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30 Last days in NYC, what restaurants to hit

Sadly after living 10 good years (despite the last abysmal 12 months since the crisis) in NYC, I will be leaving New York City for a job offer in Shanghai, China. I will probably not return to the United States for several years.

While I am excited for what the Far East, especially in this case the Greater China has to offer, I know I will miss some of the best restaurants we have here in NYC.

So I will spend the next 30 days in August to make sure I satisfy my future craving of NYC's best. Please help me to compile the list, any suggestions or inputs are welcome .

Basically I am going for all the best (but unique) restaurant only can be found in NYC that I will miss for many years to come.

I am actually staying away from all the Asian/Indian food since I won't have problems getting better food in Asia later.

I am thinking I should hit these restaurants

- Jean Georges (though I think he has one in Shanghai and Felix is a great establishment in HK)
- Gramercy Tavern

- Corton
- Babbo
- Lupa
- Scarpetta
- Inoteca

- Peter Luger
- Keen
- BLT Steak

- John's
- DiFara's (pizza)

- Casa Mono

- Pearl Oyster Bar

- Katz

- PJ Clark on 3rd Ave
- Shake Shack
- BLT Burger
- Burger Joint

- Shopshin's
- Norma's

- Bouchon Bakery
- Ceci Cela
- Payard
- Bouley Bakery
- Petrossian

- Shake Shack
- German cart on 54th St
- Halal Cart on 53rd St (Sixth Ave)

Outer Borough/outside NYC

- Blue Hill at Stone Barns (tasting)

Did I miss anything ?

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  1. All your choices are great, but I would also consider:

    Bar Boulud - for the pates
    Cafe d'Alsace - for the marrow bones
    Molyvos - for the amazing Greek food
    La Grenouille - for the flowers, the Dover sole, the ile flottant

    Good luck and enjoy Shanghai.

    1 Reply
    1. i'd add The Stand after hearing the way everyone talks about the Toasted Marshmallow shake!

      3 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Heard but never tried The Stand. I might actually give this a try this weekend.

        1. re: foodoof

          That milk shake really is fabulous. Also, if you have not been, I would highly recommend Salumeria Rosi on the UWS.

          You can take Payard off your list since it is closed.

          My favorite burger place is Ottomanelli on the UES, followed by Shake Shack - which I like very much, but they are different styles of burgers. I prefer Ottomanelli to PJ Clarke's, but have not tried the other places on your list.

          1. re: MMRuth

            Payard's flagship here closed but if you are going to Tokyo I believe he has a shop there.

            Also, I would add 2nd Avenue Deli to the list for the hot pastrami alone. Don't forget to get a bagel w/ schmear from H & H or Ess a Bagel before you leave.

      2. i think your list is outstanding.

        definitely concentrate on italian, burgers, bistro before leaving. add pizza to your list.
        you'll have a great time in china.

        remember, you're not running from great food, rather, you're running toward great food.

        have too much fun.

        7 Replies
        1. re: steve h.

          Well I will have Asian, especially Chinese food fiesta for the next few years.

          I wonder if there's any other Pizza place I should include on the list. I must say (and this is no offense to these restaurants and their patrons) that neither Lombardi's nor Grimaldi's impressed me with their world famous pizzas, the food was good but short of excellent for my taste bud.

          1. re: foodoof

            What about Neopolitan style pie at some place like Una Pizza Napoletana or Keste? I'm not sure how common that is in China.

            1. re: foodoof

              deb and i are fans of una pizza napoletana. simple, understated and impossible to duplicate in either china or hong kong. mangieri is rumored to be packing for the west coast so you may want to act soon.

              off topic: you may want a sunset meal at river cafe so you can view the battery at its best. take the water taxi there or walk the brooklyn bridge. maybe do both.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Interesting - and I never made it there!

                  1. re: kathryn


                    i did a fast google search and you're absolutely right.
                    here's a link to the nyt's blog that came out less than an hour ago.


                    i think mangieri's pizza oven will be in good hands with the motorino folk. we'll see.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      sorry for the duplicate link.
                      kathryn was first.

            2. I recently went to Babbo. I wasnt impressed. Id recommend only getting the pasta there.

              Normas is great for brunch.

