To some, summer spells travel. But if you’re like most of us money-strapped New Yorkers, it can be hard to find a way to satisfy the longing to get away. But good news, there is a way to feel like you’re going out of the country without taking more than a trip to another neighborhood. These are the best places to go if you want to eat amazing food from around the world at a fraction of the cost.
Italy – Trattoria Tra Di Noi
Most critics (and Italians, I’m sure) would agree with me when I say that the absolute best place in NYC, and maybe the only real place, to get authentic Italian food is Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. And I know what you’re thinking, the Bronx is so far from Manhattan, but trust me, it’s worth the trip. An eternally good choice is Trattoria Tra Di Noi, where you will find classic Italian dishes that are fresh, bursting with flavor, and are plated beautifully.
Mexico – La Contenta
For a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine, head to La Contenta. It’s small, cozy and feels just like Mexico, and did I forget to mention the food and drinks are both spot on? To quench your thirst, Alex, the bartender, is a force to be reckoned with, serving up drinks that will make your mouth water.
Traditional guac with assorted topping choices (maybe even better than these homemade variations), fish tacos, and Hangar Steak a la Parilla are just a few of the incredible bites you should dig into. I promise, you’ll be contento by the end of the noche.
Thailand – Larb Ubol
If you’re looking for an unassuming and under-the-radar Thai restaurant that delivers, Larb Ubol is well worth the visit. This place may not look like much from outside, but its got some of the tastiest Thai food you will find (like these eats that most people miss when they leave).
Not only that, but its décor and tucked-away-seating make you feel like you’re eating some genuine street food in Thailand. Their Sweet and Spicy Thai chili is so good, you’ll lick your plate and ask for more to bring home with you. And make sure you have some the Thai iced tea to wash it all down.
India – Doaba Deli
Doaba Deli is your one-stop shop for cheap, authentic and tasty Indian food. “Travel” on a budget. Thank me later.
Senegal – Kaloum
A+ for ambiance, Kaloum offers its diners an authentic West African vibe complete with traditional dances and minimalist décor that is pleasant and inviting. Make sure to get an order of their famous Mafe, a peanut sauce and lamb meat mixture. And if you’re a fish fan, they make a mean whole, crispy fish served in a red sauce with rice and veggies. When it comes to treats, African food has us Americans beat.
France – Claudette
With many touting it as French Provençal, Claudette will make you feel like you’re in a country house in Paris. The light, airy, and tradition-based dishes, combined with the all-around glamour, will have you sold as it practically oozes French charm. Brush up on your French food terms and get to Claudette.
Spain – Pata Negra
In addition to Pata Negra‘s Spanish-speaking bartenders and patrons, the outdoor garden and villa-esque decor, the food here is out-of-sight authentic. From made-to-order paella to the Basque digestif, this hidden gem is a quick trip to España. And if you’re having Spanish food withdrawals, you’ll be overjoyed when you taste their treats.
Brazil – Beija Flor
Take a mini-trip to Brazil via Long Island City’s Beija Flor. Forget your normal Queens haunts. This out-of-the-way location provides a perfect, non-tourist locale for any Brazil-seeking foodie. Consistently described as a hidden gem, Beija Flor boasts its own edible goldmines such as perfectly crisped chorizo and Moqueca, a traditional fish dish. They’ve even got some live music to truly transport you from the dirty streets of New York to the charming roads of Brazil.
China – X’ian’s Famous Food
Don’t let the eight locations or the slightly American-sounding name throw you off. X’ian’s Famous Food is the real deal. If you’re looking for chicken with broccoli or Mooshoo pork, you may want to check somewhere else. Skip the posers. If you’re looking for some real Chinese cuisine, this is the place to be.
Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are just two of the big names who have boasted visits for signature dishes such as hand-pulled noodles with spicy and tingly beef or lamb. It’s definitely an NYC bucket list addition, even if you’re not on the lookout for authenticity.
Japan – Kyo Ya
Kyo Ya is a subterranean oasis that is unmarked and boasts the ambiance, décor, service and food of a traditional Japanese eatery, right down to the seats on the floor. Since you can’t make your way to Hokkaido, this is a great alternative. They’re best known for their sweet potato tempura, a deep fried whole sweet potato with a soft, smooth interior and satisfyingly crispy shell that’s seasoned with soy sauce and Mongolian salt. In addition, they also have an impressive selection of pressed sushi.
