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NYers- what restaurants would you defend no matter what?

I recently caught myself as I was about to reply to this very popular topic on the LA board. I think it is an intriguing question, and that we could probably have some fun with our own east coast version: what restaurant(s) will you continue to patronize, or recommend, or find something positive to say about, no matter what others have to say about it? It could even be for reasons beyond their current food offerings.

For me, I would have to mention John's Pizzeria on Bleecker, Joe's Pizza on Carmine, Ruby Foo's (UWS), Tse Yang, Babbo, Daniel.

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    1. re: daveena

      I too will stand by Lupa through thick and thin. Who will join us?

      1. re: williej33

        Me! I'd like to eat at Lupa everyday. Or Babbo!

    2. none. i'm pretty loyal to my "goto" places but i wouldn't defend them, "no matter what." bars, on the other hand, are different...

      1. Good question, that. Mei Lei Wah, on Bayard in Chinatown, has always been my favorite hole-in-the-wall tea house. But I guess I'd draw the line at biting into a combination bun and having an eyeball staring out at me. (Then again, those lamb's eyeballs at Flushing's A Fan Ti were pretty tasty...hmmmm.....)

        1. I would'nt fight for restaurants, but the chefs instead. And besides my own, I'd fight til the death for Vongo and Boulud.

          1. Here's my list (broken down by the 3 boroughs I am in most often):

            1) Manhattan: Shake Shack for sure. I have been to all the usual haunts but Shake Shack will always be at the top of my list.

            2) Brooklyn: Cafe LuluC on Smith Street. I've always had a terrific meal there, even if the service can be quite slow. Most people seem to have had a bad experience there which I can't figure out.

            3) Forest Hills (my own 'hood, for better or for worse): 5 Burro. There are many naysayers out there on the Outer Borough boards and in some Queens blogs and I don't get it at all. It's not supposed to be authentic Mexican (go to Jackson Heights for that) which everyone seems to harp on, it's more Tex-Mex or Cali-Mex and every meal I've had there has been fantastic. Granted the crowd is very Queens-y but once you get to a table you can pretty much ignore everyone else and focus on some amazing skirt steak tacos or quesadillas, lobster tails or chicken in al ajillo sauce and icy cold Dos Equis to wash it all down.

            Also in Queens - Mood, which is this modern/new American place in Kew Gardens. If anyone knows the Kew Gardens/Forest Hills area you know it's painfully lacking in good restaurants. Mood ironically has a really depressing atmosphere since the restaurant is almost always empty but the food there is really good (including a lunchtime only fantastic $7 burger with the crispiest fries).

            1 Reply
            1. re: pellegrino31

              The only time I've been to Cafe Luluc was for brunch about a year ago, and it was absolutely infested with fruit flies where I was sitting, at a booth on the south side. They were hovering everywhere in the air, and bothering my companions and me.

            2. For me, the restaurants that I will alway patronize and recommend are: Aureole, Bouley, Eleven Madison Park and Sarge's. I adore these restaurants I've always had great experiences.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ellenost

                I had one of the most culinarily illuminating nights of my life at Aureole some years ago... too bad its (literally) not the same restaurant it used to be- they got little love on this board, and I can't figure out why. Good for you!

              2. Otto. Love the place. The space, the hang, the wine, the food. It may not have the best sit-down dining in town, but to me, there is no place I'd rather be in NYC than the the stand up tables in front room, eating salumi, cheese, olives, and other small bite plates, with a good bottle of Italian wine in front of me, and a bunch of friends around.

                1. Tulcingo del Valle, Ali Baba Turkish Cuisine, Magnolia/Buttercup Bakeshop, Banjara, The Stanton Social, Los Dos Molinos, Rosa Mexicano

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LeahBaila

                    This is what I love about the Internet, and Chowhound in particular. We were looking for a place to eat in Hell's Kitchen because we had an errand to do over there, I saw Tulcingo del Valle on Citysearch, looked it up on Chowhound for a cross-reference, and found this post. Well, I know Ali Baba rocks, and I know it's a little off the beaten path, so I figure this poster has cred.

                    We headed over there two hours ago, and it was quite yum! J had the Costeletas w/ Salsa Verde w/ Verdolagas (spinach) -- like pernil with bones and a kick. I had Carnitas with Salsa Verde and Nopales. Yeah, we overdid it on the green sauce, but we got there 30 minutes before closing and they were out of the Pollo con Salsa Pipian (pumpkin), and I wanted Carnitas. Really, very pleasant little place. Nice vibe, friendly service, tasty food that seemed like it was made by real people, and all for $27, including Mexican sodas and chips y salsa.

