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Jul 3, 2007 08:38 AM

1st Time to NYC.. suggestions?

My boyfriend and I are visiting New York for the first time in a couple of weeks and are looking for some suggestions for places to eat. We are both mid-20s but don't do the bar scene, prefer somewhere quieter. We don't eat fish or sushi. Some-what adventurous, but American, Italian, French, Chinese are always good choices. We would like somewhere thats less than $50 total bill (no drinks, wine, etc) but may "splurge" a night or two. ;) Thanks!

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  1. i'd go for GRAMERCY TAVERN, the upfront tavern area is less formal/expensive.

    getting dim sum at JIN FONG or one of the other dim sum places downtown in chinatown is always quite a fun experience. just hail the carts and pick things randomly, it's a hoot and tasty chow.

    a reasonable "neighborhood" italian is DA ANDREA in the west village. nice walking around nabe too. we just ate there recently. just avoid touristy little italy -- you'll get lots of advice on ny italian for sure.

    for a tasty lunch, why not check out the NY DOSA cart guy in washington square park in the heart of greenwich village? dosas are indian street food - its vegetarian and healthy too - everything not only tastes great, but its fun to watch him make it.

    have a fun visit!

    1. Hey, RN2b,

      Since this is your first visit, 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 some 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!

      5 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        RN2b, RGR's LES tour is not to be missed! Especially if it is your first time to NYC. Enjoy your visit.

        1. re: financialdistrictresident

          Agreed 100%. We did this back in May with my in-laws and were in awe all day long.

          A few pointers--defintiely go for the pastrami over the corned beef at Katz's. My husband wanted to try both (against my recommendation) and then he expected me go halfsies on my pastrami. (He got a bite, but not half!). Also their potato salad was excellent.

          If you like Havla (sp?) get it at Russ & Daughters. I'm not a fan of it but my mother-in-law stocked up and said it was the best she's had.

          My husband and I weren't impressed with the Egg Creme, but my in-laws said they were right on par with the best they've had.

          Donuts from Donut Plant were great, and Bialys from Kossar's froze well. The gelato at Il Laboratorio was to die for too (note, they close on the early side--maybe 5 pm).

          Gus's also had these amazing pickled tomatoes and red peppers. I think they were better than the pickles themselves!

          Tenament museum is not to be missed.

          One addition: The Roasting Plant. This place opened recently and it's great for a pick-me-up after eating all of the food. They roast their own coffee beans, and it tastes really fresh. Tea products are also available. I don't have the address but believe it's only a few stores down from Il Labratorio de Gelato. If you're following the tour as RGR spelled it out, it's somewhere between the Bialys, pickles, and tenament museum. Here's a link to an article on it in New York Magazine:

          1. re: KWynn

            The Roasting Plant does have great coffee! And contraction that they use is very cool. They vacuum up a custom blend of beans from a bunch of tubes, and grind them right before your eyes.

        2. re: RGR

          Just wanted to thank you for your LES food guide. I walked into Katz's and knew exactly what to do...felt like a local! Trying combinations at Il Laboratorio was fun...watermelon and lime mint sorbets hit the spot on a hot summer day.

          1. re: Jugo703

            Hey, Jugo703,

            Thanks for letting me know that you found my instructions helpful. That was, of course, my intention, i.e., to have visitors experience these places just the way we natives do.

        3. for lunch try the Shake Shack in Madison Sq Park... it's entirely outdoor, but beware of the incredibly long line during the work week. Go before noon or after 2pm.

          Veselka on 2nd ave and 9th street, it's Ukranian. Only the best perogies, borscht, and strangely chicken salad sandwich. The Ukranian meatballs which come with mushroom sauce and a potato pancake is more than enough and killer.

          If breakfast is your bag, I would highly suggest splurging on it at either Balthazar on Spring and Crosby or Norma's in the Le Meridian Hotel on 57th st. Both of these places make breakfast like you didn't ever think could be done. It's etheral.

          A good small dish dinner place is 'Inoteca on Ludlow and Rivington. Excellent wine selection and you can make a meal out of paninis, cheese and olives.

          Lastly, you cannot leave here without going to Joe's Shanghai on Pell street in Chinatown. Order the pork soup dumplings, you won't be sorry. They are VERY hot so be careful. Also, this place ONLY takes cash.

          8 Replies
          1. re: kbella

            If you go to Shake Shack, definitely go early! Before noon (like 11:15am) or after 4pm the lines aren't too bad nowadays.

            Norma's is overpriced and Balthazar is a much better value. I'd go for Balthazar brunch, though, on the weekends.

            1. re: kathryn

              On Sat. & Sun., there is usually no line or a very small one until noon.

