One of the main reasons why I would find it hard to leave New York is that I have grown accustomed to having what feels like infinite food options and over the years have cultivated my list of good food spots in the city down to a tee.

“Good” is a super subjective designation, especially for food. It can also be a sensitive and sometimes classist thing to talk about good food, so I would start by saying that I do not consider myself a foodie (even though objectively speaking I do think about food a lot and talk about it a lot and probably definitely spend an embarrassingly disproportionate amount of my disposable income on food because I genuinely enjoy eating so much).

Also, what is a foodie, really? I tend to associate the term with either (a) a person who is a bit snooty about food and is obsessed with gourmet Michelin star restaurants that serve tiny portions and try to be gastronomical and whatnot, (b) an Instagram influencer who takes pictures of food that looks good but truly solely for the ‘gram.

For (a), I would say that high-end food has its place (I think of it more akin to art, which I can appreciate but I wouldn’t say I necessarily CRAVE it) and I’ve had some amazing meals at those types of establishments in my life, but none of my absolute favorite restaurants are of that ilk.

With regards to (b), no thank you. That just makes me sad. Some of the best food I’ve had is ugly food. Life is too short! (No shade to people who can make a living off of that, though—that’s amazing and you go get your coins.)

When I say my absolute favorite restaurants, I’m talking about the spots where:

  • I get intense cravings for the food
  • I have patronized them multiple times
  • I would recommend them to people I like
  • I dream about them when I’m traveling and don’t have access to their food
  • I get defensive if people try to knock them

(This sounds suspiciously similar to a list of characteristics for someone struggling with an addiction or something.)

So, lots of places have delicious, well-made food. And at baseline I think that restaurants in New York that merely exist here (i.e., have been able to survive here over time) are probably pretty decent. BUt the attributes I believe I index on particularly strongly are the following:

  1. Consistency. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a new restaurant (new to me and/or new to existing in general), had an AMAZING meal, and then come back only to find that it’s just not as good. I think I value this a lot more as I get older and fear change more and therefore become more risk averse 😔. Kinda like how I tend to re-read books I’ve already read instead of reading new ones—about 2/3 of the time I’d say I would rather go to a restaurant I already know and like than try a new one. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it just is.)
  2. Value for money. I feel privileged to be able to prioritize this, because it means that I am in a position where the dollar amount is not as important to me as the relative value (quality) of the food, and service (see number 3). Not that I’m Daddy Warbucks1 over here or anything, but you know. The days where my drink of choice is Miller High Life are over.
  3. Service. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had genuinely bad service in New York (again, by virtue of it being New York (god, how many times can she say new york in one post?? we get it, lady, you’re in new york 🙄), the service is probably going to be pretty good). What I mean is that a lot of my favorite spots have what I would consider exceptional service. I feel like I might have to explain this one more separately at a later date because I probably sound like a crazy unreasonable patron but I promise I’m not, I think I actually steer too far in the other direction (I’m such a people pleaser that if the server seems short or cranky I will tip MORE because I feel like it’s my fault, or like, if I drop my fork I’ll be like it’s fine I can eat this hot noodle soup with my hands!! 😭)

Also!! One thing that nobody asked but I feel very strongly about is that I have never and will probably never wait in a line for food in New York because there is NO REASON to do that… literally just walk to the next block and I guarantee you will probably find equally amazing food!

  1. Hmm, maybe “Father Warbucks”? Sometimes the use of the term “daddy” weirds me out a little. I don’t want to appropriate gay man culture or little kid culture. ↩︎