31st & Park... Best Cheap Eats for a Southerner
I will be traveling to NYC staying around 31st and Park in January (provided snow doesn't cancel the trip)! It is only my 2nd time in the city and I am looking for your recs. I am on a pretty tight budget so any special tips you may have would be appreciated. I want to visit some NYC landmark eateries. All genres welcome. Will be there Sun-Wed. Thanks for your help!
I'll just address the neighborhood you're staying in:
I think the best Indian in Curry Hill, and the best South Indian in the city period, is Saravanaas, Lexington & 26th. I don't think Curry Leaf is a good Indian restaurant at all.
Ali Baba, on 34th between 2nd & 3rd, is fantastic, reasonably priced Turkish. While the kebabs are good, my favorite things are the pides (Turkish stuffed-dough, something between a pizza and a calzone), the appetizers (get a mixed app. plate) and the grilled octopus salad.
As far as a NY landmark, the 2nd Avenue Deli has just reopened at 33rd & 3rd.
I haven't been to the east side Grand Sichuan, but Szechuan Gourmet on 39th between 5th & 6th is better, I think, than the Chelsea Grand Sichuan.
In addition to the Indian recommendations you're getting, be aware that you are only a few blocks east of Koreatown. It may be worth your while to go to some of the Korean restaurants on 32nd or/and 35th Sts., which are mostly between 5th and 6th Avs.
If it's cold, some soothing mandoo soup at the Mandoo Bar on 32 St. just west of 5th could hit the spot.
For heartier fare, consider Han Bat on 35 St. just east of 6th Av. You can have some good Hyaemul Dolsot Bibimbap (mixed-seafood rice [with various other ingredients], cooked in a stone bowl) plus a good banchan (free side dishes) with 6 dishes that can be refilled on request for about $13. What a deal! :-)
And for something even more substantial, consider going to Madangsui, further east on the same block as Han Bat, for barbecue. You'll have a terrific meal for around $25 plus tax per person. Not only did I love the barbecue there, but their 8-dish banchan was lovely and they also gave some delicious Dwenjan Jigae (spicy, fermented bean paste-based stewy soup) as a freebie. Highly recommended!
Not landmark eateries but I work in the area and these are my favorites for a quick grab-and-go lunch:
1. Shake Shack (23rd and Madison)
2. Lamazou (27th and 3rd) -- delicious sandwiches from a tiny cheese shop with great service
3. Roomali (27th and Lexington) -- "Indian burritos" called roti
I live in the neighborhood as well, and think Penelope is ok but not great. One great option in the area are Tiffin Wallah (28th just west of Lex) for South Indian all-vegetarian food (their lunch buffet is an incredible deal, but it's very affordable for dinner as well and is BYOB for now.). I second Curry Leaf, which is great for meatier northern Indian dishes, and I second Grand Sichuan Int'l as well, although I'd go over to the one on 9th and 24th where the atmosphere is much better. I'm also a big fan of Sarge's, which is an old-fashioned Jewish deli on 2nd btw 36th and 37th. Their corned beef hash platter is a killer breakfast in several senses, and they make a great Reuben as well. Also, walk down to 18th st and get a burger at the bar at Old Town -- an ancient, cavernous bar that I believe managed to stay open somehow during Prohibition.
I would also encourage you to do a search on this board to find some great advice on lunch time deals. You get the pleasure of some top notch restaurants (if that's your thing) at a fraction of the dinner time cost. Depending upon when in January you might catch restaurant week as well.
Unfortunately, I can't think of any "landmark" types of places in this area, and I live right around the corner from this intersection. My recommendation if you want "landmark" types of places is to get on the 6 Train and head down to the West Village or the East Village or Soho. You can pick it up at 29th & Park and go to.....
John's Pizza, Corner Bistro, Whitehorse Tavern, all in the West Village, Katz's on the Lower East Side, and Lombardi's in Soho.
For some cheap eats that maybe aren't too "landmark-ish" but are in the area of your hotel, I'd go to Curry Leaf at 27th & Lex for Indian, Penelope for a cozy atmosphere & comfort food, then there's Grand Sichuan on Lex b/t 33rd & 34th for good chinese, and Murray Hill Diner on 33rd & Lex for good diner food.
I'd second Penelope. Also: Shake Shack is walkable (Madison Square Park). It's not a landmark spot, but you could also have a plate of pasta and a glass of wine in the small enoteca/bar room at I Trulli (27th bet. Park and Lex), and a newish and certainly very well written about place (that's all the rage) is Momofuku Ssam Bar - which is only two subway stops and a short walk...might be worth venturing to...