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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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.

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

I Traveled With #NoRegrets

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October, 2016.

Everyone I know is still attempting to adult post-graduation. My friend texts me and asks if I want to go to Europe, to which the answer is always yes.

By November 2016, we’d booked a trip through Contiki, a high-energy tour operator intended for travelers from all over the world between the ages of 18 – 35. We were to embark on Contiki’s Eastern Trail, which made stops in Vienna, Krakow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Venice and Rome. Contiki encourages all participants to seize the day and travel with #NoRegrets. My friend and I then spend the next several months tagging each other in things on Facebook and sending screenshots of our respective countdowns to our trip.

April, 2017.

Our trip comes and goes far too quickly, as trips always do. We loved every second of it. Here are some notes on our adventure if you’re considering Contiki for your travels:

1. Your Group

Your group is a complete toss up. Ours happened to be 3/4 Australian girls between the ages of 19 – 21, with a smattering of other new friends from England, New Zealand, Canada, America, and Japan. This is not at all a negative; just something to keep in mind. Our group was fun and loud and loved to party, and were very accepting of my friend and I, who kind of became a package deal (Entirely my doing without explicit consent from the other party involved. Major points to my friend for always putting up with me.).

We actually joined in the middle of a trip that had been running for about two weeks. Our group, endlessly social and welcoming, wanted to get to know us from the second we joined, tossing names and hometowns at us, which became a lot for two already-kind-of-introverted and nervous people. I can only imagine it could’ve been ten times more overwhelming as a solo traveler. Everyone seemed to have an established group or at least one friend already. We had several pairs in our group, including a set of sisters, two coworkers, and two or three actual couples. However, most of our group really was solo.

Whether or not you wish to travel with a buddy is entirely up to you; Contiki trips work for either. Prior to departure, I was told that Contiki trips are all wild and rowdy. In general, I am a little bit socially anxious, so such news was disconcerting. I was grateful to have a travel buddy on this one. As a collective unit, we were more muted than the rest of the group. Now that I know what to expect, perhaps I’d consider going solo in the future, but my trip wouldn’t have been nearly as amazing as it was without my friend.

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2. Your Itinerary

There’s a chance your itinerary does not actually start in the city it lists first. Just be careful on this. While we “started” in Vienna, because of the nature of Contiki’s modular trips we actually arrived on the rest of the group’s last day in Vienna, so we did not make it in time for any of the activities. By the time we arrived, we hadn’t slept in approximately 36 hours, but we were a little disappointed that we wouldn’t get to see any of the city.

Otherwise, the itinerary was exciting, accurate, well-managed by the Contiki team with us, and was always on time. As far as Contiki’s “Me Time” additional events, we enjoyed them but also savored our free time. We opted out of some in favor of having the opportunity to wander. My friend and I loved having time to just do our thing or check things off our own personal bucket lists, and join back up with the group later.

3. Your Experience

You’ll probably drink a lot, swear a lot, and find yourself picking up some new words for the duration of the trip. You will meet cool people from all over the world, ones genuinely interested in getting to know you and sharing their experience. You’ll get up early, you’ll walk kilometers on the daily, you’ll stay out all night and then do it again the next day. You’ll get very lost, stumble upon exciting things, sing on the bus, and learn something new every single day. A Contiki trip is what you make of it.

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Thanks for sharing Krakow with me, for making me fall in love with Budapest, for introducing me to Lbjuljana, for giving me the most perfect day in Venice, and for allowing me to see Rome again, Contiki. I truly have #NoRegrets and can’t wait to do it again someday!

Goin’ Up on a Thursday

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I’ve honestly tried to get into Thursday Kitchen three separate times.

I saw it first on The Infatuation, which is my favorite website for unique places to try that aren’t totally out-of-control expensive. They’ve even got an app, which works wonders in a pinch (I will admit to using it when restaurants I chose fall through, which happens more than I’d like to admit…)

They reviewed it, it took one read of the post for my one-track mind to become entirely enthralled by the Korean fushion menu, and then I failed to make a visit work each time until my third try – a rainy Thursday evening. We’ve really redefined “third times the charm” here, people.

You must start with the alcoholic Capri suns. Thursday Kitchen has gained a lot of press for these, and they’re positively sinful. Like, sinful to the point of absolutely do not leave without ordering one but once you do, probably just stay seated for a while. The lemon one wins the gold medal.

