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May 20, 2008 11:50 AM

Visiting NY 5/29 - 6/1: Help with food itinerary

Hello Chowhounders,

My wife and I (we are in our late twenties) will be vacationing in the East Coast (New York, Boston, Maine, Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Hamptons) We are from the Los Angeles and Orange County area and wanted some help with a food itinerary. I have been searching the boards and found some restaurants that might fit into what we are looking for. Please feel free to suggest otherwise. We will be staying on the New Jersey side and taking public transportation into the city, so we would like to keep most of our choices within Manhattan unless a place is a must.

We are looking to spend no more than $60-90 for the both of us during lunch for a few special lunches, but the cheaper it is the better for us. For dinners we would like to spend no more than $100-130 for our special dinners. I don't drink alcohol and my wife does occasionally.

We are both open to all kinds of cuisines but we aren't looking Asian or Mexican food.

We would like to eat at some of the high end restaurants without breaking the bank. I have heard that eating lunch (prix fixe) at many of these restaurants is the way to go. Could anyone recommend a few places with great food and great lunchtime prices? I have found a few, are there better ones out there?

EMP - Lunch $38
Jean Georges - $28
Perry Street - $29

We are also planning to go to Degustation, Babbo, and possibly one of the Momofuku's for dinner. Would it be too late to get a reservation for either of these? We are open to any other suggestions.

Also looking for must haves during our stay in New York. Some places we would like to go are Katz for their pastrami, Il Labratoria Gelato for some great gelato, Pizza, I have heard about Artichoke, Difara's, Lombardi's, and Grimaldi's. We have been to Joe's Pizza translpant in LA. Any must have hot dog spots? Gray's Papaya? Or any other very New York and must have's? Shake Shack?

I have read about RGR LES food tour but haven't seen it in its entirety. Could someone describe or link it?

Feeling pretty lost right now with distances with all of these restaurants and how much eating we will be able to get in a day.

I apologize for the long post, but wanted to be as precise as possible. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. $100-130 for the BOTH of you for your special dinners? Including tax, tip, wine (how much would your wife drink)? I think you can easily do Degustation, Babbo, and a Momofuku restaurant (Noodle Bar or Ssam Bar but not Ko) as long as you don't go heavy on the wine (a glass or two for your wife as opposed to a bottle).

    It's probably not too late to get a reservation at Degustation if you call now. Note that there are two tasting menu options: a five course, and a ten course, as that matters to your bottom line.

    Babbo opens its books a month in advance to the date and the reservations are all gone within that day. You could try walking in and eating at the bar or the special walk-in tables, but it is very crowded. I guess call to inquire about any openings, as there are cancellations. If you wish to walk-in, you should line up before the restaurant opens for dinner service (it's on the early side though) otherwise be willing to wait for a while. Being flexible helps too (i.e., willing to take a 10pm reservation).

    Momofuku Noodle Bar doesn't take reservations. Momofuku Ssam only takes reservations if you want to order the marinated pork shoulder butt (Bo Ssam) -- which is a huge dish, requiring at least 6-8 people to eat it with you. As for Momofuku Ko, it is probably out of your price range. And it is the hardest reservation to get in town right now - 10am, the book opens up 6 days in advance, only online reservations, and they're closed Tuesdays. The reservations are usually gone within 4-5 seconds. I would say go to Momofuku Ssam Bar, and wait. It's typically not that long for a 2-top to open up because so much of the restaurant is counter seating.

    > Katz for their pastrami


    > Il Labratoria Gelato for some great gelato

    Yes, it is very good. I'm partial to the Thai Chili Chocolate. And the seasonal fruit flavors. And try Otto's olive oil gelato with sea salt if you have the time, as they serve continuously throughout the day, and you can order gelato at the bar, too

    > Pizza, I have heard about Artichoke, Difara's, Lombardi's, and Grimaldi's

    I'd say in this order:
    1. Di Fara (will be a TREK if you are coming form NJ)
    2. Artichoke (they have very irregular hours though -- like being closed randomly on Saturdays for lunch, why?!)
    3. forget Lombardi's and Grimaldi's

    I love Luzzo's and Patsy's of East Harlem (no other Patsy's). Joe's is not as good as it used to be. Neither is John's of Bleecker Street. However, you guys have Mozza! Totally different style, I know, but *oh* so delicious.

