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New to Hell's Kitchen and NYC, recs and help

Hello Manhattan hounds,

My wife and I just moved to Manhattan from Seattle - needless to say we're experiencing a bit of culture shock. We're both from Boston and lived there the majority of our lives, but even so, living in Seattle for the last three years and then moving here has been quite an interesting experience. We live at W42nd and 11th ave. I've looked through a number of the threads and found some good recommendations, but I'm also wondering about other places. So, below are some of the places I've read about on CH and also ones that we've been to or walked by wanting to try - please help out with any recommendations, comments on things I've listed, and especially fill in anything you'd like.

Since we're new to the city, I'm keeping this list to places west of 8th and between, say, 38th and 59th. We've got lots of time to venture out of our neighborhood to places that are really special, but for starters, we just want to learn about our neighborhood. We are, unfortunately, downsizing our budget living here (paying 2.5x the rent for about 1/4 the space), but we used to really enjoy going out in Seattle and would love to continue despite being a bit more money-crunched.

Haven't been to any of these places unless I say that I've been there.

Breakfast - we tried the brunch at 44th and X, it was good although a little pricey. Nook seemed to get a few good recs, how's their dinner fare? Eatery and Marseille also got good reviews. Pigalle seems to be on the cheaper side too (read: under $10 for eggs benny). How 'bout for a super cheap, but better than a typical deli egg sandwich, spot?

Thai - Wondee Siam on 9th sounds good, although I don't know if my wife will be up for the secret menu's spice-levels; Heng seems good for delivery/takeout. others?

Chinese - have only gotten delivery from Ollie's on 42nd so far, it was decent, good green beans and good country style tofu, although the dan-dan noodles had no flavor. Any good Chinese recs? (note: Seattle had HORRIBLE Chinese, so we're just looking for something solid, not necessarily out-of-the-park).

Italian - Wow, there is certainly no drought of Italian restaurants in our neighborhood! We've tried two, Cascina and Nizza. Cascina at 45th and 9th (http://www.cascina.com/) had great rectangular neapolitan-style pizza - slightly blackened crust, thin, crispy, great sauce. We also had a fantastic peach, arugula, proscuitto and parmesan salad. Nizza was also very good, although slightly more pricey and I preferred Cascina's pizza.

Burgers - is 5 Napkin Burger worth it? seems like a touristy place. other spots, either gourmet, pub, or fast-food style burgers would be great.

Sushi - it seems like there's a dearth of good sushi in HK?

Other assorted places we haven't been and want to try:
For bakeries: Amy's Bread, Sullivan St. Bakery, Poseidon Bakery for Greek
For dessert, Kyotofu sounds interesting, is their cupcake really that good?
Excited that there are 2 Ethopian eateries, Meskerem and Queen of Sheba. Any preference for one over the other, or recommended dishes at either?

Mexican/other Latin American - Empanada Mama seems to have gotten good reviews. Anything else? Cheap, good (real) tacos? Also, are there any taco trucks nearby?

Lastly, we're trying to find our places for stocking up, provisions, etc. We've discovered the Union Sq. Farmer's Market, and even though it's not right around here, it's so worth the trip, just for the cheap farm fresh eggs. But, what about in the fall/winter when the market is closed? Are there good places to get local produce/meat (Food Emporium, right down the st. on 42nd, doesn't seem like they'll fit that bill).

Butcher - We've been to Esposito's Pork Shop and I've fallen in love with their prices, selection, and of course quality (their bacon is to die for and their service is incredibly friendly).

Seafood - there's a fish store across 9th from Esposito's, around 40th and 9th. Lots of whole fish, and quite an assortment. It seems alright, has anyone ever been?

Lastly, we're especially looking for a place to buy bulk goods, like grains, pastas, herbs, spices, etc. We used to do this at our local version of Whole Foods in Seattle (PCC), but the Whole Foods here in Union Sq. doesn't have a bulk section. Are there co-op type stores where we can get bulk items like Israeli couscous, pearled barley, lentils, different flours, etc.?

If there's anything else, please feel free to post. Thanks in advance.

-Jake

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  1. Have a great time in your new 'hood. Waaaay different from when I lived there. One place not on your list that you will love having nearby is Afghan Kebob. Here is the Menupages link:

    http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/...

