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Four days in NYC

p
pistachio peas Nov 22, 2007 03:26 PM

Hello,
I know there are some other posts like this, but I was wondering if you had any suggestons, thoughts. My boyfriend and I will be in NYC for 4 days - Dec 18th - 22nd. I am a big foodie, and he isn't as into it, but is very open minded and will eat anything and go anywhere (food-wise) that I suggest. We don't have the biggest budget, but for me, eating and walking around are the two best things about NYC. Oh - I should mention, he's never been there before. I have been twice, but both very short visits and I only tried a few places, as the people I was with weren't into doing foodie things.
I have eaten at : Stromboli's, Tea & Sympathy, Diner (Brooklyn), some Morroccan place in Soho, Mama Mexico (midtown), Zabar's, Magnolia Bakery, Katz's....(that's all I can remember)

We are thinking of making a reservation at Babbo (if I can get through tomorrow. They are closed today.) But would I be better off having our more "high-end" meal elsewhere? Like Les Halles? Or Balthazar?
We are from Toronto and have a lot of eating options here, but I really want to try the best of the best (from the low-end to the high)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!!!

  1. k
    kathryn Nov 22, 2007 03:40 PM

    What's your the budget you wish to spend while you are here? Any particular cuisines you'd like?

    If you like eating and walking around, definitely do the LES Walking Tour by RGR. A West Village stroll / food crawl might also be in order, as also a visit to Chelsea Market and/or Essex St Market, or a walk through the Union Square Greenmarket.

    Make sure you get some pizza while you are here! And if you're interested, perhaps some bagels and lox? I know Toronto is supposed to have good bagels, maybe a comparison would be in order.

    Good luck with Babbo -- maybe it will be easier because it is an off day and most people will be out shopping? I'd also say that Les Halles isn't special enough for your "high end" meal either. Balthazar is fun but might also be a little too much on the casual side.

    There's some good chatter about other high end places here:
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/462810

    Other threads:
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/461086
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/397225
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/401880
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/405260
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/394041
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/450793

    1. r
      rrems Nov 22, 2007 06:35 PM

      As pistachio says, Les Halles and Balthazar are no substitute for Babbo. I love Les Halles (though it is not high-end) and would recommend you try it as a good example of French brasserie cooking, but do call Babbo as soon as the phones open at 10 AM and keep trying until you get through. Other places that come to mind that I think would be particularly worth trying in the moderate price category are Crispo for Italian and O Mai for Vietnamese. Also, Perilla and Compass, both of which are interesting and delicious, and not terribly expensive.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rrems
        p
        pistachio peas Nov 23, 2007 07:39 PM

        Thank you so much kathryn and rrems. there are some great suggestions in there. I think the LES tour is such an amazing idea, but i'm not sure that we'll have time to do it on this trip.
        well i tried and tried babbo today and actually got into their system at one point, only to be told "the lines are busy, please call back." well, tomorrow's another day!
        it's hard to say what our budget is for food exactly. we're not really budgeters, but let's say we probably would like to keep most of our meals happily under $40-50, except for one special night. i think that's pretty reasonable.

        also - i have another question: we are staying in the upper west side. what is a great breakfast place? or i guess any breakfast place that is good between penn station and 79th (ha!!)

        you are all so lucky living in nyc!

        by the way, kathryn, toronto's bagels are ok. i much prefer montreal style. though i should say, toronto bagels are big and good for sandwiches (like the new york ones) and montreal's are so sweet and chewy that i prefer them hot straight from st-viateur bakery in montreal, with a little salmon spread for dipping. more of a snack, really.

        1. re: pistachio peas
          k
          kathryn Nov 23, 2007 07:51 PM

          There's a good chance that Babbo doesn't have any availability left for the days of your trip -- but their reservation lines are open until midnight each day. Try again, ASAP, and see what's open. And if you're unlucky, there may be cancellations closer to your trip date.

          When you say $40-50 do you mean, per person with drinks, tax, and tip? Or for the two of you? If for the two of you, that's quite low in NY so I'd search for "cheap eats" on this board. What cuisines do you prefer?

          Ah ha, got my wires crossed then. Montreal bagels! I thought you lived in Montreal! Whoops.

          Even if you don't have time to do the LES walking tour, at the very least, stop into Katz's Deil to take in the atmosphere, the decor, the history, etc. A pastrami sandwich will easily feed the two of you for quite cheap!

          Great breakfast abounds on the UWS: Sarabeth's for country-style but refined, Barney Greengrass (BTW, they are closed on Mondays) for a taste of NY decades ago, Ouest for more upscale brunch on Sundays, The Neptune Room for cool and casual but comfy, Nice Matin for a bustling, French brasserie style. (I believe Ouest only serves it on Sundays and Neptune Room only serve on the weekends, however.)

