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In New York for a week — did I pick restaurants well?

Good evening, Chowhounds! I've been lurking on these boards for a while now, largely as part of my research for an upcoming trip to New York City (Feb. 23 — Mar. 2). I've scoured every resource I can and come up with this tentative list of restaurants (or specialty shops) to try.

Would anyone recommend against anything on this list? Add anything crucial to it? Any help you folks can offer would be appreciated. And let me know if you'd like to grab a bite to eat! :)

Lunch:
Baoguette
Txikito
Kesté
The Spotted Pig
Café Mogador
The Breslin
Momofuku Noodle

Dinner:
Convivio
DBGB
Babbo
WD-50
Bridge Café

After-Dinner:
Momofuku Ssäm
Blue Ribbon

Brunch:
JoeDoe

Specialty Shops:
Il Laboratorio del Gelato
Di Palo Dairy
Absolute Bagels
Salumeria Biellese
Economy Candy
Zabar's
Ito En
Grandaisy Bakery
Doughnut Plant
McSorley's

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  1. I would change baoguette and go to Nickys on 2street between A and B. Also I had the tasting menu at convivio and I really thought it was just ok. I would skip Convivio altogether.

    16 Replies
    1. re: alex70

      Thank you for your insights! If you don't mind my asking, what dishes did you have at Convivio? Would you recommend Lupa instead?

      1. re: orpheum

        Lupa is really good but I like Convivio. And Lupa and Babbo come from the same 'hand.'
        I'm a big fan of Baoguette, don't know Nickys.

        1. re: serious

          Have not been to Nicky's, but the banh mi in the back of the jewelry shop on Mott is my favorite.

          Have also not been to JoeDoe, and like Kathryn, I'm also curious why you chose it. The chef has a pretty bad reputation right now. If you want brunch with someone who is arguably crazy, I'd go for Shopsin's instead.

          All the other picks look good.

          1. re: ChiefHDB

            I agree, go to Shopsin's, it's an interesting environment and a bit singular experience.

            1. re: serious

              I couldn't disagree more. Shopsin's is awful. Lousy food, nasty owner, unpleasant environment.

              1. re: gutsofsteel

                if you have over 200 things on the menu then a lot of stuff is frozen and gross. Skip shopsins and go to Prune. Also Nickys is still my vote for the bahn mi and I have been to the place on Mott as well as baogette.

                At convivio I had had a pasta with sea urchin, but I tried 3 other pastas at the table and wasn't impressed.

                1. re: alex70

                  I think at this point we're going to have to agree to disagree gutsofsteel.

                  1. re: alex70

                    I like Shopsin's a lot more than Prune. Shopsin's is definitely a love-or-hate kind of place though. Absolute Bagel IMO sells some of best bagels in Manhattan and is totally low-key, which I love. I regularly make the trek to get everything bagels and egg bagels from there. I also agree with Takashiyama over Ito En suggestion. Also if you're interested in wagashi at all to go with your tea, Minamoto Kitchoan is lovely to visit.

                    1. re: alex70

                      Both Shopsins and Prune came under my reconnaissance, and I was interested in trying them for breakfast and dinner, respectively. (The bone marrow and sweetbreads at Prune come highly recommended.) I'll have to look at Prune again. I did quite like their wide selection of Bloody Marys...

                      1. re: orpheum

                        Arrive early to Prune for burnch, as often lines are outside. And in this snowy, cold weather.....Not fun.

                2. re: ChiefHDB

                  for your reference, the banh mi place he's referencing is saigon banh mi. it is awesome (and much much better than nicky's), and its discordant location in the back of a jade jewelry shop is worth a trip in itself. it's quite close to di palo's and will tide you over nicely while you wait amidst the di palo hordes.

                3. re: serious

                  KILL Baoguette. Nicky's is OK but definitely not a destination. If you want a great banh mi either go to Ba Xuyen in Brooklyn, or try Ratha Chau's Cambodian twist at Num Pang, in the Village. I also find Momofuku highly overrated and would suggest Ippudo, for the best Hakata ramen in NY. McSorley's is OK for atmosphere, but their ale isn't very good. I don't know Absolute Bagel, but if you find yourself in Park Slope, try picking up from The Bagel Hole, the best bagels I know in the city.

                  http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                  1. re: Peter Cherches

                    Totally agree with Peter on Baoguette and Ippudo. McSorley is fine for historical value. Can hit nearby Burp Castle (for one) for more interesting beer selection.

