new york city: how to spend 48 hours eating & drinking

brooklyn bridgeserious steak knife for the momofuku ssam rib eyeedison bulbs at the meatball shopthe window seat at torrisitea & tiles at balthazarview from the ikea ferrymural on my wall at the ace hotelwest village street view

I love to travel.

I love that it gives you a chance to completely jump out of your old routines and explore new things. I love that even something as every day as buying washing powder becomes an adventure. I love being out of my comfort zone. And of course, I love eating new things.

But most of all I love how it makes you appreciate home.

For the past six weeks I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been on the road. Planning holidays isn’t exactly my Irishman’s strength. Whereas I am someone who is always thinking about the next trip. So I was delighted when I asked him where we should go and his instant response was ‘New York’. Great minds.

And that’s how I came to spend a wonderful, intense month in the city-that-never-sleeps. With an apartment in fabulous Soho, pretending to be a real New Yorker, I had lots of time to explore the edible treasures and some not-so-edible ones as well.

Most people, of course, don’t have a whole month to explore so I today I’m sharing my highlights tour of New York. It’s what I would do if I were visiting for 48 hours.

I was also lucky enough to meet a whole slew of fabulous food bloggers at Lara and Heidi’s book signing last weekend in Seattle. And finished off my tour with a few sunny days in San Francisco. Watch this space for highlights from the West coast part of my trip.

It’s lovely to be home!

how to spend 48 hours eating & drinking in new york city

dinner day 1. Momofuku Ssam + Milk Bar
My favourite of the Momofuku empire, Ssam bar is buzzy and fun with seriously great food that doesn’t take itself too seriously. No bookings so have a drink out the back in the Milk Bar while you wait. Pretty much everything is good. The rib-eye for 2 that we shared on our second visit was well worth the hefty price tag. I believe the words ‘best steak, ever’ were floated around. Save room for the surprisingly light desserts or finish up your meal with something sweet from milk bar or one of their thick shake cocktails.

breakfast day 1. Russ & Daughters + Gimmee Coffee
Russ & Daughters is the real deal for bagels, cream cheese and smoked fish. Highly recommend the ‘everything’ bagel with cream cheese & smoked salmon – ask for the bagel to be toasted. They don’t have seating so be prepared to eat on the run. I’d also pick up a coffee from the caffeine addicts at Gimmee Coffe.

If you’d prefer a more sit-down breakfast, go for the eggs at Balthazar (see below)

lunch day 1. Momofuku Ma Peche
While the space is a bit funny with the peach coloured wall, the food at Ma Peche is the business. The focus is more Vietnamese inspired than Ssam bar. They take bookings and the lunch menu offers excellent value. There’s a milk bar attached as well so you can fill the need for something sweet.

dinner day 2. Torrisi Italian Specialties
A fabulous hole in the wall that happened to be 2 doors down from my apartment, The vibe is intimate and the food goes beyond Italian influences. Love the set menu that changes every night. No bookings so you need to get there around 5pm to put your name down for a table, even earlier if you’re there on a Saturday. Then pop over to the wine bar at Public for a drink while you wait, or make the most of the late opening hours of Soho shops. They also do a roaring trade in more casual sandwiches, veggie sides and eggplant parmigiana at lunchtime.
UPDATE: This restaurant has now closed.

breakfast day 2 The Breslin
With one Michelin star, The Breslin at the Ace Hotel was another favourite. While their lunches and dinners are great (the lamb burger rocks), I really enjoyed the calmer scene for breakfast. Great tea and poached eggs with curried lentils.

lunch day 2 Marlow & Sons (Brooklyn)
Although it is billed as a diner, there’s nothing cheesy about the decor at Marlow & Sons. We’re talking rustic at its best. Well worn wooden tables & bar and lots of very old mirrors with that lovely patina. The food is fresh and finds the balance between comfort and creativity.

bonus dinner: Fette Sau (Brooklyn)
Strictly for carnivores, this is the one barbeque to rule them all. The vibe is casual, just order and pay for your chosen meat(s) by the pound, grab a drink from the bar and find a spot at the communal tables and dig in.

If you have more time…


Cosy East Village wine bar that has a seriously good list but fortunately doesn’t take itself to seriously. No pretension here. The menu is simple and you can easily make an evening of it. Fellow fino sherry fans should know they offer free sherry if you get there before 6pm.

Momofuku Noodle Bar

The original momofuku and well worth a visit. Loved their pork buns and the cauliflower more than the ramen (noodle soup).

Momofuku Ko

If you’re into tricky booking systems, degustation menus, and intimate settings, Ko is worth the hassle. Bookings are only taken 7 days in advance so just logon and refresh your browser every time you walk past the computer. Loved the whole sitting around the bar watching the chefs work vibe.


For those who love to be challenged while they eat. The tasting menu at WD~50 keeps you on your toes. Although there is the occasional down, it’s mostly all good and definitely not boring.
UPDATE: This restaurant has now closed.

The Meatball Shop

With a fun, casual vibe and rustic decor as you would expect the Meatball Shop is all about meatballs. Love the concept – choose your meatball, choose your sauce, and choose your sides. Who knew meatballs could taste this good? Or be this varied?


A massive emporium of all things edible and italian. Worth having a stroll through or stop by for a glass of wine or a casual meal.

John Dory Oyster Bar

Located near the Ace hotel in midtown, the place to go if you’re a fan or seafood. Really enjoyed doing a little oyster exploration with different species from the East and West coasts.


With big recommendations, there’s always the danger of high expectations. I suspect this happened to us at Recette. On the more formal end of ‘shared plates’ the were some good moments but noting earth shattering.
UPDATE: This restaurant has now closed.

