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What could be better than a week in NYC?

Well, I suppose the right answer is "two weeks in NYC" but I'll take what I can get. Returning with pleasure this September - for this trip, since we're there for longer, we've decided to book a few dinners and a couple of lunches but then wing it for the rest, armed with a shortlist of options. To give you a sense of what we like - recent favourites include Hearth, Tides, Red Cat, Sripraphai (SO worth the easy ride to Queens), Cafe Gitane, Mary's Fish Camp and Prune.

I know you guys are inundated with tourist requests on this board but I'd be grateful for your thoughts on the following (by the way, we're splitting our time between midtown and the Village but we'd travel anywhere for good chow) - what to add, subtract, special dishes, etc. - the ones we've previously been to and loved are in CAPS:

*Breakfasts*
Clinton Street Bakery
CAFE GITANE
RUSS & DAUGHTERS
Barney Greengrass
Patisserie Claude
Pastis
Cafe Habana

Do any of these have great espresso-based coffees or are there other places to suggest for this? We once went to Joe on Waverly - loved the place but found the coffee to be just so-so.

*Lunch*
Lupa (people seem to suggest lunch over dins, no?)
MARY'S FISH CAMP (or is Pearl Oyster the reigning lobster roll these days)
BANH MI SAIGON BAKERY
SHAKE SHAKE
CAFE GITANE
Chelsea Market
Momofuko Ssam or Noodle Bar
Kumar's Dosa Cart (Washington Sq. Park)
Bao Noodles or Bao 111

*Dinner*

Eleven Madison Park
Tia Pol
Babbo
TIDES
HEARTH
RED CAT
SRIPRAPHAI
Ditch Plains
Chinatown Chow Tour (culled from recent posts)
JOJO (haven't been there in years but it's a sentimental choice for this trip - is it still good?)
Di Fara or Una Pizza Napoletana (is Di Fara worth the trip?)
Falai

*Brunch*

Freeman's
Stanton Social
Cafe Orlin
August
Five Points

*Random Snacks*
Rice to Riches
Otto - I have to try the olive oil gelato

I've also got the list of award-winning food carts so thought we'd try out a few of them if we were in the 'hood.

Thoughts? Thanks in advance. I'm getting hungry just thinking about all of this. And I always post reports. Cheers!!

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  1. Hey Peppermint Pate. I love your home cooking posts (just by the by...).

    I think that Cafe Gitane makes a great coffee, though I always get their cafe americaine, so can't speak to the espresso.
    I thought Bao 111 was wayyy too salty, or perhaps too much fish sauce, either way, ouch. Much water required.

    Five Points can be really tasty. Recently, I had a terrific steamed halibut entree. I feared possibly mushiness, but it was flaky and delicious. They do a good job of using seasonal products.

    I'd argue Mary's over Pearl, but I'm sure you'll get dissenters.

    I've always thought the menu at August to be so small and limited, however dkstar, whom I respect greatly, really dug the place, so maybe he's got a point. We used to go, instead, to Extra Virgin, but I hear downhill alert on them.

    We've always been big fans of Gotham B&G for special occasions. I know that many here think that the tall food is over, but we love the flavors there and return at least once or twice a year. My picky pants brother would vote Gotham over 11 Mad Park if he were writing this.

    You might also want to check out Casa Mono if you're having tapas. Definitely don't go to Alta; while it was fairly tasty, the food just really wasn't spanish style tapas. Not like what i've enjoyed in Madrid. But Casa Mono seems pretty authentico, especially since the meats are actually hanging there! Or am I thinking of Bar Jamon... hmm. either way, they're right next door!

    Have a great time and report back after!

    1. DiFara's is worth it - the pizza is fantastic, and considering the long wait, you'll have time to witness Dominick at work, one of NY's true slowfood masters.

      Add Il Laboratorio di Gelato to your list of random snacks

      I like Bahn MI So #1 on Broome more than Saigon Bakery but it may just be that So is where I had my first bahn mi so many years ago. Also, sometimes those saigon sandwiches are pre-made. But I don't wanna start an argument, and the best bahn mi are in brooklyn anyway.

      I love August for dinner but have never gone for brunch. Stanton Social is good for a scene and some of the food is good(sweet potato tortilla espanol), and overall have had better brunch experience there than at five points.

