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San Franciscans visiting New York - 3 Dinners

We will be in Manhattan for three nights in September. Here are the three dinners we hope to schedule: EMP, Babbo, Balthazar. Any comments, thoughts or other suggestions would be appreciated. We also intend to have a shared pastrami on rye at Katz's.

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  1. Balthazar is a bit of a step down from EMP and Babbo - not sure if that is your intention... You sould do pizza for lunch too and something like patisserie claude and/or barney greengrass for breakfast.

    Personally, I'd do something like little owl, spotted pig or momofuku ssam instead of balthazar. People who actually live here will have better suggestions (I used to and visit frequently).

    1. I agree with tpigeon. Balthazar is more a destination for scene and vibe than for food. You might consider it for breakfast (particularly for the eggs en cocotte), when the people-watching is just as, if not more, interesting than at dinner.

      Babbo will be incredible, but mind the month-to-the-day reservations advice discussed in great length on this board.

      Have a great trip.

      1. Hey, bobpantzer,

        I have not been to Balthazar, but if it is you intention to include a French bistro, I would recommend Benoit, Alain Ducasse's new bistro, on 55th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs. The food is delicious, and the interior replicates the original bistro with that name in Paris.

        http://www.benoitny.com

        If you would like to do another upscale restaurant instead of a bistro, there are several excellent ones to choose from. Let us know and we will make suggestions.

        When you go to Katz's, be sure to do counter service as we natives do. (Table service is for tourists. lol) It's traditional to tip the counterman a $1 or $2. He will give you a slice of pastrami to taste. It should have some fat on it and be moist. If you approve, he will make your sandwich and give you a plate of pickles and, if you like, sour tomatoes. He will mark the ticket you received when you entered. Hold onto it because you will need it when you exit. Be sure to have a Dr. Brown's soda (my choice is cream).

        10 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          Thanks, RGR, I have been following posts on this board the past month or so and have printed your LES tour which we definitely plan on doing--in fact, that's what's leading us to Katz's and, for sure, I will follow your rules and your route. Thanks for the Benoit suggestion, my wife is a retired French teacher and we have visited Paris often and that is what's leading us to a French bistro--with the weak dollar, we've opted for NYC this year instead of Paris.

          1. re: RGR

            Hi, I am also going to be in the city soon and want french bistro. we'll be staying at the hampton inn and I understand there's a french rest. right next door. Do you know anything about it? thanks. is Benoit the best choice?

            1. re: joni mae

              Hey, joni mae,

              There are several Hampton Inns in Manhattan. Which one are you staying at?

              1. re: RGR

                I believe it's the one on 8th ave. in the 50's.

                1. re: joni mae

                  Hey, joni mae,

                  Sounds as though the French bistro you are referring to that's right near that Hampton Inn is Tout Va Bien, on 51st, just west of 8th Av. I'm not a fan.

                  Also close by is Chez Napoleon, a family-owned classic French bistro, on 50th, b/t 8th & 9th. Though we've not yet managed to eat there, there have been only positive comments from Hounds who have.

                  http://www.cheznapoleon.com

                  I do think Benoit is worth the short walk to 55th, b/t 5th & 6th.

                  1. re: RGR

                    Thank you. That answers my question. Chez Napoleon is where we'll go. Sounds like what we're looking for. If you ever want info on South Carolina lowcountry, let me know.

                    1. re: joni mae

                      I'd love to know how Chez Napoleon is. There was a nice article in the NYT about them, and we thought it would be fun to try. One point that I noted was that apparently a lot of French tourists like to go there, because they can't find that kind of French "home cooking" at restaurants in France any more.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        That is absolutely true, MMRuth. I am always surprised when I go to France how difficult is is to find places that serve organ meats. Chez Napoleon does these very well, along with the usual bistro standards. If there is a weakness, it is the vegetables, but that may be typical of French home cooking too.

                        1. re: rrems

                          Thanks - that's good to know - my husband loves organ meats.

              2. re: joni mae

                I've been to Benoit once and enjoyed my meal. Nothing outstanding, but a good brasserie meal. It's about on par w/Balthazar.

            2. emp and babbo get a lot of favorable comments on this board. deservedly so. balthazar might be a welcome relief from "high-end dining syndrome."

              for better relief, consider some oysters at shaffer city at 4:30 p.m.. have a vodka gimlet or two at the bar with a dozen blue points. enjoy the fish tank. when finished, walk down to una pizza napoletana. if you're there on a wednesday, skip una pizza napoletana (it's open thursday-sunday) and walk over to stuyvesant town (a nearby apartment complex) and catch a concert in the oval. it's free. walk over to bar jamon for some cava and very fancy spanish ham. be prepared to stand at the tiny bar. you can always move to casa mono (next door) when a table opens up.

              have too much fun.

              1. Bob: I'm a San Franciscan almost (Napa) who recently had a wonderful week in NY.

                Eleven Madison Park was terrific for my only visit there. Babbo (two visits) was less so -- cavernous, noisy, impersonal. I'm convinced that their food is great. But, my experience was hectic and not great.

                I agree with the suggestions above re The Little Owl-- intimate and very West Village. Also, Perilla is in the same category of calm, neighborhood delicious. Drinks before/after at Rusty Knot, Spotted Pig or the big emporiums of the Meatpacking District (Morimoto, Del Posto) are a wonderful evening combination.

                Let us know how it turns out.

                3 Replies
                1. re: cortez

                  Thanks for the input, cortez. Incidentally, we moved to SF last October after having lived in Yountville for over 12 years. I'll let you know about our visit when we return the end of September.

                  1. re: cortez

                    Babbo was "Cavernous" ...the Babbo I go to is anything but cavernous

                    Consider the phoenix like Gramercy Tavern as well...its very very good and has received lots of awards and accolades with its new chef...Danny Meyer knows what he is doing, for sure....Momofuku Ssam or Degustation for one of your dinners would be a nice interude between EMP and Babbo....

                    1. re: Cpalms

                      I was a little thrown by the description of Babbo as "cavernous," myself. Also, Babbo is loud but no moreso than many high end restaurants in SF, which tend to be pretty noisy.