Friday, January 22, 2016

New York Christmas Trip 2015: East Village Bars & Restaurants

Doug and I hosted both sets of parents for Thanksgiving this year so we felt somewhat justified in our decision to spend Christmas just the two of us in New York City.

I've been to the Big Apple quite a few times thanks to my two years in Boston but Doug had never been aside from a manic 7-hour layover we had on our way back from Spain. (Note: sobbing into your pizza at an LIRR station because you might miss your plane home, and you drank too much at Brooklyn Brewery, and you're scared is not the best way to introduce your husband to NYC).

Per usual, Doug was an excellent trip planner and found an amazing Airbnb for us in the East Village for our 6-day stay. Of course, we hit up the touristy stuff while we were there, but for the most part, we spent a good deal of time in this new-to-us neighborhood. It turned out to be the perfect central spot as most of the restaurants and bars on our list were within walking distance. Here's an overview of our favorite East Village spots (in order of most favorite to only sort-of-favorite-y):

Big Gay Ice Cream

I feel a little silly saying that soft serve ice cream was the best thing I ate in New York... but Big Gay Ice Cream's soft serve was the best thing I ate in New York. Doug and I split the Salty Pimp- vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip. It is the perfect combination of creamy, sweet, and salty. And they put dulce de leche in the cone too so you don't even have to be sad when you get past the chocolate dip. Genius.

Miracle on Ninth Street
Miracle on Ninth Street is a Christmas bar pop-up and you know I loved it because A) I'm a sucker for holiday-themed drinks and B) I'm definitely still on board the pop-up train (#basicfoodiebitch).

Housed in a bar usually called Mace, Miracle on Ninth Street was seriously the definition of holiday cheer. There were wall-to-wall decorations, fun and festive cocktails, and a ton of people having a great time. I loved my Candy Cane Fizz, but it was Doug's Redneck Flip with bourbon, applejack, Budweiser-marshmallow syrup, beef jerky bitters, and egg that really stole the show.

Can some Portland bar please steal this idea next year?

Booker & Dax
Our bartender at Booker & Dax was the one who told us about Miracle on Ninth Street, but this bar gets points even without that excellent tip thanks to its delicious drinks. It's part of the Momofuku empire (I liked it better than the Noodle Bar or Milk Bar), and focuses on making cocktails using new techniques and technologies... hence the existence of the hot pokers we noticed behind the bar. They're used to create cocktails with caramelized flavors and heady vapors.

I really enjoyed Booker & Dax's take on a bees knees- a Bee Sneeze made with milk-washed gin, honey, lemon and cracked pepper. Doug predictably chose the Full Metal Jacket made with charcoal, mezcal, clarified lime, and a black pepper tincture.

Russ & Daughters

We thought we were being pretty smart scheduling our breakfast at this Jewish specialty store for Christmas day- but turns out the rest of the neighborhood had the same idea and we ended up waiting a good 45 minutes for our number to be called. Doug and I both opted for a bagel (not toasted- that's what tourists do and it's an insult to the freshness of the bagel) with cream cheese and fish. I chose the Gaspe Nova Smoked Salmon and Doug tried the much saltier Belly Lox. We agreed that our bagels were a very tasty representation of a New York classic.

Unfortunately, New York's beer scene was way more meh than we were hoping for, but we did really like the selection at this funky little beer bar. Doug was especially happy to see that they had Other Half Brewing's All Green Everything triple IPA on tap.

McSorley's Old Ale House

At first I refused to go to this bar even though it's the oldest Irish tavern in NYC because they did not start serving women until they were legally obligated to in 1970 (um, what??), but Doug's friend Caroline convinced me it was worth a stop.

They only serve two types of beer here: light and dark, and you get two mugs when you order because they're pouring so fast, your single mug is nowhere near full.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
Momofuku's ramen is legendary so there was no way Doug and I were going to miss it. I went with a ramen special and Doug had the Momofuku Ramen with pork belly, pork shoulder, and poached egg.

We also shared an order of the Chicken Meatball Buns.

And it was all good... just nothing transcendent. Thanks, Portland, for giving us such high food standards that we can't even be amazed by Momofuku.

Momofuku Milk Bar
I have been obsessed with Momofuku Milk Bar since I had their cake truffles at Feast three years ago, so this was another place that I was not going to leave New York without visiting. Doug and I split a 3-pack of the Bday Truffles and a slice of Crack Pie.

They were both really good (just VERY sweet), but the packaging was kind of a turnoff for me since it made them seem more mass-produced and less special than I wanted to think they were.

Katz's Delicatessen

Doug as very adamant that we check out Katz's pastrami sandwich so we made it our Christmas dinner. We split a sandwich because they're huge and we both came away feeling very full. Doug felt slightly underwhelmed and said he'd probably try the rueben next time instead, but I thought the pastrami and ordering experience (it's a doozy!) was at least worth a visit.

And, of course, I need to tell you all about our visit(s) to PDT... but I'll save that for next time.