As long as you’re visiting New York, there are always many impressive events taking place in Lincoln Center and its surroundings, from jazz concerts at the center’s outpost in the Time-Warner Center a few blocks south, to theaters, concerts at several venues and the Metropolitan Opera in buildings placed in the center’s lovely plaza. We also commend to you the immense Marc Chagall tapestries hanging in the lobby of the opera house, visible from the street unless the sun forces draperies to be drawn, and another attraction, the Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Spectacular exhibits of theater memorabilia are on rotating display. The library, which includes an immense collection of scripts, design plans and videotapes of Broadway shows, is often used by actors preparing for auditions, and others studying costumes, sets and lighting. Open noon -6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, except Thursday, when it stay opens until 8 p.m.
Dining in the Lincoln Center area offers many options. We had a lunch-brunch at Rosa Mexicano, which now has three locations in Manhattan. While the signature pomegranate margaritas come oozing out of a slushie machine, we were happy with the more traditional ones and happier still with the made-at-tableside guacamole, chunky and spiced to be as zippy as you’d like. The server prepared it with the dash and flare that used to accompany the tableside creation of a Caesar salad. A Mexican Club sandwich, almost a take on the Cuban sandwich with ham, grilled chicken, Chihuahua cheese, avocado, bacon and a black bean spread kicked up a little with chipotle pepper. It was grilled, but not in a Cuban press, and it was delicious. Sweet potato fries alongside were among the best we’ve had, cooked to soft and gooey inside, crispy on the ends.
And a sort of casserole of scrambled eggs topped with pibil pork (roasted in banana leaves) and Chihuahua cheese arrived with a large stack of warm tortillas to use as bread or for roll-your-own breakfast burritos. That pork is usually found on the lunch side of things, but the kitchen happily substituted it for the three other options that usually top the eggs. The two salsas were good, as well, though the one with fire-roasted chiles had the edge.. We finished up with a tres leches cake that arrived under meringue, like a little baked Alaska, a nice touch.
61 Columbus Ave. (62nd St.)
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Fair
And speaking of breakfast, Ann went on the hunt for a place in Brooklyn she’d heard about. Egg does only breakfast. At noon, the name changes, along with the menu and personnel. It’s in the now-deeply-hip neighborhood of Williamsburg, near a subway stop on the L line and not far from Manhattan. While the menu is short, it’s high-quality ingredients respectfully treated. Orange juice is fresh. Coffee is, too, and it’s amusing to see city folks trying to come to terms with real country ham, dense, salty, strongly smoky and far chewier than the polite stuff found on hotel buffet tables.
The ham can be had on a hot biscuit, homemade, of course, lying on some fig preserves and topped with Grafton cheddar cheese, what an Egg McYou-Know dreams of being. Even more outstanding were the potatoes. At first glance, they look like drive-through food, too. But this is a hash-brown patty fit for a Ferrari. In other words, it tastes like potato, not like grease—potato and onion and a little garlic and black pepper. The best breakfast potatoes in New York? It’s more than possible. Skip the bacon, which, surprisingly, is nothing special. Next time it’ll be pancakes or oatmeal for us, although it’s hard to imagine missing those potatoes.
There’s no website but the menu can be seen here.
135A N. 5th St. (Bedford Avenue), Brooklyn
Breakfast daily, starting at 7:30 a.m. weekdays, 8 Saturday and Sunday
Credit cards: Cash only
Wheelchair access: Good
No visit to New York is complete for us without hitting Chinatown, preferably for dim sum. We tried a new place this time, Jing Fong, on Elizabeth street just south of Canal street. It’s the largest restaurant in Chinatown and perhaps New York as well, the size of restaurants we’ve visited in Hong Kong. It seats about 1200 people in so much space that hostesses communicate by walkie-talkie. Everyone is placed at large tables that seat eight. This is New York; no one will force you into chattery politeness.
Yes, carts come rolling around, and many of the women pushing them have a little English, which puts Jing Fong ahead of some competitors. But it’s also accepted behavior to grab the piece of paper used to keep track of the dishes you’ve eaten and chase down carts carrying other things you want. (We passed a cart with soft-shell crab on the way out. Had we but known....) In addition, there’s a buffet line, most of which is food that isn’t on the carts, largely noodle dishes and stews, but some dynamite sauteed eggplant. And you can request a menu from the captains who are in constant motion, and place an order from that.
The carts display familiar dishes, like shrimp-filled dumplings and the long rolls of rice noodles wrapped around barbecued pork, spare ribs, chicken feet and sticky rice, but there are lots of other intriguing possibilities like skewers of chicken grilled and served in a curry sauce. The variety is overwhelming—we saw pork blood with greens on the buffet—so it’s perfect for folks who are tired of the same old thing. And because the restaurant is so large, the turnover of both food and seats is rapid. Great people-watching, outstanding meals.
20 Elizabeth St. (Canal street), Manhattan
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Fair (there’s an elevator)
Entrees: $12 (dim sum choices average less)
And finally, we have found a wonderful spot in an area that’s restaurant-poor for the tourist. On upper Fifth Avenue, near many museums, it’s difficult to find a place to eat except the in-house eateries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or expensive coffee shops on Madison avenue.
Cafe Sabarsky is located in the Neue Galerie CQ , which is actually a museum of German and Austrian art. You don’t have to pay museum admission to eat at the café, although we did after lunch and saw some wonderful paintings by Gustav Klimt, Paul Klee and others, along with stunning Wiener Werkstatte interiors. The restaurant, in a large, wood-paneled corner room is quite lovely, and a display of some of the desserts against a huge mirror seduces the willing and the reluctant alike.
But this is not a pastry shop. Under the leadership of Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner, who also runs the highly-regarded Blaue Gans and Wallse farther downtown, both light and full meals of Austrian-influenced food can be had, with excellent results. We had lunched on two wonderful soups, one a deeply flavorful goulash soup and another a creamy chestnut, rich beyond belief. There were also open-face liverwurst sandwiches with a sweet onion confit atop them.
Like us, many folks strolled over to inspect the glam desserts along the wall and in a refrigerated case. It’s a difficult decision. We felt obligated to try the sachertorte, one of the signature dishes of Vienna. Layers of chocolate cake, apricot preserve and dark chocolate ganache arrive, bolstered -- as most of the desserts are -- with a small mountain of schlag, or whipped cream. The taste was wonderful, but the cream also helped with some unexpected dryness in the cake. Better was the Mozartkugel, a pistachio cake, moist and nutty. We also availed ourselves of the first-rate coffeehouse list of drinks, including choices almost never seen at home, like a melange, much like a cappucino, and an einspanner, black coffee topped with whipped cream. Happily, this was top-quality coffee, a basic and vital ingredient in cups that receive such elaborate treatment.
This is not an inexpensive restaurant, with prices for soup over ten dollars. But when one combines the food, the decor, and the people-watching, including a coterie of high-end Ladies Who Lunch, it’s a worthwhile treat. There’s also a breakfast menu.
A few blocks south at 82nd Street, is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To the north along Fifth Avenue, opposite Central Park, are such dazzling spots as the Guggenheim, the Museum of the City of New York, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design (part of the Smithsonian) andthe Jewish Museum.
Neue Galerie New York
1048 Fifth Ave. (86th St.)
Breakfast and Lunch through 6 p.m. Mon, Wed., Thurs., Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Fri.-Sun.
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Poor