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5 days in the City with my Sister

Hi all. I've been reading tons of posts on here over the last couple of weeks and doing lots of research, but would love some feedback.

My Sister is coming over from England to visit and we are driving down to NYC for 5 days in early March. We both love a good drink, so this will be quite a boozy trip. We're looking to do lots of eating and drinking and generally have a fabulous, girly time. We want a mix of loud, boisterous, fun places, and also restaurants we can sit in for hours chatting over a couple of bottles of wine. We are both 40ish, so we like lively.....but not half naked. Those days are long gone! We are staying in Midtown West (8th Ave). We both love Italian, Mexican and American food. Nothing too out there.

The first night (Saturday) we have booked Two Times Square, the restaurant inside the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square. I know it's not the best food in the world, but the view is stunning. This is my sister's first time in NY and she will be blown away by being right there. Also, we won;t get to NY until late and this is near the hotel so will be easy.

After reading lots of posts I had decided to try to book Five Points for Sunday brunch, but they only had a table available at 2.30pm and I wanted something earlier than that. So suggestions for a good girly brunch with champagne would be very helpful. Balthazar's maybe?

We really want a meal in Little Italy. I've seen that lots of people seem to look down on the restarants there but we really want to be able to say we've done it. I've narrowed that down to Vincent's or Lombardi's.

We have booked Ayza Wine & Chocolate Bar for lunch on the Monday as that looks like a fun place. We also want to go to the Bubble Lounge, even if only for a glass of champagne before dinner.

I'm thinking maybe Keen's for dinner 1 night. Is the atmosphere good there?
Any reviews of St. Andrew's? My sister loves Scotch and apparently they have the biggest selection in NY so that might be fun for her.

Another restaurant that looked interesting was Hell's Kitchen for Mexican.

Also, I've always wanted to spend time in Greenwich Village and/or Tribeca but have somehow never managed to. Not sure if that will be breakfast, lunch or dinner, or maybe even the whole day down there.

I'd like to try 5 Napkin Burger too as those burgers look delicious! Or is Shake Shack better?

Any suggestions or thoughts would be most appreciated....thanks!

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  1. shake shack over 5 napkin for sure.

    1. For brunch, Five Points also takes walk in tables, they don't take a whole lot of reservations because of this. But I do like Balthazar but it's not super girly. More like a French brasserie type feel -- loud, bustling, a little cramped, faux weathered. In the West Village, you could also do Blue Ribbon Bakery for brunch (no reservations) as well as Little Owl (also no reservations), which are both in nice, scenic parts of the neighborhood. Locanda Verde in Tribeca is also fantastic and takes reservations, but the neighborhood isn't as cute and quaint at the West Village.

      Lombardi's is not in Little Italy, BTW, if that matters to you. It's in "Nolita." As for actual Little Italy, it's visually interesting but I've never had any good experiences at restaurants there (and I really dislike how they'll post people outside EACH restaurant trying to talk to you as you walk by).

      The atmosphere at Keens is very old school New York. I love it because it feels like you're dining in a place steeped with history. If you like scotch, go to Keens, they also have a HUGE list.

      For Shake Shack, it depends on your tolerance for crowds/lines and how much you like thin style patties with a special sauce (IMO the Shack Burger is the best one thre).

      1 Reply
      1. re: kathryn

        Locanda Verde looks great, thanks for that suggestion!
        And maybe we'll try to walk in for Five Points because I really did like their Brunch menu.
        thanks for the response.

      2. I enjoyed my 5 Napkin burger, and it's a sitdown place with table service. Shake Shack is a self service counter type thing with long lines and waits. The UWS branch has tables inside but it's a quick in and out situation. I like the burger there in its category.

        Brunch suggestions: DBGB, Craftbar, Gramercy Tavern front room. Balthazar might be fun too, but it is VERY LOUD and I personally cannot stand it at peak times.

        Keen's is wonderful. Go.

        If you must go to Little Italy, I'd chose either Luna or Il Cortile, depending on how "fancy" you want.

        But know that Little Italy is really nothing more than a couple of blocks full of tourist-laden restaurants.

