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May 14, 2009 09:12 AM

essential nyc restaurants/bars/anything for a frequent visitor?

i'm from dc, but i'm a frequent visitor to nyc and i'm looking for new, interesting places to check out during my next visit in june. it feels like i'm discovering new favorites every time i go. location and price doesn't really matter, but i'm looking for chinese, japanese, street carts, and breakfast places to be more specific. i'd like to try a banh mi place. yes, yes i know that's the trendy food, but as you may know (or maybe not haha), dc has a large vietnamese community and i'd like to compare. oh, and if anybody knows a really good kebab place/cart. greatly appreciated!

here's what i have so far...
sushi yasuda (my favorite sushi place... probably ever)
shake shack (first time visit, i want to see if it stacks up to ray's hell burger.)
sugiyama (never been, but heard a lot of good things)
momofuku ssam (i was really impressed last time i was there in january)
blt prime (i'm sure peter luger is more recommended, but my friend picked this one)
perdition (read about this bar)
pdt (will attempt to get reservation, but don't know if i'll be successful)
xinjiang kebab cart in flushing (probably the best thing i've ever eaten for $1)
wah fung (heard about their pork and rice and have been dying to try it)
ippudo (heard the ramen was out of this world)

thanks for any suggestions!

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  1. The Vietnamese community in NYC is not super large so I think you'll be disappointed if you're trying to compare.

    Chinese - Grand Sichuan (EV or Chelsea locations), Szechuan Gourmet (midtown), maybe a fried dumpling joint? Chinatown Brasserie for exquisite but pricey dim sum, have been hearing good things about Red Egg, a newer place.

    Although if you're going out to Flushing, why get Chinese in Manhattan? Flushing rules: Chengdu Heaven, Zhu Ji Guo Tie, Nan Xiang Dumpling House, White Bear, Best Northern Dumpling, Corner 28, Perfect Team Corporation, Xian Fine Foods! Better/cheaper than Manhattan.

    Japanese - also consider Kyo Ya for kaiseki, one of the Totto restaurants for yakitori, or an izakaya like Rockmeisha.

    Street carts - I like the Wafels & Dinges truck for Belgian waffles and the halal cart at 53rd/6th SE corner at dusk and after. The Van Leeuwen ice cream truck is good, too. Most of the roving trucks are on the Twitter and post their locations on a regular basis because they often don't keep a regular schedule. You can also look up famous street carts on or

    PDT - bar seats are first come, first served, if you get there early enough (before 7pm) you can most likely walk in. And the bar is the best place to watch them work. They have something like 2 small tables and 4 big booths. If you don't get into PDT I would try Death & Co or Mayahuel which are also in the same neighborhood. If you strike out at all three of of those, I'd go to then to Yerba Buena or Allen & Delancey, both restaurants with excellent house cocktail bars. Or you can make a reservation at Milk and Honey, which is now public. Instructions at

    Breakfast/brunch in NYC:

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      hi kathryn,

      thanks for the reply and the breakfast thread! i've been to chinatown brasserie and i would agree, really tasty food, but pricey for what it is. i've been to yakitori taisho and been pretty happy, but i have heard of totto so i may give it a go. i saw the wafels and dinges truck outside of a trader joe's or pharmacy during my last visit, didn't know it was recommended, thanks for that. i read another thread on chowhound about the halal cart so i think that may be a must try. lastly, thanks for the tips on pdt.

      thanks again!

      1. re: mikeismora

        Totto is a big step up from Taisho in terms of quality and care while cooking. I've never had yakitori so tender and juicy! Mmmm.

      2. re: kathryn

        I'd skip Wah Fung and go for something you might not have in D.C. - hand-pulled noodles:

        No need to have to go to Flushing for that. Flushing is great - more polyglot and much more diverse - but it is 20 minutes one-way from Penn Station on the LIRR. Best to do if you have a posse. Chengdu Heaven has slipped considerably on my recent visits. Szechuan Gourmet in midtown will fill the bill for your spicy Sichuan needs.

      3. A tip to avoid the hour-long lines at Shake Shack. Arrive about 10 minutes before they open at 11 a.m.

        7 Replies
        1. re: RGR

          thanks! i heard about the ridiculous lines. i even saw some pictures of the line winding around some park. crazy, it must be damn good.

          1. re: mikeismora

            Yes, Shake Shack is located inside Madison Square Park. There is no indoor seating but lots of tables for al fresco dining in a lovely setting.

