New York City Restaurant Recommendations

High-level thoughts on the NYC food scene:

  • NYC has many restaurants that specialize in one dish, rather than a cuisine. Try all of them, as they might be the best you've ever had. Examples: soba, udon (Raku), broth (Brodo)
  • Japanese food of all kinds (especially ramen), Korean food in Ktown, Australian cafes, handpulled noodle shops, Italian pasta, Jewish food, and desserts (especially ice cream) are all top-notch in NYC.
  • It's hard to find really good Thai and Vietnamese food around NYC, so if you're strapped for time, I'd say skip these cuisines. (I was spoiled by the plethora of authentic Thai/Viet spots in the Bay Area) 
  • For bars, check out the speakeasies and rooftop bars, then end your night in Ktown, which is open 24/7.
  • You must get chicken & rice from the Halal Guys on 53rd at least once, best late at night.


Japanese

Raku - best udon ever, even if you don't like udon. If you eat nowhere else, eat here.

Hi-collar - go for japanese vintage pub-style brunch or drinks at night

Cocoron - my favorite soba place because it is very good but rarely has a wait

Soba-ya - one of the best soba places, they make the soba in house, usually a wait

Takashi - Japanese bbq meats

Ise Restaurant - favorite all-around Japanese restaurant. 

EN Japanese Brasserie - fancy Japanese food, black miso cod is great. Fuji apple sorbet and their other homemade ice creams are top notch

Ootoya (several locations: Chelsea, Times Square, Greenwich village) - authentic Japanese with dishes like soba, chicken katsu, chawamushi (egg custard) 


Korean

Five Senses - best korean restaurant in Ktown

Baekjong - Best Korean BBQ

Take 31 - really good, homey Korean food 

BCD Tofu House - best soondubu (tofu stew) and they give so many bonchon (side dishes)

Jongro - 2nd Best Korean BBQ


Ramen

Zundo-ya - arguably the best ramen spot without the crazy waits of Totto and Ippudo

Totto Ramen - known for their straight noodles. hole-in-the-wall, almost always a wait

- Ippudo - the most famous ramen shop, but wait times are ridic. Zundo-ya is around the corner and just as good. 

- Takashi's midnight ramen, avail Fri + Sat nights starting at midnight. Email/call to reserve. Very different than your typical pork-broth ramens, worth it if the time works for you

- MEW MEN - another great ramen spot


- Lam Zhou - handpulled noodle soups & pan fried dumplings - cash only, hole in the wall spot

- Wah Fung No 1 Fast Food - the best cha siu fan. grab-and-go

Shanghai Cafe - 8 xiao long bao's for $5, super juicy

- Char Sue - fried duck bao sandwich 

Kopitiam - hole-in-the-wall Malaysian breakfast and brunch, cash only

- Tung Woo Co - fresh soymilk and hot sweet tofu

- Shanghai Asian Manor - good xiao long baos, this enoki mushroom watercress dish, ja jiang mien

- Hot Kitchen - get the "assorted spicy wok" and share it among ~3 people 

- Xi'an Famous Foods - fast casual xi'an style noodle soups, great value and tasty

- Tim Ho Wan - michelin starred dim sum spot, very inexpensive. Go during off-peak hours or expect a crazy wait

Chinese


Jewish

- Russ & Daughters - Jewish deli, amazing bagel sandwiches and other jewish comfort food

- Katz Pastrami - famous, good for if you're in the mood for a huge hunk of pastrami on rye


Italian

- Locanda Verde - a cozy, stylish Italian bistro in Tribeca. Great for brunch too. Get the sheep's milk ricotta with truffle honey for appetizer and their 8-hour tripe and shrimp & grits for entrees.

- Eataly Downtown's pasta restaurant - get the bucatini amatriciana - closest you'll get to Italy! Skip the appetizers.

Malatesta - homemade Italian pasta - cozy, comfort food. Cash only


Casual breakfast cafe

- Merriweather Cafe - a delightful little Australian cafe with friendly baristas. You must try their Merriweather morning sandwich with homemade harissa on a buttery brioche bun. Their turmeric ginger oatmeal with poached pears is also divine. 

- Hole in the Wall - and they said there weren't any cute places in FiDi for brunch. Hole in the Wall is changing the game! But people have caught on so there's usually a wait now. They're famous for their hanging bacon jerky - go early to make sure they don't run out!

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- Jack's Wife Freda - American-mediterranean brunch. I always get the Nana mint tea and rosewater waffles. The green shakshuka and Eggs Benny are max comfort food, and the Grapefruit & Yogurt is a unique twist on yogurt. 

