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must haves that close early

Hey everyone, due to classes and work I often can't make it into the city before 9pm. Luckily one of my classes next week will be canceled and I will have the opportunity to come into manhattan early. I was wondering what your thoughts were on places I should visit that I never get a chance to. I was thinking of stopping at kee's chocolate, shopsin's, donut plant and then chelsea market. I would love to hear any suggestions.

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  1. You should definitely do shopsin's.

    26 Replies
    1. re: ChiefHDB

      Shopsin's is a waste of your precious opportunity. It's a gimmicky place with an uninteresting sideshow staff and bad food. However, the market it's in is fun to shop in. Especially Saxelby's Cheese.

      1. re: gutsofsteel

        thanks, do you have any suggestions in place of shopsin's.

        1. re: daffyduck

          You want to eat dinner in that neighborhood? What kind of food do you want to eat and how much do you want to spend?

          1. re: daffyduck

            daffy, i wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Shopsins. a lot of CHers give it positive reviews. don't strike it off your list because of one person's comment.

            1. re: coasts

              A lot of people like all kinds of things. Shopsin's is a disgrace. I mean if you just like going to a place because it's weird, then go. Personally, I like to eat edible food in a somewhat pleasant surrounding and not be abused by the people who work there.

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                i vote "yes" for shopsins. and you can try their ebelskivers for dessert, instead of going to donut plant--whose owner is a far bigger d than kenny shopsin.

            2. re: daffyduck

              I'm not a crazed fan of Shopsin's - I like it okay - but the general consensus is positive, and it's definitely worth a visit. You should search this board for more opinions on it, so you can be better informed. I don't find the setting at all unpleasant - it's small, but not cramped. And I like the szechuan shrimp soup quite a bit. I've seen the staff act like jerks, so if the possibility of getting yelled at scares you, yes, stay away.

              I wouldn't bother with Donut Plant, though, unless you're really into donuts and/or you're in the neighborhood. They're good donuts and all, but they're just donuts.

              1. re: small h

                Oh it's not a question of being scared. Call me crazy, but I want to eat edible food in a moderately comfortable setting and not have the staff pissed off the entire time.

                I guess it depends on what the OP wants. Just dinner in that general area? There are many much better choices.

                1. re: gutsofsteel

                  Since Shopsin's closes at 3pm, it's not an option for dinner anyway.

                  I'm not sure what you ate that you despised so much, or what happened during your visit that made you so uncomfortable. I've developed a hatred for more than one popular restaurant myself based on a negative experience (Les Halles comes immediately to mind). But Shopsin's has more supporters than detractors.

                  1. re: gutsofsteel

                    no, i'm not really looking for dinner. I usually am able to make it to the city once a week around 9pm sometimes even 8, so I don't have problems eating dinner anywhere. the thing is I almost never get into the city early (before 1pm) so I want to take advantage of this opportunity. I'm looking more for bakeries that close early and places with items you can only get for brunch that are to die for. And I've done Clinton St's pancakes before so I thought Shopsin's would be a good idea especially since it is near Donut Plant. But I am willingly to travel, I will probably make a stop at Levain even though it is on the other side of the city. As far as money is concerned, I'm willingly to spend a lot.

                    1. re: daffyduck

                      I second the Bialey's, and also suggest the onion flats at Kossar's.

                      Stopping by Essex Market might be an interesting excursion, but more as a New York oddity, than anything. The cheese and chocolate shops are hidden gems, but probably not worth a special trip to the area.
                      You can take a look at Shopsin's and decide. It's not much to speak of, just a small number of tables stuck in alcove, hallway like space. There is nothing comfortable about it, and despite the way people talk about the place, it's closer to a food stand with seating, than a full blown restaurant.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        At Kossar's you should get:

                        Bialys, Bulkas, Pletzels

                        1. re: sugartoof

                          I've tried the bialy at Kossar's before and really didn't like it. It was hard and dry. I couldn't eat it even with cream cheese and pastrami lox from Russ and Daughters, maybe because it was 3pm. But 5 minutes after me someone ordered 21 bialys. I cringed at the thought, I think I just didn't like it. Kind of reminds me of the pizza bianca which everyone seems to like at Grandaisy, I don't really see the big deal. It's just a piece of bread, not really much flavor. I actually prefer the bread at my Cosi.
                          Thank you for the cheese and chocolate shops, you were right they were great.

