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Foodie's First New York Trip

I live in SF and I'm going to New York for the first time in my life in early March. I'm excited about the never-ending food selections, but I don't really know where to start.

We're staying in the Gramercy Park 'hood for about four days. I don't mind venturing anywhere in the outer boroughs for something delicious.

There are a few things I want to accomplish gustatorily on this trip. A nice mid-to-upper price range dinner at someplace fairly intimate (maybe a little cutting-edge, too). Authenticity in both Little Italy and Chinatown. A kick ass Jewish Deli. My palate is wide open and any other great suggestions will be appreciated.


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  1. If you can, Gramercy Tavern is one of the best restaurants in NYC and it's right on East 20th!
    Many neighborhood favorites, first that come to mind are Casa Mono (on Irving Place) and Chino's (on 3rd Ave). Delicious!

    1. For soup dumplings, shanghai noodles, scallion pancake, etc. head to Joe's Shanghai or New Green Bo in chinatown. I would think you have better in SF though? You might try instead Momufuku Noodle Bar which has delicious ramen soups and pork buns.

      Stay away from Little Italy....it's a tourist trap. Instead, head to Cacio e Pepe, Hearth, Beppe or if you can get in...BABBO.

      If you want sturgeon and a bagel head to Barney Greengrass. If you don't care about the fish head to Essa Bagel. Sarges is a good Jewish deli as is the renowned Katz's.

      There's a great place for drinks...very city-ish.....called Flatiron Lounge.

      For your highend place you should look into Eleven Madison Park.

      Oh and since you are in the area make sure you grab a hot chocolate at City Bakery and a cupcake from the Cupcake Cafe across the street.

      Have a great trip.

      4 Replies
      1. re: jenniebnyc

        Jennie is right...I would probably skip Chinese (and sushi) while you're here. It's fresher and cheaper in California. Although New Green Bo is a very good choice (I'm fairly certain that soup dumplings aren't as big in SF as they are here), as is any of the Grand Sichuans (there's one in Hell's Kitchen, one in Chelsea, and one in the East Village).

        Make sure you get a bagel (with salmon) and a slice of pizza. If you can't hit up Barney Greengrass, go to Russ & Daughters instead. They'll do take out and make you a bagel sandwich to go. Search around for RGR's noshing on the Lower East Side tour around here! That way you can hit up all of the quintessential New York foods.

        Little Italy is definitely a tourist trap -- I'd eat elsewhere, away from the big sunglasses and imitation purses. Bianca is often mentioned as a good place to eat Italian which is NEAR but not IN Little Italy.

        I like the Flatiron Lounge, but it can get expensive if you order the signature cocktails, and also very crowded.

        Eleven Madison Park is a good choice. If you're going to be visiting the Museum of Modern Art, try to stop by the Bar Room, which is by the same restauranteur, Danny Meyer. (Alas, his hot dog and burger place, Shake Shack, won't be open for the season yet.)

        FWIW, the cupcakes at Cupcake Cafe have superheavy buttercream frosting, which may not be what you're looking for. They're gorgeous but I've always found the cake part to be too dry. My favorite is at Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery.

        Make sure you get a big NYC weekend brunch somewhere. I like Balthazar (reservations recommended) for a good "scene" for visitors from elsewhere. Otherwise, choose Prune, Clinton St Baking Company, Cookshop, Five Points, Sarabeth's, ...there's a whole lot of threads devoted to brunch in NYC.

        And research steakhouses and the infamous Peter Luger if you like red meat.

        Don't forget about street food while you're here: NYC has kimchee dogs, halal carts, German sausages, arepas, dosas, and more. Check this out:

        1. re: kathryn

          Kathryn, Thanks for the mention of my tour.

