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Jan 4, 2009 05:49 AM

Manhattan for a January weekend

I am lucky to be travelling to NYC for the weekend as a special treat. That's a treat because I haven't been to NYC sans kids in a few years. I have been pouring over the boards sussing out different restaurants and coffee places but still need a couple of recommendations/ideas.

Here is what I have so far:

I arrive late morning and am thinking of the Prix Fixe meal at Eleven Madison Park. I'll be running around in the afternoon doing some shopping and will have coffee at either Casa Cupcake Cafe, Fika, or Joes.

I am going to see August: Osage County at the Music Box that night. Here's my first question. The play starts at 7:30pm so I am restricted by both time and location for a restaurant. I suppose, though, an early start time might work in my favour as cabs will be more available compared to an 8pm start. Where should I eat? Money is no object (within reason). I would prefer somewhere with great food that is not a "publicity machine type restaurant". Not full of tourists. Have been to Babbo and loved it.

Saturday morning am thinking Clinton Street Baking Company. I will be then up at the Museum of the City of NY plus the Metropolitan. Eisenberg's sounds good for lunch and I know that'll mean zooming all the way back downtown again. Worth it for the egg salad and bacon sandwich or tuna melt?

Will also be making a stop at Books of Wonder and City Bakery across the street.

Saturday night is the Village Vanguard at the 9pm show. Thinking of Balthazar - worth the hype or can I do better? Should I try Babbo again? Where should I go for a drink in the Village that is neighbourhoody?

Sunday morning might be Viand on 86th & 2nd or Sarabeth's as I will be at the Jewish Museum. Any other UES ideas for an earlier morning breakfast on Sunday?

Can't wait to be back!

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  1. You are obviously arriving on a Friday, so if you want to do the $28 lunch prix-fixe at EMP -- which, btw, I heartily endorse (no surprise to regulars here since EMP is our favorite NYC restaurant) -- you have to do it that day because they don't serve lunch on Sat. and Sun.

    For your Sunday morning breakfast, I would recommend Cafe Sabarsky, in the Neue Galerie, on the corner of 5th Av. & 86th St. It's on the entrance level, the dining room is gorgeous, and the Austrian pastries are to die for! You don't have to pay museum admission to eat there, although this small museum dedicated to Austrain arts does have very interesting exhibiis. Caution: Do not eat in Cafe Fledemaus! While the food is supposed to be equal to Sabarsky's, those who have been say the basement space is dreary.

    With regard to your two dinners, with a 7:30 curtain time, it would probably be best if you ate in or near the Theater District. If you do choose a restaurant further away, I think you would have to have a 5 o'clock reservation so that you don't hae to gulp down your food and still have time for the cab ride with traffic always being a consideration.

    To narrow things down a bit, it would be helpful if you would give us a few more specifics. What is your arrival date? What are your cuisine preferences or avoids? Are you comfortable dining solo at a table, or is bar dining more to your liking? What is your budget for food only (alcoholic beverages, nearly 9% tax and 20% tip additional)?

    2 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      Thanks RGR - here are the answers to your questions:

      Am arriving on the 16th late morning. As for cuisine avoids - not a big Greek fan nor in the mood for anything super spicy. Otherwise, anything is fair game. I am comfortable dining alone at a table - my only worry would be that I might get less than great service if dining alone. My budget for food is generous as the flight and hotel are points and this is a special trip. Happy to spend if it is worth it (the food that is) but not happy to spend if it is a "poseurish" experience. Does that help?

      1. re: Sandrat


        Yes, you additional input is most helpful.

        I would never ever consider suggesting a restaurant where you would get less than excellent service as a solo diner at a table. So, rest easy on that score.

        I will put my thinking cap on and try to come up with some appropriate suggestions. Hopefully, other Hounds will chime in as well.

    2. Sandrat,

      I am with RGR regarding the Neue's restaurant. If they are having chestnut soup on the menu (the menu changes) have it! And, if you are interested in the art of that period in Austria and Germany, the museum is a gem, and their bookshop, though only one room, is excellent, filled with all kinds of stuff you can't get elsewhere.

      Also, as the daughter of a museum curator, I think the amount of travel you are contemplating on the day you go to the Mus. City of NY and the Met sounds exhausting! But you probably have abs of steel and feet of toughness, so don't listen to me ;-)

      At the Met, I actually enjoy having a snack and a drink at either the American Wing cafe but due to renovations in the wing they have relocated to the Balcony in the Great Hall, or the Petrie Court restaurant. Fortified, one then sees more art happily.

      Also, I know you plan to head off south that afternoon, but don't forget that the Met has late hours both Sat and Sun, with marvelous chamber music and drinks/snacks on the balcony of the main hall. I like to get there right when they start off to get a seat at 5 (or 5:30). Good people watching over the balcony, too. And the accoustics for the music are charming if inexact.

