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Looking for some things unique to New York

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Hello, my girlfriend and I will be in town tomorrow through Sunday morning, and we are looking for some places to eat that would be hard to find outside of NYC. We are from Sacramento and travel to San Francisco quite often, so we do have access to a variety of great restaurants. While in NYC we're looking for some local flavor, things that are either unique to NYC or unique in general. We're staying near the Empire State Building but don't have a problem walking, taking the subway, or even cabbing it if need be. We love places with character, and being young and open to anything we look for things that are adventuresome.

One concern is budget, as we know Manhattan can be an expensive place to dine. We have room for one splurge/dressy dinner and were considering Scarpetta. For most of our other meals we were hoping to keep prices per dish to $20 and under (is this possible?). In addition to wanting to taste food from a variety of ethnic cuisines, the price is another reason we love hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants.

Some places that had caught our eye based on recommendations: John's of Bleecker for pizza, Traif, Pylos, Roasting Plant for coffee.

We were planning to hit some of the usual spots to do touristy things/take some pictures, such as Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the Met, MOMA, Union Square, explore Greenwich Village, perhaps Chinatown, maybe SoHo and/or Chelsea, Central Park, and of course the WTC. Recommendations for those areas would be especially welcome.

Thank you very much!

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Roasting Plant
81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Pylos
128 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

Scarpetta
355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

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  1. Menchanko-Tei, a Japanese noodle shop, is near MoMA. dishes are about $10 each.
    William Greenberg's, widely considered the best place for NY's famous black and white cookie, is within a few blocks from the Met.
    Your hotel is near Korea Town, where you can find countless places with dishes in your price range. Ever had KFC, Korean Fried Chicken? This stuff is good!
    I would strongly recommend Caracas in the East Village for a cheap lunch. not sure if Venezuelan arepas have reached SF yet, but they're worth the trip.
    In Soho, you could hit Torrisi for lunch. That turkey sandwich is incredible in a way I didn't think turkey could be.

    enjoy your trip.

    (Keste > John's)

    -----
    Caracas Arepa Bar
    93 1/2 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

    Menchanko-Tei
    131 E 45th St, New York, NY 10017

    John's Pizzeria
    278 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

    William Greenberg Jr. Desserts
    1100 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10028

    Keste Pizza & Vino
    271 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

    Torrisi Italian Specialties
    250 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012

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

      DEFINITELY check out RGR's self guided Lower East Side tour which covers local institutions like Russ & Daughters and Katz's Deli. Make sure you have some pizza before you leave, perhaps hot dogs from Papaya King/Gray's papaya.... I might also throw in Pearl Oyster Bar unless New England style lobster rolls are easy to find in Sacramento. Amy Ruth's for fried chicken and waffles? Hill Country for Texas style BBQ (specialize in sausages and brisket)?

      I like John's a lot for pizza and it is definitely indicative of an NYC style that's hard to find elsewhere. Traif isn't worth the trek to Williamsburg unless you're already going to be there for something else. Pylos is good but you're going to face a long wait if you don't already have a reservation. Roasting Plant is good but not the best we have -- try Abraco, 9th St Espresso, Stumptown, Cafe Grumpy, Gimme Coffee...

      For your tourist destinations, have you tried doing a search? First, that's a TON of ground for a few days and secondly, most of those areas have tons of threads dedicated to them already. I'd say, though, if you want to stay under $20 it's going to be more difficult in Midtown and the Upper East Side near the Met but you can do it. Check out Midtownlunch.com.

      Scarpetta is excellent but if you ever travel to LA note that there's a branch there. I assume you were going to walk in and try to get a table in the front area? Or do you already have a reservation?

      Here's a thread from someone visiting from SF that may help:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/737398

      Best breakfast and brunch:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/707772

      Please help me eat during a month in new york
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/716238

      Don't leave NY without eating these foods
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/610739

      Pizza in NYC
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6928...

