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Can't miss restaurants in NYC?

d
Dr. Confoundo Feb 28, 2007 09:49 AM

The wife and I are finally going to be taking that trip to New York City that I've been wanting to do for years. We've got flightplans, hotel reservations, a theatre ticket or two... I'm even thinking of buying tickets on one of those tour-bus dealies, so on the first day we're there we can get a basic rundown of what the city has to offer, and then head back to any of those places which looked interesting.

The one thing I don't have is restaurant suggestions. There are a million places to eat in the Naked City, I need to you to recommend a few of them.

What I need are a wide range of ideas, but they must follow a theme: If you had to leave New York forever, and only had time to go to one more restaurant, what would it be? It could be that dazzlingly expensive place that embodies everything New York cuisine stands for; it could be that greasy spoon on the corner that makes the best corned beef hash known to man. (I'd love to get a meal at one of the famous NYC eateries, like the Tavern on the Green or the Russian Tea Room, but I'm sure that they are all hype, and not worth the bother.)

Additionally, what's a good place to eat before a Broadway show? What's the usual way to do it - dinner before the show, or a really late dinner afterwards?

Thanks for your input!

  1. j
    jsmitty Apr 29, 2007 06:13 AM

    veritas
    a voce
    jean georges
    degustation
    cru
    babbo

    1. m
      Mel Apr 28, 2007 04:06 PM

      this is a great list... I will be using this to assist with my planning for next month.... oh how I love this board!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Mel
        d
        Dr. Confoundo May 2, 2007 04:45 PM

        People really went all out in recommending places in NY... I could have stayed there for six months and not tried all of the awesome places on this list!

      2. d
        Dr. Confoundo Apr 25, 2007 05:31 PM

        So we went to New York and had a wonderful time, in no small part due to the suggestions we got here. We got a chance to sample just a sprinkling of the awesome places on this list, and hopefully there'll be another trip soon.

        We started at Babbo, which was awesome. We both had the Pasta tasting menu - my favorite was the garganelli with wild mushroom, my wife's was the asparagus ravioli. The only problem was with the Fernando’s Pyramids... there was just something that didn't work out right in that dish: It tasted like it came out of a can. But between all the other great dishes, and the pineapple upsidedown cake they gave us in addition to the other deserts, I heartily recommend this place.

        Unfortunately, going to such an amazing pasta place kind of ruined my experience at Becco a few days later. It was good, but no comparison to what we had at Babbo previously... I should have scheduled a better combo of restaurants. I'll know for next time.

        We headed out to get Pommes Frites, and accidentally wandered right past the Bamn! Automat, so I had to stop in and grab something. I chose the Mac & Cheese Kroket, and it was ok, but fun. No comparison to the Pommes Frites that we had a few minutes later, with mayo, warm satay sauce, and my favorite: sweet mango chutney mayo. I debated buying another cone of fries after I finished the first, but my wife talked me out of it.

        We tried to go to Dim Sum A-Go-Go, but couldn't find it. The whole street was under construction, and we couldn't see any signs. We tried to get into Serendipity 3, but the wait was too long, and we had theatre tickets. I wanted to get to Kat's Deli, but we just couldn't fit it in.

        I did get some banana pudding from Buttercup Bakeshop, and it was awesome! The cupcakes were okay, but the pudding rocked.

        Finally, my friend took us to a japanese place near 9th and 23rd? (sounds about right). All sorts of little dishes, like a japanese tapas bar. Fun and good, but not my favorite. This kind of restaurant doesn't seem to have made it to Los Angeles yet.

        Thanks again to everyone who responded to my request for help! You really made our trip special (even if I didn't get to go to any of your recommendations).

        2 Replies
        1. re: Dr. Confoundo
          g
          glutton Apr 30, 2007 08:14 PM

          The little japanese tapas place does exist in LA. Not the same place, obviously. Check out Musha in Santa Monica -- it sounds like the exact same thing.

          1. re: glutton
            d
            Dr. Confoundo May 2, 2007 04:44 PM

            Huh. I stand corrected. I live not too far from the orignal Musha in Torrance - I'll have to check it out.

        2. SunnysideUp Mar 19, 2007 11:53 PM

          Momofuku Ssam Bar at night, when it turns into a restaurant. Then you can say you had modern, but comforting, food from one of New York's best, young, rising chefs.

          Instead of cupcakes, go to Black Hound for their mini cakes and cake balls.

          For a crazy Cantonese experience, go to Congee Village on Allen at the edge of Chinatown. http://www.sunsungroup.com/congeevill...

          Since you mentioned cupcakes, you should try another New York trend that will be dead (yet huge in Paramus) in the second decade of the 21st century: Burgers. Go to Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien because it's cheap, good and surreal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SunnysideUp
            SunnysideUp Mar 20, 2007 12:16 AM

            I agree with a previous poster about going to ABC Carpet and Home. There's nothing like it anywhere, and you have your choice of places to eat from chocolate desserts and drinks at Michel Cluizel, to the welcoming Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidien for you and your wife to rest your feet and have coffee, tea and a sandwich. Union Square is close by.

            Going to Grand Central Terminal is a must for a visitor. Stroll the food hall market and then go down to the dining concourse to see the famous, and very New York, Oyster Bar. Then stop by the Little Pie Company for yes...a cupcake.

          2. e
            Essen on 10th Mar 19, 2007 02:09 PM

            It's a good thing you're a "doctor" because the range of answers is truly confounding. I have a few ideas to add to the confusion.

            It looks like your culinary tour will take you to the Lower East Side -- East Village, which is great for ethnic variety and cheap eats. If you end up on Houston for a pastrami sandwich at Katz's or anything at Bereket, you owe it to yourself to walk up Second Avenue for an egg cream (order a chocolate one) from Gem Spa. It's a crummy-looking newstand on the corner of Second Avenue and St. Mark's (8th Street), which is sort of a trip in itself. You'll pass Pomme Frites along the way. While you're in the neighborhood, you're within striking distance of The Best Cupcake in the City: Ciao for Now on East 12th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B, closer to A. It's only open till 6 p.m. so plan accordingly. Go for the chocolate cake (made with Valhrona cocoa) and vanilla buttercream frosting. You won't be sorry. Don't waste your time standing in line with a lot of tourists and shnooks at Magnolia. It's really not worth it.

            One interesting way to dig into the history, culture and food in the city--and not wallk too much--is to take a "Talking Street" tour: http://www.talkingstreet.com/ You use your cell phone to call a number and get a sort of self-guided audio tour of places marked map.You can get the map on the web site. I've done the Lower East Side tour, narrated by Jerry Stiller and it's very interesting. You can visit as many or as few sites as you want, but be sure to hit Kossar's for bialys (stop #13).

            To recap:
            cupcakes at Ciao for Now (East 12th near Avenue A
            )bialys at Kossar's (or on Sunday at Moishe's on Second Ave. and 6th or 7th)
            chocolate egg cream at Gem Spa (Second Avenue and St. Mark's aka 8th St)
            Wu Liang Ye for Chinese (West 48th between Fifth and Sixth) in Midtown is another pre-theater option. Give yourself plenty of time. If you're in a pinch and you want another "New York" landmark experience, Junior's is a reasonable option, too. It's a Brooklyn institution known for its cheesecake, now conveniently located on Shubert Alley in the heart of the theater district.

            Have fun.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Essen on 10th
              p
              Pan Mar 19, 2007 05:21 PM

              Useful advice there.

              I much prefer Taksim on 2nd Av. between 5th and 6th to Bereket, however, unless Bereket has drastically improved since I gave up on it a few years ago (it had become way too salty).

