Food can mean many things to different people. It could be a source of nourishment people who are always on the go, or a form of art for food critics and connoisseurs. For some who engage in business, it could be a source of income. But for others who find themselves uprooted from their place of origin and relocated to unfamiliar territories, sometimes it simply takes a spoonful of food bring you that small slice of home. To New Yorkers scattered around the globe, here are a couple of restaurants that are guaranteed to have you yearning to be in the streets of Manhattan.

Tavern on Jane

This friendly joint located in the heart of New York City has enjoyed a quiet popularity among the locals. Strictly speaking, Tavern on Jane is a pub; and diners will certainly feel transported to a different place once they step inside. Passers-by who are not too familiar with the place will likely walk past it without a second glance. But once you enter the premises, you’ll be relieved to know you did the right thing. The pub has a very distinct New England atmosphere—it’s warm and cozy inside, tempting diners to have a seat. The ceilings are low and the walls are made of brick. Take a look about the room and you’ll notice the glowing embers in the fireplace. The bar is made of a long stretch of wood, ideal for diners who want a little pick me up before dinner. Somehow you get the feeling that at any minute during your dinner, Paul Revere might walk through the doors and sit at the table next to you.

People who frequent Tavern on Jane agree that their menu, which offers a lot of old basics is what keeps them coming back. There are chicken wings, grilled chicken pasta, not to mention a number of salads to choose from. For example, there’s the classic Caesar and cobb salad, but you could also try the roast beet. People looking for variety on the menu won’t be disappointed at Tavern on Jane. Their burgers have a reputation for consistently beating its neighbours, and there are over three different kinds of pastas to choose from, if you feel like having a little Italian for dinner. But if you’re looking for comfort food, this restaurant offers the best roast chicken with a side of garlic flavoured mashed potatoes. Don’t believe me? Try asking QC Style Editor Adam Rapoport.

What’s special about Tavern on Jane is the prevailing friendly atmosphere among diners and staff. This isn’t an uppity restaurant where the waiters will snort at you if you mispronounce something on the menu. On a busy night the restaurant will be buzzing as diners chat away. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to hang out and people watch. Maybe sit at the bar and order from their impressive wine choices. The bartender knows his customers, too. If you occasionally find yourself eating there, chances are the bartender already knows your name.

Tavern on Jane, a quaint, charming restaurant is located on 8th Ave.

Toasties

Just because it’s not what you could call fine dining, doesn’t mean it’s not goooood. At Toasties, the lowly sandwich is elevated to new heights with an array of toppings and fresh bread.

Newcomers to Manhattan looking to try its famous deli sandwiches had better head off to Toasties for an introduction in the art of sandwich-making.

Entering the deli, you’ll be met by trays and trays of breads and sandwiches neatly arranged behind a glass shelf; the brownish crust giving them a warm, hearty glow under the fluorescent lamp. Inhale that distinct aroma of bread, spreads, and toppings. It’s enough to make you salivate, all right. Before you read the menu, that is.

Right at the top of the Toasties’ menu sits The Alice. It’s hard to describe The Alice in a few words (pretty much like the Alice in the book). Perhaps the best way to describe it really, is to give an inventory of the contents of what makes such an unusual and tasty sandwich. The Alice is a combination of turkey breast which comes in thin slices, apples, honey mustard, Romaine lettuce, and a helping of brie and any bread of your choice.

What makes Toasties so popular among diners is that aside from having a fixed menu containing a variety of sandwiches, diners are free to pick and choose, mix and match any of the toppings available at hand.

But if the choices seem overwhelming and you find yourself being unable to decide on which ones to put on your customized sandwich, simply consult the menu or close your eyes and point a finger. If fate would have it that your finger falls on The Sophie Blue Sandwich, then you’ll have to brace yourself for an exceptional treat. Sophie Blue is a successful combination of chicken breast grilled to perfection, slices of cucumber, some honey Dijon, some avocado, a bit of green peas (yes, peas on a sandwich) and that glorious dressing of blue cheese. Once again, the choice of bread is yours to make.

Perhaps the key to this deli’s success is being able to toss a number of seemingly conflicting tastes only to emerge with a delicious combination of flavours; that and using only the freshest ingredients that they can lay their hands on.

Toasties can be found all over New York, and takes pride in being a family-owned business. Their sandwiches aren’t simply portions of meat and vegetables between two slices of bread. Instead, what they offer customers are gourmet sandwiches, which incidentally are large enough to keep a person stuffed throughout the day.

