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NYC trip - visitor from Toronto

oohlala Feb 22, 2007 08:03 AM

NEW YORK NEW YORK! I will be visiting NYC the first time this March. I will be staying around the grand central area with 3 other people. I've never been to NYC so I can't really compare how different the two cities are in terms of the food and dining experience. So I really need some NYC chowhounds to give me some insightful inputs for some unique experience in NYC. I want to be able to stuff myself as much as possible for the 2 days that I'm there, so low to mid-range price restaurants/diners/cafes preferably. Real cocoa hot chocolate, yakitori, puerto rican cuisine, that's all I can come up with right now. Anything else? HELP!!!!!!

  1. r
    RGR Feb 23, 2007 09:00 AM

    oohlala, Since this is your first visit to NYC, you might want to consider taking my (in)famous Lower East Side eating "tour," which will give you an opportunity to sample some very New York foods. If you want to stuff yourself without spending a fortune, this is definitely a way to do it.

    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.

    Enjoy your visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

    9 Replies
    1. re: RGR
      k
      kobetobiko Feb 23, 2007 09:07 AM

      Hi RGR, I did include you FAMOUS Lower East food tour in my posting above. (about 5 postings above). Yes, this is the official NYC East Village Food Guide in Chowhound! You have indeed helped out a lot of CH'ers outside of NYC!

      1. re: kobetobiko
        r
        RGR Feb 23, 2007 09:14 AM

        Hi kobetobiko, Thanks for the kind words. I probably read the mention in your previous post, but since previous posts get collapsed, I didn't remember. In any event, this way, oohlala doesn't have to search for it.

      2. re: RGR
        oohlala Feb 23, 2007 11:31 AM

        WOW!!!! hahahahaha, my type of tour~ Kat'z has been mentioned twice and the reviews seem to be pretty consistent from other posts. I think i'll give it a try. Potato knish sounds good too! Chocolate egg cream, mmm, that sounds sinful~ Ok, dilemma, City bakery hot chocolate vs. egg cream, any comments on that? I guess i can always try both! hahahahahha~ Never tried a bialys before (duh), is it salty?

        are there any major sites to see in the LES area? Just trying to think of a way to incorporate this route into my already-crazy-super-schedule~

        1. re: oohlala
          r
          RGR Feb 23, 2007 12:15 PM

          Other than the chocolate flavor, an egg cream and a hot chocolate are not anything alike. The egg cream is a cold drink made with chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer (no eggs or cream).

          Bialys are not salty. Here's Kossar's website with everything you ever wanted to know about bialys + photos:

          http:www.kossarsbialys.com

          1. re: RGR
            oohlala Feb 26, 2007 05:27 AM

            oh yah, if i want to buy bagels, do i just try the ones from kossars? Are these the traditional NY style bagels?

            1. re: oohlala
              r
              RGR Feb 26, 2007 08:46 AM

              I've never tried Kossar's' bagels, but I've heard they're good. H&H bagels are better known and ubiquitous, but I don't like them. Too big and too doughy for my taste. Actually, I'm not a big bagel person, so you're probably better off getting advice from other Hounds.

        2. re: RGR
          oohlala Mar 7, 2007 07:30 AM

          NYC trip was a success (besides from the speeding ticket.......................)!!! So I followed the instructions carefully and tried out all the suggested places at LES. I LOVE THEM ALL!!!!

          Started out with Yommel's knishes. Not only the food was good, the lovely owner also gave my gf asked a pickle for free! When we got to Russ's smoked fish shop, we were so overwhelmed by the smell, we walked out right away and headed to Kat'z. 4 of us ordered one pastrami and one order of brisket. Portion was good but i thought the price was a bit inflated. The pickled tomato was definitely a surprise. It was still cruchy and not overpowered by the salt.
          The bialys (onion and garlic) at Kossar was unique, but will not go back. Unfortunately, donut plant was closed on Monday. We continued the tour and arrived at Guss's pickle shop and I was shocked when I saw buckets of pickled goods lining up in front of the store, waiting to be sold. We bought the regular and spicy pickles, but I still like the pickles from Kat'z more. Headed further north for the gelato place and had avacodo and espresso flavours. The gelato was closer to the texture of the ice cream, but still refreshing.
          By this time, I have been walking for 6 straight hours since 8 am this morning. I was debating if i want to walk all the way up to 7th street to try the quientenssential chocolate egg cream. My gf also bought a large drink there and the total only came up to $3 (suppose to be $2/each), we stared at each other and quickly ran out of the little store. The egg cream tasted extra good maybe because we knew we saved a dollar for the drink~

          Thanx, RGR, I'll definitely be back to NYC!