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Lemon & Strawberry drinks!

The staff suggests 4-6 of their plates for two people; we ended up with 6. The Angry Potatoes are a great start. They aren’t too heavy and will cushion the punch from the drinks. I’d also recommend the Korean fried chicken. It’s a classic done right. You really cannot go wrong with it: a sweet, sticky sauce, sesame seeds, fried popcorn-sized chicken. Honestly, I’m already reminiscing.

The Hwe Soba came highly recommended. I wasn’t in love with the raw tuna, as I’m still learning to conquer the sashimi-ish food group. It was also very spicy, with a big hit off the back end of every bite, even the noodles. It’s a bit of a struggle unless you’re really into that sort of thing. I had to abort mission. My friend was a huge fan though.

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Clearly, we dove right in…

On the other hand, the salmon was one of the best things we tried. The salmon is cooked with beets, making it appear raw. It’s fully cooked so perfectly that it isn’t even fishy. Only four pieces per dish though, so share nicely if you can.

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The Korean gnocchi was my personal favorite. A lot of other reviews gave this dish a thumbs down. Understandably, after some heat from the other dishes, the sauce will end up tasting the same. The fix is to take the garlic aioli and spread it out over the gnocchi, which takes the dish from “meh” to marvelous. It’s very garlicky, but it doesn’t burn. The texturized pieces are cauliflower, and those little suckers will run from your chopsticks like nobody’s business. Chase them down and eat those too.

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And of course for dessert, the Popcorn Ice Cream was a unanimous, immediate decision. In addition to all of its caramel corn glory, it really takes the heat off after the soba and the gnocchi.

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I promise that even if you end up waiting outside on East 9th St., it is a stellar place to try (Forewarning: Thursday Kitchen is a snuggly, small place, but they do not take reservations!) Just make one of those drinks the first thing you order as your well-deserved reward.


Thursday Kitchen

424 E 9th St

New York, NY 10009

https://thursdaykitchennyc.com/

 

Throwback Thursday: Secret Sweets

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It’s not news that I’m so many levels of obsessed with the city of Boston. I’m really not sure why, as it’s pretty obvious that hardcore New York blood courses through my veins, but I can’t get enough of it. I think it’s beyond quaint, unpretentious but still gritty, inviting but full of tough love all at once. Back in March, my cousin Jamie and I went up for a girls weekend, and were lucky enough to be shown around by two native Bostonians.

They took us bar-hopping, and were determined to show us the itty bitty city’s little gems, like standing-only taverns and the wonder that is cans of Downeast Cider (which is brewed in Massachusetts!). But of all the places we stopped at on our “tour,” my favorite was Modern Pastry.

Modern Pastry is known as the rival to the infamous Mike’s Pastry in North End. Any cannoli flavor you could ever dream of exists between these two pastry shops alone. They’re both marvelous, but this really isn’t new information; the lines for Mike’s and for Modern Pastry are always out the door and down the block.

Here’s the secret: skip the line at Modern Pastry and walk straight towards the back of the bakery, where you’ll see a sign on the right-hand wall that looks like this:

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It’s not just decoration…

I was so in love the moment we walked downstairs.

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Basically me ^ GIF Credit: Giphy

There’s a hidden bar beneath Modern Pastry with ample seating. Feast your eyes upon the Boston paraphernalia decorating the walls, or anything that’s playing on their countless TVs. You can find your usual suspects on the drink menu, but they also have a full list of sweet pastry-themed cocktails (see the Boston Crème martini below, because how could I not?).

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The cherry on top of it all? You’ll also be given a menu of all the treats that are available upstairs. You can order any pastry your heart desires and someone will bring it down to you.

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Relationship Status: This cannoli.

No waiting, no lines, no crowds- just you, your martini, a cannoli, and some friends. It’s definitively what heaven must be like.

Just be careful about coming back upstairs with melted chocolate on your fingers, or those poor souls on the line down the block might get suspicious…


Modern Pastry

257 Hanover St

Boston, MA 02113

http://www.modernpastry.com/

 

Back To School

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LIM College tends to get lost in the sauce in the Hunger Games-esque battle that is New York City universities. With major players like FIT and NYU, it’s easy for it to go unnoticed. I personally don’t know anyone who goes to LIM, but I did get well-acquainted with their resident café, Pickler & Co.

