Skip to main content
  1. BLOG/

Elle’s Top 10 Mouth-Watering NYC Memories

food recommendations
Elle Michelle Yang
Elle Michelle Yang
i create stuff.
Food is my love language.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it also happens to be one of my favorite methods of sharing a splendid slice of life with friends (and foes). Now, I’ve spent six summers and two years in New York City — which as a foodie means I’ve made countless memories masticating with good company. And I’m ecstatic to share this with strangers on the Internet.

Like Jane Gloriana Villanueva from Jane The Virgin, I could make endless lists about the food in my favorite city. But today is an homage to the dishes that make me nostalgic about this adopted city I still call “home” despite having moved to the UK.

10. December 2018 #

Juliana’s #


I wanted to visit Brooklyn, so naturally my ex and I took a stroll in the part of Brooklyn that’s closest to Manhattan – DUMBO, a.k.a. Down Under the Manhattan-Brooklyn Overpass. Several hangry miles later, I decided I wanted to eat and ended up standing several minutes in the freezing cold for a chance to eat pizza. Don’t we all miss those days, when we would stand in line in close proximity under uncomfortable weather conditions to eat inside restaurants filled with strangers?

As far as the folklore goes, Juliana’s has had a longtime feud with its next-door neighbor, the famous Grimaldi’s pizza. You can read about the rivalry after a quick Google search. The consensus is that Juliana’s is the winner, although I would recommend trying both anyway because pizza is a New Yorker’s staple. I’m not a food expert, but I’ll say that Juliana’s has a good crust, fresh ingredients, and a tasty red sauce. My ex and I ordered the specialty pizza No. 1 with mozzarella, scamorza affumicata — I won’t pretend to know its meaning to avoid being beheaded by my Italian friends — and pancetta, among other delicious ingredients. I’ve tried other slices when I went with other groups of friends, but the No. 1 is still number one in my heart. Or stomach.

9. December 2018 #

Veselka #

East Village

So the same week my ex and I went to Juliana’s, we also went to Veselka as a part of a do-it-Elle-style Gossip Girl city tour. You can tell that it must have been a blissful week spent rekindling my love with my ex, complete with dramatic snowfall – or is that my brain betraying me in a magical-realism, “Jane The Virgin” fashion? In any case, we enjoyed a magical late-night snack in the East Village after a day trip on the Upper East Side.

Veselka is a 24-hour Ukranian restaurant in the East Village. I first heard about this in — you guessed it — Gossip Girl, since it was apparently one of Dan Humphrey and Vanessa Abrams’s favorite places. I definitely recommend visiting if you’re in the area, especially if you’re in the mood for pierogis slash varenykies. It can sometimes get quite busy, but there are tons of top-notch bars and speakeasies in the area for a boozy wait. My favorite is Angel’s Share, which has a creative, artsy, and tasty selection of cocktails.

8. August 2018 #

Injera #


Moving on from my ex, my friend from my summer research program during the summer of 2018 had turned me on to Ethiopian food. He was organizing a group restaurant outing and took us to a Ethiopian restaurant near Columbia University on the Upper West Side. I had monkfish, which does not look as holy as the name suggests, and became addicted to injera, the hole-y sourdough flatbread that’s a staple in Ethiopian cuisine. Since that day, I became determined to find an Ethiopian restaurant closer to where I lived in Downtown Manhattan, and I stumbled upon this restaurant while wandering around Chelsea. Just New York things, you know? A highlight: I spontaneously had Valentine’s Day dinner in 2019 here.

I’ve always been a fan of African food and its spices that you don’t get in other cuisines. It’s probably one of my top three cuisines, behind Chinese and Italian, because who doesn’t love carbs? For Ethiopian food in particular, I love the combination of the sour injera bread with the spicy and aromatic taste of berbere. My go-to item for Ethiopian food is the beef awaze tibs. I should note that the restaurant unfortunately closed permanently due to COVID-19, so I’ll definitely be on the hunt for a new Ethiopian place when I’m back in The City.

7. Too Many Times Since June 2019 #

Pâtisserie Fouet #

East Village

I have something of a munch-y mouth, if that’s even a thing. I’m imagining it to be like a sweet tooth, except it also encompasses the idea of a salty tooth. Anyway, I first came here on my 23rd birthday. And on many other guilty, nameless occasions. I don’t have a singular, overarching memory of Pâtisserie Fouet, but every trip was filled with sweet conversation.