                    AND, now I can try Banjara and read LeahBaila's blog to see what else she likes. What a deal!

                    -Treaty Oak

                    1. re: TreatyOak

                      Glad to hear you enjoyed Tulcingo!! When you go to Banjara, make sure to try their coconut samosas...they're divine.
                      The blog is still a work-in-progress and I have some updating to do, but thank you for the compliments, Treaty! :)

                  2. Besides Lupa, I'll always stick up for Arturo's Pizza and La Lanterna.

                    1. I already find myself in this situation with Dragonfly. Every time I go on my own I have a fantastic pan-Asian meal. Every time I bring Americans with me, the kitchen freaks out and turns out some of the worst Asian food I could ever introduce an American to. And yet knowing how good it can be, I can't help but keep recommending that my friends continue to try it because when they hit the nail on the head, they can reveal authentic Asian flavors that are hard to find elsewhere in the city.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JungMann

                        The dragon fly with glass house attachment in the west village ? I always thought the food was mediocre but I really liked that glass house attachment with the loungy feel too it.

                        1. re: randumbposter

                          I don't know if I'd call that a glass house, but yeah, it has glass walls. They make some dishes that are hard to find elsewhere and are pulled off pretty well. It's not life-changing, but their kare-kare is passable, while their candied calamari is more addictive than nicotine.

                      2. Uptown on 89th and 3rd. I have learned not to order meat dishes from them (usually overcooked or dry). But this is a favorite and I will continue to go anyway. Their apps are consistently good as are their pasta dishes. The prices are more than reasonable, they have vegetarian options and their 4 hour long happy hour with $6 martinis (regular and the froo froo girly variety) make this the perfect place to meet friends!

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: SweetPea914

                          Great thread..
                          In Manhattan - Shake Shack and Molly's without hesitation. On the up side - Anything Bastianich/Batali - anything - including Del Posto, Babbo and Lupa. And Eleven Madison Park with my dying breath.

                          In Brooklyn - Totonno's and DiFara's - al di la with all my might, Bonnie's, and the 2 Josh's at Stone Park

                          1. re: livetotravel

                            Manhattan: Katz's, Dinosaur BBQ
                            Brooklyn: DiFara's
                            Queens: Spicy Mina's

                          2. re: SweetPea914

                            what's the name of this restaurant? the one on 89th and 3rd?

                              1. re: Melanie

                                Good topic...babbo, lupa, corner bistro, blue ribbon!

                          3. I love Chanterrelle. We have been going there almost since it started on Grand & Greene. It is one of the most civilized dining experiences in NYC.

                            1. Alta, Blue Ribbon Bakery, Kirara

                              1. I'll defend Katz's , I dont have to defend Rao's they have their own guns, Don Peppe's in queens on leffert's i defend but Henry Hill in Goodfella's also recommends it, I'll defend the hot dogs at papaya king also .

                                1. I know Lupa is very popular, and have always considered that fact part mystery/part missed opportunity. I dined at Lupa exactly once, shortly after it opened, and it was a very disappointing meal (actually, horrible), where we ordered many dishes and found fault with nearly every one of them (heavy, oily fried vegetables, ugh). Since then, I have wondered time and time again at hearing so much praise- was it us? Was it an off night? I can tell you that my family (we used to live in Rome) was so turned off that none of us ever went back to this supposed Roman tavern... I have considered revisiting it, to determine what happened- surely, so many CHers can't be wrong! But there are so many other great restaurants to try, that I could never quite muster up the will. I am not at all surprised to see that so many of you mention it on this board- I am used to being in the tiny minority on this. I do not intend this post as a challenge at all, I just don't get it. So what's good there?

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: vvvindaloo

                                    Well for starters the ricotta gnocchi with sausage & fennel is to die for, and the pork shoulder with rhubarb, campari & ginger is fabulous. Go to Lupa again and try one of these. My tip is that I think Batali and Bastianich excel at pasta dishes and have no peers, so I always have pasta dishes at their restaurants.

                                    1. re: livetotravel

                                      Thanks, LTT (i love your handle, btw- check out my profile and you'll see why!). I agree that Batali and Bastianich are good at *nearly* everything they do, and I love Batali's pastas. I appreciate your recommendations.

                                      1. re: livetotravel

                                        Totally agree with LTT about the gnocchi. Also, they often have an orecchiette tossed in butter with sausage and greens-- it's superb. The spiced dates over marscapone are a great dessert, and the tartufo is the best I've had.

