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Never been to NYC...would love recs (inc. places w/no reservations needed, favorite casual dining that locals frequent, cheap eats, a few places to splurge)

Hello Hello! Mom and I are visiting NYC (from SF) in about a month (both of us first timers!)! Searching through Frommer's Guide has given me some ideas...but I would love updated, first-person suggestions! We are open to most all foods (mom is not a fan of Indian and Thai though)...and in our week of travel woud love to try a few places to splurge on, as well as great cheap or average priced restaurants. We are playing things by ear and would prefer not to have too many reservations hindering our wandering (we are planning on museums, shopping, Central Park, Ground Zero, etc.)...is that possible while still expecting good food in NY? We would love to try some neighborhood favorites that locals would have a casual dinner or lunch at, not necessarily just the "hot spots". Suggestions all over Manhattan are appreciated (as well as your, "Don't go here, it's just hype" suggestions as well, please!). We're staying in Soho, but will definitely be seeking adventure in other neighborhoods (Brooklyn, Times Square, etc.). Thanks for your help! I will certainly report back!

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  1. Can you give us a dollar figure as to how expensive you'd like your "splurge" meal to be? Same for cheap or average-priced -- SF can be expensive, but I wouldn't want you guys to be in for sticker shock...

    Do you have any specific places in NYC you'd like to go? Or restaurants you like in SF? This board usually works better if we can give you feedback on a tenative itinerary.

    Since you're in California, most people would recommend that you avoid foods that are easily available there (and usually for a lower price) like sushi, Mexican, Chinese, etc.

    For quintessential NY foods and restaurants check out these threads:

    It's definitely easy to eat well without reservations in NYC at less formal places as long as you plan well and/or don't mind waiting in line.

    Oh, and if you want to know about Brooklyn destinations, you should probably post on the Outer Boroughs board.

    8 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Excellent, thanks Kathryn!!

      Really, there are no specific places we'd like to go...I've heard the restaurant on top of Moma is good, Tavern on the Green's food is so so (but is worth it for the experience?), etc. In SF we like places all over the board...anything from One Market (Brad Ogden's places have all been great) to Circa to holes in the wall like Go Go Cafe.

      So am I hearing that expensive in SF may not necessarily be what expensive is in NY? I'd say an average dinner for two in SF or Marin could average $50-$75 without drinks...cheap would be $30 or under. Splurge (or just nicer) in SF or Marin could definitely vary, but to keep in mind that we'll be in town for a week, I'd like to say anything $100-$250 for two? Or am I crazy to think we'd be able to find that as a splurge?

      In regards to a tentative itinerary, we are trying to be flexible, but we'd like to try and hit: the Met, Moma, a broadway play, the big shopping areas, Ground Zero, Statue of Liberty, Central Park, one of those bus tours around the city...and who knows what else!

      And yes, you're right. Our goal is to avoid things that we could easily find here, but for me that does not exclude Mexican, Chinese and sushi. In Northern California alone, our style of Mexican food differs greatly from Southern California's...so I would wonder if these styles of food would be different in New York? Of course we'd love to have some NY favorites (ie pizza, bagels, hot dogs etc.) too, so really we are open to everything!

      Thanks again for helping me narrow down what we're looking for! I look forward to reading all suggestions!

      1. re: lj2899

        There's a cafe at the top of the MOMA, Terrace 5. It's good for a museum restaurant, but if you want to be wowed, check out the (pricier) absolutely delicious food at The Modern. It's right next door to the MOMA. They have two dining rooms -- the hipper, casual front room (called the Bar Room) is better than the formal one.

        I'd say that an mid-range dinner for two is at the higher end of the spectrum, like $80.

        I would not advise that you spend time getting Mexican here; high-end sushi, however, can be great if you splurge on something like Sushi Yasuda.

        For essential NY I would definitely do pizza, bagels and smoked salmon, an old style NY deli, perhaps some gelato (very popular right now), at least one Danny Meyer restaurant, a French bistro (Balthazar is a winner for tourists) and of course a few large brunches.

        1. re: kathryn

          kathryn (or any other chowhounders!), i've been seeing danny meyer's name frequently in threads...care to explain what makes him stand out? is he the bradley ogden of ny? and brunch...that seems to be like the "thing" to do in NY...yes?

          1. re: lj2899

            Good food, great service (he has made a very public commitment to hospitality), good value for what you get, and nice settings (mostly). He's popular and also a really nice guy.

            My current favorites are at the Bar Room at the Modern and Gramercy Tavern, as well as Shake Shack, although I haven't been to Eleven Madison Park (yet).

            Brunch is a very NY thing to do and in NYC brunch stretches from early morning to 4 or 5pm sometimes! (My favorite brunches are at Clinton Street Baking Company, Prune, Devin Tavern, Balthazar, The Neptune Room, Sarabeth's, Barney Greengrass, and dim sum at Chinatown Brasserie, by the way.)

            1. re: kathryn

              Second the Bar Room at the Modern.

          2. re: kathryn

            Oh, and steak. Don't forget about steak.

