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The very best of New York’s backstreet dining

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Sometimes you just feel like fresh wholesome food, sometimes small and rustic tops, bright lights and busy streets. Chain restaurants are chains for a reason; they’re loud and vibrant, serving crowd pleasing dishes iconic of that singular style of cuisine. But while such restaurants might well be upbeat and generally guaranteed to satisfy your desire for that predictable menu, the very nature of such restaurants can also mean the food is not always as fresh as you might want.

Cooked in bulk and served up by the portion, fast does not always equal fresh and after a long period of time on the road, your body starts to crave fresh! So if you find yourself in New York, staring at backlit neon sign of Wendy’s, Bill’s or The Shake Shack (all of which serve addictively good American fast food, by the way) and feel your stomach bloating at the thought of one more burger – duck out of the bright lights and head down a side alley to check out one New York’s most underrated backstreet gems.

Upper East Side

Fatty Fish

Marketed as ‘Contemporary Asian-inspired-American cuisine’, Fatty Fish is certain to reignite your taste buds and excite your palette. Enjoy an eclectic range of fusion dishes in the tranquil aesthetics of this dimly lit bistro. Enjoy such unique dishes as sushi pizza and Asian paella, or for a change from those American pancake stacks, why not enjoy a bottomless brunch with unlimited mimosas for only $25? You’ll never look at pancakes the same way again!

Bluebell Cafe

This unassuming little café boasts the most flavoursome and hearty selection of dishes guaranteed to cure even the most severe case of homesickness. From that long sought after continental breakfast to handcrafted sandwiches, there is nothing to run from on this menu but everything to say for the honest, simple dishes which resonate that invaluable impression of home cooking.

However if it’s an evening meal you’re after, I must highly recommend the lamb shanks. Served to a quaint candle lit table this dish succeeded in appeasing cravings for my Dad’s Sunday roast.

Soho

Pera Soho

If you happen to find yourself spent out after a long day shopping in Bloomingdales, then the hidden terrace garden at Pera Soho might well prove to be the perfect early evening retreat. With happy hour falling between 4pm and 7pm Monday to Friday, the decked terrace, charmingly lit by dotted fairy-lights, provides a rare and surprisingly affordable source of privacy from the centre of Soho’s high-end shopping district.

But this magical find serves more than craft beers and signature cocktails; their discounted happy hour food menu also supplies the perfect post-shopping Tapas with the most adorable pork sliders, crispy phyllo rolls and (my personal favourite) the grilled aubergine and courgette chips with creamy tzatziki dip.

Favela Cubana

If you’ve ever seen John Favreau’s self-made masterpiece ‘Chef’ (currently available on Netflix), this menu will quite simply sing to you. Fried plantain chips, fresh guacamole dip, ‘Cuban’ style mussels with sizzling chunks of chorizo and of course the showstopper – succulent slices of ham, layered with roasted pulled pork, with salty Swiss cheese and tangy mustard, all finished off with a layer of gherkins – that’s right, the Cuban sandwich! 

Disclaimer: you will be dreaming of this sandwich for the remainder of your holiday.

Nolita

Quartino

When you’re feeling like Italian but you can’t face the crowds in Little Italy, take a fifteen minute wander east to a more secluded area, where you will find a rustic little bistro serving only homemade organic food, cooked to order and so fresh that you leave feeling entirely revived. Start off with some rosemary baked focaccia dipped in specially sourced olive oil and sweet balsamic. The pasta, all wholewheat, is surely the best you will taste outside of Italy. I went for the Tagliolini served with fresh artichokes, pine nuts and mint.

And if you’re still not sold on this healthy option I urge you to give it the benefit of the doubt if only to try their chocolate soufflé – worth the wait with a 20 minute queue time, they are baked to order!

Siggy’s 

Now, however much I have raved about the carefully selected restaurants listed above, if I could only dine at one place for the rest of my life it would have to be Siggy’s. Quite frankly I wish I could move in next door. Identifiable by the alien logo captioned ‘Aliens eat for free’, all of their food is fresh, organic and locally sourced.

The best thing about this menu is that you can create a meal exactly to your taste. Choose a flavour packed salad and add a hand pressed salmon patty, choose your sauce, add a potato side or, if you’d prefer, keep it simple with a beef burger or a Moroccan chicken curry. The bottom line is, whatever you choose to eat will make you feel fresh, healthy and happy. Not only aliens eat well!

This is a Student Travel Writer competition entry.

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