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Suggestions for Ultimate Annual Manhattan Chow Crawl

Every year, my wife takes me to NYC for my birthday, primarily (okay, exclusively) to eat. I typically spend months researching my options, and only settle on my final choices after tortured deliberations. My primary criterion is deliciousness. Secondarily, I seek out food that I am unlikely to find in the DC area, where I live.

Recent years' highlights have included: WD-50 (dessert), Momofuku Noodle Bar (pig), Lupa (caio e pepe), Una Pizza Napoletana (pizza), inoteca (truffle toast), Shake Shack (burger), Otto (olive oil gelato!), Russ and Daughters (smoked fish), Casa mono (thrilling dining at the bar), Prune (a cocktail-soaked brunch), Dumpling House (dumplings), Sullivan Street Bakery (leek pizza), Kasadela (chicken skin), Caracas Arepa Bar (arepas), Blue Hill (chilled soup at the bar), Jewel Bako (omakase), Hearth (gnocchi), and, every time I go to NYC, Blind Tiger Ale House (IPAs).

This year, I am currently considering options such as the following:

Degustation Wine and Tasting Bar
Bouchon Bakery
Five Points
I Coppi
Wu Liang Ye
Tia Pol
Congee Village
Sushi of Gari
Pampano Taqueria

Please feel free to comment on these, or recommend any other singular tastes that I shouldn't leave New York without experiencing. Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. take a pass on-
    bouchon bakery
    wu liang ye
    sushi gari
    you can do better!
    ie blue ribbon sushi, shun lee and levains (for choc chip cookies).... imhop

    2 Replies
    1. re: the save

      Thanks. I already had concerns about Bouchon Bakery, and will probably eliminate it from consideration.

      1. re: the save

        i dont know about shun lee and blue ribbon...wu liang ye and sushi of gari are both worlds better respectively

      2. Go to il Laboratorio del Gelato on Orchard on the LES. That's the place that makes and sells the olive oil gelato you got at Otto. They have a small retail space in the front and feature about a dozen flavors they are currently supplying to NYC restaurants.

        Also, put The Tasting Room on your list. They just reopened in a larger space on Elizabeth Street in Soho.

        2 Replies
        1. re: livetotravel

          Otto makes its own gelato.


          That's not to say that il Laboratorio is not worth a visit on its own. It probably is.

          1. re: livetotravel

            I've been to Laboratorio. Several times in fact. So, I thought I'd give it a pass on this trip for the sake of variety. But, thanks for the very good suggestion.

          2. how's about "rice to riches" on spring btwn mott and mulberry for a real rich treat. they have done some wild things with good ol' rice pudding...with flavors like "french toasts", "pina coloda", etc.
            definitely share the portion. they're huge and FILLING!!!!

            6 Replies
            1. re: ceeceee

              This suggestion sounds very intriguing. I have a weakness for rice pudding. Time to cross-reference. Any flavors you recommend as stand-outs?

              1. re: John Galt

                They change fairly regularly. I had a cheesecake flavor not too long ago that was particularly decadent.

                1. re: piccola

                  If you've never been there, then I would recommend stopping in for an afternoon snack. Decor is "fun and young" but they do make good rice pudding. Get the small size and split it with your wife; you might ruin your appetite for dinner! Lombardis is also across the street I believe.

                  1. re: fascfoo

                    We may well stop in for an afternoon snack. We won't need to go to Lombardi's, though, as I've been there several times before.

                2. re: John Galt

                  I love the mascarpone with cherries. It's amazing. I like to add the graham cracker crumb topping...

                  1. re: John Galt

                    try eileen's special cheesecake...its awesome, they have individual sizes too

                3. I'd try to get in to Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Degustation should also be a must (although Jose Andres' Minibar in DC is probably like a cross between Degustation and WD-50).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: keith

                    Degustation is my leading candidate for dinner right now. We usually do one "nice" dinner, and spend the rest of our time grazing among several less formal restaurants. Degustation is where I'm leaning for our nice dinner.

