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Secrets of the Village

Four of us will be coming to NYC and staying in the Village and we are visiting on a budget. I can read all about the well known places to dine but we would like to learn about those not-so-published but otherwise fabulous little places that only you natives know about through experience. We will be interested in places for breakfast and dinner primarily. So please feel free to jump in with your suggestions. Thanks!

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  1. Breakfast: Good, Max Brenner, Noho Star (Rachel Ray went here on one of her Food Network travel shows featuring NY restaurants)
    MUST TRY snack: a cupcake from The Magnolia Bakery
    Dinner: Piccolo Angolo (yummy Italian food), Sushi Samba (can also try to go at lunch), Gonzo, Cuba, Rare Bar & Grill

    1 Reply
    1. re: LFeinberg

      don't do sushi samba, that place is garbage

    2. Brunch: Tartine
      Belgian food/beer: Cafe de Bruxelles
      Coffee: Joe's
      Coffee/Breakfast: Grey Dog's

      IMHO Magnolia is terribly overrated and totally not worth the long line.

      12 Replies
      1. re: nokitsch

        Magnolia may be overrated, but they make a damn good cupcake...I think we're just spoiled being New Yorkers.

        1. re: LFeinberg

          Maybe, maybe - I just don't see what the big deal is. Magnolia to NYC food is what the Seaport is to NYC attractions. :-)

          1. re: nokitsch

            Totally understandable, and I feel like I have this debate quite often. However, the cupcakes are really good and the neighborhood is just the cutest. :) What are your thoughts on Buttercup?

            1. re: LFeinberg

              The Magnolia cupcakes are pretty good but personally I like Crumbs cupcakes better. And I always feel so bad for the people waiting on a line that stretches down the block. I can't dispute the neighborhood though -- it's definitely the cutest.

              My other recommendation is Murray's Cheese -- stop by there for excellent takeout sandwiches, snacks, and of course, cheese.

              1. re: JennS

                Murray's does have great things...I would recommend lunch there (but you didn't really specify needed lunch locales). Make sure to try the cheese straws!

              2. re: LFeinberg

                Never went there, actually - so I can't say. I'm definitely not a cupcake aficionado, I was thinking more in terms of good dessert.

                1. re: LFeinberg

                  Buttercup is down the block from me. I think they grew on me or maybe I finally figured out which ones i like: red velvet and chocolate chocolate. these are pretty good but i can't say i'd really go out of my way for them. what do you think?

              3. re: LFeinberg

                i don't get the magnolia bakery bashing. it's almost like if something is a hit it also can't be everything it's hyped to be... i think the cupcakes are terrific and the banana pudding to die for...

                1. re: LFeinberg

                  I tried their cupcakes once and found them disgusting, so we'll have to agree to disagree. Cupcakes that are half icing. Yuck! :(

                2. re: nokitsch

                  I concur about Magnolia. Never had understood the appeal. It's dry and tastelss to me. Same for Buttercup and Cupcake Cafe. I do enjoy Burgers and Cupcakes in Chelsea. But if you're visiting New York, you may want to dry Magnolia for the experience.

                  I would also recommend Momofuku/Momofuku Ssam for dinner. The roast pork buns made with Berkshire pork are to die for -- nothing like it. They also have a wonderful brussel sprouts with kimchee puree (it was on the winter menu; not so sure about the spring). It is definitely a unique restaurant.

                  1. re: nokitsch

                    Magnolia cupcakes are too dry and not that flavorful.

                  2. Da Andrea is perfect for dinner - delicious and affordable.

                    1. East or West Village? (BTW you can find all of the addresses and menus for all the places I mention below here www.menupages.com

                      )

                      West Village/Central Village
                      A burger at Corner Bistro -- you can start real debate calling this NYC's best burger, but it's certainly one of the City's most famous, if only for the heated debate. And it's cheap.
                      Las Ramblas -- tiny Spanish tapas bar, great festive atmosphere, fantastic Spanish wines.
                      A bagel from Murray's -- get one with lox, cream cheese, a slice of tomato and onion for breakfast.
                      Alidoro's -- for sandwiches
                      Cafe Noir -- for late-night, wine fueled, Moroccan influenced tapas (although it's in SoHo, rather than the Village)

                      East Village/Soho-ish
                      Lombardi's -- real NY pizza, inexpensive and fun.
                      Bereket -- 24 hour Turkish falafel/kebab joint. Delicious food at all hours.
                      Katz's -- go for a pastrami sandwich, and read RGR's Lower East Side walking and eating tour before you go (if you search for it here I'm sure it will come up).
                      Veselka -- for breakfast with a Polish/Russian/Ukraine feeling. Not my absolute favorite of the Eastern Euro options, but the most famous and the most frequented. Cheap diner food but throw in some latkes, blintzes, etc.

