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Jul 31, 2009 01:06 PM

Week in NYC; Review my line up please

Hi Big Apple eaters!

I'm traveling to New York in the first week of September (right before the Labor Day weekend) for the US Open tournament. I also want to check out some great places to eat, so this is the list I've culled from reading reviews etc. on the Web. I wanted to get your feedback on which places below I should definitely try and places that are overrated and probably could be dropped from my list.

Some things to keep in mind in terms of what I'm looking for in my dining experience in New York:

1) I'm traveling alone, so looking for places that are conducive to solo dining (i.e., has full menu at bar, allows walk-ins, etc.)
2) I hate traveling with a lot of fancy clothes and New York tends to be hot in August, so I'll be wearing comfortable, casual clothes. So definitely don't plan on going to places that require suits or ties. Big plus will be places that have a great environment but don't have the attitude about attire. (BTW, I'm not a slob. I will have a nice pair of slacks and long-sleeve dress shirt with open collar for somewhat fancy places.)
3) I don't really want to make reservations so I can keep my iteniary fluid. So looking for places that I can walk-in. I do plan on trying places more during lunch to avoid the night crowds, or if I dine at night I usually eat on the early side around 6-7 p.m. But I'm not opposed to making reservations for one or two places if you feel they're a must. So let me know if any of the places I noted below are only possible with reservations.

OK, ON TO THE LIST (in alphabetical order, not necessarily places I want to go to first)

Bar Americain
Bar Boulud
Clinton Street Bakery (mostly for breakfast)
Di Fara Pizza
Enoteca at Del Posto
Ippudo (for ramen)
James (in Park Slope, where I used to live briefly so I like going to dinner one night in my old hood)
Momofuku Ssam Bar or Noodle Bar? (which one if you had to choose)
Porchetta (probably just for lunch)

As you can tell, my list is way longer than my opportunity to eat in the 7 days I'll be in New York, so your help in whittling down this list will be greatly appreciated. I know already that two days will be lost to spending all day at the US Open, so won't have time to explore eating then.

Also, I want to spend a day hunting down good Chinese food in Flushing. I read about the "underground" malls with the food courts, but no one ever specifically mentions a favorite food item or food stall to try. If you can steer me to any must-trys, that'll be great!

And a final request, if there's any hot food trends in New York you think I shouldn't miss, please let me know!

Thanks all!

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  1. Cuisine-wise, your list is all over the place. Could you name a couple of your favorite cuisines so we can focus on the best in each category?

    Here are my initial thoughts:
    Bar Americain - ARE YOU A BIG FLAY FAN?
    Bar Boulud
    Clinton Street Bakery (mostly for breakfast)
    Di Fara Pizza
    Enoteca at Del Posto - WHY DEL POSTO?
    Ippudo (for ramen)
    James (in Park Slope, where I used to live briefly so I like going to dinner one night in my old hood)
    Momofuku Ssam Bar or Noodle Bar? (which one if you had to choose) - SSAM BAR
    Porchetta (probably just for lunch)

    2 Replies
    1. re: LeahBaila

      Leah, the cuisine is all over the place because I do like trying a variety of cuisines and styles. So I'm not stuck on one thing, but did want to know which is good for what it serves.

      I am a Bobby Flay fan but I was just interested in checking out the place to see if a TV chef can also put out a good restaurant. I ate at Mesa Grill years ago and was somewhat interested to see what his new place would be like, but from people's feedback it sounds like it might be better to skip.

      1. re: singleguychef


        I think the major reason Mesa Grill was as good as it eas years ago (which is when we last ate there) is that, back then, it was Flay's only restaurant, and he was actually in the kitchen most of the time. Once he became famous, that changed. In addition to opening more restaurants, he's also busy doing his various t.v. gigs. Btw, I'm not a Flay basher. I also liked the food at his second restaurant, Bolo, which closed a couple of years ago. (The building was bought by a real estate developer.) There are Hounds who like Bar Americain, but our meal there sucked big time!

    2. Aldea just got reviewed in the NYT a short while ago -- I'd try to reserve. I haven't been. Maybe Casa Mono or Degustation as a backup, although for Degu. I'd reserve (dinner service only) whereas Casa Mono is open all day.

      Bar Americain -- I think most hounds would tell you to skip.

      Bar Boulud and Clinton Street Baking Co. both have some counter seating. Clinton St's counter is tiny though. 2 seats at a window, 3 seats by the bar, IIRC.

      Bar Boulud will probably be mobbed right before a show, so it's better to dine at "normal" dinner hours there.

      Clinton Street will be mobbed on the weekends. Do a weekday. What about Shopsin's?

      Co. might be awkward for a solo diner if they put you at the communal table. Lunches are more chill than dinners here.

      Di Fara = seek wisdom on the Outer Boroughs board but my general advice is to show up at 11:45am on a weekday (not Monday or Tuesday though) and be patient. Don't move out of Dom's immediate line of sight.

