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New York, NY, 10002
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Foodie 50

Written by Mario Batali

Photography by Matt Salacuse


It’s good parenting 101: Never pit your offspring against one another. So imagine how Mario Batali must have felt when we asked him to select the choicest spots to eat, drink and be merry in Manhattan. His solution? Look outside his ever-growing empire of Italian eateries—which includes Babbo, Del Posto, Esca, Lupa (a Hong Kong offshoot opening this month), and the gourmet haven Eataly—and praise all the other chefs, dishes, restaurants, food shops and people who help make New York City so damn delicious. Enjoy!  

BaCorn at Roni-Sue’s Chocolates
The everything’s-better-with-bacon people might want to make this their official snack. Chocolatier Rhonda Kave may be better known for truffles, but this honey- and molasses-dipped, salty-smoky-sweet confection will make you wonder if there was an eighth day in the creation myth. Just try to resist cherry-picking the chili-spiked peanuts from the bag. Essex Street Market, 120 Essex St., 212.260.0421

Peck-Wrapped, Mozzarella-Stuffed Peppadew Peppers at Casellula Wine Bar
At this low-key Hell’s Kitchen favorite, owner Brian Keyser has assembled a menu of small plates posing as haute bar food. In this standout dish, milky mozzarella di bufala is tucked inside sweet-tart Peppadew peppers, with a bonus gift-wrap of paper-thin Tyrolean speck. 401 W. 52nd St., 212.247.8137

Chef’s Table at Aldea
Nestled in the back of his much-lauded modern-Iberian restaurant, this narrow, one-row dining bar makes watching easy-on-the-eyes chef George Mendes a nearsighted pleasure. There’s none of the expected, Bourdain-style trash-talking here, just a brilliant chef in command of his craft—and nary a stain on his crisp whites. Try: wild mussel soup with fennel and chorizo. 31 W. 17th St., 212.675.7223

Ten-Minute Make-at-Home Brunch from Despaña
Heat olive oil in a nonstick pan; brown crumbled butifarra sausage; add in two beaten eggs and a handful of grated Roncal cheese. Serve over warm toast with a side plate of Garrotxa, manchego and Murcia al Vino cheeses, membrillo and Marcona almonds. Wine pairing: Do Ferreiro Albariño. 408 Broome St., 212.219.5050

Co. Pizza
The bread supplier to the city’s finest eateries, Jim Lahey, went on to open Co., one of NYC’s best pizzerias, where his blistering pies, with their signature chewy-crispy crusts, can cause grown men to weep. 230 Ninth Ave., 212.243.1105

Cod Throats Meunière at North End Grill
Tabla’s Floyd Cardoz isn’t resting on his laurels at this new FiDi spot, which is quickly gathering a following beyond the hyper-local finance demographic. One reason? These tender, battered morsels are the newest “beef cheeks”—a peasant cut midway through an image rehab. 104 North End Ave., 646.747.1600

Shaved Geoduck Clam, Smoked Edamame Mousseline and Wasabi-Citrus Emulsion at Le Bernardin
Most people can’t even pronounce geoduck, much less transform it into a standout dish in an already-epic chef’s tasting menu. But Eric Ripert is no ordinary chef. He tames the bivalve’s rubbery texture by contrasting it with a silky, cream-rich edamame swirl and a chaser of wasabi and yuzu. Think of it as an entire sushi dinner concentrated onto one perfect plate, all served in Ripert’s newly redesigned dining room. 155 W. 51st St., 212.554.1515

Beer Cheese at Earl’s Beer & Cheese
This crock of buttery, cheesy goodness is the apotheosis of junk food, and a study in contrasts that leaves us feeling both virtuous and guilty. Rarely have buzzwords like “seasonal” and “local” felt so trashy, but since it’s made with New York State cheddar, the dish’s only diminutive characteristic is its carbon footprint. Served with butter-dipped toast, it’s Cracker Barrel gone to heaven. 1259 Park Ave., 212.289.1581

Hector’s Café
The Meatpacking District exhibits little in the way of its original raison d’être—except for this blissfully time-warped, 50-year-old diner. Like many habitués of the neighborhood, Hector’s keeps odd hours, opening at 2am and closing at 10pm, gathering butchers and clubbers alike for hangover specials like omelets, meatloaf sandwiches and fries with bacon and cheese. 44 Little W. 12th St., 212.206.7592