            I like to take people to Keens for an only-in-NY atmosphere.

            1. re: kathryn

              Kathryn - yet another great suggestion. What makes the NY steak stand out from what we would have here in the bay area? People? Service? Decor?

          3. re: lj2899

            Just a warning, cause it was mentioned at the top of this, I don't think the experience of Tavern on the Green has been a good one for most people in the past few years. Yes it has the name and history to it, but last time I was there, it also had a really disgusting smell of mold and well something that made everyone in my group lose their appetite.

        2. i dk if you are new to chowhound, but it seems so. good news is you are in the right place now -- your question is so broad i think first it would be good if you take a look around at the posts here and see what you might like. just ask, we all will be sure to let you know!

          since you are in soho you might like BALTHAZAR, it's very popular, but fine and fun french. i appeciate it for early breakfast when its quieter. if you dont want the hustle bustle of that place try the more lowkey COUNTRY CAFE instead. CENDRILLON is a another good one for weekend brunch. for brooklyn i think we all love AL DI LA, but keep in mind you may want to to go early as you have to wait on line.

          maybe that will get ya started? have a fun visit.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mrnyc

            mrnyc! thanks for the suggestions...though not new to chowhound, this is my first trip anywhere where the options were so vast that i was getting lost in all the info! i've been searching threads for a few days now and just kept seeing so much info, yet not EXACTLY what i had in mind...or the threads were old and i wanted updated and fresh ideas...

            i will certainly include your suggestions in the list/map i'm putting together! thank you!

          2. While it's always best to have reservations, you can often secure them last minute, and it is usually easier during the summer, especially on weekends when many natives are away.

            Places to stay away from: Tavern on the Green, One If By Land, The Rainbow Room, and The Russian Tea Room

            For splurges, my picks would be:

            Eleven Madison Park, on the corner of Madison Av. & 24th St. Chef Daniel Humm's French-inspired cuisine is sensational, the wine list is excellent, service is cordial and professional, and the space is gorgeous!


            Keens, on 36th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs., has been in that location since 1885. In addition to delicious steaks, chops, etc., there's unmatchable old NY ambiance, i.e., walls filled with memorabilia and rows of old clay smoking pipes suspended from all the ceilings.


            A number of upscale restaurants have lunch prix-fixes, so you can experience some of the best cuisine the city has to offer at "bargain" prices. Two to consider:

            Fleur de Sel - 3 courses for $29


            Jean George - 2 courses for $28 + $14 for each additional course

            As first timers, you might want to consider taking my (in)famous Lower East Side eating "tour." It will give you the opportunity to walk around a very interesting, historic neighborhood while sampling foods that are emblematic of NYC. 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 – though not mandatory, it is a tradition -- 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, where it’s cash only. To pay by credit card, go to the counter at the rear where the salamis are sold. 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 your first visit to NYC is great in every way and Bon Appetit!

            8 Replies
            1. re: RGR

              May I ask why no Tavern on the Green? I've heard the food is just ok, but was told my a few that it's a cool setting and the different rooms make it worth a trip there for lunch? Any where else better around Central Park if we were to skip it?

              Thanks for all the other great recs!

              1. re: lj2899

                RGR is right, the food is gross and it's obscenely overpriced (like, $9 for an orange juice). But I might still have to say go... maybe just a light breakfast or lunch? The place is just really cool. I went years ago, with a visiting relative, and while I will probably never go back I'm glad I got to see it.

                1. re: bluestone

                  Or go for a drink and then eat elsewhere.

                2. re: lj2899

                  Can you say "tourist trap"? Bluestone pretty much covered it as far as the food is concerned. But, hey, if you want to waste a lunch there...

                  If you want to eat in Central Park, there is the Boathouse. Gorgeous lake view! Some Hounds feel the food isn't that good. But my husband and I had lunch there last summer, and I found the food to be surprising well-prepared and very tasty.


                  Jean Georges, which I recommended for the prix-fixe lunch (or dinner, if you want a huge splurge), is across Columbus Circle from Central Park.


                  1. re: RGR

                    wow, thanks for these ideas! sounds like we may grab a drink at tavern and skip it for our meal! why waste time and money there when there are a million other gems, right? jean georges sounds like a must...i think we will try to aim for lunch there on our day in central park! thanks everyone for breaking down tavern for me! :)

                    1. re: lj2899

                      Now you're thinking like a native! lol

                  2. re: lj2899

                    If you just HAVE to go there, try just drinks at the bar. The food is not okay, it's gross, and the place is always crawling with tourists. Anywhere around Central Park is better! but at the south end of the park is the Time Warner center that has several interesting places to eat, Jean Georges and the less expensive Nougatine are in the same vicinity, tho not the same building, and San Domenico, a charming and delicious Northern Italian is on CP South. (and that's without thinking!)

                    1. re: lj2899

                      The food at TOTG is DEADLY. Be very afraid...

