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Virgin Visit to Manhattan

I'm taking my fiancee to NYC for the first time and I used to live there for 10 years. My obsession with food began there! So far we've planned on a slice at Joe's on Carmine and porterhouse for 2 at Peter Lugar's. Being away from the city for a couple of years, I've sadly fallen out of the foodie circle. Anything new open in the last couple of years that we must check out? Or, do you have suggestions for a first-timer to get a great NYC food experience? I'm in LA now, so no sushi (or any Asian food for that matter), Mexican or burger suggestions, please.

Apologies if this topic has already been covered. Thanks everyone!

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  1. Other 'hounds will do a much better job of covering the finer dining, but whenever I'm away from New York I crave these the most:
    - bagels, cream cheese, lox (Ess-A-Bagel)
    - Gray's Papaya (or Nathan's at Coney Island) for hot dogs
    - Junior's cheesecake (original)
    - sour cream apple walnut pie at Little Pie Company
    - the carts: Quik Meal and "the cart" (53rd? and 6th)
    - falafel and schwarma at Azuri Cafe
    - (is Il Laboratorio del Gelato a recent thing? I'm not sure, but it has generated a lot of buzz and is very yummy...), Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, Otto for gelato

    And ah, can't wait to have some Peter Luger's again...

    3 Replies
    1. re: theannerska

      Oh yes, Ess-A-Bagel! And Junior's! Il Laboratorio is decadent. Thank you so much for helping me remember...

      1. re: grapenehi


        I did leave out all the Asian recs, but Koreatown and Chinatown are both non-sushi...just in case.

      2. re: theannerska

        Well if you're going to go to Il Laboratorio, I'd go to Kossar's for a bialy instead of Ess-A-Bagel. It's not too far away. Although if you're there you might want a Doughnut from the DP...

      3. The Joe's on the corner of Carmine at 6th closed (tragedy!) but the one a few doors down is still open.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Petitpois

          Aviod Joe's Pizza and go to DeMArco's which is 5 blocks away. Best slice (not pie) in Manhattan.

          1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

            I must respectfully disagree. I'd take Joe's over DeMarco's any day o' the week!

            1. re: billyeats

              No point in debating taste, but here's my summary of how the two taste to me:

              DeMarco's: Complex blend of cheeses (cheese tortellini in cheese sauce, maybe?) cut with tomato sauce on crispy olive oil bread

              Joe's: home made pizza on a piece of toast (like a late night snack you make at home with available ingredients)

              Both taste good. I prefer the former, for my own taste.

              1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                Definitely give DeMarco's a shot for a slice (esp. the square). Make sure you ask them to heat it up "well done" so it's nice and crisp. Two other pizza possibilities are Arturo's in the Village and the original Patsy's in East Harlem.

                I also recommend you try Azuri Cafe on 51st at 10th Ave -- I've never had middle eastern food as good in CA. For bagels, my rec would be Murray's. I've never quite gotten the whole Ess-A-Bagel craze -- they remind me of unusually dense sandwich rolls.

                My upscale rec would be WD-50, which serves cutting edge cuisine in a pleasantly casual setting.

          2. re: Petitpois

            Agreed! It's a terrible tragedy that Joe's on Carmine/6th closed. It was fantastic.

          3. For the quintessential NYC deli experience, you should definitely take your fiancee to Katz's, where it's all about the pastrami. Then, since you're now living in L.A., I guess you can debate how it stacks up with Langer's.

            Also, every first-timer should definitely sample *the* NY drink: an egg cream. Gem Spa, on the corner of 2nd Av. & St. Mark's Pl., makes an excellent one.

            1 Reply
            1. re: RGR

              Yes! Definitely left out Katz's - a must. Be sure to tip the guy...

            2. If you've never tried Japanese ramen (soups/stews) I suggest:
              Rai Rai Ken
              10th street between 1st & 2nd ave
              ...try the curry ramen... (soy based soup) it was so dark and tasty, with pork, noodles, scallions, hard boiled egg and a little square of seaweed... unbelievably satisfying. Then, went around the corner to DeRoberti’s for an italian ice (their chocolate is the best) or any pastry they sell...or even Veneiro's accross the street... and all for under $10.

              10th street between 1st & 2nd ave

              1. Katz's or 2nd Ave. Deli for pastrami?

                Never had an egg cream...might have to on this trip.

                LA has great Japanese ramen joints, but thanks anyway!

                Now, if you were to crave a cannoli, Veneiro's or the Italian bakeries on Bleecker?

                4 Replies
                1. re: grapenehi

                  2nd Ave. Deli has closed, sadly, but I've always preferred Katz's.

                  Veneiro's is great, but if you decide on Bleecker, Rocco's is very good...I think I'd go with Veneiro's if absolutely forced to choose.

                  1. re: theannerska

                    Thanks, theannerska, for the sad update on 2nd Ave. Deli. I did enjoy their pastrami for many years, but Katz's is good too. Can anyone tell me why they closed?