The small café is a sandwich counter and a coffee bar snuggled inside of one of LIM’s Midtown buildings. There’s one big table, about eight chairs, three stools facing the old-fashioned windows, a classic sandwich shop menu, and that’s it.

I ordered a Chicken Tender Wrap: lettuce, chicken fingers, cheddar, honey mustard and a whole wheat wrap. The three people ahead of me and the two behind me (All actual adults on their lunch breaks, for some more context…) ordered exactly the same thing. It was the same kind of sandwich my college best friend and I used to get after a particularly bad week or a tough exam. A kind of comfort food, I suppose, except most of the food in our college cafeteria was one step above, if not equivalent to literal plastic (Admittedly, some days the nostalgia takes hold and I actually miss it…?). Pickler & Co.’s was the real deal.

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I ate the other half before remembering to take a picture. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In the name of a real review, I ordered a coffee too (Really channeling my inner university student here because that would make it my second cup of the day, whoops?). Nothing crazy, just an iced coffee, but a good one. So good, in fact, that I entertained the idea of revamping my mini top coffee shop list. You have a choice to flavor it, if that kind of thing suits your fancy. I’ve been told September means pumpkin-flavored things are socially acceptable again. This one was Caramel…

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Thanks, Pickler & Co., for taking me back to my NYC student roots for a hot second. I can’t possibly think of a better use for my lunch breaks.


Pickler & Co.

216 E 45th St

New York, NY 10017

http://www.picklernyc.com/

The Remedy

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Lately I’ve been finding myself to be a little lost. Not the good kind of lost, more of an “I can’t figure out which way is up” kind of lost, and therefore in need of some love– which arrived just in time in the form of Sunday brunch.

The fix: A classic, wholesome, adorable corner eatery called Perla Café. At night their menu leans Italian, but their brunch is simply a small, quality menu with just a touch of fun. There’s a charming and inviting staff armed with an arsenal of recommendations. The first thing our waitress asked was if we had any allergies. Thankfully, we didn’t have anything too alarming to challenge the kitchen with, but it was obvious they were prepared to make changes and be accommodating.

It’s not a boozy brunch. Well, I guess technically you could make it boozy like you can do with most things in New York City, but why taint it? It balances perfectly somewhere in between healthy haven and artisanal masterpieces just as it is. Their coffee is to die for (Macchiato and Almond Milk Iced Latte pictured below). The iced latte was the perfect wake-up on a slightly-oppressively hot morning, and paired perfectly with my dish of choice: Parmesan biscuits, poached eggs, Italian sausage and a broccoli rabe pesto (Adjustable for my vegetarian friends, by the way!). The broccoli rabe is not at all broccoli-ish, the poached eggs don’t explode all over your whole life, and the biscuits and sausage are a great touch. You would think the four different ingredients would compete with one another for the top spot, but rather they do a well-choreographed little dance with every scoop, making my heart and my stomach very, very happy.

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Bring a friend to share the love with, or don’t and just feel the love yourself; it’s the best place for it. Whether you’ve got loads of catching up to do, or you’ve been finding yourself kind of down and hug isn’t so attainable (I understand, we New Yorkers tend not to be so friendly…), I can promise you one thing: Perla Café will do the trick.


Perla Cafe

234 West 4th Street

New York, NY 10014

http://www.perlanyc.com/

I Let Someone Else Dress Me

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There isn’t a lot of fashion stuff that goes on this blog, mostly because fashion has always been just a hobby of mine. I like putting together outfits and doing my makeup, experimenting, cleaning my closet, and the like. Most days I consider myself to be decently stylish. It doesn’t always happen, though. I’m currently writing this post in a weird Broadway-themed t-shirt and some shorts.

When I started my real person job, I decided it was time for me to dress like a real person 99% of the time, as opposed to, let’s say, about 75% of the time (That’s generous. I wear everything repeatedly until it literally falls apart. I have a pair of boots that I spilled Sambuca on in London, then got chocolate ice cream all over on a hot September day in NYC, and then walked all over Denmark in them, and I still have them. See what I’m getting at?). It was time for some real, quality items, so I decided to give Trunk Club a shot.

