5 Best Things I Ate (Drank?): Manhattan Coffee Shops

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I haven’t a clue how I’m going to make this series work for all of the things there are to eat and drink in New York City, but I’ll try. Starting with the caffeine here of course, because once you go cute coffee shops, you never go back.


Black Cat LES

Where to find: 172 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

Coffee shops are not rare on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This one, however, is home to my favorite iced latte. Black Cat is a funky hole-in-the-wall that sits pretty deep on Rivington Street. It’s a little warm inside, which makes it perfect for a chilly day. If it’s too hot, go in anyway, and check out all of their décor. Look up too- all of the fun quotes and writing reaches the ceiling, too.

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Ground Support

Where to find: 399 W Broadway, New York, NY 10012

The location is the selling point for Ground Support. It occupies the most precious corner of West Broadway, just steps from Laduree’s Downtown NYC location. It’s always crowded and the line is always out the door. If you catch it at a good time, take your pick, because everything on the menu looks good: breakfast sandwiches, artisan muffins (any of their muffins… seriously, any of them.), coffee creations, the works. There is a nice place to sit if the weather is cooperative next to the Eileen Fisher store.

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Raspberry. Pumpkim. Muffin. Photocredit: My sister 😉


Birch Coffee

Where to find: My favorite is their 13th Street location in Chelsea, but you can see their other locations here.

A dinky, very hipster, no seats kind of place. Everyone who works there is cool and wears fedoras or bohemian jewelry unironically. Everyone who stops in is fabulous and probably brilliant and probably works somewhere really trendy. Go if you are fabulous. Go if you are not yet fabulous but are attempting to acquire fabulousness and brilliance by diffusion (Me…).

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Ground Central

Where to find: View all Ground Central locations here.

A different entity from the aforementioned Ground Support, Ground Central is an amped-up version of whatever fast-casual place you get your caffeine fix from every morning. They brew La Colombe coffee, which technically is another NYC coffee shop chain, but is also an outstandingly delicious brand of coffee beans. I’m not expert on different types of coffee beans, but if you asked me what type of coffee I want in my hand right now, it would be La Colombe with almond milk in a Ground Central cup.

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Reusing pictures here, but this never stops being relevant. Photocredit: 9two5 Fit


Project Cozy

Where to find: 398 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

I love places that make you want to stay forever.

Project Cozy is Soho’s newest coffee spot, having taken over a space just south of Houston St. that has rotated residents for the past year or so. They pride themselves upon being “Cozy as Fck,” which I think is an odd slogan that never stops being amazing. There’s ample seating, nice staff, and a fantastic view down Centre St. that definitely got all my creative gears going… except I totally didn’t have my laptop with me. Note for next time, because there will be a next time.

Bonus: They’re also a juice bar. Get the Kale Yeah smoothie.

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Movie Night

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It’s summer, and I still live at

home. As we roll and rattle down the

Mass Pike, in a car older than any of its

three passengers 150 miles from my own

suburbia, I watch as the tops of the trees

engulf the sky in the low dusk light

like stagnant black smoke, and I think

about how much bigger the sky looks here.

 

I’m listening to your laughter bounce from

the windshield to the backseat and back

again, and as per usual I don’t know what

you two find so funny but I can say with

absolute certainty all I want is to bottle your

giggles, film you cackling so hard there are

delicate lines of mascara tracing trails down

your cheeks, and to watch you both catch

moonlight between your fingertips forever.

Very Bad Blogging

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In my struggle effort to reach the coveted title of “semi-functioning adult,” I realized I’ve fallen into this hole of forgetting to carve out time for food adventures. Neglecting the blog and all of the wonderful things there are to eat in this world is the last thing I want to be doing, so I offer you some notes on three Manhattan spots that have taken the internet by storm. Let’s raise our desserts to making time to do what you love.


Milk & Cream Cereal BarLittle Italy

My old roommate and I actually stumbled upon Milk & Cream by accident, on a gray Saturday afternoon in May. It plays upon the success of Momofuku’s infamous and ever Instagram-worthy cereal milk ice cream, but on a major sugar high. If you go traditional, you’ll be allowed one cereal choice to blend into your ice cream and one topping, all in a cup or in a The Konery cone (As a heads up, the Birthday Cake Konery cone is pretty but is not a good choice.) If you’re fancier, go for a Signature Blend. No worries about the size of the line, the staff is totally on it!

