If you travel there once, it is most likely that you will want to go back again.. and again! I certainly did! I just needed to find company – the best company I could find actually! I immediately thought of my best friends, which also happen to be my coworkers from Kitchen Lab and Burger AP! What did this mean? It meant that our trip to New York would be full of…. FOOD!! Gianni, Tarik and I, started off in the best of moods (and with a healthy appetite!) to discover the most delicious little spots in the city - a city that never sleeps! And it’s true! Anytime you go out, anywhere you go, you will see people in the streets. On these same streets you will also see stores, bakeries, restaurants, little places tucked away that remind you of some hidden treasure, interesting little bars, fast food places and sushi bars – basically anything you could ever imagine as far as food is concerned (and as far as everything is concerned!) you can find in New York! I would like to take this opportunity to share all of these… treasures with you and I hope you are able to visit them yourselves at some point! ;-)
Even if a trip to New York isn’t in you immediate plans (not even in your dreams), you can simply take the “trip” there with me… through this Diary. What do you say? Shall we go?
1st Day: Thursday, February 1st 2018
We started on our trip at 10.00 a.m. from Athens. We stopped over in Constantinople and more specifically at the… “primeclass” Lounge at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, where we stayed for about 2 hours. During this time, we were able to enjoy the unbelievably good food as well as the great services they offer.
Τhe “primeclass” Lounge at Ataturk airport in Constantinople
What really made an impression on all of us, were the sensational syrupy sweets that we couldn’t get enough of! When we finally – after a 15 hour flight – made it to our hotel in New York, it was 20.00 o’clock, New York time and still the same day (and it wasn’t even like so much time had gone by…). We stayed at the Double Tree by Hilton and from there, we would go out every day and venture all over town – from morning till night, until February 8th, when we got on the plane to come back to Greece.
Our first outing? The same evening, of course! We left the hotel and found ourselves in Times Square in just 5 minutes! We were nice and hungry so we thought we’d head over to Shake Shack (691 8th Ave, New York) for the most delicious burgers! We got to taste the burgers but (unfortunately) they weren’t as delicious as we had imagined… Quite the opposite actually – the quality of the food had absolutely nothing in common with the name it has made for itself. At least at this particular branch, since Brooklyn’s Shake Shack held a surprise for us that I will tell you about further on… We got back to our hotel and went to sleep, hoping to discover more interesting “taste” trails in the days that followed….
Our first outing in Times Square
With Gianni and Tarik in Times Square
2nd Day: Friday, February 2nd 2018
The next day was – of course! – was much more full of outings and flavors!
We started off our day with an energizing breakfast-brunch at Best Bagel & Coffee (225 West 35th Street): Bacon Eggs Toast Onion Bagel, Grilled Chicken Bagel fortified with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and honey mustard, a Bagel with Smoked Salmon, cream cheese, onions and capers and a Plain Bagel Toast with peanut butter and jelly at the end. Along with this, we enjoyed the well-known American “Tropicana” juices (that we went crazy over!). Do you think we went a little overboard? We didn’t… We ate all of the food and were nice and full but we could have eaten even more since this particular shop really does make amazing bagels. Possibly the best bagels we’ve ever tried! What does this mean? It means that I highly recommend it!
Τhe Grilled Chicken Bagel - one of the many bagels we ate at Bagel & Coffee
With our tummies full, we left Best Bagel & Coffee behind and started to walk on 5th Avenue. We walked by the Empire State Building, stopped to take some pictures at Flat Iron and crossed the street to go to Eataly Caffe! You could say that Eataly Caffe is a large enclosed mall where you can find any Italian flavor you desire… Inside you can find countless stores (all with an Italian flair!) – from a butcher store and fruit and vegetables, to little grocery stores to deli’s, shops with all sorts of Italian cheeses, deli meats and fresh pasta, wine bars, coffee stations, trattorias and so much more! If we lived in New York, Eataly Caffe could easily be our favorite spot. Why? It was one of the few spots in town that had a European feel and countless things to see and… taste! One of these great things were the roasts, that were served on freshly baked bruschetta :-)
Eataly Caffe, which could easily become our favorite spot!
