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NYC for Christmas and New Year's

  • w

My girlfriend and I and some friends are coming out to NY from LA for the holidays. Any suggestions for places that ONLY NY (no chains as I want to taste true NY cuisine) has to offer? Romantic restaurants (Nirvana), local favorites, pizza (As NY is famous for this, Lambardi's?) late night eats, street vendors, hole-in-the-wall places, any cuisine, any price ratio is ok. We will be staying around ''Battery Park'', so it would have to be fairly close to there, but we can travel as NY has a good transit system, any suggestions would greatly be appreciated. We're pretty much set on the ''sight-seeing'' part.

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  1. No suggestions, just some advice: there absolutely is no reason to limit yourself to the Battery Park area just because you're staying there. As you point out, NYC has an excellent transit system, which is a comfortable and safe way to get to any of the places you'll want to go, and plenty of cabs. If you limit yourself to Battery Park, you'll miss most of what the city has to offer.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ian

      NY experience. Katz's Delicatessen on Houston St. Be sure to order the pastrami. To combine both pizza and hole in the wall you must go to DiFara's in Brooklyn (Q train to Ave. J, check the Outer Boroughs board).

      If you got big bucks (figure minimum $100/person, I second the choice of Peter Luger's, but you better reserve NOW for Xmas week (and be prepared to wait even with the res). The River Café is the same (except for the wait), but you could go there just for a drink at the bar and the view.

      Coming from LA, you probably won't be interested in Asian food. But NYC does have some very good moderately priced Middle Eastern--Turkish, North African, etc.-- restaurants as well as our excellent and expensive Italian and French restaurants that people will recommend.

    2. Well, without knowing your budget or your preferences, let me jump in anyway and offer you some advice, since you asked.

      I have come to think NYC during the holidays can be magical. Doesn't mean life stops or even gets easier, but it does mean that the sights and sounds can be extraordinary. You asked for some "only in NY" experiences and here are some of my suggestions.

      Take the subway to Rockefeller Center, check out the tree, have a drink (and dinner, if your budget allows) at the Sea Grill. (Make reservations first.)

      Take a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, ask your way to the Brooklyn Promenade, check out the magical and inspiring views of NYC and its East River bridges (especially at dusk) for no cost at all. Then ask your way to Atlantic Avenue and pop in to the Waterfront Ale House for a burger and a beer (all at moderate cost). You'll be the only tourists in the place and you'll have a great time (and if it happens to be a Saturday night you'll catch some live jazz).

      For more upscale Brooklyn, make reservations, put on a jacket (if you're a guy) and enjoy an expensive dinner at The River Cafe. You won't get those views anywhere but NYC. And also upscale and requiring reservations but offering a different NY style, try Peter Luger's in Williamsburgh.

      NYC is a steak town and there are two real NYC steakhouses you can check out (besides, of course, the redoubtable Peter Luger's in Brooklyn). The first is the great Sparks on East 46th Street. Sparks has arguably the best and fairest priced wine list of all the upscale NYC restaurants, and it has the distinction of being the place where Paul Castellano was heading for his last meal when he was interrupted by several emissaries of John Gotti. It also has some pretty good steaks and lobster. And another New York institution for many years is Keen's Steakhouse (nee Chophousw) on West 36th Street, for the food (especially their signature dish, the mutton chop), the ambience and the single malt scotch offerings.

      And, believe it or not, a great New York institution is Chinatown, or, I should say, Chinatowns (in the plural). There is the traditional Chinatown at the lower end of Manhattan and there is a newer Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, and there is a third in Sunset Park in Brooklyn. But the traditional Chinatown is as much a part of NYC as anything else. You can peruse the Manhattan board for many, many discussions of Chinatown restaurants and dishes.

      For some other New York experiences, in no particular order of preference, try:

      * Knickerbocker's Bar & Grill for dinner in the Village (live jazz later in the evening)
      * Cedar Tavern for a beer in the Village
      * the Staten Island ferry for a free ride (despite their current troubles)
      * a pint in an Irish pub (take your pick)
      * a walk through Grand Central (many places to nosh and sip)

      And, of course, there are the usual NYC staples for tourists: the great museums, Broadway, Off-Broadway, Central Park (and its sister in Brooklyn, Prospect Park), the Bronx Zoo, the Bronx and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Yankee Stadium tours...

      All these are "only in NYC" experiences, some to be had for no cost and some at very high cost, but all worth consideration. And they are all reachable by walking, by subway or by cab.

      My thoughts, anyway...

      4 Replies
      1. re: George Lynch

        I saw some reviews about the River Cafe (do they have a website?)for the romantic dinner, I was thinking about going to ''One If By Land, Two If By Sea'', any opinions on it?

        1. re: Wesley S.

          There are lots of reviews of OIBL TIBS on this board. Do yourself a big favor and read some of them before making a reservation. They range from very mediocre to awful.

          1. re: Wesley S.
            George Lynch

            I have not been in One If By Land, Two If By Sea in quite some time so I'm not sure my opinion is really valid, but the consensus is that this is a place to avoid.

            The River Cafe, on the other hand, continues to impress on most counts, including quality of food, service and the always stunning elegance and views of lower Manhattan. It's not inexpensive by any means, but you would certainly remember it should you decide to try it.

            They do have a website, URL posted below. Good luck on your trip.

