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Sep 18, 2007 03:39 PM

2 Couples + 5 days = Dining Dilemma

We're from New Orleans, have visited 20+ times, but the most recent visits have been w/ teenagers, so we're a little out of touch.

The other couple is from the Midwest (Minneapolis) and have never been to New York, so they're looking to us for recommendations (they love our New Orleans haunts).

We're all fairly "mainstream" in our food likes/dislikes, but not afraid to be adventurous (just not into "trendy")

We'd like at least 3 or 4 really fairly upscale meals, esp. something we don't get in New Orleans (and in addition to the Creole/Cajun variations that everyone thinks of, New Orleans does have decent steakhouses as well as pretty good Vietnamese, sushi, and Thai.)

I'm trying to pare down the list from these initial contenders, but welcome other suggestions:

Gramercy Tavern
David Burke & Donatella
Nanni (it's an old favorite of ours)
Les Halles
Blue Hill
Pearl Oyster Bar

Other suggestions solicited :
--Sunday Brunch (Balthazar?)
--a couple of less expensive meals (we'll probably do Katz Deli for one of them..
--A Chinatown suggestion (personal Chinese preferences include one or more of the following: good duck, dim sum, or Szcheuan/Sichuan).
--A Mexican restaurant recommendation, but please not the ground beef red sauce style restaurants that dots the landscape around here. We like more of the Veracruz/Baja style Mexican or Puebla-style dining.
--Room w/ a View ? I don't think the other couple would take the plunge for River Cafe'. Thinking of Rainbow Room Grill or Arthur's Landing or _____?
--Bakeries; God, we don't have any bakers in New Orleans and we love the breads, pastries, muffins (and bagels) in NYC.. Esp. would love some suggestions for bakeries on UWS or UES.

My wife will be back in April with one daughter, so any place we don't get to on this visit will go to the top of her list for Spring.

Thanks so much

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  1. Atelier de Joel Robuchon, the modern/bar room at the modern, a voce, craft, etc... A great resource is to look through the dining section as well. In terms of chinatown, you should definitely check out Super Taste for handpulled noodles.

    1. Daniel, Aureole should be added to the high end list. Artisanal should be added as a moderate priced option. A great lunch could be done at the Gordon Ramsey at The London.

      1. I would immediately eliminate Les Halles from your list. Sub-par food, poor service, seating so close it would make a sardine squirm, and a hideously high noise level.

        For Mexican, you might want to consider Pampano, which has a menu that focuses on fish and seafood. Delicious food and very nice ambiance.

        For Szechuan, it's not in Chinatown, but Wu Liang Ye, on 48th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs., has very good food.

        In the bakery dept., Amy's Bread has three locations. Though they're not on either the UE or UW Side, they're still worth seeking out, particularly for the breads.

        If you're planning to go to Katz's, and since this is your friends' first visit to NYC, you might want to consider taking my (in)famous Lower East Side food "tour." It will give all of you the opportunity to walk around a very interesting and historic neighborhood while sampling foods emblematic of NYC. The tour starts at Katz's. I'm appending it 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

          This nice gentleman requested suggestions for "fairly upscale meals" and you did not point them to your favorite, Eleven Madison Park. What gives? Whatever you guys do, don't go to Jacques-Imo's NYC unless you want a really good laugh. RGR's tour sounds like a seminal NYC experience. I might do it myself and I've lived here my whole life.

          1. re: fgf

            A suggestion that for one of your less expensive meals might be tapas -- we've had quite a few new and good tapas places open recently. I've tried and liked Tia Pol and Las Ramblas, but there are lots of recommendations on these boards. (One word of caution: many of them have backless barstools, so if you're picky about your seat you might want to check first.)

            1. re: fgf

              Hey, fgf,

              I did consider including a rec for EMP, but sometimes I get to feeling like a broken record. So, I didn't, figuring someone else would probably mention it. And I was right! lol

            2. re: RGR

              Great ideas and THANKS. I think we'll take that tour as suggested. We've been to Katz's several times and love the pastrami, but have never had an egg cream or a bialy. Looking forward to both of those experiences. After that tour, we'd better do a LOT of walking or plan for an afternoon nap.

              1. re: NOLAFrank

                Since you're been to Katz's before but your friends have not, pastrami for them it a must! However, if you'd like to try something different this time around, I'd suggest a knoblewurst sandwich. It's a garlicky salami. Katz's is one of the very few delis I know of that has it. Giant Yum!!

            3. i also would recommend eliminating les halles from your list. katz's does have delicious pastrami, but i wouldn't include that in your "cheap" day. its pretty pricey. brunch at prune is the way to go. yummy. but get there earlyish, they dont take resies and its a small joint. if youre into smoked fishes and delicious goodies you should definitely check out russ and daughter's on houston.

              1. I'm a former denizen of New Orleans and was a restaurant reviewer there for many years - I do miss my favorite restaurants I must say! That said I think you'll love Balthazar, it's really super. For your Chinese and your duck craving, go to Peking Duck House, it's really the best, I think. The Boathouse has a marvelous view and isn't half as expensive as River Cafe. I'm not big on baked stuff so can't help you there. I always recomment to visitors Grand Central Oyster Bar for the unbeatable atmosphere, and after Casamento's or the Acme I think you'll be intrigued at the variety of oysters they have.

                2 Replies
                1. re: bronwen

                  Thanks and I'll definitely take your advice on Balthazar, Peking Duck House, and The Boathouse. But I've been to Grand Central Oyster Bar and while I loved it (didn't eat oysters), I just can't force myself to eat oysters outside of the Gulf Coast when they're $5/doz (up from $3 since Katrina) on Mondays & Wednesdays at my local neighborhood "joint".

                  1. re: NOLAFrank

                    Balthazar also has a bakery (right next door but separate entrance) where you can stock up on their wonderful breads and pastries.