Food treasures in New York City

DIY “NY Culinary Finds” Tour: Lower East Side

Last time I described a DIY NY Culinary Tour that took you through the west side of Manhattan. Here’s another DIY tour that gives you a taste of some NY culinary finds on the lower east side of Manhattan. The MTA trip planner can help you choose the best way for you to get there.

East Houston Street

Start your tour at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery at 137 East Houston Street between 1st (which becomes Allen Street south of Houston) and 2nd Avenue. Yonah_Shimmel_Knish_BakeryThe store has been selling knishes since 1890 and looks like it hasn’t changed much since then. There are communal tables with cups filled with mismatched cutlery and plastic table clothes — all part of the charm. You can order knishes filled with potatoes, including sweet potatoes; kasha; or vegetables, like mushrooms, broccoli, spinach or cabbage. If knishes aren’t your thing, move on to Russ & Daughters, just down the block at 179 East Houston.


A family-owned business that’s been around since 1914, Russ & Daughters is your quintessential “appetizing” store. Inside you’ll find counters with cheeses, breads, and pickled, smoked and cured fishes all made in-house.

Now it’s time to leave East Houston and head south east to Rivington Street. Walk down East Houston until Allen Street (transformed from 1st Avenue South of East Houston). Make a right and walk South to Rivington Street. At Rivington make a left and head to Economy Candy at 108 Rivington.

Economy Candy

Economy Candy

As I wrote back in March,  Economy Candy is known as “The Nosher’s Paradise of the Lower East Side.” It’s been around since 1937 and sells hundreds of kinds of chocolates, candies, nuts, dried fruits; including halvah and candy I remember from childhood. There are traditional American products, like M&M’s and Bazooka bubblegum, as well as candies from other countries like Japan and Israel. You can buy candy and nuts by the pound or individual items you crave.

Streit's factory on Rivington Street

Streit’s factory on Rivington Street

While you’re on Rivington Street, you can also visit Streit’s Matzo Factory and Store, located at #148-154. But call ahead (212-475-7000) because their hours change when it’s not peak Passover time.

pickle guys

If you’re not going to visit Streit’s then from Economy Candy at 108 Rivington, head east towards Essex Street until you reach The Pickle Guys at #49 — it’s just beyond Grand Street. If you know your lower east side culinary history, then you’ll recognize this spot as the former location of Gus’s Pickles. The pickles from “The Pickle Guys” taste as good and you can still point to each barrel to choose the ones you want.

Your next two stops are practically side-by-side, so turn around and go back to Grand Street and make a right, heading east.

The first is Kossar’s Bialys at 367 Grand Street, another store that has been on the lower east side for years (65 approximately). Kossar’s is famous for their bialys but they also make bulkas (like heroes), pletzels, and sesame sticks. In 1998, they also started baking bagels.  If you can, get one of these hot from the oven.

If sweets are more to you liking, then two doors down, at 379 Grand Street, is Doughnut Plant.  As I wrote in April, Doughnut Plant is nothing like your typical “donut” shop. They offer both yeast-based and cake-like doughnuts with fruit, chocolate and many other kinds of fillings. I’m partial to their blackout chocolate cake doughnut. Buy some for your next day’s breakfast.

There are many ways to get home from the lower east side. If you live on the east side, walk west on Grand, back to Allen Street and make a left. There, you’ll find the M101 Limited/Express bus which goes up First Avenue. Or you can find nearby subways. If you still have energy, you can cross over Allen Street and you’ll be at the tail end of Chinatown.

The Next DIY “NY Culinary Finds” tour will take you to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section.

June 27, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | | 1 Comment

DIY “NY Culinary Finds” Tour: Manhattan’s West Side

With summer here, being outdoors is very appealing. If it’s not too hot, a great way to enjoy the weather is to take yourself on a New York culinary tour. While there are several companies in NYC that, for a fee, will take you to various neighborhoods known for their cuisine, why not “do-it-yourself.” If you enjoy walking, you can do these all by foot. But if some of the distances between stops seem too great, then just hop on a bus and continue that way.

The Westside Culinary Tour

Start your walk with breakfast at Amy’s Bread (672 Ninth Avenue Between 46th & 47th Streets).

Amy's Bread on 46th and Ninth

Amy’s Bread on 46th and Ninth

Choose from a variety of caffeinated and non-caffeinated hot and cold beverages and enjoy it with some sweet pastry or savory breads I’m partial to Amy’s variety of breadsticks. Buy a few to have later in the day.

So many breadstick choices

So many breadstick choices

Then head down Ninth Avenue (on foot or by bus) until 30th Street and walk west to 10th Avenue until you see the entrance of the Highline.  Stroll south on the Highline until about 17th Street. Stop for an ice pop from People’s Pops which uses locally grown fruit to make their frozen desserts or have a Mexican ice cream at La Newyorkina. Now it’s time to leave the Highline (exit at 16th Street) and head indoors to Chelsea Market. There’s an entrance on 10th Avenue between 15th-16th Street.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chelsea Market is best enjoyed slowly so leave yourself enough time to eat, drink and shop. My favorite spots for snacking on location include: gelato from L’Arte del Gelato; vegan sushi from Beyond Sushi; or grilled panini from Lucy’s Whey. If I’m shopping to bring dinner home, I’ll pick up fruits and vegetables at Manhattan Fruit Exchange, fish from The Lobster Place; interesting oils and vinegars from The Filling Station; and pasta from Buon Italia. If you exit at the east end of the market, you’ll be on Ninth Avenue.

In my next post, I’ll describe a DIY “NY Culinary Finds” Tour of the Lower East Side.

June 24, 2013 Posted by | Food, restaurants, stores | | 4 Comments

Vegan Doughnuts “Dun-Well”

dunwell outside

If you love doughnuts but are committed to a vegan way of life, then Dun-Well Doughnuts is a great way to satisfy your sweet needs. Located on Montrose Avenue (right near the L train stop), Dun-Well  is named for founding partners, Dan Dunbar and Christopher Hollowell. Dun-Well offers 200 flavors of vegan doughnuts, though not all available at the same time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I chose a Butterfinger doughnut which was served on a clever “bark” plate. While I prefer a non-vegan doughnut, this had great texture and flavor and was slightly less sweet than a traditional doughnut. Thanks Adam for the recommendation.

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Food, sweets | , | 2 Comments

Asian Market in the Heart of Soho


If you’re looking for traditional Asian ingredients, then you’re most likely to seek them out in one of the many stores in Chinatown or Koreatown. But a really good resource if you’re into cooking Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other Asian foods is The Sunrise Mart on Broome Street.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not only does the store sell familiar products like tofu, soy sauce, and rice; but also less familiar products like dashi (Japanese stock), natto (fermented soybeans) and a wide range of Asian candies. Because they know that not everyone is familiar with these products, Sunrise Mart helpfully displays signs explaining what the products are and how they are used. Even if you visit the store as a “tourist,” you’ll be inspired to try your hand at Asian dishes.

Sunrise Mart also has stores on East 41st Street and in the East Village on Stuyvesant Street.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Food, stores | | 2 Comments