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Londoners Seeking Top Restaurants in New York in June

We are Londoners and are coming to New York on 19 June and leaving 24 June. I am bringing my two16 year-old daughters as a reward after their exams. We are all looking forward enormously to the food. The trip is about sightseeing, shopping (this higher on my daughters' priority list than mine) and food and so as a rule we won't be going for long lunches and usually we will be looking at fancier meals in the evening.
Our hotel is in Times Square and we will happily go anywhere in Manhattan
I have been reading the posts avidly, and people are so knowledgeable (and giving of that knowledge). I don’t want to spend a fortune, but probably will, not because I have more money than sense, simply because I have no sense. I really fancy Per Se one evening (I realise I will need to get my booking in soon because of the 2 month booking period (how is the high-end restaurant scene holding up in New York?)) and the lunch time deal at Jean Georges sounds like a great opportunity to sample a great restaurant at a bargain price (but will I be able to restrict myself to just 2 or 3 courses?).
We have 5 evenings altogether in New York and I fancy Keens and/or Peter Luger for 1 or 2 evenings, Per Se for another and possibly Le Bernardin (I know the $$$ are adding up). What else would you recommend? – Degustation, WD-50, Babbo, 11 Madison Park or something else? (I have already been to Daniel, and whilst the meal was great I want to try something new this time.) We like tasting menus and I like the paired wine accompaniments as a rule, but are there any dishes I must try at Jean Georges or the other restaurants. (We tend not to be quite so bothered about desserts, but would be very willing to brave the “not-to-be-missed” puddings.)
The plan so far for lunch is Jean Georges, Katz, Crif Dogs and Shake Shack, but I’m not sure that we will be able to eat out 5 evenings and 5 lunches so I might have to be less ambitious. Will we have to make reservations for everywhere before we go and is there anything that I should specify when reserving (such as the main room at Jean Georges and not Nougatine)?

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  1. I think with 2 sixteen year old daughters you may want to hit some of the more hipper places in the East Village...such as WD-50 and Degustion. Your lunch options sound good but make sure not to fill up too much before dinner. My favorite desserts in the city are cookies from Levain, chocolate bread pudding from the Dessert truck and various sweets from the Treats Truck. I also see you don't really have any Italian on your list so you may want to try a pizza place in Brooklyn or Manhattan or do something more upscale like Babbo.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ukitali

      Thanks Ukitali. You're right I will have to be careful at lunch, the only problem is that I have no self-restraint when it comes to food, perhaps my daughters can rein me in. They are much more sensible than me, but they also will not be used to big American portions and might fill up at lunch time, and thanks for your other comments. I think I'm going to have to restrict myself to one steakhouse.

      1. re: walshey

        My SO just went to Degustation and it remains a favorite. Only caveat is that it's counter/bar seating and better for two. Not on opentable, no website, a bit under the radar screen. If the 16 year olds are adventuress eaters it's in a great neighborhood, EV, for walking around later . . .

        Second the Dessert Truck - only in NY and fun - www.desserttruck.com for hours.

        We really like Falai on LES. If you do a search of this Board there are some reports.

        1. re: financialdistrictresident

          I went to the Dessert Truck and had the bread pudding and was less than impressed. Very very small portion for the price. It was OK in taste but far from delicious. I will not return unless they have something else that is a must taste.

          1. re: Slob

            Thanks, Slob. I usually go with anything chocolate . . . since they moved their location I go less. I wonder if they are skimping on quality ingredients to save costs? At $5 it's worth a try.

            1. re: Slob

              I don't understand the level of hype about the Dessert Truck here. I think their desserts (or the ones I like - chiefly the chocolate bread pudding that didn't impress you) are good, and it's a fun, novel thing to do to buy moderately high-end-style desserts on the street. The portions aren't huge, but at $5, I'm guessing they'd have trouble making a profit if they served large portions. But that's all beside the point for me, because nothing there is a "must," and I never wait on a long line to get anything from them. The items I get are merely good to very good, not fantastic.

              1. re: Pan

                I think their chocolate desserts are good but last time I got the donuts and some panna cotta and both were very mediocre. I actually had one bite of the donut and threw it out.

                1. re: lanadai

                  I've never tried their donuts.

      2. You could say that Per Se is not doing as well as it used to because it recently started serving an a la carte menu in its "salon" -- the lounge that previously was the waiting area for patrons before they sat down at a table in the dining room.

        For Jean Georges, if you are bringing your daughters, I assume you'll get to share plates and try different items? I understand your frustration, though, the menu has a number of wonderful items. More than most people have stomach space!

        If you are looking to keep costs down Degustation is a fantastic choice. Babbo is also very good for its quality. EMP and WD-50 are not quite so good on the value scale, comparatively. The portions at WD-50 tend to be on the smaller side, and if you dislike your dish (which happens with some frequency on these boards), you may be very disappointed.

