I don’t spend a lot of time alone. At Serious Eats, we have an open floor plan, and I spend most of my time peeking over my computer and talking to (or at) my coworkers. After work, I meet up with friends for dinner or drinks, and by Friday morning I’ve already planned out my weekend so I have little more than an hour of free time before work begins again. Except, that is, for my Sunday mornings. I leave those wide open for an adventure—one I set out on all on my own. Spending a few hours in solitude each week has become a tradition I wouldn’t trade for anything. I love the little things I notice when I’m eating alone. It’s the interaction between a waiter and a longtime patron, the conversation of a couple behind me (yes, I’m an eavesdropper), or just the chance to sit and really think about what I’m eating.
I've started documenting these Sunday morning outings in weekly Instagram Stories for the Serious Eats account, and have been delighted by the response I've gotten. Apparently, I'm not the only one who loves eating alone. So without further ado, here’s an ever-changing, living list of the restaurants I visit each week, divided by borough—so you can spend your Sunday mornings eating alone, too.
Yes, I know that Brooklyn and Manhattan aren't the city's only boroughs, so before you attack, please know that I'll be expanding this list in the coming weeks and months to include all five boroughs. Any restaurant recommendations left in the comments or DM-ed to me on Instagram are greatly appreciated!
At Sun Hing Lung, you'll find chewy-tender rice rolls with a good variety of fillings. Peek through the service window, and you'll see a team making fresh tofu, which regulars slip behind the counter to buy. Sauce the food yourself at the window—I always opt for slightly sweet pork rolls doused in peanut and soy sauce—and eat them on a bench by the East River.
Kick off your morning by picking up incredibly fresh soy milk and tofu at Tung Woo Tofu Shack. The soy milk is ever so slightly sweet, but fresh enough to discern the soybean flavor—not something that can be said for most store brands. It’s easy to walk by and miss this spot, but once you know it’s there you’ll never pass without getting a small bottle of soy milk and some silky smooth douhua, or tofu pudding, to eat with a spoon.
Make sure to get this restaurant's namesake pork chop over rice, which comes with a generous scoop of tangy fermented mustard greens. Stir-fried rice cakes are always delicious, doused in the chili oil and white vinegar set on each table. By the time I've finished eating, the plastic container of chili oil is nearly empty. It perfectly balances the crisp, salty pork chops and chewy rice cakes.
It's hard to go wrong at this cozy West Village Italian spot. Whatever you get, save room for little anchovies served atop crusty bread with quenelles of room-temperature butter. And if there's a fish special on the menu, get it. The last time I ordered fish at Via Carota, it came out filleted, doused in good olive oil, and velvety and buttery in texture.
This little Malaysian restaurant is popular enough that there's often a crowd by the time I get there, but it's well worth the wait. Start with nasi lemak—coconut rice covered in fried salty anchovies, peanuts, and a hard boiled egg—and a peppery bowl of fish ball soup (add vermicelli). If you've still got an appetite, add on an order of pullut panggang. The sticky rice is filled with dried shrimp and grilled wrapped up in a banana leaf.
Enjoy the flavors of the West African diaspora in this fast-casual restaurant. If you're unfamiliar with the cuisine, start with fufu, a fluffy ball of pounded plantain mixed with red palm oil. I pair the fufu with spicy plantains, grilled chicken, caramelized onions, and mafe—a sweet and spicy peanut sauce.
This counter-service restaurant turns out rice noodles inspired by those cooked and eaten in the Guizhou province of Southwestern China. All the noodles are good, but make sure to get an order of the lamb rice noodle soup. Rich chunks of braised lamb are served suspended in a clear broth, and the flavor is bolstered by the vinegar, chili oil, and soy sauce on each table.
There are an overwhelming number of options at the food hall in Fei Long Market. Follow your stomach, but don't skip out on the roast duck, make sure to get an order of soup dumplings, and finish off your meal with a pot of fish soup studded with Sichuan peppercorns.
Come for a quick Jamaican breakfast—think boiled green bananas, ackee, and salt fish—and get some curry goat to-go. It's perfect for a late lunch.
There are lots of Mexican pastries in the display case at this tiny bakery, but that's not what you're here for. The pupusas, made by one of the employee's mothers, and griddled to order, are fluffy, moist, and better than most others in the city.
At this Yemeni cafe, You'll find perfectly spiced lamb and chicken, along with hearty soups and plenty of dips to go with your platter of warm, soft bread. A particular favorite of mine is foul, a fava bean dip which comes out bubbling in a molten-hot stone bowl.
