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unique restaurants in manhattan that can't be missed

i'm visiting for four days this weekend and want to try things i can't get in toronto: great bagels, mexican food, and southern food. i also want to try places that are famous/fun/off-the-wall... any recommendations?

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  1. The first place I thought of when I saw the thread title was Katz's. Can you get great pastrami/smoked meat in Toronto?

    New York is not the place to get Southern food, though you'll undoubtedly get some recommendations. Mexican is not a real strong point, generally, unless you either go to Jackson Heights (Queens) or go to one of the super-low-end places in Manhattan that have been extensively discussed in a thread about the "best tacos" in New York. (I believe that was the title; search for it.)

    1. I think regional American food would be of interest to you.

      Go for soul food in Harlem...Amy Ruths is my favorite.

      Cajun food is another option though I'm not sure where to recommend.

      BBQ is another option. Consider Dinosaur or Blue Smoke or Rub or even Virgil's (for that touristy Times Square feel, which after all you are, but with decent food IMHO).

      Instead of Mexican, try southwestern American food, such as Agave in the Village. For New Mexican food, try Los Dos Molinos on 18th Street. Agave is better food. Wash it all down with lots of margaritas.

      For an interesting New York ambience, go to Keen's Steak House (this would be more expensive than the other recommendations).

      Get a drink at Chumley's in the West Village, if you can find it, for a glimpse into Prohibition America.

      1. Definitely go for good pastrami or corned beef sandwiches at Katz.

        Amy Ruth's is an excellent suggestion for good soul food.

        For sushi, Yasuda is very good, plus a bunch of others that you can search here.

        Burgers weren't mentioned, but Shake Shack or even the burger joint at the Meridian would suffice.

        I lived in Toronto and these are the ones that you definitely will not find, at least as good as, in TO.

        1. I think you should definitely head to either "Curry Hill" or "Curry Row" and pick out an indian place if you like indian food

          1. As a fellow Ontarian, I would say check out something like Caracas Arepa Bar, Saravanaas, Cho Dang Gol, Ulrika's, and Shake Shack.

            Athough when my friends visit, I often take them on the "one-food restaurants" tour - Rice to Riches, Beard Papa, S'Mac, Dumpling Man, OMS/B, PB & Co., and the late grilled cheese place. You get the drift.

            2 Replies
            1. re: piccola

              I could be wrong, but I believe Ulrika's just recently closed down.

            2. otoh, not even one canadian restaurant in nyc? far as i know not even a tim horton's. whats up with that america?

              i'd second CHO DANG GOL in koreatown. CORNER BISTRO if you want just a burger in an old pub (daytime only, its a madhouse at night). oysters & a bowl of chowder at OYSTER BAR in grand central also makes a locally oriented nice lunch. for mexican ROCKING HORSE is rocking fun, esp for brunch and it has nice outdoor seating. for bagels look for MURRAYS bagel spots. have fun!

              1. For bagels there are two things that can make it great.. What you put on the bagel or the bagel itself..

                My favorite bagel places in Manhattan for just baking of bagels are Ess-a-Bagel,Absolute Bagels, and H&H.. But H&H sells there bagels all over New York City.. For a bialey and really good bagels I would tell you to go to Kosars.. This is classic Lower Eastside Jewish New York from 100 yrs ago.. This place, Kosars, is by far the coolest..

                Now what to put in the bagel is the next question.. My favorite white fish salad can be found at Zabars, which sells H&H bagels, and is right next door to H&H too..

                My favorite fish to buy and then put on a bagel is at Russ and Daughters which is right next to Katz's deli as well as Kosars and Yonnah Shimmels Kinish. Mind you Russ and Daughters is not a sit down place.. My favorite sit down place to have a bagel is at Barney's Greengrass.. Which is about 20 blocks away from Zabars..

                Mexican food, good luck finding great. I dont eat Mexican to often because I do not live by anything worth it.. But Zarela's is good and they make an excellent margarita.. A traditional taco place/little grocery store that has all sorts of wonderful taco's is called tehuitzingo.. Its on 10th ave in the low fifties..

                Southern food is another tough one.. I have yet to find really good southern or soul food in Manhattan.. I have been to all of the ones suggested. For better then average New Orleans food I would tell you to go to Jacques-Imos. A fun thing to do would be to go to Sylvia's on a Sunday around the time church lets out for a soul food experience..But the food isnt stellar. Amy Ruth's might be a little better then Sylvia's..Charles Southern Kitchen is another decent restaurant but, in a horrible neighborhood that makes going to an "adventure" for some. I have been to a couple of gospil brunches that were fun for going once, but didnt have the best food.

                For real good southern food, I would tell you to buy the book Gift of Southern Cooking..

                A fun New York place would be to go to Blue Ribbon after midnight any day of the week..

                Have a great trip..

                2 Replies
                1. re: Daniel76

                  Amy Ruth's is good (esp chicken and waffles). Once I had a great meal at Shark Bar. Miss Mamie's Spoonbread is variable but overall tasty. Ida Mae is a high-end/pricey place that riffs on soul food.

                  1. re: jeanki

                    And if you're in the area, what about West African? Lots of places; here's a Ghanain one I tried and liked a lot.

