One thing is for sure in New York City: You won’t go hungry. Somebody recently did the math: If you were to eat in a different restaurant everyday, it would take you more than 22 years to visit all restaurants of New York City. You find restaurants for any taste, serving any cuisine known to man (though a friend of mine complained that it seems to be impossible to find a good Italian place) and catering to the needs of whatever diet may be en vogue. Almost every restaurant has its selection of vegetarian, vegan, low-carb or gluten-free dishes. And then there are food carts, bodegas (worth another article), delis, supermarkets literally everywhere. And if you really find yourself in a foodfree zone, you may just wait for 20 minutes at the next corner: Chances are, a new place will open in the meantime.
On a side note: You may also lose some weight, while you are here – remember all the walking.
So: How to pick the right place to eat. The Digital Natives will, of course, turn to Yelp (or other apps) to find a place. In my experience, the recoomendations there are kind of trustworthy but might be outdated. So look for the newest comments to get a good picture.
Yet, I also talked to my trusty guide Vergilia about it. And, of course, she also had some easy-to-remember rules.
Vergilia’s Rule #2: If you want to make instant friends, find somebody who is clearly local (e.g. somebody sitting on the stairs to his or her house) and ask him/her: “What’s good to eat around here?”
New Yorkers are not only into food and can discuss nutritional value as well as restaurant quality for hours (always a good topic if you want to avoid arguing politics or talk about the weather … again), their are patriotic about their city, and, especially about their neighborhood. Giving a stranger directions makes them proud. And talking about their favorite place to eat will make your mouth water. On top of that, you’ll make a new friend.
Vergilia’s Rule #3: You can spot the good food carts by the amount of grease stains on the asphalt around them
You will be tempted once in a while to have some food from a food cart. They are everywhere. Some serve Halal food (recommendable because of its strict rules on preparation and hygiene), other Mexican or the good old Hot Dog. Some even specialize in salad and fruit, others in burgers and fries. Yet, it isn’t always easy to spot the good ones. So, Vergilia’s Rule #3 comes in really handy. In a fast-paced, highly competitive city like New York, only the places with good quality and service succeed. So, if there are a lot of grease stains around the cart, it has been there for a longer time … meaning, it has succeeded. As simple as that.
In case you ever find yourself in my current neighbourhood Bushwick and hanker for a salad, you may want to try Greenstreet Salads. This decidedly unpretentious little cornershop serves great soups and salads. You may even compose your own salad, if nothing on the menu is to your liking. It’s fast and good and healthy, though nothing to invite your date to, unless you want to see a show at the Bushwick Starr, a little performance space close by or have an evening indulging in beer at The Sampler, which is also close by.