Laurent Tourondel may be French in birth, training, and style, but he's got a pretty good handle on what Americans—New Yorkers, especially—like to eat. Named Bon Appétit's Restauranteur of the Year in 2007, Tourondel has been credited with reinventing the steakhouse. His BLT restaurants (Steak, Fish, Prime, Burger, and Market) were just the start of his empire. Recently, he's brought LT Burger to Bryant Park and opened Arlington Club, a steakhouse with a Lavo-like clubbiness, on the Upper East Side. This newest venture isn't too far from home for Laurent, who counts Marcus Samuelsson among his food friends and neighbors.
Pizza: The original Patsy's in East Harlem is my go-to pizza place. Simple yet packed with flavor. Even when I leave off the toppings, a plain cheese slice is delicious!
Cheap burger: Definitely Shake Shack. The burgers are delicious and I get them whenever I can, but to be honest it's the milkshakes that are really special.
Fancy burger: The regular (not the Kobe!) burger at Chez Lucienne, medium rare of course. It comes on a soft, buttery sesame seed bun with lots of cheese.
Coffee: The Nook is a great new addition to the neighborhood. Marcus Samuelsson is doing great things for uptown Manhattan.
Ramen: Jin Ramen. Why go all the way downtown when I can find perfect ramen at 125th street? The ramen has great seasoning and the noodles are homemade. Plus it's cheap and very quick.
Bagel: Absolute Bagels in West Harlem, or Ess-a-Bagel when I head down to the east side. I get an everything bagel with lox spread. No shortage of flavor there. It is a little hard to eat on the go, though. Their bagels are huge!
Sandwich: I have never tasted anything like San Matteo Panuozzo before I came to New York. Their sandwiches are all so spectacular it's hard to pick a favorite, but I usually just make sure there is prosciutto on it. I pick up from there on my way home sometimes. Their pizza is also amazing.
Ice cream: If I'm looking for something light, Pinkberry hits the bill, but otherwise I get the Black and White milkshake from Shake Shack, and I like to get it malted.
Late-night eats: I love the music and the whole atmosphere at Ginny's Supper Club. There's great people and great food—it's a perfect place to go on my day off or after service.
Chinese takeout: Chinatown East is the best we have near me, and it always does the trick when I want Chinese. I get the Chicken Curry or Late Night General Tso's Chicken.
Falafel: I'm a purist when it comes to falafel. I like the classic sandwich from Falafel House, with all the pickled vegetables and lots of hummus.
Delivery food: Café Ollin has the best chicken tacos in the city!
Can't miss neighborhood spot: Rao's is a must. Even if you just go once in your entire life, it's worth it. The baked clams and lemon chicken are my favorite. It's also a place I could only imagine to be in New York. There is nothing better in the neighborhood—I just can't explain it!