With Gianni and Tarik at Eataly Caffe
Delicious brushcetta from Eataly Caffe...
...and the super fresh handmade pasta
Since we got a little taste of Italy… we ventured out again in the city, following the High Line. What is the High Line? It is an elevated train station which has been transformed into a… park!!!! Defying the unbelievable cold that day, we walked all the way to the end of it and then we walked all the way back… but we decided to take the street instead of the High Line.
The... Gang @ High Line
All this walking up and down got us.... hungry! As soon as we came across Le Pain Quotidien we walked in! We ordered a few things for… the middle: Three Bean Chili (it looked more like a Mexican version of our Greek navy bean soup – Fasolada!). Chicken soup (commonly known as.. an honest chicken soup!) and a Bread Basket – a basket full of freshly baked, delicious slices of bread with some butter and five different jams. Next stop? The hotel to get some rest!
There was absolutely everything on the counters of Le Pain Quotidien
The Chicken Soup at Le Pain Quotidien... Yes, it was tastier than it looks in the picture :-)
Τhe Bread Basket with freshly baked slices of bread, butter and jam
In the evening, we went out to celebrate Gianni’s birthday! Where did we go? We chose to go to the famous Burger and Lobster. No, we didn’t order a cake, but we did order one Original Burger, one Lobster Burger, three Original Lobsters and one Calamari! How did we like everything? Not as much as we expected. Why? Because the lobster there, unfortunately, weren’t anything like our own, here… You see, the time the lobsters spend in the tanks found under the restaurant, has a negative effect on their taste as well as their aroma. Dinner was completed with a Cheesecake and a Chocolate mousse that gave us…. sweet dreams! Would we go back for dinner? No, we wouldn’t… I’m sure there are better restaurants that are worth getting to know and the money spent would be more “worth it”.
At the entrance of Burger and Lobster
Our dinner at Burger and Lobster
3rd Day: Saturday, February 3rd 2018
For breakfast on Saturday, we found ourselves at Levain Bakery. First and foremost we went to try the cookies which were absolutely a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Even the cookies at the hotel were exceptional!!! The rest of the things we ordered from Levain Bakery didn’t drive us wild. But like I said, the cookies were great! We left and made our way towards Central Park which was close by.
One of the display windows at Levain Bakery
The amazing cookies at Levain Bakery
The weather was on our side and so we were able to enjoy our walk. We went all the way around Central Park, taking in all there is to see on every corner and taking our time…. Quite a while later, we left the park behind and made our way to 5th Avenue.
One of our pictures strolling in sundrenched Central Park
We walked by Trump Tower, went shopping and on our way back to the hotel we stopped at momofuku Milk Bar Midtown. Our goal? To try the brunch served there. The outcome? We ate a few cookies while standing in line but the wait was about 1 hour! The cookies obviously didn’t manage to satisfy our hunger… So, we looked for the best (theoretically) burger place in town: Burger Joint. Burger Joint was located in a 5 star hotel… but it was nothing like it! It was somewhere near the reception desk, in a small space closed off by curtains. Once you went through the curtains, it was like you were entering a wooden shack and the menus were made out of cardboard and the selections were written by hand with a black marker!
Inside Burger Joint
The cardboard menu's at Burger Joint
Our... faces at Burger Joint
The burgers at Burger Joint
What about the burgers, you ask? Well they were made out of good quality meat but they were very expensive…. Street food for 30 euro each is a little much (oh! and you got a free beer with the 30 euro also!)! As you can imagine, we didn’t have dessert there. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Magnolia Bakery. This was a restaurant straight out of the ‘80’s! Its strong point was a window in the back where the personnel assembled the cakes right in front of you. It made you want to eat everything in there! We discovered a Red Velvet Cheesecake and a Banana Pudding – both were quite good! In the evening… sleep was the only thing on the menu! We were jet lagged and couldn’t get used to the time so we weren’t sleeping too well. We would go to bed around 23.00 and be up again at 04.00…. We would get so sleepy at around 09.00 in the morning but we stayed awake because that was the time we would leave the hotel and walk around the city!
