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Jun 29, 2009 10:10 AM

Top 5 Most Overrated in Manhattan

This is not a comment on the quality of any of these restaurants. Some on my list I personally find to be excellent and others I believe are terrible. The point here is to list restaurants where the quality falls well below the hype. The hype could come from a number of sources including hyped up on Chowhound, by newspapers, by word of mouth etc....

1) Babbo -- The end all be all of Italian food in NYC (maybe America) falls short. Battali may be a wiz with noodles but he needs more to justify the several month wait for a good reservation.

2) Carnegie Deli/Stage Deli -- this one is more for tourists but as any local knows, just go to Katzs

3) Juniors -- maybe a Brooklyn place but they have a Manhattan location and their cheesecake is nothing special. come to new york and get a pastrami at katz's and a cheesecake at juniors is what I was told (by a carver at Katz's) but I couldn't disagree more. No graham cracker crust?!? Get that cheesecake away from me.

4) Clinton Street Baking Company -- Good pancakes, not nearly good enough to be considered the clear favorite in the city on chowhound.

5) NYC Hot Dogs (dirty water dogs) -- I think everyone on this board would agree with this. Somehow people outside of the city tend to think of New York as a great destination for a hot dog. The ubiquitous hot dog vendors throughout the city stand as a testament to that belief. Having lived in DC for years where hot dog vendors are also common (and excellent), i can't for the life of me figure out why people love the dogs in nyc. if tourists started getting chicken over rice, then they'd be on to something.

Places that almost made my list but in the end live up to the hype: Doughnut Plant, Shake Shack, Momofuku Ko

Honorable mention to the single most overrated dish: Uni Panini

What would be in your top 5 most overrated places?

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  1. Spotted Pig, I love pork more than anyone but have not walked away from here feeling like I just had a great eating experience.
    Shake Shack, there is so much hype no burger could live up to the expectations.
    Virgils, doesn't even crack the top 10 BBQ joints in NYC
    Pizza 33, overpriced and under cooked
    Del Friscos, 3 times there and my steak has never been cooked to the correct doneness.

    5 Replies
    1. re: princeofpork

      I must disagree with Spotted Pig - was just there on Friday and it reminded me how much I love the gorgonzola burger and devils on horseback...

      1. re: Crepe Suzette

        LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Spotted Pig! Sweetbreads with Stewed Peppers one of the best things I have ever tasted! Followed that with Hampshire Pork Belly with Bean Purée & Chard We were just there this past week and savored every moment! I love restaurants that have a casual vibe, not pretentious, but server excellent food. BRAVO!

        Spotted Pig
        314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

      2. re: princeofpork

        I agree with your comments on Spotted Pig. I just don't understand the hype and the LONG WAIT. Total disappointment.

        1. re: princeofpork

          I agree with Spotted Pig. Over priced and mediocre food.

          Spotted Pig
          314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

          1. re: princeofpork

            Agree with shake shack being totally overrated. The lines are always long and the burger is always a bit tasteless. The price of it also makes you feel a bit ripped off. Howevr they do have great shakes, but burgers are really subpar. I rather go to Paul's place in st marks.

          2. Joe's Shanghai, Soup Dumplings.

            9 Replies
            1. re: scoopG

              5 is a bit hard for me to come up with but I will have to agree with Joe's Shanghai. I will also put Congee Village, Ippudo, Union Square Cafe and Jaiya (Murray Hills) on my list too.

              1. re: bearmi

                I agree with Joe's Shanghai and Spotted Pig. Also Fatty Crab - but that one I am on the fence about and think I should give it another chance, hehe.

                1. re: YummyInTheCity

                  I agree about Fatty Crab. Not a fan. I thought the service was awful and the food just not good.