                          1. re: daffyduck

                            Bialys must be toasted. And in an ideal world, shmeared with schmaltz (aka known as spread with chicken fat, which melts onto the hot bialy)

                            1. re: gutsofsteel

                              <Bialys must be toasted.>

                              Blasphemy! Also, I agree. Unless they're super-fresh, bialys are better toasted.

                            2. re: daffyduck

                              Bialeys are a strange thing, and not for everyone. There's a reason they haven't caught on much in the US, outside of New York. You probably would have been happier with the onion flat I mentioned (if they still sell them) or anything with everything toppings. Hope you got some donuts to make up for it.

                        2. re: gutsofsteel

                          i feel the need to step up and defend shopsin's here.

                          I have eaten at shopsin’s maybe 20-30 times and have never had anything but delicious (no, not gourmet) comforting food in a warm, convivial and ENTERTAINING environment. It may sound funny but a lot of people walk into restaurants with feelings of entitlement and walk away feeling like they’ve been mistreated or taken advantage of. This often the case at peter luger for example… but just like with luger’s, the only people who I’ve heard complain about brusk service, etc at shopsin’s are the amateurs. I’ve spent most of my adult life working in restaurants and believe me when I say that nothing draws contempt from restaurant staff more quickly than an entitled attitude on behalf of the customer. Argue with me all you want but the customer is NOT always right, particularly in cases like shopsin’s, luger’s, etc. These are places with strong personalities that are known for a number of things beyond their good food. Going to shopsin’s is a unique experience and one that I would argue cannot be held to the standards of a generic restaurant. Kenny and Zack do use profane language while they are working but it’s not something that distracts this eater from the overall experience which I would say is overwhelmingly positive. Shopsin’s is a respectable family business and one that makes New York such a special place to live and eat. Gutsofsteel, I’m glad if you won’t be returning because it’s one less person for me to wait behind.

                          1. re: El Tigre

                            I love how you assume that if somebody doesn't like Shopsins, that must mean they have a sense of entitlement. I don't liike Shopsins. I think the food is muddy and uninteresting and diner level. I think the attitude is rude and bizarre. I eat all over the universe, every level of dining imaginable, shitholes to 4 stars. But ya know what, I don't want some server swearing at me (yes it happened) or my food basically thrown at me and a filthy table which takes 20 minutes to clear while the waitress has a screaming fight with her boss. Sure you might think that's "entertaining" but I have better things to do with my time and my money. But mostly, the food I have eaten there has been lousy. Every time. Add their "we're doing you a huge favor" attitude, plus their "we're so weird and quirky that makes us special" attitude? bye-bye. I love weird and quirky as much as the next guy. Shopsin's is not that, not in a positive sense anyway. It's just bad and bizarre.

                            Chacun a son gout.

                            1. re: gutsofsteel

                              i've had excellent food there, and for some reason, the whole staff has been really nice every time i've gone. i grew up on diner food, and shopsin's is not diner food.

                        3. re: small h

                          thanks, yeah i'm aware they're just donuts. i've been there before and only tried 5 donuts but I thought two of them were fantastic and i don't mind the trek to try more.

                          1. re: daffyduck

                            Oh, then by all means go. And grab a few bialys from Kossar's while you're at it.

                    2. re: ChiefHDB

                      Shopsin's is worth a try. I love the food there but the menu is so big I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few clunkers. I've never had a bad meal there! It's not gourmet but I find it delicious.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        that's reassuring to hear, your best brunch list for 2009 is like a brunch bible of manhattan.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          In case I get kicked out of Shopsin's for ordering too much food. What restaurant do you think has the best lunch I was thinking Jean Georges, Del Posto, or EMP.

                          1. re: daffyduck

                            I love lunch at both EMP and JG. Edge to EMP. Have not had lunch at Del Posto.

                        2. re: ChiefHDB

                          Another yes to Shopsin's. No, it's not gourmet, but it's super delicious and I've never had any trouble there either.