          1. re: oohlala
            r
            RGR Mar 7, 2007 09:16 AM

            Hey, oohlala, Thanks for the report. Glad you had a great time taking my tour. I guess I should add a note that the Donut Plant is closed on Monday. :-(

            Did you eat at any places suggested by other Hounds or at spots you found on your own?

            1. re: RGR
              oohlala Mar 8, 2007 05:50 AM

              Went to Katsu Hama (lunch) and Yakitori Totto for dinner the day before. Enjoyed both very much. Yakitori totto was perhaps one of the highlights of this trip since Toronto doesn't offer any jap food in the grilling category. The other couple that came with us also checked out Aburiya kobetobiko suggested in the earlier thread and Gyu Kaku (found it by just wondering on the street). They were telling me that Gyu was more catered for locals, but they still love both equally~

              Did go to other random places such as Dean & Deluca and Max Brenner for hot chocolate. Will never go back to dunking donuts, hahahahhaha, our tim hortons is much better, no offense, hahahhahahhaha~

              The trip was pretty rushed so it was quite difficult for us to reserve at any jap/sushi restaurants. I love the city and I know i'll be back more to check out other places! JoJo, Per Se, City bakery, etc`

        3. k
          kobetobiko Feb 22, 2007 01:38 PM

          I used to live in Toronto and so I would suggest the following:
          -skip Chinese food or Chinatown as they are much better in Toronto
          -Take the RGR's East Village Food Tour (do a seach and you will find it) - your best way to experience different NYC food without breaking the bank!

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36838...

          - Visit a tapa place as it is less common in Toronto. For Mid-price I will suggest Alta or Tia Pol
          -Visit a sushi / Japanese restaurant as I found them to be better in NYC than in Toronto. Mid-price: Kanoyama (2nd Ave), Le Miu (Fusion, East Village). Yasuda for expensive sushi but out-of-the world sushi
          -Get a Mario Batali's experience! Babbo is the best for sure but it is expensive. For mid-price range you can choose from Otto, Lupa, or Casa Mono
          -If you follow the RGR's tour then you only miss out 1 NY specialty - NY STYLE PIZZA! I like John's on Bleecker which is cheap.
          -There are a lot of great french restaurants but they tend to be more expensive, and I won't classified it as "unique" NY experience because you can find similar restaurants in Toronto (e.g. Splendido, though I have to say the quality of the most high-end restaurants are better in NYC, no offense...). You can get a great deal with the prix-fix lunches (around $25 for 3 course) in some of these fine restaurants, such as Perry Street & Jojo (owned by Jean Georges), and Fleur de Sel.
          - Last but not least, there are a lot of ethnic food in NYC, but I am no expert in those cuisines, so I will leave it for other NYC chowhounders for recommendations.

          I hope you will enjoy your trip in NYC!

          7 Replies
          1. re: kobetobiko
            oohlala Feb 22, 2007 07:09 PM

            mmm, the lunch option at the suggested french restaurants sounds enticing~ are both Perry Street & Jojo and Fleur de Sel both at south manhattan?

            How are the lunch menu for Otto, lupa, or Casa Mono?

            1. re: kobetobiko
              oohlala Feb 22, 2007 07:13 PM

              how about the Katsu-Hama restaurant? everything deep-fried! It's gotta be good for my cholesterol level for sure!

              1. re: oohlala
                k
                kobetobiko Feb 23, 2007 08:36 AM

                Hello oohlala!
                Before I answer your questions, I want to recommend this website menupage to you. It includes a lot of NYC restaurants with location, phone numbers, and MENU for your reference. In this case you can do some research on the restaurants that you are planning / want to visit, look at the menu, and see if they fit your taste. However, I wouldn't trust the reader reviews completely, as I don't find them accurate. You are better off trusting Chowhoundes' comments here! Here is the link:
                http://www.menupages.com/
                Oh, I almost forgot, the site also includes a link to OPEN TABLE in which you can reserve for the restaurants. This will be perfect for you if you have your trip planned out because in NYC, it is hard to get a table without a reservation.
                Now let me get back to your questions:
                - Perry Street is on, well, Perry Street. It is downtown NY and not really close to Grand Central. But I love it because it is great food and it's JG's and it's a bargain for the lunch.
                -Jojo is located on 160 E 64th St @ Lexington Ave, which is on Upper East Side. (Grand Central is more in the middle or on the west side). Fleur de Sel is not owned by JG, but it is conveniently located in 5 E 20th St at Bway. It really depend on where you are going for shopping or sight seeing. Since you only have 2 days I wouldn't go out of the way just for a restaurant, and rather select the restaurants along your other plans. After all, there are good restaurants all over the city!