      4 Replies
      1. re: ghbrooklyn

        You don't wanna start an argument? Then why are you posting on this board? [laugh]

        Banh Mi So is nowhere near as flavorful as Banh Mi Saigon. As for Brooklyn, I haven't had any banh mi there.

        Yes, it is worth the trip to go to DiFara's. I think Franny's is equally good, but in an entirely different way, and you'd be spending closer to $40 for dinner than $20-something at DiFara's.

        1. re: Pan

          well put.
          If you get a chance, try Ba Xuyen on 8th Ave and 42nd(?) St in Sunset Park. Fantastic, made to order and hot is HOT, grilled chicken thigh bahn mi with the crispy skin on top, and hella strong cafe du monde chicory coffee in those great one cup drips.
          Franny's is good, but your right about the price. I always get bill shock because I end up ordering salads and that damned cured meat plate which is so good but kinda steep(though I guess it is worth it considering the meats are all made in-house).

          1. re: ghbrooklyn

            I think Franny's is a fair value, but it pays to know what you're getting into before you go.

            I've read recommendations of Ba Xuyen before, but some if not most of the people I know who've been to both prefer Banh Mi Saigon.

          2. re: Pan

            Yes, I also find Banh Mi Saigon's version to be much more robust.

        2. Russ and Daughters is definitely a place to go for breakfast. Your dinners look really good too.

          Brunch is where I think you run into some trouble. For one, I think Freeman's is renovating and will be for a little while - you may want to check ahead. Stanton Social for brunch? Wouldn't be my pick. I've been there twice for dinner (2 different groups of friends) and while it was fun and the place is nice to look at - the cuisine is more "fun" than "great". I can't imagine brunch there. Consider Deborah or Prune instead.

          August is a great dinner spot as well though have it on my list to try for brunch.

          I'd agree you need to add il Laboratorio del Gelato to the list. Also check out DiPalo cheese and Murray's if cheese is your thing. Heck, you could get a lunch or brunch out of the cheese and (Amy's) bread (next door to Murray's) one day.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dkstar1

            I second Prune. The Joe's Dairy is a great share to add if you are really hungry, and the monte christo and caraway-sourcream omelet is spot on. And the Chicago Matchbox is one of the best bloody mary's around(and I have had maybe too many of them)

          2. Breakfast:
            Clinton Street Bakery is my favorite out of your choices, the pancakes are to die for. The line is long, so arrive early or plan to wait.

            Lunch:
            Bao 111 is my favorite of your choices, and also great for dinner. The signature Bao saketini is great (but different) and the sea bass entree is amazing!

            Dinner:
            Babbo takes reservations far in advance, or you can sit at the bar - but well worth it! Just tried Una Pizza Napoletana for the first time last week and love id, but again, you must get there right at 5:30 in order to get a table without a long wait. Plan to be extremely full after eating the whole personal pie!

            Snacks:
            If you haven't tried them yet, visit one of the butter creme cupcake bakeries like Magnolia, Billy's or Buttercup. The village has good belgian fries and falafal as well if you are interested in good authentic snacks.

            Hope these insights were helpful. Have a great trip to the city!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Lauren1017

              Even though cupcakes are kind of a NYC quintessential thing, I have to disagree with the recommendation of going to Magnolia. I find their frosting tooth achingly sweet. Billy's is pretty good but I prefer Sugar Sweet Sunshine on Rivington St.

              Also, if you happen to like chocolate, I truly recommend to stop by Kee's Chocolate on 80 Thompson Street in SoHo.

              1. re: chocokitty

                I agree. Magnolia is fine, but most definitely not worth the wait. You can get a better cupcake at many other places.

                1. re: fascfoo

                  I disliked their cupcakes when I tried them last fall or so. Mostly buttery (I hope! maybe shorteningy, God forbid!) icing. On the other hand, their flourless chocolate cake was quite nice, though not worth the wait.

            2. Thanks for all of your posts so far (and thanks for the compliment, brownie). A couple of years ago, we were staying in the West Village, just a block away from Magnolia Bakery. We walked by every day, amazed at the line-ups. On two occasions, we went in and tried them - I loved the look and the feel and the idea of the place but for me, the cupcakes were a bit dry and just not so amazing. They did, however, inspire me to bake 200 mini cupcakes for our wedding so for that I am grateful. Maybe I'll try Sugar Sweet Sunshine this time - I do love cupcakes.