Cubano Sandwich at The Spotted Pig
Who needs a flight to Miami for Puerto Sagua? A late lunch at The Pig is a quicker, more efficient option—and besides, it’s a less-jammed choice than dinner any night of the week. This daytime-only offering, made with prosciutto and Gruyère rather than the expected ham and Swiss, is crowned with pork shoulder that’s been brined for five days before taking its duck- and pork-fat confit bath. 314 W. 11th St., 212.620.0393

The Trio of Kimchi at Danji
At this modern Korean spot, Hooni Kim sends kimchi to finishing school, arranging three types—fiery stacked squares of cabbage, sweet-hot cucumber rounds and pepper-flecked daikon—on a sleek, oblong plate. His deft hand with this classic condiment extends Western understanding of its beautiful versatility. 346 W. 52nd St., 212.586.2880

Mountain Tea and Olive Oil Biscuits at Dean & DeLuca
Don’t think of these gorgeously packaged edibles as “spa cuisine,” even though Dean & DeLuca product forager Diane Stopford sourced them from Greece’s most luxurious sustainable resort. Old World coastal recipes are transformed into must-have pantry staples, like rich cinnamon- and sesame-laced cookies baked with small-batch local olive oil. Nibble them while sipping delicate tea made with hand­picked chamomile, and it’s like the spa came to you. 1150 Madison Ave., 212.717.0800

Pisco Cocktail Program at La Mar Cebicheria
This Peruvian mega-restaurant is supposed to be all about the raw fish, but Cocktail Director Saul Ranella’s plush drinks menu—built around the spirit known as “the brandy of Peru”—is eclipsing the spotlight. Using everything from artisanal bitters to fresh-fruit infusions in his unusual flavor combinations (cranberry-jalapeño, vanilla-kumquat), he’s helping give pisco a permanent seat at the bar. 11 Madison Ave., 212.612.3388

Goat’s Milk and Roasted Buckwheat Caramels from Paris Caramels
Biting into one of these sublime bonbons channels the subtle nuttiness of Breton-esque crêpes crossed with burnt sugar and the funkiness of goaty chèvre—and instantly renders most of the city’s thousand versions of salted caramel a one-dimensional snooze fest. Fairway, 2127 Broadway, 212.595.1888

Crushed Egg, Potato and Ibérico Ham at Tertulia
Some asked how Seamus Mullen could improve upon the formula he perfected at Boqueria before leaving to start this Basque-style tapas temple. The answer is in sublime, simple dishes like this one. Think breakfast for dinner à la española, with perfectly cooked egg mingling among well-seasoned potatoes and the meaty punch of imported Ibérico ham atop a crunchy toast. 359 Sixth Ave., 646.559.9909

Truffled Grilled Cheese with Parmesan Fries at Employees Only
After midnight, order this reimagined diner splurge to go with any of EO’s iconic cocktails. Many don’t even realize the elevated back room exists—all the better for settling in with your plate of gooey goodness: melted, truffle-flecked taleggio sandwiched between cottony slices of pullman loaf. Even better? Cram a few crunchy, Parm-loaded fries between the slices and create the ultimate late-night indulgence. 510 Hudson St., 212.242.3021

Duck Rillettes at Buvette
As if it weren’t enough that this postage-stamp-sized brasserie has great coffee, stuffed olives and tarte tatin, and is as cute as a button without being cloying: You can spread the contents of a tiny glass jar of fatty, meaty, ducky goodness on toast points until 2am, officially elevating Jody Williams’ quirky French spot to a must-visit. 42 Grove St., 212.255.3590

Homemade Halvah from Kalustyan’s
Forget the Medjool dates, Turkish delight and dozens of other sweets on offer at this global spice emporium. Sitting on the counter under a humble, scratched Lucite cloche, four types of halvah—pistachio, plain, marble and chocolate—beg to be eaten plain, crumbled over Greek yogurt…anything but shared. 123 Lexington Ave., 212.685.3451

Jordan Salcito
A young wine expert who professes no allegiances other than to quality, this former chef is equally enthusiastic whether she’s opening a $5,000 magnum of Champagne or suggesting a $50 bottle of sauvignon blanc. Never patronizing, Salcito pays respect to what she calls the “Burgundy-loving locals” while nudging them to branch out. Fave current pairing: crisp, briny Tamellini Soave with chef John DeLucie’s breezy tuna Niçoise salad. Crown, 24 E. 81st St., 646.559.4880

