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good places that say NEW YORK, NEW YORK for not-too-adventurous tourists

all the women in my family are coming for a visit---their first time in New York in 30 years---and I want to be sure to take them to some definitive New York spots. the only problem is, they aren't too adventurous when it comes to food, and I also don't want to give them a heartattack when they get the New York restaurant bill. they are staying in Times Square, but of course we can travel....any suggestions?

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      1. Times Square is dangerous. Too many familiar chain restaurants. Katz's is an excellent choice for something uniquely New York. Also you could go down to Little Italy and pop into whichever place suits your fancy and have a decent meal for not too much money. Although... there IS a new branch of Junior's 'round the corner from the Marriott Marquis if that suits your fancy: best cheesecake in the world.

        Most importantly: what KIND of food do they like?

        1. Tourists (from near and far) love Italian food at Carmines (Times Square and UWS) and in Little Italy. New Yorkers run a mile from these places, but if you stick to some of the *better* Little Italy places, you're in good shape.

          Benito II, 163 Mulberry St
          Angelos on Mulberry St.- (RAVES)
          Il Cortile in 125 Mulbery Street- (RAVES)
          Il Palazzo (151 Mulberry)- (RAVES)

          Or have dinner in nolita - Va Tutto or Peasant - then walk the few blocks and have cannoli at Ferraras.

          1. Pizza...Arturo's, Totonno, John's.... Chinese food in Chinatown...hot dogs @ Papaya King...not expensive, not adventuresome...fun & VERY New York-y....

            1. Shake Shack! Even after just a few years on the scene, I'd consider it a unique New York institution. Draft beer and amazing burgers in the middle of a park dropped in the middle of a bustling downtown metropolis ...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Kanger

                I think the food is good but it would have to be dipped in gold for me to stand online for an hour for a burger! If you luck out and there is no waiting go for it...but in my opinion there are other great burgers to be had without the long wait.

              2. The Blue Water Grill in Union Square is reasonable and very new NYC. Raols for a more downtown classic NYC experience. these places are fun, reasonable for higher end restaurants and not make older diners feel uncomfortable. If they want to go to little Italy, take them to Luna's which I think is the best value of that bunch. In the Time Square area, Uncle nicks Greek and Carmines can be fun. John's or Arturo's for pizza Paypaya King or Grey's Papaya for dog's. Carnegie or Katz's for corned beef/pastrami. Hit a cafe in the village for pastry/expresso. Chinatown is always there too. Have fun!!

                1. Carnegie Deli etc. for a true New York taste.
                  Best hamberger I ever had was at a Jackson Hole (for the non-adventurous)but one thing I miss about New York are the Diners.

                    1. re: shanda013

                      As I've said before the sidewalk outside Carnegie Deli is littered with the corpses of people who have killed themselves rather than eat there. Having eaten there, I applaud their judgment. I once heard a waitress telling a customer that the pastrami was low-fat. If they are too cheap to use fat, it can't be good.

                      Although I have to add... if it's atmosphere you want, Carnegie Deli just screams "New York" (or at least what people from out of town think of as New York). And the food won't make you sick or anything.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        By no means am I saying the food is fabulous...went there when I was younger must say experience was unforgettable...I agree I felt almost bad for not donating my large amount of leftover sandwich to the homeless nearby but it does scream "New York" if your listening.

                    2. As mentioned above, Katz's for pastrami sandwich.

                      As for other "NY" places without getting sticker shock, I'd recommend the following..

                      Pizza - Lombardi's, John's Pizza, or Grimaldis (across the Brooklyn bridge). All serve good NY style pizzas. There is a John's pizzeria in an old church on 44th and 8th that might fit the bill. The other two places are more casual. You might also want to consider stopping at Joe's on Carmine for a great takeout slice rather than a sitdown pizzeria. Avoid Rays, Sbarro, and most other generic pizza places.

                      Burgers - If its nice out, I definitely recommend going to Shake Shack in Madison Sq. Park. Avoid it during peak lunch times during the week and there won't be a huge line. A shack Burger, a beer or two and a vanilla shake in the park.. can't beat that. Another option would be to go to Michael Jordan's in Grand Central and try their fantastic burgers. I recently had it for the first time and was pleasantly surprised how excellent it was. For $14 you get a big, nicely charred burger with fries. And for visitors, you get to eat in the balcony of Grand Central. Not sure if the burger is for lunch only or if they offer it at dinner.

