NYC eats for an Aussie
March 5, 2015 11:50 AM   Subscribe

My friend is coming to New York City from Australia this weekend. I'm a local, so I don't have any idea what sort of restaurants I should take her to that both say "New York" and that she wouldn't be able to get in Australia. Thoughts?
posted by roomthreeseventeen to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
While she's still jetlagging, get her up early to get in line for cronuts at the Dominique Ansel bakery on spring street. They usually sell out by 9am and people line up around 6-7am (according to the cashier). Everything else there is awesome too, even if you miss out.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:04 PM on March 5, 2015

Oh, also Eataly on 23rd street. Just moved back here after a decade in L.A. and was thrilled I had forgotten about the quantity/quality of European import goods you can get here. Really good diners and bodegas will probably also be a novelty. There's a really fun modern retro diner on 14th just west of 6th (7th?), north side of street...can't remember the name...but am starving so I might just go there now :9
posted by sexyrobot at 12:09 PM on March 5, 2015

PIZZA. All the Australian pizza I had was terrible.
posted by zutalors! at 12:13 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's not a full restaurant, but Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery definitely says New York and should be fun and unique enough for anyone from another country.
posted by foid at 12:15 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Pizza, bagels, food from a cart (not a food truck, although those can be good too), egg cream, Flushing for dim sum. That's just off the top of my head.
posted by Automocar at 12:22 PM on March 5, 2015

In general, I would avoid East Asian and Southeast Asian as I believe Australia is strong in those cuisines.

Some "Only in NY" types of foods / experiences:
bagels and smoked salmon at Russ & Daughters (they have both a retail store and a sit down cafe now, very busy on weekends)
pastrami on rye from Katz's Deli (from When Harry Met Sally, also pretty busy on weekends/nights)
coal oven fired thin crust pizza from John's on Bleecker (whole pies only, 1-2 toppings max, ask for it well done)
hot dogs & papaya juice from Papaya King etc. (not gourmet but iconic)
black and white cookies from William Greenberg's
cheesecake from Junior's
egg creams from Gem Spa or Ray's in the East Village
pickles from the Pickle Guys*
halal cart food from the Halal Guys (multiple locations but the best New York experience would be late night at the SW corner of 53rd and 6th, assuming the weather cooperates enough to eat outside)

* Note also that some of the traditional places on the LES (like Pickle Guys) are usually closed on Saturdays because of religious observance.

Some things not specific to NY but more to the USA in general:
BBQ from Mighty Quinn's
Fried chicken/southern food from Pies 'n' Thighs, Root & Bone, Bobwhite, etc.
Fried chicken and waffles at Amy Ruth's
A lobster roll from Pearl Oyster Bar, Red Hook Lobster Pound, etc
Burgers at Shake Shack (multiple locations)
Steak at Keens (not the absolute best in town but it has great NY history and is relatively easy to get in)
A huge gut busting brunch at Shopsin's (assuming you'll tolerate the line and the cursing)

Have a great weekend!
posted by kathryn at 12:41 PM on March 5, 2015 [13 favorites]

Oh god as an Aussie NYC pizza is terrible, it's all freaking cheese & sauce and no toppings, though trying it as a comparison might be up their alley, even if I haven't like the US versions of stuff I have loved being able to compare & having cool stories about the differences. Now a Chicago Pizza they might find interesting. Asian food is huge in Australia, so if they are from even a medium sized city they will have most likely had some pretty damn good Asian/Asian fusion food.

Mexican food is really hard to find good versions off in Australia. They may want to try "Street Meat" as all you see of NYC in Australia is people eating hot dogs from carts.

Bakeries are big in Australia too every town even tiny "villages" have their own bakery pretty much with fresh baked breads, cakes etc having said that Bagels would most likely be a hit as they are so much better in the US. Everything Kathryn above suggested also. If they have never been to the US before do not underestimate their desire to try stuff like twinkies & candies/drinks they have only seen on TV shows, so if they are staying with you having a stockpile of that sort of thing to try would go down well.