          AnthonyF, I'll make it easy for you by appending it here:

          Lower East Side Food Excursion

          For the quintessential NYC deli experiences, no place beats Katz's, on the corner of Houston (pronounced "how-stun") & Ludlow Sts. You're there specifically for the pastrami sandwich. When you enter, you will be given a ticket. Instead of opting for table service, do what the "natives" do and get on line for counter service. When you reach the counter, put a $1 for each sandwich in the counterman's tip cup and order pastrami on rye. He'll give you a piece to taste. If you like it (the best pastrami is juicy and has some fat on it), tell him o.k., and he'll make your sandwich, give you some sour pickles, and punch your ticket. Then, continue along the counter for sides – the cole slaw is good -- and drinks. Find seats at a table in the center of the room. (Tables along the wall have menus on them and are reserved for waiter service.) When you’re done, take your ticket to the cashier in front. It's cash only. Note: For the purposes of this tour, unless you have a gargantuan appetite, it would be best to share one sandwich in order to leave room for more tastings along the way.

          When you exit Katz’s, turn left and continue along the same side of Houston St. You will come to Russ & Daughters, famous for all sorts of smoked fish and many other goodies. It's not a restaurant, but they make sandwiches to go.

          After leaving the Russes, continue west a couple of blocks until you reach Yonah Schimmel's. Get a tasty potato knish, and make sure to ask them to heat it up.

          Now it’s time for the quintessential NY drink – the egg cream. So, reverse yourself and head east on Houston until you come to Avenue A. (Note: Avenue A becomes Essex St. on the south side of Houston.) Turn left on A and head north until you get to the block between 7th St. and St. Mark’s Place. Look for a hole-in-the-wall candy shop, closer to 7th, with an overhead sign jutting into the street that says, “Belgian Fries.” (The place’s official name is Ray’s, but there is no signage to that effect.) One of the women behind the counter will make you a delicious chocolate egg cream.

          When you’re finished licking your lips, go back to Houston St. and make a left (east) one block to Norfolk St. Turn right and walk down Norfolk until it ends at Grand St. Two places to look for at the corner of Grand and Norfolk: Kossar's, for freshly baked bialys (another very NY food) and the Donut Plant (self-explanatory).

          Next, walking west along Grand St., you will come to Orchard St. Turn right. At 87 Orchard, snack on a pickle from Gus's World Famous Pickles.

          Then, continue to 97 Orchard, b/t Broome & Delancey, where you will find the Tenement Museum. The tour will show you what life was like for immigrants to NYC at the beginning of the 20th century. (www.tenement.org
          Once you have finished the tour, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, right next door at 95 Orchard, is a must for some of the best gelato anywhere.

          If your sweet tooth is still not completely satisfied, the final stop on this tour should do it. Continue ahead (north) on Orchard, crossing Delancey, then one more block to Rivington St. Make a right and you will find Economy Candy at 145 Rivington.

          Note: It’s best not to take this tour on a Saturday since some of the spots are closed because of religious observance.

          Although it's not part of the tour, Tides is a fish/seafood "shack" on the LES. The food is excellent, and the teensy, cozy interior has attractive decor, including a very unusual ceiling. Steven, the owner, is one of the nicest guys around and goes out of his way to make sure patrons have a first-rate experience. Be sure to tell him that a Hound recommended it.


          Regarding options in the Gramercy Park area, since the Shake Shack will probably not be open yet, you can find an excellent burger at Molly's, a convivial Irish pub, on 3rd Av., b/t 22nd & 23rd Sts. Skip the mediocre fries in favor of the tasty onion rings.

          Enjoy your stay in NYC and Bon Appetit!

          1. re: RGR

            Wow! Sounds great. I know how I'll be spending one of my afternoons when I get out there this summer.

        2. re: jenniebnyc


          thanks for this post. we have reservations for babbo on Sunday. i'll let you know how it turns out.


        3. lots of good lunch opportunities: lupa, gramercy tavern (tavern side) are no-brainers. molly's pub (burgers, shepherds pie, soup AND a fireplace) is solid. casa mono is a favorite. pete's tavern has its moments. shaffer city is a favorite of mine if you like oysters (very interesting if your point of reference is hog island).

          dinners? eleven madison park, peasant, babbo are noteworthy and won't send you running to your broker screaming, "sell." on the whole, i'd recommend keens steakhouse because sf has no counterpart. le bernardin knows fish better than sf but it's pricey. esca, on the other hand, knows seafood and is more approachable.

          enjoy your trip.

