Five Years of the Second Avenue Subway

A Gen Z friend and I shared an Uber a few months ago, and she asked me what New York was like 10 years ago. (“You should have seen it in the 80s,” our snowy-haired driver chimed in.)

I can hear eyeballs rolling across every borough, some international borders, and even time and space. But I bring it up now because, well, I moved to New York exactly 10 years ago this week.

Although my institutional memory is little more than a jolt in the long history of this city, it is mine and it is real. I remember hiding during Hurricane Sandy. I remember Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd in Canyon of Heroes, “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” by Kara Walker, Eric Garner. I remember when Milk Bar and Shake Shack were still local spots. When subway arrival times were between the MTA and God.

And I especially remember the excitement surrounding the opening of the Second Avenue subway line, a pivotal moment for restaurants on the Upper East Side. Here are some new or remarkable gastronomic stops near its three still gleaming stations.

A handful of cuisines have completely changed my idea of ​​what food can be, and Thai is one of them. There are so many wonderful options across town, but if you’re near 72nd Street, try the three-year-old Thai on Second Avenue. The full menu features the classics – pad see ew, pad thai, crab fried rice – but the specials are the draw: warmly spiced panang curry with tender ribs and sweet potatoes, mango salad under small soft-shell crabs fried brussels sprouts and pork belly in soy-garlic sauce. And if you drink alcohol, try one of the inventive cocktails, especially the Seedless Sophie, with a spear of watermelon pointed at the low ceiling.

For the cuisine you’re more likely to find along the Mediterranean – specifically, that of Morocco, Israel and Lebanon – there’s Lashevet on First Avenue. This small restaurant has only been open for a few months and the service is as warm as the fresh pita. Go for the baba ghanouj with lush chunks of grilled eggplant and the cumin-spiced lamb meatballs in a cherry tomato sauce. Get the lamb, chicken, and falafel skewers over rice, with a just-enough-spiced jalapeño dip, and the “jewel” rice bowl topped with chickpea fritters sprinkled with cranberries, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds . (Bring a friend.) Leave a single grain of rice and you’ll get a soft but firm conversation from one of the owners.

So there is Kaia Wine Bar. It’s not new, it’s not on or east of Second Avenue, and there are plenty of wine bars in this town. But I hadn’t tried South African food until recently, and I bet I’m not alone. Last year, New York columnist David Kortava wrote that it was the only such restaurant in the city, an incredibly rare distinction. Start with the viskoekie fish cake slider. Order the elk carpaccio and ask your dining companion to order the Gatsby sandwich stuffed with garam masala shredded chicken, pickles and fries. If you feel overwhelmed by the extensive South African wine list, waiters will be happy to point you in the right direction.

And maybe 10 years from now I’ll be writing about the restaurants along the Brooklyn-Queens Connector or the new Metro-North stations in the Bronx. But, again, that’s between the MTA and God.

  • Openings: The space that once housed Otto has been restored to its Art Deco splendor and on August 9 will become A fifth, an Italian restaurant with “a long list of amaros”; of them Momofuku Ko the alums opened Claudius on East 10th Street; and Daniel Boulud’s next project will be jojia sushi restaurant next to Grand Central Terminal.

  • Elyse Inamine explored how American chefs who were adopted from South Korea learned to connect with Korean cuisine while navigating the pressure of being “not Korean enough to do that,” as one chef described it.

  • For a taste of coastal life, follow this guide to eat your way through Mystic and other towns in southeastern Connecticut.

  • This is how celebrity sushi chef Nozomu Abe from Noz Sushi fame spends its Sundays.

  • Victoria Petersen reported on struggles restaurants in the Pacific Northwest as heat waves hit a region where air conditioning is not the norm.

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