For the love of God take her to a good NY Deli for a Ruebens or something similar, make sure they get a Dill pickle to try.
posted by wwax at 12:48 PM on March 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm American living in Sydney (originally from CA, but I've been to NYC a number of times). Things she can't get are: good cake-style doughnuts (not krispy kreme), good bagels (Jewish/deli in general), pizza is different, Mexican/Puerto Rican/Latino food in general (all terrrrrrible here*). BBQ, Fried chicken and waffles, a hot dog.

They have heaps of excellent burgers, steaks, baked goods, seafood, Asian food of all types from the whole continent, lots of very good middle eastern (gyros etc.) and Italian food too. They also do excellent breakfasts here - it's a "thing" to go out for breakfast.

Honestly, one of the things I really miss is booths. Like, the ease of sliding into a diner booth and getting a big cheap plate of pancakes and reading the paper. Breakfasts here are very much in "restuarants". It's tiring. A really good blue-plate-special type diner would be perfect. Meatloaf.

When I go the States, I just eat Mexican/Latin food the whole time. Here it's mostly just tacos and burritos. Things like tamales, pupusas, or anything from other countries - Puerto Rican, Dominican, etc. are virtually unheard of here.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:59 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

as all you see of NYC in Australia is people eating hot dogs from carts

These days it's more likely shwarma or felafel from the ubiquitous halal carts. :)
posted by aught at 1:01 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should have mentioned that we already have plans to go to Ben's Deli and Hill Country BBQ.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:04 PM on March 5, 2015

I'm a NZer living in NYC, and when my friends visit from NZ and Australia all they want to eat is real bagels, Mexican food and to go to diners. Some also like BBQ.
posted by gaspode at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yep, bagels, delis, and Mexican food. My Aussie husband was also fascinated by American diners and any bar that served you food on wax paper in a red plastic basket ("like in the movies!"). Also, while Aussie breakfasts are good, American brunch is its own thing that is also worth an introduction.

If your friend is from Sydney, cronuts may not be that exciting. They're everywhere in cafes there, and pretty underwhelming, so standing in line for one at 6AM may not sound fun.
posted by olinerd at 1:14 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Pizza for sure.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:45 PM on March 5, 2015

I'm an Australian, and I was taken to Smith and Wollensky in NYC last year - it totally blew my mind and was unlike anything I've had in Sydney.

Mexican food for sure. The Australian versions are pale imitations.

Boozy brunches. Not a thing here.

Chicken and waffles! Sweet Chick in the Lower East Side was a revelation.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:03 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Beyond Sushi! It is a vegan sushi place that sells amazing tasting vegan rolls (and I say this as an omnivore) and seems like the sort of place you could only find in a major city. They have 2 or 3 locations. Along the same line, Champs Diner (in Brooklyn) is a great vegan diner that is really fun. They even have red velvet pancakes :).
posted by miss so and so at 2:08 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agreed with Russ & Daughters (both). Joe's on Carmine for a slice. Fette Sau for BBQ by the lb, definitely popular with the UK crowd every time I've been.
posted by kcm at 2:37 PM on March 5, 2015

I would pick Katz's deli over Ben's.
The Halal guys have opened a sit down place at 307 e 14th st.
Nthing Mexican.
posted by brujita at 2:59 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

As an ex-American living in Australia with family in New York (so I go back there reasonably often) I nth the Mexican, deli and diner experiences. If your friend is from Melbourne, take her to Little Italy so she can get a decent coffee, as opposed to the swill served most other places. She will probably be very surprised by what New Yorkers call pizza. Not to place judgement here, it's very much a personal taste thing - I preferred Aussie-style the second I was introduced to it. Definitely also the hoagie/sub (from a real deli, not a Subway for heaven's sake) and dill pickle experience; bagels and pastrami also.

For extra credit, just wander up and down a supermarket. I still find this amazing when I go back; there's just SO MUCH STUFF and the weird, unexpected similarities are almost as disconcerting as the differences. If she is adventurous, try her on grape, root beer and/or cinnamon flavoured things (not actual grapes or cinnamon; the artificial flavours). In my experience, those are uniquely American and Australians are often weirded out by them.