- Maialino - the best, fluffiest pancakes in all of NYC!

- Midwinter Kitchen - farm-to-table brunch

- Jane

Brunch-as-an-occasion


Vegetarian

By Chloe - tasty vegan place for non-vegans - think vegan mac & cheese, avocado pesto pasta, vegan brunch items. Worth trying once!

- Sweetgreen - It's like chipotle for complex salads, a lot of New Yorkers' go-to for lunch / dinner. Just try it once!


Sweets

- Lady M - green tea mille crepe cake 

- Morgenstern's - best ice cream in the city

Besfren - Green tea roll cake or salted caramel roll cake 

- Greecologies - best traditional housemade yogurt - favorite toppings are rose petal preserves and figs

- Momofuku Milk Bar - cereal milk ice cream, very sweet but very unique

- Eileen's Cheesecakes - NY style cheesecake

Dough - probably best donut shop in NYC

- Van Leeuwen - unique flavors, also has delicious vegan (!) ice cream

- Takahachi bakery - matcha roll cake 

- Two Little Red Hens - huge cupcakes - key lime is my favorite

- Chobani - same brand as the store-bought yogurt, but their in-store yogurt combos taste way better. Greecologies is still better than Chobani though. 

- Empire Bakery - all kinds of sweets

- Georgetown cupcake - cupcakes!


Coffee Shops

- River Coyote - nitro coffee, kombucha on tap, has wifi, my favorite spot in the city

- Stumptown Coffee Roasters - specifically the one in Greenwich Village. It's one of their flagship stores (and they spent $1m on it apparently), absolutely charming inside and out. Built-in bookshelves! 

- Coffee Project - deconstructed latte

- La Colombe - an NYC coffee shop staple. I'm partial to coffee shops that serve their coffee in pretty mugs. Try their draft latte! 

- City of Saints Coffee Roasters - they have unique holiday specials!

For coffee shops that are good to work from, I'm cataloguing SF and NYC ones at wfcoffeeshop.com!

San francisco Restaurant Recommendations

High-level thoughts on the SF food scene:

  • Southeast asian food (Burmese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc) is very good in SF.
  • Russian food is quite good in SF - if you go nowhere else, go to Cinderella Bakery. Much better than NYC :)
  • SF coffee shops are something special - tons of natural light, a relaxing atmosphere, the smell of coffee. Many of them have outdoor patios, and you'll probably overhear conversations about tech and startups.

Here's what I recommend for non-asian restaurants that takes reservations for big groups. I recommend using Uber or Lyft when you're in SF if you don't have a car, or if you have time, to walk.

  • Pazzia - one of the best italian restaurants in SF, and feels very homey. The Italian owner is always there welcoming guests into his home. Andy's favorite pizza is the Napoletana pizza with anchovies. My favorite pasta is the rigatoni.
  • 1760 - New American food. This is my favorite non-asian restaurant in the city! It's a bit more expensive. Very unique dishes like crab fat congee, fried duck sandwich, uni with duck cracklings, etc.
  • Zero Zero - also a great italian restaurant, it's a bit bigger. They have pasta and pizza and dessert. Pazzia and Zero Zero are our favorite Italian restaurants here.
  • Aina - unique hawaiian food like portuguese donuts with guava custard and kalbi loco moco
  • NOPA - american food, one of the best. needs reservations

Southeast asian food (Thai, Viet, etc) is very good in SF. Note these are in the Tenderloin. Service is fast and efficient, but don't expect anything fancy. 

Other great places:

  • Cinderella Bakery - the best Russian bakery and comfort food ever. It's a bit of a trek but entirely worth it - if you don't have a car, an uber/lyft is probably your best bet.
  • Salumeria for casual lunch - they have a gorgeous outdoor patio in the Mission. Go on Mondays for their meatball sandwich. Try their gazpacho in the summertime. Their menu is seasonal - in the fall I've had their massive porchetta for lunch and proceeded to food coma all afternoon.
  • La Taqueria - the best burrito in the country. Expect crowds but the line is usually reasonable, last I checked..around 30 mins.
  • Tartine Bakery - one of the most famous and best bakeries in the city
  • Saint Frank Coffee - one of my favorite coffee shops in the city - they make their own macadamia milk
  • Burma Love - the sister restaurant of the best Burmese food in SF (the original, Burma Superstar, is too far from you and requires a car & ~25 min drive). This one requires a 30 min walk or 7 min drive.
  • Philz Coffee - a favorite coffee chain only in the Bay Area. Must get the โ€œmint mojito iced coffeeโ€