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Sweet 16 for a foodie..a celebration in NYC

I am planning my teen's Sweet 16 b day and she wants to spend it in NYC of all places. It's her dream and I can fullfil it. My teen is a gourmet food eater. She loves sushi most of all so recommendations are welcome. We also seek a great lunch spot and a brunch spot. We hope to center our dining around where we are staying near 14th between 2nd and 3rd. Also, please we will be seeking a boutique hotel near 14th between 2nd and 3rd..a few miles around that area is fine. We are big walkers but prefer not to take taxis.

Any tips are most welcome.

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  1. Any idea as to budget (for both the restaurant and the hotel) and party size, not to mention any preferences of atmosphere, etc., would be helpful. What springs to mind most obviously in that area for sushi is Jewel Bako, nine blocks south of you, which is excellent and almost a pastiche of New York hip restaurant, but given the number of sushi restaurants in Manhattan this is almost a question or personality as much as anything else. Similarly, brunch or lunch could be anything from Eleven Madison Park ($$$$$ but worth it) to Mayrose ($) in your area.

    1. If budget is not an issue, the W on Union Square is nice, but the Inn at Irving Place is amazing, and they have a wonderful tearoom, which might be nice for your daughter.

      1. Not at all surprising to me that a 16-year-old foodie would want to spend her birthday in NYC.

        The areas in the vicinity of 14th/2nd & 3rd -- Union Square, Flatiron, Gramercy Park -- are choc-a-bloc with excellent restaurants where you can enjoy a fabulous lunch and brunch.

        I agree with cjd260 about Eleven Madison Park. It would be first on my list. Note: If you do brunch there, skip the breakfast items in favor of Chef Humm's exquisite lunch dishes.


        Other places I would hightly recommend for lunch: Fleur de Sel (French), Gramercy Tavern (New American) and Devi (Indian).


        I don't do sushi, but my daughter and her boyfriend love it, and they are big fans of Yasuda, which is on 43rd St., b/t 2nd & 3rd Avs. Since you say you like to walk, this will give you an opportunity to work up an appetite.


        Re: boutique hotels. If you have no budgetary constraints and want luxury, the totally refurbished Gramercy Park Hotel recently re-opened. http://www.gramercyparkhotel.com

        Happy Sweet 16 to your daughter. Have a great visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

        1. If you don't mind a very short subway ride, Balthazar in Soho is a really nice spot for a celebratory brunch. I took my teenage niece there and she loved it. It is very much a NY scene.

          1. i second the rec for Inn At Irving Place: elegant and cozy and perfect location for you...

            my favorite sushi place is Ushi Wakamaru: the fish is superb, though the vibe there is more casual than somewhere like Jewel Bako...i used to love Jewel Bako but i haven't been there since they changed chefs a few months ago...

            for a casual E.Village brunch, you might try Cafe Mogador: great eggs w/ Moroccan ingredients and whole grain pancakes...sidenote: i disliked Mayrose when i went there a few years ago...

            for lunch (or brunch), Balthazar would be fabulous fun...great bistro food if she likes oysters, they have great shellfish platters...you might even consider it for dinner if you decide not to do sushi...

            although easily accessible from Union Sq is the Grand Central Oyster Bar (just one stop on the 4 or 5 express train): sitting at the counter there is a classic NY dining experience...

            And if you are wandering the East Village, Lucien is a nice mellow bistro at lunch (it's very crowded at dinner though)...bouillabaise, escargot, endive salade, and chocolate cake are all delicious...

            Have fun!

            1. Hi phelana,

              Without knowing how many days you are planning to stay in NYC and your budget, I will suggest a few places for each meals for your consideration:

              - Agree wtih RGR that Eleven Madison Park is definitely a must-try, and I think you can go for brunch or dinner, whichever you prefer.
              - Fleur de Sel has a great prix-fix lunch for $25, a bargain for great food in a small cozy restaurant.
              - For sushi / Japanese, I recommend two places: Kanoyama and Morimoto. Kanoyama is a neighbor sushi place and it serves some of the best sushi in town. It is very reasonably priced compared to other famous sushi restaurants in NYC (such as Yasuda or Gari), but quality-wise it is still top-notch. It will be finishing its renovation on March 9 so you get to experience its new space! Another plus is that it is conveniently located on 11th Street @ 2nd Ave, right where you plan to stay.
              - An (extravagant) alternative to Kanoyama is Morimoto. It is a bit of a walk as it is on the West side (meatpacking district), but if you want to experience NYC BIG scene + Japanese food, this is the place. There is a catch though: you will only get a memorable experience if you order the $200 omakase menu, prepared by Chef Morimoto himself. Anything else, including the $120 tasting menu, is mediocre and not worth the money. The omakase menu includes much more than sushi, and if your daughter is an Iron Chef fan she will definitely enjoy the omakase experience.

