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Not Healthy Manhattan Tour

Hi all,

I'm visiting the city in the beginning of November with a sole purpose: cheap deliciousness. No Daniel for us this time -- heck, not even any Momofuku on this go-round. My sister and I will be on a pilgrimage for caloric overload on a budget. We're tossing waistline worries to the wind: this is the itinerary that your mom never would have told you about.

Only parameters: with the exception of Di Fara, we're looking to stay in Manhattan and we're looking for affordable (under $20 per person per meal). We'll be based in the West Village but are fine with public transit and are marathon walkers.

Here's what we're thinking so far -- and please fill in the gaps.

Pizza - Di Fara
Donuts - Donut Plant
Brunch (specifically, French Toast) - TBD (debating between 202, Clinton Street, Balthazar, and . . . ??)
Fried chicken - yes, I realize people may suggest Momofuku here . . . any others?
Burgers/fries/shakes - Shake Shack
Pie -
Porchetta - Porchetta (by default and definition!)
Something near the Met whose offerings square with the trip's intent -
Somewhere near Wall Street (we're there to visit the bull) -
Chocolate -

Other suggestions of must-hit spots?

When this tour is over, expect to see a post about detox and juice diets.

As always -- thanks.

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  1. And one more to add, since we can't live on sweets alone.

    Top-notch bar bites and good beers (the beers don't have to be cheap) -

    1. The NY Times just did a piece on "The Other Fried Chicken"


      1. Margon for Dominican food (46th between 6th & Broadway) - maybe en route to the Met?

        Pinche Taqueria in NoLiTa-ish area for fish tacos

        1. Wall St
          - If you're there on a thursday (when they seem to be around) Schnitzburger @ Schnitzels & Things (Water/Broad) - Breaded/Deep Fried burger. You can take it to the public Atrium on Wall St (next to Deutsche Bank building) if it's cold out.

          - Shopsin's

          Near Met
          - Maybe Schatzie's brisket sandwich (88/Mad) or Pastrami Queen (78/Lex). There's also Lexington Candy Shop (84/Lex), which has unhealthy food and a pretty cool atmosphere, but I wouldn't go out of my way for any of these.

          1. An order of virgil's trainwreck fries followed by an order of szechuan gourmet's double cooked pork should fit the bill for greasy gluttony.

            1. Here's my go to comfort food under $20:

              Fried Chicken at Redhead is crazy good - juicy meat and crispy skin with a strawberry salad on the side. The Smith also does a great Weds special of chicken and potato waffles. You can also go to Bonchon for Korean fried chicken (choice of spicy or soy slightly sweet) - $14 for 8 drumsticks, best split by two - it's a new experience if you've never had paper thin crispy skin.

              Chocolate at Kee's Chocolate - very refined, perhaps not in line with the rest of the tour?

              2nd Ave deli for their hot pastrami, gribenes (fried chicken skin), and chocolate soda - heart attack in a meal.

              More dessert - the WMD (Waffles of Massive Deliciousness) at wafels & dinges truck - pile on as many toppings as you want, not safe for diabetics. I usually do the strawberries, bananas, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream and powdered sugar on a wafel (the normal, ie non liege waffles hold more.)

              Ramen at Minca - specifically the toroniku ramen with it's luscious fatty pillows of pork. Get it with thin noodles.

              Chinatown: super cheap dumplings and scallion pancake sandwiches at Vanessa dumpling house on eldridge. Soup dumplings and honey bqq pork shoulder at New Yeah Shanghai deluxe on mott. Follow this up with a trip to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory next door and delight in the flavors - lychee, peach, green tea, black sesame.

              happy eats!

              6 Replies
              1. re: windycity

                Maybe they just had an off-night, but I tried the Toroniku at Minca yesterday in an attempt to find an alternative to Ippudo/Setagaya, and I thought it was just awful. Everything tasted a day old, particularly the noodles, which I actually saw the cook pull out of a cardboard box. The pork used in the dish was almost all fat, and the parts that weren't were hard and lacked flavor. And it was COLD. And no wonder -- it had been sitting on the counter, wrapped in foil, for who knows how long.

                This really bugged me. If you're gonna prepare dishes out in the open, shouldn't you be a little more aware that appearance matters?

                I think I could've forgiven most of the above if the ramen actually tasted really good, but it didn't. This was a rare instance -- very rare -- where I didn't finish my bowl of ramen.

                I dunno -- anyone else have a more positive experience at Minca? Was this just a case of them having a bad night?

