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Sep 28, 2005 06:20 PM

Two Cents Wanted! The best of the best list!

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Two Cents Wanted! The best of the best!

LA chowhounder will be visiting NYC for the first time next month for 5 days. I have scoured the NY board and have consulted some New Yorkers on where the must eats are. I have a list of places I would like yays or nays on. Your opinion matters! Other recommendations in addition to this is appreciated. I'll be staying at the W in Union sqaure for a few nights then moving in the Affinia 50, off E 50th street, but I will venture anywhere for a good meal.

Conditions? I plan to spend two evenings at an upscale restaurant (under $100 a person, not Per Se astronomical). The rest of the time I would like to sample New Yor City's best dives, casual eateries, and hole in the walls (anywhere up to $30 a person). L.A. has Asian and Latin cuisines covered, so not interested in those recs. I simply want to eat what New York is uniquely known for: Pizza, Deli's, Italian (LA's Italian is terrible), Cheesecake and desserts, Bagels (and lox) - or any great breakfast, food stands and stalls, anything else I should know about? Any recs for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. If this is too broad of a request, kindly let me know and I'll tighten the requirements.

From what I've gathered already from the board, Little Italy has the worst Italian food (akin to LA's Chinatown and Japantown LOL), Babbo is the fine dining restaurant to be at, Aqua Grill is good and Russ and Daughters is the best Jewish deli in town.

Feel free to also comment on the restauants suggested to me. I have not a clue whether these recs are decent or not. Also any bar recs are appreciated (30ish crowd):

Lombardi's - recommended by a New Yorker
Una Pizza Napoletana – (Heard this place was ovverrated and not very good. True?)

Upscale Dining:

Barney Greengrass
Il Laboratorio del Gelato

Soul Food:

Peter Lugars (Brooklyn)

Thanks a ton!!!

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  1. Skip Olives and Virgils, Go to RUB (BBQ), Katz's deli (pastrami,) and maybe Gotham Bar and Grill, Gramercy Tavern, Hearth...something like that for your other pricey meal. Lugers is pricey as well but worth the trip.



    1 Reply
    1. re: Chico

      For inexpensive Italian, I would recommend Cacio e Pepe and Assenzio, both in the east village. Two gems. Charming service, inventive authentic food. inexpensive to boot.

    2. First off, Russ & Daughters is not a deli. What is is is a store that sells appetizing, and superb appetizing it is. While there is no place to sit down, they do make sandwiches to go.

      Katz's Deli is the place to go for fabulous pastrami.

      Both these places are on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Regular readers of this board know abut the food tour of that area that I've put together. I'm appending it here:

      Lower East Side Food Excursion

      For the quintessential NYC deli experiences, no place beats Katz's, on the corner of Houston (pronounced "how-stun") & Ludlow Sts. You're there specifically for the pastrami sandwich. When you enter, you will be given a ticket. Instead of opting for table service, do what the "natives" do and get on line for counter service. When you reach the counter, put a $1 for each sandwich in the counterman's tip cup and order pastrami on rye. He'll give you a piece to taste. If you like it (the best pastrami is juicy and has some fat on it), tell him o.k., and he'll make your sandwich, give you some sour pickles, and punch your ticket. Then, continue along the counter for sides – the cole slaw is good -- and drinks. Find seats at a table in the center of the room. (Tables along the wall have menus on them and are reserved for waiter service.) When you’re done, take your ticket to the cashier in front. It's cash only. Note: For the purposes of this tour, if you are doing it with someone else, unless you have a gargantuan appetite, it would be best to share one sandwich in order to leave room for more tastings along the way.

      When you exit Katz’s, turn left and continue along the same side of Houston St. You will come to Russ & Daughters, famous for all sorts of smoked fish and many other goodies. It's not a restaurant, but they make sandwiches to go.

      After leaving the Russes, continue west a couple of blocks until you reach Yonah Schimmel's. Get a tasty potato knish, and make sure to ask them to heat it up.

      Now it’s time for the quintessential NY drink – the egg cream. So, reverse yourself and head east on Houston until you come to Avenue A. Turn left, heading north, until you get to get to the block between 7th St. and St. Mark’s Place. Look for a hole-in-the-wall candy shop (no name), where whoever is behind the counter will make you a delicious chocolate egg cream.

      When you’re finished licking your lips, go back to Houston St. and make a left (east) one block to Norfolk St. Turn right and walk down Norfolk until it ends at Grand St. Two places to look for at the corner of Grand and Norfolk: Kossar's, for freshly baked bialys (another very NY food) and the Donut Plant (self-explanatory).

