Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Aug 22, 2007 04:13 PM

Visiting NYC for the 1st time--feedback on itinerary appreciated!

My boyfriend and I are visiting NYC for the first time this coming November. After reading through several other threads on the places not to miss in NYC, we have come up with the following list. We are not big seafood fans, but are open to almost anything else. We are only there for a few days so I want to make sure the places we are going will be memorable. We are staying at the Michaelangelo, but are open to other areas as well. As far as price, we want to have one “to-die-for” dinner and then more affordable but delicious dinners the other evenings.

If there are any "not-to-miss" dishes or special requests I would love the inside scoop--thanks in advance for your help!

Lunch- Le Bonne Soupe
Dinner- Daniel

Lunch- Jean Georges
Dinner- Babbo

Fri: (Opera @ 8)
Lunch- Gramercy Tavern
Dinner- Insieme

Sat: (Broadway show @ 8)
Lunch- Amalia
Dinner- Balthazar

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Ooops. You forgot Sushi Yasuda. I know you're from LA but it's better than Sushi Zo. Sit in front of Yasuda get 40 types of fish, 5 types of toro and hamachi, rare fish from Japan, 2-3 types of fresh grilled eel. Maybe go for Wednesday lunch or Friday dinner? Obviously, keep Jean Georges and Babbo at all costs. At Daniel, I like the a la carte menu more than the tasting. Take advantage of the wine selection at Daniel. It's literally 2 volumes. Strong itinerary.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Porthos

      Porthos, Daniel does not have an a la carte menu. The basic menu is a 3-course prix-fixe for $96.

      msbudell, I think you have quite a good line-up. However, while I like La Bonne Soupe, there are far superior dining opportunities that should not be missed. I would suggest you substitute Eleven Madison Park. Superb cuisine + a gorgeous space. If you want memorable, it's definitely that!

      Also, you might want to consider flipping your Friday itinerary since Amalia is in the Theater District while Balthazar is downtonwn in Soho.

      Enjoy your first visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

      1. re: RGR

        Plus, you can get brunch at Balthazar! Make reservations. It's worth it. How can you have an NY trip without a big, blowout brunch, now?

        I don't see anything on your itinerary that's street food or pizza or bagels or Jewish deli related, which, to me, are all "unique to NYC" experiences. They'll also provide a nice counterpoint to your sit down dinners and lunches.

        1. re: kathryn

          I agree about the street food thing. Hey, maybe a bag of bagels to take home and some deli food for the plane trip back...

          1. re: Shayna Madel

            Speaking of which - a whirl over to Katz's deli is probably a lunch must, no?

            1. re: Jel212

              Another vote for at least one street/ethnic/deli meal. It might be perfect for Wednesday. And if msbudell and bf do RGR's Lower East Side tour they may just walk off all that food before dinner at Daniel. . .

        2. re: RGR

          RGR. You are correct. Daniel only has the tasting vs the 3 course prix-fixe. I was using the terms interchangably but that is technically incorrect.

          I prefer the prix-fixe menu because the portions are larger. It's not just portion size but some dishes lose its presentation effect when downscaled to a tasting portion. Plus, I'm always stuffed with the 3 course prix-fixe but still a bit hungry with the tasting menu. Go figure.

          1. re: RGR

            I second 11 Madison Park - it's one of my favorite restaurants.

          2. re: Porthos

            Yasuda might not be a good recommendation for them as msbudell said they weren't big seafood fans!

            1. re: kathryn

              Haha. Ooops. I missed that part. I took someone who hated sushi to Yasuda and they came out gushing.

          3. Great list but it certainly doesn't meet your criteria of "affordable" by most definitions. I would say dinner for 2 with wine for $100 (notincluding tax/tip) is "affordable" (figuring $35 pp for food and around $30 for drinks). Maybe your $ figure is higher, but my guess is that most of your dinner choices would be $250 + unless you do not drink (and waht fun is that......................).

            1. We New Yorkers usually don't know where most hotels are, so it's always best to supply cross-streets.

              I am unsure whether La Bonne Soupe is a chain, as I seem to remember. Anyway, I'd like to solicit the opinions of other hounds on whether it's like to be "memorable." You might want to go somewhere else for your Wed. lunch.

              Where are you visiting from? Also, do you want any suggestions for breakfast?

              19 Replies
              1. re: Pan

                Pan, La Bonne Soupe is not a chain. It's on 55th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs., and has been around for a long time (maybe 30 years?). While it's a sweet place, and the food's good, I've already mentione in my previous post that it's not memorable -- and I think most Hounds would agree. That's why I suggested substituting Eleven Madison. Although I know you are not a fan, I have had nothing but stellar experiences there since Chef Humm arrived and would consider dining there a memorable experience.