    > Any must have hot dog spots? Gray's Papaya?

    Crif Dogs is very fun - they serve it NJ style, which is to say: deep-fried, no batter. Sometimes, bacon wrapped. Yum!

    > Or any other very New York and must have's

    Bagels and smoked salmon at Russ & Daughters.
    A big NY brunch (Five Points, Prune, Clinton St. Baking Co., Balthazar, etc.)
    High-end cocktails...ah, mixology... (PDT, Death & Co., Flatiron Lounge, etc.).
    New American? Perhaps something more low key, like a hip neighborhood spot?

    > Shake Shack

    I love Shake Shack but my CA friends complain it's "like an overprised In'n'Out" because its focus is on thin patties with sauce. Personally, I love it, but recognize that it's on the expensive side, the line sucks (Who are you people? Get out of here! It's MY shack!), the fries are mediocre, but I love the location, the burgers, and the frozen custard (especially the daily flavors). YMMV, especially if you hate waiting in line for "just a burger." BTW, is your preference for a thin patty? Big giant patty? Sauce or no sauce? Fancy toppings? Obviously, you'd probably dislike Shake Shack if you want a big 1/2 lb. burger with no sauce.

    Best breakfasts/brunches in Manhattan:

    Here's a recent thread about quick take out / snack places:

    Make sure you check out RGR's LES Noshing Tour too:

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      Hi kathryn,

      We cross-posted at the same time. But I think we are pretty much along the same line.

    2. A few notes / corrections on your prix-fixe lunch list:
      - EMP - $38 is for the market lunch. The gourmand tasting during lunch time is $58. Otherwise you can do a la carte.
      - Jean Georges - $28 is for 2 courses. Another additional course will be $12 each. Dessert is $8 extra.
      - Perry Street is $24.08 for 3 courses at lunch. Again, $12 for each additional course

      Other great lunch prix fixe:
      - $24.08 for 3 courses at Tocqueville
      - $29 for 3 coursese or $46 for 5 courses at Fleur de Sel
      - $38 at Craft

      As for dinner, I think you are WAY too late for all the places that you listed. However, there are still ways to get into these restaurants:
      There will be no chance for Momofuku Ko. Momofuku Ssam or Noodle Bar doesn't take reservation so if you hit the place earlier enough (6:30ish) there won't be much wait.

      Babbo needs 30 day in advance to get reservation and they are gone in 10 minutes. You still have the option of walk in, only provided that you wait at the door at around 5pm (before it opens) and grab the bar seating. It may seem like a hassle but I think the food is well-worth it.
      Another option is to go to Del Posto (reservation much easier) and get the enoteca prix fixe ($45 for 4 courses). The options for each course are limited but you still get great food at a bargain price. This is always a good backup in case you can't get into Babbo.

      Lupa is another option for Batali's experience. Again, walk in for the most part as you are unlikely to get a reservation at this point.

      Degustation - I am not sure about this. You just have to call and see. It is a very small restaurant with only 16 seats, so availability is limited. Just need to call to confirm.

      Other places that you can try are Perilla, Casa Mono, Allen and Delancey, or Little Owl. They are all within your price range (assuming no/low alcohol). They are popular but not impossible to score a table.

      Your causal dining options are fine. Katz's and Shake Shack are "MUST". Others are optional IMO. (you can remove Lombardi's right away)

      18 Replies
      1. re: kobetobiko

        I don't think Craft has lunch service any more :( as I just checked their web site, and the lunch menu has been removed. Alas!

        If you wish to dine at Little Owl, either go for lunch or call right away for a dinner reservation. Little Owl is impossible sometimes, in my experience.

        1. re: kathryn

          Thank you kathryn and kobetobiko for your suggestions and input on where to eat during my stay. It is really nice to have someone who is knowledgable helping out. Very, very much appreciated.

          It looks as though you both would agree with the choices I have made then? Or would you replace any of those with better options?

          I will try to look into those other recommendations.

          Is Shake Shack really similar to In and Out? If so, it might just be out then.

          If you think of any other ideas or suggestions please keep them coming.

          1. re: Tony

            Hi Tony,

            Since you are staying for 4 days, it looks like there are so many places that you want to go. You will have to pick and choose for sure.

