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Mar 26, 2007 07:27 AM

NYC Trip - May 12 and 13

Philadelphia Chowhounder here!

Looking for food reccs in the following areas. On a budget, interested in delicious food I may not be able to get in Philadelphia, primarily at sit down restaurants. I will be in the city with my mother, shopping, and would enjoy relaxing and sitting for a nice meal between our shopping. We will be in the following areas and could use some reccomendations. Also - please note that I am a vegetarian and she is a vegetarian that eats fish - but most restaurants have no trouble accomadating!

We will be staying at the The Carlton on Madison Avenue on 88 Madison Avenue.

We will also be shopping in the SoHo and Nolita on one day (we plan to have breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien and a quick bite of corn on the cob at Cafe Habana).

On the next day we will most likely visit Barneys and Henri Bendel. I have no idea where to eat around there or near my hotel.

We need reccs for dinner on Saturday night and breakfast and lunch on Sunday.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Am I being to vague? Please help!

    1. In the Carlton, there are two restaurants: the very upscale Country, and the more moderately-priced though not inexpensive Cafe at Country. The Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. We've had dinner there twice. The food's very good, and the surroundings are handsome. Service was excellent the first time but left a lot to be desired the second. And if the place is jammed, it can be very noisy. I think it would be a convenient place to have breakfast on Sunday (though they call it brunch).

      For dinner on Saturday, a restaurant right near the hotel that I highly recommend is Urena, on 28th St., b/t Madison & Park Av. S. Alex Urena is a very talented chef, and cuisin is truly delicious. There are some Spanish elements on the menu, but essentially, the dishes are Chef Urena's own eclectic creations. Service is pleasant, and the atmospherics are very comfortable, relaxing, and conversation-friendly. The website is in need of updating, but the menu there will give you some idea of what to expect.

      Barney's and Henri Bendel are well uptown from the Carlton, actually midtown, in the upper 50's.

      One good spot for lunch in that area would be the burger joint (no formal name, but that's what it's called), at the rear of the lobby in the Le Parker Meridien, on 56th St., b/t 6th & 7thAvs. First-rate burgers and fries.

      Another excellent option is La Bonne Soupe, on 55th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs., a very sweet French bistro with lots more on the menu than just good soups.

      Hope you and your mom have a great time in NYC and Bon Appetit!

      14 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        I recommend Balthazar for breakfast instead of Le Pain Quotidien for your downtown shopping day. You can't beat the Balthazar atmosphere and it's easy to get in for breakfast.

        1. re: JennS

          Really? I have such warm memories of Le Pain Quotidien. Tell me about Balthazar? Is it also in SoHo? What's the food like?

          1. re: saturninus

            Le Pain Quotidien is a great place but it's also a mini-chain. If you're looking for a true NY experience, try Balthazar. Classic French bistro, gorgeous room, wonderful pastries and a bustling scene, even at breakfast. It's in Soho on Spring St between Broadway and Lafayette. If you do a board search you'll find lots of posts about it.

        2. re: RGR

          Thank you so much for the reccomendations!

          Do you think Country Inn Cafe, Urena or Parker Meridien would work with a budget? I'd like to spend no more than $15 a person for breakfast or lunch (one entree each) and $70 for dinner (for 2 - 2 apps, 2 entrees). Also, since one of us is a vegetarian and one eats fish - are these places a good match?

          Sorry for the budgetary constraints!

          1. re: saturninus

            No reason to apologize for having budgetary constraints. It's quite common. In fact, it's usually a question I ask when that info is not supplied. So, mea culpa! And also, a gigantic OOPS! for me because I forgot about the vegetarian situation. Obviously, that eliminates the burger joint!

            La Bonne Soupe would work both in terms of being vegetarian-friendly (for example, you could share a wonderful cheese fondue) and budget-wise because prices are very reasonable. You'd have to check the prices for Cafe at Country's breakfast/brunch to see if they would fit. As regards Urena, it would be fine for a vegetarian like your mom, who eats fish, but for someone stricter like you, I have to say it would not be a good choice. :-(

            Here's my substitute dinner recommendation:

            Campanile, on 29th St., b/t Madison & Park Av. S., is a very attractive, comfortable neighborhood Italian restaurant with well-prepared, delicious food. The menu includes vegetarian-friendly options for both the fish and non-fish eater. And prices will fit nicely within your budgetary parameters.

            Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.

            1. re: RGR

              thanks so much - i will look up balthazar and campanile on zagat as well. they sound great!

              1. re: saturninus

                Campanile is not listed in Zagat. Think neighborhood "hidden gem." :-)

            2. re: saturninus

              Don't apologize for budgetary constraints! There are plenty of good places to eat in NYC that don't cost a fortune.