            2. v
              veglover35 Mar 19, 2007 12:40 PM

              I'm a brunch lover, so I'll start with breakfast places for now...
              Dizzies, in Park Slope, Brooklyn
              Friend of a Farmer, around 16th street, in Manhattan,
              Kitchenette, in lower manhattan,
              and good for midnight munchies, especially the breakfast items- Around the Clock on 3rd Ave and about 8th Street.

              2 Replies
              1. re: veglover35
                p
                Pan Mar 19, 2007 05:19 PM

                Around the Clock is on Stuyvesant St. between 3rd Av. and 9th St. I haven't heard anyone recommend it in any way in quite a long time and haven't been there for many years. It was never good when I went occasionally over 11 years ago, but that was always late at night (its main selling point being that it's always open). All that said, what specific items do you like there?

                1. re: veglover35
                  j
                  jsmitty May 2, 2007 07:55 PM

                  imho around the clock and friend of a farmer are a good distance away from must have...

                2. p
                  Pan Mar 19, 2007 04:27 AM

                  Warning about the ~50th St. branch of Grand Sichuan: I am sorry to say that it is currently closed. I went past today (Sunday evening, March 18). It's unclear when it will reopen, so call before showing up, if you want to know in advance whether it has reopened.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Pan
                    eatfood May 3, 2007 08:53 AM

                    I think it's closed for good.

                    1. re: eatfood
                      p
                      Pan May 3, 2007 08:59 PM

                      Yep, unfortunately so.

                  2. e
                    edelmanj Mar 17, 2007 07:15 AM

                    Three nearby suggestions
                    - High end Greek w/ great fresh fish > Milos West 55th (between 6th/7th)
                    - DB Bistro, Daniel's more casual but great French spot (West 44th between 5th/6th). Mueller is a great chef on his own
                    - Less expensive Greek, Uncle Nick's on 9th Ave & 51st - Great Octupus.
                    BTW There is at least a wine relationship between Babbo and Becco - joe bastianich owns Becco, runs wine for Babbo and co-owns Del Posto..but they are all very different places (all good of course)

                    1. l
                      LindyHopper Mar 16, 2007 08:40 PM

                      My favorite place to eat in the city is Ali Baba on 34th. Great Turkish food, very reasonable, excellent service.

                      1. d
                        Dr. Confoundo Mar 16, 2007 03:25 PM

                        Ok - I need one more thing. So far I've got Babbo on wednesday, and Becco on friday before the theater, so that's two Italian meals in three days. Anything else interestingly ethnic for a pre-theater dinner on thursday that would give a good contrast? I'm not crazy about Vietnamese, but other stuff with easy access to the Theatre District would be great: Chinese, Morrocan, German even.

                        What's a good non-Italian, non-American, non-French place to change up my trip?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                          jenniebnyc Mar 16, 2007 04:11 PM

                          There's some good Thai and Mexican in the Hell's Kitchen area. How are you on those? Pam Real Thai or Topaz Thai or for Mexican..a place called Hell's Kitchen.

                          http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/hells-kitchen/
                          http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/pam-real-thai-food/
                          http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/topaz-thai/

                          If you like Japanese.... and not necessarily sushi, you can try Nobu57 on 57th bet 6th and 7th. It's a tad out of the way, but they have fab black miso cod, rock shrimp tempura, etc.

                          http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/nobu-57/

                          If you want highend Chinese try Shun Lee

                          http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                          1. re: jenniebnyc
                            d
                            Dr. Confoundo Mar 16, 2007 07:36 PM

                            This meal definitely does not have to be high-end... I'm pretty much breaking my bank with all of the other places I've picked out. Thai and Mexican can't be any better in NY than they are in LA, so I'll pass on those. Anything else odd and tasty in the Theater district?

                            1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                              jenniebnyc Mar 16, 2007 08:25 PM

                              Tend not to eat here all that much b/c the food is usually just mediocre. There are some Ethiopian places, but I have never been. Maybe someone else can opine.

                              How about Korean BBQ? Try Kum Gang San

                              There's a great Turkish place by me on 54th and 2nd. Very good and very casual. Won't break the bank. TAKSIM

                              1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                k
                                kayonyc Mar 20, 2007 02:52 PM

                                I say this as a former Los Angeleno - definitely skip Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Mexican, as well as Ethiopian in NYC.

                                I've heard great things about Kyotofu - a dessert place on- 9ave/48th.
                                I agree with the Modern as a great suggestion for dinner after a museum viewing. Go to the dining room as opposed to the bar room - it's less noisy, and simply a beautiful dining experience.

                            2. re: Dr. Confoundo
                              p
                              Pan Mar 16, 2007 11:37 PM

                              I think LA is better for Chinese, too, but Grand Sichuan on 9th Av. between 50th and 51st, if it's open, is very good as long as you stick to the Sichuan and Hunan menus and special menus like the Not Long Refrigerated Chicken, Prodigal Daughter, and Chinese New Year menus (if they're still doing the CNY menu) only.

                              For Afghan, Ariana Afghan Kebab House is very good - 9th Av. between 52nd and 53rd Sts. Get the salad w/o dressing and dress it yourself with the spicy green sauce on the table.

                            3. e
                              edelmanj Mar 16, 2007 12:09 PM

                              Many great suggestions above, but here are a couple of thoughts:
                              - Go to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) and then have dinner at The Modern. Its built into the Museum, the main dinning room has a view of the sculpture garden, the bar dinning area fun and great people watching. This is a Danny Myer place (of Union Square, 11 Madison fame). Very good Modern French with an Alsacian spin. (my personal view would be to avoid Danny's Tabla)
                              - Do breakfast/brunch/lunch at Barney Greengrass when you visit the upper west side (eg a Zabar's run) - great smoked salmon and fish.
                              - Do one great aka world class meal. Many examples above, but I suggest Daniel's (great French), Veritas (great modern cooking with awsome wine list - must sit in back), Babbo (the best Italian in town) or Le Bernadin (best fish with amazing service. Enjoy NYC

                              1. a
                                alexgourevitch Mar 15, 2007 11:14 AM

                                You can pick from the fancy one's listed above, but there are at least two things New York has that you have trouble finding anywhere else: great pastrami, and great bagels. Katz's is unmissable. Extraordinary, innovative, high class restaurants abound in many of the world's great cities, but only Montreal can come close to this quality of flavorful, peppery, succulent, thick-cut absolutely delicious beef. Katz's you must go to.
                                For bagels, I would go to Absolute Bagels up on Broadway between 107th and 108th - make sure to ask for the dark ones of whatever variety you choose (personal favorite is the everything bagel with scallion cream cheese). Or Murray's, on 6th between 12th and 13th.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: alexgourevitch
                                  a
                                  aimeezing1 Mar 15, 2007 01:48 PM

                                  I personally dont get Absolute Bagels - I live two block from there and dont think they are even worth the walk from Riverside Drive. They are OK for the neighborhood fallback bagel (although I HATE the fact that the seeds are only on one side of the bagel - that in and of itself is a fatal flaw to me) but I would certainly not recommend a trip up here for them.

                                  1. re: alexgourevitch
                                    d
                                    Dr. Confoundo Mar 15, 2007 02:10 PM

                                    I'm definitely going to make a stop at Katz for the pastrami - too many recommendations not to. As for bagels, anything closer to the Theater District? I'm not sure that I can spare the time to go all the way up to the UWS to get a bagel.

                                    1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                      jenniebnyc Mar 15, 2007 04:10 PM

                                      Dr.

                                      Just go to Essa Bagel or TAL. No need to travel all the way up the westside. If you like sturgeon please try Barney Greengrass.