      BTW, I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/493333

      Best foodie shopping:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585538
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697174
      http://www.chow.com/lists/33
      http://www.chow.com/lists/924

      Union Square Greenmarket advice
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/705073
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/727570

      Best mixology / bespoke cocktails:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/609073
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/709227

      Bars for beer geeks
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/733207
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572919

      For non-Western European/American
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/729498
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/731732

      Foreign Street Grub
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/701278

      totally obscure, odd, and intriguing menu items
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/722130

      Near the ESB:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776661
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757797

      You can definitely do meals for under $20pp if you choose carefully...
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776126

      ScoopG's guide to Chinatown
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776553

      Cheap eats itinerary
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/771039

      Time Out New York's Cheap Eats list:
      http://newyork.timeout.com/restaurant...

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

      Roasting Plant
      81 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

      Pearl Oyster Bar
      18 Cornelia St, New York, NY 10014

      Union Square Greenmarket
      Broadway and E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

      Pickle Guys
      49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

      Hill Country
      30 W 26th St, New York, NY 10010

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

      Pylos
      128 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

      Cafe Grumpy
      224 W 20th St, New York, NY 10011

      Ninth Street Espresso
      700 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009

      Abraco
      86 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003

      Gray's Papaya
      2090 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

      Gimme! Coffee
      228 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

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

      Scarpetta
      355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

      Stumptown
      18 W 29th Street, New York, NY 10001

      6 Replies
      1. re: kathryn

        Wow, that is a LOT of information, thank you!

        Regarding Scarpetta, we used Opentable and got a reservation this week. I hope that is adequate?

        I will definitely try the RGR tour, that sounds awesome!

        I know there is no way to see everything we want to see. We'll just have to come back to NYC sometime. We might even try to fit a Rangers game in at MSG, since the last few games of the season will be held this week and they're my favorite team playing my favorite sport. Tickets are expensive, though.

        Thanks for the recommendations, again. We have definitely revised our "must visit" list based on them.

        -----
        Scarpetta
        355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

        1. re: khelvan

          Re: Scarpetta
          Sounds good to me. Get there a little early and have a drink and some of their housemade potato chips at the bar...but try not to fill up on that. Or the bread basket.

          Have a wonderful time!

          -----
          Scarpetta
          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          1. re: kathryn

            Scarpetta is also in LA. Might want to consider something a little more "only in NYC".

            1. re: E Eto

              True, and also in Miami, but given that they're dining this weekend it'll be difficult to book a comparable Italian restaurant like Babbo, Locanda Verde, Maialino.

              -----
              Babbo
              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

              Locanda Verde
              377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

              Maialino
              2 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010

        2. re: kathryn

          ok...that post should be stickied.......

          and automatically posted to anybody who asks about eating in new york...

          1. re: kathryn

            kathryn is the MEGA maven of rounding up CH info in NYC! Kudos to her!

          2. The Shake Shack is one-of-a-kind. If it's a nice day out, there's no place better for lunch. It's not ethnic, but it sure is good. Cheap, too! Not a bad walk from the Empire State area.

            http://www.shakeshack.com/

            Right across 5th Avenue from the Shake Shack is "Eataly". Don't miss it.

            http://www.facebook.com/EatalyNYC?v=a...

            -----
            Shake Shack
            Madison Ave and E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010

            Eataly
            200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

            4 Replies
            1. re: highseasharry

              Not really one of a kind as they have a Shake Shack in Miami now, and are planning one in Dubai and another in DC.

              An Eataly is a concept imported from Italy.

              -----
              Eataly
              200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

              1. re: kathryn

                Kathryn,

                I suggest you stop in to Eataly in New York and imagine how many calories a "concept" might be worth. Oh, and Miami, Dubai and DC might have Shake Shacks, but only New York has the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

                Harry

                -----
                Eataly
                200 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010

                1. re: highseasharry

                  The OP specifically wrote "things that are unique to NYC" -- it's helpful to know when a local restaurant has branches elsewhere.

              2. re: highseasharry

                a burger is clearly ethnic. but shake shack is just OK. or rather it's probably the best fast food burger out there, but that is not the same as the best burger out there. and it certainly isn't unique.

              3. I think you could easily keep within your budget with a little trying. I think John's of Bleecker is a great introduction to NYC pizza. You'll probably need to do the New York Deli thing, and while touristy, I think Katz's is your best bet. I'd suggest Taim's falafel in the West Village. Caracas is a great suggestion.

