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Need recommendations for Chicago friends on NYC food vacation

Hi Chowhounds,

My friends are coming into town for a NYC eating vacation on Labor Day weekend. They are staying in Murray Hill.

This time it's out of pocket though they are used to expense account places in Chicago such as Moto and David Burke's Primehouse. The primary criteria are 1) it's good (actually very good to superlative) and 2) it's a New York experience - no steakhouses or Mexican. I would like them to be really amazed and not just at the bill at Per Se. I'm also trying to stay away from the tourist or tourbook cliches such as Babbo.

So far, here's the plan:

Thursday Dinner: Babbo at 5:45

Friday Lunch: TBD
Friday Dinner: Gramercy Tavern? The Modern?

Saturday Lunch: Tabla Bread Bar?
Saturday Dinner: Per Se at 6pm

Sunday Lunch: Patsy's/Grimaldi's or Nolita/LES walking tour
Sunday Dinner: Blue Hill (Village)at 8pm

Monday Lunch: Shake Shack or Fleur De Sel?

The dinners will be expensive so I'm hoping for some really good lunch spots.

I know that Babbo is a bit cliche but all the restaurant managers and bartenders tell me it's great regardless. A bunch of the other restaurants are like that. However, Blue Hill should be a good NY experience. Chefs have recommended Peasant or August.

The walking tour might include Ciao Bella gelato or Laboratorio di Gelato, Di Paola's cheese shop, Bar Jamon, etc.



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  1. I'm not so familiar with high-end places in New York, but though I'm in the minority here, I was pretty underwhelmed by my one and only visit to Fleur de Sel (I see no reason to return, in fact). Laboratorio di Gelato has some interesting flavors like Malt (~malted milk balls), and I recommend them.

    The cheese store you're looking for is actually Di Palo:

    [courtesy of www.superpages.com


    Di Palo Fine Foods Inc
    200 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013
    (212) 226-1033

    1. There is nothing "cliche" about Babbo.

      Friday lunch- How about Saigon Bahn Mi for a quick bite and it is right by Di Palo fine foods. Seating is the only problem, but if I recall there is a small park a couple blocks north.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChrisZ

        Yes, the little park is at the corner of Spring and Mulberry.

      2. I recommend Falai for dinner one nite(lower east side) Also for lunch maybe Casa Mono(mario batali's tapas place on Irving Place)If you go on saturday, you can go to Union Square Farmer's Market.

        1. You may want to substitute Lombardis instead of Patsys/Grimaldi for your one lunch since it is more historic and is essentially in Nolita. You can combine it with your walking tour. I would throw in one of the Batali joints, whether it be Babbo, Lupa, or even Otto. Peasant is very good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bobby06877

            I just think Lombardi's is underwhelming. Sure, the place oozes history, but the pizza just isn't that good. I'd take Patsy's East Harlem over Lombardi's any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Grimaldi's, too, but given that it's been probably a couple of years since the last time I was there and I've been reading a lot of reports of their inconsistency here, I won't argue for them too strongly. I will say this: If you do go to Grimaldi's, get on line before opening time (which is noon, I believe), because that's when their oven is hottest.

            1. re: Pan

              I did not suggest Lombardi's for their food as much as for its location in Nolita for his walking tour.

          2. Here are my thoughts regarding your dining plans thus far.

            Friday Lunch: TBD

            Since you're going upscale at dinner, I'd put Shake Shack here. Go early, i.e., "brunch" between 11 a.m. and noon, to avoid the extremely long lunch line.

            If it's raining, but you still want a good burger, you can head to one of two nearby spots: Molly's, on 3rd Av., b/t 23rd & 24th Sts., or Blue Smoke, on 27th St., b/t Lex & Park Av. S.

            Another indoor alternative would be Casa Mono.

            Friday Dinner: Gramercy Tavern? The Modern?

            I'm not a fan of GT and have not been to The Modern yet. My strong recommendation would be Eleven Madison Park. Chef Daniel Humm's cuisine is exquisite, and the space is beautiful.


            Saturday Lunch: Tabla Bread Bar?

            While I like Tabla's Bread Bar, unless you are hell bent on eating outdoors on the terrace, I would substitute Devi. Sensational food that is authentically Indian (as opposed to Bread Bar's Fusion-style Indian), and the $24.07 3-course lunch prix-fixe is a bargain.


            Sunday Lunch: Patsy's/Grimaldi's or Nolita/LES walking tour

            My LES Food Excursion has become rather (in)famous. Here's a link to a thread where you can find it (scroll down):


            If you decide to do it, my only caveat is to *do a lot of sharing* in order not to be so full that you will ruin your appetite for your Blue Hill dinner that evening.

