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Our 10 Best Things to Eat on 23rd Street

La Maison du Macaron makes cookies in every color you can imagine.
La Maison du Macaron makes cookies in every color you can imagine.
Lauren Shockey

23rd Street isn't necessarily considered a gastronomic thoroughfare. More likely, it's thought of as being home to various chain eateries (Pret, Chipotle, etc.) catering to the office-worker lunch crowd and, of course, one of the two locations in New York City where you can gorge on the Bloomin' Onion. But if you know where to look, you can actually eat surprisingly well on this stretch of concrete. And if you don't know, we're here to help. It's our home block, after all. So start working up an appetite for Our 10 Best Things to Eat on 23rd Street.

10. Macarons at La Maison du Macaron: Of all the macaron sellers in New York City, La Maison du Macaron boasts the biggest assortment of flavors. You can find classics like black currant and salted caramel, but also more offbeat offerings like pumpkin, fig, orange flower-pistachio, and rose-lychee. The cookies are quite good (our favorite is the praline), though they are decidedly chewier and denser than the ones at Ladurée, home of the ideal macaron. Still, La Maison du Macaron makes great coffee, and it's a lovely spot to while the afternoon away with a good book and handful of sugary cookies. 132 West 23rd Street, 212-243-2757

9. Coconut Omelet at Pongsri: Pongsri offers a good selection of Thai curries and noodle dishes, but we especially like the coconut omelet appetizer. A thin, crepe-like disk enshrouds cooked, orange-hued shredded coconut, bean sprouts, scallions, and chopped peanuts, served with a diced cucumber salad. It's messy to eat, but delicious. 165 West 23rd Street, 212-645-8808

Indulge your inner child with a grilled cheese and tater tots
Indulge your inner child with a grilled cheese and tater tots
Lauren Shockey

8. Grilled Cheese and Tater Tots at Trailer Park Lounge: Trailer Park Lounge is one of the kitschiest restaurants in the city, decked out with 1960s memorabilia, with a special nod to all things Elvis. The food features all the lowbrow staples of your youth, but you can't get much better than the über-melty grilled cheese sandwich served on white toast. Plus, this warm sammy is served with tater tots (or crispy sweet potato fries), the most nostalgic food ever. Gourmet grub? Hardly, but it's mighty tasty.271 West 23rd Street, 212-463-8000

 

Just because it's not summer doesn't mean you can't enjoy a chilled soup
Just because it's not summer doesn't mean you can't enjoy a chilled soup
Lauren Shockey

7. Gazpacho at Bonobo's: Admittedly, the dining options get increasingly limited once you get to the east side of 23rd Street (the only other real options are Schnipper's and Live Bait, both fine but nothing special). But this vegan restaurant has some hidden gems, like the gazpacho, loaded with diced cukes and peppers, and brightly flavored with vinegar. Who says you can't have cold soups in the winter? 18 East 23rd Street, 212-505-1200

Mushrooms take center stage on the menu at Birreria, which is open year-round.
Mushrooms take center stage on the menu at Birreria, which is open year-round.
Robert Sietsema

6. Maitake Con Pecorino Sardo at Birreria at Eataly: Eataly boasts many restaurants, the majority of which offer great Italian dishes. But we've been taken with Birreria recently because of its innovative beer-garden menu. Notably, mushrooms take center stage, and actually work quite well with beer. One favorite is the maitake mushroom dish, served over creamy pecorino and dressed with greens. Bar food just got a lot classier. 200 Fifth Avenue (can enter on 23rd Street, though), 646-398-5100

5. Shrimp in Garlic Sauce at El Quijote: Chelsea is now home to tons of Spanish restaurants, like Salinas and El Quinto Pino, but none has the old-school charm and lack of pretension of El Quijote, located next to the famed Hotel Chelsea. The menu is vast, with an emphasis on seafood, so it's no surprise that the shrimp in garlic sauce is top-notch. Order it, plus a pitcher of champagne sangria, and you've got yourself one delicious evening. Bring breath mints, though -- you're gonna need them. 226 West 23rd Street, 212-929-1855

 

Sweet and custardy flan
Sweet and custardy flan
Lauren Shockey

4. Flan at Big Booty Bread Co.: This tiny bakery specializes in both traditional and Latin American sweets, meaning that alongside the red velvet cupcakes you'll find empanadas, a great tres leches cake, and an even better square of flan. Slicked with caramel and nicely jiggly, it possesses everything you want in a custardy dessert. Eat too much of it, though, and you might just get yourself a big booty. 261 West 23rd Street, 212-414-3056

3. Hamburger at RUB BBQ: Burgers are only served on Monday nights after 6 at this barbecue joint, and include a regular burger, cheeseburger, and special always-changing burger. The patty is cooked by smashing it into the skillet, creating a flat patty with equal amounts of charred goodness on the outside and a deeply flavorful, juicy, steak-like inside. The RUB should really stand for Righteous Urban Burgers. 208 West 23rd Street, 212-524-4300

Sausage and spaetzle, a match made in heaven. Or Germany.
Sausage and spaetzle, a match made in heaven. Or Germany.
Lauren Shockey

2. Grilled Bratwurst with Spaetzle at the Guilty Goose: It's easy to miss this charming restaurant adjacent to the Inn on 23rd Street. Indeed, the generic décor isn't doing a lot to draw in foot traffic, but once inside, you'll discover a super-welcoming staff and surprisingly tasty grub. Our favorite dish on the menu is the grilled bratwurst over a bed of spaetzle and cooked cabbage. It's rich, hearty, and delicious, and it goes great with one of the many, many excellent beers available. 131 West 23rd Street, 212-255-3727

 

Just like in the South of France
Just like in the South of France
Lauren Shockey

1. Provençale Fish Soup at La Promenade des Anglais: Alain Allegretti's Southern French restaurant, located in the London Towers complex, is the most recent addition to the 23rd Street dining-scape, and a welcome one at that. The restaurant offers many very good contemporary French dishes, like veal medallions with cauliflower puree, shrimp tartare with celery remoulade, and an outstanding lentil soup. But our absolutely top choice on the menu is the classic fish soup. Served alongside garlicky croutons topped with gruyère, the soup is imbued with the essence of the sea. Perfect fare for a blustery evening, or really any time at all. 461 West 23rd Street, 212-255-7400

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV, or me @ldshockey.


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