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Plan My Healthy Foodie's Dream Day in NYC

Greetings from the Great White North!

The back story: I've done the tourist thing over a dozen times in the city, as both a high school student, drunken university kid and then as a teacher bringing my students to your fine city as well, so I am not planning on spending too much time seeing sights. In the last few years I have become a big-time food and wine lover, and had an amazing four days in London, UK recently driven purely by food destinations - markets, stores, free samples, wine tourist traps, and of course restaurants - meeting very specific interests of mine I hope to acheive the same in NYC

The trip: I am coming to the New York area for a wedding in Long Island on Easter Sunday and am doing a pre-wedding trip to NYC - will be staying in Jersey for cost reasons, and busing in to Manhattan for a jam-packed day trip on the Saturday. I plan on arriving in the city by 9 AM and leaving around 9 PM.

What I'm looking for: I want to seek out the best that Manhattan has to offer in terms of healthy, exciting food, both in shopping and eating destinations. I will be on foot and looking to explore destinations that are close by to one another - foodie neighbourhoods if you will. I will at some in the day want to walk through Times Square, Rock, Fifth Ave, and the lower Park, and possibly also Soho, Tribeca, Financial District, but I am not opposed to walking the length of the Island in food exploration.

I love open-air markets (not sure if it's the season yet), anywhere that has free samples (Whole Foods does up here sometimes) or great open salad bars for exploring, anything with a great selection of unique food products. I will be on a budget, so I don't know if I'll be actively shopping in these places, but I'd love to check them out. If there are any great wine-focused stores in the city as well I'd love that.

I have seen The Pump and Energy Kitchen mentioned many times in other similar threads, so I will plan on doing lunch in one of these locations. I might also do the Whole Foods salad bar, tho we do have that in Toronto. How would Josie's be for a nicer sit-down dinner, perhaps where I will drag my not-so-healthy cheese/meat loving fiance along? Is there anywhere else where we can pay under $20 for mains for a nice vibe and great fish/veggie selections? Or an Indian spot that's got a nice buzz for that price point?

Specifics - My favourite dishes: lentil soup, taboule, bean salads, beet salads, grilled salmon, veggie curries, veggie stir fries, indian dishes like daal or chana masala or eggplant bharta. - extra points to anywhere that offers any of these.

Okay, so this is the longest post ever. I am hoping that some of you will take up the challenge and point me toward some choice destinations or routes of exploration, and I'll gladly return the favour should you come to TO.
Thanks!

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  1. If I were you, I would skip Energy Kitchen and Pump (they are take-out type places) and visit Josie's and Rouge Tomate (might be a ilttle above your price range, but from what I have heard it's worth it)

    2 Replies
    1. re: FoodieFemme

      is one of the josie's locations particularly better for vibe, or food quality?

      1. re: FoodieFemme

        We prefer the Josie's on the UWS...great cocktails, too

      2. Saturday is the best day (in terms of number of vendors, not peace of mind) to visit the Union Square Greenmarket. By Easter Sunday there should be lots to check out, there. There's a Whole Foods on the south side of Union Square, but since you have access to Whole Foods where you live, I'd skip it. Union Square Wines, which has a great selection and a helpful staff, is nearby.

        http://www.cenyc.org/greenmarket
        http://www.unionsquarewines.com/

        1. For specific addresses and to view menus, please reference: www.menupages.com OR www.nymag.com

          Dhaba (Haven't been...yet...But am going this wknd. Heard great things
          )Organique - great "make your own" salads
          Union Sq. Green Market
          Pylos (my favorite Greek restaurant)
          Whole Foods Bowery
          Dirt Candy (great new vegetarian restaurant)
          Ali Baba Turkish Cuisine (fantastic, fresh and delicious Turkish that will satisfy both carnivores and veg's alike)
          Kalustyan's (specialty foods store)
          Ethos (Greek restaurant with an abundance of fresh seafood)
          Pure Food and Wine (haven't been, but it sounds like a good choice for you)
          Pita Grill (MUST ORDER the chicken-rice-bowl)
          Rickshaw Dumpling Bar
          Essex Market (it's not open-air, but there's some interesting booths to be seen)
          Spring Street Natural
          Chelsea Market (so many vendors under one roof)

          www.thelunchbelle.com

          3 Replies
            1. re: LeahBaila

              Dhaba update (per above):
              Excellent Northern Indian cuisine that should be added to your list. Ate there last night and would consider this to be the best in the city, IMO.

              www.thelunchbelle.com

              1. re: LeahBaila

                About Dirt Candy- If I recall correctly, half of the menu involves something fried, and the food is incredibly rich. Fantastic food, but not exactly health food...