                  Fatty Crab
                  643 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

                  1. re: AYSConsulting

                    I agree with Fatty Crab....I was totally let boyfriend and I were on a separate pilgrimage when we spotted Fatty Crab out the cab window we stopped immediately having heard all the hype. It was awful before we even finished some appetizers he was asking for the check. It didn't help that it's a semi open kitchen displayed the dude cooking who had a massive beard and no facial net thing gaurding it from getting in the food. I refuse to believe that he is the only man alive who's beard doesn't shed!

                2. re: bearmi

                  Is Jaiya that well liked on this board? I thought that the general impression was that the food is decent, not great.

                  Yummy, I'm with you on Fatty Crab. I know Chowhounds are less sweet on it than Bruni for the most part, but his awarding of two stars was overly kind IMO. It's really no more than a one. But I might be judging it too harshly for the really fourth-rate Hainan chicken rice I had recently... In my book, this dish is something divinely inspired. The version at Fatty Crab was heretically bad.

                  1. re: cimui

                    joe's shanghai, how did i leave that off my list. ippudo i initially included but decided against it. i agree though, it's overrated. spotted pig i've never been to but i do love me some fatty crab.

                    1. re: cimui

                      I think there is a loyal following for Jaiya out there, although it's probably not the most discussed or most liked Thai restaurant on the board. I also feel that Jaiya is brought up often at other venues, probably because it has been around for a while...

                  2. re: scoopG

                    Can you recommend a good soup dumpling place? Thx!

                    1. re: scoopG

                      I think it really depends on which Joe shanghai you went to. Personally the one in Manhattan Chinatown is really ... Not that great. Every time I go there for a soupy dumplings fix, the dumplings are deflated and just generally sucky. But the Joe's Shanghai in flushing is a totally different story, actually I just went there yesterday in the mid afternoon at 4pm when there we no crowds and the dumplings were ridiculously plump and filled with soup, so yeah Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown, Manhattan = overrated but Joe's Shanghai in Flushing = awesome

                      Joe's Shanghai
                      24 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

                    2. I'll dodge the verbal brickbats for saying this, but my last couple of visits to Katz's were nothing special. Pastrami is now just good, not life-altering- and nothing else there is worth the shlep.

                      42 Replies
                      1. re: addictedtolunch

                        Katz's is just good NY Deli, not life altering. the Carnegie is every bit as good, with better cheesecake. The Stage however, is just not that good.

                        1. re: OC Mutt

                          i think carnegie's food is miles more enjoyable than katz's...i will say that my last trip to katz's actually seemed like they were on the decline. my meat plate was small, cheap, and dried out...service was abysmal...and ive been eating here for 15 years.

                          langer's in LA beats them all though.

                          1. re: OC Mutt

                            I fail to understand how the pastrami at Carnegie can even be compared with the same at Katz's.

                            1. re: johnindabronx

                              I agree with you, but the Corned Beef at Carnegie is better. So is the cheesecake.

                          2. re: addictedtolunch

                            Katz's would top my list too. I've had worse, but I hate to say it, I've also had much better.
                            I find the sandwiches to be chintzy, and tough, with a predominant flavor of greasy salt water.

                            Katz's Delicatessen
                            205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              Where can I get better pastrami than at Katz's?

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                You can't. Katz's is the BEST.

                                1. re: ZaZa

                                  Sarge's pastrami is much better than Katz's. This has been a subject of much discussion.

                                  1. re: ellenost

                                    I disagree. I like the pastrami at Katz's better.

                                      1. re: thew

                                        2nd Avenue deli better than Katz's and easier to get to.

                                        1. re: Daka

                                          i dont agree with either of those assertions

                                    1. re: ellenost

                                      Not really, Katz's is by far the overwhelming favorite.

                                      1. re: BTaylor

                                        2nd Ave's is not bad...for that matter, neither is Carnegie's, really ...but ZaZa is right.

                                        None hold a candle to Katz's, at least as far as Pastrami is concerned.

                                        Katz's OWNS it.

                                    2. re: KTinNYC

                                      Langer's on the corner of 7th and Alvarado in Los Angeles.