                  2. Blind Tiger Ale House is currently closed. It's looking to relocate but is having some liquor license trouble.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lucia

                      Thanks for the update. I have been tracking Bling Tiger's progress, and have been hoping that it re-opens in time for our Labor Day weekend visit. I was there just before Christmas, on Blind Tiger's second to last day at its old location.

                    2. What a wife, what an idea, what a birthday tradition! Not going to add to the list, as I am still in the process of settling into NYC myself (I am officially bi-coastal, tri coastal if one considers NOLA)...looking forward to others' suggestions!

                      1. Sadly (for me) the only place on your list that I have been and agree do not miss is Tia Pol.

                        In contrast the save's comment, Sushi of Gari and Wu Liang Ye have gotten a lot of praise on CH and I plan to try them.

                        If you are looking for a beer bar (IPAs available but amazing selection of Belgians), head to Williamsburg to Spuyten Duyvil.

                        1. what a great list! you've already been to many of my absolute favorites in nyc. the only others that i can think of are:
                          il laboratorio di gelato (incredible)
                          saigon banh mi
                          ronnybrook farms (in chelsea market, or at the union square and tompkin sq park greenmarket) for their yogurt drinks

                          as for other places on your list:
                          bouchon bakery--their sandwiches are dry and uninspired, though the brioche i had there was great--eggy and almondy and decadent
                          wu liang ye--get the wok seared peppers--blistered skin, great sweet and saltiness. grand sichuan is another beloved sichuan place, also with multiple branches in nyc--you would do well there too (except at the chinatown location)

                          enjoy, and do report back!

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: rose water

                            Just to clarify, the Vietnamese sandwich place you should go to is Banh Mi Saigon Bakery on Mott between Grand and Hester, not the similarly-named place (Saigon Banh Mi?) on Broome between Mott and Elizabeth (IIRC).

                            How are the Malaysian restaurants in DC? If there aren't any really good ones, go to Skyway (Allen between Division and Canal) and get some main dishes, especially seafood.

                            1. re: Pan

                              Malaysian is a good suggestion. Surprisingly, we have a world class Burmese in Northern Virginia place called Myanmar that might be somehwat similar. So, perhaps I'll skip the Malaysian.

                              Also, there is a very large Veitnamese community in the DC area and a fair number of Banh Mi shops around here. Nonetheless, I love those sandwiches, and given the high praise on this board for Saigon Bakery, I might just have to indulge.

                              1. re: Pan

                                just to clarify pan's clarification ;)
                                yes, definitely go to saigon banh mi, on mott between grand and hester. it's discordantly tucked into the back of a jade store. i used to advise calling in advance because waiting can be a nightmare, but i've had a couple of less freshly made sandwiches that way recently--still very fresh, and delicious. if you choose not to eat on the benches along the wall in the shop, walk east a couple blocks to chrystie street, where you can watch informal, multiethnic soccer teams while you eat.
                                the one on broome is called Banh Mi So I--bigger and less tasty bread, anemic pickled vegetables, but a great vegetarian sandwich.

                                1. re: rose water

                                  Are there numeorus sandwiches on the menu there? If so, which is the one to get? Just the classic banh mi?

                                  Also, any other tips for anywhere else are more than welcome.


                                  1. re: John Galt

                                    squid kun's A Chau Deli rec is tantalizing.

                                    there is more than one sandwich there, though i go so infrequently, and crave the bbq pork so intensely, that i've never tried anything else. the meat is totally delicious--rich and well, i don't even have the vocabulary to describe it. it's great stuff.

                                    banh mi so one has many more varieties, all markedly inferior to the classic pork sandwich at saigon banh mi. i'm partial to their veg options--the seaweedy, noodle-y, sesame oily one first, and in second place, the lemon grass fake chicken.

