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Dining alone in Chelsea, and authentic local Italian anywhere in NYC recs needed

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My husband and I are coming to NYC this week for a job interview, and he's got a dinner to attend Thursday night. We've been to NY 4 times, most recently last summer, so we're not first timers. This trip, we're staying in Chelsea and hope to explore the Village more thoroughly than in prior trips.

I'll be on my own for dinner Thursday night, and I would love to get some suggestions for great places to get a nice meal, $20 or less for an entree, where I can people watch and/or read. I like Italian, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Korean, Polish, German... I am fairly open to cuisine. Location, quality, and service are more important to me.

Second, we want a great Italian dinner. Do we need to go to Brooklyn for that? We've done Carmine's, which was good (a friend took us) but a little too chain restaurant/fancy Olive Garden/Maggianos-ish to me. Locally owned northern Italian would be top choice. Location unimportant since we can make the time to go wherever.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. In Chelsea for Italian, I really like Le Zie, 19th Street & 7th Avenue (212) 206-8686. You'll feel comfortable dining there alone or with your husband. There are also a bunch of Italian restaurants on 8th Avenue in Chelsea but I'm partial to Le Zie.

    In the West Village, I like Da Andrea at 557 Hudson Street at Perry Street. They don't take reservations except for larger parties.

    Grand Sichuan at 24th Street & 9th Avenue has very good spicy Chinese food. If you do a search on Chowhound, you'll find many posts and recommendations.

    1. I find most NYC restaurants make it comfortable for solo diners. I would second Le Zie. It's wonderful. You could also go eat at the bar at Lupa in the village and almost do a pasta and app for about $20 (maybe a couple dollars more). That would give you the chance to try some of NYC's absolute best. For your solo night, you could try Rocking Horse or Suenos for upscale Mexican in Chelsea. Hmmmmm. Grand Sichuan is great.

      There's no need to go to Brooklyn for great Italian but I think the best in Brooklyn in Al Di La in park slope. I'm not sure it's much better than Lupa and certainly not as good as Babbo. enjoy your trip!

      Jeremy

      1 Reply
      1. re: JeremyEG

        I'll third Le Zie. Been there 3 times, each has been great. A little noisy, but in a good way. If it's two of you, get the seafood extravaganza thingy, it's absurdly good and fresh.

      2. You could try Nooch for your solo night (8th avenue and 17th street). They have both Japanese and Thai food, and have very good Tom Yam noodles. You can definitely be in and out for under $20.
        For Italian, I really like Arezzo on 22nd between 5th and 6th but it does feel a little "business" like.

        1. I also have to put in a recommendation for Le Zie. I often recommend it to people that are dining solo since there are often a lot of solo diners there but it is also great no matter how many people you go with. Make sure you order the sampler as an appetizer, you will love it.

          1. LaZie is very good. I would head over to the East Village and choose between Frank on 2nd Ave. bet. 5 and 6th or Supper (owned by Frank) on 2nd St. bet. A & B. I've never had a bad bite of food at either. They are delicious.

            1. For your solo dining evening, you could try the Black Pearl, on 26th between 6th and Broadway, which just relocated to Chelsea last week. They have a nice bar which I'm hoping proves to be a great place for a solo meal, since I'm planning to spend some time there!

              It's gonna take some time for this place to settle in, but I still think it would meet your needs nicely.

              1. I'd recommend eating at the bar at The Red Cat.

                1. Thanks, guys! We're hoping for Le Zie tomorrow night for dinner.

                  Meanwhile I have a shorter challenge: we landed tix for a show tonight (Thurs), so we'll be heading out for pre-show drinks and need a post-show dinner.

                  I'm thinking tapas for late night since it will be around 11. Our hotel is in Chelsea/Flatiron, but we're willing to cab to Tribeca, UES, UWS, LES, etc. Any last-min recs for a nice tapas restaurant that will serve us around 11 pm?

                  Thanks again!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: heids

                    bar jamon, 17th between irving and third, which is mostly cold plates but open until around 2am. promise to finish with the churros and hot chocolate. groundbreaking it isn't, but it's a nice way to end your day.

                  2. Tintol, in the Theater District, on 46th St., b/t 6th & 7th Avs., serves Portuguese tapas until midnight.

                    http://www.tintol.net

                    1. Sorry for the delay in replying - I've been sick with a cold.

                      Trip report from New York:

                      First, what a great trip to such a fabulous city! This was our fifth visit, so we skipped a lot of the regular touristy stuff to do some walking around in the village and lower Manhattan.

                      We arrived midday on Wednesday, and after checking into the hotel, we walked a few streets over to Grand Sichuan for a late lunch. Thank God we thought ahead and skipped all the crappy airport food.

                      Because we're pigs, we ordered the hot and sour soup, the tea duck, chicken with chinese broccoli, and once they served the guy at the next table the sauteed bok choy, we had to add that to our feast. My husband ate like a man on death row getting ready to take the Long Walk. It was pretty impressive.

                      The hot and sour soup was outstanding, and I was floored by how much veg came with the chicken dish. There was some tiny red spice pods of some sort that I didn't recognize, and if you bit down on one, it really stuck with you for a bit. I'm not sure what it was, but it was a good addition and gave a subtle flavor to the dish, assuming you didn't chomp down on the actual pods. The duck was my least favorite thing, but I'm very hot and cold with duck. Husband loved it and ate the entire dish. The bok choy was seasoned with sesame oil and the perfect amount of salt, and I think garlic too. Outstanding. Major thanks to everyone who recommended this restaurant.

