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Michele Marchetti: Six NYC Eateries to Go (and Enjoy)

by on October 18, 2011 6:00 AM

No disrespect to the lovable owners of Margarita’s (the No. 1 spot in town for pizza, service and overall tolerance for three-year-olds), but my favorite pizza place isn’t local.

But it isn’t that far away either.

Route 80 may be filled with tractor-trailers, McDonald's and few scenic rewards, but it connects us to the best road-trip restaurants around.

Just on the other side of that (cough) $12 toll for the Lincoln Tunnel is a food lover’s paradise.

Recently, during a weekend-long celebration of my mother-in-law’s 60th birthday, I added a few new names to my favorite places to eat in New York City. But today I’m sharing some of my classics, the places I visit nearly every time I return.  

If you haven’t visited the city, let this be your excuse. If you have and are already planning your next visit back, bookmark this link -- because the best way to experience New York City is by eating your way through it.

CIAO FOR NOW

So much more than a coffee shop, Ciao for Now will satisfy your breakfast, brunch, lunch and cupcake cravings. My vegan friends would go crazy for this place: the owners regularly feature a lunch special with some combination of veggies (kale is a popular choice), grains, and spices.

But my real reason for visiting this place every time we return to the city is to order a dozen pumpkin loaves. Once a month I pull one out of the freezer and pretend I’m sitting on the beat-up bench outside the café, sipping a latte and caving in to my son’s request for just one more red velvet cupcake.

GRUPPO

In my humble foodie opinion, the best pizza in New York City (and possibly even the country) is at Gruppo or any of its spin-offs. The crust is thin, the mozzarella is high quality, and the jukebox is a mix of Al Green, The Beatles and Aretha Franklin. If you really want to overindulge, try the cheesy garlic bread and the sausage and roasted red pepper pizza.

GRAMERCY TAVERN

It’s where my dad celebrated his 50th birthday, where my husband and I have toasted many anniversaries, and where many of our recently married friends have visited on our dime. (If I were getting married tomorrow, I’d register for restaurant gift certificates, not pots and pans.)

Gramercy Tavern consistently attracts rave reviews, while maintaining a completely down-to-earth atmosphere. This is where you linger over gourmet food for three hours, while drinking enough wine and beer from local breweries and wineries to take the sting out of the bill. The waiters and waitresses are incredibly knowledgeable and down-to-earth, so you’re also getting a minor in culinary arts with your meal.

I’m not sure if they still give diners a complimentary muffin for your breakfast the following morning, but for your sake, I hope they do.

SHAKE SHACK

Brought to you by the same genius who opened Gramercy Tavern, the Shake Shack is, as its name implies, nothing more than a spot to order and pick up. But the cheeseburgers are a work of art.

The meat comes from a third-generation butcher who turns a blend of sirloin, chuck, and brisket into a melt-in-your mouth treat that disappears in one-tenth of the time that it’ll take you to buy it. There are seven Shake Shacks in New York City; each attracts ridiculously long lines, some more ridiculous than others.

My husband and son love the shakes, but I usually opt for a beer, especially since they usually have Brooklyn on tap. My personal favorite is the original Madison Square Park Shake Shack, since it’s close to one of our favorite playgrounds.

SAN LOCO

At San Loco, order one Queso Loco and one Guaco Loco -- it’ll cost you less than a ticket to the movies -- and take them to Tompkins Square Park for quality people watching.

CHELSEA MARKET

Food should be more than something that’s enjoyed at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It can and should be the focal point of your day, like a trip to the museum or Central Park.

You can spend hours at Chelsea Market, eating, window-shopping and actually shopping. By the time you’ve done all three, you’ll be ready to eat again. On a recent visit -- painfully short -- I picked up a jar of McClure's Pickles (owned by a Penn State graduate), some phenomenal cheese, salted caramel and a few People’s Pops—New York’s current food obsession. Essentially pureed fruit and sugar water, the pops are the perfect treat for a walk through another New York City gems: the High Line, just a few yards away.



Michele Marchetti is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of StateCollege.com. Prior to moving to State College, she spent more than 10 years writing for national magazines. Her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Glamour, U.S. News & World Report, Runner's World, Good Housekeeping, Working Mother, Yoga Life and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MMStateCollege or contact her at [email protected]
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