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Looking for several restaurant options in Manhattan!!

Hello New York!!

My parents are planning their first trip to NYC (from Toronto) this October and they've asked me to search for some interesting food options. I've been to NYC countless times, but a) I'm usually on a budget and b) I'm vegetarian, so I haven't checked out many places that they would be interested in. They love food - nearly any kind (the only cuisine I recall them not liking was Ethiopian) and they'd like to go out to at least one fancy - dress codes are good as long as the guys don't have to wear ties! (My dad hates them). Neighbourhoods don't really matter - they'll be going all over Manhattan.

So to try to make a long story short, here is what they're looking for:
-recs on upscale restaurants with fantastic food
-is there a fantastic steakhouse that should not be missed?
-the BEST italian restaurant (I've been to quite a few in Little Italy, but none have really blown me away)
-a good sunday brunch place (preferably in Greenwich Village/Gramercy/Chelsea/Lower East Side)
-somewhere that has good food and good music (or somewhere that has good food close to a music venue - they prefer Blues/R&B/Soul)
-Best chinese
-Best authentic Mexican
-I'd love ethnic recs - they like trying new things
-Is there a really good vietnamese restaurant?
-what is your favourite restaurant?

I know some of those questions have probably been asked to death, but please give me any input you may have!!

Oh, and no Indian/South Asian suggestions please, because we eat a lot of that here in our Little India neighbourhood.

Thanks in advance!! I love your city :)

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  1. Here's some tips of the questions I'm familiar with. also search is your friend.

    -recs on upscale restaurants with fantastic food

    this is a little too broad. how upscale are you talking abuot? EMP is one that everyone recommends. i'm a fan of picoline

    -is there a fantastic steakhouse that should not be missed?

    Peter lugers in brooklyn

    -the BEST italian restaurant (I've been to quite a few in Little Italy, but none have really blown me away)

    little italy has possibly the worst italian food. places to consider - babbo (get reservations ASAP), scarpetta, convivio, laconde verda, alto, lupa, l'artusi
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/642209

    -a good sunday brunch place (preferably in Greenwich Village/Gramercy Park/Chelsea/Lower East Side

    )

    i love Jane for brunch downtown. great eggs benedicts and french toast. but kathryn's brunch is your best bet
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598414

    -Best chinese

    wu liang ye for szechuan if u like spicy.

    -Best authentic Mexican

    there isn't many authentic mexican places. you should start here
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/636280

    -what is your favourite restaurant?

    right now it's scarpetta for me...

    4 Replies
    1. re: kelea

      Thanks :)
      I'm also searching the site, but it is rather daunting!!

      As for the "fancy" restaurant... I don't know the terminology, but they'd want something romantic, nice space, aesthetic food presentation, eclectic menu, known chef, etc etc...does that help at all?

      1. re: kweenshaker

        -recs on upscale restaurants with fantastic food: Jean George or Bar Modern. Both very inventive and beautifuly plated food that tastes great. BM does some really great desserts.

        -is there a fantastic steakhouse that should not be missed? Peter Lugar

        -the BEST italian restaurant (I've been to quite a few in Little Italy, but none have really blown me away): Convivio is not bad. I have not been to Babbo, but many consider that the height of Italian. However, reservations with less than a month's notice are hard.

        -a good sunday brunch place (preferably in Greenwich Village/Gramercy/Chelsea/Lower East Side): The Smith or Jane. 7A also has really tasty food at reasonable prices. I also like to do dimsum or soup dumpling brunch in Chinatown.

        -Best chinese: soup dumplings, bbq pork shoulder, most items at New Yeah Shanghai Deluxe. People also enjoy NY Noodletown's charsiu. Both are very reasonably priced.

        -Best authentic Mexican: look to the Queens thread for this.

        -I'd love ethnic recs - they like trying new things: I like the atmosphere and food at Bamiyan, an afghani restaurant on 26th and 3rd esp. the Kudu pumpkin turnover.

        -Is there a really good vietnamese restaurant? Regretfully no. But Pho Bang on Mott does pretty good pho for Manhattan. Caveat being that Manhattan doesn't compare to places w/ larger Vietnamese American populations like Northern VA.

        -what is your favourite restaurant? Favorite comfort food is Japanese ramen at Menkuitei (better broth) or Minca (better noodles.) Favorite high end is Jean Georges.

        You don't mention desserts, but NYC has some of the best dessert places, and the whole tangy frozen yogurt craze. Notable places include Chikalicious, the whole cupcake craze (which I think is mostly overrated), Otto (a Batali restaurant - great gelato sundaes.) plus Bakeries like Financier, Bouchon, Balthazar, and Two Little Red Hens. Happy eating!

