Pizza, Burgers, and Bbq
No Ray’s Famous allowed. That’s all we have to say.
Go to this East Village spot (you’ll be hopping on and off the nearby L train, anyway) for the artichoke slice, naturally, as well as the $5 32-ounce Budweiser. One of the best new-ish pizza shops in the city. 328 E. 14th St., Manhattan, 212-228-2004.
This good dive near NYU isn’t the kind of spot where you invest a lot of your appetite in the pre-pizza salad. Hold out for a coal-oven 16-inch pie while listening to old-timer jazzbos going at it live, then savor every bite. They char the crusts a little bit here—that’s part of their deal, and in the end, Arturo’s is just as good as Lombardi’s. 106 W. Houston St., Manhattan, 212-677-3820.
One of the only other reasons to go to trendy SoHo. Avoid the somewhat “exotic” square slices with rustic sauces and/or zucchini on the bottom shelf of their counter display case and stick to the heavenly yet simple pepperoni triangle slice, the price of which seems to go up about every half hour. 177 Spring St., Manhattan, 212-966-4494.
DI FARA PIZZA
Local food bloggers bicker over whether this Midwood pizza parlor is clean or dirty (truth: it’s pretty dirty) or whether it is running on fumes nowadays or whether watching an old guy futz with their pizza is kind of patronizing. We, however, aren’t food bloggers and couldn’t give a shit. If you’re in this town to eat pizza, DiFara should be on your list. 1424 Ave. J, Brooklyn, 718-258-1367.
Coal-oven pizza with a view of the East River. One of the best in the city for about 1,000,000 years. 19 Old Fulton St., Brooklyn, 718-858-4300.
A lot of people swear the slices here are mediocre, but they are also roughly the size of a studio apartment in the city. That has to count for something. We liked it when we tried it, and if you’re running low on funds and hanging out near Columbia, you could do worse. 2848 Broadway, Manhattan, 212-222- 1566.
Our Staten Island entry would have been twice as long if we kept this place in there! Lee’s doesn’t get a ton of attention, but it is in our top five pizza places on the planet. Their coal-oven pizzas surpass the vaunted Lombardi’s and just about every other place we’ve tried. Also: Cheap pitchers of domestic beer. Grandmas with shamrock tattoos in Mets gear. Patrons who have never even heard of The Hills and couldn’t be bothered to care. It’s fucking brilliant. The atmosphere, and the trip— you take the Staten Island Ferry (which floats right past the Statue of Liberty), then hop on the elevated “subway” and get off a few stops in at Dongan Hills—is probably 72 percent of why we love this place. 60 Hancock St., Staten Island, 718-667-9749.
Coal oven. First pizzeria in the US. Blah, blah, blah. Still pretty great. In between SoHo and the East Village. 32 Spring St., Manhattan, 212-941-7994.
Photo by Constance Goldmann
The little cracker-crusty pizzas at this Mario Batali joint are just fine to split with friends. But we’re partial to both the lentil and the cauliflower side dishes, as well as one dessert—vanilla ice cream infused with olive oil and topped with coarse sea salt. Also, skip the premeal breadsticks, even though the packaging is attractive. It’ll just kill your appetite. And come early or call ahead, this fucker is always packed. 1 5th Ave., Manhattan, 212-995-9559.
If you followed our advice and wound up in Coney Island, treat yourself to a pizza at Totonno’s. They have other branches in the city (none are as good as this one), and they get knocked on occasion for overly chewy cheese and sogginess, but somehow the same people who say that always go back to give it another try, like 32 times, or still keep it in their top ten list. 1524 Neptune Ave., Brooklyn, 718-372-8606.
Broken-record time: If you have friends that live here, you probably already know about this place, but their slightly spicy Louisiana-meets-Italy slices are, er, whatever another adjective for really great, delicious, tasty, etc. is. Order either a Big Maybelle, a Cleopatra Jones, or a Night Tripper, or all three. We’ve never tried a sandwich here and don’t plan on it. Food snobs will chuckle at this recommendation, but it’s a reliable slice, and when you’re hoofing around lower Manhattan, there’s always a location close by. 74 Bleecker St., Manhattan, 212-777- 1033; 42 Ave. A, Manhattan, 212- 254-1919; 201 W. 11th St., Manhattan, 212-633-9096; 514 Second St., Brooklyn, 718-499-3253.
What’s kick-ass about New York is that a lot of people are taking these things that look a little bit like bread and then sticking cooked ground beef in between them. They’re called hamburgers. You’re probably not ready for one yet, unless you’re really an “extreme” kind of person.
A bit much has been made about this little treasure hunt. The restaurant is actually hidden, but worth finding. 118 W. 57th St., Manhattan, 212-708-7414.
Founded by the same folks who do Pop Burger in the meatpacking district. The $4 burgers at this Lower Manhattan spot are a bit more tolerable (even though Pop Burger is great), if only because they’re served at an old drugstore-style lunch counter, with tiled floors, etc. 30 Water St., Manhattan, 212-425-1000.