                        3. I am obsessed with Kee's chocolates. Just be aware that many flavors sell-out. I would call ahead and place an order for pickup. Let them know what time you are coming and they will make it fresh.

                          The kaffir lime has a citrus note that truly sings. The creme brulee is unlike any other chocolate. The coconut truffle is luscious. The lavender macaroons are crisp, delicate and perfumed.

                          Rich, complex flavors and restrained sweetness.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Pookipichu

                            A reasonable obsession! But don't forget the lemon basil and raspberry.

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              thank you, didn't know that. I'll definitely call.

                            2. I always considered it surprising that Chinatown closes early. My suggestion would be something in Chinatown: Saigon Banh MI bakery on Mott St, Hand pulled noodles on Eldridge St, Best Fuzhou on Eldridge St, Xian at 88 East B'way..

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: MahatmaKanejeeves

                                  Thanks, I've only had banh mi at viet restaurants in chinatown, flushing, and elmhurst. I'll definitely since I never had a bahn mi sandwich from a place that specializes in it. Interesting that the hand pulled noodle place closes early because in flushing they are open late.

                                  1. re: MahatmaKanejeeves

                                    I second the Saigon Banh Mi suggestion. They're technically open til (earlyish) dinner time, I think, but my understanding is that they often run out earlier in the afternoon. Possibly the best lunch for the money in the city.

                                  2. Some of my favorite bakeries, of course, close before 9 p.m. namely Levain Bakery and Two Little Red Hens. Worth keeping those in mind if you're in the neighborhood!

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: uwsister

                                      If you think you will make it all the way to Levain Bakery, you should put Barney Greengrass on your list. Their nova is the stuff of Upper West Side legend.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        NB: Barney Greengrass is closed on Mondays, as an FYI to the original poster.

                                    2. So yesterday was my big day but it was kind of a bust. I scheduled a doctor's appointment at 11:30 but got out a lot later than expected 1:30. So I decided not to stop by Levain, Barney Greengrass, and screme. But I have another appointment next week so I'll get a chance to combine that monster cookie with gelato.
                                      Since it was a little late I headed straight for Shopsin's and I figured it was a good thing since I didn't eat anything beforehand so I can really make a dent in the menu. When I got there I ordered blisters for my sisters with pulled pork, bread pudding french toast with mac and cheese, a nutella mocha shake, half an order of slutty cakes, and ebelvers. My friend ordered a vanilla shake and sliders. But the waiter didn't want to give us all that food even though I was going to pay for it. He said he would give me some of it but if I was still hungry he would give us more food. So we only ended up with the blisters for my sisters, sliders, bread pudding french toast with mac and cheese and a nutella mocha shake. I loved the nutella mocha shake, it was the best shake I have ever had and it was not even that thick because they ran out of ice cream. The bread pudding french toast with mac and cheese was excellent too but the sliders and blisters for my sisters weren't that good. I have had much better dishes similiar to blisters for my sisters in Queens (Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson heights, etc). The worst part of my dining experience there was when I finished everything easily the waiter came over and put our check on the table. I asked him if I could order the rest of my food and he told Kenny's son. And his response was something like "WTF I gave them a shitload of food. get the fuck out of here i want to close up shop early i'm not making any more food." It was 2:34, I understand you can do what you want with your own business but the waiter gave me his word. So pissed off I just paid the check and checked out some of the stores at the market. Some of the cheese and chocolate stores were pretty good. Afterwards I went to donut plant. There I tried 7 donuts, and I now think I have tried all their donuts. My 5 favorites in order are the creme brulee, coconut glazed, peanut butter and jelly, carrot cake, and tres leches.
                                      After a lot of walking my friend who didn't help me at all with the donuts (weakling!) was craving pizza. So I decided to make a journey to Difara and figured by the time I get there I'll be hungry again. We got there at 6:48 but it was closed. Did something happen to Difara? We checked on my friend's blackberry before going out to Difara, it did not say anything about being closed on Wednesdays.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: daffyduck

                                        Man, I think Kenny should hang it up. I loved his book, and I love his friend Calvin Trillin's writing (he did the intro to Kenny's book), but you can't let your customers leave hungry.