                    1. re: Peter Cherches

                      Momofuku has too many proponents for me to dismiss it entirely, but I'll look into Ippudo for ramen. I do, however, appreciate your thoughts. As for McSorley's, I'm largely going there for atmosphere and history; if I enjoy the ale, all the better. :)

                      1. re: orpheum

                        Definitely do not dismiss Momofuku. I hadn't been to Noodle Bar for nearly two years after a harried experience in the old location before Ko had opened, but I finally returned last weekend and enjoyed one of the most satisfying meals I've had in Manhattan for years. I loved Noodle Bar when it first opened, but had convinced myself that Ssam Bar and Ko were where I ought devote my allegiances after sensing that execution had slipped at Noodle Bar in light of the emperor's new (and admittedly impressive) wardrobe. But my latest trip (I ordered the $30 4-course prix-fixe, which was an absolute steal and a new option since my previous visits) demonstrated a startling balance in each of my dishes, with complementary and contrasting flavors leaving me grinning time and again throughout the night. If you want ramen, by all means go to Ippudo as it's indisputably the best in the city; but if you want inspired, affordable, intense flavors, I cannot recommend anywhere more highly than Momofuku Noodle Bar. I was prepared to grit my teeth and endure a cloying experience at an overhyped place long past its prime, but my glowing memories from earlier years couldn't have been more pleasantly reaffirmed.

                        I will admit that weekend nights are a crazy hassle - do yourself a favor and go for lunch.

                        Also, do yourself a favor and go to Degustation - each meal there feels more intimate and well-executed than the last.

                  2. re: orpheum

                    Lupa is great for what it is, but doesn't compare to Convivio, though I would happily substitute it for Babbo. Convivio is my favorite Italian restaurant, and I don't know what alex70 means by "tasting menu" as they do not offer one. I can only assume that means the 4-course prix-fixe, which IMO (as well as the opinions of many, many other hounds) is spectacular. I haven't been to Bridge Cafe in many years, and I used to really like it for lunch when I worked in the area, but I'm not sure it is worth going out of your way for. WD-50 is very good, though I felt it was overpriced. You might want to add Degustation to your list. It's rather unique and a fun experience. Tabla is another place that I would highly recommend. It is what I would call "Indian-inspired" as opposed to authentic Indian, and is just wonderful food served in a wonderful setting at a reasonable price.

                4. Spotted Pig is not worth the trouble of the wait. It's expensive and after all the fuss, if you look around people are mostly eating hamburgers.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: serious

                    Yeah, I'm not sure whether I'll end up regretting my experience at The Spotted Pig — it's another concession to my traveling companion. I'll admit, though, that their sheep's ricotta gnudi have received favorable reviews. Any thoughts on whether The Breslin is any better?

                    1. re: orpheum

                      I actually really like the Spotted Pig for lunch, especially upstairs, on a weekday, with some deviled eggs and the burger.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        On a Friday I addled over to Spotted Pig, at 2.30PM and it was a great afternoon. Downstairs bar, though I love upstairs too. Great bartender, Ryan. Glass of Crozes Hermitage, the roquefort burger. Was a perfect experience for me. I also love the Breslin at the bar on off hours.

                  2. Have you considered Motorino? Haven't been to Keste yet but I love Motorino and it's also open for lunch.

                    Cafe Mogador is good but not on the same level as the others you've chosen.

                    For dinner, have you made a Babbo reservation yet or are you prepared to wait 2 hrs for walk in table? Or are you planning on showing up at 5ish to try to get a seat at the bar?

                    For after dinner, note that Momofuku Ssam Bar and Blue Ribbon (Brasserie? Bakery? which one?) tend to still be busy even later on in the evening. For Blue Ribbon Brasserie I've heard of there even being waits at midnight!

                    Haven't been to JoeDoe for brunch but curious as to how you chose it for your one brunch choice.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: kathryn

                      I've read about Motorino as well, and it sounds promising — I'll have to keep it in mind, given your recommendation. Both seem to be reputable, though, so I'll let you know my thoughts if I end up going to Kesté. Their pizza del re sounds especially tempting. :)

                      Café Mogador is actually a concession to my friend with whom I'm traveling; she wants to go to a Moroccan restaurant, specifically to have a tagine dish, and Mogador was one of the better-rated offerings in Zagat. Can you suggest any notable Moroccan places?

