Taste Test: NYC Summer Food

Taste Test: NYC Summer Food

I have been a New York resident for over a year, yet there are a zillion things I still need to see, try, and most important eat. Lately, I’ve been on a mission to try the buzzy foods around town. From a ramen burger to pretzel ice cream, here’s how six weird snacks actually stack up…

The order: Original Ramen Burger, $10 (pictured above)

The verdict: The beef patty is slathered in a soy-based sauce, topped with scallions, arugula and salty cheese, then sandwiched between two fried ramen noodle “buns.” The noodles absorb the flavors of everything inside, so the buns get tastier as you eat. The Japanese-American snack was pretty good, but as my friend said, “I’d rather be eating a bowl of ramen or a hamburger.” Although the Ramen Burger debuted in 2013, there are still always crazy lines to get one. It’s worth a small wait, maybe one with less than twenty people.

Where to find one: Ramen Burger at the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg on Saturdays or in Prospect Park on Sundays.

Taste Test: NYC Summer Food

The order: The Munchies Ice Cream, $3 to $8

The verdict: I’m a big fan of sweet and salty combos, and The Munchies takes this to a new level. The pretzel-infused ice cream is mixed with crushed-up potato chips, Ritz crackers, pretzels and mini M&Ms. My roommates and I discovered an Ample Hills location a mile from our apartment, and now — about once a week — we’ll ask each other “Do you want to go on a walk?” Knowing that “the walk” will be us traveling to get two big scoops of The Munchies.

Where to find it: Ample Hills ice cream shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan. You can also order pints online.

Taste Test: NYC Summer Food

The order: Spaghetti in a cone, $9 to $13

The verdict: The tiny Italian restaurant Spaghetti Incident serves nine of their house spaghettis to go, in transportable paper cones. (Their website touts that the cone helps your fork better twirl the pasta.) I tried the “Chitarra,” made with homemade mozzarella, fragrant basil, chunky tomato sauce and perfectly al dente spaghetti. It tasted incredibly fresh, and the sturdy cone made the pasta easy to carry. But a couple minutes in, I ended up sitting on the curb anyway (slurping noodles and walking is trickier than it appears). Next time, I’ll take my cone straight to a park to enjoy the pasta in its full al fresco glory.

Where to find it: Spaghetti Incident on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Taste Test: NYC Summer Food

The order: Ginger Slush with Caramelized Pineapple, $5

The verdict: Unlike the neon Slurpees at 7-Eleven, Kelvin’s Slushes are made with all-natural ingredients. There are two base flavors to choose from: Arnold Palmer (an iced tea and lemonade mix) and ginger, as well as a handful of fruit purées to mix in, like white peach, pink guava or mango. I tried the ginger base, which had a subtle spice, and the caramelized pineapple purée added a smoky flavor. The drink was light, tart and not too sweet. Exactly what I wanted on a muggy summer afternoon.

Where to find it: Kelvin Slush at the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg on Saturdays or in Prospect Park on Sundays, or at a bar that carries their products, like The Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel or Freehold Brooklyn.

Taste Test: NYC Summer Food

The order: Matcha Raindrop Cake, $8

The verdict: Have you seen this raindrop cake around? It’s made from spring water and a vegan gelatin made from seaweed, and served with a matcha sauce and soybean powder. The texture is jiggly, and each bite melts in your mouth. Darren Wong, the creator, describes it as eating a “refreshing raindrop.” And if that tastes like plain water, he’s right. So, unless you’re looking for a cool Instagram photo, I’d skip this spot.

Where to find it: Round K Cafe on Manhattan’s the Lower East Side or Raindrop Cake at the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg on Saturdays or in Prospect Park on Sundays.

Taste Test: NYC Summer Food

The order: Pork Belly Taco, $9

The verdict: When I took my first bite, I actually sighed, “Oh, man…” out loud. The taco is held together by a buttery paratha (an Indian flatbread that their website calls a “lovechild of the tortilla and croissant”) and stuffed with tender pork belly, pickled red cabbage slaw and chipotle mayo. It’s rich, satisfying and a little bit greasy. If this isn’t the perfect hangover cure, I don’t know what is. Their Manhattan location also offers five other parathas, including lamb shoulder, chicken chorizo and tofu.

Where to find it: Goa Taco on Manhattan’s Lower East Side or at the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg on Saturdays or in Prospect Park on Sundays.

What delicious foods have you been eating this summer? Anything on your list to try?

