There are a bunch of restaurants in the world, including some in New York City. But in a city of over 24,000 restaurants, how do you find the best? You begin your search in places that are already popular: New York's hottest tourist destinations. In The Best Restaurant in New York Is, writers Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak attempt to determine the best restaurant in New York.
The best restaurant in New York is
LOX New York City at The Jewish Museum.
À la carte.
Cost, before tip
Rich: Caity, are you Jewish?
Caity: I am not Jewish, although I am often mistaken for a nice or perhaps a mean Jewish girl. (My freshman year of college, a girl in my dorm asked if I was going home for Rosh Hashanah. I said, "Oh, no, I'm not Jewish!" She said, "...But you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.")
Are you Jewish or just Juzwish?
Rich: Sometimes people think my Twitter handle/email (RichJuz) is a play on "rich Jews," but my name is pronounced with an "uh" sound and I'm just trying to make it easy for people?
I am also not Jewish. I wouldn't be comfortable making such a joke with my various handles unless I were.
Caity: I wish they had echoed the question asked at the American Girl Café (How many in your party? How many Jews?), so that I could have stolen your adorable "Just this one! ;D" line. But there was no hostess. Also, we arrived separately.
Rich: You enter as you would if you were just going to the museum, which means you have to empty your pockets and go through a metal detector and shit. The security guard told me, "If you do go to the museum after, make sure you come back and get your ticket," which was like: Haha, scam uncovered and I wasn't even trying.
So: If you're desperate to go to the Jewish Museum but have LITERALLY zero cash, just say you're going to the café. Pro tip.
Caity: They didn't warn me about the need to come up and pay for a ticket (probably because I have such an honest Jewish face) but it did take me a very long time to get through the metal detector. I had decided to traverse the city without a purse that day, as I sometimes do, on a whim—
Rich: Women have many options.
Caity: —and then always regret. Probably never moreso than at that moment, when I had to spend five minutes emptying 41,000 pounds of goods from my jumbo-sized coat pockets. I still set off the metal detector, though, because I had neglected to remove my metal-hinged eyeglass case from my person.
Rich: What a twist.
Caity: A lot of surprises at the Jewish Museum.
Rich: The biggest one being the café itself. I walked in and then walked out, convinced I had gone to the wrong Jewish Museum. What I saw basically looked like a standard college dorm's cafeteria with stained glass windows and a giant Starbucks-style pastry case. And I was like, "Well, THIS can't be a place that sells $15 sandwiches."
There were two tables taken, no music playing, and you clearly had to order at the counter. (I want to be served, but figure that sometimes you have to rough it for the sake of journalism.) One table was a standard elderly couple. The other was of a bald woman and her female companion.
Caity: That table was us!
Rich: Another twist. (I will now continue to critique us in third person as if we are strangers that I'm gossiping about.)
I wondered if the bald woman was a heroic cancer survivor BUT her female companion was very butch, so the baldness may have just been a fashion decision. She had eyebrows. I didn't get close enough to see if they were painted on. BUT STILL.
Anyway, THEN I noticed that the wall said "Café Weissman," and I knew we were supposed to eat at "LOX at the Jewish Museum," so then I left again. I told the security guard upstairs that I really must have the wrong place, and she was like, "No. That's it."
Caity: "Excuse me, ma'am? This can't POSSIBLY be where you expect me to eat."
Rich: "You MUST be misleading me."
Caity: The name of the restaurant was and remains totally unclear (every piece of museum paraphernalia uses a different variation), but, for the record, I experienced no such confusion. It had stained glass windows! What sort of Starbucks has stained glass windows?
Rich: It's conceivable! Some New York Sports Clubs have pools!
Caity: Do they have stained glass windows!
Rich: I bet at least one does. If you can envision it and it's in the realm of human possibility it's happened. I doubt a NYSC has latkes, but it may have French toast, which Weissman's Café inside The Jewish Museum aka LOX was out of.
Caity: LOX by Weissman was out of many items the day we visited, specifically: everything that I wanted.
"What is 'Minsk Matzoh Babka'?" I asked.
Rich: "Something you'll never experience."
Caity: "It's like a babka," the man answered (not helpful), "but we're actually out of it today."
"Ah, OK. I'll have the challah French toast then."
"We're actually out of that too."
"Oh, OK. Are you out of anything else?" ("Can you sell me anything you sell?")
He made an apologetic, noncommittal sort of sound, which I interpreted as "No, just those things, sorry..." but then later I attempted to order another thing ("Salmon Roe (Red Caviar) Blinis") AND THEY WERE ALSO OUT OF THOSE.
Privately, you estimated that about 50% of the menu items were probably available that day.
Rich: Yeah, they didn't have the "vodka martini of the week," either. I was just dying to see what it was, you know? That's part of the fun of ordering the thing of the week.
Caity: I got the impression they had NEVER had a vodka martini of the week, to be honest. That didn't stop you from getting your afternoon alcohol, though. ("Oh I WILL have alcohol on this day.")
Rich: I feel like it's my duty to be both Kathie Lee and Hoda if you aren't going to drink with me, and so I always order TWO. (This time: mimosas.)
Caity: I ordered "Fruit Kompot with Apricots and Raisins," which, you pointed out after I ordered, COULD have been alcoholic (wasn't), because I had no idea what it was. It tasted like a bread. But it was a cold drink! I liked it.
Rich: It was spiced gorgeously.
Caity: It was no soda, but it was not half bad.
Rich: The food came very fast. That's one thing I'll give them.
