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Tourist Traps to Avoid

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Am visiting NYC for the first time and want to avoid restaurants that have outlived their reputations.

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  1. Restaurants in which parts of town? What types of cuisine? Price points?

    1. I think there are too many to list... you really are better off asking for recommendations. I think we try to forget the bad ones...

      2 Replies
      1. re: erin07nyc

        Come on. Let's take a stab:

        Magnolia Bakery-line is very long, cupcake is only OK, "quaint bakery" feel is long gone
        John's Pizza-just not that good (go to Patsy's in Harlem)
        Ferrara's Bakery-Cannoli are not that good anymore, go to the great Caffe Palermo
        Serendipity 3-too long a wait for chilled hot chocolate
        Marriott revolving restaurant-food is awful
        Tavern on the Green-food is really bad, hasn't been a NYC experience since 1950s

        1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

          I used to live across the street from Serendipity and I NEVER saw the place without a line stretching down the street (11 PM on a Sunday night, 3 PM on a Tuesday, 10-degree weather, whenever), along with all the bag and jewelry street vendors who've claimed that very touristy line as their territory.

      2. LIttle Italy, Wo Hop, Carnegie Deli, Union Square Cafe

        20 Replies
        1. re: Brian S

          sorry, i like carnegie deli...especially when they cater our business lunches.

          babbo...now thats a tourist trap.

          1. re: sam1

            I like the Carnegie Deli too.

            1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

              Also agree on Carnegie. I recently did a Manhattan deli pastrami test. Katz's was definitely the best (no surprise there), but of the other three, I'd rank Carnegie second, with Artie's next (that was a surprise), and Sarge's last(disappointing - the flavor of the meat was mild and salty). The old Second Ave would probably have come in second (just from memory); I've got a wait-and-see attitude on their forthcoming reincarnation.

              Carnegie may be 50% tourists, noisy, crowded, and pricey, but they can still deliver the goods when it comes to pastrami, pickles, a kasha knish, and a side of derma.

              1. re: Striver

                I've eaten at Carnegie and their pastrami was so bad it made me depressed until my next meal. I even heard a waitress boasting to a customer that their pastrami was extra-lean! If they are too cheap to put fat in, it can't be any good.

                1. re: Brian S

                  One must always order extra fatty. Anything else is not pastrami.

                  1. re: Striver

                    I ALWAYS ask for fatty at Katz's. A guranteed food orgasm.

                    1. re: Scagnetti

                      No argument about Katz's.

                      OTOH, Carnegie always gets praise and grief on this board in about equal proportions. My experiences there over many many years have been basically good (although they're not what they were 40 years ago) - maybe it's my insistence on the fattiest meat they've got and a side of derma (something I would guess few tourists order), coupled with an obvious native accent (Bronx).

                      Anyway, people who order lean pastrami (AFAIR, Katz's even charges extra for it) get what they deserve.

                2. re: Striver

                  I rank Sarge's above Katz's for pastrami -- very flavorful and not salty at all. It's one of the few restaurants I miss from the Murray Hill neighborhood.

                  1. re: ellenost

                    Well,YMMV, of course, but I made a special point of eating there two weeks ago, due to praise on this board, and I - and the two other people with me - liked the old school atmosphere and the friendly service, but found the pastrami unremarkable and distinctly salty. Maybe an off day, but I can't imagine it being better than Katz's.

                  2. re: Striver

                    Walked into Katz's and walked right out again: the cooking smell/smoke was atrocious, and I was not prepared to smell like that for the rest of my workday.

                3. re: sam1

                  Babbo is popular, but that doesn't make it a trap. Not even in the way that one might consider Nobu a trap in that it is over-hyped. Sure, there are better deals than Babbo and better food than Babbo; but Babbo does not rely on a prime-tourist-destination location like Carnegie Deli does to pack the house despite inferior ingredients and sloppy service.

                  www.whorebivore.com

                4. re: Brian S

                  Sorry, gotta agree with Brian on this. Little Italy, Carnegie Deli, USC, Tavern on the Green, Times Square, Cafe des Artistes, One if by Land TIBS.

                  Babbo is not a tourist trap. It's a dining destination but that doesn't make it a tourist trap. The prices are not inflated for the quality of the food. In fact, it's the other way around. It's surprisingly reasonable and the wine list is below the standard 2x markup...which speaks volumes to what kind of place Babbo is.

                  1. re: Porthos

                    i agree with porthos.

                  2. re: Brian S

                    I'm with you on Little Italy. I don't think anyone eats there except tourists and folks from Jersey. I do like the Carnegie Deli, though.

