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Calling all Manhattan-ers in the know!

Hi all,

I absolutely love this website. I read it all the time and am always interested in the lively banter and different opinions on food and restaurants. If anyone ever needs advice on the best places to eat in Vancouver, Canada - give me a shout...I have lots of input!!

I'm writing this post to request your input on a few things. I am taking my boyfriend on a surprise trip to NYC on June 5th-June 8th. We are both foodies and absolutely love dining out. I have a pretty good idea of most of the places I'm going to take him....

Babbo's/Lupa for sure - he loves Italian and idolizes Mario Batali...I've read enough on CH to know which dishes to order and am really looking forward to the experience!

Ali Baba - My boyfriends' favorite place in the world to travel is Turkey, so this was a no-brainer.

For lunch I would definitely like to check out the Burger Joint and le Parker Meridien...and maybe Otto's.

I'm stumped on my third dinner....I would love to try Per Se (good luck getting a reservation!) but I think he would prefer something a little less...well...."fancy". I've checked out Chanterelle's website and Aerole's based on some feedback I've read here...but neither of them seem to fit what I'm looking for....

To give you an idea of what I'm thinking...his last trip to NYC included a trip to the Gramercy Tavern...and there he ate a meal so wonderful that he still, to this very day, raves about the quality of food and service. He claims it was by far the best meal and experience he has ever had - and that's saying a lot coming from him!

I've thought about taking him back there...but figured maybe I should try something new. We like all kinds of food. I'd really like to be blown away by the whole experience, without it being too stuffy. I'm looking for great food, excellent service, and a very cool vibe (but not too loud or nightclubby). Does that make sense??

...so I'm hoping to ask you the following:

1. What do you think of my choices so far?
2. What other restaurant would you recommend for our third night there? (We'll be there for Thurs/Fri/Sat evenings...and I haven't given much thought to which restaurants on which night....
3. Any other great lunch suggestions?
4. Where should we have a fabulous brunch on Sunday? (I can't believe I just wrote "fabulous"...)

Finally...although I may be in trouble for asking this....I'm trying to decide on a hotel...and have looked at The Mercer, 60 Thomspon, Gainsevoort, The Bowery, The London, SoHo Grand and the Gramercy Park...I know they are all different and all in different parts of town...we walk EVERYWHERE so I'm not overly concerned with location....though I do really like SoHo and the MeatPacking district....any hotel input would be SO appreciated! (I'm struggling more with this choice!) Sorry for asking that question on CH....but I know you guys are experts in your city!

Thanks so much in advance...I so LOVE your city and cannot wait to make another trip there!

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  1. ...hi again...forgot to add that it's his 40th birthday (for whatever that's worth)...and no, I'm not expecting balloons or free food...just thought I'd give you a little more info about our trip! :o)

    1 Reply
    1. re: smartini

      I would try emp for you dinner. I like emp more than grammercy.

      Maybe something like Momofuku Ko for your other restaurant -- if you can get a res...

      Gotta have a pastrami sandwich at katz's for lunch. Going further than that I would look up RGR's LES tour. If you love to walk and eat (a lot), this is the way to go.

    2. For lunch, I do highly recommend Jean Georges (the main dining room, NOT Nougatine). Great service and exceptional food for a fraction of the cost of dinner. It's $28 for two courses, $12 for an additional course and $8 for dessert. I absolutely love it!

      If you want something less fancy, I do like the Little Owl very much. I went there for lunch only since I have a relatively difficult time getting there for dinner but I do like their food very much.

      Bar Boulud is a good choice for lunch also. It's considered the most casual of all of his restaurants with good charcuterie and I remember their sandwiches look very tempting but I didn't get to try it.

      And I do second the Eleven Madison Park suggestion - the crown jewel of Danny Meyer's restaurant empire. Or you can eat at Mia Dona for very good, casual, intensely flavored, Greek-infused food.