              2. I would def. recommend checking out curry hill (20s on lex.) to satisfy all of your indian desires. Chennai Garden, while not the finest of surroundings or service, has excellent southern indian (vegetarian and kosher) food for excellent prices. while you are there check you keloustians (sp?) which is the mecca of indian markets (Lex. btw. 27th and 28th). Dirt Candy, although pricy, is some of the more "exciting" vegetarian cuisine in the city in the east village. If you check out Josie's on the Upper East side you may want to continue up to Spanish harlem (116th st) and check out a true living ethnic area of the city besides tourist china town. All sorts of dominican and mexican street foods as well as excellent dominican, puerto rican and columbian cuisine (El Nuevo Caridad is nice) all over.

                1. Just went to a meeting where they'd brought tons of takeout from this vegan place:
                  http://www.candlecafe.com

                  Everything was fabulous. Check it out and maybe try it while you're here.

                  1. South Indian vegetarian cooking, despite having a reputation as "healthy" in some quarters, tends to use a lot of ghee or/and oil. Are you sure that's healthy? That said, if you want South Indian food, go to Saravanaas, right on the corner of 26 St. and Lexington Av. Whether it's healthy, I'm far from sure, but it sure is tasty!

                    1. I love Pure Food and Wine and Dirt Candy.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: misnatalie

                        Pure food and Wine is upscale raw, and the "lasagna" is awesome (from a carnavoire) as well as the "ice creams". Dirt Candy is new, quite small, was written up in the New York Times last week and serves dairy.

                      2. Counter on 1st ave between 6th/7th has a good vegetarian menu, and seems to goes over well with the meat eaters, and an organic wine and cocktail menu. I know Astor Wines has an organic wine section as well. I fifth/sixth the green market in Union Square, you could breakfast on baked goods. Dirt Candy (already mentioned) as well.

                        1. Raw Foodies love Quintessense on 10th btw 1st and 2nd. Highly recommend it from my own personal experience. Try their "burger," a big step above any other veggie burger I've ever tasted.

                          Souen on 13th btw broadway and university is a fantastic macrobiotic restaurant. Tasty tasty... I often go for their lunch specials.

                          Spring Street Natural is an excellent restaurant with many healthy/organic options.

                          Westville East is popular amongst vegetarians, their veggies are pretty good. About two dozen choices for vegetables, some are fantastic (string beans w/ almonds, artichoke with parmesan, sauteed broccoli) I love their marinated grilled chicken (it tastes great) with 2 choices of veggie sides.

                          If you like excellent, affordable japanese cuisine I highly recommend Natori on Saint Marks btw 3rd and 2nd. They have fantastic healthy protein + veggies dishes.

                          Tiffin Wallah is a great south indian restaurant, vegetarian and vegan friendly, very popular spot. It gets a bit busy during lunch (they're famous for having a fantastic south-indian lunch buffet for $6), but dishes on their menu are pretty cheap and consistently tasty.

                          Some places to start, feel free to ask questions, I love eating healthy in the city as well =)

                          1. alrighty, lemonlauren. here i am, reciprocating. ;)

                            i have to echo foodiefemme's suggestion to skip energy and pump... and would skip josie's, too, personally. it's true that they have good cocktails, but the food is just so-so and a waste of a meal in the city, IMHO.

                            union square greenmarket is a great suggestion for an open air market. i also enjoy browsing the wares and snacking my way through chelsea market (as leahbaila suggested), where you have a fancy, expensive italian market with some interesting, harder-to-find ingredients. some items (i.e. mustard fruit) you should be able to bring back with you across the border. there are also a few interesting specialty bakeries, gelato places, the food channel studios, the lobster place (which has great chowder and some decent soups), and a cute, local-food--centric, organic cafe called green table that serves simple, but well-made food with great ingredients.

                            might you be interested in chaat? there is an inexpensive takeout place called indus express with some cafeteria style tables in the back, near times square, that makes great chaat. my favorites are the chicken and aloo tikki masala chaat. it also has a steam table that has decent baighan bartha, chana masala and daal. they make great, fresh naan.

