Pizza, hot dogs, bagels, and mammothly enormous cookies. This is New York City, you're listening to PRI, Public Radio Inter--oh crap, I'm actually NOT supposed to be typing what I hear from my podcast.
I know, I know--where IS that cookie from?! Levain Bakery is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and ever since L saw the owners on Throwdown with Bobby Flay she's been meaning to get over there and try what the New York Times called "the largest, most divine chocolate chip cookies in Manhattan." We tried chocolate chip and dark chocolate chocolate chip, and each could have easily substituted as lunch. Talk about filling! Apparently the genii behind Levain are two triathletes who conjured up the gigundo cookies as the perfect carb-loaded snack. Don't forget butter-loaded, ladies. We ran into one of the two owners in the teensy bakery as she rolled a tray full of bagel-sized globs of dough onto a cart. I almost shoved her out of the way and fled with the dough, but then I thought better of it. I imagine that would have embarrassed my hostess.
Levain Bakery, 167 W. 74th Street
On to brunch, which we actually ate BEFORE the cookie--but I'm going in order of importance, here. I briefly couldn't remember the name of this place, so when I Googled "new york brunch wait on line" it actually came up in the Maps results--how about that? Good Enough to Eat is a blast. The food is delicious, it's well-priced, and it's very New York. You and your party wait on a civilized line outside, and a lady walks up and down asking how many are in your party. When a table for 3 showed up, we were waltzed past parties smaller and larger into the restaurant and to our table, which was meant for 3 and only 3. That means a table of 2 that was further ahead in the line would NOT be seated there. An interesting concept, I know. J's pumpkin bread french toast will make you swear off the "traditional" stuff for the rest of your life; the helpings of pear compote on the dish will make you check your watch--yes, it is morning, and yes, it seems like you are eating a most decadent dessert. Still, it's not quite as decadent as the "Peter Paul Pancakes," which feature Belgian chocolate and toasted coconut. Leaving my traditional omelet behind, I tried the Turkey Hash--roast turkey, potatoes, red peppers, carrots, celery, two poached eggs, and a biscuit. It encompassed everything brunch could and should be. Vegetables, protein, eggs, carbs, it was all there. The vegetables were so well-seasoned and perfectly cooked, a real feat considering the amount of droopy looking sauteed veggies I've seen in my day. And the butter, OH the butter. GETE serves strawberry butter that is like icing. You will want to dip into the butter ramekin with your spoon, bypassing the bread completely.
Good Enough to Eat, 483 Amsterdam Avenue
Listen, NY has some of the finest restaurants in the world, but when you're strapped for cash and it's a beautiful day, you have to do the grab-n-go style of dining. And Papaya King can help you out. Turns out that the Papayas (Dog, King, Gray's) are not related, much to my chagrin. I'm so chagrinned. Anyway, there's something about these dogs...they are thin (puny-looking, but delicious, I swear) and the skin is crisp, which makes you want to eat three of them. I don't care for the combos with the fruit juices and all that, but a couple of dogs suit me just fine.
Papaya King, 179 E. 86th Street
So sure, make your fancy reservations and spend a zillion dollars on your trip to New York. Or grab a cookie the size of your head and walk it off through a weekend flea market, where, thanks to skipping the white linen tablecloths, you can treat yourself to some earrings.