                      Chinese - For sichuan (aka spicy) food go to Grand Sichuan either in Hells Kitchen or Chelsea (to stay on the west side). You can do a search for specific dishes. Or, go down to Chinatown for the experience (and take the opportunity to walk around Little Italy). I happen to love NY Noodletown down there. Small place, no atmosphere but reasonable prices and great salt baked items and roast duck with flowering chives. Or go to Peking Duck House. A little more atmosphere and a higher price but great peking duck and better for a larger group.

                      There are a lot of other potential recommendations if you give us more specifics, such as how much you want to spend, type of food, lunch/dinner, etc.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ESNY

                        great suggestions so far--i'm intrigued with Michael Jordan's suggestion...which gets me thinking, places with good views would be fantastic. some dinner suggestions would be nice, nothing more than $25 for an entree, and new american, italian, maybe even french...

                        1. I second ESNY on Noodletown. It's such a great place, friendly with fabulous, fresh, authentic Chinese food at very low prices. One of our favorite evening activities is to have dinner there and then walk downtown to the Brooklyn bridge, walk over the bridge, and head for Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory on the DUMBO waterfront. It's a hard to beat combo. Beautiful views from the bridge, and then a cone to reward you for your trek. I've taken several visitors this route and they've loved it. Another NY experience is to go down to Coney Island, enjoy a nice walk on the boardwalk (everyone's seen it in the movies!), and then head to Brighton Beach for an interesting lunch and/or shopping excursion. Cafe Kashkar is great, very unusual, cheap, and friendly. And then you can stroll along Brighton Beach Ave. and hit the international gourmet stores. Really fun. I took some friends from England and they had a blast.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Second the rec for the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory above.

                            Also - what about bagels?! Ess-A-Bagel has a location at 51st St. & 3rd Ave. that's closest to where you'll be staying...

                            1. The most sensible way to start is with good places they can walk to. I actually don't think Grand Sichuan is such a good recommendation, because unless they like hot pepper, they are likely to order things from the American-Chinese or Cantonese menus. However, there is the Poseidon Bakery on 9th bewteen 44th and 45th (drawback: no place to sit inside), which is full of great savory and sweet Greek pastries, and I don't think the Afghan food at Ariana (9th between 52nd and 53rd, I believe) is such a big stretch for relatively unadventurous people. It has nice spices but is not very peppery, except for the Aush (and even that isn't super-hot by any means).

                              Noodletown is a good idea, because they excel in barbecued meats, and roast pork and roast duck are unlikely to be weird to your family. You can get some other dishes, with flowering chives or pea shoots (etc.), as well.

                              If you want to go Korean, go to Han Bat, which makes very good Bibimbap. If they don't like the kimchi and so forth in the banchan, they still will probably like bibimbap - I mean, it's really just rice mixed with meat and a few other things, not so different from the fried rice I'm guessing they're used to. Hyae-mul Pajun (seafood pancakes) probably wouldn't be too much of a stretch, either.

                              I would recommend against Little Italy, unless they really have their hearts set on that neighborhood. Consider taking them to a place like Col Legno (9th St. just west of 2nd Av.), which serves Tuscan cuisine. What could be better for an unadventurous eater than a mixed grill made with very good ingredients?

                              And definitely take them to Katz's and insist on their having pastrami. It's meat, it's flavorful and fatty, and it's great!

                              1. Serendipity 3 is a very NYC place to visit. They are known for their frozen hot chocolates, but usually have long waits to sit down and eat. I'd recommend going there for a late afternoon snack since it won't be as crowded then. If you end up going there for lunch or dinner make sure to leave room for dessert! If you need to pass time while you're waiting for a table it's always fun to walk around Dylan's Candy Bar, which is on the same block.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chowgal3

                                  Please note that Serendipity takes reservations at least for lunch.

                                  1. I would do high tea somewhere, Pierre or Carlye hotel. Small french restaurant like Gascogne, modern cuisine like Red Cat, pizza at Patsy's in Brooklyn and then Ice Cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Chinatown (I like New Green Bo), Payard for desserts, call around to some of the "big name" restaurants to see if there is prix fixe lunch at that time (lunch is a better bargain if you want to splurge on a fancy deal)

                                    1. If you like pickles try Guss's


                                      Its near Katz.

                                      Also Veniero's Bakery which has been around since 1894.

                                      McSorley's Old Ale House

                                      Soup Nazi

                                      Nathan's down in Coney Island if you are around there. I don't know if would travel that far for a hotdog and fries. Its suppose to be the first Nathan's.

                                      Lexington Candy Shop
                                      1226 Lexington Ave., between 82nd and 83rd Streets. (212) 288-0057
                                      Mon-Sat, 7am-7pm; Sun, 9am-6pm
                                      For malts, lemonades, and ice cream sodas only.

