Food & Drink

NYC Chefs Share Their Picks for Their Last Meal on Earth

Published On 10/25/2016 Published On 10/25/2016
Uncle Boons
Uncle Boons | EVAN SUNG/COURTESY OF UNCLE BOONS

We’ve all thought about it, gone back and forth about it, and perhaps even seen Anthony Bourdain baring (almost) everything for the sake of it: our last supper. The question of what we’d order may be easier to answer when the selection is narrowed to one city -- but then again, NYC isn’t just any other city. Still, we’ve rounded up some of the city’s best-known kitchen talent to share their “I’ll have what she’s having,” non-negotiable, be-all and end-all last meals on Earth, from the old-school Italian reliables, to the all-out, backup-credit-card-required tasting menus.

Crab fried rice at Uncle Boons

"I love Uncle Boons' crab fried rice — it’s delicious, super-addicting stuff, and I especially get cravings for it after long nights of service. It is total comfort food, and I have some serious history getting the dish. When [my wife] Jennifer and I first arrived in New York (we came in the middle of the winter), we lived two blocks away from Uncle Boons. Back then, the restaurant didn’t allow to-go orders, but I’d always set out into the snow, determined to trick the system and bring home a steaming plate of that crab fried rice to share with Jennifer. The Uncle Boons staff would never let me take it out! I’d always have to return empty-handed (and I’ll confess: there were a couple times that I gave into temptation and stayed in at the restaurant to eat the dish all by myself!).” -- Jessi Singh, Babu Ji

Courtesy of Le Coq Rico

Roasted half-chicken and a side of fall lettuce at Le Coq Rico

"Roasting a chicken is an art, and theirs is always super-juicy. Not to mention, when they bring the bird to the table, they tell you where it came from, how old it was, and how long it aged. That's dedication!” -- Eduard Frauneder, Edi & the Wolf

Courtesy of LoLo's Seafood Shack

Soft-shell crab and johnny cakes at LoLo's Seafood Shack

"One of my favorite spots in NYC is LoLo’s Seafood Shack in Harlem. I'm a big fan of the Caribbean flavors and the laid-back attitude, and for my last meal I would be happy having the soft-shell crab with bacon, pickled cabbage, tomato, and remoulade on their homemade johnny cakes with an ice-cold beer." -- Jose Garces, Amada

Nova Scotia salmon, sturgeon, and sable smoked fish platter at Barney Greengrass

“It's one of the meals you simply can't find anywhere else. Barney Greengrass is a one-of-a-kind experience. The first time I went, I didn't realize they were cash-only and I didn't have any cash. The man at the register took down my phone number and told me to pay him next time I was in. Needless to say, that's a level of trust and hospitality that you don't come across that often in this day and age, and ever since then, I was hooked for life.” -- Daniel Holzman, The Meatball Shop

Patrick Crawford/Blackletter

Sushi at Masa

"I would have to go to Masa for sushi. Any type of raw fish there is amazing. I love eating Japanese food because it's the one food where the more I eat, the less I know." -- Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster

Fresh burrata, rigatoni ragu, and warm chocolate cake at Frank

"I simply love Frank. I basically grew up in there. The burrata is brought in from Puglia, Italy, and the tomatoes are always fresh from Lucky's. The rigatoni ragu is Frank's signature dish, and is simple, incredibly delicious, and always makes me feel at home. The molten chocolate cake is all the ooey goodness one craves from a great chocolate dessert! The restaurant is like my Cheers -- I have a lot of history in there.”-- Michael Chernow, Seamore’s

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Pepperoni pizza at Di Fara

“Pizza is the epitome of New York City, and it’s my absolute favorite food to eat. Di Fara is the best place to get pizza from. I rarely do because the line is always so long, but when I do, I make it count." -- Leah Cohen, Pig & Khao

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Nicole Schnitzler is a writer and NYC ex-pat living in Chicago. Her last meal would be the steak over toast at Clover Club, accompanied by a Manhattan cocktail.

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1. Uncle Boons 7 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

Unlike the countless generic pad Thai and pineapple fried rice spots around town, this Michelin-starred basement bungalow serves authentic Thai cuisine broken up into drinking snacks, small plates, large plates, and dishes off the charcoal grill. The Khao Soi Kaa Kai is an absolute must -- a steaming bowlful of yellow curry-soaked noodles and an almost impossibly tender chicken drumstick. Frozen beer slushies pair well with spicier dishes, and the small, always-packed space lends itself to trading a caramelized riblet for a bite of garlic-coated pea shoots with a nearby neighbor.

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2. Le Coq Rico 30 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003 (Flatiron)

Le Coq Rico is the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Chef Antoine Westermann's Montmartre bistro of the same name. Like its Parisian predecessor, this upscale Flatiron spot focuses entirely on birds. Specifically whole birds, like rooster, hen, squab, duck, and guinea fowl, which are raised for 90-120 days -- longer than the industry standard. The result is noticeably tender and more flavorful than any other poultry you'll find in New York. While it's clear what the star is here, Le Coq Rico's fresh-baked breads and pastries at brunch are Paris-level good.

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3. LoLo's Seafood Shack 303 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026 (Upper West Side)

Caribbean meets Cape Cod at LoLo's, a unique island escape in Morningside Heights that specializes in boiled seafood, like snow crab legs and peel-and-eat shrimp soaked in signature sauces like garlic butter and Old Bay seasoning. The steampot combos, baskets of fried fish, and jerk chicken and ribs are so luscious that you'll want to lick your fingers clean at the end of your meal, even though they'll be covered in blue disposable gloves provided by the restaurant -- cleanliness is next to godliness, right? The interior has a kitschy but charming dilapidated beach-house look, but you should grab a seat on the sea-foam green back patio to feel like you've really run away to the beach.

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4. Barney Greengrass 541 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024 (Upper West Side)

Open since 1908, this family-run Jewish deli and appetizing store hasn't changed much in the last century -- and that's a good thing. If Katz's is known for its pastrami, then Barney Greengrass is known for its smoked fish. Come for the sturgeon scrambled eggs and bagel with lox, stay for the potato latkes and cheese blintzes. There's guaranteed to be a wait on Saturday and Sunday mornings at prime brunch time, but it's worth it.

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5. Masa 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019 (Midtown West)

If you'd like to see what makes a meal worth most people's monthly rent, head to Masa. Masayoshi Takayama, chef and owner of this New York City sushi standard, manifests perfection in fresh fish dishes prepared with hyper-conscious attention to flavor interactions and plating techniques. Posted up in the Time Warner Center, you'll forget the bustle of Columbus Circle and the mall crowd below as you indulge on delicate nigiri and mackerel of the highest echelon.

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6. Frank Restaurant 88 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

In 1998, Frank opened with the aim of bringing both authentic and affordable Italian grub to NYC. With rave reviews, it's grown over the years into a 60-seat resto with an insanely extensive wine list (read: over 750 Italian wines), outdoor patio, wine cellar, and the same simple eats that've had customers returning for years.

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7. Di Fara Pizza 1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

You'll have to brave a long line, but it's more than worth it for Dom DeMarco's handmade pies, lauded by many as the best in New York, and featuring a sauce made with simple San Marzanos; a sprinkling DeMarco's blend of Grana Padano, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses; and a careful snipping of fresh basil across the top.

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