Aside from sandwiches, Toasties also offers salads for their carbohydrate-avoiding customers.

Thainy

New York has been a melting pot of cultures for decades and as such, it is expected that the food you will find in Manhattan will not be restricted to All-American favourites. Take Thainy, for instance, which is a Thai restaurant located in 3rd ave.

The restaurant brings to Manhattan the calm, peaceful sensibilities of the east right in the middle of its bustling community. Thainy’s layout is quite modern. The large glass windows which practically serve as the restaurant’s outer walls allow you to view the diners from outside. Consquently, diners can enjoy their meal as they watch people go about their business. A booth stretches across the entire wall of the restaurant while on the opposite side of the table, sleek chairs are lined up side by side. Small, golden sculptures are placed in shelves, and wine bottles are perched on vertical shelf against a purple backdrop. Yellow flowers are placed on every table and another wall is painted a bright, invigorating red.

Thainy is the perfect place to enjoy exotic food at a reasonable price. If you find yourself craving for a steaming bowl of soup, you may want to order the Tom Kha. Other dishes you can find in their menu are pattaya curry puffs and spring rolls with some special plum sauce. For diners who want to savour the different flavours, the Atlantic Fish may do just the trick. This dish is snapped seasoned with basil along with some live leaves and is served in their very own curry sauce. The restaurant also offers some interesting twists on more familiar dishes. The common steak when served Thainy style, transforms into a sizzling dish that comes with sauce infused with herbs and chilli imported from Thailand. You have to admit, these steaks are different from the ones you grill in your backyard.

Thainy is an ideal place to dine in if you want to impress your date with good food and exotic ambiance. At the same time, it’s also a good place to bring your friends to for a night out in the town. Sometimes, you and your pals may want a little privacy and are not in a particular mood to eat alongside other customers. If that is the case, simply tell the staff and they’ll provide a private room for you and your posse. If you’re celebrating and want to make a toast, the full bar will be happy to provide the drinks.

But for some people who want to be hermits for the night, have no fear because Thainy delivers. Simply grab your phone and dial away.

Patsy’s

New York food isn’t complete without pizza. It’s like saying you’re serving Italian food, only there’s no pasta. The pizza is a staple in New York—you simply can’t not have it. Aside from being handy for when you’re walking to the subway or trying to hail a cab, it’s a very versatile dish.

People can choose from dozens and dozens of toppings that can go on their pizza. There’s the classic pepperoni, sausages, chicken bits, bell peppers, onions, anchovies, mushrooms, basil, garlic, olives, tomatoes, and cheese—oh, don’t forget the cheese.

There’s thin crust, thick crust, and the deep dish, which can be considered the heavyweight in pizzas.

And the choices don’t stop there. There’s round pizza, square pizza, rectangular pizza, and even pizza that comes in strips that you roll and eat pretty much like a Chinese spring roll.

You can order a slice and enjoy it by yourself, or get a whole box and share it with friends. And even if you’re vegetarian, you can still partake of this delicious dish by ordering a pizza with no meat.

But walking around Manhattan will take you past dozens of pizza chains that all look like they serve the same thing. Which one should you pick?

Today’s choice would have to be Patsy’s Pizzeria. Don’t follow the tourists who are queuing up at some random pizza place. The pies at Patsy’s are guaranteed to satisfy the taste buds and hunger pangs of any native New Yorker or tourist. Searching for that special pizza cooked in a brick oven? Follow our advice and head on over to this place.

Hungry travellers will be able to find a number of Patsy’s branches situated all over the city. However, it hasn’t turned into a generic food mill that churns out quantities of food with an artificial taste. Good news then for customers because they can be rest assured that the quality of food is maintained throughout their branches.

Patsy’s has been operating in New York since the 1930’s. This restaurant not only offers pizza, but other Italian meals as well such as calzone, pasta and soup. Their servings come in individual and family sizes, which can suit lone apartment-dwellers or big groups.

The bit of alcohol in the Penne alla Vodka adds a little intrigue into this dish which is served with some cream and tomato sauce. The bread is a delight when dipped into the sweet marinara dip. It is no wonder then that people still frequent this restaurant 60 years after it opened its doors to the public.

The Half King

Eating at Half King Bar and Restaurant is like travelling to the UK and trying their local cuisine. Now, we all know that among Europeans, the English aren’t exactly very famous when it comes to food, especially when compared to the gastronomic delights that the French seem to take for granted, and the hearty flavors that the Italians dish out. But take a minute to give this restaurant a second chance and you’ll discover that the English do have something to offer when it comes to filling stomachs and pleasuring your palate.

