A local’s Guide to the Ultimate Winter Food Bucket List in New York City
December 16, 2017
A New Yorker’s Ultimate Winter Food Bucket List in New York City
Ugh, I hate writing food guides like this ultimate winter food bucket list in New York City. And no, it’s not because I have some weird aversion to food. Quite the opposite actually. Some people eat to live but I live to eat, and I have no shame about it. Unless I eat a whole box of donuts in one sitting, which I have been known to do but that’s a different story (Emotional eater up in here. That’s why I can write a best food in New York city cheap guide). That’s why I am always embracing my inner chubby child and calling myself a “foodie” to make it more socially acceptable for me to eat my face off on a regular basis.
So why the hatred for writing about food? Well, as you probably know, I LOVE to talk, write whatever. I just love the sound of my own voice whether it’s on paper or in real life. Seriously, you cannot shut me up. Thank God you’re not with me and can just close this blog post when you’re tired of my vain attempts at juvenile humor. But when I write about food, I run out of things to say. I mean how many times can you be like, “Yum. So good. Eat this”. Seriously, it gets old after about two seconds. Plus I’m not a Top Chef judge and don’t have a list of 10,000 adjectives to describe the nutty yet earthy flavor profile of the lightly textured Portobello mushroom. For real, what does that even mean?
But I feel like I have to write about food since memories of food are some of the strongest memories that I have. I mean I can still taste those candy cane shaped almond cookies that my mom used to bake when I was little. They were so good and I tried to make them again but they sucked ass because my mom didn’t make them. Never fear though, I didn’t make any of the foods on this best food places in New York City so they won’t suck, scout’s honor. And if for some reason any of the “best food to eat in New York City” do suck, just let me know and I’ll send back to the foodie hell where they belong.
So in spite of my tremendous loathing for food writing (just picture me rubbing my tummy and going, “Yum, yum, yum,” about 12 million times) I am going to write this post because not only do I want you to enjoy New York City, but I want you to feel like New York City is your home away from home. And there is not better way to obtain that feeling than from some good old fashioned, stick to your ribs and make your pants tight, winter food. So let’s let the calorie fest and winter fat storage contest begin (What? You wouldn’t want to waste away during the harsh winter months would you?I mean, it is my moral obligation to never let that happen to you. Plus, you don’t want to end up like 95% of the Pilgrims).
***You may not know this about me but I’ m a vegetarian. And no, I’m not gonna shove it down your throat and try and convert you because it’s a personal thing and I truly believe that you are allowed to eat all the meat you want. Therefore, you’ll only find vegetarian food on this list. Yes thank God most desserts are vegetarian friendly. But that doesn’t mean that New York doesn’t have amazing brisket or short ribs, or ox tail soup that you can swan dive into. It just means that I haven’t eaten it and therefore can’t recommend it.
1. Four Cheese Mac and Cheese at Mac Bar
I want to take a moment to thank the culinary genius who created a restaurant that is dedicated solely to the creation of one of my favorite foods of all time, macaroni and cheese. Seriously, dreams really do come true in this tiny, four table, restaurant/take out joint. And this mac and cheese is made extraordinarily well with a perfect ratio of cheese to pasta to crunchy topping in each dish. Throw in some amazing spice combinations and you have an insanely delicious meal for only $7.99 (for a small container). Totally awesome since the cost of food in New York City can be pretty steep.
But don’t think for a second that they just serve your run of the mill mac and cheese. No, never. Their diverse and amazing menu contains entrees like lobster mac, shroom’ mac, the traditional, four cheese, and primavera. So even if you hate just about everything, except pasta and cheese because those ingredients are essential to any dish at this restaurant, I firmly believe that you will find something at this resident cheese lovers mecca in New York City.
Address: 54 Prince Street, New York, New York
Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11am – 11pm and Friday and Saturday: 11 am – 12 am
***DuMont Burger is located at 314 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and has like the best ever mac and cheese (minus the bacon). But it’s all the way in Williamsburg and sometimes I just want comfort food that is close to home because yes, a food coma makes me lazy like that.