          1. I third Babbo. I had one of my most memorable meals EVER there. Make the reservation now.

            1. doing a search for recent posts on chinatown will be of great help to you. there's a ton of good info on what can be an overwhelming topic.

              as steve h. has mentioned, since you'll be in the gramercy area you should grab a burger (with onion rings) or the shepherd's pie at molly's (3rd ave & 22nd). try katz's on the corner of ludlow and houston for pastrami, salami, great steak fries, and one of the classic nyc experiences. a bit further down houston is russ & daughters, which sells wonderful smoked fish, dried fruit, caviar, herring, etc. also noteworthy in that general area is il laboratorio de gelato (orchard st just below delancey). it's not to be missed, in my opinion.

              1 Reply
              1. re: wleatherette

                Here's one Chinatown post. http://www.chow.com/topics/342344 I think Chinatown will be of interest to you because it is the thriving hub of the Chinese community. Yes, people move to the suburbs ... but they come back for feasts and celebrations. Enjoy!

                Oh, and you might want to try the $25 lunch at nearby Fleur de Sel. The same meal at dinner there is over $60. What a deal!

              2. Must do Casa Mono or Bar Jamon since you're in the area. For coffee there is 71 Irving for a good Starbucks alternative. I would suggest lobster rolls at either Mary's Fish Camp or Pearl for lunch one day. Maybe for an old New York feel grab a cocktail at the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis (where the bloody mary originated supposedly) I think it's called a Red Snapper there. Go early afternoon as it gets busy.

                1 Reply
                1. re: roze

                  king cole bar is an excellent call.

                  1. I just got back from NY two days ago... and let me tell you that my friend and I went to one of the best restaurants, not expensive at all and the food was to die for! Go to Po on Cornelia Street and ask for the white bean Bruschetta and the lamb... it melts in your mouth...! And you should try the best Calzone & Pizza at Bleecker Street Pizza on the corner of 7th Avenue and Bleecker Street, and tell Tony that Vannesa from LA sent you there! He is the best! Have fun in NY!

                    1. hi...i concur w/ most of the above...

                      i am moving to SE Asia from NYC in a month or so...these are the places i will miss dearly:

                      -- Russ&Daughters

                      -- Grand Central Oyster Bar, counter/bar only, oysters only...(a must for your first visit here if you like oysters)...

                      -- Lupa

                      -- i like Ushi Wakamaru too...sushi bar only, in front of chef/owner Hideo-san only...

                      Have a great visit...

                      1. I really like Simon's suggestions. Lupa is easier to book than Babbo; I think it's just as good, if not better. (It might also fit your cutting edge, intimate dinner req. if you think offal as the Romans had it is 'cutting edge'. =) Vanessa's suggestion, Po, is excellent, too, though seating is more cramped. Cesca may be a tad overpriced, but if you happen to find yourself uptown and craving Italian, it's worth checking out.

                        Ushi has what I think is the best sushi in town. Right across the street from it, Pegu has some mighty tasty cocktail nibbles to go along with some of the best mixed drinks in town.

                        In addition to Grand Central Oyster Bar, go to Five Points on Great Jones St. on weekdays for their happy hour. They have oysters for a dollar a piece (and some well mixed martinis for something like $4.50 if I remember). Pearl Oyster Bar on Cornelia St. is worth a look, too.

                        If you like Izakaya, check out Yokocho and it's dive bar neighbor down the street, Decibel. Yokocho also does Korean barbecue pretty well, I think. I'd go to Decibel for their smart, extensive sake list and then to Yokocho for food.

                        As for your cutting edge, intimate dinner... I just went to WD-50 last night and I think it's a pretty delicious and interesting dining experience. It weirds some people out, though, so read up about it before you make any plans. Thor could also be interesting. Non-cutting edge, but intimate/pleasant places to look into include Cafe Gray, Pasha (Turkish), and Tabla.

                        For good Chinese food, take the 7 train out to Flushing. Don't be dismayed at your first sight of chain restaurants as far as the eye can see. As soon as you turn off the main thoroughfare, you'll start seeing good dim sum places, bubble tea places, bakeries in every direction. Spicy and Tasty is one place that a lot of people seem to be recommending these days. (I haven't tried it, yet.) If you can't make it out to Flushing, check out the Dumpling House in the LES. For sheer quantity and value, this place is amazing. Otherwise, I'd recommend strolling around Chinatown, using the Grand St. subway station as a starting point, and taking a close look at the varied and interesting (and often delicious) street food.