              One of my fave's is Red Cat, which i didnt see on your list.

              1 Reply
              1. re: drschwartz

                Thank you, I knew I forgot something. I will add Red Cat to my list.

              2. I don't think I saw Clinton St. Baking Co - one last order of their pancakes would be good to have.

                I also didn't see any Mexican food on your list - not sure if that is something you're interested in and while I know NYC's offerings are somewhat lacking, still I imagine it would be something you couldn't get in China. If you want to combine that with an Outer Borough experience you could go to Tacqueria Coatzingo in Jackson Heights or tacos or tamales at Nixmatal Tortilleria in Corona (the latter followed by a frozen custard at Timmy O's which is just a few blocks away).

                Do you care about missing BBQ at all since you won't be in the States for quite some time? I know it's not native to NYC but there are some great options: either RUB or Daisy May's would be my choices.

                Good luck with your new job and exploring Shanghai!

                4 Replies
                1. re: pellegrino31

                  Ah of course. thanks for the reminder. I think I am going to stop over Tacqueria Coatzingo if I have time. Mexican food in NYC is not my forte, but then again, this isn't California/Arizona/Texas.

                  The problem with Coatzingo's highly affordable selection is that they fill you up fast

                  Any suggestion for some latin or nuevo latino food in Manhattan would be appreciated.

                  1. re: foodoof

                    It's one of those good problems, right ;)

                    I don't go out often for Latino food in Manhattan but I do like Paladar on the Lower East Side (then you can follow it up with a beer or two or three at Spitzer's Corner which is just down the block).

                    1. re: foodoof

                      Look into Pampano. It's non-greasy, non-street food, upscale (expensive) nuevo Mexican. Very good, with nice cocktails and wine to boot.

                    2. re: pellegrino31

                      Mexican's a great suggestion, pellegrino. There's a really bad Tex Mex place or two that I know of in Shanghai, but no real Mexican, as far as I know.

                      There are, however, a number of Spanish places, including tapas bars.

                    3. If you like chocolate, I would not miss Kee's in Soho - truly the only place at which I indulge in chocolate these days.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Hi I do like chocolate, but the proximity to Hongkong won't be too far. Some of the chocolatier places have also opened their branches in Shanghai/Beijing. And Tokyo is within range for a weekend's trip. I suspect I won't miss too much of my European chocolate.

                        Kee (when I indulged on their chocolate) was ok, I think I won't miss the chocolate part that much but I might miss some of the awesome selection of cheese here.

                        1. re: foodoof

                          Il Lab
                          Barney Greengrass
                          Russ & Daughters

                      2. Oh, you'll have a blast in Shanghai...i lived there for six months last spring and had some of the best food of my life...post on the China board, and i'll give you some recs...

                        In SH, you can go to many restaurants of the Jean-Georges ilk, so i would't rush there while you are in NYC...

                        in NYC, i'd rec enjoying some of the great Italian options...Scarpetta, which you already have on the list, is one of my favs, but i'd also rec going to Malatesta, for simple and delicious Italian food in the W.Village near the Hudson River...

                        i'd also recommend going to Russ&Daughters for smoked salmon to go...and also to the counter at the Grand Central Oyster Bar if you like raw oysters....those, along w/ Keens, are just about the only restaurants i missed while i was away...

                        You also might want to hit Tia Pol...while SH has some new-style trendy tapas places, it is sorely lacking a rustic traditional place...

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Simon

                          What about a Batali place or Chinatown Brasserie?

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            hehe...those are the two NYC places/place i'd be glad to be 10,000 miles away from...

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                don't worry...i got the joke!...(and liked it)...

                                1. re: Simon

                                  Actually I might to have find the best General Tsao's chicken I can get in NYC before leaving for China ;)

                                  1. re: foodoof

                                    don't do it!...heh...some Shanghainese cuisine can actually be quite sweet, so you won't be at a loss for sweet&soy-sauce heavy dishes there if you are craving them...

                                    i'd also say that you can skip NYC French bistros, as SH has a bistro named Franck that's better than any bistro in NYC...