        10 Replies
        1. re: gutsofsteel

          ok, I'm gradually becoming convinced to give Little Italy a miss. I guess it's just an image that suckers in tourists like me.

          And after these replies, I'm thinking I will book for Keen's for sure


          1. re: Juswus

            meh...nothing special happens there. if you want to sit down and have an italian after dinner drink and dessert, go to veniero's.
            If you want a sit down burger, go to JG Melon...one of my favs.

            1. re: smokeandapancake

              My favorite sitdown burger (other than at Luger's) is at the bar at Wolfgang's at lunchtime.

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                5 Napkins has comfortable tables, attentive service, not so good house beer and some pretty dull burgers. Injecting the ground beef with fat to make a juicy burger doesn't work. The beef taste and the fat taste are too dissimilar. I have no need to go back.

                1. re: steve h.

                  They have a terrific beer list. Don't drink the house beer, that's all. It's kinda weird that you would single out their house beer when one considers their beer list.


                  They have a couple of different burger styles - which one did you try? I had the one with the brisket in it and I liked it fine. I'd go back there if I need to eat in that neighborhood. Would I make a special trip to go there? No.

                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                    If it's a house beer then you expect they have to stand behind it. Simple as that.

                    The signature burger is juiced. The natural beef juices and the injected liquified fat/beef broth combo have different flavors. This is not good. My lunch buddy tried the lamb burger. I had a quarter of it. It was not very good.

                    Service was very good. I like beer. I can get good beers elsewhere. At the end of the day, there is nothing compelling at 5 Napkins.

              2. re: smokeandapancake

                that cheesecake at Veniero's looks amazing!

              3. re: Juswus

                instead of suffering a meal in Little Italy, why not pass through on your way from Chinatown, see it, have a cannoli, and pick up a pound of orecchiette from Piemonte. it's a cheap souvenir to take home and will prolong the feeling of being on vacation.

                1. re: coasts

                  Brilliant idea. Last time I walked through I just stopped for ice cream from a stand. I think maybe that was for the best judging from the reviews. thanks.

                  1. re: Juswus

                    For cannoli, skip any place that has them pre-filled as the shells can get soggy. Try Rocco's on Bleecker or Bruno's on La Guardia for freshly filled cannoli.

                    See these, too:

            2. On Hell's Kitchen.. I have eaten there many times pre-theater and it is has been consistently good. Another good place is Toloache which is on 50th between Broadway and 8th. You can check out their menu here to see if it would interest you and your sister.
              If you want to have your Mexican meal downtown, you can try L'Esquina on Kenmare Street. You will need to book in advance. I think they also do brunch.
              I second Locanda Verde in Tribeca and Bar Artisanal is also down there if you want to take a break for some wine and cheese.
              Have fun in the city!

              1 Reply
              1. re: elkaynyc

                How have I missed Bar Artisinal before?!! That is perfect! I've read the name many times on here, but must have forgotten to look them up. Thanks so much, I love that suggestion.

                The food at L'Esquina looks delicious and I've never even heard of them before so thanks again.

              2. Keen's and Locanda Verde are great choices. I would add, in the West Village, Bar Blanc for dinner and Perry St. for lunch. Other ideas for midtown are Marseille and Convivio.

                1 Reply
                1. re: rrems

                  Marseille looks absolutely perfect too! Great suggestion, thank you.

                  Locanda Verde looks great too....especially the breakfast menu!

                2. Ayza is fun, but the food is nothing special, I had grilled calamari, angry chicken lollipops and pulled pork panini.

                  The grilled calamari was a substantial portion but not particularly fresh and suffered accordingly. The angry chicken was quite tasty but suffered from inadequate portion size. The pulled pork panini had overly sweet, goopy sauce that detracted from the flavor of the pork. I also had a few of the Jacques Torres chocolates, good but not great and much less expensive when purchased from the actual store.

                  If you have interest in the West Village, get your Mexican food there. Mexicana Mama is one of the better Mexican restaurants in NY and better than the Mexican food at Hell's Kitchen.