                                      2. re: vvvindaloo

                                        Man, I love those oily vegetables - the ones that are braised in olive oil until every molecule of water has been replaced by lipid? The best! (I'm thinking about the cauliflower and the artichokes).

                                        For me, a huge part of Lupa's appeal is that they were (and still are) doing a lot of pasta dishes that I've never seen anywhere else - the farro spaghettini with ceci and the pasta with cauliflower come to mind first. I also used to love all of their vegetable antipasti and contorni - I had an unbroken three year run (1999-2002) where every single thing I ordered was delicious. Recent visits have been more disappointing - veggie contorni seem consisntently to be served too cold, and tend to taste a little dull (I'm wondering if it's actually to comply with some health code). Pastas, on the other hand, have been impressively consistent (I had one super-salty pasta once - only one miss in many visits).

                                        I think Lupa changed my cooking more than any other restaurant - I do a lot more vegetables with garlic/mint/chili/pecorino now... do a lot more half pecorino/half parm on pastas... my med school roommates and I were obsessed with trying to recreate dishes (unfortunately, none of the Batali cookbooks out there have the Holy Grail - ceci with leeks). All three of us are good cooks, and could come up with passable imitations, but were never able to get them just right. That's part of the Lupa mystique for me - I taste something, think I can recreate it, and... I can't.

                                        On an intellectual level, I know that Lupa's fallen a bit - it's even off my Top 5 list now. And yet, negative comments about Lupa (I'm not talking about well-reasoned and articulated ones like yours, vvvindaloo - I'm referring to the vague "emperor has no clothes, Lupa sucks" type of comments) elicit an intense visceral fury. That's why I liked this topic so much.

                                        1. re: daveena

                                          Daveena...we should chat food sometime...your clip on Lupa above is right on the money...I am very picky as well ( as vvvindaloo claims to be), and I usually am skeptical about "formula restaurants" i.e. different venues owned by a common restauranteur (ex. Danny Meyer)...but although Lupa's formula is obvious, you can't dwell on it, as the food is so damn good! Any main stay will inevitably slip a bit from their original level , but Lupa has slipped much less than most. Thier home made sausage on Monday nights, everyone talking food at the bar, and the on point wine selections....Lupa is still top notch.

                                          1. re: EJFood

                                            EJ-I don't see where I claimed to be picky. What do you mean by this?

                                          2. re: daveena

                                            Daveena- I am not referring to vegetables in garlic and oil (which I eat at home often, and adore). The vegetables I was talking about were supposed to be fritti- lightly battered and deep fried to a crisp. Instead, they were soggy and oily, too mushy inside. I was offering them as an example of why we walked away disappointed.

                                          3. re: vvvindaloo

                                            i agree. tried lupa twice, a year apart and was equally unimpressed. supper is a favorite of mine.

                                          4. EMP and PERSE. Very expensive but worth every dollar

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: stevel

                                              La Vagna down in the east village. Perfect italian.

                                            2. There are a few:

                                              Koronet Pizza - I love those huge slices, the perfect student meal
                                              Roll & Dough - I stand by the bings, even after the hype has faded
                                              Red Bamboo - Yes, I DO like the fake meat stuff
                                              Dos Caminos SoHo - Overpriced and too trendy by far, but an awesome huitlacoche omelet and some of the most attentive service I've ever had
                                              Tasti-D-Lite - It's not ice cream, but I love it anyway

                                              1. Lucali's (BK), Nook, Chance (BK), Five Points, Gramercy Tavern, Little Pie. Co., Zozo's

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: kam0424

                                                  kam, I'm right there with you on Chance and Little Pie Company! I'd also like to add Ki Sushi (a few blocks away from Chance), Ushi Wakamaru, Taro and Chikurin. People complain about Ki's large cuts - I can appreciate traditionalism and not getting some kind of deal on your food, but quality is quality and a large portion adds to the experience, I think. And as for Chikurin, I know it sticks out like a sore thumb from my other three sushi mentions, but for some reason the rolls are just so good! It's my guiltiest pleasure... I know that it's very low quality and yet it tastes great to me.

                                                  1. re: hamstrman

                                                    Finally someone else who loves chance! I'll have to try ki sushi, i always end up at osaka or cube 63.

                                                2. Peter Lugers, Sammy's Romanian, Katz's Deli, 21 Club, and Gino..

                                                  1. Mimi's Pizza on Lex and 83rd (great slice)
                                                    Il Cortile and Taormina (great Italian, despite all the Little Italy nay-sayers)
                                                    GoodBurger (best of all the NYC burgers)
                                                    Our Place II (best Mu Shoo Chicken in the city)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Barney Greengrass.. Even though its getting harder and harder..

