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Looking for a Uniquely New York Restaurant

I'll be in town a couple of times over the next several weeks, and will be looking for a restaurant or two that is the type of offbeat place that could only be found in Manhattan (such as the Diamond Dairy or Burger Joint). Any suggestions? I'd prefer it to be casual and reasonably priced (no more than $60 for two people, including a drink or two). Thanks!

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  1. The Nomad is wonderful North African cuisine on Second between 4th and 5th.

    1. Not really sure what you're looking for, but how about a good pizza place? (I'm partial to Lombardi's on Spring Street).

      Or there's Momofuku, a ramen joint in the East Village.

      Both, I think, would be within your price range.


      4 Replies
      1. re: slynnkiino

        I'm basically looking for anything that's offbeat and quirky, not too expensive, and has table service. The type of cuisine isn't important, since I like nearly every kind of food!

        1. re: hiddenboston

          I don't know whether to be very complimented or appalled at the notion that NYC has a monopoly on offbeat and quirky. But what about Freeman's? I've never been but they built their reputation on offbeat and quirky. (Hidden at the end of an alley, weird decor, unusual food specials such as "devils on horseback" made of prunes.)

          1. re: Brian S

            I'd say you guys are lucky to have so many offbeat restaurants in your city. Here in Boston, we used to have a lot of quirky places, but they seem to be closing by the day, often being replaced by upscale bistros or Applebee's.

            I'd love to go to Freeman's, but my S.O. is an animal lover, and I'm not sure she'd like what's on the walls there. :-b

            1. re: hiddenboston

              Lots of us love animals. They're delicious!
              Honestly, I think Freeman's is worth going to anyway for the type of vibe you specified. I believe she can be seated without any trophy heads in her field of vision, though it's been a while since I went to Freeman's.

              How about Caracas Arepa Bar (E. 7th St. and 1st Ave.) it's quirky and unique, and the food is Venezuelan, inexpensive, and delicious. Get it before Chavez somehow nationalizes it by proxy ;)

              Seriously though, Katz's Deli is as NYC as it gets. Though from what I've been hearing on the board lately, getting table service there means your sandwich won't be as good. Best to stick to counter service, and then sit down at one of the tables reserved for counter service.

      2. Veselka, the polish diner in the East Village is pretty unique and well within your price range. And of course there is Katz's deli - a NY institution.

        5 Replies
        1. re: wingman

          I've been to Veselka a few times. Definitely a good place, especially combining it with the nearby Veniero's afterwards for dessert.

          1. re: hiddenboston

            Whenever someone mentions Veselka, I feel compelled to suggest East Village Ukranian Restaurant (yes, that's the name) on Second Avenue instead. A much more offbeat and pleasant experince both in terms of food and atmosphere.

            I used to live in Boston and don't remember any Sri Lankan there so would suggest Sigiri on 1st Avenue.

            1. re: mashpee

              No, we have no Sri Lankan restaurants anywhere in Boston. I'll have to look at their online menu to see what they have (if they have an online menu!).

              1. re: mashpee

                I so agree! It's actually called Ukrainian East Village Restaurant, and it's in the building that says Ukrainian National Home on the front @140 Second Ave. It is a uniquely New York dining experience and while it won't win any culinary awards it is fun with cheap, stick-to-your ribs "cuisine." Reminds me of my Russian grandmother's home cooking. Disclaimer: Not a gathering place for the beautiful people!

            2. re: wingman

              Veselka is Ukranian. I won't repeat my comments on what I think of it, except to agree with mashpee's remarks above (except for the suggestion of Sigiri, where I had overly old fish with a sauce that was oversalted to my taste the one time I went there).

            3. Azul Bistro on the LES might fit your bill. It's an Argentinean place and they serve some of the best meat in NY.

              Here's a pretty good overview of the place from a usually unreliable website/mailing list. http://www.thrillist.com/archives/200...

              1. I'd go to Arturo's before Lombardi's. Family run pizza place filled with locals. The (sort of gross) bathroom still has a bathtub in it. Live jazz on a random schedule next to the tiny bar.

                If you want only in New York quirky, how about Chumley's? The burger is supposed to be Top 10. (I prefer Corner Bistro.)

                In my neighborhood there is a really quirky place with good cheap food called Mooncake Foods. One of the websites describes it as being home-cooked by your Shanghai mom or something like that.

                In Boston, I assume you've been to Casa Romero underneath L'Espalier? The best.

                8 Replies
                1. re: ronoc

                  A bathtub? You have to be kidding me. I'm there!