                    1. re: JungMann

                      Totally agree little Italy is a tourist trap, it is worth walking around (maybe) and aslo doing chinatown, but eat in c-town. If you want really good Italian, trek up to the Bronx and hit Arthur Ave!

                      1. re: SweetPea914

                        Arthur Avenue is certainly more quaint and less discovered than the restaurants that line Mott and Mulberry. But Arthur Avenue can also be hit or miss. And, like Little Italy, one also gets the sense that this was better yesteryear

                        www.whorebivore.com

                        1. re: Whorebivore

                          But, IMHO, Di Palo's is worth the trip there.

                    2. re: Brian S

                      OK, I would say Little Italy EXCEPT for Peasant. They can't do anything badly, including service. It is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and has been for years. Also, there are still a few places left on Mulberry that are worth a visit (maybe Ferrara's for the history, ditto Taormina Restaurant), even though I would not devote my mealtimes to the area if I were a visitor with a time budget.

                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                        What about Luna? Haven't been in years but growing up in a family with 6 kids, that was our birthday spot so we went a lot. It used to be so good!

                        1. re: southernitalian

                          Luna is cute. I have never eaten there, so I cannot say... maybe I'll try it, because I would love to find more reasons to go to LI to eat.

                    3. Tell us what restaurants you were thinking of visiting and we'll respond on which are tourist traps.

                      1. Tavern on the Green. I also agree with Carnegie Deli, which I personally find vile. John's Pizza (go to Arturo's if you can't get to Brooklyn or East Harlem). Also, while it's technically outer boroughs, Grimaldi's.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: a_and_w

                          Tavern on the Green for sure. I agree with Carnegie (and Stage for that matter) as well. I'll throw in Serendipity and most places along Restaurant Row - especially Becco,

                          1. re: harrison

                            tavern on the green? well, it is pretty though. Consider it for a drink.

                            1. re: Jerome

                              I agree with the drink idea but a definite pass on the food.

                            2. re: harrison

                              Why pick on Becco? Yes, it's crowded with theater tourists, but the food is passable and it's not expensive, so I wouldn't consider it a "trap."

                          2. I've never been, only saw what was happening outside and got really turned off. But could anyone confirm that McSorley's Old Ale House qualifies as a tourist trap?

                            Thanks!

                            17 Replies
                            1. re: Chinon00

                              In my experience it's turned into more of a B&T crowd, not so much "tourists".

                              1. re: LNG212

                                Definitely a B&T crowd. It's like going to a fraternity party in Queens.

                                1. re: fgf

                                  Ditto. It's a shame the seediness of days past has gone the way of B&T. The place used to be fun. Now it's just obnoxious.

                                  1. re: claireness

                                    Yonah Shimmels
                                    Brooklyn Diner

                                    1. re: DoctortedNYC

                                      I love Yonah Shimmels! I don't think its over-rated at all!

                                      1. re: swf36d

                                        It's no Mrs. Stahl's (which I hear is now gone).

                                    2. re: claireness

                                      I'd heard a lot about it so I decided to roll by about 3 or 4 years ago. As I approached I saw a scene outside that was:
                                      a) very loud
                                      b) very drunk
                                      c) very male
                                      There were also a bunch of military guys (I guess they were on leave checking out the city) and one chick in a dress who was just obliterated. I kept on walking.

                                      Just seemed like the kinda of place to me someone not too familar with (or interested in) what the city has to offer would end up on a weekend night.

                                2. re: Chinon00

                                  I heartily disagree regarding McSorley's. Growing up in Brooklyn, an NYU grad, and now living in the South, I miss it like crazy. On a cold winter afternoon, my husband and I crave the dark ale, a sleeve of Saltines, the cheese plate and THAT MUSTARD. Makes me very homesick. Don't hate on McSorley's. It might attract tourists and B&T rats, but it's the real deal. I'm 42 and was sneaking in with the rest of the B&T crowd as early as 1981. It was always obnoxious. That's half the fun!

                                  1. re: southernitalian

                                    I love McSorley's too and don't consider it a tourist trap. I just thinks that all the "hipsters" hate it because its a very real place where pretention will get you nowhere.

                                    1. re: HungryRubia

                                      It used to be a "real place". But now you have to fight through the layers of drunk NJ frat boys to get in. And, yes, that mustard is awesome but not worth the lousy atmosphere (meaning the people; the decor is still neat). I -- never been considered a "hipster" before -- used to love it back in the day to go watch a game and have a few beers with that cheese plate. Then it was taken over by a very different crowd.

