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Oct 8, 2009 11:41 PM

10 days and nights on West 81st Street. Would appreciate some local intelligence to eat well


I'm coming up on a 10 day stay on West 81st in an apartment with a kitchen. I'd prefer eating in than out, but probably won't much feel like cooking for myself beyond reheating some soup.

Eating well to me means fresh, not greasy or fatty, and nicely balanced with respect to spice. I'd very much appreciate knowing if I can currently find in the low W. 80s or high 70s:

-- genuinely good burrittos
-- good hummus, falafel, meze in general
-- good soups
-- good take out salad
-- excellent sushi (I'm not holding my breath)
-- best fresh fruit
-- good espresso

I'm open to anything else you care to recommend, although I don't eat barbecue and no longer eat Chinese food in New York unless it's very well prepared (and can survive travel in a cardboard box). I'm a huge fan of rice and beans in all forms, if any true gems of Cubano-Chinese (no heartburn please!) still survive around there. If there is a very good sit down Indian restaurant in the vicinity, that would be good to know.

If you want to pass along tips about the best times to shop in these places (when they aren't zoos), I'd appreciate it.

Also, which is the best wine store in the vicinity? I'll be needing bottles for gifts.

And who's currently riding high with the best smoked salmon?

Thanks so much! And sorry for so many questions! I used to live at W85th, but it was so long ago, I can't believe anything is still open except H&H and Zabar's, so I much appreciate tips from the current locals.

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  1. Welcome back!

    Good hummus, etc.: Hummus Place on Amsterdam near 74th. Runner-up: Maoz on Amsterdam between 71 & 72.

    Fresh fruit: limited choice, but greenmarkets on Columbus & 77 (Sundays, I think) and Broadway & 66 (Thursdays and Saturdays)

    Espresso: I haven't had their espresso, but there is a nice coffee bar called Joe on Columbus near 85th.

    Latin/Chinese: Flor de Mayo on Amsterdam near 83rd. Further up, I like the red beans and yellow rice at Malecon on Amsterdam & 97th.

    Best smoked salmon: Zabar's is still there, and so is Barney Greengrass (Amsterdam/86) and Murray's Sturgeon (Broadway/89)

    Finally, unasked-for recommendations for restaurants you might want to look into:

    Bar Bao on 82nd St. bet. Columbus & Amsterdam in the space that was Rain. Asian.
    Calle Ocho on Columbus near 81st for high-end Latin.

    Have a great stay.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rteplow

      Thanks for these recs and the welcome back. Last summer, when I was staying near 116th, I was not happy with the greenmarket that sets up in front of the university. Is the one on 77th run by different people?

      Do your Latin/Chinese recs have take out? (fingers crossed!)

    2. I'm a little further north than you are so I'm not sure if some of my recs will suit you.

      --burritos: we like Noche Mexicana (Amst & 101). I don't know how far south they deliver. They have good, though not fantastic food.
      --hummus/falafel: second hummus place and Maoz. I love the "toppings" area at Maoz.
      --fresh fruit: there's always Fairway. But the greenmarkets are better. By far the best and largest greenmarket on the upper west side is Fridays at 97th (Columbus & Amsterdam).
      --smoked fish: Zabar's & Barney Greengrass.
      --fresh fish: Citarella.
      --Flor de Mayo is more "regular" chino-latino and I prefer Caridad (78th & Bway) to it anyway. Malecon is dominican -- DH thinks they have the best chicken around, even better than Pio Pio (94th & Amst, Peruvian) which is also very good.
      --I'm still partial to H&H bagels though I know other posters will disagree. For excellent croissants and such, try Silver Moon Bakery (Bway at about 104).
      --wine store: for higher end I would recommend 67 Wine & Spirits. For a good selection at lower price points, I would highly recommend Columbus Wine & Spirits (96th). There's a Best Cellars too (Bway?) but I don't like the way they organize their wines. Oh, and there's one NY winery at the 97th greenmarket.
      --times to shop: if you are going to Fairway, before 9 am tends to be much less psychosis-inducing; greenmarkets usually "open" at 8 and early is always better; I think WF (at least the one on 97th) opens at 8 also, and the after-work rush is crazy. Zabar's seems to me is always crowded no matter when you go. Weekend mornings at H&H will have a line out the door.

