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Brit looking for a headstart in NY

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Myself and the soon to be wife will be honeymooning in the U.S in September this year and are looking for a bit of advice on good food in NY. We hopefully will already of eaten at French Laundry in California before we get to NY and don’t really want to overdo the Michelin star scene (give the wallet a rest). We are staying at the Kitano in Manhattan but are willing to travel (not too far!) for breakfast, lunch or dinner and want to soak up the cheaper side of the food scene in NY.

Our favourite foods are primarily Indian & Italian and we are looking for insider tips on venues to indulge in some hearty US breakfasts.

Don’t let us down America, we are counting on you.


Hungry Englishman

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  1. For Indian...check out "Tamarind" on 22nd Street! Beautiful digs and fabulous food!

    4 Replies
    1. re: LFeinberg

      Cheers L, I will give it a go. Does anyone know if Gordon Ramsays restaurant is up and running yet??

        1. re: plj

          Give Gordon's a miss...

          Also, May Rose at 21st and Broadway. Deli/diner type spot. Hey, they might even deliver! Not that's New York! :-)

        2. re: LFeinberg

          I haven't been to Tamarind, but I think many on this board would recommend Devi -- it has a cozy, romantic space, good service, and the most amazing lamb chops. I've been a few times -- the menu is far more inventive than typical Indian, with dishes you won't see elsewhere. The tasting menu is a good representation of the strongest dishes and is fairly reasonable -- not cheap, but in the same range as Tamarind I believe.

        3. Call (or use opentable.com) well in advance for a great brunch at Norma's, a midtown hotel restaurant. Great brunch too at Jane.

          For pizza, try Arturo's in the Village or Lombardi's in Little Italy.

          3 Replies
          1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

            Ditto Norma's...great place! I love Grimaldi's Pizza in Brooklyn...great view of Manhattan!

              1. re: plj

                Sorry guys! The best pizza for me is Una Pizza Napolitana on East 12th.

          2. Hi, plj. I also love Indian food, but I'd be skeptical about recommending for a Brit to eat Indian food in the U.S., because I'd figure that's a type of food Britain excels in to a much greater degree than New York does.

            Italian may be a better bet for you. The best Italian meal I've had in the last few months was actually in Brooklyn at Al Di La, but you'll get plenty of other recommendations.

            In terms of hearty breakfasts, you have a lot to choose from there, too. I'm not sure where Kitano is, but my local Polish restaurant, Teresa's, on 1st Av. between 6th and 7th Sts., has a diner-like ambiance and serves brunch every day (though with some extra items on weekends). You can get good pancakes, for example. If you'd like something a little different, another restaurant in my neighborhood that has delicious breakfast/brunch every day (though, again, with extra items on weekends) is Cafe Mogador on St. Marks Place between 1st Av. and Av. A, which serves a mix of Moroccan, French, Middle Eastern, and American food. But there are loads of other possibilities, and maybe what you'd like most is a good diner, in which case, there was a thread or two about the best diners recently. Check the "Best" board as well as the Manhattan board.

            1. NYC is a brunch town, which is somehow very different than the Hearty US Breakfast. California is one of the best states in the country for H.U.S.B.s, so try to partake while there, but there are a few good representatives to be had in NYC.

              Barney Greengrass, on the upper west side, has tremendous fish-based breakfasts, in classic New York style. The salmon and eggs scramble, with a toasted bialy and a cup of coffee, is my favorite breakfast in Manhattan.

              Egg, in Williamsburg (just one stop out of Manhattan), has very good Southern-style breakfasts, and is (in my Southern opinion) the best place in the city to breakfast. Cheese grits, perfectly scrambled eggs, Virginia country ham, and very good biscuits, all prepared with a very careful attention to detail. Worth the trek, even that early in the morning (OK, I might grab a cup of coffee first).

              1 Reply
              1. re: ratatosk

                Clinton Street Baking Company on the Lower East Side has amazing breakfast/brunch and the food is classic American. Try the blueberry pancakes and go during the week if you can -- they don;t take reservations and the wait is a killer on weekends.