                                                      1. Union Square Cafe. It's been getting a lot of bashing recently on this board. To me, it always will be a classic.

                                                        1. La Caridad 78. It is what it is and it never pretended to be anything else. Although, even I can't defend or even explain some of the stuff on the Chinese half of the menu.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. lately i have renewed my love affair with both TEHUITZINGO and KOSSARS so them. also, the DOSA CART.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: mrnyc

                                                              The one at washington sq? I love that one.

                                                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                manhattan: dinosaur bbq, otafuku, hop kee's, burger joint, menchanko tei, gam-me-oak.

                                                                queens: de mole, nick's pizza, amore pizza, pho's, and the ones i most fiercely will defend are the korean gems that i'm sure most manhattanites won't know about. ;-)

                                                            2. Manhattan:
                                                              PJ Clarkes/JG Melons for their burgers + old school charm (mad props to their bars/bartenders).
                                                              Norma's for a place to bring out-of-towners, everyone I bring there absolutely loves it.
                                                              Elio - pretty good italian, great service (the waiters were sweet and helpful)

                                                              Peter Lugers. Hands down.

                                                              Uncle Jack's has decent steak.
                                                              (forgetting name) - somewhere on Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills/Rego Park there's a great Irish place....shoot... whats the name of it?

                                                              1. The Palm (actually Palm Too), Il Mulino, Il Cantinori. And I agree Lupa has fallen off track a bit, but I live in the neighborhood and still patronizing the place. Throwing Paris Commune on my list also.

                                                                1. Shake Shack (Chicago dogs in NYC...)

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: mjps2

                                                                    Grand Central Oyster Bar
                                                                    Spumoni Gardens
                                                                    Jean George

                                                                  2. Al Di La (which is attacked for having lacklustre specials and bad service), Patsy's in East Harlem (criticized for being a cheesy 'red sauce' joint), Pongal (south Indian harshed out for no good reason...this gets me....the place is great), and here is the real test of the hound's tenacity: TWO BOOTS PIZZA.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: NYJewboy

                                                                      Props for Patsy's, but... I really hate two boots pizza. How can a person even mention both in the same post?

                                                                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                        Two Boots, long ago when it was young and I was younger, was once a fine place. I can understand why someone would stay loyal to it. Not me, you understand, but someone.

                                                                        1. re: inuksuk

                                                                          Okey-dokey. I think the first time I ever ate Two Boots was about 12 years ago. I didn't appreciate the whole concept then, and I don't appreciate it now. But to each their own! I just don't consider it "real pizza"- by my own standards, of course.

                                                                    2. Per Se, Daniel, and Blue Hill will always be on my forever list in NYC.

                                                                      1. this is an awesome post - and has given me some great ideas! - fatty crab, taro sushi, song, blue ribbon, peter lugers and GC oyster bar

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: pslopian

                                                                          wow. grand central oyster bar is so mediocre. sad thing is, i remember when it was pretty good.

                                                                          1. re: steve h.

                                                                            I understand why people mention GC Oyster Bar- It's a NY legend that adds value to the NY dining scene, even if that value is more historical, or even mythical, than culinary. That is what I meant by "reasons beyond their current food offerings"- I had a feeling that this kind of arguable point would come up. What fun!

                                                                            1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                              I get defensive about GC Oyster Bar because I have always had such a great time there, I start off in the bar opposite the front door and then eat in the Saloon. It's not the best foodwise but the ambiance and bustle and walking through Grand Central Station is wonderful. I also love 21 and it's intimate, clubby feel.

                                                                              1. re: bronwen

                                                                                As someone who recently (a few days ago) moved out of NYC, i can say that the GCOB is one place i will definitely miss. I never eat the cooked food. I never eat anywhere other than at the oyster bar, where i get raw oysters, fried oysters, either salad or coleslaw, and wine by the glass. And i usually order from the super-friendly Bangladeshi guy Gitu, who always gives great recs on the day's selections. For me, this is one of the best experiences in NYC that combines food and history and convenience, and the oyster prices are better than most places in town.

                                                                                I'm currently in Vancouver and have been eating hundreds of oysters this week, and while they are very very tasty here, most places, even lauded raw bars, have anywhere from 2 to 8 varieties. Nothing comes close to GCOB for the selection. I'll defend it. *smiles*

                                                                        2. I defend the restaurants of Manhattan Chinatown no matter what. It is a thankless job and it is never-ending. But every time I return smiling from a meal in that far-off magical realm that lies only four miles from my home, I feel it is worth it.

                                                                          1. Arturo's, Pomodoro (UWS)