For modern Mexican in NYC, I think you’d be hard pressed to do better than the newly opened Empellion. The brainchild of Alex Stupack whose last gig was as a pastry chef for Wylie Dufresne at WD~50

An institution and wonderful little space. Meant to be amazing for brunch. My dinner was good but the experience was marred by the feeling of being rushed to turn our table over.After reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s autobiography, I was glad I visited in spite of being made to feel part of a production line.

il Laboratory del gelato

There’s something for everyone at this little gelato mecca. From plain vanilla to cheddar cheese and everything in between. Loved the rosemary gelato and the beet.

Possibly the most recommended place when I was preparing for this trip. While the food is OK, I did love the faux-Parisian bistro decor. Very safe and calming – a little oasis in the city. The patisserie next door is really lovely for a sweet treat.

on my list for next time

my real new york apartment window
the view from my soho apartment window

For more cities:

See the Stonesoup Guide to Tasty Travel.

And apologies for the photo quality – these snaps were just taken with my iphone because I decided to leave my camera at home. I’m not much of a travel photographer – I prefer to just experience things when I’m on the road rather than trying to capture it all.



  • Welcome back Jules.

    I love
    1. Your photos – don’t apologise cau’se they are gorgeous
    2. You resolve to leave the camera at home and enjoy the journey – a life lesson to me. Focus, focus, focus
    3. Momfuku. WD 50. Some great places on your list – I love David Chang and have to confess that his book is the only cookbook I’ve read cover to cover, in a week and with lots of tears…. and excitement!

    Thank you for sharing you journey!

  • I’ve stopped taking my camera most places too – got to love the iPhone.. your trip sounds amazing – New York is one of the places that I am just dying to visit though I can’t see it happening quite yet.. You have of course only managed to make the longing worse.. ;-) Welcome home and hope you have Uggs at the ready – it’s suddenly freezing!!!

  • Wow, I thought the photos were taken by a professional. Although taken with an iPhone, the lighting sure turned out nice on them.

  • Great pics, no matter what you took them with. I’ve been disappointed with the ones my Blackberry takes, so I’m still carrying the little pink Olympus everywhere…

    Glad to hear you’re home, and that it was a great trip. Next time head up Boston-way for a day, and we can grab a drink!

  • Jules the photo’s are exquisite! I woke during the middle of the night unable to return to sleep and what a joy to see your post! I can not believe you took them with an iphone. Looking at them as I type this I am completely amazed. Great info too!

  • I love that you used your iPhone for photography- I’m like you, I prefer to be in the moment and with a huge camera with various lenses, there is nothing that kills a moment more than “wait while i get my lens on my camera”. I love all your choices, I can’t wait to finally see myself in NYC!

  • Hi Jules,

    Glad to see you had a fun time in NYC. Seeing those photos and reading your post brings back memories as I used to live there. There are so many places to eat to satisfy everyone’s palate. I thought you did a great job of the photos even with just the iPhone. If you do like sushi, you should try Tomoe Sushi. Every time I go back to visit, I make that my one stop. And for dessert, there is Chikalicious Dessert Bar.

  • We’re dying to go back to NY and live in an apartment instead of at hotels/ hostels/ etc… Where did you go to find a place to sub-lease??

  • I’m living in Melbourne now and bagels & ribs are just not the same here. I had considered skipping NYC on my next visit home, but now I’m craving an everything bagel with olive cream cheese & Fette Sau!

    The iPhone photos are great.

  • Thanks for the info. My 20 year old son on way home after 6 months in Iowa via New York. Have sent him the post. Not sure if he can afford but it will give him some ideas.

  • I was in NY early April for a week… Torrisi Italian Specialties & Ssam were both highlights of my trip… still raving about them.
    Next time try out X’ian Famous Foods for their hand-pulled noodles;
    Fedora & joseph leonard in the Village

  • julie
    haven’t heard of eleven madison… definitely adding to my list for next time

    It’s an iphone app called shake it photo.. really fun and makes noises like a polaroid camera

    I was there in april too – wonder if we ate at torrisi at the same time>
    thanks for your reccos too

  • I’m off to NY for five days in late July and this has rounded out (actually overstuffed!) the list of places to eat. Momofuku is on the list (whole roast shoulder of pig?) and I’m looking forward to trying . Per se is also on the list after not managing to get reservations at the French Laundry while in Napa :( .

    So many meals and so little time.

    Thanks again for the recommendations :)

  • Thanks for that – I’m in NY for a week in August so this is a great addition to my list. It’s been awhile, so recent tips are very valuable. Nicely done.

  • You ate at some of our favorite spots. :)

    Next time you’re here, try the Spotted Pig. Same owners and chef as the Breslin, but it a cozy West Village townhouse with tons of personality.

  • My husbands from Brooklyn and every time we go back to NYC we must stop at Fette Sau!

  • amanda
    thanks for the reminder about SF & Seattle – don’t think I can use jetlag as an excuse anymore!

  • Love it! Second everything. But at Russ & Daughters its gotta be the bagel with horseradish and wasabi roe, deeelish!! But be warned, it’s a meal and half.

  • I am going to New York for a month next year as my PhD graduation gift to myself. I am beyond excited, even with all the work I still have to do, and I loved reading this post. I’ve popped all of these onto my list of things I have to do in NYC – thanks!

  • Oh and please try Buddakan and Nobu….they are devine…ask to be seated downstairs in a booth at Buddakan. Also did Balthazar and was a little disappointed in the food :(

    Met Lara at the International food and photography conference which I attended in Boston in June…she was one of the presenters and such a lovely lady. (It is bi-annual and worth visiting next time x)

  • lynn
    thanks for the tips!

    thanks for your recommendations..
    I agree with you about the food at Balthazar.. but the atmosphere is great if you’re feeling home sick
    and it’s a small world – lucky you getting to meet Lara

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