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quintessential new york chow

i have friends visiting from l.a. who are looking for new york food/restaurants that are either quintessentially new york or uneasily obtained in l.a. (for instance, i know you can get good tacos in sunset park, great sushi throughout manhattan, and tasty thai at sripraphai, but l.a. tends to excel on each of those fronts). in other words, what culinary omissions would make you feel like a bad host? i've started a list with some of the things that immediately come to mind (sorry for the overlap between manhattan and outer boroughs, but it seems an unecessarily limiting distinction to me), any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated...

pizza (di fara, lombardi, grimaldi)
delis (katz's, carnegie, 2nd ave... er, nevermind)
new gastronomy (wd-50, room 4 dessert)
greek seafood (kyclades, agnanti, milos)
hot dogs (papaya king, gray's papaya)

any other categories or inclusions?

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  1. Not necessarily "New York," but maybe not so easy to find in L.A. (?):

    Maybe Polish food? I had a friend from S.F. who found it exotic 20 years ago at least; same with a Dominican -- east coast comida Latina.

    How about a Sicilian foccaceria?


    1 Reply
    1. re: Peter Cherches

      or Russian? Brighton Beach is a nice place to visit and eat.

    2. Bagels bagels bagels.

      Ess-A-Bagel at 51st and 3rd (and a location in the LES as well)

      1. i think the most appealing thing about ny food scene is that you can walk within a 3-by-3 block area and eat cuisines from 20 different countries.

        take a walk downtown - from chinatown, up to little italy, lower east side and soho. that experience, in my belief, IS quintessentially new york.

        1. Coffee with cream and sugar ;-)

          1. hamburgers - Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridien Hotel for an old-style burger, fries and soda for $12 or Pop Burger in the meatpacking district for something a little more nouveau, hip and pricey

            1. If you visit Katz's why not take them on RGR's LES tour? You can link to it here:


              I think that's a very NYC experience.

              Also what about a gastropub like The Spotted Pig? I'm not sure if they have something like that in L.A.?

              1. Cheesecake! (Two Little Red Hens, Veniero's)

                2 Replies
                1. re: carbonara

                  Does Veniero's make a NY-style cream cheese cake? I love their ricotta Italian cheesecake.

                2. thanks for all the suggestions.

                  bagels were a clear omission on my part. i may have to combine it with smoked fish (very east coast, sorry seattle, in my opinion) and put russ & daughter's on the list (this keeps me in line with that rgr les tour as well).

                  i also like the idea of ny cheesecake. i live less than ten minutes from junior's on flatbush, so i may have to cap an evening with that (though i'm intrigued by the italian cheesecake at veniero's, it's now on my personal list).

                  funny, my first impression on spotted pig was not so much the gastropub angle that makes it quintessentially new york (though i think you're right, not a big draw in the l.a.), but another new york institution, the batali-bastianich empire. this got me thinking about another thing that (perhaps sadly) has come to define the new york restaurant scene--the celebrity chef. i don't have the paper to hit a restaurant from each of these chef's restaurants, but i think batali may take the cake as the most new york of this post-food network breed.

                  finally, i was intrigued by the suggestion of dominican, though i went in a bit of a different direction. nothing says brooklyn like caribbean food. i hate to lump dominican, puerto rican, jamaican, trinidadian altogether, but i'll probably only have time for one on this trip. any recommendations for people's favorite in this grouping?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: walter sobchak

                    a really good jamaican place can't be beat. i don't know of any in Flatbush, but there is a great hole in the wall in Harlem (Belly Full) on Lennox between 132 and 133st. get the fried chicken, hacked, with curry gravy,white rice, potato salad, and mac/cheese or candied yams.

                  2. i highly recommend the islands, on washington near eastern parkway. it's mainly takeout, save for a small eating area upstairs, but you can walk a few minutes and eat your food in prospect park.

                    1. I've lived in NYC for ten years and had my first Gray's Papaya last week--mustard, kraut and cheese whiz. I don't know why but it felt like I had passed some test or rite of initiation--it was good, not something I'd eat all that often, but good. I knew not to get the papaya drink, so I guess that makes me a real New Yorker at this point since it was the only void in my culinary experiences in this city.

                      1. Steak! I'd suggest Luger's, but you can pick your favorite.

                        For Pizza, I'd skip Grimaldi's and Lombardi's and go straight to DiFara's--or if you don't want to endure the wait, chaos (and perhaps heat), Totonno's or Patsy's.

                        And for a view that one can't get in LA, River Café.

                        And for NY Italian, Dominick's on Arthur Ave. Yes, the food is much better at Roberto's; but Dominick's is quirkily New York.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bobjbkln

                          The best steak I've had in the city was at Kristos in Astoria.

                        2. Velselka on 9th and 2nd Avenue for borst and perogis for brunch.

                          I'd second the vote on the Islands in Brooklyn, especially the curried goat and the cabbage that comes on the side.

                          1. DEFINITELY STEAK. lugers, strip house, anywhere is better than the poeser (sp) palace that is Maestros.

                            For atmosphere, it doesn't get much more NY than Keens- plus the chow is great. Odeon is also has NY history with decent chow.

                            also, skip the burgers. what you have out there is at least comparable to NY's best.

                            1. Walter, I have two words for you: Kossar's Bialys.

                              1. Good Spanish tapas (Tia Pol) or a good Spanish restaurant (Sevilla, La Nacional) are not readily available in California.