                Coming from SF I think you'll generally be disappointed with the food in most Chinatown establishments, and I doubt you'd be blown away by most Japanese or Korean here. Xian Famous Foods has an outlet in Chinatown and would be a tasty, unique, cheap stop off (they've got a well known cumin lamb sandwich) if you're down that way though. Num Pang is a Cambodian inspired sandwich shop near Union Square that I found tasty.

                If you want pure ethnic obscurity, you could do worse than Taam Tov, the Bukharan restaurant in the Diamond District. It's fairly cheap as well. Something you'll likely not find in the Bay is the ubiquitous "street meat," or chicken/lamb over rice plates from Halal vendors. Arguably the most famous is at 53rd and 6th ave.

                I recently had a enjoyable dinner at Kuma Inn an asiany (chef is Filipino and Thai I think) not-so-small plates restaurant. It's BYOB so the meal ended up being a steal and would fit in your budget, even as a night out on the LES w drinks.

                Oh, and maybe some Puerto Rican/Dominican food would be different for you. Margon is much loved, but hectic, lunch counter right of Times Sq. with great Cuban sandwiches. I might prefer a clam meal at Taza de Oro, and old school diner in Chelsea with tasty mofongo and cafe con leche.

                It's a little all over the place, but hope that helps!

                -----
                Katz's Delicatessen
                205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002

                Taim
                222 Waverly Place, New York, NY 10014

                Margon
                136 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036

                Taam-Tov
                41 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036

                Kuma Inn
                113 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

                La Taza de Oro
                96 8th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                Num Pang Sandwich Shop
                21 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

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

                1 Reply
                1. re: Mr Porkchop

                  San Francisco's Chinatown pales in comparison to Manhattan's by far - the best Chinese food out there lies in the greater Bay Area. Of interest to the OP might be Henan night-market food, Fuzhou Cuisine or Hand Pulled Noodles run by the Fujianese (as well as Xian Famous Foods as you mentioned.) The Fujianese are spreading across America from the East Coast in a reverse internal migration of Chinese from 160 years ago.

                  Henan:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/774685

                  Fujian operated Homemade, Hand-Pulled Noodle spots:
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/492376
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/504362

                  Best Fuzhou Restaurant. Note the Best Fuzhou one on Forsyth Street has changed hands and is a now He Nan Flavors!
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/483902

                  Double Dragon:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/714304

                  Xian Famous Foods:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/673306

                2. This isn't city related. When I was stationed upstate at Griffiss AFB there was a shop that made "turkey joints" and they are excellent. I have them delivered during the holidays and everyone loves them. http://www.turkeyjoints.com/catalog/

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JoCLy52

                    Wow JoCLy52! I didn't think anyone else knew about Nora's Candy Shop in Rome, NY!! I grew up there for my first 26 years and send them as gifts at the holidays. Always have one from the gift jar that Santa brings Christmas morning! People in the city don't know what to say when I tell them I have turkey joints. They think I'm dealing some kind of new fangled drug!

                  2. Skip Scarpetta and try Lartusi, less expensive (slightly) and better.

                    Pylos is awesome. My husband is Greek and he agrees (we've been before and they have good white wines)!
                    Try Degustation in the East Village. Very inventive and low key.
                    Try Sakagura on 43rd btw. 2nd and 3rd avenues (it's underground and you have to enter via a random commercial building). Perfect pork belly and awesome sake list.
                    Hagi is also underground and not very expensive. On 49th btw. 6th and B'way. Izakaya type of Japanese.
                    Prune is also awesome. Best Bloody Mary in town. Go for brunch (amazing) and go exactly at 10am so you can sit right away, or right at the end of brunch which is around 3:20-3:30pm.

                    -----
                    Hagi
                    152 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019

                    Sakagura
                    211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017

                    Degustation
                    239 E 5th St, New York, NY 10003

                    Pylos
                    128 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

                    Prune
                    54 E 1st St, New York, NY 10003

                    Scarpetta
                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                    L'Artusi
                    228 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10014