Pros: Informative and thorough recommendations from an educated palate
Cons: Not optimized for quick reference like traditional travel guides
Mike Colameco’s Food Lover’s Guide To NYC is possibly the best written guide on the market. But be prepared to do your homework to get the most use out of Colameco's recommendations.
What sets this book apart from other travel guides is Colameco's credentials within the industry and his personal experiences with each restaurant listed. He describes the training pedigree of chefs, past and present business partnerships, and even the evolution or devolution of kitchens’ performance. He goes so far as to describe in detail the decor and vibe of restaurants and their neighborhoods. Not satisfied with even this level of detail, Colameco often digresses into New York food history, the rise and fall of dishes and trends, and the dwindling existence of certain foods. Colameco’s imparting of knowledge results in a comprehensive list of recommendations that are dependable, accurate, and informative.
The book is rather comprehensive as far as food styles go. He covers all foods from diners to vegetarian, Basque cooking to Pakistani, high end to holes in the wall, and everything in between. The book steers clear of corporate chains, but does not exclude local franchises that offer quality meals. Neither does Colameco pander to famed hot spots or celebrity chefs, although he does review some of these restaurants allowing you to decide whether the experience is worth the cost. Most importantly, Colameco includes restaurants that may serve average food, but have other saving graces. The breadth of reviews, then, is more concerned with providing you positive experiences instead of just promoting New York darlings.
Nowadays, any guide book will have a difficult time covering an ever changing city like New York. Food Lover’s Guide is no different. In New York, restaurants, chefs, and owners come and go so frequently that even online sources are often out of date. So, do not be surprised if a desired restaurant is permanently closed, or has changed chefs, menus, or management. And note that this timeliness issue with guidebooks also includes the lack of newer restaurants that may be worth a visit. But again, you cannot fault the book or Colameco for New York's rapid-fire dining scene.
While this is by far the best written guide on New York City food, this book is not necessarily the most accessible guide. The book is a whopping 450+ pages of alphabetically listed restaurants with no other immediate organization. The final pages contain almost perfunctory indices of restaurants organized by neighborhood or price point, but neglects food type. Also, the indices only list the restaurant names, leaving you the duty of then determining location and food type. If you read the guide prior to traveling to the city and make notes of which restaurants you want to try, then the guide will make your dining experience an absolute pleasure. But if you procrastinate or expect to find a restaurant on the fly, then you may wind up being overwhelmed by the sheer number of options.
On the other hand, the broad spectrum of recommendations allows foodies to plan entire food tours. More than dining options, Colameco also covers wine bars, chocolate shops, desserts and pastry destinations, specialty stores, food markets, and wine shops. Using these recommendations, you can plot a course that takes you from a restaurant for a meal, to a market for exploring, followed by a midday snack to hold you over until your next appetizing meal. After a hearty breakfast at Good Enough to Eat, you can then walk a few blocks to Zabar's market for cooking supplies and a look at old style deli counters. Following that, you can get a dog or a slice for a taste of iconic New York, then sample meats and cheeses at Sulmeria Rosi, and wrap things up with a walk next door to Jacques Torres Chocolates. On your way home, you can stop by any number of recommended wine shops for personalized tastings and selections. This is the kind of day that foodies dream of, and this book will provide you with sufficient leads to make it happen.
We have all read through other food guides and online sources, but in my experience, none of them compare to the dependability of the recommendations provided by Mike Colameco. Many guide books focus on promoting long time New York institutions. And online sources leave you at the mercy of anonymous diners who oversell their experience or trumpet undeserved criticisms. With Mike Colameco, you will get unbiased reviews of restaurants and food, even those that are not his cup of tea, a true advantage when planning your trip.
Mike Colameco's Food Lover's Guide to NYC is a definite must buy for anyone wanting to find the best offerings in New York food. Using this guide, I plotted a trip that exceeded my expectations at every turn. The accurate description of food, price, and styles allowed me to decide what restaurants to visit with zero letdowns. And the additional coverage of markets and shops let me spend the day touring the New York food scene, satisfying my foodie heart.