal is always more delicious when shared with a great friend.

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Eating my way through New York City with Friends


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