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Feb 26, 2008 12:15 AM

Looking for neat foodie things to do w/ visiting gastronome friend from France

My childhood friend from France is visiting NYC and he's a serious gourmand--he really loves food and will try anything (he's extreme--makes his own blood sausage kind of thing). We only have a couple of days but I want to take him to do some of those neat foodie things only NYC has to offer. One limitation is that we have to keep it to Manhattan, since our time is so limited and he's on a business trip. What I'm really hoping to take him to are neat NY institutions known for food, like the Sturgeon King on Amsterdam or the pickle shops in the LES. I haven't lived in NYC in a couple of years so I don't remember everything so I need some help! If anyone has some neat ideas please let me know. We only have a couple of nights and aren't on a huge budget, so if there are some really don't-miss reasonable (i.e. entree under $30-40 or so) places that are either super adventurous or just do what they do perfectly, please recommend away!


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  1. I'm assuming you want to stay away from French food. Crispo is IMO the best Italian in its price range (entrees around $20) and better than many other more expensive places. This is the sort of food one does not find much in France so I think it would be interesting for your friend. Chow Bar is an American chef's take on pan-Asian and is also moderately priced, the food is delicious and the atmosphere is lively. Another uniquely American experience would be Virgil's Barbecue, which is inexpensive and tasty. Olana is a new restaurant with an interesting menu combining Italian style with the produce of the Hudson Valley. I have not been there yet but other hounds have praised it. I don't know the exact prices but assume under $40 entrees.

    1. I would recommend RGR's LES food excursion:
      If this isn't the correct site, do a search on the Manhattan board for the"LES food excursion"

      1. I will definitely bring him to Momofuku Ssam Bar for a dinner or a late night treat! I am pretty sure that's not something you can get in France and even Jean Georges said that he loved the food at Momofuku.

        As for NYC only, Russ & Daughters for smoked fish, Katz's for pastrimi, pickle guy that you mentioned, and RGR's LES tour should indeed cover a lot of the LES treats.
        Don't forget a good NY bagel at Ess-a-bagel.

        For other American / NYC Fares, may be Keens for steaks if you can't go to Peter Lugers?

        Also agree with having an Italian, though I will give Babbo an edge over Crispo (which is still good nonetheless). May be a Spanish tapa bar like Casa Mono. Sushi at Yasuda (may be at lunch to stay within budget?) will work too!

        1. oooh I LOVE the LES tour, thank you so much for pointing me to that. Perfect ideas. BBQ is also a fantastic idea, which (being from Texas) I should have thought of right off the bat! Anyone want to dispute Virgil's as best BBQ in NYC? I have been two 2 bbq places in NYC, one was in Queens in Little India and mediocre, the other was Blue Smoke which was amazing. Olana sounds neat, my friend is definitely about slow food too so it sounds like a neat place. I'm not too sure how interested he will be in Italian, but then again it's less about labels and more about amazing food. Sushi is probably something he can't get readily where he lives in the Alps, I don't know Momofuku will have to google that but sounds very neat. Please keep the recs. coming!

          I would especially appreciate recs. beyond the LES/pickle-bagel-pastrami-smoked fish scene since that seems covered. thanks!!

          3 Replies
          1. re: mp413

            I have not been to many barbecue restaurants, so I can't really say whether Virgil's is the best, just that I have had enjoyable meals there. There may be better choices around. If you decide to go for Italian, another good one is Pepolino. I tried it last night for the first time, based on good mentions on this board, and it was excellent. If you search Pepolino on this board you will find the short review that I posted.

            1. re: rrems

              Virgil's is fake bbq. They boil their ribs, it's for the folks who couldn't get into the olive garden or Friday's. For bbq go to daisy may or hill country.

            2. re: mp413

              Hey, mp413,

              I'm very pleased to see that you will be doing my LES tour. :-)

              With regard to bbq, Virgil's is definitely *not* the best place. My first pick would be Daisy May's. Cafeteria-style set-up, not much in the way of decor, but killer ribs.


              However, since you are from Texas, you should really consider taking your ami to Hill Country. Not only is the food very good, but it's got great atmospherics, i.e., a bustling vibe and Country music. Note: On weekends, there are live bands.


              Definitely take your friend to a steakhouse, which is what we have done when our French friends have visited here. Keens is our favorite, and if you're looking for a NYC institution, it definitely qualifies. It's been in its 36th St. location since 1885; therefore, in addition to delicious food and excellent service, there's the wonderful charm of old NY ambiance, i.e., walls filled with American memorabilia, and rows of old clay smoking pipes suspended from all the ceilings, plus pipes belonging to famous people dating back to the 19th century in display cases in the vestibule. And be sure to stop into the bar room where the huge oil portrait of Miss Keens in all her glory looks down upon all the happy imbibers.


              Finally, despite the fact that it may seem like the coals to Newcastle thingy, I suggest you take your friend for one upscale, haute cuisine meal. And to keep costs within your budget, do it for lunch.

              It will not surprise regulars on this board that I highly recommend Eleven Madison Park, our favorite NYC restaurant. If your friend is, as you say, a serious gourmand, I feel certain he will truly appreciate Chef Daniel Humm's sensational cuisine. While the underpinnings are French, it is inventive contemporary American. The wine list is stellar, service is very cordial and polished, and last, but hardly least, the space is gorgeous! During the day, with the light -- and, hopefully, sunshine -- pouring in through the huge windows, it's truly magical. Overall, in my view, a perfect NY haute dining experience.


              I hope your ami has a wonderful visit to NYC, and I wish you both Bon Appetit!


            3. I recently had some French friends visit and I took them on a food/sightseeing tour starting in the West Village, heading east down Bleecker Street toward SoHo, down through Little Italy and Chinatown, and ending up on the Lower East Side. We took a look at Murray’s Cheese and Faicco’s Pork Store, stopped at Claude for croissants (they were interested in seeing how NYC compared); bought some chocolates at Kee’s; browsed Dean & DeLuca; picked up a few more nibbles at DiPalo’s; took a turn around Chinatown checking out the produce, butcher, and fish markets and stopping for some char siu bao at Mei Lei Wah; and then did a partial Lower East tour buying the next morning’s breakfast at Russ & Daughter’s and ending up at Katz’s for pastrami sandwiches. They were pretty well wiped out—to say nothing of full—but talked about it for days afterwards.

              For restaurants we went to Keen’s (they couldn’t get over it), Casa Mono (which they adored), and a late BBQ lunch at Daisy May (which they got quite a kick out of).

              1 Reply
              1. re: JoanN

                That sounds like a perfect outing to me - I love that stretch of Bleecker, Kee's, DiPalo's, etc., and would add Despana as a possible stop on Broome St., en route to Di Palo's.