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Help a junior foodie plan a trip to NYC!

Hi all!

I am a junior foodie... by that I mean that I have an intense love of cuisine (and I think a pretty refined palate from years of fine dining with my parents), but now that I am on my own (especially financially) I have to experience my passion modestly. I am trying to plan my first trip to NYC sans parents and want to experience great food, but on a early 20 year old's budget. If anyone has suggestions on amazing moderately priced restaurants, or can offer some critique to my very tentative schedule, I would be so grateful!

1st night: Rachel's American Bistro (I have heard such mixed reviews on this place... help!)
2nd day: lunch- katz's deli
dinner- Nobu (my parents are treating for one dinner so I can go all out)
3rd day: lunch- patsy's pizza
dinner- Sette (once again, very mixed reviews)
4th day: lunch- I am not sure, possibly 'wichcraft since I love Tom but can't afford Craft (and have heard not so good things about craftbar).
dinner- Roth's Westside Steakhouse

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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  1. For your all out dinner I'd think twice about Nobu - while it's famous there are much better options in the city. If you search for the San Francisco 22 New York 0 there is a good thread on places in Manhattan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wingman

      Agreed, although I like their dessert menu. Very talented pastry chef.

    2. Can you give us a price ceiling for lunch and dinner?

      Why did you choose Nobu? If you are really into sushi, consider doing omakase at Sushi Yasuda if you have the funds to go all out. I'd also consider switching to, say, 15 East or Ushiwakamaru, etc.

      Keep Katz's Deli and consider appending on RGR's Lower East Side noshing tour!

      And I'm glad to see Patsy's on your list (make sure you trek up to East Harlem).

      3 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Wichcraft is not good and overpriced for what you get. Somep places I recommend are 'Ino in the West Village, great Italian wine bar with well priced small plates and panini. Setagaya or Momofuku are both very popular ramen restaurants. Momofuku is very good, but not authentic, I still recommend it. You could try going to Lupa for very good affordable Mario Batali italian food. I would also recommend hitting up Chinatown and going to place like Joe's Shanghai for the soup dumplings. Definitly try Katz's too.

        1. re: clashfan

          Agreed, skip wichcraft. It is nothing special and is on the verge of expansion. Coming soon to a mall near you....

          If you go to Momofuku or Saam, make sure you order the brussels sprouts.

          1. re: Honey Bee

            The brussel sprouts have been off the menu at Ssam Bar for at least a few weeks now; they're out of season. Sigh!

      2. Thank you so much for the feedback. For ceiling prices for lunch I want to keep it somewhat simple, like 30 dollars tops. And fast stuff, like pizza, sandwiches etc. because we have A LOT of ground to cover in essentially three days. Ideally, I would like to keep the dinners around $100 including alcohol (wine). I am trying to have the dinners be one steakhouse, one new american (my favorite cuisine), one sushi/japanese or sushi/seafood (my traveling partner's favorite cuisine), and one italian (because its New York!) I chose Nobu because of its nationwide fame, but I am definitely going to check out the other options people mentioned. Additionally, I am still worried about Rachel's. I am thinking of splurging that night and going to Gotham's Bar and Grill, though I have read some mixed reviews on Chowhound. Any thoughts? Thanks again!!!

        4 Replies
        1. re: juniorfoodie08

          Hey, juniorfoodie08,

          I would eliminate Rachel's. We had dinner there once, albeit quite some time ago, and I found the food to be nothing special -- definitely not foodie-worthy. Seating was uncomfortably cramped (though you might not care about that). Definitely not a place to be recommended for someone on a limited budget.

          With regard to steakhouses, I would suggest Keens, which has been in its 36th St. location, b/t 5th & 6th Avs., since 1885. So, in addition to delicious food, there's incomparable old NY ambiance -- walls filled with memorabilia and rows of old clay smoking pipes suspended from all the ceilings. You can splurge in the dining room or, for a less expensive experience, eat in the more intimate Pub Room.

          http://www.keens.com

          For the dinner your parents are treating you to, I highly recommend Eleven Madison Park. Talk about a foodie's dream! :-) Chef Daniel Humm's French-inspired cuisine is exquisite. There's an excellent wine list. Service is first-rate. And the space is gorgeous!

          http://www.elevenmadisonpark.com

          Since you have Katz's on your list for lunch -- a very good thing! -- perhaps you might want to take my (in)famous Lower East Side eating "tour." As you walk around this interesting, historic neighborhood, you will be sampling foods that are emblematic of NYC. Definitely a foodie thing to do. Here's the tour:

          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 you have a great visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

          1. re: RGR

            I'm with RGR: my boyfriend and I always take out of towners to Keens and they always get a kick of the decor, the pipes, the scotch selection, the history, as well as the wonderful steaks.

            1. re: RGR

              That tour sounds amazing---although I would probably have to fast for a day before and a day after just to prep myself for all the deliciousness! Thanks RGR! I think I might try this out the next time I'm in NYC visiting my brother.

              1. re: Elyssa

                Hey, Elyssa, Glad to hear you're considering doing the tour next time you visit. :-) If you do, I hope you'll report back.