                  3. Since people seem to be covering a lot of the splurge places, I have a recommendation for a reasonable one that doesn't need a reservation. It's Lima's Taste in the West Village. Peruvian joint. First off, the decor is attrocious (Led Zeppelin poster in the bathroom?!) so don't expect anything in that department. However, the food is off the charts, and since your mom seems to be a fan of different styles of food this would be perfect. Amazing ceviche selection, shrimp wrapped in bacon, pounded chicken in a sweet vingegar bbq sauce over fried yucca, chunks of filet with tomatoes, onions and french fries. I talk about this place awkwardly too often, but I love it and bring everyone I know as often as I can.

                    Hope you enjoy your time in the city!

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: bluestone

                      this place sounds awesome! bluestone, anymore recs similar to these around the city? we don't care if the decor isn't stellar, we just want to have a good time and not get stuck eating crappy food! thanks so much!

                      1. re: lj2899

                        I think a great place in midtown is the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien for lunch... it's a hidden restaurant behind a curtain there, and it's consistently voted one of the best burgers in the city. It's also fun to head there and figure out where the secret entrance is (and is a good story for going home). Despite the fancy hotel vibe on the outside, the burger place is casual.

                        Don't bother with Mexican here. We still haven't really figured that one out yet.

                        Good pizza is a must. I will get yelled at for suggesting the "best" pizza in the city, so some good options are Grimaldi's (brooklyn), Lombardi's (Little Italy, big line sometimes), John's (on Bleecker) and, for something different, Otto (Batali's casual pizza place, really fun).

                        Not sure if you guys are drinkers, but Zum Schneider in the East Village is a lot of fun. It's a German beer house with really good traditional food and giant beers. I also love Cafe Rakka in the East Village for really, really cheap falafel.

                        Cheap sushi is plentiful but I can't think of anywhere special. Expensive sushi is a very different story.

                        That's what I got for now. I will keep thinking, though. Enjoy!

                        1. re: bluestone

                          Wow, thanks...even more great ideas! Please do share if you think if any cheap sushi! And what about expensive? Any place offer anything special or to die for? How about any places for happy hour? Some place to just sit for a while and people-watch?

                          1. re: lj2899

                            the bryant park cafe (or grill?) has a nice outdoor bar...perfect for happy hour in summer...get there early (mid-afternoon) before everyone gets out of work to snag a good spot!

                            1. re: ceeceee

                              The Bryant Park Cafe setting is lovely. Unfortunately, the food is sub-par. So, have a drink, then go elsewhere to eat.

                              1. re: RGR

                                If I'm in Bryant Park anyway, I'd rather get a cupcake, sandwich, or ice cream at 'wichcraft, then be on my way...

                                1. re: RGR

                                  RGR is spot on. I had one of the worst burgers (turkey) ever at Bryant Park! Strongly suggest cocktails only. Only if you must eat there, stick with salads or a cheese platter.

                                  Second bluestone's suggestion for Grimaldi's pizza in Brooklyn. You might want to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get there!

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    that's what i was referring to...just for happy hour...

                                2. re: lj2899

                                  I'm going to counter the the Grimaldi's, Lombardi's, John's pizza theory with the "find a yummy looking slice joint anywhere in the city." I like the Lombardi's family tree off and on, but for the NYC experience you want the big thin a little bit crispy slice joint. (And they are everywhere - just avoid La Famiglia.) My tops of that style? Joe's on Carmine connecting 6th Ave and Bleeker.

                          2. What about Chinatown? I went to NYC for the first time last year & ate at a great Chinese restaurant called Joe's Shanghai - they have the most interesting soup filled dumplings. It's casual / busy / and all about food.


                            1. I was recently in SF and found your fellow Chowhounders very helpful. Though I’m pretty much a below-23rd Street person, there are many fantastic places to eat above and beyond.
                              Some ideas I have based on the areas that you may find yourself with varying price ranges:

                              Close to Ground Zero (Wall St. area and Tribeca):
                              Alphanoose (Middle Eastern), Starwich (creative but fairly inexpensive sandwiches), Fresh (seafood), Landmarc (American), The Odeon (late night people-watching eats),

                              Lower East Side:
                              Stanton Social (eclectic),

                              Balthazar (Bistro), Aquagrill (Seafood), Raoul's (French), Lombardi's (pizza), Lure (seafood)

                              W. Village:
                              Lupa or Otto (Batali) Beard Pappas (delicious cream puffs), Patisserie Claude (chocolate croissants), Mamoun's (Falafel), Blue Ribbon (eclectic American), Corner Bistro (burgers), Mercadito (Mexican tapas), Sushi Samba (nice roof deck and sort of a trendy scene), Cones (ice cream)

                              East Village:
                              Veneiro’s (Italian pastries and café), Hearth (Italian), Momofuku SSam or Noodle Bar, Go! (Japanese), Café’ Mogador Prune or Flea Market (brunch)

                              Chelsea/ Union Square:
                              City Bakery, Blue Water Grill, Red Cat, Tia Pol or Boqueria (tapas)

                              Luger's (best steak in the world)
                              Al di La or Convivium Osteria (Italian/Mediterranean in Park Slope)
                              Jacques Torres, Almondine, Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (if you walk over the bridge)

                              Finally, some upscale recommendations:
                              River Café (views)
                              Babbo (if you can get a reservation)
                              Gramercy Tavern

                              Enjoy your trip!