                            if you happen to be interested in dosa and other south indian foods, head down to the east 20s near lexington ave as prior posters suggested. saravanna's is a popular place on this site. my personal favorite is chennai garden (which tubastu mentioned, above), where they will make your dosa with almost no oil, if you ask. for the novelty value, it may also be interesting to get a dosa at thiru's dosa cart on washington square park south. he is there on saturdays, but not sundays, generally, but his presence can be a bit spotty. his dosas aren't the best in town, but it's interesting to get it from a cart -- plus you'll be in the west village, which is a wonderful neighborhood to walk through and explore for both foodie and non-foodie reasons.

                            ethos (two locations, one in midtown in the lower east 50s or upper 40s, the other in murray hill in the east 30s) does wonderful, very fresh, simply grilled fish. if you choose a smaller fish, you should be able to do dinner for about $20-25 (pre tax). at the murray hill location, the fish comes with one or two sides (i.e. lemon potatoes), pita, and a complimentary dessert. i've never eaten at the midtown location. the murray hill location can get very crowded.

                            if you are interested in greek, also look into kefi on the UWS. there are a lot of wonderful, healthy, small plates on the menu, including a few interesting salads that win over even devout salad haters and well made greek spreads. (a little less healthy, but the sweetbreads are also fabulous.) the food is not always completely traditional, but it is always well made. tomatoes are sweet and ripe no matter what the season. grilled octopus is tender -- probably almost as good as chiado's in toronto for a fraction of the cost. there is also grilled fish on the menu, but i haven't tried any of them (relatively recent development).

                            off to walk the doggie, but let me know if you need add'l suggestions! neg ideas you don't like, too, so we have a better sense of your tastes.

                            21 Replies
                            1. re: cimui

                              a few links:

                              -----
                              Union Square Greenmarket
                              Broadway and E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                              Chennai Garden
                              129 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016

                              Ethos
                              495 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                              Kefi
                              505 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024

                              Indus Express
                              48 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036

                              Saravana Bhavan
                              149 Wood Ave, Edison, NJ

                              Chelsea Wine Vault
                              75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                              1. re: cimui

                                wow! i wish everyone was as magnanimious as chowhounders! the world would be a better place.

                                definitely have Union Square and Chelsea mkts on my agenda, weather permitting.

                                indus express sounds great if it turns out that we don't have time for a full sit-down dinner, or if i am craving indian instead of salad for lunch. we don't have Pret a Manger in Canada so I had thought I might get a salad there or one of the places mentioned above. i might also grab more than one take-out salad and hang on to them for the rest of my trip - we have fridge at the Inn!

                                Kefi sounds like it might appeal to both me and my larger-portion-eating fiance. i think he will be up around the Museum of natural History, so we were thinking of the Josie's near there for dinner. but we are open to moving about. We were also very interested in Ali Baba.

                                here's my Google map of destinations:

                                http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF...

                                any ideas on how to connect the dots, so to speak?

                                1. re: LemonLauren

                                  that's an ambitious itinerary!

                                  if it were up to me, i'd do this:

                                  1. 9 a.m. breakfast / brunch at chelsea market. browse options. there are a number sit down places (including green table and 202) or it might be fun to pick up small things here and there (including breakfast pastries at sarabeth's or amy's bread, yogurt from ronnybrook, coffee from 9th st. espresso).

                                  2. walk to union square greenmarket. have a pear, some cider, nibble on free samples of cheeses, jams, etc.. (if it's past 11 a.m., you could stop at bottlerocket on the way over to union square.)

                                  3. walk to the MoMA and then, whenever you are hungry for lunch, head:

                                  3a. west to azuri cafe for grilled salmon pita (or plate), lentil soup, or the "combination salad" (i haven't had it, but i think it might be an israeli chopped salad / turkish shepherd's salad with tomato, green pepper, red onion, etc..)

                                  3b. slightly south to indus express for bhel poori chaat, which is actually just like a very healthy chopped salad. the chicken chaat is similar, with lean, juicy chicken added.

                                  3c. northwest to zabar's / zabar's cafe, where you can pick up a pre-made salad or soup or smoothie and bigger eaters can pick up excellent latkes, sandwiches, bagels with schmear and lox, etc...

                                  3d. northwest to josie's if you absolutely must (bleah ;)

                                  if you head to zabars or josie's you could stop at the lululemon atheltica store near lincoln center, on b'way in the w. 60s, on the way up. otherwise, you could stop on your way up to the natural history museum.

                                  4a. walk north to the natural history museum and afterwards, head to kefi for dinner.