          2. Definitely Katz' and Patsy's. Good choices. As for the "one steakhouse" option, you'll find better steakhouses than Roth's; but Roth's is a nice neighborhood-y kinda place and they do usually have a live jazz band on Friday (and Saturday too, I think) nights (though I don't know what days you'll be in town). You might want to check www.menupages.com which will give you some good guidance on the prices of places.

            1. What about shake shack? I'm in the same financial situation as you (early 20's with a limited budget) and I love going to this place. It's my personal favorite for best burgers in town and the milkshakes or "concretes" are such a treat. If you time it right, you won't have to wait in the hour-long lines. I'd recommend this place over 'wichcraft anyday.

              1. $30 is a pretty generous budget for lunch. I might take a look at some of the great prix fixe lunch deals in the city: Perry Street, Jean George, Tocqueville, Fleur de Sel, Devi, Gotham Bar & Grill. You can get some of the fine dining experience while staying within your budget.

                Additionally, does your trip fall on a weekend day? That might alter your plans a bit (say, swap out a lunch for an extravagant brunch).

                1. Try Otto's...wonderful and different pizza, and incredible gelato
                  Try Mamoun's in Greenwich....Wonderful falafal/hummus/pita/etc...cheap and great
                  Stop by Faicco's while in the Village, and try some delicious rice balls...Wonderful
                  There's some great "cart" food in NY as well...Search this site..many are recommended
                  Have a great time and some good eats!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jinet12

                    DEFINATELY get gelato at Otto...it's divine!

                  2. I think it depends on your budget - If you want a great little restaurant (Polish) try Veselka in the east village. Most busy on Saturday's morning. but open 24 hours a day and cheap. It's been written up in all the magaznes. Great homemade soups, sausages and all things polish. It's on 2nd avenue and everyone knows the place. My favorite are the cheese blintzs.

                    1. Thre is a grat culinary walking food tour of Greenwich village which I would highly reccomend. just do a google search and it will come up. Don't iss the farmers market in Union square on Saturdays...its fantastic. Mermaid Inn is also a very good and reasonably priced restaurant in the village.

                      1. a few more do not miss: John's Pizza - there is one in the village and on times square - the village one has a lot of charm but always a line.
                        Also, stop by Jacque Torre's chocolate factory and without a doubt don't miss Chelsea market - full of restaurants, shops and bakeries.. You can hav a fantastic lunch there for not much money

                        1. for a perfect, budget-conscious lunch that will also allow you much more wiggle room to splurge at night, go for Banh Mi in Chinatown at Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, 138-01 Mott St. (it's a small counter in back of a jewelry store, so don't be put off when you first walk inside). You can have any one of a number of delicious, fresh banh mi made to order, for about $3.50, and get a fresh lemonade, and walk down to Columbus Park a few blocks and have lunch al fresco. Less than a 10 clam lunch.

                          Also, if you're really gonna splurge, Nobu is nice, but I'd let your parents treat you to Le Bernadin.

                          1. For the place that your folks are treating you to, I'd agree with some others on here. Nobu isn't your best bet.
                            If it has to be Japanese go with some of the other recommendations. If it can be anything, then definitely put Le Bernadin on your list. It's a beautiful room and it has the finest fish in the City.....by far. Oceana was a close second (and only about 2/3 the price) at least when Rick Moonen was the chef. He's gone and I haven't been there since.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: michael4ny

                              Rick Moonen has been gone from Oceana for quite some time. I agree that his food was superb! The chef who took his place was Cornelius Gallagher. I'm sorry I never managed to eat there during his tenure because I heard only very positive things about his food. After he left, Oceana drifted for a while. But a new kitchen staff was put in place several months ago, headed by Ben Pollinger, a chef with an excellent pedigree. Though I haven't read any recent reports, Oceana is back on my "go to" list.

                              http://www.oceanarestaurant.com

                            2. Where are you coming from?

                              1. Thanks so you such everyone. You have given me some great ideas. I never expected so many people to be so generous with their advice and experience! I am coming from L.A. and I will be there from Mon to Fri. It is a good time to go, I think, because so far it has been easier to get reservations etc. Its hard because I know that NYC is known for their diverse and amazing ethnic food, but the person I am traveling with doesn't really enjoy anything out of her ordinary (nothing asian aside from japanese/sushi or eastern european or middle eastern or african- you get the point). We are both very excited for the famous RGR tour for lunch and I will report back on our experience with it RGR.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: juniorfoodie08

                                  I did RGR's tour and it is lots of fun and great food. Highly recommended. Make sure you save room for the gelato at the end...

                                  I would do Peter Luger for steak btw (its in brooklyn but very close to manhattan).

                                  As others have said, I would skip Nobu. It's not bad (I really like their signature dishes), but there are better places for the money and Nobu is now a chain.

                                  1. re: juniorfoodie08

                                    And where in the city will you be staying?

                                    If you're coming from LA, make sure you try:

                                    A good bagel at someplace like Murray's or Ess-A-Bagel.

                                    Pizza -- if not from Paty's in East Harlem (and ONLY the East Harlem location) then share a pie for dinner at Arturo's in the Village.

                                    Italian -- there's tons of great moderately priced Italian places like Da Andrea or Lavagna.

                                    If you're willing to spend the bucks, I'd go someplace besides Nobu. Craft will be opening soon in LA, so you can skip that. Babbo and Bouley are two other high end places I love. EMP, which RGR already mentioned, is also an excellent choice.