                  2. re: grapenehi

                    2nd Av. Deli closed earlier this year, so that solves your dilemma -- not that it would have been a contest anyway because when it comes to pastrami, Katz's has always been the winner.

                    You lived in NYC for 10 years and never had an egg cream?! Shame on you! lol

                    1. re: RGR

                      Speaking of egg cream, I just remembered the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity on the UES.

                  3. Didn't they also have something called "the kitchen sink" it was like the family sized version of a pasta bowl filled to the brim with ice cream, etc.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mangiabeve

                      The KITCHEN SINK was a specialty of Jahn's ice cream parlors.

                      When I was in high school it was a fav for my grup of friends on special occasions. I think it was 24 scoops, in a large tub.

                      BTW, that was at the Bronx outpost of Jahns, about 239480384238 years ago - or so it seems!

                      1. re: mar1lyn27

                        I seem to remember carving my name into one of the wooden wall trims at the Jahns on Myrtle and Hillside aves Richmond Hill before the fire. Where is the one in the Bronx?

                    2. It'd be a shame for you to not try Sushi Yasuda before you go back to LA. Nigiri for nigiri, Yasuda is unmatched. Mori and Nishimura are both a notch or two below the master. I'd even say that his selection of imported fish is larger than Urasawa's.

                      1. OK. So 90% of these posts don't care that you don't want asian or sushi. Here is a good list of places to try. I will caviat that I am a Greenwich Villager and rarely dine in midtown unless I am on an expense account.

                        For brunch in the East Village: Prune on 1st and 1st.

                        For Seafood Mary's Fish Camp in the West Village (I prefer it to Pearl Oyster Bar but this is a heated debate amongst Foodies). Or Mermaid Inn on 2nd ave in the East Village.

                        In mid-town the new "power lunch" scene is at the Lever House on 53rd off Park. It is a spectacular dining room and the food is great. Go for lunch or dinner. Expensive

                        For an upscale Italian in Mid-Town L'Impero in Tudor City is also a treat, but also expensive.

                        I have not personally been to Five Ninth in the Meatpacking district but it gets great reviews and is a good alternative to all the "big box" places down there if you want to check out the way that neighborhood has changed (and believe me, since you left it has!).

                        Down in the Lower East Side the restaurant scene has exploded as well. For a casual italian meal go to Inoteca.

                        And . . If you want a different kind of steak house experience try Strip House on 12th and University.

                        Hope that helps

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Gordognyc

                          Thanks for the recs, Gordognyc. You even managed to stay away from asian and sushi recs! ;)
                          I, too, am a (former) GVer and have been to several of the places you mentioned. Glad to hear several of them are still around!

                        2. some of my favorite things when im in new york:

                          go to russ and daughters to pick up some fish before walking up to ess-a bagel
                          katz's is worth checking out too. i prefer langers in LA but katz's has a nice old school vibe.
                          kossars bialy's
                          nathans at coney island (for the experience)
                          the doughnut factory
                          lots of pizza (by the slice)
                          polish food in greenpoint
                          senegalese food in harlem (the dibiterie is probably one of my favorites)
                          bosnian food in astoria
                          the best thing in flushing that we cant get in LA is xinjiang food (including the roadside yang rou chuar vendor)

                          i usually end up getting a few prix fixe lunches at high end spots. saves you a penny... i guess jean georges v. would be pretty "new york" or maybe you should have a meal at a mario batali restaurant since ours hasnt opened yet.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: modernist

                            That roadside vendor of Xinjiang-style food is NO WAY worth a trip from Manhattan! His stuff is just OK!

                            1. re: modernist

                              the dibiterie? do tell more, modernist

                            2. I've actually worked at Junior's Cheesecake, and I've tried every single thing on their menu and to tell you the truth. If you want a magnificent slice of New York Cheesecake, Carnegie Deli is WAYYYYYYY better. The only reason Junior's is legendary is because of it's history in New York and they've kept their store and recipe the same for over 50 years originating with their first store opened in Brooklyn.

                              They have in recent years branched out to two other locations. THEY are the ones who call their cheesecake the "worlds most fabulous cheesecake," it's completely self proclaimed, yet it has done wonders for their reputation. Specifically, their cheesecake is very very soft and creamy and extremely sour in flavor. The Strawberry Topping I should warn you is the most dreadful thing I've ever encountered in my life. You can taste the red dye immediately as it rapes your taste buds with its sticky hardened gel consistancy, it has an inpalatable sour aftertaste, not to mention it's sprinkled with these little bland chewy peanut bits. If you MUST get a slice of Juniors, your safest bet is the plain, although I must warn you the one at Cargagie Deli is a million times better, and that's where you'll find just really good cheesecake without loads of hype and shameless self-promotion...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: zen_grace

                                I have to agree...on my last visit, I tried many slices of cheesecake. Carnegie was the best, Juniors was the worst.