NYCC Tuesday Tips is a new series we’re trying out in anticipation of New York Comic Con 2018 this October. Similar to our San Diego Comic-Con Sundays, we will be compiling tips and tricks for making the most out of your time at the convention based on our past experiences. New tips come out every Tuesday right here on the blog.
Last week’s topic: Staying in NYC.
This week: Eating in New York City
New York City is one of the greatest cities in the world and it has some of the greatest food, but it’s not always where you want it. If you’re a true lover of food, you’ll want to head downtown to Soho or Lower East Side or Chinatown or even out to Brooklyn. But, during the rush of a con, it’s often more about sustenance and survival than flavor. Before you start running into the closest Starbucks for an overpriced sandwich, here are some of our hacks for finding the best food near you.
And yes, most of it involves Yelp. In fact, just download Yelp right now and start looking. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.
1. Do your research
The city is packed full of food, and every other restaurant on the block is going to have its own specialties. If you want to try out what’s the best in the area, start your research early. Most things in New York are walkable, there’s always some gem that’s nearby. Don’t get sucked into the tourist traps, because those often involve long lines, and you don’t have time for that.
Or if, you’ve never had Shake Shack, do your research on how long the walk, the wait, the dining, and the walk back is. Then you can go to the tourist stop, get your burger and shake and still make it back for the panel you want to watch.
Because NYCC is always split between the Javits Center and Hammerstein, you have a good handful of blocks to explore. If you really want to be prepared, bookmark some places. You can do this on a maps app or via Yelp. This way, when you pull up the app, you can find what places interested you quickly and efficiently.
2. Master the Yelp Search
Other than word of mouth, the best way to figure out what food is good near you is to use Yelp! I know, this sounds incredibly basic, but this is how I’ve found almost all my favorite restaurants in the city when I lived there. Go to Yelp, type in your location, the kind of food you want (could be as simple as lunch/dinner or just “food”) and look at the map view. Zoom in or out as far as you’re willing to walk and read the reviews.
Get detailed with your searches, don’t be afraid to search based on cuisine, price, or even going within the reviews for keywords. Take a look at one of our example searches of how exact you can get looking for dinner in the area. You can use this method for searching for food near Javits, near your hotel, near your AirBnB, or just walking your way back home for the night.
3. Know where you are
That leads me to this: know where you are. This seems self-explanatory, but know where you’re staying and what neighborhood you’re in. I’m not asking you to become an experienced New Yorker overnight, but know that Hell’s Kitchen is north of Javits and Chelsea is south. The convention center itself is a part of Midtown West. This area is typically a tourist and business area of town, with some sparse food choices, but Chelsea has Chelsea Market and on the edge of Midtown West is Koreatown.
Knowing what neighborhood you’re in helps you specify your food searching and also helps orient you. If you’re headed uptown, search for dinner near Hell’s Kitchen! It’s that simple.
4. Don’t fear the food carts
Chicken and rice is a way of life. Halal carts are everywhere and you don’t just have to haul your ass up to 6th and 53rd for Halal Guys. I know there is some kind of superstition or prejudice that comes from eating food from a cart, people fear food poisoning or proclaim the food seems suspicious, but I’ve eaten halal from almost every corner in Manhattan, and I’ve never had a negative reaction.
The food carts are fast and parked right in front of Javits. You want to go to the mezzanine and spend your twenty bucks on a dry burger and mushy fries, go ahead. But for $6-7 you can get some hot chicken or lamb on a bed of rice with some lettuce and tomato. Slather that sucker in white sauce, and maybe some red (for the brave, it’s pretty spicy), and you are refueled for the rest of the day.
Halal and food carts are as much pillars of New York food culture as the bagel or the pizza. So, don’t fear the food carts! (On that note, don’t fear $1 pizza shops, they’re also fantastic.)
5. Be prepared to wait for good food
Eat a hearty lunch, because by the time dinner rolls around, you’re in for a wait. There are a lot of places in the city that don’t take reservations. This goes back to the research thing, if you know where you’re going, make sure you know if that place takes reservations. If it does, call them and give them the information they need. Typically places want your party to all be present when they seat you and they might only do reservations for larger parties.
For places that don’t take reservations, there are a number of issues you might run into. If the place is popular, you’re in for a good hour to hour-and-a-half wait, that’s pretty standard. Get a drink, find a seat, and wait for them to call your name. The main reason for the wait is because there’s a high demand, and the restaurants are only so big. The good thing? Almost all NYC restaurants have highly experienced wait and host staff. They get people in and flip tables quickly.
Chances are, the farther you get away from the convention center, the less the wait time. But that’s not a rule to live and die by, since it’s the weekend, you’re likely to run into longer wait times where ever you go. Grab a menu and figure out what you want so when you sit down you can order as soon as possible!
6. BRING CASH
As a person who never used to carry cash, I realize it’s easy to assume that most places are credit card friendly. Well, not here. Carry cash. No need to carry hundreds and hundreds on you. That’s both unnecessary and unsafe. There are ATM’s everywhere. Extract some cash for the day and use it as a budget. Even places that have a credit card machine are likely to charge you a minimum if you’re only purchasing a couple things. Cash is especially useful for bodegas and corner stores where you can grab a quick bottle of water and some snacks during the day.
7. Plan for a contingency
Sometimes you’re starving, sometimes you just don’t want to keep walking, sometimes you’re late for a panel and you just need food NOW. Personally, my contingency plan when these moments hit is Starbucks. Here’s why: the mobile app. You can order the food and drink you want ahead of time, and plan out your walk perfectly coincide with your pick-up.
Because you can literally turn a corner anywhere in Manhattan and see a Starbucks, this is what I do when I literally have no time. I put in an order before I get on the subway for the Starbucks closest to my stop — typically a block away — and by the time I get off, my food and drink are waiting for me. I don’t have to wait in line, I don’t need to swipe my card, I don’t even have to speak to anyone. It’s grab and go, perfected.
The main thing to remember is to plan. If you’re not the type of person who likes to plan their meals, then at least this list should give you an idea of what to expect. Personally, I take every chance I get to experience the wide variety of food available to me in the city. If I’ve got the time, I’m likely to take the subway downtown to Chinatown, grab some soup dumplings and noodles. Then I’ll head over and get ice cream at Taiyaki. Then if there’s time, I’ll grab a cocktail from Apothèke. And that’s just for dinner!
Let us know through the comments or on twitter if these tips helped you, and if you want more suggestions for where to eat while you’re in the city. Also, hit us up with any other topics you’d like us to cover for this series!