HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


Restaurant Suggestions for 1st time Visitors to USA

My husband's relatives from Pistoia, Italy are coming to visit us. Two adults in mid forties and one well behaved 11 year old boy. They have never been to the United States. I want to take them to a few restaurants that won't break the bank, but will be a good and delicious experience. I am hesitant to go Italian since it's hard to top Northern Italian cooking (gnocchi, tortellini, florentine steak). Where do visitors from other countries enjoy eating and what restaurants would you recommend? I know they like most foods, but not Japanese (don't know why). I would splurge on one special meal, but need to watch the budget.
I am really nervous about this because when we visited they brought us to small remote restaurants where we wined and dined for hours on outrageous food and inexpensive wine. In New York that not only is hard to find, but would cost a fortune. So please, help. Open to all boroughs.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Honestly, it is going to be impossible to beat the Italian they eat at home, and difficult to rival wining and dining in NYC in the Continental style without taking out a second mortgage... IMHO, what you CAN easily do it provide an experience they could not replicate at home... try the River Cafe in Brooklyn, for wonderful views of the city and very good, if not excellent, food/wine/service. They may be able to eat well in Pistoia, but they definitely can't look at Manhattan while doing it. I hope they have a great visit.
    --(another) Denise

    3 Replies
    1. re: food_for_thought

      I was actually just thinking of River Cafe. I have never been there but you are right. The view would be a really great experience since one of her requests is to see the Brooklyn Bridge. Little does she know, she will drive over it countless times! It's going to be a weird experience to be a tour guide in my own city.
      Thanks again,

      1. re: scanmike

        River Cafe is really nice - you could even park in Manhattan and walk over it to the restaurant (if you were ambitious and they were willing). I have been there with friends, family, and clients on business and it's always been reliable. Get there early to have drinks outside and just savor the gorgeous view.

        1. re: scanmike

          Also, the food is good but not great, but you could also just go for drinks...have you considered the Rainbow Room? The views are really spectacular - I think better than those of downtown (I still miss the "old" downtown views though).

      2. If river cafe is within your budget, I'd go for a weekend brunch at asiate - you can't get more nyc than this - overlooking central park and a brunch where you have to eat 9 tiny dishes on 3 big plates...

        2 Replies
        1. re: rareoccasions

          How about a picnic in the park? You can buy all sorts of cheeses, smoked fish, meats, breads, crackers, fruit, nuts, sweets and vrious wines (etc.) Then you can take all the time in the world.

          1. re: pacz

            Do they sell all of that in the park? Or do you have any reccommendations where to buy your picnic foods for Central Park.

        2. There are some wonderful suggestions for "New York" food in Bourdain's "The Nasty Bits". He makes suggestions of what he feels is food that exemplifies New York. It isn't about the finest French food or anything like that. It is about the Pastrami at Katz's or the Hot Dogs at Papaya King. I found it an interesting and fairly accurate list (as a native New Yorker).

          3 Replies
          1. re: jpolk

            Thanks for the great ideas. I checked River Cafe's prices for dinner and at $95.00 pp, I think that's more than I anticipated. Add wine to that and there goes my mortgage money. I will check out The Nasty Bits. Sounds more my speed for daily trips. Will still think about River Cafe, but I think I have a choice at that price range.

            1. re: scanmike

              Maybe you could do lunch there, or just go for drinks after dark? Sorry it's so steep.

              1. re: scanmike

                Ditto going to River Cafe for drinks or brunch. I went there recently (do a search of this site). There is also a recent post on the OuterBorough Board about River Cafe. As a reminder, jackets are required for the gentlemen.

            2. Maybe you can take them around RGRs' walking tour with a bottle of Trader Joes $3 wine in a brown bag for outrageous dining and inexpensive dining a la nyc style. But otherwise just pay for the exorbitant prices and let them feel how fortunate they are to have wine as inexpensive as soda.

              I also think you should avoid Italian (aside from NY Pizza which everyone must try and draw their own conclusion) and take them to bbq joints. Ethnic eateries might be a good choice to keep prices low and some places wont even charge a corkage fee for your wine.