                Btw, the Michelangelo is on 7th Av. & 51st St. Insieme, the new restaurant by the same owners as Hearth, is located in it.

                1. re: RGR

                  That's right; as I've mentioned, I felt my most recent trip to 11 Madison Park was a big disappointment, but someone who feels fine about repeatedly spending big bucks on meals during a trip to New York (based on her itinerary above) might also feel better about gambling that she'll be one of the people raving about 11 Madison Park later, instead of one of the smaller number of people who've posted about feeling a bit ripped off. It makes a bigger difference when you seldom pay so much for dinner and it was a birthday dinner for your father. Because after all, nothing we had there was bad, and some of it was very good; the problem to us was that the service was awful that night (extremely slow!) and the food just wasn't nearly good enough (except for the desserts, and Nicole Kaplan is gone now) to be worth the price and amount of time we spent there. So it's a cost-benefit analysis in which the value of money to each of us is an important consideration. I wouldn't go back if I were paying, but if someone else wanted to treat me, I wouldn't refuse and might have a better experience; who knows?

                  1. re: Pan

                    I think it's perfectly understandable that when you dine at an upscale restaurant and have what turns out to be a less than stellar experience in any or all of the categories that count, i.e., cuisine, service, ambiance, you are loathe to return, especially if it's a splurge because of limited finances.

                  2. re: RGR

                    I've had many good lunches and dinners at Bonne Soupe. The crepes, omlettes, and quiche are all very good and cheap for the neighborhood (and come with salad, and fantastic table bread). My friends love the soup, too.

                    1. re: Jel212

                      Thank you all for the great feedback! I was mixed up on the location of Balthazar so I will definitely switch Amalia and it for the dinner the night we catch a Broadway show. I loved the feedback on EMP and have checked it out online, but it seems most of their dishes are this wrong? I would love to go there, but want to have a few things off the menu to try. I am trying to keep most of the dinners around $250 with drinks except for Daniel (which would be more around $350 or so ?). As far as breakfasts, we were probably going to just grab bagels, coffee wherever along the way. From other posts I hear Ess-a-bagel is the place to check out...thoughts?

                      1. re: msbudell

                        Re: EMP. Since the menu changes seasonally, when you are here in November, it will probably be quite different from the current one. But I think there is always a nice variety of options. I suggest you make the reservation and check the menu again when it gets closer to the time of your visit.

                        1. re: msbudell

                          You might consider some places that have more for breakfast than bagels and coffee, such as Cafe Mogador, where you can get something like the Moroccan Eggs for breakfast. But that's up to you. I actually don't think I've tried Ess-a-bagel. The place I used to go to was Absolute, near 107 St. on Broadway, which many people have called the best bagels in Manhattan. But then, I was living on 97th St. (Also near there and with good muffins and pretty good bagels is Lenny's, 98th and Broadway.)

                          1. re: msbudell

                            I like Ess-a-bagel and Kossar's bialies. For Wednesday lunch I would suggest either RGR's Lower East Side tour or Chelsea Market or maybe Chinatown.

                            1. re: financialdistrictresident

                              Thanks for mentioning my tour here and above, fdr. :-) I can't disagree that it's perfect for first-time visitors to NYC and would certainly be an entirely different experience than lunch at EMP. lol

                              msbudell, If you're interested, I'd be glad to post the tour.

                              1. re: RGR

                                That would be wonderful!! Thank you!

                                1. re: msbudell

                                  My pleasure, msbudell! :-) My tour will have you walking the streets of an interesting, historic neighborhood while sampling foods emblematic of NYC.

                                  Lower East Side 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!

                                  1. re: RGR

                                    Thanks, RGR. msbudell & bf, you might even want to start off your Wednesday morning with breakfast on the LES. Many hounds like Clinton Street Bakery (I have not been, don't like to wait in line) for breakfast. Lines might be less of an issue on a weekday. Essex Street Market (near Economy Candy) also has a very good breakfast/lunch place called shopsins. I discovered it from a recent post on this site (you might want to do a search). And the Donut Plant has melt in your mouth donuts (unlike the Dunkin Donuts & Krispy Creme gloppy type they should be devoured immediately). Enjoy your visit and all the great NYC food!

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      RGR's 8/24 Lower East Side tour itinerary has it right ... with a few footnotes:

                                      1) There is no point in coming to New York City for a nonstop 3-day series of $200 meals with unisex cosmopolitan cuisine.

                                      2) What makes NYC unique is not those places but its 150-odd ethnic cuisines. The LES remains a treasure house of these foods and meals.

