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Jun 20, 2007 08:14 PM

LA girl in NYC and need restaurants recs

I'm in New York from Thursday to Saturday and would appreciate some restaurant recommendations. I'm staying around Grand Central Station but don't mind traveling for some great grub.

There are no limitations: high end, low end, chic and modern, hole in the wall and everthing else. So please let me know how I can delight my taste buds before leaving NYC. Thanks!

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  1. With literally hundreds of possibilities to choose from, you really do need to give us some clues. Cuisine preferences? Casual vs. Fancy? Budgetary constraints?

    But to get you started, you might want to consider taking my (in)famous Lower East Side eating "tour." You can walk around this 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. (
    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.

    Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

    2 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Classic old-school LES, nicely orchestrated, though the atmosphere at most of these places (Katz's, Yonah Shimmel's, even Russ's) is better than the food. Can't beat Laboratorio's gelato, though.

      Russ & Daughters
      179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

      Katz's Delicatessen
      205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

      Yonah Schimmel's Knishes
      137 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

      Kossar's Bialys
      367 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

      Il Laboratorio del Gelato
      95 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

      1. re: RGR

        You missed the Streit's matzo factory! If you're lucky and can charm your way into their hearts, they'll give you a sample of freshly baked matzo.

        Mr Taster

      2. I travel to NYC often and have my own little must haves. . . or at least nothing I can find comparable in LA.

        The food court on the bottom level of Grand Central has great eateries. there is an outpost of the original Juniors Deli, in addition to some great eats. Katz's is good but Langer's in LA on alvarado is much better. I have eaten at both and hands down Langer's.

        Gray's Papaya for 2 hot dogs and papaya smoothie $2.99 8th street @ Sixth Ave. check out Bigelow Pharmacy for a cool step back in time and hard to find beauty products.

        Bubby's in Tribecca has the most incredible sour dough pancakes. The red velvet cupcakes will make you cry they are so damn good. Bartenders are always freindly.

        Skip Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes - too dry and totally overrated. I've had better cupcakes from Vons and Albertson's. Go to Crumbs on 8th btwn University and Broadway for a descent cupcake if you can't get to Bubby's.

        Veselka on 2nd Ave is open 24hrs. and the food and service are excellent. Pierogi's just like Babka use to make. Sometimes I will have breakfast (LA time) and late night supper there on the same day. Just that good.

        SaraBeths on Central Park South is very good for breakfst and lunch. Nello's and Oceano for a break the bank meal. Late night eats are not as easily found as you would believe NYC to have. Cafe Pigalle on in the Theatre district is good. There are several French Bistros in the same restaurant chain (but different names) and they are open 24 hours and the food, service and atmosphere are nice.

        If you have a chance - go to Zabars on the upper west side. I love the lox and bagles. Great blintzes and cheap too.

        Skip the John's and Lombardi's pizza. LA has great Pizza. I do not get the big deal.

        On Spring Street across from Lombardi's is Rice to Riches. It's like 31 flavors but with rice pudding instead of ice cream. I actually order for friends and have it sent overnight to LA. The caramel rice pudding is sublime. They have real cool seasonal flavors too.

        Otto (Mario Batalli) on 8th and Fifth Ave is cheap and yummy. My daughter lived around the corner and swears by the hazelnut starteicella gelato. Since I hear Mozza et al in LA are difficult to get into - go for the real deal. Young hip crowd.

        Definitely do Russ's pickles - but Il Laboratorio del Gelato is great if you've never had gelato. We have pretty decent places in LA. Save the calories for other stuff. Same for Economy Candy. Small compared to Garvey Fruit and Nut's in Commerce. Selection is small. Dylan's candy Bar is fun for desert, but I prefer Max Brenner's the Bald Head Chocolate guy. One on Broadway near Union Square and a new location in the LES on 2nd Ave. I don't even like choclate and I crave this place. this is where to use those calories.

        Peanut Butter and Company (I think it is on Sullivan in the village) has yummy sandwiches. Bring home some of the white chocolate peanut butter for your loved ones. They will love you so much they'll probably even help you move next time.

        Corner Bistro on Bleeker and Broadway is great for eats, happy hour deals and people watching in the village. Beware at Happy hour that only well drinks are on special. Our waitress didn't tell us and the signage was misleading.

        Now for the real stuff. SHOPPING

        Century 21 across from Ground Zero - best bargains on everything. Beware of crowds. Go Thurs or Friday. Avoid the weekend.

        Joyce Leslie - University and 8th Street - great Jr stuff cheap!!!
        Laila Rowe - Stores all around Manhattan. Try to find one of the clearance stores. I think there is one around 6th and 14th street and all cool accessories are $5.00. That included beach towels, totes, sunglasses etc. Totally stocked up on emergency gifts for the kids. Not too far is a really cool tea place tha has a DJ. Very modern and bright, I think it is called something like teava. Nice place to sit and have a cup of tea. The mud truck is good but they are from NoCal. They are located on Astor Place @ the 6 subway stop and also at Union Squatre. Better than Starbucks and Peet's.
        Strawberry and Daffy's - great bargains and different fashions than what you would find in LA. Locations all around the city.

        Rainbow on Fifth Ave near Empire State Building has cheap and great fashions. I bought 3 dresses my last trip in March and always get compliments. Each dress was under $25.00 and trust me I've received compliments from Newport to Malibu.

        Great leather goods at Village Tannery. Very expensive - but bags unlike anything you'll ever find in LA.

        Cleo and Patek - several stores around Manhattan has beautiful bags too. More reasonably priced.

        Have a great time - and try to take the subway as much as possible. Faster, cheaper and less polluting.

        9 Replies
        1. re: gaylenwaydelich

          I just wanted to clear-up that the Corner Bistro is on West 4th and Jane St.