      4 Replies
      1. re: chocokitty

        I totally second JG's lunch at the Trump hotel. It is the best lunch deal you can get in Manhattan. (Note: Avoid the Nougatine room which is right next door) Just note that it is only available M-F so you should plan according.

        If you are indeed hitting JG, then you can skip Perry St which is a less stellar branch of JG.

        For brunch (assuming you do hit JG for lunch), you can try Perilla and Little Owl then, as Tina suggested. Eleven Madison Park's gourmand menu will be perfect for your third night's dinner.

        1. re: kobetobiko

          You should make reservations and take note of the dress code if you plan to visit J-G for lunch, BTW.

          I love GT (no shame in going back, did he find there when Michael Anthony was chef? If you like seasonal produce, he is great at it and the spring and summer vegetables will get lots of play on the menu) but also love EMP. They are very different animals. Note that the EMP Gourmand menu is a marathon of eating! They had to practically wheel me out afterwards.

          1. re: kobetobiko

            IMO the brunch at Perry St. is superior to those at Perilla and Little Owl. I love Perilla for dinner but found their brunch disappointing. No harm in going to Perry St. even if you have lunch at JG. Though they are under the same ownership, the menus are different.

            1. re: rrems

              I think the menu at Perry St. is similar rto JG (it literally is a towned down version, which is ok, but inconsistent execution is the problem) but inferior. That's why I said if OP is going to JG, there is no need to go to Perry St and should try something diferent. I personally think that it is redundant to do JG twice with the worse one coming after the best one. If OP can't go to JG, then by all means go to Perry St.

        2. For Sunday brunch, go to Perry St. Superb food and the best lunch bargain in Manhattan. For one of your dinners I recommend Degustation. It is a unique experience. Perilla is another casual spot with great food, and Bar Blanc is upscale but casual and trendy. I'd skip Otto, but do try to get into Babbo or Lupa. If you haven't reserved them you can try doing a walk-in. For the other places, you can probably still reserve, but don't wait much longer.

          1 Reply
          1. re: rrems

            Second Degustation - it's amazing. One of my faves in the city and INCREDIBLY cheap for the quality of the food. Also a very cool vibe and a unique setup. JG is wonderful for lunch and a great bargain. Babbo is a must.

            For Sunday brunch, I recommend Norma's (for over-the-top, ridiculously sweet and enormous waffles, french toast, etc). Aquavit is also supposed to have an AMAZING spread on Sundays - it's a buffet for $48 pp. I've not been, but I had a great dinner there a couple of weeks ago and can highly recommend the restaurant in general.

          2. China Grille for lunch is great.

            1. If you get into Babbo, I'd skip Otto and do something completely different.

              Another 'hounds trip itinerary (incl. Babbo walk-in strategizing) that includes Babbo, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Degustation, etc.:

              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. Craft

                Soho Grand

                Barney Greengrass for brunch/lunch - no alcohol, crowded, very ny

                1. Sushi Yasuda would make a killer lunch too.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tpigeon

                    Lot of great suggestions and choices here. Your boyfriend is a lucky man!

                    I would skip the Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien and go to BLT Burger in the Village instead. All my friends and I have been blown away by it.

                    I would do Jean Georges lunch over Perry Street, no question.

                    I would do Perilla or Little Owl for brunch.

                    And definitely Eleven Madison Park for your "Grammercy subsitute." The food there just gets better and better.

                    1. re: BW212

                      I agree about skipping burger joint. it's a good burger place, but I think it gets extra point for it's location. corner bistro is one of my favorite burger experiences all around. i just love the vibe of that place. if you really wanted what most people consider to be the best burger, you'd have to endure the insanity of shake shack.

                  2. Hey there. So, it seems like all the restaurant thoughts are pretty good. I would also recommend EMP and even Soto, if you are into sea urchin. For hotel, stay at Thompson Hotel...while the others may be trendy, only by staying at the Thompson Hotel (or by being a VIP) can you get access to their rooftop bar, A60. And, if you decide not to go far, Kittichai (in the hotel) and Tailor are nearby. Enjoy!

