I know you get thousands of posts about visits to NY. I hope your patience hasn't run out by the time you read mine...would you eat here where we've planned to? Unfortunately, we have a limited budget, so we can only splurge on a few meals. We're from Toronto, and love all types of food and are pretty excited to eat our way around the city!
Details: 2 people, Coming to NY May 14-19. Staying at the Holiday Inn 232 West 29th (it was the best we could do!). We're willing to travel anywhere the subway or a cab will take us though.
Dinner reservations at the following:
Monday, May 14: Gramercy Tavern (they don't accept reservations, so we'll just have to wait)
Tues, May 15: Lure Fish Bar
Wed, May 16: Blue Smoke
Thurs, May 17: Sushi Yasuda - sitting at the sushi bar - which chef would you ask for?
Fri, May 18: Lupa (From friend's rec, chose this over Babbo - are we just crazy?)
For breakfast and lunch - I am very excited about the street food in NYC. I know pizza is a contentious issue on this board - I'm going to try as many different types as possible! Of course we'll also visit Ess-a Bagel. In terms of street vendors though, I'm looking forward to eating at the list below - if you should have any suggestions, please let me know:
Dosa Man (Washington Square South and Sullivan St)
Calexico Carne Asada (Wooster & Prince)
Tony Dragonas 62nd & Madison
Kwik Meal - whichever location is closest
Indian Food Cart 53rd & Park
maybe Daisy Mays BBQ or if we can manage to get to Queens the Arepa Lady
The only type of street food allowed for sale in Toronto are hot dogs or sausage - so I'm thinking I might skip Hallo Berlin in favour of more, shall we say, exotic options - unless you think I should go...
If anybody should have a recommendation of where we should eat lunch in Chinatown (love noodles), or where we should venture outside of Manhattan, I would really appreciate it.
Actually, I'd just really appreciate any advice at all - my first visit, I've done lots of research, and I am so damn excited!
Thank you very much.
Here's my report back (sorry if it's too long!):
To all of you who posted with suggestions - thank you, thank you, thank you. We had the most incredible time in NY - and a lot of that has to do with the food!
First day Shake Shack for lunch. We had just arrived in NY and this was our first stop after our hotel - what a great introduction to the city. People in line were all so friendly and fun. Had the shroom burger - fantastic. The only thing I would do to improve on this (for my personal taste) would be to add a little kick to the 'shake sauce'. Other than that, how can you beat a mushroom stuffed with oozing cheese? The fries were crisp and hot and really, really good. I ate every last one. We loved the experience so much, we went back on our last day before our flight out!
Dinner that night was at the Gramercy Tavern. Such a beautiful venue. We walked in and there was what looked to be a cherry tree in full bloom at the end of the bar! The flowers and ambiance were fantastic. Loved the walnut tables. It was a pleasure to be there. To start I had the scallops - really incredibly well seasoned with braised cabbage that had the perfect soft crunch. I loved it. My SO had the calamari salad, which was light and fresh and crisp in all the right spots. The vinaigrette was perfect. We weren't too over the moon with our mains. SO had the bouillabaisse, which was a tad boring and I had poached chicken, which was also a bit boring. (Normally wouldn't have ordered chicken, but I knew we were going to Tides the next night, so didn't want to over do the seafood). The stand out star of the evening was the cheese plate. 5 choices for $15! Great deal. We had cheddar, chevre, gouda, another I can't remember because everything was completely overshadowed by the incredible stilton. The best stilton I've ever tasted, hands down. The honey and fig compote which were served with the cheese were also great accompaniments. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough room for dessert - but it looked incredible.
Next day, lunch in SoHo was Calexico Carne Asada food cart. So fantastic. I loved my chicken burrito - enormous and spicy enough, that I didn't even need to add hot sauce (which I normally would). Guac was so flavourful and fresh. Loved it and would go back in a second. Highly recommend it.
