Moving to NYC - Where to live for a die-hard foodie?
Just found out today--company is moving me to NYC for at least one year. My office will be located at 40th Street and Broadway. The question is ... where should I live to maximize the foodie opportunities in NYC... Factors to consider:
1. Avid restaurant diner, but equally if not more avid home cook
2. Prefer hole-in-the-wall ethnic dives rather than "au courant" spots of the moment.
3. Access to a quality grocer store, ethnic markets, and especially produce stands is a must.
4. Prefer to keep the commute under 20 minutes.
5. Want to live in a nice studio / one bedroom -- budget roughly $3,000 / month.
Although the focus is on Manhattan (hence the location of the post), I would consider off-island recos as well.
Many thanks in advance... very excited to explore the city in more depth!
Elements of Murray Hill that fit your interests--
Regarding 1 and 3:
Kalyustan's(walking distance) is an absolutely terrific market--incredible selection, including huge array of ingredients important for an array of ethnic cuisines.
Also regarding 1 and 3:
You are walking distance to Grand Central Market which is one of the best places to shop in Manhattan. There's a Murray's cheese and salumeria stall, good produce stand, Wild Edibles for fish, Penzeys for spices, etc...
There are some delicious south indian options a short walk away(best neighborhood for south indian in manhattan), and you'll be in their delivery zone. Also a short walk away are the terrific Japanese spots of midtown east. Not far from Szechuan Gourmet, one of the best chinese restaurants in manhattan(in delivery zone I believe). Lamazou has some of the city's best sandwiches as well as other mediterranean goods, and is a short walk away.
Done. You are walking distance from your office.
Murray Hill is one of the better areas for real estate value in Manhattan. Try to land on a block between Park and Lex or Lex and 3rd,(many of which are lovely brownstone blocks) as 3rd ave can be obnoxious.
There are other threads that go into more Murray Hill detail, but thats whats off the top of my head...
A few more thoughts came to me after posting.
Murray Hill is right on the 6 train, so you've got very easy access to other great food neighborhoods(East Village, Chinatown), and aren't terribly far from the 7 train to go into Queens.
Walking distance to some of the city's best burgers: Blue Smoke, Keen's, Shake Shack, not terribly far from Molly's.
Walking distance to Eleven Madison Park for fine dining.
Plenty of other good food things about the neighborhood.
Hell's Kitchen! (Not that I am biased at all...)
I have a lot of the same requirements as you. There are a ton of high quality, hole in the wall stores in the lower 40s on 9th. Also, there are plenty of fruit carts in the area. 9th Ave in the high 40s and lower 50s have ethnic resturants galore: multiple Thai restaurants, sushi, Israeli, Iraqi, Afghan, Greek: you name it. ONe down side is that you don't have the larger farmers markets close by, though it's not too far to hop on a train to Union Sq. There are smaller ones scattered throughout. You are prob best off living somewhere between 8&9 or 9&10, where there are a lot of brownstones and also some new bldgs. Relatively inexpensive part of town so you can prob get a good amt of space and also some nice amenities for your price point. Also, you should be able to walk to work within 20 minutes.
You can look at some of my prior posts for more info on specific places in the area.
You will get as many opionions as there are people in Manhattan. For example, I would not choose to live in Murray Hill, and while I love the Village, east and west, I would not want to live near Union Square, which is teeming with people, day and night. Just about anywhere you settle in Manhattan can be a 20 minute commute to your office. Remember, this is a pretty small island and part of the fun is getting around and trying the virtually unlimited variety of food establishments.
You should spend some time in various neighborhoods and see what appeals for living and everyday eating and shopping.
You will have to compromise on #4. #2 and #3 is best satisfied in Brooklyn or Queens. Hence I suggest Murray Hill or Hell's Kitchen as central subway hubs. Manhattan-philes treat a short subway ride to Queens or Brooklyn as resembling Marco Polo's expedition. NJ Transit buses/trains from midtown are also convenient for Jersey goodies. NYC doesn't have everything.
I'd go Upper West Side. We have the best markets with Fairway and Citarella at Bdway and 74th/75th (Fairway does a very good standin for a produce stand ..plus plus plus nearly everything else except fish and meat which Citarella does fairly well) Whole Foods is at Bdway and 60th. You're in easy reach of all the good hole in the wall ethnic place in Hells Kitchen (9th Ave and 50s) and you'll be an easy subway ride on the Broadway line (1/2/3) to work. We have some decent restaurants in the hood though it isn't known for it
to each their own, but i have to strongly disagree about the UWS...yes, the UWS has good large grocery stores, and yes, the OP could walk 20+ blocks to Hell's Kitchen, but the UWS itself is really lacking in restaurants when compared to virtually any other area of Manhattan...for christs sake, the UWS doesn't even have a single half-decent Chinese restaurant!...not one within a 30+-block stretch...
i lived on the UWS for 6 months, and while i loved Central Park, and going to the opera, i only truly liked one restaurant in the whole area (Cafe Ronda)...i finally left the hood because i was sick of commuting whenever i wanted to eat out...