                    1. Okay everyone - thank you so much for all your input!

                      I have reservations at EMP for Saturday evening, Ali Baba's for Friday evening and Lupa for Thursday evening. Believe it or not, Degustation is closed for the chef's wedding the night we were planning on going there!!

                      We are also planning on doing the LES tour from RGR (Thanks so much!) on Thursday during the day. Is a weekday okay for that tour??

                      I do have a couple of questions for you:
                      What do you think of Gotham?? Is it anywhere near the experience of EMP?
                      Lupa seems like a fantatstic restaurant. If you had to pick one restaurant in all of Manhattan that you would consider to be the most authentic, "rustic" Italian experience (with pasta just like Mama used to make) which would it be? My boyfriend LOVES italian food and there are some top notch, high-quality Italian restaurants in Toronto and Vancouver Canada, but we are always on the lookout for traditional, great italian. It doesn't have to be expensive - just really, really freakin' good!

                      Can any of you shed some light on that for me? I'm thinking along the lines of spaghetti and meatballs, kick-ass gnocchi, veal parmesean to die for, etc. Any suggestions along these lines would be appreciated.

                      Thanks again!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: smartini

                        I think you will be very happy with Lupa for Italian. The gnocchi are wonderful, they don't have spaghetti and meatballs or veal parm, but the bucatini amatriciana and the saltimbocca are great. The full menu is on their website. I also love the testa (head cheese), a huge portion and great to share. I would not compare Gotham to EMP. Gotham is good, but nowhere near as elaborate preparations, nor as high in quality.

                        1. re: rrems

                          I really like Lupa as well - the amatriciana is, as rrems says, wonderful, as is everything else I've had there. Good service, laid back vibe, quite near to Kee's Chocolates - what more could you ask for?

                        2. re: smartini

                          Hey, smartini,

                          Glad to hear you're taking my tour. :-) Thursday would be perfect.

                          I'm also thrilled that you will be going to EMP. It's our favortive NYC restaurant.

                          Have a great time and Bon Appetit!

                          1. re: smartini

                            for old-school Italian in an elegant setting, i highly recommend Il Giglio...caesar salad, fantastic shrimp fra diavolo, great wine list, gratis antipasti (particularly the olive-oil-saturated zucchini and huge pieces of parmesean), delicious grappas w/ dessert...it's in Tribeca...

                            i am not a fan of Batali establishments because of the rude attitude that is very common there, especially from hosts/hostesses...i've had several tasty meals at Lupa but others which were marred by the staff, and i no longer go there, period

                            given your preference for older-school style Italian, and your desire to hit a Batali place, maybe you should have your Italian meal elsewhere but go to Casa Mono...it's the only Batali place that i like: it's a cute, tiny tapas joint on Irving Place...

                            Soho Grand is a dump (embarassingly crappy rooms given the price)...i've never stayed at The Bowery but have been in the bar and it looks very nice and is in a great location...

                            i'd also recommend hitting Balthazar, either on a weekday afternoon or late-late at night, or for breakfast...and the Russ&Daughters bagel&lox (i like the gaspe salmon the best) is one of my fav things in the world.

                            Have a great trip...

                          2. For lunch saturday AND Sunday, you may not be able to do any better at all than the Big Apple Barbeque Party, Madison Square Park, Madison Avenue between 23rd and 26th Streets, pitmasters from all over the Eastern US doing their once-a-year best - Ed Mitchell's stand, now called The Pit, serves up excellent Eastern NC-style pulled pork, this year at 26th Street and 5th Avenue, put your slaw right on that sandwich! Several excellent brisket cookers too, can't remember names, but GO, sniff 'em out!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bob192

                              http://bigapplebbq.org is the site. There will be purveyors from all around the U.S. Many from outside NYC.

