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A 4-year Chow tour of NYC--we'd love your help!

My youngest sister has just moved to the city. She's starting college this week, at Barnard. 'Til now, she's lived (and eaten) in the Chicago suburbs, and she's quite excited--understandably!--about "digging in" to all that NYC has to offer, food-wise and other-wise, of course. But this here posting is about food.

So, my question to all of you: If you had the chance to be a culinary tour guide of our fair city, and you had 4 years to do it, what would your game plan be? Keep in mind that she's a college student and I'm a teacher (cost should be at least a slight consideration). Also, it might take a while to expand her tastebuds' preferences of bagels and pizza. I plan to see her (and eat with her) about once each week. Here are a few things I've thought about:

*Monthly themes, with a different restaurant featuring the same kind of food each week, for a few weeks in a row: tours of NYC's best pizza, falafel, Thai, Indian, Korean, and other cuisines that she will hopefully develop a taste for...

*A more geographic approach, highlighting different neighborhoods every week and just choosing a restaurant depending on any number of criteria...

*A DIY "diner's deck" kind of thing, in which I take suggestions from fellow chowhounds about must-hit restaurants (yes, I'll scour the boards, but feel free to add your input here and now, too), and compile them into some sort of list or deck of cards, with the goal of hitting as many as possible in the next four years, and hopefully discovering some of our own together, too. If you vote for this option, be sure to give me your recommendations!

Thanks, all. I look forward to hearing your chowisdom!

-Emily

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  1. I was a visiting college student at NYU last semester. At first I tried to learn everything about the NYC restaurant scene by reading books, and then walking around to find the places. This was really fun, but it became sort of a time costly obcession. I would suggest picking a few nights a week for going out and saving money during the week (because she'll be too busy with school to go explore most nights).

    Take into consideration what her favorite meals are. Breakfast and dessert were most important to me. So I compiled a long list of bakeries and just walked around to the different ones. I also don't mind eating peanut butter and jelly for a month if I can go to a prix fixe dinner.

    I would listen to chowhound suggestions and pick restaurants in different neighborhoods. Chowhounds know way more than zagat, and just finding the restaurants is a way to explore the city. One of the greatest days I had was finding a columbian bakery in Queens. I felt like I was on a different continent. I can't stress how overwhelming it can be coming from the suburbs myself. I always wanted good food for every meal, but I think it's better to pick certain meals for it. She's by H & H bagels and Zabar's grocer which are both key staples for any upper west sider.

    1. Korean- NY Kom Tang Soot Bul Kal Bi (32 W 32nd St). My favorite Korean BBQ place. Great dining experience in one of Manhattan's most festive neighborhoods.

      1. I live on the upper West Side. I recommend for Chinese -Ollie's, the one on 68 and Bway not he one on 84th St. Although a chain, the former is far superior.

        Celeste - Italian 502 Amsterdam. Italian, crowded nor reservations but great Roman Italian.

        Zabar's for take- out and kitchen stuff.

        Dock's folr seafood. 92 and Bway.

        Ouest for upscale special occasions,.

        3 Replies
        1. re: march33

          Since she goes to Barnard, I'm surprised that you mention the 68th Street and 84th Street branches of Ollie's but not the original one at West 116th Street. Is it that much less well-known?

          1. re: floretbroccoli

            I don't know how much less well known it is, but it is by far the worst of the the ones mentioned. Unless in recent years they hired some new chefs, I really cannot recommend it. I have been to the one in midtown only once.

            1. re: mimolette

              Don't get me wrong -- I'm not recommending it. I was just wondering why someone'd say go to 68th, don't go to 84th, without any mention of the one around the corner from OP's sister.

        2. lord, this sounds WAY too organized, esp for a college student. The primary issue is getting her to venture to a wide variety of neighborhoods, other than the upper west side. then pay attention to the various "cheap eats" threads here and in Time Out, Village Voice, etc. But the whole flash cards thing stikes me as a little elaborate.

          1. This is thoroughly infeasible in New York. Most restaurants (even supposedly excellent ones) in New York cannot be counted on to be consistent week to week, let alone over four years. Pick a cuisine, and then research that right before you dine.