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: ChowDiva

                                Glad we were able to help you out in SF! What kind of noodles are served at Noodle Bar? Chinese? Vietnamese? Japanese? I really appreciate the break-down by neighborhood! For those of us with no clue, this definitely assists in mapping out the week!

                                1. re: lj2899

                                  Momofuku Noodle Bar does ramen but it is not traditional; I think that Rai Rai Ken is better (order it with butter and corn).

                                  For Lower East Side I would add:
                                  The Kuma Inn (creative Thai-Filipino tapas), Freemans, Clinton St. Baking Company (best pancakes ever), Frankie's Sputino (Italian), and WD-50 (if you like experimental food), Katz's Deli (classic), Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery (cupcakes).

                                  And East Village:
                                  Le Miu (sushi and new style sashimi), Pylos (Greek), Prune (quirky American), Five Points (new American) -- actually in Noho but close enough, Village Yokocho (japanese pub food), Death & Co or the Angel's share (cocktails), Rai Rai Ken for ramen, Crif Dogs for hot dogs.

                                  I've recently become a big fan of Patsy's Pizzeria in East Harlem for the best crust ever.

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    Wonderful, wonderful! Can you elaborate on what Japanese pub food may be? These all sound so fun and right up our alley!

                                    1. re: lj2899

                                      Mostly grilled and fried snacks. Small plates. It's "Japanese tapas" that is meant to accompany a long night of drinking and hanging out.


                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        sounds like a great place to hang out for the evening! thanks for the suggestion!

                                  2. re: lj2899

                                    Momofuku is a restaurant that has developed quite a following over the last year. I really like Momofuku Ssam, and if you go for lunch you will most likely not have to wait. A ssam is beasically an Asian burrito. Get the Berkshire pork. It's very different, totally delicious and very addicting. Plus, they're only about $9 a pop a you could probably split with someone as they're quite big (unless you're starving, or just don't want to share:)

                                2. Hi lh, I too am a visitor to NYC.

                                  Last month we were there just for one night. The local CHer's directed us to Balthazar and it. was. fabulous! We had a great time and the food was wonderful. It is a loud place. We were there at 9:30 on a Sunday night and the place was hopping!! I hear brunch is great too. I'm headed back to Manhattan in two weeks and I think we'll hit it for brunch.

                                  For a fun excursion and amazing pizza, consider taking the Staten Island Ferry. It's the best view of the Statue of Liberty and it's free! On a pretty day, the view of the city is awe inspiring. When you get off the ferry you can either catch a cab or hop on the 44 or 94 bus to Denino's Pizza at 524 Port Richmond Ave for what is (IMHO) the best pizza ever. Then head across the street for a lemon Italian ice from Ralph's Ice. Get back on the bus, back on the ferry and back into the city. Really, this is a two and a half hour excursion and it's a great view of working class NY. Do it in mid-day if you like and avoid any rush hour traffic.

                                  Have fun on your first trip!

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: geg5150

                                    Thanks so much! Wondering...do we need to order tix in advance for the ferry? What else is around the terminal that could help us round the day out? Pizza and Italian ice sound so good right now! I hope to hear more about your second trip, as I won't be going for almost a month!

                                    1. re: lj2899

                                      The ferry terminal on Manhattan is kinda between Battery Park and South Street Seaport. Battery Park is great and worth the stroll. Honestly, there's not much else on Staten Island to bother with. (I was born there...trust me!) I have some other suggestions/ideas that are not chowhoundish, so if you want to email me, I can share with you.

                                      We have reservations for Apizz in the Lower East side for dinner when we're in town on the 16th. We're staying in Chelsea, so we're going to hit the Chelsea Market and also Tia Pol for tapas.

                                      Shoot me a line and I can give you a hand with other stuff...i.e., theatre tkts, etc. geg5150@gmail.com

                                      Have fun!

                                      1. re: lj2899

                                        You don't get tickets for the Staten Island Ferry. You just show up.

                                        I would suggest doing things like walking through the Financial District and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, but those aren't food-related. The nearest area that has notable food is Chinatown, and that's where you can get your Vietnamese sandwich for lunch, which I thought I mentioned before in this thread, but it must have been another thread. It's at Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, in the back of a crystal and jewelry store just south of Grand St. on the east side of Mott St.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          Wonderful! Thanks for the "inside" tip! Non food-related suggestions are totally welcomed as well! Thank you!

                                          1. re: lj2899

                                            Just a reminder that non food-related posts are outside the scope of the Manhattan board.

                                            1. re: lj2899

                                              well so much for that...thx anyhow.