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Personal fav: Vanilla ice cream with Cinnamon Toast Crunch blended in, topped with chocolate chips *drools*.


DOGreenwich Village

DO now has adorable storefront Greenwich Village, after churning out edible, egg-less cookie dough from a kitchen in Kips Bay for quite a few years.

It’s sugary, creative, and actually feels kind of naughty… like you should be eating all of whatever you order before whomever used to bake cookies with you comes back to scold you for sticking your fingers in the raw dough and give you a lecture on the dangers of eating uncooked eggs. However, just like back in the day, one scoop is probably all you need, even without the raw eggs; it’s very dense. Prepare yourself for a minor food comatose shortly following.


EgglooChinatown

When my friend Kendra comes to town, all we do is eat. So when she told me she wanted to find Eggloo, I knew it was going to be good.

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And it was. It’s not fancy, just fun. You have your choice of bubble waffle and your choice of ice cream. Oh, and your topping limit is uncapped. Smother your whole life in mini M & M’s and chocolate Pocky while you can.

Goodnight

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It was there I

almost cried.

Barefoot

in the driveway

as always,

standing on just

my inner

six toes

so I could

kiss you

goodnight

through

the sticky

July air, my

arms wrapped

fully over your

neck, my calves

over-stretched

enough so

that six toes

became four,

then two, and

it was there

that you

told me you

loved me.

Commute

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I never

look up

on my walk

to work,

but today I

counted windows,

rolled my

fingertips over

crumbling bricks,

stared down

the scaffolding,

and took just

a moment

for the

cloudless Tuesday

morning sky.

5 Best Things I Ate: Ireland

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I finally made it to Ireland, and the whole fam was there too! Shoutout to them for helping me narrow our Irish culinary endeavors to these top five.


Sticky Toffee Pudding

Where to find: F.X. Buckley, Dublin, Ireland

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My family purchased this masterpiece to mark the commencement of our Irish adventure. A caramel-drowned piece of homemade Irish brown bread with homemade whipped cream set the bar very, very high for any dessert we ate in the following days.

Spoiler: we ate a lot of dessert. This was unbeatable.


Bailey’s Fudge

Where to find: Somewhere on the Ring of Kerry

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This might seem weird, but a man named Fi has quite literally has set up a tiny fudge shop out of his car. He’s parked at a lookout point right where all of the coach buses stop for pictures, so you’ll have a higher chance of finding him if you’re traveling with a tour. It’s two euro for a glorious bag of goodness, and you are permitted to sample (Both before making your choice, and after…). While all four flavors are homemade and wonderful, the Bailey’s (bottom right-hand corner of the second image) is the winner.


Boxty

Where to find: Bricin, Killarney, Ireland

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Meat has been folded into a giant potato pancake and my life with never be the same.

Bricin specializes in traditional Boxty. Filling options include lamb, chicken or veggies, and sometimes beef stroganoff as a special.  My picture immortalized one of the last plates before they ran out of beef stroganoff for the night, so get your paws on it while you can.


Shepherd’s Pie 

Where to find: Murty Rabbit’s, Galway, Ireland

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I rarely find planned dinners on tours to be much to speak of, as it’s likely someone has narrowed the menu for you, eradicating some potential choices. But when there is a Shepherd’s pie situation, there’s basically no need to consider anything else anyway. Murty Rabbit’s version is best paired with a pint of Guinness.


Guinness

Where to find: Literally everywhere in Ireland

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Speaking of Guinness, your friend who never hesitates to mention how much better Guinness is in Ireland is totally on to something (Read: I am now that friend).

My House in Budapest

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I’m not a scientist, but I’m almost positive something chemical happens in my body when I find a place I truly love. The silly, floppy kind of love. While yes, I have a tendency to set one foot down in a city and declare that I’m staying forever, the electric sensation of being in love has happened with only a few of those cities… and now I’m adding Budapest to that list.