Have fun and I hope she's brought you some Tim Tams!
posted by Athanassiel at 3:30 PM on March 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yeah, Mexican food here is the worst (and it's trendy right now in Melbourne so you can have your choice of crowded, mediocre-to-terrible dining experiences).
I am a Pacific NWer so I have strong feelings about beer. Beer here is super-expensive, and there isn't a huge quantity of microbreweries much less brewpubs. So if you have a favored brewpub that might be a nice cultural experience.
Drip coffee is not a thing here - it's all espresso or instant or more rarely French press. Cafe culture is huge but drip coffee isn't, so if you have a favored purveyor of the basic cup of joe, that's a small thing that's completely different.
posted by gingerest at 4:09 PM on March 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Black and white cookies from the Donut Pub and Peruvian fusion from the improbably amazing Coppelia next door (24 hour diner with great cocktails).
posted by Salamandrous at 4:29 PM on March 5, 2015

Oh, PIE. Apple, lemon, cherry... Fruit pie isn't really done here and when it is it's pretty mediocre. A diner would do. :)
posted by jrobin276 at 4:53 PM on March 5, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'll second Fette Sau in Williamsburg for barbecue and join the chorus of Katz's recommendations. Also, consider Veselka on 2nd Ave and 9th Street in the Village--it's possible another restaurant in NYC makes better matzo ball soup, borscht, and pierogi, but I haven't found it yet.
posted by Owlcat at 8:22 PM on March 5, 2015

I'm Australian and the first time I went to NY, or indeed America, I was so keen to eat in a diner. I loved going to my first few, and still do. Love them booths, the kinda cheesy old world charm of it all. Especially ordering a milkshake like I was in Happy Days or something.

Although your coffee generally is kinda lame compared to ours [sorry, it's true] we are all generally in awe of free re-fills. I loved the free re-fills!
posted by honey-barbara at 8:35 PM on March 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not quite a sit-down restaurant but certainly a delicious eatery and a New York institution: Zabar's! You two could start your day there with breakfast, buy some pastries and vittles to go, and then browse their kitchenwares. Their signature orange-and-yellow mugs are just a few bucks each and make great souvenirs, too.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:33 PM on March 5, 2015

Pies'n'Thighs and Little Pie Company will have far better pie than the average NY diner.
posted by brujita at 11:48 PM on March 5, 2015

Here's NY magazine's list of best vintage diners.
posted by brujita at 11:55 PM on March 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just to point out that there is no such thing as a single, monolithic style of "NYC pizza." There are slice shops, there are steel deck oven places, there are all the neo-Neapolitan wood fired places, and there are the old school coal fired places. The latter category is really the oldest and most local style, being found indigenously only in NYC and New Haven. I would suggest, in this order, trying Grimaldi's, the original East Harlem Patsy's or Lombardi's (America's first pizzeria). The neo-Neapolitan places (Keste, Motorino, Co., Paulie Gee's, etc.) are also worth trying for a completely different experience. Steel deck oven places, not so much. They may be better than a lot of the shitty pizza in America, but with only a few exceptions (Di Fara, Sal and Carmine's most notably) they're nothing special.
posted by slkinsey at 4:05 AM on March 6, 2015

For steak houses Wolfgang's on Park Avenue is the best in Manhattan and second only to Peter Luger IMO (you're not getting into Peter Luger).

Best barbecue right now Is probably Mighty Quinn, although this is a rapidly evolving field in NYC.

I would very much recommend against Little Italy for coffee, although there are a number of high end coffee joints in the city now.
posted by slkinsey at 4:13 AM on March 6, 2015

For coffee, Blue Bottle (originally W'burg but now all over NYC (Rock Center, Chelsea, and the High Line to name a few) is the original third wave place from the West Coast. Good way to start seeing modern coffee. My preference is for the Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea, though.
posted by kcm at 6:57 AM on March 6, 2015

We already have plans to go to Ben's Deli

Not to nitpick your plans, but unless you have a reason to be in the neighborhood it would be a shame to miss out on Katz's in favor of Ben's Deli. Ben's is fine. Good, even. Especially for Midtown West. But it's no Katz's, both in terms of the quality of the pastrami/corned beef as well as in terms of history, ambiance and essential New Yorkness.
posted by slkinsey at 9:38 AM on March 6, 2015

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