I agree with msny98 that the UWS is a very good Chow neighborhood. I've lived in the W. Village, Hell's Kitchen, the W. 150s, and the UWS, and spent a great deal of time in Murray Hill and some time on the UES. I have to say that of these places, the UWS has the best mix of excellent markets and LOTS of produce stands everywhere, good (if sometimes pricey) restaurants, a surprising number of good / decent Mexican and Turkish / Greek / Thai / Middle Eastern restaurants / carts, and proximity to good Asian, South American, other inexpensive "ethnic" restaurants in Hell's Kitchen. It's not a terrible trip by subway (B line, or take the 1 and transfer at Columbus Circle) to get to Chinatown.
Hell's Kitchen has such a wide variety of inexpensive eats... but the big problem there is grocery shopping. Aside from the Western Beef in the W. 60s, I don't know of an inexpensive AND decent market around there.
The W. Village also has an enormous variety of inexpensive and expensive restaurants of every stripe. It's a wonderful place to live if you wish to eat out all the time. Grocery shopping isn't wonderful unless you live within walking distance of Union Square (where there's the crowd problem, as someone mentioned) or the Morton WIlliams down there (ok, not amazing grocery store). OTOH, you'll be very close to Chinatown and Hell's Kitchen... and there are wonderful, wonderful specialty shops, especially around Bleeker St., if you don't mind getting spendy + purchasing your groceries at a wide variety of places.
The place where I would least want to live in central Manhattan for grocery-buying purposes is Murray Hill. Markets are overpriced and often not very high quality. There are some good "ethnic" eats around there (Indian, Korean, Turkish and Greek)...
That was long-winded, sorry! :)
To summarize, of the places I've lived (or practically lived), my preference is:
1. UWS (best grocery shopping, great selection of mid-range restaurants and a few good inexpensive restaurants, good proximity to other good food nabes, so-so value on rent)
2. W. Village (good variety of restaurants + a few decent grocery stores and the Union Square Greenmarket if you manage to find housing nearby, terrible value on rent)
3. Hell's Kitchen (wide variety of pretty good S. American eats, harder to buy good, inexpensive groceries, inexpensive rent available, if you are willing to live in poorly maintained spaces)
4. Murray Hill (terrible value on rent and groceries, proximity to Korean and Indian, primarily... a few mid- to higher-range Turkish and Greek places)
5. W. 150s (great value on rent and some beautiful places, good Dominican food and some hidden, Jewish bakery gems, but mediocre to awful markets, little variety)
.... and all that said, I've always had E. Village and Jackson Heights (Queens) food envy, but never lived there!
I have to respectfully disagree with you re: Murray Hill(obviously given my post upthread :) ). As you allude to, there are indeed many restaurants in Murray Hill I'd never go to, but there are a number of great spots, and miscellaneous advantages to Murray Hill. In addition to the previously mentioned brief walk to Curry Hill(with Kalustyan's,Tiffin Wallah, Saravanaas, Baoguette etc.) and the numerous good spots for Japanese food in the quick walk to Mid-town East(Sakagura, Yasuda, Soba Totto etc. a few blocks away), Sarge's is right there(excellent pastrami, best pastrami apart from Katz) as is 2nd ave deli (the best sit-down atmosphere of the Jewish delis, has good matzah ball soup and delicious blintzes). A number of excellent places within walking distance such as Keen's, EMP, Blue Smoke(for the burger and bourbon selection), Szechuan Gourmet, Artisinal, Shake Shack etc.. And the advantage of being on the 6 line, which gets you to Union Sq Greenmarket in 10 min., easy East Village access for great ethnic eats, etc.. Many parts of the West Village are only marginally closer to the Greenmarket walking than Murray Hill. (Don't get me wrong, I love the West Village). And youre also better positioned to get the 7 into Queens than most neighborhoods. Groceries aren't the best value (some things are priced more at Kalustyan's than the same item is at Dean and Deluca, Grand Central Market has great stuff but not at a bargain prices), but rents are in my experience solidly lower for more space than in much of Manhattan. And the feel of the neighborhood is much different(i.e. very nice, quiet in a good way) if youre west of 3rd ave, vs. being on it(I do not like the 3rd ave vibe). Thats just my 2 cents. I agree with you on the high praises for the west village, which is one of my favorite parts of the city.