One of the window displays at Magnolia Bakery
"What should I order... what should I order..." I wonder as I look at all the window displays...
A Red Velvet Cheesecake - Good choice! :-)
4th Day: Sunday, February 4th 2018
On Sunday we started off with a visit to Ground 0, a stop at the tallest building in New York – The One World Trade Center and a walk on Wall Street. Breakfast was next and we enjoyed it at Pret a manger. We had an omelet and a yogurt with chia seeds – both were super delicious. Generally, Pret a manager was an interesting place, with tasty salads and many healthy choices for a wide variety of tastes.
Tarik checking out some good business ideas on Wall Street
Inside Pret a manger...
One of the healthy alternatives offered at Pret a manger
What was our next goal? To cross the Brooklyn Bridge so that we could try all the Italian flavors at Juliana’s Pizza (19 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn). We wanted to remember each and every step we took so we took hundreds of pictures, especially since the weather was good. We took in all the sights and got to Juliana’s Pizza’s doors, at around 11.30. It opened at 12.00 so we decided to have a little “appetizer” at Shake Shack (1 Old Fulton Street, Brooklyn)! We had a Shake Burger, Cheese Fries and a Hot Dog!!! When we tried the food we realized that even though this was a well-known chain of restaurants, the food at this particular one was much better than the food they served in Times Square. The menu was a little different too. Brooklyn's Shake Shack definitely scored more points!
On Brooklyn Bridge
It took us about a half an hour to eat all this… So, at exactly 12.00 o’clock we found ourselves back at Julianna’s Pizza. We entered, sat down and…. about 15 minutes later, all 20 tables in the restaurant were occupied! What did we order? A chicken pizza and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Did we like it? I’ll just say one thing: If you’re looking for good Italian food in New York, then Julianna’s Pizza is not what you are looking for…. We paid about 30 euro’s for the pizza… when over the next few days we found the best pizza for just 1 euro!! Where? I’ll tell you a little further down ;-)
Chicken pizza at Juliana’s Pizza
Spaghetti and meatballs at Juliana’s Pizza
When we left Juliana’s Pizza, the weather had completely changed… It had started to snow and we entered this totally wintery (and beautiful) setting. Our next stop was ΜΟΜΑ (Museum of Modern Art)! If you love modern art you really have to go – nevertheless, you should know that MOMA in Rome is much better than the one in New York (at least that is my opinion). On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at Five Guys. We just got three burgers to go so that we could have something to munch on at the hotel. Were they good? They were good but for the amount of money we paid, they should have been better. We rested a little and then got ready to go out for the evening. Where did we go? To a Moroccan restaurant called Shalel Lounge (65 West, 70th Street, New York) that is owned by a Greek man. Despite the rain, we made our way there, but when we got there we started to have second thoughts. Why? Because, on the outside, it didn’t look anything like a restaurant. It was in the basement of a building and the truth is that when we went inside, it was much better than what we expected… It had many little rooms and just one table fit in each of them. The characteristic point was a small waterfall that was found in one of the rooms. It had a nice atmosphere which pleasantly surprised us. And what about the food? Good and honest. The homemade pies won us over and impressed us!
Flirting with Marilyn at MOMA
5th Day: Monday, February 5th 2018
As always, we decided to begin our day with a super breakfast at one of the best bakeries in New York - Dominique Ansel Bakery (189 Spring Street), close to Soho. We got Sandwiches, Cronuts, Quiche, Milk Bread with praline and various cookies. How many did we get? Enough to eat there and have some left over to take back to the hotel (you know, in case of emergency!). Were they good? They were crazy expensive but WONDERFUL!!! This was at around 10.30 in the morning and then we went for a stroll around Soho and about two hours later, we went to Balthazar (80 Spring Street) for brunch. We ordered a Lamb Sandwich, a Ricotta and Banana Tart, a Sticky Toffee Pudding and Eggs Benedict. Everything was great – the food as well as the service!
