Shake Shack — Madison Square Park/Flatiron (multiple locations)
There used to be only one Shake Shack location. I think it was also only open for certain months, and it was so popular that you could easily wait an hour or more in line for its legendary burgers, fries and milkshakes. I attempted that line once or twice, but I just never made it through. Now, there’s a Shake Shake on every corner in NYC. I’ve even heard they’re expanding to locations in London.
At the close of another full day of eating, we ended up at the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. The line was short, and there were tables aplenty. Perfect. Except that it was slightly north of freezing — a bit chilly for eating outside. I was quite happy, though, to tuck into a classic cheeseburger with ShackSauce and crinkle-cut french fries doused in this light, creamy cheese sauce. None of that neon-orange, gloopy, chain/stadium-style stuff here. Shake Shack’s selling point is quality — and you can taste it in the freshly ground meat and homemade sauces. My only regret is that it was too cold outside and I didn’t fell well enough to order a milkshake. So, guess I’ll have to go back. Poor me.
After so many years of waiting, I’m glad to report that Shake Shack lived up to the hype. It was dee-licious.
Eataly — Madison Square Park/Flatiron
Across the street from Shake Shack you’ll find the wonderstrosity that is Eataly. As I understand, Eataly is an Italian market that started in Europe, but Mario Batali partnered with the owners to bring it to Manhattan. I had heard raves when it opened, mostly that it was huge and the food was spectacular. So I’m not sure what I was expecting when we walked in, yet I was gobsmacked. In the best way. Eataly is cavernous, covering the city block, but is sleek and elegant.
We meandered past the most gorgeous selections of imported Italian chocolates and jarred specialties (20 kinds of Nutella!); fresh cheeses, seafood, meats and homemade sausages; a thousand types of olives and pestos; and every shape and size of pasta you can think of. Where the halls come together, you’ll find a couple of restaurants and a wine bar.
I took a special tour around the cheese counter looking for another item on my culinary bucket list: stracciatella, a fresh, runny, mozzarella-ish cheese that is hard to find outside Italy. But, no such luck.
Salami, prosciutto and other cured meats.
Cheese. Glorious cheese.
An array of pasta.
Dozens of types of gianduja (aka Nutella).
Near the front entrance, you can order a coffee, a pastry or some gelato. I’m sure plenty of tourists find their way to Eataly, but when we were there, we felt like we were in Europe. Everyone near us spoke in Italian — my friend even ordered in Italian at the coffee bar, and the barista not only understood but responded. We felt so cosmopolitan.
Selections of mini desserts.
Eataly also has a cooking school with demonstration area that looked very approachable. We were impressed to see that Mr. Batali sometimes even cooks there himself.
Eataly is beautiful, and I loved everything about it. If I lived in New York, I would definitely shop there for a special occasion dinner, or pop in with friends for a wine, a coffee or a meal.
Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen — Times Square (multiple locations)
I’m really enjoying this whole gourmet, fast food burger revolution that’s going on. Case in point: Schnipper’s.
Schnipper’s is new to me, so I can’t count it as an intentional part of my tour. It was more of a stumble, really. But, I had one of the top 10 burgers of my life there, and the fries are pretty outrageous too. Schnipper’s probably falls in the “fast casual” segment of the restaurant industry (think Panera or Jason’s Deli), where you order at a counter (“fast”) but you sit and they bring out your food to you (“casual”). I ordered the classic burger — cooked perfectly medium — with cheese, bacon, special sauce, caramelized onions and (wait for it) arugula.
Heaven on a bun.
That marks the end of this culinary tour of NYC. But my next trip to NYC is coming up in March. Where else should I eat? What can I not miss?