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Feb 2, 2011 06:48 AM

Must haves/ Fun Foods/ Specials


I'm visiting NYc from Europe for the first time in a few months and i'm doing some planning. I've read so much about lots of restaurants/burgerjoints/bakery's etc My questions is which ones must I absolutly visist.

I'm not interessted in expensive and very fancy restaurants. So far on my list:

- Carnegie Dell
- Shake Shack
- The Candy Shop
- Gray's Papaya
- Zabar's ( a shop, I know )
- Levain Bakery

Should I skip any of these?

I must add i'm not in to fish at all. Also i'd like to eat in Harlem.

Hope someone can help me, thnx in advance!

Levain Bakery
167 W 74th St, New York, NY 10023

Gray's Papaya
539 8th Ave, New York, NY 10018

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  1. skip carnagie - go to katz's - have pastrami

    i'm not crazy about shake shack - but i prefer large burgers to fast food style . for the style they are they are very good. just not my preference for a burger

    i like papaya king better than grey's papaya

    if you want to eat in harlem a few suggestions:

    dinosaur BBQ - this is food you cannot get in europe
    amy ruths for fried chicken and waffles
    yolandas tamales (its a cart)
    Mofongo del Valle on b'way and 135th

    1. Where in Europe are you traveling from? Italy? Spain? UK?

      I'd say that if you can, you should try NY style pizza, bagels & smoked salmon, perhaps pickles, an egg cream, pastrami on rye, a steakhouse (if you can afford it), maybe a fancy cocktail (assuming you're not from a city where this is available like London/Paris/etc.), and a big American breakfast. And maybe some non-European ethnic food you cannot find at home?

      I know you said you're not into fish (is it the smell? texture?), but it might be worth it to stop into Russ & Daughters and just try a taste or two of their smoked salmon. I'm not sure what kinds of smoked salmon you have available to you in your home city.

      Regarding a steakhouse, perhaps stop in for a drink at Keens, maybe try something off the pub room menu (cheaper), and soak in the atmosphere and history.

      Not sure what Candy Shop you are referring to. Economy Candy? Dylan's? Other?

      Like thew, I'd say Katz's over Carnegie. It's worth the trip. Patrami on rye, mustard.

      I love Shake Shack but yes, do keep in mind, it's a thin patty with special sauce and only one style of burger available in NYC.

      2nd Dinosaur BBQ for pulled pork and Amy Ruth's for fried chicken and waffles -- I like to eat it with butter, maple syrup, and hot sauce for a salty/sweet/spicy combination.

      Here are some threads on things I think NYC is good at, like brunch, bagels/smoked salmon, pickles, egg creams, pastrami, pizza, mixology, "ethnic" niches, street food etc.

      Best breakfast and brunch:

      Please help me eat during a month in new york

      Don't leave NY without eating these foods

      Pizza in NYC

      BTW, I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles:

      Foreign Street Grub -- there's probably ethnic food in there you can't find at home

      Russ & Daughters
      179 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

      Pickle Guys
      49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

      Amy Ruth's
      113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

      Economy Candy
      108 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

      Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
      777 W. 125th Street, New York, NY 10027

      35 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Thanks all you guys for your anwsers! I'll explore them all on the net first and i'll see which ones i'll visits.

        To awnser Kathryn's questions:

        I'm coming in from Amsterdam and we get lots of different foods around here from different cultures.

        I don't like fish because of the taste. Be it Salmon, Shrimp or whatever. When I eat any kind of fish I get the same taste in my mouth as if I where smelling raw fish even when it's spiced. Deep fried takes it a way little bit, but still not a fan.

        Thanks again all of you for your help!

        1. re: LRTWR

          What attracted you to zabars exactly?

          1. re: tpigeon

            It was recommended to me as a must see/visit place. I am a big cheese fan, which holland is famous for, so i really want to see if the cheese is as good as I read everywhere. Just all in all a quality goods shop is what is seems to me. O and ofcourse it was in Seinfeld. But if you tell me it's nothing special, I won't go there just for zabars.

            1. re: LRTWR

              If you like cheese, go to Joe's Dairy for their smoked mozzarella.

              Also, fairway market has a nice cheese section.
              At fairway you can construct a lovely european style picnic lunch, but with american ingredients.

              Do you like falafel? Try mamoun's on Macdougal.

              Joe's Dairy
              156 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

              1. re: pauliface

                If you (OP) go to Mamoun's, which I also recommend, go to Murray's on Bleecker for the cheese.

                If you go to Katz's, which I also recommend, go to the Essex St. market for the cheese shops (and other delights).