              2. I don't recall how well represented south Indian food is in Britain, but Tiffin Walla sounds great, very close to the Kitano:

                Agree with Mogador for brunch.

                I know you didn't mention Japanese, but I note that you have chosen a Japanese hotel (and quite a nice one!) Many places in the East Village offer excellent value when compared to Japanese restaurants elsewhere in the world. You might want to give them a try. Soba-ya and Soba Koh for soba noodles, Minca and Rai Rai Ken for ramen, Chiyono for homestyle Japanese food, Decibel for underground sake and snacks, Angel's Share for impeccable cocktails and snacks, Shabu-tatsu for shabu-shabu, several yakitori joints on St Mark's Place (although my favorite is Yakitori Totto on W. 55th and 8th Ave). Note I didn't mention sushi, there are many CH threads on this subject if you are looking for that.

                Crispo (14th St betw 6th and 7th) for reasonably priced Italian food. Get the bone marrow appetizer--giant bones, really get your fill of the luscious stuff.

                1. As a Londoner who lives over here but visits New York all the time, I would say the Indian restaurants are far better (and cheaper) than the ones in New York.
                  There are millions of wonderful little Italian restaurants - I like Gino.
                  Have tea at the London Hotel!!

                  1. plj

                    Indian? Don't do it, mate. You know we have much better our side of the pond.

                    My wife & I are also visiting in September (we have a head start on you - the trip is a 35th anniversary present to ourselves) and have been checking out the boards. We're also doing upscale elsewhere in the US. My advice is look for "the NY experience" - after all, we're tourists. So - deli for lunch (Katz - although I've enjoyed The Stage on a past trip). Italian for dinner. And "something else" - we're thinking steakhouse. Lots of recommendations on the board - many often conflicting. We only have a couple of days in NYC

                    Have a great trip.


                    20 Replies
                    1. re: Brit on a Trip

                      Well what can I say, I only found out about this website yesterday and Ive already got enough recomendations for a lifetime. Although Im an Englishman, Im currently living in Cardiff so if anyone ever needs any culinary pionters in South Wales then I will do my best. We are well up for the NY leg of the journey but Im particularly looking forward to the few nights we are spending in Santa Barbara, inspired by my favourite film of all time 'Sideways'. Sorry, I cant help showing off but Im really excited and your comments have wet my appetite no end.

                      I think I will leave the Indian food alone in the US (no offence guys!) and go for some of the Italian and Japanese suggestions, and 'Blue Smoke' looks like a must.

                      1. re: plj

                        Hey, plj, The last time we were in London in 1999, we went to an Indian restaurant. I haven't a clue now which one it was and, while it's entirely possible we didn't choose a really good one (can't recall how we made the decision), to be perfectly blunt, the absolutely superb cuisine at Devi (mentioned upthread) beats the heck out of what we had in London. That said, I can still understand your decision to opt out of trying Indian food during your visit to NYC.

                        Re: Blue Smoke. Anyone who has eaten bbq in the areas of the US that are known for doing it right will tell you that the bbq you will have at Blue Smoke is just o.k. and doesn't really measure up. I haven't yet managed to get to Daisy May's, on 11th Av., near 46th St., but from what I've heard, their bbq is superior to Blue Smoke's. Daisy May's used to be take-out only (the major reason I haven't tried it). However, they've expanded into the space next door and now have seating. I'm sure it's not as atttractive as Blue Smoke, and it's cafeteria-style instead of table service, but I think it's definitely worth considering.


                        Noting that you are staying at the Kitano, which is on Park Av., near 38th St., for breakfast, you might want to check out the very popular Penelope, on the corner of Lexington Av. & 30th St. They also serve lunch and dinner.


                        Breakfast at Cafe at Country, in the Carlton Hotel, on the corner of Madison Av. & 29th St., is a bit on the pricey side. They also serve lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.


                        For Italian, there's a wonderful "hidden gem" of a neighborhood spot called Campanile, on 29th St., b/t Park Av. S. & Madison. Expertly prepared, delicious traditional food, good service, and very pleasant, comfortable atmospherics.