                                      3) BUT: I would add to the list: Bereket, 187 E. Houston St. at the corner of Orchard. 24/7. Zero atmosphere. Middle Eastern/Turkish. Some of the best values (quality and price) in Manhattan. Do not pass up the soups (among the least salty anywhere), stuffed grape leaves, or the desserts.

                                      4) I would expand the Yonah Schimmel visit to include Apple Strudel and a glass of home-made buttermilk.

                                      5) The sandwiches at Katz's and Russ & Daughters are good, but you can find good deli almost anywhere. Stick to the things you are very unlikely to find anywhere else. Bereket and Yohnah Schimmel have them.

                                      1. re: asnet

                                        Hey, asnet,

                                        I do not agree with you that you can find good deli almost anywhere. In my view, finding really excellent deli is very difficult. Period.

                                        Russ & Daughters is not a deli; it's an appetizing store. And finding quality appetizing is even more of a challenge than finding good deli.

                                        And when it comes to Yonah Schimmel, the knishes these days are hit and miss.

                                        However, irrespective of the quality of the food at Katz's, Russ, and Schimmel, the thing about them is that they are LES/NYC institutions, and that's the major reason for going to them.

                                        There are, of course, many other places on the LES worthy of a visit. So, my tour can certainly be used as a jumping off point, and folks can add other stops in the area.

                                        1. re: RGR

                                          i agree with RGR,,,, Russ and daughters if you want to bring smoked fish home, it's not a restaurant,,,Katz's is a must and you will not find corned beef or pastrami anywhere in the country as good. Its a landmark totally new york. President clinton went off his scheduled route to grab a sandwich at katz's the Secret Service went nuts.
                                          Bereket is ok, I'd sooner go to Hummous Palace on McDougald or Mamounsfor falaffel. Or go to Max brenner's chocolate by the baldman. On LES ,,noone mentioned Inoteca for italain tapas.

                                        2. re: asnet

                                          asnet, I agree with much of your sentiment and think at least one ethnic/deli/street food excursion is in order for a first visit to NYC. I am also a Bereket fan and they are open 24 hours. It is nearly impossible to find good (Jewish) deli food in the city now that Second Avenue Deli has closed. Katz' is going to close soon (and re-open?). I would never even think of going to Stage or Carnegie. I hear Mrs. Stahl's Knishes is now gone (IMO, Yonah is all that's left on the knish scene and no Mrs. Stahls). Kossar's is an institution. Russ & Daughter is renowned for nova and whitefish salad (msbudell and bf are not into seafood).

                                          1. re: asnet

                                            Bereket is alright, but I find their doner kebab sandwiches over-the-top fatty. I haven't had anything else there for some time, but was never very impressed by the soups, stuffed grape leaves, or desserts. Then again, I haven't had those in several years. Which desserts do you consider very good? Anyway, I think Bereket is a fine place to go after a night of drinking but not somewhere that's important for people visiting New York for four days to go to!

                                  2. re: msbudell

                                    Yes, do Ess-a for bagels and go to Russ & Daughters on Houston to get the spreads and smoked fish to put on the bagel. That will take some coordinating, since Ess-a is up in the 20s and Russ & D is down on Houston, but it will be well worth it.

                            2. The last time I ate at Balthazar the service was atrocious, but the food was wonderful. We showed up without a reservation and, luck of lucks, waited only about 20 minutes for a table. The duck confit was a little salty, but the escargot was a treat and the baked meringue for dessert, well. I'd go back just for that.

                              But as a tip: Don't forget that NYC offers boatloads of great eats that while not 4-Star in nature will certainly satisfy and delight. A little bit of GoogleFu will take you a long way!

                              1. Yes defrinitely Daniel and Gramercy. Might consider Del Posto (Mario Batali) i~ a beautiful space and the food is delicious. Think you would also maybe want to include a NY deli, since in SF we don't seem to have anything to compare, so we always make 1 meal at a deli. I'm not sure of the best ones, we always go to Carnegie or Stage, but insiders probably have better suggestions

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: donali

                                  I would definitely scrap Le Bonne....esp. since you seem to be in search of the ultimate culinary experience. You also left out Per Se, which is in my opinion, the best restaurant in NY. (I'm also a huge fan of French Laundry) Since its easier to get a lunch reservation there, yet they are only open for lunch on Fri, Sat and Sunday, why don't you switch your Wednesday with Grammercy and feast your tongue on Keller's perfect masterpieces and your eyes on Tihany's brilliant interior design!

                                  There are still a few reservations available!

                                  1. re: RawTunaFan

                                    I had no idea Per Se did lunch as well! Thank you so much for the suggestion....I'm headed to opentable now =)