Bill's Burger at Bill's Bar & Burger
Steve Hanson's answer to Danny Meyer's Shake Shack, Bill's cooks up one of the juicier burgers ($8.95) in this city thanks to employing the smash technique, which produces an exemplary crust that renders the interior that much more tender by comparison. The pedigreed patty, an 80/20 lean/fat blend of chuck, short rib, and deckle, gets a fairly standard (but no less delicious) accompaniment of American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato and dill pickles backed by a piquant mayo-based special sauce.
Adana Kebab Sandwich at Istanbul Grill
Leave the gyros for those who gyrate (at least the ones who mispronounce "gyro" so that that faux-alliteration works) at this 24-hour Turkish spot. Instead, opt for an Adana kebab sandwich ($6.50) and you'll be rewarded with a thin pita bursting with chunks of tender hand-minced lamb, spiced and mixed with tail fat. The garden-variety lettuce and tomato are fine enough, but things come into focus with squirts of cooling yogurt and bracing hot sauce.
Grilled Cheese at Hector's Cafe
Like a teen's secret stash of whatever it is teens stash secretly these days, Hector's sits tucked away under the High Line next to Weichsel Beef, one of the area's last few remaining meat suppliers for which the neighborhood is named. You'll find no fancy club grub here, just great fresh burgers and a superlative grilled cheese ($4.50) with American or Swiss. Bonus: thanks to an atmospheric facade, the half-century old greasy spoon has made multiple appearances on Law & Order.
Hector's Cafe: 44 Little West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014 (map); Open Until: 2 AM - 10 PM, Mon-Sat; 212-206-7592
Pizza at Rocky's 1
Just outside Meatpacking proper, Rocky's 1 serves a just-shy-of-great slice ($2.50). Grease abounds, but the cheese isn't overwhelmed, backed by a light, balanced tomato sauce. The crust, although somewhat benign, is thin without becoming flimsy while still maintaining a balance of dough and crunch. If the name makes you think of Stallone, you're on the right track—this parlor and its sister in Murray Hill used to be owned by boxer Rocky Marciano's family.
Rocky's 1: 304 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014 (map); Open Until: 4 AM, Mon-Thu; 5 AM, Fri-Sat; 212-242-2345
Sicilian Slice at Valducci's
A food truck with roots on Staten Island, this mobile pizzeria peddles a variety of thin Sicilian slices ($5) all sporting rich, sweet sauce. Cut longer than your average grandma slice, the thinner crust will occasionally give way making for one messy sidewalk snack. Fresh ricotta and fried eggplant are particularly successful toppings.
Goat Cheese Gnocchi at Fig & Olive
An appetizer masquerading as a side dish, these sturdy, rough-edged potato gnocchi employ a slight tang thanks to goat cheese, which also gives the dumplings their heft; herb-inflected butter lends a glistening sheen. Measured against the rest of the menu at this luxe mini chain, they're practically a steal at $8, good for downing with a glass of wine.
Ovaltine Kulfi at Spice Market
One of pastry guru Pichet Ong's signature dishes, the Ovaltine kulfi ($9) stars a dense rectangle of the stuff (a frozen Indian delicacy similar to ice cream), rich with milk chocolate, goat's milk, and malted milk powder. Kernels of spiced caramel corn and a sliver of brûléed banana add texture, while milk chocolate and caramel sauces take it home. The finishing touch? A quenelle of malt chantilly scattered with candied fennel seeds.
Parisian Apple Tart at Bakehouse
Light and sweet, the Parisian apple tart ($9) redeems a rather muted crust with holiday-spiced fruit filling and a modestly caramelized exterior of sliced apples. In European fashion, a dollop of crème fraîche takes the place of sour cream. Fun fact: Wolverine himself is a friend of the house.