New York Eats: The Most Tempting of All Guilty Pleasures

My husband once told me that he loves peanut butter & jelly sandwiches so much that, during his freshman year of high school, he ate them for lunch every day for the entire year (quick math = about 200).  One of the best things about NYC is that no matter what your PB&J is, there are dozens of amazing places to find it, if you know where to look.  And for me, my PB&J is mac ‘n cheese and nachos.
Mac ‘n Cheese: What’s interesting about mac & cheese is that the definition seems to enjoy quite a bit of latitude, especially with regard to the noodles.  They do not need to be actual macaroni elbows for the dish to be called mac ‘n cheese.  As a purist, a literalist, and a precisionist, I find this difficult to process, and yet, I will eat pretty much anything with cheese on it.  A few of my favorite mac ‘n cheese establishments are:
  • Cafeteria (17th St and 7th Ave): If you’re a purist, like me, you’ll want the original.  For the adventuresome, get it truffled.  
  • Abe & Arthur’s (14th St and 9th Ave): I love how it’s served in a rectangular, cast-iron baking dish, so that the bits on the edge get crispy and brown.  Also, it pairs well with dirty martinis.  Ok, maybe that’s debatable, but they have great dirty martinis!  
  • S’mac (12th St between 1st & 2nd): Novel because they serve only mac ‘n cheese and variations of mac ‘n cheese, this is a must-visit for the mac ‘n cheese obsessed.  My husband swears by the ‘cheeseburger;’ personally, I apply the ‘if it ain’t broke…’ adage and go for the original every time.  
  • The Smith (3rd Ave between 11th and 12 streets): This is a big, hearty helping of creamy, cheesy goodness.  What helps is that the Smith has a great all-around, comfort-food menu – from burgers to salads to bibimbap (whaattt!!? yep.).  If you get the market salad without the dressing, it cancels out the mac ‘n cheese, right?  
  • Sons of Essex (Essex at Rivington): These guys do excellent mac ‘n cheese and grilled cheese, which reinforces their position as an authority on the former, in my humble opinion.  Also fun is the humble deli entrance leading into a darkly-lit barn-style atmosphere with bumpin’ beats circa 1997.  
Nachos.  I am very particular about my nachos.  I want the chips piled high; I want there to be lots of cheese melted all the way (no cold bits at the bottom, you know what I’m saying?), but not so much that the oil and milk solids separate; I want the works when it comes to toppings – beans, meat, tomatoes AND pico de gallo, guacamole, sour cream, green onions, olives – give it to me;  and most importantly, there must be pickled jalapenos.  Zero points awarded otherwise.  Below are a few of my favorite nacho spots:
  • Tonic (3rd Ave between 28th & 29th streets): You have to go to a bar to find bar food, and this is definitely a bar.  Here you can find excellent nachos, and all the other bar food favorites.  Along with many giant televisions broadcasting anything with a ball and scores.  
  • Lansdowne Road (10th Ave between 43rd & 44th streets): Best nachos I’ve found in NYC in ten years. Plus, it’s got an ice strip along the bar where you can put your cold one to keep it cold!  How cool is that?  
  • Lunasa (1st Ave between 7th & St Marks streets): Ok, so I know that I said zero points awarded without pickled jalapenos, but this place is so fun, and it’s got great draft options, so… I’ll bring my own pickled jalapenos.
  • San Loco (multiple locations): These are some of the sloppiest nachos. They meet all my requirements, you can get them to-go in a neat little box into the wee hours of the morning, and you can choose if you want the real cheese, the ballpark cheese, or both!  You have to eat them fast though, because they will get soggy with all the toppings!  Get a fork and dig in.  
  • Diable Royale Este (Ave A at 11th street): A down-home saloon with a Latin kick, this restaurant in the heart of the East Village serves up a big helping of crispy chips smothered in all the best nacho toppings.  Get it with beans – you won’t regret it!
When I need a fix, these are the ones that I readily return to, but certainly, I’m an equal-opportunity mac ‘n cheese slash nacho enthusiast.  Go forth, and eat melted cheese on things!

About the author

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lynn has been hooked on traveling and eating weird things ever since her first trip to Vietnam at the age of 16. She loves to discover new places, people and things to eat, both around the world and in Brooklyn, New York. Recently embarking on a year-long journey through South America, Europe and the Far East, she has been documenting her travels for friends and family, and looks forward to sharing her experiences as a Travel Sage! When she’s not traveling, she lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and three orchid plants.

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