2. Hot Chocolate at Max Brenner
This place is basically any chocoholics dream (bring on the mildly severe case of diabetes. Kidding, I know diabetes is no joke. Just ask Mary Tyler Moore). Not only are the savory dishes here generally served with a dash of chocolate inspired, divine sweetness, but the desserts here are the stuff that gastronomic euphoria is made of. And what better way to go back to the nostalgia of your youth than with a nice cup of hot cocoa. I always used to warm up on snow days with a tall cup of swiss miss, with milk not water because water makes it gross. And you can’t forget those little freeze dried marshmallows to add that extra special sugar addled flourish.
But hot chocolate has come a long way since then. Not only does Max Brenner have a mug that is specially designed to be hugged by both hands so that you can really savor this chocolatey, creamy goodness, but there are a ton of flavors to choose from like Italian thick, Hazelnut, Mocha, Marshmallow, Oreo, and many more. My personal favorite is the peanut butter hot chocolate, which is a decadent mix of an insanely sweet and slightly thick hot chocolate that is expertly combined with a hint of salty, peanut butter flavor that helps balance the sweetness. A totally great way to warm up on a cold day (and for the bargain basement price of $6. And all flavors come in milk, dark, or white chocolate. Talk about great cheap food in New York City). Also be prepared because their hot chocolate is insanely sweet so you can’t drink a ton of it, and this is coming from someone who has a saber tooth tiger size sweet tooth (Currently, for the holiday season, the Bryant Park Christmas market has a Max Brenner stand that is right in Bryant Park).
Address: 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
Hours: Open 9:00 am -12:00 am Monday through Thursday, open 9:00 am to 1:00 am on Fridays/Saturdays and open 9 am to 11:00 pm on Sundays.
3. A Warm Chocolate Chip and Walnut Cookie from LeVain Bakery
The cookies here are better than the one’s my mom used to make (actually, what am I talking about? My mom never made cookies) or the ones Martha Stewart used to make if you’re mom was an M.I.A. baker. I was the kid that never got homemade cupcakes and always had to settle for the store bought, Freihofer kind (no, I’m not bitter about it. Not even a little bit).
Okay back to happier topics like LeVain Bakery cookies. Not only are these nuggets of delight decadently moist and gooey (so if you’re looking for a cookie with crunch, you’re outta luck), but they are enormous in size and flavor, with such traditional varieties as chocolate chip walnut, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, oatmeal raisin, etc. That’s why, it should come as no surprise that that there’s typically a line out the door (thank God for multiple locations). But that’s okay because they’re totally worth the wait, scout’s honor (and I really was a girl scout). But if you hate waiting in line then just mosey on over to the Harlem location on 2167 Frederick Douglas Boulevard (Yes it’s safe since Harlem is now a foodie haven of sorts).
Address: Levain Bakery, 167 West 74th Street (at Amsterdam Avenue); 212-874-6080
Hours: Mon – Sat: 8am-7pm and Sun: 9am-7pm
***Another one of my favorite chocolate chip cookies is the chocolate chip cookie milk shot from Dominique Ansel bakery (the super fancy bakery that started the whole cronut craze and probably has some of the most famous food in New York City). This cookie is served in the shape of a shot glass, with a bit of chocolate frosting. Inside the “glass” is a vanilla infused milk that balances out the rich sweetness of the chocolate in the cookie (guess watching all those Food Network shows has finally paid off). So good that it reminds me of when I was a young whippersnapper and left cookies and milk out for Santa and his reindeer. Yeah, I never forgot the reindeer because they work hard for the money).
4. Holiday Chocolates at La Burdick
Looking for some super adorable holiday chocolates? Then why not try these home made snowmen, mice or penguins at La Burdick? No joke, these are the cutest and tastiest chocolates that I have ever seen and eaten! The penguins are so adorable that you almost can’t eat them. But somehow I managed to bite their little heads off, as cruel and malicious as that sounds. I swear, I’m not some mercenary, Hannibal Lector type of person. The penguins are made of whipped dark chocolate and lemon ganache that is accented with a dash of limoncello. They are also finished with a fine pair of almond wings that almost make you feel like they are about to come to life, like something straight out of Harry Potter. Honestly, if they were enchanted and could sing and dance like in the movie happy feet, my life would be made.