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                2. Someone posted a great solution to the dilemma of bagel vs. what to put on bagel:
                  1. Get a bagel at Ess-A-Bagel at its Lower East Side location;
                  2. Head over to Russ and Daughters and get some amazing lox;
                  3. Enjoy.

                  Also:
                  - Be sure to hit up Katz's (also on the Lower East Side)
                  - Keen's is a great place for the "NY steakhouse" experience
                  - I hear Toronto has decent Chinese food, but I don't know whether it does Korean - if not, be sure to check out 32nd St. b/t Broadway and 5th Ave. for Korean BBQ and other great eats
                  - And don't leave without a slice of NY cheesecake - at Junior's, which now has branches in Times Square (on 45th St.) and the downstairs food court of Grand Central Terminal.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: theannerska

                    I think Toronto does Korean well enough.

                  2. I also would like to add pickled lox with lots of onion and cream is a favorite of mine at Russ and Daughters.

                    1. How about a crab house? The one closest to Manhattan is Waterfront crab house in Long Island City. I would go only for the Maryland Blue's with Old Bay. I didn't hear anything good about the other food there. Did hear there was a tub of peanuts.
                      You can drive, 7 train it over to Vernon, or water Taxi it.

                      http://www.wfcrabhouse.com/

                      Most people from out of town like to go to Spice Market.

                      Katz's is old NY. As well you should take a stroll there on a sunday and maybe drop by

                      http://www.laboratoriodelgelato.com/

                      for some gelato. Maybe you'll get a batch of cheddar gelato if they got some left over.

                      and drop over at Guss's Pickles to take back:
                      http://nymag.com/listings/stores/guss...

                      1. Here is a recent trip report from fellow chowhounder peppermint pate who also hails from Toronto. Check it out! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                        1. For a great feel for what the city's culinary scene is like I'd go to the following:

                          1 - Katz's (just can't go to a place like that anywhere else, agree with all the others)

                          2 - Otto, although you'll find better pizza at Lombardis, Grimaldis or Difarias you're not going to find a more NY scene; alot of people on the board don't like it becuase it's loud but the wine list is amazing and the meats and cheeses are the best I've had - plus the olive oil gellato is worth the trip alone.

                          3 - Little Giant - a great place on the Lower East Side that shows community restaurants can exist and thrive in Manhattan, it has that casual yet trend LES feel and is well worth the trip.

                          4 - Cocktails at East Side Drinking Company, Long Branch or Employees Only, maybe even Campbell Apartment or Angels Share.

                          5 - Brunch at Clinton Street Baking Co. or well at least show up and give your name, nothing says you're in Manhattan like waiting an hour for pancakes!

                          6 - Chinatown, the one time I was in Toronto I don't recall having Chinese food, but as they say the Chinatown in each city is different, in ours I suggest Fay Da for great Pork Buns, New Green Bo for Chow Fun and Scalion Pankakes and Soup Dumplings and Dumpling House for fried dumplings and seasame pancake sandwiches. If you're feeling particuraly adventurous check out Super Taste on Eldridge for Hand Pulled Noodles.

                          7 - I know Toronto has a pretty large Muslim population so you've probably had great Halal, but if not go to the cart on 57th and 6th for a true NY experience after 7pm for dinner one night you're here (it's a long wait but well worth the time)

                          8 - Hot dogs, go to Kings or Greys Papaya or just get a dirty water dog from a street vendor, you can't come here without having at least one hot dog!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: wingman

                            "The Cart" is on the south west corner of *53rd* and 6th, not 57th and 6th

                          2. Go to Diamond Dairy on 47th Street for lunch. It's one of the last remaining dairy koshers in the city. And the setting and quality of the blintzes us unique.

                            1. I travel a lot and the one thing I really enjoy in each place I visit is eating something that can only be found there. With the globalization of the world today, this is is getting harder and harder to do, but I will try for New York.

                              I think, if your budget allows, you should consider one of the high end spots that make nyc dining what it is - the top two that come to mind are Per Se and WD-50.

                              1. ok, so far my list of places to try is:

                                -katz's
                                -the cart at 53rd and 6th
                                -shake shack
                                -via quadronno (espresso)
                                -peasant on elizabeth street
                                -le souk
                                -sophie's cuban
                                -amy ruth's (or charles' southern kitchen)

                                i'm trying to keep it fairly cheap 'cause i'm a student. anything else?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: highlyunlikely

                                  How about some falafel/schwarma goodness - I've had some amazing Israeli food at Azuri Cafe, on 49th St. near the corner of 10th Ave.

                                2. I cant imagine sophies cuban being a destination spot. Its good for work lunch but its not THAT good. Theres better meals to be had in nyc. Dont forget to check out st. marks place on 8th street- theres a huge communittee of students and late night eats such as japanese yakitori.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: csw

                                    I agree. Sophies is good, but not stellar.

                                    Do you insist on Manhattan? The best cheap places are surely in the other boroughs.

                                  2. I'm planning to take my cousins to Fatty Crab because it has a unique NYC hipster vibe and the food is unique.

                                    1. Definitely Freemans for the NY vibe with excellent cocktails and "New American" food. I'm dreaming of their grits and handmade sausage. The plus for you is it's wierd location, the dead end of an alley. Warning, can get really crowded.

                                      http://www.freemansrestaurant.com/