      I'll echo rteplow's rec of Calle Ocho. There's also Shake Shack now (Columbus & 77th). My favorite wine bar is probably too north of you -- Buceo 95. I'd also recommend B Cafe for Belgian and a nice selection of Belgian beer.

      Hopefully others will chime in with more recs for you. I hope I've helped.

      3 Replies
      1. re: LNG212

        Thanks! Is your fave greenmarket better than the weekend one up by Columbia?

        Thanks very much for the intelligence on the wine stores and when to shop.

        Does the Shake Shack have things other than ice cream and burgers to go?

        You've helped a great deal!

        1. re: summerUWS2008

          I went only once to the greenmarket up by Columbia. If I recall the Columbia one correctly, the one at 97th is still much larger (97th has about 20-25 vendors, though it will begin to thin out after Thanksgiving).

          Yes, the menu at Shake Shack is rather limited - burgers, hot dogs, mushroom "burger", fries, shakes, concretes. I think that might be it.

          And I think just about everything mentioned by me and by rteplow do delivery. I'm just not sure of the "delivery zone" for each of them.

      2. I know the first 2 posters recommend Barney Greengrass and Zabar's but I don't think you can beat the appetizing at Murray's, B'way and 89th St. The lox is fabulous as is the baked salmon but for the smoked fish of a lifetime, try the sturgeon. Also great herring with onions in cream sauce if you like that kind of thing and I definitely do. The fish is all fresh and beautiful -- moist but not greasy -- and the staff really know the art of slicing it. Yummm. I live in Brooklyn and still make the trip up there for appetizing fairly regularly.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lbzeats

          Mmmmmmmmm. Herring! I was just in amsterdam, and it is potent there. I do like mine with cream (and pickled). Thanks.

        2. For great sushi near you, try Sushi of Gari, 370 Columbus Avenue (bet. 77th & 78th St.).

          2 Replies
          1. re: fm1963

            I don't mind paying for great sushi -- and I suspect I will at Gari (yes?) Do they do take out? Is there a wait some nights for their sushi bar if not?

            1. re: summerUWS2008

              I'd suggest making reservations for the bar. Omakase will probably run over $100 per person.

          2. Since you prefer to eat at home, I'd suggest testing out the Fairway prepared foods aisle. They make some good (and relatively cheap) salads and soups to go. They are packaged well and the dressings I think are made by them so they are not chemically-tasting. I also think some of the soups are good, though they are more hit and miss -- try the Italian wedding or the chicken noodle. (BTW -- after 8:00 on a weeknight is not bad at Fairway.)

            Also while it's controversial here -- I'd say Kefi on a good night is worth checking out for mezes though it's greek so no falafel.

            8 Replies
            1. re: JMJD

              Last year I was up by the Harlem Fairway, so I did find many good cold foods to keep around, although I didn't try their soups. So I will! And I very much like greek food, especially skordalia and taramasalata, so I'll look for Kefi. Thanks!

              1. re: JMJD

                Yep. Good mezes suggested Kefi to me. The Turkish restaurant a block north of Kefi (name slips my mind at the moment) also has good mezes.

                1. re: Pan

                  Zeytin? Columbus and 85th. We've enjoyed brunch there.

                  1. re: LNG212

                    Yes, Zeytin. I've never had brunch there but have had dinner and mezes there.

                      1. re: summerUWS2008

                        You're welcome. I look forward to your eventual reports on your trip.

                2. re: JMJD

                  I just read that Kefi has closed can anyone confirm that?