                1. re: FiveDanFive

                  my friend sweats by minca for years and years and . . . . i had a bowl there that i didn't like too much (I went double on the pork, plus i ordered the heaviest broth) so, maybe i ordered wrong but, i didn't like it. i would really just stick with ippudo.

                  1. re: FiveDanFive

                    I've had amazing bowls and bowls that were just decent. I've never had a truly bad bowl. The pork in the toroniku is pretty fatty, but I've never had a bowl where it was all just fat and no meat. It sounds like you hit one of their really off nights.

                  2. re: windycity

                    Another thought if you're in the mood for unhealthy sandwiches - $5 banh mi at Nicky's or $8 cambodian sandwiches at Num Pang - duroc pork and tiger shrimp are two of my faves. There's also delicious and cheap Japanese curry with tonkatsu at Go Go curry on 38th near 8th - one home run plate is plenty for 2 people.

                    There is also of course the fries at Pommes Frites which are a meal unto themselves, and supposedly there is amazing poutin (fries with melted cheese curds and gravy) somewhere in the east village or lower east side, but I forget where. Someone help me - it's on my list of places to try as well!

                    1. re: windycity

                      chinatown as a whole will swallow you alive with choices but I'd definitely to hit the roast pork banh mi at Banh Mi Saigon if you really want some deliciousness.

                      pick a few of these up (there are other chinatown choice eats as well, try the fried bow-tie or one of the "big buns" at mei-lei-wah, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/605528/ ) and walk your way down broadway to the bull eventually.

                      1. re: windycity

                        oops, places:

                        Mei Lai Wah
                        64 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                        Banh Mi Saigon
                        198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                    2. everything on your list looks good and well-thought out, and i hate to be negative, but i have to express my distaste for shake shack. it's really not that good and it is certainly not worth all the mishigas associated with getting a greasy little burger. if your concern is getting a really good and new york-specific burger i would have to point you in the direction of the following places:
                      1. peter luger (burger at lunch only)
                      2. corner bistro
                      3. fanelli’s
                      4. the restaurant in the parker meridian
                      5. blue ribbon
                      Each one of these places serves a killing burger and is definitely a new york thing. While on the subject you should have Luger on your list period!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: El Tigre

                        Luger's burger is fine, but no other way can one meet the $20 pp requirement.

                        1. re: El Tigre

                          I'll add my dislike of shake shack - fries, burgers, "frozen custard". El Tigre has a good list of burgers. Also Molly Shebeen pub on 3rd and 22rd has a huge 10oz burger for $11. I like the bacon cheeseburger - the bacon is thick cut. Also a coronary waiting to happen. Hope you have a good cardiologist back home, Kaelin :)

                        2. I second Shopsin's. I also like Roni Sue's in the Essex St Market for her chocolates.
                          You can walk through the park to or from the Met for the UWS Shack Shake.
                          Defonte's on E21st for their sandwiches.
                          Ramen at Ippudo's in the East Village.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: tastyeating

                            I'll throw out the following:

                            Crif Dogs for hot dogs & tater tots

                            Pommes Frites - Belgian Fries that are outstandingly delicious

                            Carts/Trucks: Halal Cart, Biriyani Cart, Rahman's Kwik Meals Cart, Wafels & Dinges, Schnitzel & Things, Jamaican Dutchy, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, Cupcake Stop

                            Go by Zabars and get some Meat/Bread/Cheese and make your own Charcuterie/Picnic

                            1. re: a213b

                              And how about porkchop over rice with pork sauce at Mei Wah or NYC Cravings Truck.

                              1. re: tastyeating

                                I prefer Apolo's (Delancey) pork cops to Mei Wah's.

                              2. re: a213b

                                I'd suggest checking out midtownlunch.com for more good (and cheap) eats at NYC carts.

                            2. You all are the best.

                              The Redhead is a must and Wafels and Dinges looks amazing; definitely adding to the list. How about some clarification on the brunch topic, since we'll probably only go to one of those places (202, Balthazar, or Clinton Street Baking Co.)? To be honest, the prospect of Shopsin's intimidates me (something about not wanting to pay to be yelled at while I order and eat), so I think that's out.

                              As for the burger debate, I've never been to Shake Shack and it's one of those places that those of us outside of New York hear a lot about, so I feel like I owe it a try. That said, Peter Luger may be part of our plans yet . . . I knew the burger was legendary but had no idea that it was also so (relatively) affordable. Of course, that would entail crossing into Brooklyn again, unless we marry the Di Fara and Luger visits, and that just seems gluttonous (as opposed to the rest of the itinerary!).

