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Jul 11, 2009 02:18 AM

family needs local places to eat

Hello! We are travelling to NYC in September with 4 children (over 8) and would like some "non touristy" places to eat. Any suggestions - from fine dining to cheap eats would be much appreciated.

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  1. Considering that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of restaurants in Manhattan, your request is way too general. The following specifics will help Hounds provide appropriate suggestions:

    Where are you from?
    How long will you be here?
    During the week or including a weekend?
    Exactly how old are your children?
    Cuisine preferences? Any avoids? Any picky eaters?
    Where are you staying?
    Are you willing to travel to all neighborhoods in Manhattan? To other boroughs? (If the latter, post on the Outer Boroughs board.)
    For fine dining, give us your per person budget for *food only*, keeping in mind that you will have to add the cost of beverages, tax of nearly 9%, & 20% tip.

    1. Hello RGR and thank you for your reply.

      We are staying on the UES. The children are 8,10,12, and 13 and we are also travellling with a babysitter. The only picky eater is the 8 year old who doesn't like too much spice but can handle thai and indian food. We are there for a week - so not enough time to explore the outer boroughs. We had planned on eating out en masse 3 or 4 evenings and having a few evenings with just my husband and myself. We are from Australia where we have an abundance of Thai, Indian, Meditteranean (Greek and Italian mainly), Japanese and Chinese foods but hardly any from Africa, Latin America, or Korea and definitely no Soul Food. So we are looking forward to exploring these. Lunches will mostly be on the go. We are pretty casual and unpretentious. I am not quite sure on budget but suppose $10-$15 pp for lunch and for dinner $20 upwards depending on the restaurant. I expect that for large groups such as ours there will be set gratuity of 20% or more if we dine in.

      Here are some interesting recommendations I've picked up from this website.

      Margon, Shendy's Halal Cart, Mama's, Doyers Vietnamese, A Cafe and Wine Room,
      Amy Ruth's, Africakine, Zoma, Tulcingo del Valle, Tifinwallah, Paris Sandwich, Taksim, Soba Koh, Red Egg, Flor de Mayo, Ottomanelli's and Nick's Pizza

      For Dinner for two; - Yerba Buena, The Modern (the reviews have been rather mixed), Megu. We have enjoyed Felidia and Nobu in the past.

      I'd love to try the lobster roll at Pearl - but am not sure about taking the children there.

      Even though it is touristy, we will likely take them to Ellen's Stardust Diner for the experience. Mac n' Cheese is the 12 yo's favourite so we thought about S'mac. We also have bagel lovers so either Absolute Bagels or H&H - is there a bagel place on the UES that is recommended?

      I would be also interested in any little places that serve a decent cup of tea.

      Thank you and regards,

      7 Replies
      1. re: phanjokat

        To narrow it down further - where on the UES? I think posters have recommended the bagels at Tal, though I've not had them.

        I've been with children to Pearl without a problem - just depends on whether you think they'll like to food. It might be hard to get a table for seven though, and I'd suggest (a) calling ahead to make sure they can accomodate you and (b) arriving just as they open, whether for lunch or for dinner.

        1. re: phanjokat

          Hey, phanjokat,

          Thanks for the very helpful detailed response. I note that this not your first trip here though you don't indicate how long ago your other visit was.

          MMRuth is right that taking children to Pearl's is not a problem. However, there are not that many tables, and they would have to put a few together for you. Reservations are not accepted, so it's imperative that you get there just when either lunch or dinner service starts. I would recommend lunch, which is not as busy as dinner.

          I think you would all enjoy doing Korean bbq. Tables have grills in the center, and you cook your chosen main items yourself (meat, chicken, etc.) You are also given a variety of little dishes called panchen. The area called "Little Korea, in the W. 30's, is a good place to do this. Kang Suh, on the corner of B'way & 32nd St., does a good bbq. There is also a large a la carte menu. Open 24/7.

          I notice the Turkish spot, Taksim, on your "of interest" list. We've not been there. We favor Turkish Kitchen, on 3rd Av., b/t 27th & 28th Sts.

          Also, Ali Baba, on 34th St., b/t 2nd & 3rd Avs., serves lahmacun, Turkish-style pizza ,which is flatbread topped with lamb and vegetables. Delicious!

          When it comes to pizza, Hounds have their favorites. I like the thin crust pizza at Posto, on the corner of 2nd Av. & 18th St.

