My culinary tour of NYC continues. Don’t miss Part I.
Sunday Brunch — Harlem
You’d think that since I’m southern, I would know soul food. And I thought I did, until I went to Sylvia’s in Harlem. It was years ago, but it’s still the best fried chicken and red velvet cake I’ve eaten anywhere, including in any southern state. Sorry to betray my roots with truth. So I was excited to get my Sylvia’s fix again this trip. We attempted Sunday brunch … but here’s the rub. Sylvia’s is so good that it’s in demand. (Read: constantly packed and touristy). On this rainy Sunday morning, we could barely squeeze in the front door. And since we were on a bit of a schedule, that wouldn’t do.
Instead, we walked across the street to Corner Social, which was unknown to us but had a great look and an even better-looking menu. I spotted exactly what I wanted before we even sat down — an item that had long evaded me, even earning a spot on my official culinary bucket list: chicken and waffles. Well, in this case, it was chicken and pancakes. (Close enough.) I find crispy, savory fried chicken over fluffy pancakes drowned in maple syrup a genius combo. It’s sweet and salty. Soft and crispy. The perfect marriage of opposite, yet complementary, flavors and textures.
In the weeks following this trip, I actually ate true chicken and waffles, but I think I prefer fried chicken with pancakes as Corner Social serves them. The crispy edges of waffles just competed a little too much with the crispiness of the chicken. (How food nerdy does that sound?)
Ollie’s — Upper West Side (multiple locations)
I’m going to let you in on a true, New Yorker secret: there is no better comfort food in the city than an enormous bowl of wonton soup at Ollie’s. It is (let me say again) an enormous bowl of steaming broth loaded with soft, flavorful wontons and crunchy vegetables. Then you pick the additional noodles and roast meat of your choice. I like wide, flat ones (chow fun, maybe?) with roast pork.
The weather during my visit had been vastly up and down. One day was 80 and sunny, the next turned to cold and overcast. With the plane travel and temperature fluctuations, I was beginning not to feel so well. So, let me tell you — this soup hit the spot.
Oh, Ollie’s, I miss you so.
Momofuku Milk Bar — Upper West Side (multiple locations)
Momofuki is the brainchild of renowned chef David Chang. I heard rumblings about Momofuku Noodle Bar towards the end of my time in NYC, but never dined there. In the ensuing years, its profile (and Mr. Chang’s) took off. Suddenly, food blogs and foodies galore were raving all over the place about the Momofuku “crack pie.” So, of all the things I wanted to eat this trip, that was number one on my list.
After lunch at Ollie’s, I wrapped myself against the elements and took a stroll up Broadway through my old ‘hood. I walked past my favorite old haunts — Fairway Market, Citarella, Zabar’s. The Barnes & Noble on 82nd Street. Harry’s Shoes. I was headed for the Momofuku Milk Bar location on Columbus Avenue. Once I got there, I was more than ready for a sweet and a hot coffee. This storefront is little more than a stall — only a counter and a few barstools for perching — but it delivers in the sweets department. I ordered my crack pie, which comes in a disposable cardboard sleeve. I also picked up a Compost cookie, basically a chocolate chip cookie with crazy things like pretzels, potato chips, oats, coffee grounds and graham cracker crumbs mixed in. That wasn’t a typo. I did mean coffee grounds. You can’t taste them, though, and it makes for a delicious cookie. Another item of note is cereal milk, an offshoot of those precious, sweet dregs of milk we all savor at the bottom of the cereal bowl. Pretty creative.
So, the crack pie … how to describe it? It’s like really dense, sticky pecan pie, without the pecans. Somehow it’s also not that sweet. I liked it, but I’m not sure I loved it. That’s likely a good thing, since I can’t get my hands on it easily even if I wanted to. Let’s check it off the list, though.
Still more to come…