You're absolutely right about the proximity to good restaurants, Brett, even if few of these are really very hole-in-the-wall (really just the South Indian places, no?). Sorry if I ragged on your nabe on that front!
But the most frustrating thing about the area, for me, is the lack of good grocery stores that are actually in the neighborhood. Food Emporium and D'Agostino's seem to run the show and they're pretty dreadful, IMO. There is one good butcher that I know of on 2nd Ave., but they'll cost you an arm and a leg. There's a so-so produce vendor who sets up his cart on 31st and 3rd on weekends, who is both more expensive and less high-quality than comparable vendors on the UWS. Kalustyan's is terribly overpriced IMO. I do kind of like the Han Ah Reum on 32nd, though it's overpriced, too. You're right, of course, about the subway ride to Union^2 for the Greenmarket (as well as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods)... or a longer ride down to Chinatown for produce and fish.
I guess I should fess up to two things about myself: (1) I'm a cheapskate and (2) I'm deeply lazy. I love the UWS because I can find less expensive, high quality groceries without having to take the subway. I like being able to walk to Fairway and Zabar's and Westside Market or Barzini's (for produce).
LOL I don't think you were ragging on my nabe Cimui :) In fact I agree with you on some of your points. I suppose what I will fess up to on my own end is being a bit profligate when it comes to getting good food! (I share the laziness youve fessed up to though)...
What is the butcher youre referring to on 2nd ave, do you remember their name/cross st? I haven't explored some of the stretches east of 3rd much, so would be interested if i've been missing something good per that butcher.
Would love to have some of those UWS markets in this part of town, I'll have to lobby them for a murray hill expansion next time im in your neck of the woods!
i don't mind shelling out for really high quality food, but it pains me to pay a lot for food that isn't even very good. i think murray hill supermarkets can get away with charging such high prices for such low-quality products because many neighborhood residents are young professionals who work long hours and don't feel like they have time to cook. there are a lot of relatively inexpensive, lower-quality, fast foodish restaurants in the area for similar reasons: it costs almost as much to cook at home as it does to eat out. and i think there may be more bachelors per capita living in the neighborhood than in any other part of manhattan (except possibly FIDI).
all that said... ;) todaro on 31st and 2nd has sold me some high quality (high priced) cuts of lamb in the past. wild edibles on 3rd ave. in the 30s, i think, sells high quality, pricey fish.
i do very much envy you your proximity to all the great korean and indian food. we don't have that on the UWS at all!
You should definitely do some more exploring in Hells Kitchen if you're a cheapskate!! As noted down in some below posts, there are a bunch of inexpensive, high quality places. The main gripe is that there are lots of small, inexpensive places and not one large place like Fairway. I end up going to Fairway once every couple weeks up in Harlem on my way home from work, which offers more selections than the UWS one, anyway, but I agree that the UWS and Hells Kitchen would both be similarly good options.
As far as where to go:
Esposito's as a butcher (mod priced, I would say inexpensive considering quality)
Sea breeze fish: I can get fresh Tuna steak for 6.99 or 7.99/lb
Stiles Farmers Market (can't beat it except in Chinatown or outer boroughs; mangoes have been 2/$1.00 nearly all spring into summer. A lot of restaurant chefs hit it up early in the AM)
Amy's Bread or Sullivan St Bakery for bread
Various farmer's markets: pickle and olives by Manhattan Plaza, fresh eggs and pasta on 9th at 57th, a new one at Grand Central that I need to check out
Manhattan Plaza Winery for wine (half the guys are quite knowledgeable, other half are pretty much just stockers)
You should come down more often and visit not just for restaurants but for groceries!
I would live in Chelsea, because it's easily accessible to the Fabulous (year-round) Union Square Greenmarket, without being in very crowded Union Square. It's also got Chelsea Market and lots of great places to dine, AND it's close to all that's best about the Village.
I am leaving NYC after 4 years and I will most definitely be missing my neighborhood, East Village. Lots of ethnic hole in the walls mixed with the hippest joints a la Momofukus. No real grocers, but whole foods is close on Bowery and/or Union Sq and the greenmarket is open 4 times a week. (the one in tompkin Sq every Sunday). Lots of quality cafes and winebars, the only thing lacking a good bread bakery.
I also lived in Hell's Kitchen, and although my favorite bakeries are there and access to meat, seafood and groceries is better, the commute through Times Square quite off-putting.