        For the upscale restaurants, definitely make reservations in advance, especially if you wish to dine on a Friday or Saturday night, at 8pm (the most desirable time/days). Of the ones you listed, only Babbo requires the most persistence (calling right when the lines open for the day that you want). Jean Georges and Le Bernardin also book up rather quickly but not as much as Babbo. Do make a reservation for JG for lunch. The dining room is not huge. For Per Se, you might want to consider having a glass of wine and dining in the lounge; note, however, that the prices are not exactly "cheap" for what you get.

        Checkout opentable.com for free online reservations -- WD-50, 11 Madison, Keens, Jean Georges are all on there. Babbo is not and takes reservations only over the phone and in person. Degustation also is not and only takes reservations over the phone. Note also that Degustation does not have a web site, either.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kathryn

          A reply from the legendary Kathryn! Fantastic. Many of my choices were based on your posts and your referrals to other posts, Degustation and Babbo are current favourites for our 4th and 5th evenings. Thank you for your extremely helpful additional information.

        2. I think you would enjoy the Boathouse in Central Park and River Cafe across the river. I'm English and there always seem to be alot of people at the latter.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bronwen

            I would absolutely second the Boathouse! We took our 15 year old daughter last week and it was utterly charming.

          2. Well first let me say that I wish I was your daughter! Wonderful trip and very high end palate! I definitely suggest you make your lunches lighter/shorter so that you can properly sightsee, shop and save up for those dinners. Jean-Georges is an exception simply because lunch is such a nice bargain and it's a lovely space in the daytime.

            Some affordable/quicker yet good lunch ideas:

            Artisinal on 32nd and Park. French bistro specializing in cheeses. Grab a fondue with the gals or a cheese plate. Reservaions are advised. If you will have a computer here, a lot of restaurants use opentable.com where you can reserve online.

            Oscar Cafe in SoHo on Macdougal - After some power shopping in SoHo, pop into this tiny spot for some appetizers and wine. Very European.

            Now, if you can't get enough ot JG, you can always try his other places Vong and Spice Market (in the interesting Meatpacking District).

            Other dinner spots (slightly less posh) to consider:

            Buddakan in the Meatpacking - ask for the gorgeous downstairs dining room.
            Felidia - beautiful, yet casual Italian (Lidia Bastianich's place)
            Scarpetta - newer lovely Italian on West 14th. Foie gras pasta to die for!

            If you crave spicy - hit the fantastic (if not terribly attractive) Sichuan Gourmet on West 39th near Bryant Park. It's the best Chinese north of Chinatown.

            Have fun!

            2 Replies
            1. re: LBNJNY

              BTW, it is Artisanal not Artisinal, and it is Szechuan Gourmet not Sichuan Gourmet (be warned that the best dishes are the Sichuan dishes and they are quite spicy)...

              1. re: kathryn

                Thanks for the spell check. I was rushing.

            2. I join LBNJNY in saying that you are a great dad! But you don't have to go to so many high-end places if you don't want to. You can make some decisions about how much money you're willing to spend on food per day or for the whole trip, and base some of your meal choices around those. Keep in mind that New York isn't known only for high-end restaurants and pastrami. (I notice the very appropriate inclusion of Katz's, but if that's your lunch, look out! It's heavy if each one of you has a whole sandwich!) It's also known for pizza. Do you all like pizza? Would your daughters like to have lunch or perhaps a dinner at a New York-style pizzeria with real old-time (for New York) character (for example, Pasty's East Harlem, Arturo's in the Village)? If so, it'll be a lot cheaper than most of the places you've mentioned.

              Another thing to keep in mind is that many high-end restaurants have much less expensive lunches than dinners. Jean Georges has been mentioned, and it is a good value for lunch, but it's not the only high-end place that's significantly cheaper for lunch. Might you consider some days having a cheaper prix fixe lunch in an upscale place and having dinner someplace less upscale? I mean, hey, if you really want to reward your daughters on a grand scale, that's fantastic! But if you're concerned about hemorrhaging your wallet too much, think about it; we can help you avoid that, if you so choose. Believe me, a lot of us have practice in maximizing our dollars.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Pan

                Chinatown is a good lunch (Big Wong's) or dim sum (if you don't want to go to Flushing) option if you are sightseeing downtown.

                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                  The only reason I didn't mention Chinatown is that I believe (having never been there) that London has some excellent Cantonese food. But I could be wrong.

                  1. re: Pan

                    Thanks, Pan. The Chinatown in London seemed smaller. That said, it has been a lonjg time since I've been and I only ate there once and I have no idea where. I'd rather eat Indian food in London . . .