                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                        chintzy? i can understand not liking the flavor ( i don't agree, but i understand) but chintzy? it's not a small sandwich by any means......

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          "I find the sandwiches to be chintzy"

                                          A quick Google search shows this definition of chintzy - "cheap: embarrassingly stingy."

                                          I think that word does not mean what you think it means.

                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                            It's posts like that which prove Katz's is numero uno on the hype meter.

                                            Feel free to consult your dictionary all you want, it's not going to erase my memory of mediocre meat plopped on top of two dinky pieces of bread. It's a chintzy offering for $15.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              Please, please let me know where I can find better pastrami!

                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                I never claimed to have a key to a secret stash of pastrami.

                                                Any place I've had better at, I've also had worse at. To me this is like arguing over who has better shoe tongue. I've never had a sandwich at Katz's that thrilled me, felt worth the money, or the hype. I never left craving it the next day, and I don't know anyone outside the internet who loves the place, but I know it's still sacrilege to express this opinion. The best Pastrami I've had personally was in LA.

                                                (I'm glad people here have been satisfied and had better luck at Katz's though, honestly. I've always felt I was missing out on what's just seemed to be a huge myth)

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  Hey now, folks. Lay off a bit. I agree with sugartoof that there's an aura of untouchable greatness that surrounds certain Manhattan Institutions -- and those kinds of assumptions can only be the enemy of open discussion when it comes to food. sugartoof's point, as I take it, is to say: Set aside the boundaries. Set aside what The General Populace considers sacred. Consider food on its own merits and then decide.

                                                  I really respect that RGR was able to come out and say that Sarge's serves as good (if not better, IMHO) pastrami as Katz. I agree. I also have also enjoyed the pastrami at 2nd Ave. Deli very, very much, though I understand from other posters that the quality may be uneven. (The times I've tried it, it's been wonderfully flavorful and moist.) And I humbly submit that I've helped make better pastrami with friends than what I've had at Katz's.

                                                  So I agree, ultimately, with sugartoff: Katz is good... but to call it the best in NYC? Just think about the hype factor before you make any assumptions. Think about all the places you haven't tried.

                                                  Keep the discussion alive. Free your mind. :)

                                                  Peace, love, good eats...

                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                    Would you describe the sandwiches at Katz's as "chintzy?"

                                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                                      I definitely agree that people should question what they disagree with... but at the same time, give the good 'Hound a chance to back down from a stronger statement than perhaps intended without losing face, eh? It pains me to see such a pile on...

                                                      [Ok, sorry to take this discussion OT. I guess it belongs more in Site Talk than anything.]

                                                      Back on the subject... Bob, nope, I wouldn't call the portion size at Katz small, but I know plenty of folks think the price tag is pretty steep for a mere sandwich. Perhaps sugartoof was talking about relative value?

                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                        I've never heard anybody say that the amount of meat in a Katz's sandwich is anything but enormous. It's really enough for two sandwiches. To call it "chintzy" is .... eccentric. The statement "I've also had much better" begs the question "Where?"

                                                        I'm not an absolutist. Maybe some other place is serving pastrami that's as good or better than Katz's. Why not share that information on the board? Cimui, I'll buy you sandwich at Katz's if the OP volunteers that information.

                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                          "You've said you've had better pastrami than Katz's. Well, that's good news, even if the restaurant is in another city."

                                                          Agreed. Although a long-time fan of Katz's pastrami on rye, I've never felt threatened or offended at the prospect of their being something out there that is better. On the contrary: it gives me something to look forward to.

                                                          sugartoof refers to arties, mendys and sarge's. i've also had some very good pastrami at arties and sarge's - never been to mendy's - but I don't put them in the same league as katz's, so i'd disagree there. then again, there's room for more than one good pastrami sandwich in manhattan, and i'd never blame a place for not being katz's.

