A Progressive Lunch

New York can be a lot of different things for a lot of different people. It is at once a place to “be seen”, a shopping mecca, and a historian’s dream. It offers unforgettable nightlife, world-class museums, and some other delights that may just surprise you.

For us? We were most excited about indulging in the food, as New York has anything and everything. Our last couple of months were largely spent in places with moderate variety in local cuisine. Even though I savored every mouthful during three weeks in Italy, I didn’t eat pasta for a month afterwards. And, I love you Morocco, but I got a little tired of eating tagine just a few days in.

So when our friend Kirsten Alana, a stellar photographer and NYC veteran, invited us for a progressive lunch to some of her most frequented haunts, we gladly took her up on it to begin our education on the New York food scene. We were also pleasantly surprised to be joined by another travel blogger, Aaron Shapiro, who we were worried we would miss out on seeing during our time here.


Delicious dumplings!


First up, Kirsten took us to Vanessa’s Dumplings because, as she states it: “Every New Yorker has a favorite dumpling joint.And why wouldn’t they? $1 for 4 delicious dumplings, they are a great start to a meal (or, lunch itself if you want to double up your order!) The restaurant itself is very small with limited seating, but for us it just meant getting cozy with other New Yorkers who were positively gushing over their sesame bread and other goodies.

After dumplings we ventured into the East Village to find a noodle place that needs little introduction, thanks to it being profiled on No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. Xi’an’s Famous Foods serves up noodle dishes to fit any budget at $6 to $10.

Pete had beef, I had pork, and we all sampled each others. The large noodles were unquestionably fresh and each dish was spiced to our individual tastes. Every bite was simply to die for.

Xi'an's Famous Foods



Kirsten, Aaron and Pete

Our good looking lunch crew – Kirsten, Aaron and Pete


Finally, to balance our meal, we needed some sweetness. And given that there are umpteen cupcake stores all over the city, it seemed only natural to try one out.

Butter Lane Cupcakes has an eclectic array of flavors. It’s not the best cupcake I’ve ever had (it left me dreaming of the more delectable Crave Cupcakes in Calgary, Alberta), but really, it is pretty hard to go wrong.

Butter Lane Cupcakes


Cake. Icing. It’s all good.

Popcorn as a topping though? Not so sure about that one.

Stuffed and satisfied, we rolled down the street to find our way home, and knew then that we would be returning.

(Since drafting this post, we have stuffed those same dumplings and noodles in our face again. We are creatures of habit when we find good food!)



This was our first day out when all I used to take pictures was my new iPod. Coincidentally, Kirsten just happens to be the industry expert when it comes to iPhoneography! I took advantage of our time together to get a few pointers, and for any of you looking to improve your own skillz, get some good tips here!


38 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Thanks so much for letting me join you guys! It was a great learning experience too as I had never been to any of these places before!
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..Another Year…Another Blogiversary!

    • February 16 2012

      It was so great to meet you Aaron, a nice surprise to our day! Hopefully we can catch up again next week before we go.

  • February 15 2012

    Sounds like a delicious day to me:)
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Key West – More Than Margaritaville and Hemingway

    • February 16 2012

      Dangerously delicious. I keep telling everyone that I wish that a city or country would have “fruit salad” as their signature dish. None of these “must eat” dishes are ever healthy!

  • February 15 2012

    Oh, yum!!

    • February 16 2012

      Oh, yes! I want to go and do it all over again. For the third time. 🙂

  • February 15 2012

    I don’t know what’s with my face in that photograph! But what a fun day that was!! Thanks for joining Aaron and I and for letting me show you a few of my favorite places in my city. Can’t wait to fit in a few more while you’re still here.

    • February 16 2012

      You look purdy!! (Just slightly evil, as well – haha!)

      It was very fun. Get back here so we can go eat more yummy things! 🙂

  • February 15 2012

    OOh all of that sounds delish! I have made notes so I can try to stop by on my next visit this summer.
    Debbie – European Travelista recently posted..Unique Lodging Is It For You?

    • February 16 2012

      Yes, put them on your list Debbie! Can’t go wrong with delicious AND cheap! 🙂

  • February 16 2012

    Dumplings! Now I know where to get them!

    • February 16 2012

      Oh yes…enjoy them Kate! I think that Jodi also has another place (on that link I sent you), but these were REALLY delicious.