P.S. 9 crazy things about NYC, our favorite Brooklyn spots and how to not look like a tourist.

(Photos by Stella Blackmon, who apparently loves black shoes.)

  1. Heather says...

    The raindrop cake is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen!

  2. The raindrop cake looks so so interesting, I would never skip it! Really! Need to find out how to make it! :-)

  3. I absolutely love this post, Stella! I’ve been eating tons of delicious food here in Toronto this summer.

    Jerk Duck Confit sandwich from Heirloom Toronto

    Beef Brisket Sammie from The Carbon Bar

    Cold Brew Espresso gelato from Death in Venice Gelato Company

    Next on my must-try list: Fried chicken funnel cake from Heirloom Toronto!

    Thanks so much for sharing!


    • Emily says...

      Tell me more! I’m headed to Toronto (first time!) for vacation in the morning. Staying in Leslieville above Bonjour Brioche. I’ve written down these suggestions

  4. I love Goa Taco! It’s my “go to” at Smorgasborg.

  5. Shelley Calton says...

    Oh man, Stella you have made me hungry! The problem is it’s along way from Houston to NYC. Looking forward to some of those wonderful treats next time I’m in your city.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Aw, Shelley! It will be waiting for you when you visit again :)

      Stella xoxoxo

  6. ceciel says...

    Thanks for the round up. Makes me feel like I’m experiencing the flavors and heat of the NY summer, instead of the cool Washington coast.

  7. Kelly says...

    Is takumi taco still at smorgasburg? I love their spicy tuna.

    Kelvin slush is an all-time favorite. I also remember Mighty Quinn’s BBQ, Mimi cheng’s dumplings, rustic LES for Moroccan, and the vegan truck Cinnamon Snail (get the donuts!)

  8. Oh gosh, that ginger slush sounds divine. I may have to trek over to Brooklyn for it ;) If you haven’t tried it yet, the Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery is totally worth the hype, and the flavor changes every month. You can preorder but the line isn’t bad on a weekday morning and sometimes they bring treats out to you! So good! I can’t wait to go back, and also want to try the frozen s’more and the weekend soft serve at the Dominique Ansel kitchen nearby.

  9. I want them all! Thanks for the list! xx

  10. Laura says...

    Thanks Stella! I live here and haven’t tried any of these delights. I am going to Ample Hills TONIGHT!

  11. I love this post. I don’t live too far from the city. I am always looking for a new and good food place to venture to when I make the trip.

  12. Echoing the others in saying I love this post! I don’t even live in NYC (I’m further south in Richmond), but will keep these in mind if I ever make the trip to the city. More, more, more please!!

    (How fun for you to try all of these unique delights for us!)

  13. Jess. says...

    Due to company coming from out of town (and standing in line while I’m at work), I’ve tried a few cronuts, but I have my eye on the cookie shots at Dominic Ansel this summer.

  14. Melissa says...

    I will probably never get a chance to try any of these, but I had to leave a comment to say, I love this post! So fun reading about your food adventures!

  15. Alice Quin says...

    How fun Stella! :-) Now I want to fly to NYC and eat my way around town.

  16. Haha. I love “the walk” comment. My roommate and I had a similar code word for getting Ben & Jerry’s at the bodega. :)

    I’ve also heard the raindrop cake is mostly good for an Instagram photo, but not much in terms of taste.

    You didn’t add lobster roll to this list!!

  17. This post looks sooo yummy. The munchies sounds like a real winner, as does the taco (together???). Too bad that taco does not sound gluten free. The raindrop thing sounds interesting, and spaghetti in a cone is genius!! Sounds like way less of a mess, even if you’re sitting down.

  18. Oh my gosh, drooling over here! Makes me want to book a flight ASAP! Will pin for our next visit :)

  19. I’ve seen those Ramen Burgers floating around the internet and I REALLY want to try one! I need to find out where I can get one in London. Also, the spaghetti in a cone looks so yummy – it’s a messy meal as it is so why not add in the task of walking as well, right?
    Loved the post x

  20. Thanks for this post! This is a little off subject, but it would be cool to read a post on what daily/weekly life of a 20-something unmarried girl living in NYC is like.

  21. Amanda says...

    This makes me so sad that I live in Montana. I would fly across the country for that pretzel ice cream, I think.

    • india says...

