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Ultimate Foodie Tour of NYC

I'm turning to you Chowhounders for your expertise:

We have a couple of SF friends who are huge foodies coming to visit and we've promised to provide them the ultimate culinarian tour of NYC. They want to do a very nice dinner, then just fabulous food and culinary experiences.

For the expensive dinner, I've chosen Le Bernardin. For some of the other meals, I've chosen some of my faves:

Tia Pol for tapas
Sushi of Gari (UES) for sushi (YUM)
Pommes Frites for an afternoon snack

So my question to you guys is, what am I missing? What are the very best restaurants around, primarily in Manhattan but willing to try outer boroughs.


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  1. RGR's Lower East Side food tour, discussed recently here:

    1 Reply
    1. You've got to take them to Babbo or Lupa. Batali's food will blow their minds away.

      10 Replies
      1. re: chocokitty

        Is Babbo really all that? I've heard mixed things, and didn't know if it were like a Nobu where you always hear about it and there's a ton of hype, but the food is average at best.

        1. re: livetoeat

          Yes Babbo is really all that.
          Italian restaurants is not one of SF's stronger culinary point.

          If not Babbo then, at least, include Lupa. This will blow them away.

          BTW, Tia Pol is also an excellent choice for your SF visitors. There's a dearth of good Spanish restaurants there.

          1. re: RCC

            Babbo is one of the best eating experiences in NYC. Especially for foodies. Enjoy.

            1. re: RCC

              Babbo and Lupa are definitely all that, but I don't agree that Italian isn't a strong suit of SF.

              1. re: a_and_w

                Babbo remains one of our favorite eating experiences ever. Chocokitty is right, it will blow your mind. and it will set the bar for which all other italian and other nice restaurant experiences will have to meet.

            2. re: livetoeat

              I concur. Babbo is all that and the last time I flew back to NY from SF, I ate at Babbo. I would have done Lupa also if time permitted.

              I would also do:
              1. Yasuda
              2. Yasuda
              3. Yasuda. They will thank you when you take them and curse you when they return. Remember, sushi bar only in front of Yasuda. Heck, even if you don't sit in front of Yasuda, it'll still be impressive.
              4. Jean-Georges (consider replacing Le Bernardin)
              5. Katz's for pastrami (THAT will blow them away)
              6. H&H for bagel
              7. Pizza. Lombardi's, Di Fara, or Una Pizza Napoletana
              8. Sushi of Gari (after going to Yasuda)
              9. Balthazar's or Pastis for the feel and the great fries.
              10. Eleven Madison Park to visit the former SF Chef Daniel Humm.

              1. re: Porthos

                Great list, porthos! But H&H is pretty close to Noah's, imo -- I'd suggest Murray's or Ess-A-Bagel instead. I'd also suggest Arturo's over Lombardi's for pizza (though DiFara's is indeed the way to go, if you can).

                Also, depending on how adventurous the OP's guests are, I'd suggest WD-50. It's where I usually take foodie friends from the Bay Area...

                1. re: a_and_w

                  I like the WD-50 suggestion and I also like Ess-A-Bagel. But H&H and Noah's are way different. Especially since you have to try one with whitefish.

                  I never tried Arturo's because I like getting the pancetta and roasted red pepper pie at Lombardi's too much.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    All this talk about bagels and no one has mentioned Absolute Bagel on, I think, 106th and B'way (if not right there then very close). It's a family run place. I've sampled all the places mentioned and Absolute kills them all (at least in the new NYC BIG bagel category). Very good selection of cream cheeses, too, but no good for whitefish and the like. Hot & Cruty is also good and very underrated. One vote for Ess-a-bagel for best whitefish salad. Also, you must go to Barney Greengrass. Overpriced and uncomfortable, it is still the best smoked fish breakfast in the world. Also great latkes.

                2. re: livetoeat

                  Babbo is good, by no means mind blowing. The Emperor has no clothes!

              2. Have you considered planning an eating tour with Famous Fat Dave?


                1 Reply
                1. re: chioubacca

                  Take a look at this:


                  It's a 17 minute Famous Fat Dave's Faves Tour from the Lower East Side to Sheepshead Bay and back.

                2. Tomasso on 86th street between 14th Avenue and 15th Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn shouldn't be missed. Taro Sushi in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn (on Dean Street between 5th Ave and Flatbush Ave) is sushi nirvana. Especially on Friday and Saturday nights. Katz's on E. Houston in Manhattan has awesoume deli. Gray's Papaya also in Manhattan on either W.8th street and Avenue of the Americas or W.72nd st. and Bwy have great hot dogs.