            I think you have the right places, but for the prix-fixe lunch, you can only do Jean Georges on Thu or Friday as the prix fixe is only available M-F. If you can get into JG then you don't have to hit Perry St which is inferior to JG. Perry St. can be served as a back up option.

            I forgot to mention two other great prix fixed lunch options available DAILY that you should consider:
            Gordon Ramsay (the main dining room) at London Hotel - $45 for 3 courses
            Maze of Gordon Ramsay - $28 for 2 courses, $35 for 3 courses
            Bouley - $38 or $45

            My favorite is Gordon Ramsay. It is less Asian than JG yet very solid and satisfying contemporary French. Bouley is more Asian so if you can hit JG I think it is optional.

            I have heard the same argument about Shake Shack vs In and Out. Will you be intereseted in Texas Barbacue? I don't think LA is big on BBQ. You can try Hill Country which opens at noon till late at night. I think it may be something you can't get as easily in LA.

            1. re: kobetobiko

              Thanks again kobetobiko.

              Looks like a take a pass on Shake Shack, not enough meals in a day. Thank you for the suggestion on BBQ. LA has a some pretty decent BBQ spots, but rather save my precious meals for other types of meals. I appreciate the thought though.

              You are right about the four days and actually it is even shorter than that. We arrive Thursday 22 at 5:30 PM and are leaving Sunday 1 at around noon time.

              We don't necesarily have to have breakfast places, neither one of us are big eaters in the morning.

              So far I have made reservations to Degustation and Eleven Madison Park. We aren't completely set on any of these places. Open to changes.

              Logistically ( distance from each other ) do most of these sound reasonable?

              As stated earlier we will be staying on the New Jersey side and don't plan to go back to the hotel until late into the night. I will most likely be in jeans and my wife a dress of some sort. A change of clothes would be a hassle to bring but if worth it, we would do it.

              So here is what my days might look like:

              Thursday 5/29
              Dinner: Momofuku Ssam Bar or Babbo

              Is Babbo impossible to get into for a walk in with no reservation? Is this a horrible idea?

              Friday 5/30
              Breakfast: Katz (Modified RGR food tour)
              Lunch: Jean Georges
              Dinner: Degustation

              Is Nougatine worth going to? Instead of Jean Georges? I called and they said no jeans permitted. I guess I could bring a pair of khakis or slacks and a change of shoes along with me. Just hope it would be worth it.

              Saturday 5/31
              Lunch: Eleven Madison Park
              Dinner:Babbo or Momofuku Ssam Bar

              How is the dress code at Eleven Madison Park? They said it would be fine to wear jeans and a short sleeve button up. Would I feel really out of place?

              Sunday 6/1
              Brunch / Lunch: We wouldn't mind a restaurant or just snacking on many different NY treats.

              1. re: Tony

                Hey, Tony,

                Eleven Madison Park is our favorite NYC restaurant. We have been there countless times for brunch (and lunch and dinner). On Saturday, it's brunch. Although service is, as always, polished, the vibe is even more laid back than the relaxed feel at other meals. Very casual dress is perfectly acceptable, so no problem with the jeans and short-sleeved shirt. In fact, during the summer months, I've seen Bermuda-style shorts and t-shirts at Saturday and Sunday brunch.

                With regard to the food, my suggestion is that you skip past the breakfast side of the menu -- certainly tasty but not particularly unusual -- and immerse yourself in Chef Humm's sensational lunch dishes. Get some wine, and don't skip dessert! It is Chef Humm's cuisine, after all, that's the main reason you are going to EMP.

                We love going there at all times, but during the day, with the (sun)light streaming through the huge windows into that gorgeous space, it's truly magical!

                Enjoy your visit to NYC and Bon Appetit!

                P.S. If you want to take my LES Food Excursion, if you start at around 11 a.m., on Sunday morning (Pastrami for breakfast at Katz's -- Yum!), you should be able to finish it by 1 p.m. :-)

                1. re: Tony

                  It's not impossible walk into Babbo without a reservation. You can dine at the bar. They also set aside some tables for those without reservations. However, it is rather crowded in the front waiting area (esp. with people waiting for tables, both reserved and unreserved, as well as those waiting for the attention of the host, and the coat check ladies), and not something I'd want to do after a long plane ride, especially if you're stopping by the hotel first, and then taking public transit into Manhattan from NJ. By the time you get to Babbo, the waits may be rather long, and you'd be pretty hungry, yes?