                                                          the place i hear more about than others in the whole best pastrami argument is Langer's, in LA, which is yet one more reason to pull me out to the Left Coast for a bang-up gorge and eatfest. On a previous thread, however, I've read about a place in Jersey that some enthusiasts swear by. Someone help me out here.

                                                          If Katz's is, indeed, #2, I'm fine with that. Bring on #1.

                                                          1. re: Polecat

                                                            Langer's is very good. But it's a different kind of pastrami sandwich than Katz's. The bread (rye) is better, and the pastrami is aged, so it's a different kind of pastrami. The sandwich is served with coleslaw on the sandwich and swiss cheese. In all, a great sandwich, but if you're looking for pastrami on rye with mustard, Katz's is the place. I like both for different reasons. 2nd Ave. is too salty (like everything there), but I haven't found a better pastrami in NYC than Katz's.

                                                            1. re: Hoc

                                                              The rye in L.A. (Langer's, Nate & Al's) is corn rye, a different rye experience IMHO. The meat - that's a toughie. Katz's is MY personal favorite, but I love Langer's, Carnegie, even Artie's on the UWS, (that last just to get the heat from whomever out there ;-) ) . . . A quality corned beef or pastrami on a couple of nice pieces of rye with some great deli mustard . . . that's a treat (east, west, or even north - I love smoked meat sammies in Montreal), and best in this category is similar to saying you like Granny Smith apples over Golden Delicious - a matter of opionion. But can you be RIGHT? Best we can determine would be: 1) which is most popular. 2) whose standards are slipping or holding or (God forbid) improving. But it's fun to discuss, absolutely. And BTW - Nate & Al's in Beverly Hills makes the best chopped liver app. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong! ;-)

                                                  2. re: KTinNYC

                                                    I think the pastrami at Katz's is superb, but I have also found the pastrami at Sarge's to be consistently top-notch. Different in style from Katz's, but equally delicious.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                      So, do you think there is too little pastrami on a Katz' pastrami sandwich? Or just lousy pastrami? Where do you think we can get better pastrami in Manhattan?

                                                      1. re: MMRuth


                                                        It's hard for me to imagine anyone saying there is too little pastrami on the sandwiches at Katz's. From my experiences, the sandwiches are always bulging with meat. So much so, that the flimsy bread (there's no disagreement about that) can't support the juicy meat and literally falls apart. Note also that Katz's countermen still hand-slice their pastrami, so pieces are much thicker than when a machine is used, as is the case at every other deli.

                                                        At Sarge's, even though the machine slices are thinner than at Katz's, if you specifically order "fatty" pastrami, the meat remains very succulent. Also, the spicing is different from Katz's. But I think in its way, the pastrami at Sarge's is just as delicious. And the rye bread at Sarge's is more substantial, so it holds up better to the mound of juicy meat.

                                                        The thing to keep in mind is that pastrami should never be ordered lean because it's the fat that provides the juiciness and flavor. Lean = shoe leather.

                                                      2. re: sugartoof

                                                        You obviously didn't slip the counterman a buck!

                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                          Yes, the tip leads to a slightly thicker sandwich. And it's a very good sandwich. But at that price point, where a sandwich costs, with tip, about as much as an entree in many decent restaurants, I'm over-paying for something that is about as good (or within 10% as good) elsewhere, for much less money. And it's the only thing there that's even arguably a "stand-out" at all-the rest is just O.K. if not mediocre deli. Which means we have a place here that's existing off of past glory. When a restaurant, like a boat, "coasts", it slowly sinks lower in the water. If you are about the food and not about nostalgia or hype, a visit to Katz's is now a let down.

                                                          1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                            The tip for a larger sandwich is also a myth. You can try it for yourself. Put your tip in the cup before once and then try it another time and tip after, the sandwich is the same size. These guys make so many sandwiches they are on auto-pilot. I've tried it myself and there is no difference when the tip is presented.

                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                              Will they gladly give you a taste of the pastrami if you ask beforehand? Or do you need to tip them in order to get a sample. I have never been to Katz, however I have heard they are pretty gracious about giving out tasting samples before you decide what you want.