      Enoteca at Del Posto - I think you need to reserve for this one. Why Del Posto, though? Otto or Babbo are both quite well suited for solo dining as you can eat at the bar there.

      Hakata Ippudo - go for lunch or go RIGHT when they open for dinner service at 5ish, the crowds are insane. Nearly as bad as Clinton St. Baking so.

      Momofuku Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar are both extremely conducive to solo dining since the majority is counter service. Both are typically less crowded at lunch. However, they have quick turnaround, so your wait for a dinner seat will most likely be short.

      Perilla -- make a reservation, it's not a huge restaurant. I don't think you can eat at the bar.

      Can't really comment about the others.

      > I read about the "underground" malls with the food courts, but no one ever specifically mentions a favorite food item or food stall to try. If you can steer me to any must-trys, that'll be great!

      Your impression is the exact opposite of what I've seen on the Outer Boroughs board. Search for "flushing mall" or "golden mall" or "golden shopping mall"...

      Here is my guide to Flushing Main Street:

      Don't Leave NY Without Eating...

      NYC for visitors:

      I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour:

      Best pizza in NY:

      Best brunch:

      I think these trip reports/itinerary might help:

      7 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        LOL! kathryn, It never occurred to me to recommend my own tour. Thanks! :)

        1. re: kathryn

          Just a quick note... you can definitely dine at the bar at Perilla and I'd recommend doing so, the food's great and the bartenders are usually chatty.

          1. re: heWho

            Thanks Kathryn, RGR and heWho! Perilla sounds like it'll be fun. I mentioned Del Posto because I had read some good things about a tasting menu they offer at the Enoteca side, plus I thought it was newer than Babbo.

            1. re: heWho

              Excellent, good to know that about Perilla.

              Del Posto doesn't offer a tasting, but rather some prix fixe deals (one for lunch, two for dinner--a 4 course and a 5 course).


              But if you're coming to NY from far away, might as well go to the original: Babbo.

              1. re: kathryn

                Yeah, I'm with kathryn (as I often am): dining solo at the bar at Babbo is one of the best NY dining experiences one can have. I also like doing so at Veritas. Others have had good experiences doing so at Scarpetta, but on the one occassion I went there (on July 4 of all days and and I sat in the dining room) I was underwhelmed.

                I was also underwhelmed by Perilla, but I am definitely in the minority on that one; there are many posters here who I respect a lot who like it.

                As for the rest of your list, I would agree with others to skip Del Posto, Bar Americain, Morandi and Taboon and Thalia.

                Aldea, Convivio, and Clinto St Baking Co will require getting there at the right time (early) but each is well worth it. Go to Clinton St during the week, not weekend.

                I think you are smart to through DiFara on to your list, and, as kathryn suggested, search the Outer Boroughs boards for Flushing recs. I love the underground mall food court. I'd add Sripraphai and either Spicy Meena or Deshi Biryani to your list of outer borough musts.

                Ssam bar is awesome. Highly recommend. Dinner is fine there on a weeknight. Co and Porchetta are nice lunch recs. I'd hit Veloce Pizzeria for a sausage slice and Despana for good Spanish sandwiches and, of course, Banh Mi Sau Voi on Lafayette for banh mi, as other lunch recs. And you'll save $ for dinner.

                Have fun!

                1. re: Jorel

                  Thanks Jorel for some of the money-saving ideas! I know there'll be times when I want to just grab something on the go in-between museum visits and shopping!

            2. thats a good list so's some notes:

              Aldea - i havent been but ive heard nothing but solid praise here.
              Bar Americain - this is a throwaway...midtown and bobby flay...its can do better elsewhere.
              Clinton Street Bakery (mostly for breakfast) - weekday breakfast is quite nice, the weekends are just nuts. its not that big and you may feel a bit out of place eating alone.
              Convivio - i just had dinner here. i didnt get to view the whole layout but i think this would be fine for solo dining...everyone seems to be focused on their party. the pastas are skip entrees here. i had the veal tongue appetizer and the fusilli with pork shoulder ragu...both were excellent. the cavatelli with fava beans were also out of this world but the food is a bit on the heavy side.
              Di Fara Pizza - i grew up in brooklyn but i wont deal with difara again. the pizza is the best but the wait is too much. i suggest you get a square slice or 4 at artichoke pizza on 14th off 1st ave...a very close second.
              Ippudo (for ramen) - ippudo rules...they should have space for singles in the main area. the akaramaru (sp?) ramen with extra pork belly is insanely delicious. get an order of pork hirata buns to start. if i recall, ippudo does not let you take food home.
              James - i lived in park slope as well. ive heard ok things about james but i keep going back to applewood on 11th street...probably my favorite brooklyn restaurant. the chef does wonders with veal and pork and goat.
              Matsugen - a new favorite. i think eating alone at the bar here on a weeknight would be fantastic. the 'recession special' just happens to be their best item. i very much recommend this place. i sometimes order some extra sushi with my meal however.
              Momofuku Ssam Bar or Noodle Bar? - ssam bar...but im not a super fan like everyone else. its ok...their lunch prix fixe was a good way to sample it. $25 for pork buns and spicy pork rice cakes and their peanut butter jelly dessert was great.
              Morandi - this place sucks. i just dont get it. if you want italian near there, try da andrea on 13th and 6th ave or gradisca on 13th.
              Perilla - another favorite. great place for solo dining. the food is excellent and its comfortable at the same time. the duck entree is particularly good.
              Porchetta (probably just for lunch) - absolute travesty how this place is popular. i think its the biggest ripoff in nyc. avoid. very dry meat, small servings, high prices.

