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Coming to NYC 1/31 - 2/3, and need specific suggestions...

Greetings fom Chicago. We need a bit of guidance to augment our research and recs from friends with respect to a few things. We'll be staying in Midtown (3rd Ave & 52nd St), and here's the docket to date:

Day One: Pizza! I want good NY pizza for my birthday which is 1/31). We've gotten some money suggestions in Lombardi's, John's (Times Square location), and Una Pizza Mapoletana. Verdict? Other suggestions?

Day Two: Primary activity du jour is seeing St. John's v. Georgetown at MSG. Tip time is early - 7:00 PM. I'm thinking late lunch at Katz's, and cocktails after, or the same at Keen's - pub menu. How dressy is Keen's? What would be a good solid non-foofy bar afterwards, either in the MSG area or the area of our hotel?

Day Three: Broadway, play TBD. Assuming 8:00 curtain. Dinner: Becco, which is in the area, or early-ish at Lupa (or Babbo)? Alternate suggestions welcome, of course.

More inquiries to follow, no doubt. Thanks! :o)

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  1. for day three you could also have dinner at Esca, which is another Mario Batali place (does seafood) in the Times Square area that's used to accomodating the theater crowd. Recently had their squid ink pasta with baby cuttlefish and hot peppers, and their grilled octopus with giant white beans, both excellent; pasta was on par with what's at Lupa.

    1. A 'good solid non-foofy bar' in the MSG area = STOUT.

      1. Day 1 - Most Hounds would agree that the best pizza in NYC is to be found at Di Fara, in Brooklyn. Worth the trip. (Note: The place is a dump.)

        Day 2 - You can dress casually at Keens.

        Day 3 - Not a fan of either Becco or Esca. My pick for an Italian restaurant in the Theater District would be Roberto Passon.


        3 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          Thanks, folks. Responses:

          1) Esca was investigated, but my traveling/dining companion, while not a fussy man, hates fish. All fish, save shellfish. HATES. *sigh* That squid sure sounds tasty...

          2) "Stout" is a great name for a bar. Thanks!

          3) Di Fara, eh? We love dumps, seriously. Will investigate. Ditto for Roberto Passon. Good news about Keen's re dress - I think that will be a go with Mr. No Fish. Again, thanks a mil.

          As noted, I'll be here asking more nosy Q's as departure time grows closer. Can't wait.

          1. re: sundevilpeg

            I've never been to Stout, but while you're at Keen's, at least peek into their bar room to look at the giant scotch selection and painting of Miss Keens, as well as the 3 trivia questions of the day.

            1. re: kathryn

              Will do. I plan to get us there early enough to poke around before we have to leave for the St. John's/Georgetown game at MSG. Thanks for the tip!

        2. Day 2- If you want dessert after Katz', try Laboratorio del Gelato. Unless its cold out... their only seating is a bench outside.


          1 Reply
          1. re: The Engineer

            Whoa. All the more reason to come back when it's warmer, like baseball season, which Mr. No Fish, a White Sox fan, is resoundly in favor of. Works for me, too. Thanks, Engineer. That's quite a website. Mmmm-mmmm!

          2. Thought I'd weigh in on your pre-theater plans. Lupa and Babbo are both great Mario restaurants, but I give the nod to Lupa. I liked the ambience better and found the food to be a touch better. If you go, I suggest the ricotta gnocchi with sausage & fennel, which is amazing (and can also be found in one of Mario's cookbooks.) Both those places ARE pretty far from the theater district though. My personal favorite for pre-theater dining is The Modern- Bar Room, attached to the MoMA. They have a bunch of small and medium sized plates that are great for sharing and the servers will get you to the theater in time (it's only a few blocks from the theaters.) Enjoy!!

            1. Day One:

              While Di Fara is indeed an experience, it's a huge hike out of your way, so you may want to consider closer places.

              Stay away from John's at Times Square. Major tourist trap. Terrible pizza.

              Try Grimaldi's (under the Brooklyn Bridge) over Lombardi's. The two are often compared with each other and Grimaldi's usually wins out. Lombardi's has declined majorly over the years.

              Una Pizza Napoletana is excellent. Just be aware that it's authentic Italian Neapolitan-style pizza, NOT New York-style. So if you're looking for a "traditional" New York experience, this isn't it. That said, I'd love to have a birthday dinner here.

              Keep in mind that (except Di Fara), these are all table service restaurants with large lines and no reservation policies. So be prepared to wait and be thankful we're having such a mild winter this year.

              1. mgce -

                Thanks! That's what I've been looking at with respect to pizza. Chicago has several elatively newish Naples-style pizza places, with wood-burning ovens and such - the one that's five minutes from my house even refuses to cut the pizza up for you, claiming that it "...compromises the integrity of the crust" (!). I really like the place, myself, but Mr. No Fish isn't too keen on it. Hmmmm...

                Grimaldi's, eh? I'll give it a look-see. No worries about the lines and weather and such - it's been the same here in Chicago, plus we are showing up at the nadir of low season, which works for our purposes. Again, I really appreciate your - and everyone else's - feedback and strong, honest opinions.