                  1. How about taking them shopping in the Village (Murray's Cheese, Amy's Bread). Lots of fun things to taste. Also, you guys could go to the bar at Cru. Friends of mine are amazed that a wine list (or 'portfolio' as they call it there) that large even exists. Enjoy the visit and please report back.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JeremyEG

                      I would second a nice walk around the Village, especially if it can include a lunchtime stop at 'ino for a glass of wine and a few panini. Nothing comparable exists in SF.

                      I also heartily second the suggestion of Una Pizza Napoletana, because again, it offers a very different experience that the pizza "specialists" in SF.

                    2. I would recommend yasuda over gari. Gari is a little over the top with their sushi, but the quality and variety cannot match yasuda's at all.

                      I would also say anyone coming to NY should have a deli sandwich (Katz's), a coal oven pizza (grimaldi's if they will leave manhattan and Lombardi's if they won't), and a steak if you have time (luger or sparks)

                      1. babbo is exceptional. sit at the bar if you can't get a reservation.

                        1. I've posted about this before, but I consider Lombardi's very underwhelming. Anyone who wants to go to an old school coal oven pizzeria in Manhattan should go to the original Patsy's in East Harlem, or if they prefer to stay downtown, Arturo's on West Houston St.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Pan

                            I'd say John's of Bleecker St. or the Patsy's (now Grimaldi's) under the Brooklyn Bridge.

                            1. re: theannerska

                              John's hasn't been good for a long time now.

                            2. re: Pan

                              The East Harlem Patsy's was much more charming before the renovation...the chipped plates, checkered table cloths, gruff waiter. Now it's been renovated to make it more tourist friendly...as has Lombardi's. Both have also declined a bit in their quality too.

                              I so like the pancetta, pepperoni, and fresh basil at Lombardi's though.

                              1. re: Porthos

                                Patsy's renovated? Huh? When? I was there about 2 months ago, and it looked like it hasn't changed since the 40s or 50s. And if it's declined, I can only wonder how good their regular slice was back in the day!

                                1. re: Pan

                                  It was renovated back about 4-5 years ago. It was much more charming (ie. run down) back then. Back then, there were only talking about opening up the back room and getting a liquor license. The only thing on the menu was pizza. The plates were chipped and each time we went in, the waiter would tell us the same story of some woman who asked for a new plate because her plate was chipped...and so he brought out another chipped plate and told her that they were all chipped seeing as how they were 20 years old. I still remember one night when the guy had to run across the street to get us soda. I don't know if the gruff waiter is still there but he was the one that first taught my friends and I about the pizza lineage in NY and who had coal ovens and how Frank Sinatra would request that Patsy's Pizza be flown to him on his jet.

                                  After the renovation, we went again...to our dismay, there was now tablecloth without holes in them, the seats had been replaced, and the dishes were no longer chipped. The pizza was okay but the crust that day was too thin and the sauce unremarkable. That was the last time we went to Patsy's. And you're right, back then, it was the premier pie in the city.

                                  1. re: Porthos

                                    I like the sauce, and I love the thin crust because it means I can share two pies and salad with one other person.

                                    I had the waiter you're talking about when I went for dinner a couple of years ago. Did he tell you about the cops being able to get a confession out of a suspect by putting his hand in the oven for a short time (one second?).

                            3. Take them on a walk through Chelsea Market!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: CornflakeGirl

                                As someone who moved to NY from SF, Chelsea Market's not going to impress your SF friends, who have the Ferry Plaza and farmers' markets that make Union Square look piddly. I concur with the LES tour--no neighborhoods like that in SF, and want to add that my favorite little trio of NY food is Sullivan St. Bakery for their pizza, the Greek yogurt place next door, and Kee's Chocolates on Thompson one block over, all in Soho.

                                Also, the foodI missed most in SF, other than pizza, were BAGELS.

                                1. re: AppleSister

                                  Been to the Ferry building in SF and it is impressive. I wouldn't skip CM though just because someone has been to the FB. Especially if they're Food Network fans. It can also be combined with a tour of the Meatpacking district.

                                  I agree about the LES tour and am glad to see RGR has added Economy Candy.

                                  BTW, Sullivan St. Bakery is now Grandaisy Bakery. Had the potato pizza last week and it seemed the same but was a little oily.

                                  Kee is a doll and if she hears they're from out of town she'll probably offer them up some samples. I don't think I've ever left her shop without something she just wanted us to try.

                                  1. re: CornflakeGirl

                                    What does that mean, that Sullivan St. Bakery is now Grandaisy Bakery? Sold? Just that one branch on Sullivan St.? Or all of them?