Trunk Club is like Ipsy or BarkBox, but with clothes and better. It’s a styling service from Nordstorm that gives you a personal stylist to fix your life. You tell them what you’re into and they search the internet for the perfect pieces. You then approve them, and they get sent to you for you to try. Whatever you like, you keep. Whatever you don’t, you can send back fo’ free (yes, free!).

When I signed up, I was almost immediately asked to set up a call with my stylist. We talked about my lifestyle, my hobbies and interests, and what I’m looking to get out of using the service. From there, via their app, I could see what my stylist Liz was choosing for me. I could veto whatever I thought didn’t suit me or my lifestyle (i.e. Work-inappropriate, won’t travel well, not my style, etc.). Liz was awesome, as I am notoriously picky about everything. When we finally settled on 13-15 items, this cute little trunk showed up at my house about four days later:

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The good: I was essentially playing dress-up sans my old itchy dance costumes. Many of the pieces were incredibly cool and were from brands I’d never heard of. Oh, and Liz nailed the shoe game. She found these puppies below, which I’ve now worn to work several times (Did I also mention they’re crazy comfortable? SCORE!)

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Not my best work, photography-wise… I think I’m much better at food…

The bad: My sizing was super off, so most of the clothing didn’t fit. This one was probably on me for not being clear. It’s hard to explain to a stranger how you like things to sit on your body. The only thing I bought were the shoes, but if everything fit, I would’ve bought it all.

The best: Their customer service is GLORIOUS. I was charged for an item I didn’t keep, but when I called their helpline, it was no more than two minutes before it was fixed with no questions asked. They’ve already asked for feedback and if I’d like to do another trunk, to which the answer is definitely yes.

It’s not something I’d usually do, but I’m all in for trying new things. It’s fun, it’s a confidence boost, and it’s an excuse to step up your style game, even just a little. And if I’m not convincing enough, even Buzzfeed loves them. We can all be the best-dressed versions of ourselves together!

Use this link to get started: www.trunkclub.com/invite/4DV4YA

All That & A Breakdancing Bunny

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A New York take on street food and street art from around the world? Sign me up. Immediately.

Vandal New York is the newest addition to Chef Chris Santos’s repertoire of fun restaurants. It exploded onto the scene with a frenzy of media attention, including a star-studded opening party. Naturally that would lead one to believe that the restaurant is geared solely for the pretentious New York partygoer types, but Vandal is so much more of a hidden gem than expected.

Foremost, I would have to say that Vandal’s menu is far tastier than that of its siblings, The Stanton Social and Beauty & Essex. All three of the restaurants do some version of the shared tapas-style dishes with a twist, but Vandal’s menu reigns supreme. The clientele, atmosphere, and staff are also incredibly laid back. The servers are wearing Converse and sensible black wedges, and welcome you with a smile instead of scanning your outfit.

Take your pick; everything is great. Vandal is most famous for the Crispy Bao Buns. I say the Knish Reubens should be their claim to fame, because how do you even get corned beef to taste that good? Also the Cacio E Pepe Arancini, because it’s a ball of fried pasta with Parmesan sauce. The skirt steak with spicy chorizo fried rice was the table favorite. Although you might not want to, remember that it’s intended to be shared. Eat the spicy rice last. It burns your tastebuds but it’ll hurt so good.

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Crispy Bao Buns

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Knish Reubens

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Clockwise from the left: Thai Papaya Rolls, Sticky Rice Buns, Fish Tacos, Arancini

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Skirt Steak & Spicy Chorizo Rice

As for dessert: Tell them it’s your birthday because free chocolate cupcake (with delicious pretty icing). Order one of everything, except for the Irish coffee milkshake- order that for yourself and don’t share it with anyone else. Order two because they’re adorable (or I could just take the extra off your hands for you, if that’s cool…).

There really aren’t any drawbacks, except maybe that drinks are expensive. But with all of this other incredible stuff happening, it doesn’t even matter.

And on your way out, take a peek at the infamous Vandal bunny. He’s eleven feet tall and has his own Instagram. Give him a kiss for me and tell him I’ll see him again real soon!


Vandal New York

199 Bowery

New York, NY 10002

http://www.vandalnewyork.com/