                1. oh, please skip grimaldi's and una pizza napolitana- both huge wastes of money (UPN especially)- grimaldi's is very meh these days and upn is just redikolous... for GREAT NY pizza, Difara is the tops by a mile, a hassle but worth it. for MUCH less hassle, and some good pies, try the patsy's uptown - the original- classic ny pies, no fuss. i never understood why people actually wait on line for grimaldi's...
                  also don't miss:
                  Russ and Daughters- best jewish appetizer spot (no tables- eat on the bench outside)- amazing everything.
                  Katz's- far from the best, it's the only one left- to get better pastrami you'll need to travel to the boroughs (ben's best in queens, mill basin kosher or jay and loyd's in brooklyn, harold's in jersey, montreal for shwartz's- i guess that's fat), so don't stress it, go to katz's, get a crisp dog and a knish, the pastrami is ok, try the brisket- usually very good at katz's.
                  Babbo- spectacular
                  also also recommended- Sripapai- thai place in queens, super authentic, Jackson Diner queens- amazing indian food, north and southern dishes (uttapam, idly, dosas), Peter Luger- oh best steak around, Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop- old school ny luncheonette- great egg and tuna salads. enjoy fb
                  p.s. you are from chicago, don't waste your time on any ny mexican- you guys have us beat hands down on that front- in ny, if you want latin cuisines you are better off sticking to dominican food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: frankbooth

                    Don't let Frank steer you away from the pastrami at Katz's. That's the reason to go there. Don't get a hotdog or a knish!!

                  2. Went to dinner/movie with Mr. No Fish tonight; told him about Keen's, Stout, Katz's, and the varying Friday pre-theatre advice. Being that we were at one of our go-to's for pizza tonite (we have two: a go-to super-thin crust, Candelite Lounge, and a go-to deep-dish, Pizano's), both of which are a pain to get to for one of us, travel for a good pizza isn't out of the question. I guess we'd like to stay in Manhattan, but seeing that he drove 79 Chicago city blocks (!) into a marginal neighbohood for Candelite pizza and garlic fries tonight, I was pleased to hear that a long cab ride wouldn't faze him in the least.

                    So....Patsy's? And why is DiFara such a hassle? Any other nominees? The vehemence of opinions here is great - just as is the case in Chicago...and again, thanks for all of the help and suggestions.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: sundevilpeg

                      Re: DiFara. Are we talking hassle to get there or hassle once you are there? If it's about getting there, it's easily accessible via the subway.

                      As for the hassle when you get there, when it's very busy, it can take a *very* long time to get your pizza. And there is very little seating. This can be avoided by going off-hours.

                      Since you say you are willing to go well out of your way for great pizza, then DiFara is a definite must!

                      For more detailed discussion, you should post on the Outer Boroughs board.

                      1. re: sundevilpeg

                        Di Fara is far away from where you're staying (about an hour on the train), they don't have a lot of staff, they're really popular, Dom is slow (he's old and takes his time carefully making the pizza) and the lines are long (say an hour or so).

                        Here's a great writeup by another CH poster:

                        And another review:

                        1. re: sundevilpeg

                          You'll probably love Patsy's. It's an authentic old-school New York experience that, due to being in East Harlem, doesn't get the tourist invasions of Lombardi's, Grimaldi's, etc. I used to practically live there (visited 3+ times per week) and thought it was the best place in the city. Unfortunately my last 6 or so visits haven't been as impressive, so I can't say definitively it's *currently* the best. But you still can't go wrong here.

                          It's at 117th St. & 1st Ave, about a 20 minute subway (including walking) or a 15 minute cab ride from your hotel. Don't get confused by the other "Patsy's" restaurants that have nothing to do with the original. They're not bad, but they're not what you're looking for.

                        2. Stay away form John's Pizza in Times Square. It's a tourist trap. Lombardi in Soho used to be great, but they've expanded seveal times and it seems can no longer handle the volume. The quality is not nearly what it used to be. I would try Pizza Napoletana. I hear good things about it from local pizza afficianados. But, if you really want pizza NYC style, you have to get it by the slice. Joe's Pizza on 6th Avenue just north of Bleeker street is great.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: psawce

                            I don't know if Joe's is great, but it's certainly a very good by-the-slice place. 35-40 years ago there were dozens of places all over the city that made similar quality pizza. In fact, I'd say Joe's is pretty close to what DiFara's was like in the 60s & 70s before Dom got "religion."

                            I've still never been to the original Patsy's, but how about that as a slice option?

                            As good as Di Fara is, you're looking at giving up about 3 hours on a short New York trip.

                            1. re: Peter Cherches

                              Wow! Thanks to you all for your kindness and the passionate responses. I'm going to send this whole shebang to Mr. No Fish in the morning, so we can discuss it all afternoon. :o)

                              More tomorrow. This is going to be quite the trip. Best...Birthday....Ever!

                            1. re: The Foodie

                              Not a nod to the original John's on Bleeker? Tottono's (sp?) in Coney Island..Did Joe's on 6th close? Drove past there on NYEve and it looked like it went out, maybe just closed b/c of the holiday?

                              For an out of towner, Di Fara is too much to handle (the drive, the wait etc)

                              Patsy's would definetly be my recommendation!!