Robin Miller Shares Her Favorite Food Experiences In New York City

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Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by a world-class chef, celebrity, or local hero.

This week we’re stopping in New York City, home to the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, and Central Park. There are a lot of reasons why 62.8 million visitors headed to NYC in 2017 — not the least of which is its awe-inspiring food scene. Dining in New York City is truly one of the best experiences you can have. However, picking a place that will give you the amazing culinary experience you crave can be overwhelming. There are just so many choices. So we reached out to Robin Miller, a co-host of Real Life Cooking on Bluprint, for recommendations of the best the city has to offer.

Miller has been active in the foodie community since 1990, working as a food writer, television personality, and nutritionist. She’s also authored ten books, including Robin Takes 5 and the New York Times bestseller, Quick Fix Meals. The latter shares a name with the Food Network show she hosted for five years. You may know her from that program, but you are equally likely to have read her recipes and nutrition articles in newspapers and magazines like Health, Cooking Light, Parade, and Shape.

She certainly has the chops to point to some fabulous eating experiences, so let’s get started.

Pizza: John’s of Bleecker Street and Patsy’s

‘I’m torn between John’s of Bleecker Street and Patsy’s. Both were super close to
my Greenwich Village apartment. Patsy’s was 2 blocks in one direction and John’s was 2
blocks in the other! Clearly, I had my fair share of amazing slices. Patsy’s
moved uptown, but I’m sure the pizza is still AMAZING. John’s remains on Bleecker and I dine-in with my boys EVERY time we’re in New York. The pizza is divinely thin and slightly
charred on the bottom from the coal-fired brick oven. The sauce is tangy/sweet and
there’s just enough cheese for a food-porn-pull. Kyle gets mushrooms and peppers, Luke
gets pepperoni, and I get mushrooms and broccoli. Yep, we each get our OWN pies. And
then we carve our names in the furniture.”

Tacos: Rosa Mexicano

Rosa Mexicano doesn’t serve the cheapest tacos in town, but quite possibly the best. And the ambiance – on my last visit, we sat right under the backlit, cascading waterfall studded with diving figurines.

My favorite tacos: the braised beef brisket with tomatillo-habanero salsa, house-made slaw and pickled red onion; and the grilled portobello mushroom with black beans, roasted red and yellow peppers, grilled corn, cabbage and chile de árbol salsa. They also have beer-battered fish and cornmeal-dusted shrimp versions that are served with tartar sauce or aioli. The tacos are organized by region, so you can take a culinary journey while noshing. And if it matters to you, you can get some of the tacos vegan and gluten-free too.

Asian: Asuka Sushi

I almost put Asuka under “guilty pleasure”, not because the food is unhealthy, but because I can’t stop ordering from the menu when I’m there. The sushi is fresh and varied, the soups are brothy and light, the dumplings are puffy and shimmering with homemade glaze, and the noodle dishes rock my world. Last time I dined-in, after I had 4 sushi rolls (shiitake mushroom, Asuka veg, hijiki avocado, and pumpkin tempura), a mixed green salad with carrot-ginger dressing,
salty/steamy edamame, and vegetarian pad Thai, my server said, “Wow, you eat a lot.”

Street Food: NY Dosa

The ultimate street food – purchased from a cart in Washington Square Park, NYC. I almost missed out on this amazing experience. I was hanging out at the park, watching my kids play in the grass, and Thiru Kumar (the food vendor) walked over and handed me samples from his cart. Holy deliciousness! In that tiny space, Thiru whips up intensely flavorful, vegan dosas (south Indian crepes) at NY Dosa. My little “crepe” was piled high with seasoned potatoes and vegetables. When my boys saw what was happening, they ran over to pick at my sample. Paper plate licked clean, we bought more. Thiru also serves up lentil soup (topped with vegetables and peanuts) and roti curry.

Sweet Food: Pasticceria Rocco

Pasticceria Rocco was dangerously close to my Bleecker street apartment. My favorite selection? The HUGE chocolate chip cookies nestled in the storefront window – especially the ones half-dunked in dark chocolate. I also love the enormous sugar cookie with chocolate ganache in the center and hints of almond extract. I take my boys here a lot – especially after John’s pizza because it’s one block away. Kyle usually gets a chocolate-covered cannoli; Luke gets some sort of chocolate cake or éclair. Or both. And we ALWAYS leave with a box of the cookies-by-the-pound.

Fine Dining: Aquavit

Aquavit was one of my first NYC fine-dining experiences WAY back when. When Marcus Samuelson was chef. It remains top notch. The refined, modern Nordic cuisine is fresh, colorful and masterfully plated. I love how the menu celebrates Swedish culinary heritage by showcasing an abundance of seafood AND ingredients you’d find in the forest (berries, mushrooms, wild game, and other wild foods). I can tell you this: I’ve NEVER had better cod, venison or squab. And those pickled things? Another shout-out to Sweden and its short growing season (pickling and preserving are customary). Aquavit adds savory pickled foods to many dishes, perfectly balancing salty and sweet.

Casual Dining: Cafeteria

First off, I love Cafeteria. It’s small, bright and modern, and the cocktails are all made with fresh-squeezed and pressed juices. So even if you’re not imbibing, you can down a ginger shot. Or acai or green shot. That’s a hot button for me. Then, the food. It’s 100% American comfort food, but it’s served with a contemporary twist. My favorites: the butternut squash toast with goat cheese, balsamic glaze, pepitas, and bacon; the fried chicken and waffles with sage, chili butter and maple syrup; and the lentil falafel street tacos. Lentil falafel street tacos? See what I mean – love the inspo.

