I hate to say it, but August was not a great month for meals out. I was on the hunt this month for “healthier” gluten-free and vegan treats that satisfied my sweet tooth cravings, but found with every place I tried that making them at home just could not be beat. Not only were these treats more expensive, but none of them left a lasting impression. The best meal of the month, by far, was at Upstate Beer & Oyster in the East Village. Run, don’t walk, people. Read on for the good, the bad, and the ugly from the month of August in NYC.
Upstate Beer & Oyster – The tiny little spot in the West Village is known for its, you guessed it, beer and oyster menu. There is a pretty killer happy hour deal here, let it be known. What they also have, though, is a great wine list, and one of the best pasta dishes I’ve eaten in NYC – their fettucine with clams. And by clams, I don’t mean chopped up little guys. I mean whole clams in the shell. I got this to share, but could have eaten the entire thing.
DO – Edible cookie dough: if it sounds too good to be true, it is. I waited this place out until I could visit without worrying about a line, and am very glad that I did not waste my time when it opened. The texture is good, but the flavor is just passable. I would take a classic cookie or a scoop of ice cream over this “dough” any day.
Superiority Burger – I was epically stoked to finally make it to Superiority Burger, a miniscule vegetarian spot with no table service and a reputation for the best veggie burger in NYC. I was even more excited to try their “burnt broccoli” side, which is supposed to be delicious. We sampled quite a few menu items and sides, and while all were good, none were rockstars. The clear highlight was their ice cream and gelato for dessert – I’d go back just for that.
Bondurants – It’s official: I’ve found my favorite bar on the UES! This little, dark spot on East 85th Street is the perfect blend of cozy and laid back, and they have a great selection of spirits. Whiskey lovers will especially appreciate their epic list.
Van Leeuwen – While I have been to Van Leeuwen for a classic scoop many a time over the years, the focus of this recent trip was to try their vegan ice cream. I tasted a wide variety of their vegan flavors, and to me they all tasted the same – like coconut. Sadly, their base overwhelms the exciting vegan flavors that they’re churning out. But hey, you’re in luck if you love coconut.
Kiki’s – All Drake references aside, this cozy Greek taverna on the LES is a little gem. Although I didn’t think that their octopus was the best I’ve ever had (I’d heard this claim from many), I would easily go back for the selection of dips and spread and grilled meats. And the zucchini chips are actually addictive.
Oath – Known as the “healthy” pizza spot, Oath contends that it builds its pizzas with a gluten-free crust and responsibly sourced, fresh ingredients. As somewhat of a pizza snob (and/or aficionado), I had a hunch that this “healthified” pizza would not live up to my lofty expectations. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I’m sticking with San Matteo as my UES pizza of choice.
By The Way Bakery – I heard about this little UES gluten-free bakery on Lex and knew that I had to try it out. Unfortunately, like so many of the GF treats I’ve tried, it was mediocre and not cheap. I tried a dry cookie and a too-sweet mini sour cherry bundt cake, and both were simply “meh.” I’d bake these cookies at home any day instead.