Despite allegations that it has prevented an entire generation from ever owning a home, the versatile avocado remains a menu mainstay all over the city, starring in dishes appropriate for every meal of the day, as well as beverages, snacks, and desserts. But not everyone gets it right! I've eaten a ton of this ancient fruit over the past few weeks—served on toast, as a dip, a smoothie, deep fried—and here's where to find avocados at their best.
Ducks Eatery: Sourdough & Avocado, $14 with poached egg. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Ducks Eatery: Will and Julie Horowitz are goddamn New York City treasures. The brother-sister team of Ducks Eatery, as well as the outstanding sandwich shop Harry and Ida's, are constantly innovating, working their asses off, never doing the obvious thing if there's something weird or, better yet, more primal that might be better. And while the Sourdough & Avocado brunch dish at Ducks isn't exactly outlandish, it is fantastically delicious, with a layer of black sesame hummus giving it an extra kick.
Located at 351 East 12th Street just west of First Avenue (212-432-3825; duckseatery.com)
Empellon: Avocado, $16. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Empellon: It's always a pleasure to eat at any of Alex Stupak's Mexican restaurants—Al Pastor on Avenue A is an East Village go-to for me—but if you're feeling expansive and able to deal with Midtown, Empellon is one of the city's great special occasion places. The Guacamole here is phenomenal (and it better be, for $21), and comes with a pretty tray of seven salsas, but the most amazing avocado dish here is on the dessert menu. Called simply Avocado, and looking exactly like that and nothing more, this is actually a molded (and airbrushed!) smooth and sweet parfait on a bed of yogurt and lime granita. Just fantastic.
Located at 510 Madison Avenue, entrance on 53rd Street (212-858-9365; empellon.com)
Madcap Cafe: A to Far Guacaway, $8. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Note: MADCAP CLOSED IN SUMMER 2019
Madcap Cafe: Heather Fuller's delightful Carroll Gardens cafe is probably my favorite neighborhood spot of the year, even though it's really a destination restaurant for me, as I live about four neighborhoods away. Everything is great on her eclectic (and recently-expanded!) menu, but her A to Far Guacaway perhaps best typifies Fuller's style: it's simple, it's delicious, it's made with love, it feels like the sort of thing she might whip up for you in her home while you were sipping drinks and shooting the breeze in her kitchen.
Located at 387 Court Street near 1st Place (929-337-6117; madcapcafebk.com)
Two Hands: Avocado Toast, $13. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Two Hands: It feels like hundreds of these Australian coffee shops/cafes have opened down here in the past few years, but one of the most venerable is Two Hands, with bright, pretty locations in Nolita and Tribeca. And though the all-day menus offer an appealing variety of sweet and savory options, the star remains the Avocado Toast, the smashed fruit topped in well-balanced fashion with pickled things and crunchy things and spicy things, all on a thick slab of sourdough.
Locations at 164 Mott Street and 251 Church Street (twohandsnyc.com)
El Mitote: Guacamole, $11. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
El Mitote: First, you should know that everything at this generic-looking (albeit quite festive) Mexican place on the Upper West Side is almost shockingly good. The Guadalara-style, drowned-in-sauce Tortas, the floppy Quesadillas, the fat Tacos... I'd call El Mitote an undiscovered gem, except it's always packed with locals. The Guacamole, too, is first-rate, served extra-chunky with tomato, onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. It's smooth, but with plenty of bite, and the chips are thick and salty. An excellent pre-movie spot, but know that it takes time to cook food with such care, so don't expect a quick in-and-out.
Located at 208 Columbus Avenue between 69th and 70th Streets (212-874-2929; elmitote.com)
Cosme: Guacamole With Herbs, $17. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Cosme: Enrique Olvera's acclaimed contemporary-Mexican restaurant in the Flatiron District is, among other appropriate descriptors (elegant, exciting, delicious), almost obscenely expensive. Like $100 for brunch for two (not including alcohol) expensive. But if you can swing it you should go, because unlike at Olvera's less-pricey Atla, the food at Cosme actually lives up to the hype, and that includes the chef's famous Herb Guacamole. The fresh greenery adds a delightful zip and brightness to the mellow fruit, and the oversize chips really crackle.