                In a perfect world if you went to Katz's and didn't object to fish, you could go to Russ and Daughters. As it stands, though, you should avoid it like the sable.

                1. re: pauliface

                  It looks like you are after cheap and classic favorites. So...

                  There is another, erm, "delicacy" that is specific to New York (and the general tri-state area).
                  It is what they call "chow mein," which is not really the same thing as chow mein anywhere else.
                  I tend to crave it as I don't live there anywhere else.

                  The word 'chow' literally means noodles (I think), and so it's supposed to be a noodle dish. But in NY it's not. It's a lovely concoction of celery, onions, meat ( I prefer chicken chow mein) and a garlicky white sauce. Served over rice and sometimes sprinkled with some skinny fried noodles on top.
                  A cheap and delicious snack/meal you can get at any chinese takeout hole-in-the-wall. Also they still make the big fat tasty egg rolls in NY, not those skinny 'spring roll' affairs.

                  Anybody out there (who shares my love of the dish) have a recommendation for a place to get good chicken chow mein?

                  1. re: pauliface

                    <The word 'chow' literally means noodles (I think)>

                    Nope, mein means noodles. Chow means stir-fried. Or maybe just fried. And the chow mein in Manhattan does have noodles - those skinny fried (chowed!) ones on top.

                    1. re: small h

                      Ah, I knew it was one or the other. Oops.

                      But it's not a noodle-based dish like it is elsewhere, resembling what to a New Yorker looks like lo mein.

                      Anyhow, my main point here is that NYC chow mein is unique, and tasty.

                      Anyhow, here in SF where I live now, and everywhere outside NYC, what you get when you order chow mein looks to me like lo mein from NYC. But NYC chow mein is hard to find in most places.

                      1. re: pauliface

                        we have had this conversation elsewhere - but chow mein in NY does have noodles. they are deep fried and crunchy and under the meat and veg and stuff. it is hong kong style chow mein.(and can be found on the west coast as hong kong chow mein) it looks like this photo.

                        1. re: thew

                          I would call those pan-fried noodles.

                          1. re: small h

                            i would too - in english. in chinese i'd call them "chow mein"

                            1. re: thew

                              Then how do you account for the presence of both chow mein AND pan-fried noodles on the same menu (I've chosen this one at random, but I've seen it many times)? If they are synonyms, why list them twice? And price them differently?


                              1. re: small h

                                i would have to see what charlie mom or any of those palces means by both those dishes before i "account" for it.

                                chow mein means fried noodles. there is obviously a lot of room for variation under that name.

                                1. re: thew

                                  Indeed. I can't eat two entrees at one sitting, or I'd march right over there and order both. But I'll tell you what - I see several places that serve both dishes on the Upper East Side, where I'll be eating lunch for the next 14 Fridays. So I'll do a compare and contrast. But it'll take some time!

                                  1. re: small h

                                    where on the UES? that's my 'hood

                                    1. re: thew

                                      71st between 2nd & 3rd. Not that there are any restaurants on that block (except for Per Lei & Grace Trattoria, which are too rich for my blood). But somewhere in a 10ish block radius of there, is where I'll be, eating.

                                      1. re: small h

                                        thats 3-4 blocks from my house.

                                        i like tatany 72 for homestyle japanese on 73 and 2nd

                                        1. re: thew

                                          I will check it out, thank you. I walk by there frequently. I like Szechuan Chalet, Helen's (further afield, on Lex between 62nd & 63rd), and Beijing Wok, believe it or not. I made a concerted effort in the fall to find the best seafood noodle soup in the area. Beijing Wok beat all comers, even Tang, which I thought would be the best.

                                          1. re: small h

                                            i don't know beijing wok - where is it? i loves me some noodle soup.

                                            i can't warm up to szechaun chalet - much prefer wa jeal on 82 st, though thats further afield for you.

                                            1. re: thew

                                              Beijing Wok is a grab & go, looks-like-nothing cheap Chinese on 2nd between 69th & 70th. The kind of place where you can get fried chicken wings. And, oddly, really good seafood noodle soup. I had one miserable lunch at Wa Jeal, shrimp in Robitussin sauce (I think the menu called it something else). I am planning giving the place another try at some point.

                          2. re: thew

                            Thew: What you show in your picture is absolutely 100% NOT what I am talking about.

                            1. re: pauliface

                              i understand that. i know what you are talking about, but i'm saying that very noodle dish IS served as chow mein in NYC.

                              1. re: thew

                                well that's not what I get when I order chow mein in NYC.