                                    but if you happen upon a closed saigon banh mi (and aren't heading to squid kun's recommendations), rather than going to banh mi so 1, walk over to eldridge to the dumpling house. get the sesame pancake with vegetables (skip the dry relatively flavorless beef). when the pancake is hot, it's incredible stuff

                                    1. re: John Galt

                                      "Are there numeorus sandwiches on the menu there?"

                                      Where? Banh Mi Saigon? No, only a few. I believe that the only sandwiches on their regular menu are the Banh Mi and Banh Mi Ga (chicken). I've had both, and they're both excellent. The last time I was there, they also had a Banh Mi Sardine. I wonder what that's like.

                                    2. re: rose water

                                      Four of us split three banh mi the other day, and Saigon Banh Mi's pork sandwich was the overall favorite – and the first to be reduced to a small pile of crumbs. No surprise there. (Others have complained of long lines and premade sandwiches. Not this time: I got there at around 11:45 on a Tuesday and found only one customer ahead of me. My sandwich was made to order, not in advance.)

                                      Here's the surprise: a newcomer, A Chau Deli (82A Mulberry St., 212-766-3332) made a tasty, nicely balanced pate-and-cold cut sandwich that was second by just a nose, and better than Saigon's in some ways. Meat was ample and tasty – though we also loved Saigon's generous stuffing, especially the coarse-chopped barbecued pork. A Chau's carrot, cucumber and cilantro slaw was abundant and brightly dressed, more so than Saigon's, and the sandwich was spicier (all three were ordered spicy). A Chau gets the edge on knifework, with fine-chopped vegetables that make its banh mi easier to eat.

                                      Coming in third was Sau Voi (101-105 Lafayette St. #3, 212-226-8184), whose pate-and-cold cut sandwich was underseasoned and lacking in cilantro. Also, the filling was unevenly distributed, resulting in end pieces that were almost all bread with a few lonely shreds of vegetable. (Sau Voi was a late entry, substituting for Banh Mi So 1 on Broome, which was closed for vacation until today, August 18.)

                                      Couple more notes on the new place: A Chau opened in June, a mom-and-pop operation (mom-and-kids, actually). Mom knows best, but sometimes she's busy in the kitchen in back, leaving her son in charge of sandwiches. I've had one of his and it was pretty good, too. The original menu listed four sandwiches: cold cuts and pate, meat ball with red sauce, shredded pork, steamed pork roll. Since then I think they've added a sardine banh mi. There are also spring rolls, salads and other dishes, which I haven't tried. If it's nice out, take your sandwich a half block south to Columbus Park and take in some soccer or hoops.

                                2. I had a great mascarpone rice pudding with cherries in it at Rice to Riches - they'll let you taste any of them, just like an ice cream parlor, and I think I tasted 3 or 4 before deciding. All the flavors were good, but there were some I could not imagine eating a whole bowl of (pina colada, for one).

                                  Spuyten Duyvil is, IMHO, overpriced, especially for being in Williamsburg. For a great general beer list, check out Peculiar Pub on Bleecker St., and if you're just into Belgians, check out Vol de Nuit (w. 4th St. by Washington Sq. Park).

                                  1. You should definitely try Pommes Frites for Beligan fries...123 2nd Ave.

                                    I do what you do...go to NY just to eat...and this is always a favorite. The poutine is awesome but so is everything else.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: masha bousha

                                      I walk by Pommes Frites each morning on my way to work. Stacked outside thier door are usually 10-12 50# bags of Maine Potatoes.
                                      You would think they's use Idaho potatoes when charging $4.75 for a large order of fries...

                                    2. Impressive list! You know what you're doing.

                                      Skip Sushi of Gari and head straight to Sushi Seki and order the omakase. Sit at the bar and just have them bring you whatever they've got. I've had both Gari and Seki many times, and Seki wins. Be ready to drop $$$$.

                                      Wu Liang Ye used to be better. Grand Sichuan in Chelsea is worth a visit.