                      We waddled around the area for a while to get a feel for the area, eventually getting back to the hotel after an hour or so. My husband left for his dinner interview, and I settled into a food coma, which was several hours old at that point. I never did get particularly hungry, and it was bitter cold out, so I just went to Whole Foods and grabbed some small cuts of cheese, a sourdough roll, an apple, and their cappuccino truffles. A few blocks down was a wine store, where I grabbed a split of wine and went back to the hotel. I hung out, watched Sopranos and noshed. I know, I know. Theoretically a missed opportunity, but I was tired and not that hungry!

                      Thursday I was on my own for the day, so I went sightseeing, grabbed an overpriced prosciutto sandwich at some little Italian restaurant on Madison Ave (worth it for the people watching - the women at the table beside me had struggles I can't imagine - a maid who didn't clean under the beds, and a toss up between a pair of Louboutin pumps or this Burberry coat that would be PERFECT with her boots.... and I'm not kidding), then walked around for a few more hours on the strength of a double cappuccino from one of the countless Starbucks.

                      That evening, we got tix to see Barry Manilow at Madison Square. What a show! Super awesome and a great NY experience. We grabbed drinks in Penn Station pre-show, then headed back toward the hotel, getting some late bar food en route. Nothing of note foodwise to report.

                      Friday morning we started off at Malibu Diner. I'm not sure why it's called Malibu, but the food was great - good pancakes, and again, great people watching. We walked to Greenwich, wandering aimlessly and eventually landing at Greenwich Letterpress, one of my destinations each time I come to the city. After purchasing a bunch of cards, we continued walking around and eventually took the subway to Lower East Side. If you get the chance, go to the Tenement Museum. It was really interesting and great.

                      After that was over, we were pretty much starving, but didn't want to pig out since we knew we had a big dinner coming that night. That said, we were super bummed when we got to Bar Jamon, thinking we would have a light nosh to hold us over, only to find out they weren't open until 5. It was 3:30 and would have been embarrassing to wait an hour and a half outside.

                      After wiping away our tears, we walked, nay, shuffled aimlessly, up the street, and headed into Pete's Tavern. Pete's ale was good, and we picked the cold antipasto plate. It was enough to tide us over, and did I mention the beer was good? Seriously, it was a good plate but it was nothing to write home about.

                      That evening, we cleaned up and headed to Le Zie. We did not have a reservation and arrived around 7:30, headed to the bar, and were seated about 20 mins later. Easy Peasy, and on a Friday night at that!

                      I LOVE YOU PEOPLE.

                      That was the best Venetian meal since I was in Venice! We ordered the seafood platter and I was almost embarrassed at the heft of it when it came out. Beautiful presentation, fresh, and delicious. The calamari salad was probably my favorite thing on the plate.

                      We split the primi and secondi courses, ordering the pici and the salt-encrusted sea bass, and a side of spinach with pine nuts and garlic. Outstanding and the perfect size for a first course. It was very lightly buttery, and just perfect.

                      After that, they brought out and prepared the fish. The seabass is totally encrusted in salt, and they crack that open, the serve the filets with a little sauteed greens for presentation. It was utterly delicious and so flavorful. Very delicate and not too much. Outstanding. For dessert, we ordered the chocolatissimo (think hot chocolate cake) and the panna cotta. Both were great. Oh - and the wine list, not crazy expensive. We picked the Kris Pinot Grigio, which I actually really like. It's a cheaper wine ($35 there,$12 at your local wine shop) but we decided to go for a reasonable wine and spend the cash on the food - it was a wise choice, and the Kris went very well with everything.

                      Le Zie was the culinary highlight of the trip,and I think it would have been that way regardless of where else we ate. Fantastic, can't wait to go back.

                      Saturday we headed home after another stop at Malibu (hey, we were short on time and it was around the corner!) for a quick breakfast.

                      Thanks NY Board for helping us find some great new food experiences!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: heids

                        Thanks for the great report! Out of curiosity - b/c the place sounds familiar - what was the Italian place - or around where on Madison? Looking forward to trying Le Zie - will put it on the short list!

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Don't get too worked up about Le Zie. Don't get me wrong: the place is great. But it's not the type of place that's gonna blow you away. What's great about it is that it's a down-to-earth neighborhood Italian restaurant serving good fresh and entirely unpretentious food.

                          1. re: Blumie

                            Unforunately these days, a "down to earth neighborhood Italian restaurant serving fresh and entirely unpretentious food" will blow most people away. There are just not too many of them left.

                            1. re: Blumie

                              "What's great about it is that it's a down-to-earth neighborhood Italian restaurant serving good fresh and entirely unpretentious food."

                              Isn't that exactly why it's so good? There is entirely not enough of this in NYC! A classy, delicious, fresh meal that won't kill your wallet? I'm worked up about it!

                              Besides, I refuse to entertain hopes of ever eating at Per Se or Del Posto... I'm a grad student. I had to apply for food stamps this week, for Pete's sake!

                          2. re: heids

                            Thanks for your wonderful informative fun report. I'm so glad you enjoyed Le Zie - it's one of my favorite go-to Italian restaurants when I'm in Chelsea.

                            Come back soon.

                          3. Thanks for your report! Le Zie is really great and underrated I think. Come back soon!

                            Jeremy

                            1. For others looking for great Italian, I'd go to Lupa for a delicious, be it slightly pricier meal, or Max on Avenue B for hot, inexpensive, and delicious pasta. It's cash only though.

                              1. The place on Madison sounds like Via Quadronno, but I could be wrong.