When eating in New York there can be no ifs or buts, no eliminations – we had to go all out and make the most of it. As a result we ate some of the best food we'd tasted in our lives. Forget the sugar, fat, calories, salt – for five days we ate exactly what we wanted when we wanted, which meant cupcakes and doughnuts for breakfast and cookies and crisps for dinner at 11 o'clock at night. Holidays are for treats, and these were some I'll never forget. What's better than that? Not a whole lot, I've decided.
PJ Clarke's – 44 West 63rd Street
Unpretentious, good quality American food in a relaxed environment – that's PJ Clarke's in a nutshell. Here New Yorkers enjoy casual mid-week lunches, complete with cocktails, and we tried our best to fit in. But really, we weren't subtle about soaking up every second of our visit to PJ Clarke's – it was a real treat. Slightly more expensive than your standard gastro pub, PJ Clarke's would probably be the place to go for a Birthday lunch or some other celebration – but nonetheless, we loved our authentic American eating experience and our sandwiches were some of the best we had ever had.
I chose the turkey club 'banh mi' – which came with cucumber, pickled carrots (my new favourite thing), coriander and chili mayo (yum!!) – and Jess had the stacked corned beef Reuben with homemade 'white kraut and swiss'. Both came with crisps and were $19 each plus tax and tips. Pricey, but when in Rome...
Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina – Located in Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave
My mum insisted we go to Chelsea Market – it had been the highlight of her visit to New York last summer – so we made time to fit it into our trip, and I'm so glad we did. This market is a must-visit for any foodie. But I warn you now, you'll be stuck choosing what to eat for a long time.
I went back to the first restaurant I passed in the market's entrance – Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina. There was so much pasta, I just couldn't help myself.
I had the wild mushroom girasoli with pesto, Parmesan and mixed vegetables on the recommendation of the guy behind the counter – what friendly people live in New York!
I got a green juice (sooo good) to match my green pasta and sat out on the street with Jess, enjoying the February sunshine while eating my fantastic lunch.
Black Tap – 529 Broome Street, Soho
This blog is turning into quite a lengthy one, but stay with me. Jess and I queued for 1 hour and 45 minutes for a table at Black Tap, yep, that burger and milkshake place the world's gone mad for on Instagram.
But really, for cheese like that I'd wait all day. And as if our ah-mazin burgers weren't enough, we got a sweet and salty shake to share for afters.
So, we ate all the cream, most of the m&ms, had a bite each of the pretzel stick, and drank, perhaps, a fifth of the actual milkshake. It was sweet, it was salty, it was everything we ever dreamed of, but we were defeated. Hats off to the guys and gals drinking (eating?) entire milkshakes to themselves.
Vanessa's Dumplings – 220 East 14th Street
Last but not least is the cheapest of our savoury bites, and with our bubble tea, multicoloured dumplings and pork sesame pancakes came a big dollop of New York drama. While eating we got absorbed in a nearby girl's conversation with her friend. She was telling him all about her new boyfriend, but it was obvious the guy she was telling wasn't interested. We tried not to be obvious about it, but once we got sucked in we couldn't not listen. Finding cafes and restaurants where locals meet friends for a gossip is so exciting and different, so authentic, that I just wanted to stay here all day and listen to more conversations. It felt like we'd found the real New York.
As for the food – well, the pork sesame pancake was the star of the show at just $2.99! We watched them make our dumplings – it was $5.49 for eight – two veggie, two chicken, two shrimp and two pork, and $2.99 for bubble tea. I couldn't believe how much we got for how little we paid and it was all great, but if you go for just one thing, you've got to get the sesame pancake sandwich – these are just the bomb diggity.