HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >


First time! Food-lovers tips wanted!

Hi everyone,

I'm Italian but I live in London. I'm a food-acoholic, I love trying new places and foods and I write restaurant reviews both in London and in Italy.

I am coming to NY for the first time, and I'm willing to make the best of the gastronomic heaven that it seems to be! I'm stayin in a cheap hotel in the Upper West side and I'm looking for tips on places where I can get good food without spending a fortune (that I don't have, unfortunately)

In particular....

a) Sushi! I am a Sushi-freak, so please help me! I have MY sushi place in London I adore, I'm looking for tips on NY's best cheap sushi places (not so cheap it'll kill me, obviously). Restaurants and take away, both welcome

b) Pancakes! I want to finally have REAL pancakes, blueberry are me favourite...any ideas?

c) American food...like Burgers and steaks....my knowledge goes ad far as Hard Rock here...sorry! I want THE real thing now!

d) Dim-Sum: is china-town good? Any other locations?

e)Mexican food...well, enough said!

f) Cheescake....which is the best place in NY?

And really, anything else I might want to try before I leave...something you consider to be special, cool, worth-going...

thanks so much in advance guys,


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. a. Go to Sushi Azabu, make a reservation in advance, be sure to sit at the counter. I think they have one of those ten pieces for $50 deals or something. It's excellent, and the chefs sauce each piece individually, and serve you one piece at a time.

    b. Clinton Street Baking Company. They are uber fluffy because they whip the egg whites separately and then combine. They also make their own maple butter. It's great. Lines are long. Go on a weekday or for dinner. Yes, they have pancakes at dinner.

    c. for burgers and steaks...well, it depends on your budget. Steak is naturally expensive. Do you want a place that does BOTH well or separate recommendations? What's your budget? What kind of burger (thick vs. thin) or steak cut do you like best?

    d. Chinatown Manhattan is OK but Chinatown Flushing is best. It is cheaper and higher quality. But dim sum will naturally be hard if you are dining alone. You won't get to try as much unless you waste food.

    e. NYC is not huge in Mexican so I'll let other hounds chime in.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Hi Kat,
      thanks for your tips!

      Clinton St is on my list, and the Sushi place as well: any other cheap alternatives? Take away maybe?

      Burgers....well...I like thick ones and Steaks-wise...anything you think it's worth trying. Yes I'd like to go to REAL American places where they do BBQ stuff as well as fried chicken..

      Any other suggestion for cool places that I didn't consider?

    2. Flushing's Chinatown is even more polyglot and diverse, with much more food offerings than Manhattan's Chinatown. That said Mary, you'll have to do a time-benefit analysis. Do you want to spend the 25-40 minutes it can take to get there from Grand Central one way? If you are with a group of 2-4, great then. But how much can one eat solo? Especially dim sum, which by nature requires having a large deliciousness-devouring posse. (There is the faster but more expensive LIRR train from Penn Station to Flushing - and Penn Station is a zoo most of the time.) Otherwise if you want stay in Manhattan....

      For Dim Sum try Chinatown Brasserie (which is not in Chinatown) Dim Sum Go Go or 6 Chatham Square which are. CB is all made to order and more expensive than DSGG or 6 Chatham Square.

      1. a) Ushiwakamaru is a good value, and should be an even better value with pounds. The sushi happy hour at Bamboo 52 is also a pretty good deal for some interesting sushi pieces.

        c) Near your hotel, you can get burgers or hot dogs at Shake Shack, but there is more to American food than just burgers and steaks. Try Shorty's .32, Whym, Freeman's, Five Points, Friend of a Farmer or The Smith for an idea of what else Americans are eating when they're not dining on fast food.

        d) Red Egg is a very good choice in Chinatown.

        e) For authentic Mexican, I think divey is usually best. Taco trucks have specialties beyond just tacos (mole at Super Taco, tortas at Idolo), but you can also try a meal at a place like Tehuitzingo or Taqueria y Fonda la Mexicana. For just tacos, SoHo has a lot of good options like La Esquina or Pinche.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JungMann

          I would choose Sushi Azabu over Ushiwakamaru actually. The selection is not as deep, and it's a little bit pricier, but it's easier to get into, and the ambiance is nicer. Ushi is great, don't get me wrong, but right now I think Azabu is a little more special.

        2. Thanks so much guys....I'm so confused! I want to go to all these places now!

          My budget is...well...the cheapest, the better, really....I'm a young working-girl trying to survive on the minimum wage...:(

          Said that as long as it's not TOO expensive I am open to suggestions!