                                  4b. walk to the natural history museum, and afterwards, jump on the B/D train at 81st st. and take it to the 34th st. herald square stop. exit and walk to ali baba.

                                  (for either kefi or ali baba, i would make a reservation.)

                                  5. take the subway to wherever you are making your exit. if it's from southern manhattan and it's still before 8 p.m., you'll have time to stop at bottlerocket, if you didn't go there earlier in the day. otherwise, there are some decent wine shops near kefi on the uws. perhaps, if you are passing through the lower east side and have time, stop by il laboratorio del gelato (healthier than ice cream!).

                                  1. re: cimui

                                    cimui, it looks like the trip is on a Saturday, so Azuri will be closed then.

                                    I have to add that a bagel with a schmear isn't really healthy. As a matter of fact, my uncle had to stop eating those after he had a heart attack. But we all make our own choices. :-)

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      thanks for the azuri catch. i recommended the bagel with lox for bigger eaters like lemonlauren's husband, who appears to be more into meat and cheese! but i am sorry about your uncle... the salt content in lox really is pretty intense.

                                      1. re: cimui

                                        True. That could have contributed, along with the cream cheese. But he's OK.

                                        1. re: cimui

                                          the boy loves his bagels and salt, and it hasn't caught up with him yet! thanks for the rec.

                                      2. re: cimui

                                        this is fantastic! i might not need to hit both MOMA and Nat Hist Museums - the former is for me, latter for fiance. i will probably do the soho shopping thing and meet him for dinner, and i'll let him have some say in terms of that final destination. but, wow, thanks!

                                        1. re: LemonLauren

                                          totally my pleasure, LL.

                                          btw, if you are interested in nyc style bagels, there are a few well-liked places that might be convenient to you:

                                          * ess-a-bagel (location at 51st st. and 3rd ave, close to the MoMA)
                                          * H&H (there's a location right next to zabar's)

                                          (bagels are a hotly debated subject: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/221046)

                                          1. re: cimui

                                            H&H isn't _right next to_ Zabar's; it's a block down.

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              H&H is right across the street from zabar's cafe to the south, pan.

                                        2. re: cimui

                                          i agree with cimui. the green table in chelsea market has lovely healthy seasonal foods. and josie's is blah.

                                          i also like moustache--middle eastern with really fresh tabbouli, grilled chicken over a delicious lentil puree, chicken pizza with loads of fresh spices and tangy barberries. the other place that comes to mind, outside your budget parameters (more like $40-50 pp) is yakitori totto. they specialize in grilled chicken skewers, but have some delicious salads (the seaweed salad, and a salad with greens, tiny fried fish, and egg are my favorites) and delicious grilled tofu and grilled eggplant.

                                          1. re: rose water

                                            i woudl give my first born for a good grilled eggplant, so $40 pp ain't so bad.

                                            1. re: LemonLauren

                                              hmm, i'm not so sure it warrants infanticide ;)
                                              like all their grilled items, the grilled eggplant is a small skewer. it has three rounds of eggplant, topped with a sweet miso sauce which i think has a hint of yuzu. it's soft and smokey, and quite good, but not as earth shatteringly great as some of their grilled chicken skewers.

                                            2. re: rose water

                                              any moustache locations better than the others?

                                              1. re: LemonLauren

                                                the quality of the food is the same at all of the locations. and i love love love their food. i think what varies most is how crowded the locations are, and how slow the service is as a result. the east harlem location is new, easily walkable from the guggenheim, and nearly empty. we got food there very quickly, and they were lovely and accommodating (we had baby in tow, and got half our order to go) . the east village location has outdoor seating out back, which can be nice, and it's never too crazy. the west village is the most crowded--pretty full every time i've gone--and food can come out (annoyingly but not excrutiatingly) slowly as a result.

                                          2. re: LemonLauren

                                            you might want to skip chaat if you are looking for something healthy!

                                            Souen just opened a ramen place which I haven't been to, but I love Souen and I love ramen so, it might be the best combination.

                                            -----
                                            Souen Organic Ramen
                                            326 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

                                            1. re: bigjeff

                                              jeff, i see why you might say that for some of the chaat that contain heavy, fried additions (i.e. samosa chaat), but the fresh-made chaat at indus are a very healthy mix of vegetables, fruits and legumes! they are more salad than anything else and incude chopped tomato, green peppers, cucumber, mango, sometimes chickpea chunks of boiled potatoes and yogurt. bhel poori includes puffed rice, which is low fat.

