Pizza at Artichoke Basille's and Solo Pizza
Thanks to Artichoke, pizza hasn't been this polarizing since the various Ray's all claimed to be "the original". To avoid disappointment, skip every slice that's not the sicilian-style grandma. You'll be rewarded with a uniquely flavorful orgy of cheese, basil, tangy sauce and olive oil-soaked crust.
When Artichoke overwhelms—either because of the richness of its food or the length of its lines—head over to Solo Pizza for a competent New York-style slice ($2.25). A cheese-laden wolf in sheep's clothing, the humdrum red and white color scheme belies the level of quality on display.
Yakitori at Yakitori Taisho
The school for troubled youth to Yakitori Totto's preppier environs, Taisho overflows with beer and laughter—from both patrons and cooks. That cheerful attitude pays off big time with charcoal-smooched skewers that would graduate with honors from any grilling academy. Chicken skin—a yakitori mainstay—is particularly crunchy and sweet.
Soft Serve Creations at Dessert Club Chikalicious
M any of the treats here play like whimsical riffs at this diminutive dessert parlor that gets sardine-level packed rather easily. Take the affogato, made with decaf espresso and dotted with chocolate pearls. Rising from the cup like a spiraled stalagmite, the rich vanilla bean soft serve is ethereal. Try it sandwiched between a fudge-doused eclair.
Tacos at Tacos Morelos
It's hard not to admire the durability of this family of Mexican street food carts, well-known throughout Queens and and Brooklyn for their excellent chile rellenos. The East Village location has the added benefit of being open 24 hours a day, so you can get your goat barbacoa fix whenever the mood strikes.
Tacos Morelos: 2nd Street and Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 (map); Open Until: 24 hours, 7 days; 347-772-5216
Okonomiyaki at Decibel
Any izakaya worth its salt(y snacks) will usually have some form of pancake on the menu, and the okonomiyaki here—a replica of sister takeout spot Otafuku's recipe—doesn't disappoint. Bulky and slightly runny, the disk of battered cabbage can take a condiment pummeling. Kewpie mayonnaise, Worcestershire-style okonomiyaki sauce and bonito and nori flakes provide all the seasoning the dish needs.
This Way, That Way, The Other Thing, and The Popeye Way at This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef
While the Artichoke boys cause all sorts of commotion in Pizza Land, the sandwiches at their narrow First Avenue storefront cause a different kind of disagreement altogether—mainly, deciding which sandwich to order. Pulling from two different roast beef sandwich styles, the cheez whizzed This Way and fresh mozzarella-topped That Way (roll $5.50, hero $9.50) are wholly satisfying renditions of two Brooklyn classics. Evoking that Philadelphia triumph of pork and broccoli rabe, The Popeye Way (roll $9.50, hero $12.50), comes garnished with spinach and provolone, but the sleeper may just be their The Other Thing (rye $9.50, hero $12.50) stacked with spicy brown mustard, sweet coleslaw and slabs of pastrami that give Katz's a run for its money.
Fries and Dipping Sauce at Pommes Frites
The Conflicted Jew at Joe Dough
One of chef Joe Dobias' signature dishes, this playful mix of creamy chicken liver, crisp bacon and caramelized onions nestled between thick, griddle-toasted challah first debuted on his flagship JoeDoe's opening dinner menu. It's stuck around for good reason: dude's got his ratios down, and the balance of salty, sweet, creamy and crunchy makes for a detour-worthy nosh.
Chicken Wings at Kasadela Izakaya
For nearly ten years, Ex-Nobu vet Yujen Pan has been serving some of the city's best tebasaki chicken wings out of this 11th Street sake-centric izakaya. The double-fried gems bubbling forth from the kitchen's deep fryers come lacquered with a rich proprietary sauce laced with black pepper and garlic, and arrive at the table stacked like a mouthwatering game of avian Jenga.
Ramen at Rai Rai Ken
Though this venerable ramen shop has lost some of its charm with a newer, larger location, the ramen still remains as nuanced and delicate as ever. While not the best ramen in the 'hood, it's the best of the late-night options. With a thin but deeply-flavored broth, the curry ramen packs an added burst of spice that supports a symphony of accoutrements. The pork can run a bit lean, but you'll be too busy slurping to care.
Rai Rai Ken: 218 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10003 (map); Open Until: 12 AM, Sun-Thu; 2 AM, Fri-Sat; 212-477-7030
Tom Birchard's 'round-the-clock ode to Eastern Europe expertly balances a mix of diner fare and Ukrainian specialties without screwing up either genre. On their burger alone they would receive high marks, but a plate of pierogi (4 for $6.95, 7 for $10.95) in creative flavors like sweet potato and arugula and goat cheese demonstrate a fun blending of old and new. For a restaurant that opened in 1954, she's aged well.
Bar Snacks at Terroir
It's tough to beat Marco Canora and Paul Grieco's mini-empire of funky wine bars when it comes to elevated bar snacks and an expansive selection of varietals. One dish that pairs well across the board (and is as beautiful as it is surprising) is the tomato-egg bruschetta. Vibrant stewed tomatoes surround a barely-cooked egg yolk; both of the softer elements soaking into the sturdy bread below.
Wackadoo Hot Dogs at Crif Dogs and Japadog
At Crif Dogs, two of the curing process' finest end products are fused as one via a dip in the deep fryer. As if bacon-wrapped hot dogs weren't indulgent enough, they'll adorn your pups with offbeat toppings (pineapple, cream cheese). A messy endeavor even for this place, the Spicy Redneck ($4.75) finds a bacon-cradled dog smothered in chili, pickled jalapenos and coleslaw. The snappy frank holds its own against harmonious albeit heavy toppings that would overwhelm lesser links.
Beef, pork and turkey all get the tube steak treatment at Canadian chain Japadog, whose offerings take their cues from Japanese street foods. To wit: the Terimayo ($6.25) features an all-beef hot dog covered in a predictable-yet-delicious combination of teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and seaweed. High rollers, do take note of the Kobe dog topped with dollops of caviar.
Pudding at Puddin'
Clio Goodman's passion for pudding might just eclipse that of Jello fiend Bill Cosby. Here, the rich, velvety stuff isn't just served on its own, getting folded into parfaits and decadent cakes as well. Butterscotch pudding ($3 to $8.50) benefits from the addition of actual scotch, and the classic parfait ($4 to $9.50) adds whipped cream and 70% dark chocolate pudding into the equation.
Burgers at Whitmans and Royale
A Midwestern import that seems destined for late-night snack stardom, the Juicy Lucy ($10) at Whitmans is made with hearty LaFrieda short rib galvanized by a zesty kick from its molten interior of pimento cheese. Overzealous eaters be forewarned: there's a disclaimer alerting customers to the dangers of squirting cheese.
When you name your burger ($8) after your establishment it had better live up to the hype. Luckily, the Angus beauties at neighborhood watering hole Royale offer a primer on the art of simple burger construction. A healthy (or unhealthy) fat ratio keeps things ultra moist, and the eggy bun does a fine job of sopping up the juices.