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Traveling Solo, need some help!

JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 20, 2010 02:20 PM

I'll be in Manhattan for the James Beard Awards May 2nd and 3rd, as well as lunch on the 4th. Since i'll be by myself I don't want to do anything such as Adour, Eleven Madison Park, etc. so i'd like to stay within a reasonable budget. I'd love to get some great dim sum and Chinese, brasserie fare, as well as DBGB. This is what I had in mind but i'd love some suggestions!

In no particular order....

Momofuku Ssam
Oriental Garden
Jean George (lunch)
Balthazar or Pastis (both favorites)
Bouchon Bakery (macaroooooons)
Katz Deli (gotta have pastrami...)
Crif Dog/PDT late night
Tailor Bar
Spotted Pig
Papaya King

I love french food, comfort food, and asian cuisine. I frequent NYC but usually its with a group so dining isn't always up to me. I've been to many of the 'big named' restaurant but i'd like to go to places that are more reasonable and fun - especially easy for someone to go by themselves.

All help is appreciated!!

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  1. k
    kathryn RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 20, 2010 03:14 PM

    Unfortunately, Tailor is closed.

    For macarons, I think I prefer La Maison du Chocolat (small selection, high quality), and maybe Madeleine (huge selection and slightly lower quality than La Maison but still pretty good, but a little cold/moist since they keep them in a cold glasscase), over Bouchon's, which I found to be VERY hit or miss.

    Since you're traveling by yourself, are you sure you want to hit up a dim sum place? Also, Manhattan doesn't really have a GREAT dim sum place unless you're OK spending a lot more at Chinatown Brasserie (which some people don't think is worth it, and others don't even think it's any good, although I think it's excellent). CB does offer platters with a variety of items, which is helpful for the solo diner. Oriental Garden's dim sum is good for Manhattan's Chinatown, but not great.

    If you're dead set on GREAT dim sum in NYC, I would advise going to the Outer Boroughs board and researching there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathryn
      uwsister RE: kathryn Feb 21, 2010 12:20 AM

      I'm a fan of Madeleine's macarons. Bouchon's macarons are off texture-wise though I do get them time to time because it's so damn convenient. I wasn't crazy about Maison du Chocolat's macarons but then again it could be that every single flavor had chocolate in it and it distracted me.

      I think sushi is excellent for dining solo. Love lunch at Yasuda, affordable and quiet.

      1. re: uwsister
        CantStopEating RE: uwsister Feb 21, 2010 06:42 PM

        I agree with sushi being a great choice. In fact, anywhere for bar or kitchen seating dining is great for one person. I like Mario Batali's Casa Mono for kitchen view eating. Get the cock's comb and the sweet bread. Awesome. I like Hasaki's sushi bar in the east village. They really put a nice touch on everything.


        1. re: uwsister
          orthorunner RE: uwsister Feb 22, 2010 08:06 PM

          Bouchon macaroons are definitely somewhat of a love-them-or-don't proposition; I personally love them but have heard others comment like uwsister above, that the texture is off. They are more chewy in the middle than a standard macaroon. I love them because the filling and cookie share the glory; many other places either have a stronger chocolate flavor (ie Maison du Chocolat or Kees,though they are quite good-I'd just rather get the truffles!) or are just sort of muddled (madeleine-which I found good but not great) I would say worthwhile getting to try it out!

      2. s
        small h RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 20, 2010 03:29 PM

        For quite good dim sum in a single-diner-friendly setting, I recommend Red Egg. It's the only place I can think of that has a bar (albeit a small one). And the dim sum is half-price at happy hour.


        1. c
          Chuck Lawrence RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 21, 2010 05:41 AM

          Dim Sum a Go Go - duck dumplings, mushroom dumplings, snow pea leaf dumplings. dumpling soup with shark fin. Perfectly fine for a solo diner, and they serve dim sum in the evening.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chuck Lawrence
            Pan RE: Chuck Lawrence Feb 22, 2010 06:31 PM

            I'd go before 4, though. It's not worth the price increase for dinner.

          2. j
            JBurnsPatersonIV RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 21, 2010 05:59 PM

            Thanks for all of the help!

            I have read that Tailor closed it's dining room but is the bar not still serving? What a shame if not, Freeman is/was a fantastic mixologist and his creations always interested me.

            I'm not dead set on dim sum its just something that I don't get to have where I live. Dim Sum To-Go looks very interesting, I might have to do that just to get a dumpling on the go! I don't plan on spending too much time on lunch since there are many places i'd like to visit on my short trip.