This dim sum restaurant is hugely popular, so it's a good thing the enormous banquet space can hold a crowd. Shrimp dumplings and other classic offerings are good, but the star of the show are little parcels of purple rice dough wrapped around egg custard and candied walnuts. Pacificana also happens to be where we filmed our day in the life of a dim sum cart video!
If you're like me, there are few things that make you happier than a diner omelette and a really cheap cup of coffee. For exactly that, go to Tom's Diner where the omelettes are perfectly cooked, and the coffee keeps coming. My go-to order—I can't recall ever ordering something else at a diner—is a Western omelette (peppers, onion, and ham), with Swiss cheese and extra crispy potatoes. Best enjoyed with a generous squeeze of mayo on the side.
If an all-day cafe that turns into a wine bar at night is something you're interested in—which, it is—then Gertie is for you. Ask for your muffin to be griddled at the counter, get a piece of cake as well, and consider sticking around until wine o'clock.
Another all-day cafe, Hunky Dory serves delicious food from early morning to well past midnight nearly every day of the week. The owner is a seasoned bartender, and pours delicious drinks during dinner service, but my favorite offering is available only in the earlier part of the day. The smashed potato hash comes with little fried potatoes, 'nduja, arugula, and a creamy aged cheddar sauce. Add an egg, for good measure.
As a native Californian, I'm of the belief a great taco is hard to come by in New York. But at Taqueria el Mezcal, the corn tortillas are fresh and soft, and all of the meats are well seasoned and generously piled on to each taco. Plus, they all come with a generous dollop of guacamole—what's not to love?
This popular Chicago spot serves breakfast and pastries most days until late afternoon. You can’t go wrong with any of the baked goods (think muffins overflowing with seasonal berries, and shiny laminated brioche). Stuff yourself with sweets, but leave room for Provisions’ simple but delicious egg quiche—jiggly, and barely set, with a flaky, buttery crust.
Located in the predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood of Pilsen, this restaurant specializes in one thing—carnitas—and it does it very well. You might have to wait in line for a table, and you might have to wait 30 minutes for the next round of fall-apart tender meat to come from the kitchen, but it’s worth your precious time. Plus, while you wait in line you’ll likely get handed a taco dorado—a thick corn tortilla stuffed with potato and cheese, held shut with toothpicks and fried. Along with (at least) a half pound of carnitas, order guacamole, fresh tortillas, grilled nopales (cactus), and maybe a tower of crisp chicharrón for good measure.
If you haven’t filled yourself beyond belief at Carnitas Uruapan, head down the street to Taqueria Los Comales. The taqueria has 15 locations throughout chicago, and while I only tasted the food at location number three, everything was delicious. You probably have taco-exhaustion at this point, so order a gordita or two instead. Fresh masa is stuffed with meat, cheese, and other fillings, then fried or grilled to golden-brown perfection. My favorite gordita was filled with sautéed onions, peppers, and cheese.
Lula Cafe has been doing farm-to-table in Chicago for 20 years, and you won’t be disappointed by any of the pastries or seasonal salads. Get there before they open for breakfast to ensure you snag a seat. If you’ve got an appetite, order the silky-soft polenta with chunks of chestnut, roasted leek, charred escarole, and a perfectly poached egg. The white fish dip—speckled with sunflower seeds and currants, and served with toasted wedges of bread—is also delicious.
Birrieria Zaragoza only serves roasted goat, and it’s fantastic. If you’re eating with friends, order it both bone-in and boneless (it’ll come on two separate platters). Also order the hot salsa—it’s really quite hot—and some freshly made corn tortillas to wrap around the moist, juicy goat meat.
This tiny market in the Little Village neighborhood sells a little bit of everything: a large variety of moles, fresh and pickled fruits, fresh masa, tons of dried peppers, as well as plenty of other homemade and imported goods. The camotes enmielados, candied sweet potatoes with a chewy, gummy interior, were my favorite purchase.
Head to Fat Rice if you’re craving Macanese food. Every dish contains a blend of the flavors of Portugal and Southern China. Think super-thin rice noodles blanketed in a cloud-like omelette and topped with pickled vegetables, charred and sweet piri piri chicken, and fried rice showered with mint leaves and slivered green onion. Definitely finish your meal with egg tarts and any of the other creative desserts on offer, although I suggest you order your sweets at the same time you order your main dishes, as they sell out quickly.
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