6 places to visit in NYC for food & craft beer

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

NYC Best food and craft beer


If you’ve ever been to NYC before then you’re already familiar with the overwhelming amount of restaurants and bars on every corner of the city.  It’s almost impossible to choose where to go, especially for a fussy foodie such as myself. The only way to conquer the looming question of ‘where should I eat?’ is to make a stupidly long list of places beforehand, you know, to confuse myself even more.

I went to NYC in August for only 3 days and my list of potential places to eat at was two pages long.  Luckily I was travelling alone so no one else had to witness the struggles I was being faced with, and also luckily for me, my friend who resides in New York offered up some fantastic dining suggestions as well.  I ended up referring to my long, hand-written list a few times throughout the trip but ended up going to the places that were in the vicinity of where I was at in that hungry moment.

Roasted Chicken Sandwich from Daily Provisions

As for craft beer, the decisions were only slightly less exhausting than the food. Although I had about 15 beer destinations on my list, I had to keep in mind that beer flights or tasting size pours are harder to find in NY.  You either order a full size pint or a half pint, which means more beer than anticipated.  However, narrowing down the beer places was a bit easier thanks to Untappd and Beermenus.  These two sites have updated beer menus so that you can see the beers currently on tap at each destination.

If you're bad at making decisions and don't want to rummage through a list of your illegible hand-written restaurants and bars, then check out a few of my favourite food and drink spots to visit in NYC.

Los Tacos No. 1
Los Tacos No. 1 was a MUST-VISIT on my list.  I had about 10 asterisks, a star and highlighter beside this place because I have an unhealthy obsession with tacos. Los Tacos is located inside of Chelsea Market, about a 5 minute walk from my marvelous hotel (shout out to Chelsea Pines Inn).  After my smooth check-in and 5 flights of stairs to my room,  I was off to the market to find the goods.  It wasn't hard to find the long line of hungry people waiting for Mexican food at Los Tacos.  The lineup took about 15 minutes and I thought that was fair considering it was around lunch hour.  Those 15 mins gave me enough time to read the menu over and decide which tacos I wanted to devour.  I opted for the Carne Asada (steak) and the Adobada (marinated pork). 


The cooks asked me if I wanted everything on the tacos and I just said yes, without really knowing what was going on top of them; I trusted their taco expertise. I found a corner in the market that was sort of behind a huge banister so that I could get messy in a semi-private area.  It felt like I was an animal that had just killed it's prey and was trying to remain undetected from other predators who wanted to feast on my prized taco-carcass.  If I had to describe these tacos in two words it would be FLAVOUR EXPLOSION. The pork one was by far the winner of the two and probably the best pork taco I have ever had in my life.  It’s not even an exaggeration, it was epic.  All of the flavours, and sauces and garnishes were perfectly executed. The Carne Asada was also good but more on par with other steak tacos I’ve had before. Los Tacos No. 1 is a must-visit spot for tacos and I'm sad I can't eat there every single day.

Some say that NYC serves the most delicious pizza of any American city and I certainly believe this claim to hold some truth.  The problem is that every block in New York has a pizzeria with a sign that claims they have the 'best pizza' in the city.  This might draw in the credulous tourist, but not me. I did some Za research and places like Di Fara, Lucali, Joe’s Pizza, Emmy Squared, Paulie Gee’s and Roberta’s were just a few of the acclaimed places.  My original plan was to stop by a pizza joint that had slices to-go but instead I plopped down at Roberta’s Bushwick location and ate an entire pizza to myself. I moseyed on in at prime dinner time and the dimly lit, hipster joint blaring punk music was completed packed.  Luckily a table for one isn’t that hard to snag and so I was able to grab a spot near the stools at the back. 


I ordered the classic Margherita Pizza but was definitely tempted by some of the other creative options such as the ShroomsDay Device featuring taleggio, oyster mushrooms, pickled onions, scallions, black pepper and cream (next time I guess). 

The pizza came out quickly and although I burnt the roof of my mouth by digging in too soon, it was well worth it.  Their pizza is perfectly thin, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Roberta’s uses ingredients from their roof-top garden such as herbs and vegetables which really add some depth of fresh flavour to the pizza.  The wait for a table at Roberta’s can be quite long, but if you have the time, then it’s definitely worth checking out this quintessential Brooklyn hot-spot that will meet all of your pizza needs.

JaJaJa is a contemporary, vegan Mexican restaurant that was confirmed DELICIOUS by my friend who is vegetarian.  Although I eat meat, I’m always down to be a low-key vegan, and so this oddly named Mexican joint definitely peaked my interest.  Jajaja is located in the Lower East Side (also a 2nd location in Brooklyn) and the restaurant is tiny as hell.  It reminded me of like every tiny restaurant in Toronto. Luckily my dining companion put our names down on the wait-list and within 30 minutes we got a table.  The focus at Jajaja is plant-based street eats, a curated tequila and mezcal menu, Mexican beers, fresh-pressed juices and fancy AF cocktails. 

