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Disappointed NYC foodie needs your help, guys!

OK, so: NYC is supposed to be this great culinary apogee. Do I have to spend $100 per person to experience this? I moved here from Portland, OR two years ago and I haven't had a better meal here than I did at Sympatica or Le Pigeon out there. It seems like you have to catch restaurants no more than a year after they open in this town -- after that they either close or backslide in a calculated way once they have a name for themselves and have a guaranteed customer base.

What am I looking for? A creative, but not overly molecular fire-worky place, New American/Continental influences, below 14th street or in Brooklyn, and that does not cost more than $50-60 per person. (Flexible re: location.) Some places on my radar include: Perilla, Little Giant, Nuela, Aldea, Perry St, Blaue Gans, Locanda Verde, Buttermilk Channel, Dressler, Saul, Convivum Osteria, Osteria Morini, Scarpetta, Sorella. (Sorta new here - is it not OK to be asking about some Brooklyn restaurants on the Manhattan Board? This is definitely more about Manhattan than BK ...)

Places I have been:

Prune: Had been wanting to try this place since before I came to NYC and was disappointed. Duck breast w/ dandelion greens and raisin/caper vinaigrette sounded like just what I wanted: a fatty slab of animal resonating with some salty bitter sweetness. What I got was a well-cooked piece of duck on a bed of greens with a barely-perceptible dressing. While the breast was good, I have had duck breast before and had been looking for something different. Off night? Poor choice? Should I return?

Dell'anima: Gnocchi w/ rabbit sausage. Again, comforting and well-executed, but the flavors didn't pop. I had just been to Modo Mio in Philly and it absolutely blew this (as well as Al Di La -- bland Ragu + excellent pasta = decent meal) out of the water. Again, has this place jumped the shark? Should I have just gone w/ pasta instead of gnocchi?

Frankie's Prime Meats: Sauerbauten: Good at first but devolved into cloying sweetness. Tasted mostly of meat and salt; the herbs didn't really come through. Bone marrow toasts w/ gremolata were rockin' though.

Franny's: Good but inconsistent. Bruschetta w/ pancetta and roasted peaches was awesome. Didn't love the terrine. Pizzas were of course good but this thread isn't about pizza. Roasted broccoli salad was v. good.

Breslin: Lamb Burger finally came through as an NYC food item that blew me away. Intense, concentrated lamb flavor, saved from unctuousness by the bracing Feta on top, perfect bun, overall a great experience. But you can only eat like one of those a year.

Since I am on a budget these are really the only "foodie" places I have been (have loved meals at Broco Tacos and Metro Cafe in Sunset park, Di Fara, Sal and Carmine's, Ba Xuyen, Lucky Eight, but am not really interested in traditional food in this thread).

Anyways, sorry for the long post but I wanted to try to give a more clear idea of what I was after. Thanks guys!

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Perilla
9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

Little Giant
85 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002

Blaue Gans
139 Duane Street, New York, NY 10013

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

Sorella
95 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

Aldea
31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

The Breslin
20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

Nuela
43 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

Osteria Morini
218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. definitely add DBGB to your list. for fresh pasta,

    i'm a tremendous fan of Crispo, specifically for their Trofie al Prosciutto.

    you liked Breslin, so why not go to Spotted Pig - same chef/owner?

    if you can snag a seat at Minetta Tavern, the Black Label Burger is really something to try. plenty of people disagree, but that burger holds a firm place in my top five favorite dishes.

    also check out Five Points. it's not on the same level as some of the places you've been wanting to try, but i find their food to be consistently good. based on what you've eaten elsewhere, i think it'd be a good fit for you.

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    Spotted Pig
    314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

    Minetta Tavern
    113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

    Crispo
    240 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011

    Five Points
    31 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012

    DBGB
    299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

    The Breslin
    20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

    1. Portland really punches above its weight, foodwise. I miss living there sometimes.

      1. The moderators' rules are that Brooklyn restaurants be discussed on the Outer Boroughs board.

        I wouldn't rush to DBGB. The sausages are very good, but the food is hardly rave-worthy.

        From that "on your radar" list, there are only three Manhattan restaurants we've been to, and I highly recommend all three: Scarpetta, Aldea and Nuela.

        At Scarpetta, two signature dishes are not-to-be-missed: Spaghetti with Tomato & Basil, and the mushrooms with polenta.