                      I'm forgetting the 1 million and 5 other places that I like, but...

                      1. Speakeasy and good cheeseburger: Chumley's (86 Bedford St)
                        Great dive bar: the Back Fence (Bleecker and Thompson)
                        Reasonably expensive dinner or drinks: Employees Only (Hudson St. - cool NYC scene)
                        Great neighborhood bars after dinner: White Horse Tavern or WXOU Radio Bar (Hudson and ~11th St)
                        Grey Dog would be great for breakfast

                        6 Replies
                          1. re: ballulah

                            Third Chumleys. Also Good for breakfast.

                            Sushi Samba? Gah. Anything that is in Sex in the City is not a Village "secret." Same goes for Magnolia.

                            Slaughtered Lamb is a cool bar with an "interesting" NYC atmosphere. Good luck finding it, I always get lost going there :)

                            1. re: CorgiLover

                              definitely go to 'ino for early dinner...truffled egg toast, cheese plate, and quattro panini...inexpensive and delicious.

                              corner bistro...there's nothing wrong with that. avoid the crowds by going very late on a weeknight or before 5pm weekdays.

                              lilac for chocolate, murrays cheese for...well, cheese. i like bruno bakery on laguardia for coffee and cakes. retro-y vibe. also, get a square pizza at demarcos while you're there.

                              1. re: sam1

                                Second 'ino and Murray's!

                                Definitely skip Magnolia! Totally mediocre. I can't believe how many lemmings will wait on that line. There's much better cake to be had at Amy's.

                                Too bad Shopsin's closed.

                                1. re: texann

                                  I was there one night they had a BDSM convention in the basement. That was certainly interesting!

                          2. I love the Village. I say start with breakfast at Philip Maries (11th & Hudson) then walk east along Bleecker and stop at Magnolia's (skip the dry cupcake and get the banana pudding - their specialty anyway). Continue walking along Bleecker and shop, cut in on Cornelia St (great dinning options there - Palma, Le Gigot, Cornelia St Cafe among others). Rocco's for cannoli and espresso - maybe bathroom break and rest your feet.

                            Great way to scope out dinner options too.

                            Cute cafe on Grove & Bleecker too. Forget the name but they have white benches out front.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: FIFO22

                              See - these are places I would never have tried or even known to stop in. Great suggestions.

                            2. Karavas (one is on Christopher and 7th Avenue South and one is on West 4th and Cornelia) makes one great gyro. Best $6.50 you'll ever spend. Afterwards, go into Patisserie Claude for a great Napoleon. (If you buy some coffee and get your check to $3.00 per person, you can sit down at a table).

                              Great bagels and spreads are had at Hudson Bagel on Hudson and Christopher.

                              A great burger (aside from Chumley's) is Westville, on West 10th near Bleeker.

                              Faicco's is a great pork store with excellent Italian Subs ("hots" or "sweets" or "red peppers only"), great rice balls, and yummy fried ravioli. Walk down the street and have cannoli at Rocco's. They fill them while you wait.

                              Arturo's on Houston and Thompson makes the best pizza pie...and the live jazz is free. Around the corner is Cafe Figaro, a reminder of the Italian-American then Beatnik past of the Village.

                              If you can get in, Moustache on Bedford makes interesting Middle Eastern in a terrific space. Malatesta Trattoria is the local Italian of choice.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                                thank you so much - these are wonderful...exactly what I was hoping for !

                                1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                                  Arturo's totally rules. Great locals-only place - can't believe I forgot to recommend. I actually ate there last night... again. The owner's father (I think) was sitting on a stool near the piano and told us to "have a great meal" on the way in, and "come back soon" on the way out. Yes to both.

                                2. The Little Owl. It's right in the same intersection as Chumley's, a half a block from Moustache. And it's in the "Friends" building– which every tourist seems to know but New Yorkers just ignore.

                                  It's small and VERY popular and usually booked well in advance. Go early and give it a shot, you might get lucky.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Gnu23

                                    Not the same intersection as Chumley's. It's a block away (at Bedford and Grove not Bedford and Barrow). Snack Taverna is two blocks away, if you get rejected at Little Owl.

                                    1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                                      oops. right. my internal map was off. Those blocks down there are very narrow and very short.