                                      1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                        ballulah Mar 16, 2007 11:49 AM

                                        You're in luck, Dr.Confoundo, there is an excellent bagel shop on 44th near Broadway, between Ollie's and Carmine's. Times Square Hot Bagels are perfectly chewy, perfectly crusty and often warm from the oven. Don't ask a real bagel shop to toast your bagels, they won't even have a toaster. I've posted about Times Square Hot Bagels a lot in the recent past, and I hate repeating myself, but I nearly wept for joy when I discovered this place. I used to be a dedicated eater of Columbia Hot Bagels which closed in the last couple of years but was consistently rated one of NY's best bagels, and I thought I'd never have another bagel to equal it when they lost their lease and the building it was in was demolished. But lo and behold, one day I had a bagel craving, was passing this place by chance, went in not expecting much...and I discovered it was actually an outpost of Columbia Bagels! Even more importantly the bagels are as good as ever. I have no idea why more people aren't shouting this from rooftops. Bring home a baker's dozen if you can!

                                        1. re: ballulah
                                          d
                                          Dr. Confoundo Mar 16, 2007 03:12 PM

                                          Awesome - just around the block from my hotel! Thanks for the tip.

                                    2. Justpaula Mar 14, 2007 05:41 PM

                                      A few people have reccomened Blue Ribbon and Ithink it is great for post-theatre. I prefer to have my meal after the show and Blue Ribbon serves great food very late so it is a good choice.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Justpaula
                                        jenniebnyc Mar 14, 2007 05:48 PM

                                        OP states wife will be too tired to eat after 10pm

                                        1. re: jenniebnyc
                                          d
                                          Dr. Confoundo Mar 15, 2007 11:01 AM

                                          Yep. I'll be lucky if she can make it through the show without falling asleep, let alone starting out for dinner afterwards. Pre-theater dining is a must.

                                      2. d
                                        Dr. Confoundo Mar 14, 2007 02:19 PM

                                        What's the best way to do theater dining? I've looked at the websites for Becco and Ellen's Stardust, and it doesn't look like they accept reservations. Should we just show up at 5:30 and hope for a table?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                          jenniebnyc Mar 14, 2007 05:18 PM

                                          Becco takes reservations. And you will not get in pre-theater if you don't have one, so make sure to call ahead. I like the Atruim room in the back better than the front room or upstairs. Others may disagree.

                                          Get the AYCE pasta and skip the ceasar and order the anitpasti for a starter. Or one of each seeing you are two and can share.

                                          1. re: jenniebnyc
                                            d
                                            Dr. Confoundo Mar 15, 2007 11:09 AM

                                            Cool beans. I didn't see any reference to reservations on the Becco website, so I didn't know. I've got em now, thanks.

                                        2. m
                                          Max L Fischer Mar 14, 2007 12:13 PM

                                          You’ll be very happy at Babbo. I love the octopus appetizer and black pasta with shrimp and the venison was delicious.
                                          Don’t miss seeing the arch, it’s beautiful at night.
                                          Have just a cocktail at Tavern on the Green to see the lights (call ahead, lots of private parties)
                                          Get advance online tickets to Top of the Rock observatory at sunset (much better than the Empire State Building.)
                                          Get a pedicab tour of Central Park.
                                          See the Frick Museum.
                                          Have coffee Sunday morning at the Cloisters
                                          or head out to Brooklyn to hear the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
                                          See any show at BAM.
                                          Brouse through Takashimaya or ABC Home and Carpet, have a snack at either.
                                          Listen to great jazz at Dizzy’s Club.
                                          If you’re going in Spring ride The Beast around the Statue of Liberty.
                                          See a new Burlesque show (le scandal, pinchbottom, etc.) they’re only mildly naughty and lots of fun. ENJOY

                                          1. a
                                            atom12 Mar 14, 2007 12:00 PM

                                            Some that I haven't seen mentioned are Billy's Bakery and our personal favorite, Blue Ribbon. You must try the bone marrow. Sweet Jesus is it good.

                                            1. t
                                              tastytamarind Mar 14, 2007 11:34 AM

                                              would just add grimaldi's pizza in brooklyn and Alice's Tea Cup on 73rd and Columbus -- they give you wonderful cream with their enormous delicious scones! It's a perfect spot for brunch or tea (great tea menu.) Enjoy!

                                              1. krystle920 Mar 12, 2007 06:22 PM

                                                Places that come to mind:

                                                Peter Luger
                                                Nobu
                                                Four Seasons
                                                Magnolia Bakery
                                                Shake Shack

                                                1. j
                                                  jno Mar 12, 2007 06:09 PM

                                                  here are some of my favorite places that I identify with the big apple:

                                                  Pearl Oyster Bar: famous for their lobster rolls and they offer amazingly fresh and simple seafood at decent prices. but more than that, the atmosphere is so charming...it's a cozy bar with a back wall lined w/stools.

                                                  Vintage NYC: this is a wine store and in the back, they have a tasting bar where you can try 5 wine tastings for $10. they only feature NY wines.

                                                  Lombardi's: Really great brick oven pizza.

                                                  Rice to Riches: I always take visitors to this place. Think of an ice-cream parlor, except serving rice pudding. Lots of toppings to choose from and flavors.

                                                  Corner Bistro: This is a bar/pub that serves the most amazing burgers in the world.

                                                  Ushi Wakamara: Forget Nobu...for an amazing/authentic/cozy japanese meal, head here for amazing sushi...try the omakase. Don't forget to get make a reservation.

                                                  1. chansarene Mar 12, 2007 02:40 PM

                                                    Good places to go in NYC... Well that is a hard one cause there are so many places.. and it really depends on how much you are willing to spend and what your style is...but here are a few that are not as expensive as places like Jean Georges or Daniel.

                                                    Places to eat.
                                                    My favorite turkish restaurant is a whole in the wall place on 34th st btw 2nd and 3rd ave called Ali Babas. My friend from LA and I go there ever time he flys into the city.

                                                    Zen Palate is on the north east side of union square. it is vegitarian and very ecclectic. Interesting dishes mostly made from soy.

                                                    There is a strip of good indian restaurants on lexington around 28th st. Madras Mahal is my favorite. They have really good Dosi which is hard to get at most indian places.

                                                    If you are willing to spend some more money Pierre au Tunnel is a great french restaurant on 47th st between b-way and 8th ave and they have a fixed price menu. Also La Petite Auberge is a great french restaurant on lexington and 28th st.

                                                    Calle Ocho is a great latin American restaurant and is very reasonably priced on the upper west side

                                                    Go to little italy which is on Mulburry street for dessert. Great canoli, expresso and italian food and it is fun to just walk around there.
                                                    Hope this helps.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: chansarene
                                                      p
                                                      Pan Mar 12, 2007 10:52 PM

                                                      Which pastry place on Mulberry are you recommending?

                                                      1. re: Pan
                                                        chansarene Mar 14, 2007 08:05 AM

                                                        La Bella Ferrara on Mulburry St is great. They just have only desserts and coffee.
                                                        Another great italian dessert place that is not in Little Italy is Venieros on 11th st between 1st and 2nd.

                                                        1. re: chansarene
                                                          p
                                                          Pan Mar 14, 2007 07:17 PM

                                                          I liked La Bella Ferrara, but I thought it closed. Please correct me if I'm wrong! (Note, everyone, this is NOT the same as Ferrara on Grand St. La Bella Ferrara is or was on Mulberry St. near Canal.)

