My Fave Dishes to Order in NYC, Part 1

This is my "I'm from New York City, baby" photo. By Colleen Katana.
Every so often, I get questions from friends and readers visiting New York who want to know where to eat. I get it. I live in New York and I'm obviously (obviously) obsessed with food so people figure I must know where to go.

Except that...I don't. Not really.

That question usually leaves me at a loss because at the end of the day, I'm really more about cooking than I am restaurants. That said, I do go out to eat a lot--probably a few times a week. The thing is that I just go to the same handful of favorite places over and over (and over!) again.

I was with some people at an event the other day, and one of the guys said that he never eats at the same place twice. He said that, to him, it's "like watching a movie again," and why bother when "you already know the ending."

I had no idea what that man was talking about!

I watch movies over and over again ALL THE TIME! And I love it. And I eat at the same places over and over again ALL THE TIME. And I love it. I even usually order the same thing.

What can I say? I likes what I likes!

Here are some of the things I order over and over again in lovely magical NYC:

1. Braised Lamb Sandwich at Landmarc, Time Warner Center
Braised Lamb Sandwich, Landmarc
Landmarc is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It's a reliable spot that I often suggest when meeting friends for lunch or drinks, for weekend brunches, or even business meetings. Owned by Marc Murphy (from Food Network's Chopped!) it's located in the gorgeous Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, which makes it an incredibly convenient meeting spot for this upper-upper west side resident (read: Harlem).

I used to work next door and would slip over for lunch all the time. One of my favorite things about Landmarc? They don't sell wine by the glass, just by the half bottle, so you're FORCED to order yourself a little bottle if you want a glass of wine with your lunch.

This pleases me greatly.

Nothing more decadent than sitting at a table by yourself in the middle of the day, eating a multi-course lunch with your own little bottle of wine, followed up with dessert.

Oh, and the dessert!

Landmarc sells mini desserts--like two or three bites each--so you can order a couple things and not feel weird about it (even if you're dining alone!). My picks are always the lemon tart and the chocolate espresso mousse. Eugene usually gets the eclair or one of the mini seasonal crumbles. They also have a "one of each" sampler plate that I'm very much a fan of.

But I digress! The braised lamb sandwich is my absolute favorite thing on their menu. Possibly my most favorite sandwich in the world. It's slow-braised lamb on ciabatta with housemade bread and butter pickles and a creamy spread. It's huge and I generally eat half for lunch and save the second half for a late-afternoon snack.

It's only available on the Fall/Winter lunch menu (not at dinner, sadly, although at dinner you should order the lamb shank), and I honestly miss and dream about it all summer long. It just came back on the menu a couple weeks ago, and I had my friend Nick meet me there to try it. He was totally sold.

Go there. Order it. I promise you'll love it.

2. Chocolate Cake with Meadowbrook Farm Cream, Casellula
Chocolate Cake, Casselula
Dear. Sweet. Lord.

This is my favorite dessert in all of New York City.

A dark, rich, not-too-sweet chocolate layer cake with thick ganache frosting, crunchy cacao nibs and (this is the kicker!) a generous pool of rich, thick local Meadowbrook Farm Cream poured right on top.

I first heard about Casellula, a cozy little Hell's Kitchen wine and tapas bar from Jordan over at Ramshackle Glam. She had blogged about it and so I added it to my list of places to check out. My friend Aryanna and I eventually made our way there for drinks and dinner, and I had such a great time that I made Eugene bring me back there the very next day.

We had dinner and I then ordered the cake for dessert. Eugene didn't know what was about to happen, so when the lady set down the plate between us and then proceeded to pour a full cup of cream over it, he was horrified! His eyes wide open and the thought "Why is she ruining my cake?!" clearly plastered on his face.

But then he tasted it, and he understood. Pure, luscious decadence. It's the kind of dessert to eat with your eyes closed.

Tip: Order the cake with the beginning of your meal, but ask them not to pour the cream on yet. Let it sit on your table and reach room temp, then pour the cream, then eat. NYC rules require that the cake be refrigerated, which slightly takes away from the deliciousness, but once it reaches room temp, it becomes perfect again.

3. Pig's Ass Sandwich, Casellula

Pig's Ass Sandwich, Casellula
Let's just keep talking about Casellula, OK? There are a lot of other good things on that menu. Like this Pig's Ass Sandwich, which is like a hot and spicy twist on a Cuban sandwich and is just as fun to order as it is to eat (because it's cut into strips! That you can dip in spicy sauce!). I haven't had one in a while and I'm craving it. Maybe this week...

They also have an expansive selection of cheeses, each which comes with its own house-made accompaniment--think lovely things like jams, candied nuts, caramel popcorn, raw local honeys, etc., meant to highlight the undertones of the cheese. Have the waitress choose for you, and spend a leisurely afternoon letting your fork dance over the plate.

Eugene and I typically start with a selection of cheese and paired wines, followed by the awesome sandwich and some tapas, and finally (finally!), dessert.

Actually, there are plenty of times when we go just for the cake. The place closes at 2AM so there have been many evenings where we've turned down a lackluster dessert menu at another restaurant only to hop into cab and head over to Casellula for a late night slice of cake and a glass or two of port.

4. Oyster Deviled Eggs, Ditch Plains

Um...yeah, it's another Marc Murphy restaurant. His places are all convenient to my apartment and I'm a fan of convenience when it comes to dining out.

Here are the things I love about Ditch Plains: It's about 10 minutes from my apartment by subway, they always have seating available, they have big comfy tables and cozy booths with pictures of the ocean and surfboards on the walls. The cocktails are poured big and strong. The appetizers are fun and addictive. The entrees are the sort of things you would eat while on vacation so combined with the beach pictures and surfboards, it's basically like taking a trip outside the city.

Here is what I don't love about Ditch Plains: The dessert menu. It's...not good. But that's OK because I can just hop in a cab to Casellula (see #2). Also, the fact that the delicious beachy food always makes me lose control to the point where Eugene and I always end up pretty stuffed after we eat there. So stuffed that we often sit for at least 20 minutes after having paid the check, just trying to work up the energy to stand. We spend those 20 minutes saying, "NEVER AGAIN!"

But...we always do it again. We do it, and we LIKE IT!

Why does this happen? It's because we start our meal off with delicious fried oyster-topped deviled eggs. Oh deviled eggs, how I love you. I love you especially when you're topped off with fried oysters. And even though eating 6 of you a piece is basically equivalent to a whole meal, protein-wise, we continue on ordering multiple dishes such as:

5. Jalapeno and Cheddar Tater Tots with Ranch Dressing, Ditch Plains

There is a burger and a salad in this photo, but you can ignore them. They're unremarkable. It's all about those naughty little crispy balls.

Tater tots are one of my favorite things ever. Tater tots are A LOT of people's favorite thing ever. But this version courtesy of the geniuses at Ditch Plains is pretty incredible. Homemade (none of that Ore Ida nonsense!) and filled with spicy bits of pickled jalapeno and creamy cheddar, they are amazing.

And they come with homemade ranch dressing to dip in. This is a purely magical combination. Also, I love that ranch. I love that ranch so much that I generally ask for a second cup of it and say things like "I want to eat that with a spoon!" and the waiters laugh because they think I'm joking.

But I am SO. NOT. JOKING!

Just ask Eugene, who has straight up watched me eat the leftover ranch with a spoon, and still somehow finds me an attractive and suitable life partner.

Oh, and you want to know an awesome secret? I got Mr. Murphy himself to give me the recipe for these tots. And I'm going to make them for you one of these days... Get ready!

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