              For lunch / brunch, here is the famous Lower East Side Food tour that RGR (who also posted above) came up. This is perfect for anyone visiting NYC. Below is quoted from RGR's previous post:
              Since this is your first visit to NYC, you might want to consider taking my (in)famous Lower East Side eating "tour," which will give you an opportunity to sample some very New York foods. If you want to stuff yourself without spending a fortune, this is definitely a way to do it.

              Lower East Side Food Excursion

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

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

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

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

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

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

              Then, continue to 97 Orchard, b/t Broome & Delancey, where you will find the Tenement Museum. The tour will show you what life was like for immigrants to NYC at the beginning of the 20th century. (www.tenement.org


              Once you have finished the tour, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, right next door at 95 Orchard, is a must for some of the best gelato anywhere.

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

              There is also the Momofuku Ssam Bar which has some tasty Asian fusion food. It is one of "The Place" to visit in NYC for causal dining. Its dinner menu is far better than the lunch menu, but I think you should go for a more festive dinner at say EMP, and catch a late night bite at Momofuku (opens till 2am). It is located on 13th St @2nd Ave.

              If you let us know how many days you are staying and your budget, we may be able to add more new suggestions for you!

              1. Thanks Kobe..two nights arriving Friday and leaving Sunday. Budget/300.00 USD a night for accommodations, meals nothing crazy...

                1. a good place for a teen is Otto - one of Mario Batali's finds- where you can order/spend as much or little as desired--not sushi-but Italian-she might know him from tv--also I think Tabla at the Bread Bar is great- one of Danny Merer's - many times you can walk in to either of these w/o reservation, but not always

                  1. For a 16 year old? Sea in Williamsburg. It has the "Garden State" and "Sex and the city" reputation, it's CHEAP, and it's "sceney"... it's very young-friendly. And it has sushi. And good food. Really, this is the place you wanna go.

                    Megu Midtown is also really elaborate, but really expensivo. but very sceney.

                    1. I would like to ditto the comment about Morimoto or one of Mario Batali's places--I would imagine that a 16-year old foodie watches her share of the Food Network, and eating in one of the Iron Chef's restaurants, perhaps even food prepared by them, would be quite a treat.

                      Besides that, you might try a cuisine that you can't easily find elsewhere--Indonesian (particularly rijsttafel), Malaysian, Ethiopian, Argentinian, etc.

                      1. She is an Food Network fan for sure..but isn't Morimoto like 500.00 USD each??

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: phelana

                          You are confusing Morimoto with Masa. Morimoto is downtown in the Meatpacking District, while Masa is one of the restaurants in the Time-Warner Bldg. uptown. I've not been to Morimoto and, unfortunately, the website does not include prices. However, I feel pretty confident in assuring you that the cost of going to Morimoto will be nowhere near the cost of dining at Masa. Btw, I've not been to Masa either.


                          1. re: RGR

                            Hi phelana,

                            If your daughter is a Iron Chef fan, then I think you should visit Morimoto. As I mentioned above, the omakase menu is $200 prepared at the sushi bar table. When the restaurant first opened, this omakase menu was prepared by Chef Morimoto himself. But with Chef Morimoto being a celebrity nowadays, you will rarely see him in the restaurant these days, and the quality of the omakase meal was not up to the $200 price tag. Then there is the $120 chef choice or a la carte, but the former requires the whole table to participate. I suggest that you can order a la carte with your daughter, and if you pick the right dishes, you can still have a great dinner at Morimoto without breaking the bank. Here are some of my suggestions:

                            - For appetizers, the hot ones are of better value than the cold ones. Stay away from anything that they called "kobe beef" or "wagyu beef" because they are so ordinary (not remotely close to kobe beef quality) that you can find similar ones in many NYC restaurants.

                            -focus on entrees and not sushi or maki rolls. The sushi and rolls, while of good quality, is NOT top notch level. Entrees are much more innovative and exciting, and this is what Chef Morimoto is famous for (fusion Japanese food, not sushi). For the entree selections, I like the duck, duck, duck a lot, and it is pretty big by itself and enough for share. I would also recommend fish entress like sea bass or cod, and avoid lobster or beef as these tend to be overpriced and boring. You can order your steak or beef at a steak house and get better sushi and sashmi at Kanoyama at half of the price.

                            - You can also order a soup or noodle (ramen or udon) if you are not planning to visit any noodle / ramen shops in NYC. The noodles there is actually not too shabby (considering that noodle is not their specialty)

                            -Desserts: again, not too exciting IMO, so spend your $$ at a dessert place instead. The only dessert that I enjoyed there was the Earl Grey Creme Brulee.