                                                          1. re: Pan
                                                            p
                                                            Pan Apr 29, 2007 03:14 PM

                                                            Replying to myself: I don't know why I thought La Bella Ferrara was closed. It's open. I got a baba with cannoli cream from them a couple of weeks ago. I thought it was decent, nothing more, but I would still try other stuff, because I used to like their pastries. I'm not sure it's worth any kind of special trip, though.

                                                    2. k
                                                      kayonyc Mar 12, 2007 01:19 PM

                                                      Do not forget WD-50 - Especially for a tasting menu meal. Molecular gastronomy hasn't quite caught on in LA as it has in NYC (or Chicago). It may not be your thing ultimately, but it will be unforgettable. It is for the record, quite tasty too.

                                                      1. d
                                                        Dr. Confoundo Mar 12, 2007 01:15 PM

                                                        I finally got through to Babbo, so the wife and I have reservations there. A little early (at 5:45), but that was better than nothing.

                                                        1. foodabee Mar 12, 2007 01:13 PM

                                                          clearly all the places listed above are great! i'd add three things:
                                                          1) Babbo is absolutely amazing
                                                          2) I would also go to Taisho or yokocho's (japanese tapas - kind of holes in the wall, but great food good atmosphere and one of my favorite places in new york)
                                                          3) i'm not a sweets guy, but i would not want to leave new york without going to chikalicious at least once more - amazing desserts.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: foodabee
                                                            h
                                                            hungry_fox Mar 12, 2007 03:01 PM

                                                            I'm assuming by Taisho you mean Yakitori Taisho down on St. Marks Place, if so, then definitly go there, the food is wonderful, cheap, and authentic

                                                            1. re: hungry_fox
                                                              foodabee Mar 13, 2007 12:33 PM

                                                              You're absolutely right. i'm a terrible sepller...

                                                          2. p
                                                            psawce Mar 12, 2007 10:03 AM

                                                            Just a side note on the tour bus thing: don't do it. The best way to see NYC is on foot. I did a bus tour one-time when my girlfriends' family was in town and I was surprised by how boring it was. You just don't get a feel for the neighborhoods when you're 15 feet above the sidewalk. Take a nice long walk through a number of different neighborhoods. That's they way to go.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: psawce
                                                              d
                                                              Dr. Confoundo Mar 12, 2007 12:05 PM

                                                              Unfortunately, my wife has a bum ankle, so extended walking tours need to be kept to a minimum. The bus tour will get us a good overview of the city, and then we can focus our walking to only those areas we wanted to take a closer look at.

                                                              1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                ballulah Mar 12, 2007 12:35 PM

                                                                I think bus tours are the best way to go to get an overview. Given the opportunity this is always what I do my first time in a new city. Gray Line buses has ticketing options where you can get off the bus when the mood strikes you, and get back on a different one to complete your tour.

                                                                1. re: ballulah
                                                                  d
                                                                  Dr. Confoundo Mar 12, 2007 01:03 PM

                                                                  If it was just me, I would probably forgo the bus tour, and see the sights on foot. But when you are married, you kinda have to make sure that your wife stays happy too. ;)

                                                                  1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                    ballulah Mar 12, 2007 01:13 PM

                                                                    I have friends who are tour guides on some of those tours, and they are some of the strangest people I know. I hope you get a really quirky tour guide!

                                                            2. h
                                                              hungry_fox Mar 10, 2007 10:49 AM

                                                              Ok, I'll admit I always reccommend Ellen's Stardust which occasionally can be partially filled with tourists.

                                                              But Jekyll & Hyde is nothing but tourists, it exists for tourists, it is the ultimate of tourist restaurants in NYC. The food is alright and the service isn't terrible, but it's very over priced and there's always a wait. Last time I was there I waited in line for at least half an hour (note: you wait outside in a line, not inside, so if you're going, make sure it's not raining). Yes I'll admit it can be entertaining, yes the food is better than Mars 2112 (AVOID MARS2112 AT ALL COSTS), but really not by much, it's just not worth it.

                                                              1. choulli Mar 10, 2007 04:19 AM

                                                                Having lived in the NY/NJ area all my life & more importantly, having eaten many a meal - both good AND bad - in NYC, here's what I can add to the mix:
                                                                Citysearch.com offers pretty realistic on-line reviews & the Zagat guide is also relatively reliable + you can pack it & take it with you on your trip.
                                                                They aren't perfect resources (nothing is), but it never hurts to cross-reference suggestions.

                                                                - MY best pre-theater dinners have been at Cafe Un Deux Trois & Becco,
                                                                both located in the "theater district".

                                                                - For great NY-style deli, there's Katz's Deli, on Houston St on the "lower east side"
                                                                (the famous fake orgasm scene was filmed here in When Harry Met Sally)
                                                                There's also the Carnegie Deli in "mid-town" for more good deli & the world's best NY-style cheesecake.

                                                                - Otto Enoteca & Pizzeria has good Italian food (albeit over-priced) in a pleasant & casual environment in the "NYU/Washington Sq Park" area & is owned by Mario Batali of "Molto Mario" fame & close by is the historic Knickerbocker Bar & Grill,
                                                                famous for their steaks.

                                                                As you mentioned in your request, it IS true that many of the hyped-up NYC restaurants are simply that: hype. While any offer outstanding meals (repleat with enough pretentious pomp & circumstance to rival an actual theater performance), many more are rediculously over-priced.
                                                                HOWEVER, if you do your homework, you may find one that's worth the trouble.
                                                                (Several Chowhounds made some nice suggestions for you, prior to my post).
                                                                After all, if this is a once in a lifetime trip, you really should sample everything that NY has to offer.
                                                                Well, almost everything.
                                                                I'd advise you to skip the hookers & the heroin ... at least on this trip ;-)

                                                                1. s
                                                                  s.piller Mar 10, 2007 03:29 AM

                                                                  I love Chanterrelle. The food is beautifully presented and the service is wonderful.
                                                                  Try Nish(formerly March). Food is very creative.

                                                                  1. h
                                                                    hungry_fox Mar 9, 2007 04:13 PM

                                                                    I'd say you've got a good list there. On average I've heard many good things for Babbo and Degustion, haven't heard as much about Annisa, but never anything bad. As for Katz Deli, definitly the place to go.

                                                                    Yay for Ellen's Stardust! I think you'll love it too.

                                                                    Also, if you're randomly craving japanese try Yakitori Taisho on St. Marks Place, it's my 2nd favorite restaurant in NYC, definitly lower scale, but very good.

                                                                    1. d
                                                                      Dr. Confoundo Mar 9, 2007 03:30 PM

                                                                      So after going over all of these options, I've decided on a short list of places to try. Let me know if I've made a grevious errors ;)

                                                                      Upscale dinners: Annisa, Babbo and Degustion - I'll try and make reservations for Babbo over the weekend

                                                                      Near theater: Orso, Becco, Joe Allen's, and Ellen's Stardust (which my wife will love)

                                                                      Lower scale: Pommes Frites, Katz Deli, and Dim Sum Go Go

                                                                      Deserts: City Bakery and Buttercup Bake Shop (for the banana pudding!)

                                                                      How'd I do?

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                        jenniebnyc Mar 11, 2007 07:34 PM

                                                                        My personal opinion is to switch out City Bakery....unless you are going strictly for hot chocolate and even this hasn't been so good lately.......with Bouchon Bakery.

                                                                        Note that Pomme Frites is pretty much a takeout place. I haven't been in a while and don;t recall if they have seating.

                                                                        I hope you get into Babbo!!! Make sure you order lots of pasta if you get in!

                                                                        No bagels on your list?!?!?!?!?

