Serious Eats Neighborhood Guides: Ben Daitz's Union Square

Neighborhood Guides

Locals' guides to New York neighborhoods.

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A born-and-raised New Yorker, Ben Daitz has cooked alongside some of the city's finest chefs: Floyd Cardoz, David Bouley, Saul Bolton, and more recently, his college buddy Ratha Chaupoly. After working together in the kitchen at Kampuchea, Ben and Ratha opened cult favorite Cambodian sandwich shop Num Pang in the heart of Union Square. They've since opened an outpost near Grand Central, but Ben likes to keep it local: he lives and dines in Union Square, and loves the area as much as customers adore Num Pang's coconut tiger prawn sandwich.

Ben's Picks

Pizza, slice: I know it's a few blocks out of the Union Square area, but Joe's Pizza is totally worth the extra few blocks. The slice with pepperoni just screams "New York!"


[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Pizza pie: The pizza at Otto is consistently satisfying with a great balance of crust, sauce and cheese. I go simple and stick with the Margherita.

Burger: The Union Square Café burger satisfies any burger craving. It's been on the menu forever. It's the perfect juicy burger, served with bacon and cheddar on their house-made poppy seed bun.


Sandwich: Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop has all the old-school NY deli classics: brisket, pastrami, tongue. I couldn't pick just one favorite.

Bagel: I get an everything bagel from Murray's with Nova, scallion cream cheese, tomato, capers, and a touch of red onion. I then bring that home and add a couple sprigs of dill and a squeeze of lemon juice. Must be reading the Sunday New York Times while eating.


Breakfast: I hit up City Bakery and pick up a pretzel croissant with a green tea. It's great because I'm usually running somewhere and the line moves quickly, then I'm set for the morning.

Dive bar: Belmont Lounge—not so much for the actual bar, but for the memories. It hasn't changed much and I still head there to grab a beer with old friends.

Cocktail bar: I like to ask Meghan at Raines Law Room to make me whatever she wants. It always works out. I'm a fan of any bar where you can put your trust in the bartender like that.


Delivery food: Maoz Vegetarian makes good falafel, and the best part is you get unlimited salad toppings. You can tell them to load your sandwich up with chickpea salad, tabouli, pickled baby eggplant, and tons of fresh veg. I like my falafel a bit spicy, so I get the spicy hot green chili along with the tahini.

Japanese: The yakitori at Ootoya is crazy good—the fish is always super fresh. If they have the chicken skin yakitori, get it! The chicken meatball yakitori, which is also a good choice, comes with a raw egg yolk for dipping.

Tacos: I love the Grilled Fish Taco from Dorado Tacos & Quesadillas. It comes with a little shredded cabbage and crema, topped with some tomatillo and avocado salsa. Simple, clean and fresh flavors.


Ice cream/gelato: I treat myself to Amorino Gelato in a waffle cone more often than I would like to admit. They switch it up and have special flavors of the month, but I usually stick with the Stracciatella or Bourbon Vanilla.

Late-night eats: Strip-House Grill, cause who doesn't really need a huge ribeye, creamed spinach, goose-fat fried potatoes and a bottle of red wine at 1 AM?

Date night: I'm a sucker for 15 East's tuna tasting with a bottle of Negori Sake. The quality of their fish is unmatched, and it's a tranquil atmosphere that lets you focus on what's important.


Can't-miss neighborhood spot: ABC Kitchen is just an all-around great experience. It never ceases to amaze me how Dan [Kluger] can take a simple array of local and seasonal produce and proteins and coax new and interesting flavor combinations out of them. I've sent a ton of people to eat there and they always thank me the next day for the recommendation.