A Lengthy Reboot

By Richard Hsu
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Foods of New York City

We went on a week-long road trip to New York City (NYC) from our home in Scarborough, Ontario. For the kids and wife, this was the first time in NYC. I had been there a few times for work.

Around spring this year, when we felt optimistic about travelling, there were many destinations on the list: Chill out at a beach resort in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or Mexico; multi-purpose visit to Vancouver (wife has relatives there) along with a road trip to Seattle; and some others that I don't remember now. NYC wasn't even in consideration.

Vancouver-Seattle came out on top and I started looking at flights, ferry rides, car rental options from Vancouver to Seattle etc. Then we started worrying about the unpredictable COVID restrictions and if we would be able to freely travel etc. NYC entered the picture as a more flexible closer alternative, and that is what we ended up with.

There are different aspects to travel and food is one of them (for me) so I started making a list of things to eat. NYC is a popular place and there is plenty of food ideas from YouTube (including Mark Wiens), and Netflix shows (Somebody Feed Phil).

Here is the list I made:

Must try

  • Ivan Ramen
  • Xi'an Famous Foods (hand-pulled noodles)
  • Kat'z Delicatessen
  • The Halal Guys - Gyro and Chicken
  • All'antico Vinaio (sandwich from Florence, Italy)
  • Mercado Little Spain

Burger places

  • Clinton Hall
  • 7th Street Burger
  • Bronsons Burgers
  • Peter Luger


  • Di Fara
  • Lucali
  • Scarr's
  • Kesté Pizza & Vino
  • Angelo’s Coal Oven Pizzeria


  • Ferrara (Italian bakery in Little Italy)
  • Domninique Ansel Bakery

We got to four of them (Clinton Hall, Kat'z Deli, The Halal Guys, Xi'an Famous Foods). So we have to come back to NYC for the rest.

Clinton Hall chain of restaurants is famous for their Double Smashed burgers. After watching Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island ferry (twice), we walked to their Financial District restaurant. There was plenty of outdoor seating with games available to play (like big blocks of Jenga). It was hot and humid so we went into the sportsbar-styled indoor restaurant for the AC. The burgers were good and we enjoyed them. The fries were ordinary and disappointing. Unlike the happy-with-Maggi me, the wife's tastebuds have a wider range. She liked the burgers and enjoyed them too but she thought it was overpriced at $19.

Kat'z Deli is a legend that was featured in many YouTube videos and Somebody Feed Phil's Netflix show. There was a lineup of maybe 15 people outside but it moved fast. As you enter, they gave us two tickets and directed us to a specific counter (they are called cutters). It was busy inside but we got a table without waiting long. We got two sandwiches: pastrami, and beef brisket. The beef brisket was a bit dry but the pastrami was delicious. We loved it. Wow! Now I understand why Kat'z is so popular. At $25 per sandwich, it's on the higher side but for a good-sized, loaded sandwich, and that juicy flavourful pastrami, it was worth it. Two sandwiches were enough for the four of us.

The Halal Guys is one of many halal chicken and rice food carts popular in NYC. At $10 for a rice combo, it was inexpensive but filling and tasty. They gave us packets of white sauce to add to the rice. That sauce was the secret magical ingredient. We got two rice and one wrap and ate it at the hotel's dining area. While we were eating, someone passed us by and he said it looked yummy. It was. Their hot sauce was very hot but I added a little. While it was filling and enough, we regretted not getting one more rice combo. If we stayed in NYC longer, this would have been a repeat item for sure.

There is another halal street food cart that had a long line up but we didn't try it. It is called Adel's Famous Halal Street Food at West 50th & 6th Avenue. The line was at least 20 people long and didn't shorten for the 20 mins or so I was observing it. Something for the next time.

Xi'an Famous Foods is a Chinese chain restaurant famous for their hand-pulled noodles in spicy sauce. Since the kids didn't eat spicy food, we only got two. I have eaten many varieties of noodles in Toronto but I had never eaten this style. It was a different kind of spicy (cumin). The fresh hand-pulled was chewy and the only regret I had was not eating it at the restaurant right away. That would have been even better. Now I have to look for Xi'an styled Chinese food in Toronto.

Besides the ones on my list, we had other interesting and satisfying meals including a stone-baked pizza on the street near Watkins Glen State Park, Shake Shack burgers and their curly fries (under Brooklyn bridge), Union Street Pizza near Union Street station in Brooklyn (this was near our hotel), Whole Foods deli at Columbus Circle, and many sub-sandwiches from the deli close to our hotel.

Out of the ones that we didn't go to, Ivan Ramen was the one I was looking forward to and it is the one that's been on my list for NYC for years (I went through a ramen phase). I hope to visit NYC again for work or pleasure and will put Ivan Ramen at the top the next time.