                                      Lombardi's Pizza

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: designerboy01

                                        The original Soup Kitchen Int'l aka Soup Nazi closed years ago. Al franchised the soup chain and its now called Original Soup Man. The soups are mediocre and are nothing like the soups he served at his shop on 55th street.

                                        1. re: ESNY

                                          Thanks for the info. I wansn't sure if it was opened or not but I was sure someone would correct me and give me an update.

                                        2. re: designerboy01

                                          The original Nathan's at Coney Island is really worth it, if you've got the craving...no other location comes close.

                                          1. re: theannerska

                                            I agree....Coney Island is one of the only "landmarks" in NY that hasn't been disneyized...(like Times Square) It still has a sleezy kinda original dark feel...and it's a great place to take a walk. Most people don't think BEACH when they think of NY....but Coney Island and the boardwalk are great! Nathan's hotdogs at the original location somehow taste better to me! If you get fries....make sure they DON'T put them in a bag...then they stay crisp......mmmmmm

                                        3. Speaking of Grand Central, I don't know where your relatives are traveling from, but the raw bar at Grand Central gets oysters and clams from New England that you basically can't get in the midwest. Everything's great there as long as you don't give the kitchen a chance to do too much to it.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: cjd260

                                            That is old New York too and has been around. Almost forgot about that place.

                                            1. re: cjd260

                                              I would second the rec for the Grand Central Oyster Bar. The Pan Roast is fantastic, and it's sort of ultimate New York.

                                              For a more upscale meal I'd try the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern -- the wait isn't too long on week days, and the food is great and very reasonable.

                                              If they're drinkers, I think one of the most "New York" experiences is having a cocktail at the Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel. It's not cheap, but it's a great experience. Go so you finish before 9 and avoid the cover charge.

                                              1. re: Amuse Bouches

                                                At the Oyster Bar, I would only get the raw seafood, or the oyster stew or pan roast, or the fried oysters

                                                The seafood is wondeful, the kitchen - not so much so.

                                                But that may be too adventerous, given the poster's comments.

                                              2. re: cjd260

                                                Grand Central, in general, is a great place to bring tourists, especially if the weather is bad. It's an easy walk or shuttle from Times Square and it's fun to explore, particularly if they haven't seen it since the renovation. They can start at the Campbell Aparment for dinks, then the Oyster Bar, continue on to Michael Jordan's (as suggested above) and finish downstairs on the dining concourse at Juniors, Little Pie Company or Ciao Bella. The food marketplace upstairs is a fun stroll too. http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/

                                              3. McSorley's Ale House is a sure thing. Is Kiev still there in the East Village? That, Veselka and the Ukrainian were cheap, cheap and New York, New York mainstays when I was there.

                                                Ess-A-Bagel or H&H is an absolute must. If you're afraid you'll order wrong, just have whatever the person in front of you has.

                                                Take at least one meal from a street cart or a deli steam table and eat it sitting in the Park. Any park. Or get a couple of dogs and a papaya at Grays Papaya (that might be a little hard core for your people).

                                                La Caridad Cuban/Chinese on the Upper West Side (eat the Cuban, not the Chinese). Cheap and crazy New York, near Zabar's (a Chowhound Mecca, I would hope).

                                                And of course you must eat in a Seinfeld-style coffeeshop. The one in the TV show is Tom's and is up at 112th and Broadway, but there are others.

                                                And at least once get a cup of regular in a blue paper Greek cup from a corner store.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: fnarf

                                                  No, Kiev is gone forever. La Caridad is also defunct, as I recall. Veselka is cheap but not worth going to (let alone traveling to while staying in a different neighborhood during a brief visit), in my opinion. Teresa's is far superior, but still not worth a trip just to go there.

                                                  1. re: Pan

                                                    Ah, I'm so out of touch, it's sad. If you came from a white-bread boring place like I do, though, a place like Veselka was like being on another planet called "New York", which is what I loved about it.

                                                    1. re: fnarf

                                                      I can understand that. And it's a perennial favorite here. I don't mean to dis you, I just have never felt it was all that, but it's fair to add that I am only 2-3 generations removed from Eastern Europe (Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania), so Ukranian and Polish fare is really comfort food for me.

                                                      1. re: Pan

                                                        We have lots of first-generation Russian and Ukrainian immigrants here in Seattle, but so far they haven't gotten around to opening any restaurants in my neighborhood, alas.

                                                        1. re: Pan

                                                          Hi, Pan: O.K. So I am the person entertaining a British and Lithuanian couple. I want to show them what is really New York so your suggestions for moderately priced atmospheric Eastern European.