Budapest is enchanting. All the romance of Paris, without the grime (sorry, not a Paris fan…). I was floored at how quickly Budapest became my reality, a reality I adjusted to like nothing I’d ever adjusted to before. I fell into a rhythm of knowing I’d learn something on every single street we walked down. Ever a fussy eater, I simply accepted that I’d never know what the heck I was ordering at any given meal because Hungarian is very, very hard. It was that kind of love, all in one day.

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Our Contiki itinerary gave me just one day in Budapest, but that was all it took.

In the morning, my friend and I walked over a mile from our hostel to the Széchenyi Baths, in which we floated about blissfully with people from all over the world. Probably a mildly gross concept, which we ignored, as time became nothing but a fleeting concept once we started splashing around. It took everything we had not to just stay there all day.

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We lapped the city at least three times. We passed by St. Stephen’s Basilica, hunted down a Costa Coffee (True American northeasterners; we had to have the coffee. Costa is a British chain. We found one in Krakow, too. Get an iced latte if you do ever find one. I’m ashamed by my inner American, but I do love iced coffee.), tried on the iconic embroidered Hungarian shirts in Nagycsarnok, the Great Market Hall, and stopped in one of Budapest’s adorable cafes (full recap on that here). I think that was what I was most bummed about; there were so many cafes to try, and 24ish hours or so was not enough time to try them all. That, and there’s a big emphasis on vintage clothing and thrifting in Budapest. My carry-on sized suitcase hardly allowed for that either (I may have a slight shopping problem, which was very evident once we got to Italy.).

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St. Stephen’s Basilica

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So no, I don’t actually have a house in Budapest (yet…), but Budapest now has home in my heart. For me, revisiting places internationally tends to happen on a “this opportunity fell into my lap” kind of basis, but I’m breaking that pattern with Budapest.

I could never let all those cafes and vintage stores go untested anyway; I just might need a bigger suitcase next time…

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Delicious Traditions

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Hello, my name is Ilana, and I search high and low for food trucks wherever I go, even on the other side of the world.

I can’t fully take credit for this one though – this find was a recommendation (Shoutout to Contiki Trip Manager Shanna, this is all her doing!). Should you ever find yourself in Budapest, make sure to stop by Karavan.

Karavan is just steps from Szimpla Kert, the original Budapest ruins bar. It’s a small, permanent lot of about 12 – 15 food trucks serving up everything from vegan burgers to traditional Hungarian cuisine, and is also where you’d find me every single freaking day if I had anything to do with it.

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I wanted to try everything. For some odd reason, anything vegan calls my name even though I am not at all vegan, until I ran into another girl from my group who had traditional, hearty Hungarian goulash inside a giant loaf of sourdough bread sitting in front of her, and an elated expression on her face. I was sold. I had to have it.

My nonexistent Hungarian skills ended in me finding the Nyakleves truck and excitedly pointing at the picture of my desired meal, and then bouncing up and down on my toes like I’m eight until I could smell the paprika, meat and veggies. It wasn’t long before I was scraping the saturated bread off the inside of the massive bread bowl, attempting to fit every last morsel (It was one of the best things I ate on the trip!).

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While I ate like I’d never seen food before (Partially true – I’d never had goulash before this trip, and I never imagined it’d taste like that!) the remainder of the group scattered around the lot and then returned to the table we’d claimed with burgers, tacos, and chimney cakes, all of which we tested, approved, and then did some serious damage on.

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The Chimney Cake never stood a chance, to be honest….

No one needed to eat breakfast the next morning, and not one person was at all mad about it.


Karavan

Kazinczy utca 18

Budapest 1075, Hungary

TripAdvisor: Street Food Karavan

Weird Cravings

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Never in my whole life have I ever craved Israeli food.

When I visited Israel, I struggled to find things that weren’t resting on top of mountains of hummus, and I found myself picking raw tomatoes out of everything. I’m actually incredibly fussy about my food, which is not a trait of mine that I’m particularly proud of (but I did think the hotel in Jerusalem that gave me food poisoning was a good enough reason to fuss…).