                                      Falai for brunch on the LES - I just had figs poached in red wine with ricotta and almonds. Amazing! And an onion soup (not swimming in cheese) with raw egg. They pour veggie broth at your table and the egg begins to cook.

                                      Little Giant on the LES has really great dinner - fresh ingredients and well prepared!

                                      Enjoy your tour!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: fittoeat

                                        Falai is an interesting suggestion. I had not come across it yet in my research, but it looks intriguing.

                                      2. I was supprised I didn't see Babbo on your list! It's fabulous - be sure to get the Lamb's Tongue Vinigrette, if you go!

                                        I also really enjoy Corner Bistro for a good burger.

                                        Enjoy your visit (what a wonderful wife you have!)

                                        Oh, and if you wouldn't mind starting your trip at Hearth, I live 2 blocks away, so you could just come by my place first and I'll go ahead and join you for your culinary weekend ; )

                                        1. I should have put Babbo on my list of previous highlights. The lamb's toungue vinaigrette is among the most memorable dishes I've ever had.

                                          And, I've had a few Corner Bisto burgers in my time, but doubt I'll have any burgers on this trip, as we have some pretty tasty burgers around here.

                                          Feel free to offer any more suggestions for dishes to die for.

                                          1. Burger at Donovan's in Woodside, Queens lives up to the immense hype

                                            Grand Sichuan is better than Wu Liang Ye, imho.

                                            1. I also agree that Grand Sichuan is better. Order anything from Mao's favorite dishes. I especially like the chive and pepper with i believe pork. Its all chopped very very tiny and its incredibly spicy. If u r at the LES anyway, Katz for pastrami but I assume you have already been. Even though its a chain, Golden Crust has terrific Jamaican beef patties. Perhaps next time you could consider doing one of the boroughs. Take a train to Queens and get off on Roosevelt Ave. In a 2 block stretch you can eat Indian. Peruvian, Columbian, Argentinian, Thai, Mexican and more. Its a grazers paradise.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: dock

                                                You are correct that I've been to Katz. A few times. And, it's an excellent suggestion.

                                                As for Queens, I have long fantasised about such a chow crawl, but I fear that I might be pushing my luck with the birthday gift, as my wife would not enjoy that nearly as much as I would, and tolerating a Manhattan chow crawl seems as much as I can expect!

                                                Feel free to offer any other Manhattan suggestions. I'll look into Golden Crust. I love Jamaican beef patties.

                                              2. I just want to dissent on Bouchon Bakery. It's not worth sitting down to eat there (mainly because who wants to eat inside a mall?), but getting one of the great sandwiches or sublime quiches they sell at the takeout counter and a peanut-butter cookie and walking over to Central Park to watch the world go by is my idea of a perfect lunch.

                                                one more dissent: il laboratorio di gelato is only ok. it just doesn't compare to anything you can get in Italy, but there's probably nothing better than it in NY (the best gelato spot in America is a little joint called sketch in Berkeley, CA).

                                                1. hey, def try to go to degustation. falai is also very nice. they never change the menu, so i can't eat there for awhile until they get around to it.

                                                  i tried l'atelier in both vegas and tokyo. not that impressive in terms of food:ambience:cost ratio. sort of like del posto. good but not great for the high price.

                                                  any recs for DC? just curious.

                                                  1. Thanks for the l'atelier tip, because I was wrestling with whether to go there. As for DC, I'd be happy to make suggestions if you put a post on that board requesting it. (Just trying to keep the right info on the right boards.) If you don't want to, my top rec would be Maestro, but go early because the kitchen fatigues late at night.