    Enjoy!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pigeage

      I haven't been to that kebab house in a long time but have been a long-time customer of Ariana Afghan Kebab House on 9th Av. between 52nd and 53rd Sts. It's not really cheap but does provide fair value for your money.

      Jake, I think the nearest really good Chinese restaurant is too far east of you to really belong in this thread - Szechuan Gourmet, on 39th between 5th and 6th. But anyway, their non-spicy food hasn't been very interesting to me, and it's quite possible that the food you like there might be too spicy for your wife.

      Wondee doesn't have to make things very hot for you. And another Thai place you should try is Pam's Real Thai, on 49th just west of 9th. Try both a few times and see which one you like better.

    2. Welcome to new york. My sister lives in Seattle and she said it was a shock moving there from here, so I get you! :)

      My thoughts:
      --I don't live in HK so I can't comment on breakfast stuff.
      --Italian: for old school red sauce, we always loved Ralph's; for much better fare we like Trattoria Trecolori (but it might be a little bit east of your parameters on 47th between 8th & Bway); I'll let others talk about Roberto Passon, e.g., since I haven't been there.
      --I adore Poseidon Bakery. If you like Greek sweets (baklava, etc) you will love this place; Sullivan Street has great bread; I used to love Amy's but more recently think it can be a bit dry and/or not enough salt.
      --I've had cupcakes at Kyotofu twice and loved them. Both were chocolate.
      --Meskerem on 47th is my favorite Ethiopian in Manhattan (I recently recommended it to another hound who also liked it).
      --For old school tex-mex (as in burritos, refried beans and such) we like El Azteca - not fancy or probably even "authentic" (but what do I know?) but we like it when we're in the mood for that kind of food and a giant frozen margarita.
      --Love love Empanada Mama. They made these haloumi empanadas for the 9th Ave festival this year that were pretty addiction-inducing.
      --Not on your list -- Uncle Nick's for Greek; Hallo Berlin for German/wurst; Casellula for wine/cheese.

      The USQ greenmarket is hard to beat. But there is a little one near you (9th and 57th) that you could also stop by check out. Oh, and by the way, USQ is YEAR ROUND, though what's available does slim down.

      For other shopping, you might want to hit WF at Columbus Circle or even go up to Fairway on 74th (upstairs has a pretty good bulk selection). Both will also give you cheese selections, deli and the like, plus produce and such (I much prefer Fairway to WF but that's my bias).

      The 9th Avenue International Food Festival takes place in May along 9th from 40th to 57th. Though it's not nearly as terrific as in years past, it still has good stuff. A lot of the local restaurants get booths. That's always a fun way to try places too, though by next May you'll probably be an "expert". :)

      Hope that helps you a bit.

      3 Replies
      1. re: LNG212

        Thought of a couple more things --
        --Daisy Mae's BBQ
        --Little Pie Company

        I've been to maybe 3 of the Indian food places in that neighborhood and none was particularly good.

        Has anyone been to Landmark Tavern recently? I haven't been in years but we used to love that place.

        1. re: LNG212

          I've heard from a number of other folks that Daisy Mae's BBQ is the real deal. A good friend said that he's had two of his last three birthday lunches there.

        2. re: LNG212

          I happened across the greenmarket at 9th & 57th about a month ago while running an errand in the area and was impressed with the variety and number of vendors there.

        3. My old hood!! I assume you are already familiar with menupages.com and opentable.com? If not, get to know them! Here are some of my favorite spots:

          Bfast: Amy's Bread, Little Pie Company, Sullivan Street Bakery

          Asian sandwiches: Xie Xie (haven't been yet, but have heard great things)

          Burgers: Marseille, Chelsea Grill, Island Burgers & Shakes, Schnipper's (haven't been yet, but have heard great things)

          Sandwiches: Lenny's

          BBQ: Daisy Mae's

          Pizza: Lazzara's Pizza Cafe

          Mexican: Tulcingo del Valle, Tehuitzingo (for tacos)

          Specialty shops: Kashkaval, Tehuitzingo

          www.thelunchbelle.com

          2 Replies
          1. re: LeahBaila

            Took a peek inside Kashkaval, seemed pretty good. Any place that makes a good Taromosalata is good in my book (always reminds me of lox spread, which as a jewish kid growing up outside Boston, is one of my favs).