                                                              1. re: steakrules85

                                                                Yes, you get a sample. Trust me, the second you get to the front to the line the cutter is already getting the "sample" ready for you. These guys must make scores of sandwiches a day, they are on auto-pilot.

                                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                  Awesome.. thanks. I would like to sample the brisket and pastrami before I decide what to get. Even though I know I will most likely be going with the pastrami. Brisket tends to be too dry at these places.

                                                                  1. re: steakrules85

                                                                    The pastrami was heavenly but the brisket at Katz suxs! I would have forced for my brisket money back and show it on youttube if the line wasn't so long.

                                                      3. re: sugartoof

                                                        "but I hate to say it, I've also had much better. "


                                                        1. re: NAtiveNewYorker

                                                          2nd Avenue Deli. I've had an off pastrami day or two there, but mostly I've had really delicious and moist pastrami. As for Katz's I just have little reason to return based on pastrami.

                                                    2. 1. Shake Shack. I'm from Chicago and Danny Meyer's shack doesn't match up in terms of dogs or custard. Don't even get me started on the burger and the fries are mealy and miserable.

                                                      2. Max Brenner

                                                      3. Carnegie Deli

                                                      4. Serendipity 3 - overpriced, overhyped, and the one time I was there they artificially inflated the wait time (plenty of open tables inside)

                                                      5. Sarabeth's - I still like the lemon ricotta pancakes though

                                                      3 Replies
                                                        1. re: windycity

                                                          Serendipity 3 is okay to go to ONCE. I loved the Frozen Hot Chocolate the first time I went. It tasted much duller the second time around, though.

                                                          Serendipity 3
                                                          225 E 60th St, New York, NY 10022

                                                          1. re: windycity

                                                            I didn't know there was much of a hype over Max Brenner. I'm originally from Sydney, Australia and I can tell you that the max Brenner in Sydney tastes a whole lot better, because it's not ... As rich? I find the max Brenner here wayy to rich and that their menu has too many items. Max Brenner in Australia only concentrates on the treats none of this wrap and chicken business. So I think the lack of concentration on a particular food is killing their quality

                                                            Max Brenner
                                                            841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

                                                          2. 1. Porchetta--dry, dull, tasteless.
                                                            2. Little Owl--cramped, one of the worst pasta dishes I've had in awhile was the gnocchi. The sauce was watery and tasteless;
                                                            3. Minetta Tavern--$26 hamburger wasn't as good a $5 burger at a good burger place, bone marrow was feeble, foie terrine wasn't very good;
                                                            4. Keste--crust turned to soup after a couple minutes, sausage looked like dog food and had NO taste;
                                                            5. Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery--WAY too much hype for what tasted like a Duncan Hines cupcake.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Slob

                                                              100% agree on absolutely ridiculously lame place.

                                                              my other picks:

                                                              1. una pizza nepaletano - no choices, overpriced pies, no ice for my diet coke...this place must die.
                                                              2. spotted pig - the wait, the crowd and the star f$cking...the inconsistent not going back.
                                                              3. momofuku noodle shop - i know they barely serve ramen anymore but its so goddamn overrated, they need a new word for it.
                                                              4. babbo - besides pasta, this place just does not deliver. very disappointing.
                                                              5. little owl - the food does not warrant the constant attention. cute place but the food does not deliver.

                                                              1. re: sam1

                                                                sam, I couldn't believe just how bad Porchetta was after the crazy hype I read on it. I couldn't even finish my sandwich because it was so dry and devoid of taste.

                                                                And I think Little Owl's secret to their hype machine is the fact that they can only fit 3 people in there at a time, so it's always full and gives the appearance of being busy.

                                                              2. re: Slob

                                                                I agree with you onthe bone marrow at Minetta Tav. BIG disappointment after all of the hoopla. Loved the burger, tho.