The Best Things I Ate and Drank in New York City

Published 20 December 2016

Tessa Watkins

Tessa Watkins

New York, New York. In the city that never sleeps, food is pretty much as diverse as it gets. Boasting nearly every type of cuisine going, it is paradise for foodies like me. More than a decade after I made my inaugural trip to the land of the bright lights, I returned at my favourite time of year – Christmas. And what better way to recover from all that present shopping than by eating your way around New York? I was lucky enough to do just that this month; here’s a taster of my favourite bites from the big apple.

Breakfast bagel and fruit

Breakfast bagel and fruit image: Tessa Watkins

Smoked salmon bagel and coffee at The Refinery

It’s pretty much a given that if you’re in New York, you have to try a bagel at least once. But if you’re thinking they’ll be similar to the supermarket bagels you find here, you’re in for a surprise. I woke up on my first morning in the big city and my heart was set on this tasty treat. We headed to Parker and Quinn, the main restaurant at The Refinery Hotel, where we were staying, and I ordered a simple smoked salmon bagel. When it arrived, I audibly gasped. It was huge; packed full of fresh salmon and chilled Philadelphia, sandwiched between a lightly-toasted wholemeal bagel. I savoured every mouthful, and washed it all down with one of the best coffees I have ever tasted. I have enjoyed a lot of coffee in my time, but the rumours are true – in New York, it somehow tastes better. In fact, it was so good, I enjoyed a latte and followed this up with a strong Americano; the caffeine hit was worth it.

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs image: Tessa Watkins

Scrambled eggs at The Standard Grill

After an early start exploring the Statue of Liberty and Greenwich Village, we were ravenous. Luckily, the village is home to so many hidden gems, you are spoilt for choice. We settled on The Standard Grill – partly because it looked very pretty from the outside, but largely because we were desperate to escape the biting wind. Once inside, we were seated in a delightful leather booth in the bay window, looking out over the street. I opted for the soft scrambled eggs on toasted country bread with salad, and a side of crispy potatoes with garlic herb butter. It sounds so simple, but it was scrumptious.


Tacos image: Tessa Watkins

Tacos at Tacombi

Vying for the title of the best cuisine I tasted in New York is the feast I enjoyed at Tacombi. Even drinks here are bursting with flavour; you can choose from an endless selection of fresh juices and delicious fruit coolers. We struggled to narrow down the menu, but eventually opted for nachos, ceviche de progresso, fish and shrimp tacos and a vegetable enchilada. The food arrived within minutes and was beautifully presented; the plates were filled with colour and every dish was as flavour-packed as the next.


Cheesecake image: Tessa Watkins

Cheesecake at Grand Central Terminal

Everyone told me I simply had to visit Grand Central Terminal. It didn’t matter if I had no need to catch a train; it was more than worth a visit for the food hall alone. The busiest station in the country doesn’t disappoint when it comes to dining options, though I was here for one item only – the famous New York cheesecake. I made a beeline for Zaro’s Family Bakery, home to delicious pastries, cakes and desserts, and ordered a classic cheesecake. It was so tasty, I could have eaten another slice there and then. The bakery even delivers throughout the night, so you can get your fix whenever those dessert cravings strike.

Katz's Deli Reuben sandwich, New York

Sandwich at Katz's Deli image: Angela Griffin

Pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Delicatessen

Imagine a sandwich filled with at least five slices of pastrami layered on top of one another, drizzled in mustard and topped with fresh rye bread. Multiply it by 100 and that’s the sight you’re greeted with when you step foot in Katz’s Delicatessen. We queued for around 20 minutes in the freezing wind before we were allowed inside the heaving deli; clearly the lunch choice of many locals. A cameo in the film When Harry Met Sally means it is firmly on the foodie map. As many as 4,000 customers walk through the doors every day to sample the traditional deli fare, including the most popular dish; the pastrami sandwich. I can vouch for the fact that it is pretty special – and pretty big. So big, I had to wrap up half and take it with me.

Pizza in Brooklyn

Pizza in Brooklyn image: Tessa Watkins

Calamari and pizza at Ribalta

I’d been told I couldn’t leave New York without visiting Ribalta in Greenwich Village. We squeezed this in on our final night in the city and were lucky to find a table; the place was packed. Specialising in traditional Neapolitan pizzas and Italian dishes, we began with fried calamari with parsley and lemon aioli sauce. The fish was lightly drizzled with lemon juice and tasted deliciously fresh; it set us up perfectly. We opted to customise our pizza and top it with goats’ cheese, mushrooms, grape tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. I gobbled half of it before remembering to take a picture – a sure sign of a great pizza.

Red velvet cupcakes

Red velvet cupcakes

Cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery

When a dessert addict finds themselves walking past one of the most famous bakeries in New York, it is practically impossible to avoid stopping for a sweet treat. I would have happily spent an entire afternoon in Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street, but my travel partner had other ideas.  With three branches across the city, the bakery is famous with locals and tourists alike. I spent way too long deciding what to have, but finally settled on a red velvet cupcake. It was so scrumptious, I’m afraid I devoured the whole lot without a second thought about photographing it. Which means I simply have to go back…

Want to follow in Tessa's footsteps and eat your way around NYC? Then take a look at our New York holidays page and give our Experts a call today to start planning your trip stateside.

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