            Since I do have some time during the day being that my only goal is to eat, eat, eat I might just have to try multiple macaroon places :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
              kathryn RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 21, 2010 06:17 PM

              Tailor has closed and Freeman left Tailor months before that.


              "Dim Sum a Go Go" is not really a to-go/takeaway spot. It's a sit-down, waiter-service restaurant.

            2. j
              JBurnsPatersonIV RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 22, 2010 03:57 PM

              Thanks for the links. I've done some more looking around and I have a few things in mind:

              Katz - Pastrami on rye
              DBGB - sausages, and the entire menu
              Bar Boulud - small charcuterie board - I heart charcuterie and don't get to have it EVER
              Momofuku Ssam - pork buns and whatever else
              Doughnut Plant - doughnut on the run. they look so interesting
              Pastis - for breakfast bc I love it
              Jean Georges - $29 lunch? I don't see that being beat
              Le Veau d'Or - Classical French is my hearts desire and this just looks right up my alley. Pricey i'm sure, and most certainly formal - this just looks awesome and iconic

              Other stops:
              Bouchon Bakery - TKO's and macaroons
              Madeiline - madeline's and macaroons
              Maison du Chocolat - macaroons
              Magnolia Bakery - cupcakes
              Grom - gelato (lived above the original in Firenze, Italy - love it)
              Papaya King - hotdog and a shake

              A lot? Sure of course it is. But I live to eat, and I eat to live. I don't go to NYC as much as I used to so I try and "get my moneys worth" when going.

              7 Replies
              1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
                gutsofsteel RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 22, 2010 05:31 PM

                If you want classic French you should consider La Grenouille. Le Veau d'Or is a bit tired...

                1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
                  Pan RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 22, 2010 06:39 PM

                  I like DBGB, but on the sausage menu, don't get the merguez; it's better and cheaper at Cafe Mogador, in my opinion. Aside from sausages, I've had excellent crab cakes and good duck there. Also, don't get the ice cream sundae; it was ordinary. Overall, though, I've found DGBG a good experience and a fair value.

                  I am one of the people who hates Magnolia and avoids it like the plague. Have you been there before?

                  Momofuku Ssam Bar is a good place to eat at the bar, and then you can have dessert at Milk Bar next door.

                  1. re: Pan
                    JBurnsPatersonIV RE: Pan Feb 22, 2010 07:59 PM

                    I have been to Magnolia bakery before, but it's been a few years. I was really just going to grab something there the day I leave to bring back something, she loves everything there. I personally love macaroons and madeline's so during my visits to bakeries it will be with the goal of getting the BEST macaroons.

                    DBGB has always looked cool to me, I really love the menu and the look, not to mention for Boulud it looks to be a great value.

                    1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
                      nyctripper RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 23, 2010 05:40 AM

                      My daughter and I loved DBGB. I know it's so common, but the DBGB dog was absolutely incredible. Also enjoyed the skate and the Piggy. Out of towners love Magnolia for some reason. There's a new location in Grand Central that may be less busy. And I've never seen the Rockefeller Center location nearly as crowded as Bleeker. Just a suggestion, but if you're taking several home, stop at Duane Reed and get a Gladware container. You can easily fit in half a dozen and it helps them from getting any drier.

                  2. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
                    uwsister RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 22, 2010 09:51 PM

                    If your wife has her heart set on Magnolia, their UWS location doesn't have much of a wait, if at all. I pass by all the time and it's not nearly as busy as the one down on Bleeker St. or Midtown. You could also hit up Levain Bakery for the best chocolate chip cookies ever -- Grom also has an UWS location. Would be a nice walk from TWC (where Bouchon Bakery is) and take Central Park West North.

                    1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
                      TOFoodFan RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 24, 2010 08:05 AM

                      My wife and I were in NYC this past weekend for a way-too-quick visit (translation: not enough meal times), and I had to make a point to visit Momofuku Ssam and the Doughnut Plant during what would be less-traditional eating times for me if I wasn't on vacation.

                      Stoped in at Ssam late Saturday night for cocktails and an order of pork buns. The cocktails were good but nothing to write home about. The pork buns were every bit as great as they're said to be - big chunks of pork belly sandwiched in a steamed bun with thin slices of cucumber and hoisin sauce. The cuke worked nicely to offset the fattyness of the pork belly. I may have to attempt the recipe from the Momofuku cookbook so I can have my fix when not in New York. Would be a good place for solo dining at the bar.