                              Also, further help on:

                              Good beers -
                              Hot chocolate (not Max Brenner, please) -


                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Kaelin

                                again, i don't want to sound like the local hater but i also think that clinton st is WAAAAAY overrated. i used to live right next to it and have eaten there many, many times. even when there is no wait it is not that special but when you are faced with an hour + wait i'd say that you can do much better.
                                for good beer i would advise the following: burp castle, le petite abeille, jimmy's no. 43, and i know that you're trying to stick to manhattan but there are2 places in brooklyn well worth checking out for beer: Bierkraft‎ & Spuyten Duyvil‎. both are fantastic

                                1. re: El Tigre

                                  Spuyten Duyvil‎ is one of my fav's
                                  ... not sure however I would recomend it for chowers on a budget

                                2. re: Kaelin

                                  i'm going to be doing the exact trip as you except in chicago after the urbanathlon. you should definitely try Redhead's fried chicken but if you haven't tried korean fried chicken, it's a must. i would suggest Momofuku but reservations are hard to get so as other people have mentioned, try Boka for their all you can eat chicken and beer happy hour or just go to Mad for Chicken (used to be called Bonchon and it's the same chicken they serve at Boka).
                                  also, for beer, try Pony Bar. they have a lot of domestic craft beers on tap that are constantly rotated with 100 different microbrews from around the u.s. or Ginger Man, who have a ridiculous amount of draft and bottled beers.
                                  MarieBelle's for hot chocolate or you can get both great chocolate and hot chocolate at Jacque Torres although some people think their hot chocolate is too thick.

                                  1. re: tkm616

                                    what is boka's deal exactly? that sounds pretty amazing. 3rd floor cafe has a similar thing on thursdays, all you can eat fried chicken or pork tonkotsu with all you can drink beer but the chicken has no wet sauce, its served dry. not the best but . . . its all you can eat so whatever.

                                    1. re: bigjeff

                                      it's either 4-8pm or 4-7pm happy hour for $23. i think you can request hot sauce for dipping the chicken in at 3rd Floor Cafe but it's still pretty dry.

                                  2. re: Kaelin

                                    I actually like Shake Shack quite a bit -- go to the one in UWS & go before lunch time or between lunch and dinner time, you'll hardly wait 15 minutes. I've never waited more than 20 min. to eat there. I also like Clinton St. Baking Co. but French toasts are better at Jane.

                                    1. re: Kaelin

                                      Haven't been to 202 for for French toast and waffles, I'd go to Balthazar. For eggs, bacon, and pancakes, I'd go to Clinton Street, but only if it was a weekday or if I was planning to get there at 9:30am due to the long waits. It's good but I don't know if it's 2+ hours line good.

                                      I like Shake Shack but it's a pretty different style burger than what a steakhouse like Luger would do.

                                      Great hot chocolate, in a super thick, European fashion, can be found at La Maison du Chocolat. Similarly decadent is City Bakery which serves it with a huge marshmallow. I've tried 'wichcraft, Mariebelle, Jacques Torres, Vosges, etc. and those two are my favorites.

                                      More on brunch:

                                      1. re: Kaelin

                                        Luger's and DiFara aren't close at all so doing them in a single trip isn't possible. (And while we're talking about DF, you do know about the lines, right? You could be out of there in a half hour but you could be there for much longer.)

                                        I previously mentioned Katz's for pastrami. Within easy walking distance (less than 5 minutes) is DBA, an outstanding beer venue.


                                        Katz's Delicatessen
                                        205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

                                      2. Definitely Boka on St. Mark's for their Bonchon chicken-fried drumsticks and wings in a sweet/soy glaze that are anything but greasy but still deliciously caloric, I'm sure. They also have a spicy option, and I tried one and could barely taste anything the rest of the night, so I'd recommend the regular non-spicy glaze.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Jess321

                                          FYI, the one time I've been to Boka, the bonchon chicken did not taste the same as the actual bonchon franchises - not as tasty or as crispy. Still decent, but not the same.

                                          Ditto on the spicy version though - I've burned my mouth on the hot crispy skin of the original version alone, I don't need to compound the pain with the spicy version!

                                        2. Katz's pastrami, a New York classic.

                                          I'd skip Shake Shack - it's really nothing special.