                  24 Replies
                  1. re: Pookipichu

                    Mexicana Mama looks fabulous and ideal for us...thank you.

                    So many great suggestions in this thread.

                    1. re: Juswus

                      OK, Update:

                      I've now booked Marseilles for Sunday brunch, and Keen's for dinner.

                      Locanda Verde and Bar Artisinal are now high on my "want to" list, but I'm worried I'm making this trip too organised. Should I definately book them or could I get a walkin at either of them midweek? I'm actually toying with the idea of Locanda Verde for breakfast as the menu looks fab.

                      Also I've just seen the bar menu for St.Andrews has "bangers & mash and "fish & chips". As a Brit who hasn't been home in a couple of years, I dream of these things! Anyone eaten there? Is it a novelty place, or do they actually have good food?
                      Thanks again

                      1. re: Juswus

                        St Andrews is a pub, the food is absolutely fine if not remarkable. I had Shepherd's Pie there a few weeks ago and I was satisfied. It's not a novelty place.

                        1. re: gutsofsteel

                          I think I'll keep that as a backup if something else falls through.
                          Not sure we'll even have time for it, but some home comfort food would be nice.

                        2. re: Juswus

                          I like St Andrews because they have an incredible Scotch selection and the food is good, by no means a destination restaurant but perfectly fine for a quick bite. The fish & chips were good the last time I was there.

                          1. re: Juswus

                            I don't know if you've ruled out Five Points, but I have done walk-in for brunch a few times and love their brunch -- if you're in the neighborhood, keep that one in mind!

                            I've never been to St. Andrews but the best fish & chips in Manhattan can be found at A Salt & Battery in Greenwich Village, next to Tea & Sympathy (another Brit place and another one of my favorite.) There isn't much seating but it's pretty identical to chip shops I've been to in England. My fave is Chip Shop in Brooklyn but that's probably because they have Ribena and A Salt & Battery doesn't.

                            1. re: uwsister

                              Thanks so much for those suggestions!

                              1. re: Juswus

                                Has anyone suggested DBGB yet? The fairly new Daniel Boulud casual restaurant. Just something else to add to your growing list.

                                1. re: Spiritchaser

                                  just checked them out....adding to the list! thanks!

                                  1. re: Juswus

                                    I find Pastis to be much more "happening" than Balthazar especially for weekend brunch on either Saturday or Sunday. Bagatelle has their signature brunch parties on Saturdays so if you're looking for a champagne filled afternoon with more of a club vibe than a restaurant atmosphere then Bagatelle is the place to be.

                                    As for Tribeca, I'm going to get a lot of criticism for saying this, but I recently had a great dinner at Mr. Chow (it was far better than the Mr. Chow on 57th Street). Yes it is a bit on the pricey side but I found it well worth it. Also if you go between 6 PM-7 PM or after 10:30 PM you can order their special $38 pre-fixe menu (the times are a bit awkward for dinner though).

                                    For Mexican I'd recommend La Esquina in Soho though its nearly impossible to get a reservation (I'd suggest calling a month in advance).

                                    Someone had mentioned it but there's only really cliche/touristy restaurants in Little Italy. For good pizza I'd suggest Co. on 9th Ave and 24th St.

                                    Though its not in any of the areas you wanted to go to, I must say I had an excellent lunch at Marea a few weeks ago. There was a "scene" when I went but it is a bit formal. I strongly recommend it if you find the time to go.

                                    I may get heavy criticism for saying this but when I visited the Cipriani Downtown in Soho for lunch it had a very boisterous atmosphere, the Cipriani is known for its Bellinis as the drink was invented by the original owner of the Cipriani, and served up some surprisingly good food! Also, this is place can be hit or miss, Nello's on the Upper East Side has the atmosphere you are looking for and the food was excellent. But beware the place is absurdly overpriced ($40 plate of pasts on average). If price isn't an issue check it out for lunch.

                                    I hope this helps!

                                    1. re: alessandroacq

                                      Don't know how to say this in a non-obnoxious way, but many of the places you mentioned are not known for their food AT ALL but for their scenes, which seems to be best appreciated by a certain clientele that seeks attention vs. good food and service. Some would describe it with a term that starts with "Euro-..."