      I’d from Australia for that pretzel ice cream haha, I’ve got serious cravings right now :/

  22. I want to try the munchies ice cream, spaghetti in a cone, and the paratha taco!

    Not summer specific :P, but I’m always on the quest to try all the notable ice creams and donut shops in the city–the Burrata soft serve with balsamic syrup at Dominique Ansel and Underwest Donuts (it’s in a carwash!) were pleasant surprises.

    Poke seems to be the next big trend here ( Sorry, Hawaiians and Californians, I know it’s old news to you!) Son’s of Thunder has all the summery foods you want–poke (like a Hawaiian chirashi), hotdogs, and a refreshing “organic” soft serve.

    I also want to try:
    The Donut Project

    • Fiona says...

      Thank you for letting me know this exists! The burrata soft serve may be my ideal food and may become my desert-island meal… I would go to NY solely to try it!

  23. Sarah says...

    This makes me want to fly from Australia RIGHT NOW to eat all of these scrumptious looking things.

  24. Kaycee says...

    Ahhh, love this post! I love trying the stalls at Smorgasburg. I remember having a biscuit with homemade vanilla pear jam. It is still one of the best things I ever ate. Try Caracas for arepas. They have 2 locations, one in the East Village and one in Williamsburg. I’m vegetarian but they have tons of meat options. I always go for arepas stuffed with maduros (caramelized plantains) avocado, caramelized onions and cotija cheese. Afterwards head over to Oddfellows or Morgenstern’s for ice cream. I love the buttermilk blueberry honey flavor at Oddfellows and Cardamom Lemon Jam flavor at Morgensterns. Ok, I’ll stop now because I can talk about food all day lol.

  25. Alyssa says...


  26. jen says...

    Love this kind of post! I like the way you set it up too, with the photo and the “cut to the chase” type of narrative and info. Awesome work.

  27. Oh what fun you must have had sampling all these treats. The ginger and caramelized pineapple slush sounds perfect for beating this summer’s heat…if only there were some Florida locations! Thanks for sharing.

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea

  28. Rachel says...

    I just wanted to add that parantha is a traditional Indian bread, not some hipster version of a tortilla/croissant. You can buy them in the frozen section of an Indian market. Put some oil in a pan and leave it long enough to brown on each side. They also come in different flavors. You can eat them plain or with chutney.

    • So glad someone made this point! :)

    • I’m glad you pointed it out, but I also think it’s a brilliant description for those who haven’t experienced one :)

  29. Oooooh I want to try spaghetti in a cone. I finally tried the the deep fried cheeseburger at Korzo that’s been circulating on FB in Brooklyn and it was delicious. And Snowdays is always on my summers eats, they do shaved cream. I especially love the shaved coconut cream because it’s vegan.

    And if you want a suggestion for a great underrated place in NYC, I love Sigiri in the LES. They have amazing Sri Lankan food, I recommend the kotthu roti.

  30. Remy Bennett says...

    My brother lives in Manhattan, and my dad and I just returned the other day from a whirlwind 36 hour trip to visit…from Portland, Oregon! I think we walked the entire city, and ate in every neighborhood. During the sweltering heat, one of my favorite stops was along The Highline-there, a woman was selling Mexican ice pops, and they were the perfect treat! The blackberry and Mango was TO DIE FOR!!

  31. Liz says...

    My favorite local summer treat has got to be the coconut icees from street vendors! They’re all over Harlem and Brooklyn and cost only a dollar for the small cup. It’s like a fun scavenger hunt trying to find them – usually around subway stops and the park. They also have other flavors.

    Also: the mango ladies outside the union square subway! Definitely weird if you’re coming to NYC from other parts of the world/country; it’s $3 for an whole mango completely cut up. They have lime juice and chili powder to sprinkle on top too…you won’t be disappointed :D

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Haha! I have always wondered about those mango ladies! That sounds so delicious, though. I will definitely try it next time – and I’ll keep my eye out for coconut icees. Thank you, Liz!

    • Anu says...

      We do that in India too – mango with chili and salt. Usually green mango, but ripe mango is good that way too.

  32. Megan says...

    that munchies ice cream sounds like HEAVEN for sweet & salty lovers!

  33. LRC says...

    Love this post!

  34. Sadie says...

    I love your writing voice, Stella! Maybe I’m biased as a fellow southern Missourian, but your posts totally take me in.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Aw, Sadie, you made my day. Thank you so much for the kind support.

      Stella xx

  35. e says...

    “vegan gelatin made from seaweed,” i.e. agar, the substance teachers always loved to bring out in science class!