Dinner that night was Tides. I was a bit disappointed with this one. I appreciate the suggestion, for something a little more off the beaten path - but it unfortunately didn't work out very well for us. I was hoping for something a little more interesting on the menu. Lobster wasn't available, and the rest was pretty much all I would cook at home on a regular basis - Tilapia, salmon etc. Would have loved to see a tuna or halibut. We had the calamari and the steamers to start. Calamari was like a lot of other calamari's I've had before, not bad at all, but not exactly special. I wasn't in love with the steamers - lets just leave it at that. SO had the lobster roll. Not my favourite, but she enjoyed it. I had scallops - I mostly chose them for the sides... Although the scallops were good, they were pretty ordinary, but I loved the sides. The white bean mash and the savoy cabbage were really very good. The space is tiny, which isn't a problem, except for the server who kind of pushed my SO out of the way while she attempted to get into the confusing bathroom. To be fair, I guess it's a pretty hard job for any place to follow the Gramercy Tavern...
Next day for lunch, we went to Tony Dragona's food cart. This place is awesome. The line moved a little slower than other carts, but it's well worth the wait. I was a bit intimidated, as there's no menu posted, but I listened to the action at the front for a few minutes to understand what to do. I had the chicken plate with salad and rice, my SO had the chicken sandwich with mozzarella. We also got 2 canned drinks. Then the guy asked me for the cash. First time around, I couldn't understand what he was saying. When I finally got it, I just couldn't believe it. $13!!! Honestly, I don't know how they make a profit. The chicken was so good, and there was so much of it - tender and flavourful. The salad was really, really fresh and the tomato topper couldn't have been fresher and the tzaziki was great. It was all very, very good. They were friendly and I am still shocked at the price.
That night we went to Blue Smoke. I had the ribs sampler (even though I knew there was no hope of me ever finishing...) and my SO had the pulled pork. Pulled pork was really amazing - kind of melt in your mouth savoury good. My ribs were good. I think my favourite were the St. Louis. We also had some chicken wings, which were some of the best I've ever had. Unfortunately, we left a lot of food on the table - I just wanted to try too much! Staff were great.
Lunch next day was at John's Pizzeria on Bleeker. I'm sure you know all about it.
Dinner was at Sushi Yasuda. Beautiful venue and Yasuda was very nice - he seemed to know everybody who ate there and asked them all about their grandmother, sister, cousin etc. Seems like a nice place to be a regular if you can afford it! We let him serve us whatever he wanted - it was all clean and fresh and pure. Very, very good. I have to admit that this reservation was more for my SO than me. I like sushi enough, but I'm not a fanatic. We had tonnes of sashimi and then moved on to sushi. We had some great fish, and he was patient letting us know about what we were sampling - which I appreciated. SO was thrilled (which was the point, so great) - for me, I would have liked a roll of some sort and a hand roll or two to switch up the textures and the experience a bit. Over all it was very good, but I preferred our experience at Tojo's in Vancouver last year. By far the most expensive meal of our trip.
Dinner at Lupa was great. Loved how they serve wine by the glass (which is actually about a glass and a half). To start we had the beets, the escarole salad and some cured meat done in house. The pork was very good, and I could feel my cholesterol rising with every bite... I love beets, and I was so looking forward to them - but I was a bit underwhelmed, maybe because of the hype. I thought they were good, but I wouldn't fly back to NY for them. The salad was very good - lots of cheese! Loved the bitterness. For mains I had a special - orecchiette with pork sausage and beet greens. It was perfect. Very well seasoned, pasta was nicely cooked, arrived at the table piping hot. Loved it. SO had the chicken. I was surprised at how much I loved it. Very peppery with mint. So well prepared - it was delicious. We finished off with the cheese plate, which was good, but not comparable to Gramercy.
That's it for our trip - we had a really incredible time - thanks to you. It was so valuable to anchor our trip around food! We usually just explore - which we did with other activities - it was nice to not have to worry about where to eat. Thanks again.
You've obviously done some homework and plan to spend most of your time in NY eating (good idea!) so I'm happy to offer a few more suggestions in addition to the recs already posted here. Seems like you have the high end well covered (Gramercy of late has been particularly spectacular from what I hear) so I'll just throw in some additional ethnic suggestions:
1. in Chinatown, this is a great time of year to go to NY Noodletown on Bowery as soft-shell crabs are here (yes!) and they do this INSANE salt-baked crab. actually, they do their salt-baked magic w/a bunch of seafood but the softshells are the top of the charts. And the noodles, as the name suggests, are the core of the menu, though they are not my personal faves. For dim sum, I am partial to Dim Sum Go Go on Catherine St. -- the shrimp rolls (in rice noodles) rock and they have a lot of vegetarian selections if you have a group that likes their greens in the morning.