                            The above should be more than enough for the two of you, and with say a drink (I assume your 16-to-be daughter is not drinking? ;D) then you can get a great dinner (with good food and GREAT view and decor) under $150 - $200. IMO it is better to go to Morimoto for dinner because they will turn on all the blue neon lights and there are more "people to see". you can make a reservation at opentable.com, and a link to the menu (with price) is here:

                            As others suggested, Otto and Lupa are great options to visit other Iron Chef Mario Batali's establishments. Both are cheaper than Babbo, the most popular Batali's restaurant (and therefore the most crowded), and easier to get a reservation. Another option is Del Posto, which is quite new and is right on the opposite side of Morimoto (two iron chefs on one street, can you imagine?). While most of the dishes there are VERY expensive, they have an enoteca prix-fix menu for $41, and you get every bit of Batali's good food and a magnificent decor at a super bargain price. You probably will need to dress a little nice as that place is so "grand". Menu is available at their own del posto website.

                            I hope you will be able to visit these restaurants when you come to NYC. I can imagine that any 16 year old will be thrilled to go to an Iron Chef restaurant, especially if she is a fan!

                        2. For sushi I would do Jewel Bako. I'm 17 and a huge foodie and used to live in NYC. If you can you should sit at the sushi bar and order the omakase menu. Another good sushi place is Blue Ribbon Sushi, though they can be hard to get into and I don't know if they take reservations.
                          I went to Eleven Madison, and it was good but I wasn't too impressed. My dad used to live right next door to Balthazar...and while the atmosphere is amazing, I don't recommend it for the food...esp. dessert. It used to be really good, but I think they've gotten too popular. They do have a nice bakery next door and it's nice, if you're early risers, to go for breakfast. Their croissant are pretty good and the owner is usually walking around the restaurant. One really nice place for brunch is Sarabeth's. They have several locations, though the Upper West Side one is the nicest in my opinion.
                          For hotels...Inn at Irving place is really nice. It's right by Gramercy Park, which is one of the nicest areas of NYC. Their tea is really superb. Have fun! That's so nice to take your daughter.

                          1. Two more thoughts: one, congrats on rasing a daughter with taste :) and Happy Birthday to her. Secondly, don't forget--lunch is a good time to go to the high-end joints, and the less expensive places for dinner.

                            1. My soon to be 16 foodie son, NEVER wants to miss dinner at "Balthazar", pizza and gelato at Mario Batalia's "Otto", and brunch at Bobby Flay's "Mesa Grill"...

                              1. Another big vote for brunch or lunch at Balthazar -- make a reservation! When I was a teenager, I really loved going to bustling brasseries when in nyc, since it felt very new york (via Paris), and very cosmopolitan, in a warm way. Otto is also a good idea, maybe best for lunch as well.

                                As for sushi -- I think it's tough to do Morimoto on the cheap, though you could stop in there for a non-alcoholic cocktail and nibble at the bar. Then I'd head to either Jewel Bako if you want a moderate sushi splurge or Ushi Wakamaru for a more gently priced meal (as said above, this is a VERY no-atmosphere room, but the fish is delicious -- make a reservation to sit at the sushi bar and encourage your daughter to ask the chefs a lot of questions). Or you might head up to 23rd and 10th Avenue to Izakaya Ten. It's a small-plate japanese joint, with some sushi and great small plates of other Japanese delicacies. It's a slim, intimate space and very affordable, where she'd be able to try a lot of different things. Their menu, like a lot of these menus, is on menupages.com.

                                Right next door is Tia Pol, a similarly small space that served great spanish tapas. I'd encourage you to stop in for a few plates at their bar, while you're on 10th Ave, except that unless you get there before 6 p.m. there will be a long wait. Neither of these places are walking distance from where you'll be staying, but they're a cheap 2-minute cab ride.

                                Right by the Inn at Irving Place is Bar Jamon, another Batali place, very casual, you stand up at the bar and eat plates of tapas, proscuitto, etc. It would be a fun stop in for a snack on your way to or from the hotel, if that's where you end up staying.

                                In the east village, if you're willing to wait on line for a while, there's always Momofuku noodle bar (or the sister restaurant, Momofuku Ssam Bar), do a search and you'll find a lot of postings about it. I'm a big fan of the food, but they move you in and out of there (at least the first restaurant, I don't know about the Ssam bar) very quickly, so it's not a leisurely dinner experience. But if she sits at the main bar, she'll be able to watch the chefs at work.

                                Good luck and have fun! It sounds like a great sweet 16.

                                1. Egads, decisions decisions...we want atmosphere, chic, cool and not crazy prices...great tips. Will finalize our decision soon...