3 Tips To Survive Food In New York & America

DON’T be spontaneous and go to a random restaurant…Yelp or Google it before

14 Restaurant Horror Stories That'll Make You Want To Order Takeout

I (unfortunately) speak from experience. There is nothing more amazing than discovering a cute little restaurant while out and about and leaving with a smile on your face and a new favorite place.  It recently happened to me in Lisbon, I was too hungry to make my way to the restaurant I had in mind, and didn’t have Wifi to check reviews. I ended up eating the best cod quiche in the world. While this would be a common story anywhere else, I would consider it a miracle in New York, and the USA in general. The only few times I trusted my instinct to pick a random spot turned out to be a disaster. Don’t be fooled by candle-lit restaurants or French/Italian sounding menus…some places in the City spend more time “fluffing up” than in the kitchen. If you need to eat and don’t have Internet access, do yourself a favor and avoid restaurants with photos of the food on their menus (eeew,) or even worse, fake food displays outside. These are kind of “universal tips” but they will keep you away from tourist traps. Another way to make sure you eat the best that New York has to offer is to know your neighborhoods. You have better chances to find a good restaurant where New Yorkers go out, like in the East Village, Lower East Side, Nolita, or Williamsburg than in touristy areas such as Times Square, Little Italy, or the Upper East Side.

DON’T be cheap with food…Buy quality products, your body and wallet will thank you later

If there is one thing that all New Yorkers and tourists can agree on, it’s that eating in New York ain’t cheap. Whether you are dining out or grocery shopping, it seems like feeding yourself is a luxury. When you are new to the City, it’s very tempting to adopt a low-cost mentality because prices get so overwhelming. As an exchange student, I used to either buy enough stuff to cook a basic pasta dish, order Chinese at home, or eat cheap Mexican food while out. But I was doing it all wrong! Even with those sad options, most of my money went towards eating, not to mention the 5 kilos (10 pounds) that I gained in 7 months. The bottom line is that food is expensive in New York, good or bad. So if you are going to eat – and frankly, you should – just spend it on good stuff! Yes, organic vegetables and antibiotic-free meat is overpriced, but think of it as an investment. Money you spend on healthy food is money you save on a gym membership, stupid diet products, and eventually…doctor’s appointments. Most importantly, things will actually HAVE a taste.

DON’T rush while grocery shopping…take time to read labels 

Now you understand that when it comes to eating right in the City, you need to know your New York restaurants and accept to buy quality products. But what does quality even mean in a country where food regulation is so loose? Shopping at Fairway, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s doesn’t necessarily guarantee getting good stuff. You have to learn how to spot the “fake” shit. While a package that reads “All Natural” in France is likely to be so, you should assume that it’s the opposite here in America. Organic labels tell me a products is not as bad as the rest, but the best quality indicator is always the ingredient list. You can have something organic with high-fructose corn syrup or canola oil in it, which, by the way, are my two worst American enemies. They don’t make life easy because they are literally EVERYWHERE. Just to give you a quick example, Coke in Europe has real cane sugar, whereas it’s high fructose corn syrup here in the US. It’s one of the many things I grew up with and still have at home but not in America. I’m not a scientist, but I know that there is no reason why we should use artificial crap like corn syrup instead of sugar and canola instead of olive oil other than economic profit. If you can avoid these two things and make sure to buy at least some organic food (especially animal products like meat, eggs and dairy,) you can survive American food!

 

What have been your challenges with food in New York or the US?

 

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5 Things You Should Know While Visiting New York

Any foreigner takes the same pledge the day they move to the City: thou shalt show a good time to every single friend visiting you. I am no exception to the rule. I’ve definitely been missing in action for the past couple of weeks, but I have the ultimate New York reason for it: first time visitors!

In ten days, I feel like I got a complete tourist experience with my guests: I went to a Brooklyn Nets game, Motown The Musical, Top of the Rock, a Gospel mass in Harlem, and ate out every single night. If I didn’t have to work during the day, I would have felt on vacation myself.

So while it’s still fresh, I thought I’d share some “Hustler in Heels” advice with those of you planning a trip to New York:

#1 You can’t see everything

Even if you are in New York for a good amount of time, there will always be something that you are going to miss and it’s okay…just make your peace with it. Sight-seeing is one thing, but walking around the City and making random discoveries is EVERYTHING: “Oh my God, this is where Big and Carrie went on a date in Episode 5 Season 4!” Of course, some touristic spots are really worth it – I would put the Brooklyn Bridge at the top of my list – but if you spend your whole trip chasing the next attraction, you will miss the “real” New York. So instead of waiting in line for two hours at the Empire State Building, why don’t you save your time and money and go to a rooftop bar like Jimmy’s? On top of a breathtaking view, you will sip delicious cocktails and won’t be surrounded by tourists. Just a thought…

#2 Travel guide books will only get you so far

Travel guides are definitely helpful, especially when you don’t have Wifi access while you are out and about. But remember that whatever Lonely Planet or Routard suggested – it was also recommended to thousands of others. If you stick to guide books, you should expect a line everywhere you go, and not just any line…a tourist line! The only constant thing about New York is change, and a guide that is published once a year can’t really convey that dynamic. By the time it gets in your hands, that so called must-go restaurant may have changed owner, chef, or scene. The web is your best friends when it comes to picking the perfect event, brunch place or plan a fun night out. Use the same websites that New Yorkers swear by: Yelp, Time Out, or the Gothamist…and you should be good.

#3 Fast food doesn’t always equal junk food

Just because McDonald’s or Burger Kings are American doesn’t mean that they are part of the New York experience. For one thing, McDonald’s is better in Europe, I don’t know how to explain it, but every single friend who tasted it in the US confirmed it was garbage. Most importantly, New York is the ultimate city for Foodies and there are so many ways to eat cheap and fast quality food if you are on a budget or on a schedule. Whether you have a crave for bagels, burgers, dumplings, or pizza…New York can feed it to you! For a fast yet delicious meal, try Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, Mamoun’s falafels, Asia Dog, Shake Shack, or Naruto‘s authentic  ramen.

#4 Follow the New Yorkers

The presence of New Yorkers is a great indicator of the level of interest of a place. The amount of options in the City can be confusing for first time visitors, but the people of New York pretty much tested everything already, so following them can save you a lot of time and guarantee the fun. For example, The High Line might be a famous destination for tourists, but you will also find a lot of  locals in the summer time, enjoying a cold Newyorkina popsicle and catching some sun – unlike Times Square, that 99% of New Yorkers try to avoid. Don’t get me wrong, it is a must see destination despite the chaos that comes with it, but it’s not the most enjoyable area where you should hang out if you want to get a good feel of the City.

#5 Being alone in New York City is underrated

One of my theories about New York is that the best things happen when you are hanging out by yourself – or as I like to put it… WITH yourself. New Yorkers are easy to talk to and making friends with the person sitting next to you at the bar is not unusual. When you are traveling with a group, it can be difficult to experience that, so don’t be scared to step out of your comfort zone! While your friends or family are on that 2 hour walking tour, why don’t you get lost in the City? Pretty much all Manhattan is safe for anyone and you can’t actually get lost because of the way streets intersect. From start up founders to Palestinian refugees, I met the most interesting people when I was wandering around New York, because being alone allows you to be open and connected to the environment around you. It’s up to you…

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