I also tried the chocolate mice and they are just as adorable with their toasted almond ears and silky little tails. I feel kind of like a psychopath eating them but they come in three epic favors so I couldn’t help myself. There is a dark chocolate with an orange interior, a milk chocolate with a mocha interior, and a white chocolate with a cinnamon interior. All of them were insanely delicious but my fave was the white chocolate and I kind of mauled him. Sorry little guy but you were just so darn tasty (talk about good food in New York City).
Address: 156 Prince St, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Open 8:00 am to 9:00 pm from Monday through Saturday and open 10:00 am to 8:00 pm on Sundays.
So the chocolate croissant bread pudding at Maialino’s was my go to food-gasm of choice but sadly, this item is no longer available on the menu (Currently I am sobbing, sucking my thumb, and rocking back and forth while curled up in the fetal position because my stomach and heart feel like it is the apocalypse and that the antichrist has risen in the form of croissant bread pudding destruction). I mean, “What the hell?”. My dreams have been incinerated and have been turned into nothing more than ash and dust in the wind. Okay, I’m begrudgingly brushing my shoulders off. I mean, the bread pudding at Tarry Lodge is heaven but this dessert makes that stuff look like a glorified dog fart.
All right, I’m gonna try and move forward with my life but it’ll be hard. Honestly, I think I was a bad girl this year and I got punished; not with coal mind you but with the loss of this dessert. Well, as a conciliation prize they do have great pasta and other desserts that I guess i’ll have to suffer through. Some of these include Warm Chocolate cake with salted fade caramel and whipped creme fraiche (I love when restaurants list menu items in French. Like instead of calling it whipped cream, we used to call it crème fouettée and charge you like $15 more for it. LoL. Not that creme fraiche is the same thing but it reminds me of it),
Address: 2 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010 (aka Gramercy Park Hotel)
Hours: The hours are crazy so just check the website but just note that they open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner but close in between their designated dinning hours.
6. Dresden Stollen at Balthazar Bakery (Shout Out to my Grandma Hilda who was from Germany)
Okay, I am going to make this super simple for you since the holidays are super insane and everything is generally better when it’s simpler anyway. But one thing at a time. If you are not of slightly German stock like me then you may have no idea what Dresden Stollen is. I mean, is it an outfit or something you use to wipe your nose? Well, since this is a winter food list then it’s a pretty safe bet that this is a holiday desert of some sort. So if that was your process of deductive reasoning then you’d be right, ding, ding, ding. Dresden Stollen is basically like a German version of fruit cake, only I swear it’s really good and isn’t used as a glorified door stop.
Typically, this holiday fruit bread is made with chopped candied or dried fruit, nuts and spices. It is then covered with powdered sugar or icing sugar and is sometimes stuffed with Marzipan since well Germans love their Marzipan (My Grandmother used to give me blocks of it for Christmas. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that like her Turnips, it wasn’t really my thing).
To make your life 10,000 times easier just know that they have a Balthazar Bakery right in Grand Central so don’t feel like you have to trek all over New York City just to find Dresden Stollen. Second thing is that anything and everything is amazing at Balthazar Bakery. I say this because you may read this and want to head to Balthazar to score some Dreseden Stollen for $25 a loaf (not so cheap food New York City). Well, in reality, this traditional, German holiday bread is only around for the, you guessed, holidays. So if you come here at any other time of the year, besides December, you probably won’t find it.
But don’t be bummed because this bakery is bangin’ and has everything from amazing Macarons to Focaccia. So if you don’t get here in time to hop on the Dresden Stollen bandwagon, don’t worry because there are a million other baked goods that will satisfy any and all of your carb cravings.
Address: 80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Open from 7:30 am to 12:00 am from Monday through Thursday, 7:30 am to 1:00 am Friday, 8:00 am to 1:00 am Saturday, and 8:00 am to 12:00 am Sunday.
