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4 meals, $600 and a big city....

  • l

OK, I have been doing my research and trying to work out the best way to spend my allocation of about $600 across 4 meals in New York City. I will be there for 4 days, and am looking to have a couple of nice dinners, a nice lunch and a good brunch on Sunday. I will be with my wife and we would normally share a bottle of wine over dinner or lunch (or matching wines with a tasting menu).

My pet hate in life as a tourist is paying for overpriced tourist traps because you didn't bother to get the bookings in advance that you need to eat at the better places where the better informed locals are.

I will be there in early April across the Easter weekend. Other than the 4 big meals, we will just take light meals wherever we happen to be when we get hungry.

My current plan is:

Fri dinner: Babbo (~$250)
Sat dinner: Buddakan (~$200)
Sun brunch: Baltahzar (~$50)
Mon lunch: Jean Georges (~$150 - lunch deal seems too good to be true!)

What do people think? Any suggestions for change or backups if I can't get reservations? Are my price estimates above in the right ballparks?

We eat regularly in michelin starred restaurants through the UK and Europe with a preference for delicate food that is well cooked. We often go for the tasting menus when available.

We are in our late 20's, have never been to NY and have an image of a very cool city and would like to try and find some of the famous NY "scene" if we can. I know it is probably sacrilege on a board like this, but we would even be prepared to sacrifice the quality of the food (ok, only for 1 night!) to dine in the latest cool place in town....

Any recommendations for bars nearby to these or other recommended restaurants would also be gratefully received.

Apologies for the length of the post, but I am just so excited about the big trip and want to make sure I make the most of it!

Many thanks!

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  1. Buddakan is the only one of the bunch I have not been to. I think you have a great plan. I will leave backups and a hotspot to others because I do not live here anymore.

    I would also try to go to less expensive foodie places for your other meals to get a real NY experience. NYC is not just cool it has heart and character which is greatly represented by these types of places. I will leave it to others to post them but you can read all about them by searching.

    Definately try to hit DiFara's for pizza though...

    1. it depends on the type of person you are...buddakan is a bit too monstrous in size and short on food for my taste. i like more intimate places.

      if i were you:

      dinner at bouley for fri dinner
      dinner at veritas for sat dinner
      sun brunch at freemans
      mon lunch at jean georges

      if you are here from wed to fri, go to telepan for lunch...$28 for 3 course...unreal selection.

      1. This looks great! You've got four wonderful places. But as Tpigeon mentioned, you might want to put some thought into your more casual choices as well. Most New Yorkers are just as passionate about finding the perfect bagel as they are about finding the right tasting menu.

        Enjoy your trip!


        1. Consider doing Lupa instead of Babbo on Friday (many, including myself, prefer the food there, and a full dinner with a bottle would run around $150) and redistribute that money into Saturday night's dinner (I'd go to Le Bernardin - haven't been to Buddakan, but I haven't seen the greatest reports here).

          Oh, I'd also consider Prune for a less splurgy dinner (it frequently gets mentioned for brunch as well, but I think it would be a shame to go and not get the monkfish liver on toast, which seems to be served only at dinner).

          As for the "scene" - what are you looking for? Tattoos and emo hair? Underaged Eastern European models and their banker boyfriends? The highest concentration of ultra-chic New Yorkers I've ever seen was actually at Sunday brunch at Blue Ribbon Bakery. The food's good, too (get there half an hour before opening if you want to get in on the first seating, and be seated upstairs). I think that if you choose a spot for the scene, not only do your risk having a bad meal, you risk spending your evening with other tourists and bachelorette parties from New Jersey also looking for the scene. Go with your food instincts.

          1. I agree with others that your itinerary seems solid except for Buddakan.

            Stick with Babbo. It's hard enough getting in and it's great food that's not marked up. Also, I tend to go high end at dinner and low end at lunch to keep things reasonable when I'm in NYC.

            High/Higher End:

            Babbo (keep it)
            Sushi Yasuda (at the bar in front of Yasuda if you like sushi)
            Jean Georges for lunch (not as impressive as dinner but if you sit in the Nougatine room, you can get a great view of Central Park)
            WD-50 (if you're into molecular gastronomy and such)


            Pastis or Balthazar for Lunch

            Low Stuff:

            Lombardi's for Pizza
            Katz's for pastrami
            Ess-A-Bagel or H&H for a huge bagel with whitefish salad

            1. With the exception of Buddakan, I think you've chosen very well. Ive never eaten at Buddakan here, but I have in Philly --its was pretty good but, you might as well try something uniquely NYC.

              How about Mas in the W. Village?

              Also, nothing wrong with Balthazar for brunch, but also consider Barney Greengrass on the UWS. Delicious smoked fish (must order the sturgeon) and a great atmosphere. Get there before 11(more like before 1030) on Sunday or you will wait

              1. Your list is a good first cut with the exception of Buddakan. My view is that upscale/award winning restaurants in the large western capitals have become much of a muchness in recent times. That said every now and again someone comes along with a distinctively brilliant menu and Daniel Humm at 11 Madison Park is worthy of this accolade so you should find a slot for a meal there. Lunch will set you back maybe $90-100 each ($48 menu gourmand + wine + tax/tip), dinner maybe $140-150 each ($88 four course menu + as before).