                                                                        1. re: jenniebnyc
                                                                          ballulah Mar 12, 2007 07:55 AM

                                                                          Pommes Frites has a couple of tiny grimy tables in the back, not sure if the grime is affected or real. They do have neat little holes in the table specially for your paper cone of frites. Also be warned, pommes frites has ONLY frites. Nothing else.

                                                                          1. re: ballulah
                                                                            d
                                                                            Dr. Confoundo Mar 12, 2007 12:04 PM

                                                                            Oh, I know. I got hooked on real Pommes Frites when I visited Europe a few years back, and there was a place to get them here in Los Angeles, but it closed down last year. I had heard about this place in NY, and have been looking forward to it.

                                                                            Only frites? What else do I need? ;)

                                                                            1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                              ballulah Mar 12, 2007 12:33 PM

                                                                              Hahaha. Just thought you should be warned ahead of time, in case you didn't know. I've heard people complain in line, "What? Only fries?"

                                                                              1. re: ballulah
                                                                                jza1218 Mar 14, 2007 12:15 AM

                                                                                I'd actually recommend getting an order of Pommes Frites alongside a burger from Paul's Place next door and then taking it to some place nice to sit and eat.

                                                                                1. re: jza1218
                                                                                  l
                                                                                  Lucia Mar 14, 2007 08:28 AM

                                                                                  I think Paul's has closed.

                                                                                  1. re: Lucia
                                                                                    jza1218 Mar 14, 2007 10:06 AM

                                                                                    Why would you think that? I was actually just in the neighborhood and it was open last week.

                                                                                    Just called them and they're still open...Maybe you're thinking of some other place?

                                                                                    1. re: jza1218
                                                                                      l
                                                                                      Lucia Mar 14, 2007 10:54 AM

                                                                                      I thought I had read that somewhere, but I stand corrected. Thanks for the update.

                                                                        2. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                          wleatherette Mar 12, 2007 07:23 AM

                                                                          i would strongly recommend getting some goodies at sugar sweet sunshine on rivington st after katz's or pomme frites. in the union square area, tisserie on e. 17th st (corner of bway) and tarallucci e vino on e. 18th st (btw bway and 5th ave) are good alternatives to city bakery if it's an unbearable zoo (as it often is).

                                                                        3. meggy978 Mar 4, 2007 12:17 PM

                                                                          Magnolia Bakery is NOT worth the hype. Go to Buttercup Bakery (52nd & 2nd Ave) for cupcakes and banana pudding.

                                                                          Per Se or Cafe Gray are expensive but delicious with to-die-for views of Central Park. Much better food than TOTG in Central Park!

                                                                          Babbo = worth every penny. Make reservations now.

                                                                          For Theatre District dining, eat before the show (6p) so you can dine alongside all of the other theater-goers. There's a buzz of excitement in the air as everyone tries to finish their meal before 8p curtain. Then, grab a drink and/or dessert post-show. Some of the best restaurants in the district are hidden gems so wait for someone to recommend one (I can never remember the places I've been there - the Italian restaurants are pretty ubiquitous).

                                                                          Katz's is unreal.

                                                                          Have fun!

                                                                          1. a
                                                                            aimeezing1 Mar 3, 2007 07:25 AM

                                                                            On the price front, I think that a moderate, neighborhood type meal, with a glass or two of wine, easily hits $100 for two (eg. Nice Matin or even the great Genero on the UWS). I love Gotham, think that it is in fact under rated and has been producing terrific food and a great atmosphere for many years. Per Se is stupendous. I like Joes Shanghai and Dim Sum Go-Go for China Town. Pre- or post theater, Talia or Orso (Ellens Stardust Diner ????? - only if you want to eat with a million tourist!!!!!) Tavern on the Green has been rightfully slammed recently on these boards, and Russian Tea Room is not worth price. Much better to move on to the newer "iconic" NY restaurants.

                                                                            1. livetotravel Mar 3, 2007 07:18 AM

                                                                              If I had to leave town permanently I would eat at Babbo, Gotham Bar & Grill and Momofuku Ssam Bar as many times as possible before departure.

                                                                              If there were only two restaurants left on the planet and they were TOTG and the RTR, I would choose to starve to death.

                                                                              1. seal Mar 3, 2007 06:52 AM

                                                                                As a frequent visitor to Los Angeles, I have to chuckle a little at your assertion that LA food is less expensive than NYC food. Both cities have their inexpensive gems to be sure, but top places charge top prices in both places.

                                                                                The few things that are missing in LA to me are:

                                                                                Deli ( go to Katz's)
                                                                                Pizza (go to one of the above mentioned spots or DiFara's)
                                                                                Chocolate (go to Chocolate Haven)
                                                                                Hallal (go to The Cart)

                                                                                Other than that, the high end places are great, but they will cost you.

                                                                                Should you decide to splurge, I suggest Eleven Madison Park or Le Bernardin.

                                                                                1. jinet12 Mar 3, 2007 04:45 AM

                                                                                  And for a very good dinner and that feeling of "Wow, I'm in New York!"..I vote for Balthazar

                                                                                  1. jenniebnyc Mar 2, 2007 08:22 PM

                                                                                    Bagels - Essa Bagel
                                                                                    Chinatown - Joe's Shanghai for Soup Dumplings or Dim Sum at Oriental Garden
                                                                                    Nice Meal with view of the Park that won't break the bank (and has yummy desserts) - Bouchon Bakery
                                                                                    Cupcakes and Banana Pudding - Buttercup Bake Shop
                                                                                    Burgers - Lot's of choices, but I like PJ Clarkes if the Shake Shack is not yet opened for the season (outdoor seating only)
                                                                                    Italian - semi-upscale - BABBO - make reservation exactly one month in advance
                                                                                    Upscale lunch - Jean Georges - ask for the Main Room and order the prefixe $28 for two dishes...each additional dish $12. Very memorable meal.
                                                                                    Ramen Noodle Soup and Pork Buns - Momofuku Noodle Bar
                                                                                    Pastrami - Katz's
                                                                                    Near the theater - DB Bistro Morderne or Becco are my pre-theater spots. If after the theater, you can go anywhere!!
                                                                                    French Bisrto famous for their cheese - Artisanal
                                                                                    OK pizza and fabulous wine and gelati - OTTO

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: jenniebnyc
                                                                                      p
                                                                                      phneale Mar 12, 2007 02:55 PM

                                                                                      I add a second to DB Bistro Moderne and Becco. I just go post theater, but I am a late diner. Excellent food, celeb chef owners and very reasonable (by NYC standards) just don't order the DB burger.

                                                                                      1. re: phneale
                                                                                        jenniebnyc Mar 12, 2007 05:31 PM

                                                                                        agreed, imo, the burger is the worst thing on the menu.

                                                                                    2. l
                                                                                      like2run Mar 2, 2007 06:50 PM

                                                                                      I had a nice meal at chanterelle recently

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: like2run
                                                                                        financialdistrictresident Mar 4, 2007 12:10 PM

                                                                                        I had one of the best meals at Chanterelle some time ago. It should be noted that unless it has changed, the dining room is very formal.

                                                                                        1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                                                                          t
                                                                                          tpigeon Mar 4, 2007 12:28 PM

                                                                                          Dissenting on chantrelle - overrated, haven't been in a couple of years though.

                                                                                      2. wleatherette Mar 2, 2007 01:18 PM

                                                                                        the automat has not been highly praised here. if you're in the area anyway, it might be worth sticking your head in to see it but it certainly doesn't merit a special trip.
                                                                                        my vote for best cupcakes and decadent southern/homestyle desserts goes to sugar sweet sunshine, on rivington street between essex and norfolk. you could combine a visit there with some gelato from the gelato lab on orchard for a true indulgence.