                                      These suggestions are all the epitome of that 'crowd':
                                      Mr. Chow
                                      Cipriani Downtown

                                      1. re: chow_gal

                                        I totally 100% agree with you that the crowd at Nello's and at the Cipriani Downtown can at times be Euro-Trash (I'll say it for you). But this type of crowd has not stopped the kitchen from serving me an excellent meal when I visited. And the crowd at Mr. Chow isn't "Euro-Trash" at all, on my visits it was filled with hip hop moguls, football players and artists along with Tribeca's usual hip clientele.

                                      2. re: alessandroacq

                                        Mr. Chow, Cipriani, AND Nello's? OMG. Only if the OP's idea of "fabulous" is possibly catching some celeb (which I doubt.) I had the misfortune to eat at Mr. Chow's in Beverly Hills and it was every bit as bad as I imagined. Thank goodness I didn't have to pay. Those three restaurants are absolutely not known for their food and could not be less Chow-ish, IMO, barring chain restaurants.

                                        1. re: uwsister

                                          The user posing the question asked for restaurants that are fun and lively and those three restaurants just so happen to fit the description. Would they be my top choices, no but if I was looking for a great atmosphere I'd check out those places I had mentioned.

                                          1. re: alessandroacq

                                            You are right I did want places with a fun vibe as well as great food places. Hopefully I have a good mix.

                                            So far booked we have:
                                            Keens for dinner
                                            Marseilles for brunch (very short walk from the hotel on a day when we are likely to have hangovers!)
                                            Tribeca Grill for lunch (although that may change to Locanda Verde)
                                            Raoul's for dinner
                                            Ayza for lunch

                                            Places I am still interested in but not sure when to fit them in, are:
                                            Bar Artisinal
                                            A Salt & Battery
                                            Trattoria Trecolori

                                            1. re: Juswus

                                              I was going to mention Tribeca Grill. I love it.

                                              Also when debating whether to book ahead or not, BOOK! you can always cancel later if you change your mind. (but please DO remember to cancel.)

                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                "BOOK! you can always cancel later if you change your mind"

                                                Good point! Thanks.

                                              2. re: Juswus

                                                Nice list! Totally swap out Tribeca Grill for Locanda Verde. A lot better.

                                                1. re: chow_gal

                                                  I'm dreading the reservation phone call to LV as I've read it can be a nightmare, so that's why I grabbed a table at Tribeca Grill online as back up.

                                                  Any recs for late breakfast/brunch for the Wednesday? I'd prefer not to stray too far from Midtown as we have theatre seats later at 2pm (yes we are going to the Weds matinee with all the blue-rinse grannies, but the time worked best for us).

                                                  1. re: Juswus

                                                    ok, I just answered my own question:

                                                    Weekday brunch and breakfast spots:

                                                    1. re: Juswus

                                                      Or...The Breslin. Though as a Brit, its gastro-pub format and food may not be interesting enough for you.

                                                      1. re: chow_gal

                                                        I actually had the Breslin written down as a possible for brunch at 1 point...thanks

                                                        1. re: Juswus

                                                          So I leave tomorrow for this trip and can't wait to try out some of your suggestions. Thank you to everyone who replied.

                                                          I just received an email with a Birthday gift certificate from the Patina Group of restaurants. It is good for $50 at the following restaurants:

                                                          Brasserie 8 1/2
                                                          Cafe Centro
                                                          La Fonda Del Sol
                                                          Nick & Stef's Steakhouse
                                                          Rock Center Cafe
                                                          The Sea Grill

                                                          $30 off at Naples 45

                                                          Which would you choose?

                            2. Inoteca on the lower east side - great place for brunch (have proseco instead of champagne). Get the truffled egg toast - it would be my last meal. Luxurious, delicious, satisfying and elegant. Stop at Economy Candy nearby - really fun. Also lots of cute boutiques in the area - great girly brunch area.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: deepo

                                You're a day late and a dollar short. Check the OP's new post reporting their dining experiences.