Then there are special Vietnamese banh mi (baguette sandwiches) sprinkled here and there across Manhattan. While you won't find the selection or quality available in, say, Southern California (with its far larger Vietnamese population), my sandwich, crammed with pickled carrot and fresh herbs and greens, still pleased me.
New York's East Village, however, is filled with noodle shops and other Japanese restaurants. In fact Japanese can be found in the financial district and any number of other areas, but the East Village seems to have far more than its fair share. With New York University right there, you'll find an awful lot of Japanese students wolfing down heart-warming soup goodness right beside you.
Udon West), I realize you can't even see the thick, chewy namesake noodles for all those toppings. Sorry about that. I was too focused on eating. Other udon places you could try: simple but good at Onya, the first outpost of an Osaka udon chain, and upscale, wide-ranging Seo, which also offers soba (buckwheat) and ramen (thin wheat) noodles. (An authentic noodle bar is likely to have zero atmosphere, but it really doesn't matter, as the hearty soups are hot--and inexpensive--bliss.) Please note that each of these photo collages can be clicked on, to be viewed in far greater detail.
Eataly features several restaurants, a year-round rooftop beer garden and microbrewery, a cooking school-- and you can buy all things good and Italian, from designer cookware to fresh crimini. Expensive (quelle surprise), but pristine, authentic ingredients. It is built on the same premise as the slow-food promoting original in Torino...only it's in Manhattan, and backed by three high-profile Italian American restaurateurs. When I went, it was chock-full of Italian Italians, as there was an Italian wine fair filling the space. I stuck to my (very fine) espresso.
Empanada Mama, in Hell's Kitchen, just a block or two over from the Theater district. So GOOD, I made a collage of their dishes (I'm still working on the empanada altar). The empanadas are absolutely crammed with rich, flavorful fillings. My favorites were the Reggaeton (Caribbean style roast pork with sofrito yellow rice and peas), Cuban (falling-apart tender slow-roasted pork) and Spicy Chicken, but as there are over forty different kinds of empanadas, plus a full menu including meal salads and family-style dishes, there's something for everyone. I just never got past those fantastic fried empanadas (they have baked ones, and corn flour ones too, which I liked less), plaintain chips and tostones. While the dumplings may look puny, after two or three of them and some plaintain chips, I promise you're stuffed. Empanada Mama is also easy on the wallet: an empanada costs just $2.52. They are open 24 hours a day, there's takeout and they deliver. Plus they have loads of funky cocktails.
Birdland, an intimate (and famous) jazz club named after Charlie Parker. Relocated to Midtown Manhattan, on the edge of the Theater District, the club serves food and very fine musical fare. The night we went, there was Afro-Latin jazz on offer, with a fun Calypso drum. Very nice, very fusion. And to my slightly cocktail-addled mind, so very New York.