As usual I experienced so much serious deliciousness this year, so when Max asked me to come up with a list of my favorite must-eats, I found it excruciatingly difficult to limit myself to the usual ten, so I didn't.
- Pastas and Sorbets at Osteria Morini
- Chocolate Bread from Bien Cuit
- Agnolotti Al Sugo D'Arrosto from Perla
- Soba at Cocoron
- Porchetta and Mozzarella from DiPalo
- Montanara Pizza at Don Antonio
- Bialys from Hot Bread Kitchen
- Short Rib Sandwich from Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
- Bread from Maison Kayser
- Brisket or Pork with a Side Order of Beans at Mighty Quinn
- Burger at Roberta's
- Lamb on Naan at Salvation Taco
- Slice at Williamsburg Pizza
Not Photographed But Still Delicious
Pork, Tofu, and Olives at Royal Seafood Restaurant: slightly briny olives, cubes of stir fried pork, and rectangles of crisply fried tofu, all in a taco bell-like basket. Sounds weird, I know; tastes seriously delicious, I also know.
Roast Pork Sandwich at Torrisi Italian Specialties: Pretty damn consistently, Mario Carbone and his merry band of cooks dedicated to elevating Italian-American classics hit home runs. This roast pork, broccoli rabe, and provolone sandwich saves me trips to Philly to John's. In fact, I hate to say it, but it's better than John's, which is saying a lot, because I love John's Roast Pork.
Chicken Schnitzel at Balaboosta: Balaboosta is one my go-to lunch spots, and though I am usually virtuous in ordering the very fine cabbage salad with grilled chicken and crispy noodles in a mint cumin vinaigrette, every once in a while I go off the reservation with Einat Admony's cornmeal-crusted chicken schnitzel, which is crunchy and juicy and chicken-y at the same time—what else do you want in a chicken schnitzel? (The honorable mention on the block is the schnitzel by another name, the chicken Milanese salad at Rubirosa. Order two slices of their incomparable thin-crusted Staten Island-style pizza and the Milanese salad, and you will eating good in the neighborhood.)
Cranberry Raisin Pecan Bread at Balthazar Bakery: This is the bread that, when toasted, is the world's greatest vehicle for a peanut butter sandwich, made with Peanut and Butter Company's smooth peanut butter and preserves from Oregon.
French Dip Sandwich at Minetta Tavern: Yup, I do love the Black Label burger, the cote de boeuf, and every potato preparation in this most classic of Greenwich Village restaurants, but if like me you've never really had a great French dip sandwich—sliced beef piled just high enough on a hero roll, a ramekin of the beefiest jus/gravy imaginable that you must use to enhance every glorious bite—order one here. You won't be disappointed.
Patty Melt at Steak n Shake: They don't call it a patty melt. It's called a Frisco Melt, but believe me, it is a patty melt, and a glorious one at that: two pieces of griddled sourdough bread, American and Swiss cheeses, a griddled patty that is a little too small for the contours of the bread, and some Thousand Island dressing-like concoction they call "sweet n tangy Frisco sauce." Ask for the bread nice and crispy. Otherwise, the off-white bread looks like grease has been spilled on it. Plus, you want that bread nice and toasty and golden brown.
Breakfast Potatoes at Maialino: Okay, I had to include one breakfast dish from Maialino, and though I can never go there without ordering the insanely delicious lemon ricotta pancakes with the crispy edges, my most recent discovery are the breakfast potatoes, home fries that I believe chef Nick Anderer told Kenji are either fried in lard or duck fat. Either way, the end result is the hash browns of my dreams. Order some for the table, but make sure the server places them next to you. Wherever these potatoes are are where you want to be.
Wonton soup from East Corner Wonton: We've been doing a lot of wonton soup tasting in the office, and though it is not a unanimous choice, I love the wonton soup at East Corner Wonton. The broth is loaded with salty chicken flavor, the shrimp and pork wontons are made with baby shrimp with a little bite to them, and the wonton skins themselves are delicate enough that I don't mind that they occasionally fall apart, spilling their contents into the tasty soup. Not a bad outcome.
Latkes at Stage Restaurant: Restaurant latkes are usually too thick or don't have the requisite crunchiness on the outside and tenderness on the inside that my grandmother used to manage each and every time she made a latke for the Levine family (sometimes our hungry crew of four brothers had her make 100 or more). But somehow the Stage Restaurant, a middle-European greasy spoon that consisted of a long counter and stools that should have replaced a while ago, made latkes that do my grandmother's justice.
George Weld's Hash Brown Bar at Smorgasburg. First Prize Pie's Allison Kave's Peach Seasonal Ingredient Pie and Apple Caramel Pie, which tastes like a tarte tatin in pie form (as lovely a pie thought as I could think of). Dale Talde's pretzel dumplings at Talde or his pork sandwich from Pork Slope.