            We've tried Lenny's at a different location (midtown, near 34th?) and liked it a lot, so we'll give them another shot.

            Went to Sullivan St. Bakery yesterday for breakfast. The wife and I split a Savory brioche (with mascarpone, proscuitto, and some other cheese which I've forgotten but I want to say was either gruyere or pecorino romano/parm reggiano), a bomboloni (sp?), and a piece of blueberry bread pudding tart. The brioche was great, not too heavy and big cubes of proscuitto was a nice change from the ubiquitous thin sliced ham. The bread pudding was pretty good, not very sweet which was nice, but I think I prefer my bread pudding a little moister/wetter. The real winner was the bomboloni, which was like a cream-filled donut, although I believe it is baked rather than fried. The cream was like a beautiful, slightly thick vanilla creme anglaise (not as thick as the usual "bavarian creme" or "boston creme" donut filling, but not as runny as a true anglaise), absolutely delicious and big vanilla flavor.

            1. re: jakecola

              Great report, Jake! Welcome to the city and to your new neighborhood. : )

              www.thelunchbelle.com

          2. Bakeries: I must echo Poseidon Bakery for Greek pastries. I have more of a salty than sweet tooth so I love their tiropita more than their baklava.
            Bulk Goods: I think you might be able to find what you're looking for at International Grocery which is up the street from Esposito.
            Seafood: I visit the store you mentioned on occasion. I find certain treats there I don't find at Fairway like softshells and roe during spawning season and always for a good price. Shellfish is an especially good buy there.
            Mexican: Tehuitzingo is far and away my favorite. My friend swears by Tacocina for Tex-Mex takeaway.
            Burgers: Lucky's Famous. They're like Shake Shack without the line.

            1. 5 napkin burger wasn't worth it for me. there are far better places in the city to get a good burger.

              1. Answers to a few of your qs:
                -Yes, Kyotofu's chocolate miso cupcake is really that good. Get the normal size, not the mini ones, which tend to be a bit dry. It's also a nice alternative place to sit and have an appetizer and a drink instead of going to a winebar (though there are some good ones in the area, riposo 46 and cassellula)
                Tehuitzingo is a hole in the wall that makes tacos in the back. Don't be fooled; many say there the best tacos in the city, and they're super cheap. Another good option for a weekend is going over to Red Hook to check out the Ballfields, where vendors from many different countries set up vending trucks. Amazingly good, and cheap!
                Union Sq Farmers Market is technically open year-round, though you may not want to trek down there in the dead of winter. There are farmers markets in Port Authority (havent been) and Rock Center (good for its size) A good option for produce is Stiles'; locations on 10th around 42nd and on 52nd b/w 8th and 9th. Hit or miss on certain produce but you can get a week's worth of produce for about 20 bucks. I see a lot of restaurant people going over there to get supplies.
                Esposito's is my favorite butcher shop.
                I go to Sea Breeze sometimes, they generally have some good selections. Another option is a relatively new vendor at the Sat Farmer's Market up at 57th on 9th ave. He catches his fish on Fri then sells them Sat AM. Great stuff!
                International foods is your best bet for buying things in bulk; another option is the West African Grocery a litle further down on 9th ave on the west side, maybe around 39th?

                In all, I would say that while Hells Kitchen has solid eateries (lots of ethnic options, not too expensive), what I really think is great for a foodie about the area is the multitude of options for groceries to cook great fresh food!

                1 Reply
                1. re: orthorunner

                  Ortherunner - you're very right about your last comment. To all who recommended the International Grocery on 9th next to the Cupcake Cafe and the fishmonger, THANK YOU! Went in there and it wass bulk food heaven. I really like that everything is very easy to find, they actually have high-gluten flour (makes a better pizza dough, IMO), and in addition to the expected spices/grains/flours, they also have extensive nuts and dried fruits. I even managed to score some crystallized ginger which I use for my pear-ginger upside down cake. The only issue with them: they have a minimum size, usually about 1/4lb., so I have filled all my spice containers and am then left with extra in baggies. Oh well...the price I pay for my epicureanism:).