          I've been told there are good and cheap Sushi places in NY so that's what I am looking for at the moment...there's an amazing Japanese restaurant in London which is also very cheap but the owner himself told me the sushi in NY it's the best out of Japan! So...

          It's me and a friend coming over...do you guys think Flushing's it's worth going? I want to have food-experiences, not just eat....that's why I am glad to know Americans eat more than Burgers and Steaks! Which of the ones you talked about you'd advice to go to?

          So, Clinton Bakery is a must, apparently, so is Shake Shack, what about Red Lobster i've heard about?

          Which one is closer to the Upper west side between Shorty's .32, Whym, Freeman's, Five Points, Friend of a Farmer and The Smith?

          SORRY!I am a total pain...but I'm kinda over-food-exited and I am just worried to come and not try the best places....

          Said that I'm 1,70 and I weight less than 50 kgs but I eat like a farmer after a day in the field....so don't worry! I can handle it! :P

          7 Replies
          1. re: MaryUk82

            what ever you DO NOT GO TO RED LOBSTER.

            1. re: MaryUk82

              For a great cheap burger, go to Corner Bistro in the West Village (very close to the 1 train, which you can take from the UWS). It's a bar/pub, very crowded but super-thick, juicy delicious burgers for $5 with reasonable pints of beer.

              I think Flushing is worth it, especially if you're trying to save money. Do a search on here for one of the Queens tours. You could do dim sum in the late morning in Flushing and then work your way back on the 7 train for Mexican street food (super-cheap) in the afternoon. There's also a cheap Mexican on 107th & Amsterdam if you're that far up on the UWS called taqueria y fonda - it's pretty good i think.

              Do NOT go to Red Lobster!

              1. re: bronxmom

                Ok. No red lobster. I swear on my Cat's soul.

              2. re: MaryUk82

                Haven't read the whole thread but since you appear to be looking for American/comfort food near the UWS....Shake Shack has a location near the Museum of Natural History so that's a good bet if you are looking for something in the area. (None of the other places you mentioned are all that close to the UWS...) You also made mention of BBQ and fried chicken -- around 110th street is Rack & Soul, which has both and is quite good.

                Red Lobster is a chain sit down version of fast food (often fried and "all you can eat," so low quality)...I wouldn't recommend it. If you want to explore New England style seafood try Mary's Fish Camp or Pearl Oyster Bar. Neither is cheap but both are far, far more worthwhile.

                1. re: MaryUk82

                  Whym is the closest New American restaurant to the UWS. Harlem, however, has a generous number of traditional Southern and Soul food restaurants that are very reasonable. Amy Ruth's, Miss Mamie's Spoonbread Too are good choices, although Sylvia's is also popular among tourists. If you want American food on the UWS, it is best to go for lunch or brunch where you can get deals at restaurants like Neptune Room, Telepan or Isabella's.

                  Flushing is worth going for Korean and regional Chinese food. Even in London, you will find nothing similar. But for cheap sushi, however, you will find your best bets in the East Village and LES. Cube 63 is a popular BYOB sushi spot and there are plenty of "50% off" sushi restaurants on St. Mark's Place. I have heard others swear by the sushi at Whole Foods, but it seems somewhat depressing to eat at a grocery store during an international vacation. Most of the better sushi in this city is not cheap, though there are plenty of middling places, which is why I think deals like the sushi happy hour at Bamboo 52 are worth trying.

                  But do not try Red Lobster.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    The Whole Foods on Houston street actually has a conveyor belt sushi bar on the upstairs loft which is an area of just restaurantsso you aren't actually eating in a restauarant. As the largest (so far) Whole Foods it it interesting to see and is conveninet to LES. Nolita and Soho all good tourist areas.

                  2. re: MaryUk82

                    Not a fan of Friend of a Farmer . . .

                    Clinton Street Bakery might be pricey for a working girl with a tight budget.

                    You might want to go to Union Square Greenmarket, enjoy the Spring and farmers (it's where the best restaurants in the city shop) and grab an inexpensive breakfast from one of the bakery stands.

                    Also do a search of this Board - there are many, many threads on the best food for a tight budget and top restaurants offering prix fixe deals.

                  3. Thanks again. Well, I'm looking for many things, actually. And they don't necessary have to be on the UWS, actually, I'm willing to explore the city as much as I can so don't worry about the location as long as it's not too far!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MaryUk82

                      Since you are staying on the UWS you might want to consider lunch at Telepan (http://www.telepan-ny.com/lunch.html) for New American. It's $28 for three courses.