          Imo, The Modern's formal dining room is an excellent choice for a dinner for two. They do require a jacket for gentlemen at dinner. So, if you'd rather be a bit more casual, i.e, no jacket required, yet still have superb cuisine, I would recommend the following:

          Eleven Madison Park (our favorite NYC restaurant) -
          Allegretti -
          Aldea -
          Veritas -

          Finally, you might want to consider taking your family on my now famous self-guided Lower East Side noshing tour. Here's the link:

          1. re: RGR

            Thank you both for the suggestions - will make sure we get to Pearl early. The hotel is on 96th. Lived in NY for a brief time 10 years ago - but with 3 under 3 did not get to Harlem, the Village or LES so thank you for the link to the LES tour - looking forward to our first knish. I imagine Katz's would be quite busy - is there a best time to go? Is it better to take out and is there a little park nearby where we can sit? Can you tell me a little about the Korean bbq - Is it like teppanyaki? Do you have the option of someone cooking for you? Is there a particular dish you recommend?

            1. re: phanjokat

              It's hard to be precise about when Katz's. The last time we ate there, it was on a Sunday, about 11 a.m. (nothing like starting the day with a pastrami sandwich!), and there was no line at all. Last week, we passed by on a Monday between 3 and 4. I peeked in, and there was short line. There are two parks nearby: West of Katz's, on the corner of 1st Av. & 1st St., and heading east, on the corner of Houston & Norfolk. Also, keep in mind that Russ & Daughters is strictly take-out, so if you are going to eat your Katz's sandwiches in the park, you might want to pick up sandwiches at Russ as well. Together, that would all make quite a lovely al fresco feast.

              I had to look up teppanyaki. Sounds like what we know here as Japanese hibachi. Diners sit at a semi-circular counter in view of a flat grill, and a Japanese chef does the cooking usihg a bit of (corny) theatrics. In Manhattan, the only place to find this is at Benihana, on 56th St., b/t 5th & 6th Avs. (Note: Considered rather passé in the city, it is still quite popular in the suburbs.)


              Korean bbq is altogether different. Some of the restaurants still have grills using charcoal, but most, including Kung Suh, have switched to gas-fired. A server may start off the grilling, but the fun aspect is that patrons do the grilling themselves. We usually choose chicken and one of the beef options. There are also pork, shrimp, squid, and vegetables. We like to start the meal with steamed dumplings from the a la carte menu. Kang Suh does not have a website, but here's a link to their menu on MenuPages:


              MMRuth can give you good info re: what's near your hotel as that is her neighborhood. We don't dine up there too often, but one place we do like is Cafe d'Alsace, on the corner of 2nd Av. & 88th St. It's a lively French brasserie with very good food.


              1. re: RGR

                Re: your comment about teppanyaki being passe - must be our convict heritage - we still like our food to be flung at us! -

            2. re: phanjokat

              i would recommend saigon over paris, and second the amy ruth's recommendation over sylvia's.

              i haven't kept up on the koreatown threads, but there are many good options there. you may want to do a search for both "K town" or "K-town" as well as Koreatown.


            3. The OP mentioned soul food. If you've never been to Sylvia's on Lenox Avenue (127th st.) you must go.

              3 Replies
              1. re: shaogo

                We will definitely do the Korean BBQ for something different. We have a Benihana close by. We love dumplings.

                Is Sylvia's better than Amy Ruth's? When is the best time to go? I've been told to do breakfast at Sylvia's. Any dishes you would recommend?

                1. re: phanjokat

                  I would choose Amy Ruth's- some of the best fried chicken in the city- and their sides have never let me down. I'll be honest, I've never been to Sylvia's, but many people I know have and don't talk so highly of it. Another worthy soul food spot is Miss Mamie's Spoonbread on 110th off Columbus Ave. Short ribs and catfish are recommended.

                  You could order to go from either place and walk several blocks to northern Central Park by the Harlem Meer (lake). There your family can enjoy a meal in a beautiful setting, either on the benches lining the lake or on the grass.

                  1. re: HowfreshEats

                    sounds great -thank you will give them a whirl!