                                                  2. For classic Diners in the Times Square area, try the Midtown Diner on 9th ave near 45th street, or even the Cafe Edison in the lobby of the Edison Hotel. Not terrific, but certainly decent and location, location, location.

                                                    For classic village coffeehouse, try Cafe Reggio.

                                                    This time of year, there isn't much happening at Coney Island. It can be a bit creepy for sheltered out of towners. I'd do a recon mission before I ventured out there with them.

                                                    1. I second Nathans in coney island and the Pan Roast at Oyster Bar.

                                                      1. If you are looking for views, here's what I'd suggest. Go to Grimaldi's for Pizza (recommend an off hour as they do not take reservations and the lines can get long) AND before or after go to the River Café for a drink at the bar and a spectacular view of lower Manhattan.

                                                        1. My not-too-adventurous mother LOVED Metrazur on her first trip to NYC. It's the Charlie Palmer restaurant on the balcony overlooking Grand Central Station. The people-watching alone is worth it, and the food was familiar, yet well-executed.

                                                          They often have a prix-fixe menu that is value priced. We received the NY Restaurant Week menu (even though it was nowhere near restaurant week) for $30.

                                                          My mother still talks about that dinner 2 years later.

                                                          1. Old Town Bar is great ol' NY atmosphere and serves a good burger. Same goes for Fanelli's in SoHo (an area I'm not crazy about but out-of-towners tend to enjoy walking 'round). Or, a little more upscale: Jane St. Tavern. (Though all these suggestions are predicated on yr guests NOT being tee-totalers. If they are, these places are probably too bar-ish.)

                                                            Before I lived in NY I visited and was taken to Raoul's and it seemed like a magical epitome of Manhattan (though it's right at the edge of your price range, though).
                                                            Lastly: Florent.

                                                            1. Chumley's is another bar/pub witht with good NY atmosphere. I prefer it much more over McSorley's but go early afternoon to avoid crowds

                                                              1. 1) The Grand Central Oyster Bar. Sit at the bar where they make the oyster stews. The -real- experience.
                                                                2) Yes, either of the two Rockefeller Center restaurants that border the rink - but only when the plaza is a rink, not an outdoor summer bar. And NEVER when there's a certain Xmas tree there.

                                                                1. Papaya king or Greys Papaya - hot dogs + tropical fruit drinks.

                                                                  Jacques Torres chocolate.

                                                                  Dumplings in chinatown.

                                                                  Donut Planet

                                                                  Hampton Jutney

                                                                  1. Another perspective. "Sex and the City" was, among other things, a seven year love poem to New York, the one lover that never disappoints. Pastis, to take one example, looks like it could have been used as a location... and indeed it was. Sophisticated and so popular it launched an entire new nightlife neighborhood. (Okay, Mars was there before Pastis, but that was long ago.) Yes, it looks French but it screams "New York"

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. And here's another thought. If you saw a movie about New York in the 1940s and 1950s, one mandatory scene was this: the sophisticated male lead would take his girlfriend to Greenwich Village, they would stop at an old brownstone with a neon sign, go down a few steps to a basement, and enter a restaurant with red and white checked tablecloths and empty Chianti bottles with candles in them. One of these restaurants still exists, neon sign and all. It's Fedora, on 4th Street just west of 7 Ave. I've never eaten there, but they do have a $13 prix fixe, and it's all about memories.

                                                                      1. Keens! The oldest of old-school NY restaurants! Although the bill might be shock inducing.

                                                                        Also the Odeon is pretty old NY too.

                                                                        1. PJ CLarke's. Good burger, oysters etc, in a classic NY Saloon. New York's most famous urinals, as well.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: tbear

                                                                            WRT your last, the group is all women.

                                                                          2. I've thought a lot about this discussion, trying to figure out what a definitive New York spot is. A lot of out-of-towners post on this board, seeking an experience that screams "NEW YORK!" They want pizza, deli, whatever. None of those places ever meant New York to me. Here are three that did, as I grew up. They are all gone now.

                                                                            Windows on the World

                                                                            Oh and two more: A dive called Romeos in Times Sq, where you could go after a morning visit to the numerous double features on 42nd Street -- all of which cost a quarter to view if you got there at 8 AM. A hole in the wall burger joint called Wimpy's near my house whose fat juicy burgers are one of my few childhood meals I'd brag about on chowhound today, except the place is long gone.

                                                                            1. I second Lombardi's for lunch then stroll around Nolita then through Little Italy, grab coffee and canoli (yes it's touristy) or walk down to Chinatown for tapioca tea.