                      Or lunch at Jean-Georges which is, I believe $28 for two courses. J-G is generally considered one of the best restaurants in the city.

                      Lunch is a bargain at either place.

                      Also a bargain is the three-course, $38 Sunday Supper at Dovetail (http://dovetailnyc.com/pdfs/Dovetail....).

                      Enjoy your visit.

                      1. re: floretbroccoli

                        Note that Jean-Georges only serves lunch on weekdays. Reservations recommended. Make sure you don't end up at Nougatine, the casual room.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          And Telepan lunch is Wednesday, Thursday, Friday only.

                    2. a) Sushi Yasuda is arguably the best Sushi restaurant in NYC. A nice thing to know about it is they offer a $22 Sushi platter, 8 pieces with half a roll. If you want to taste what elite sushi is, I HIGHLY recommend going for this. Sit at the counter, and try to sit in front of Yasuda himself, you'll enjoy it.

                      b) Clinton Street Bakery without a doubt. Also, I used to live two blocks away from them and I know a little local secret. at 5:00ish, Scones/muffins that weren't sold earlier in the day are given out FOR FREE in unmarked brown bags by the entrance. Awesome little foodie tip.

                      c) For steak, Peter Lugar in Brooklyn is the best, but I'm not sure if it's for the super cheap. It's worth considering though. Anyway, for hamburgers I go with Zaitzeff (sidenote: whoa ironic! I was featured today about Zaitzeff in the chowhound email about turkey burgers. que suerte) Anyway it's run by a family, and the mama owner I met is such an awesome, quirky new york character. It's other location in FiDi is busier than the Alphabet City one.

                      d) Joe's Shanghai in chinatown. I love this place. It's a New York classic and usually busy. Weekday waits aren't bad. Weekends are super busy. The menu is HUGE and you'll have many, many choices. Love it. Super Cheap. Try the soup dumplings.

                      e)Mole in the Lower East Side has quickly become a downtown favorite for Mexican and rightfully so. It's FANTASTIC. For ages after traveling to Phoenix, I was longing for Mexican food of this caliber in NYC. Their Burrito Enchilada is amazing. Enchiladas Suizas's sauce is so balanced and interesting. It's affordable, tiny space, they are only open for dinner.

                      f) Eileen's Cheesecake in Soho/Nolita. I agree with Ed Levine(Critic) in that this is the best cheesecake shop in New York. It's right near the Spring St. 6 subway stop too. They even offer tiny bite-sized cheesecakes at a cheaper price. I absolutely guarentee you'll be satisfied.

                      Bonus: Caracas (Venezuelan Arepas) in the east village is a very popular, cheap, amazingly tasty place for Arepas. If you don't know what one is, it's basically a crispy-crepe-pita with very tastey fillings--a east village staple/favorite. It's also--luckily--very cheap. 6-8 dollars per arepa. Great atmosphere as well.

                      Anyway best of luck! New York is amazing food city with plenty to offer. If you have any questions or are curious to some other cuisines/feeling adventurous, feel free to ask. Cheers!!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: silencespeak

                        Silencespeak, don't know how to thank you!
                        I guess I need luck, indeed....I want to write a guide about Rome, London and New York best places but NY seems to be a very tough cookie for someone who doesn't know the city at all!

                        1. re: silencespeak

                          Two quick Outer Borough responses (moderaters, please excuse). Luger's is both quite expensive and also not appropriate for a single as the Porterhouse for Two (about $80, not including any sides) is what they do best. For sushi, the best value in NYC is Taro Sushi a little whole in the wall one stop into Brooklyn. Check the Outer Boroughs board for reviews.

                          1. re: silencespeak

                            Luger's does not make sense for a single person on a budget it's all about the Steak for TWO (about $80--sides extra). Best sushi value is Taro Sushi, one stop into Brooklyn. Check the Outer Boroughs board for details.

                            Taro Sushi
                            244 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217

                          2. Hi guys, me again!
                            I was wondering....do you think it's betetr to bring cash or just use my credit card? I'm talking in general...but especially food-wise...

                            Thanks so much again...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: MaryUk82

                              Cash for Chinatown, credit card OK for all other places. (If you are an HSBC customer, there are enough ATM's around in NYC.) For soup dumplings, I'd skip Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown and head to Shanghai Cafe (100 Mott Street) for their version. Larger and tastier. Although Flushing is well worth a visit, with just two of you will be full long before you can sample a wide array array of good eats, unless you just want to sample treats in the several food courts.