Located at 35 East 21st Street between Lexington and Park Avenue South (212-913-9659; cosmenyc.com)
Avocado Appetit: Avocado Burger with Avocado Fries, $15.50. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Avocado Appetit: No question, this avocado-happy restaurant in Chinatown is packed full with Instagram-bait, from the neon signs ("You are all I avo wanted") to the avo-dorable plushies. That said, Avocado Appetit also serves a lengthy menu of decent diner-ish dishes, including this decadent deep-fried Avocado Burger with Avocado Fries combo plate. Not subtle, to be sure, but definitely satisfying. Try one of their Avocado Smoothies, too.
Located at 114 Eldridge Street between Broome and Grand Streets (917-388-3675; avocadoappetit.com)
Oxomoco: Guacamole, $14. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Oxomoco: This lovely Greenpoint restaurant from the Speedy Romeo crew opened early last summer and, unfortunately for those of us who hate waiting for a table, became an instant hotspot. But you should still go, and as often as possible, because the wood-fired food is truly stellar, and that includes the Oxomoco Guacamole. Here chef Justin Bazdarich invigorates the starter staple with potent smoked cherry tomatoes and a liberal sprinkling of salty queso fresco. The freshly-made corn chips are terrific as well.
Located at 128 Greenpoint Avenue between Manhattan and Franklin (646-688-4180; oxomoconyc.com)
Five Leaves: Avocado Toast, $9. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Five Leaves: Once derided as a hipster hangout, this North Brooklyn mainstay has been holding things down on the Greenpoint-Williamsburg border for a full decade now. And, judging how packed it was (and how good it was) in the middle of the afternoon on a recent rainy Tuesday, it appears that Five Leaves has a whole lot of life still to come. You can safely order almost anything here, especially at brunch, but the Avocado Toast is a true standout during the day, a balanced blend of the smooth fruit, hot chilies, crisp radish, scallions, and a drizzle of oil, all piled on a well-toasted hunk of 7-grain bread.
Located at 18 Bedford Avenue at the corner of Lorimer (718-383-5345; fiveleavesny.com)
Rosie's: Guacamole, $13. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Rosie's: Show up during prime time and good luck getting a seat in less than a hour, but you should know that this all-purpose East Village Mexican party spot serves food that's always much better than it probably needs to be. The Guacamole, for example, is excellent, a simple preparation that allows the avocado itself to grab almost all the attention, though that smokey salsa is excellent too. Sit outside on a pleasant early evening with a bowl of this in front of you and feel good about your life's choices.
Located at 29 East 2nd Street at the corner of Second Avenue (212-335-0114; rosiesnyc.com)
Avocaderia: Lychee Dragon Avocado Smoothie, $8.65. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Avocaderia: The locations (Industry City, the Tunnel Building in far-west Chelsea) and hours (closes at 4 p.m.) mean that only people who work right nearby are ever likely to eat at these all-avocado cafes. But if one of those people is you, know that the array of Avocado Smoothies might be the best thing on the menu. Pictured above is the Lychee Dragon version, but they're all good, and with just enough of an avocado base to satisfy any avo-cravings you might have.
Located at 238 36th Street in Brooklyn and 269 11th Avenue in Manhattan (avocaderia.com)
Jajaja: Guacamole y Chips, $9. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
Jajaja: Very pretty, very sceney, and, about a year and half after opening, still serving up a whole lot of very good food, Jajaja is an all-vegan Mexican restaurant at the Chinatown/Lower East Side border. Order with complete confidence throughout the menu, but definitely get a bowl of the Guacamole for the table or, hell, just for yourself. It's got lots of peas and pepitas tucked in there, which add both texture and flavor to the super-creamy avocado (the trio of hot sauces on your table are also great), and the bright red homemade corn chips prove to be a perfect delivery system.
Located at 162 East Broadway at the corner of Rutgers Street (646-883-5453; jajajamexicana.com)
Alta Calidad: Tortilla Tostadas, Guacamole, Salsa, $13. (Scott Lynch / Gothamist)
This is my favorite sort of neighborhood restaurant, serving very good, sometimes risk-taking food, but it's not hyped enough to attract many destination diners, so you can pretty much always walk in and get a seat. Chef Akhtar Nawab makes a mean Queso Fundido, but if you don't feel like starting your meal with a big bowl of cheese, the Guacamole is also terrific, especially once you start spooning on that guajillo salsa with abandon.
Located at 552 Vanderbilt Avenue on the corner of Dean Street in Prospect Heights (718-622-1111; altacalidadbk.com)