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Apr 27, 1999 03:13 PM

Union Square area

  • p

I'll be in New York in about a week and have tickets to
see Wit at Union Square Theater, 100 E. 17th. Where
would it be fun to have a bite to eat before or after
that is moderately priced? Thanks as usual, pat

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  1. First of all, enjoy WIT! The Pulitzer Prize was well-
    deserved. There are lots of great places in the
    neighborhood, but I keep finding myself going to
    Verbena and Park Avalon, which are both dignified but
    less pricey than Union Square Cafe and Gotham, and
    easier to get into. There's also the ABC Parlour Cafe
    (on the ground floor of ABC home furnishings on
    Broadway), which is more "fun" but still serves good,
    nice food. If you're a sushi eater, Yama's fantastic
    and less than a block away. And right around the
    corner is cute, rustic little Friend of a Farmer,
    which I like a lot but some friends don't.

    21 Replies
    1. re: Kendra

      Hi Kendra: Can you tell me a little more about Yama's?
      Is it hugely expensive? I'm afraid Tabla is going to
      break my bank. Also more please about Friend of a
      Farmer. Never heard of that. My daughter eats at
      Verbena a lot and they just went to ABC. Thanks. Pat

      1. re: pat hammond

        Yama's is super. The sushi is very, very fresh. We
        just had dinner there last week and after a pretty
        long wait for a Monday night (about 45 minutes), we
        dug in at the sushi bar and splurged. For a huge
        plate of sushi specials and the usual, which would
        have served four people adequately, the bill came to
        under $100.

        We didn't look very closely at the menu for a la carte
        so I can't advise you on that. But the California
        roll, tuna and salmon sashimi, eel and variations of
        all of the above were excellent.

        I don't think they take bookings so it's highly
        recommended you try to show up very early before your
        show or after your show (last orders at around 11p).

        Another place that's cheap and cheerful is Chat n
        Chew, a diner at 10 E 16th Street, between Fifth and
        Union Square West. They make great diner classics
        like burgers, a surprisingly un-heavy macaroni and
        cheese, a mean chocolate shake, etc.

        1. re: Adrienne

          Yama's it will be! Thanks a lot. pat

          1. re: pat hammond

            pat, before you go to yama, just a little caveat, and i
            realize i am strictly in the minority on this one. i
            personally find yama ridiculously overrated and a total
            waste of time. first of all, you've got to wait like
            an hour to get a table. second of all, the sushi
            pieces are way way WAY too big. they give you these
            HUGE slabs of fish on the same size clump of rice you
            would get on a regularly sized piece of sushi.
            basically, the piece of fish is about five times larger
            than the rice, meaning several things: (1) there's
            absolutely no way you can eat the sushi in one bite,
            so usually it takes two or three, but with considerably
            less rice per bite than you would normally get (we're
            talking grains here), and (2) because the fish is so
            huge, it takes you a lot longer (and it's also a lot
            harder, practically speaking) to eat the whole
            assortment, meaning (a) you get tired of eating, and
            (b) by the time you're finishing up, the fish isn't
            fresh anymore. maybe i'm a traditionalist, but my
            motto is: if you can't eat it in one bite, it's not
            sushi. i'm afraid yama has succumbed to that false
            notion that bigger is better. of course, if you like
            sashimi, then maybe this is the way to go. but to me,
            it's not worth the wait or the prices (it's not cheap)
            for pseudo-sushi that's not enjoyable. remember, i'm
            definitely in the minority on this one, but that's my
            take on yama. been there once and i swear i'll never
            go again.

            maybe you can check out blue water grill, though that
            might not fit into your moderately priced category, or
            bambou, an upscale caribbean joint, which is a great
            break from the everyday, though that as well is a bit

            good luck and have a great time.

            1. re: wonki

              Thanks for your candid review,Wonki. So what do you
              think of O Padeiro? I wonder if they take bookings
              there? I'll probably ask my kids to choose but
              forearmed is forewarned and I faxed your post to them.
              Thanks again. pat

              1. re: pat hammond

                never been to o padeiro, but from what i hear, i think
                it's more of a cafe/bakery than a restaurant. i guess
                that would be okay if you're just up for a quick bite
                but it seems to me you're looking for more of a sitdown
                place. along the same lines, though, if you like
                salad, i just noticed that tossed, a salad place in the
                area, just got named best salad in the best of new york
                issue of new york magazine. your head must be
                spinning, i think we're making things worse rather than
                better. good luck!