                        Another suggestion. Right near your hotel is AQ Cafe, in the Scandinavia House, on Park Av., b/t 37th & 38th Sts., where you will find an array of hot dishes (the Swedish meatballs are seriously delicious), salads, sandwiches, etc. The chef in charge of creating the menu is Marcus Samuelsson, of the upscale restaurant Aquavit. However, at AQ Cafe, you get to sample some of his "cuisine" at substantially lower cost. It's a cafeteria-style set-up, and there are lots of tables in the spacious lobby where you can enjoy your food.


                        One last suggestion. You might want to consider taking my (in)famous eating "tour" of the Lower East Side. It will give you the opportunity to walk around a very interesting neighborhood while at the same time sampling a variety of relatively inexpensive foods that are emblematic of New York. I'm appending the tour here:

                        LES 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.

                        Best wishes to you and your fiancee on your upcoming wedding. Here's hoping you have a fabulous honeymoon stay in NYC and Bon Appetit!

                        1. re: RGR

                          Thanks for that monster reply RGR, Im going to sit down with a nice bottle of reisling and pick the bones from this one.

                          1. re: RGR

                            A great tour!
                            Note that the Tenement Museum requires reservations, it is well worth it. You can reserve online.
                            The Essex Street Market (at Delancey) is also an interesting and fun food stop on the LES.

                            1. re: RGR

                              I prefer Daisy Mae's, RUB, and Dinosaur to Blue Smoke. RUB is closest to what I've eaten in the South and West in terms of quality and atmosphere (by which I mean zero ambience), but if you get up to the Columbia/Harlem area (low west 100's), Dinosaur has good BBQ, great smoked wings, and a funky mock-roadhouse vibe - excellent beer selection, too.

                              You'll also be close to the Korean section of Manhattan (east 30's); I'm not at all authoritative on this area, but you might search the Manhattan board for some postings.

                              Finally, if you visit the Morgan Library on Madison and 36th (and you should if you're interested in art, NYC history, or architecture - the new additions by Renzo Piano are striking), their Cafe is a nice spot for a good soup/salad/sandwich lunch (not the Dining Room, which is fancier and pricier). Check them out at http://www.morganlibrary.org/

                              1. re: Striver

                                Hey all. This is plj's soon to be wife,as he put it. I've been looking forward to this trip more than any other before and can't wait to try some of the places you've suggested. I'm amazed by the response and I'm so happy that there are people out there who like to share their insider knowledge with novices like us. I think we will definitely try the LES tour. Do you think it's worth venturing outside of Manhattan for anything a bit different or for good value for money? My future husband says he's looking for "urban gritty cuisine" but he's had a few glasses of wine and I'm not sure he knows exactly what he means by that!

                                1. re: plj

                                  Well, if you're interested in urban grit and BBQ you'd both better get on the L train and head to Williamsburg for dinner at Pies n Thighs. It's a Southern food joint opened in what used to be a bar's storage closet almost directly underneath the Williamsburg Bridge. The food is to die for, great fried chicken, Carolina style BBQ (vinegar based sauce, not the thick tomato-ey sauce) pulled pork, fantastic sides - collard greens spiked with smoked ham, hush puppies - and if you haven't collapsed in a state of ecstatic food coma get yourselves a few big wedges of homemade pie after topped with homemade whipped cream. It's all very Brooklyn hipster, the BBQ (thighs) side of the business is run by a guy who's a local musician, the desserts (pies) by his friend who bakes all the pies herself. Lots of good strolling and browsing in that area too. http://piesandthighs.com/

                                  Start early and make a day of it, Peter Luger's Steakhouse is just on the other side of the bridge. hahaha.

                                  1. re: plj

                                    I'm a staunch supporter of venturing outside of Manhattan, but it depends how much time and effort you want to spend tracking down food. All the best pizza is in Brooklyn, as is Peter Luger's, so there are two great reasons to hit the bridges. In Queens, you can get phenomenal Thai and Indian food (although I agree that, coming from the UK, you should probably pass on the Indian stuff). The bronx has some great Italian food, and an actual Little Italy.