  36. Amy says...

    The slushies and parathas look amazing! And I just replaced my ice cream maker…so I might have to try a sweet & salty version as this one’s inaugural batch.

  37. Cynthia says...

    The pretzel ice cream sounds yummy, as I like sweet and salty combinations. The pork belly taco looks delicious, too. I live in Virginia, but right now I am enjoying fresh tomatoes out of our garden, and we’ve had fresh green beans, squash, and cucumbers. I made a blueberry crisp a couple of weeks ago, using fresh blueberries(not home grown). My husband has made a yummy chicken sausage with basil pesto and sun-dried tomatoes in it, and this morning we made Italian sausage. My husband bought a heavy-duty meat grinder and a manual sausage stuffer. He also grinds our hamburger, and it is the best! My husband says he wants to know what is in the food he eats, and if he grinds hamburger and makes sausage, he knows. We eat out very little, because we decided it wasn’t worth spending money on mediocre meals. My husband is a great chef, even though he’s had no formal training. Eating at our house is like eating in a restaurant every night.

  38. Sloan says...

    Goa Taco has been a favorite of ours since their pop up off of Delancy last year. So. freaking. good.

  39. yael steren says...

    Love this post! I have to try the ice cream one!!! Yay! Thanks again for the recommendations! xx yael

  40. Molly says...

    Thank you! I want someone (it’s probably already been done) to do a review of the must haves at Smorgasburg. I live down the block and every time I go I’m just way too overwhelmed and usually just end up getting a Popsicle.

  41. Arianne says...

    Oh no! We just came back from a romantico-foodie trip in NYC yesterday! I would have needed this! All of these look amazing (I would definitely try the raindrop cake anyway). Guess we’ll have to go back again! ;)

  42. Oh dear, why did you have to post this? Now I feel the need to head ten hours north for a whole lotta food. I think I need to get my local ice cream shop to consider stocking The Munchies now.

  43. Amy says...

    Try the swingle at Stevens key lime pie in red hook- a mini-key lime pie on a stick, dipped in dark chocolate and frozen! Soooo delicious.

    • Amy says...

      *steve’s, not Steven :)

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Ah, I have been meaning to check this out for the longest time! Sounds like a dream. Thank you, Amy!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, i’ve never tried these! i love their classic key lime pie, though. thanks!

  44. That ginger and pineapple drink has me salivating! That sounds incredible for these hot summer days!

    If you haven’t been to Cookshop in Chelsea and has their huevos rancheros, I swear you haven’t lived! My fiancé and I love NYC and visit often. I can never miss brunch at my favorite spots!!


  45. Talia says...

    What a fun post! You’ve inspired me to find the local eats of my neighborhood!

  46. Natalie Brennan says...

    Love this post! How fun are those photos? I like Birdbath cookies and Hampton Chutney dosas.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thank you so much, Natalie! I can’t wait to check those places out.


    • and Hampton Chutney Chai! I rarely drink any caffeine so that really gets me buzzed…but so worth the heart-pounding anxiety!

  47. Talia says...

    This is so interesting! Loved this piece and inspired me to find the ‘local’ eats of my neighborhood!

  48. Julia says...

    Don’t wait too long to get a pretzel croissant from City Bakery/Birdbath Bakery!

  49. Barbara says...

    Another food truck to try is actually a whole block of El Salvadoran food trucks – every Saturday and Sunday over the summer they set up around the park across from the Red Hook pool in Brooklyn. The papusas (tortillas stuffed with meat and cheese) are absolutely delicious served with a side of tangy red cabbage, and the watermelon agua fresca is the most refreshing drink on a hot day. You can sit in the park and watch the soccer games in the park while you eat!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      That sounds so, so delicious, Barbara!

  50. Jamie says...

    what a fun piece! loved this!

  51. Tricia S says...

    If you haven’t been to Ippudo…it’s a must. In fact, stop what you’re doing this very moment, catch a taxi and go enjoy a pork bun and a ramen bowl. You won’t be disappointed. It’s the first place I go when I visit NYC.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Ahh, that sounds amazing! Thank you, Tricia!

      Stella xx

    • Kaycee says...

      I love ramen! I’m a vegetarian, so if anyone is looking for vegetarian ramen, Ivan Ramen in the Lower East Side makes delicious veggie ramen. Tricia, I just noticed that Ippudo also has a vegetarian ramen bowl. I’ll definitely have to check it out, thanks for the rec!

    • Jess. says...

      Amen. Worth the wait.