            Link: http://www.rivercafe.com/

          2. re: George Lynch

            I thought Cedar closed? SI Ferry is always a great idea, as is Keens or Lugars or Sparks. As other posters have noted, read through the Manhattan board (and outerboroughs too) to see what else is out there.

          3. Lemme break it down for you. Hit a deli (Katz's, 2nd Ave. Deli) then get a dessert over at Veniero's in the East Village. Get a good NY steak at MarkJoseph's, Sparks or Luger's. Hit the usual pizza joints (John's, Grimaldi's, Lombardi's). Eat a hotdog after midnight at Grey's Papaya. Get the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity's. Get a bagel from H&H and hit Zabars on the next block. Eat a half-dozen oysters at oyster bar at Grand Central and then walk up to Rock Center to see the tree. Get some soul food in Harlem at Amy Ruth's, Miss Mamie's Spoonbread or M&G Diner. Eat at one of the cheap Indian places on 6th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, just because, then walk around. Hit a good French Bistro like Les Halles or Park Avenue Bistro or Payard or Balthazar. Cap off your visit with a dinner at a five star restaurant like Jean-Georges. The have a happy new year!

            1. ok, I'll bite. If it were me, what I would do is decide to have a really expensive dinner one night. You don't want to do it on New Year's Eve, because that's when everyone else will be out. I would try to do it the night before, and then something more low key on NYE.

              Many people around here will tell you that Gramercy Tavern is one of the most pleasant places to have a fancy dinner in the city when you combine food, service, and atmosphere. I've never been, but that's the common wisdom. You could probably do far worse for a big night out.

              Grand Central Oyster Bar is a terrific place to stop in the late afternoon, have a couple of beers and oysters while you watch the commuters get drunk before getting on their train.

              For late nights, you'll need to hit the Corner Bistro and have one of the burgers there.

              Katz's is a terrific suggestion, as is the walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. I wouldn't bother with River Cafe unless its just you and your girlfriend and you want a quintessentially "romantic" dinner and a large bill. Not that its bad, and having a drink there is a great idea. Right next door, however, is Grimaldi's pizza, which is one of the city's best (though everyone has their own opinion). Also there is Brooklyn Ice Cream and Jaque Torres chocolate.

              I would recommend trying some old world/red sauce Italian places. Baumontes in Brooklyn is supposed to have a terrific atmosphere, if just average food.

              In general, read down through the Manhattan board, picking out whatever looks interesting. All of these things and many others have been discussed at length, and you will find more info than you ever thought possible.

              1. scroll down this board for a thread called "manhattan top ten" and you'll get some good ideas.

                1 Reply
                1. re: haup

                  Thank you all for the suggestions, I will look into everything that was posted. I can hardly wait to go to NYC!!

                2. Don't go to the Brooklyn Diner.

                  What's good -- the french fries were thin and every item on the table was pronounced as good, including the macaroni & cheese, crab cake sandwich, pot roast sandwich, and tuna sandwich.

                  What's bad -- mostly everything else.

                  The 57th Street location makes it overpriced rather than expensive. Great for tourists who won't travel into Queens instead for authentic and appropriately priced diner food.

                  It's good food but not a good value. The bill for 7 at lunch was $174 including tip, including 3 fountain drinks. The portions were made to appear large but they are loaded with carbs, i.e., large pieces of "brioche" bread for the sandwiches when more crab meat would have been preferable. None of the lunches were large enough to share so the prices do not reflect that either.

                  I went on December 1, 2006, a rainy day. The entire floor was slippery with grease. Unless you had rubber-soled shores, you had to step carefully to prevent falling. The kitchen is an open space to the right of the restaurant [which may be the cause of the greasy floor].

                  If you arrive in a party of more than 4, you may have to wait for a table since it fills up quickly at noon resulting in a crowded noisy space that has not been renovated in years! Note the dirty nameplates next to the tables along with the problem floor.

                  1. Joe's Shanghai on Pell Street, for crab and pork soup dumplings
                    walk around corner for green tea icecream and ginger icecream at the Chinese icecream factory on bayard

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: namreb

                      Have you tried the xiaolong bao (soup or juicy dumplings) in other places and concluded that Joe's is the best? I don't agree. It is touristy, however, and requires a wait on line at peak hours. I don't see the point. Go to Yeah Shanghai or one of the other Shanghainese restaurants.

                    2. I second the Sea Grill: make a reservation for Christmas Eve, and request a window table on the ice skating rink - the food is ok, but the setting is great (watching the skaters and looking at the Rock Center Tree while dining is magical.) The dining room gets a little loud, but the scene on the rink can't be beat. After dinner, make your way through the throngs around the skating rink and join in on some Christmas carols. If you want steak, head to Knickerbockers on University @9th: great steaks, cocktails, and music!(they used to have a jazz trio on weekends - not sure if that's still available.) Have a merry x-mas!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mikeinchelsea

                        As you're planning your trip, keep in mind that New York during the holidays gets very crowded, so you're best to book as much as you can well in advance. I'd recommend signing up at Open Table (www.opentable.com) and making your reservations; you'll get an instant idea of what's going to be open and the best times to book. Actually, if you don't want to do Sea Grill, you can book at the Rock Center Cafe in the morning for breakfast, and watch the skaters and see the tree at the beginning of the day before it gets too crowded.

                        And if you want to see another spectacular Christmas tree, go up to the Metropolitan Museum. It's not to be missed.