                                    I'm not sure exactly what urban gritty cuisine is, but I'm pretty sure that your best bet for that is in Manhattan. Maybe Crif Dogs, or Gray's Papaya? Or Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop, perhaps? I'm very interested to see what other people recommend for Urban Gritty Cuisine!

                                    1. re: plj

                                      There is so much to eat in Manhattan...but if you will be here in early September on a weekend, when the weather is still nice, head to the ballfields in Red Hook, Brooklyn, it's like a trip to Latin America. Street vendors sell delicious Ecuadorean ceviche and tuna soup, Colombian chicharron and grilled meats and sausages, Salvadoran pupusas with slaw, Mexican huaraches, tacos and grilled steak, Guatemalan tacos too. Fresh fruit juices (melon, pineapple, papaya) and horchata (rice milk with cinnamon). Pretty urban and gritty, but excellent food and very cheap, plus you can watch some good soccer games.

                                      1. re: plj

                                        First of all, congratulations to you and plj!

                                        "Do you think it's worth venturing outside of Manhattan for anything a bit different or for good value for money?"

                                        Sure is! (Of course, that depends somewhat on how much time you have, but for something different and good value, yep!) But post to the Outer Boroughs board for more discussion on that.

                                        1. re: plj

                                          "Urban gritty cuisine" ... interesting - nay, potentially terrifying - concept. It'll lead you to DWDs if you are not careful. ("Dirty Water Dogs;" avaialble from far too many street carts.)
                                          Staying in the genre, but moving up the food chain (literally), try the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. Al fresco burgers, hot dogs, beverages. Also, Island Burger and Afgan Kebob House, both on 9th @ 51st. All urban, all kind of gritty, none known to be fatal. (No such endorsement / disclaimer offered on DWDs.)

                                      2. re: RGR

                                        Thank-you thank-you for these details. My son and gf moved to Ludlow a few years ago and whenever we visit (we stay in a hotel and keep our distance) I hint that we would like to go to Katz's and he groans. Now we can go without them and find the bialys place on our own. We had a mini tour of the neighborhood 2 years ago but have only been to a couple of tame brunch spots and the pickle stores. I spent a lot of time in Manahattan in the 60's but never made it to the LES. Thanks again!

                                    2. re: Brit on a Trip

                                      To the couple looking for a steakhouse: you must go to Peter Luger's in Williamsburg. Bacon appetizer, cheapest cabernet on the menu, porterhouse for two, creamed spinach, hot fudge sundae.

                                      1. re: kenito799

                                        Thanks for this rec. I had surfed the board and seen that Luger's is generally accepted to be "the best". However, I was concerned at several comments about the restaurant's tendency to lose reservations. With only a couple of days in NYC, I can't afford any dinner foul-ups so we will probably go for one of the others in Manhatten that come well recommended and are in similar style.


                                        1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                          i have never heard about lost reservations at Luger's...certainly never had a problem myself.

                                          1. re: kenito799

                                            I, too, have never heard of or had a problem. None of the others have Peter Luger's style, or their bacon, even the top few whose beef might be in the same league.

                                            1. re: ratatosk

                                              Agreed to all your count. Never had my reservations lost and all the imitators are poor version. Not to say there aren't great steakhouses in Manhattan, but if you are looking for a Lugers'esque place with a sizzling porterhouse and the bacon, don't bother to try the copycats in manhattan.

                                              1. re: ESNY

                                                You guys are the best. I'm now going off to look to look for places in Chinatown San Fran and Vegas and we'll be all set. Thank you all so much. plj and plj's girl.

                                                  1. re: Brit on a Trip

                                                    I dont think it's a common occurrence. I have walked in on weeknights without a resrevation and gotten a table after a short wait.

                                      2. some modest thoughts. have some oysters at the bar at shaffer city and grab some bbq at jazz standard (blue smoke).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: steve h.

                                          Thank you so much from plj's girl