7. Chocolate Bablka from Breads Bakery
Who doesn’t want Babka of the chocolate variety? Okay, in fairness you may have heard of Babka but you might not know exactly what it is, at least that’s how it was for me. I knew I liked Babka, that it was a sweet carb, and that I probably shouldn’t eat it all the time because it would make me the size of a house but that’s pretty much all I knew. Well, let me blow your mind open for just a moment shall I? Okay, maybe this isn’t the most earth shattering news ever (not like Matt Lauer getting fired for sexual harassment. Say what??), but Babka is found in many Jewish bakeries and is a twisted length of yeast dough that is baked to flakey perfection in a high loaf pan. Instead of a fruit filling though, the dough is typically packed with cinnamon or chocolate in between all the bready layers. On top, babka is usually sprinkled with streusel to create an exquisite contrast between the slightly dry layers of the bread and the sticky sweet swirls of gooey chocolate.
So what does all this mean to you? Well let me put it to you this way, I go and get my Babka from the Breads Bakery kiosk in Bryant Park. I take it home and fervently say to myself, “I will only have a taste and save the rest for later”. Fast forward three minutes and 3/4 of the Babka is gone as I vainly attempt to wipe away the chocolate smears from my face that betray my gluttonous ways. But I blame the Babka since it was so good that I couldn’t help eating it all, and I am not THAT big of a chocolate person. So whatever you do, make sure you get your Babka on (Sorry roomie, I was gonna save you some but then you went to the bathroom and it was all gone. Maybe it was the dog…) And now you know why this is some of the most popular food in New York City.
Address: 18 E 16th St, New York, NY 10003
Hours: Open from 6:30 am to 9:00 pm on Monday through Friday, 6:30 am to 8:00 pm on Saturdays and 7:30 am to 8:00 pm Sunday.
8. Crack Pie from Momofuku Milk Bar
With a name like crack pie you know it’s either going to be amazing or total crap because it’s just an advertising ploy to get you to spend all your money on something that is not worth the calories. However, if the second scenario was true then no way would crack pie be on this list so you are totally safe ordering one during the winter season (aka the season of sugar and carbs).
Actually, everything here is good, so it’s exceedingly hard to find the proper wordage to describe the entire series of insanely awesome, confectionary delights that emerge from this heaven that is more commonly known as a bakery. No joke though, the desserts here are in their own stratosphere, so your biggest problem will be deciding what to order, or you can be like me and just order one of everything, especially since they now deliver. Between the cornflake, chocolate chip, marshmallow cookies, the chocolate malt cake truffles, the crack pie (a toasted oat crust with a gooey butter filling that is way better than it sounds), and a salted pretzel cake, the selection process is rather daunting. I suggest indulging in a bit of nostalgia and ordering Momofuku’s birthday cake. The milk bar entirely reimagined this funfetti cake mix and created a culinary masterpiece of the future. Just think vanilla rainbow cake, layered with rainbow cake crumbs, and topped with vanilla frosting (Way better than the Dunkaroos I had in my lunch box as a kid). But if it’s the holidays, order the Crack Pie because it reminds of the best and gooiest Snickerdoodle cookie that you have ever had.
Address: 15 w 56th street, between 5th and 6th avenues (multiple locations)
Hours: Sun – Wed: 8am – 11pm and Thur – Sat: 8am – 12am
9. The Artichoke Slice at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
Sure they HAVE regular old pizza, but why would go for the ordinary when you can get the extraordinary at this iconic, New York City pizzeria? I mean, you can get traditional, New York style pizza at basically any pizzeria in New York City. So when you come to Artichoke Basille’s in the winter, you gotta get the Artichoke slice. It is basically a nice warm, spinach artichoke dip on a hefty slice of pizza, so a perfect combination of two amazing, winter comfort foods in one. Inside this slice of pure pizza divinity lies artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano Cheese (the Pecorino Romano is an excellent addition because it helps cut the richness of the slice). A sinfully amazing experience that makes me question everything I was taught about what traditional New York pizza really is (but in a good way because this is one of the best pizzas in New York City).