Vegetarian: Peacefood

Another haunt near NYU (my old stomping grounds) with a ginormous vegan menu (and raw options if that’s your jam). My favorites at Peacefood are the roasted Japanese pumpkin sandwich with seasoned and mashed pumpkin, caramelized onions, ground walnuts, cashew cheese, and mixed greens; the mushroom duxelle pizza with roasted sweet peppers, onions and zucchini (sounds fancy, but it’s just a pizza); and the pan-seared Shanghai-style dumplings, a generous serving of fluffy handmade dumplings stuffed with Chinese chives, shiitake and wood ear mushrooms, marinated tofu, and vegetarian protein (and their ginger-balsamic dipping sauce). Plan on getting seconds. They also have amazing, vegan desserts –the chocolate chip cookie sandwich with chocolate filling is killer.

Brunch: The Smith

This ain’t your average brunch. The Smith is upscale and casual, so there’s something for absolutely EVERY diner. I mean, let’s start with the seafood and raw bar; you can get oysters (my favorite), clams, chilled shrimp (my other favorite – eaten many times at the bar), poached mussels, spicy salmon tartare, and a whole or half lobster. Then, for starters I like the hot potato chips with blue cheese fondue; cinnamon toffee brioche (hot, sticky, nirvana); and burrata with slow roasted tomatoes, baby arugula and garlic ciabatta (I’ll never tire of that burrata cheese porn). There are a gazillion sandwiches, sides, salads, eggs, and stuff from the griddle, but my boys always lean towards the Smith Burger with bacon, shallot marmalade, white cheddar, house pickles, crispy onions, and “house” sauce on a potato bun. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the fries.

Iconic Food of the City: Ess-a-bagel

I’m 100% going with bagels here. I mean, c’mon, New York is notorious for the BEST bagels on a global scale. In fact, I stopped eating bagels when I moved out of Manhattan. You think I’m kidding? My pick is Ess-a-bagel. Their jumbo bagels are the chewiest, most awesome piece of dough you will ever have. Ever. It’s clear the bagels are hand-rolled; they’re all different and sublimely fresh. And I find it hilariously awesome that they charge you 5 cents to slice one. But, I’ve never paid that premium because I get a full-on sandwich and here it is: everything bagel, peppermill-cracked turkey, imported Jarlsberg, lettuce, tomato, and whatever condiment they recommend. And I always get it to-go, because we’re usually headed into the midtown tunnel…

Odd Culinary Experience: Ninja New York

If you like a little katana sword-fighting with your meal, this is your place. The whole vibe of Ninja New York is super cool. First, there’s a below-ground entrance, leading you into a cavernous space where everyone has their own “cubby”. And I mean your OWN little “cave” for dinner. I often shy away from restaurants with a gimmick – for fear the food will be deplorable. But that’s not the case here. I took my boys here figuring this: “They would enjoy the atmosphere and, worse case, we could get pizza later.” Turns out, not only was the ambiance fantastic, the food was amazing, and we got our own, personal “magic show”, tableside. Here’s what we ordered – all damn good: mystery edamame; prime beef bento box; chicken teriyaki; and “The Great Castle”, which was two tuna sushi, two salmon sushi, one white fish sushi, spicy tuna roll, inari sushi, New York strip steak, tempura chicken, French fries, mac and cheese, edamame, smoked salmon paste, and grissini star. Clearly, that’s why it’s called “GREAT.” For dessert, we got the “Ninja Star,” a soft chocolate mousse cake that they adorned with a blazing black ninja star. All I know is, things were on fire and it was fun.

Guilty Pleasure: Breads Bakery Union Square

Two words: chocolate babka. That’s all you need in life. The bread is sweet, chewy and dripping with chocolate. And get this: most of the time, it’s STILL WARM! So warm, the paper bag glistens with melted chocolate as you walk out the door. The cinnamon babka is equally amazing. As are ALL the breads that Breads Bakery makes fresh every day (loafs, rolls, challah). After grabbing the babka, we always take a fresh-baked baguette and rugelach too. I mean, we’re here already. Then, those chocolate cookies and flourless chocolate cake… There’s no end in sight.

Hangover Food: Caliente Cab Company

Not just for hangovers – this is my FAVORITE guacamole on earth. And I’ve tried a gazillion versions. Caliente Cab Company’s guacamole is fresh-made to order, as are the chips. Then, there’s no shortage of hearty Mexican fare to cure your worst hangover. My favorites: chicken taco salad with mesclun lettuce, grilled chicken, avocado salsa, crema, pico de gallo, Monterey jack cheese, black and pinto beans, and agave-chipotle vinaigrette dressing – all served in a crunchy taco bowl (that’s still warm from the deep-fryer); sautéed vegetable quesadilla with kale, zucchini, cumin-dusted peppers, and chihuahua cheese – on a whole wheat tortilla (I dip this in the house-made guac); and sizzling chicken, steak and blackened shrimp fajitas served with warm tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, refried beans, and Mexican rice. My boys always order extra rice and beans (which come in tiny cast iron skillets). Smart kids.

Thank you, Robin Miller, for taking us on a culinary tour of NYC!

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See you next week!