The reknowned cinnamon rolls from Dominique Ansel Bakery
We're at Dominique Ansel Bakery. What would you like?
We then went over to Little Italy, where one can find souvenirs that are an Italian-NewYorker combo! I don’t know why someone would want to buy an Italian souvenir from New York but I didn’t question it any further…. There weren’t any skyrises in this area, without this meaning that there was something around that reminded you of Italy.
Welcome to... Little Italy!
After getting a small taste of little Italy, we thought we should get a small taste of… China! Our next stop was Flaming Kitchen Inc. (97 Bowery Street) in China Town. We came across it totally by chance and we tried the best Bao Bun (a type of Chinese bread) that we had ever eaten in our lives! We didn’t get such a large selection of food to eat but we did get things that were truly wonderful and very inexpensive. Of course we were still hungry…. So we took a walk through the dirty, mixed up streets in the area and stopped at Nom Wah Tea Parlor (13 Doyers Street) – a very well-known restaurant, which was really not that much more amazing than the one we had just visited. Later on, we found out that just because a restaurant is very famous in New York, it doesn’t mean that it is the best!
Images from China Town
We found all sorts of strange fruit, vegetables, dried seafood and lots of other.... goodies.
Inside Nom Wah Tea Parlor
Bao Buns at Flaming Kitchen
Our table at Nom Wah Tea Parlor
A little disappointed (from Nom Wah Tea Parlor), we decided to find (and… eat!) something that would put us in a better mood. We looked for Katzs – a delicatessen that is renowned for its pastrami. It is actually a restaurant whose history can be “read” on its…. walls! Wall to wall pictures of the first owner (the grandfather) with all of the famous customers from the past…Gradually, the black and white pictures gave way to more modern ones (the dad’s) until finally they were up to date, with the son in charge, who had created a super modern photo album with “his own” part on the wall.
...and the pastrami sandwich....
Katzs had a sort of… unorthodox system. What do I mean? I mean that when we went in, we were given a piece of paper with a number and nothing else written on it. While we moved towards the exit, we ordered our pastrami sandwiches and whatever else we wanted to eat. Each time that some employee gave us something to eat, they would write it down on the piece of paper. Right before we reached the exit, we passed by the cashier to pay for everything that was written down on the paper. If in the meantime someone lost the little paper, they would have to pay a fine!!! Don’t ask me how much the fine was… I don’t know because we didn’t lose our piece of paper! Ok, well that’s all fine and good… but you may ask me… How was your pastrami sandwich? I’ll say that it was good, but not worth the 30 euro’s we paid for it along with two beverages. We left Katzs and decided to be brave and take the subway to get back to our… base. The subway was very old, abandoned and a place where many homeless New Yorkers found some refuge. As you can imagine, this experience also included all of the smells and existing or non-existing hygienic conditions that one comes across in the subway…
It was evening when we finally made our way to the 54th floor of the Hyatt (135 W 45th Street). We “climbed” all the way up to look at the beautiful view and to pay 26 euro per cocktail. Since we couldn’t just have a drink on an empty stomach, we also ordered a few appetizers to nibble on- sausages and bruschetta with salmon….
The view from the 54th floor at the Hyatt
6th Day: Tuesday, February 6th 2018
The following day was a big day!!! Tuesday, February 6th 2018: The day we celebrated the fact that I had 300.000 subscribers on my Greek You Tube channel “Akis Petretzikis” And if that wasn’t enough on its own, we also celebrated this with Giannis Antetokounmpo!!! Together we lifted the celebratory sign we had made in Madison Square Garden! This was after the basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee BUCKS.
Here we are with Giannis Antetokounmpo, lifting up our celebratory sign for reaching 300.000 subscribers on my Greek You Tube channel “Akis Petretzikis”.
But let’s start from the beginning…. We woke up in the morning full of energy and made our way to Fette Sau to enjoy BBQ’d food full of flavor (rib eye, chicken, brisket, spicy sausages and sooo much more) in an industrial space – imagine an old garage – in which there is a huge bar, benches and barstools for those who want to sit down. The flavors were great but the prices were quite “spicy” since neither the space nor the size of the portions justified such high prices.
