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Sep 13, 2008 09:55 AM

1st time visit from T.O next weekend

So, we only have two opportunities to try the restaurants of New York as the most part of our days will be consumed with tourist attractions. I have ensured that our "street eats" include the San Gennaro Festival on Friday afternoon, and then some hot dogs at the Yankee game, Gray's papaya saturday afternoon and H&H bagels and/or doughnuts from the donut plant for our roadtrip home (other take home food recs are welcomed)

I'm hoping that you could help me with my process of elimination for our two meals below:

1. Dinner Saturday night - 4 ppl approximately $50-60 a person, looking for American style, contemporary food
In no particular order:

1. Fig and Olive
2. The little Owl
3. Dovetail
4. Blue Hill

2. Brunch Sunday morning - reservations required?

1. The Smith
2. The Morandi
3. Balthazar
4. Patisserie Claude

Thanks so much!

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  1. I haven't been to Dovetail. I'd say Fig & Olive is your worst choice. Also, it's more Mediterranean than American. I really like Little Owl. I haven't been to the Blue Hill in the city, but Blue Hill at Stone Barns was very good. Definitely notches above LO in terms of refinement, service, and experience.
    Patisserie Claude doesn't serve brunch, just baked goods. I'd recommend a recommendation at The Smith and Balth. You may be able to do Morandi w/o reservations. All are good choices.
    Also, the San Gennaro festival is no longer really a destination for good food. It's packed and touristy. I'd avoid.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Lucia

      Little Owl for four people might be impossible this late in the game. I don't know what it's like in Toronto but popular restaurants in NYC get booked up the moment the open up a new date in their books. For the Little Owl, next weekend, Saturday night, good luck. They're either booked up or will offer you 5pm or 10:30pm.

      Ditto to what Lucia said about brunch. Balthazar is probably my favorite out of those and reservations are HIGHLY recommended as it is crowded and extremely popular for brunch. Claude's could probably be a take-out destination if you plan on wandering around the East Village. It's literally a tiny store front with a take out counter and some tables and chairs. Not a full service restaurant.

      > the San Gennaro festival is no longer really a destination for good food

      Sadly, this is true. It is genericized and has become like every other Manhattan street fair. The only items that distinguish it are the sausage sandwiches, gelato stands, and the oyster shuckers. There are people selling grilled corn (is that even Italian?), Mozzarepas (since when is that Italian?), funnel cake (ditto), zeppoles (which were fried hours ago), and pre-filled cannoli (I'm a little hesitant to buy one from a place whose tray of 200 has been sitting out all evening).

      1. re: kathryn

        Oops! Let me clarify: Claude's is in the WEST village, not the East Village. And my friend who is practically obsessed with Claude's (he recognizes her by sight, sometimes she pops in several days in a row) says that if you can't make it there early in the morning, it's not worth going.

        1. re: kathryn

          I agree that his pastries are much, much better in the morning.

        2. re: kathryn

          Even the sausage sandwiches at San Gennaro is not dedicated to this Lttle Italy festival, anymore. Any street fair in NYC has sausage sandwiches stalls nowadays.

        3. re: Lucia

          Quick update: I went to The Smith for brunch this morning. Made reservations on OT and we were seated on time. When our food didn't come for about half an hour (we had bread and drinks, so we weren't even complaining), our server came by and offered us a round of drinks on the house. Food came out seconds later. I loved my chicken sausage and eggs--perfectly poached, good cornbread, good sausage, good gravy, and really liked the home fries. My friend liked her smoked salmon benedict too.
          I'd say Balthazar is my least fav of your brunch options b/c it is so frenetic and cramped, but it's also probably the best in terms of getting a "New York experience"/ scene.

          1. re: Lucia

            Thanks for the update on The Smith. This looks like another brunch place that we'll be going to soon.

            1. re: RCC

              Good to hear - I've made reservations for the Smith next sunday. Can't wait.

        4. You'd definitely need reservations at Balthazar. Patisserie Claude has just a couple of tables at which you can eat what you buy at the counter, so it's a very different experience, and not brunch - just pastries. Great croissants and pain au chocolats though. I've not been to the other places you've listed. Have a great visit.

          1. Blue Hill is a great choice from local American food. One of my favorite places, but might be a bit over, depending on wine choice. It is also down in the village which would be a lovely place to explore in the evening.

            as for the above comment about San Gennaro, it might not be the most exciting food wise, but its lots of fun, and for an out of towner a perfect NY (tourist, B&T and local) experience.

            1. If you mean The Smith on 3rd avenue-I'd avoid. Substitute Spotted Pig for Little Owl. San Gennaro is a scene but the only food worth getting are the pork braciole and the zeppole. Also Katz's (take home a salami) or 2nd Ave Deli instead of Gray's Papaya. Russ & Daughters or Barney Greengrass for brunch.

              7 Replies
              1. re: guttergourmet

                Russ & Daughters is take-out only. If the weather is nice, there are benches in the park across the street (1st Av. & 1st St.).

                1. re: RGR

                  Thanks for the info on the San Gennaro Festival! We have a lot of food festivals in Toronto like our Taste of the Danforth (which is greek food) and they're normally known for good food, so I thought this was going to be of the same sort - I guess not.

                  I didn't think that it would be that difficult to get reservations; but now I know. I will definitely give Little owl, blue hill, spotted Pig and Balthazar a call and try my luck.

                  I think I've been able to narrow down the Brunch to Balthazar, and we'll see how dinner works out.

                  Thanks for the recs and will post our review when we return!

                  1. re: jlibs

                    Note that the Spotted Pig doesn't take reservations.

                    The Little Owl and Blue Hill are members of However, they may not put up all of their free tables online. If you cannot find the date/time you want, give them a call.

                    Balthazar takes reservations only via phone.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      I guess that takes Spotted Pig off the list. I really don't feel like waiting in line for a restaurant.

                      Maybe next time guttergourmet!

                    2. re: jlibs

                      I lived in Toronto for years and go back often. San Gennaro is nothing like Taste of the Danforth. Think more like narrow streets literally packed with hundreds on hundreds of people- many plastered and pushing- even getting to the food stalls is a nightmere- and virtually all the food sucks

                      Gray's Papaya does sell a good dog- but really not worth going out of your way for. I suggest heading for Katz's for pastrami -a real "only in New York," taste. (Also- don't expect much from the vendors at Yankee Stadium - a place never known for its food options.)

                      H & H is not a sit down place- you line up and buy your bagels, period. Try Barney Greenglass (see postings on this board) not far from H& H- very good bagels and nova, and many other Jewish appetizing items- all very good.

                      1. re: Ann900

                        Yes, H&H is not a sit down place. They sell everything to go and will not make you a bagel sandwich (but Russ & Daughters will). If you wish to make yourself a bagel sandwich, however, you can easily pick up some smoked salmon and cream cheese across the street at Zabar's.

                        Barney Greenglass = Barney Greengrass. Note that Barney Greengrass has two areas: a take out side, and a sit down restaurant side (which is perennially slammed on the weekend mornings).

                        1. re: kathryn

                          And Barney Greengrass is cash only I believe, just as a heads up.

                  1. re: thew

                    B Greengrass is cash only on weekends; takes credit on weekdays.