      As for Sarabeths, I went there once years ago when I lived on 96th st. I woke up early on Sunday (NOT my usual!) and got the paper. As it was early, got a seat right off. And was completely perplexed as to why I kept hearing about how fabulous the place was. I could only conclude that their bakery products must be great (not what I tend to eat) because my omlette was perfectly fine, but all those nuts standing on line for over an hour on a Sunday confuse me to this day. i do NOT stand on any line on a Sunday, thank you very much! Don't waste your time unless you get there early.

      I haven't been to Viand, so am sorry not to be helpful. And not being a morning person, I can't fill you in on anywhere else either... Wait, Chowhounds, does the Vinegar Factory have a cafe? Would that work?

      For that afternoon after the Museum, there is a new Cambodian over on 3rd which is very nice indeed. Called 'Cambodian Cuisine' which makes it easy to remember.

      Hope some of this is helpful. Have a marvelous time!

      6 Replies
      1. re: BratleFoodie

        A slight correction. The Met Museum's late hours are Friday and Saturday, not Sunday.

        We've eaten in the Petrie Court Cafe, and the food was very good. Our daughter and her husband recently had lunch in the basement cafeteria and said the food there is very good as well.

        1. re: RGR

          I agree with the Cafe Sabarsky suggestion, and would add to it Square Meal for breakfast - they open at 9am and are on the same block as the Jewish Museum. While I have not had breakfast/brunch there, every lunch/dinner that I've had there has been excellent.

          1. re: RGR

            Argh! Brain fart! Indeed, Friday and Saturday evenings at the Met. I plead nasty house damage (yay insurance!) due to fun fun fun winter storms at my home in Vermont and my consequential brain deadness. Thanks for catching it RGR.

            Overall, I like Petrie more than the basement because, well, the basement is a basement and you get to watch folks outside through the glass at the Petrie. But the basement certainly has a wider array of foods.

            MMRuth's Square Meal suggestion below is a good one, but I have had slow service there, if that is an issue. Otherwise a very nice addition to the neighborhood.

            1. re: BratleFoodie

              BTW - I heard from a neighbor last night that Square Meal may be getting their liquor license in about two weeks. I had slow service one lunch, but since I was catching up with a friend, it didn't bother me.

              1. re: MMRuth

                My parents will be VERY glad to hear about the license! They sometimes like to go out for lunch, and the location is ideal. Thanks for the heads up.

                1. re: BratleFoodie

                  I'll post back when I know for sure.

        2. I'd recommend Sushi Yasuda for your pre-theater on Friday. I would assume the sushi bar would be good for solo diners, and dinner will not be too long.

          1. Rather than Balthazar or a repeat of Babbo, you may want to consider Degustation. We just had dinner there this week and had the 10-course tasting, which is fabulous and a good deal at $75. It will take about 2 hours. Considering your time constraint, you may want to order a la carte (it's all small plates) or the 5-course tasting. Aside from the wonderful food, it is perfect for a solo diner because the seating is sushi-bar style, i.e. chairs facing a table-height counter. and you can watch the cooks at work right in front of you. It's an out of the ordinary experience that should not be missed.

            1. Bratlefoodie and RGR, the Cafe Sabarsky recommendation sounds good. And Bratlefoodie, you are right, I WILL need abs and feet of steel but am motivated since I have only a couple of days on my own to see as much as I can. Doing NYC with a 3 year old is fun but it'll be great to be back doing it this time as an adult.

              And rrms, will try Degustation instead of EMP.

              I will definitely "report back" after my weekend away. Cross your fingers that it will be warm enough to walk around - part of the experience for me is just being on the street.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Sandrat


                I see I mis-read your original post and thought you were planning EMP for lunch on Friday. But it appears you were thinking dinner.

                With regard to Degustation on Friday, they start serving dinner at 6 p.m. Thus, I don't see it as a viable option since you have a 7:30 p.m. curtain on Friday. Even if you could be out of there in an hour, the restaurant is located fairly far downtown, and with only half an hour to get to the theater, if you get stuck in traffic, you might not make your curtain. I don't know about you, but that would make me *very* nervous, and I would never be able to enjoy the meal.

                EMP starts serving dinner at 5:30, and OpenTable is showing availability for Friday, the 16th at that time. Since you are plannning on the 3-course prix-fixe, if you alert the staff to your time constraints, they will get you out by 7 p.m., so you can grab a cab and get to the theater. EMP is much closer to the Theater District than Degustation, and this leaves enough breathing room in case of traffic.

                Since you need a restaurant for Saturday, Degustation would be a great option before your 9 o'clock Vanguard show.