                1. re: wonki

                  Thanks again to one and all. At least now we have
                  the information to make an informed choice. "Tossed"
                  sounds good too. Ohmigod! Can't wait. Pat

                  1. re: Pat Hammond

                    Pat, sorry I didn't get back to you sooner about Yama
                    and Friend of a Farmer -- I was out of town. In case
                    it's still useful, FOF is on Irving Place between 18th
                    & 19th, and has two small rooms (upstairs &
                    downstairs) done up in a wooden farmhouse-y way. They
                    have chicken and pastas and things, but I almost
                    always get the "Farmer's light snack" which is in fact
                    a pretty large plate of fresh seasonal fruit with
                    zuchini bread and a delicious cream cheese spread. No
                    need to go on about Yama -- I think Wonki's right that
                    if you don't like sashimi you won't love Yama, but I
                    do and I do, so anyway...

                    And you *must* tell us where you end up -- I think
                    we're all curious now!

                  2. re: wonki

                    I had a wonderful meal at O Padeiro. It's definitely
                    on the small side but we were able to make
                    reservations for a party of 8. I thought that the
                    food was excellent, and I had to try hard not to fill
                    up on the wonderful bread. We finished off the meal
                    with some good port from a small but nice selection.
                    The fellow who runs the place came out and talked to
                    us about restaurants and food in general for about 20
                    minutes. Given his enthusiasm, I'd say that O Padeiro
                    should continue to serve good food. I couldn't
                    recommend it as a pre-Wit meal, though, because it's a
                    little too far away and the kitchen isn't exactly
                    lightening fast.

                    1. re: wonki

                      Wonki, and all who had suggestions for me: Before
                      we went to Bambou and loved it. [The play was
                      wonderful, btw.]. In my four days in NYC I also went
                      to Papaya King on the upper east side for lunch,
                      Ratner's for noodle soup (not great, but ok.) It was
                      very near the subway stop where I met my son. Tabla for
                      dinner on Sat. night,was beyond description. We had
                      the three course tasting menu. The amuse was house
                      cured salmon. I had crab cake with the tamarind sauce,
                      then lovely fish (cod, if I remember correctly, over
                      baby greens with ramps, and the kulfi (sp?). Service
                      was impeccable. My martini was gingery and very
                      unusual. During my stay with son in Brooklyn Heights I
                      ate at Noodle Pudding, (wonderful skate with capers),
                      and Sur for lunch. The best surprise of all is that I
                      found I just love Brooklyn. We walked all over
                      creation and had a great time on both sides of the

                      Thanks again for your interest and suggestions.


                      1. re: pat hammond

                        "Ratner's for noodle soup "

                        Pat, Pat, Pat...potato pancakes. blintzes. kasha varnichkes. matzoh brei. onion rolls. maybe consumme with matzoh balls. BUT NEVER noodle soup!

                        Why didn't you clear your itinerary with us first???

                        "The best surprise of all is that I found I just love Brooklyn"

                        Of course you do! You're a chowhound!

                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          Just a caveat about ratners -- this place has gotten tons of violations from the department of health -- substantially more than pretty much any other restaurants. I was really shocked. Yech.

                        2. re: pat hammond

                          pat, glad you liked bambou and tabla and had such a
                          great time while you were here. my girlfriend saw wit
                          and loved it as well. until next time, happy eating.

                    2. re: wonki

                      Thanks for speaking up about Yama. I'm with you on
                      this one. That big piece of fish gets tiresome real
                      fast. I also agree that Yama is way, way overrated.

                      1. re: wonki

                        I think the majority is probably right on this one.
                        Yes, it's a bit pricier, but that's because you get
                        more fish. And given the length of time that elapses
                        between the catch and arrival at the table, I cannot
                        understand the notion that sushi will suddenly cease
                        to be fresh during "the time it takes you to finish
                        up". Either way, one simply orders less.