                            2. smartini,
                              Try tiny little Frank in the East Village. On Second Avenue between 5th and 6th. I don't think you can see the sign unless you look very carefully. It is good authentic Italian in the East Villlage. My son and daughter's favorite place. No reservations and sometimes a long wait but very good food. It is not Lupa but well worth the visit.


                              1. For your third dinner I would consider Picholine. If your boyfriend raved about Gramercy Tavern I think he will love it. It is not too fancy but still formal. I love it!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bronwen

                                  If you're looking for great pasta's you really cant go wrong with Lupa. You will also love Babbo as well.
                                  There is a ton of debate on Crispo some love it some not so much..but if you are looking for that traditional red-sauce italian..meatballs, gnocci, etc..it may be worth checking out. it tends to be a notch above the traditional red-sauce places
                                  I would avoid Gotham Bar and Grill..I find the service lacking, the menu uniteresting and the food defintely resting on its past laurels.
                                  Blue Hill is a nice choice if you like the green-market style of cooking.
                                  EMP is great as well.

                                  nice lunch spot is Casa Mono..great spanish tapas and its a little less crazed at lunchtime..its tiny and dinner is really crowded.

                                  you might want to do a steakhouse...of course Lugers is always great, Keens is a quirky old school NY steakhouse with some of the very best steaks in the city.

                                2. Well, well, well....this trip keeps getting better and better!

                                  I just found out that I got tickets to the Yankees game on Friday night. I'm so happy that we'll get to go to Yankee stadium before it closes. The tickets cost an arm and a leg but at least they're great seats!

                                  The game is at 7:05...and Ali Baba's closes at 11pm. I don't think we'll have time to make it back for that meal - will we??

                                  So - looks like things are getting even more "quintessentially" New York for us!! So now the question would be....where should we eat after the game??!!!??? I don't have the first inclination about restaurants in that area - HELP! We obviously won't be too dressed up....

                                  And by the way - I am super excited about this BBQ event on Saturday - how perfect is the timing???

                                  I cannot WAIT for this trip!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: smartini

                                    Yankee Stadium is in The Bronx so you might want to try the outer borough board for some local recs. (any place on Arthur Ave comes to mind)

                                    1. re: maxine

                                      I doubt that many restaurants in the Yankee Stadium area would be serving late at night. I would go on to Opentable and put in the date and time, and any Manhattan neighborhood you are interested in (the theater district will have the most places that serve late) and see what restaurants come up.

                                    2. re: smartini

                                      Hey, smartini,

                                      An average ballgame takes about 3 hours, so if it doesn't go into extra innings, you might make it back by 10:30. But if Ali Baba doesn't work out, and you want to eat Turkish in that vicinity of Manhattan, Turkish Kitchen, on 3rd Av., b/t 27th & 28th Sts., is a good alternative, and they are open until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays.


                                      There's also an excellent Greek restaurant right around the corner from Ali Baba. Ethos is on 3rd Ave., b/t 33rd & 35th Sts. Delicious food served in a casual taverna-style setting. They are open until midnight.


                                    3. I think it would be well worth your while to take that short subway ride into Brooklyn and go to Al Di La, an amazing Venetian place with an amazing wine list. Try the risotto nero (black squid ink) and malfati.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: NYJewboy

                                        I agree NYJ. I actually prefer Al Di La to Babbo. Plus the neighborhood (Park Slope) around there is a lot of fun - lots of bars and gorgeous brownstones. Dinner at Al Di La followed by drinks at Union Hall makes for a very fun and non-touristy night.

                                        If you're still debating hotels - I love the Soho Grand. Great location - and check out the romance package - sounds cheesy but it doesn't cost extra -you get free drinks, chocolates and breakfast in bed.

                                      2. It sounds like you got lots of good recommendations. If you have time in all that for a drink after dinner, check out Tailor. Their food is great, but they have a pretty sweet bar downstairs where they make the most amazing cocktails.