                                      1. re: LNG212

                                        I think that the reason I always enjoy McSorley's is because I NEVER go on the weekends. We always go on a Tuesday or Wednesday night or even during the day. We always meet very nice people.

                                        1. re: HungryRubia

                                          You're probably right -- that's the same point KT made (below). I've not been on a weekday in quite some time. I've tried going during the day on the weekend -- that doesn't work either.

                                      2. re: HungryRubia

                                        McSorley's in the afternoon is a diiferent creature form McSorley's at night.

                                        Go in the afternoon for a good experience go at night if you want to see guys in baseball caps.

                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                          Thank you KT. You nailed it. We used to go in the mid to late afternoon when the last light was coming in the window. We usually had the place pretty much to ourselves. Please tell me Brendan is still there? I swear, my drunken cousins from Paramus were taking the train in back in the 70's and 80's and going there to start fights at night. It was always, always like that. Just get there early and don't go in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day.

                                          1. re: southernitalian

                                            Even though I live in the neighborhood McSorley's isn't one of my regular haunts so I don't have an answer for you, S.I., sorry. Maybe when the weather changes I'll stop in one Sunday afternoon.

                                            McSorley's becomes a zoo around St. Patrick's day. A bar that needs to set up police barricades is avoided by me.

                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                              Good point, the last time i was there was on a weekend. Prior to that it was a weeknight evening.

                                          2. re: KTinNYC

                                            That's exactly what I was going to say. I love McSorley's but we only go during the day or early evening. We even brought my Dad and 2 of his oldest friends here and they loved it too!

                                    2. Mesa Grill for sure. The food and decor are just tired.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                        For starters, any chain in Times Square who’s luminescence gives you a migraine.

                                        1. re: MShapiro

                                          I was just on opentable.com and saw The View is one of the top 5 most booked restuarants. Tao too. I don't get it. To be fair I have only been to Tao for a business dinner once and have not been to The View Restuarant in years but there are so many better choices in the city. The View bar is good for a cocktail or coffee (NOT on a weekend when it's a crazy, tourist, B&T mob scene).

                                        2. re: KTinNYC

                                          Didn't I hear this is going out of business? Good riddance -

                                          1. re: sabrina0

                                            I believe Bolo will be losing it's lease but Mesa will keep chugging and wheezing along.

                                        3. Tad's Steaks.

                                          They managed to source the cheapest cuts of meat anywhere, and somehow, by cooking them, they got them to be tougher than they already were. Tourists just love them.

                                          1. search for 'overrated' and you will see the same restaurants.

                                            1. Any of the the theme restaurants: Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood, Jekyll and Hyde, ESPN Zone, Hawaiian Tropic.

                                              Ellen's Stardust, Carmine's, Ollie's, Brooklyn Diner, Osso Buco.

                                              Old and tired: Cafe des Artistes, Trattoria del Arte, Tavern on the Green, Rainbow Room, OIBL TIBS.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: chow_gal

                                                I'm a local and sometimes go to Ollie's. Ruby Foo's definitely should be added to the list. Agree with Little Italy, Stage and Carnegie posters. When and where will a real deli, Second Avenue be re-opening???

                                                p.s. 162 E. 33rd per a recent 10/3 hound post

                                                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                                  Ditto Ollie's--surprisingly not bad. Filled with tourists yes, but the food...surprisingly acceptable in an area rife with expensive, untasty eats.

                                              2. Serendipity. Unless you have small children who must experience a frozen hot chocolate PLEASE do not wait in line to get into this place.

                                                Ray's Pizza.

                                                Southern Hospitality. Believe me Timberlake is not here.

                                                Anything in Little Italy.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: jenniebnyc

                                                  "Ray's Pizza"...haha! Which of the 100 different locations run by the 50 different owners are you referring to?

                                                  1. re: jakew8

                                                    All of them. There are very few slice joints -- Ray's or otherwise -- that live up to New York's rep as a pizza paradise.

                                                2. This "tourist trap" thread can go either way. Is it a tourist trap because B&T people frequent it (McSorley's) or is it a tourist trap because it serves bad food at high prices (Tavern on the Green, OIBL)??

                                                  I heartily disagree with John's Pizza (the one on Bleecker) and Wo Hop (Downstairs). Last time I was at Wo Hop everyone waiting on line was a native!

                                                  1. Tad's? It's not as if natives ever went there for a "dining experience" or it ever cost any real money. It's a goof, always was. Same with McSorley's, sorta, albeit with bonne homme. Not a "tourist trap", which to my mind is a rip-off coasting on a past reputation. Quintessential example used to be Mama Leone's.

