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Murray Hill eats

My husband and I will be in town this weekend for the TD Bank Five Boro Bike tour. We're staying in the Murray HIll neighborhood and are looking for a simple dinner Saturday night. Something within walking distance, no entree's over $20, BYOB is fine. Doesn't matter what type of food. Suggestions?

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  1. Ali Baba on East 34th between Second & Third Aves...great Turkish food. it's a neighborhood favorite, and within your designated price range...


    Ali Baba Turkish Cuisine
    212 E 34th St, New York, NY 10016

    2 Replies
    1. I'd recommend Saravanaas, 26th and Lexington, except that whether you'd consider their spicy, tasty, oily vegetarian food (savory pancakes, etc.) "simple" seems highly questionable to me. They don't meet my definition of "simple," either. Then again, I'm not sure Ali Baba does.

      You know what I'd suggest for you? 2nd Av. Deli. You can get simple Jewish deli food there, and they'll make it lean for you, if you so desire. Their lean pastrami is quite acceptable, though I find it tastier with some more fat. You can get good matzo ball soup there, and their kasha varnishkes are very tasty. The place serves up comfort food. They even give you very good house-made cole slaw with no mayo on it as a free side.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Pan

        2nd Ave Deli is way overpriced. If you aren't kosher, hit up Sarges a couple blocks up on 3rd ave.

        1. re: travpard

          I remain personally unfamiliar with Sarge's, but while I rather agree that the prices can be shockingly high at 2nd Av. Deli, they do fit within Bridget's budget and their food may meet her needs. But maybe Sarge's is better for similar food; I couldn't say.

          1. re: Pan

            2nd ave deli is far superior to Sarge's.

            1. re: foodwhisperer

              Whether 2nd Av. Deli is "far superior" to Sarge's is a matter of personal opinion. My experiences say otherwise, especially with regard to the pastrami.

              1. re: RGR

                Count me in as preferring 2nd Ave Deli's pastrami to Sarge's. As someone who has eaten a lot at both places, for the quality, 2nd Ave Deli wins. And it's worth paying a slight bit more.

                I once ordered the fatty pastrami and it was way too fatty even for me, especially now that I have GERD.

        2. re: Pan

          I disagree with you about the pastrami, Pan. During our one visit to the 2nd Av. Deli, I ordered my pastrami "extra-fatty." What I got was pastrami with practically no fat on it. Blech! I shudder to think what would the state of the pastrami would be if one ordered it "lean." I suspect, shoe leather! I do agree that the chicken/matzo ball soup is fine, and the round potato knish is delicious. I also took home a piece of knoblewurst, and it was excellent.

          *The* place to have pastrami in Murray Hill is definitely Sarge's. A different style from Katz's but equally delicious. And consistently so. The chicken with matzo ball soup is as good as 2nd Avenue's, and the cole slaw is first-rate. They've re-done the interior, so it's not as grungy as it used to be (though I kind of miss that), and it's more spacious and comfortable than 2nd Avenue.

          1. re: RGR

            Your experiences with 2nd Av. Deli's pastrami are very different from mine. I'm not sure what accounts for that, but there it is.

          2. re: Pan

            "They don't meet my definition of "simple," either. Then again, I'm not sure Ali Baba does."
            what's complicated about spreads, salads & kebabs? and before someone blasts me, yes, i *know* that's an over-simplification and that there's more to Turkish cuisine (and Ali Baba's menu) than that...but it's not as though they're preparing everything in immersion circulators or topping all the dishes with foams or 12-ingredient gastriques. i'm just sayin'...

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I fully agree, goodhealthgourmet. There isn't anything particularly complicated about a lot of the food being served at Ali Baba. Many dishes served there are things a reasonably adept home cook can whip up. I make a very respectable baba ghanoush, and there's nothing hard about grilling lamb chops.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                No, not like that. I was thinking that it might not be simple to digest before a bike tour. But individuals - and their systems - are all different.

                1. re: Pan

                  aha, totally not what i thought you meant. still, a simple kebab platter with rice & salad would be a great dinner the night before a long ride.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I don't think so, but as I said, individuals and their digestive systems are all different.

              2. re: Pan

                I'd avoid Saravanaas to the point of walking around the block. I just went and can't believe that's the best of south India food.

                My review: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/616404

              3. Les Halles is pretty reasonable - French/steak bistro. Not too expensive. It's not BYOB but if you're not drinking too much it's fine.

                Also, Penelope on 30th and Lex is adorable and affordable. They may have a bar - you might have to call to check about BYOB. www.penelopenyc.com.