              1. Go ethnic, ethnic, ethnic, like DarthEater says. No reason to spend a lot of money to get really good food.

                Definitely take them to Chinatown. NY Noodletown is a popular and very tasty choice. And walking around Chinatown is great fun in an of itself. Outside of Chinatown, another good Chinese option is Grand Sichuan St. Mark's (this is also an colorful neighborhood for visitors to walk around in). GS has some other locations too.

                Take them to the Hummus Place for lunch so they can see what really good hummus is like. Take them to a good Indian place. If they don't mind a vegetarian meal, the south Indian food at various places like Madras Cafe and Chennai Garden is very very good, and it can be a revelation to people who've never had really good vegetarian.

                Take them to Sripraphai in Queens for mind-bogglingly great Thai food (just not after 7 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday when it's obscenely crowded). The above-ground portion of the #7 train ride has fascinating views, too.

                And more:

                3 Replies
                1. re: Ike

                  Well, I got some good ideas and you got me thinking. As for pizza I know Grimaldi's will be good for the trip to "under the Broooklyn Bridge", (including a stop for chocolate), Nathans for hotdogs, caramel apples and custard icecream on July 4th maybe to see the hot dog eating contest or just for the trip to the Aquarium and Cyclone ride, maybe Spumoni Gardens (sorry, love their square) for a quick stop, Pastrami at Mill Basin Deli. Need a good hamburger- thinking of Downtown Atlantic cause it's kid friendly and has many choices, including stuffed cupcakes, which is a true "American" dessert. Was doing some searching and found Ethos for simple grilled fish, which I think we all would enjoy. Also, maybe The Farm in Ditmas Park. Which BBQ place would you suggest. Not into the really goopy sauce thing, and I don't think they would like overly sweet sauces, also your pick for a good hamburger with all the fixins. Going to Beaty and the Beast on July 3rd (our treat), any suggestions, or do you thiink Ethos is doable for that day? Love Sripraphai, but I think I may be pushing it with the spicy.Thanks for the Chinatown rec. NY Noodletown cause that I needed help with and they like Chinese. Any other ideas-keep them coming. I think I can handle this now.


                  1. re: scanmike

                    donovans in woodside has the BEST burger.
                    plus, its a local, cozy irish bar. watch a mets game with your burgers and beer!

                  2. re: Ike

                    if you go to chinatown (i'm a big fan of NY noodletown) definitely take them to the chinatown ice cream factory. there will be flavors they've never tried before. i am partial to the almond cookie, but there are lots of interesting ones to try. just note that there aren't any seats there, so you will have to walk around with the ice cream, which is just as fun. you could also try one of the various bubble tea places in chinatown, and the $1 dumpling places. have fun!!

                  3. Go eat barbecue food, one of the few true American cuisines. An inexpensive place (but delicious) is R.U.B. and a more elegant place is Blue Smoke. Either way, you must try the ribs, the sweet tea, and dessert (fried Oreos, pecan pie, etc).

                    Go to Katz' deli for some great New York Pastrami. The cuisine there is very New York but not influenced by Italy (as is pizza, of course).

                    The burger IS America. Go top GoodBurger for an excellent but inexpensive cheeseburger. Or Shake Shack for an outdoor cafe that has nice cheeseburgers. (Lines will be long at lunch and dinner time.)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: NAtiveNewYorker


                      Which place has the sweet tea and fried Oreos...R.U.B. or Blue Smoke?
                      Been to America years ago and wasn't impressed. Perhaps because it was graduation day and filled with teens. Was thinking about Katz also.


                      1. re: scanmike

                        R.U.B has the Oreos and the classic sweet tea. (Blue Smoke MIGHT have sweet tea.)

                        Also, you could go to Arturo's in the Village for great pizza and live jazz. It's very New York (especially the decor and the live jazz).