            Monday Lunch: Shake Shack or Fleur De Sel?

            Since I've moved Shake Shack to Friday, I heartily endorse Fleur de Sel. I'm a big fan and have had many delicious lunches (including several $25 3-course prix-fixes) and dinners there.

            Hope your friends have a great time and Bon Appetit!

            1. I tried Giorgio's of Gramercy last week and absolutely loved it. You can check out their website for their menu. You will see that it has really good items that don't deceive you when you eat them!! The atmosphere is really great also, professional service and friendly.

              1. The list looks good, but I wouldn't take people from Chicago out for NY pizza (this from someone born and raised in Chicago). I think the suggestion of Saigon Bahn Mi is a great one. You can get the sandwiches to go and head up a few blocks to the corner of Spring and Mulberry and eat at the Spring Lounge. This place is nearly empty weekdays at lunch hour so you can have a beer or a soda and they don't mind if you bring in food because they don't serve food. Great big windows so you can look out and watch the world go by. This is always a hit when I do it with friends...

                1. Thanks for the responses so far. To clarify, I live in NY but moved from Chicago. We've also been known to eat multiple dinners in a night.

                  I want my friends to have very good lunches and amazing, memorable dinners.

                  I think that certain of the restaurants I've picked are cliche- they are on every list of restaurants that tourists should visit. You know, the ones carrying Zagats or lists of NYT three star restaurants. For example, Babbo. I've never been there but I've been to Lupa several times. It's been good but nothing spectacular. In general, that's been my beef with Danny Meyer restaurants though I haven't done enough of the tasting menus yet.

                  Falai - perhaps we will check this out.

                  Lombardi's - I went a few months ago and it was the worst pizza I've had in NY. It's a shame as I remember that only five years ago it was good. Is this place good but inconsistent or just bad? Personally, I like Patsy's even though the crust gets soggy. I also lived two blocks away two years ago. Most people say to go to DiFara's but that's a bit far for this weekend.

                  Shake Shack - the lines are still amazingly long even with the health code violations and I feel reduced quality this season. I gained so much weight last year from the burgers and shakes - it's a bit more painful taking it off this year.

                  What's the problem with Gramercy Tavern? I've had many good meals at the bar with very solid meals. Nothing amazing but the prices are very reasonable. Same thing at the Modern. Are the formal dining rooms that much better at these Danny Meyer restaurants? If there's a problem, what alternatives?

                  Devi - I've heard good things about this place. Seems a little less fusiony than Tabla. The lunch price seems good - our
                  dinners are expensive enough. Is Tamarind good? And yes, part of the charm is sitting outside with a view of the park.

                  Fleur de Sel - The main reason I picked this place is that it's good, within walking distance from the hotel, and I had a very good lunch during Restaurant Week. I'm not sure if it's good enough to star for dinner.

                  I'm avoiding Country - I like it but the food's inconsistent and expensive.

                  Of course, this will also be followed by some NY bar tours - one circuit might be Old Town Tavern, Pete's, McSorleys, White Horse and Chumleys.



                  1 Reply
                  1. re: somuchfoodsolittletime

                    I've never been bowled over by the food at Gramercy Tavery either in the Tavern Room or the main dining room. I've talked before on this board about the last time we were there and had a tasting dinner which was thorougly disappointing. Not one thing was a "Wow!" Worse, one dish was served at an incorrect temperature and had to be sent back to be completely re-done.

                    I'm a huge fan of Eleven Madison. While I always liked Kerry Heffernan's food, Daniel Humm has taken things to a whole other exceptional level to the point that I feel it is now on a par with the city's most highly-ranked restaurants.

                    We've had many superb dinners at Fleur de Sel, and Cyril Renaud is a wonderful chef. But if you asked me to choose between it and EMP for a blowout, i.e., expensive, dinner, there would be no question in my that it would be EMP.

                    Devi's cuisine is not to be considered in any way fusion. Suvir describes it as home cooking raised to the art of fine dining. And, in fact, many of the dishes are based on recipes from his family and friends in India. Here's the link to an interesting short video on the Savory New York website: http://www.savorynewyork.com/wiki/Devi

                    I haven't been to Tarmarind in a long time. I had one good meal there after they first opened but a second, after the executive chef died suddenly and there was kitchen turnover, was not very good. A new chef took charge a while ago, and there are reports that the food has vastly improved.

                    I'm not one of those who has a Shake Shack "habit." We've been there once this year for "brunch" on a Saturday at 11 a.m. No line. The burgers and fries were freshly made and tasty. The soft ice cream was delish!