                      We stopped at the Doughnut Plant about 5pm on Saturday, and the line snaked well out the door. Took a good 30 minutes to get inside. Given the wait, we ended up ordering a bunch of doughnuts (after intending to get one each) so we could at least taste a variety. Favorites were the coconut cream-filled, and the passion fruit. Apparently they make all their fillings from scratch, and it shows in the taste. They're great doughnuts, and I'm glad I tried them. But they're still just doughnuts - I probably wouldn't spend 30 minutes in line for one next time.

                      1. re: TOFoodFan
                        uwsister RE: TOFoodFan Feb 24, 2010 10:21 PM

                        Next time visit the Doughnut Plant in early afternoon on a weekday if you can swing it. I've never stood in a line for more than 5 minutes, if any at all. Tres leches cake donuts are my favorite, and I don't even like donuts!

                        OP, don't mean to nitpick but I believe you're looking for macarons, not macaroons. Two different types of cookies. If you're doing any search on the board, that might help you in pulling more results.

                    2. thew RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 22, 2010 04:09 PM

                      there is no place in NYC where you cannot dine alone in comfort

                      1. j
                        Jeffo405 RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 24, 2010 12:03 PM

                        I know you said you don't want to do Eleven Madison Park since you'll be alone - but I had a perfectly wonderful experience dining solo there recently. Actually, I've had great solo dining experiences in a number of restaurants, including Aldea (worth checking out), Lupa, and Lan Sheng.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Jeffo405
                          JBurnsPatersonIV RE: Jeffo405 Feb 24, 2010 12:39 PM

                          My parents have a lovely brunch at EMP and thinking about it more, I really don't care if i'm by myself I really want to do the Gourmand Lunch, the deal seems too good to pass up. I'll skip Jean Georges and visit EMP! So my itinerary, in no particular order is

                          Bar Boulud

                          TBD - Oriental Garden maybe?

                          "tour de macaroons" - bouchon, maison du chocolat, kee's, madeiline
                          doughnut plant
                          salumeria rosi
                          papaya king
                          shake shake (maybe for a custard..)

                          My goals are to eat:
                          French cuisine
                          Charcuterie and salumi
                          Good Pastrami & Tongue

                          1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
                            orthorunner RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 24, 2010 06:47 PM

                            I think your idea to try all the various places for macaroons is a good idea, as they all have very different styles. If at Kees already I would definitely recommend picking up a few truffles!!

                            Re your desire to find charcuterie-have you considered going to a good panini place? I personally love 'ino, have had some great, high quality panini with various types of cured meats. There are multiple other places in the city that are also good though I have to admit I haven't tried many. Bar veloce is good but not great as re their paninis, though I love the atmosphere and liqueurs.

                            1. re: JBurnsPatersonIV
                              Pookipichu RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Feb 25, 2010 11:47 AM

                              I'd switch Oriental Garden with Chinatown Brasserie and order a flight of dim sum.

                              Kee is definitely a destination not to be missed. The lavender, shiso and cassis macaroons are quite special. You can call ahead to reserve them and request them room temperature. They are not to be eaten cold. If you are a chocolate fan, their chocolates are simply the best, exquisitely textured, fresh, not too sweet.

                              Di Palo is not a restaurant but it is NYC's premier salumeria and has exquisite meats and cheeses, with an adjacent wine store.

                              I hear you that your wife likes Magnolia's but perhaps she might like another bakery better? Magnolia is in my opinion one of the worst bakeries in NYC. Billy's has a similar style (rustic Americana) but better quality. Both are super sweet which some people like, but all that sugar gives me a migraine.

                              1. re: Pookipichu
                                Pan RE: Pookipichu Feb 25, 2010 11:51 PM

                                Agreed on Kee's. I've actually never tried her macarons, though; I always go for her great chocolates.

                                1. re: Pookipichu
                                  kathryn RE: Pookipichu Mar 2, 2010 08:52 AM

                                  I've always found Kee's macarons to be too dry and airy. They shatter when you bite into then, there's no give, and the chocolate filling is always a bit overwhelming IMO. Love her truffles though.

                            2. c
                              colfaxBee RE: JBurnsPatersonIV Mar 2, 2010 09:05 AM

                              Beard Papa's or Choux Factory's cream puffs technically are all the things you are looking for: asian, french and comfort food. I didn't even realize how delicious a cream puff could be until I went there. Then learned the hard way they're too messy to eat while walking down the street. Beard Papa is on Broadway btwn 76/77.

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