Paul Vaccari
The bespoke tailor of meat, versus the flashier DeBraggas and LaFriedas of the trendy back-to-the-bones butcher scene, Paul Vaccari is a third-generation meat-monger with the kind of knowledge you can only acquire after generations on the job. Walk by his nondescript Hell’s Kitchen storefront to see his grandfather’s original meat scales, then go to any of the top-notch restaurants he supplies (Daniel, Locanda Verde) to revel in the work of his butchers. Piccinini Brothers, 633 Ninth Ave., 212.246.8277

Just when you thought you’d aced the door policy at the city’s most selective eating and drinking establishments, Bohemian divorces you of your sense of game. Don’t slack once you’ve triumphed over the secret number and received your nondescript swipe card: The Japanese are sharp dressers with a tendency for up-and-down once-overs, so pull out your best pair of mint-condition Air Jordans and limited-edition Levis for a sampling of the surprisingly delish Japanese fare—all washed down with shot after shot of Suntory whiskey. 57 Great Jones St.

Fish Sandwich at Catch of the Day, Citi Field
You could miss two innings waiting for a Shake Shack burger, or you could have this, as conceived by Esca’s Dave Pasternack: a snowy-white flounder fillet, thickly breaded and pan-fried into a greaseless masterpiece, cushioned on a Martin’s egg roll and served with homemade, pickle-studded tartar sauce. 12001 Roosevelt Ave., Queens, 718.507.6387

Challah Bread at Zucker Bakery
Available only on Fridays beginning at 11am, Israeli baker Zohar Zohar’s loaves make for a whole weekend of good eating. First, rip off a slice or two while it’s fresh and hot (butter makes the experience positively brioche-like). Then, Saturday, use it for a sandwich that’ll draw attention away from its fillings. Come Sunday, dip in a milk-and-egg bath for French toast that’ll give you a break from the usual weekend brunch queues. 433 E. 9th St., 646.559.8425

Mille Crêpe Cake at Lady M
In NYC, “too much of a good thing” can sometimes be an adage to live by, but not in the case of this fat stack from the iconic bakery. Whether you’re the daintiest dowager or the manliest bro, try to resist 20 (count ’em) lacy, buttery crêpes smothered in clouds of light, vanilla bean–flecked pastry cream and topped with caramelized sugar. 41 E. 78th St., 212.452.2222

Pommes Aligot at Minetta Tavern
There has to be a tangible reward for the fact that this place still employs a list-toting bouncer (really, Keith?), and this is it. Somewhere between fondue and mashed potatoes sits this harmonious fusion of Yukon Gold potatoes, white cheddar curds and butter. An impossibly rich side dish, it has the consistency of liquid silk—and sparks a yen for one of Minetta’s aged and grilled steaks. 113 MacDougal St., 212.475.3850

Bar at Seäsonal
Wine-loving chefs/owners Wolfgang Ban and Eddie Frauneder have made the bar at their Michelin-starred Midtown restaurant a gathering place for fellow Austrians, among them many visiting winemakers. While dining on modernized versions of spaetzle, sauerbraten and Wiener schnitzel, you may just find yourself in conversation—and in the cups—with a native Danubian grape-crusher. 132 W. 58th St., 212.957.5550

Bread Basket at Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
Baker Kamel Saci may just put the rest of the talented staff at this 5-month-old Italian market-cum-restaurant out of business. Among other varieties, his tangy, crusty ciabatta and slender, classic baguettes form the backbone of a dozen breads to be sampled in the baskets served at the restaurant; sandwiching artisanal ingredients like garlicky roast porchetta and braised short ribs for a grab-and-go lunch; or taken home to elevate anything they’re served with. 53 Great Jones St., 212.837.2622

Vinegar Poussin at The Breslin
The best dish at April Bloomfield’s Ace Hotel gastropub, better known for its deep fryer and affection for lamb, is actually this tart-buttery baby chicken, braised into tender submission and served with Romanesco cauliflower for soaking up the sauce. If you’re going to spend $33 on poultry, this is the place to do it. 16 W. 29th St., 212.679.1939