                  JungMann and LeahBaila - I went to Tehuitzingo yesterday without actually reading your post yet (a friend had heard of them and called to ask us to join). Wow!! Thanks for that rec. as well, since those were some seriously tasty tacos, and a $3 Pacifico taboot to wash it all down was very much appreciated (in Seattle, although we had stellar Taco Trucks, you couldn't comfortably drink a beer at them, as in, you had to brown bag it like a sketchball). I got beef tongue, al pastor, and carnitas, while my wife also tried the chorizo con papas. The tongue was exceptionally good, moist and tender and not too chewy. The al pastor was great too, although the carnitas was a little dry. My wife waxed ebullient on the chorizo taco and wouldn't let me have a bite. Due to a slight miscommunication (we both speak Spanish but misunderstood that the specials weren't tacos!), we ended up ordering a full dinner special of steak and nopales (prickly pear cactus). Oh well - took it home and had it for lunch today. The cactus was very nice - citrusy and crunchy. Rice and beans and sauteed onion along with the steak was nice. I saw a Mexican guy deeply enjoying a Sunday bowl of pozole, which I'll definitely try sometime.

                  Thanks to all the above hounds who responded, your help is very much appreciated.

                2. I just moved into the neighborhood too. Here are some things that I found:

                  Tehuitzngo is the place for tacos.
                  Daisy May's for BBQ
                  5 Napkin: maybe just one trip. Can't spend $12 each time you want a burger.
                  Breakfast: Galaxy diner was just fine and cheap.
                  Thai: Pam Real Thai food
                  Lattanzi is fine for Italian.
                  All of your bakery choices are fantastic! Great sandwiches at Amy's Bread too.
                  Meskerem always seems more crowded than Queen of Sheba
                  Ollie's is kind of gentrified Chinese. I've yet to find something really good.
                  Sushi in the area is okay. Don't expect super fresh and fantastic.

                  Upper Meadows Farm, a farm from NJ, comes into the HK area every Saturday near the Food Emporium. I collect my CSA share there. You might want to talk to them about their program.

                  1. Welcome to HK! I used to live on 43rd and 9th, and I thought the neighborhood was fantastic. On top of the abundant recs others have posted, I would add the following:

                    - for sushi, Shimizu is great; though on the high end you can get a pricey omakase meal that will cost $100pp, you can also order combos that are good values (~$20)
                    - I'd second Roberto Passon for Italian (especially their bolognese pasta)
                    - I think Lazarra (the one on 38th) has the best pizza in the area, but they have pretty strict hours; you can also check out Mitchel London Pizza on 9th ave as well as the pizza at Sullivan St Bakery; for a traditional NY slice, I think Sacco at 54th and 9th is great
                    - For falafel/middle-eastern food, you can check out Azure Cafe; I also like the schwarma at a hole-in-the-wall called Elyssa, but many others have panned the place; however, I think the gem in the area is Gazala Place - it's probably much more crowded now, but it's a quaint place with a lot of heart and great druze/Syrian influenced middle-eastern food
                    - Piece of Chicken on 45th for really cheap Southern food (e.g., a chicken leg is $1)
                    - for Chinese, in addition to Ollie's you can also order from Mee's Noodles. Neither one is that great, but Mee's is pretty cheap and much better than the Panda Express wannabes in the area

                    1. stop by shorty's on 41st and 9th. i'm not sure if it's still owned by tony luke's (famous cheesesteak place in philly) but they still import the bread from philly and that's key. along with the cheesesteak, get a side of italian fries (dusted with italian seasonings and romano cheese)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tkm616

                        Thanks tkm, that's a great tip! There are so many places that try to claim they are the only "authentic" Philly Cheesesteak, but if they're owned by Tony Luke's, then I'm more than happy to try them out. Mmmmm, whiz with.....

                      2. Thanks for starting and continuing this great post! I work around HK and love checking out all the great food options. One that hasn't been mentioned is La Paloma (for Mexican). There are a few tiny tables but mostly for cheap, delicious, authentic takeout. I also love Tulcingo (to sit down) and Tehuitzngo (for a quick taco) but La Paloma should not go unnoticed. (45 b/w 8th and 9th)

                        One other good find for great Belgium craft beers and delicous cheese and good sandwiches is the Vintner Wine & Beer Cafe (between 46 and 47 on 9th). Excellent soups during the winter.