        Scarpetta photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        At Aldea, two signatures are musts: the main course Arroz de Pato and for dessert, the Sonhos.

        Aldea photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        Nuela's amazing Arroz con Pato is very different from Aldea's in make-up and is sized for two.

        Nuela photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

        ETA: Both Aldea and Nuela are above 14th St. The former is on 17th and the latter on 24th. Scarpetta is right on 14th.

        http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

        1. Have been to Little Giant and found it good. Even better is Recette in the Village and I think it meets your criteria.

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          Little Giant
          85 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002

          Recette
          328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

          1 Reply
          1. Does the $60 include tax, tip, and beverages?

            I really like Blaue Gans. Although it's certainly "traditional food" (not quite sure what you mean by that)

            Have you considered Savoy?

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            Savoy
            70 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012

            Blaue Gans
            139 Duane Street, New York, NY 10013

            1. I notice you don't have any Danny Meyer, David Chang, or Mario Batali restaurants on your list. I don't think you can really get a good sense of the NYC food scene without at least trying some of their places. I also don't see a lot of Japanese on your list: some of the izakayas and ramen spots are in your price range. And Ushiwakamaru / Kanoyama if you order carefully.

              I don't think Prune is known for duck -- more like bone marrow, sweetbreads, monkfish liver, deviled eggs, and quirky snacks like radishes with butter or goat cheese with red onions.

              Out of your list, I'd say that Locanda Verde and Scarpetta are both excellent and I liked them much more than Osteria Morini (which was good but not amazing, and a bit overpriced). Aldea is excellent. Relatedly, we do have a small but good Spanish restaurant scene here (not sure about Portland). You can do Txikito or El Quinto Pino for that price if you order carefully, and Degustation if you do the $55 5 course tasting (though some complain that it's small).

              And since you're on a budget, it might be better to stick to things that NYC is known for when you're not visiting "foodie" restaurants -- Russ & Daughters, Katz's Deli, Motorino / Keste / John's of Bleecker / Joe's / etc.

              And Chinatown.
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777349

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

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

              El Quinto Pino
              401 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011

              Kanoyama
              175 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              Ushiwakamaru
              136 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012

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

              Joe's Pizza
              7 Carmine St, New York, NY 10014

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

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

              Txikito
              240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

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

              Aldea
              31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

              Locanda Verde
              377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

              Motorino
              349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

              Osteria Morini
              218 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

              1. You should definitely visit the Spotted Pig if you enjoyed the Breslin. (I actually prefer the Pig's burger, even though I do love both.)

                You might also like Gabe Stulman's places—Fedora, Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey's Grocery—and the Freemans crew—Freeman's Alley and Peels.

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                Spotted Pig
                314 W 11th St, New York, NY 10014

                Freemans
                Freeman Alley, New York, NY 10002

                Fedora
                239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

                Joseph Leonard
                170 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

                The Breslin
                20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001

                Peels
                325 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

                Jeffrey's Grocery
                172 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

                1 Reply
                1. re: loratliff

                  oh kathryn, why go to kanoyama if you are planning to order carefully. half the fun of going there is splurging on the unusual sashimi they have to offer. >-(

                  I also aggree with coats DBGB should make your list, i really enjoyed the piggy burger i had there.
                  If I were you I would add Degustation (you can do a 5 course tasting for 50 dollars).

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

                  DBGB
                  299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

                2. Hey thanks a lot everyone. Forgot to mention I had been to Otto but did not find it amazing -- save for the eggplant caponata. Agreed that the lack of Meyer of Chang restaurants needs rectifying. What about Colicchio?

                  I think that places like Joe's and the Flushing Food Mall might be my favorite food things about NYC at this point. Hence this thread, where I wanted to get to know more high-end stuff (w/o going all the way to EMP, Per Se, etc).

                  Definitely have been thinking about Degustation and Recette. I guess the subtext of my question is, which "foodie" "destination" places are still worth the time and money (I know I didn't explicitly articulate that; I was in a rush sorta). I would rather pay for food than service/atmosphere.

                  Perhaps I will start a parallel thread on Outer Boroughs as wel l ... but thanks everyone for the contributions! Think I will check out Locanda Verde, Aldea, Recette, and Scarpetta next time I get a chance.

