When I first started working in SoHo, I hated it. I felt out of place amidst models, movie stars, photographers, fashionistas, and tourists. Coffee cost $6+, photo shoots and movie sets were a regular occurrence.
But the other intern whose hometown was Kolkata, India had rose-colored glasses working in NYC for the first time. His passion was photography and fashion, so it made sense that he was enamored with SoHo. He would often exclaim, "Bianca, life is beautiful. We are in SoHo. Be happy!" and I would roll my eyes as a jaded 80-year-old grandma trapped in a 20-something body. As my partner in crime, he actually got me to explore and embrace SoHo.
Within a year, I finally found my version of SoHo that I learned to love and appreciate. There are certain quirks and shops that grew on me. I loved that I had the option to splurge and treat myself by walking towards SoHo or save money and turn towards the outskirts of Chinatown. I loved that Chinatown was a 10-minute walk away. While my commute was a living nightmare, I loved walking to work in the morning because there were rarely people around, a rare sighting for Manhattan.
Also to note, this is a list of a girl who was a very tight budget.
Here are 15 of my personal favorite spots in SoHo:
1. Fay Da Bakery
Breakfast for under $5 which comes with a cup of fresh soy milk and 1-2 Chinese buns. How can you resist? This place reminds me of my childhood. The best time to stop by is in the morning when everything is fresh and delicious.
2. Ferrara Bakery
The best gelato I've had since visiting Italy.
3. Kam Hing Coffee Shop
My favorite hidden gem around the neighborhood. I'm basically a grandma so I'm not a huge fan of overly sugary desserts. These sponge cakes are the perfect texture and level of subtle sweetness. I could eat ten of these and feel great. It's like you're eating sweet, fluffy air. My favorite is the matcha flavor. Also, it's only 75 cents for original and $1.75 for special flavors!
4. Kung Fu Tea
Kung Fu Tea is still my favorite boba place on the east coast. I love milk black tea and passion fruit green tea. It never disappoints me.
5. Cha Cha Matcha
Part of me hates how gentrified Cha Cha Matcha is and the other part of me doesn't care because they have the best matcha latte I've ever had. I am also a sucker for the branding (it's just so well done!). Yes, it's expensive, but to be fair, matcha is expensive. It's not too sweet and high quality. I came here when I was extremely exhausted or wanted to treat myself. Also, they don't accept cash.
Another beautifully branded cafe. Everything to the cups and napkins are on brand and it's lovely, if not a bit excessive. Their food is good but expensive. They are famous for many items, but my personal favorite is the lavender hot chocolate. It's unique, subtle, and extremely well done. I'm lactose intolerant, but damn that hot chocolate was so good.
7. Harney & Sons SoHo
Ever since I studied in London and had the best goddamn scone I've ever eaten, I've been trying to find another one that's even close. I've been to a few tea times around the country and no scone has ever wow-ed me. Harney & Sons is the closest match. The scones could be bigger and less sugary, but they're pretty amazing. They also offer a wide selection of quality tea.
8. Bánh Mì Saigon
One of the most affordable lunches around the neighborhood, but they are cash only. It's quick, easy, and so good. If I was feeling fancy or extra hungry, I would get the summer rolls too. Honestly, this meal would last me lunch and dinner.
9. Ruby's Cafe
Recently, I've been trying to cut down my meat consumption. Then my friend suggested I get the Bronte Burger and my life was changed. It was one of the top 5 best burgers I've ever eaten. The tender burger was bursting with flavors.
10. Thai Son
I know I like a restaurant in NYC when I go to it more than once. With so many options, it's a huge deal if you return to a restaurant in NYC. There used to be one pho spot back in my hometown in Jersey and when they closed down, my heart broke. I ate there for over 10 years and even worked there for a summer. I can't say Thai Son is the same, but it gets the job done. So far, this place has the best pho that I've tried in NYC.
11. LuAnne's Wild Ginger
The first time I tried Wild Ginger, it was for dinner and I got noodles. The meal was very average and made me more skeptical of vegan food. Then I went for lunch and got a curry and it was amazing! I don't think the dinner pricing is as worth it as the lunch pricing. But the curry is top notch and it comes with steamed pumpkin. I usually split this meal for lunch and dinner because it's so filling. The environment is cozy and quiet too unless they're busy.
12. Jack's Wife Freda
Everyone kept telling me to check this place out and I finally did when my friend from Michigan came to visit. I was skeptical at first because of the prices and the meal descriptions. Then I had the meal and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a solid meal, but the restaurant is too tiny and loud for my liking. Really good food, but I would only go back during the off hours.
13. Hampton Chutney Co.
The first time I ate here was the first time I ever heard of Indian dosas. If you don't know what that is, go to Hampton Chutney Co. now!! Dosas are crepes made from rice and are usually savory. The dosas are as large as your entire arm and it's filled with fragrant spices. I loved this affordable spot, but they close early (by NYC standards) and are usually busy all day.
14. Nanzan Poke
Ever since my sister introduced me to Poke when I went to visit her in SF, I crave it way too often. Poke in SF is definitely better, but some spots in the city are decent. It gets tricky though because some poke spots don't give enough protein and sometimes the rice is mushy (why!?). Nanzan Poke is pretty dependable and gives a fair amount of protein, especially towards the end of the day.
Top notch Japanese noodles. The broth is so flavorful and it's fun to eat! These noodles are best eaten on a cold winter day.
I'm now located in Midtown near Madison Square Park. If you have any good suggestions, let me know! I'm sad to say goodbye to SoHo, but excited for a new food adventure.