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Aug 8, 2009 05:47 PM

Single female and 7 yummy days

Hi guys ! I'm going to be going to NY on a biz trip for 7 yummy days, and I'm busily compiling my dine list. Its been 10 years since I've been to NYC and a couple of matters of dining etiquette I need the help from the friendly New Yorkers

I'm pretty comfortable dining out alone when I get sent to Beijing, Seoul, Singapore and other parts of Asia, but who know how an American maitre d' will react when I rock up with a "table for 1 please" request. For example, will I get a table at Peter Luger's or Keens right next to the gents room ? Do i need to make reservations ? Some places just don't like giving up a whole table for a bill for 1. Single females usually get left alone in Asia, but if I'm at the bar at corner bistro for a beer and burger by myself, will I look like I'm trying to pickup ?

Tipping etiquette - I'm told 10-15% is the way to go for everything if you don't want your change thrown back at you. This is for everything ? pushcarts ? cabs ? a sit down meal ? takeaway food from a counter ?

Here is my list for the moment

Shake Shack
Peter Luger / Keens
Barney Greengrass
Papaya King

I'm looking for good ol Americana - no fusion japanese, sichuan, thai (why get it in NY when its at my doorstep in Asia ?). However I am missing a couple of items I want to get down my gullet before flying out.

A really good Pecan Pie
And a good hot dog pushcart for lunch like the sort Liz Lemon goes to on 30 rock (omg i'm such a tourist). Work is near Lexington & 59th so anywhere close by for lunch would be good.

Suggestions ? anything missing from my list ? Calories are not an issue

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  1. On the tip ?, I think 10% is a punitive tip that could well lead to confrontation. As to the geography of tipping (when yes, when no) I will defer to others.

    2 Replies
    1. re: yebo

      Agree, but depends on the place. Tips are not necessary at all at pushcarts, though they work hard and would appreciate any tip you choose to give. $1 or $2 would be generous. For cabs, generally round up and add $1, unless it's a particularly long trip. Sit down meal, I think closer to 20% of the total bill is the norm, at least for me.

      1. re: glutton08

        I have never heard of this formula for tipping cab drivers and would think unless it's a couple of blocks it would be pretty stingy; 15-20% is customary and credit card machines that are not in all NYC cabs do the math for you if you select the percentage. Agree on the 20% for a restaurant meal.

    2. Plenty of people dine alone in NYC. You should not be treated unusually. However, many solo diners do prefer dining at a counter style restaurant or at the bar rather than a table. But you should not be denied a table; if this happens, this place does not deserve your business.

      For popular restaurants, yes, reservations are highly recommended. However, most of the places that you listed on your shortlist don't take reservations, save for Peter Luger and Keens.

      I have female friends who often dine alone. If they feel that they are getting unwanted attention, they pull out a magazine or a book, or the friendly bartender will try to help. Definitely make friends with the bartender! Even if they are busy, they will appreciate someone who is friendly, patient, tips well, and smiles.

      I tend to tip closer to 20%, especially for nicer places. For more discussion on tipping in the USA, you'd have to look on another board, but for street carts and takeaway, there doesn't seem to be a consensus. It's a *very* contentious topic. Personally, I lean on the side of tipping more than less (20-25% of the total for takeaway or sitdown, $1 for street carts) but not so much as to appear ostentatious.

      Here are some threads on dining solo:

      Here are some threads on tipping in the US (there are many many more on the Not About Food board):

      Your list seems very much about the more casual options in NYC (pizza, NY deli, burger, bagel/smoked salmon, hot dogs) except for the steakhouses you have listed. Any interest in something nicer, more upscale?

      A few tips about dining out in NYC: places with great atmosphere/history/a name often don't try very hard in terms of food, ditto to those with a view the best skyline views are OUTSIDE of Manhattan you know?), Tavern on the Green is a tourist trap, Little Italy is also a tourist trap, Magnolia Bakery is not that good despite what all the Sex in the City bus tours say, please try to stay out of Midtown (many places are either very touristy or overpriced) for dinner! Though it looks like you're willing to schlep all around the city for good food.

      Additionally, you can peruse the menus of many restaurants on And 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. Or ask if you can dine at the bar. There is no stigma to dining at the bar and it's often a more fun experience because you can interact with the bartender and other patrons.

      A few notes about Peter Luger: service can be gruff, they don't take most credit cards (pay cash or use a Peter Luger card but not a regular Visa/Mastercard/AMEX/etc), and it can be hard to get a table.