                Lose Buddakan and replace with a sushi option, Yasuda would be a good shout because it's stylish and quite (not ultra for which read annoyingly) trendy and will cost about $80 - $100 each for dinner omakase style.

                I would also give some serious thought to a meal at Degustation. Don't know if your gastronomic travels have taken you to the Basque Country or Barcelona, but this place is doing some innovative and delicious modern Spanish offerings and at $50 for a 5 course mini tasting menu with a very decent accompanying selection of wines is great value and quality. Also fits the trendy bill as is a fashionable restaurant with open kitchen, counter seating and a well groomed waitstaff and clientele.

                1. keep buddakan. you mention wanting a certain "scene" and buddakan fits to a t. it will be the only place with a majority of people around your (and my) age - jg and babbo are much quieter. at buddakan on the weekends, they don't even let you in without a reservation, it's so crowded. the food is surprisingly good and the space is one-of-a-kind for new york. i am a proud fan of it, though i prefer it for groups of 4 or more, not one on one dining.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ronoc

                    Agreed with ronoc that Buddakan is an option if you are up for the "scene". Though I have to say that the food is not that impressive there, and people go there more for the "to see and to be seen" notion.

                    I would actually suggest Megu instead of Buddakan for the scene and slightly better food. Megu is one of those places where young chic people like to hang out, and it is a good way to experience the NY scene. If you stick to the Kobe beef dishes, the food will be a lot better than Buddakan IMO. (you can go to their website to check out the menus). Then again, don't expect that you will get the same kind of GREAT food from Babbo or JG, as the food from these hip places in general will not be of the same league as your other selections.

                    Babbo, JG, and Baltahzar are good choices so I think you should stick to them. But you do need to order carefully in order to stay within your budget.

                    Hope you enjoy your trip!

                  2. If you want to do the pasta tasting menu with accompanying wines, it'll cost $300 including tax and tip, fyi. Highly recommend.

                    1. See, I love Buddakan, but I second replacing Babbo with Lupa.

                      1. i agree with the megu tip, although it is alot pricer then buddakan but both are def more scene then food.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: hotsaucer

                          I totally agree with Porthos and would add Morimoto (Chef's Choice menu is $120pp and I've heard it is sinfully good), Stanton Social, and Cipriani in Soho (for brunch and if the weather is nice) to the list. Oh, and if you find yourself out and about at 3am, check out Cafeteria in Chelsea (open 24 hours) to have the mac&cheese.

                          As for lower end "NYC" cool places I would definitely recommend Cafe Habana on Elizabeth & Prince St. The food is amazing and is always filled with local hipsters, models, and celebrities. The vibe is very cool (it's the restaurant in an old Lenny Kravitz video - "Again") and is definitely worth the wait...which there definitely will be. Get the corn, cafe con leche, pork platter, mango salad, or cuban sandwich.

                          I second Porthos's recommendation of Lombardi's. Great pizza in an old NYC establishment.

                          You can check out a lot of NYC menus here http://www.menupages.com/index.asp

                          Have fun!

                          1. re: meggy978

                            I have TRIED morimoto's choice menu and it was plain ordinary. Nothing special and totally not worth the price tags. In Morimoto you will not get any food that can be memorable or "wow" you unless you order the $200 omakase menu, and it must be prepared by Chef Morimoto (sometime other chefs do it and it's not the same). Other than the omakase, Morimoto is just another to-see-and-to-be-seen place. Service was also not professional, as the waiters have very little knowledge about the food (some can't even pronounce the Japanese ingredients...). I have to admit that the decor is trendy and chic and it is good for the "scene". The bar downstairs is a great area to mingle with NY hippies.

                            Stanton Social is also a place for party and scene, not the food.

                        2. I agree with the Morimoto review. Go for a cocktail if you want but save your food budget for somewhere else.


                          1. howdy, lazo:
                            it sounds like you really did your homework.
                            one modest thought, lupa serves a special easter sunday brunch. deb, chris and i participated last year and will definitely be back this year. reservations are a must.

                            1. Thanks a lot everyone for your helpful replies, they are much appreciated.

                              I have just managed a reservation at Babbo and am definitely going to stick with Jean George for lunch on Monday.

                              I will spend the next day thinking about Saturday night, might make a couple of reservations if I can get them and decide down the track actually.

                              I've started marking some of the casual suggestions onto my trusty fold-out map: Katz, Lombardi's, DiFaras etc - I'm going to try and cover the main areas with some of the recommended walk-in places I think. Yes, I am a control freak.

                              One other point - a colleague who lived in NY for many years has suggested Tartines in the West Village for brunch? Does anyone have any other views on that as an option?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Lazo

                                Tartine is fine, not great. For a similar atmosphere, I prefer Danal, which is a bit further East. In the W Vill, I also prefer nearby Extra Virgin and good.

                                1. re: Lazo

                                  If its nice out, Tartine is great. On a quiet corner of the West Village and it is BYOB and good croque monseuir. If its not warm enough to sit outside, you are cramped in a tiny restaurant and it is not worth it. I think Balthazar or the sister restaurant Pastis is good for a sunday brunch. Kind of sceney, good atmosphere and good food.

                                  Definitely stick with Babbo and Jean Georges, two great restaurants.