                        1. re: Tey

                          Hi everyone! My name is Suzette and i'm a student at the Lee Strasberg school for Acting right off of Union Square. I have class every saturday and my problem is: we are given 1/2 an hour for lunch. I have maybe 3-4 dollars to spend on lunch. Are there any decent, quick, cheap places to have lunch? Cause I've been getting lifesavers at Food Emporium and this has got to stop. HELP!

                          1. re: Suzette


                            Have you checked out the farmer's market in the park? You could do a muffin and some fruit...or just some fruit.

                            I believe there's a Fresco Tortilla Grill around there (one of the fast food places run by chinese), maybe on 14th, which is very inexpensive and not horrible (the one on 42nd near 6th is actually pretty good).

                            I really like the homemade granola with organic vanilla milk at City Bakery (22 E 17th), but even that item may blow your budget (check it out though)

                            Too bad the kosher rotisserie chicken place on University burned down. And Picnic is our of business.

                            You could go to Andrew's, a decent enough old fashioned coffee shop, at 136 Fifth Avenue. Pretty good baked stuff (used to be real good).

                            Also, there are taco carts down 14th, but that might be too far a walk.

                            Hey, do you realize that you've posted this to an ancient discussion? As a result, it's kinda buried, a few message boards in from the top. You may want to post to our main Manhattan board. Get more ideas.


                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              rainbow felafel (if its open on Saturday) is just to the East of City Bakery on 17th (the block between University Place and 5th)and would be within your budget - great soup as well as felafel and similar mideastern items.

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Rainbow Falafel is from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Sunday. There are usually lines from noon-2, and you'll find out why, but on Saturday people are more preoccupied with the Greenmarket.

                                I live a few blocks south of Union Square. Let's see--only a half-hour, eh?

                                Giorgio's pizza (between 16th & 17th on Union Square East/Park Ave. So) is pretty decent and fairly cheap, especially if you split stuff.

                                Pintaile's pizza (Fourth Avenue between 12th and 13th) is fine, though I think the paper-thin dough needs a bit of salt. They always have some deal going--two slices, free drink, and such.

                                And the Fresco tortilla place Jim Leff refers to is a few doors to the north of Pintaile's on Fourth.

                                City Bakery is terrific, but tends to run over $4, and a lot of the food isn't clearly priced.

                                Across the street and a little further west is a Cosi sandwich place--really very tasty, but also a biy above $5.

                                The soups and salad bar at the back of Garden of Eden (14th St., just east of Fifth on the north side) are quite good and affordable. (Certainly better than Food Emporium.) Their sandwiches are wickedly good, but again, over your budget.

                                Galaxy (15th and Irving Place) has a few lunch items that are inexpensive--nothing on the menu is over $9.95.

                                There's a REALLY good and very "healthy" new pizza place on Second Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets--the stuff sounds horrible, especially to devoted carnivores like me, but believe it or not, the "Green Tea pizza" is mighty toothsome. Also inexpensive.

                                But Jim said it best: Especially this time of year, the Greenmarket has bountiful choices of fruits, baked goods, terrific pretzels, and all sorts of other comestibles that you can munch in the park and make it back to Lee Strasberg in plenty of time.

                                Bon app├ętit!

                  3. re: pat hammond

                    Pat, you might also want to consider the following:

                    O Padeiro, 2 blocks west on 6th Avenue, for tasty
                    Rainbow felafel, just west of Union Sq. on 17th if its
                    a nice day and you want to sit in the park (no seating)
                    The City Bakery right a few doors fron Rainbow - high
                    quality (not cheap) buffet/salad bar, and wonderful
                    Pitchoune - just east of Gramercy Park, on 3rd at
                    maybe 19th- a pretty walk, and a well regarded french
                    If you wander north 10 blocks, you will be in/nr
                    Little India, with good vegetarian choices, including
                    Mavalli Palace, Pongal, Kasturi, and Vatan (dinner
                    only), as well as nr Les Halles and Park Ave bistros.
                    La Pizza Fresca, in Jim's book, is at 31 E 20th, in
                    the block between Park Ave. South and Broadway, with
                    delicious italian dishes.
                    Patria, of course, on Park Ave. S. at 20th or 21st.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Hi Jen: You New Yorkers are so lucky. I'm SO
                      conflicted! Japanese or Portugese, how to choose? I
                      love Portugese food. Maybe I'll leave it up to my
                      Thanks lots, pat