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San Franciscan in the Big Apple

j
Jetlagged Jul 5, 2007 04:19 PM

Okay, we've got some great food in our city by the bay, but New York is the epicenter of gastronomy. DH is going to a convention, so I have a week to explore. What are the "must tastes" in Manhattan? I am looking for lunches every day (will probably skip breakfast because of the time difference) and dinners for 3 nights. One caveat: I would really like to keep the tab under $100 apiece for dinner, unless the experience is really "knock your socks off" worth $300+ for dinner for two. Thanks so much!

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  1. j
    JeremyEG Jul 5, 2007 04:49 PM

    Can you be more specific as to cuisine and area of the city you prefer? Your budget restriction is not a problem. I can start you off with my favorites in that price range but please repost with more info and you'll get better suggestions:

    Lunch or Dinner - Lupa, Shimizu, Tia Pol,

    You should also try Korean BBQ on 32nd Street. Very yummy. I would also try to eat dinner at Babbo one night. It will push your budget but only by a little if you go easy on the wine. (It is very easy though to run up a big check).

    Welcome and enjoy!
    JeremyEG

    1. k
      kathryn Jul 5, 2007 06:55 PM

      Where are you staying? How far are you willing to go? Even Manhattan can be pretty vast. What are your favorite cuisines? Since you're from SF, I might skip, say, the restaurants that do local ingredients/organic/etc. unless you're really interested in that sort of food.

      Make sure you set aside time for bagels and smoked salmon, an egg cream, street food (Dosa man? Hallo Berlin? The cart at 53rd and 6th?), a classic NY deli, and pizza. Some of these will be covered by RGR's Lower East Side noshing tour.

      See also:
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/417466
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/417771
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/407937
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/397225
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/401880
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/405260
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/394041

      1. steve h. Jul 5, 2007 08:34 PM

        howdy jetlagged,

        you might consider sushi yasuda for your over-the top dinner. i love sf but this place is special. same holds true for keens steakhouse. watch the wine and the sides and you'll only just bruise your $100 pp limit.

        lunch options are many and varied. consider fixed price lunch at le bernardin. your penance will be $64 and you'll be eating at a three star michelin restaurant. sf has no counterpart. much lower down the food chain is 21 club. fixed price lunch will run under $40. food is merely ok but you want to go there because ... well, it's "21." same holds true for the original pj clarkes on 55th st.. figure $15 or so for a cheeseburger and onion strings. pretty cheap for lunch at a landmark. eating oysters at the bar at shaffer city is merely wonderful. a bacon cheeseburger at molly's pub is a thrifty way to spend a rainy afternoon. order a pint and bring your tattered james joyce.

        others will chime in with lots more options.

        1. j
          Jetlagged Jul 6, 2007 08:54 AM

          Thanks so much for all the suggestions! To be more specific, we will be staying at Times Square (Marriott Marquis) so would appreciate any places around there so we don't have to travel too far back to the hotel after overindulging. There is a sponsor dinner at "21" one night, so we can check that box. I would like to include great pizza, steak, and Italian, as well as little ethnic gems specific to NY (thanks for the tips on street food, too). Is Babbo worth the price? I have seen many posts about snotty service, overpriced food, etc. If I can get in, would it be best to stick to the tasting menu? We have reservations at Balthazar one night (sentimental favorite, since we ate there on our honeymoon) but other suggestions for the remaining nights are greatly appreciated. Looking forward to it!

          5 Replies
          1. re: Jetlagged
            steve h. Jul 6, 2007 11:23 AM

            babbo is excellent on all fronts - food, service, wine. try eating earlier rather than later when things can get a little loud/frantic.

            1. re: steve h.
              j
              JeremyEG Jul 6, 2007 12:18 PM

              Other than the recent posting about snotty service, you'll see that Babbo gets almost all raves on this board. I would not do the tasting as the best dishes are only available a la carte. And yes, it is more than worth the expense.

              Some of my favorite meals have been in your wonderful city. I go for the food whenever I can. But as far as I know, there is nothing like Babbo in your neck of the woods so it should be well worth it.
              Enjoy!
              JeremyEG

            2. re: Jetlagged
              p
              Pan Jul 7, 2007 02:19 AM

              When I think of the West 40s, the only expensive restaurant that comes to my mind as a place that's gotten a lot of positive press and comments is Esca, a seafood specializing Italian or Italian-influenced restaurant. I've never been there, though. Hounds, what's your current take on that place?