          1. re: Bottom Feeding Foodie

            Corner Bistro is an interesting and fun experience... but only if you're planning on eating a burger. The menu's limited to burgers, fries and maybe a grilled chix sandwich.

              1. re: small h

                Yes - where do I send the $5.00? thanks for the clarification

          2. re: gaylenwaydelich

            I think Ukranian East Village serves better pierogies and is in general just a better restaurant than Veselka's a half block north of it.

            gaylenway, have you tried the pizza at the original Patsy's in East Harlem? I'm wondering if it's mainly that L.A. has great pizza, or perhaps that you haven't had the best pizza New York has to offer (I'd also mention DiFara's, but that's pretty far into Brooklyn).

            1. re: Pan

              Thanks for the pierogie suggestion. I will definitely try when I go back in September. I did go to Patsy's near Bloomingdales and it was quite tasty and the service was excellent.

              LA has great pizza if you know where to look. Buono's in San Pedro and Long Beach has been around for over 40 years. I grew up eating pizza by the slice. One of the local news surveys rated them one of the "top five" pizzas in SoCal.

              I don't get off the island once I am there unless the my kid (NYU student) has to go to Target in Brooklyn! But on your recommendation alone, I will try DiFara's. I will post in September. thanks

            2. re: gaylenwaydelich

              i agree about skipping Lombardi's, but i'd definitely hit one of the other favs, particularly the Brooklyn favorites...

              "LA has great pizza"...i'm curious...i lived there for years and never had any that was even memorable...

              1. re: Simon

                You have to go to San Pedro or Long Beach for great pizza. Buono's Pizza is probably the best. I've been eating there about 35+ years. Great subs on locally freshed baked italian rolls. San Pedro has a very large Italian population. Mostly descendents of the old fishing families from the 20' - 50's.

                fillipos is also pretty good.

              2. re: gaylenwaydelich

                John's is good but not great - but we can't find any decent thin crust pizza in Orange County or LA?

              3. Hey am a fomer angeleno (just came back from a visit there) so can lend some perspective. First off, skip Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Mexican here. Same goes for Chinese (although there are some decent places here if you have a hankering) Definitely take advantage of things that are somewhat unique to this coast, for example the Eastern European Jewish cuisine listed above.

                Add to this

                WD 50- Molecular gastronomy is still relatively unknown in LA. Dufresne's version is one of the best out there and you'll consider it quite an experience.

                Spotted Pig- Gastropubs are somewhat rare in LA as well. This one's a popular spot, but if you go on the early side, before 7:30, the wait's not bad. You must love pig and offals are their specialty. Resto, a newish spot, which I haven't tried out yet, seems to be getting good reviews. Their specialty is Belgian comfort food, and their dishes are very pork- centric.

                Lombardi's or Grimaldi's (in brooklyn) pizza. Wonderful thin crust variety.

                Some others to try: Jean George (they have a beautiful dining room and great 28 dollar prix fixe lunch deals) Balthazar or Pastis, the Modern (next to the MOMA), Clinton Street Bakery or Prune for brunch, any of the Batali restaurants - although they're difficult to get into except for maybe Otto.

                Another thought. If you have room, try the dessert -specific restaurants we have here - Chikalicious, Room for Dessert, among others.

                3 Replies
                1. re: kayonyc

                  Lupa on Thompson is consistently great. If you want to do Italian and not go through the hassle of a Babbo reservation, I'd do it for sure. Get the spiced dates for dessert-- they're sublime.

                  If you want to head out to Brooklyn, Ici on Dekalb and Vanderbilt is a lovely little French spot with a beautiful garden, and Osteria Convivium on 5th Ave in Park Slope is more great Italian.

                  For deli, go to Barney Greengrass on 86th and Amsterdam, but not for Sunday brunch, as it's mobbed Sunday mornings. Also, the Italian market in the Bronx Little Italy, up on Arthur Ave, is a lot of fun-- note that it's closed Sundays.

                  Finally, you have to go to Russ & Daughters on Houston and Orchard. Get some smoked fish, some almond covered halvah, and a macaroon.

                  1. re: williej33

                    some addresses....

                    170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

                    Convivium Osteria
                    68 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

                    246 DeKalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

                    Russ & Daughters
                    179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

                  2. re: kayonyc

                    "First off, skip Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Mexican here. Same goes for Chinese (although there are some decent places here if you have a hankering)."

                    i am sure...well i mean only because the op has a short visit.

                  3. Katz's is a must and there is no place in the USA that compares with their cornbeef and pastrami. Not to mention the the ol' time new york flavor of the restaurant.
                    grab a falafel at Mamoun's on macdougal st., Go to Peter Luger's in brooklyn for Porterhouse steak. Buddakan just to see what a 12million dollar renovation looks like, and Sammy's Roumanian for some fun. Umberto's for scungilli on biscuits wiht hot sauce and Veniero's for italian pastry. Try sushi Gari for differnt kind of sushi, and 15 east for the real deal when it comesto sushi.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: duckfat

                      I've always found Mamoun's fine, but are you recommending it because you think it has better felafel or shawarma than places like Azuri Cafe and Taim (which I haven't been to yet), or because it has food that's quite acceptable and a grungy, old-time atmosphere?

                    2. In Grand Central Station, on the dining level, you will find The Oyster Bar. My grandfather brought me there for the first time nearly 40 years ago. Sit at the bar where they shuch oysters and enjoy a beer, clams and oysters on the half shell. Otherwise, sit at the counter and order clam chowder or a pan roast (Oysters roasted in butter and cream -- absolutely decadent). The remainder of the menu is, well, pedestrian. More or less Red Lobster quality. But the pan roasts or freshly shucked clams and oysters -- these are fantastic. Plus, the restaurant is a true New York City insitution.