In keeping with the traditional European set-up, Half King’s architecture is the classic pub, which is commonly found in England and Ireland. The large glass window at the front is emblazoned with the pub’s name, and tables are set up at the sidewalk, with big red umbrellas providing shade in the summer and protection from the light drizzles during the rainy season. At the back of the restaurant there is a charming, intimate garden where tables are set up. Out here, you can enjoy your meal while sunlight pours through the transparent ceiling; while at night, it’s the perfect setting for a romantic date. If you prefer a little privacy, there is also a lounge. What’s interesting about this place is that all the wood that was used to build the structure was taken from an old barn in Pennsylvania, which was roughly 200 years old. Pretty ingenious, don’t you think?

Now, let’s talk food and drinks.

Obviously, no pub is complete without the bar. At Half King, the bar stretches a good 30 feet, enough to accommodate you, your mates, your laddies, and your entire family. Fancy a pint of Schneider Weiss? Coming right up.

Sebastian Junger, who owns the restaurant, takes pride is proclaiming that the food at Half King is made from scratch. In the kitchen, not a single frozen burger patty can be found. Their food isn’t masked by layers and layers of artificial powders and flavors that mask its true taste. If you’re looking for home-style meals, then this is the place to be.

Browsing through their menu, diners will spot the legendary fish and chips. And this isn’t just a couple of deep fried fish sticks, oh no. At the Half King, the fish is immersed in a beer batter, and served with some fries and tartar sauce.

For light meals, there are home-made scones served with a dollop of cream. You can order waffles with a choice of strawberries of blueberries, then dribble some maple syrup on top. If you ask the waiter for the green eggs and ham, he’ll return bearing two eggs cooked in the style of your choice, roasted ham, salsa, and a real English muffin. There’s Irish bacon, too, and baked beans served with pudding.

Half King Bar and Restaurant can be found at 23rd street.

Sushi Sen-nin

Sushi—one of the glorious contributions from the East, has made its way into the plates of westerners.  Smack in the middle of Manhattan is Sushi Sen-nin. Diners who are eager to whip out their chopsticks had better come a bit early for the lunch hour to get good seats, because this restaurant is usually crammed with patrons during lunchtime.

This restaurant boasts of New York’s most superb Japanese cuisine. In charge of Sushi Sen-nin’s kitchen is Master Chef Matsu, who has made many a sushi roll during his 35 years of cooking experience. Inside the kitchen, you will find the freshest ingredients, some of which are shipped from various places around the world. All orders for the ingredients pass under the scrutiny of Chef Matsu’s trained eyes as he selects which ones will be best served to his customers.

Not only is their food fresh, it is also a healthy alternative to fast food items which can be found in almost every corner of the city. The rice alone which is used for their sushi is carefully prepared and mixed with balsamic vinegar to complement the taste of the different fish that it will be paired with. Don’t worry about leaving the restaurant feeling only half-full and not completely satisfied. The chef is quite generous with his servings of rolls, and sushi. Aside from this, the dishes aren’t haphazardly tossed on a plate. Quite the opposite, in fact, for their dishes are like works of art, carefully arranged and presented to its customers, the different colors enticing you to immediately take a bite. The tuna salad comes with small pieces of garlic, which add a little zest and crunch to the dish. For a little change, brown rice is used in making the California maki. Each piece reveals the sliver of mango, crab and avocado neatly tucked away with the seaweed. The shrimp is simply delectable and the salmon is superb. A generous covering of roe tops the rolls and add happily pop in your mouth as you start to chew. Healthy eaters can happily spend a lifetime at their sushi bar, sampling the many types of sushi that they have to offer.

But people who are craving for some meat are more than welcome to try the yakitori bar at Sushi Sen-nin. The yakitori bar is a nice alternative for grilled food addicts. This is a more traditional Japanese method of cooking meat, placing small slices on skewers and then grilling them over a barbeque. At night, the restaurant isn’t as crowded, and it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long day at the office. One can take a seat and enjoy their meal with a tall glass of cold beer. Admittedly, the food is a bit on the pricey side, but once you take a bite, you’ll be inclined to say, “Domo arigato!”

To sample some sushi, try this restaurant located at 33rd st.

Tortilla Flats

People who are looking to dine in a festive atmosphere with good food partnered with decent drinks can march themselves off to Tortilla Flats. The restaurant describes their food as eclectic and eccentric, which will definitely suit party goers that are willing to try something different for lunch.