                                                                                        1. d
                                                                                          Dr. Confoundo Mar 2, 2007 12:37 PM

                                                                                          I'll put together a list of some of these places to take with me, but I will definitely be hitting the Pommes Frites place! I was actually going to ask about it, but Ballulah already mentioned it.

                                                                                          Three more quick questions:
                                                                                          1) How many of these places absolutely require reservations? Should I make the choice of what fancy place to go to a month beforehand, just to make sure I can get a table?

                                                                                          2) Are the cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery everything they are hyped to be? Do I need to schedule a stop there?

                                                                                          3) There's just something quintessentially New York about the Automat. How bad is the new one (Bamn!) - not even worth a stop-in?

                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                                            ballulah Mar 2, 2007 12:52 PM

                                                                                            Oh the great cupcake debate of NYC. Maybe you won't generate the same heat as you would with questions about pizza, but there are several camps in NYC devoted to who makes the best cupcake.

                                                                                            Personally, I'm not a fan of Magnolia. I had a red velvet cupcake from there that was wholy unremarkable. I later heard that the red velvet cake there was the worst thing they make, so perhaps I need to give them another try.

                                                                                            I think the cupcakes at Cupcake Cafe are irresistible, but some find that the butter cream is too buttery. They are also some of the most beautifully decorated cupcakes ever to leave a bakery. (See below.)

                                                                                            A recent contender for best cupcake is Two Little Red Hens, they make a chocolatey chocolate Brooklyn Blackout cupcake that is a transcendent experience for chocolate lovers.

                                                                                            I recently overheard a debate over cupcakes and someone was singing the praises of a new-ish spot in the West Village. Didn't catch the name, but I think it was a man's name. Anyone?

                                                                                            Let the cupcake games begin.

                                                                                             
                                                                                            1. re: ballulah
                                                                                              a
                                                                                              avae May 4, 2007 01:17 PM

                                                                                              I only recently came upon Amy's bread's pink cake. It is amazing. They also have it in cupcake form. It's vanilla cake with pink (vanilla) buttercream frosting.

                                                                                            2. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                                              financialdistrictresident Mar 4, 2007 12:09 PM

                                                                                              1. Reservations for popular and upscale restaurants are a must. You may need to reserve 1 month ahead and reconfirm. Some restaurants use opentable.com (see menupages.com).

                                                                                              2. Magnolia used to be a pet shop. Need I say more? Veniero's in EV is a good Italian pastry shop (not trendy or cutting edge).

                                                                                              3. No experience with the automat.

                                                                                              1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                                                thunderbug84 Mar 13, 2007 01:03 PM

                                                                                                If you are going to Babbo, get reservations (by phone only) one month in advance to the day or else you are going to have a hard time getting a good time. If you cant get into Babbo, Esca (also Batali) is wonderful.

                                                                                                1. re: thunderbug84
                                                                                                  d
                                                                                                  Dr. Confoundo Mar 13, 2007 03:25 PM

                                                                                                  I already got em. It took me a while to get through, but eventually the phone rang - and then they put me on hold for five minutes! The reservations are for 5:45, which is a little early, but my alternative was 10:45, and there's no way my wife could have stayed awake for that. ;)

                                                                                                2. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                                                  t
                                                                                                  travelnfood Mar 14, 2007 10:21 AM

                                                                                                  I've never understood the hype about magnolia bakery. I've tried twice and both times, i took a bite and threw the rest away....everything was dry, from the cake to the frosting. it amazes me when i see lines there.

                                                                                                  yes, make any reservations a month beforehand. we usually have our places picked out 3 months before hand and have to wait just to make the reservation.

                                                                                                3. b
                                                                                                  bronwen Mar 2, 2007 09:48 AM

                                                                                                  For a New York vibe - The Boathouse, River Cafe in Brooklyn, Four Seasons, 21 Club, Rock Center Cafe, Oyster Bar Grand Central, Delmonico's, Cafe des Artistes, Balthazar.
                                                                                                  The best food is Daniel, Bouley, Babbo, Jean-Georges, Per Se, Masa's
                                                                                                  I love Gotham, Union Square, Picholine ....
                                                                                                  But it's hard to get a really bad bite in New York - have fun!!

                                                                                                  1. f
                                                                                                    FIFO22 Mar 2, 2007 09:02 AM

                                                                                                    I am from LA and moved to NYC a year ago. Skip anything Mexican or sushi - you can't beat what you have in your backyard.

                                                                                                    One of my faves here is Sapa. On 24th & 6th. Asian Fusion place - amazing space, food is delicious. Daily Happy hour til 7:30 ($5 beer, $5 martinis and an array of apps). Stay for dinner though you won't be disappointed and be sure to ask for the chocolate chip cookies - they are free and freshly baked. Sunday has a brunch - not yet tried, but the dinner menu has a $15 dinner - the whole steamed lobster is the best and it is New England lobster.

                                                                                                    Kittichai is also quite fabulous as is Spice Market - both asian fusiony places with amazing spaces.

                                                                                                    Otto is Mario Battali's pizzeria - more casual, great for groups. I guess while you are here you should hit up a celeb eatery.

                                                                                                    Pastis or Schiller's is also very good.

                                                                                                    You have so many great recs as it is - it will be quite hard for you to narrow it down. You will just have to come back to NY again.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: FIFO22
                                                                                                      k
                                                                                                      kayonyc Mar 12, 2007 01:16 PM

                                                                                                      I would say skip anything remotely thai or thai fusiony as well - You've got the best thai in thai town of Hollywood - no sense in getting second rate thai in NYC.

                                                                                                    2. w
                                                                                                      winebitch Mar 2, 2007 08:45 AM

                                                                                                      tasting menus are a great way to go...especially for getting the overall style of the chef and the restaurant. in fact, degustation (mentioned above) has quite a well priced tasting menu.

                                                                                                      also, the talk of the town lately is 11 Madison Park -- and i don't disagree -- they are doing a fabulous job. one great way to enjoy this elegant spot is to sit at a table in the bar area. a couple of nights ago, i had to get a fix and i dropped in with a friend, we ordered bar portions of their famous Poached Poularde dish (which are actually a nice sized portion) and followed it up with a sensational blood orange / fennel ice cream dessert. wonderful!

                                                                                                      my personal favorite higher end restaurant, as far as deliciousness per dollar ratio is Hearth. the cooking is magnificent, the atmosphere elegant, and the service is razor sharp.

                                                                                                      fun, new york eats--
                                                                                                      momofoku noodle bar
                                                                                                      blue ribbon bakery
                                                                                                      and my pizza vote is... lil frankies

                                                                                                      1. t
                                                                                                        timmy Mar 2, 2007 07:25 AM

                                                                                                        crispo's

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: timmy
                                                                                                          j
                                                                                                          jsmitty Mar 2, 2007 07:32 AM

                                                                                                          2nd crispo.. i love crispo. very comfortable room, try to sit in the back room with the brick oven

                                                                                                        2. t
                                                                                                          txmasjoy Mar 2, 2007 07:20 AM

                                                                                                          Barbetta is at 321 W 46th between 8th and 9th Avenue. Small, intimate Italian, convenient for pre-theatre dining. If you are seated by 6, you'll have a leisurely meal and stroll to your show. Post-theater tends to be hectic.

                                                                                                          Schedule one of Danny Meyer's restaurants into your itinerary.

                                                                                                          I love the ultra-urban feel of The Modern at MOMA, W. 53rd between 5th and 6th. You do want to feel like you're in Manhattan, don't you? Sublime menu, service, even going to the restroom is fun.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: txmasjoy
                                                                                                            financialdistrictresident Mar 4, 2007 11:40 AM

                                                                                                            Barbetta has a lovely garden but the food was nothing special the last time I ate there. One of Danny Meyer's restaurants is a MUST. Tabla, Union Square, one of the newer/trendier ones, etc.