I ordered the Cilantro y Mezcal cocktail which was beautiful, coco-nutty and potent; a winning combination for me.  For food, we ordered the Buffalo Flower and Mezcal Mushroom tacos. The cauliflower tacos won me over, nothing beats tempura’d cauliflower with all sorts of sauces and fun garnishes.  The mushrooms were very tasty as well, very saucy and full of flavour.  For dessert I ordered the Raspberry Vegan Cheesecake which was waaaaaay better than regular cheesecake.  I don’t know how they did it, but they did it, and I savoured every damn bite. It was the highlight of JaJaJa by far.  Although I'm sure there are tons of other great vegetarian restaurants in NY, please keep in mind that this place is really cute, low-key and sharing plates are plentiful so that you can taste many of the items from their innovative menu. 


Honorable mentions: Brunch at Two Hands, Lunch at Daily Provisions and Vegetarian Dinner at Modern Love BK.


Torst is the ultimate destination for any beer geek who ventures to New York.  With a constantly changing roster of 21 taps, a cellar with over 250 rare bottles/cans and a super nerdy draft system (adjustable compression of each tap and being able to serve certain beer styles at different temperatures) no wonder it was voted as one of the best beer bars in NYC.  Torst which means ‘thirst’ in Danish opened in 2013 by Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, the cult brewer behind Denmark's Evil Twin and Daniel Burns the former head of Momofuku’s test kitchen.  Although Daniel Burns and Luksus are no longer a part of Torst, you can still find a full food menu that includes snacks, shared plates and sandwiches. 


Torst might be overwhelming to someone new to craft beer but the staff will be able to help you choose a beer suited to your tastes.  For me, I could’ve spent hours here trying all of the Finback, Crooked Stave, Threes Brewing, Evil Twin, and Mikkeller on tap and even more hours rummaging through the impressive bottle lists.  They house some pretty pricey bottles, but the fact that you can even find them on the menu is a rarity.  Why not split a bottle of Eclipse Grand Cru 2015 for $50? When in Rome! Torst is by far my favourite beer bar in NYC.

Other Half Brewing  
The first place on my list for beer destinations was Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn.  Other Half has developed quite the reputation for their fresh and hazy batches of IPAs and so this was a MUST-visit spot for me. The cult following that Other Half has gained is massive, and this is apparent by their social media followings (125k on IG), their long line-ups for can releases (which turn into a bottle trade convene), the fact that 1500-2000 people visit their taproom every week and their beer ratings are continuously above 4 on sites such as Untappd and Beer Advocate.  Other Half knows what their doing in terms of making beer and marketing, and their devoted fans can certainly attest. 


I stopped by Other Half Brewing on a Saturday afternoon and the place was popping! Biggie Smalls blaring, people of all ages sipping on hop juice, and people walking out with cases of fresh cans! I could barely find a spot to rest my beers and ended up joining a large group of devoted Other Half locals that were more than welcoming and beyond my comprehension of beer nerds. 

There were about 20 beers on tap that Saturday afternoon with majority of them being an IPA.  The rest of the beers were Pilsners, Berliners and Stouts, all which were quite good as a palate cleanser in between all of the IPAs.  Whether you’re into thick and hazy New England IPA's or American IPAs, you’ll definitely get your hop fix at Other Half. Other Half is located on Centre Street in Carroll Gardens, next to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and just two blocks from the subway.  There is no food menu at Other Half, but you can order food in or stop by the conveniently located McDonald's across the street. I'm sure that prime location often gets an overflow of hungry hopped up patrons ordering way too many nuggets for their own good. Other Half is not to be missed, not only for the amazing beers, but for the experience!

Arts & Crafts Beer Parlor
Arts & Crafts Beer Parlour in Greenwich Village is a warm and welcoming beer bar where locals and beer geeks unite. There were all sorts of people here just looking for a low-key place to meet with friends, study, or enjoy some snacks and a cold one. It felt like you were walking into Cheers or something, except that no one knew your name. I sat at the bar and perused the chalkboard consisting of 24 taps and went for the Jack's Abby BBA Framinghammer. The bar staff were extremely knowledgeable with the beers they had on tap, and happily mentioned that I was there during happy hour which meant select pints for $5. Yay.

What’s also cool about A&C is that the art on the walls change frequently, showcasing many of the artists throughout the city.  As for food, the menu here is small but sufficient.  Besides the free seasoned nuts at the bar, you can order a Hot Sigmund’s Pretzel with beer cheese or pizza from Table 87 Pizza.  A&C also offers beer flights for those who want to sample a few of the beers on tap. This spot is definitely a nice escape from the usual busy beer bars in the city.

Honourable Mentions: Top Hops Beer Shop, The Owl Farm, As Is NYC, Milk & Hops

Los Tacos No. 1 - https://www.lostacos1.com/
Other Half Brewing - https://otherhalfbrewing.com/
Arts & Crafts Beer Parlor - http://www.artsandcraftsbarnyc.com/

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