Pastrami Sandwich at Katz’s
Served with a frosty can of Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, this is the gold standard. Fatty, salty and meaty, it’s the closest thing to a Jewish bacon sandwiched between two slices of soft rye. The debate will rage on, but this is the best. 205 E. Houston St., 212.254.2246

Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs
The Virginia Slims of Champagne, these slender pink cans of sparkler from Coppola should be in every Manhattanite’s picnic basket. It’s a pedigreed, portable wine cooler for spring and summer, bubbly and fruity in all the right places. And yes, it’s named for that Sofia. Available at wine stores

Bemelmans Bar
Basking in the muted glow illuminating Ludwig Bemelmans’ historic artwork (legend has it he painted the walls as barter for a year’s worth of free accommodation), you realize that places like this are why you live in New York. With its incomparable Madeline murals, a killer $21 cocktail list and regulars like Clooney and Bloomberg, this Upper East Side watering hole has more cool in one piano key than most bars in this city could even dream about. 35 E. 76th St., 212.744.1600

Beef Feast at Takashi
Known for grill-it-yourself stations that put a nail in Benihana’s coffin, this critical darling feels like an underground find. There’s a lot more than cow on the menu, but the marinade—comprised of apples, orange marmalade, sesame oil and soy—is worth the price of admission alone at this Korean-Japanese barbecue. 456 Hudson St., 212.414.2929

Matzo Ball Soup at Jack’s Wife Freda
Those who only order chicken soup when they have a cold should expose themselves to some germs. The matzo ball soup at this tiny charmer might cause even the most devoted Jewish grandmother to take a shortcut. Oversize dumplings are enriched with rendered duck fat, the surrounding golden broth bolstered by a base of roasted chicken. 224 Lafayette St., 212.510.8550

Spicy Veggie Ramen at Totto Ramen
If you’ve eaten 200 bowls of ramen around the world looking for perfection, this meatless version of Totto’s sublime pork recipe—featuring kombu seaweed, seasonal vegetables, salted kelp and yuzu paste—will bring your intrepid search to its bittersweet conclusion. 366 W. 52nd St., 212.582.0052

Virgin Thyme Lemonade at ABC Kitchen
Nearly every menu item has been lionized here, and the carrot salad, mushroom pizza and crab toast are as divine as ever. But this under-the-radar sipper is a low-key favorite. Floral lemon thyme, tart lemon and a splash of seltzer are usually amped up with vodka, but asking the waiter to omit the hard stuff turns the drink into an afternoon delight. 35 E. 18th St., 212.475.5829

Smoked Duck Ice Cream at Wong
At Simpson Wong’s newest venture, Judy Chen regularly steals the show. This Columbia-educated pastry chef combines the cerebral and the emotional in her latest creation, made by infusing Peking-style roasted duck into the crème anglaise before freezing. Haunted with five-spice flavors, it’s everything you love about Chinatown, distilled into two tiny scoops of delicate dessert. 7 Cornelia St., 212.989.3399

McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co.
Forget Blue Bottle, Stumptown and Intelligentsia. For honest caffeine by the pound, McNulty’s has been the go-to coffee and tea purveyor in New York since 1895. Their favorites are Golden Monkey tea from China and organic Bali Blue Moon coffee from Indonesia. 109 Christopher St., 212.242.5351

Sara Jenkins
First, she gave roast pork a worthy home at Porchetta, then began serving humble, authentic pastas around the corner at Porsena. One of her secret weapons is a lifelong education in food culture, thanks to her mother, legendary food writer/adventurer Nancy Harmon Jenkins. Porsena, 21 E. 7th St., 212.228.4923; Porchetta, 110 E. 7th St., 212.777.2151

Champagne Button at Kings’ Carriage House
This new service wordlessly summons bottles of bubbly for you: Press a button and Champagne arrives at your table. Brings to mind a thousand brilliant ideas, including an alcohol Automat. (Sorry, France!) 251 E. 82nd St., 212.734.5490

Apple Cider Donuts at Hearth
Restaurateurs often seem like lemmings when it comes to the seasonal-food schedule. Thankfully, chef Marco Canora makes an exception with this glam take on a county-fair favorite, now available year-round: Fried-to-order cake donuts are lacquered with a brown-sugar glaze, topped with maple whipped cream and paired with apple compote. 403 E. 12th St., 646.602.1300