                                                                                                          2. j
                                                                                                            jsmitty Mar 1, 2007 07:04 PM

                                                                                                            In my view these were the most memorable meals of the many I've been to in NYC
                                                                                                            Veritas(culinary precision!)
                                                                                                            Babbo(batali get the tongue)
                                                                                                            Degustation(let Wesley bring you his creative, ample, tapas one at a time)
                                                                                                            A Voce(duck meatballs amazing from Andrew Carmellini a very talented chef with a great resume)
                                                                                                            The Tasting Room(they have since switched spaces and the word on the street is mixed)
                                                                                                            Casa Mono(more small plates spanish with flair and originality)
                                                                                                            Cafe Gray(in time warner with good views Gary Kunz, late of Lespinasse, gets it right)
                                                                                                            Prune(small, unpretenscious, "foodie"Contemporary American Gabrielle Hamilton)
                                                                                                            Sushi of Gari(wow!)
                                                                                                            Annisa(Annita Lo. Get the tasting menu, For that matter I would do the tasting menu at any of these places that are offering it) Romantic room.
                                                                                                            Jean Georges(I prefer the more casual cafe. Similar menu as the more formal dining room. I think Jean Georges' best in NYC restaurant among Perry St., Vong, Mercer Kitchen, Spice Market, 66, never been to JoJo.
                                                                                                            Pearl Oyster Bar(please get the lobster roll!)
                                                                                                            Franny's(my favorite pizza sit down in Brooklyn)
                                                                                                            Joe's Pizza (my favorite slice on carmine)
                                                                                                            Unfortunatley my favorte Chinatown spot closed (Wong Kee) The meal that I used to look forward to the most head and shoulders above all. I hope you can get great feedback on Chinatown. I am still trying to form my latest opinion on where to go. There are many options.
                                                                                                            Now interstingly some of the "slam dunks" Bouley, Picholine, WD-50 et. al. (these would make may chowhound lists) I did not enjoy as much
                                                                                                            Some others I have never been to that are highly thought of.....
                                                                                                            Chanterelle
                                                                                                            Danube
                                                                                                            Sushi Yasuda
                                                                                                            Per Se
                                                                                                            Daniel
                                                                                                            Le Bernadin(I have been told this is a must)
                                                                                                            If you have any questions, I know I may have been a bit scant on some of the info, please let me know.... Have fun.

                                                                                                            1. d
                                                                                                              Dr. Confoundo Mar 1, 2007 04:19 PM

                                                                                                              These are some great ideas! I really appreciate people doing this for me.

                                                                                                              One thing I've noticed as I've gone through some of the menus here are the prices - Are dinner prices significantly higher in NYC that in LA, or am I just not going to the fancy-schmancy Beverly Hills restaurants that these are on par with? Here in LA, I don't think I've ever spent over $100 on a meal for just two people, and that's for a very special occasion (like a birthday or anniversary) - I may have broken $80 once or twice, including tip (And I don't drink wine, so that would definitely skew the bill lower)

                                                                                                              Are tasting menus something I should be looking at to give me a wide range of dishes in a short time, even if they seem out of my price range? What is the low end of prices for tasting menus? Looks to me like it's $50-60 or so... will I be able to walk away from one of these restaurants and feel like I've gotten my money's worth?

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                                                                ballulah Mar 2, 2007 07:59 AM

                                                                                                                A lot of the recommendations you've gotten here are for very very high end places with commensurate prices, and I would consider most of these places either restaurants to enjoy on an expense account, or special occasion restaurants for most diners. It might be helpful to post a second thread asking specifically for recommendations for street food and more moderately priced restaurants. I think everyone's pulled out the stops here to recommend some of NYC's finest, it's easy to get overwhelmed with the memory of meals like these and to forget to throw in ideas for the secret spots without the hefty price tags.

                                                                                                                Although I see some Chinatown recommendations, and Katz's and banh mi joints...and don't get a New Yorker started on favorite pizza!

                                                                                                                To follow your theme, though, if I had to leave NY forever and had two days to cram in all the food I love in the city (provided of course that I could also bring some food to take with me for after I've left), my first stop would be Bereket on Houston and Orchard for a doner kebab and a take out order of stuffed grape leaves and baklava. I would also want one last pepperoni and mushroom pie from Lombardi's on Spring St, and for dessert I'd want an eclair and some truffles from Ceci Cela down the street. Then I'd want to walk up Mott St and get a small order of veggie "meatballs" with hot chili sauce and brown rice to have later. I would also want to go uptown and get tacos al pastor from Taqueria y Fonda (109th and Amsterdam), and I would have to ask them for 6 pork tamales and large containers of each and everyone of their homemade salsas to take out. I would also have to get a half dozen of City Bakery's double chocolate cookies and a thermos of the hot chocolate. Without a doubt I'd have to have one last burger at Island Burgers (52nd St and 9th Ave), but for the fries I'd have to go to jump in a cab and get a large cone of Belgian frites with frites sauce at Pommes Frites (7th St and 2nd Ave). I love street food. And I know there's a lot I'm missing from NYC's best offerings, and I've limited myself to Manhattan only, and this is just what I'd be in the mood for if I was going out to do this right at this very moment. Tomorrow it might be a totally different list! And this doesn't even count the grocery shopping!

                                                                                                                This is also assuming that your appetite is limitless!

                                                                                                                1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                                                                  financialdistrictresident Mar 4, 2007 11:38 AM

                                                                                                                  If you go to Nobu suggest you get the tasting menu (they have several). We selected the $75 menu. Also, lunch at the more upscale restaurants is a good option and may provide more value. Strongly suggest RGRs Lower East Side walking/eating tour (do a search on this site, it's a recent post). You can also check out the menus, prices and more reviews on menupages.com

                                                                                                                  1. re: financialdistrictresident
                                                                                                                    t
                                                                                                                    tpigeon Mar 4, 2007 12:26 PM

                                                                                                                    I say get the sig dishes @ nobu and forget omakase. Their sushi is not great and they always have it in there. Waste of money.

                                                                                                                2. s
                                                                                                                  sudough Mar 1, 2007 02:39 PM

                                                                                                                  Joe Allen's is on restaurant row right in the heart of the theater district. It's an institution. Great American fare. And they are experts at getting you out in time for the show. Thalia is another really nice place for before or after a show.

                                                                                                                  1. s
                                                                                                                    sudough Mar 1, 2007 02:26 PM

                                                                                                                    Compass, near Lincoln Center is an amazing space and has great farm fresh food. It is expensive but they have a great 3 course lunch prix fix for 25. What a find!

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: sudough
                                                                                                                      r
                                                                                                                      RGR Mar 1, 2007 03:37 PM

                                                                                                                      Compass is not open for lunch. They do have a good value 3-course dinner prix-fixe for $35.

                                                                                                                      http://www.compassrestaurant.com

                                                                                                                      1. re: RGR
                                                                                                                        j
                                                                                                                        jsmitty Mar 1, 2007 06:44 PM

                                                                                                                        Compass.. are you kidding.. The most overrated, under performing spot... unless they have imporved since I went last year.Who is the chef now?

                                                                                                                        1. re: jsmitty
                                                                                                                          r
                                                                                                                          RGR Mar 2, 2007 06:50 AM

                                                                                                                          The chef is John Fraser, and he has been there for nearly three years. I haven't been there in a while, but I thought his food was delicious. There are other Hounds who agree with me. So, since you disagree, this a situation where the expression "Chacun a son gout" applies.