                                          1. hot chocolate - Jaques Torres (and if u decide to go into Brooklyn again get the ice cream).
                                            And I second pomme frites.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ajr524

                                              There's also a JT on the UWS ... right off the express stop at 72nd. Great hot chocolate, and killer chocolate chip cookies that they are always keeping warm. Yum!

                                            2. Katz Deli is a must for a pastrami or tongue sandwich. While you are down there you can hit up Yonnah Schimmels for a great Knish. Lots of good old time eats in the area.

                                              There is a great Bahn Mi place on Broome and Mott. An excellent sandwich is yours for $3.75

                                              For beer there are two places that stand above the others for a great selection of local/US micros and harder to find imports. These are Blind Tiger on Bleecker and Rattle N Hum on 33rd between Fifth and Madison. If you go to Bleecker you can get some good eats in the West Village

                                              1. My ongoing list of favorite cheap eats is here! (I'm in the W Village too!)

                                                Thanks for sharing your suggestions too, I haven't tried Momofuku yet and NEED to! Hope you have a great trip!

                                                1. For French toast, I liked the French toast w/orange glaze at the Broome Street Bar

                                                  1. Damned browser/javascript/whatever. Try again.

                                                    For French toast, I liked how they did it with an orange glaze at the Broome Street Bar. Haven't been there in years. Hope it's still good. 202 at Nicole Farhi in Chelsea Markets was also good, but brunching in a clothing store just seemed weird, to me. Noho Star was also pretty good; my only complaint was with the bitterness of the iced coffee, which won't be a problem in November. Nice Matin does a good orange buttlermilk thing with their French toast. On weekends Angelina Cafe makes cinnamon brioche French toast w/fruit and/or bacon, and it's good, but the place is tiny and can be uncomfortably breezy in colder weather.

                                                    My current favorite, however, is Le Grainne Cafe; they've held that spot for the last 5 years. Crisp outside, eggy, good sides with it (my wife once asked that they substitute bacon for the slice of ham; the contest of wills that ensued would best have been avoided), tasty cafe au lait to go with it all.

                                                    NB: I'm a chow hound, so I tend toward price performance over raw performance.

                                                    Nice Matin
                                                    201 West 79th Street, New York, NY 10024

                                                    Angelina Cafe
                                                    36 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

                                                    75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                                    Noho Star
                                                    330 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                    Broome Street Bar
                                                    363 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013

                                                    Le Grainne
                                                    183 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                                    1. Brunch - Norma's in Le Parker Meridien. Might be a little over budget, but brunch is breakfast and lunch so it works out. Everything is good, best idea is get something salty and something sweet and share both dishes. Portions are huge.


                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. I'd try the fried chicken at blue ribbon bakery... delicious

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: wooster5

                                                          "I'd try the fried chicken at blue ribbon bakery... delicious"

                                                          It may be delicious but it costs $25.95 and that's before taxes and tip and with nothing to drink. The OP requested meals under $20 per person.


                                                        2. Some of my favorites on a budget

                                                          Banh Mi Saigon Bakery for the number 1

                                                          sugar sweet sunshine the pistachio cupcakes!!!

                                                          Fortunato brothers cannolis and gelatos.

                                                          Red hook ball fields Pork Huarreche, pupusas with pork and cheese, grilled corn

                                                          City Crab & Seafood Company happy hour

                                                          Prosperity Dumpling 5 for 1

                                                          Fette Sau BBQ

                                                          1. Just back from a whirlwind 48 hours in New York and have to thank all of you for your help. As you'll see from the summary below, a spontaneous change of plans changed the tone of the trip -- violating both the letter and spirit of the cheap eats law, but certainly in line with pursuit of delicious food and experiences. A (longish) review here:

                                                            Friday night, Motorino - replaced Di Fara with Motorino (East Village location) to accomodate friends in the city. Sweet room (tiled floors, pressed tin ceiling, cramped tables), outstanding service, and really good pizza. Someone should nominate Schotland McQuade for best general manager ever / New Yorker I'd most like to have a drink with. Started with the salad and a complimentary serving of the octopus before the main event. The table shared two pizzas: one with sopressata, garlic, and chili oil and the other with brussel sprouts. The crust!! The char!! Amazing! Overall, a great experience though I like the cheese better at Spacca Napoli here in Chicago. Had planned to go to Milk Bar for dessert, but Schotland sent out housemade soft-serve (raspberry and chocolate) for the table, and who can argue with that. An ill-advised order of Insomnia Cookies closed out the evening.

