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Toronto Foodies coming to NYC - Recs please

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Hello fellow foodies.

We're going to be in NYC for 1 week at the beginning of Dec and was looking for some recommendations. Now before everyone starts yelling at me to use the search function, rest assured that I'll be doing plenty of searches. But, I was wondering if my fellow foodies could recommend must hit restaurants that are still great and relevant - lets face it some of the must hit restaurants seem to have slipped or been getting mixed feed back recently. So, I guys I'm looking for an updated must visit list.

Thanks in advance guys, oh and I'm looking for recommendations for all 3 meal times!

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  1. Do you have places that you're interested in? We could offer feedback based upon those, and also offer other recommendations? It's difficult to make recommendations without knowing your tastes and everybody's "must visit" list is different. For example, my must hit list would include Babbo, Jean Georges, Casa Mono, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Shopsin's, brunch at Locanda Verde, Kee's Chocolates or Bespoke Chocolates, Motorino, Katz's Deli, Russ & Daughters, Shake Shack, Death & Co., the chicken and rice cart on 53rd and 6th, Amy Ruth's, Keens, Kabab Cafe, Franny's, Di Fara, the list goes on...

    Do you have a tentative itinerary? What days are you here (this influences the breakfast/lunch recommendations greatly as some places don't do weekend lunch and some places only do breakfast on weekends)?

    Are you looking for street food? Classic NY spots? Localvore restaurants? Hip foodie meccas with lots of pork and offal? Fine dining like Jean Georges?

    Cuisine preferences -- Italian, Spanish, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Latin, French, other? Budget, including tax, tip, drinks? Neighborhood preferences? Avoids? Have you been to NYC before? Where have you eaten and what did you like or dislike?

    Don't Leave NY Without Eating... (most of these are budget friendly BTW)

    Best pizza in NY -- NYC has Neopolitan style and coal oven NY-Neopolitan style and gas overn NY style

    Best street food -- assuming you're OK with street food -- after all, it will be pretty fast and allow you to maximize sightseeing and shopping:

    NYC for visitors:

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

    Best brunch:

    Best of the Union Square Greenmarket
    M, W, F, S, 8am-6pm, but earlier is better, Saturdays are biggest

    Best foodie shopping:

    Best chocolate:

    Kee's Chocolates
    80 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012

    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

    Casa Mono
    52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

    Momofuku Ssam Bar
    207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

    Shopsin's General Store
    120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

    Jean Georges
    1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

    Bespoke Chocolates
    6 Extra Pl, New York, NY 10003

    Locanda Verde
    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

    8 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Hey Kathryn,

      Thanks for the fantastic reply. I'll answer your question later tonight (work is calling).

      1. re: kathryn

        Hey guys,

        Just to answer some of the questions raised by Kathryn and to help with possible recommendations.

        Our must hit list, is very similar to Kathryn's actually;
        Babbo, Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges,Daniel, Clinton Street Baking Company, Balthazar, WD-50 Prune, Spotted Pig, Barbuto, Café Boulud, Bouley, momofuku ssam, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, The Bar Room at The Modern, Lombardi’s Pizza, Grimaldi’s Pizza, the little owl, sfoglia. Katz Deli, Russ & Daughters.

        We're going to be in NYC on a Friday and leave the following Friday. We have plans on one of the Friday nights (dining with friends at Stanton social) and going to watch a hockey game on a Sunday night. We're staying in the central park area and we're planning to have 2 fine dinning experiences (we're thinking about WD-50 and Le Bernardin?) We tried to get RSVP at babbo, but no luck - thinking about walking in, but aren't sure if it's worth it, as we're probably going to have to wait forever (what do you guys think?)

        In terms of our likes and dislikes. We'll try everything and anything. We don't care if it's from a food truck, street vendor, or dinning room. We do tend to lean towards casual dining fare, like french bistros, St. John's in London, etc. We have never been to NYC so, really we're a blank canvas.

        I can't wait to hear back from you guys, thanks in advance!

        50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

        Eleven Madison Park
        11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

        Gramercy Tavern
        42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

        Spotted Pig
        314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

        Le Bernardin
        155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

        1. re: excel

          On your list, I would definitely visit Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, Momofuku Ssam Bar, wd~50 (if you have an adventurous palate), Eleven Madison Park, Katz's (order your pastrami fatty), and Russ & Daughters. I'd skip Bouley, which is similar in price to Le Bernardin et. al. yet not even close to as good or consistent, and Lombardi's as you can find far, far better pizza. I think Le Bernardin and wd~50 are excellent choices for your two big dinners. If you're worried about wd~50 being too esoteric, consider Daniel in its place; after the recent renovation, the restaurant looks stunning and the food is still very fine. Jean Georges and Eleven Madison Park are both ideal for their respective lunch deals.

          For Clinton Street Baking Company, make sure to go on a weekday morning; otherwise, the wait can be ridiculous. To be honest, the breakfast at Locanda Verde is probably better. Also, Café Boulud has a very extravagant and pricey breakfast that may be of interest. For the exact opposite in atmosphere, try the irascible Shopsin's.

          At Gramercy Tavern, don't discount the less expensive Tavern Room. You may prefer a more casual meal, and the Tavern Room is just as accomplished as the main dining room IMO.

          For pizza, consider Motorino East Village, Co, Keste, Artichoke Basille's (Sicilian slice only), and Patsy's in Manhattan, and Di Fara, Franny's, Lucali, and Totonno's (if they ever reopen) in Brooklyn.

          I think it's worthwhile trying Babbo, though I wouldn't necessarily put it as the top priority. If you show up for seats at the bar before the beginning of dinner service on a weekday, I think you'll be fine. Convivio is another Italian favorite and I personally think it's better than Babbo and much less frustrating to deal with. They have what may be the best pasta menu in NYC.

          There's nothing quite like St. John's here, but Momofuku Ssam Bar tends to feature very good offal dishes. There are lots of places to try for offal, so I'm sure others can chime in with recommendations.

          Eleven Madison Park
          11 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10010

          Momofuku Ssam Bar
          207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

          Jean Georges
          1 Central Park W, New York, NY 10023

          Le Bernardin
          155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

          1. re: hcbk0702

            I think Le Bernardin and WD-50 are fine but I honestly wasn't that excited about them afterwards. WD-50 often crosses too far into the "let's try this just to try this" territory. And Le Berardin is exquisite but also priced accordingly, and while impressive, it didn't speak to me like JG, EMP, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Babbo, etc. do. I'd also be wary of too much fine dining in your week here.

            Gramercy Tavern's Tavern Room is good but less refined than the dining room. It also doesn't take reservations, but it can be good to just drop in, last minute, for a nice lunch or dinner.

            Of the pizza options hcbk0702 listed, I like them ALL more than Grimaldi's (although I still haven't been to Keste or Lucali). I think I've gone most frequently to Motorino and Franny's lately as I find these two the best combinations of location, quality, cost, and lines.

            NB: Artichoke is takeout only.

            hcbk0702, I assume you mean Patsy's in East Harlem, uptown, as opposed to some of the other outposts?

            For Italian, I'd also consider Scarpetta.

            50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

            Gramercy Tavern
            42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            Momofuku Ssam Bar
            207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

            Le Bernardin
            155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

            355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

            1. re: kathryn

              Yep, the original Patsy's in East Harlem. The others don't even count! And I'm going to agree with Pan and suggest Arturo's too. If you don't want to travel all the way uptown for Patsy's, Arturo's is great for scratching that coal oven pizza itch.

          2. re: excel

            I agree with hcbk: Lombardi's is not worth going to. I'd add Arturo's to his/her list and subtract Artichoke, but my favorite is Keste (caveat: I have yet to visit Motorino and hope to remedy that soon, and also haven't been to Co).

            If you want to go to a Batali-associated restaurant and can't get into Babbo, you could try Lupa, but reservations are always a pain there, too. The last time I went, I called them about 20 minutes before showing up, was told the wait was about 35 minutes, and when we arrived, we didn't wait very long (maybe 15 minutes), but other times, the wait's been an hour or more and I gave up and left immediately. My one meal at Babbo was wonderful and definitely a couple of levels up from Lupa. Based on my one meal at Babbo and my several meals at Lupa, on the New York Times 4-star system, I consider Babbo an excellent 3-star and Lupa an excellent 2-star. One thing about Lupa is that Arturo's is right around the corner. There can be a wait there, too, but if you wait at the bar, there's always good live jazz in the evening.

            170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            1. re: excel

              This out-of-towner has to chime in with the rest...

              I HEARTILY recommend Gramercy Tavern. One of the best restaurant experiences I've ever had in my life. Ever. I've also had really wonderful meals and service at The Bar Room and EMP.

              WD~50 is definitely in the "try it to try it" realm but pricey as hell. We spent half that at Gramercy and had twice the fun.

              Babbo was great, but not you-must-try-it-before-you-die great. It can be skipped.

              You must try Russ & Daughters. Katz' is good, but, again, you could skip it.

              The Halal cart at 53rd and 6th is not to be missed, but you have to do it late at night for the full experience. And the hot sauce is HOT, fyi.

              Oh, and a really nice surprise was when we stumbled upon BXL Cafe. Great selections of Belgian beers, soccer on the tube, and all you can eat mussels on Monday. 43rd between Broadway and 6th.

              Have fun!

              Gramercy Tavern
              42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            2. re: kathryn

              bravo to kathryn. just pick anything on her list youll do fine.

            3. some of my tops
              Tory Yakitori, Kanoyama, Bar Baloud, Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, sugar sweet sunshine, Fortunato brothers, the grocery, ginza, katz's, Prosperity Dumpling, sri pra phai, Fette Sau, 11 mad park, Ocean Jewel, Mercadito Grove

              Mercadito Grove
              100 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014

              175 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              Great Taste Dumpling
              4317 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11232

              1. You need to be more specific about what areas and price ranges you want.

                My clever bargain idea is take the Number 7 train to Queens where it becomes elevated. There are many interesting restaurants. There are many posts about what you can do in near the 7 line. The trip is moderately interesting as it is well above ground.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Geo8rge

                  We're going to mainly be in Manhattan hitting up the tourist sites. With that said we probably wouldn't mind seeing the other boroughs as long as it's not too far off the beaten path. In terms of price, I think we're pretty much open for whatever it takes to get a great meal and experience. Keep in mind that we're probably not looking to have heavy fine dinning every day, a good balance of comfort food, cheap and cheerful, fine dining, and quick light meals would be ideal.

                  We also wouldn't be adverse to fine dining for lunch either. Sometimes you can get the full experience of a top restaurant at lunch for a cheaper price - we wouldn't mind that.

                  Thanks for all the help so far, please keep the recommendations coming.

                  Oh and what about new restaurants that are getting a lot of well deserved hype now, anyone got recs for those??

                2. Hey excel, I'm a fellow Torontonian from the Ontario board and thought I'd chime in here. My wife and I visit Manhattan every year for food and shopping and have hit most of your list and then some.

                  Of your 2 planned fine dining experience, I'd replace WD-50 with EMP and add Jean George for lunch. I daresay that since Toronto does Asian/Chinese well, Momofuku isn't going to be that special foodwise.

                  We'll be there again next weekend and have reservations at a couple of the newer restaurants: SHO and Aldea. The former has been getting raving reviews and not priced like JG, so really looking forward. Aldea is Portuguese and it'll be interesting to see how this compares to Chiado in Toronto.

                  Whatever you decide, all the best and enjoy NYC!

                  PS: I know it's totally off topic, but I'd be remiss not to ask... since we'll be in Manhattan to shop as well, how are the sales? I heard sales prices aren't as good as this time last year.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: syoung

                    The Momofuku restaurants have pretty much nothing to do with regular Asian or Chinese food. French techniques + high-end ingredients + Asian-inspired flavor combinations + David Chang's style = something pretty unique. If you're not looking for an extended tasting menu format, Momofuku Ssam Bar would be my first choice among Chang's places.

                    Momofuku Ssam Bar
                    207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                    1. re: syoung

                      Comparing Momofuku's cuisine to Toronto's Asian/Chinese cuisine is like comparing apples to avocados.

                      1. re: syoung

                        Toronto does Cantonese well. Take the 7 train express out to Main St. and try eating at Xian. Definitely not a fine dining experience, but the food's pretty good (spicy) and inexpensive. Search the outer boroughs board. Lots of good eats in Queens.

                        1. re: GoodGravy

                          Thanks guys for keeping the thread going and the recs coming in. syoung, thanks for your insight, I'm seriously considering JG for lunch now...I'd also like to try the 2 other restaurants you mentioned...just don't know if I'll be able to fit them in.

                          In terms of momofuku, it has been getting a lot of hype for awhile now, so I'd feel less of a foodie if we didn't at least try it (hahah)...and I guys that's part of the idea of this post - we want to hit the NYC foodie institutions, but we want to make sure they're still up to snuff.

                          How how cheap and cheerful, street vendors, and hole in the walls recs? I don't seem to see much of those yet...

                          1. re: excel

                            For street vendors and places to eat in midtown for under $10, I'd check midtownlunch.com as a resource. To get you started, do searches for Jianettos pizza truck, Wafels & Dinges, Hallo Berlin, Frites n Meats, La Cense, etc. Or just go to 46th and 6th for kati rolls, jerk, fried seafood, falafels and fruit shakes (all different carts). After you see all the different street vendors, you'll be campaigning at Toronto city hall to allow something other than street meat and over-regulated cart food.

                            1. re: GoodGravy

                              thanks for all the recs - ya the state of street food in TO is pretty sad, and the over-regulated carts are really a joke....politic, what you going to do?

                              What about hole in the walls?

                      2. hi excel,

                        i don't have anything to add ... but i'm a TO hound and will be in NY for five days closer to christmas. please post back with your experiences! TKS!

                        1. I agree with all the high-end recommendations...for a fun and delicious hole-in-the-wall option, I suggest going to Caracas in the east village. It's a Venezualian arepas bar, located on 7th street by 1st ave. (note: there are actually two locations there -- one is for take out, the other is the regular restaurant...)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cutebee

                            You really like the arepa bar that much? I live right down the block from it and haven't been there since at least this past summer, if not longer. When they raised the prices of their arepas such that one is around $7, it was no longer a good value, and anyway, while the place is good, the only arepa I really like is La Jardinera. I think if you go for a lunch special, it's pleasant, but it's pushing $20, which is OK but not really cheap for what you're getting.

                          2. I think you should absolutely try Momofuku Ssam Bar - my mouth waters just thinking about the pork buns - they are amazing. I like their egg dishes for brunch, too.

                            If you feel like pizza, try Co for sure. It's great.

                            What about DBGB if you're craving a burger or Blaue Gans if you want some Austrian deliciousness on a cold day?

                            For a delicious soba experience try Matsugen. I love their scallion toro roll, lobster salad, crispy shrimp and all cold soba dishes (I'm a fan or the more coarse texture of soba). I could eat their asparagus all day, too.

                            Macao has some great things to try, Boqueria in Soho is a great go-to bet, Mercat on Bond St has great tapas, BondSt downstairs is such a fun experience at the bar (love their food!), Giorgione on Spring Street is fab, Novecento and its sister place Industria Argentina are both great, Centrico has wonderful Mexican delicacies.

                            Brinkley's is fun and great gastropub options, La Esquina is just around the corner (because all need to experience the fish tacos and some corn on the cob).

                            I'd skip Katz's unless you just have to try it for the sake of trying it. I did, I'm happy I did, I found the food inedible and disturbing.

                            Oh, Locanda Verde is pretty neat, too. The Odeon is a must for visitors I always say (great brunch, too).

                            Hope you have the most amazing time visiting! And enjoy!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: bk10013

                              You must have mentioned this before, but what in the World did you have at Katz's that you found "inedible and disturbing," and why didn't you ask for another slab of pastrami, say, if you didn't like the one they gave you?

                              1. re: Pan

                                Hi - I don't believe I ever mentioned this before? Did I? Feeling some hostility here...

                                I had the potato salad, chopped liver, matzo ball soup, pastrami sandwich with lean meat - all was way below average. Being Eastern European, having grown up overseas and travelled enough to know (with 10 years of living in Manhattan under my belt) I hope you can understand that there are much tastier potato salads out there, more flavorful chopped livers, better seasoned matzo ball soups and pastrami that melts in your mouth just as much and doesn't look such hot mess.

                                I am by no means anti Katz's - people should go to try. I know the fascination with the place is not for me. Why did I not ask our waiter for another slab of pastrami? He was too busy taking pictures with tourists. I needed to get my 'ticket', pay and get out. It was an experience to eat there, just not one I'd want to relive necessarily.

                                1. re: bk10013

                                  I don't know why you're feeling hostility; there's nothing personal here.

                                  My feeling is that you made a mistake if you ordered your pastrami lean at Katz's. If you want lean pastrami, 2nd Av. Deli does that better. As for the rest of the items you ordered, despite its long menu, Katz's really isn't a full-service deli; they're specialists who specialize in meats, particularly pastrami and secondarily, brisket (always order it juicy, even more so than the pastrami), corned beef, turkey, etc. That you didn't like the non-pastrami items doesn't faze me.

                            2. Similar to excel, we're from Toronto, foodies and was wondering if the Chowhounds could look over the proposed agenda and let us know if we're missing anything for an "essential" NY food experience!

                              Friday night:
                              Perry St. - late dinner upon arrival (10:30 reservation)

                              Porchetta - lunch (noon)
                              Degustation - early dinner (7:30 reservation) OR try to get into Bobbo (no reservation) OR Adour (is it worth the money)?
                              Momofuku Ssam Bar - late dinner (no reservation - walk up around 11 pm?) OR Momofuku Ko (if I win the reservation lottery for Dec. 5?) OR Sakagura (back-up plan if Ssam Bar is too busy) OR other Ssam Bar back-up recommendation?

                              Modern Bar Room - lunch

                              Our budget was $200 (not including alcohol) per meal for two of us.

                              Thanks everyone and happy Thanksgiving!!