                                    1. re: Simon

                                      I was just kidding, I am basically not touching Chinese food until I leave NYC :)

                                      And no General Tsao's chicken or whatever you call that dish is not my thing. Give me Drunken Chicken or Beggar Chicken anytime.

                                      Franck is better huh, seriously... ?

                                      Since you lived in Shanghai before, what other cuisines do you think Shanghai (and Beijing) are lacking that I haven't added to my list.

                                      I was thinking of adding some Greek restaurants in Astoria, a few other Italian desert place downtown, the problem is they're very touristy and maybe some coffee places. The last time I was in Beijing Starbucks coffee tasted really bad.

                                      1. re: foodoof

                                        i'd say, compared to Manhattan, Shanghai is lacking: authentic Spanish tapas, regional Italian, smoked salmon, bagels, NY pizza, reasonably priced raw oysters, and upscale American/local-ingredients-places like Gramercy Tavern/Blue Hill...

                                        and i don't remember much in the way of Greek/Turkish/Arabic (though there are lots of Xinjiang places for kebabs, lamb w/ rice, sheep's heart w/ chilies, etc)...and, there is only one decent authentic Thai restaurant in SH (hidden in an apartment building and created for the staff of the Thai consulate), though there are several Westernized Thai places that some Westerners seem to like...

                                        i also wasn't thrilled with the three or so times i had Japanese food in SH, though there are some options (and you're close enough to Japan for weekend trips, esp Fukuoka, my fav food city in Japan)...

                                        I didn't notice the mass-produced coffee like Starbucks being any better or worse in SH than Manhattan...(and in Thailand, it tastes better for some reason)...and the French Concession area has plenty of cafes that serve decent coffee, croissant, etc...

                                        And if your schedule permits much regional travel, you'll easily be able to fill in the blanks...Bangkok, in addition to the obvious local cuisine, has solid Italian...HK has most things under the sun...Fukuoka has some of the yummiest seafood in the world...

                                        but yeah, if i was leaving soon, i'd hit: Russ&Daughters, Tia Pol, Keens, GCOB, Malatesta, Scarpetta, and maybe Ushi Wakamaru for sushi and Matsugen for soba if i didn't think i'd be going to Japan anytime soon...

                                        oh, and i'd also shop constantly at the Union Sq Greenmarket and cook a lot at home!...organic veggies/fish/meat is actually the thing that'll the hardest to find!...

                                        1. re: Simon

                                          Great insights comparing the two cities, I will sure add more restaurants and dishes to eat before my final boarding time.

                                          Tia Pol sounds good, I was thinking about this little gem myself and somehow it just skipped my mind, the crispy pig was heavenly there.

                                          Ushi Wakamaru ? really, I would imagine Shanghai by now would have had a comparable Japanese establishment as what Manhattan has to offer, then maybe a last trip to Yasuda, Kuruma Suzhi is not such a bad idea.

                                          Thai food, I can always go to Thailand or HK has some good ones.

                        2. Not a restaurant, but a grand Little Italy landmark: Di Paolo's on Grand at the corner of Mott. They have the greatest Italian cheeses, salamis, and now wines...Just a few doors down is Piemonte Ravioli for fresh pasta. You won't be able to get these ingredients in Asia (or, for that matter, most of the US).

                          1. If you want to travel outside of the city and want to make a night of it in Astoria I would suggest going to Trattoria Al'Incontro (for Italian) or Kykladis (for Greek) then follow it up with a night out at the Beer Gardens and enjoy something from the grill... Incontro is amazing and you can make reservations... Kykladis has amazing fresh fish but you cant make reservations!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tursi3214

                              Kyclades is our favorite in Astoria. Though we recently tried a more upscale Greek with a roof deck and enjoyed it as well. Enough said, a search for Astoria and Greek on the Outer Boroughs Board and a trip in August are called for. . .

                            2. I see that you have divided up the restaurants according to cuisine/ type. In my area of expertise which is steak, I would say you are right to have Peter Luger and Keens on your list. I have never been to BLT Steak, however BLT Prime is great and many agree it is better. Others that you may want to consider are Strip House, Old Homestead, Del Frisco's, and Smith and Wollensky.