                        There are one or two other threads similar to this one floating around, by the way. I'd check out the suggestions there, too. This one has a good brainstorm on cheap eats: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367462

                        1. Bear in mind that if the weather is bad, you won't want to stand outside Russ & Daughter, which I think is more useful for residents who are bringing food home. I also think the tour suggests you have an unlimited amount of room to continue eating from one place after another, so though it was a generous suggestion, it may not work. I'm not a fan of Katz's and feel the deli scene has gone downhill. I haven't been to Ben's deli, but that's where my husband sneaks out for his pastrami binges.

                          If you want a fun outing, go to the Chelsea Market on 9th Ave. & 15th St., have a lobster roll and chowder at the fish place and take in the scene. The building is beautifully done and it's a food boutique with a wine store, florist, potpourri of international foods.

                          For good Italian (maybe lunch as it's not fancy) Bar Pitti on 6th Ave. near Bleecker (cash only) is delicoius and reasonably priced. Everything is delicious.

                          We like The New Big Wang in Chinatown (on Bayard & Elizabeth) and be sure to get the twin lobsters with garlic and ginger, roast meats, a noodle dish (maybe pan fried chicken).

                          Tasca on 7th Ave. South & West 10th St. is a new tapas bar but the ones near you may be just as good.

                          The Turkish Kitchen would be my choice for Turkish food.


                          1. Get thee to Queens for Thai--Sripiphrai--look it up on the outer boards, it's legendary. They are closed on Wednesday's--do not go on a weekend--too crowded--great for lunch time--it's very mellow...easy trip on the subway. For great inexpensive Turkish in Manhattan go to Ali Baba on 34st between 2nd and 3rd avenue south side of street..cute and cozy inside, big portions, fresh food. For Indian not expensive, try Banjara or Brick Lane Curry, on 6th street between 1st and 2nd ave. If you're down by World Trade Center area for any reason, check out Sophie's Cuban Cuisine..good place, $8 lunch specials..(they also have a place on 34 and madison as well)--go off lunch hour or they're packed. For high end stuff, you have tons of choices---so, try to narrow your requests and you'll get more responses. Have fun!

                            1. Great thread. I will also be coming from California this summer, and will be taking in many of these recommendations.

                              1. absolutely a must........Frankies 347 on Court Street in Brooklyn. Either for brunch or dinner. It's amazing! very easy to get to. It's a bit on the outskirts of Carroll Gardens which is a great neighborhood and I recommend you walk around. but, go to smith further down by degraw or warren and check out the cute shops.

                                Deborah on Carmine

                                Russ and Daugheters is great

                                Meat packing has lots of great places.....pastis is fun for brunch or balthazar in soho

                                5 Points on Great Jones is great and they use lots fresh local products

                                Franny's on Flatbush in Brooklyn for great thin crust pizza

                                Taksim on 2nd ave for great Turkish - very casual

                                The Odeon in Tribeca for lunch or brunch

                                The one big bang - Hearth, Bouley, Babbo, Del Posto

                                IL Bagatto for Italian on 3rd street

                                I could keep going........Enjoy!

                                1. We just got back from our gala trip to the Big Apple, and the folks here were mighty helpful, so listen to 'em! :o) We loved Lupa - unbelievably good service in addition to the excellent food, and the price is right. Keen's was good, too, though we had a very cranky waiter; I'd advise going for the pub menu, and getting the mutton chop. Just delicious, and something you're not going to find everyday, for sure. We went to the John's Pizza on Bleeker St., and it was everything we could have wanted - great pizza, cold Sierra Nevada, and a bird's eye view of the coal-burning oven (and the pizziaolos). Also, I'll throw in a curve ball - we really liked our post-theatre desserts at Gordon Ramsay's London Bar, which they serve til 11-ish. The rice pudding is just perfection, and it's served with a small scoop of mascarpone/pecan ice cream, just to add insult to injury - and it was only eight bucks. My Customary Dining Companion, who throws compliments around like manhole covers, said it was the best restaurant dessert he'd ever had, period. Good people-watching, too, and comfortable, in an other-worldly way. Also, Ess-a-Bagel will start your day off right - get a toasted sasame with the blueberry cream cheese. Mmmmm-mmmm!