                                    1. re: AppleSister

                                      Don't fret!

                                      The partners split up. She took the Sullivan St. location and he the Hell's Kitchen location. There's an explanation on the door stating something along the lines of the recipes coming from her grandmother, hence the name change. Everything looked as good as ever.

                                      Here's link to the story on eGustibus:

                              2. Go to the LES for a walking tour...check out Dumpling House, Laboratorio Del Gelato (even Economy Candy!).

                                Glad to see Pommes Frites is on your list. The Poutine is AWESOME!

                                1. Thanks all; you're really helping me formulate a great trip!

                                  One other query - for the "blow out" dinner, if you will, I know someone suggested Jean-Georges over Le Bernardin (and I have never had a meal that's been short of spectacular at Le Bernardin). Friends of mine have also fervently suggested Daniel and Bouley. The times I've been to Alain Ducasse I have found the food average at very best, the price insulting, and left hungry on top of all of that. SO, between the choices of:

                                  Le Bernardin
                                  Per Se

                                  which one should be the winner?

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: livetoeat

                                    I have been to all the places on your list except Per Se (I do so want to go!). I have always preferred Cafe Boulud over Daniel (now that Carmellini is gone, who knows?), so I would not recommend Daniel. I liked the food at Jean Georges, but did not enjoy the formality. I love Bouley and the relatively informal (jackets not required for men) atmosphere. However, I wouldn't put it in the "blow out" category". To me, the choice is between Per Se. The two best meals I have ever eaten were both at Le Bernardin. Per Se has great reviews; note that the ultimate price may be comparable to Ducasse.

                                    1. re: livetoeat

                                      I've been to all of them, and for me, per se is the winner by far. I was under the weather when I dined at Le Bernadin though, so I can't rule that out as being on par with per se.

                                      1. re: DaveS

                                        Why would they want to go to PerSe with French Laundry in their own backyard? If Jean-Georges is too formal, Nougatine or Perry Street are attractive options. Or go another way and take them to Peter Luger's or Keens for a great steak in historic New York atmosphere. How about WD-50 for some new school culinary throwdown? Or a day trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns with a side of the old Rockefeller country house, Kykuit?

                                        1. re: Pupster

                                          I agree with pupster re Per Se -- they can get the same meal more cheaply in a more amazing setting at FL. I also second the WD-50 and Blue Hill Stone Barns recs. Of the restaurants livetoeat listed, I'd probably go to Bouley.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            Agree about the setting but I believe all menus at Per Se and FL are now $210.

                                            He raised the prices after the NYT review.

                                          2. re: Pupster

                                            "Why would they want to go to PerSe with French Laundry in their own backyard?"

                                            Oh, heck, I'd LOVE to go to Per Se, and I live in San Francisco and have been to the French Laundry. I certainly wouldn't rule it out just because of that!

                                            (I'm actually coming to NYC over Labor Day weekend, so I'm finding this thread very interesting!)

                                        2. re: livetoeat

                                          After having lived in Paris, I think all of the restaurants you listed except Le Bernardin pale in comparison to what you can get across the pond. Le Bernardin is spectacular, yes. I say your original choice was excellent.

                                        3. I may be late on this but a few other options...
                                          Corner Bistro
                                          Chikalicious (for dessert)
                                          Lugar's and Al Di La (if you want a short trek to Bklyn)
                                          None in the uber-expensive, per se realm, but all ecellent places in their own right.
                                          (p.s. I'm doing the reverse NY to San Fran thing on vacation in a few weeks. Those San Fran Chowhounders are hard core).

                                          1. If you want unique upscale experiences, how about Aquavit?

                                            Aquavit, wd-50, and Balthazar seem to be unique to New York City, despite occasionally mixed reviews.

                                            I'll echo the sentiments about Katz's, Luger's, Di Fara, and Grimaldi's--all classic NY experiences.

                                            SF also has a dearth of BBQ and Soul food. Send them uptown to Dinosaur BBQ. Or soul food at Sylvia's.

                                            Shake Shack?
                                            Omakase at Morimoto?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. I'd go to Sammy's Rumanian on Delancy and Christie. It's a great Jewish steak house. Real old time New York stuff. They have live Yiddish music every night and vodka bottles encased in ice blocks to enjoy it with. Every time I have friends visit from out of state I bring them their and everyone has a blast. The chicken livers with schmaltz and garlic sausage alone is worth the reservation.

