A whirlwind work trip to New York doesn’t typically leave much time for real food adventures, but nevertheless I am pretty ruthless about asking locals for their favorite haunts.
On this sweltering hot trip, with temperatures in the high 90s and humidity to match, I managed to squeeze in two jaunts. One to Keens Chophouse, a traditional New York steak house which won’t be of interest if you’re anything other than a red meat-eater, and the other to a fab Spanish tapas spot called Boqueria.
Keens, on 36th Street near 6th Avenue, is a rambling, sprawling, low-ceilinged joint that feels like it’s been there forever. For some reason, the entire ceiling is decorated with tobacco pipes, each one painstakingly attached to the ceiling with two cup-hooks. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of these things. We speculated whether they were all hung at once, or slowly added over the years. I pity the pipe hanger.
You can have anything you want to eat as long it’s beef (or lobster – there were a few unfortunates staggering around in a tank). For some reason, each piece of beef comes accompanied by a piece of broiled red pepper. You order the sides separately – potatoes of multiple varieties, or the typical chunky, overcooked veggies you’d expect in a place such as this.
Prime rib comes nearly three inches thick, on the bone, and according to my fellow diner, who mostly eats a Paleo diet, quite delicious. It certainly looked juicy. I split a filet mignon with my friend, and it was just fine. Nothing outstanding, but much as you’d expect it to be. Most surprising was the fact that people were still showing up at 10.30pm to eat humongous amounts of beef and potatoes. I wonder how well they slept.
Boqueria, on 19th Street near 6th Avenue, is an altogether different place and perfect for sharing eats with friends. They don’t take reservations, but you can put your name on the list and they’ll text you when your table’s ready. It’s a perfect excuse to get a fancy schmancy cocktail at the Flatiron Lounge, just a few doors away.
Boqueria is jumping, loud with chatter and music, and offering a comprehensive tapas menu. Choose from the usual suspects, they’re all good. Jamon Iberico with sweet little olives, pimientos du Pardron – deliciously sprinkled with sea salt; patatas bravas, spicy and crunchy and very moreish; and lots of lamb dishes from meatballs to skewers.
The energy of the place, along with most of the dishes (skip their take on paella, it’s made with a type of pasta and was a little dry), make this a great spot. We really enjoyed the people watching. One table seemed to be straight out of an episode of HBO’s Girls. It was hard not to stare and ascribe a story to each of the diners.
Oh, and there’s a new type of lunch place that has sprung up of late. It’s called Fresh & Co and if you’re looking for a “clean” lunch that isn’t chock full of gluten or dairy, this is a great spot. They have a salad bar where they’ll make your favorite combo on the spot; a quinoa bowl bar – you can choose from a few different combinations of meat or tofu and spices; and a soup station. It was reasonably priced (for New York), quick and not diabolically unhealthy. Check it out.