Inside Fette Sau
All together at Fette Sau
Our food at Fette Sau
After lunch we took a walk around the area… While walking, we came across a film crew that was filming some movie (I don’t know which one)! We suddenly found ourselves in front of a flaming car and really felt that we were – where else? – New York!! A city where anything can happen! Like even getting into Soho House without owning a member card!!! As you may have guessed, this was our next stop. We met up with a friend of ours and went to Soho House - a members only restaurant (we weren’t members but our friend was!). Unfortunately I can’t show you any pictures from there… Why? Because it was not allowed to take pictures inside the restaurant! What did we eat? Steak tartare with anchovy cream, sea bass carpazzio and bruschetta with vegetables.
Our next stop was…. Madison Square Garden for an NBA experience we will never forget!!!! We were able to get to the arena quite early and jump right in to all of the excitement and fun! The truth is that this was not just a simple basketball game. It was a spectacular game that is more like a show and everyone should get a chance to see it and experience it at least once in their lives!
Waiting for the basketball game to begin at Madison Square Garden
During the game we gobbled up three hot dogs in the stadium and after the game we ate an amazing pizza that only cost 1 dollar a piece! Where? At 2 Bros – which was right next to our hotel! This restaurant was definitely one of New York’s little treasures I was telling you about earlier!
Hot Dog time out!
An amazing pizza for only 1 dollar a piece at 2 Bros
Our trip was almost over… with just one more day to go! We’d be leaving tomorrow… but today was a beautiful snowy day that we wanted to fill with walks and shopping and sightseeing and of course, more flavors! We wanted to buy gifts for ourselves but also for our loved ones! We started off with a good breakfast at the hotel and then made our way to… 5th Avenue. We ate a couple of slices of pizza again from 2 Bros before resting for a while at the hotel. In the afternoon we went to CAVA - Park Ave South for a Greens and Grains Bowl. Imagine a large salad bar, where you are called to “build” your own dish, beginning from the bottom and ending at the… salad dressing! For instance, you start at the bottom – salad, then you get a choice of meat and then a side dish (beans or lentils), sauces and salad dressing! I could say that it was a bad copy of Chipotle Mexican Grill, where we went to eat straight after. There we tried a Chicken Bowl, Carnitas Tacos and Guacamole! It was very good, better than Cava and more organized, even though there were even better places.
Τacos from Chipotle Mexican Grill
8th Day: Thursday, February 8th 2018
This was our last day! Departure day and – of course we tried to book the latest flight available! Our plane left at twelve at night so we had a lot of time ahead of us to get ready and fit in our last minute shopping! We got up early but skipped breakfast. We went to Two Forks (119 West 40th Street) at around 12.30 for breakfast and lunch together!!! The style was Street Food and it was much better than all the other kinds we had tried the previous days. We also enjoyed the food at value for money Wasabi, a few hours later. Between these two places, we stopped at Nusr-Et Steakhouse, where we only made it to the door. Why? Because it was fully booked.
Last stop before the airport? Hershey’s Chocolate World – a magical, chocolatey world! If you are ever there, I have a little bit of advice for you: Compare the prices between the packaged and unpackaged chocolates. You will see that it’s worth getting the packaged chocolates since they are much better priced! Also, if choose to fill your own box, fill it all the way to the top!!! Pack it all in!! No one weighs it, since the price is per box (like a package) and not per weight! We managed to pack our bags with all sorts of chocolates in no time at all! We wanted to bring back something sweet for the ones waiting for us back in Greece!
When we got on the airplane, we were full – literally and metaphorically – from our trip. We had such a great time, full of laughs, joking around, images, walks, endless discussions and – of course – all of the food and sweets we tried… Reading through these lines again, I realized how much all three of us ate! We didn’t stop eating! It’s to be expected though, since the truth is, we really love food! It’s our hobby. It’s our job. It’s what connects us. What connects myself with Gianni and Tarik and what connects all three of us with all of you! Yes! Food is our life!
And this trip was another trip of a lifetime!!!