                  Walking in at Babbo:

                  Since you get in at 5:30pm Thursday evening (that's when your plane arrives?), I would do Ssam Bar on Thursday, and Babbo on Saturday (arrive before 5pm, when the bar portion opens as the restaurant doesn't open until 5:30pm). And on Friday, call to inquire about cancellations for Saturday as that is the day people must confirm reservations for the following night.

                  For EMP, as RGR says, you'll be fine as the brunch crowd is significantly more casual than the dinner crowd. If you fear feeling about of place, perhaps wear a jacket.

                  1. re: Tony

                    Hi Tony,

                    Looks like your questions are already addressed by RGR and kathryn. The only thing that I will add:

                    Jean Georges- Nougatine is not worth it. It is not the same as JG, and I will not do it instead of JG. The food and service at JG is just a few notches better. I think bringing the khakis is definintely worth it ;D

                2. re: Tony

                  Shake Shack is similiar to In'n'Out in style but I think Shake Shack is much higher quality meat. It's a combination of brisket and sirloin, and you can really taste the higher fat content of the meat. However, the fries at In'n'Out are a completely different style (skins on, completely fresh). Shake Shack's are crinkle cut and frozen. I love them both but for very different reasons.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    Babbo is realtively easy to walk a search, that tactics needed are discussed exhaustively....shorts sleaves and jeans would be a little out of place at EMP.....another great lunch idea would be to go to Pearl Oyster bar...EMP, JG are very formal Pearl is very casual...check it out

                    1. re: Cpalms

                      Thank you kathryn, kobetobiko, cpalms, and rgr for your insightful post. I am feeling the love. Really couldn't have narrowed it down without everyones help.

                      I think I am going to try to snag a walk in at Babbo. We don't really care where we sit, just as long as we have food in front of us. We are a very laid back couple.

                      Is Momofuku really worth going to? We are an Asian couple and enjoy all types of Asian food, but is it something that is a very different asian experience or cuisine? Or should I look for a different place?

                      Here is how the itinerary is looking now:

                      Thursday 5/29
                      Dinner: Momofuku Ssam Bar

                      Friday 5/30
                      Lunch: Jean Georges
                      Dinner: Degustation

                      Saturday 5/31
                      Lunch: Eleven Madison Park

                      Sunday 6/1
                      Brunch / Lunch: Modified RGR noshing tour.

                      Thanks again to everyone for your help. Keep the input coming.

                      1. re: Tony

                        You're welcome!

                        Momofuku Ssam Bar is not really Asian food per se. It's sometimes called "fusion Korean" but I think of it more like contemporary American food with French training behind it, and with umami-led Asian ingredients (dashi, fish sauce, nori and furikake). Small plates made by an iconoclast team of chefs who love great local ingredients (especially pork), and who are willing to buck tradition when it warrants. It's not for the faint of heart (lots of bacon, pork, offal on the menu) or timid eaters. Or vegetarians.

                        I think it makes a nice contrast to EMP, Babbo, J-G, and Degustation. I'm jealous of your itinerary -- I wish I could go on a vacation like yours. :)

                        1. re: Tony

                          I'm Asian as well, but Momofuku really is a different experience -- nothing really like it in LA. You shouldn't miss it. And I agree that Shake Shack is similar to In n Out except that the meat is slightly higher quality at Shake Shack. What Shake Shack has that In n Out doesn't is eating a burger in Madison Park. And Shake Shack has the Shack Stack and Double Stack which is a burger (or two) combined with a deep-fried portobello burger filled with cheese. Very yummy.

                          Sounds like a great eating schedule. Have fun!

                          1. re: Tony

                            Glad that the NYC Hounds could help you put together a stellar dining itinerary, Tony.

                            I see you have a vacancy next to breakfast on Friday. If you tell us where you are staying, we can give you some suggestions though since you will be lunching at Jean Georges, I wouldn't do anything too filling.

                            1. re: RGR

                              Thank you kathryn and Miss Needle for the clarification on Momofuku. I am definitely going to keep that on the itinerary.

                              RGR - I have vacancies on both Friday and Saturday for breakfast. It really doesn't even have to be a breakfast place, just a place that is open fairly early and good food. Are their any must eat breakfast spots in New York?

