In 2007, Belgian-native Thomas DeGeest took it upon himself to overhaul Americans’ image of his birth nation’s waffles—which had been tarnished due to the oft-soggy stateside version. He bought a bright-yellow Chevy box truck from which he began to sell rightly made Liege wafels, which are the soft and chewy counterpart to the Brussel wafel, a lighter and crispier option. As for dinges, or toppings, he piles on any combination of sweets such as dulce de leche, bananas, nutella, whipped cream, and grade-A maple syrup. The food truck—recognized in 2010 by Zagat as the city’s best—also serves savory wafels slathered in bacon, chilli, and BBQ pulled pork, which was the plate sampled by Al Roker on a Today Show segment in 2008.
At Kelvin Natural Slush Co., there’s nary an electric-blue or cherry-red slushie in sight. That’s because the food truck’s all-natural slushes come in three base flavors—spicy ginger, tangy citrus, and green and black tea—and gain color from real fruit puree, chopped herbs, and natural mix-ins.
Customers can design their own flavor combination or ask the staff for suggestions; favorites include tea slush with raspberry mix-ins, ginger slush and blueberry, and the “Arnold Palmer,” a half-tea, half-citrus slush made with ice hand-crushed by a vintage nine-iron. Stacked against other NYC-area food trucks, including ice creameries and a candy shop, Kelvin Natural Slush Co. took the award for best dessert at the 2010 Vendy Awards.
Concepts of pastoral and modern dining melt together in David Burke Kitchen’s main dining room, which was designed by Thomas Schlesser, winner of a James Beard Foundation award for Best Restaurant Design. In an open kitchen, David Burke leads an adept staff—including executive chef Chris Shea—as they infuse the menu’s locally sourced ingredients with artistic whimsy. At the center of the space, chefs deftly carve and plate duck, beef, blue-foot hens, whole roasted fish, and lobster, entertaining diners as they await their cuisine. At tables, blue-checkered napkins call to mind a slow-paced rural feast; after meals, contented sighs float up to the rough-hewn wooden planks of the soaring ceiling. A glass-enclosed wine cellar showcases bottles and satyrs’ ineffectual heist plans beneath the cascades of light flowing in through an open skylight. Cocktails ring festively in toasts in the lofted Treehouse Bar, which parks patrons at counter seats overlooking Sixth Avenue. The staff also hosts special events nearly every night of the week, whether it’s a Sunday suckling-pig roast or a Thursday-night live DJ at the Treehouse Bar.
For New Yorkers looking to escape the fast paced city for an hour, Battery Gardens is about as far from the crowded Manhattan streets as they can get––literally. The elegant restaurant lies at the very tip of the island, its patio nestled right up against New York Harbor, flanked on either side by the Staten Island Ferry terminal and the Cruise Line dock. Diners flock outdoors in warm months, watching sailboats glide past Ellis Island and the nearby Statue of Liberty by day. By night, they bask in the ethereal glow cast by hanging globe lanterns that lie suspended from the canopy of tree branches overhead. The seasonal menu of executive chef Ari Nieminen favors fresh fish such as an herb crusted Norwegian salmon, and also incorporates local flavor whenever possible: for example, hot sautéed foie gras hails from Hudson Valley and roasted duck breast comes from Long Island. During warmer months, a summer beer garden serves up more casual eats such as hamburgers, hotdogs, and artisanal soft pretzels that may be twisted into a funny hat upon request.
This cocktail hotspot takes more than just its name from Frenchman Paul Verlaine, a 19th-century poet and notorious hedonist. The drink menu is carefully orchestrated to indulge almost any fancy—libations range from dozens of small-batch and single-barrel whiskeys to sake and cocktails that have a distinct South Asian flair. Lychee sweetens the popular Hanoi Martini and black raspberry sake adds subtle notes to the exotic Saigon Bellini. Vietnamese flavors also inspire the eclectic tapas menu, which features several vegetarian-friendly options. Lemongrass sauce sweetens a stack of pancakes, and chicken or shrimp bulks up coconut curry. At Verlaine, there’s no flashy décor to distract from the craft food and drink. Instead, the vibe is sophisticated and subdued, with dim candles set along the length of the bar and local artwork lining the walls. The artsy theme is alive and well at occasional poetry readings, which pay homage to the bar’s literary namesake.
Maple peanut butter and bacon. Dark-chocolate peanut butter, cherry jam, and shredded coconut. White-chocolate peanut butter, orange marmalade, and almonds. Peanut Butter & Co. doesn’t just slather slices of bread with run-of-the-mill spreads; instead, the staff uses house-made peanut butters and rich, supporting ingredients to create sandwiches that channel schoolyard nostalgia, while sating highbrow tastes. After chowing down on sandwiches—which come with chips, carrots, and optional crust—patrons can dig into peanut-butter-based desserts, such as cookies, pies, parfaits, and sundaes. Eight of the shop’s signature peanut butters are also available in jars for customers who want to replicate sandwiches at home or those looking for a tasty, natural self-tanner.