My wife, my 19 year old daughter and I will be stopping in Manhattan for a night on our way north for vacation. I'd like a couple of suggestions for our eating pleasure, We're staying across the street from Penn Station in order to catch an early train in the morning. This will be a weeknight (Thursday.)
Dinner: Someplace unusual, with good food, but relatively cheap. We like Italian, Chinese, French. The ladies don't like the hot and spicy stuff.
Breakfast and lunch for the train. I suspect that the hotel restaurant will be overpriced, which means I would be satisfied with getting some stuff from the Au Bon Pain at Penn Station. As for lunch on the train, the offerings on the Amtrak cafe car are pretty slim, but I'm not sure if how well a sandwich would hold up. I was thinking of perhaps getting some good cheese, fruit, and a baguette to take on board. Which means I'd like to find a good cheese shop and fruit market. Any other recommendations?
I think you should check out SD26. Great food and the small plate portions allow you to try different things amongst the table. Super friendly place and, if you are okay with walking, it's easily within walking distance of Penn station area, we've meant friends from out of town and walked there no problem. The bonus with SD26 is you could get cheese and salumi to go for your next day.
19 East 26th Street, New York, NY 10010
For dinner, how much are you thinking of in terms of price range? $25pp? $40pp? Are you accounting for taxi, tip, drinks/wine/soda? How far are you willing to travel from 42nd and 8th?
The area immediately surrounding Penn Station can be challenging.
I'm not sure I understand your request for something unusual if you like Italian, Chinese, etc. Do you want a more unusual cuisine?
For bread and fruit and cheese all under one roof, I'd just go to the Chelsea Whole Foods. It's a short walk away.
Price range -- It would be the equivalent of a place with $15- $30 entrees in Washington DC or Baltimore. We're cool on traveling over most of Manhattan, or maybe some of the closer parts of Brooklyn or Queens. We won't have a car, and we would prefer to use the subway.
As for cuisine, when I say Italian or Chinese, I mean **good** Italian or Chinese (or French, for that matter). Atmosphere counts, too. And we're certainly willing to take other suggestions, just not anything too hot and spicy.
For really good Italian in a modern atmosphere, a short subway ride away would be Scarpetta. It's got a sleek, modern atmosphere, with a gorgeous skylight that lets in a lot of light in the early evening. Portions are generous and service is excellent.
Two other options, but less convenient via train, might be Maialino, a Roman style trattoria, which is very popular and run by one of the premier restaurant groups in town (Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group) or Peasant, which is a little more cozy and a bit cheaper. Peasant is known for its wood burning oven which churns out pizza, roasted fish, meats, etc.
For all of these, I'd reserve sooner rather than later.
I think you'll find most of the Chinese restaurants in NYC are either hot/spicy or lack atmosphere.
355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014
2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010