I live in Astoria and have for 7 years, and I work on 42nd and 6th. Commute is a snap on the N/W line, and I am always amazed by the quality and selection of food in our neighborhood. Everything here is very well-priced and the diversity is spectacular. You should definitely check it out. Rents are reasonable and proximity to most other foodie meccas is also good.
Jackson Heights would be a no-brainer for me given your parameters. Proximity to great ethnic restaurants and markets of multiple varieties, especially East Asian, South Asian & Latin American, about 1/2 hr to Times Square on the 7 Train, easy access to Flushing for more great restaurants and markets. My friends who live in JH love it. One just moved from Williamsburg for more space and lower rent. I'm guessing you'll pay half for rent what you would in Manhattan. in JH you're walking distance to Woodside and Elmhurst too, two more great food neighborhoods. Don't know about the morning commute, but another advantage for the 7 train going home from Times Square is that it's the terminus, so you'll always get a seat in the evening.
re: Peter Cherches
I use to take the 7 train and it is hell in the morning. It is one of the more crowded trains and by the time you get to Queensboro Plaza you will know your neighbor better than you'd like. My experience is from several years ago, god only knows what the train is like these days after all the development in LIC.
There's also the V, F or R train that the OP can take, though the morning commute can be sticky as well. I find that if you're in the last car of the 7 train, it's not as bad.
My vote is for the Union Square area -- no, not in the center of Union Square but a few blocks away like 12th St and 5th Ave. Quieter, but still really close to the Union Square greenmarket, Whole Foods and all of the other shops. Near Washington Square Park. Short walk to either West or East Village. About a half an hour walk to Chinatown and about a 20 minute walk to Kalustayan's. Many subway lines go through there (going East, West, North and South), including the L if you want to explore Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
If you like "hole-in-the-wall ethnic dives," Queens is the place to be, especially along the 7 train line. If you're coming from work, you're right by the 7 train. There are those type of restaurants throughout Manhattan, but quality isn't as good as what you would find in Queens for the most part.
I'm going to have to say a no to Murray Hill because the grocery store situation isn't too hot. Cimui is correct that you really only have Dagostino's and Food Emporium around there. You've got the Grand Central Market (bunch of smaller vendors), but it is still limited and very pricey. And no good dessert place -- that's important for somebody like me!
I used to live on the UWS. Wonderful neighborhood for shopping but so lacking in decent restaurants.
My sister used to live in Hell's Kitchen. OK ethnic restaurants there but nothing really outstanding (except maybe Azuri for falafel). Shopping isn't too bad -- there's a Whole Foods, Sea Breeze for seafood, Amish Market and International Grocery that should satisfy most of your needs.
If you can do a temporary sublet for a month or so before committing to a 1+ year lease, I would opt for that so you have time to explore different neighborhoods. What's wonderful to one person is a curse to another.
re: Miss Needle
I have to agree with you re: living close to the 7 train in Queens for great hole-in-the-wall eats -- but not wrt to the restaurant situation on the UWS these days. I think there's been a veritable explosion of good restaurants in the nabe, within the past several years.
A brief brainstorm of good (or well-liked) places:
Telepan (well liked, not among my faves)
Picholine (well liked, not among my faves)
Compass (well liked, not among my faves)
81 (under-respected, I think)
Fatty Crab (well liked, not among my faves)
Georgia's Cafe (for pastries and baked goods)
Taqueria y Fonda
Taco Truck / Sobre Ruedas
Harriet's Kitchen (burgers)
Hampton Chutney (dosas are a bit dry, but otherwise good)
Sorry, I don't mean to be a contrarian, but I feel like the UWS restaurant scene gets no respect. :)
Not trying to be ornery, but i've been to about half of those restaurants and personally i don't care for any of them, with the exception of Bar Bao for drinks...(and Picholine for cheese but that's a rare thing)...
It's mostly personal preference and i don't mean to argue, but i have so much frustration built up from the six months when i lived on the UWS from the lack of good meals and lack of choices, that i feel compelled to disrespect the area food-wise until things improve up there...
It's ok, Simon. A good discussion is what Chowhound's all about!
I do wonder if you found the UWS not so much to your taste, in part because of sticker shock when you came back from your travels. If I'm not mistaken, you lived for a while in parts of the world where there is amazing street food for almost free (by U.S. standards). Coming back to NYC, in particular, and attempting to find similar value or similar foods in the UWS would understandably be disappointing!
