Eating your way around New York's many neighbourhoods and culinary traditions is best experienced on foot.
For the tourist, there's more to the Bronx than Yankee Stadium, the zoo and botanical gardens. The northernmost of New York City's five boroughs is home to New York's true Little Italy, where cannoli, fresh pasta, pizza and red and white chequered tablecloth restaurants abound. We're approaching the heart at Belmont Avenue on a walking tour with Bronx-based Susan Birnbaum, from Susan Sez Tours, when she pulls out a folder to show us a photocopied image of Dion DiMucci and the Belmonts. She points up at a street sign. "This is where they got their name from," Susan says in a thick drawl."You know that song, The Wanderer?" Our group nod in unison. Storekeepers remember Dion, and indeed he still roams around but it's Sinatra that is god here. At Addeo and Sons Italian Bakery, between bites of olive bread, we're told Sinatra was once a regular. The owner wistfully points to a framed shot of Ol' Blue Eyes.
Around the corner, inside The Arthur Avenue Market, owner of Mike's Deli, David Greco (Mike's son) is holding court. He hands us mouthwatering homemade mozzarella to sample then jokes he has given Hillary Clinton, a visitor to the deli, the biggest salami she has had in her life. They named a sandwich after her. Trump didn't get a look-in. Up the street is Borgatti's Ravioli & Egg Noodles, a handmade-pasta shop founded in 1935. Inside the Calabria Pork Store, hundreds of salami hang like chandeliers. There are a number of restaurants you can choose to dine in, all offering old-school Italian meals. Go to Mario's for pizza or Roberto's Restaurant for bucatini but save dessert for Madonia Brothers Bakery where, since 1918, they've been filling cannoli while you wait to ensure maximum crispiness. Buy a box full, and make sure Susan gets one, as well as a tip. She knows the best eateries. Find out more:susansez.com, arthuravenuebronx.com and bronxlittleitaly.com.
It's Saturday morning and they're setting up for the day at Brooklyn's busy Smorgasburg market on the banks of the East River in Williamsburg. Already there's a line for the latest Instagram hit Raindrop Cakes. Inspired by Japanese mizu shingen mocha, it's a light cake made from barely solidified water served with brown sugar syrup and roasted soy flower. It looks like a breast implant. At Smorgasburg, the purveyors have to show their product is unique before they can sell their wares. Hundreds put in applications, only the best succeed. More substantial are the desserts at the Wowfulls stand. Known in Hong Kong as gai dan jai, these are egg-based waffles with ice-cream and toppings.
There's also a bakery stand with biscuits named after rockstars. The Ginger Baker is predictably prickly, while the Keith Moonpie is sweet but something you might regret later. We try delicious Swiss bratwurst and burli from Starwurst, take a bite of a ramen burger, devour Nashville hot chicken and sit on the banks looking out to Manhattan while feasting on a fresh Maine lobster rolls. Visiting this market is a must. On Sundays Smorgasburg is in Prospect Park and the market goes to Skylight One Hanson in Fort Greene during the winter months. If you've got extra time, visit the nearby Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD), an exhibit design studio and gallery space that's interactive – that is, you can taste and smell the installations. Soon to open is their exhibition Chow, Making the Chinese American Restaurant. smorgasburg.com, mofad.org
Don't take a cab uptown to Harlem – the traffic can be bad. Do as Duke Ellington did and Take the A Train, ''the quickest way to get to Harlem'' to taste renowned soul food. I'm meeting Susan Birnbaum, from Susan Sez Tours again. We agree to convene at the Apollo Theatre. After sneaking in for a peek at the hallowed turf where Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown performed, we head towards Malcolm X Blvd. Lunchtime crowds are gathering at popular soul food buffets Sweet Mama's Soul Food as well as Jacob Soul Food and Salad Bar, the first black owned and operated soul food and salad bar buffet. At Red Rooster on the alfresco dining stretch, Sam Cooke is being played and there's a giant Little Richard portrait on the wall.
When the Obamas came here they feasted on braised short ribs, lobster salad and corn bread. Red Rooster's Ethiopian-born chef Marcus Samuelsson has also opened the nearby Streetbird, where the walls feature memorabilia celebrating Harlem's hip-hop history. The chef is also the man behind the annual Harlem EatUp Festival, a four-day fair that takes place every May. Susan points out the now defunct Lenox Lounge where Billie Holiday had her own booth.