        1. re: kweenshaker

          Tips on searching the site: use the search this board feature. Put quotation marks around something if you want to search for that exact phrase, i.e "best chinese" "theater district" "best bagel". The default sort of the results is by Newest to Oldest. If you are having trouble, try changing it to Relevance.

        2. re: kelea

          A few notes about Peter Luger: service can be gruff, they don't take most credit cards (pay cash or use a Peter Luger cash), and it can be hard to get a table.

          If the trip isn't until Oct, it's too early to get reservations at Babbo. Babbo only takes reservations starting at 10am one month in advance to the numerical date. If you wish to dine on Oct 15, you must call starting at 10am on Sept 15. And be patient with the redial button.

        3. -recs on upscale restaurants with fantastic food: SORRY, THIS ISN'T MY FORTE

          -is there a fantastic steakhouse that should not be missed? PETER LUGER'S...BUT I RECOMMEND GOING FOR LUNCH; KEEN'S CHOPHOUSE

          -the BEST italian restaurant (I've been to quite a few in Little Italy, but none have really blown me away): NOVITA

          -a good sunday brunch place (preferably in Greenwich Village/Gramercy/Chelsea/Lower East Side): THE STANTON SOCIAL, MORANDI, BAR ARTISANAL, FIVE POINTS, GOOD

          -somewhere that has good food and good music (or somewhere that has good food close to a music venue - they prefer Blues/R&B/Soul) BLUE SMOKE/JAZZ STANDARD

          -Best chinese WHAT KIND OF PLACE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? CASUAL? MORE FANCY?

          -Best authentic Mexican IN THE CITY, I WOULD SAY: TULCINGO DEL VALLE

          -I'd love ethnic recs - they like trying new things
          -Is there a really good vietnamese restaurant?

          -what is your favourite restaurant? I'VE GOT LOTS OF FAVORITES. HIGH ON THE LIST WOULD BE: ALI BABA TURKISH CUISINE, PYLOS, DHABA, TULCINGO DEL VALLE...

          www.thelunchbelle.com

          2 Replies
          1. re: LeahBaila

            Thanks!

            Best chinese WHAT KIND OF PLACE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? CASUAL? MORE FANCY?

            Either! :)

            1. re: kweenshaker

              If you are from Toronto, save your Chinese meal and do some other ethnic food in NYC. Chinese food in Toronto is so much better there is no reason to waste time and money on that in Manhattan.

          2. -recs on upscale restaurants with fantastic food

            If you mean something that's been rated three or four stars by the New York Times, there aren't that many candidates. It also depends if they are looking more for classic French, New American, newer French, etc. The usual suspects are Le Bernardin (seafood), Daniel (French), Jean George (newer French with Asian aspects), Eleven Madison Park, and Per Se. I think JG would be my pick but I haven't been to EMP that recently.

            -is there a fantastic steakhouse that should not be missed?

            In Manhattan, Keens Chophouse has a great combination of atmosphere, old school decor, a wonderful Porterhouse for two, wonderful history, and a great scotch list.

            -the BEST italian restaurant (I've been to quite a few in Little Italy, but none have really blown me away)

            The BEST I've had is Mario Batali's Babbo, but other hounds also love Scarpetta, Convivo, Alto... Babbo has fantastic food, but it's hard to get a table, the service can be only so-so, the host can be really mean, and they blast loud rock music (Pixies, Zeppelin, etc.). But I think the food is worth the hassle.

            - a good sunday brunch place

            Best brunch in NY:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598414

            - -somewhere that has good food and good music (or somewhere that has good food close to a music venue - they prefer Blues/R&B/Soul

            )

            I would look at the jazz club attached to the Blue Smoke BBQ restaurant. It's called the Jazz Standard. Most live music clubs in NYC do *not* have good food and this is one of the exceptions.

            - Best chinese

            Depends what kind of food you want. Best Sichuan is Szechuan Gourmet. Best dim sum is probably Chinatown Brasserie, but it's pricey.

            This 3 week chowfest report is worth a look:
            http://www.chow.com/topics/611116

            Don't Leave NY Without Eating...
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/610739

            NYC for visitors:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/597021
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/610107
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/604369
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/605545
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/603298
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589834

            I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/493333

            Best pizza in NY:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6111...

            Best brunch:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598414

            I think these trip reports/itinerary might also help:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/565948
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/641493
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/393597
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/522185
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/612723
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/622764

            1. Additionally, you can peruse the menus of many restaurants on menupages.com. And OpenTable.com is handy for making reservations. However, not all restaurants are on Open Table, and for the ones that are, they don't put up every single available table, so call if you can't find the time and date you want.

