Manhattan may already be an island of a thousand food carts and five-star restaurants, dive-bars and delicatessens, eateries and takeaways, but its inhabitants are always eager for the hotly awaited new food thing.
Visitors to the city can encounter an endless array of world-famous restaurants and cocktail bars, inspired by guidebooks, online best-of lists and stars. Yet for those who prefer their culinary journeys shaken, not chauffeured, Manhattan offers many more unexpected epicurean escapades.
Or, put down the guidebook (just not this one…) and follow the star of Brooklyn, towards Fort Green; an idyllic enclave of equally unexpected restaurants and enviable eateries, far from clamorous Manhattan. Whichever you choose, each hold culinary treats aplenty.
When he wasn’t travelling or residing in Marfa, Texas, the renowned sculptor Donald Judd inhabited a former garment factory (built in 1870) in SoHo. Acquired in 1968 to serve as his home and studio, until his death in 1994, Judd assembled an extraordinary collection of contemporary artworks and artefacts, which he displayed throughout all five extraordinary floors – and which are now open to the public (http://juddfoundation.org/visit/new-york/). Duchamp’s shovel and Dan Flavin’s fluorescent pieces effortlessly entwine with African masks, Czech glassware and Sicilian ceramics. Whilst works by Frank Stella and Claes Oldenburg sit alongside iconic furniture designed by Alvar Aalto, Gerrit Rietveld and Judd himself.
Kitchenware, crockery, eclectic tableware, great stacked towers of supper plates and serving bowls, even contraptions of the sculptor’s own creation, are all found within the expansive second-floor kitchen, suggesting Judd may have been an ardent gourmand, or accomplished chef. But this was not the case: daughter Rainer recalled her father cooking infrequently – she was instead sent regularly to nearby delicatessen Dean & DeLuca (https://www.deandeluca.com/) to collect edibles. So, whilst the kitchen may not have been used for gastronomic endeavour, it’s still a sight to marvel over.
The Headquarters of the United Nations were constructed in 1952 on the grounds of a former abattoir, and were designed by ten architects, including Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer. Naturally the thousands of employees within must eat, and eat they do, at the United Nation’s white-tableclothed Delegates Dining Room on the fourth floor. Regular folk can also lunch here, amidst ambassadors, delegates and international powerbrokers, while overlooking beautiful panoramic vistas of the East River, Queensboro Bridge, Roosevelt Island and Long Island City’s waterfront.
With a menu authored by executive chef Dan Lopez (who was the senior executive chef for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he served over 36,000 meals a day), the prix fixe buffet luncheon is fit for all the world’s kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, and encompasses recipes from Greece, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Morocco.
Nothing is perhaps more quintessentially New York than the bagel-serving, chrome-countered delicatessen. Imported with the city’s early twentieth-century European and Jewish immigrants, and found now throughout all five boroughs, at any imaginable hour one can always devour the saltiest pastrami on rye bread, baked potato knishes, cold tongue or liver pâtés and matzo ball soups.
Katz’s Delicatessen (http://katzsdelicatessen.com/) on the Lower East Side, founded in 1888, is one of the city’s oldest and most renowned, drawing seemingly endless queues of regulars and tourists for their corned beef, pastrami and salami. Here too is where the infamous scene from When Harry Met Sally was set. If you prefer surf to turf, hasten to another New York institution, nearby Russ & Daughters (http://www.russanddaughters.com/), for the Big Apple’s finest smoked salmon, herring, sturgeon and lox, accompanied - of course - by golden-baked bagels and succulent cream cheese. NoLita’s Black Seed bagel shop (http://www.blackseedbagels.com/) and Harry & Ida’s Meat & Supply (http://www.meatandsupplyco.com/) in the East Village are also well worth a visit for any delicatessen connoisseurs.
Fort Greene, so-named for an American Revolutionary War fort, is where majestic avenues of elegant brownstones house several notable restaurants, all characterised by the neighbourhood’s relaxed charm. Williamsburg’s older, more sedate cousin perhaps, full of quiet and bough-lined streets, is the place to encounter Brooklyn’s creative classes alongside the area’s more established residents. Savour delicious plates from renowned establishments including Roman’s (http://romansnyc.com/), a contemporary Italian affair on Dekalb Avenue. With a daily-changing menu, delicious tagliatelle and tilefish spiedini, taleggio crostini, radicchio and casarrecce can be accompanied by one of their impeccable house-made cocktails.
Another nearby, equally renowned staple, Lulu & Po (http://www.luluandpo.com/), offers New American cuisine including lentils and fregula, bone marrow tacos and delectable firehouse chicken. Or stroll over to white-tiled Martha (http://www.marthabrooklyn.com/) for dishes suffusing pan-Asia with new America, including sesame-panko fried oysters, squid and grapefruit or miso-ginger kale salad, duck fat chicken wings and roasted pork belly bao.
New York City may be famed for large, cheap pizza slices, but for a golden triangle worthy of a Neapolitan pizzaiolo, head to Speedy Romeo (http://www.speedyromeo.com/#home), housed in a former auto parts store, for extraordinary pizza pies of the traditional, hardwood-fired, delicately charred variety.