              I'm afraid that for great pizza, you are going to have to travel outside of the West 40s. I'd recommend Patsy's in East Harlem, though I haven't been there for probably close to a year. If you prefer to go downtown, there are many other places with good pizza. For example, I went to Li'l Frankie's (1st Av. between between 1st and 2nd) again recently, and shared a solidly good pizza and a nice salad with a friend, washed down with a glass of inexpensive Chianti that was actually quite good and went well with the food. (I loved Chianti wines when I was in Siena but find that the ones served by the glass around here often suck.)

              If you want a good "ethnic" restaurant within easy walking distance of your hotel, you can go to Ariana Afghan Kebab House on 9th Av. between 52nd and 53rd Sts. I'd never call it a great restaurant, but it's certainly good, tasty, and satisfying, as long as you tell them to hold the dressing on any salad that comes with any main dishes and add the green hot sauce (not the same as Mexican salsa verde) that's on the table. If you do decide to go to Ariana, there's a thread in which I posted recommendations of dishes that I'd be happy to link to. In particular, get lamb and Aushak .

              1. re: Pan
                k
                kathryn Jul 7, 2007 07:03 AM

                I've been to Patsy's twice in the last month and I can report that it is currently doing just fine! I love their thin, light crust.

              2. re: Jetlagged
                r
                RGR Jul 7, 2007 07:21 AM

                For steak, I recommend Keens, which has been in its 36th St. location, b/t 5th& 6th Avs., since 1885. (New Yorkers consider that walking distance from your hotel.) In addition to excellent food and good service, there is unmatchable old NY ambiance.

                http://www.keens.com

                For solidly-prepared homestyle Italian near your hotel, a favorite of mine and many other Hounds is Trattoria Trecolori, on 47th St., b/t B'way & 8th Av. Friendly, efficient service and very attractive atmosperics in their new digs.

                http://www.trattoriatrecolori.com

              3. l
                lchang Jul 6, 2007 10:32 AM

                I would recommend one Japanese sushi splurge.
                Lobster roll and oysters for a lunch (or dinner) - Try Pearl's, Mary's or Ed's
                A dessert bar, such as Kyotofu, which is not too far from from your hotel
                Momofuku Ssam bar - nothing like it in SF - go for dinner only
                Also, maybe a charming little restaurant in the west village - such as Little Owl, or Wallse
                Personally I thought Babbo was a little overrated, but I'm probably in the minority. It's worth checking out if you can get in.
                Pizza- there are lots of choices, but without leaving Manhattan you could try Una Pizza Napoletana, or Lombardis, or Arturos, or Joes for a slice

                Since you're coming from SF, I would skip Chinese, Korean and Mexican.

                Enjoy your visit!

                2 Replies
                1. re: lchang
                  a
                  afarooqs Jul 6, 2007 11:40 AM

                  Cheap eats:
                  53rd St and 6 Ave Gyro stand (in front of Hilton) - One of the best lamb gyro platters the city has to offer for $6 but would probably have to wait in the line for 20 min.
                  Grimaldi's Pizza in Brooklyn is famous. It's worth crossing the river. Subway is close by. (High St or York St stations are close by)

                  Others:
                  Balthazar is a good choice.
                  Try Oyster Bar under Grand Central terminal
                  Try Per Se if you want to experience a 3-Michelin stars restaurant.

                  1. re: afarooqs
                    u
                    UWShound Jul 7, 2007 07:39 AM

                    I think the key is to go Italian, Italian, Italian and avoid anyting Asian which is much better in SF. Don't believe the Babbo detractors, they are just trying to be contrarian and "interesting" -- it's outstanding and is extremely consistent in my opinion (and quite reasonably priced to boot). Other good Italian places are Po (almost equally hard to get into but you can try the bar), Little Frankie's on LES and Celeste on the UWS -- all three are real bargains too.

