Best Restaurants in New York City, Part II

We all need to eat, that is a fact. But that does not mean our choices have to be limited. In New York City, the possibilities of where to eat are endless.

Burger/Fast Food Restaurants

Schnipper’s

With two locations in Manhattan (Times Square and Midtown East), this restaurant does not disappoint. Though it is fast food, it does not leave you with the cheap, empty calories feeling. The menu is much more than burgers and fries, allowing almost anyone to find something to eat.

Roll n Roaster

Located in the South Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Roll n Roaster has been around for fifty years. Famous for its roast beef sandwiches, the menu is fast food in the best sense of the word. There is an old-school feeling to the building that makes you feel like you have gone back in time. It’s a bit of a hike from the city, but the trip is definitely worth it.

Dessert

Lady M

Lady M is a semi-national chain with three different locations in Manhattan. The variety of crepe cakes is enough to make one’s mouth water and force a difficult decision to be made. Regardless of whether you purchase a slice as a special treat or a whole cake for a special occasion, it is worth every bite.

Ample Hills Creamery

Ice cream is one of those types of foods that can be as simple or as complicated as we want it to be. Ample Hills Creamery is one of the most respected ice cream stores in the city. It has 10 scoop shops in three different boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens) and sells their products to take home in a handful of retail stores. The variation in flavors is ridiculous in the best way possible.

Gluten-Free

Friedman’s Restaurant

Friedman’s Restaurant with its six locations across Manhattan is a diner, but the food and the experience are a notch above the average diner. There is a level of creativity to the dishes that make this restaurant stand out. What I personally love about Friedman’s Restaurant is that they offer gluten-free options. I’m not on a gluten-free diet, but a good friend of mine is. She was more than pleased with her meal. It’s a perfect place to go for brunch, a pre-theater meal, or just a good cup of coffee.

Tea Time

Alice’s Tea Cup

There is no better break from a busy day (at least in my mind) than a cup of tea and a delicious scone. Alice’s Tea Cup has two restaurants and one to-go location in upper Manhattan. With an Alice in Wonderland theme, the atmosphere is cozy and the food is yummy. Though they can be a bit busy at times, the experience is worth waiting for. Whether you go in for a full meal or just tea and a piece of cake, you will walk out satisfied

Kosher/Kosher Style Deli

2nd Ave Deli

The New York City restaurant scene used to be dotted with kosher/kosher-style delis. While many have gone the way of the dodo, a few remain. Among these is 2nd Ave Deli. There are two locations: Midtown East and Upper East Side. Whichever one you choose, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. The sandwiches alone are a meal unto themselves. They also cater for large events and for Passover. Anyone who has prepared for a Passover Seder knows how much it helps to have some of the food made by a professional.

Ben’s Kosher Deli, Restaurant, and Caterers

This restaurant and its six locations (most of which are either in or close to NYC) is one of my family’s favorite places to eat. I have yet to walk out as an unhappy customer. Both the sandwiches and the potato pancakes are huge. Depending on when you go, there is a line out of the door and very few tables available. Trust me when I say that it is not uncommon to walk out with leftovers or takeout.

Traditional Ukrainian Food

Ukrainian East Village Restaurant

There is something about traditional food of every kind that makes you feel happy. When it’s made right, it feels like it is straight coming out of a mother or grandmother’s kitchen. I came here for dinner with friends a few months ago and was a happy camper. My favorite part of the meal was the pierogies. They offer several kinds and each is delicious. Given what is happening in the world, I felt like I was in a small way, contributing to helping the people who make this food be seen and heard for more than the headlines.

Veselka

Located in the Ukrainian heart of the East Village, Veselka’s two restaurants are a favorite of locals. For me, it is a reminder that this country and the city have been built and maintained by immigrants. It is those unique flavors and meals that have kept the seats filled for years. I cannot think of a time that I have gone to Veselka that I have not walked out feeling satisfied.

Readers, what do you think? Do you have a favorite among them?

Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family Book Review

The Passover story and the Exodus of the Hebrews from slavery to freedom is a potent one. In one way or another, we can all relate to the idea of breaking free from whatever is holding us back.

Laura Arnold Leibman‘s new book, Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family was published back in August. The book traces the ancestry of Blanche Moses. Moses, whose Jewish-American ancestry goes back to the Revolutionary War, tells the story of her biracial ancestors. Both Jewish (mostly Sephardic with a handful of Ashkenazi) and black, her ancestors had to navigate a world in which they could be doubly ostracized while passing as Caucasian. Living in such different places as New York City, London, and the West Indies, it was akin to a game of chess, in which every move must be calculated before proceeding.

