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Apr 22, 2007 03:13 PM

new in ny


My wife and I are coming to NY (and the US) for the first time in May, staying at the Skyline Hotel (10th and 49th street). We are pensioners (or as you say "senior citizens!!) and therefore aren't "big spenders" and want to eat in traditional US eateries (you can eat multinational in any city). Also though we have good appetites we believe the portions in many places are what we Brits would call "huge". So - any tips from you New Yorkers on a) good but not too expensive diners in our hotel area (we've got the Cosmic Diner and Renaiissance Diner from the internet - any reports on these or recommendations for alternatives for breakfast or dinner, b) any tips on how to share meals - is it OK in all restaurants or how do you negotiate a deal?

Any advice, however insignificant it may seem, will be much appreciated!!


ps - sorry about the exchange rate - at least it means we may spend more!!

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  1. The Cosmic Diner, while near your hotel, isn't a very good diner. Renaissance Diner is hit and miss and really doesn't capture the diner aesthetic.

    If you're looking for an American diner experience in that neighborhood, I would recommend Westway Diner, on the east side of 9th Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets.

    My favorite diner in the city, though, is the Comfort Diner on 23rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. It's a short subway ride away from where you're staying.

    1. There's the Skylight Diner on 34th btw 9th and 10th, Comfort Diner (snaps to Jake), El Centro Mexican restaurant on 54th and 9th, Uncle Nick's Greek restauarant on 9th...

      1. a) There's a Daisy May's Barbecue on 11th and 46th that's pretty inexpensive and good, about the same price as a nyc diner.

        I think Venezuelan arepas are a pretty quintessentially American experience these days. There's a very small, non-fancy place with great food called Empanada Mama's close to you on 9th Ave. between 51st and 52nd. It's very inexpensive and filling and--have I mentioned tasty?

        Vinyl, a diner on 51st and 9th, serves pretty good diner fare (and some Thai, as well), though the crowd may not be the type you prefer to dine with (mostly 20s-30s).

        A lot of tourists seem to enjoy Ellen's Stardust diner on 51st and Broadway, I think. The waitstaff will sing to you, I don't know how good the food is. It bills itself as a NYC institution. Maybe someone who's gone has more to say about it.

        b) You shouldn't have a problem sharing! Some places will charge you a sharing fee, but most places don't. If anyone looks at you askance, just explain that you are pensioners (and be sure to tip decently -- many people do 15% for average, 20% for good).

        2 Replies
        1. re: cimui

          Yay cimui! If you're looking for a diner, Ellen's is most definitly the place to go. I grew up in NY, I have family there, both my parents work there, I've seen more broadway shows than I can count, and I've even worked on Madison Ave the past few summers, I'm certainly no tourist; but going to Ellen's has nearly become a tradition in my family. It gets labelled a tourist spot due to the fact that it's across the street from Mars2112 and it's a great place for pre/post theater meals, but i guarentee, it's not the tourists that keep it busy until 1am.

          The food is wonderful, it's nothing fancy, it's nothing overly expensive, it's simple american comfort food and it's always very good. I've gone with groups of 15 and I've gone with just one other person, I've never heard or had any complaints. They have some of the best milkshakes I've ever tasted and personally I think their hamburgers are some of the best in NYC.

          It's true that the waitstaff sings, the waitstaff is made up of actual broadway actors/actresses who aren't currently in a show. Part of the application process is one hell of an audition apparently, because all of the singers are very talented. They sing in between taking orders, they sing while printing out checks, they even sing while carrying a tray of food and drinks, I'm not kidding, they're very good. I definitly agree with the "NYC Institution", because that restaurant really is the spirit of the theater district, I've been there before shows, after shows, hell I've been there when I wasn't even going to a show, and it really is the restaurant of the NYC Theater District.

          As for sharing, they really don't care as long as you pay the bill. Ellen's Stardust Diner is in my opinion the perfect place for a very fun, very tasty, somewhat cheap dinner in NYC.

          1. re: hungry_fox

            Wow, what a rousing endorsement! I walk by there all the time. Now I might actually have to try it. Thanks, hungry fox.

        2. Just a question. If this is your first time in NY, why do you want to dine in Diners specifically? Is there a certain appeal or is it a certain dish? Theres just so many places to eat here that I think dining at diners alone would be a waste.

          That said, I think you should split a pastrami sandwich over at Katzs.

          1. Hey, sigmatrain, I think csw makes a good point. While there are some good diners in NYC, overall, I think the food you get in most is totally pedestrian. I also hope you are not going to be limiting yourself to eating only in the area surrounding your hotel. With that in mind....

            Since you say you are looking to eat in "traditional US eateries," you might be interested in taking my (in)famous Lower East Side eating "tour." It will give you the opportunity to walk around a very interesting, historic neighborhood while at the same, you can sample many foods emblematic of NYC. Fun, very filling, and not at all costly. From your hotel, you can get there via public transportation. 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. (
            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.
            Hope you have a great first-time visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

            10 Replies
            1. re: RGR

              I hope you take RGR's advice! That is an excellent "tour" and you will eat well on the relative cheap.

              Around your hotel I really enjoy eatery - and Nick's (someone suggsted upthread). A visit to Lombardi's pizza in Little Italy is a must too.

              1. re: megaepicure

                I like Eatery a lot, too, but I think it might be louder and more sceney than what sigmatrain is looking for. It's also a little pricier than the other places we (the collective We!) have mentioned.

                Pizza places are a great idea, though! In addition to Lombardi's (surely a NYC institution), there's also John's Pizzeria on Bleeker and Joe's Pizza on 7th Ave near W. 3rd. And Arturo's on Bleeker. I'm not really a pizza connaisseur, but there are many on this board who are.

                1. re: cimui

                  Don't forget there's a John's Pizzeria right near sigmatrain's hotel on 44th near 8th Ave. That's my personal fave in the John's bunch if only for the decor.

                  1. re: ballulah

                    I didn't know, actually--thanks!

                    1. re: cimui

                      It's a wonderful fall back in that area if you're looking for cheap, cheerful and tasty...and quick, but not fast food.

              2. re: RGR

                RGR i love reading about your lower east side tour. My grandfather started Katzs with two other men and then my father took it over with the other gentlemens children. My dad's picture still is over the register in his army uniform (send a salami to your boy in the army) and my grandfather is still in the window with the original owners. I've taken your tour and it is really wonderful. Too bad Ratners isnt still there. Your tour was great!

                1. re: karins

                  Thanks, karins! So glad you enjoyed the tour. Praise coming from someone with a family connection to Katz's is a great honor. :-) Yes, Ratner's would definitely have been a must stop on this kind of eating extravaganza. But to be honest, the restaurant I truly miss is the French Roumanian. :-( :-( I still drool just remembering their chopped liver. lol

                  1. re: RGR

                    i dont know the french roumanian..i only know sammys grandfather would go there every weekend and have lamb chops...we actually had my dads 57th (heintz 57 ..get it??) birthday at sammys also..where was the french roumanian?

                    1. re: karins

                      The French Roumanian was on Delancey, b/t Essex & Ludlow. Growing up on the LES, I considered it a "fancy" treat when my parents occasionally took me there. I think the last time I ate there was with my husband and my parents in 1968-69. It closed soon after. I've never been to Sammy's though I would presume the type of food is the same.

                2. re: RGR

                  RGR said what I was going to say and did it way better than I could have. Heartily endorsed.