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Cold weather LES/EV food tour tips (with toddlers and vegetarians)

rose water Nov 29, 2010 12:15 PM

I'd like to do a LES/EV food tour with six to eight friends this weekend, and would love input on our itinerary. Our standard LES itinerary includes Donut Plant, Saigon Banh Mi (or Banh Mi So 1), Dumpling House, Il Lab, and the Pickle Guys. That might be too much of a warm weather plan, and doesn't really include enough sit down and get warm places. The group includes a bunch of vegetarians so Katz's and Russ and Daughter's are out, as are many of fantastic sounding rec's on the amazing scoopG tour: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/711661#5661425 . I think Pommes Frites needs to be included; Xian Famous Foods won't have space enough for all of us, but I may insist we stop (cumin lamb noodles = heaven). But beyond those, it's really been ages, and I haven't kept up with the new, casual, delicious neighborhood options. For example, what about the meatball shop, mentioned in one of the below threads, which got raves in the village voice: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/10/vegetarian_deli_47.php Or desserttruck works? Baohaus? Snack Dragon?

Other needs:
1. Space enough for all of us.
2. Casual, so that one or two toddlers won't be out of place or disruptive.
3. Easy to get a bite or two. For example, I've been meaning to try Northern Spy Co for ages, but is it the sort of place where we can get some apps and skedaddle? It may be best saved for another occasion.
4. A place for drinks that meets 1 and 2 above. Zum Schneider might fit the bill, but I was last there about 8 years ago and didn't love it then. Would Hop Devil Grill work for our group in the late afternoon/very early evening?

Recommendations for hot chocolate or other warming beverages, or other casual, cheap, delicious places (with veg options) to stop, would be very appreciated!

Great old food tour threads for reference:
EV, WV and Hell's Kitchen options: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/728356
LES/Chinatown: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/711661#5661425
other LES options beyond my standards: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7143...

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Pickle Guys
49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

Pommes Frites
123 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Hop Devil Grill
129 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

  1. rose water Dec 20, 2010 11:47 AM

    I never reported back, but we had a fantastic time, and feel inspired to do this over and over, hitting the places we didn't make it to this time. It is totally feasible to do a cold weather tour.

    1. Started at Essex St Market. Tables on the north end are a handy meeting point for people showing up at different times. Wandered around, got a pound of Porto Rico coffee, and set off

    2. Donut Plant. Line insane, too cold to wait, skedaddled.

    3. Baohaus. The tofu bao was the highlight of the chow for the vegetarian among us. Also tried the beef. I liked and thought they were tasty overall, but prefer the textural balance and flavors of the Momofuku pork buns.

    4. Snack Dragon. Yum. The quinoa taco was a hit with our two year old, and the dragon (pork) taco was fantastic. Though we huddled around outside the window, there was totally space inside, and we should've gone inside to sit.

    5. Meatball shop. We were out on the weekend after the NY Times piece about them, and the place was packed. Wrestled our way to the counter, and got food to go. Sat around the corner at Bluestockings, which was the perfect spot to stay warm, stock up on gifts, keep the little ones happy, and eat our meatballs. Salad was surprisingly good, pork meatball very tasty, veggie balls a little college food coop lentil-y boring.

    No time for all the tempting flatbread, blintzes, pretzels, gelato, hot dogs, or sweets y'all recommended, as we had to meet other friends for beer.

    6. dba. What a fantastic place. When I called in advance, they were totally chill about bringing our toddler, and suggested their (heated) back garden. It's a bright, warm space that was a perfect spot for our little one to wander a bit, and it stayed quiet even as the bar got more and more packed. Great beer, very tempting spiked hot cider. And again, the space was awesome as a laid back place to hang out and actually talk to and hear friends.

    7. Take out from Xian Famous Foods. I couldn't resist. Ended up going with the spicy and tingly beef, but far prefer the rich incredibly flavorful cumin lamb. Spicy cilantro-y salad again awesome. And with beer, in dba's back garden, just perfect.

    1. k
      kathryn Nov 30, 2010 07:23 AM

      Off the top of my head:
      - Sigmund Pretzel Shop has a fair amount of seating and I've definitely seen toddlers in there
      - Chikalicious Dessert Club has less seating but at the very least you should be able to seat part of your group, it's not huge, though
      - Otto, perhaps? Not exactly LES/EV but you can snack at the bar and I've seen a ton of infants and toddlers in the front room. Seating is limited, though, to the stools surrounding the bar, although there are a lot of standing height tables sans chairs.
      - Momofuku Milk Bar might work too, there's no seats but I've seen people put their toddlers on the standing height tables. The line will be long enough that you can warm up while you wait?
      - Crif Dogs is pretty chill during the day, and they have vegetarian hot dog options

      -----
      Crif Dogs
      113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

      Sigmund Pretzel Shop
      29 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009

      Momofuku Milk Bar
      15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

      3 Replies
      1. re: kathryn
        rose water Nov 30, 2010 07:38 AM

        How is Sigmund Pretzel shop? I've only tried their pretzel once, at the Hester St fair, and found that it suffered from being cold, and the toppings were greasy and meh. I imagine they must be better fresh.

        Otto is a great recommendation, though not perhaps for this weekend. On our one visit there, there were toddlers everywhere and the staff were gracious and completely unfazed.

        Is Momofuku Milk Bar now serving the truffle sized portions of cake that I had at Noodle Bar a couple months ago? That's much more appealing than larger portions of their rich wares. And I don't want to go there just to indulge my pork bun desires and piss off my vegetarian companions.