Enter Budapest, a city with a cafe culture and an unexplained affinity for shawarma, which sparked an unexplained need for me to relive what I had once bought three years ago in the pouring rain from a too-tiny cart in Tzfat.

Except now I’m obnoxious and have a social media problem, so I found Mazel Tov, an Instagram-worthy cafe to fulfill my shawarma dreams.

How we got there, I literally have zero idea. My friend is some sort of insane mastermind in which she can take one look at a blurry, screenshotted Google map and walk you wherever you need to go. It’s a superpower.

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It was a million and ten degrees in the greenhouse-esque restaurant, so while fairy lights and funky wall decor are certainly a selling point, I started sweating immediately. Order water ASAP. Your body does eventually adjust.

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My shawarma was top notch. It was packed to the gills with crunchy chicken, which was a nice surprise, and was also probably the first fully edible chicken I’d seen in days (#carbs). There was some cucumber in there as well, and it was so proportionate ingredient-wise, I even tossed with some of the raw tomatoes (I know, right?). Not to mention those crispy fries (or chips) coated in all of the sea salt your heart could ever want, which can also be purchased alone as an appetizer.

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Hunger: Satisfied.

Nostalgia: Also satisfied.

Happiness: Off the charts.

Bizarre Hankering for Shawarma: Probably good… for now. It’s not as good anywhere in the US. But if this is a once every three years kind of deal, it’ll be the greatest excuse to make a trip back to Budapest.


Mazel Tov

Akacfa utca 47

Budapest 1073, Hungary

http://mazeltov.hu/

Twitter: @mazel_tov_bp

Venetian Fairytale

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In 2012, I went to Italy for the first time with my family, and I hated Venice.

Right after I’d graduated from high school, my sister and I begged and pleaded to go abroad, and my foodie parents selected Italy. We all loved the food and the culture, but not one of us was big on Venice. It was July, and therefore it was hot, dark, crowded, and confusing. We stuck to St. Mark’s Place for almost the whole day.

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Kind of blurry in Venice, 2012

On Contiki’s Eastern Trail, we got to spend one whole, incredible day in Venice, which completely changed my perspective.

We were set loose upon Venice with zero plan. My friend and I opted out of the trip’s additional activities for Venice in favor of others at different stops on our trip, but our own personal wanderings gave our fellow travelers a little something to be jealous of.

We picked just any cafe for lunch, mostly because we were ravenous by the time we arrived in Venice, after being squished on our bus all morning (There was a lot of being squished on the bus all morning on our trip, but I kind of love the whole mush-pile tour bus thing? Long bus rides are for deep thought, finding yourself, and unintentionally cuddling with whoever ends up sitting next to you… or for taking intense, mouth-open kind of naps. Whatever floats your boat… because Venice. OK, I’ll stop now.).

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Afterwards, we took a lift to the very tippy top of Campanile di San Marco (Eight or nine euros for a breathtaking view. No, I did not cry, but it was definitely one of those “this is actually my life” moments in which I got dangerously close) and very carefully navigated the warped floors of Basilica San Marco to avoid any ankle-breaking. We then spent the afternoon happily lost, souvenir shopping and treating ourselves until we could no longer find any justification for our purchases. We followed the yellow and black signs from Rialto Bridge to Piazza San Marco and back again, before making ourselves at home along the Grand Canal with our loot and two Aperol Spritzes. It was my favorite afternoon of our whole trip, and probably one of my favorite afternoons ever.

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I will never get over this view.

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Aperol Spritzes

We did dinner in reverse and started with dessert, because when you find what you’re looking for in Venice, you do not walk away because you’ll never find it again. Gelato is acceptable for any meal anyway, right? Our backwards dinner were some of the best things I ate, which can be found here.

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I found myself exceptionally sad as we boarded the little charter boat back to our bus, as I watched Venice disappear behind us, and as our bus driver drove endlessly around a roundabout so we could finish singing along to a playlist our group had curated. It was a day I’d only heard other travelers tell stories of. One that never felt like it’d ever be mine, and in such a place I had so disliked years before.

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But it was mine, and it was pure magic.