I was terrified of going to New York City.
The last time I was in ‘The Big Apple’ was in 2000 and I remember it still having a Ghostbusters’ level of crime, graffiti and garbage.
Most of that has been cleaned up now and the city’s leaders boast about how safe NYC is.
So I wasn’t afraid of the crime. Or the traffic – I’d lived in London for five years and ridden the tube in rush hour enough to handle anything.
What was I afraid of?
Too much food choice
The great fear of every traveller is that they will go somewhere and miss something amazing – and lie awake at night thinking ruefully about it.
And in New York I was very, very worried that I would make bad choices on where to eat.
New York City is famous for a lot of reasons. They’re better described by Frank Sinatra, Alicia Keys and Nas, but I’ve always wanted to get stuck into the food there.
Pizza, hero subs, meatballs, food carts, hot dogs, pretzels Little Italy, China Town, uptown and downtown. There are so many choices and we only had two days and three nights to make them. I wanted everything we ate to be amazing.
How you can go to New York City and make the most of every meal
So, where and how can you find the best eats in New York City?
Get the locals to show you.
We booked a culinary circuit of Greenwich Village with Foods of New York Tours and met our guide Raheem Zaviralli, a local fellow who has made it his personal mission to seek out the best and steer away from the worst.
Greenwich Village is a foodie paradise and Raheem took us to a bunch of places that get his and the local’s stamp of approval.
Our favourites stops on a Foods of New York Tour through Greenwich Village:
1. Joe’s Pizza.
That was my reaction when Raheem told us how expensive the rent was for the owners of this pizzeria on Carmine St.
But the colossal expense is dwarfed by the sheer number of customers and slices Joe’s pumps out every day.
This isn’t any old fast food.
The mozzarella cheese is freshly made every day, the tomato sauce is of the highest quality and the dough is hand rolled.
Best slice I have ever had.
And if it’s good enough for regular Leonardo DiCaprio, it’s good enough for me.
2. O & Co
Store your olive oil in a dark place away from heat. Not next to the stove like most people do.
That was the first thing our hosts at this Greenwhich Village shop devoted to the good oil told us as they passed around samples.
And there are so many better uses for olive oil than just cooking with it, as we soon learned as we sampled its deliciousness.
The flavour of the oil was so good it would be a shame to waste it in a hot pan. Lesson learned.
3. Palma Italian Restaurant.
Palma’s is a family owned and operated dining institution on Cornelia St.
We had the privilege of going into the family’s home out the back which is one of the few remaining examples of a coach house on all of Manhattan Island.
We tried a bowl of Cavolfiore Palma, a cauliflower based dish with pine nuts and black currants.
I had seconds, unsurprisingly.
4. Faicco’s – Italian Speciality Shop
Every day there is a line of cops inside Faicco’s ordering sandwiches filled with sliced meat handmade by the owners.
That’s a pretty good sign to me and when our tour went inside we had a taste of the meat that the fun stoppers crave so much.
It made me want to join the NYPD just so I could enjoy a lunch like that every day!
5. Milk and Cookies Bakery
I deny I have a sweet tooth.
Carmen, my mother and mother-in-law all disagree, and constantly remind me of my weakness for sugar by making cakes and biscuits.
They call biscuits ‘cookies’ over in the USA and the Milk and Cookies bakery on Commerce St makes them big and fresh.
I wolfed my free sample down with a delicious cup of tea.
A perfect combo for my Aussie taste buds.
The coolest thing about the tour, aside from all the delicious food we sampled, was that at the end I felt I had seen something genuine.
Not only had I learnt about the best places to eat in Manhattan, but Raheem had told us a lot about the architecture and the history of the area, so that we could really appreciate our experience.
On the subway back to Brooklyn I felt very at ease for the first time in the Big Apple.
I hadn’t been hoodwinked, sidetracked or disappointed by a sub par slice of pizza or an overpriced plate of pasta. In fact, the Foods of New York Tour through Greenwich Village is one of the best things we’ve done in the USA so far.
Why? Because we’d eaten where the locals eat and been shown some of the best food New York City has to offer.
Now to find the rest…
Thanks to New York Food Tours who provided us with two complimentary tickets for the Greenwich Village tour. All views are our own.
What you need to know:
How much – Foods of New York Tours charge $49 for a 3 hour tour where you get 6 street tastings and 1 inside a restaurant. Maximum of 16 people in each group. It’s well worth the money!
How to get there – Our tour met on Bleecker Street and we took the subway and our legs to get there. Meeting points vary depending on what tour you sign up for. New York City parking is VERY expensive so we don’t recommend driving.
When to go – Any time is good. It was a mix of very sunny and torrential rain when we went on our tour of Greenwich Village and we just spent more time inside each restaurant if it was raising. Raheem went and bought us ponchos to help protect us from the rain, which was very considerate! The tour operates in all weather.