She also guides me to some of the newer restaurants in this ever-changing area, including French bistros ("Cheri is the best," she says) and Indian fusion restaurant Chaiwali, which opened last year. We bid farewell at the former Nation of Islam mosque where Malcolm X preached and I take a tour of my own, mostly so I can sit and enjoy the food. There are lines outside Amy Ruth's I had dined at Sylvia's, ''the queen of soul food'', before. I opt to try the less crowded Melba's run by Sylvia's niece for southern fried chicken and eggnog waffles (as filling as they sound) and end the visit by buying a giant cookie for later at Lavain bakery.
Hop on the 7 Flushing local train at Grand Central Station and pretty much any stop in Queens will offer a smorgasbord of culinary choices. After all, this is the borough where 138 languages are spoken. Get off at Sunnyside (46th – Bliss Street) and take a walk along Queens Boulevard to the Korean Restaurant called Natural Tofu for fresh and silky tofu, kimchi or even beef intestine stew. If you are craving Mexican food, walk over to De Mole for Mexican home cooking. Try the fluffy Huevos con Queso Oaxaca or, if it's later in the day, the Ceviche de Veracruz, a lime juice-soaked, cilantro-perfumed flounder. Both dishes arrive, costing under $10. Jump back on the train or take a walk downhill towards Woodside where from Roosevelt Avenue you can wander all the way to Flushing. Along the way, you can stop at a Colombian family restaurant, taquerias, Filipino fast food joints or Irish pubs.
There are street vendors dishing out Ecuadorian, Salvadoran, and Dominican delights. Walk a little further to work up an appetite again before ending up in Flushing's Chinatown. The Golden Shopping Mall and the New World Mall feature Hong Kong or Shanghai-worthy food halls. And the dumplings are sublime at Tianjin Dumpling House. Finish off the day with an Italian Ice at the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the giant steel globe made for the 1964 World's Fair before getting back on the 7 to Manhattan
MANHATTAN'S FLATIRON DISTRICT
Walk into the Flatiron district artisanal food market, Eataly and immediately you can smell the aromas of freshly baked ciabatta and brewing coffee. New Yorkers know to head here to get their hand-pulled mozzarella and charcuterie. You can take away or sit down for a counter meal and enjoy pizza or fresh seafood pasta with a glass of wine. Mario Batali's gourmet food hall is so popular, they've just opened another branch downtown on the third floor of World Trade Centre. For the novice, the best way to take it all in is on a tour with Live Like a Local. You'll meet the fishmonger, sample gelato and even be guided on how to wash, clean and cut your leafy greens by a vegetable butcher.
On the Flatiron district Live Like a Local walking tour they boldly eschew the popular Shake Shack burgers for Schnipper's right next door. They're good, but not great, best to save space for the cheese toasties at the next stop – Beecher's, a specialist cheesemaker who make cheddar on-site. Then it's off for a kitchen tour and tasting at Breads Bakery to find out how the famous chocolate babka (upon which a whole Seinfeld episode was based) is made. The tour ends at the Union Square Farmer's Market where every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday local providores sell their organic delights. likealocaltours.com
Top 5 restaurants to check out
This Murray Hill taqueria and cantina opened by Michelin starred chef April Bloomfield is perfect for a casual dinner and drink. Bloomfield has enlisted the help of chef Roberto Santibanez, whose Fonda restaurants in the city and Brooklyn are also worth seeking out. 145 39th St, New York NY 10016
Lines can be long at this Brooklyn barbecue joint, but if you come for lunch you're guaranteed a seat to savour the smoked meats (there's a handy mural on the wall to see which cut you're getting), slaw and craft beer. 354 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211
RUSS & DAUGHTERS CAFE
Opened in 2014 and around the corner from their 100-year-old deli, Russ & Daughters cafe serves up the best schmaltz herring and shrubs – which are pickled fruit drinks – you'll ever taste. Come for a light nosh or even for dinner. 127 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
In an area where chain restaurants once dominated, this stylishly designed midtown American Grille serves delicious seafood (there's a raw bar) and steaks. The cocktail and wine list is also impressive. 101 West 57th Street, New York
LE VEAU D'OR
Opened in 1937, this classically authentic French bistro's decor (red banquettes and wall-mounted French street signs) hasn't changed since the doors first opened; neither has the very affordable prix fixe menu. Highly recommended. 129 E 60th Street, New York, NY 10022
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Andrea Black travelled as a guest of NYC & Company and American Airlines