Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by top chefs. This week, we’re taking a bite out of the Big Apple, with Chef Mark Strausman! Who better to take us on a tour of New York City’s culinary riches than a true New York City local?
Meet Chef Mark Strausman, an NYC native who knows ins and outs of the city and its expansive food culture better than just about anyone. After a childhood spent cooking dinner for his family in Queens, Strausman graduated from the culinary program at New York City Technical College. Next, he headed overseas — honing his skills at five-star European hotels. The classical training served him well; not long after returning to his beloved city, the chef opened Sapore di Mare to critical acclaim. Coco Pazzo followed, garnering a three-star rating from the New York Times.
Today, Strausman oversees all culinary operations at Freds at Barneys, a New York City institution. Much of the restaurant’s success is thanks to the star chef, who’s been there for 20 years. He was at the helm for the opening of locations in Beverly Hills and Chicago, and led the charge when Barneys reclaimed its original location in Chelsea.
“This restaurant is all about serving downtown neighborhoods,” he told Uproxx, thrilled at the chance to share the same familial experience in the Chelsea location that he’s spent so long cultivating up on Madison Ave.
Before we get to checking out the dishes that Chef Strausman adores throughout the five boroughs, let’s have a look at what he’s is cooking up at Freds at Barneys.
Now onto the main course: Chef Strausman’s favorite food experiences in New York City.
Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. It’s a special place and it’s a privilege to watch Mr. DeMarco craft every delicious pie with love and care. It makes me miss the New York street pizza of my youth, because the dollar slices that are everywhere now are nowhere near as good.
Mesa Coyoacan in Brooklyn. I love how they stay true to regional Mexican cuisine. And I’ve got to give a shout out to their service. They really care and work to give you a good experience. Also Casa Enrique in Long Island City, Queens. They have a tres leche cake that’s so good it could make you cry.
Playground Thai in Jackson Heights, Queens. The food is authentic, we’re usually the only ones speaking English, and my son, who’s a more adventurous eater than me, can get his fill of silkworms and grasshoppers.
A slice (or two) of the previously mentioned Di Fara pizza…
Anything from Francois Payard on Third Avenue (and other locations). He’s the real deal. Close your eyes and you’ll think you’re eating pastries in Paris.
Nougatine at Jean-Georges. One of NYC’s most beautiful dining spaces, loads of windows and light, right by Central Park. The food is accomplished and light, I can always get plenty of beautifully cooked vegetables, and [I] always feel good after eating there.
Taverna Kyclades in Astoria, Queens. The hour-long wait on a summer night is part of the magic. The small Greek salad is somehow always big enough for the whole table, no matter how many are in your party. Fresh fish and lemon potatoes. A perfect meal.
Peacefood Café on Columbus Avenue for the addictive chickpea fries. I also love Indian restaurants because they have a lot of vegetarian options. Chennai Garden in Murray Hill has a great vegetarian lunch buffet. Standout dishes are the beets with coconut and the rava kichadi (a savory semolina porridge).
I’m usually making bagels at Freds during weekend brunch, but when I get the chance, I love brunch at the Carlyle Hotel. On my days off, I like to eat light, and The Carlyle is an elegant room where I can feel indulged, but they’ll make me something light.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
Second Avenue Deli for the big fressen. Matzoh ball soup, little bit of chopped chicken liver, a couple of sour pickles, pastrami on rye with mustard. All the stuff my doctor tells me I shouldn’t be eating, in one meal.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Eating a silkworm off my son’s plate at Playground Thai. We established that particular dish is his thing, not mine.
Peanut butter. No jar is safe if I’m around. Bread is optional.
At my age, I don’t get hung over, but back in the day it was potato perogies with onions and sour cream at Odessa in the East Village.
Locanda Vini e Olii in Brooklyn. The food is really good and the setting is charming. There’s something about the drive to Brooklyn, being out of our usual element, in a tree-lined neighborhood, that’s a bit magical. For a couple of hours, you don’t feel like you’re in NYC.
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
Morso, the Upper East Side restaurant of my friend, Pino Luongo. Pino always has something delicious and interesting cooking, there’s a beautiful outdoor area, and it’s a chance to catch up with my friend, who I don’t see often enough.
Thank you, Chef Mark Strausman, for taking us on a culinary tour of NYC!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Washington D.C., New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!