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Coming to NYC from the UK - looking for restaurant recommendations/ideas

I'll be coming to NYC with my boyfriend just before Xmas (14-18 Dec) and am trying to figure out where to eat in that time. I'm a huge foodie, but I also want to eat somewhere that really feels like I'm in New York/USA! I've done so much research, and names such as Bouley, Cafe Boulud, Per se have come up, but I think I want something little less fancy (no jackets required for example). And the idea of a really good French or Italian isn't really a big draw for me. So far I've narrowed my list down to Gramercy Tavern (the bar area) for dinner (is it hard to get a table at the weekend btw, how early should we get there?), Union Square Cafe for casual (bar) lunch and Candle 79 for yet another dinner (we're both vegetarian, tho I eat fish). What do you think? Are these good choices? Any better suggestions? Thank you so much!

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  1. Welcome, Belma79. You'll have a great trip in December! Since both of you are vegetarian, I won't recommend the "great American steakhouse" institution known as Peter Luger's. What's more New Yorkish than an old school steakhouse! Instead, might I suggest Blue Water Grill near Union Square or AquaGrill in Soho. You'll find a variety of fresh, well preparted seafood with great selections. In the East Village, there are several vegetarian, organic, and natural restaurants to choose from: Angelica's Kitchen, Zen Palette, and Pure. Best of all, since these choices are in the Village,no jacket required!

    1. Very few NYC restaurants require jackets. Cafe Boulud does not require them though most of the gentlemen do wear them. So, if that's what stopping you from going there, it shouldn't. The cuisine is superb and, while it is French-inspired, the menus reflect many other nationalities. Plus, one menu is entirely devoted to vegetarian dishes. Service is cordial and polished, and the space has attractive, but not fancy, contemporary decor. Their $24 3-course lunch is an extraordinary bargain though, because choices are limited, it may not work for a vegetarian.

      http://www.danielnyc.com/cafeboulud

      The bar area at Gramercy Tavern is called the Tavern Room. They do not take reservations. Waits can sometimes be as long as an hour or more, particularly on weekends, but you're likely to have luck snagging a table for dinner more promptly if you eat early.

      How about Indian cuisine? I know there is lots of that in the UK (we had some pretty good Indian food in London last time we were there), but even so, I highly recommend Devi, which has truly superb cuisine. Lots of excellent choices for vegetarians, including a vegetarian tasting menu, as well as delicious fish and seafood preparations. Contributing to the wonderful dining experience is a space with unusual and elegant decor. Casual dress is fine. At lunch, they offer a 3-course prix-fixe for $24.07 with good options for vegetarians.

      http://www.devinyc.com

      2 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        So what's arriving "early" at Gramercy Tavern?? 19.00h, or earlier? I really want to try this place, so if I get there around then, on a weekend, am I likely to get a table that night? Thank you!

        1. re: belma79

          You will certainly get a table. That's not the problem. It's a question of how long the wait will be since, as I mentioned, the Tavern Room does not take reservations. Lots of people don't mind waiting. They have drinks and hang out at the bar until a table becomes available. However, there is a better chance of getting a table more quickly for dinner if you show up early, i.e., between 5 and 6 p.m. (17.00h-18.00h). But bear in mind that even that doesn't guarantee there will not be a wait.

      2. I'd skip Indian coming from the UK, it will never come close to what can be had in London/UK in general.

        You should have sushi while you're here if you like raw fish. It's not as good as the west coast but generally much better than what can be had in the UK. Sushi Yasuda, Jewel Bako, Blue Ribbon Sushi.

        As another poster said, its rare you'll find a jacket required in NY. If you want to do high end and go a bit less stuffy, I'd suggest Cru.

        Hearth is excellent and more casual in the E. Village.

        Definitely have pizza while you're in NY. Lombardi's in Soho/Nolita is my personal favorite. Grimaldi's is another popular recommendation if you plan to hop across to Brooklyn. After Lombardi's, go nearby to Rice to Riches for a place that specializes in only rice pudding of various flavors (my favorite is the cherry/marscapone cheese variety).

        Inoteca in LES is a great small plate Italian spot. Also, for high end but not stuffy Italian, Babbo (all of Batali's restaurants are generally very good....Babbo, Lupa, Casa Mono, etc).

        And of course, do the bagel/Jewish deli thing while you're here. A search of chowhound will give you loads of opinions on where 'the best' can be had.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Nehna

          I guess you didn't read too carefully. While they should definitely have a bagel, as well as a bialy, Jewish deli is out because they are *vegetarians*. However, the fish eater can top that bagel or bialy with appetizing from Russ & Daughters (take-out only) or have the sit-down experience at Barney Greengrass. Definitely very NY experiences.

          http://www.russanddaughters.com
          http://www.barneygreengrass.com/welco...
          http://www.kossarsbialys.com

          1. re: RGR

            No, simply forgot when I recommended it. But as you pointed out, jewish deli easily includes bagels with lox.

        2. mermaid inn on second avenue in the east village and tides on norfolk street in the lower east side are both great options for fish-eaters.
          i would stay away from zen palette, though i've heard good things about pure food and wine.

          1. there are far too many good restaurants to cater to your diet than to bother with candle 79. perhaps if you're heading to that neighborhood for the Met or what have you, you can grab a quick lunch at their place on 75th/3rd - candle cafe.

            1 Reply
            1. re: harrison

              have you been to candle 79? would you not recommend it? i liked the idea of it, but i see your point too! i only want to go if its a REALLY good foodie experience. :o)