      Regarding Lombardi's and Grimaldi's, be aware that they do not serve individual slices. Many reputable places in NYC do not serve pizza by the slice. So that is a pretty big pie for one person! There is usually a long line. Over the years, they have become a bit more like a "pizza factory" focused more on turning tables, unfortunately. (For such places they usually put on more toppings than the crust can handle because that is what out of towners often require and undercook the pie to increase turnover.) It also depends if you want a typical gas oven NY slice, a NY-Neopolitan coal oven pie, a Neopolitan pie (probably the smallest and therefore easiest for one person to eat)... there are actually many styles of pizza to choose from in NY these days!

      Best pizza in NY:

      This 3 week chowfest report is worth a look:

      Don't Leave NY Without Eating...

      NYC for visitors:

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

      If you are looking for more "American" food options I would also look into some BBQ, some Southern/soul food, maybe some localvore/farm-to-table spots.

      List of farm to table places:

      I would also consider getting some French, non-pizza Italian, Indian, Greek, Spanish, or Latin American food, but I'm not familiar with what you have access to.

      Thread on good Mexican in NYC (admittedly not the best in the country but ostensibly better than what you can get in Asia?):

      For chili, a good friend loves the chili at the Blind Tiger.

      In terms of hot dog pushcarts, they all seem about the same to me. Dirty water dogs. It's more about convenience than taste.

      For suggestions on inexpensive lunches near 59th and Lex, I would look here:

      1. Wow Kathryn thanks for the comprehensive guide. Yes upscale choices would be good too. I do get a $100 a day meal allowance but more than happy to supplement out of pocket - its my tastebuds after all ! I realise the list sounds a bit high schoolish - burger, pizza, steak.

        What is upmarket American food ? Most of the upmarket choices I see on the board are French / Italian / European inspired and after a month recent gastronomical driving holiday through the French countryside, I'm not sure French American would cut it (I might get flamed here). Southern / Soul and BBQ sounds ideal ! any suggestions ?

        I get the point regarding the 20%. Last thing I want is an angry confrontation with a waiter, so thanks for the tip. I find the concept of obligatory tipping a somewhat novel idea. In Asia tipping usually only occurs when service is good to exceptional, however I understand wait staff in US don't necessarily get paid by the restaurant so *shrug, when in Rome ...

        4 Replies
        1. re: baajee

          For Southern/Soul food, my current favorite is Redhead which isn't that upscale, it's more homey, but service is very friendly and they have food: great bacon peanut brittle (more like a snack mix than candy), mushroom flatbread, chips and dip, burger, and fried chicken. Rack & Soul is good too (like their baby back ribs) is Amy Ruth's (fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup and hot sauce).

          For BBQ, I like Hill Country which is Texas inspired. Their specialty is beef brisket. Not so much on pulled pork. I like the non-traditional pulled pork at Blue Smoke. For traditional pulled pork, Dinosaur is good, and many hounds like Daisy May's. It is important to note that there are multiple styles of BBQ so a recommendation depends upon what you want -- brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, baby back ribs, etc.

          For upmarket American food, I would say Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill, Craft, Gotham Bar and Grill, etc. all qualify. Most of the restaurants that are listed in the "farm to table" thread above.

          For less upscale, I would do Blue Ribbon Bakery (or Brasserie), Perilla, Little Owl, or Hearth. For the solo diner, I like Hearth because you can sit at the bar or at "the pass" where you can see into the kitchen. The bar in the front room of Gramercy Tavern is good, too, you can order from the Tavern Room menu and it's quite lively.

          1. re: kathryn

            "I'm looking for good ol Americana..."
            Pearl's Oyster Bar
            Mary's Fish Camp
            One wonderful strain in American restautantdom is devoted to: keep it clean, low frill, and great (the old Dominick's, Tadich (S.F.), Lundy's come easily to mind as touch stones). The above two gems continue this tradition, and if they are smaller in size and offerings than their predecessors they are more consistently excellent. America for American eaters

            1. re: wew

              Lovely ! thanks all. will be hopping on the plane now with 20 hours to decide my first stop when I touch down. cheers !

              1. re: baajee

                Please report back with where you end up going!

        2. My Favorites...

          For great BBQ and Soul..Blue smoke on 28th and Park, they have a jazz club downstairs

          Dont waste the trip to Grimaldi's, so touristy and a waste of the trip to bklyn......I love Luzzos pizzeria on 11th and 2nd..much better and Pizza 28 right by Lombardi's is much better

          Steak...if you can get in Lugar's worth it..

          1. There are lots of good restaurants in New York that will serve full meals at the bar, which I think is terrific for a single person to do, especially if you would enjoy conversation (there's the bartender and neighboors).
            Consider: Gramercy Tavern, Degustation (the bar is the only option) Gotham Bar and Grill, Union Square Cafe. Telepan, Ouest.