This is a place where you’ll be able to find tortilla soup, ensalada, and other traditional Mexican food that have been served for generations. The combination of tomatoes and avocadoes in their guacamole is outstanding. The nachos are smothered with toppings like beef, chicken and cheese and if you’re not careful, downing a couple can be quite filling. To add some bite to it, order the nachos with some jalapeño. There are over four fajitas to choose from, all of which you get with beans, rice, tortillas and guacamole. Eaters with an aversion to meat can try the mushroom fajitas, or the fajitas camarones. But carnivores can feel free to ask for the fajitas carne and fajitas pollo.

Tortilla Flats is usually a rowdy place packed with customers who are often under the influence of their addicting margaritas. On Tuesdays, you can munch on your tacos while playing bingo with a roomful of people. Celebrating a birthday or bachelor party here with your friends can be quite wild and rowdy. It’s all about fun at the Tortilla Flats, which is why if you plan to come here on a Wednesday night, you’d better be ready to swing your hips because it’s—hula night. While the atmosphere in this restaurant is friendly and inviting, it may not be suitable for little kids. Things can sometimes get out of hand when everyone starts to get tipsy. It may be better if you just take home a couple of burritos and tamales for your kids.

But if you really want to eat some Mexican food in a quiet setting, then visit Tortilla Flatts during Sunday afternoons. Usually at this time, the place isn’t so crowded and you’ll be able to enjoy your meal in perfect serenity. But make sure that you come here with an empty stomach because the servings are anything but small. If you order the quesadilla grande, it will most likely be as big as a frisbee. If you want, you can even hang out for a couple of hours while reading the paper. If your kids want to tag along, Sunday afternoons or lunchtime would be the ideal time to take them out for a meal. The menu has a special portion devoted to a number of kiddie meals that they can choose from. They can even order some juice to go with their Stegosaurus Fajitas or even better, a tall glass of Strawberry Slush.

Tortilla Flats is situated at Washington Street.

Ben’s Pizza

Earlier, we rambled on about the importance of pizza in the New York diet. It’s basically become a basic food commodity that on this list, we’re putting it twice. At Ben’s Pizza in SoHo, every bite is guaranteed to be a good one. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the frozen microwave pizza in its tiny box can compare to the pies that are served at Ben’s. Go to the restaurant to taste the difference and you might not even want to step back out any time soon.

This corner restaurant has over a dozen pizzas that you can choose from. Their regular pizza, which is the very basic pizza, has only three ingredients namely tomato sauce and two kinds of cheese: the parmesan and mozzarella. This uncomplicated pizza is no simpleton and instead offers diners a more traditional meal. If you order the Tex Max spicy pizza, your pie will come topped with peas, some fresh basil, sweet corn, salsa, and of course, the ever-present mozzarella cheese. There is also the Primavera pizza, which you could say is a kind of vegetarian pizza. Needless to say, not a shred of meat is used to top this pizza. Instead, you’ll be munching on some greens specifically spinach, green bell pepper, broccoli and mushroom. Ben’s even gives you the option of ordering a pizza without the sauce. Their chicken pizza, which you can get with either tomato or broccoli, comes with no sauce, only three kinds of cheese. When you’re extra hungry and feel like you can down a double order of anything made of dough, you can try their stuffed pizza which comes with tomatoes, onions, spinach, garlic and two kinds of cheese on a double crust. Their ingredients are fresh, and each slice is packed with intense flavors. Be ready with a couple of mints after consuming some pizza with garlic because otherwise you might not want to pucker up.

The pizza at Ben’s is perfect when you’re looking for something easy and simple to serve on special occasions, whether it’s a movie marathon with your friends or the America Idol finale. The wonderful thing about it is if you don’t feel like waiting in line, you can call the restaurant and place your order ahead of time and pick it up afterwards. The service in this restaurant is pretty good, and the staff is efficient, so you can still make it home in time to watch the final performance. The wonderful aroma wafting out of the box is a prelude to the delicious steaming pizza pie that awaits you. If you do decide do eat out, be advised that the pace at Ben’s can be pretty fast. It’s better if you come in already knowing what you want to order, because sometimes the staff can’t tolerate customers who take decades to decide.

Ben’s Pizza is located at the corner of Spring St.

Freeman’s

Contrary to popular belief, American food isn’t all burgers and fries. Fast food products in the U.S. have gained worldwide popularity and have pretty much dominated the market, and continue to grow each year, much to the objection of health experts. However, traditional American cuisine is healthier than you think.