          Here's another thread that may help:
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/461330

          1. re: kathryn
            p
            pistachio peas Nov 23, 2007 08:26 PM

            oh kathryn, you are the best! thank you so much.

            i am going to be on babbo all weekend! (between writing papers and grading papers...ugh)

            well, i meant for the two of us. i know nyc can be expensive, but i figure for lunch that is a pretty good amount. we'd be willing to pay more for nice dinners. we like italian, french, mexican, japanese, american, pretty much everything. i have this itch to try sea urchin, though for some reason i am afraid to as well.

            oh yes, we will go to katz's definitely. i've been there and like it a lot.

            thanks for the UWS tips too! i read that thread. we will definitely hit up the counter at zabar's. i thought i had died and gone to heaven when i walked in there.

            1. re: pistachio peas
              k
              kathryn Nov 23, 2007 09:08 PM

              Best sea urchin in the city is supposedly at Sushi Yasuda but I haven't been just yet. I had a wonderful piece at Kanoyama the other day. Mmmm. I'm racking my brain to think of a top sushi place that's $50 a person now that Ushiwakamaru has temporarily closed, perhaps other hounds can help.

              I'd skip Mexican while you were in NYC as it's not a strong point. There's tons of affordable American, Italian, and French in the city, though!

              If you loved Zabar's, definitely hit up Chelsea Market and/or Essex St Market, Union Square Greenmarket (open M, W, F, and Sa), maybe Kalustyan's. Despana? See also:
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/420110

      2. s
        Simon Nov 23, 2007 09:01 PM

        Hi. Here are a few thoughts:

        -- Don't go to Les Halles!...if you do a search here you'll find legions of complaints about service and noise and food...

        -- Balthazar is one of my favorites, but not for prime-time dinner hour...i find it a charming place to get a snack and some wine in the afternoon (their trout/spinach salad is great, as are the oysters) or an after midnight snack...

        -- if you're in the East Village, you also might like Lucien, small fun French bistro w/ great bouillabaise, endive salad, chocolate cake. the owner is nice, and if you tell him you are visiting NY and had heard of his restaurant, etc he will be delighted...very crowded at night with a bit of a hipster vibe, but mellow in the afternoons...

        -- Russ&Daughters for smoked salmon/bagel to go...it's right near Katz's (and Lucien)

        -- i'm not a big Batali fan, but if you want to try Babbo, just show up when they open and grab a seat at the bar...but i think there is much better Italian food with less attitude/rudeness elsewhere than at any of the Batali joints...i won't go to any of his restaurants, with the exception of Casa Mono, which is a fun place even though it occassionally has the same problems as the others...

        -- Il Giglio is a different kind of higher-end Italian, but it's my favorite: old-school romantic quasi-formal setting, but in Tribeca so it's not stuffy...the antipasti comes gratis and is wonderful (particularly the fried zucchini and the chunks of parmesean)...shrimp fra diavolo is excellent...wonderful reasonably priced wines...

        -- two casual Italian places: Cacio e Vino (2nd Ave, near 4th St) has interesting Sicilian specialties as well as wood-oven pizzas, so it's an excellent place for a food&non-foodie to go together...it also has very welcoming staff and good wine and is a great steal price-wise, and a little bit romantic too...i also like Malatesta in the far West Village...

        -- the oyster bar at Grand Central Oyster Bar...eat only oysters (raw and fried), soup, maybe salad, beer/ale/wine, and sit only at the oyster bar, not at the tables...a classic NYC experience...(and enjoy the little trick outside where you talk into opposite corners and can hear whispers from the other side)...

        -- also maybe try "n" (pronounced "en-ye"), a wine-bar/tapas place on Crosby St....more for drinks than food, but it's a very cute little bar...there was a thread about it yesterday...right near Balthazar, so good for a drink before or after...

        NY is lovely right before Xmas, and it's a great time for your bf to visit the city for the first time. Have a great trip.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Simon
          t
          tpigeon Nov 24, 2007 12:44 PM

          I am a huge Babbo fan and I second the idea of showing up early to grab a seat at the bar or even one of the tables near the bar. You get the full menu. Don't forget to try the olive oil gelatto for dessert.

        2. BennyNYC Nov 24, 2007 11:19 AM

          I can only talk about my 'hood, the East Village (since I never seem to leave it):
          Cafe Mogador - fantastic. I practiaclly live there. (Very crowded most nights from about 8 - 11, and brunches are insanely crowded as well)
          La Palapa - (actually really good Mexican, a rarity here)
          Crooked Tree - a creperie that is not overpriced like most of them here, but really good crepes, and one of the few places that offer both Nutella and chocolate crepes.
          Del Frisco - really, really high-end steakhouse, but puts Morton's to shame. (oh, and hey, it's in Midtown, should you be unfortunate enough to actually be staying there)
          Inoteca - awesome everything Italian...
          Stanton Social Club - annoying scene-ster place, but very good food.