                                        1. re: daffyduck

                                          Difara's should have been open and crowded at 6:48 on a Wednesday. Haven't heard any reports of it being closed on the OB board. Just bad luck, I guess. But if you are willing to venture into the other boroughs on your next visit, you should repost your query on the OB board to get some suggestions for early-only food.

                                          1. re: bobjbkln

                                            yeah..i dont know what happened. i wasn't planning on going there but my friend was just in the mood and i figured it would be a good spot since i always get into the city late. ive never been to difara so i dont know if hes jewish, but my friend is and he was positive yesterday wasnt a jewish holiday.

                                            1. re: daffyduck

                                              Dom Demarco is definitely not Jewish.

                                              Yesterday was Holocaust Rememberance Day but it's not a "Jewish holiday" in that sense and anyway it would have no effect on Difara's.

                                            2. re: bobjbkln

                                              i called today and got an answering, but they changed their hours from 6:30 to 9 as opposed to 6 to 9 which is on their site. i guess they were late with reopening up. but im surprised i didnt see anyone waiting because it wasnt that cold yesterday.

                                            3. re: daffyduck

                                              you didn't go to Kee's? Quel dommage... there is no better chocolate.

                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                im definiately going to go next week. I didnt want to do too much chocolate because I bought a lot from a place in Essex St market. But i wont miss it next time!

                                            4. This will be a long post and a review of a few places.
                                              Well today I stopped into the city before 6pm and boy was I glad! My first stop was Kee's chocolates, and it was amazing! I had an earl grey, tiramisu, lavendar, pistachio, almond, green tea, pasion fruit, mint mocha, and thai chili chocolate. I also bought a sample of macroons. I'm so sorry but when I ate the chocolates I did not know which flavors were what. All of them were good I believe the almond, pistachio, and green tea were white chocolate. Besides passion fruit and mint I found it a little difficult to know which flavors were what. Each chocolate is bursting with chocolate and cream while the flavor is subtle, but it's oh so good! holy dingleberries. I think my favorites were the earl grey, mint mocha and thai chili chocolate. I'm not even really that big on chocolate, but these were phenomial! The macroons were alright but passable. If I recommend Kee's to anyone it would be strictly for the chocolates.
                                              From there I walked towards the subway to go to the Chelsea Market, but I passed by Ben's Best pizza and my chowhound senses started tingling. I tried the square slice because I believe it was recommended somewhere on here but I didn't think it was too good.
                                              Chelsea Market-I really went to town here.
                                              First I went to Eleni's and got some cupcakes. Tip: At the end of the store they have cupcakes that are sold 4 for 2 dollars and they are only a day old. The cupcakes were alright, nowhere near as good as 2 little red hens in my opinion.
                                              Second I stopped by next door at fatwitch. Tip: After 5pm unwrapped "witches" which are what they call their brownies are half off. I got the original, a blondie (chocolate chip), and a butterscotch. Butterscotch was alright while the other two were pretty damn good.
                                              Then I went to Ronnie's Milkbar for a vanilla milkshake and pistachio cone. I thought both were mediocre. The vanilla milkshake tasted too much like milk and lacked vanilla flavor. When I left Ronnie's my friend bought a clam chowder at Hale Hearty's. Foolish mistake on his part. To make him learn from his mistake I stopped into Lobster Place and got a much better clam chowder for 3.50 as opposed to a 6 dollar one. The soup at Hale Hearty's did have bacon in it, but it was still worse. With this I got a rosemary round bread at Amy's bread which was awesome. Great crust, it went well with the clam chowder from Lobster place. In addition to the bread I tried a sticky bun, cinnamon raisin twist, and blueberry muffin from Amy's bread. I only really liked the part with the glaze and nuts on the sticky bun. The blueberry muffin was just ok and the cinnamon raisin twist was awesome! I have a sweet tooth so it might not be for everyone. Then I stopped by Jacque Torres to try their chocolate chip cookie and their hot chocolate and sampled the spiced one. I wasn't too impressed with either, the chocolate chip is crisp but not chewy like Levain's. Then to top it all off I got some gelato at L'arte de Gelato. I tipped the girl at the stand and sampled all the flavors there that day. My favorites were the butterscotch, biscotti, and panna cotta. All were really good, it's hard to pick a favorite at of those.
                                              P.S. I did bring some food back home in a bag to heat up tomorrow morning and I did share with a friend. So I'm not superman.
                                              Final tip: The toilet in the first bathroom in Chelsea Market really splashes up high when you flush.
                                              If you guys have any more recommendations feel free to let me know.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: daffyduck