                  I like Casa Romero a lot. And since nobody else does, it's not too tough to get a seat there. ;-p

                  I'm very familiar with Chumley's. Go there nearly every time I'm in NYC. They do have a good burger there...

                  1. re: ronoc

                    Quirky, yes. And the pizza is terrific.

                    Don't make the tourist/rookie mistake of ordering anything other than pizza.

                    1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                      arturo's thirded. it has a fabulous atmosphere, and if you like mussels then the "hot mussels with biscuit" (mussels in a spicy red sauce over a giant, cheesy garlic bread crouton) are a must-order.

                    2. re: ronoc

                      Definitely Arturo's -- some of the best NY pizza in a really great setting.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        Can you get a slice and a beer at the bar at Arturo's? Or don't they sell slices?

                        1. re: hiddenboston

                          No slices. Only pies and waiter service.

                          For great slices (in a place with no atmosphere or anything) go a few blocks west of Arturo's to DeMarco's take-out area. (Avoid their restaurant where inferior chefs give inferior pizza to bad waiters who serve you slowly.)

                          1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                            I love DeMarco's, but I'd still go to Arturo's for the atmosphere. Coal oven pizza with jazz accompaniment (no cover, as I recall) it's so NYC...

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              Correct. No cover, no drink minimum.

                    3. Across the street from Diamond Dairy is Taim Tov, another "only in New York" gem. Try Prime Burger in midtown. The old single person table/desks are still there.

                      1. La Nacional-delicious paella in funky, not fancy, setting in a Spanish social club on W. 14th Street.

                        1. If you've never been, try McSorley's. Yes, it's can be a touristy bar, but if you go at the right time (3:00 in the afternoon) you can nosh on bar food in the midst of a truly unique environment. There are wishbones still hanging on chandeliers, placed up there by World War I soldiers who never returned.Before you go, read Joseph Miller's description in his anthology "Up in the Old Hotel."

                          Another quirky New York bar/tavern is the Ear Inn. Again, the food isn't much but the atmosphere is unique.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rodrigo

                            McSorley's is a great idea. I'd recommend Corner Bistro as well.

                          2. Sit at the counter of Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop on 22nd and 5th Avenue. Have an egg cream and an egg salad sandwich.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                              Oh man, Eisenberg's. My uncle who lives in Kensington knows about that place. I guess some of my family down in NYC really likes it. Great suggestion! Maybe we'll hit it for lunch.

                              1. re: hiddenboston

                                I like Eisenberg's and there is something very New York about the lunch counter, but the food really isn't destination quality.

                            2. Oh yes, and another example is the secret burger joint 'behind the curtain' in the Parker Meridien on 57th. In the lobby; great burgers, inimitable scene, and you'll be on your way in under 40 minutes.

                              - Sean

                              1. How about Sammy's Roumanian? Also Fraunces Tavern is v. interesting and New Yorky

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bronwen

                                  Sammy's is indeed VERY New York, but the food is nearly inedible. Go for the experience (summer camp for grown-ups) and the table side chopped liver.

                                  1. Great great pizza at Patsy's on 117th and 1st Ave. if you are able to make the trip uptown. Pizza is completely different from the other franchise locations.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: akk

                                      That's a great suggestion. And Patsy's has slices and beer...but no jazz.

                                    2. Ok - some hardcore foodies might jump on me for this, but I've got a real soft spot for the Minetta Tavern on MacDougal and Minetta Lane. I've had some decent meals there, but I enjoy it even more for the nice cocktails and the ambiance. The place hasn't changed a wit since its glory days of Joseph Mitchell, Broadway hoofers and village eccentrics. I love taking out-of-towners there as it captures a nice bit of mid-20th Century nostalgia perfectly.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: earla3

                                        I like the Minetta Tavern too. The place is a doorway back to the New York of the 1940s. Great for drinks and atmosphere. I've had a number of pretty good meals there. The only miss was when I went with a group of about 14. The kitchen couldn't handle the volume.

                                      2. Also: http://www.pjclarkes.com. I've only been there for lunch. The food is consistently solid and you can't beat the old tyme decor. Sounds like you might enjoy Prime Burger as well - 51st just east of 5th, I think.

                                        1. on chrystie street, sammy's roumanain. as new york unique as there is.

                                            1. re: dish

                                              sucelt is closed, alas. Used to go there ofter for the chicken soup and empanadas.

                                            2. Have you been to Salts in Cambridge? Best in the Boston area. Only Grammercy Tavern compares in my dining experience.

                                              Ear, Fatty Crab, Momofuko, Corner Bistro, Beppe, and Aquavit does a 24.07 3-course lunch all the time. The Flight of different Aquavit flavors are a good deal too.