Portugal – A-Churrasqueira Restaurant & Bar
For an authentic Latin feel and some old school Portuegese charm, take a trip to this LIRR stop. Located near one of their train stations (and several subways for those who don’t feel like splurging at all on travel) sits A-Churrasqueira Restaurant & Bar, teeming with character and dishes like seafood pots and steak on a rock.
Nothing lets you feel like you’re no longer in New York like a trip to an outer borough to eat the type of food you can’t make or get in the few blocks within walking distance of your house. Bonus points for having a menu with options listed in both English and Portuguese.
Israel – Dizengoff
If you’ve been waiting for the best damn Israeli salad and hummus you’ve ever put in your mouth, get yourself to Chelsea Market. Why make it yourself when you could visit Dizengoff, a brand new “hummusiya” that offers set meals of hummus, fresh-baked pita, Israeli salad and pickles during the day, and a special menu at night (unlike its Philadelphia counterpart).
The original Dizengoff was opened many years ago in Tel Aviv, and the owners recently brought it to NYC, so you know it’s the real deal. And I’ve seen only rave reviews about the pita so far. Peace, Love, Pita.
Germany – Cafe Katja
Everything at Café Katja screams Germany. From the giant pretzels, and wiener schnitzels to even the most minute details like homemade sauerkraut (which was recently proven to be super healthy), Katja shines. Grab Das Boot, and pair it with one of their incredible edibles, then strap yourself in for some Oktoberfest-like fun, any time of the year.
UK – Jones Woods Foundry
Not only is the traditional pub fare at Jones Wood Foundry on point from brunch to dinner, but they score extra home-base points for playing British football when it’s in season, and adorning the walls with cricket bats, tube signs, and other English knick-knacks. They even have some incredibly English beers like Founders and Old Speckled Hen. Forget the cereal, Bangers and Mash, and Fish and Chips are just two of the many great Brit dishes to try.
Georgia – Pepela
Set in an antique walk-up, Pepela is a hidden treasure in Midtown East. Its décor is very chic, but make no mistake, they are traditional as anyplace you’ll find. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a small bar, perfect for a catch-up with friends, or nursing a drink while you wait for them. Then you descend the stairs and are transported to Georgia where khachapuri (a can’t-be-missed Georgian pizza made with bread, cheese and a baked egg), veal stew, kebabs and more await your order.
Jamaica – ReCaFo
Amazing jerk chicken and oxtail, bamboo placemats, tropical drinks and even more tropical décor, ReCaFo is Caribbean greatness in a takeout container. And check out these great snack options if you want to continue your Jamaican feast.
Greece – The Greek
Find yourself transported to a taverna by the sea when you visit The Greek. From traditional dishes like souvlaki and keftedes to the rustic décor, and even the incredible baklava, this is the place for a staycation in Greece. The name alone should tell you that, rather than variation, originals can be the best. Follow it up by streaming “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and making some of these Greek treats.
Australia – The Australian
Like The Greek, the basic name shouldn’t dissuade you; The Australian is as real as it gets. They serve kangaroo skewers for those of you daring enough to try them, and pies & chips for those of you who aren’t quite as brave. Plus, there are Aussies everywhere. The décor is nice and clean, so it doesn’t give off the beach feel you might get in Australia itself, but you’ll be swimming in so many accents that you won’t really care.
Turkey – Istanbul Kebab House
Just outside the heart of Times Square, Istanbul Kebab House waits to welcome you with kebabs, shwarma and gyros aplenty (and they’re way better than Arby’s). Even those who have visited Istanbul, say they feel like they are back in the country, not just because of the food, but for the elaborate decorations, making you feel like you’ve stepped out of NYC and into Turkey.
#SpoonTip: It’s also BYOB, so pair well.
The Philippines – Maharlika
Want to feel like you’re in the Philipines without stepping foot on a plane? Take a trip to Maharlika. The friendly waiters, festive decorations and paintings, and overall feel of the place will have you feeling like you’ve taken a trip before the food even arrives. Speaking of food, this Filipino-with-a-twist may not provide the traditional edibles you’re looking for, but it will excite your palate and bring you back to the islands with a bit more flare.
With this list, you can get out of your comfort zone without spending an uncomfortable amount of money. Your friends will have no idea you never left.