Which places did you try, just out of curiosity? Maybe I can tag a few of the places that I actively love (as opposed to listing places that I think have broad appeal and decent or better food), if you haven't already tried them, and someday you can give them a shot? (I know you tried and didn't like Kefi, which I like very much, but that you really liked Cafe Ronda, which I personally don't like all that much.)
I agree with you that the Picholine cheese cart is pretty cool. I feel like a kid in a candy store (a very, very expensive one!) when it comes rollin' around. It's a shame that their famed uni mousse is so dreadful.
p.s. Barney Greengrass should've gone under mid-range. My apologies!
I live in Forest Hills, Queens. It's no foodie heaven, to be sure, not from a restaurant/dine-out point of view. Let's just say that if we had Barney Greengrass within walking distance, we'd be happy, fat and jolly campers - and that's just one of the places you listed. It's all relative, I know, but I think I'd be pretty happy with some of your above-listed choices.
My neighborhood, on the other hand, is advantageous as the R, F, E, V and G are right around the corner, and I can drive to Flushing within minutes. I think if I lived in some of the neighborhoods listed here, my cholesterol level would be a matter of public record.
I'm in Forest Hills too and while I agree with all the comments about Queens being great for certain things (cheaper real estate and ethnic food), I don't agree at all about the idea that getting into the city is easy or quick. Most times the subway is packed (getting on the E or F at 8:30am is awful), or painfully slow, or the express trains often go local on the weekends which sucks. I think the things that can be enjoyed in Queens don't require someone to live there full time.
it's hard to beat queens for variety and value (and parking)! i know everything's a little more spread out, but if all your mouth-watering reviews of hole-in-the-wall neighborhood restaurants are any indication, that's not too much of an impediment for you. there's so much more variety wrt to chinese cuisines, indian and other desi cuisines, south american cuisines... and i am passionately fond of patel brother's, one of which is pretty close to you, i think.
it's hard to beat queens for food variety and value (and parking)! i know everything's a little more spread out, but if all your mouth-watering reviews of hole-in-the-wall neighborhood restaurants are any indication, that hasn't been too much of an impediment for you. there's so much more variety wrt to regional chinese cuisines, regional indian and other desi cuisines, regional south american cuisines... and i am passionately fond of patel brother's, one of which is pretty close to you, i think.
the commute into manhattan doesn't seem to be too bad in the a.m., but taking the subway after work (8-10 p.m.) and on weekends has been rather more a pain in the posterior for me.
No, I guess that's my point. Living in a non-foodie neighborhood hasn't been an impediment at all. Certainly, living in Queens hasn't either, to be sure. If anything, it's incentive for me to get off my butt for points elsewhere, Queens or no. Given that I am lucky enough to: a) have wheels and b)live 5 minutes from 5 major train lines, it really doesn't require much effort to get out and eat.
...the "sticker shock" is a good theory, but i had/have no problem with NYC prices at places like Scarpetta, Grand Central Oyster Bar, Keens, etc even after i got back from Asia -- i walked down to Columbus Circle and hopped the A train to Scarpetta many times and was always pleased...when i was in Thailand, food was cheap as i ate tons of street/local food...but in Shanghai, i actually spent quite a bit on food and wine (i didn't go to the Bund much, but i used to eat at Franck, a bistro in the Fr.Concession, and various places that served wine, and at some trendy places like Lost Heaven, and Epicure for wine, where a bottle of Sancerre or Pinot Noir costs about double NYC prices)...
i think my problem with a lot of the UWS food was that it was mediocre in comparison to what one can get in other neighborhoods yet equally (or more) expensive...and the lack of Chinese food is a big deal for me (though maybe that new branch of Szechuan Gourmet near Columbus Circle will partially fix the problem)...
a few takes on a few of those UWS ones which i tried to like, but ultimately didn't:
-- Bar Boulud...i really really wanted to like it, and went there several times, before and after the opera...i like the staff a lot...but i found the cooked food to be too buttery (really drenched) even for a French place, and the salads sort of a joke...so it seemed like just a place to go for a terrine and not worth the crowds...
-- Cesca, i thought was mediocre...went a couple times...the whole wheat orchiette w/ sausage is yummy enough...the fritto misto is truly terrible...the service mediocre...
-- West Branch was disappointing too...i went 4 times...i found even the fish&chips to be inconsistent: delicious one time, undercooked and gluey the next...the ceviche is good...the bartenders are nice...the servers/hostesses are very smug and annoying...the Caesar salad is a typically creamy tasteless NY Caesar...
-- Earthen Oven...scores points for actually making the food spicy...but i find it overpriced: i.e. 17 or 18 bucks for a fish curry w/ 4 little nuggets of whitefish...a delivery order of one meat/fish dish, two veggies, and bread ends up being 60 bucks for a pretty small amount of food...