                                              I miss Shopsin's, McHales and even the Grange Hall. Nothing like having a cocktail at that beautiful art deco bar with the Savior of the Prohibition FDR starin' back at ya!

                                              Go to Brooklyn and discover, APT 138, Sample, Frankie's, Noodle Pudding, Cocotte, Press 195, Rachel's, The Good Fork, Alma, Etc...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: NYCBaby

                                                Shopsin's is definitely back! In the Essex Street Market. Still indefinable. check it out:

                                              2. Pies & Thighs is very uniquely NYC (tiny kitchen of a dive bar, with concrete "garden" next to the Williamsburg bridge) and is delicious, but its in brooklyn and tough to get too. Diner in williamsburg is also a great option for this.

                                                In Manhattan, i'd recommend aki sushi on West 4th for sushi (also tiny, above a frat-bar) or John's for pizza and pitchers of beer, though neither are especially off-the-wall.

                                                1. Joe's Shanghai on Pell Street in Chinatown. Can't beat the soup dumplings and the tofu w/pork shred and jalapeno is fantastic. Cheap, too.

                                                  1. Is the White Horse Tavern in the West Village worth checking out, or is it too touristy these days? I never got around to going there.

                                                    1. I'd recommend chinatown, maybe the New Big Wang on Bayard & Elizabeth. Have noodles, the double lobsters, sauteed string beans and anything else. Sammy's can get expensive but it's certainly unique. There's a great sushi place that few people seem to be aware of on 7th Avenue South below Bleecker called (I think) Edo. It's easy to get in and is a few blocks below Sushi Samba. There's a Peruvian chicken place - also on 7th Ave. South (just below Grove on the West side of the street) called Pardo's. Moustache in the West Village is delicious middle-eastern, not much on ambiance, but cheap and good. For pizza with atmosphere I'd recommend John's on Bleecker.

                                                      1. I still like the White Horse Tavern during the week. Its never changed and you can see Paul Rudd there! he is RuddTastic!

                                                        1. The Old Town Bar on E. 18th near Union Square would work for you. The fixtures and vintage are similar to P.J. Clarke's but the prices and vibe are friendlier. The burger is fine, a bit smaller than the standard NY bar burger but very much like the ones you'd get at Clarke's. And fries are included. :-)


                                                          I'll also put a kind word in for the White Horse Tavern on Hudson St. in the West Village. Another ancient bar notorious for the story that poet Dylan Thomas frequented the place and drank mightily.

                                                          They serve a classic New York pub burger. Bigger than the ones at Clarke's and the Old Town, it is really flavorful with a nice char on the outside, cooked medium rare as requested and very juicy. The bun is soft and and sort of flimsy - not quite a good match for a burger with this much juice. I cut the burger in half to make it easier to pick up and by the time I was ready for the 2nd half the bun was falling apart. I wound up finishing it with a knife and fork but it tasted terrific.

                                                          Served with thick steak fries, the cheese burger is an amazing bargain at $6.25. (American, Cheddar, mozzarella, or Swiss.) The beer list was not all that long. I had a couple of draft Yuenglings, perfect for a sticky mid September night.


                                                          The White Horse has been around for a long time and I got the feeling that the staff doesn't spend much time scrubbing and buffing the interior. There are some stains on the tables that were left by Dylan Thomas.

                                                          1. Well, I just got back from New York and we did find some rather interesting New York restaurants and bars! Here is where we went:

                                                            -Burp Castle (East Village) for terrific Belgian ales. Kind of a strange place, but I did love the beer selection.

                                                            -Arturo's (Greenwich Village) for excellent pizza--and I saw that bathtub in the rest room; very weird!

                                                            -White Horse Tavern (West Village) for beers--I loved the place; lots of history, interesting crowd, nice street scene/people watching through the windows.

                                                            -Moran's (Lower Manhattan) for dinner--the food was better than at most Irish pubs I've been to, and the place is very cozy and comfortable; they had the fireplace going that night.

                                                            -George's (Lower Manhattan)--decent breakfast place, though the service was slow.

                                                            -Focacceria (Greenwich Village) for dinner--one of the few places I go back to again and again in the city; love the mushroom ravioli there.

                                                            I hope to get back to New York next month, and again in May. Hopefully I can get to a few more places that were suggested here. Thanks again!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: hiddenboston

                                                              Thanks for reporting back. Be sure to check in when you visit your next round of restaurants. It will be good to read your reports.