Los Angelino's short visit to NYC in September..where to get...
1. a signature NY cheesecake?
2. A nice dinner for two? a not to be missed place. Nothing too too expensive, but good nonetheless. I eat anyting but nuts, peanuts and oysters, thanks to allergies. Something I can't get better versions of in LA.
(please, no pastrami wars started up...I love Langer's, you love Katz's, the world keeps revolving with love.)
3. A basic do it yourself salad bar (Any Whole Food's near Chelsea?)
4. great beer/microbrew spot.
1. S&S is by far the best cheesecake in ny. With a "short visit", I'll assume you won't be able to get up to the Bronx. But you can pick one up at Zabar's (Bway at 80th). They are amazing.
Enjoy your visit.
What is your budget for number 2? There is a Whole Foods in Chelsea, on 7th Avenue and 25th Street. Not too up on microbrews, but when I had a great hamburger at Stand, I noticed that they had a lot of microbrews on tap. Cafe d'Alsace, on the UES, has a huge selection of beers, and a "beer sommelier" I believe.
Check out Waterfront Ale House for microbrews. Try some NY Italian for your nice but not too expensive dinner -- this is something I miss in LA. I recently had an awesome meal at Apizz, though it might be pricier than you mean. I'm a fan of Le Zie in Chelsea, though it's more a solid neighborhood spot than destination dining. I'm sure others have suggestions in this vein. In addition to the Chelsea Whole Foods, there's also the Amish Market on 23rd with a decent salad bar.
PS: If you get a chance, try some falafel, shawarma, and (above all) hummus at Azuri Cafe. I'd be really curious to get your comparison with Hummus Bar in Torrance.
Diana; there is a place called Foods of New York (http://www.foodsofny.com/) and they do great walking/tasting tours in several neighborhoods. I lived in NY and went on their small (usually no more than twelve people) tours whenever visitors came in. They teach you a bit about the neighborhood (I did the Village) and point you to little hidden "gems" of restaraunts, and you get to taste food from all of them as a part of the tour. If I recall the tours are about three hours, full of fun discussion food and drink... and by Sept. it will have cooled down a bit so it is a perfect time to go on a walking and tasting tour... who knows, you might discover your own perfect little place for two!
Have you been to Katz's and disliked it? If not, I think you're doing yourself a disservice by not going. All New Yorkers should try Langer's when they're in LA, and all Angelenos should try Katz's when they're in NYC. The two styles of pastrami are so different I think it's absurd to even try and argue that one is better than the other. It would be like trying to argue that Italian food is better than French food. If you really love LA-style pastrami, you may find Katz's bland (I found Langer's excessively salty), but I think it would be a mistake to let Nora Ephron have the final word on something you've never tried yourself.
For your nice dinner, I'm pretty sure there's nothing like Degustation in LA... tiny restaurant, bar seating only, inventive, (predominantly) Spanish food.
Second Daveena's excellent point. It's worth it to try Katz's so you can form your own judgement. I find that Langers makes a tasty sandwich and that Katz's makes excellent pastrami.
Look into Shake Shack so you can compare to Father's Office.
Check out Yasuda (in front of the master himself) so you can compare to Mori and Zo.
Momofuku Ssam for dinner.
Bar Boulud for charcuterie.
Mary's Fish camp for the lobster roll and/or whole grilled branzino stuffed with herbs and garlic.
Peter Luger for steak and finish with the cheesecake mit schlag. Decadence upon decadence.
I actually prefer PL for lunch because I get a burger as an app, then a steak for 2, then pecan pie and sunday for dessert, decadence upon decadence upon decadence :). I maintain that PL makes the best burgers in NY btw and you can only get them at lunch.
Oh yeah, forgot the shrimp cocktail :).