                              1. re: scoopG

                                i use credit card for everything and if store/restaurant doesn't accept-i go elswhere-love those milage points!!!!!!! i use for a vacation every year!!!!!

                              2. re: MaryUk82

                                Credit card usage is fine BUT some places in NYC (usually the smaller ones) are cash only or American Express only. Be sure to ask or look it up before you go. Also street vendors are cash only. Also, for the tip, you can charge the meal to your card, and leave cash for the tip, and the servers generally prefer this method.

                              3. Hi Mary,

                                My top tip for mexican food with a very cool vibe is La Esquina in Soho. Its situated under what looks like a crappy diner, you go through what feels like a hidden door once inside and head down stairs, through the kitchen and into the actual restaurant! The food was great when i want there which was actually a while ago and the crowd was good to. Its not super cheap but neither is it going to kill you. Good Luck and GO THERE!

                                1. Hi Mary--

                                  I make an annual visit to NYC to visit my family, so I'm always on the hunt for cheap and delicious NYC food.

                                  One thing to bear in mind is that if you limit yourself to Manhattan, in the "cheap" range (and here come the defensive flames.....) you're primarily looking at pizza, bagels, hot dogs, inauthentic (Americanized Chinese food) and the occasional eclectic cart vendor with unusual offerings. There are exceptions to this.... cheap Indian food, the dosa cart man, various halal carts/restaurants, etc... but by and large what you'll see in Manhattan a proliferation of within the "cheap" price range repeated over and over and over and over (and over) is bagels, pizza, hot dogs, Americanized Chinese food, etc.

                                  The point of my telling you this is that the ratio of cheap/delicious and expensive/delicious in manhattan is super weighted to the expensive/delicious side.

                                  Also, this is not meant to dismiss pizza/americanized chinese/hot dogs, as there are some damned fine representations of these available for consumption in NYC. It's just that when you've been back several times like me, you're looking for something a little different.

                                  With this in mind, I made several pointed queries to NY hounds, and got a lot of very interesting results.

                                  Check out the following topics for a treasure trove of information:
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477148 (Manhattan
                                  )http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477178 (Brooklyn


                                  But the real treasure trove of cheap, delicious, authentic ethnic foods is undoubtedly Queens:
                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/547726 (Queens


                                  Good eating to you-- and please report back on your findings

                                  And be sure to check out Di Fara Pizza off the Q line in Brooklyn..... outrageously good New York pizza. Just don't let the old man forget about your order.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                    get some breakfast items/ snacks at Zabars or Fairway on the UWS. Both are NY experiences

                                    1. re: rkaene

                                      Great ideas.... but Zabar's is the quintessential expensive/delicious part of the equation that Manhattan excels at. I was trying to direct Mary to cheaper items.

                                      If you're going to blow your budget, Zabar's is a great way to do it. Buy an S&S Cheesecake..... it's arguably the best representation of NY cheesecake in the city (intensely dense, rich, smooth, wonderful decadence on a fork)

                                      Mr Taster

                                  2. Believe it or not...i'M BACK TO NEW YORK!! Well, I'll be in a couple of weeks!
                                    I had a great time in December....food-wise I've really loved every single meal!!! Your tips have been amazing, so thanks once again...
                                    I'm definitely going back to Clinton St. Baking....their pancakes are unforgettable and so are the Waffles they do in Sarabeth's.
                                    I had an amazing burger at Rare....there was such a massive queue at the Corner Bistro we couldn't get in!!
                                    I went to Yasuda and Yuka...both amazing and to Caltham Sq for Dim Sum, which I liked but maybe it's just too far from our "western" tastes..
                                    I went to Rack and Soul, for Fried Chicken, which was lovely and to so many other places I can't even remember...I had a great lobster in a place in front of the Blue Note...mmm

                                    So, this time I'm looking to "fill the gaps"...any raccomendation? Mexican, Middle-eastern, maybe some decent Soul food...I'm coming with me mum who's a teenager at hearth but
                                    as it's going to be her birthday on the 9th of May I'd also need a special place to take her on that night...I'm not talking about a posh one, just special.
                                    We're staying in the financial district this time...a bit crap, I know, but it's easy to move around in Manhattan at least!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: MaryUk82

                                      Hey Mary, it may make more sense to start a new post so that people aren't confused since you have slightly different requests than last time.

                                      What's your budget for the Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Soul food restaurants? And the birthday restaurant, are you willing to spend a little more?

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        I'll start a new post...you're right!