2. If you can get motivated to trek to Queens (not that far, esp. if you get the Sunday NY times to keep you busy...), the weekend brunch at the Indian Restaurant Jackson Diner (only a block from the E/F train stop) is fabulous. You'll spend 10 bucks and leave stuffed. It's buffet-style but they don't let anything get warmed over or icky - it's super fresh and great variety.
3. Lastly, I have to put in a plug for Una Pizza Napoleatana on E 12th & 1st Ave in the east village. They are kind of Soup Nazi ish in their obsession w/pizza - they fly in all their ingredients from Italy (save the tomatoes, which are local), have only 4 kinds w/no substitutions, and don't you dare ask for red pepper flakes or other condiments, etc. And the price would be ridiculous at any other locale ($20 per pizza! For a personal size!) but for that secret crust recipe, they can charge whatever they want as far as I'm concerned. I fear the price fatigue and perhaps the no-compromises chef may be why in one year it went from being insanely crowded (you had to line up at 6pm to get a table) to being 1/2 full (our experience last week on a Thurs night at 7pm) and only open Thurs-Sun, but my vote is that it's worth every dime. Go with your small crew and share the pizza selection they've got, and you won't be disappointed.
I haven't been to Jackson Diner in a long time (maybe 4 years or more) but always preferred their dishes that are made to order, as opposed to their weekend buffet, though they cost a lot more (I remember paying around $35 per person for meals, and you could always get food to order at the same time that others were having the buffet). I found that the difference in price was worth it, because the buffet food was a bit dry and overcooked. Granted that I had the buffet only once (because I didn't like it much that one time). Obviously, your mileage may vary.
When I go to Chinatown I usually go to a restaurant called Big Wong's or Big Wong King on Mott btn Baynard and Canal.
I always order the wonton soup (shrimp, pork and veggie filled crystal skin dumplings with some dark greens leafies, no noodles) with a side of roast pork - super delicious. If you are there before the evening (they usually run out) also order the sweet bread (just a small loaf of fried sweet dough). This combination is killer.
I have never tried anything else there, so I can't vouch for the rest of the food, but it is always full of local Chinatown residents which I think can be seen as a good sign. Although Big Wong's is a little grimey, you need to look past this as it is always full of people and inexpensive. To me this a quintessential Chinatown experience!
Big Wong's is a tiny bit grimy but pretty comparable to most of Chinatown's authentic restos - it has a lot of sentimental/nostalgic value for me, since a previous owner is a family friend and we'd eat there all the time. My bias aside, I've always enjoyed congee, noodle soups, and rice dishes there without fail. Great roast meats. The fried noodle dishes and fried rice do tend to be greasier than I'm used to...Big Wong's isn't mentioned that often in Chinatown threads and seems to get some pretty mixed reviews, but I love it.
NinaO, if I'm thinking of the same thing as you're describing as "sweet bread," I think it's more common to have it with a bowl of congee, which is usually eaten in the morning. This might be why there are none left by evening; they're best when super fresh and hot! That is an interesting combination though, I'll definitely check it out.
I think you've dumped Lure, which is a good decision, and I heartily endorse either Mary's or Pearl.
Not exactly street cart food, but the little burger joint in the Parker Meridien is a genuine New York experience. It's just so eccentric to have this little place tucked behind a curtain in a sleek lobby. Then to find that the burgers are outstanding; it is a real treat. Go at an off time, but the lines move quickly.
Have a great time.
I went to NY for the first time last year (actually, almost the exact same dates you're going) and felt like I didn't even scratch the surface. :) It was fabulous. BF and I went to Lupa and loved it. The ricotta gnocchi was heavenly. We lucked out, because we called them Tuesday afternoon on a whim and they were able to give us a reservation for 5:30pm. The neighborhood around the restaurant (NoHo?) is great for walking around.
I second the rec for Katz's Deli. Had a great lunch there.
For super-cheap eats, a friend recommended Lucky Dumpling, a little nook at the northern end of Chinatown. While it's not the absolute best Chinese food you'll ever have, the pricing is fantastic. 5 potstickers for $1 and various other goodies for $1-$2 for a single-person serving. We had a fairly big meal for around $7 for 2 people. So, if you're walking around and want a quick, cheap lunch, that's a place worth trying.