                                                                                                                    2. d
                                                                                                                      davisready Mar 1, 2007 12:22 PM

                                                                                                                      peter luger
                                                                                                                      l' impero
                                                                                                                      harrison
                                                                                                                      freemans
                                                                                                                      katz's (try the tongue sandwich if you're feeling adventurous)

                                                                                                                      chinatown picks

                                                                                                                      congee village
                                                                                                                      No 1 banh mi
                                                                                                                      doyers

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: davisready
                                                                                                                        financialdistrictresident Mar 4, 2007 11:34 AM

                                                                                                                        We just ate at The Harrison and it was really good (see the posts on menupages.com).

                                                                                                                      2. a
                                                                                                                        ACknowsStyle Mar 1, 2007 12:14 PM

                                                                                                                        Kittichai, Aspen

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: ACknowsStyle
                                                                                                                          p
                                                                                                                          Pan Mar 2, 2007 10:34 PM

                                                                                                                          I've never heard of Aspen. What kind of food?

                                                                                                                          1. re: Pan
                                                                                                                            r
                                                                                                                            RGR Mar 3, 2007 06:37 AM

                                                                                                                            Aspen is on 22nd, b/t 5th & 6th. Specializes in wild game. I haven't been. Here's their website: http://www.aspen-nyc.com/

                                                                                                                        2. d
                                                                                                                          danaherd3 Mar 1, 2007 12:08 PM

                                                                                                                          If I could only go to one last place, it would probably be Totonno's out in Coney Island... Best Pizza... Ever... In my opinion and pretty much every one else's I've taken there. Everyone get's side tracked by Nathan's when they go out but I'd say Totonno's (1524 Neptune Ave).

                                                                                                                          1. l
                                                                                                                            lyn Feb 28, 2007 05:27 PM

                                                                                                                            I hate to be intrusive, but where are you from? For example if you were from San Fran you would probably not concider dim sum a must in NYC. Peoria, well then, yes! no matter where you hail from, I say Katz Deli all the way for pastrami (get it at the counter and tip a buck a sandwich) the dogs are great too. Washed down with a Brooklyn Brewery ale and you are in heaven. A fan of authentic spicy Sichuan ? Grand sichuan-a few branches. Believe it or not not every city has the real deal. I love the modest Dumpling House in Chinatown for dumplings (5 for a buck) and scallion pancake with beef. Re: lupa. yeah its good, but it did not blow me away. Yet it is sooooo nyc, so it could be worth it just to soak in the vibe and enjoy the big board of house cured meats all at a realitevly reasonable price point (menus are online btw). Check out menupages.com to search by ethnicity, location. Good luck with the Chinatown thing. Fierce debates will confuse you! P.S it is not really argued that the best Chinese is one of Queen's Chinatowns...although the 7 train is down, curses. Still I love Chinatown NYC . But I need to get to Spicy and Tasty (Queens) next trip.

                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: lyn
                                                                                                                              d
                                                                                                                              Dr. Confoundo Mar 1, 2007 09:57 AM

                                                                                                                              I'm in Los Angeles... which has a lot of good Mexican Food, but random amounts of everything else.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Dr. Confoundo
                                                                                                                                p
                                                                                                                                Pan Mar 2, 2007 10:36 PM

                                                                                                                                I think that Chinese food is generally better in LA than in New York. It's likely that the same is true of other East and Southeast Asian cuisines. But then, I don't know the scene in LA that well. Can someone more familiar with the LA scene confirm or refute?

                                                                                                                            2. jinet12 Feb 28, 2007 05:19 PM

                                                                                                                              I think that eating at Ellen's was fun, but the food was horrible! It was so bad, I actually almost asked them to take it back..and it was only burger!

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: jinet12
                                                                                                                                h
                                                                                                                                hungry_fox Feb 28, 2007 05:26 PM

                                                                                                                                Wow, I must appologize then, cause I've really never had a bad meal there and I've eaten there at least a dozen times. I've sent plenty of friends there before shows and they've all loved it; maybe it was an unusually bad day?

                                                                                                                              2. wleatherette Feb 28, 2007 12:16 PM

                                                                                                                                do yourself a favor and search recent threads on chinatown. there are so many places, and everyone has a favorite and many reasons to explain why it's better than all of the other spots. some names that always come up when the question of the best is raised:
                                                                                                                                oriental garden
                                                                                                                                fuleen seafood
                                                                                                                                new york noodletown
                                                                                                                                congee village
                                                                                                                                congee bowery
                                                                                                                                mandarin court

                                                                                                                                1. d
                                                                                                                                  Dr. Confoundo Feb 28, 2007 12:12 PM

                                                                                                                                  What about Chinatown? What's the quintessencial place to go for amazing Chinese food?

                                                                                                                                  1. h
                                                                                                                                    hungry_fox Feb 28, 2007 11:51 AM

                                                                                                                                    YOU ARE CORRECT SIR! Don't hit up Tavern on the Green, the food is ok, the prices make me cry, and last time I was there we nearly had to just walk out early because there was some really funky smell around the entire restaurant.

                                                                                                                                    Anyways, I have one answer to two of your questions, both the one place I'd have to go if I was leaving NYC forever and the pre/post theater dinner.

                                                                                                                                    The answer, is Ellen's Stardust Diner. It's a 50's diner, yes I know, often overdone and corny, but it's far better than any Johnny Rocket's or anything. This place has with it the essence and soul of the theater district-partially due to the fact that it is in the Theater district. All of the waiters/waitresses are men and women who are trying to be in, or were recently in a Broadway show; as they're serving, carrying out trays, amazing milkshakes, alcohol, you name it, they're singing and dancing. And may I say, if they're the people who currently don't have jobs on Broadway, that proves just how good broadway singers are, because these people are amazing! I go there everytime I can, especially when I see a show. I've gone with big and small groups, the service has always been outstanding, the food is extremely good, the milkshakes and alcohol are quite tasty, and the prices aren't bad at all.

                                                                                                                                    You can go either before or after the show, it really makes no difference, chances are there might be some sort of wait regardless; although for later shows you may want to check their hours. Either way, before or after, big group or small group, you won't be dissapointed with Ellen's Stardust Diner.

                                                                                                                                    1. syoung Feb 28, 2007 11:17 AM

                                                                                                                                      Off the top of my head, I'd add L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Per Se to DoctoredNYC's expensive list; but, frankly, there are just too many to choose from that you can't pick just one and it also depends on what type of food you crave at that time (e.g., on some nights, I might crave pasta).

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: syoung
                                                                                                                                        j
                                                                                                                                        jangita Feb 28, 2007 11:39 AM

                                                                                                                                        Gotham Bar and grill for lunch-- $29 prix fixe can't be beat!

                                                                                                                                        And the best meal on my last trip was at:
                                                                                                                                        11 Madison Park. A gorgeous restaurant with food and service to match.

                                                                                                                                        jan

                                                                                                                                      2. wleatherette Feb 28, 2007 10:55 AM

                                                                                                                                        lupa, definitely.

                                                                                                                                        1. DoctortedNYC Feb 28, 2007 10:23 AM

                                                                                                                                          Jean Georges
                                                                                                                                          katz's Deli
                                                                                                                                          Bouley
                                                                                                                                          Babbo
                                                                                                                                          Grand Central Oyster Bar
                                                                                                                                          Peter Lugars
                                                                                                                                          L&B Pizzeria[Brooklyn-Sicilian pizza]
                                                                                                                                          Jean Georges
                                                                                                                                          Le Bernardin
                                                                                                                                          Nobu

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