              3 Replies
              1. re: sam1

                Thanks Sam for your feedback on what to order at places too. That's really helpful! Matsugen is moving higher up my list!

                1. re: sam1

                  sam1, with all due respect, nonsense about dining alone at Clinton Street Bakery. The one and only time I went for their overpriced pancakes I sat alone at the counter on a weekday. Agree weekdays are the time to go.

                  1. re: financialdistrictresident

                    ive never felt uncomfortable eating alone anyplace. when i'm alone i tend to really enjoy the company.

                2. Here are my thoughts re: the restaurants on your list I've been to.

                  Aldea: Absolutely! Chef/Owner George Medes' Portuguese-inspired cuisine is seriously delicious. The regular menu is served at the bar. It faces directly onto the kitchen, so you can interact with the staff as you watch your food being prepared.

                  Bar Americain: The one meal we had there was mediocre at best. Skip it!

                  Bar Boulud: A must if you love charcuterie. In a word: Superb! You can sit at the bar or at semi-circular community table.

                  Convivio: Excellent food. There is a small, separate bar room, but I'm not sure the menu -- or any food, for that matter -- is served there.

                  DiFara - If you want to take the time to shlep out there, do it so that you are there around 1:30 - 2 p.m. on a Wednesday or Thursday when it's least likely to be jammed. Forget the weekend. They are closed Monday and Tuesday.

                  I'd add the following possibilties:

                  Eleven Madison Park: If you are comfortable dining solo at a table, I strongly urge you to do it there. You will be treated very cordially by one of the best service staffs in the city. However, if you still prefer to dine at the bar, even though the bar menu is different from the main dining room's, it s still worth it to experience Chef Daniel Humm's extraordinary French-inspired cuisine, the excellent wine list, and the gorgeous space.


                  Allegretti: Wonderful Provencal-style cuisine. The full menu is served at the bar.


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: RGR

                    RGR, I think I recall hearing something about 11 Madison. I don't mind dining at a table by myself, but I do get intimidated by French dining because I feel you may need to dress up. Is that the case at 11 Madison? Would lunch be better for a more casual attire?

                    1. re: singleguychef


                      You definitely do not need to dress up at EMP for either lunch or dinner. A jacket is not required, and you can even wear a nice pair of jeans. There are only three items that are verboten. The website states: "We ask that you wear proper attire. No shorts, t-shirts, or sneakers are allowed."

                      While I love having lunch -- the 5-course Gourmand for $68 is an exceptional value -- dinner is where you get the full treatment. If you go for dinner and your wallet can bear it, I strongly recommend the 11-course Gourmand. Several hours of sheer bliss! :)

                      1. re: singleguychef

                        RGR is right you do not need to dress up at EMP. I wore a dress hirt, nice jeans, and nice shoes and was fine. And if you can secure a rezzy I assure you that it will be one of the best meals of your life. Definitely go if you can. The staff and food are incredible and among the tops I have ever had.

                    2. The great thing about this city is they are very accomodating to solo diners. Also, I would advise you make reservations on, it is a great site and you will be assured a table.

                      From your list I would say Clinton St is awesome. Gotta go there for breakfast on a weekday...the great thing about them is they serve their pancakes all day long.

                      Momofuku is very conduscive to solo dining with bar seating, however I think it is a bit over-hyped and I find solo diners to get neglected by the servers.

                      Di Fara's is also incredible. True you WILL wait and you WILL pay dearly but it is SO worth it, at least for me.

                      If you like a great burger (who doesn't) Rare Bar and Grill is a great spot.

                      Finally, it wouldn't be a steakrules post without the suggestion of eating at a steakhouse. For me, the steakhouse provides the ultimate in solo dining. Again, most can be found on opentable. You will feel extremely comfortable dining solo at any steakhouse in the city and they all accept walk-ins. Some great ones are Keens, Strip House, Old Homestead, Craft, BLT Prime, Smith and Wollensky, Del Frisco's.

                      AVOID DEL FRISCO's- big time rip off.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: steakrules85

                        Thanks Steakrules, I will look into possibly a steakhouse. I'm not a big red meat eater, but my last big trip was to Buenos Aires and did have some great steaks there.

                        1. re: steakrules85

                          I agree with your choices, steakrules, but I'm a little confused. You say that Del Frisco's is great, but then in the next line caution to avoid it.