              Restaurants in NYC take reservations usually 31, 30, 28, days in advance or similar. Sometimes restaurants take them by phone 28 days in advance but ALSO limit OpenTable to 27 days in advance. So the OT limit might be different from the phone limit. It's not a perfect tool but extremely helpful if you're not dead set on the MOST popular places.

              The most popular places will book up the day they open up their books. BUT you can ask to be put on the waitlist or call day on the day of and ask about cancellations.

              The hardest restaurants to get into are Babbo (one of the most popular in the city), Momofuku Ko (they only take reservations online and have only 12 seats), Rao's (every table "belongs" to a regular), Waverly Inn (did it ever officially "open"?), Gramercy Tavern, and Union Square Cafe.

              Places that recently opened and have gotten good reviews can also be hard to get into if you don't call early enough.

              Also, there are only a handful of places left in NYC that are jackets required, and very few require ties.

              4 Replies
              1. re: kathryn

                Kathryn, I beg to differ about Gramercy Tavern and USC as being some of the hardest to get into. You can easily book them on opentable.com. Your other suggestions though are spot on.

                I'll chime in now.

                Steakhouse- Peter Luger of course, Keens, Strip House, BLT Prime, Old Homestead, Del Frisco's, Smith and Wollensky.

                Brunch- Clinton Street Bakery, Jane, Shopsin's (closed Sun n Mons) or Sarabeth's

                Upscale- Eleven Madison Park, Gotham Bar and Grill, Craft

                Not "ethnic" per say but Amy Ruth's is great for soul food.

                My favorite restaurant is Peter Luger without a shadow of doubt for me.

                Italian- Babbo or Crispo

                1. re: steakrules85

                  I put USC and GT last for a reason... though you can get in, it's often only the 5pm and 11pm slots that are left if you don't book 4 weeks in advance. Hardest is not the same as impossible.

                2. re: kathryn

                  Thanks kathryn -- this is the most useful post (above on best and toughest reservations) that I've read in the last few weeks scouring these boards. You're dedication on almost all of the Manhattan topics is epic and amazing. Thank you sincerely from a visiting foodie.

                  1. re: Tony Calgary

                    Aw, thanks!

                3. I used to live here for five years, but moved.... I'm back in NYC and am on this little foodie adventure..... so far, this is what I've found....

                  Upscale restaurants: Yasuda if you're into really authentic sushi -- it's pricey -- my husband and I ate there for $244. But well worth it! Jean George is supposed to be great too, but we used Yasuda as our splurge meal. They also have a $24.50 prix-fixe lunch!

                  Steakhouse: Peter Luger

                  Sunday Brunch -- UWS --- Bon Matin. It's busy and the service is pretty sucky, but oh those poached eggs ala ratatouille are perfect!

                  Best Italian --- haven't found one yet. We went to Celeste on the UWS, the pizza was great but again, the service was filled with attitude and anger. The rest of their menu seemed to have potential.... CASH ONLY. IF it's their first visit, you have to at least go to Lombardi's or Grimaldi's to try their pizza. After trying those landmark pizza places, then NYC is filled
                  other great pizza gems!
                  Good food and Good Music..... dunno.

                  Best Chinese --- Fulleen Seafood Restaurant (good casseroles) or Golden Unicorn (good dim sum) or NY Noodletown (great salt baked soft shells)..... but if you're coming from Toronto, you'll be disappointed....

                  Best Authentic Mexican --- there's a lunch cart in Soho called Calexico which is AMAZING... nothing on their menu is bad. It's at Wooster and Prince during weekday lunch hours and I also hear that there's another Taco Truck up on 96th and Bway which is great. Cheap too!

                  Ethnic Recs: Japanese -- go to Men Kui Ten for Ramen. Katsuhama for Katsu.
                  Middleeastern: Mamoun's for falafel.
                  Vietnamese: Nha ma Trang? I think it's on Center Street in Chinatown. Pretty good, but Toronto has better.

                  My favorite?? Katsu hama is my new favorite....

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: supergirl78

                    "Bon Matin"? Did you mean to write "Nice Matin"?

                    I wouldn't really recommend Lombardi's or Grimaldi's pies, there are much better to be found in town, especially if you go out to Brooklyn.

                    Chinatown Brasserie is definitely better than Golden Unicorn for dim sum.

                    Calexico is more California-Mexican, and they have a sit-down service restaurant in Brooklyn now.

                    Men Kui Tei is OK for ramen, I think most people would say Ippudo is the best in town.