Spitzer’s Corner. 101 Rivington St. NYC

A small corner gastropub with bench seating serving comfort food, steak and salads, this is the place to come for some craft brews and a small range of cocktails and wine. Service can be a little slow at busy times, but a little cajoling will get them on your side. The Kobe sliders ($15) were a little dry, but fish tacos ($15) and ‘Epic fried chicken’ sandwich ($12) were more successful. The greens really excelled here: for example the firm and well-seasoned Brussels sprouts with dried cranberries and candied walnuts, and the butternut squash salad ($12) which was perfectly served and balanced with toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette. There isn’t a large choice of wine or cocktails, but beer drinkers are fairly treated to a well-curated list. 

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Subway: Delancey St (F), Essex St (J,M,Z)

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Fuku. 163 1st Ave. NYC

Dave Chang’s noodlehouse Momofuku is an NYC institution, so when he opened this fried chicken sandwich eaterie almost next door to his East Village restaurant, he really brought in the crowds. In the same month that Shake Shack unleashed their own bird-in-a-bun, Fuku – with only three items on the menu, standing room only, and initial limited opening hours – caused a stir. There’s no bathroom here, so when you pay $8 for a chicken-thigh crisply fried and placed in a bun far too small for it, that’s all you get – the food. Oh, but WHAT a sandwich; I could’ve done without the pickles, but the off-menu daikon-radish slaw is what I’ll ask for in the future. The taste of the chicken is spicy, like mild scotch bonnet, but without any lingering heat, and completely devoid of artificial chilli flavours (so I added some Korean hot sauce, of course). And that’s what’s really bringing the punters in, to the extent that the queuing time can be up to 45 minutes, though the buzz has definitely died down by now. The drinks list is actually much longer than the food choices – Tecate beer, Micheladas, whiskey & ginger, G&T, Margaritas etc. There’s also a water tap with some plastic cups. The other items on the menu are steak fries (which are supposed to be very disappointing) and a farro salad with orange dressing, which I’d love to try next time.

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Subway: 1st Ave

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Fette Sau. 354 Metropolitan Ave. Brooklyn. NYC 

  The most famous barbecue joint in Brooklyn had waiting times of up to an hour on some nights, though thankfully the buzz has died down; if there’s a group of you there can be a delegation of duties – those that get the drinks from the bar and those that get a table, with others holding their place in the line. The bar is not that well-stocked on spirits but has a sufficient choice of draft beers and a good range of flights. The food is reliably smoky, high-quality meat such as Black Angus beef brisket, Duroc pork belly, ribs and lamb bacon. Order these by the pound – a half for the hungry or quarter pound for the sensible should be more than enough per couple. Prices vary, but tend to be high: most choices were around $25/lb. Sides are excellent too: the garlicky broccoli and burnt-end beans ($3) were particular favourites – the sauerkraut was bland and pointless though. Try the hot sauce, which blends hickory and chipotle flavours, and the slider bread rolls are perfect to dip in the meat-grease. Nothing of interest here for vegetarians.

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Subway: Lorimer st. 

Bareburger. 366 W 46th St. NYC

With several locations in Manhattan alone, Bareburger is really making its mark, and we can see why: a wide array of burgers, sides and drinks in a most agreeable atmosphere make this a great spot to throw some cash at different meats and starches. The Fire Quacker is tremendous, a duck breast with pepper jack cheese and spinach in a brioche roll, while El Matador (bison, guac, queso fresco & jalapeños) is a heartier affair. The platter of rings & sweet fries is accompanied by a trio of excellent sauces: smoke sauce, habanero mayo and curry ginger ketchup. There are great salad choices and even a kids menu too. Bareburger has hit upon a recipe for success, and I hope it thrives in the mid-high range of burger bars.

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Parker & Quinn. Refinery Hotel. 64 W 39th St. NYC.

This is one of the small handful of classic hotel restaurants that I’ve been to in Manhattan, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint; reliably high-quality American fare here with few frills, but with no shortcuts either. The Crab Cake ($16 for one – just ONE!) is a thing of beauty, rich and fluffy, and the lamb burger ($21) is intensely textured and satisfyingly meaty and proportioned. Cocktails are small twists on classics, but on the whole veer on the side of traditional East Coast favourites. Always bustling, and very hands-off with its service.

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Subway: Bryant Park

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Amancay’s Diner. 2 Knickerbocker Ave. Brooklyn. NYC

Owned by the infamous Chang Han, a legendary lothario and bad boy (‘shady, not creepy‘) known for jello-wrestling with young ladies in his last joint (St Mark’s Market), Amancay’s Diner is Bushwick’s first and only 24-hour restaurant. It’s a colorful, spacious building with a reasonably-priced menu and the world’s only spin-the-bottle table. Our surprisingly succulent vegan burger was $14, Dill Bloody Marys ($9) and deliciously textured salmon scrambled eggs ($11) filled us up and service was friendly and attentive; throw in some live music and eclectic decor (naked Barbies, stencil art) and this is one of Bushwick’s best.

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Subway: Jefferson (L)

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Umami Burger Williamsburg. 158 North 4th St, Brooklyn. NYC.

The small burger chain from LA has opened up a Brooklyn branch – its third in NYC – and it looks like it’s the biggest one here on the east coast. It is also the best burger that Delusionaryculinary has ever tried in his life, perfectly cooked and seasoned and far superior to beef patties anywhere else in the world. There’s a new menu with this location, and the Korean BBQ burger ($13) with its gochujang glaze, caramelized kimchi and sesame aioli, is exclusive here. All the other burgers sound great too, and you make your choice depending on how rich, spicy or truffley you feel you can take it. Maple bacon fries and onion rings are sides that you really must order, as well as decent sweet potato ones.
The ice-cream sandwich for dessert really didn’t do it for me, but service was extremely personable and helpful, and the ambience is great for a date, a classy family outing or a meal with friends – it’s an adaptable space. I hope we come back here very regularly.

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Subway: Bedford Ave (L)