                2. j
                  Jetlagged Jul 9, 2007 03:47 PM

                  Much gratitude to you all for the feedback. I was only able to get a 10:30 pm reservation at Babbo; how likely is it to get in earlier on a standby basis during the week (from your experience)? My other reservation is at Balthazar. It sounds like pizza at Grimaldi's or Lombardi's and Ssam at Momofuku are things I can't get in SF. How about steak? Is Peter Luger still the best? I really appreciate all the recommendations for neighborhood/ethnic eats, too. It is nice to get real info instead of hype...

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Jetlagged
                    r
                    RGR Jul 9, 2007 04:37 PM

                    As with all steakhouses, Luger's has lots of fans but also detractors. I've never been. As I noted in my post above, my favorite is Keens. Been around since 1885. The steaks, chops (their signature is the mutton chop), sides, etc., are excellent, and there's the old world charm of the surroundings -- walls filled with memorabilia and rows of old clay smoking pipes suspended from all the ceilings. Stop into the bar room where you can see the portrait of Miss Keens, in all her glory, above the capacious bar.

                    http://www.keens.com

                    1. re: Jetlagged
                      Ora Jul 10, 2007 07:52 AM

                      OP--Dont get Korean BBQ in NYC if you get it in SF. Brothers in SF beats any place in Manhattan for Korean BBQ so you may be disappointed. Also, consider skipping Asian (except Indian) food generally, SF does that well. Try other the other cuisines completely missing from SF landscape (or weakly represented), like Turkish, Caribbean, BBQ, bagels, Lebanese, falafel etc. I think NYC does high end Indian better than SF as well. Also, we have a deeper bench when it comes to bakeries. Also, you should eat at one of the many very good street carts.

                      1. re: Ora
                        p
                        Pan Jul 11, 2007 12:35 AM

                        Totally agreed on bakeries. Tartine is so highly praised in SF, and when I went, I thought it was good but not unbelievable. Jetlagged, if you want bakery recommendations, give us a shout. But since you're within walking distance, consider going to Poseidon Bakery, on 9th Av. between 44th and 45th Sts. They have great sweet and savory pastries.

                        1. re: Pan
                          Ora Jul 11, 2007 07:54 AM

                          Growing up in that nabe, I used to love Poseidon's greek meat pies--delicious w/a flaky crust...may head there this weekend.

                      2. re: Jetlagged
                        williej33 Jul 11, 2007 08:33 AM

                        Not sure about doing standby at Babbo, but one thing to try is calling back closer to the trip (not sure when you're coming) or date of meal (even the day of the meal) and try to get another, earlier reservation. I got my reservation for Babbo last Saturday by calling last Wednesday, after having failed to get reservations three times earlier in the month. Also, try to get a seat upstairs (you can request that when you confirm the reservation, though they won't guarantee anything) as it's much less hectic than the downstairs area.

                        1. re: williej33
                          j
                          Jetlagged Jul 12, 2007 09:49 AM

                          Thanks so much for the advice: steak-, bakery-, and Babbo-wise. I will be in NYC in about a week and have been calling Babbo every day; the reservationist told me to call back 24 hours in advance for a possible cancellation. I appreciate the tip on sitting upstairs.

                          p.s. any suggestions for pre-theatre dining that won't break the bank?

                          1. re: Jetlagged
                            r
                            RGR Jul 12, 2007 11:38 AM

                            Presuming you would prefer to dine somewhere in the Theater District, there are literally hundreds of restaurants to choose from. Therefore, in order to narrow things down and provide appropriate suggestions, it would be helpful to know your cuisine preferences. And since people's idea of what "not break the bank" means can differ substantially, give us your per person budget, and tell us if that figure includes alcoholic beverages, tax (nearly 9%) & tip (20%).

                            1. re: Jetlagged
                              steve h. Jul 14, 2007 08:44 PM

                              esca is our favorite pre-theater port of call. the crudo flight is not to be missed.

                              1. re: steve h.
                                m
                                mtksmith Jul 14, 2007 11:26 PM

                                Since you are staying near times square, I suggest esca for lunch. If you are two people you can split the corn salad or the octopus, the spaghetti neri and the frittto misto and have three courses for a reasonable price. The chittara and the linguine are also very good. The crudo is great but better at dinner. I would probably skip desert unless you want the sorbet.

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