Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Gabe Thompson's Chelsea
Texas native Gabe Thompson (read our full interview) has worked all over the country, originally settling in New York to accept a position working at Le Bernadin. Since then, he's made his mark on the city's culinary landscape with his brand of contemporary Italian cuisine. As chef/partner of four restaurants—dell'anima, L'Artusi, Anfora and his newest, L'Apicio—Gabe has his hands full, but he manages to spend some after-work alone time with a lamb gyro from a Chelsea food cart ... not to mention taking his wife out for some fabulous meals.
Pizza, slice: While Artichoke is known for their over-the-top artichoke dip-inspired pizza, I prefer their take on the margarita. The flavors are always spot on. It is the best interpretation of tomato + basil + mozzarella.
Pizza pie: Taking up a ridiculous amount of floor space at Donatella is a legit pizza oven. Donatella's pizzas are simply prepared and always delicious. Plus, the friendly service and willingness to put up with my 2 year old makes the pizza taste even better.
Burger, cheap: The menu at Bareburger reads like a stoner's dream come true. Everyone can find a favorite burger at this joint. My favorite is the country bacon with iceberg, sharp cheddar, onion, and mayo. Plus, all the burgers are grass fed. I should note that the kids menu rocks and there are several vegetarian/gluten-free options.
Burger, fancy: Tipsy Parson is one of my favorite neighborhood spots. The dining room is super cute and the menu features the best American comfort food. What makes Chef Julie's burger insane is the inclusion of pork in the patty (I'm a sucker for all pork products) and a slightly sweet potato bun. Don't forget to add bacon.
Sandwich: I'm always running to Bowery Kitchen in Chelsea Market to buy last minute restaurant supplies. They also have a side business of making killer sandwiches. If I've got the time to wait in the sandwich line, the Soprano sandwich is my favorite. It's your basic Italian combo of mixed sliced Italian salumi, garnished with roasted peppers and sundried tomatoes.
Coffee: Is it embarrassing to list Starbucks? I hope not! This Starbucks is part of my morning commute to work. Since it is located in the Google building, the staff is super pro. Even if the line is long, they are on the ball about expediting and providing stellar service. The dark roast is definitely my favorite... unless I'm splurging on a peppermint mocha (shhhhh.... don't tell my wife!).
Bagel: Murray's is one of the only bagel shops in Chelsea. And Chelsea lucked out, because Murray's bagels are the best. Don't plan on getting your bagel toasted; they are so fresh that they refuse to toast bagels. I prefer an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese. Definitely worth breaking any diet with Murray's bagels.
Delivery: All of the food at Bombay Talkie is excellent. I especially like their vegetarian entrees and the potato naan. But the best part is the cashew jasmine rice. It makes the best fried rice as leftovers. Delivery is quick and friendly, too.
Breakfast: Since I used to be a breakfast cook at the Four Seasons in Austin, I have a great appreciation for a good hotel breakfast. The Standard Grill does a great job of executing high quality eggs. Whether it is eggs any style, or their signature omelet, you know they will be spot on. Plus, the ambiance makes you feel like a rock star.
Dive bar: Our restaurants participate in several charity events at the Metropolitan Pavilion. My routine is to set up my station at the Pavilion and stop by Peter McManus for a beer before each event. It's the quintessential, old-school New York City bar: no frills, cold Budweiser, a sea of locals, happy hour prices. And every once in a while, you'll see it featured in a blockbuster movie (like The Other Guys).
Nicer wine, beer, or cocktail bar: Hidden in the back of Stonestreet Coffee is a speakeasy-type cocktail bar called Bathtub Gin. It has a great vibe. Half the people there are dressed like they are from the 1920's. And the made-to-order cocktails go down a little too easily.
Ice cream/gelato: Chelsea has way too many chain soft-serve yogurt shops. I avoid all of those and head straight to L'arte del Gelato in Chelsea Market. The gelato seriously tastes like it does in Italy. I like mismatching a creamy gelato with a fruit sorbet. Although the prices are a little steep, it's worth it.
Takeout: O Mai's Vietnamese food reminds my wife of the food she ate growing up in Northern Virginia. We are broken records with our order: lemongrass tofu, pho, and grilled pork with rice vermicelli. Sometimes we order the grilled eggplant appetizer and mix it in with the grilled pork. O Mai has the fish sauce, sugar, lime, and chili combo mastered.
Falafel: If I'm looking for falafel in the neighborhood, the falafel wrap at Papa Kebab is simple and delicious. But don't miss out on the Turkish lamb pizza and the cold mezze plate. I like to eat them all together, all at once. They deliver, too!
Late-night eats: There is a great food cart located on 15th and 9th Avenue, in front of the Wells Fargo. I think it is called The Great Sphinx. There's an older man who works the cart and does such a good job of making the best gyro. I always order the lamb gyro with white sauce, spicy sauce, and onions. I have no idea what these sauces are, but they are great. I try to stop here once a week on my way home from work.
Date night: Before I ate at Soccarat, I thought it was impossible to have good paella at a restaurant. When a friend dragged me to this restaurant, much to my surprise, I found the paella was excellent. So were all of the tapas. And it also happens to be a cute, cozy restaurant with a warm, inviting atmosphere and friendly service. Needless to say, I've returned several times on date nights with my wife.
Can't-miss neighborhood spot: Everything about Colicchio & Sons is top notch: unbelievable food, impeccable service, beautiful dining room, etc. My favorite thing to do is to dine at the chef bar in the tap room. The cooks are super-pro, and it's fun watching the action in the Wood Stone oven. The main dining room is worth the splurge, too. We've eaten there for Thanksgiving dinner for the past three years and look forward to many more.