Eating a slice of pizza at Lombardi’s, having an ice cream cone at Big Gay, taking a cookie shot at Dominique Ansel, and then conquering a hot dog from Nathan’s is, without a doubt, a must when visiting New York City.
However, sometimes you just get tired of standing in line for 2 hours, trying to find a relatively less crowded area to eat while you’re maneuvering through a large group of tourists.
For times like those, try these hidden gems located all around New York City and favorited by many locals. (Let’s face it, real New Yorkers would not stand in line for an hour for a single item of food – we have things to do, places to go, and people to see!)
1. Solo Pizza NYC -- 27 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009
For pizza, skip the hour-long lines at Di Fara and Grimaldi’s and head on over to the East Village for a slice (or whole pie) at Solo Pizza.
You can try a classic cheese pizza slice, but if you or your date are feeling a bit more adventurous, opt for their specialty slices.
My favorite is their white veggie pizza, with tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant, garlic, mozzarella, ricotta and Romano cheese which all complement each other wonderfully.
They manage to incorporate all the ingredients without making the crust soggy or overcooked. The buffalo chicken thin crust pizza is a close second.
The sauce has the right amount of tang, the chicken is not too spicy or dry, and the crust has just the adequate amount of crisp to it.
Hint, they also deliver and have a variety of pasta, sandwiches, and appetizers, so if you or your date want a lazy-night in or some comfort food after a night out, this is your place!
For bagels and sandwiches, you can always go back to Katz’s Delicatessen or Russ & Daughters after you drop a visit to Mixtape Bushwick or a sandwich from Fresh From Hell.
2. Mixtape Bushwick -- 1533 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Mixtape Bushwick is a storefront with stools instead of an indoor seating area, so it is perfect for grabbing some picnic food before you make off with your date.
Their menu is incredibly simple, with staples like English muffins, yogurt, bagels, and croissants. They have a variety of beverages for those of you who are caffeine lovers, but the best part is that a small black coffee is only $1.
I highly recommend their everything bagel with cream cheese, arugula, and cucumbers. They give the perfect schmear, and the bagel is soft, but also chewy, with the right amount of “crust.”
3. Fresh From Hell -- 326 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036
Aptly named Fresh From Hell, this restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen offers a variety of freshly made juices, salads, and smoothies – but their real winner is their prosciutto and mascarpone sandwich served with tomato and basil on your choice of a baguette, multigrain toast, or gluten-free bread.
The prosciutto and mascarpone balance each other in the perfect ratio, and the fresh basil and tomato complement each other perfectly.
The bread is toasted with the right amount of crunch and is the perfect thickness for holding all those ingredients together.
4. Mega Bites -- 245 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205
For weekend brunch I recommend Mega Bites unless you want to make a reservation way in advance or wait half an hour to be seated at Freemans.
Mega Bite is a no-frills diner with amazing service, generous portions, and fantastic coffee. Grab a cozy booth by the wall when you enter and order away.
I highly recommend the Californian omelet, which is served with mushrooms, avocado, tomato and American cheese.
The eggs are not overdone or too runny, and some vegetables inside is not too overwhelming or lacking. Unlike many diners, their omelet is not soaked with oil and grease when served, and the vegetables are not burned.
If you’re not a fan of eggs, try their light and fluffy blueberry pancakes with an ample helping of blueberries and syrup.
For dessert, head up to the Bronx to Lloyd’s Carrot Cake or stay in Manhattan and try Rossy’s Bakery and get your sweet tooth satisfied with time to spare for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood before you go splurging $10 for a pint of ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery.
5. Lloyd's Carrot Cake -- 6087 Broadway, Bronx, NY 10471
Lloyd’s Carrot Cake, like the name implies, is a small bakery with the best carrot cake made from scratch. The cream cheese frosting is not too sweet or too plain, and the cake is not soggy.
Some carrots inside provide just the right amount of texture without it being too chewy or crunchy. They also have other baked goods, such as red velvet cake and apple pie, but if you are going up there, you must get a carrot cake.
They are a small store front with no seating, but with a location conveniently located right across from Van Cortlandt Park. So bring a blanket for a sweet, romantic picnic with your date.
6. Rossy's Bakery -- 242 E 3rd St, New York, NY 10009
Another hidden gem is Rossy’s Bakery, which serves authentic Dominican pastries made by Norma Rossy for the past two decades.
I recommend their flan, which has a beautiful creamy texture and milky taste, is not too sweet or too runny, and their buttery, flaky, freshly baked Palmeras.
Most of their pastry items only cost $1, so feel free to get one of every item and split it in half with your date for a taste test!
7. Ciao For Now -- 523 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009
If your date is vegetarian, take a visit to Ciao For Now. Although they are not specifically a vegetarian restaurant, they offer a vegetarian-friendly menu with cruelty-free substitutions and cook with locally sourced ingredients.
With options such as veggie sausage and almond/soy milk, it is no longer a hassle if one of you is a meat lover and the other one prefers not to eat meat.
The place is small and cozy, with ambient music that is not too loud so you cannot hear each other, but just loud enough to give you and your date some privacy during your conversation.
Their griddle omelet with caramelized onions, spinach, and mushrooms is delicious, but so is the Grandma Linda’s Pancakes with sautéed apples. P.S. - They also have brunch cocktails, beer, and wine!
Must try classics --
- A soft pretzel from any hot dog cart
- A sandwich from any corner store bodega – I recommended bacon, egg, and cheese on an English muffin
- Chicken and rice with white sauce from a halal cart