Haddock & Chips at Jones Wood Foundry
Though you can expect far more than pub fare at this maple-lined gastropub (celery root and blue cheese soup, seared grouper over cauliflower purée), the dish you’ll come back for is the beer-battered haddock and chips. Order this one over the more oily cod, give it a generous squeeze of lemon and tuck in. It’ll take you straight back to London. 401 E. 76th St., 212.249.2700

Salon Menu at Per Se
Code for “à la carte,” the walk-in front room here is still an under­appreciated secret. Diners get to indulge in this Thomas Keller temple’s peerless service and food—plus stunning Central Park views—for a fraction of the dining room buy-in. Get: butter- poached lobster; polenta with shaved black winter truffles. 10 Columbus Circle, 212.823.9335

Kale Salad at Northern Spy
It’s a good thing this East Village farm-to-table spot has begun taking reservations for large groups. Dishes like this addictive, lemon-dressed salad made with crumbled clothbound cheddar, a rotating variety of roasted squash, crunchy toasted almonds and a snowy layer of shaved pecorino will have you gathering friends and strangers alike just to get a seat. 511 E. 12th St., 212.228.5100

Fried Oysters at Pearl Oyster Bar
You could head to Maine, where Pearl founder Rebecca Charles summered as a child, to sample the inspiration for her fried oysters. Or you could come here for a spot-on tribute to her Proustian favorite. Greaseless, crisp and perfect in every way, the juicy bivalves nestle inside a generous crusting of crunchy cornmeal batter—all on a bed of what is probably the definition of tartar sauce. 18 Cornelia St., 212.691.8211

Toad in a Hole Appetizer at Fedora
Offal isn’t for everyone, but Au Pied de Cochon vet Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly handles it like a parent hiding veggies in his kid’s lunch. The chef slips thin ribbons of spongy-firm stewed tripe into the tomato sauce accompanying his take on the classic British egg dish at this sister restaurant to Gabriel Stulman’s other spots, Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey’s Grocery. 239 W. 4th St., 646.449.9336

Sky Box at Daniel
Not for the faint of heart (or wallet), this four-top banquette hidden inside Daniel Boulud’s private-office warren is reached via a steep ladder within the restaurant’s kitchen. Decorated with Michelin-star plaques, pictures of the chef’s auto-racing exploits and assorted knickknack ephemera, the cozy booth has a bird’s-eye view of the French brigade at work below creating epic menus tailored to your every whim and specification. 60 E. 65th St., 212.288.0033

Hot Dog with Kimchi and Kewpie Mayo at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats
The opposite of mystery meat, the snappy all-beef dogs at this Chelsea Market favorite can be cloaked in a variety of toppings. Our favorite offering: the creamy-spicy combination of extra-sweet Japanese mayonnaise fused with the fiery cabbage condiment. It could make a cardboard box palatable. 75 Ninth Ave., 212.242.2630

Hudson Whiskey 
Tuthilltown Spirits, New York’s only whiskey distillery, uses old-fashioned methods to age these impossibly smooth small-batch elixirs, making any presentation feel like a well-kept Prohibition-era secret. Whether you try the woodsy single-malt neat or on the rocks, or the baby bourbon with a splash of water, you’ll revel in the effect of gourmet moonshine. Le Dû’s Wines, 600 Washington St., 212.924.6999

Cheesiness at the Essex Street Market
Between the NYC branch of the Boston cheese temple Formaggio Kitchen and the Saxelby Cheesemongers counter, run by curds-and-whey power couple Anne Saxelby and Paul Kinstedt, Essex Street Market is a dairy lover’s nirvana. Whether you’re having a lunchtime sandwich or hatching a plan for a party, both of these spots can hook you up real good. Recommendations: Bardwell Farm’s vegetal Dorset cheese from Saxelby; Hillman Farm fresh chèvre from Formaggio Kitchen. 120 Essex St., 212.388.0449

Ice Cream Cake at Parm
Carvel’s ice cream cake may be more famous, but Parm’s is the new gold standard for grown-ups. Layers of housemade chocolate, pistachio and strawberry gelato are separated by sheets of velvety fudge embedded with crisp chocolate cookie crumbs, the entire thing encased in a white layer of frosted peaks. If it isn’t your birthday this month, consider inventing another worthy occasion. 248 Mulberry St., 212.993.7189

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