                              For special occasions/higher priced meals I would say Craft, Gotham Bar and Grill, Eleven Madison park are all musts. Some of the best meals I have had were here.

                              As for Italian even though many have been bashing it lately, I agree Babbo is a definite. I would also add Crispo to your list- it is a great place and moderately priced. I enjoyed it so much so that I consider it better than Del Posto pound for pound. Del Posto was such a rip off for the amount (lack there of) of food you get.

                              For pizza yes Di Fara's is the best. I am not really a huge pizza person- I mean who doesn't love a great slice of pizza right? But if given the choice of pizza or something I love, I prefer tons of other foods. However, Di Fara's is different. It's so worth it. Even if the whole ordering/waiting process is a royal pain in the you know what. Some places are worth the hassle and this is a perfect example.

                              For burgers a place that does not get much recognition on the boards is Rare Bar and Grill. Probably the best burger I ever had there was their t-bone burger. Have only had Shake Shack at Citifield and while it is a good burger by ballpark standards, you can do far better in my opinion. I prefer my burgers rare, something Shake Shack cannot do. Their black and white shake was great though and I enjoyed their fries. You may also see recs for burger joint and I would say avoid it. It is a regular burger on a regular bun. Nothing special to it, you can make a better one on your grill at home. Not worth the $7 or the long lines.

                              For breakfast Clinton Street Bakery (Pancakes, Brown Sugar Bacoon, Biscuits), Sarabeth's (Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Four flowers juice) and Jane (French toast, lobster benedict, crawfish benedict) are all terrific.

                              Finally, the most recent restaurant visit for me was Amy Ruth's in Harlem. I really enjoyed it and if you are seeking to experience Chicken and waffles this is the place to hit.

                              1. As I spend more and more time out of NYC this is what I miss most:

                                *Walking out my door for food (so many choices!) vs. driving everywhere
                                *Bagels and Kossar's bialies, whitefish salad, Nova (since you are a meat eater places like Katz's for pastrami and Luger's should stay on your list)
                                *Not sure about pizza yet still doing a taste test of the Capital Region . . .
                                *Greek food (Astoria, Pylos, Periyali)
                                *Gems like Shopsin's and Ukrainian National Home that are ONLY in NYC
                                *Trader Joe's and other specialty shops like Aleva in Little Italy
                                *Chinatown (this will not be an issue for you :)
                                *Sushi - now only have 1 or 2 choices
                                *The large number of fine dining choices (L'Atelier, EMP, etc.)
                                *Personal fine dining favorites like Falai
                                *Delicious newbies like Aldea that are not overrated/overhyped

                                What I DO NOT miss:

                                *Mexican or barbecue - these are regional foods that I would not seek out in NYC, would go elsewhere for them
                                *Corton, Ceci Cela (maybe you have memory associated with this place) and the like

                                If you get to Xian have some Empress' milk, potatoes with spun sugar and dumplings for me :)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: financialdistrictresident

                                  You are going to Shanghai, not another planet, you will be able to get good non-Chinese food here. Personally I could eat Sichuan food everyday.
                                  If you haven't left yet, the only three that you should stock up on is neopolitan style pizza (New York Style Pizza serves the same regular slices you can get in New York), bagels and deli food, and mexican (though New York doesn't have the greatest either). You can get all of these, only you will do better in New York.
                                  I work in Shanghai, but I am from New York, and when I visit home I miss good Chinese food (even in New York, you can't get good authentic Chinese food). Its what we can't have that we miss the most.

                                2. Some of my favorites not already listed as far as I see:

                                  Banh Mi Saigon Bakery for the number 1

                                  sugar sweet sunshine the pistachio cupcakes!!!

                                  Fortunato brothers cannolis and gelatos.

                                  Red hook ball fields Pork Huarreche, pupusas with pork and cheese, grilled corn

                                  Bar Baloud for a more fancy dinner

                                  Tory Yakitori chicken oyster, wow!