I wanted to like this book. The subject is one that is certainly of interest to me. The problem is that it is slow to read and void of the excitement that I should have had while answering the question that the book asks. While I appreciated this deep dive into a part of Jewish history that is not always in the spotlight, the promises laid out by the author are not met.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

I Would Rather Have a Zoom Seder Than no Seder at All

It is without a doubt that the corona-virus has changed everything about the way we live our lives.

That includes religious practice.

Wednesday and Thursday were the first and second nights of Passover, respectively. For many Jews, a normal Passover Seder consists of a large group of family and friends coming together to eat, drink and tell the story of Passover. But, with the influence of corona-virus, the traditional Seder had to be amended.

Enter Zoom.

My family, many others, used Zoom to digitally get together with our loved ones.

I think the best perspective on this new way of conducting Seders can be best summed up by a statement my father made Wednesday night. He said that his father, my late grandfather (who died 30 years ago), would not at all have approved.

My grandfather (Z”l) was in a certain sense, a man of tradition. He believed in and lived by the Judaism that he loved. That love of Judaism and our traditions were passed to his children and later, his grandchildren. It is one of the reasons that I am still a Jew in every sense of the word and proud of my faith.

While my grandfather would not have approved of Wednesday and Thursday nights, I know that it was the right thing. Not being in the same room with our family and friends was weird. But if I had a choice of holding a Zoom Seder or having none at all, I would choose a Zoom Seder.

Thoughts On Passover During the Coronavirus

Tomorrow night is the first night of Passover.

If this was an ordinary April, the next two nights would be about food, family and tradition. But not in the age of coronavirus. While the next two nights will be about food, family, and tradition, it will not be same.

If there is one thing I have learned during the plague that is Covid-19, it is to appreciate the simple things. I appreciate the fact that I am still healthy. I appreciate the food on my plate and the clothing on my back. I appreciate the roof over my head and that I am still employed. I appreciate that the technology exists that allows me to stay in touch with those I love and do my job.

One of the songs that is sung during the Seder is is called Dayenu. In a nutshell, it lists what G-d did for the Israelite slaves. If G-d had only bestowed one gift, it would have been enough (Dayenu). But my heavenly parent bestowed 15 gifts, sending the Israelites on a path to freedom.

For all of my blessings during this difficult time, I say Dayenu. If there is one thing this time has taught me, it is to count my blessings, for which I have many.

From my family to yours, I wish those who celebrate a Happy Passover and may we all get through this plague known as coronavirus in one piece.

Practicing One’s Faith During the Coronavirus Only Needs a Little Creativity

It is without a doubt that the coronavirus has upended our lives as we know them to be.

This includes religious practice. With the holidays of Easter, Passover, and Ramadan coming quickly, the faithful must find new ways to celebrate their respective holidays while following the recommendations of the experts.

Across the country and across the world, religious leaders are turning to video conferencing services programs such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other programs to hold services.

What is frustrating to me is that there are some who are are willingly putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones in danger by acting as life is normal. Last month, a Fundamentalist church in Indiana held services in spite of warnings against holding large gatherings. In Israel and in my hometown of New York City, some ultra-Orthodox Jews ignored the edicts by the government to prevent coronavirus from spreading further than it already has spread.

Anyone who has read this blog knows of my Jewish faith. Though I am not as religious as others, my faith is important to me. Passover starts Wednesday night. My family, like many other families, are being creative when it comes to the Seder and the traditional ways of telling the Passover story.

If the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it is that it takes a little flexibility to get through tough times. To say that we are going through tough times is an understatement. That requires us to understand that we cannot live as we did a month ago. Those who willingly ignore that fact endanger us all.

My Passover

Tomorrow night begins the Jewish holiday of Passover.

The holiday is celebrated by the Seder, which is both a meal and a retelling of how our ancestors went from being slaves in Egypt to being free to live and openly practice their faith.

For me, Passover is more than just an elaborate meal with a story mixed in, which is then followed by eating a modified version of the Atkins diet for a week. While I am very proud and open about my faith and the history of my people, I am far from being labeled as ba’al teshuva (someone who makes a choice to live a more religiously observant life). Passover is about my statement to not only the wider world, but to my creator that I am who I am when it comes to my faith and I proud of that faith.

It is also the story of overcoming what seems like impossible odds and remembering the injustices done to us. Human history is full of tales of injustice, hatred, destruction and murder. By remembering the injustices done to us, we are able to be more compassionate and understanding to those experiencing the same injustice and hatred today.

To those who celebrate, have a Happy Passover.

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