                                              1. re: cimui

                                                oh ya, that place is good, the one near rockefeller center? it def. has a serious salad component to it, pretty unique actually.

                                                1. re: bigjeff

                                                  hmm, maybe we can chalk it up to regional variations or the type of chaat?

                                                  the ones i'm familiar with are mostly chock full o' vegetables... but i do tend to eat homemade versions prepared by folks who are fairly health conscious. (on the other hand, sukhadia's, also in the vicinity, uses a good amount of vegetables in their chaat, as well.)

                                                  i wouldn't be surprised if some places don't include as many vegetables because it's cheaper to fill the space with chickpeas, puffed rice, fried sev and poori.

                                                  either way don't mean to pick on you. i was just surprised at that assessment. souen sounds healthy and delicious!

                                        3. I'm here to strongly reiterate skipping Josie's, Energy Kitchen, and Pump, and advocate for Candle Cafe (or Candle 79 owned by the same folks for a more upscale dinner), Counter, and about everything that cimui and silencespeak recommended.

                                          For a sit-down dinner, I'd actually recommend the natural gourmet institute. Every friday, their students cook a vegetarian dinner served at communal tables...it's lovely and a steal for the quality, usually. http://www.naturalgourmetschool.com/h...

                                          Some other options are Gobo: http://www.goborestaurant.com/
                                          Caravan of Dreams: http://www.caravanofdreams.net/ver2/m...
                                          Cheap, South Indian and an extensive menu at Madras Mahal: http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...
                                          Incredibly inexpensive falafel, tabbouleh, etc.: http://www.mamounsfalafel.com/
                                          Woorijip has an amazing buffet: http://www.menupages.com/restaurantde...
                                          LifeThyme Market can be a bit overpriced, but has fairly astounding prepared salads and hot foods, as well as raw desserts which have fooled some omnivores in the past: http://www.lifethymemarket.com/
                                          More cheap middle eastern with a more extensive menu, like elephant bean stew and slow cooked leeks at Taksim: http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/...

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: gwendolynmarie

                                            Are you recommending Mamoun's just because it's inexpensive, or do you actually consider it the best falafel in town (which opinion I'd strongly disagree with)?

                                            Also, Madras Mahal always had good food when I tried it, but do you consider it better than Saravanaas? Because I think Saravanaas is significantly better. Also, the last time I went to Madras Mahal, a few years ago, I had unaccountably rude service, including the waiter slamming the check on the table without asking if we wanted dessert (we did, but explained to the manager why we didn't order it and weren't likely to come back).

                                            I haven't been to Caravan of Dreams in a long time, but always considered it good but merely good, and not interesting enough for this non-vegetarian to walk around a couple of corners just to go there.

                                            I liked Taksim during the brief period when its main branch was in the East Village, and I miss it.

                                            And I agree with you that Woorijip is good.

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              You're right about mamoun's, mostly. Azuri, Taim, there are plenty of other great spots. I suppose I'm accustomed to giving recommendations to travelers that ere on the inexpensive side. But, I prefer their tahini and pita to many other places, their salads aren't overly greased, and their prices are great. Where is your favorite?

                                              I couldn't say, considering I haven't tried Saravanaas. My service at Madras Mahal a week ago was quite the opposite.

                                              Caravan of Dreams has never let me down. Their dishes are healthy and large, and allow for each ingredients flavor to come through. Unless I gorge myself on their almond butter smoothie, being full from COD means feeling nourished rather than weighted. This, I appreciate. Though adding salt and pepper to some of their dishes could go a long way.

                                              Another recommendation, Hangawi. http://www.hangawirestaurant.com/

                                              1. re: gwendolynmarie

                                                I haven't been to Taim but loved Azuri except for the last time I was there, when the falafel was dry and the dolmas were not made to order and not very tasty (again, kind of dry rice). I think that must have been a fluke. I hope Hoomoos Asli reopens after the current renovation, because I loved the falafel and some other items there. Azuri may cost more than Mamoun's, but it isn't expensive. You could do a lot worse than going to Mamoun's if you are in the area and want falafel, but it's not worth a special trip. Azuri - except for last time - was worth a special trip.

                                                1. re: Pan

                                                  i too love lentil soup. my faves are at bereket and hot pita on waverly place. i second westville, their vegetables are delicious.

                                                  1. re: emma

                                                    I didn't say I loved lentil soup; are you a mind-reader? ;-)