          Happy eats!

          1. r
            rrems Nov 24, 2007 06:38 PM

            I don't know what Simon is talking about with regard to Les Halles. I did a search on Les Halles and could not find much in the way of recent postings, and the complaints I did find were mostly directed at the John St. branch, which I have to agree can be disappointing. The 28th St. one is my recommendation. I also see some complaints about the steaks, and this is something I do not order so I can't comment on that. The dishes I recommend are the smoked herring, choucroute, boudin noir, and steak tartare. Some other dishes may not be extraordinary, but those I mention are not found on many menus in New York, and Les Halles has IMO the best versions of them. If these interest you it is well worth a try. Service can sometimes be amateurish, but I have never had a truly miserable experience and when something relatively minor has gone wrong the management has been very apologetic and has compensated with a reduction in the check or free desserts so I never got upset about it. I can't think of a better place to experience a classic brasserie without going to France.

            9 Replies
            1. re: rrems
              p
              pistachio peas Nov 25, 2007 09:52 AM

              ooooh! oooh! guess what? last night, i suddenly remembered "i should be trying to call babbo". so i called and got through and i got a reservation!!!!! i am very very happy, to say the least.
              i will definitely hit up chelsea market this time, as i wanted to before.
              BennyNYC, what is cafe mogadar all about?

              Simon - thank you for all the tips. the oyster bar sounds amazing! i totally want to try that.

              i kind of do want to try les halles, cause i'm a big fan of bourdain, but i don't know if that's a strong enough reason. it depends on my bf as well, if we're feeling up to another dinner like that after the babbo night (which will be on our first night there)

              eeeeeeeeeeeee!

              1. re: pistachio peas
                k
                kathryn Nov 25, 2007 11:56 AM

                Congrats on Babbo.

                Cafe Mogador for brunch is kind of diner breakfast meets Morocco sort of food. It's hearty, good, and inexpensive, but not necessarily someplace I'd go out of my way for.

                BTW, from what I hear Bourdain is only nominally involved with Les Halles these days.

                1. re: kathryn
                  r
                  RGR Nov 25, 2007 03:30 PM

                  Bourdain has not had anything to do with the food being served at Les Halles for many years. Frankly, with so many other great places to have French bistro/brasserie cuisine, I'd skip Les Halles. The food's barely mediocre, service is awful, seating would make a sardine cry for help, and the noise level is insanely high.

                  1. re: RGR
                    r
                    rrems Nov 25, 2007 07:15 PM

                    RGR, I usually agree with you, so I am very curious about your bashing of Les Halles. If you can tell me what other restaurants serve the dishes I mentioned above, please tell me as I would love to try them and compare.

                    1. re: rrems
                      r
                      RGR Nov 25, 2007 10:23 PM

                      Hey, rrems,

                      It's nice to hear that you usually agree with me. :-)

                      I haven't had the dishes dishes you mention because they are not ones I particularly care for. My comment about the quality of the food is based on what I've eaten there -- mainly steak -- and I stand by my opinion in that regard. But even if I thought the food was o.k., the fact that the ambiance so miserably uncomfortable is enough to keep me away!

                      You may want to give Cafe d'Alsace a try. I've been there once and liked the food. I don't think the herring is on the menu, but the other three dishes you mention are. Service is good, and the atmospherics are agreeable.

                      http://www.cafedalsace.com

                      1. re: RGR
                        r
                        rrems Nov 26, 2007 05:38 AM

                        Thanks, RGR. Cafe d'Alsace does look interesting and must be good as it is under the same ownership as Nice Matin which is one of my favorites. If I can just get enthusiastic enough to trek all the way to the UES... Unfortunately I do not see any of those dishes on the menu other than choucroute. Boudin blanc is nothing like boudin noir (blood sausage). I'm sure you are right about the steaks, but as I said I am not a fan of steak and have not had it at LH. Also, I do not find it so uncomfortable now that they've expanded the restaurant. We usually get a larger table even if it's just 2 of us, and we rarely go in the evening when it is very busy. I love it for Saturday lunch and it does not get so crowded then.

                        1. re: rrems
                          r
                          RGR Nov 26, 2007 07:27 AM

                          Oops! I didn't look carefully enough at Cafe d'Alsace's boudin. Just saw the first word and moved on.

                          I can understand your reluctance to shlep all the way up there. We went because our daughter and her fiance live in that neighborhood. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't make a special trip. While it's good, I really don't consider it a "destination" place. (Btw, our favorite in that restaurant group is Marseille.)

                  2. re: kathryn
                    s
                    Simon Nov 25, 2007 08:07 PM

                    yes, i like Mogador too...not a real destination place, but a very solid, tasty meal if you're in the neighborhood, and pretty good East Village vibe/people-watching...