                                                    1. If you are really up for an adventure, try some daytime spots in Brooklyn.

                                                      I'd suggest 3 Guys from Brooklyn to explore nice produce:


                                                      Key Lime Pie from Red Hook:

                                                      Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies

                                                      204-207 Van Dyke Street
                                                      (718) 858-5333

                                                      You can take the water taxi there from Manhattan:




                                                      But you MUST have a sandwich from Lioni Latticini:

                                                      7819 15th Avenue
                                                      Brooklyn, NY 11228
                                                      Phone: 718-232-7852

                                                      Hopefully the owner is there and will recommend something. I typically get the Eggplant Cutlet with Basil mix (basil, olive oil and pine nuts) Shaved Ham and White American cheese heated up. I'd suggest ordering it as a half sandwich unless you plan to share.

                                                      This place is as authentic old school Brooklyn that you can get. Worth the trip alone. (ps. hopefully you have access to a car or you are willing to take the trains (D/M trains to 79th Street Brooklyn and walk 2 blocks West) Continue on the D train for 6 more stops and you will end up at Coney Island...nothing like taking a ride on the Cyclone after a big meal ;-


                                                      bono appetito

                                                      1. one more -- if you're feeling adventurous, try knife+fork. there is only ONE guy working in the kitchen (the chef). he's overly ambitious and will try just about any combination of flavors. i think he gets it really right for at least 3-4 out of the 6 courses. it's def worth a try for $45 p-fixe.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: livvypd

                                                          hmmm, perhaps it was when they first opened and trying to get a rhythm going. i was not impressed and i am a fan of restaurants like WD-50. i found the flavors ambitious but not quite on the mark.

                                                        2. I would have to say ditch Bouchon as well, if your in the mood for a crossiant, go to claudes on w 4th....best around
                                                          Degustation is a good choice for the "nice" dinner.... and maybe a trip to room 4 dessert after. Wasnt full after the tasting at degustation (i eat alot, but...) so it could provide a great oppertunity to try Will Goldfarbs place as well.
                                                          If your feeling adventerous, go to Di Fara's in Brooklyn. Hands down the best pizza...in nyc.
                                                          Sounds like your gonnahave some fun....enjoy

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: feedmegood

                                                            Last posts of Room 4 Dessert have been pretty negative...I still love ChikaLicious when I have "room 4 dessert"

                                                          2. I am still dreaming about the banana coconut rice pudding I had at rice to riches months ago. If that combo suits your fancy than its seriously unstoppable. I wish I had some now!!!!

                                                            1. I'd consider adding Azuri Cafe (51st off 10th) which serves some of the finest falafel and schwarma I've had in the US. Head to Ruby et Violette (50th off 10th) for cookies afterwards. I think you can probably skip Pampano, which isn't that great, imo. Also, consider swapping Szechuan Gourmet for Wu Liang Ye.

                                                              1. I'd just like the second the original poster's highlighting of the gnocchi at hearth... mmm...

                                                                1. Tia Pol - best tapas, fun place

                                                                  Try Momofuku's NEW SSAM bar, opening this week corner of 13th & 2nd ave. And for kicks, go to Momofuku again. Never disappoints.

                                                                  Sushi - I've been to Gari, but prefer SUSHI SEKI by far. Sit at the sushi bar and let them do their thing.

                                                                  Congee Village - Fun and yummy. Must order congee (we like with duck/pork) add a bit of soy to it as well. You MUST order the House Special Chicken.

                                                                  Now I'm hungry. Have fun and Happy Birthday!

                                                                  1. why for bouchon does no one rec the foie gras in the canning jar and the salmon rilletes? supposedly that's where the goods are truly at.

                                                                    di fara's should definitely be hitten up. along with gray's papaya. after a real dinner as sort of an after dinner mint or maybe not.

                                                                    don't forget olive oil gelato at otto.

                                                                    and babbo for that matter.

                                                                    why not hit up Masa in the Time Warner Center instead of Sushi of Gari.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: kevin

                                                                      'why not hit up Masa in the Time Warner Center instead of Sushi of Gari.'

                                                                      maybe because $500 a head is a bit too steep for most of us...if not, go for it, and invite me along...