                                      2. I am a forner NY'er living in LA.I prefer the off the beaten track casual places. When I go to NYC I hit a little greek place in the village. Food is always yummy and I cannot seem to get those flavors in LA or SF. Great place to go after walking through the little cobbled streets in the west village.
                                        Snack Taverna
                                        63 Bedford St. 212-929-349 between Morton St. and 7th Ave
                                        Also frequent an izakaya style Japanese place in midtown. small plates, homemade tofu, They cook some dishes over open wood coals on wood paddles/planks. Very popular so you need reservations.
                                        Aburiya Kinnosuke
                                        213 E. 45th St. 212-867-5454 nr. Third Ave.
                                        Consider a packing a picnic in Central Park. The people watching is some of the best in the world and "gourmet delis" are a NYC staple.

                                        17 Replies
                                        1. re: hungerpangs

                                          Great ideas...maybe going to Katz's to grab a sandwich etc. and heading to the park? And Aburiya sounds yummy! I love good tofu...and Snack Taverna...do they offer full meals or is it purely snacks? Thanks! :)

                                          1. re: lj2899

                                            snack taverna is a full service restaurant. greek wine, greek food, greek water. lunch brunch and dinner. there is a smaller version (10 seats!!) also full service as well in soho SNACK @105 Thompson St., between Prince and Spring Sts. 212-925-1040
                                            katz's is far away from central park, though there is nothing wrong with lugging a 1/2 lb pastrami sandwich uptown. you might want to check out some where like: http://www.gracesmarketplace.com/ part of the illustrious balduccis legacy. not trendy, just yummy.

                                            1. re: hungerpangs

                                              oh man, maybe we'll have to do katz's another time...b/c i don't want to lug around a sandwich all day! lol

                                              we are staying in soho, so maybe snack would be perfect for a quick bite! thanks for all the info!

                                              1. re: lj2899

                                                Since you are staying in Soho - you should definitely go to Kee's Chocolates on Thompson St. - amazing.

                                                And, if you are a mozzarella fan, stop by Joe's Dairy, on Sullivan - plain, smoked, and with prosciutto.

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  Is Joe's Dairy a market or deli type of place? I LOVE fresh mozzarella...

                                                  Thanks for the info on Kee's...we love good chocolate!

                                                  1. re: lj2899

                                                    Bond 45 in midtown has a great fresh mozzarella sampler

                                                    1. re: lj2899

                                                      Joe's is a tiny market specializing in mozzarella, but sells other items as well. Not sure if they make sandwiches etc.

                                                      1. re: lj2899

                                                        Seconding Kee's, just make sure you go there early because she tends to run out by late afternoon.

                                                        While you're in the neighborhood, might as also stop at Grandaisy Bakery and the Yogurt Place for continued noshing.

                                                        1. re: lj2899

                                                          Joe's Dairy is a small store that sells cheeses and cold cuts meats. Althought I'm not 100%, I don't bdlieve that they make sandwiches. I agree that their fresh mozzarella are good.

                                                          For terrific sandwiches, and if you like those huge Italian heros, go to Alidoro's, also on Sullivan St (bet. Spring and Prince).

                                                          1. re: lj2899

                                                            If you love fresh Mozzarella, don't miss DiPalo's in Little Italy.

                                                          2. re: MMRuth

                                                            SoHo is close enough to Little Italy if you are walkers. Walk to Grand and Mulberry and go to Alleva. Only place I buy Italian cheeses (fresh & smoked mozzarella, ricotta, etc.).

                                                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                              i hear little italy is the place to go for noisy but casual dining on any given night. any places to beware of?

                                                              1. re: lj2899

                                                                Um, all of them? Especially the ones with a shill out in front, who try to entice every single person who passes by.

                                                                Little Italy is the place to go if you want to take in some scenery and spectacle.

                                                                If you want good Italian food, go elsewhere.

                                                                1. re: kathryn

                                                                  Ditto Kathryn. Touristy, bad Italian food. There are only 1 or 2 places I'll even eat at. Most NYers eat Italian food elsewhere!

                                                                  If you must go to Little Italy go to one of the cheese shops on Grand and Mulberry to shop for a snack OR a cappucino is probably safe. I don't even go there for Italian pastries, I go to Veniero in the East Village.

                                                                2. re: lj2899

                                                                  kathrn and financial district are right on the money.

                                                                  Except I get my pastries (not Italian) next door to Veniero's at Something Sweet. Stop in if you're nearby and make sure to get a macaroon.

                                                                  1. re: awwill

                                                                    I've had the pear or apricot tart from Something Sweet (on the corner?). Delicious!

                                                                    1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                                      Yep. Right there on the corner. It's one of our favorite spots and everything is pretty delicious (I'd guess it would have to be to survive in Veniero's shadow.)

                                                    2. Try Becco for a small hole in the wall italian resturant. There are other small resturants on the same street if it's packed. It was great food and the best part was the French Martini. (Made with black cherries.) Not very spendy and you don't really need reservations. We ate dinner there twcie in one week and didn't have reservations. Enjoy!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: ladypilot

                                                        This is exactly what we have in mind...thanks for the great rec. Hope to go there and give you a great report back!