                4 Replies
                1. re: LBNJNY

                  Except the food at Les Halles is bad and the environment is even worse.

                  1. re: ESNY

                    Les Halles is awful in every way that counts to: food, service, seating, and noise level.

                    1. re: RGR

                      In the spirit of "For every opinion, there is an equal and opposite opinion", I respectfully disagree 100% with ESNY and RGR. I have had superb meals at Les Halles and excellent service. I can be noisy but I have yet to find it to be unbearable,

                      1. re: Fydeaux

                        A long Les Halles thread from last summer (their outdoor seating is a plus) including our lunch experience:


                        Inconsistent . . . .

                        Serge is in Murray Hill and I believe they have a prix fixe dinner. There might be pasta for the cyclists. We went again last month. www.brasseriecafecreme.com

                2. you will be right by koreatown

                    1. Haven't been for a while, but Da Ciro (Lex/33) might be a good choice--straightforward pastas, plus brick oven pizza, and a special robiola cheese-stuffed focaccia.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bob96

                        Da Ciro is still great. We eat there about once a week. The pastas are good and the baby chicken cooked in the wood burning oven is the best!

                      2. dhaba on 27th(?) and lex is good indian

                        1 Reply
                        1. Along with Ali Baba, Tiffin Wallah (South Indian) is another neighborhood favorite, particularly for their famous $6 all you can eat vegetarian/vegan lunch buffet. It's a fantastic deal and very tasty.

                          1. We live in Murray Hill. Our favorite inexpensive places:
                            BYBLOS 39th just East of 3rd Ave. Great authentic Syrian/Lebanese food
                            Fagiolinis 39th and Lex excellent inexpensive Italian
                            Sams Place 39th and Lex excellent inexpensive Italian
                            Josies 37 and 3rd eclectic with lots of reasonable entrees
                            El Rio Grande 3rd ave between 37 and 38 great Mexican outdoor dining
                            Hane sushi om 38th and 3rd
                            Dukes 37 and 3rd low key BBQ and Ribs
                            Blue Smoke for BBQ and Ribs in the 20's bet Lex and Park

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Motosport

                              We've not been to Byblos in ages. I particularly liked the mixed mezzes plate and the grilled lamb chops. One of these days, we'll have to get back there.

                              I think Blue Smoke's bbq is just o.k., but the burger is first-rate.

                              I've been wanting to try Fagiolini and have it on my "go to" list. Do you have any particular favorites there?

                              1. re: RGR

                                At Fagiolini's I usually get whtever is on the "Special" menu. Maybe it is not excellent as I said but for the price it can't be beat. We have gone there many times and with small groups. No one ever complains.

                            2. Fav's:
                              El Parador
                              Ali Baba
                              Sam's Place
                              Tony's, Iron or Amber for Japanese

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: mbs

                                I had read many raves about El Parador, but I'm sorry to say that when we finally tried it, the food was very disappointing. I had a shrimp dish that barely managed to rise above mediocre.

                                1. re: RGR

                                  Sorry to hear that...I have been back to El Parador over 20 times and love it every time....great Margaritas and even better service..I have taken people who have ordered things and didnt love a particular dish...I'd say try it again!

                                  For fagiolini, I have been twice...nothing special-Food is OK, very hot in there...I prefer Sam's Place which is right across the street

                                  1. re: mbs

                                    I'm really not too inclined to return to El Parador. And now that you say the food at Fagiolini is nothing special, I'll probably skip it.

                                    I've passed Sam's Place many times but have never thought about trying it. From looking at the website, it appears it's old school Italian-American. What dishes do you think they do especially well?.

                                    1. re: RGR

                                      Sam's had been around forever! The owner is very friendly...on the floor every single time I have been. He even takes orders, comes over to say hi to everyone....you can tell everyone there has been there many times.
                                      They will let you bring your own wine *not sure if there is a fee because we just order off their wine list...
                                      They bring you salami, fresh parmesean and olives to start which are delish!
                                      My boyfriend has ordered the Veal Piedmontese every single time....and cleans his plate every time...
                                      They will make you ANYTHING you want, I get the chicken paillard which is not on the menu, but is to die for...they are known for their pastas, veals and chickens....
                                      the stracciatella soup is also good!

                                      1. re: mbs

                                        Thanks, mbs. We occasionally do like to chow down on well-prepared "oldie but goodie"-style Italian fare, and I love it when the owner cares enough to be on the premises regularly, making sure patrons are taken care of. I will definitely give Sam's a try.

                                      2. re: RGR

                                        I can't seem to find their website and googled it but was unsuccesful and their menu is not on menupages. Could you please let me know what their website address is. Thanks.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            thanks, but i thought that the restaurant had a website. these i found. appreciate the help.