                                                Thanks for your report. Seems like you've got quite a sweet tooth. : )

                                                Yes, while Kee's is great for chocolates, I really dislike their macarons. While I haven't found anything like Pierre Herme in NYC (the sadly closed Mitzy's was a good approximation), my fave would probably have to be Le Madeleine in Manhattan (only if you set it out to room temperature before you eat it). If you don't wait, the macaron will be way too cold and firm and the flavor won't be as explosive. A lot of hounds like La Maison du Chocolat, but I find them to be a bit on the dry side -- plus, they only have like five flavors.

                                                I also wasn't too keen on JT's chocolate chip cookie and hot chocolate when I revisited it a few weeks ago. I used to like it years ago. Not sure if my tastes have changed or their recipe is different. Roasting Plant's chocolate chip cookie is awesome. But as it's 24 hours, you may not want to spend your days off there.

                                                Another place for sweets not really mentioned often on the CH board I like is Three Tarts Bakery near Chelsea Market. One of the reasons I like them is because a lot of their stuff is mini-sized so I can try a few different things. I will say that the last time I had one of their cardamom-apricot shortbread cookies (which was a few days ago), I thought it was kind of stale. Their business seemed pretty slow that day -- so perhaps turnover was not so good.

                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                  thanks, I'll try three tarts next time I'm in town early. And I'll try Roasting Plant my next time in the city. I believe they recently won best chocolate chip cookie at the contest by nyseriouseats. I cant imagine anything better than levain. So I have to give them a try.
                                                  Im not an expert on macroons but my favorites are near where I live in at a bakery called le tulipe's desserts. They are in mount kisco (in westchester), if you are ever in the area I think they are worthy of a stop. I like their torrone gelato, macroons, and opera cake. Everything else is not so good.
                                                  Here is their site:
                                                  You can order macroons, but I don't feel that comfortable recommending them because I have not tried many macroons in my life. I'll also feel really bad if you shell out 25 dollars and not like them. But out of the ones I've tried these are by far the best.

                                                  1. re: daffyduck

                                                    Roasting Plant on Ludlow has surprisingly good coffee, with so much creme on the standard cup of coffee, you'll think they made you a latte at first.

                                                    Their cookie is essentially Tom Cat Bakeries wholesale dough, and they supposedly bake them fresh. They look like a standard, thin, tollhouse cookie, with the only notable difference being large cube shaped chunks for the chips. They're $2.50.

                                                    1. re: daffyduck

                                                      Roasting Plant's style is very different from Levain. I like them both, but it's hard to compare the two as Levain's style is more cakey. If you like chewy brownies, Roasting Plant's brownies are good. I'm more of a fan of the chewy than fudgy (like at Fatwitch).

                                                      Wow! The dessert place in Mt Kisco looks awesome. The yuzu cake looks especially delicious. I'm not really in that area often but definitely will keep that place in mind if I visit Westchester. Thanks.

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        Your welcome.
                                                        La Tulippe is hard to find, it is basically a house with a sign "La Tulippe's Desserts". There is parking in the back so just go right into their driveway.
                                                        I have been disappointed by some of their cakes before but have never tried the yuzu one. If you ever decide to go there I would suggest calling them because they make mini cakes. There items are usually pricey so I think it's better to get smaller things in case you don't enjoy them. The things that really wowed me there were the macroons, torrone gelato, and opera cake. But I've never had an opera cake anywhere else so I can't say if it's a high quality one. Things that have disappointed me were their duet cake and their tiramisu.

                                                        1. re: daffyduck

                                                          Ah! Good to know that they have mini cakes. I prefer smaller portions because I then get to try more!