              2. Surprised to learn there's a hotel on east 96th St, that's my neighborhood...Nick's Pizza and Ottamanelli's both have terrific food and are family-friendly. For good bagels and pick-up snacks there's Gourmet Garage on 96th & Park Ave. A few very good local spots include: El Paso Taqueria (authentic Mexican serving breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner); La Fonda Boriqua (Puerto Rican soul food nearby in East Harlem - excellent chicharrones, fried chicken); Moustache (informal Middle Eastern/Mediterranean) -- all appropriate for families -- and Itzocan (sophisticated Mexican-French fusion, for all or just the two of you.


                3 Replies
                1. re: City Kid

                  Me too - wondering if they mean the Marriott on E. 92nd. As you know - I think Ottomanelli is great, and I also like El Paso Taqueria and Nick's - though I've not eaten in at the latter.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      There is also a good pizza by the slice place on E.96th Street, if you want to grab "a slice" in the area:


                      From Nick's I usually order a whole white pie, mozzarella only, with chopped tomatoes, red onions, prosciutto and basil.

                      Also on E. 92nd are Zebu Grill (Brazilian) and Kurio (eclectic).

                  1. Maybe complicating things, but I just wanted to throw out a couple of suggestions for places that might be fun and family-friendly:

                    1) La Bonne Soupe: midtown in the 50s I think. All kinds of fondue.

                    2) For BBQ: Dinosaur BBQ in West Harlem near the Hudson River (near Fairway/131 St. on 12th Ave.). Good barbecue (wings are highly recommended), near Fairway where you could get takeout and other food if you don't want restaurants every night (and there's a cold room if it's really hot), near some new piers on the Hudson AND near a big national park on the Hudson between about 137th and 144th (?). The M4 bus goes up Madison, across the north end of Central Park and then up the west side, near Dinosaur.

                    Bon appetit.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: rteplow

                      Thank you for your suggestions rteplow. I am a bit puzzled by the cold room - is this for us to cool down in - or for food to cool down in if its too hot? And is this cold room at Fairway or in the Dinosaur BBQ. My experience of cold rooms is from working in restaurants as walk-in refrigerators and given how hot it can get in the city - I would be hiding out in the cold room too. Maybe it is getting lost in translation but it has given me a chuckle in any case.

                      1. re: phanjokat

                        The cold room is at Fairway - where they have all the meats etc.

                          1. re: phanjokat

                            Would anyone recommend taking the children to Momofuka Ssam for the Bo Ssam? I've been reading some rather passionate reviews bagging the service but praising the food. It sounds very different - incomparable to anything I am familiar with.

                            1. re: phanjokat

                              I don't see why not. Keep in mind that you have to order it in advance. Reservations are not normally accepted at Ssam Bar, but if you're having the Bo Ssam, obviously, you'll have a table at the appointed time.

                              The 'cue at Daisy May's BBQ, on the corner of 11th Av. & 46th St., is terrific. They also offers a pigfest for groups. Again, normally, no reservations, but for "The Big Pig Gig," they take them.


                              1. re: RGR

                                So is Daisy May's whole pork butt comparable to the Bo Ssam?

                                1. re: phanjokat

                                  Since I've had neither, I can't say.

                              2. re: phanjokat

                                I've seen kids there, it shouldn't be a problem, especially because they do the Bo Ssam on the early side (like 5-6pm). They also offer it at lunch.

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  Hi kathryn, would you recommend the Bo Ssam. Is a whole pork butt the same as any other or does Momofuku treat it differently? I am trying to get my head around the whole concept. My kids love BBQ pork ribs so I thought they would quite enjoy the slow cooked pork butt.

                                  1. re: phanjokat


                                    I can't help you with the pork butt descriptions, but if your kids love bbq'd pork ribs, definitely go to Daisy May's. The ribs there are sensational!

                                    1. re: phanjokat

                                      The whole pork butt is really an entire pork shoulder. I think the actual meat yield is something like 8-10 lbs. It's cooked for several hours and becomes tender. They serve it with tongs because it literally falls apart when you touch it. It's more like an Asian influenced pulled pork lettuce wrap than BBQ pork ribs.

                                      IHMO, the best part about BBQ pork ribs is pulled the pork off in big chunks from the bone and the sauce! The texture of a bo ssam at Momofuku is quite different, and, as I mentioned, the sauces and seasonings are more Asian in nature. Also some people treat BBQ pork ribs as more of a BBQ sauce delivery system, which is quite different from the Bo Ssam.