      Next, walking west along Grand St., you will come to Orchard St. Turn right. At 97 Orchard, b/t Broome & Delancey, you will find the Tenement Museum, where the tour will show you what life was like for immigrants to NYC at the beginning of the 20th century. ( To keep this spot food-centric, have a pickle at Gus's Pickles, which is at this location.

      Finish up this gustatory adventure with a stop at Il Laboratorio del Gelato, at 95 Orchard.


      Hope you have a wonderful visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

      1. Lots of good food here.

        Everything you've heard about Babbo is true. Get a dinner reservation or show up early and eat at the bar.

        Lunch at Esca or Le Bernardin is pretty special. It's seafood at its finest. You'll enjoy the best these two kitchens have to offer at a huge discount. Squeeze in both during your stay if you're feeling flush.

        Old-time steak houses are pretty good. I like Keens, others prefer Luger's, Strip House and so on. Keens, to me, has the right balance of food, history and location. It's a slam-dunk if you're a scotch fan.

        Picking a pizza place is likely to start a serious flame war. Una Pizza Napoletano, John's on Bleecker, Lombardi's on Spring, Grimaldi's on Old Fulton... whatever. They're all good.

        Manhattan is still working on its BBQ. Deli? Katz gets the nod for pastrami but I have to confess that the place is just too goofy for me. I steer clear of desserts.

        For what it's worth, A burger at Molly's pub (short walk from the W) or PJ Clarke's (55th St.) is pretty cool. The oyster selection at Shaffer City Oyster Bar and Grill (21st St.) is the best in town.

        2 Replies
        1. re: steve h.

          i heartily agree w/ the Keens recommendation...nothing like it in LA atmosphere-wise (the closest thing in LA would be the Pacific Dining Car downtown, but imagine an older, NYC version, steeped in history...i like the lamb chops there and they usually have good oysters too...

          And i agree that Shaffer City does have a great oyster selection (although the cooked food is lame, imho, so go there just for an oyster snack at the bar if that's your thing)...

          Other Thoughts:

          i recommend NOT going to Lombardi's...i think it's a tourist trap and i stopped going after having two downright bad meals there...

          Russ and Daughters: that's a must if you love could get some lox or bagel/lox to go, and then have a picnic somewhere if the weather is nice...

          i also love Lucien (FirstSt/FirstAve): best bouillabaise in town, endive salad, escargots, chocolate cake, and a fun East Village vibe...there is nowhere comparable in LA...

          For one of your upscale meals, i highly recommend cheese plate maybe anywhere in the US, and fun for a latenight dinner in the bar area or a full meal...

          I heartily agree w/ Le Bernardin too...

          And, while LA does have better sushi overall, Jewel Bako, provided you sit at six-seat sushi bar, is my fav restaurants in town...they do amazing red&white wine pairings...foodwise i'd say it's a bit better than, say, LA's Sushi Sasabune, only w/ an elegant downtown atmosphere, perfect service, and interesting wines/sakes...

          Have fun and make sure you report back on what you liked/disliked...

          1. re: Simon

            I'm from the south but I love NYC.......I'm going to Keen's in December and can't wait..........go.......and enjoy. Bon Appetit....

        2. I don't know who told you to go to virgil's, but that person must not have any taste buds. BBQ in general in NYC is average at best, and Virgils can't even get to that level. Skip Olives.

          I agree with the Katz's suggestion if you are looking for a Pastrami sandwich. I would skip Yonah Schimmels unless you like microwaved mushy knishes. IL Labratorio is good but they close around 6PM.
          A good lunch suggestion would be Jean George. $12 per course with a 2 course minimum. I'm unsure if its offered during the weekend but I do know its offered weekdays. Call for reservations.

          1. f
            Fred and Wilma

            If you are at the W Union Square you should head over to Union Square Cafe and treat it the way it is meant to be, a fantastic drop in sit at the bar NYC classic.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Fred and Wilma

              UNION Square is an excellent suggestion....the way to go for one of the meals...get the filet mignon of tuna. ah so good.

              Orso is good italian on restaurant row midtown.

              If you can get to Chinatown go to Joe's Shanghai for the crab and pork soup dumplings.
              Then head over to The chinese ice cream factory on bayard and get some green tea/ginger icecream

              Hit papaya king.i like the one on 86/3rd...their are other chains all same dogs i dog with saurkraut and mustard. tastier than filet mignon they say. Who ever they is.

              Barney's - is good for gotta go to Katz's deli and get the pastrami. Life will never be the same or at least pastrami in your eyes will never be the same.

              Head to Campbell Apts in Grand Central for a Prohibition Punch. and enjoy the history.

              don't stop till ya get enough.