Have a great trip! I'm sure you've probably come across it, but don't forget to check out TKTS for cheap theatre tickets and the South Street Seaport booth has a far shorter wait than the Time Square location.
If budget is an issue, I'd consider lunch at some of your higher end options. Yesterday I had the most enjoyable 2 hour lunch ever at Gramercy Tavern. They had two tasting menus, the Market Menu (3 courses, $36) and the Spring Tasting Menu (5 courses, $55). We ordered a la carte, but I had my eye on the Market Menu. This may sound funny, but I had the most amazing coffee (of all things) there yesterday. It was a heavenly and sumptuous exotic Ethiopian bean, blended in-house with subtle hints of orange, cinnamon and cardamom.
In any event Gramercy Tavern is a great choice.
You should definitely go to Gramercy Tavern, and if you go a little bit early (pre-7:30) you shouldn't have any trouble getting a table. You might call ahead, talk to the host/hostess, explain that you're coming from out of town and you'd like to take your chances in the Tavern. When you get there, remind them who you are and I'll bet they'll take care of you.
Is Shake Shack open yet? Make sure to check. I agree, on a nice NY spring day, there's nothing more fun.
I've had no luck with Daisy May's -- either I've called after they stop delivering, or I've been to the dining room after they close. Likewise, check when they are open and get there well in advance because they tend to have a mind of their own.
Build some time in to visit the Greensmarket in Union Square and maybe have a meal somewhere nearby. At least buy some pretzels!
Bear in mind the Greenmarket shuts down around 6:30 pm or so, and it's only there Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Buy a bottle of locally produced wine or cider (bring a cork screw, some cups and be discreet), pick up some fresh fruit, and on Fridays pick up some raw milk cheeses and freshly baked bread from the Bobolink folks, and hunker down on a blanket in Union Square proper and enjoy a picnic for lunch.
Lure is a bit of a scene, but it does have the best raw bar. I prefer the food overall (i.e., non-raw bar seafood), service, and atmosphere at Tides though - I'd highly recommend that instead.
For Chinese, I prefer Flushing over Chinatown - check the Outer Boroughs board for lots of info and recs - it's a bit of a foodie paradise and well worth the trip. Very accessible via subway (last stop on the 7). There are some great hole-in-wall places for snacks like dumplings, chow mein, lo mein, etc. in Flushing, but my favorite street vendors are all in Chinatown - kebabs, bullet cakes, and the usual chow/lo mein.
I'm not sure whether there's an Indian cart on 53rd and Park, but "the cart" is on 53rd and 6th.
Enjoy your visit, and happy chowing!
for the money, id skip gramercy and go across the street to veritas...3 courses are $65-70 these days i think...the food is oodles better and the service is just top notch.
tides is okay but if you want a seafood joint, nyc style...you cant beat marys fish camp or pearl oyster bar. no reservations and its crazy at times but youll be fine...leave yr cell # at the door and have a drink nearby. tides is fine but it just doesnt do much for me.
if you need bbq, blue smoke is a fine option but momofuku ssam bar is a great idea if you want something delicious and casual. get the terrine sandwich (a banh mi), sweetbreads, spicy rice cakes.
yasuda will be excellent of course.
definitely go to katz's for a pastrami sandwich during the day. i also recommend spotted pig for lunch as its terribly crowded other times. also, 'ino for lunch in the west village is just always tops. get the truffled egg toast, cheese plate, and quattro panini...the sicilian red is a great cheap wine by the glass.
shake shack and corner bistro are other good daytime options.
Veritas's 3-course prix-fixe is $76. It's always been one of our favorites, and I agree with you that Chef Scott Bryan's New American cuisine is superb. Plus, of course, the wine list is one of the most extraordinary in the city.
However, keeping in mind that the exchange rate is still a bit negative for Canadians (though not nearly as bad as it has been previously), unless they drink only tap water, it will be difficult for them to escape without spending around $125pp.
We've eaten in the Tavern Room since Chef Michael Anthony arrived. The food was excellent, and it will not cost them anywhere near as much as Veritas.