            Every restaurant and food outlet in NY has their detractors, and so it is with the burger at Shake Shack. Imo, it's a very good burge. However, it is definitely not worth standing on an hour-long line to have it. In fact, I don;t think any burger or any other food is worth that kind of wait.

            Be sure to get some of the Shack's seriously delicious soft custard. When you put in your order, tell them you want to pick up the custard after you've finished your other food. That way, especialloy on a hot day, it won't be mush by the time you get to it. You won't have to stand on line again. When you pick up your food, they'll give you a ticket for the custard, and when you finish your other food, just go back to that window, hand a server your ticket, and he or she will give you the custard.

            1. re: RGR

              I've only had Shack Shack at the new Citifield and for a ballpark burger it was really good. However, they seem to cook their burgers all the way through, which is a huge no-no for someone like me who loves rare meat. Maybe at MSP location they will gladly cook your burger to desired temps but not at the new park in Queens....Their black and white shake was fantastic though.

              1. re: steakrules85

                They will gladly cook your burger to a desired temperature at Madison Square Park.

                My experience with the MSP and UWS locations has always been that they cook it about medium, although on occasion erring on the side of medium-well. But it's 80% of the time been medium for me.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Re: MSP location. Being glad to "cook your burger to a desired temperature" begs the question of whether they actually end up doing so. I used to ask for medium rare, but the burgers always ended up more towards what I consider medium, i.e., just a teensy bit pink in the middle. So, I stopped asking, and they still come out that way most of the time. The thing is, even when they end up medium-well, the meat is still very tasty.

                  1. re: RGR

                    My friends have ordered them rare and they seemed pretty pink to me.

            2. re: mikeismora

              ... or just head to the UWS location. the wait is about 1/5 of what it is in MSP, with no wait during off hours. and there's no perceivable difference in quality of food.

              if you crave the outdoor eating experience at MSP, take your food across the street to the park adjacent to the natural history museum or one block further to central park.

              the burger and concretes at shake shack are good, but not amazing. i don't think they are worth an hour's wait in line, either.

          2. If you do decide to try Banh Mi here, I'd suggest Saigon Bakery on Mott, just south of Grand. Another place that has been getting a lot of posts on CH is Baoguette, but I've not tried it yet. I liked the one at Ssam, but apparently it's no longer on the menu.

            4 Replies
            1. re: MMRuth

              The Baoguette one is good but a bit heavy on their sweet BBQ pork and pickles, and less so on the other components.

              1. re: MMRuth

                I've been going to Baoguette St Marks a lot lately, because I live in the East Village. They use good ingredients, but the taste of the sandwiches (both the Saigon banh mi and especially the equally good banh mi ga, which I usually get) is significantly better at Saigon.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  the one at ssam bar was very good. they got all of the right flavors. i'll miss it, but i'm excited to try the rib sandwich that they replaced it with. if i have any time or room in my stomach, i might try out baoguette. i hear a lot about it and the menu seems simple and straight forward.

                  1. re: mikeismora

                    As a regular at Baoguette St Marks, I'm here to tell you that Banh Mi Saigon Bakery is better.

                2. sushi yasuda is a great call.
                  consider blue smoke over shake shack if you need a danny meyer (sp?) burger fix.

                  1. For an izakaya there's Sakagura--incredible sake selection, and I really like their food--the buta kakuni is almost over-the-top rich(sometimes too fatty, sometimes just decadent), eggplant with three types of miso is very good, not widely familiar with the dish in other restaurants but I enjoy their jagadango.... Particularly, if youre a sake drinker you'll be in heaven, and if you haven't had much sake experience you can get a wonderful introduction.

                    Regarding Chinese, in addition to whats been mentioned you could go to Amazing 66 or Cantoon Garden for Cantonese in Manhattan Chinatown, and I believe Imperial Palace and Ocean Jewel are the Cantonese standouts in Flushing.

                    In addition to the bars Kathryn mentioned, Flatiron Lounge and Pegu Club are excellent(though different neighborhoods from those in proximity to PDT). Just had great drinks at Mayahuel and Flatiron last night as it happens, the best of which were (at Mayahuel) the Slight Detour (jalapeno tequila, mezcal, and xocolatl bitters), and the rum old fashioned at Flatiron. If you can get the Milk and Honey res thats my favorite though.

                    If youre doing burgers I'd add Molly's into the mix.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: brettnyc

                      thanks! i always enjoy a good izakaya. my friend really likes sake bar hagi, but i was disappointed last time we were there. sakagura sounds like a winner for some late night eats.