              That said, I second breakfast at Balthazar -- It's a NYC classic, and their bread basket is incredible.

              An option for dinner might be Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village. The food is delicious, the restaurant is fun (though tiny), and best of all -- it's dirt cheap. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes, too.

              1. re: bread for breakfast

                is there a very long wait at balthazar for saturday breakfast? can you call in advance or leave your name and walk around?

                what is caracas like? what kind of food does it serve? and also where is the east village closest to as far as where i am going? thanks!

                1. re: saturninus

                  You should call Balthazar as soon as possible and make a reservation if you go there for breakfast. I've had breakfasts there during the week with no problem, but I imagine it's packed on the weekends.

                  That said, If you can't get in, you can always stop by their bakery (next door to the restaurant) and grab some bread or pastry to go. Balthazar is in Soho, so it would convenient on your shopping day.

                  As for Caracas, it's Venezuelian food. It's an arepa bar -- Arepas are flat, cornmeal cakes grilled and split and then stuffed with various savory ingredients (chicken/avocado, beans/cheese, etc). Other options include empanadas and soup, and they'll substitute tofu for any meat.

                  Caracas isn't close to your hotel, but it's in a fun neighborhood and is a short cab ride away from The Carlton.

                  1. re: saturninus

                    when i was there last, it was for brunch on a sunday. we didn't have a reservation so there was about a 45 min wait. the hostess just told us to come back in about 40 min, so we just went shopping...plenty of stores and street vendors in immediate area.

                    1. re: saturninus

                      Have a look at their website:


                      The closest subways are the 6 (Lexington Local) at Astor Place, the R or W at 8th St., the L at 1st Av., and the F at 2nd Av.

                      1. re: Pan

                        The 28th St. station on the 6 is right near their hotel (The Carlton).

                        1. re: RGR

                          So then that's easy. They just take the 6 three stops, get out at Astor Place, and walk from there to 7th St. just east of 1st Av.

              2. Very close to Bendel on 5th ave is Takashimaya (a japanese store) that has a tea room in the basement, would be great for a light delicious lunch (for sat b/c it's closed on sun i think).

                Balthazaar would be great, don't know what the line is like for sunday brunch. If you have any problems getting in, Spring St Natural is an option that's close by -- organic, vegetarian + non, and pretty good.

                1 Reply
                1. re: 1uc7

                  I second Takashimaya. The food there is great and different. I often go with my mother. It is also a fun shopping experiance. I also like the restaurant at Sacks 5th ave. (if you happen to be shopping there). They have great salads and breads.

                2. I don't see Balthazar as the place to go if you want food on a budget. Though I certainly have heard good things about their breakfast. There are plenty of little hole-in-the-walls that taste great but aren't famous. I'm thinking Le Grainne Cafe (French) on 21st St or Lannam (Vietnamese) at Union Square. You could also check out the Irving Place restaurants around Gramercy Park. Friend of a Farmer is pretty inexpensive and is very good. And there's a vegan place across the street called Pure Food and Wine. I'm not a vegetarian, but it's atmosphere is amazing.

                  1. The original comment has been removed
                    1. The food at the L'Annan on 3rd Av. is horrible, so I would recommend avoiding the one on Union Square.

                      Pure Food & Wine serves dinner only. With the exception of the delicious "lasagna," I think the food is just so-so, and it is *very* expensive.

                      1. re: RGR

                        Well... I've been there numeorus times and never thought it was anything but good. I wouldn't go and expect the Ritz, granted. But certainly nowhere near horrible. I did not know that Pure was dinner only.

                      2. Ditto...Balthazar is NOT a place where one goes on a budget. Friend of a Farmer is very cute and the atmosphere is perfect for brunch.

                        1. re: LFeinberg

                          Prices for breakfast at Balthazar are comparable to diner prices and their pastries are around the same price as Le Pain Quotidien's. I wouldn't recommend it for lunch or dinner if you're on a budget but breakfast is easily doable.

                          1. re: JennS

                            I love Balthazar, but I must beg to differ about the pricing. Its definitely not diner-prices, unless your diner charges $15 eggs. Expect to come out of Balthazar with an entrée and a drink for $25 give or take.
                            For breakfast in Soho, you can try crepes at Café Le Gamin on Houston St, somewhere west of Broadway, Thompson maybe… If you like pastries, you can try Ceci Cela on Spring St for great French pastries in a cute backroom and Caffe Falai on Lafayette for Italian pastries. Never been to caffe falai but expect it not to be too different from Falai Panetteria, which besides wicked bombolonis and other baked goods, also served a limited breakfast menu of baked eggs and such.
                            For lunch near your hotel, Indian may be a good way to go if you like spicy food. Vegetarian South Indian restaurants like Saravannas and Chennai Garden serve very very good dosas and idlis.