        1. re: rose water
          k
          kathryn Nov 30, 2010 07:41 AM

          I've found that the pop up locations of the Sigmund folks don't heat things long enough in the portable ovens they use. The brick and mortar location does -- and you can ask for it to be heated longer if you wish. The various flavored pretzels are hit or miss (truffled cheese was good, bacon was not so much) but I've found the regular salted one always hits the spot.

          Yes, Momofuku Milk Bar has cake truffles now -- I believe the current flavors are birthday cake, apple pie, and banana malt. The chocolate chip one appears only at Noodle Bar for whatever reason.

          -----
          Momofuku Milk Bar
          15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

          1. re: kathryn
            rose water Nov 30, 2010 07:43 AM

            I loved the apple pie cake--chunky apple-y and great.

      2. p
        Pan Nov 29, 2010 09:42 PM

        Meatball Shop is a good place, and it does have good salads. I haven't tried their vegetable ball yet.

        Zum Schneider is very meat-oriented, with all the various sausages and beer. What are you expecting the vegetarians to get there?

        If you do stop at Xian Famous Foods, they do have some vegetarian noodles that are quite good. The Changan Tofu is also delicious, but I don't know if it's vegetarian or not.

        B&H Dairy had excellent blintzes, last I checked, but I can't vouch for the rest of their menu (my girlfriend was very unhappy with her pierogies, which weren't very good).

        Might you consider going to a place like Cacio e Vino, which has very good pizza and schiacciate? I haven't checked, but I feel pretty sure some of their items are vegetarian.

        Since you're including some Chinatown locations, one possibility is to go to Dim Sum Go Go, which has some excellent vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian items. The vegetarians will probably particularly like the mushroom dumplings, and they have a nice tapioca/kaya (=rich coconut/egg custard) dessert dumpling.

        -----
        Dim Sum Go Go
        5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

        Zum Schneider
        107 Ave C, New York, NY 10009

        B&H
        127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

        Cacio e Vino
        80 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003

        Xi'an Famous Foods
        88 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

        9 Replies
        1. re: Pan
          rose water Nov 30, 2010 05:41 AM

          Thanks! Blintzes are appealing, an I've never been to b+h.

          Re Xian Famous Food veg options, I'd also recommend their salad--I don't remember all the components (cilantro, scallion, sweet, tangy) but it was really perfect.

          Sorry I wasn't clearer. We want to end our food festivities with beer, and I thought of Zum Schneider for that. Since I posted, I remembered dba, which I remember as casual and laid back and thus potentially appropriate for our merry crew. It's been years since I was last there, and I've never been to Hop Devil Grill, so I'd love input on which might be better. Ideally, given that we'll have at least one (hopefully sleeping) toddler along, it'd be a casual, loud, but not too loud place. My memory of dba (years and years ago) is that you could bring in or order in food. Is that still true? If so, it might be the ideal place to sit with Xian noodles or pommes frites frites.

          1. re: rose water
            p
            Pan Nov 30, 2010 10:35 AM

            I'm not sure whether you can bring underaged kids into DBA. Unless someone authoritatively declares that you can, you may want to call and ask them. Zum Schneider would be better for kids if they're awake and like sausages.

            1. re: rose water
              MVNYC Nov 30, 2010 11:57 AM

              You can still bring in food to DBA as I have brought in almost everything mentioned in this thread. Depending on the time and the age of the kids they might let them in. I have been in there with people who have strollers and babies but I don't know how they feel about all children. They are usually fairly empty during the late afternoon and early evening. You should definitely call and ask.

              Also Hop Devil Grill was targeted pretty badly regarding underage drinkers so I do not know how they feel either. There is a bar called St Dymphnas that has a couple of larger back tables that might work for you. They have a decent selection of beers, not as good as DBA or Hop Devil.

              -----
              Hop Devil Grill
              129 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

              1. re: MVNYC
                rose water Nov 30, 2010 12:45 PM

                Thanks, that's super helpful. We'll be there around 4:00 with kid(s) 2 and under. I'll definitely call and ask first.

            2. re: Pan
              k
              kathryn Nov 30, 2010 07:24 AM

              I thought B&H is all stool seating?

              -----
              B&H
              127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: kathryn
                p
                Pan Nov 30, 2010 10:34 AM

                I don't believe so. I seem to remember that there are tables there. You may be thinking of Stage across the street, or I could have a false memory; after all, I've been to B&H only once so far.

              2. re: Pan
                s
                Simon Nov 30, 2010 02:38 PM

                i second the Changan Tofu at Xian...yummy!...

                and Cacio e Vino is also one of my favs and is perfect for what you requested: lots of easy veg and kid-friendly dishes plus some more intriguing chowish Sicilian fare...and a fun cozy setting too...

                -----
                Cacio e Vino
                80 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: Simon
                  rose water Dec 1, 2010 05:57 AM

                  Never been, and it's not been on my radar, so thanks for the Cacio e Vino recommendations. Their website is annoying and uninformative, but mentions of their flatbreads and fava bean salad were tantalizing nonetheless. What are your "intriguing chowish Sicilian fare" recommendations?

                  1. re: rose water
                    s
                    Simon Dec 1, 2010 08:31 AM

                    i haven't been in a while as i'm not in NYC this fall, but in past, i've had a bucatini-like pasta w/ (i think) fennel/pinenuts/currants, and a salad w/ raw tuna...and another fennel salad of some kind...

                    fwiw, i've met Sicilians who were happily dining there on the next table...and my Japanese foodie friends whom i've brought there have adored it in the past...

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