But every slice comes out perfectly baked and beautifully melted, for only $5 a slice (Can we say steal of the century? Talk about great food prices in New York City). And if artichoke dip isn’t your thing, not to worry because they also serve a vodka slice ($5), a crab slice with crab sauce ($5), fresh mozzarella and surimi stuffing ($5), a Sicilian slice ($4.75), and a Margherita slice ($4.75). It may not be healthy but it sure hits the spot after you’ve had a few adult beverages du jour (wink wink). Just be aware that like with anything in New York, the slices are huge so one slice could probably feed like two people, FYI.
Address: 321 East 14th Street New York, NY (East Village location). They also have locations in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenwich, Laguardia, Chelsea, Astoria, Park Slope, Bay Ridge, and Berkley California.
10. City Bakery Pretzel Croissant
But back to food (glorious food) because no one wants to hear my theories about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. For that you’ll have to check out an episode of Dr. Phil or watch an Oprah rerun. So when I went to City Bakery, everyone was all goo goo, ga ga over the hot chocolate that they sell
with home made marshmallows. Everyone I spoke to practically regurgitated the phrase, “Oh my God, City Bakery has the BEST hot chocolate, and you just HAVE to try it (and add it to your New York City visitor guide).” My verdict? Yeah, I didn’t really like it. And I think the hot chocolate is probably good but I just don’t like dark chocolate. It was just a little too bitter for me but it’s all good because that shouldn’t stop you from trying the hot chocolate that basically everyone besides me has kittens over.
10b. Afternoon Tea at the Russian Tea Room (because ten sounds way better than eleven)
I’m not fancy but i’ll get all fancy for this place because it’s that good and everyone should really put it on their New York City tourist guide. And while you can order from the regular menu and get some super cool Russian foods like Borscht, Borscht, and Borscht (I’m not familiar with Russian cuisine guys. Sorry about that), they also have an amazing Afternoon Tea Menu that you can order from.
Yes, you should make reservations at least a week in advance because the Russian Tea Room is super famous (aka super popular) , but it’s all worth it. I ordered from their vegetarian afternoon tea selection and was delighted to receive a Blini with Lingonberry jam, finger sandwiches (chive cream cheese and cucumber, blue cheese with pear and walnuts, artichoke with red pepper sun dried tomato and goat cheese), diced beet and walnut salad, a grilled trio of cheeses, grilled eggplant and Parmesan salad, and avocado and tomato salad.
But my favorite of all (not shocking at all) were the scones. Plus, the clotted cream they serve doesn’t taste like ass. Thank God because most clotted cream and scones in the US taste like cardboard dipped in rancid milk. However, I devoured all my scones, even though I wanted to save room for the cupcakes and petits fours. A truly amazing experience with great food, impeccable service, and wonderful decorations. And true confession, I was totally American about it and ordered coffee instead of tea. Please don’t hate me (LoL)!
***You can add champagne to your Afternoon Tea for $85-$90 a person.
Address: 150 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
Hours: Afternoon Tea is served Monday through Sunday from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm (they also serve lunch and dinner)
Always Leaving You Hungry for More (Worst Pun Ever. But I Couldn’t Help It since this is a New York City Foodie Guide)
I’d be a total liar if I sat here and told you that there were only 10 awesome foods to put on your Winter New York City food guide. In reality, there are more like 10,000 foods that you would love scarfing down from New York City but like the not so old saying goies, “Ain’t nobody got time for that. So I have some honorable mention foods that are just as good as the others, but I just didn’t have time or space to throw them up in here and give them their own official number on this unofficial New York City dining guide.
So if you’re in the Big Apple anyway, you should also consume any of the delicious and totally edible cookie doughs from DŌ, Gingerbread Brownstone cereal from Dominique Ansel Bakery, the Gingerbread doughnut from the world famous Doughnut Plant, and basically anything from William Greenberg Desserts. And yes, there are a ton more but I either don’t eat them, like oxtail soup, or haven’t had them yet. For anything I haven’t eaten yet I am gonna use this blog as excuse to do “research” and basically eat my face off. Ugh, I have such a hard life when creating a New York City inside guide. See how I suffer? LOL. Just whatever you do, don’t forget the TUMS and the elastic waist pants.