I’m not that bougie, but I do enjoy the finer things in life. I guess my friends must have caught on to this, because they recommended Pâtisserie Fouet to me as a place with a dessert tasting menu. The tasting menu is not as over-the-top as you might expect — it consists of three “courses”: a small starter, the main dessert, and a mini cookie. I generally come here for the giant, jiggly soufflés, but the other items are also delicious. My favorite is the earl gray soufflé. You really can’t go wrong with sugar, butter, and flour. Off topic, but you should also try Pâtisserie Fouet’s brother restaurant, Raku, which specializes in Japanese udon. Also if you want an over-the-top dessert tasting, I recommend Per Se, which oddly enough offered the most impressive assortment of desserts I’ve ever encountered on a tasting menu.

6. Since Fall 2018 #

Whitman’s Restaurant #

Hudson Yards

I lived in Hudson Yards the first year I lived in New York. The neighborhood might be known for the Vessel and the new mall and the new Whole Foods and the new observation deck and the new subway station and all, although most of these things weren’t around when I lived within a walking distance of them. Story of my life. But it’s okay, because it allowed me to discover Whitman’s, which is a burger restaurant that I know for its roasted Brussels sprouts. It was my go-to spot after ClassPass fitness classes or a long day of work. Something about the neighborhood makes me feel hidden, but in a positive way; I even think I cried here one time, and that’s one way to make lasting memories.

Whitman’s is a burger restaurant, and indeed, their burgers are wonderful — the meat is juicy and flavorful. However, I was hooked by their Brussels sprouts. It’s perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I also like the way it’s seasoned to a balanced level of sour, salty, and sweet. Sometimes, the side dish outshines the main dish. Or so I’d poetically like to think.

5. Some Time in 2019 #

Pepe Rosso To Go #


A friend at work had recommended Pepe Rosso to me since it’s a mere seven-minute walk from the office, although I managed to ignore her suggestion until one adventurous and hungry night after work. I’m not sure what compelled me, but I’m glad I listened, because it’s become my favorite Italian fast food place. I have intense memories of sitting in the cozy, food-scented seating area waiting for my sandwich and making finger art on the fogged glass in the midst of winter. I’ve since started calling it “Peepee”. Endearing, I know.

I am ashamed I hadn’t discovered this restaurant earlier. My go-to is their hot chicken parmiggiana sandwich (or panini?), which I guiltily use to warm my hands while walking down the frozen Manhattan streets during the winter. I don’t have anything too profound to say about the sandwich, other than the fact that it’s delicious. Again, you really can’t go wrong with carbs.

4. Since May 2016 #

Málà Project #

Central Park South, East Village, Midtown

My ex and I discovered this place on one of the many, many, many trips we took to New York City back in the summer of 2016 when we were working in upstate New York. By “upstate New York”, I mean Yorktown Heights, NY, which is a scenic 45-minute drive from the city. We would often go to work, eat dinner in the city, then drive back up for the night. What a life. We also somehow always managed to find free parking spots. All that said, we had a great time frolicking down the streets in search of good food and good boba. And yes, I did gain weight this summer.

One of my favorite Chinese dishes is 麻辣香锅 (málà xiāng guō), which can roughly be translated as “spicy stir-fry hot pot” and is sometimes called “dry pot”. It literally means “numb, spicy, aromatic pot”, which perfectly describes the experience of eating dry pot. My ex and I discovered this dish at some random restaurant in Allston, MA during summer of 2015, and we were on a quest to find a comparable place in New York City. We decided to visit Málà Project because we found a promotional video of the restaurant on YouTube, and we of course fell in love. I recommend getting the dry pot in “spicy” — it’s not really tasty without the spice — with potato noodles and purple rice, which is technically also called black rice that’s actually dark purple in color. The restaurant also offers other traditional Sichuan food, like 夫妻肺片 (husband and wife lung slices) and 皮蛋 (century egg), that are also delicious. Also, I dare you to order “rooster’s XXX”.

3. August 2019 #

Baekjeong #


I always have very particular food cravings. When it comes to Korean food, I often crave three items: Korean BBQ, corn and cheese, and kimchi soondubu. Also, I just sometimes crave the taste of meat in my mouth. Anyway, most places offer these three items separately, but Baekjeong offers all of the items together in the full package. As a result, this restaurant quickly became my favorite KBBQ restaurant in Downtown Manhattan. A quirk about this restaurant that’s either fixed or is only a problem during the winter: I distinctly remember the restaurant’s absurdly heavy front door that makes even the most buff guy look weak.