                  -----
                  Per Se
                  10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                  Otto
                  1 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10003

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

                  Aldea
                  31 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011

                  Locanda Verde
                  377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

                  Recette
                  328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: roderickhazardplain

                    If you order carefully and don't do wine, you could probably do Babbo. Try early or very late at the bar, maybe?

                    For a Colicchio spot, it's going to be difficult in your price range to do Craft, and I think you really need to do Craft to get the best experience.

                    While I like DBGB, maybe Bar Boulud is a better choice? Do you like charcuterie? If so, that's THE place to go in town.

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                    Babbo
                    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                    Craft
                    43 E. 19th St., New York, NY 10003

                    Bar Boulud
                    1900 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

                    1. re: roderickhazardplain

                      OP it almost goes without saying you are looking for a "foodie" type destination posting here...no? I think we inferred that. :-)

                    2. hi...i think understand where you're coming from...while i have many many NYC places that i love, i've sometimes felt that NYC can be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to restaurants: a lot of "good" options, but many of the lauded ones don't really rate more than a "B" or have such glaring service/discomfort/inconsistency issues that one ends up hating them...i love the variety in NYC, but sometimes the authenticity and excellence can be lacking until you root around and find your favorites...and for New American bistro food, the Pacific NW has us beat hands down...i've never been to Portland, but i can think of ten places in Seattle and Vancouver that serve better American/organic/local bistro food than any place in NYC...(and like you, i was very underwhelmed on my own visit to Prune and never had any desire to return)...and i despise all restaurants owned by Batali and David Chang: i'd say trying those is a sure recipe for further disappointment (though many here would disagree with me)...and i think hosting/service in NYC is generally abominable compared to the friendly vibes in Seattle/Vancouver/etc...

                      yet: i love Scarpetta (and for me, the signature dish is the black cod)...i love a lot of the smaller, less-lauded Italian places: Malatesta, Cacio e Vino, etc (and those are all reasonably priced)...add Peasant too maybe, though i haven't been recently...and NYC has an amazing variety of Japanese restaurants (Ippudo for ramen, Soba Totto for soba, sushi at Ushi Wakamaru, etc)...i'd also rec the pub room at Keens Chophouse...and if you like other Asian-inspired food, i think Kin Shop in the West Village is a knockout: my new fav restaurant in Manhattan...you also might like Shorty's .32 on Prince St: it has a woodsy comforting attention-to-quality that reminds me a bit of the Pac NW...

                      Please report back and tell the board what else you try and your impressions...

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                      Malatesta
                      649 Washington St, New York, NY 10014

                      Keens
                      72 West 36th St., New York, NY 10018

                      Peasant
                      194 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

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

                      Shorty's .32
                      199 Prince St, New York, NY 10012

                      Soba Totto
                      211 E 43rd St, New York, NY 10017

                      Ippudo
                      65 4th Ave, New York, NY 10003

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

                      Kin Shop
                      469 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Simon

                        I was going to mention Kin Shop as well, especially if you are already considering Perilla (same chef/owner). I don't think you can go wrong either way. I think that the food (esp at Perilla) tends to be very consistent, which is important for someone visiting who has only a single meal to experience a place. Another place to consider is ABC Kitchen, depending on what you order. I think that with the input above, you are very likely to have a better experience than before, as you have some excellent suggestions mentioned in the above posts.

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                        Perilla
                        9 Jones Street, New York, NY 10014

                        ABC Kitchen
                        35 E 18th St, New York, NY 10003

                      2. Agree with other poster on Prune: worth going back for bones, monkfish liver, deviled eggs, and radishes. An all appetizer/bar menu dinner there with a junipero is an unpretentious delight.

                        The Grocery on Smith Street might also work for you. And Franny's in Park Slope, particularly the bruchettas (anything with ricotta) and the other non-pizza items. Tuna Streak Don and Duck Soba at Sobaya also.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: hellobuddy

                          OP posted his Franny's review above...

                        2. While many on this board will disagree with me, IMVHO, the kitchen at Balthazar in the last 6 months has become top notch, both lunch and dinner.

                          -----
                          Balthazar
                          80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            hi Deluca...tell us what you've liked there recently...i had some very poor cooked dishes there a couple years ago, so i'd made it a place that i only go for oysters, salads, and frites (and only on weekday afternoons or late-late-at-night)...but would love to hear what they are cooking lately that's good...