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Feedback Needed on NYC Itinerary for Visiting Dallas-based Chowhounds

My fiance and I are visiting New York City from May 24th-27th. I've carefully researched all of the the various conversations on this message board along with cross-referencing Frank Bruni's reviews and my recently purchased copy of Zagat New York City.

To say the least, we're excited to visit the mecca of American dining . . .

Thursday Dinner: Degustation (10:15pm)
Notes: We arrive in La Guardia at 7:15pm Thursday and thus, I'm hoping we'll be able to make a 10:15pm dinner after getting our luggage and checking at the hotel (Millenium Hilton near Ground Zero).
Questions: The 5-course tasting menu looks like a great option. Is that best way to go here?

Friday Breakfast: Ess-A-Bagel (10am)
Notes: In my humble opinion, Ess-A-Bagel made the grestest onion bagel I've ever eaten and I've simply GOT to take my fiance for bagels and lox.
Questions: Are we better off to buy some bagels here and go to Ross and Sons (not sure if I'm getting the name right) for the lox and cream cheese? If so, can we walk or is it better to take the sub or a cab? Also, is there anywhere (like a small park with benches) near Ross & Sons to sit and prepare/eat our bagels?

Friday Lunch: Jean Georges (2pm)
Notes: Trying to budget our money and take advantage of the prix-fixe lunch. We're going to request the main dining room. Do I need to specify to sit near a window or anything? Any must-have dishes to order?

Friday Dinner: Momofuku Ssam Bar (11pm)
Notes: We're seeing Spamalot at 8pm, thus the super late dinner. This place looks like a lot of fun.
Questions: Will there still be a long line to get seated at 11pm? What are the must have items?

Saturday Brunch: Prune (11am)
Notes: Looks like the most adventurous brunch option.
Questions: Are we going to get slaughtered by trying to get a table for four (we're meeting some friends that live in the city) at 11am? Should we go earlier? Later? What are the best brunch items?

Saturday Dinner: Babbo (9pm)
Notes: We're dying to try Babbo . . . I am so excited. This'll be the budget blower. I'm torn between doing the pasta tasting menu or ordering some key appetizers and pastas a la carte and splitting them with my fiance to create our own little tasting menu. Mint Love Letters, Beef Cheek Ravioli etc . . . so many things to try. Which are the must haves?

Thanks in advance for any feedback and insight you can provide us!

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  1. I wasn't impressed with Prune's brunch or the service. I don't understand what all the hype is about.
    Can you not buy bagels at Russ and Daughters? Perhaps one of the other hounds will know the answer.

    1. Russ and Daughters does have bagels. Frankly, I think making your own lox and cream cheese sandwiches on the fly can be a pretty messy -- and might I add, kind of smelly -- operation. Plus, you'd need to bring along a knife to cut the bagels you buy elsewhere. So, since Russ does make sandwiches to go, in my view, that's the easy way to do it.

      As to where you might go to sit and enjoy your little feast.... I think there are places to sit along the center mall on Allen St. (Russ is b/t Orchard & Allen.) If not, there's a small playground 3 blocks east, on the corner of Houston & Norfolk Sts., that I'm pretty sure has benches.

      2 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        I agree -- have Russ & Daughters make the sandwiches for you. It'll be pricey but worth it. There's also benches outside of American Apparel next door, where you can sit if the weather is nice.

        As for Prune, I'd show up at 9:45am if you don't wanna wait. If you show up at 11am, you'll probably end up waiting an hour or so, especially if the weather is nice. There's nowhere to wait inside of Prune, too, so if it's raining or something, the wait may suck. At Prune, I like the "Prune" juice (a combination of many fruits but no prunes actually), as well as the deep-fried Monte Cristo sandwich, the Dutch pancake (oven-baked) and the merveilles. And there's a whole long Bloody Mary menu of something like 10 different varieties. And each Bloody comes with a beer chaser.

        At Ssam bar, there will be no or a minimal wait at 11pm on a Friday night. If they do say there's a wait, it will be short, as my experience has been that they routinely overestimate the time it takes. Here's my recommendations for Ssam Bar items:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39370...

        This CHer also did a short trip to NYC that included Prune, Ssam Bar, and Degustation:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/393597

        1. re: RGR

          No need to go so far! Go to First Park, west side of 1st St. and 1st Av., if you're going to be doing this.

        2. I think you have a great list!

          The four dishes at Degustation that I thought were mind-blowing were the egg with asparagus, the croquettas, the scallops in jamon broth, and the rib-eye. If all four are on the tasting menu, then get it. If not, the two of you could order a la carte (the good thing is that the ala carte portions are the same size as the portions on the tasting menu), and try even more dishes.

          Momofuku Ssam - if I could only have two dishes, it would be the brussel sprouts and the veal head terrine. If I could have two more dishes, it would be the rice cakes and the apple salad. And maybe a plate of ham.

          The only thing I had at Babbo that I really didn't like was a side of farro with beets... I find Babbo technically excellent but kind of soulless. Everything tasted pretty good, but memories of the dishes I had there don't elicit a strong emotional reaction the way memories of some of the dishes from Lupa do (and dare I say it? The beef cheek ravioli I made from the Babbo cookbook tasted a lot better than the beef cheek ravioli at Babbo). On the other hand, there have been enough negative Lupa reports recently (and my own experiences in the last three years have been hit-or-miss) so I won't urge you to drop Babbo and go back to Lupa instead (in the past, I would have).

          1 Reply
          1. re: daveena

            I had a wonderful experience at Babbo both times I have been there. I've never tried the pasta tasting menu, although a friend of mine did and told me it was too much food.

            I would recommend ordering 1-2 apps (grilled octopus - a must) and 2-3 pastas (I've tired the beef cheek ravioli, mint love letters, sweet potato lune and the black spaghetti. My favorites- beef cheek ravioli and black spaghetti.) to share with your SO. Depending on your appetite, you could also order 1 entree to share. But, you have to leave room for dessert!

          2. the lox at ess-a-bagel is very good, so i would just get the sandwiches there and not fool around with trying to put together a meal while sitting on a bench outside. that said, russ and daughters is a fantastic store that's well worth a visit. perhaps take a walk over after brunch on saturday and pick up some snacks.

            4 Replies
            1. re: wleatherette

              Ideally I'd try and make a sandwich, but only if I were carrying it home...

              I'm not a discerning lox eater, but I have to say if you're visiting from out of town the lox is much better at Russ and Daughters - and the bagels are decent too; definitely not an Ess-A, but not too far off. (That gives me an idea - maybe this calls for a taste-off of lox sandwiches from both places?)

              1. re: theannerska

                i think that if the original poster's ideal bagel is an ess-a-bagel then she'll be disappointed by the ones available at russ and daughters. i'm not denying the overall superiority of their lox, but i recently got nova from ess because i didn't have time to go to russ, and it was great. it's a more than adequate substitute.

                1. re: theannerska

                  Hmm - maybe a bagels and lox "taste-off" is the answer. I'll see if I can squeeze it into the itinerary . . . but the "SO" is not a fan of the early wake-up call.

                  1. re: skedhead2000

                    A taste-off seems very do-able...get one bagel and lox sandwich at each place, split them in half so that you and your SO each get to taste them. Ess-A has a location on the LES that isn't exactly close to Russ & Daughters, but it's very walkable.

                    wleatherette, I agree re: bagel differences - I'm a diehard Ess-A fan. I'll have to try their lox again next time I go, it's been a while...

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