              Chocokitty says "if you happen to like chocolate" - uh, only every day. La Maison du Chocolat is one of my regular stops in New York (if I ever get around to filling out my hound profile, my longest detour for chow will be the time I deliberately took a connecting flight through Paris to Tel Aviv - instead of the direct flight, really - so I could have a 3 hour stopover and go to La Maison du Chocolat for a box of bliss). I've read about Kee's - it's on the list. Any favourites?

              dkstar1 - I loved Russ and Daughters when I tried it a couple of years ago - we talked to the owner who was telling us about the 3 generations (I think) of family owners, super nice guy, he's the one that first told us about Prune (which we tried for brunch and loved). I must say the Stanton Social brunch menu has a couple of appealing items - ricotta fritters with raspberry jam and little donuts on their menu - mmm, looks good. Deborah is a new one for me as is DiPalo's cheese (been to Murray's - love it). Pretty much love everything in the Village...

              ghbrooklyn and pan - I think this is the year for Di Fara's - we'll go on a weekday so hopefully, a bit less crowded. Any favourite pizzas? And Il laboratoria di Gelato and that candy store place I read about it in the LES - I think we'll add those to the list as well.

              brownie - agree that cappuccinos at Gitane are great - we just love the vibe here. And for years and years, we went to Gotham and loved it. I love that it's been around for so many years and continues to be so well-regarded. Were you recommending Casa Mono or Bar Jamon - how do these compare to Tia Pol?

              lauren1017 - I assumed we'd be doomed on a booking for babbo at this stage so figured we'd do a walk-in early one evening. For Clinton Street, I think we'll try a week-day so hopefully less line-ups.

              Thinking of also adding Peasant to the list, though we have a lot of Italian, and Sant Ambroeus or Via Quadronno for a coffee.

              Any thoughts on JoJo? It was the first dinner my husband (then boyfriend) and I had on our first trip to New York together, 10 years ago and HE suggested it for our first night (awww) - happy to validate the sentimentality unless the chow's really gone downhill.

              Man, all of the best spots continue to be downtown - if only there were better/wider accommodation options down there - maybe one of you should open up a chow hotel in the village?

              Thanks again!!

              6 Replies
              1. re: peppermint pate

                Lots of great chocolate in the city. There's a Pierre Marcolini outpost in Midtown east that's pricy but delicious. Jacques Torres has a store in Soho, but his chocolates are also carried at the Chocolate Bar in the West Village. Michel Cluizel has a store in the ABC Carpet store.
                Re: JoJo, I've never been, but from what I've read, the current favorite JG spin-off seems to be Perry Street (also never been). You might want to try that for a change.

                1. re: Lucia

                  I second the Pierre Marcolini rec, esp. if you are fan of a Maison du Chocolat. 485 Park Avenue between 58th & 59th Street.

                2. re: peppermint pate

                  The absolute must try for Kee's chocolate is the creme brulee (their signature flavor). You're supposed to put the entire piece of chocolate in your mouth and you will discover bliss. When you bite, the snap from the chocolate, the delicious vanilla (custard?) filling will explode in your mouth. Trust me, it's goood... Others are good but not as significantly great as the creme.

                  1. re: chocokitty

                    If you really want the creme brulee, it might be better to call Kee and request some for the day you want. She's very accomodating.

                    Other favorites: yuzu, key lime, praline, turtles (yum), thompson.

                  2. re: peppermint pate

                    We will probably be better off discussing DiFara's on the Outer Boroughs board, but I love the artichokes, porcini (when available), and pepperoni there, and I mildly prefer square slices to regular slices. Their calzoni are very big - way too big for one person, though you can order a slice of one. Broccoli di rape is another excellent topping/filling, if you like that somewhat bitter green.

                    1. re: peppermint pate

                      I need to try Pierre Marcolini. Other than that, La Maison du Chocolat and Kee's really are the best. Kee's is delicious in a forward, direct and ultra fresh way while La Maison du Chocolat has more intrigue, subtlty and nuance. IMO they are both great but almost in a complete opposite way. The rest are just a waste of $$$, time and calories.