Freeman’s restaurant serves traditional meals and specializes in rustic cuisine. Their menu includes sea food, vegetables freshly gathered from farms, and wild game.

For starters, you can order some bread with some artichoke dip. The hot dip softens the crisp bread and is a good way to begin start your meal. You can also get the steamed mussels served with hefeweizen broth, some toast, and aioli. For salads, you can choose among the baby spinach which comes with mustard vinaigrette and bacon, the summer salad pickled beans and melon, or the tomato and cucumber salad that has feta cheese extra virgin olive oil, and cilantro, flavored with a bit of sea salt.

The lunch menu has farm-grilled chicken served with a special, home-made barbeque sauce and potato salad infused with mustard and tarragon. The brook trout is served whole on a plate; slice a portion of the fish and taste the harmonious combination of lemon and thyme mixed with garlic. You can also order some Colorado lamb and eat it with some pepper salsa and corn pudding.

For dessert, you can have the sticky toffee cake topped with whipped cream, or lemon curd with rhubarb, strawberries and yes, more cream. Older, more health-conscious diners could opt for the wide selection of cheese for dessert, or some fresh fruit and bread.

Freeman’s extensive menu isn’t limited to the food. In their digestives alone, there are six different types of scotch to choose from. Add that to the 11 types of brandy, four choices of rhum, and over a dozen whiskeys. Oh, and don’t forget the tequila and Irish whiskey. If you don’t fancy any of these, they also serve wine and cocktails.

The setting at Freeman’s features wooden furnishings and some pretty interesting decorations. On the walls hang heads of various animals which would either remind you of a country side or the movie Babe. There’s deer, wild boar, ram; and above the mantle is a white fowl which bears a striking similarity to Ferdinand the Duck with his wings spread out. The chairs and tables are made of polished wood. Long wooden planks make up the floor of the restaurant and at the end of the room, you’ll find the bar. There are vases of flowers placed all around the dining room, and on each table glows a small, white candle.

You may want to check your wallet before eating at Freeman’s. The bill will most likely add up to more than US50 dollars, but the food is definitely worth it. Another tip for diners is to come a bit early, perhaps around 6pm, so you won’t end up waiting for a table to clear, nursing a grumbling stomach. Freeman’s tends to get busy early in the evening.

You can find Freeman’s restaurant at Chrystie St.

La Mela

Chefs, critics and food lovers will all agree that sometimes the best food won’t be found in some glitzy restaurant with big chandeliers and stuffy waiters. Often, you’ll be surprised by some hole-in-the wall restaurants that serve modest but succulent dishes.

Right in the heart of Little Italy in New York, you will find La Mela Ristorante. It’s the type of restaurant where you can have the pleasure of enjoying a delicious meal with your family. The staff possesses a certain type of friendliness that it imparts to its customers.

If you order a la carte, you can choose from 15 pasta dishes which all come at under US25 dollars each. The most affordable is the spaghetti marinara, while linguini with mixed seafood costs the most, which is about US24 dollars. Kids will be pleased to find out that they can order a plate of spaghetti with meatballs. Aside from that, other choices for diners include the penne vodka and the ravioli marinara. You can also order the shrimp parmigiana or ask the waiter for the fresh fish of the day. Their chicken scarpariello has apparently won the hearts of the locals when it was voted the best in all of New York. If you want a bit more with your chicken, you can order it with veal and shrimp. If you order the mozzarella and tomatoes, the waiter will bring back a whole plate of tomatoes topped with two big globs of mozzarella cheese. Other appetizers are stuffed mushrooms, roasted sweet peppers, and shrimp cocktail.

You can also come inside, take a seat and order family style. If you do, brace yourselves for course after course of Italian goodness. The people at La Mela are ready to feed you hunks of cheese and oodles of pasta until your tummy bursts. All of their desserts come at under US8 dollars. If you order family style, you can be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth with cheesecake, tartufo (Italian ice cream), tiramisu, zabaglione (Italian custard) and the Sicilian cannoli.

You can also choose from different types of wine to go with your meal. La Mela also serves both local and imported beers. If the restaurant has succeeded in stuffing your belly, you can order some coffee after eating.

Tacked to the walls of the restaurants are pictures of previous customers, including celebrities like Frank Sinatra. In every dining room, there is also a big plasma TV where you can watch a live feed of other areas of the restaurant. The next time you eat here may be the day when you find yourself broadcasted on TV (at least just inside the restaurant)

If you’re planning to have a party at La Mela, you can eat in any of their rooms like the patio room or the club room for special events.

La Mela is located on Mulberry St.

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