                                                      2. If you want really yummy Italian (esp. pasta) and are in the neighborhood, go to Celeste on the Upper West Side. Cash only, no reservations, and delicious, delicious food- the owner is famous for importing rare and delicious cheese, so have that for dessert.

                                                        1. these are solid, casual, not overhyped places:

                                                          prune in the east village for brunch (on weekends), show up before 10:45 to be seated at 11ish... or lunch during the week--easier to get a table. it is one of our faves!

                                                          for delicious downtown italian, bianca in the east village is amazing too. so cheap and really really good! same owners as celeste, but i think it is a cuter spot.

                                                          crispo in west village/chelsea is a solid italian, best carbonara in NYC.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: ceeceee

                                                            For Prune, best to show up at 9:45 to get seated right when they open, at 10am, or be faced with an 1+ wait. Some may feel it is overhyped, at least for brunch.

                                                            1. re: kathryn

                                                              oh wow...they open at 10am now? used to be 11.
                                                              i think it is a solid brunch and worth the wait!

                                                              1. re: ceeceee

                                                                Yup, it's 10am to 3:30pm, although they often close the list around 2ish because of the long lines.

                                                          2. I don't live in New York anymore, but I've listed some "everyday" or "every weekend" spots that I miss:
                                                            Lil' Frankies in the East Village for pasta.
                                                            Ino in the West Village for small bites and panini.
                                                            Hummus Place in the West Village for fresh hummus served with a hard-boiled egg and pickles on the side.
                                                            Ushi Wakamaru for really fresh, delicious sushi and the best, slightly bitter green tea ice cream.
                                                            Le Zie in Chelsea for the truffled macaroni and cheese and the wide variety of starters.
                                                            Clinton Street Baking Company for their modernized comfort food and all-American desserts.
                                                            Patisserie Claude for Claude's amazing quiche.
                                                            City Bakery for their salad bar, pretzel croissant and cookies.
                                                            Patsy's pizzeria, since they had pretty reliably good pies and I like their arugula salad.
                                                            Bleeker Street Pizza for a to-go slice.
                                                            Vanilla cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery.

                                                            14 Replies
                                                            1. re: ctan

                                                              Okay, so here are my recs...
                                                              Don't waste your money in Times Square...not a good "chow" destination
                                                              Chocolate...Gotta go to Jacque Torres...everything is good and go to Marie Belle's for their drinkable chocolate
                                                              Bakery...My personal favorite is Rocco's...The cannoli is to die for...everything is great
                                                              Cheap and delicious...Don't miss "Mamouns" in the Village...cheap and wonderful falafel, hummus, lamb, etc. and also "Burger Joint" at Le Parker Meridien Hotel..behind curtain
                                                              Places for Dinner...Sorry, you need reservations...My favorite tried and true...Balthazar, Home, Il Cortile and Da Nico's ( both are in Little Italy and panned for the most part on the chow board, but I think that for tourists, it is a charming place at night, and the food is pretty delish..)
                                                              Pizza...Johns and Otto's (don't miss the gelato here...it is absolutely wonderful)
                                                              Brunch...Norma's at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel, and Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill
                                                              Gotta have...Good bagels, Black and White Cookies, Good Pastrami Sandwich, Good cheesecake, Good hotdog...You can find out everyone's favorite all over this website...
                                                              Oh, and I almost forgot! Try a vanilla cupcake at Magnolia's!

                                                              1. re: jinet12

                                                                The olive oil gelato at otto is the best, even though it sounds odd!

                                                                1. re: jinet12

                                                                  Thanks for all the great recs, jinet12 (and others I haven't responded to!)...two questions: do most places only serve brunch on the weekends? and two: i need reservations at balthazar? i probably misunderstood and thought it was a really good neighborhood fave, but not the type i'd need a reservation for...your thoughts? thank you! :)

                                                                  1. re: lj2899

                                                                    brunch is saturdays and sundays---sometimes only sundays!

                                                                    1. re: ceeceee

                                                                      Additionally, if you are out for Sunday brunch, you may have to wait until after noon for a Bloody Mary due to legal reasons.

                                                                      Before settling on a place for breakfast/brunch, I'd research the restaurant on Google and/or Menupages.com. And call to confirm hours.

                                                                    2. re: lj2899

                                                                      Definitely get reservations for Balthazar if you don't want to wait an hour or more. It is very popular.

                                                                      2nding the recommendation for Otto's olive oil gelato; for more standard flavors, go to Il Laboratorio del Gelato (recommended by RGR on her Lower East Side tour) but I believe they close at 6pm each day (annoying to me as I always want it after dinner).

                                                                      The pizza at Otto is not all that great and is far from what is considered a NY style slice. John's is good but the crust is a little too thick if you want a classic thin crust -- as I mentioned earlier my new favorite is Patsy's for the thinnest, best crust ever but Grimaldi's, John's of Bleecker, Lombardi's, etc. are probably more physically accessible for a tourist who doesn't want to go up to East Harlem. The other Patsy's around town aren't as good as the East Harlem one, BTW.