                                  Have fun!

                                  1. What is New York, and New York history? The mob, of course.

                                    Umberto's Clam House

                                    Sparks Steakhouse

                                    That's all you need.

                                    1. please go to veritas in the flatiron district. if you can get in the food is superb. i have been to many many restaurants in nyc. my other faves..
                                      babbo(batali italian)
                                      blue hill(charming,market driven , unpretenscious.. a winner)
                                      casa mono(plentiful, flavorful, creative tapas, great)
                                      cafe gay(time warner, good views of nyc... former chef of lespinnasse an institution)
                                      a voce(former chef of cafe boloud.. more relaxed than his other french spot. get the duck meatballs and cauliflower ravioli)
                                      frannys(great pizza in brooklyn!)
                                      please followupwith me and let me know if you went to any of these or where ever you chose else i'm curious..
                                      oh on my return visit to san fran i was told to visit
                                      chezpanisse (of course)
                                      been to any?

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: jsmitty

                                        That's Cafe Gray of course. http://cafegray.com/ Though Cafe Gay would be a pretty good name for a singles bar with a clientele of gay men.

                                      2. Russ and Daughters is the best smoked fish and assorted Jewish fare in NYC, but you have to take out.

                                        Casa Mono is both over priced and over rated. Stay away.

                                        The same goes for most of little italy. If you want a great, upscale, unpretentious Italian meal go to Al Di La on 5th avenue in brooklyn. Also, you have to get your pizza sorted. I scoured SF for pizza when I was a chef yhere and they have nothing. Go to DiFara in Brooklyn for the real old-school scene and a great off the path experience. Otherwise, hit up Grimaldis in Dumbo. Enjoy!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Mouthfull

                                          I disagree with your assessment of pizza in SF. Perhaps you went there some time ago and things have changed. But for further discussion, I guess we should go to the California board.

                                          1. re: Pan

                                            Please do consider heading to the outer boroughs to try DiFara. There's really nothing remotely like it in SF -- or anywhere else. All the moreso since I hear reports that Patsy's in East Harlem (my other go-to place) has gone seriously downhill. If not, then try Arturo's in the Village, which has coal-oven pizza and a great NY vibe.

                                            If you do Chinese (and I urge you to reconsider) then try soup dumplings, which don't seem as big on the west coast.

                                            For Italian, check out Lupa.

                                            One place that may not occur to you is Azuri Cafe for Israeli-style falafel. I'm beginning to realize there's no place quite like this anywhere else in the US.

                                            For upscale and cutting edge, check out WD-50.

                                          2. re: Mouthfull

                                            its funny how it goes. i couldnot disagree more regarding casa mono. have eaten there several times.every bit is tasty and ample for "small foods"

                                          3. Right down the street in Gramercy is PIPA on 19th between Park & Boardway. It is amazing spanish tapas, with an amazing atmosphere. Went last weekend with a friend from out of town and she absolutely loved it. Best Sangria ever!

                                            Katz Deli is a must as well!

                                            1. Skip out on Manhattan little Italy and head to Arthur Avenue. Roberto's is the best place but there are tons of places for a good sandwich or maybe even a burek. food shopping on arthur avenue is great...there are tons of posts on outer borough board for arthure avenue recommendations. You should check it out.

                                              1. Barney Greengrass was already mentioned for sturgeon which is nice and all, but what you should really do is go there for breakfast and order eggs nova and onion softly scrambled. Get 2 plain bagles on the side. Put some egg on a piece of bagel eat and you will never eat a better breakfast in your life - guaranteed.

                                                I will reiterate Katz's. Get the pastrami. People who say it is bad have no idea what bad deli is. I live in miami now so I am an expert on bad deli and Katz's is no where near it. Katz has the best pastrami sandwich I have ever eaten by a long shot.

                                                Also, heed the warnings on little italy. Tourist trap.