                                      1. re: Gnu23

                                        I was going to add Moustache but I see it's there. I'd also suggest Bar Pitti on 6th Ave. near Bleecker (cash only) for lunch or dinner; everything is delicious. I'm with the people who like Crumb's and don't see the point of Magnolia. Bleecker Pizza on 7th Ave. South is where we go for slices. There are tapas places, Osta & Tasca, on 7th Ave., Cafe Condessa on W. 10th for breakfast or brunch.

                                  2. Buy some fresh pasta from Raffetto's... It's on Houston and MacDougal. They have cool flavors and cut the dough into the shape of your choice, and it is really cheap.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: PotatoPuff

                                      is Bar Pitti or Da Silvano worth all the hype?

                                      1. re: ricky7

                                        Don't know about Bar Pitti, but I had a media dinner at Da Silvano. It was fun and really great food, but not somewhere I would go if I was paying the bill!

                                    2. Hi texann,

                                      Looks like we have expanded the territory to more than East/West village to Soho and such. As ballulah mentioned, RGR, our tentured Manhattan chowhounder, has this wonderful Lower East Side Food Excursion that is perfect for you all:
                                      ************************************************************************
                                      Lower East Side Food Excursion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                      )

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

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

                                      Note: It’s best not to take this tour on a Saturday since some of the spots are closed because of religious observance. Also, Donut Plant is closed on Mondays
                                      **************************************************************************************
                                      No one has mentioned the Japanese izakaya or food in East Village (I'm surprised!). If you are interested in Japanese food, Kenka is the best place for cheap and good Japanese small plates,. For yakitori (Japanese styled skewers), you can hit Yakitori Taisho for a fairly inexpensive meal (both on St. Mark Pl) Even cheaper is Otafuku (236 E 9th St btw 2nd & 3rd Ave) , which offersJapanese grilled octopus balls (takoyaki) and Japanese styled noodle-filled pancakes (okonomiyaki). There are also some Japanese noodle / soba places in East Village, and I like Soba Koh (for soba noodles) and Rai Rai Ken (for Japanese Ramen) the best.

                                      Crif Dogs (113 St. Mark Pl) in EV is very cheap and can get you some very delicious hot dogs.
                                      Pomme Frite (2nd Ave and 7th St) will give you yummy Belgian fries (who doesn't like fries?) for less than $4 per person, and it is very filling.

                                      As mentioned by other hounds, Momofuku Ssam Bar should be a must-go! Slightly more expensive than the places mentioned above, but still very cheap in NYC standard. The food there is one of a kind and you can't get it in other cities. I think it is well worth every penny!

                                      Will continue to add in when I recall anything new...

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: kobetobiko

                                        I am absolutely amazed and overwhelmed by your comprehensive reply! Thank you SO very much. We come to NYC each year to celebrate my husband's birthday (9/11). This year we are bringing our daughter and son-in-law (who has never been to NYC at all). We have stayed in various neighborhoods over the years but never in the Village. We thought this would be a more interesting area for the kids, as well as a new adventure for us. When we come, we hate the idea of being "tourist" and seek out the things to see and do other than the obvious. My husband's dream is to live in NYC if even for a short time. So, we try to live out that fantasy even for a few days. I am always surprised to find native NYers so willing to share their city. If you think of other adventures we should experience, please feel free to share those as well. Thanks you so very much for taking the time to go into such detail. Your ideas will be extremely helpful as we plan our trip!

                                        1. re: texann

                                          Hi texann, you are very welcome! I hope you have a wonderful trip with your family and enjoy your food adventures in the village! As mentioned, if I can think of anything else (or if you can think of anything specific that you are seeking) we will continue to add to this thread.

                                          The Lower East Side Food Excursion was "published" in the Manhattan board by RGR, and since then it has been one of the favorite Manhattan food experience for locals and visitors alike. RGR is a rock star in our board!

                                          Again, have a wonderful trip, and enjoy the great food in NYC!

                                          1. re: kobetobiko

                                            Well, actually I am curious if you mgiht know of a place I have since misplaced information on. While the boys prefer bacon and eggs for breakfast, my daughter and I prefer yogurt, fresh fruit, pastries,etc. I had found a "diner" in the area that seemed perfect for all but some how misplaced the information. Any ideas?

                                              1. re: LFeinberg

                                                do you know the street by chance?

                                      2. Don't forget the Bing lady on W. 3rd and 6th Avenue! The snack shop has wonderful buns and dumplings that have everything from red bean to pork and scallions. And it's inexpensive. Good for a snack too, and the bings can be eaten on-the-go. It's definitely a favorite among New York Hounds.

                                        For more info:
                                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/314454

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Gluttonous Prime

                                          I am all about "inexpensive" thanks for the tip.