                - I saw you mentioned Yakitori Totto. To be honest, it is a good yakitori place in NYC standard, but if you have had yakitori or izakaya in Japan or other Asian countries (or even in West Cost), IMO it is really medicore. It is not really that special IMO. I think people raved about it because of the lack of this type of Japanese restaurants in NYC. (I know I am going to get bashed by some CH'ers as people here love it...) For izakaya I would recommend Aburiya Kinnosuke on 213 E 45th St (Btwn 2nd & 3rd Ave, again on the East Side in Midtown). I found it to be much for authentic, and you can see a lot of Japanese diners there. It has less yakitori (skewers), but more robata grill and shichirin grill (grilling on a metal wire net). It is also quite cheap (though it adds up quickly when you order a lot
                )- I have never been to Katsu Hama, so I can't comment. I only know this is for the deep frying with panko, not tempura type. If you happen to like Tempura styled food, Inakigu is the best! However, it is quite expensive.
                - For Otto, Lupa, and Casa Mono, they are all open for lunch, but I think it is the same menu as dinner with may be a few options omitted. It won't be anything cheaper than dinner, but it will probably be less crowded (sorry I have only visited all 3 during dinner time)

                What day are you planning to visit? If it is over the weekend, doing BRUNCH is a very New Yorky thing to do. I am sure we can recommend some places for Brunch if you are here for weekends.

                Hope this help. Feel free to post more questions and we will try to help
                p.s. now that you brought up Toronto I really want to visit it when weather gets warmer. I miss Poutine!

                1. re: kobetobiko
                  k
                  kobetobiko Feb 23, 2007 08:39 AM

                  Ah! one more thing I forgot! In East Village there is Momofuku Ssam Bar! It's Asian fusion food done right and delicious! (you know what, I think Susur is Asian Fusion done ok and not great, seriously...). It is moderately price, great for group sharing, and a lot of pork and good food! You should definitely plan for a visit as you can't find anything like this in Toronto!

                  1. re: kobetobiko
                    oohlala Feb 23, 2007 11:36 AM

                    I'll be at the Met museum the first day (Sunday). I guess it makes sense to dine at Jojo. As for dinner, might as well try all three jap places, Yakitori Totto, Katsu Hama & Aburiya Kinnosuke, since they are not THAT far from each other. Do you know if all three of them open late? Try to squeeze a broadway show at night. Hopefully i can eat before AND after the show, hahahahaha~

                    1. re: kobetobiko
                      oohlala Feb 26, 2007 12:47 PM

                      where should I get some authentic NY style bagels? Kossars?

                    2. re: kobetobiko
                      h
                      hungry_fox Mar 7, 2007 10:36 AM

                      ...wow i need to start checking the dates before I post anything...

                2. j
                  jdmetz Feb 22, 2007 08:41 AM

                  2 suggestions - head down to Katz's in the lower east side for some only in New York pastrami and check out the Corner Bistro in the West Village for one of the city's best burgers and some good atomsphere. Both areas are good for walking around after all the stuffing too.

                  1. Uptownflavor Feb 22, 2007 08:10 AM

                    Grand Central Station has many wonderful culinary options, especially the Oyster Bar. Right now the hot cocoa that everyone is raving about is from City Bakery located on 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues (closer to fifth). For P.R. or Dominican food I recommend that you venture up to Washington Heights. I saw a thread on here about new Latin places in Washington Heights. I also recently read a review about a place that specializes in Monfongo, a traditional P.R. dish. I am curious to hear other chowhound recommendations for yakitori as I have been wanting to find a nice place that serves it as well.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Uptownflavor
                      oohlala Feb 22, 2007 06:59 PM

                      A friend of mine suggested "Yakitori Totto", any ideas?? I'll definitely check out the "city Bakery".. So there are no P.R. restaurants in the southern part of manhattan?

                      1. re: Uptownflavor
                        p
                        Pan Feb 22, 2007 07:53 PM

                        I don't think I've been to an actual Puerto Rican restaurant. Old San Juan is in the West 40s and some people I know say it's a genuine Puerto Rican place, but I couldn't vouch for its quality. In terms of Dominican, my favorite is a roast chicken specialist, El Malecon (which nicknames itself "El Rey del Pollo"). You don't actually have to go up to their Washington Heights flagship at 175th St. and Broadway, though the neighborhood is kind of interesting. But if you'd rather stay a bit further downtown, you can go to their branch on Amsterdam Av. between 97th and 98th Sts. It's the same food, in my experience.

                        1. re: Pan
                          r
                          RGR Feb 23, 2007 08:51 AM

                          Old San Juan is on 9th Av., b/t 51st & 52nd St. The one time we had dinner there, I thought the food was authentic. (I'd been to Puerto Rico twice some years before.) Tasty, very generous portions at reasonable prices.

                          http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...

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