                      I made a reservation for Babbo a few weeks ago — fortunately, I learned of their reservation policy early on in my research. :) I'm also considering the prix fixe lunch at Del Posto (a bargain at $29), about which I've heard excellent things. Any thoughts on that?

                      Sorry for not specifying — I'd planned on visiting Blue Ribbon Brasserie, particularly for their famed bone marrow with oxtail marmalade. Should I make reservations for these two places? I'll likely be alone, in any case, and I don't mind waiting in the slightest.

                      I'm aware of the reputation Joe Dobias has earned for himself — having read of his threats toward a writer for "New York" magazine — but a good number of reviews I've found say the food isn't to be faulted. I must admit, I was tempted by their Eggs Benedict with pork cheek (which I can only assume to be guanciale), which sounds decadently delicious, and their vaunted chilaquiles. I'm open to other brunch recommendations, however, and I've come to understand that you're the Queen of Brunch around here. I won't make you repeat yourself from your very informative thread, however — I can check that out in further detail once I get home from work. (I'm on lunch at the moment.) :)

                      1. re: orpheum

                        Sorry, not a huge Moroccan eater and haven't yet tried the Del Posto lunch.

                        Love the Blue Ribbon Brasserie. But they don't take reservations and are often packed until midnight. Even one of the bar seats may take a while to open up.

                        Please do check back with some brunch thoughts if anything else sticks out to you.

                        1. re: orpheum

                          I've been to Joe Doe for happy hour drinks and appetizers that spilled over into dinner. The food is interesting - at times inspired - and the cocktails were memorable (a tequila drink adorned with chilled honey and Old Bay won me over). That said, the space is tiny, the service and staff a bit aloof and off-putting, and the owner's reputation obviously notorious. I paid happy hour prices when I visited, and paying more would have left me feeling cheated.

                          I think you'd do better hitting Locanda Verde for brunch if you can still swing a reservation, or run with any place kathryn endorses as she truly has condensed Manhattan's overwhelming brunch options into the most reliable set of recommendations I've ever seen.

                      2. DiPalo is wonderful, hopefully you'll get one of the brothers who run the place and come ready to taste some great cheeses. One of New York's finest food stores of any type.

                        I like L'Arte del Gelato over Il Lab. Or Otto, but that is a sit down place.

                        Agree with Kathryn on Mogador although I love it. Nice atmosphere and cool East Village vibe. Reliable brunch with a prix-fixe that is quite a good deal. Probably best for brunch over lunch or dinner. But not really a special "destination" spot.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: boccalupo

                          Thanks for your reply! I'll have to check out L'Arte. I may end up going to Otto for their appetizers and gelato, both of which have been raved about, and skip the pizza. ;)

                          1. re: orpheum

                            I love carbonara at Otto -- if you like carbonara I highly recommend that. And their cheese plate, of course.

                        2. Di Palo is fantastic and carries an exquisite selection of cheeses and cured meats (Although I think the panettone they carry gets worse each year...)

                          I would add Kee's Chocolate to your list if you care for chocolate at all. Their kaffir lime and creme brulee are perfect bites. Apparently their macaroons have mixed reviews on this board but for me, the lavender and shiso leaf flavors have always been superb and I have tried the macaroons at Fauchon, Laduree and Maison du Chocolat. (The refrigeration does effect them so best to get them right after they are made and eat them at room temperature.)

                          I would go to Takashimaya over Ito En because there is more variety.

                          Or Lady Mendl's Tea Salon because they have an excellent selection of Chinese and Asian teas that are the perfect accompaniment to Lady M crepe cake. The atmosphere is singularly old New York.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Pookipichu

                            I haven't heard of Kee's or Takashimaya! I'll add them to the list. Thank you! :)

                          2. Specialty shops: Russ and Daughters.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: penthouse pup

                              What do they specialise in? I can research this myself once I get home, but I figured maybe you'd be able to tell me what, in particular, you'd recommend checking out. Thank you! :)

                              1. re: orpheum

                                They do a wonderful business in smoked fish and assorted kinds of items. Here's their website and you can determine whether it's of interest: http://www.russanddaughters.com/

                            2. Thank you all for your insights — I'm so glad to have a community of food-minded fellows whom I can ask for help. Please, if you're willing, keep the suggestions coming! I'm not leaving for about a week-and-a-half, so my research isn't even approaching completion. ;)