My wife and I are always looking for fun and creative new weekend date ideas in New York City. A few years ago, my wife came up with the idea of planning our very own “food crawl” as a way to spend our annual “Christmas City Date Day.” Our tour took us to 4 different bakeries where we sampled their signature chocolate chip cookies. The next year on “Christmas City Date Day” we decided to repeat the exercise, but with hot chocolate.
Since then, we’ve started to dream bigger. The “food crawl” has exited the shackles of the Christmas City Date Day and has charged head first into the savory food scene. We started to brainstorm the next food to sample across the city. The thought exercise didn’t take long. Really, in NYC, there’s only one food to start with: Pizza.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the basic steps of planning (and enjoying) a great homemade food crawl around your city or town.
Step 1: Pick the Cuisine
First, you need to decide between sweet or savory. Do you want to sample cookies, cupcakes, or ice cream? How about pizza, tacos, or burgers? We at HalfBrilliant don’t judge, so if you want to food crawl for Irish Coffee, we support that too!
Step 2: Come up with categories for rating
As you travel from stop to stop, your memories of the food may start to blend together. The secret to any great food tour is to come up with ratings categories. We decided to rate out of a scale of 5.
For our pizza crawl, we developed the following categories:
- Cheesiness – The obvious first category. Is there too much? Too little? Does all of it slide off the slice when youtake your first bite? Did it burn the crap out of the roof of your mouth? A loaded category, to be sure.
- Sauce to Cheese Ratio – We’ve all seen it. The unbalanced pizza. Truly a disappointment.
- Crust – Some bad crust can force even the biggest of crust-lovers to leave it uneaten. Is it too crispy, too doughy, or just right?
- Appearance – We eat with our eyes, too. A good looking slice will make you come back for more.
- Overall – The ultimate rating! The one you’d give on Yelp!
Step 3: Plan your attack
At this point, I usually start googling “best ______ in NYC” to help come up with a list. This is the tedious part. There are usually many different lists available, and I often try to pick places that are featured on multiple lists. Geography is important too, as it is more convenient if you can walk from place to place.
Step 4: Mangia!
Now the fun part!
For our pizza food crawl, we initially picked 5 pizzerias, mostly around the West and East Village. Below you will find the definitive ratings on the pizza at these locations, which you should trust far more highly than any collection of yelp reviews. Sample size is vastly overrated.
New York City Pizza Crawl – May 14, 2016
Stop 1: NY Pizza Suprema – 8th Avenue b/w 30th and 31st St.
Located right outside Penn Station and Madison Square Garden, NY Pizza Suprema looks like your typical tourist trap pizzeria from the outside. Yet, I kept seeing it come up on “best of” lists online. Even though we largely focused our crawl on the Village, we decided to stop here in Midtown West first.
- Cheesiness: Doc – 2.5 Lady Doc – 2.5
- Sauce to Cheese Ratio: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 2 (Lady Doc is a real cheese lover and was not impressed with the amount of red sauce peeking through)
- Crust: Doc – 4.5 Lady Doc – 3.5 (The crust was crispy and delicious, but Lady Doc found it a tad bland)
- Appearance: Doc – 3.5 Lady Doc – 2.5
- Overall: Doc – 3.5 Lady Doc – 3
- Price: $3
Stop 2: Bleecker Street Pizza – 69 7th Avenue South
This small, cramped, corner shop screams authenticity. I’m not gonna lie, I was excited.
- Cheesiness: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 4
- Sauce to Cheese Ratio: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 4
- Crust: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 3 (tasty, but a bit too overcooked so it flaked apart)
- Appearance: Doc – 2.5 Lady Doc – 3 (the burn on the cheese left a little to be desired)
- Overall: Doc – 3.5 Lady Doc – 3.75 (Lady Doc got aggressive with the quarter points here)
- Price: $3
Stop 3: Famous Joe’s – 7 Carmine Street
The long line and the tour groups huddled outside told us that this place was either super legitimate or a total tourist trap. Not a lot of space inside, but luckily there is a nice little park right across the street where you can sit and enjoy your pizza.
- Cheesiness: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 3.5 (Only pitfall is that the cheese was a bit hot and slid off the slice a bit)
- Sauce to Cheese Ratio: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 3.5 (This pizza took the award for the best sauce and cheese combo and flavor)
- Crust: Doc – 3.5 Lady Doc – 4.5
- Appearance: Doc – 5 Lady Doc – 4.5
- Overall: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 4
- Price: $2.75
Stop 4: Prince Street Pizza – 27 Prince Street
This little hole in the wall spot is known for it’s square pepperoni slices. We were tempted, but felt that we had to stick with the cheese slice to keep the ratings fair.
- Cheesiness: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 3.5
- Sauce to Cheese Ratio: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 4
- Crust: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 3.5
- Appearance: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 4
- Overall: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 3.5
- Price: $2.95
Stop 5: Williamsburg Pizza – 277 Broome Street
Williamsburg Pizza kept popping up on “best of” lists all over Google, but we weren’t about to trek to Brooklyn. Luckily, they have a second location on the Lower East Side. I forgot to take a picture of the outside, but of course I captured the delicious slice.
- Cheesiness: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 4
- Sauce to Cheese Ratio: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 3.75
- Crust: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 4
- Appearance: Doc – 4 Lady Doc – 3.75
- Overall: Doc – 3.75 Lady Doc – 3.75 (Sometimes the rating game is tough. Here, Doc played the role of the Russian Judge, docking a quarter point for no specific reason other than this pizza couldn’t surpass the rating of Joe’s Pizza)
- Price: $3
Stop 6: Rosario’s – 173 Orchard Street
Although our food crawl was done, we stumbled upon another pizzeria and decided to extend it another stop. This goes to show the importance of planning your stops ahead of time. A food crawl is wasted if spent on mediocre locales like this one. A terrible way to end the crawl. I should have left it out, because it doesn’t belong in the company of these great pizzerias. But I include it here as a warning for all aspiring food crawlers to heed.
- Cheesiness: Doc – 2.5 Lady Doc – 3.5 (Lady Doc liked the amount of cheese, but the quality was sub par)
- Sauce to Cheese Ratio: Doc – 3 Lady Doc – 3.5
- Crust: Doc – 3.5 Lady Doc – 3.5
- Appearance: Doc – 2 Lady Doc – 3
- Overall: Doc – 2.5 Lady Doc – 3
- Price: $2.50
Overall, we felt the undisputed winner was Joe’s Pizza, followed by Williamsburg. Prince St and Bleecker St get honorable mention. NY Pizza Supreme was good, but probably last of the 5. Rosario’s doesn’t count.
I hope this post encourages more people to plan their own food crawls. Post your food crawl ideas in the comments below, and stay tuned for our next food crawl blog: The NYC Taco Tour!