The chef, actor and author of entertaining guide “Life Is a Party” is a baked-goods fan, and he and husband Neil Patrick Harris are consummate hosts. Here are some of Burtka’s fave stops for dining out and stocking up at home.
1551 2nd Avenue
Any time I host guests from out of town, I go to the famous H&H Bagels shop to pick up a baker’s dozen and to choose from a huge variety of house-made cream cheeses and spreads. There’s nothing like a New York City bagel, and H&H Bagels are light and fluffy but crispy on the outside. They also freeze well, so I keep them in my freezer if I have some left over.
If you’re not gluten-free or if you love carbs as much as I do, look no further than some of the best baked goods in town. All of the products are top-notch. Some of my favorites are the festive challah, the olive and cheese breadsticks and the sourdough boule. However, the star of this place is the chocolate babka. It will make you see God!
In the mornings I tend to be intermittent fasting, so I drink my coffee black. I really like the drip coffee at Birch because it’s sweet and nutty but with a great kick for the day. If I’m splurging, I think the best cappuccino is at Sant Ambroeus on the Upper East Side or SoHo.
2nd Ave Deli
162 E 33rd Street
If I am feeling sick, I make myself feel better with matzo ball soup. I’ll travel all the way to 2nd Ave Deli for it. It’s such a healing remedy. The broth is not greasy, and the matzo balls are soft as air.
Cakes and Sweets
The Rainbow Explosion Cake is fun, festive and definitely perfect for a special occasion. The cake is moist, and the butter cream is delicious. You can taste the fun and love Amirah Kassem puts into her products.
The best cookies in the city — cake-like and huge. My favorite is the chocolate peanut butter.
The crack pie and cereal milk ice cream … because anything Christina Tosi does is genius.
Two Little Red Hens
1652 2nd Avenue
The best cupcakes. My favorites are the carrot cake, Boston cream and chocolate peanut butter. They’re not too sweet, and the cake is moist and exceptional.
181 Thompson Street
Right now, my favorite restaurant in the city is Carbone. From the minute you step into this tiny restaurant you’re transported back in time to the 1950s. It’s American-Italian that will make you dream about coming back. You need to book far in advance, but it’s so worth it. Go for the clams oregano, the spicy rigatoni vodka and the chicken Parmesan.
300 West 114th Street
Nobody makes fried chicken like Melba’s. It’s not fancy and has a real neighborhood feel. This place will make you come back again and again. I love the fried chicken and eggnog waffles, my son loves the catfish and my daughter can polish off a whole slice of sweet potato pie.
144 2nd Avenue
My Eastern European roots call to me every once in a while. When I have a hankering for this type of cuisine, I go to Veselka. It’s a small hike from uptown, but I take the kids, and there is so much to do in the East Village. The stuffed cabbage, pierogies and potato pancakes are mouthwatering. It’s more of a high-end diner and just as strong on breakfast foods. On the weekends, you might have to wait in a bit of a line.
Shake Shack and JG Melon
For a fast, amazing experience, I eat at Shake Shack. Pat LaFrieda meat is probably the best quality in the world. For more of a sit-down experience, I enjoy JG Melon. Both burgers are not fussy and are cooked on a flat top, so all the juices get trapped in the meat.
454 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn
Hometown is the best in the city, if not the best in the world. It rivals places I’ve been to in Texas. Billy Durney knows how to smoke meat. Honestly, everything you get is spot-on. Go back for the brisket, the beef ribs and the cornbread. It’s a trek to Red Hook, but believe me, you will not be sorry.