                              This is also a bit out of region but since many of you are so knowledgable about restaurants, could you recommend me some places in Boston, Maine, Cape Cod, and Hamptons?

                              A BIG thank you to everyone.

                              1. re: Tony


                                To be honest, we rarely eat breakfast out. That said, lots of people like Penelope, on the corner of Lex & 30th. If you go early, you should have no trouble getting a table. I've been there for lunch. The food's good, and the interior has quirky charm.


                                Amy's bread, which has three locations, has wonderful breads, but also has a menu of other items. Breakfast is continental-style.


                                With regard to the other recs you've requested, the moderators prefer that you post those queries on the relevant boards. However, I will make two suggestions. If you will be in Kennebunkport, ME, I highly recommend the White Barn Inn, both for the accommodations and the restaurant, which has superb New American cuisine. And in town, Bartley's, for fabulous "chowda" and first-rate lobster rolls.

                                1. re: Tony

                                  Definitely avoid the bagel/donut/roll carts you see in the city. It's pretty bad. If you want to do a quick, casual breakfast, I would pick up a pastry at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery at the Time Warner Center or Ceci-Cela in Soho or perhaps a bagel at a place like H&H or Ess-A-Bagel or a cake doughnut at Doughnut Plant. I also love Sullivan Street Bakery and Granddaisy Bakery. They've got some great Italian-style pizzas (not the tomato sauce/cheese things) but more like flatbreads topped with different toppings like mushrooms, pecorino romano, tomato, potato and celery root.

                                  There are some very knowledgeable hounds in Boston. You should definitely post something there. But I loved Neptune Oyster in Boston for seafood and raw bar.

                                  1. re: Tony

                                    A second to all of Miss Needle's suggestions for a quick breakfast on the go. I would also add perhaps bagel and smoked salmon sandwich to go at Russ & Daughters (mentioned on RGR's LES noshing tour) although you're probably going to go there AND Donut Plant on Sunday anyway. Abraco (great espresso, pain perdu), Birdbath, or any 'wichcraft location would also be good for a quick pastry and coffee.

                                    It's going to be difficult to eat light at some of the places I love for breakfast/brunch, but consider:
                                    Balthazar (although you can easily get things to go from their bakery next door too)
                                    Clinton St Baking Co (huge, coma-inducing portions though)
                                    Prune (weekends only)
                                    Five Points (weekends only)
                                    Barney Greengrass (although may be redundant if you're going to do smoked salmon/bagels elsewhere)
                                    Shopsin's (famous for its quirky and LONG menu, cranky proprietor, and "rules", check hours before you go)

                                    Weekday brunch and breakfast spots:

                                    Early weekend (Saturday, Sunday) spots for breakfast and brunch:

                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      Thanks again to every for their help with my food itinerary and all around help.

                                      I really could not have narrowed things down and chose these restaurants without everyone's help.

                                      We will do our best to report back on the trip when we get back.

                    2. Hi everyone,
                      I went on a trip to NYC earlier last month with my husband and another couple. I used the recommendations in this thread to help me find some great places. We ate at Eleven Madison Park and Jean Georges for lunch. We also managed to hit Ippudo NYC to get our noodle fix.

                      EMP had a gorgeous environment and fantastic service, and we loved the fact that they had a cocktail menu. The food was excellent as well. We all ordered two cocktails each and sampled. I can't remember every dish (I should have written this up earlier), but there are memorable ones. The day's lunch menu started with veal sweetbread ravioli and a saffron sauce. My husband had the crab cake, which was fantastic. For dinner, I had the suckling pig, and I can't remember what everyone else had. Everything was fantastic.

                      At Jean-Georges, the atmosphere was not as unique as at EMP, but the food was slightly better. Their sparkling sodas were fantastic (yuzu & cherry), and they had amazing home-made marshmallows, truffles and mini cookies for dessert. The dishes were all French with some kind of Japanese twist to it, which I loved. And the service started out a little snooty, but later warmed. I remember a soup that was poured over raw scallops and tuna sashimi. The themed desserts were also amazing, with the chocolate volcanoes and freeze-dried cherries.

                      Ippudo NYC was a loud, rambunctious place with great service, fantastic ramen and a fun atmosphere. Not quiet at all though!