Was also underwhelmed by a few places not on your list: Cafe Luxembourg, Barcito Wine Bar, etc...
So with no Chinese, no Japanese, no Italian that compares to other hoods, i was pretty unhappy...
Sorry you don't like Cafe Ronda...if you ever venture back, i rec the lamb meatballs, the shepherd salad, and the sauteed spinach...
okey doke, point by point:
1. Bar Boulud. I think the regular plates are somewhat hit or miss. What it does very well are the charcuterie, in part because NYC doesn't give it that much competition. I can see how the place wouldnt' appeal to everyone, especially if you're not all that into pates and head cheese and beef cheeks and that sort of thing. (BTW, I do love the beef cheeks... did you try those?) My SO doesn't like it much, either. Butter happens to send me into paroxyisms of delight, so that mains served drowning it it don't bother me. Haven't encountered too many crowds when I've gone, but that's probably in part because I tend to eat very late.
2. Cesca. I agree. I don't really like it much, either. It's a nice place to hang out at the bar for the wines by the glass (nice selection), but the food is not my favorite, either. I list it because a lot of other people seem to love it. Agree about the service, too.
3. West Branch... Oooh, here we have to agree to disagree. I love the coeurs et gésiers (red wine braised duck gizzards and grilled duck hearts) and duck confit "choucroute" with house-made pork and fennel sausage and they make a pretty fine burger, too (though overpriced). I've never had the Caesar salad or fish and chips or ceviche. Please, if you are in the nabe again and the weather's chilly, go back and try the duck confit!
4. Earthen Oven. I agree with you that it's underwhelming. I sort of feel like the yogurt chicken I make on the grill is just as good, so think it's a little overpriced, too. However, I've always wondered if I don't love it because I don't appreciate the nuances of tandoori meats, since some 'hounds whose tastebuds I deeply respect like the place.
I hope that someday I can convince you to try Ouest. It's still one of my favorite restaurants in the city (though I did have one dud meal this past Mother's Day -- my first in six years... it was Mother's Day, though). It's a nice combination of great food + classy, but relaxed, atm. I really love the house smoked sturgeon with frisée, lardons and poached egg appetizer, the gravlax with chickpea pancake caviar and mustard oil appetizer, the braised beef shortribs entree and the duck three ways entree (which will hopefully come back this winter). And the mini baguettes they bring hot to your table along with the garlicky white bean and olive oil dip are so lovely.
True that there's no good Chinese or Japanese to speak of in the neighborhood. There is great street food style Mexican, however, I think mostly further up from where you were living. (Also decent Mexican-influenced chicken dishes, in particular, and a darn fine selection of tequilas at Gabriella's.) And there's good-for-Manhattan Thai at Thai Market. It's better than any other place I know of in Manhattan, except for Rhong Tiam. I know you have very high standards for Thai given that you've lived in Thailand for a time, but this stuff is really quite good for Manhattan. It beats the pants off of the Hell's Kitchen options, despite having gotten a little budget with the dipping sauces (used to be house made, but now are lower-quality commercial versions, as served at most Thai restaurants in NYC, including Pam Real Thai and Wondee Siam). Small plates comprise the strongest part of the menu. Make sure to try the turnip cake appetizer. Bad experience with the grilled calamari recently. It used to be a favorite.
Italian, I think, makes a decent showing. If you like pastas, La Vela is actually really, really good for non-red sauce, fresh pastas, in particular. It also has a good breaded chicken with asparagus, white wine and sausage entree + chocolate mousse dessert (made with chocolate, not cocoa). Spiga has gotten more samey since the chef changed about two years ago, but there are still some interesting, innovative neo-Italian dishes on the menu. I like the caprese interpretation with the timbale of tomato and buffalo mozzarella and basil sorbet served alongside.
Pasha is another one I wish you'd tried. I think they've slipped in the past three years -- they used to have the best hunkar begendi in town and now it's very uneven... sometimes great, sometimes terrible -- but the small plates, esp. the vegetarian ones, are still consistently great. Great shepherd's salad, since you mentioned it...
Re: Cafe Ronda... I've actually eaten there a heckuva lot, since I used to live in the 60s, right by Lincoln Center. I don't think the food is bad, but it's not so good that I would go out of my way for it, now that I'm further away. Also, I kind of got annoyed at the really slow service back when I used to go. Don't think I've had the sauteed spinach.