                    2. Lunch/brunch at that PB & J place in the village (if the 11 yeard old likes peanut butter). You will never spend so much for a PB sandwich, but retro and fun.

                      Also suggest you think along the lines of brunch/lunch and ethnic (see all the great posts below) if you want great food but don't want to "break the bank." Lower East Side is a MUST (search for RGR tour), but can't be done on a Saturday. I live here and that's one of my favorite places to shop & eat (Essex Street Market, Kossar's, Donut Plant, Economy Candy - yum).

                      Chelsea Market (9th Avenue and 16th?) is also fun to shop and eat reasonably (cafes). The Food Network Studio is there. Amy's Bread, Sarabther's Kitchen, etc.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: financialdistrictresident

                        Thanks, will check out RGR tour. If anyone knows places around the museums.. Metropolitan, MOMA, Museum Natural History, that would be helpful

                        1. re: scanmike

                          Cafe Sabarsky is on 86th & 5th, so near the Metropolitan - lovely Austrian cafe - gets crowded, but the line moves fast. Also, though not ideal, the cafeteria in the basement of the Met has surprisingly decent food these days.

                          1. re: scanmike

                            Museum of Natural History: try Bistro Citron on Columbus and 83rd. French bistro food- oysters, steak frites, moules, etc.- open for lunch (check first, but I'm pretty sure), nice wine list, reasonably priced. Kefi is informal Greek- 79th between Amsterdam and Broadway, only dinner, well priced but crowded- get there early; Ouest (Broadway at 83-4) is that New American, Tom Valenti thing- short ribs are really good, only dinner, entrees in the 25$ range; Luzia's for Portugese tapas and awesome sangria, cheap, fun- Amsterdam btw. 80-81.

                        2. My rels. from Italy LOVE going out for pizza in NY. Even though they say it's not as good...the vibe at a good NYC pizza joint is totally different than anything they have in Italy...

                          1. I'm curious as to why Japanese is ruled out. If their preconceptions about Japanese food is based on some cookie-cutter version of the cuisine they may have been exposed to previously, maybe this is an opportunity to introduce them to different kinds of Japanese cuisines that's available in NYC. I'm thinking about places like Aburiya Kinnosuke, Yakitori Totto or Torys, Sobaya, Sobakoh, Nippon, Sakagura, to name a few.

                            1. When I think of NYC eats, I always think Jewish deli, and hot pastrami sandwiches. They're the best.

                              1. For real Texas BBQ go to the new Hill Country. Here is a link to another thread discussing the place:

                                1. Make sure you have some nice fruit and cheese and bread laid in the day before at home for breakfast . . . I'll never forget my aunt trying to feed Cream of Wheat, and cold b'fast cereal to visiting Roman relatives (shudder)
                                  We heard about it when they came to visit us next - I think they were traumatized.

                                  My experience is that Italians like to eat Italian, which puts you in a bit of a spot since that can't exactly happen. I don't think the view being more important than food is going to play, but I guess it depends on the individuals.
                                  If it were me, I'd have the expensive dinner at Prune in the East Village - reservations required and it's not *that* expensive. It's cramped and lively, but the dining style is right. If they get homesick for pasta, take them to al di la in Park Slope.

                                  I'd go to Chinatown as suggested - or perhaps World Tong in Brooklyn for dim sum for good food and a vibrant family-style dining experience. How about Vietnamese (Nha Trang or New Pasteur in Chinatown) with grilled pork and big plates of hammered vegetables. There you can get the abundance and long chatty meal without breaking the bank. Although the ambience is heavy on the linoleum.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pitu

                                    You are so right... I was just thinking I need fruit and good cheese. The bread in Tuscany isn't great (no salt added), so I know we have good bread here. However, a treat will be a nice American style breakfast with waffles, french toast, omelets, etc
                                    Where is World Tong?

                                  2. Just to let everyone know who gave me ideas....it worked out great. Went to Marseille for pre-theatre and lucked out- the manager was Italian and helped translate. Also went to Ethos and not sure if they liked it-but we did! Thanks again to everyone.