                            1. re: xigua

                              OK, so my trip is this weekend. Here is the list I have composed based on your reccomendations. Of these, which would you reccomend for:

                              -lunch on saturday
                              -dinner saturday night
                              -breakfast/brunch sunday
                              -lunch sunday

                              A BIG bonus is that it is walking distance to the hotel and shopping areas listed at the top.

                              Which gets your vote? Where should/can I make a reservation now?

                              -La Bonne Soupe
                              -Caracas Arepa Bar

                              Please remember that I am a vegetarian. Thanks!

                              1. re: saturninus

                                also, any reccomendations on a place to get a drink near the hotel after dinner saturday would be great too.

                                1. re: saturninus

                                  Hey, saturninus, First off, in case it hasn't crossed your mind, Sunday, May 13th, is Mother's Day. That can have a very significant impact on where you will be able to reserve and on the quality of the dining experience. Frankly, I *never* dine out on Mother's Day. That said...

                                  If you will be in midtown on Saturday (Barney's and Henry Bendel), La Bonne Soupe or Takashimaya are conveniently located for lunch. If your midtown shopping will on Sunday, that could be problematical. Between pre-theater matinees and Mother's Day, La Bonne Soupe will probably be slammed. So, if you want to go there, you need to see if you can get a reservation asap! Not sure if Takashimaya is open on Sunday, but you can check.

                                  For Saturday dinner, definitely Campanile, which is a 1/2 block from the Carlton. (Note: They are not open for lunch on Saturday. and they are closed entirely on Sunday.)

                                  If you do your SoHo shopping on Saturday, that would probably be the day to do Balthazar because I suspect that on Sunday, it will be difficult to get a table for brunch because of Mother's Day.

                                  If you choose to go to SoHo on Sunday and want to try for Balthazar, you should call asap. However, if that doesn't work out, you might want to consider the Cafe at Country, right in the Carlton, for breakfast on Sunday (they call it brunch on weekends, but it starts very early). You can then head down to SoHo, and then do the Arepa Bar for lunch -- leaving Balthazar for another time.

                                  Hope you and your mom have a lovely visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    wow, thank you for helping me SO much. here are my thoughts:

                                    saturday lunch - la bonne soupe (didn't see great reviews when i looked through chowhound, perhaps i wasn't looking in the right places?) or takashimaya (how are they for vegetarians?)

                                    saturday dinner - campanille

                                    sunday breakfast - unsure, might wing it. cafe at country just seems expensive.

                                    sunday lunch - arepa bar

                                    do i need reservations for all of these? thanks. if so i will make them tonight.

                                    1. re: saturninus

                                      I think you can get in at La Bonne Soupe without a reservation, but it does get crowded, so you might want to make one just to make sure.
                                      Caracas Arepa Bar does not take reservations. It's tiny, so you may want to go on the earlier side if you don't want to wait. They also have a take out area. I haven't been to Cafe at Country. If you're looking for breakfast (well, brunch) in the same area, try Penelope. No reservations, and it does get crowded.

                                      1. re: saturninus

                                        La Bonne Soupe is fine for a vegetarian. You can view the menu on their website. If you go after the Saturday pre-matinee crowd has left (around 1:45), it will probably be less crowded. But having a reservation can't hurt.


                                        I can't tell you anything about Takashimaya. You could give them a call. Tel.: 212- 350-0100.

                                        Lucia's suggestion of Penelope for Sunday brunch is a good one. I think they start serving at 8 a.m. It's an extremely popular place, and it isn't very big. If you go early, it's probably less likely to be crowded. But, again, it's Mother's Day, so who knows?


                                        Friend of a Farmer, on Irving Pl., is another popular moderately-priced breakfast/brunch destination not too far from the Carlton. I've only had lunch there mid-week. However, my daughter and her b.f. sometimes go there for Sunday brunch. She has told me they usually show up a little before 10 and, at that hour, there is no wait for a table.


                                        Campanile is a fairly big place, but I've not been there on a Saturday evening, so I don't know how busy it will be. Again, I always feel that reserving ahead is a good idea.


                                    2. re: saturninus

                                      For a drink in that area, Aubette is a nice bar lounge that never seems to get too crowded. It's on 27th, right across from Blue Smoke/Jazz Standard. The back room is cozy with a fireplace, though it may not be the right time of year to appreciate it!

                                      Actually there's another bar which might be terrific if the weather's nice -- called 230 Fifth (27th st). It's a bar on the roof of an office bldg with a wonderful view of the empire state bldg. It will pbly be pretty crowded on sat night, thus annoying, but if either of you want to do some people-watching and don't mind too much of a "scene" it's nicely decorated with couches and plants and it's worth having a drink just to enjoy the view.