                                              1. BB Sandwich bar on 3rd St.
                                                Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker
                                                Burger Joint in the Parker Meridian.
                                                Eisenbergs on 5th Ave.
                                                RUB on 23 St.
                                                Soup Burg on Madison and 73 St for the best burger in the city.
                                                Momofuku for Ramen and Cha Sou Bi (sp)
                                                Sushi Sen Nen uptown for Sushi
                                                Joe's on Bleeker (Carmine) for the best slice

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: noodles

                                                  Burger Joint is very fun...Per Se is killer, and the atmosphere and vibe is really different than French Laundry. We really enjoyed Hearth also and think that Balthazar's has the best Pomme Frites.

                                                  Also thanks to chioubacca for the posting about Famous Dave's

                                                  1. re: JPinDC

                                                    I went on a Famous Fat Dave tour and it was a blast! He's a very nice guy and I would highly recommend it.

                                                    1. re: Kristi

                                                      how much is a famous fat dave tour? And how long does it last?

                                                2. for dessert take them to Junior's for cheesecake!

                                                  1. There are so many choices for real chowhounds in the city, but my experience was a little different...

                                                    I was staying on Long Island and took a trip with a friend into the city. So we started out at 34th St. (Penn Station, right?...sorry, I'm in LA and this was a few years back). We started at Penn Station and walked all the way up to the museum on 80 something (modern art I think?), but here's what we did.

                                                    Every 10 or so blocks we'd buy a different item from a street vendor. First up was a knish with mustard of course. Next was a pretzel. Then a sausage with peppers. This went on until we were totally stuffed, then we walked all the way back to walk off the food! This is a very cheap meal and you totally get a taste of NYC!

                                                    1. what about dessert?

                                                      There's so many wonderful and unique chocolate shops and even more places that serve a variey of (hot) chocolate drinks.

                                                      My prefernce is the downtown tour:

                                                      Kee's Chocolates (80 Thompson St)

                                                      also, Marie Belle, Lilac, Jacques Torres, Vosges just to name a few.

                                                      A search on "chocolate" in this board will keep y'all busy for quite some time <s>

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: was_bk

                                                        See my post above yours about stopping on every corner...

                                                        It happened to be Xmas eve when we did our food stand tour, and the Red Cross was at FAO Swartz (one of our stops) and was giving hot chocolate out to everyone who wanted for free!

                                                      2. As a former New Yorker, I'd have to second the street vendor "tour". This kind of thing just doesn't exist in most parts of the country. And I can almost guarantee they've never even HEARD of a knish!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Anne

                                                          Exactly! Former NYers know what they're talking about! If it's your first time NY and especially if you don't want to spend too much money, do a vendor tour. You can do it on your own. Just go block to block and check out whatever corner vendor you find and see what they're serving.

                                                          You'll find everything from knishes to pretzels, hot dogs to sausage and much more!

                                                        2. i am from sf and on our last trip to ny we did a food tour of greenwich village through www.foodsofny.com

                                                          it was a fun tour and got to get a good feel of that part of town and get good little tastes of the neighborhood. the tickets did get sold out quickly since they only did limited amount of tours per day. cost was not too bad for what we got to experience.

                                                          we also took chowhounds recs for restaurants and had dinner at Gascogne for french, which was amazing food, ambiance (enough so that hubby proposed there)... i look forward to the next trip to ny in the hopes to go back.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Mel

                                                            I've actually done the Greenwich Village tour a number of times and loved it - when friends come to town I generally add it to the agenda. Definitely worth the time and money. Great food, and also a good short history of the Village.

                                                          2. if you buy an entertainment guide for new york they have half price tickets to all the foods of new york tours. I just went on one and booked over the phone, they never actually collected the coupons.

                                                            1. What about egg creams? They're pretty much an "only in NY" item and kinda awesome. Anyone know where you can still get a good one?

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: JToronto

                                                                On my (in)famous LES Food Excursion, I include a stop at the hole-in-the-wall candy store on Avenue A, just north of 7th St., where an excellent egg cream is served. The store's formal name is Ray's, but there is no signage to that effect, just an overhead jutting out that says, "Belgian Fries."

                                                                Gem Spa, on the corner of 2nd Av. & St. Mark's Pl., is the other spot for an excellent egg cream.

                                                                Since both places are quite close to one another, a taste test is entirely possible.

                                                                1. re: RGR

                                                                  In addition to those two, I had an egg cream at Cozy Soup n' Burger a few weeks ago that I thought was pretty good. The ham, egg, and cheese on a roll that the drink accompanied was fairly decent as well (though not as good as the one I used to get at the Caravelle Diner in Brooklyn when I was a kid).

                                                              2. The best Thai in NY has to be

                                                                Try their desserts too. Its inexpensive and a lot of people travel to this place. I recommend going for an early dinner because it gets crowded.