I am by no means a food reporter, but I love carbs. I really love my carbs. So with zero authority, but maximum passion for this under-appreciated food group, I welcome you on my journey of favorite carbs in the New York Tri-State area.
For some context on what carbs especially speak to me, I grew up in Australia, where we have a very high standard of bread. It’s actually the mission of many Aussies in the US to find good bread (i.e. not super sugary, corn starchy bread that has expiry dates astoundingly far in the future!)
On the potato side of things, having lived in the US for some years now, I have a strong appreciation of all forms of fried potato (and fried everything, but that’s a subject for another day!) I’ve actually taken to giving all fries I eat a rating to anyone who wants to hear, so don’t think I’ve chosen my favorite fries without careful consideration.
Finally living in New Jersey (see here and here for my love letters to New Jersey), I admit my favorites do have a slight bias to New Jersey. But rest assured each of these carbs won their status fair and square on taste alone.
White Bread: Cobs Bread (Connecticut and Canada. Yes both places may be far away for you. But the bread is worth it!)
There is now no shortage of Aussie bakeries and cafes in the USA, so the competition for my favorite white bread is fierce. But for classic white bread, Cobs Bread is EXACTLY the same as Baker’s Delight in Oz. Insanely fresh and soft and fluffy, it’s the kind of bread you can pull out the middle and just eat on its own (I think acronyms have gotten out of control, but this really is a IYKYN situation!) If you haven’t been down under for a while, you may have forgotten just how great plain white bread can be.
Multigrain bread: Dave’s Killer Bread (available at most supermarkets, big and small)
Dave’s Killer Bread 21 Whole Grains and Seeds is a perfectly dense, slightly nutty organic bread. It’s springy, not dry, and has a delicious seed topping on the crust. So many American multigrain breads taste sweeter than some of their white counterparts, but not Dave’s Killer Bread! It is on the more expensive side for bread that you will find in a supermarket, but in my opinion it’s absolutely worth it. Also, the company believes in second chance employment – hiring people with criminal records. Just another reason to throw Dave’s bread in your shopping trolley, I mean cart!
Fat Fries – Paul’s Da Burger Joint (131 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003)
Fries in Australia commonly veer towards the chunkier variety, as in they are maybe a couple of centimeters, or close to an inch in width. I believe these are called steak cut fries, but honestly I just found that out while researching this article. Whatever they are called, fries on the larger side are harder to find in the US, but Paul’s does them to PERFECTION. Their steak cut fries have an importantly notable crisp on the outside, and are soft on the inside. While you are there, they also have very good burgers, and for a classic New York beverage, get an Egg Cream (note – it contains no eggs! Only soda water, milk and syrup. Sounds weird but it’s great!) Cash only.
Skinny Fries – Pommes Frites (128 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012)
Surprisingly my favorite fat fries and skinny fries are close to each other in the East Village and Greenwich Village. Although now I think about it, these neighborhoods are both near NYU, so perhaps that isn’t so surprising. In any case Pommes Frites does fries on the thinner side to crispy excellence. Pommes Frites serves Belgian fries (Pommes Frites is literally what Belgians call them!), which are fried twice for the perfect crisp. A super wide range of sauces are available to accompany your fries, from curries to peanut satay to specialty ketchups. Also their store has cute tables with round holes cut into them, specifically designed to hold the cones in which the fries are served!
Bagel – Absolute Bagels (2788 Broadway, New York, NY 10025)
New York is FILLED with amazing bagels, but a list of tri-state carbs would not be complete without a bagel category, so here is my favorite. Found on the Upper West Side, Absolute Bagels’ bagels are so good you can eat them untoasted and they are just as delicious. Their texture is exactly the right combination of doughy and springy, and the exterior is soft too. I recommend their Everything variety for the full experience, but I’ve never been disappointed by any flavor. Also a fun Aussie fact, you can add vegemite to a cream cheese bagel for a salty twist on a New York classic.
Biscuits – Good Enough To Eat (520 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024)
I don’t know what it is about neighborhoods specializing in their carb trope, but the Upper West Side is a haven for brunch lovers, and consequently does excellent brunch-associated carbs. In case no-one has learnt the other side, biscuits in the US are like scones in Oz, but a bit saltier and often grittier, and biscuits in Oz are cookies. The biscuits at Good Enough To Eat arrive with strawberry butter soon after you are seated, and are complimentary. They are warm little bundles of fluffy goodness you didn’t know you needed until they appear in front of you, together with their unique flavor of butter. Be warned that there is usually a line for brunch here, but get there on the early side and you’ll be sweet as.
Roti – Freetown Road Project Caribbean Eatery (640 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07306)
If by chance you haven’t had roti before, it’s a very thin bread, served hot, that is native to the Indian subcontinent. The roti at Freetown Road Project is this wonderful combination of flakey and soft. I want to use the word buttery, but it’s a buttery vibe, not literally buttery. So a better description is found in the overused-for-a-reason catch phrase, it melts in your mouth. The restaurant is the vision of Claude Lewis, who was the champion on the TV show Chopped in 2019. I highly recommend the Curry Vegetable Roti (which, as the name suggests, is a vegetable curry, that comes with a roti). Or for the meat eaters, the oxtail is excellent (it’s like beef with a stronger beef flavor), and order a roti as the perfect side.
Pasta – Luca’s (2019 NJ-27, Somerset, NJ 08873)
Okay so this is stretching the definition of my favorite carbs as this is more of a meal than a straight carb. But as I said I’m no food reporter, just a food lover, so I’m bending the rules of my own list to include the best pasta dish I have ever had. This is possibly blasphemous as I have Italian heritage and have traveled to Italy a couple of times, but I’ve never had lasagna anywhere in the world that came close to Luca’s Cinquanta – fifty layered lasagne. It’s made with veal, mushrooms and marsala sauce, and the flavor combination, with the homemade pasta, is to die for. Or at least worth driving about an hour into New Jersey from the city!
Obviously this list is by no means exhaustive in all the different kinds of carbs out there, but these are my favorites of my favorite food group. If you have other categories of carbs you are curious about, just let me know and I can keep the list going! (Note this isn’t a cute little quip at the end of the article – please give me an excuse to do My Favorite Carbs Part 2, and intentionally sample some more Tri-State area carbs!)