I’m not particularly picky when it comes to Korean BBQ, as long as the sauce is tasty. Maybe this is coming from my experiences at those all-you-can-eat K-BBQ restaurants in California that focus more on quantity rather than quality. This is quite different from my experience at KBBQ restaurants (minus Let’s Meat) in Downtown Manhattan that sell quality meat in tiny, expensive quantities that often leave me hungry for dessert at Grace Street. I originally went to Dons Bogam because it almost never had a line since it was located a block from the main part of K-Town, which really should be called K-Block. However one fortuitous day, the tables had turned; Baekjeong magically had a spot open while Dons Bogam was fully booked. I discovered that Baekjeong had an all-beef party set menu set with spicy kimchi stew and also offered my favorite banchans, the Korean egg soufflé and the corn cheese gratin. Since that day, I was too spoiled to go to other KBBQ places in Koreatown. It’s the best KBBQ deal I’ve found in Manhattan — you really can’t beat the taste and variety for the price. Just make sure to book a table first so you can avoid queueing, as the Brits say.

2. May 2017 #

Piccola Cucina #


If I had to summarize the lunches of summer of 2017 in a single dish, it would be the tagliatelle verdi con ragu di cinghiale aromatizzato alle erbe e tartufo nero…which apparently means green tagliatelle in wild boar ragu with fresh herb aroma topped with black truffle according to the menu. The company I was interning at was located a couple of blocks from the restaurant, so a group of interns would often dine at here to take advantage of its lunch special. Just thinking about the restaurant reminds me of twirling down the garbage-scented streets of SoHo under the noonday sun in my sundress while my skin glistened with droplets of sweat. What beloved times.

Funny story, but there are actually three Piccola Cucinas within a few blocks of each other in SoHo — or more accurately, Hudson Square (look it up). So to make it more precise, my favorite is Piccola Cucina Sicilian Osteria on Spring Street. All the restaurants in the chain are equally as good, but the menus on the other two restaurants are slightly different. I’m also a fan of their linguine all’ astice, the lobster linguine, which is only on the lunch menu at the Spring Street location. Their pastas are served in a rustic pan with generous proportions, and it’s probably the best lunch deal in the area. If I could eat my previous employer, it would taste like Piccola Cucina.

1. June 2019 #

Fish Cheeks #


I’d heard whispers about Fish Cheeks for a while before I attempted to go there with my friend, but we couldn’t get in because they were fully booked. I went back a week later with another friend, and the restaurant was fully booked again, although this time we decided to wait in the blistering sun for a seat at the bar. And while my friend might not have enjoyed the makeshift sauna, I felt it was a worthwhile experience, because I discovered my favorite Thai restaurant. It might not be Michelin approved, but it sure has a Michelle-lin star.

Thai food is delicious. It’s probably among my top ten favorite cuisines; it’s my top cuisine measured by the sheer pounds of food consumed. Fun fact, my Thai friend pointed out that the population-to-restaurant ratio of Thai restaurants is surprisingly high. This is because the Thai government paid for it as a part of a practice called gastrodiplomacy. Food is the way to my heart, so it’s no surprise that the Thai government recognized the diplomatic power of food. A curious food for thought: how do we feel about our culinary tastes being a result of intentional and targeted infiltration by foreign governments? (If I may digress, how do we feel about the fact that so many of our decisions today are driven by social media “marketing” efforts?) Anyway, Fish Cheeks is one of my favorite Thai restaurants. It’s on the pricier side, but their food is unique and wonderfully spiced (and spicy). Their coconut crab curry dish is, hands down, my favorite Thai dish I’ve tried. To be less partial, a close second is the hor mok talay at Thai Villa. Also, I’m not sure what’s in them, but their Zabb wings are quite addictive. They’ve grabbed the coveted first spot on this list, so please support them!


And…that’s it for the top ten places in my gustatory journal!

I should have put a disclaimer than when I refer to “New York City”, I often mean Manhattan, and even more specifically, I often mean Downtown Manhattan. Blair Waldorf would definitely not approve, although if she tried any of these dishes, I’m sure she would change her mind.


This post is dedicated to Yaw Boakye who requested NYC restaurant recommendations!