  • February 16 2012

    haha….after reading this I am glad it is just about dinner time…
    Federico recently posted..How to Save Money on Accommodation

    • February 16 2012

      And I have the PAIN of going back over comments and getting hungry every time I do… 🙂

  • February 16 2012

    I want to grab those dumplings out of the screen and gobble them all up!! Yummy!!

    • February 16 2012

      You and me both! We just discovered that we can buy 50 take home dumplings for $9. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing… 🙂

  • February 16 2012

    How wonderful to have locals show you the best food in the city. And I love the idea of a progressive meal.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Journey to the End of the World (aka That Time I Thought I Might Die in the Wilderness)

    • February 17 2012

      It’s also a good idea to not eat the entire day beforehand. 🙂

  • Claire
    February 17 2012

    YUM! The dumplings look so good (as do the cupcakes!) Thanks for passing on the Iphone photo tips as well!

    • February 17 2012

      They would look even better if I had the same kind of skillz as Kirsten! But I’m working on it, glad you found the tips useful!

  • Tom
    February 17 2012

    Oh man, I really need to get to New York (and the US in general). I haven’t been yet and everytime I read a blog post like this it makes me want to fly on over and start backpacking!

    $1.00 for 4 dumplings? Aweeesommeeee.
    Tom recently posted..Travel Video of the Week #005 – Fantastic Scenery Time Lapse Clip

    • February 17 2012

      Or 50 dumplings for $9 (take away). Seriously. It’s a good thing that place is 2 subway rides away or we’d be there everyday!

  • February 17 2012

    I love dumplings. I can’t wait to check out the place! Local cuisines somehow have more flavor and deliciousness in their food. Thank you for sharing!
    Alexa Meisler recently posted..Estiatorio Milos & Knave: A 5 Star Evening in New York

    • February 18 2012

      We tried other dumplings the other night and they just weren’t as good. And way more expensive. Vanessa’s is where it’s at!

  • February 18 2012

    We just discovered dumplings! I know, where have we lived our whole lives? Sooo jealous you have all of New York to explore culinarily (is culinarily a word?).

    • February 18 2012

      Haha – now it is! We’re gonna look like a dumpling when we leave here.

  • Abi
    February 20 2012

    What a motley crew! Would have loved to have been there…

    • February 22 2012

      Maybe we can recreate it (almost) at TBU? At least…you, me and Kirsten. 🙂

  • February 20 2012

    If you want the best cupcakes in NYC, you need to go to Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Buttercup, Melissa’s in SoHo or Magnolia (cliche but true). Also, Crumbs, while a chain these days, is really great for a whole array of flavors.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Photo Friday: Vail, Colorado

    • February 22 2012

      We’ve tried Magnolia since then, which were SUPER yummy. Still can’t believe there are so many bakeries! My waistline can’t handle this city much longer… 🙂

  • February 25 2012

    I would kill for some dumplings right now. 10 months is too long between dumpling sessions.

    • February 26 2012

      I never even know that dumplings were such a “phenomenon” before coming here!

  • Cheryl
    March 3 2012

    Looks soooo hoops! Especially love cupcake shops!

  • March 5 2012

    I’m a big fan of NYC cupcakes. They’re pricey, but worth every penny!

    • March 6 2012

      We tried Magnolia as well and they were delicious. Could have done a whole post on just cupcakes if we had put the effort into getting to them all!

  • March 12 2012

    Always jealous when I hear people talking about yummy cupcakes! New York definitely has lots of shops to get ’em. I have to talk to folks who are more in the know about finding good non-dairy baked goods like cupcakes – I am allergic (severely, sniff) and so usually have to go to LifeThyme on 6th avenue for baked goods, or bake my own (which I am fairly good at…).

    Glad to hear you have been enjoying NYC’s food! Looking forward to reading more about your time in my City!
    Karl P recently posted..With this New York Diner, the more it changes, the more it stays the same?

    • March 13 2012

      NYC, food wise, was SUCH a treat for us after having been overseas – mainly because it has anything and everything! We never ran out of options.

  • December 9 2016

    Not all sight seeing is done with your eyes, right? I love trying new foods and experiencing new flavors!! The cupcakes look like the next thing we need to try when we visit NYC!!

    We always travel with the kids so you can expect that NY style pizza was high on our list of things to try!! Was it as good? Better? Different? than the pizza we know and love at home! It was interesting to hear that part of what makes NY style pizza special is the water!!
    Natalie recently posted..By: Traveling With Kids: Top Tips – The Educational Tourist

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