                                                    1. Did anyone mention 'The soup man'?

                                                      1. Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse and I don't care what you've heard.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Scagnetti

                                                          Sammy's is mediocre, over-priced and a dump. Other than that it's fine.

                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                            I walked past the other night and boy was it PACKED with tourists. They're doing good business. And tonight Tomoe had a long line outside.

                                                          2. re: Scagnetti

                                                            Maybe it's because I went to Sammy's with such low expectations, but I have to admit that they served up some of the best lamb chops I've had in a long time.

                                                          3. Junior's. Delmonico's (do tourists go there?). It's more "old and tired" than tourist trap, I guess. In Brooklyn, Grimaldi's. I can't believe how much worse it's become in just a couple of years.

                                                            1. south street seaport. It's a waste of time. Especially the mall.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: fayehess

                                                                Outside of the Seaport mall there are a few new places in Seaport North with edible food. Check out the recent threads. Front Street North of Beekman (and mall/tourist trap area) and Peck Slip area. Table Tales on Water is very good. Barbarini on Front is good (more of a lunch place).

                                                              2. To clarify what I believe the OP meant. He was asking for places which a tourist might visit, believing that they have good food, but which in realiity dish out horrible food. He did not mean to include places serving great food which are packed with tourists, and he certainly didn't mean to include places packed with people from Brooklyn and New Jersey (bridge and tunnel) ... which concept appals me since I travel for hours on the subway to hang out with my Brooklyn friends, in neighborhoods where I, coming from Manhattan, am considered a bridge and tunnel person, since I use the Manhattan Bridge or the subway tunnel to get there.

                                                                1. thanks for the advice, whats OIBL?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: bruciebruce

                                                                    One If By Land, Two If By Sea - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44735... - here's a recent review by another poster.

                                                                  2. Tavern on the Green LEAPS TO MIND.

                                                                    1. Joe Allen? I used to love it but I'm so over it.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: NYDreamerInSC

                                                                        I love TOTG, not sure when all the bashers were there last but when I was food was good, service was great. Stay away from Mars 2112, and The Boathouse @ CP. Disgusting.

                                                                        1. re: nyebaby37

                                                                          I know that The Central Park Boathouse gets a boatload of negativism on this board; however, after two lunches there two years in a row, I do not agree that it should be avoided by either natives or tourists. During our first visit last summer, I found the food to be very good. Now, after a second lunch there two weeks ago, I have to say the food was even better than the first time.

                                                                          1. re: RGR

                                                                            I love, love love the boathouse! I almost had my wedding there and would have if the location were more convenient for all family members. The food may not be 4 star, but when you take the view into account it is wonderful food at a nyc oasis. Go for brunch!

                                                                      2. probably more for the outer boroughs - but one tourist trap area which i always find wiild in new york is city island.

                                                                        the set up is complete tourist trap and yet you won't find many out-of-towners.

                                                                        go figure.

                                                                        1. I'm sorry to hear that Little Italy in general is not recommended. I remember back in the early 70s going to some restaurant down there that was a large room, and my date ordered half a sheep's head...eyeball and all. I had something much less adventuresome, but very good. I recall saying that they must be stomping grapes in the basement, as the house wine was so strong we both got wasted fairly quickly. I have no idea what street it was on or the name, but it didn't seem like a tourist spot. We weren't rushed at all. My date was Italian and spoke the language, so I'm sure that helped, as the service was great.

                                                                          Looks like I will settle for Palermo for cannolli (and I think I spelled that wrong...sorry.)

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: FLnow

                                                                            Also add Max brenner to this list. TOURIST TRAP CENTRAL

                                                                          2. Avoid Bubba Gumps, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, ANY pizza place calling itself "Rays", Tavern on the Green,any restaurant at South St Seaport,Wo Hop, One if By Land, Two If By Sea,Russian Tea Room,and Little Italy. look for mom and places or get the NY treat-a genuine dirty water hotdog!

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Wo Hop
                                                                            17 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                                                            One If By Land, Two If By Sea
                                                                            17 Barrow St., New York, NY 10014

                                                                            Russian Tea Room
                                                                            150 W 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                                                                            Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
                                                                            1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: bad hat

                                                                              Rays on Columbus and 83rd is actually quite good.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Ray's Pizza
                                                                              462 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024

                                                                              1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                                                                                I have to agree, I eat there at times just cause it's close. While it ain't ""Authentic" per se, it's still tasty. Their crust is not soggy. and just enough cheese and sauce