                                1. re: pauliface

                                  i didnt say all chow mein is that - much is indeed a knockoff of that that sprinkles noodles on top instead of having them underneath - but it does exist as the hong king style noodle dish in chinatown

                                  1. re: thew

                                    Okay fine.

                                    Again, my point is that what you call the knockoff is what many new yorkers grew up with, and it's unique to the area, and it's really really good, and the OP might want to try it.

                                    1. re: pauliface

                                      50 year old native NYer here.

                                      i'm not knocking your, or anyone's, love for the dish - just taking issue with the statement that in NYC "it's not a noodle-based dish like it is elsewhere"

                                      even they style you are talking about is ALWAYS served with the crunchy noodles to sprinkle on top......

                                      1. re: thew

                                        Okay this is my last post on this, you are driving me nuts.

                                        I mentioned the crunchy noodles in my first description. They are sprinkled on top. But it is not the same lo-mein-like, noodle-based dish that you get everywhere else.

                                        You've already said you have to go to china town for it. I'm talking about what every tri-state area kid grew up with in NYC in the 60s and 70s, if they were not actually chinese. And you still get that at any hole-in-the-wall takeout place on 8th avenue or wherever, if you don't go hunting down the genuine hong-kong-style article.

                                        END OF TRANSMISSION.

                      2. re: pauliface

                        I wouldn't say there's an important reason for visitors to New York to seek out old-fashioned American-Chinese chow mein. My favorite chow mein in New York is the Beef and Chinese Broccoli Chow Mein at Congee Village, but that's real Cantonese chow mein. And while it's good, and I never object when someone in my party orders it, and order it myself if it's something a group I'm part of wants, it is by no means among my favorite dishes at Congee Village.

                      3. re: pauliface

                        I have to demur on Mamoun's. Their original Manhattan branch on MacDougal St. is cheap and fine, but it is not nearly as good as:

                        (1) The great sit-down food available at Gazala Place (though they also do takeout), where I've probably had the best falafel I've yet tried.
                        (2) Takeout from Taim (they do have some space to eat in, but not much).

                        Taim is in the Village and certainly reasonable to walk to from Murray's, which FoodDabbler mentions.

                        Gazala Place
                        709 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

                      4. re: LRTWR

                        There's an anti-Zabar's bias on this site. Maybe because the place is big, renowned, and has no hole-in-the-wall appeal. (Same about Luger's here- everyone wants to de-throne the king). Go there-it's fun and the quality is very high as a whole.

                        1. re: addictedtolunch

                          I have nothing against zabars btw. I was just trying to root out the reason they were going so the OP could be made aware of other specialty shops for the specific items they were looking for.

                        2. re: LRTWR

                          I believe that Zabar's is a very special place -- a very New York place -- and well worth a visit for an out-of-towner.

                      5. re: LRTWR

                        Anything maybe you want to try, an ethnic cuisine not found in Amsterdam?

                        1. re: LRTWR

                          I've spent time in Amsterdam, and eaten well there. Still there are things you'll find in New York that you won't find there. If you like cheese you should try some American cheeses at Murray's (which I recommend elsewhere in this thread as well), or at Saxelby's at the Essex Street Market. There's also Formaggio in the same market, but I don't know how strong their American cheese selection is (as opposed to their main store in Cambridge, MA, with a strong New England selection and a reasonable California one). You'll find a wider range of Chinese and even Italian food than you'll find in Amsterdam (unless something big has happened there in the last few months). You'll even find better Indian food (but not Indonesian) even though that's a cuisine that's not a Manhattan strength.

                          But you won't find places, even in Greenwich Village, alas, with, ahem, interesting aromas floating out.

                          Essex Street Market
                          120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

                          1. re: LRTWR

                            Definitely go to Zabars. It is a great market and one I think all visitors to NYC should go to.

                        2. I would vote for Papaya King over Gray's Papaya. There is also a Shake Shack across the street from it and Patsy's Pizzeria is just another (not even) 2 miles further uptown. If you're coming in a few months, weather should be nice enough to spend the afternoon in Central Park so you can even hit all 3 spots in one day.

                          Gray's Papaya
                          539 8th Ave, New York, NY 10018

                          Papaya King
                          179 E 86th St, New York, NY 10028

                          1. momofuko ssam bar
                            pies and thighs
                            blue smoke
                            jean georges for lunch
                            the breslin
                            john dory oyster bar
                            osteria morini
                            del posto for lunch

                            1. if you like chocolates don't miss kee's chocolates! i also like minetta tavern too. you can sit at the bar and enjoy their bone marrow and burger (it is rather pricey though).