                                                                      Try the cupcake at Magnolia but be forewarned that there are often lines, and it is a very sweet cupcake. Perhaps split one just to see what the fuss is all about. And there is nowhere to sit inside the bakery -- most people enjoy theirs on the sidewalk or in the park across the street.

                                                                      I maintain that Kee's is better than Jacques Torres for truffles, but Jacques also offers chocolate dipped everything, cookies, bars, hot chocolate, whereas Kee's does not.

                                                                      1. re: kathryn

                                                                        Yeah, many hounds have strong opinions about the 1/2 icing things called "cupcakes" at Magnolia. I find them kind of disgusting, and certainly not worth waiting on line for!

                                                                        I saw a recommendation of Mamoun's upthread. I've always found them perfectly acceptable for cheap felafel/shawarma, but there are various better places to go. If you're on the Upper West Side, Jerusalem Falafel between 104th and 105th Sts. (I believe) is good. If you'd like to go for Turkish, instead, the doner kebab sandwich at Taksim on 2nd Av. just south of 6th St. is fatty but/and delicious. There have been various threads devoted to felafel/shawarma places. I have yet to go to the oft-recommended Taim, for example.

                                                                        1. re: kathryn

                                                                          Isn't Magnolia the place that used to be a pet shop? Not too far from Tartine?

                                                                        2. re: lj2899

                                                                          As a reminder Balthazar (and Artisanal) are lively French Bistros and both can be noisy (and fun!).

                                                                          1. re: lj2899

                                                                            To reply to both of your questions, Yes..Balthazar reservations are a must...If you want to go on a weekend night, get them very, very early...If you want to go for dinner ANY night of the week, you need reservations...It is a very popular place, and a very wonderful one as well...We absolutely NEVER miss it! As far as your question concerning brunch, it is served on the weekends...My recommendation for Norma's is a breakfast/lunch, that is served seven days a week...It is a really great place for a special breakfast...We love both the atmosphere and the food...It is not cheap, but in our minds, well worth it! You can get reservations for Norma's only through www.opentable.com For Balthazars, you must actually call them...

                                                                            1. re: jinet12

                                                                              I respectively disagree with the recommendation of Norma's. The unlimited refills on freshly squeezed OJ is nice, as is the complimentary shot of the daily smoothie. But it seems low on flavor and high on price -- the sweet items are sweet to the point of overkill. The savory items are mediocre.

                                                                              Additionally, if you make a reservation, and show up on time, you still may end up waiting for a table.

                                                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                                                Have never had to wait one minute for a table at Norma's with reservations...

                                                                                1. re: jinet12

                                                                                  I had to wait 45 minutes with a reservation for crappy service (I asked for soy milk with my coffee and was just shot down really rudely even though the hotel itself offers it and for a $70 brunch, someone could have popped over (20 feet) to the parker meridien coffee bar to borrow some), another 45 minute wait for food, for overly sweet and cloying food at that, (this coming from someone who can and does eat brown sugar straight from the box). Norma's is just totally not worth it, I would never go back even if someone else were paying.

                                                                                  Also, Taksim in midtown (there are two, one in midtown and one in the east village) is a great place for lunch before/after moma, it's about a 10-15 minute walk away. And is close to bloomingdales if that's a consideration as well.

                                                                        3. re: ctan

                                                                          just the type of recs i'm looking for! these sound great! thank you!

                                                                        4. You must go to Shanghai Joe's in Chinatown on Pell street between Canal and Mott and get the Subgum pan fried noodles (pan fried noodles with chicken, beef, shrimp and veggies) and the soup dumplings. Unbelievable.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Jel212

                                                                            I would have to disagree with Joe's Shanghai. Especially since you are coming from San Francisco where you have an amazing choice of chinese food, you might be a little disappointed. The soup dumplings aren't the size or texture they are suppose to be. Din Tai Feng in California is by far a better choice (and even then I think DTF makes just average soup dumplings).

                                                                            1. re: kelea

                                                                              i must say, from what i've heard, i will probably not put too much time into the chinese food in ny. we have great chinese food both here in sf and in houston (where my mom is coming from)...my only thought would maybe have some casual dim sum as a snack one day. thanks for saving me the trip!

                                                                          2. Beco Restaurant has a wonderful prix-fix lunch of Antipasto or Caesar Salad and then a trio of homemade pastas -- the waiters come to the tables with the pan straight from the kitchen and refill your plate as much as you like. Beco is a really cozy feeling homestyle restaurant. This is one of Lidia Bastianich's restaurants.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Jill Brazil

                                                                              Becco is not as good as it used to be. We stopped going. Have you been recently? Has it improved?

                                                                              1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                                                I will not go back to Becco after a truly painful experience last year. The pastas served for the ayce special were woefully mediocre at best. And sitting practically in your neighbor's lap because they jam as many tables as possible into each room may be thought of as "cozy" by some, but to me the operative word is "uncomfortable." Finally, the insanely high noise level made it impossible to have a conversation without shouting. Overall, not my idea of a great dining experience. There are so many far superior restaurant options in that area to waste a meal at Becco.

