Good Eats in Manhattan – Part One

This past week, my friend Dana and I stayed at my cousin Megan’s house for a week. Over the course of the week, we had some really good eats around Manhattan. In this two-part post, I plan on just casually overviewing and sharing them.

Think Coffee: On our first day, we grabbed a quick breakfast / lunch at Think Coffee on Mercer St. in the Village before an afternoon of shopping in NoHo. In a word, Think Coffee can be described to Buffalonians as SPoT. It’s a quasi-chain with a few locations around downtown Manhattan, the vibe is artsy and eclectic, and the food and coffee are both above average.

We ordered a round of cold-brewed iced coffees; they were truly good – smooth and slightly acidic without any lurid bitterness. The food was good too: Dana’s prosciutto and tomato sandwich was the most impressive and loaded with flavor while the quiche Megan and I split was just average. Overall, we weren’t blown away by anything we had. The atmosphere was both comfortable and energetic though – this coffeehouse is mostly frequented by NYU students – and was a great way to the start the day.

Etcetera Etcetera: After we’d shopped for hours and spent a bit too much money, we took the yellow line back uptown and met Megan’s cousin for dinner in Hell’s Kitchen. I’d picked Etcetera Etcetera after doing a bit of reading online: it seemed like this was an upscale and innovative, modern-yet-authentic Italian restaurant – it was. We sat down in the modernly decorated dim dining room and, after perusing the menu for quite some time, decided on our entrees (some of which are entree sized at $20-ish, and others which are appetizer sized at $13).

What arrived first was a basket of delicious garlic bread soldiers with a really tasty olive tapenade. After that, our entrees came: Dana’s tagliatelle with mini lamb meatballs, oven dried tomatoes, arugula, and Pecorino Romano; Megan’s (vegetarian) gnocchi with grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted red onions, crispy ricotta salata, and parsley; Kayla’s (gluten-free) risotto with roasted artichokes and smoked mozzarella; and my casoncelli alla bergamasca, or veal-raisin-amaretto ravioli in a sage and butter sauce, topped with crispy pancetta. As we ate, we came to the conclusion that these were some of the best pastas we’d ever had. Each homemade pasta paired beautifully with the chef’s choice of flavors. Mine in particular was outstanding – unabashedly rich and flavorful; without a doubt, it’s the best pasta dish I’ve had in my life.

The dinner never took a downturn. Our entrees were followed with complimentary biscotti and a chocolate crunch-type cookie and the dessert that we ordered, a pistachio semifreddo with blueberry sauce. It too was exemplary: the texture was velvety, the flavor was of pure pistachio, and the sauce was both tart and sweet – it complimented the semifreddo dome perfectly. As we walked out of the restaurant, we were all thoroughly impressed; we’d been hoping to have a dinner of such a high quality while in Manhattan and we’d certainly received it.

‘Snice: On day two, we headed down to the West Village and SoHo to – shocker – shop some more. But first, we recharged at ‘Snice, located in the heart of the West Village. It’s a truly vegan-friendly cafe (soy milk and agave nectar are standard; one must ask for half and half or sugar) with an incredibly relaxed and cozy atmosphere.

Dana’s strawberry smoothie was great due to its simplicity: berries and a bit of agave nectar mixed with a choice of soy milk or apple cider – she chose the cider. On the opposite end of the spectrum, my wrap – made with curried cauliflower, brown rice, chickpeas, and mango chutney – was warm and complex. It’s also one of the most inventive wraps I’ve seen: a welcome addition to usual cafe fare. And lastly, Megan ordered the more traditional brie, pear, and arugula sandwich – this one spread with a raspberry mustard. We left satisfied and healthy-feeling – two qualities that beckon a great day ahead.

A quick interjection: we did eat at home too! There’s a Whole Foods relatively close to Megan’s house and I made myself at home there. One (late) night, we had basil-pesto-filled mezzaluna pasta with tomato sauce when we got home. And, we had dinner at my friend Ricky’s aunt’s in the city one night. We enjoyed a wonderful chicken curry with ingredients bought earlier in the day from Chinatown.

Red Mango and Think Coffee: Following that dinner with Rick back uptown, we spent our second night in the East Village. After walking around for a bit, grabbing frozen yogurt from Red Mango, window shopping, and spending time in some neat bookstores, we settled down back at Think Coffee – this location right on Bowery, though. It must’ve been due to it being a Tuesday night, but the café wasn’t packed and we were able to spend an hour or two relaxing and chatting in the outdoor patio. In all, it was a great first half of the trip.

'Snice on Urbanspoon

Think Coffee on Urbanspoon

Think Coffee on Urbanspoon

Etcetera Etcetera on Urbanspoon

Red Mango on Urbanspoon

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