Golly, hope I didn't bore you to tears with this long post. Just want to convince you not to write off the neighborhood based on a few underwhelming experiences. There are a lot of great options, there, I promise.
hi...thanks for the thoughts...at West Branch, i had a few bites of my friend's coeurs et gesiers, and it was tasty...
i'll also put Ouest on my to-try list...i've walked by it many times and almost gone in...maybe i'll incorporate it in one of my AliceTully/Met visits this fall/winter, or go there with a buddy who lives in the hood...
With Earthen Oven, my quibble is more with the pricing than the food...with the exception of a dud or two (the eggplant) and the generally soggy bread, i was happy enough with my entrees (esp lamb vindaloo and saag paneer)...i rarely order tandoori so i can't weigh in on that dish...but it just doesn't seem to warrant spending 100 bucks for a dinner for two, which is what it came to when i went there with my old college roommate and we had one glass of wine each...but the only Indian in Manhattan that i've really liked is when i've gotten a huge 5 dollar veggie assortment from one of the taxi stand places, then taken it home, added a lot more curry and hot sauce, and fried two eggs to place on top...
Wow! Quite a list! I do have to admit that I moved from the UWS a few years ago before a lot of the great new restaurants popped up. I would have loved to have something like Grand Daisy bakery a couple of blocks from my apartment. DH didn't understand why I would just pick up something crappy from in my immediate vicinity when there was a bit better food further north. When I lived there, I was so tired when I got home (usually pretty late) that the thought of walking 10-15 blocks to eat was out of the question. So I guess that's where my perception of the crappy food on the UWS comes from. So, you're right, there is much better food in that hood if you consider the entire area -- and also because some great places have opened up there over the years.
The key to the 7 train is being near an express station. I always feel bad for all those people on the crowded local stations as I whiz by on the express. I really like where I live in Woodside for that reason alone, but could add that the proximity to Jackson Heights (EFVR trains), Corona, Elmhurst, etc., and a bus that makes a straight shot to Astoria, as well as the quick ride into Manhattan via the LIRR (10 minutes) or the 7 train gives you access to many of the food destinations in NYC. It's just a bitch getting out to Brooklyn. But for the OP's budget, this and many parts of Queens is a great place to keep a car, so that lower rent, more space, and ability to keep a vehicle might be enticing factors in considering the quality of life.
Well, First consider yourself very lucky. NYC might be the best in the world for a diverse foodie like it sounds like you are. The location of your job is at one of the best subway locations - You can take the ACE to the port authority, 7NQRSW to times Sq, BDFV to Bryant Park - all of these are about 2 blocks from your office.
I think the murray hill locations are limited. I respect hells kitchen a lot. I would not go to the UWS or UES for that matter - it's a cultural dead zone (j/k!! don't get on my back!). but I think the limitless, best places for a person like you to live in is Astoria or woodside/jackson heights in Queens. The best and most diverse ethnic restaurants in the city
The quality of Astoria restaurants is amazing. Very high percentage of places are amazing. I live right by the roosevelt ave station in jackson heights. I have very close access to woodside and elmhurst - which there is a little bogata, little manila, little india, and a chinatown in walking distance. There are a lot of places, but you have to be choosy, some are great, some are not. BTW, I commuted to 34th street on the E - took half an hour each morning - that is an express train.
You might also want to consider sunset park, east village, or maybe even chinatown in manhattan - that would be an interesting experience.
Seriously look at Astoria though. you will not be disappointed. keep this site bookmarked. I like yelp.com too.
I'd cast a vote for the East Village. It's not a bad walk to the Union Square Greenmarket for your shopping, there's a lot of great restaurants (the Momofukus alone make it a top dining district), it's a 15-minute or so walk to Chinatown, and you can walk a few minutes to the N/R/Q/W line which goes more or less right to your office door.
I lived on the UWS for about a decade, and while Fairway proximity was amazing, it's really a pretty poor dining neighborhood. There's a few good spots, and it's improving, but it's not up to the level of other areas yet. Now I live at 43rd and 9th, which has a good mix of restaurants of different prices and cuisines, a lot of which are excellent, but the food shopping sucks.
Another vote for the East Village. The area is full of restaurants both expensive and inexpensive and it's very easy to walk to the Lower East Side, Greenwich Village and the West Village (all lively neighborhoods with good bars and restos) Your commute would also be easy, just take the N, R, W, Q to Times Sq.
Yet another vote for the East Village. I live on 11th Street near Union Square, and have watched the neighborhood grow and change over the last 31 years. It's Nirvana for food lovers and cooks: Whole Foods, Garden of Eden, Trader Joe's, and above all the Union Square Greenmarket are all just a few steps away for me, plus there are three more supermarkets with competitive prices (though no one's cheaper than Trader Joe's). Not a day goes by when I don't wander through Whole Foods, whether I'm buying anything or not.
