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Foodie needs advice for first time NYC trip

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Hello fellow chowhounds! I have been searching the boards and I am overwelmed with suggestions, so I figured if I gave my requests, you all would be kind enough to narrow it down!
I orginally come from Miami where I was spoiled with latin american cushine while growing up but have called asheville, nc my home for 6 years now. There is no decent Italian or Chinese food here (although there are some great eateries!) so that is a must.

Is Joe's Shanghai a must in little china? or what is? probably going to go around lunch.

Is Les Halles worth it for steak and fritas?

essabagel is right down the street from our hotel and I want a damn good bagel. good, bad, suggestions?

Italian has me the most lost- something price fixed for a special dinner perhaps. any secret spots that rarely have an off night?

cuban?

any special experiences with ethic food I might not be thinking of?

Lastly (and thank you in advance) any suggestions on nightlife for two married girls in their late 20s/early 30s.. I have no clue. we love live music (from jazz to rock) and we both have been known to karaoke it if the environment is friendly and fun. good drink places (wine and cocktails)?

we will be there for four days, including st. patty's- worth going to pubs?

I guest Im pretty excited :)

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  1. Yes to Essa Bagel- nothing to look at, but the bagels are among the best in the city.

    Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown (not little China) is good for soup dumplings. Beyond that there are many better places in Chinatown. Is there any particular type of Chinese food you're looking for - Sichuan, Cantonese, etc. Lots of seafood or not. Also consider taking the 7 train to Flushing, Queens - when you get off the train you'll think you're in Hong Kong. It's about a half an hour on the subway- which, by the way, is the easiest way to get around and very safe.

    Les Halles hasn't been good for a long time (if ever). If you want Steak, frites you can do much better. Do a search of this borard for steakhouses (Peter Luger, Striphouse, Sparks amomng the tops for American style steak). and bistros.

    If you grew up eating Cuban food in Miami, you'll probably be disappointed with the Cuban food in New York. But the city does have some mighty fine Latin places. - mostly hole in the walls.

    As for Italian, New York has hundreds of Italian places - from so called red sauce southen Italian (think meatballs and spaghetti sort of dishes) to Umbrian and Tuscan-Venetian and Milanese. In the minds of many Chowhounders Babbo is the place to go for one of the finest meals you'll ever eat. The problem is getting a reservation. But even if you call and they can't accomodate you, if you show up at the door exactly when they open- I believe it is 5:30 you'll get in. They have a few tables at the front they save for walk-ins.

    For a real New York experience I recommend Katz's deli for the best pastrami in the world, bar none. Lots of posts on this board.

    I'm a big jazz fan and my absolute favorite place to hear jazz is the Village Vanguard- no food, only booze. It is something of a shrine for jazz fans. When you arrive grab a copy of the Village Voice (it's free) and check out the ads and listing for music venues.

    Enjoy.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ann900

      Thank you!
      ok, les halles is off the list and I will just go to joe's for the dumplings- I would love any true frest quality chinese from any of the more popular regions
      Cantonese,Hunan, or Szechuan
      a really fantastic dim sum place might be perfect for both of us.

      totally forgot about Katz's! thank you again.

      1. re: Ann900

        Incorrect. The cuban food in NY is better than Miami. Sad but true.

        1. re: tpigeon

          is casa havana in chelsea a good choice?

      2. I would definitely recommend Joe's Shanghai for lunch. Soup dumplings with crab are a must. If you are adventurous have the fresh bacon with preserved vegetables or the braised pork shoulder (very fatty but delicious). Yellowfish fingers are also very good.

        I like Les Halles for certain dishes, onion soup, smoked herring, boudin noir, choucroute, and steak tartare. Otherwise it is ordinary.

        For a special Italian, L'Impero has a great 4-course prix fixe for $64. Wonderful.

        For casual Italian, Crispo is exceptional.

        O Mai is a really good upscale Vietnamese.

        Marseille is a brasserie with excellent French and Moroccan dishes.

        3 Replies
        1. re: rrems

          crab dumblings at Joe's will happen :)

          Is L'impero easy to get in? as hard as Babbo?

          Marseille looks tempting, Ive added it to the list!

          1. re: ashevillejudge

            Hey, ashevillejudge,

            My husband and I have been to your city. Lovely place. Glad to hear you'll be making your first trip to the Big Apple.

            I'm a fan of L'Impero. As rrems said, it is wonderful in every respect, and getting a res is not difficult. Last time we had dinner there midweek, we got one the same day. Weekends, especially primetime, would be tougher but still doable. On Sunday, they offer a special 4-course "Domenica Rustica" for $42.

            http://www.limpero.com

            Trattoria Trecolori, a favorite of mine and many other Hounds, serves homestyle Italian fare, quite different from the contemporary style at L'Impero, but still excellent.

            http://www.trattoriatrecolori.com

            For Italian that is quite different, Osteria Gelsi focuses on the cuisine of the Puglia region. If you go, don't miss the timballo. Delizioso!

            http://www.gelsiny.com

            Definitely stay away from Les Halles. Mediocre food, poor service, sardine-style seating, and an insanely high noise level. It's living on its relationship to Bourdain who hasn't cooked there in years.

            There are many places to get excellent steak/frites. Marseille is one place, and Park Avenue Bistro, on Park Av. S., b/t 26th & 27th Sts., is another.

            Since you will be here for four days, you might want to consider taking my (in)famous Lower East Side food "tour." As you walk the streets of this interesting, historic neighborhood, you will sample foods emblematic of NYC. Here's the tour:

            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. ( http://www.tenement.org
            )
            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.
            ***********

            Btw, the area where Joe's Shanghai is located is called "Chinatown." We do have "Little Italy," "Little Korea," and "Curry Hill."

            Enjoy your visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

            1. re: RGR

              Italian--Forlini's 93 Baxter st.(this is in Chinatown) Google it for reviews. IMO, The best Italian restaurant in NYC

              Chinese-Hop Lee 16 Mott st. A good sign that this is a very good restaurant is....it's filled with mostly Chinese people.

              If you go for lunch, make sure they give you the lunch menu and not the dinner menu.

        2. I love Strip House for steaks.

          If you've never done so, definitely scope out the St. Patrick bar scene but be prepared for a mob house in the bars. Think crowded shoulders to shoulders.

          When you order at Joe's, anything other than rice dishes is meant to be shared. So grab a small plate and scoop out portions at a time onto it. Many times I see tourists with a whole plate of noodles/Whole Fish/Whole steak/whole vegetable order in front of them. It scares me when I see this, plus they could be trying so much more together.