best of new york 2021

The Best Caterers in New York

Photo-Illustration: by Curbed; Photos Getty Images

Since 1985, our annual “Best of New York” issue has named standout services, unique shops, and special spots in dozens of categories. Now that Curbed is part of New York’s family, we have reimagined “Best of New York” as an ever-expanding resource that could rival Yelp in usefulness but feels more like a secret Google doc that gets passed among friends. To find the places recommended on these lists, we polled hundreds of stylish and savvy New Yorkers and begged them to tell us their go-tos. The result: our own Yellow Pages, containing only excellent places.

For “Mexican Masala Night”

Gaurav Anand, gaurav-anand.com

Illustration: Jorge Colombo

“My mouth is watering just thinking about his food,” says Sonal J. Shah, who has worked alongside chef Gaurav Anand on more than 30 events in the past three years. He “blends Indian spices with other cuisines, like Middle Eastern, Italian, and Greek, and it is sensational,” she says. Like a “Mexican Masala Night” he created for a couple’s sangeet that included scrambled-paneer fajitas and tacos made with methi thepla, a spiced flatbread made with fenugreek leaves. Prices start at $100 per person.

For Healthyish Food

The Culinistas, theculinistas.com

Lindsey Taylor Wood, CEO of the Helm, a VC firm for female-led start-ups, has hired the Culinistas for large summit events and small dinner parties. Wood is the type of person they tend to attract: extremely busy female founders who appreciate the type of healthy food (gluten free and dairy free, but you wouldn’t know it) that their chefs tend to specialize in (Gwyneth Paltrow, not surprisingly, was an early client). Founders Jill Donenfeld and Tiana Tenet have actually seen their business expand as restaurants contracted last year, extending in-home chef services to upstate New York and year-round in the Hamptons. You can host a dinner party of pistachio-roasted carrots and couscous with pea shoots for your pod starting at $750, or buy a new-mom friend a postnatal package, where, twice a week for three, six, or 12 weeks, a chef will grocery shop, then prepare meals from start to finish in one’s home. “People would ask me nonstop, ‘What do you need? What can I get you?’ ” says Gail Simmons of Top Chef. “My answer: the Culinistas.”

For Bissap Mojitos

Teranga, itsteranga.com

West African restaurant Teranga has catered events for Nike and Apple’s latest iPhone launch and does smaller parties, too — prices begin at $15 per person, and menu options include platters of beef skewers with suya spice, attiéké (fermented cassava), jollof rice, and even cocktails of bissap and lime. “They’re always on time and answer questions with compassion to those who maybe aren’t familiar with this type of eating,” says model and artist Ori Jai. “I love them.”

For Conceptual Meals

Creative Edge Parties, creativeedgeparties.com

“Creative edge’s attention to detail is unmatched,” says Cheyenne Nelson of McVeigh Global Meetings and Events, noting that it creates “masterpieces” — like caviar cannoli; flowers frozen in cocktail ice cubes; a trio of butters mixed with black truffle, espelette, and yuzu; or a mini cheeseburger and fries that are actually carefully frosted macarons and crinkle-cut cake. “But it’s never stupid or bizarre just for the hell of it,” event planner Marcy Blum says. Creative Edge catered Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian’s New Orleans wedding, where short ribs were served inside latticed pastry domes and there was a steakhouse station and something called a “salad wall.” Dinners start at $275 a person.

For Individually Packaged Peking-Duck Buns

Nom Wah Tea Parlor, nomwah.com

Nom Wah is the go-to for book-release parties for Emily Canders, a senior publicity manager at Penguin Random House. “They’ll do custom menus, tea demonstrations, plus just delicious dumplings,” Canders says. And it has adapted particularly well to the pandemic — from $35 per person, it offers prepackaged single-person servings (as was the case at Gayle King’s recent event for the crew of CBS This Morning) of, among other things, Peking-duck buns and hand-pleated dumplings.

For Barbecue You Can Cut Yourself

Hometown Bar-B-Que, hometownbbq.com

Fans needn’t haul to Texas or even Red Hook for quality barbecue; Hometown (which chef Will Horowitz of the recently closed Ducks Eatery refers to as “my gold standard in NYC”) caters off-site weddings, corporate events, or really any group of 20 people or more, starting at $30 a person. For those looking to throw an event upstate this summer, the staff will even travel up to three hours from Brooklyn to serve racks of ribs, brisket, pastrami bacon, or sides like mac ’n’ cheese or smoked cauliflower. If you don’t want to book a full catering service, you can pick up whole cuts and Hometown will give you hyperspecific instructions so you can cut them (properly) yourself.

For Circus-Community-Approved Hummus

Queen, queen.nyc

Illustration: Jorge Colombo

“The hummus is untouchable,” says actor and musician Brendan Daugherty of Queen, a “wildly popular” Mediterranean café on Starr Street that offers catering and began as a simple falafel window for hungry fire-breathers at the performance space House of Yes. The catering menu includes meze like charred beets and spiced carrots alongside baba ghannouj and za’atar-dusted labneh, plus sandwiches of chicken shawarma and roasted eggplant. It’s perfect for a group because, says Eva Evans, a video producer who has used Queen to cater shoots, “it’s easy to order for all dietary restrictions, and it travels well.” And according to House of Yes co-founder Kae Burke, “Queen has single-handedly fed the entire circus-performance community in Bushwick.”

For “Elegant Comfort Food”

Evelyn’s Kitchen, evelyns-kitchen.com

“One of the most talented chefs and an amazing human being,” says Roc Nation’s Jana Fleishman of Ayala Donchin, the executive chef and founder of Evelyn’s Kitchen. After years working in community relations for the Knicks and overseeing the foundations of NBA stars, Donchin opened a catering business and East Harlem café named for her godmother. Her thing is “elegant comfort food,” so passed hors d’oeuvre may include chile-lime crab cakes or braised short rib on little pieces of jalapeño-cheddar cornbread. Pre-shutdown, Evelyn’s was an in-house caterer for Moët Hennessy USA and worked show days for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. “It’s the attention to detail and creativity that stick out for me,” says Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns. “When I became a vegan two years ago, Ayala shifted with me, even creating vegan choc-chunk cookies. She’s always unfazed.” Evelyn’s will tackle small groups or parties of 300 (each is personalized, and she has a $1,000 food-and-beverage minimum).

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