                                            1. re: G3B

                                              Sams does not have a website, and the menu on all the sites that goodhealth listed is not the actual menu presented.
                                              either way, they will make you any traditional italian dish you ask for

                                              1. re: mbs

                                                thanks for the information.

                                                1. re: mbs

                                                  the Menupix link contains a *photo* of the actual menu...of course there's always a possibility that they've updated or changed their menu since then, but that one is likely the most accurate of all the menus i found.

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    thanks, prices are very reasonable so i am wondering if this could be an old menu, but it is probably the closest i am going to get. appreciate the info.

                                      3. re: RGR

                                        I totally agree with RGR about El Parador. I had dinner there not long ago because I was in the area and while it may have been good at one time, standards for Mexican and other Latin food have risen significantly in recent years. Based on my experience, the food was not good -- wouldn't return.

                                        1. re: City Kid

                                          I'm not a fan of places that have both Latin food and Mexican food on the menu. I prefer restaurants that specialize in one or the other.


                                          1. re: LeahBaila

                                            maybe El Parador just tastes so good cause it is across the street from my apartment, but Alex the manager/part owner happens to be the most accommodating guy.....and like I said, after a few of their Margaritas anything tastes good :)

                                    2. I live in this 'hood, and I have to say, it kinda sucks for food (but I grew up in the EV so maybe i'm a bit spoiled). Vezzo is really good for pizza (we always order the fafandone with sweet Italian sausage and sun-dried tomatoes), Ethos is decent (love their dip platter, and their bread is great), went once recently to Ali Baba - I really enjoyed my manti and bread but bf never wants to go back there because he said the place seemed really dirty, Umi for decent cheap(er) sushi, Dhaba for their amazing Sunday Indian buffet.... that's all I can think of.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: janethepain

                                        I think Vezzo is a good idea. Well-made cracker-crust pizza with good ingredients, and it's really inexpensive.

                                        1. re: janethepain

                                          You're making me super-sad. That neighborhood is great for food! There's a Grand Sichuan (my fave of the bunch, but it might just be because it's the first one I ate in), Tiffin Wallah is the most interesting cheap Indian food in Manhattan, Chinese Mirch is a really interesting mix of Indian and Chinese food that has some misses on the menu but a lot of hits, Blue Smoke is trashy but if you're ever in the mood for fake cheese and giant portions it's great, Resto is really good, one of the best beer selections on the East Side is at the Waterfront Ale House, Les Halles does a great breakfast, if you want steak there's Primehouse or Wolfgang's, people are mixed on La Giara but I think it's a good Italian place if not incredibly inventive, Artisanal has the worst service in the city but the best cheese and Kalustyan's on its own redeems the neighborhood.

                                          Then there's that old school, family run Italian place with the set menu and the back garden whose name I always forget that's not supposed to be great food but it's supposed to be a really fun experience. Ack, I am wracking my brains and can't think of the name.

                                          1. re: LES_Crawler

                                            That would probably be Marchi's. We've never been.


                                            Tried La Giara once. Not poor, but not good enough to warrant another visit.

                                            Blue Smoke "trashy"?!

                                            1. re: RGR

                                              I thought La Giara was decent and if I needed a reliable place in Murray Hill for a dinner with folks I'd go there again. Maybe I'm overestimating (over-remembering?).

                                              And thank you! Marchi's is it! I've been dying to try it for the sheer retro value if nothing else.

                                              I mean "trashy" with affection. I don't eat tons of meat so usually I wind up at the bar of Blue Smoke having snacks and cocktails and they serve the trashiest but most addictive cheese fries. It's cheese sauce rather than actual cheese and to me that's low budget cooking. But I keep eating them. I know it's wrong to like them, but I do like them.

                                              1. re: LES_Crawler

                                                I've also thought about trying Marchi's for exactly the same reason but have never gotten around to it. Now that the warm weather months are here, and al fresco dining beckons, sitting in the garden while checking out the food sounds tempting.

                                                Thanks for decoding "trashy." :-) I'm not all that crazy about Blue Smoke's bbq -- though it's far from awful -- but the burger is terrific!

                                        2. If your decision isn't already made: one more cuisine/restaurant to throw into the equation: Ethos - great for Mediterranean/Greek food.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Shazza

                                            While I like the food at Ethos, the seating is exceedingly cramped (unless you can snag one of the few booths), and the noise level is LOUD!

                                          2. Bridget1720, hope you had a good tour despite the rainy weather.

                                            Where did you end up?