New York Foodie – Food Through the Ages in NYC

The reason that kids don’t like to go to school is because the education system just hasn’t caught on yet. Want kids to like math? Give them $10 and let them spend it any way they want. Want kids to like science? Give them a bottle of diet soda, a packet of Mentos, and tell them to make sure their eyes don’t get shot out when they combine the two. And if you want kids to like history…well, just take them on a gastronomic tour of NYC. Okay, maybe there isn’t much history involved, but you can easily make a meal, going from restaurant to restaurant, having a different course in each one from each decade. All you need is a game plan, a good pair of walking shoes, and an open mind.

NYC 21 ClubStart your night at the 21 club, started in 1922 but at its present location since 1929. This restaurant has seen prohibition, the repeal thereof, women get the vote, and much more. Anyone who is anyone has eaten here, from Marilyn Monroe to JFK to Gloria Swanson. Order the steak tartare to share as an appetizer, and as it is prepared to your request, remark over how many people over the years have sat in that very rom, eating that very dish.

NYC Delicious FoodNext up is Zabar’s, started as a smoked fish stand on the Lower east Side. Now a gourmet emporium on the Upper West Side, they still have one of the most opulent smoked fish counters in town. Double smoked nova, kippered salmon, smoked sable, whitefish, and many more varieties are all yours for the taking. Ask for a small sample or two, then buy a small tub of mild, creamy whitefish salad to eat with crackers as you walk partway to your4 next destination.

old school New York Deli B&H DairyB & H Dairy on the LES is the kind of old school lunch counter you might have expected to see in Gene Kelly movies. Just a tiny, narrow storefront that has been around since the 1942, this kosher style restaurant sees trendy hipsters, Jewish grandmas, and blue collar workers all gathering around what may be the city’s best latkes, pierogies, and other Jewish comfort foods. Order some latkes to split, be sure to bring cash, and don’t miss the sweet, eggy challah that comes with each order.

Since 1954, Serendipity has been serving up fanciful ice cream creations in an UES townhouse filled with stained glass windows, curios, and seemingly hundreds of people all waiting for their chance to try the famous frozen hot chocolate. Though it’s normally not recommended to eat dessert first, life is short, and this food crawl is not. Get the frozen hot chocolate, and try not to eat it so fast you get a brain freeze.

Food sensations in NYC - BenihanaWhen Rocky Aoki opened the first Benihana in 1964, he had no idea that teppanyaki would not only become popular, but a defining moment in the dining scene of the 1960s. Watching amiable Japanese chefs cook as you sat around a large grill, making volcanos out of onions and flipping shrimp directly onto people’s plates combined eating, entertainment, and America’s burgeoning interest in everything foreign. Order one meal here to split, and though this course might take the longest, it might also be the most fun.

Sparks Steak House has been in its current location since 1977. It might be best known as the spot where John Gotti ordered 2 rival mafia members to be gunned down , but since that didn’t happen until the 1980s, no need to include that in the history lesson…unless you want to. In this case, order a tender filet mignon and a glass of red wine. Don’t get too full – still 3 more courses to go!

NYC Food HIstoryIn 1985, Danny Meyer opened the Union Square Café and ushered in the age of eating whole, gourmet foods, balsamic vinegar, and cheese that didn’t come from a little green shaker. Order one or two of his classic appetizers, like crispy chicken livers with figs, Maytag blue cheese, and grape vinaigrette, and be shocked at how timeless this classic establishment is.

The 1990s was when the food scene exploded, and Mario Batali became the hottest thing since sliced bread. He opened Babbo in 1998, and thus showed America that Italian food is not one type of food, but many different types according to region. His classic mint love letters with spicy lamb sausage is a flavorful hit of spice, meat, and pasta.

Sapphire by ilmungoFinally, give yourself a rest at the recently opened bathtub gin. This speakeasy located behind a coffee shop is the latest in the recent speakeasy craze in NYC. Order any one of the many gin based drinks and relax over a night well-travelled and well eaten.

Then take an alka seltzer – you will definitely need it.

News Reporter

Sarah Spigelman (@FritosnFoie) is a New York based food writer, recipe developer, and blogger. She writes for Bites at The Today Show, Whisked Foodie, and Northeast Flavor, among other publications. She loves luxurious hotels, inexpensive clothing, and “Mad Men.” Whenever she is not searching for the spiciest kimchi in NYC, she can be found at her website, Fritos and Foie Gras.