Forehead-smackingly obvious. Everyone and their mom has probably tipped you off about the old-school tavern Corner Bistro’s hamburgers. Still, it’d be dumb not to include the Bistro Burger (comes with cheese and bacon) in a guide of must-eats. It’s best to try one at about 11:30 on a Sunday morning before things get too crazy and wash it down with a cheap McSorley’s on tap. Don’t come here at night, wasted—you’ll inevitably eat two burgers, and the next morning you’ll feel like you swallowed a pair of wool trousers. 331 W. 4th St., Manhattan, 212-242-9502.
Either at their restaurant (listed in our Brooklyn section) or at its little offshoot on Bedford. 314 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, 718-384-6128
This is the main reason to go to SoHo. It’s another old-man-seeming place, full of guys who were crossing guards in the Eisenhower administration crying about the Jets. A perfect day would be walking from Corner Bistro to Fanelli’s, then finishing things off at Walker’s in Tribeca. Anyway, the hamburgers here are great—fat, loose, juicy, and served on an onion roll. 94 Prince St., Manhattan, 212- 226-9412.
We’ve never eaten here. But several comrades have sworn to us that this chain is legit, even like “the In-N-Out of the East Coast,” to get Zagat-y on you. I dunno. Generally, when five grown men refer to themselves as “five guys” they’re dicktuggers or doo-woppers or both. “Hey, Maaaa, it’s just us five guys, whudduya want?” And they all have bowling shirts on, salt-and-pepper hair, and faded mom jeans, which they’re totally creaming over some vintage convertible. Three Manhattan locations, two Brooklyn, and one Queens. Google ’em.
Upscale. Super burger. It’s $24, but the pickled red onions are worth it. 390 Park Ave., Manhattan, 212-888-2700.
Another “no doy” burger spot. You have to jump in a long-ass line for this outdoor, somewhat Happy Days-style experience, but the wait is worth it. Check out the shack cam to gauge how painful the crowd is. We love the crinkle-cut fries with extra salt, too. 10 Madison Ave., Madison Square Park, Manhattan, 212-889-6600.
Trendy. So make believe you are Jay-Z or the religious Baldwin brother or Lisa Rinna or something. The Roquefort-covered burger here is top notch. 314 W. 11th St., Manhattan, 212-620-0393.
BBQ EXISTS HERE, SORT OF
Talk BBQ in this town and you’re inevitably going to dredge up acrimonious, finger-wagging proclamations from douches. OK. We get it. There is no Sweatman’s in NYC. There is no Jackie Hite’s in NYC. There is not even a Salt Lick here, either. There did used to be an awesome Texas-style place called Pearson’s, which was started by an English hairdresser and operated out of a Queens sports bar that looked like the kind of place a character in a Richard Price novel would go to sniff women’s butts and incinerate his liver on Gatorade Schnapps, but that, sadly, is long gone. Pearson’s then moved to the Upper East Side and served tremendous link sausages, but that folded, too.
People liked the place because although there were all sorts of archaic city laws about how, where, and when you could operate a smoker within the city limits, somehow Pearson’s always made it happen. Oh well. Pearson’s BBQ was reborn as the equally great Legends Bar in Queens. The name is different, but the food is the same. If you’re lucky, a Texan will take you there on your birthday.
What else? Never listen to anyone who says Dallas BBQ is worth a try. It’s like Gravy Train, and a lot of your sightseeing will be canceled following a meal there. There are still some decent options, like this:
Schedule your visit to New York during the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. It takes place in Madison Square Park in Manhattan in early June. Top-flight BBQers from all over the country show up and do their thing, and you get to sample it for $8 a plate. Go to an ATM, get some cash, and get there early. It gets ugly fast. You won’t be disappointed.
This place is in Harlem. Foodies from all over the East Coast trek here. Eat whatever you want, but we’re suggesting the ribs. Fact: It is not owned by J. Mascis. 646 W. 131 St., Manhattan, 212-694-1777.
DAISY MAY'S BBQ
They have a huge cafeteria-style Texas ’cue emporium in way west Hell’s Kitchen almost to the Hudson River, and at least one freestanding cart on 50th near 6th Avenue in Manhattan (more have been spotted in different neighborhoods), and it’s all very delicious, right down to the slaw and the pickles that you need to throw on your sandwich. 623 11th Ave., Manhattan, 212-977-1500.
Located in Williamsburg. You need to know only one word here, brisket. Just get the beef brisket or something crazy like pig’s cheek at this slow-cook emporium. And the baked beans are amazing. You drink a bunch of beer across the street at sister shop Spuyten Duyvil, work up an appetite, and then come here and chow down. 354 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, 718-963-3404.
This place is relatively new, and it’s in Manhattan in the “East Chelsea” netherworld north of the heinous Bed Bath & Beyond mini-mall and south of Macy’s. HC fancies itself a real Texasstyle marketplace, so they do nutty things like throw down your food on sheets of paper, etc. Do not get the “wet” brisket here. Get the “dry.” The hot links are great, too. 30 W. 26th St., Manhattan, 212-255-4544.
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