Caity: Thank God for that, because eating in that silent basement was extremely uncomfortable.
Rich: I mean, it was nice to see you, right there in front of me. But yeah, if any place needed restaurant-provided discussion cards, it was this one.
The food was slightly more expensive than the online menu suggested and also...not what was described at times.
Caity: A LOT of surprises at the Jewish Museum. A LOX of surprises, in fact. One surprising thing about the lox you ordered was that it differed, slightly, in taste from the one you were served.
Rich: I got the "Signature Sandwich," which is "seasonal sake-infused lox, ricotta and farmer cheese spread, torched tomatoes, and chopped onions on black bread served open faced." More like bald-faced, as in I was being LIED TO because it was just a sandwich. Not open faced at all. And the lox was not sake-like in its anything.
The sandwich was kind of...hard. It was cute when you asked me, while picking at my plate (which, for the record, I invited you to do), "Got any more loose onions?" mostly because it reminded me of a time that a woman asked me, "Got any spare pants?" when I was in a parking lot of a North Philly mini-mart. "Got any more loose onions?" was my favorite part of my sandwich.
Caity: The most confusing part of the sandwich for me was when you launched into that entertaining story about spare pants, which bore no evident relation to anything we were talking about or doing. I kept waiting for the detail that would make it all fall into place. Finally I just had to ask, "Why did you tell that story?" ("Because of the loose onions!" Oh, OK.)
I got a plate of blintzes, which were fine. They always look like more fun then they are. Little cups of cheese and fruit topping.
Rich: They were cute! Kind of dolls' blintzes. Small. Dainty.
Caity: I only eat doll food. ("Sorry, we're out of doll food.")
We also got a plate of latkes, which we both loved.
Rich: Can't go wrong with deep-fried potatoes.
Caity: Although in the end we did, because we ordered them twice, which was one time too many.
Rich: You were still hungry and I could eat deep-fried potatoes forever (and shouldn't and rarely do...unless it's for journalism). It was either that or, like, a plate of lox.
Caity: They tasted just as good the second time. And were served in a slightly different manner, for no apparent reason.
Rich: Right, experimental presentation. I got the feeling that the counter worker was...interpretive. He presented the food according to his mood, which changed by the moment.
Caity: I got the sense that Lox NYC at Café Weissman at the Jewish Museum on 5th Ave had never before experienced customers, so everyone was just kind of feeling everyone else out. They didn't bring silverware or have French toast, but they did clear some of the plates.
Rich: They brought us our food, too. Order at the counter, have your food brought to you. NOT a bad deal.
For my last course I got the bread pudding, which was actually just...bread? With cheese or solid milk and nuts and fruit? Looked like brains? Tasted much blander than I assume brains taste?
Caity: I thought it looked like bread pudding that a cat had thrown up a couple days prior, but it tasted fine. That should be the slogan of Weissman's Lox at the Jewish Café Museum: "It Tastes Fine."
Rich: Ultimately, I did not enjoy this meal, Caity. But I do think that I saw Stan Lee standing outside, looking apprehensive. If you feel like something isn't right, it probably isn't. Should have gone with my gut and taken us to the 92nd Street Y.
Caity: I enjoy every meal with friends because I have a great attitude.
Rich: It's not you. It's the offerings at Lee Daniels' The Jewish Museum's LOX at Café Weissman.
Caity: There were many things on this menu that were ALMOST things I would like to eat. "Puff pastry" — great! But then: it's a tuna puff pastry. "Fur coat" — elegant! But then: it's herring in a fur coat. What is that?
Rich: Some people and herrings like to dress up when they visit the Jewish Museum.
Caity: Maybe the food they were out of was all delicious, which is why they ran out of it so fast. Perhaps the guiding principle at Club LOX at the Museo Judío should be "If it's available, do not order it."
Is Everything Okay?
Questions about the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Caity: I did not particularly enjoy my food (though that "Fruit Kompot" was pretty good), but, you know what? I would go back. I would go back if a friend invited me because I love to be invited places. If I were kidnapped and woke up hours later in the basement café of the Jewish Museum, I could certainly find something to eat. But if I was ever in the neighborhood again, I would try a different restaurant.
Rich: I never want to go anywhere near 92nd Street and 5th Ave again, but if I were right there exactly and on the brink of death by starvation, I would go back. Or if I were completely out of money and wanted to go to the Jewish Museum, I would SAY I were going back and then do the lifehack I revealed above.
Is it a good first date spot?
Caity: It is a HORRIBLE first date spot. Silent as a tomb, and less populated.
Rich: Unless you REALLY JUST ARE SO TAKEN BY YOUR DATE'S BEAUTY THAT GAZING AT HIM OR HER IS ALL THE ENTERTAINMENT THAT YOU NEED, it is not a good first date spot.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Caity: It is a great place to have an affair. Especially if you are having an affair with an employee of the Jewish Museum. No one will ever go there. I feel like we barely went there and we actually went there.
Rich: Yeah, it's like as close to you can get to a black hole without having to worry about the universe collapsing on itself.
Is it a good place to bring a doll?
Caity: Some of the condiments and toppings are served in tiny glasses that look like doll-sized beer steins. For that reason, I would say this is a pretty good place to bring a doll.
Rich: Yes, it is an excellent place to bring a doll or all of your dolls because there are plenty of empty tables and because NO ONE goes there, no one would be the wiser that you are the kind of person that would bring all of your dolls to a restaurant and then disperse them throughout.
[Photos by Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak]