Manhattan for 5 days over New Year
I'm off to New York on the 29th of December with my family for a 5 day holiday. I just finished college exams a few days ago and have been really busy since so I haven't got to do much research yet, so any suggestions and help are much appreciated! I'm coming from Ireland and staying in Midtown west on 10th Avenue/36th Street.
So far I've worked out I'd like to try a pizza place, a Mexican, BBQ, a steakhouse, and I'm open to suggestions to anywhere really for the last dinner (as long as it's relatively reasonably priced).
I was in NY a couple of years ago and went to Grimaldi's which was amazing, I'd certainly be happy to return there for the pizza. Went to Blue Smoke as well which I also really liked but I've since had better barbeque. Would Dinosaur be a better bet?
For the Mexican I'd love somewhere that has good Mole. The "Best Mexican" threads seem to throw up a lot of conflicting opinions. Given my Mole craving I was looking at the obvious option of Mole on the LES, but I've also heard good things about Baby Bo's in Murray Hill and La Esquina in SoHo
Haven't got to do any looking at steakhouses yet. I'll post back when I do find some potential choices but for now could people recommend their favourites?
On my previous visit I also visited Katz's deli. I'll certainly be going back for another pastrami fix! I also plan on getting to Burger Joint and/or Shake Shack for a burger. Definitely want to try a couple of good hot dogs as well. Maybe Gray's Papaya? Any other lunch/snack/street food recs?
We're also all big cheesecake heads. Where'd be the best place for authentic New York cheesecake? Eileen's?
Apologies again for all the questions and lack of preparation. I'll peruse the Manhattan and The Best boards soon but any suggestions to get me going would be great!
And Happy Christmas everyone!
Any true cheesecake head in NYC must go to the Two Little Red Hens...its up in Yorkville on 86th/2nd - - well worth the swing there - go have hot dog and papaya around the corner first and take the cheesecake back to your room! If you just want a slice - might as well go to Juniors........I think there is one in the food area of Grand Central Station.....just dont go there at rush hour...............Eileens cakes are fine...a little too "airy" for me - so its just OK to me, but a contender when in a pinch
Pizza -- I am not a fan of Grimaldi's, also that's in Brooklyn, and we're technically not supposed to comment on Brooklyn restaurants on the Manhattan board.
For pizza, it depends what you're looking for: gas oven style, coal oven style, Naples style? A slice? A pie? IMO, Grimaldi's is actually not as good as other places in town (too soggy/wet).
There are a few distinct styles of round pizza found in NYC: New York style (gas-oven), Neopolitan style, and a hybrid style of the two (usually coal oven). And Di Fara is kind of out there, Dom at Di Fara is definitely doing his own thing with the olive oil drizzle and multiple kinds of cheeses and lots of fresh basil. Then to throw another wrench into things, some places are known more for square pies (like Artichoke). Note that lot of famous places like John's of Bleecker, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are pies only. John's, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are famous, a bit touristy (and most likely suffer from inconsistent oven temperature and oversaucing), and I think some newcomers are kicking their butts lately.
My favorites in Manhattan are:
Motorino (pies only, but they do takeout and delivery now too but only to a very very limited range). Neopolitan style. Tasty, beautifully charred crust. Very flavorful. Really nice service. Love their spicy soppressata pie (what pepperoni aspires to be) as well as the white pie. The brussels sprouts one with pancetta is no slouch either. There's a Brooklyn branch, too.
Co. aka "Company" (pies only, no takeout). Neopolitan-ish style with nouveau toppings, similar to Mozza in LA but less broad/puffy crust. 7-8 pies to chooses from. Very popular. Lunch and dinner. Lunch is much more chill than dinner. However, my last meal there was only OK, I think they are inconsistent. And I think they try to rush you in and out.
Patsy's of East Harlem (117th street location only, pies and slices, there is a dining room and takeout area). Coal oven. A NY classic. Their toppings aren't that great but when the crust is good, it's heavenly.
Artichoke (I recommend the square slice only, takeout only). Tasty, they are from Staten Island, but I feel like they are kind of doing their own thing since the crust is VERY thick for NY pizza. DON'T get the artichoke slice or regular slice. Repeat: DON'T get the artichoke or regular slice. Please. And they have no seating or atmosphere to speak of. It's a slice joint, really.
(NB: I haven't tried Keste just yet.)
My favorites outside Manhattan are Di Fara and Totonno's Coney Island.
Di Fara is extraordinarily popular/chaotic/there is no line system/also no AC in the summer and who knows if Dom will actually be open over the New Year (he's an old man who makes ALL the pies himself and has sometimes odd hours). IF you go, AND they're open, show up first thing when they open (noon), and guard your place in line.
Totonno's suffered from a fire and are in the process of fixing the place up. In Brooklyn, Lucali is quite highly (I haven't tried yet). Franny's is good but the crust is a bit too thin (though that pizza bianca is great), and frankly the apps/pastas are better than the pies there (no offense to Franny's, I really do like it there, but the appetizers, pastas, and sides can outshine the pies). I wasn't impressed by newcomer Veloce either (too heavy/buttery, gets too soggy too quickly).
Mexican -- I'll let others comment.
BBQ -- depends what kind of BBQ you are looking for: pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork, brisket. If you want brisket, I'd go to Hill Country (ask for the fatty style, and keep away from their sauce). If you want pulled pork, I'd go to Dinosaur. If you want a gigantic caveman-like beef rib, go to Daisy May's (I like their sweet ribs but skip the dry rub ribs, the brisket and the pulled pork).
Steakhouse -- my favorite one to take out-of-towners is Keens for the atmosphere, decor, history, and food. History buffs and scotch fans particularly like it.
Gray's is an NYC standby, and I like it a lot, but it hasn't even blown me away like the dogs at Crif Dogs have (deep fried, no batter, NJ style).
For street food, I really like the "famous" halal cart on 53rd and 6th (southEAST during the day, southWEST at night, southWEST has imposter during the day).
The only thing I really see missing on your list is Jewish appetizing/bagels/smoked salmon meal (Russ & Daughters or Barney Greengrass) and a big brunch.
For cheesecake, as someone else mentioned above, the STYLE you want really matters. See also:
Don't leave NY without eating these foods
I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour:
Top Ten Bars for Beer Snobs
Thanks for the replies everyone, lots of great suggestions here.
Two Little Read Hens sounds good for cheesecake. I'll probably go there or pick up an S&S from Zabar's. If I'm passing Junior's and just want a slice would it do for an NY cheesecake fix?
Street food suggestions sound good as well, I've got lots to go on here.
Thanks for the comprehensive reply Kathryn! Keen's sounds great for the steakhouse. I'm leaning towards that though Strip House and Spark's are also contenders. I think Peter Luger is just a bit too far away. I'll reconsider my pizza options as well.
For BBQ I love pulled pork so Dinosaur sounds like a solid bet. Might pop into Daisy May's for a boll of chilli some day, that also sounds good.
If anyone has any advice for a good Mexican that'd be great.
Since you have ruled out Peter Luger, here are my steakhouse recs for ya. I have a lot of favorites since steak is my favorite food and my "death row" meal of choice. But if you had to just pick one I would probably narrow it down to the following three.
I second the Keens recommendation. Truly unmatched when it comes to that great traditional old school steakhouse experience. The atmosphere and food and service are tough to beat. I cannot think of anything I have ever had at Keens that wasn't absolutely amazing. Go for the porterhouse for two or King cut Prime rib. For sides, they have some of the best fries and creamed spinach in the city. Carrots in brown butter and mushrooms are also delicious. And for dessert, they have some great ice cream sundaes- Hot fudge, butterscotch, bananas foster, and coffee cantata (coffee ice cream, raspberry sauce, almonds, whipped cream, delicious!). Request to sit in the Bull Moose room for the ultimate fun time. (featured in No Reservations with AB).
Strip House is definitely another top notch steakhouse. The atmosphere is much different than Keens in that it is not your "traditional" steakhouse (think bordello). As opposed to pipes on the ceiling, pictures of Teddy Roosevelt, moose heads on the wall, Strip house has red leather couches and pictures of naked women on the walls. But again great food (inventive side dishes), atmosphere, lots of fun. Go for the porterhouse for two. For sides, do not miss the goose fat potatoes, black truffle creamed spinach, creamed corn, and potatoes romanoff. For dessert, the massive chocolate cake, chocolate profiterole, and cheesecake are delicious. **I am not a huge cheesecake guy but theirs probably the best I have ever had and I see you are a "cheesecake" head!** So if you choose Strip House you may kill two birds with one stone.
Old Homestead is another great steakhouse institution. This falls more in line with Keens as far as the type of steakhouse it is. Much more traditional atmosphere, waiters, etc. They have recently revamped the restaurant to add a second floor and it is beautiful. They have also revamped the menu quite a bit and added some more dishes. They serve the best Prime rib in the city in my opinion. Also, do not miss the Gotham Rib steak. Both massive 36 ounce cuts. Still have to go back to try their porterhouse.
For pizza it is simple for me. Travel to Brooklyn and go to Di Fara's. It is a hassle but it is so worth it.
Definitely avoid Burger Joint. There are many better burgers in the city. This place is a tourist trap and most people recommend it just because of its popularity and the fact that it is "hidden" inside a hotel. For a great burger, try Rare Bar and Grill. For more upscale, Uncle Jack's steakhouse does an incredible Kobe Beef Burger. The Minetta Tavern "Black Label" burger is quite good albeit not worth the $26 price tag. Only had Shake Shack at Citifield, and while good they did not cook the burger to order (no rare). So tough for me to recommend it. If you find yourself in the financial district, Burger Burger actually serves up terrific burgers. They cook them fresh to order, at your desired doneness, and it is my go to when I am working in the office downtown.
It looks like everyone has covered everything I might have said.. in far more detail too. I will only add that I've been to Mole a number of times. I enjoy it, but mostly I go there because it's convenient. The actual moles are a little too sweet for me. I've had the mole poblano once or twice- too sweet. I had the green one (mole verde?), and it was less sweet but didn't blow my socks off. Not amazing.
It's a fun place, and they make good margaritas and appetizers. Their ceviches are interesting.
Forgot to mention: it's very small. If you're there with a group it may not work. Four is the maximum, and even then you may have to wait.