              1. re: kathryn

                I agree, Norma's is overpriced.
                I read about it in my guide. Suprisingly, the portions are big for a hotel.
                I'm back in Aug, will def. try some of these suggestions.

              2. re: kbella

                What other places' pierogies and borsht are you comparing to Veselka's? And what are you comparing to Joe's Shanghai? I'd question both of these recommendations, if they're based on being really great in their class. My general position would be that I haven't been to any Shanghainese restaurant in New York so far that's as good as any average hole-in-the-wall in Shanghai, but have liked Yeah Shanghai best. As for Ukrainian food, Ukrainian East Village is better, though I still don't think it's that great.

                Going back to the Chinese food recommendations, I'd sooner recommend the remaining Grand Sichuan locations in Chelsea and St. Marks or some of the better Cantonese/Hong Kong style places like Dim Sum Go Go (for dim sum), Congee Village, Great N.Y. Noodletown, etc., than anything Shanghainese, even though I do like Yeah and have been going there for years.

                1. re: Pan

                  If we're picking affordable diverse places to eat ($50 covering both of them not including drinks) then I'd say these places culturally and in terms of neighborhood are spot on for first timers, Pan. Also, RGR's LES eating tour is absolutely not to be missed.

                  1. re: kbella

                    kbella, I'm not sure you realize that I actually live on the Lower East Side (East Village if you prefer). And not one of the places I mentioned costs anywhere close to $50/person for dinner.

                    In terms of recommendations for first-timers who are Chowhounds, I would think that the deliciousness of the food would be much more important than which place got famous for xiaolong bao earliest in New York. And it's certainly possible to just walk past Veselka and look in the window, if you want to get a sense of what a grungy East Village place looks like - and then have your meal in the somewhat faded old-world charm of Ukrainian East Village, where the food is better. Or do you disagree? To give a counter-example, Katz's serves wonderful pastrami. I very much enjoy the lived-in ambiance and all the photos on the walls, but none of that would be sufficient for me to recommend for anyone to eat at Katz's if it weren't a place to get fantastic pastrami.

                2. re: kbella

                  I prefer Ukrainian National Home for pierogi or head to the outer boroughs (Greenpoint, Brooklyn).

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                    Just a clarification: Ukrainian East Village is the restaurant in the Ukrainian National Home.

                3. RN2b, when you say < $50 (without drinks, wine, tip) do you mean per person or for the two of you?

                  If it's for the two of you, I'd search around the board for "cheap eats" or "affordable" since many nicer sit-down places in NYC end up being $40/head or more. I'd also look into some nicer prix fixe lunches. Many upscale restaurants have great deals at lunch, like Perry Street, Toqueville, Fleur de Sel, Jean Georges, Gotham Bar & Grill, etc.

                  See also:

                  1. Katz's Deli for lunch (tip the counter man beforehand, youll get alot bigger sandwich. It's where Harry met Sally was filmed. Lombardi on Spring st for Pizza, Chocolate by the baldman on 2nd ave and 9th st for great chocolate,dessert, hot chocolate. for Dinner try Pastis in the meat market or circle Rouge in Tribeca.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: duckfat

                      Chocolate by the Bald Man is gross and it's a chain, not really a "only in NYC" experience. It's all novelty chocolate. I'd hit up Kee's or Jacques Torres instead.

                      Lombardi's is fine but I find their pies often are soggy or wet.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Where are the other Bald Man locations besides the original on Broadway and the new one on 2nd? I'm fairly well traveled and I haven't found anything similar or even close. (Maybe the Gharadelli shops in Old Towne San Diego or Fishermans wharf in San Francisco.) Please do tell!!! Jacques Torres is tecnically in Brooklyn. Not NYC/Manhattan. where is Kee's?

                        1. re: gaylenwaydelich

                          Think outside of the US. Max Brenner is an Israeli chain and I won't be surprised if they'll open many more branches in the states.

                          1. re: ow77

                            Thank you! Another new thing I learned today.

                            1. re: gaylenwaydelich

                              Kee's is on Thompson St., in Soho. Here's the website:

                          2. re: gaylenwaydelich

                            Jacques Torres has had Haven on Hudson St for quite a while now... great place. They shaped the interior like a cacao pod. :)

                            1. re: gaylenwaydelich

                              There is a Jacques Torres in Manhattan as well. It's a million miles above the Bald Man.

                              1. re: scrittrice


                                Jacques Torres
                                350 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

                          3. re: duckfat

                            I'd skip the chocolate all together and head to Veniero for dessert (or a cantalope ice). It's in East Village so you could even head there after RGR's LES walking tour.

                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                              Although it's not a meal, I would recommend getting a pretzel croissant from City Bakery on 18th St b/t 5th and 6th Avenues. Truly addictive and I make all my out-of-town guests try them (my mom now requests a trip every time she comes to visit).