                                                                                1. re: RGR

                                                                                  Oh my goodness -- sorry to hear the bad reviews regarding Becco. I haven't been there in about 9 months. I will give it one more chance and report back to you on my experience. It used to be so good. What a shame.

                                                                                  1. re: Jill Brazil

                                                                                    I think it's one of those restaurants that's a victim of its own success, particularly related to Lidia's having become a major t.v. presence. When she and her son, Joe, first opened Becco, we had a couple of meals there that were just fine. Since then, the restaurant has become much more famous. When we went back last year in May for the first time in a very long time, I was truly appalled at the changes: the deterioration in the quality of the pastas, the jamming in of so many tables, and the hideously high noise level.

                                                                                    1. re: Jill Brazil

                                                                                      Do let us know if it has changed. We also stopped going. It used to be a favorite when we went to the theater.

                                                                              2. For delicious Italian food go to:
                                                                                1382 1ST Ave, New York City, NY 10021

                                                                                Great, rustic atmosphere.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Pink Pepper

                                                                                  I've never understood how people can recommend Campagnola--it's like they took all the bad parts of a Little Italy restaurant (garlic braids and straw-covered chianti bottles as decor, a singing piano player up front, terrible food) and moved it to the Upper East Side. Plus, it's super-expensive.

                                                                                2. As I recall, the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern doesn't take reservations, and if you don't hit it at prime times, there's usually only a short or no wait. It's not cheap per se, but the last time I was in New York a few weeks ago, I did lunch at the bar with appetizer, entree, and dessert and it ran about $35 before tax and tip. (The bartender also comped me my mine which is always nice, not expected but lovely when it happens). Food is always very good and service is stellar.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: sidwich

                                                                                    What would be considered not prime times? Would I have a better chance hitting it up on a weekday?

                                                                                    1. re: lj2899

                                                                                      With regard to the Tavern Room, prime time isn't a question of weekdays vs. weekends. It's the time of day. We went on a Sunday evening around 10 p.m. and were seated at a table immediately. So, mid-afternoon, e.g., 3 p.m., or later in the evening are usually the least busy times.

                                                                                      1. re: RGR

                                                                                        I would highly recommend the Nook on 9th Ave between 50th and 51st St. for dinner; it's small, so you should get there early or late, or else make reservations. It's BYOB, which is nice - there is a wine shop just across the street about a block or 2 away from this place. We just got back from a trip to NYC, and this was definitely our favorite place.

                                                                                        If you're looking for an interesting experience, you may want to try the Diamond Dairy on 47th St. between 5th and 6th Aves. You have to climb a flight of stairs to get up to this place, but it has a great view of the Diamond Exchange - definitely something most tourists don't get to see. The food is cheap and decent - nothing gourmet, just plain foods.

                                                                                        I posted reviews of both these, with pictures on my blog after our recent trip:
                                                                                        Heather W

                                                                                  2. If you are staying in Soho, the consider trying to get dinner reservations at either Babbo (call exactly a month before) or if you can't get Babbo, Il Buco. Both will likely set you back about $150 for dinner for 2. Alternatively, for Italian, head WAY Uptown to Sfoglia - but call immediately, they take reservations 60 days in advance.

                                                                                    One day for lunch you should go to 'ino - inexpensive but fantastic panini and wine bar. Nothing like it in SF (or LA). It's in the Village, just a couple of blocks West of Soho.

                                                                                    My favorite place for dinner in NYC has been The Bar Room at the Modern - last Thursday night it was fantastic. Depending how much you care to eat/drink, you could get out for as little at $120 or as much as $250 for the two of you.

                                                                                    Shopping in Soho/Nolita is pretty good. You may want to get a Zagat shopping guide.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: DonnyMac

                                                                                      I like Republic for a casual lunch spot in Union Square. Try the Seafood salad as a starter.

                                                                                      1. re: DonnyMac

                                                                                        In SoHo, go to Pepe Rosso for lunch. They have awesome sandwiches (prosciutto, arugula, goat cheese and truffle oil is my fave) and pastas. Tiny eating area, yum yum. For breakfast or light lunch, try Once Upon A Tart. The name says most of it, but they have really good tuna salad sandwiches and caesar salads as well, plus muffins in the morning.

                                                                                      2. Indian
                                                                                        Cheap: Dimple on 30th St. Have dosas
                                                                                        Expensive: Devi on East 18th St.
                                                                                        Chinese: Wu Liang Ye on West 48th Street, Get the Chicken wth Capsicum, Dan Dan Noodles, Fish in Chili Oil and Miso sauce
                                                                                        Korean (Cheap): Mandoo Bar on West 32nd Street (excellent dumplings, particularly the Kimchee Mandoo)
                                                                                        Other: Annisa on Barrow Street in West Village (excellent, small) have their tasting menu
                                                                                        Lunch: Perry Street, Asiate, Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison Park. All have incredible prix fixe lunch menus, which are among the best values for great food I know.
                                                                                        Thai: Queens: Arunee on 79th St. in Jackson Heights, Sripraphai