                                                            Saturday AM - coffee at Joe's, in the West Village, followed by a cross-town walk to Donut Plant. What a spot. We had a vanilla bean yeast donut and a chestnut cake donut, and ate in while ogling the Coconut Cream yeast donuts, the Blackout cakes, etc. The chestnut was the best donut I've ever eaten.

                                                            After continuing our walk down Wall Street, to the end of the island, and back up through Battery City Park and the West Side Highway (all in the rain), Jacques Torres hot chocolate was the ideal antidote. Thick, rich, and aromatic, it bests Mindy Segal's hot chocolate at Hot Chocolate in Chicago for the best I've tried. Plus, the store is worth checking out since the chocolate is all made behind giant street-facing plate glass windows.

                                                            Next, a stop at Murray's Cheese Shop and City Bakery because -- hey, why not!?

                                                            Saturday evening -- we couldn't decide on a cheap eats spot and decided, at the last minute, to see if we could slip into the Salon at Per Se (eep!). Fortunately, I was visiting my identical twin so her wardrobe worked fine for the occasion. Walking up to those storied blue doors, we had no idea what to expect and figured we would just slip down to Bouchon Bakery if/when Keller couldn't accomodate us but they ushered us right to the bar. We started with kir royales and the best bar food ever: truffled popcorn. The amuse was an "ice cream cone" of salmon tartare: a sesame tuille pastry filled with creme fraiche and a "scoop" of salmon on top. Amazing textures and flavor profiles, especially how the creme fraiche and last bite of the cone were almost sweet. The chef sent out a veloute of parsnip, vanilla bean, and creme fraiche while we waited for our appetizer and we enjoyed the bread service (french, sour dough, and pretzel roll with outstanding Vermont butter and fleur de sel). From the salon's a la carte menu, we shared the hearts of palm salad, I had the duck breast with turnips and bacon vinaigrette, and my sister ordered veal with porcini mushrooms, cheese-filled fusilli, and chestnuts. My duck (with a big Bordeaux pairing) was superb, but the veal composition was Kaelin's Best Bite of Food in 2009 (an annual award: 2008 - maple bacon bread at Charlie Trotter's, 2007 - duck with grits at Aigre Doux -- RIP). For dessert, we shared the sorbets (blood orange, passion fruit, key lime, and manjari chocolate -- and a taste of the coconut sorbet from the gentlemen sitting next to us with whom we shared great conversation). The mignardises included pates de frut (passion fruit and rasberry), almond nougat, and 72% house-made chocolates. We traded our pistachio nougats for never-ending caramels from our Salon-mates. Of course, in case that wasn't enough, the staff then brings out perfectly presented cakes (chocolate, vanilla, and another layer I can't recall, with apricot jam) for breakfast the next morning, tied with a per se ribbon. In addition to the excellent food, I can't thank the restaurant enough for the gracious, approachable service. Our server, Alicia, was so open, knowledgeable, and fun, Michael the maitre'd (?) was a delight. We learned so much about per se from them and it truly enriched the experience.

                                                            Sunday -- given the night before, we backed off our agenda and enjoyed a calm brunch at Cafe Morandi, in the West Village. It was fine but, like my experiences at other Keith McNally places, felt a little formulaic (even if he is the originator of the formula). At this point, after a run, yoga, little sleep, and too much alcohol our bodies were pretty run into the ground so we eased off. Made the trip up to Morningside Heights to visit Columbia. We window-shopped many little restaurants along Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway: expect an upcoming post requesting recommendations in that area.

                                                            Finally, tucked into a perfect neighborhood restaurant for dinner: the New French, in the West Village, where we finally took care of ourselves: lots of veggies in the New French salad and bowls of fragrant, spicy pho (mine topped with chicken, Sarah's with brisket -- yum).

                                                            And that's all she wrote. Notable oversights this time around: Shake Shack, fried chicken at the Red Head, great French Toast, and street food. Perhaps I need to plan a trip based entirely around itinerant culinary offerings (e.g. Van Leeuwen's Ice Cream, Waffles and Dinges, the Dessert Truck, halal carts, etc.).

                                                            Thanks again for the help -- I love eating in New York.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Kaelin

                                                              wow, congrads! sounds like a great time that you had and a great mix as well.

                                                                1. re: Kaelin

                                                                  NB Dessert Truck is no more.

                                                                  But thanks for the writeup! Glad you liked Motorino. It's my new neighborhood go-to pizza spot (I'm spoiled, I know)!

                                                                  Dessert Truck
                                                                  , New York, NY 10003