                                  City Crab & Seafood Company happy hour

                                  Prosperity Dumpling 5 for 1

                                  Fatty Crab the downtown incarnation

                                  Fette Sau BBQ

                                  Kanoyama Sushi

                                  1. I've been to Hong Kong many times -- tons of family still over there. I always miss these most:

                                    - Katz's pastrami on rye with mustard and full sours.
                                    - Ess-A for a hot bagel, not toasted, with tofu scallion spread (far creamier than the cream cheese).
                                    - Russ & Daughters' herring in cream sauce, pastrami and Scottish salmons, horseradish cream cheese.
                                    - Gray's recession special with sauerkraut, mustard, and a banana drink.

                                    - Grand Central Oyster Bar (at the bar only) and Lure Fishbar's happy hour -- both excellent for oysters and amazing atmosphere, but in different ways. If I didn't spend each trip visiting relatives, I'd have gone to Japan by now -- I have constant sashimi/sushi cravings (Sushi Yasuda, Taro Sushi in Flatbush).

                                    - The burger at Luger's, with a side of bacon and a bowl of schlag for dessert. steakrules is on the money re: Rare's burger. I went to high school somewhat close to Ottomanelli's, so I'm very partial to their burger and fries. Unfortunately, have yet to try Shake Shack... But, I'd strongly recommend getting at least one good burger in before you leave; I'm by no means well-traveled, but I've yet to have a truly satisfying, juicy, messy burger outside of the US.

                                    - Falafel and shawarma from Azuri Café, with one of the imported Israeli juices/sodas from the cooler.

                                    - Besides the chicken and rice at 53rd and 6th, I'd hit Kwik Meal for the lamb over rice -- with a good dose of their nuclear-strength green hot sauce.

                                    - Mexican/Latino specialties at the Red Hook Ballfields -- pupusas, huaraches, ceviche. I love rice and beans and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas, I think), but I've been making those at home for several years now. I do remember having great rice and beans at El Malecon, though.

                                    - I'm not familiar with the tapas scene there, but I think Simon's right re: lack of rustic traditional places. I've not been to Tia Pol, but had great meals at Boqueria and Casa Mono; La Nacional remains my favorite for traditional tapas.

                                    - As far as 'American' food, I had an incredible meal and experience at Eleven Madison Park, which I think is 'New American' -- but I would miss Southern food more, I think. The fried chicken and biscuits are delicious at the Redhead, and I enjoyed the brisket at Hill Country. I'd also look into a good place for ribs.

                                    - Finally, I don't have much of a sweet tooth and am unfamiliar with the dessert scene in Hong Kong...but it seems that pie is a fairly American item, so you might want to look into that before leaving. I like the tarts and pies at Two Little Red Hens in the city (Ladybird Bakery's their branch in Park Slope), Steve's key lime pies in Red Hook, and the sour cream apple pie from NY Little Pie Co. Two Little Red Hens also makes a great, somewhat underrated gingerbread.

                                    Congrats on the job, happy fooding, and safe travels!

                                    1. I could prob name a list longer than what you put of what you need to hit, but DAIST MAY'S BBQ IS A MUST!


                                      1. I'd stuff myself full of good cheese. It can be very, very hard to find, even in Shanghai. There's a big international market in the French Concession that does carry a few packaged cheeses, but nothing like what you can find at a good cheese shop, here. Either head to Murray's Cheese and pick up your own selection or go somewhere with a great cheese cart, like Picholine.

                                        Maybe also find a place for pie, New York style cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, U.S.-style cake, if you like it. You can find all of these in Shanghai, but good versions are much, much harder to come by. [Some Chinese interpretations of cheesecake and cake are great, but they're not entirely the same thing as the original.]

                                        Katz's and Shopsin's are good ideas! And head to Second Ave. Deli or Sarge's for latkes, pastrami, chopped liver, rugelach, etc..., Ess-a-Bagel for bagels. Even though there's a substantial population of Jewish Americans and Israelis in Shanghai, I wasn't able to find real Jewish deli food anywhere.

                                        As I think others might've already pointed out, you can find a LOT of great French and Italian places in Shanghai, halal food that's similar to and even more delicious than the food from the 53rd St. cart, lots of places like Pearl Oyster Bar. There are also places for decent pizza.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: cimui

                                          Guys, not that these tips aren't super helpful, but just wanted to point out that the OP is LONG gone from NY by this point.