All photos by Alexa Mehraban/EatingNYC
As a native New Yorker growing up in Midtown, Alexa Mehraban was always tuned into the best things to eat in the city. Shortly after graduating from college in 2013, she snagged a job as a food writer at the popular nightlife site, Guest of a Guest where she began taking food photography (Alexa is self-taught). In January of 2014, she started her Instagram account @EatingNYC (and blog) where she posts photos of dishes from the hottest restaurants in NYC. Mehraban also began working on social media on a professional level both at food PR firm Bullfrog & Baum and currently for Tacombi tacos. Today, her Instagam has amassed a whopping 203,000 followers to date. She loves to eat sushi (although she admits it's not the easiest thing to Instagram) and advises any young 'grammer to "find your niche and decide who you want to be appealing to" if they want to gain followers.
Today Alexa is walking us through her 10 essential NYC dishes you must eat and Instagram in the Big Apple, whether you're visiting or a food-obsessed local. Also check out our Instagram today @Zagat for an @EatingNYC Takeover! #ZagatTakeover. Check out her picks below:
Crispy Fish Tacos at Tacombi
"Call me biased, but I’m confident that Tacombi has the best fish tacos in NYC, hands down," Alexa tells us. The popular NYC taqueria which originated on the beaches of the Yucatan now has three NYC locations as well as one in Montauk. The dish to get here? The crispy fish tacos, perfect for summer. "Beer-battered Alaskan cod sourced from Sea-2-Table is served on a homemade corn tortilla and topped with chipotle mayo. It’s a simple combination that hits the spot every time," she adds.
Pork & Crab Soup Dumplings from RedFarm
NYC is a dumpling town and while you have a plethora of options in both Chinatown and Flushing, chef Joe Ng does a bang-up job recreating classics with high-quality ingredients at the popular Chinese restaurant with locations both on the UWS and West Village. "Think Joe’s Shanghai but much, much better," Alexa comments. You must order the soup dumplings here, if only for the pure fun of eating them. "The dumpling itself is carefully constructed; it’s thick enough to hold the perfect soup-dumpling ratio, but isn’t overwhelming in terms of density," Alexa adds. "Nowhere does dim sum quite like RedFarm. It's high-end, fun, and somewhat low-key, making it a classic NYC establishment."
529 Hudson Street; 212-792-9700
2170 Broadway; 212-724-9700
Everything Bagel with Chive Cream Cheese and House Smoked Lox at Sadelle's
A day of eating in NYC wouldn't be complete without a bagel in the morning. "Following Russ & Daughter’s Café, Sadelle’s catalyzed what’s often described as a resurgence of Jewish delicatessens in NYC," Alexa tells us. The SoHo restaurant from Major Food Group features hand-rolled bagels by baker Melissa Weller and the finest lox from Acme Smoked Fish. It's the perfect place to impress brunch guests as they serve the bagels and fish on elegant towers. "Pretty sure no one ever thought Jewish appetizing was “trendy” or that a bagel brunch could cost you upwards of $50, but this is NYC after all," Alexa adds.
463 W. Broadway; 212-776-4926
Chewy Green Tea Noodles at Mission Chinese Food NYC
One of the trendiest spots in NYC right now is Danny Bowien's Mission Chinese 2.0, reopened in a much larger, Vegas-like space on the Lower East Side. For those who couldn't handle the mega-spicy dishes of the original, you'll be excited about the expanded menu that offers plenty of non-spicy options including these gingery and delicious noodles. "I tried Mission Chinese for the first time when Danny Bowien reopened it last year and was most excited to try the Kung Pao Pastrami and the Thrice Cooked Bacon," says Alexa. "Not to say that those classics weren’t great, but the chewy green tea noodles are consistently my favorite dish there. Like all of his dishes, these noodles are incredibly unique and absolutely delicious."
171 E. Broadway; 212-432-0300
Chocolate chip cookie from Levain
Famed for their chocolate chip cookies, this bakery with three locations is a must-visit if you're a dessert lover. "Levain has always had great cookies, but they definitely have Instagram to thank for the outrageous lines," Alexa comments. "Now, getting your hands on a box of these are few and far between. As for taste, they’re crunchy and hard on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside. Best when shared!"
Rolled Ice Cream with Oreos at 10Below
The latest NYC dessert craze is Thai rolled ice cream."People have been going crazy for rolled-ice cream since it hit NYC last summer," Alexa shares. "If you haven’t had it before, it tastes lighter than regular ice cream. As simple as it may sound, it’s a labor-intensive process and quite entertaining to watch. Not to mention, rolled ice cream makes for a great ‘gram." Especially in video form!
10 Mott Street; 212-965-1336
Bacon Cheeseburger at J.G. Melon
"I grew up on J.G Melon’s burgers," says Alexa. "As a burger aficionado, I’ve made it a point to try all of the best burgers in NYC." J.G. Melon's burger has always been a classic for its no-frills, all-flavor approach. And now, you can even get a taste of the UES classic downtown at their newer Greenwich Village location. "After eating tons of dry-aged, saucy, yolk-porn-y burgers, J. G’s remains my favorite. It’s just the right amount of greasy so that the bun is slightly soggy when you bite into it, and the burger is always crispy on the outside," says Alexa. "Sometimes, I order the burger sans cheese because it’s just that good."
1291 Third Avenue; 212-477-0585
89 Macdougal Street; 212-460-0900
Birthday Cake at Quality Eats
"Quality Eats’ Birthday Cake is not just an Instagram fad, it’s a high-quality and decadent dish that is a must-try if you’re into desserts," says Alexa. The West Village hotspot opened last year from the team behind Quality Italian and Quality Meats, offering an affordable steakhouse concept downtown. But it's this festive dessert that's been blowing up Instagram, made with chocolate malt ice cream, confetti cake and vanilla icing and topped with sprinkles and a candle. "I highly recommend it for any special or occasion or even if you’re just in the mood to #treatyoself," Alexa adds.
19 Greenwich Avenue; 212-337-9988
Mafaldini pasta at Lilia
Italian food is requisite when visiting the Big Apple. For the hottest enclave of the moment, head to Williamsburg's Lilia for a taste of chef Missy Robbins' famed pastas. This Malfadini made with pink peppercorns and Parmigiano Reggiano is the one to order (and Instagram). "Reminiscent of Hillary Sterling’s Mafaldini over at Vic’s brunch, Lilia’s Mafaldini is Missy Robbin’s take on the classic cacio e pepe," Alexa tells us of the celebrity chef couple's menu overlap.
567 Union Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-576-3095
Acme Smoked Fish Pizza at Rubirosa
You can't leave NYC without eating pizza. Rubirosa in Nolita is the spot for the best pies in town (think a thin, crispy crust) but this unconventional combo combines the best of the Italian food world and the Jewish food world, topped with Acme Smoked Fish. "So many places have tried to do the whole 'brunch pizza' thing and it’s no surprise that Rubirosa does it best," says Alexa. "This pie essentially tastes like a crunchy everything bagel with mascarpone and mozzarella instead of cream cheese."
235 Mulberry Street; 212-965-0500