                  3. re: pistachio peas
                    c
                    cricri7 Nov 26, 2007 03:31 PM

                    Les halles is fun to try for breakfast. It is not too expensive and you get great coffee with roasted baguette and homemade jams...all that for under 10$!

                2. belleocchio Nov 25, 2007 10:26 PM

                  Balthazar was my favorite when it opened, and still is today. If not for dinner, go for a cocktail, brunch or just something from the bakery. It's in a great part of the city, and is very authentic bistro. 4 years ago when I was there, Jaques Pepin sat at the table behind me. (My 1st cookbook I bought was by Jaques on french culinary.) A time before that Martha Stewart was there. Don't go for that (celeb spotting) but the food is truly great and people who know food and could go anywhere still choose to go there.

                  My last visit I went to Wakiyu at the Grammercy Park Hotel.. a friend of nobu's, I think.. this is a new fav set in a sexy setting and the food is delicious and the cocktails amazing. Mango Martinis... sooooo good and the bang bang chicken phenomenal.
                  Last but not least.. Bond St. They just re-opened and as far as sushi goes, you cannot beat it. The chef is so creative with combinations it's unreal. I get a little nervous with sushi, trying new things,.. but here there was no fear after the 1st bite of our bartender's 1st suggestion. I recommend sitting downstairs in the lounge/bar and eating there. Warren, the bartender, makes the most amazing drinks and great recommendations for what sushi to try.

                  enjoy! I've eaten at Babbo.. love mario, but I would still go to Balthazar 10 to 1. Pastis for cocktails is fabulous, but if you are going out to the meatpacking dist.. dance your ass off then head over to gansevoort to Florent, a "diner" of sorts.. for the most delicious cheeseburger on an english muffin. (they have everything you could crave from omlettes to escargot.. all delish)

                  Ok.. I am gonna stop. it's hard, but I am gonna stop. :)

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: belleocchio
                    p
                    pistachio peas Nov 26, 2007 09:25 AM

                    thanks so much everyone.
                    do you need reservations for an afternoon visit to balthazar?

                    1. re: pistachio peas
                      s
                      Simon Nov 26, 2007 09:29 AM

                      on a weekday after 2:30 or 3 you should be fine...weekends are a zoo

                      1. re: Simon
                        p
                        pistachio peas Jan 11, 2008 02:46 PM

                        Well everyone, after our wonderful trip, I will say thank you by telling you what we ate.

                        First lunch: Just some place on the UWS called Columbia Gourmet. I had the most amazing crispy chicken fingers - something I'd never order normally- and fries. The bf had a philly cheese steak. It was sooo good for the lunch counter thing that it was.

                        Dinner - BABBO
                        this was the most amazing experience EVER. seriously. the people were so nice, the service was great (almost over the top actually) and the food was superb, needless to say.
                        We had the Babbo Salumi plate and the Grilled Octopus to start. Then we shared Beef Cheek Ravioli. I had the Lamb with Sunchokes and Yogurt and the bf had duck. We shared some roasted potatoes. For dessert we split the pistachio and chocolate semifreddo and i had an espresso. (which was so so)
                        I know we didn't try anything very adventurous, but I don't care. It was still the best ever.

                        Breakfast the next day was had from a grocery store. The weather was nice so we sat outside the Met and ate yogurt, fruit and some juice.

                        Lunch - UNFORTUNATELY was at the Met. We each had a sandwich, a salad plate and a juice. Total price? $55. ugh. But we had a lot to see and needed to refuel for round 2 so ultimately it was worth it I guess.

                        Dinner - A Salt and Battery in the West Village. We both had Haddock with Chips and Mushy Peas.

                        Dessert at the Magnolia Bakery - Red Velvet Cake and cupcakes. (we took these to go and had them later)

                        Next day:
                        Breakfast at Zabar's breakfast bar. Lox and cream cheese bagel, juice.

                        Lunch - Roma pizzeria in the lower east side. we also had some of gus' pickles. YUM.

                        Dinner - some mexican place in the east village. we were walking around for awhile and just ended up there.

                        Last day: Breakfast was something quick - can't remember.

                        Lunch: Balthazar.
                        We shared the Plateaux de Fruits de Mer. AMAZING. with 2 stella artois each. and we shared creme brulee for dessert. i had a cappucino as well. lovely.
                        As much as I loved Babbo, I couldn't get over Balthazar. I want to go there again and again. We had a reservation at 3pm, which was a great time. The longer we stayed, the more I noticed the crowd change, and the less I enjoyed it. The quiet-ish afternoon was much better.

                        Anyway, looking back now, we didn't do a lot of the eating that I wanted to do, but I crossed some longtime must-dos off of my list and thoroughly enjoyed everything we ate.
                        Next time, I will plan it out even more and have even more great food to eat.

                        Thanks again for all your help!!!!

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