I've not been to Pearl's or Mary's, but I'm a fan of Tides. A little jewel of a seafood "shack" with delicious food, very good service, and stylish decor, including a very unique ceiling.
Agree completely that a pastrami sandwich at Katz's is an imperative for that quintessential NYC deli experience. And dining al fresco on burgers, fries and soft ice cream at Shake Shack should definitely be on tochipotle's dining itinerary.
Thanks so much - appreciate this great information. Glad to hear that the Tavern food is excellent! (And you're right about the price, that's why we chose it - we'll spend enough at the other places!) We don't mind waiting, but any time other than 5 or 10:30 that might make sense to go? We'll be happy to grab a drink and wait. It will be our first night and we'll have tourist written all over us!
Should have mentioned Katz's in my OP. It's been a while since I've been to Schwartz's...but I've got enough of it in my blood to judge the comparison between the two!
Shake Shack is now there too (I know it's almost criminal, but I actually don't enjoy burgers...fries and soft ice cream are another thing all together!)
Hey, tochipotle, No need to apologize about not liking burgers. If you happen to like hot dogs, Shake Shack also has them, and they're pretty tasty. Btw, re: brendastarlet's post below, S.S. has been open since March.
Our dinner at the Tavern Room was on a Sunday evening in late January. I think we got there a little before 10 and were seated immediately. I'd suggest arriving around 9:30 because it's a little past prime, so tables should be starting to become available.
Since it appears you are going to fit Katz's into your itinerary, you might want to consider taking my Lower East Side eating "tour." It will give you the opportunity to walk around a very interesting, historic neighborhood while sampling food emblematic of NYC. The tour starts at Katz's. I'm appending it 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. ( http://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.
Hope you have a fabulous visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!
Actually, Shake Shack has a veggie burger that is pretty spectacular for the non-burger liking people of the world. They grill a portobello mushroom in place of a burger. If you're there and you're planning to stand in line and you want a little more than a shake and fries, grab the portabello burger instead. Yum!
re: Produce Addict
I've been away from NY far too long to be able to guarantee these are still there (it's been 4 months - if anyone can verify these, please do so!), but my favorites are:
- at Grand and Chrystie Park, near the B/D Grand St stop, for curry squid and fish ball kebabs
- at the southeast corner of Grand and Bowery for those amazing bullet cakes...
- haven't tried this one, but a while back someone on the board recommended one on Monroe, between Market and Catherine.
If you’re going to Brooklyn I would NOT recommend Montague St , there’s a lot better to be had. Try Atlantic Ave, between Henry and Court for some very good and inexpensive Middle Eastern restaurants. Be sure to stop by Sahadi’s – one of the best Middle Eastern groceries in the city (they’re closed on Sundays). Some very good bars on this strip as well. Or go down Court or Smith Streets, the Outer Boroughs board (Why the outer boroughs all get lumped together is complete B.S., but I digress) is full of reviews.
Do you mean Dim Sum Go Go? I finally went there with a friend yesterday for an early lunch and found the food very worthwhile and not expensive at all. I would recommend it in general. I've heard that the standard of dim sum is higher in Toronto overall than it is here, however.
Gramercy Tavern doesn't accept reservations? Are you sure? I think you can even make them on OpenTable. I haven't been recently, but when I was researching for my own trip, I got the feeling that they're still kind of in flux after all the transitions in recent years.
Sushi Yasuda - do ask for Yasuda.
I'm in the pro-Lupa contingent (although, perhaps not as rabidly as I once was), but I think they're better for a late lunch, now that they're open through the afternoon. No wait, no crowds, and the lunch menu is pretty extensive.
I would add in dinner at Degustation - do 3 or 4 savory courses there, then go to WD-50 for a dessert tasting menu. I loved Degustation so much I made a reservation for a second dinner there during my last trip. I also really loved Momofuku Ssam Bar, but I've noticed that it's pretty polarizing... people either love it or hate it.
In Toronto you are overlooking the poutine. As far as NYC goes, I would honestly cross Lure off the list. It is a scene, and the food I had there was poor. Just about any of the other casual seafood places about town would be a better bet (Mary's, Pearl's, Tides, Ditch Plains).
You are very unlikely to get a reservation at Babbo at this short notice anyway - maybe a 10.45pm or something. I would just go ahead and enjoy Lupa.