I'm also going to have to throw in the East Village as pretty much the hands down best neighborhood for what you're looking for. Like everyone said above, two Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Union Square Farmers market, and just a plethora of great, affordable restaurants.
I also mean no disrespect to the posts above, but Murray Hill has to be the last place for a food lover to want to live. Maybe UES, then Murray Hill. Just my opinion.
Also see all the love the EV gets on eater for 2008: http://eater.com/archives/2008/12/yea...
Also, the UWS is pretty great now if you need a more "grown-up" area.
Definitely disagree with you, as I am certainly a food lover, and I definitely like living in MH. Let's circle around to the discussion once you've had a pastrami sandwich at Sarge's at three in the morning two blocks from your home ;) I was once an MH skeptic as well!
That said, the east village is one of my favorite food areas in the city. I'm not saying MH beats EV in a flat out best restaurant contest. But the OP mentioned rent value/proximity to work as considerations. For ethnic eats, MH is a great spot because of its close proximity to Curry Hill and Midtown East, amongst the other reasons I mentioned above, and I think there are some great shopping opportunities here if you don't mind Kalustyan's/Grand Central market prices. But to each his own right?! I am glad the EV chorus has chimed in though, as that would be my second suggestion.
I don't live in Hell's Kitchen but I think the food shopping there is really quite good. You have 2 fish mongers right down the street, Esposito's is a very good butcher. There is the spice purveyor on 9th and Stiles is good for cheap vegetables. There is also that African Market for many things you can't find south of 110th street.
No doubt about it, I would recommend the south side of the east village. Plenty of ethnic foods, too numerous to name. Most are hole in the wall, and in expensive. Short walk to China town, so ethnic that a hamburger seems out of place. $3,000/ mo. will get you an industrial sized kitchen in that area too.
Queens is nice, and you might get a kitchen you really want to cook in. The 7 train can be frustrating, but most days it's 15 minutes from sunnyside to grand central. Not too shabby. The food is outrageous.
I would say Astoria is the place for you. The N Line to Times Sqaure is less then 15 mins. You have amazing greek, brazilian, italian, indian and grocery options everywhere you look. The area is safe, and the people are great. For $3000 you could have a small town home.
Lower East Side
All of the above will give you foot or quick public transport access to:
Union Sq Farmer's Market
Ninth Ave in the upper 30's stores
Citarella - UWS and Village
Bleecker St shops
Russ and Daughters, Katz's, Doughnut Plant, etc.
re: Chuck Lawrence
I think the question the OP should ask is : What neighborhood Other than your own - is the best for a foodie like me?
That would take out a lot of bias.
Wherever you are, try to be a block away from the train station. even if you have access, it can be very annoying walking 5 blocks or more to a train. esp in inclement weather.
Firs - Totally agree about being as close to a subway station as possible!
I actually lived in Hell's Kitchen for 4 years from 2003-2007 and I loved it. Mainly because it was super convenient to a ton of ethnic cheap food places + many many 24 hours delis. you'd be surprised at how many areas lack a big supply of 24 hour delis...
I now will be living in union square - primarily because I think it's a really central location. Nothing is too far - uptown or downtown, whereas in Hell's Kitchen I sometimes found going down to the LES or alphabet city a big trip...
If I really had my pick - I would live in the West Village (too pricey for me right now) - I think it has a really great mix of both cheap eats and nice restaurants - and I'd be hard pressed to find a more charming area. Somewhere between west village, greenwich and east village...you can't go wrong with that!
Other than my nabe (which doesn't fit any of the OP's criteria, at least until we get a 2nd Ave subway - hah!):
1) East Village. I moved from Murray Hill to Gramercy, and I am closer to the greenmarket plus there are better groceries. I now live close enough to the EV to walk down for dinners on the odd evening, which is fantastic. EV is also close to Chinatown, where you can get amazingly cheap food.
Yes the groceries in Murray Hill suck and are vastly overpriced, but the everyday takeout restaurants and delis are better.
2) Murray Hill (see above. Plus Korean and Indian food. yums!)
3) Woodside, Queens as Peter Cherches says would be a great spot if you are more value conscious but if the OP is willing to pay up to $3000 for a studio, it should be no prob to find something decent in the EV. Imagine Sripraphai every night vs Jaiya! (Though I wouldn't want to get sick of Sri ever.)
Lastly, don't fear the bus. It doesn't bite. And if you live far enough from the train, it works pretty well.