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May 25, 2011 09:31 PM

obscure picks for West Coast hound

Sorry, I know it's high season for tourists, but I've got a short list in need of your expertise plus a few odd requests.

I'll be visiting from San Francisco in June. Usually I stay with cousins in Brooklyn, but this time I'm staying in a cubby hole at the Jane and then in SoHo. Working near Grand Central; so midtown takeout lunches are likely.

I've scoured Serious Eats and the Voice and kathryn's and RGR's amazing posts for ideas. Also I was born in Flushing and have visited many times, so no need to start with Katz's and DiFara.

Random short list for your review:
Luke's Lobster, Momofuku Milk Bar, Coppelia, Scarpetta (worth it? I snagged a Sunday reservation), Nom Wah (the first place I had dim sum, a million years ago), Essa Bagel, Cafe Sabarsky, Gazala Place, Taam Tov, Pier 9, bisous, ciao, Xian Famous Foods, Takashi?

Any musts or obvious cuts?

Coming from the West Coast, I'm less interested in Asian, Mexican, coffee, and pizza.

But I would love recs for:
* Greek (diner or home style)
* Caribbean or West Indies
* Eastern European or old school Jewish
* great vegetarian for dinner with my boss. Was thinking HanGawi or their teahouse, or the Mandoo Bar.

Points for healthy options: I'm not looking for a week of pork belly and donuts so Shake Shack is out. And places I can enjoy on my own: open kitchens or comfortable bar seating with an interesting crowd.

My dinner budget's probably $50 before tax and tip, but I can go higher once or twice. Snacks and carts are great. I probably won't get many sit-down lunches.

BTW Where in Midtown can you get a rare roast beef sandwich, maybe with cole slaw and Russian dressing on a roll? No cheese, no grilled onions or ciabatta, just an old-fashioned deli classic.

Thanks for all and any opinions. A full report when I return.

Cafe Sabarsky
1048 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

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

12 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016

Mandoo Bar
2 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

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

Pier 9
802 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

207 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011

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  1. Completely forgot about Mile End. Is there a Quebec explosion? Poutine on lots of menus.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      I dont know if i'd call it an explosion but i do feel like poutine is considerably more present here than the bay area (where i grew up). Mile end's rendition is excellent, they start with very good fries, well seasoned gravy and they get that just-right texture on the curds (ive never gotten the version with smoked meat on as well, i prefer to eat my smoked meat straight/just with mustard)

      there a place on the lower east side that "specializes" in poutine (i think its called t poutine - but ive never been and cant say i remember any glowing reports).

      1. re: tex.s.toast

        That sounds amazing; will see if the Brooklyn cousins will cooperate. Although kind of amusing to get excited about cheese curds.

        DeFonte's sounds great too, and reasonably convenient. Thanks!

        1. re: Windy

          I would rate Mile End as totally worth it if your cousins are into it - ive had very positive experiences with the smoked meat (though not in a couple months) and the other dinner items ive tried including a chicken prep, tongue appetizer, soups and slaw have all been really strong. And of course the poutine.

        2. re: tex.s.toast

          T Poutine closed around a year ago. I never tried it either (and wasn't the only one). ...

          T Poutine
          168 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

        3. re: Windy

          Mile End is completely worth the trip, and Atlantic Avenue is nice for browsing antique stories.

          You might consider Margon for a Cuban Sandwich.

          I'll also second Defonte's as having a rep for some of the best house made roast beef sandwiches, but if you need it dripping blood, then one of the locations of Garden of Eden (a specialty market) is an option for locals. It's obscure as a tourist/visitor suggestion. The Bay Area has more options for simple well made deli meat sandwiches in all honesty. New York is now a place where it's easier to get porchetta, or all lettuce, or goat meat in a sandwich.

          136 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036

          Garden of Eden
          7 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

          1. re: sugartoof

            It's comparatively easy to find porchetta in San Francisco too. But all the roast beef is Boar's Head :(

            1. re: Windy

              Boar's Head originated in the New York area, so it's hard to get away from it.

              Even with the legendary delis, finding one that cures and cooks their own meats is tough.

        4. Luke's Lobster, Momofuku Milk Bar, and Cafe Sabarsky are great choices. For dessert, I'd also recommend the Modern Bar Room and Lady M, and perhaps Kyotofu and Spot if you like modern Japanese sweets (though this might be duplicative of what you have in SF).

          Scarpetta is wonderful, though no longer unique to NYC since the restaurant has opened branches in several cities, including Beverly Hills.

          Kefi is a good for mid-priced Greek food.

          Hangawi, Francia, and Mandoo Bar are fine Korean restaurants, but are you also considering other cuisines for your vegetarian boss?

          FWIW, a couple of Bay Area foodie friends visited NYC recently, and their favorites were Ma Peche, Modern Bar Room, and Babbo (along with Marea and Per Se, which admittedly don't fall within your stated price range).

          Per Se
          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          705 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

          110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

          The Modern
          9 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019

          Cafe Sabarsky
          1048 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028

          Mandoo Bar
          2 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001

          505 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024

          12 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016

          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

          Luke's Lobster
          93 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

          Ma Peche
          15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019

          Spot Dessert Bar
          13 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

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

          3 Replies
          1. re: fm1963

            Thanks for the additions fm. I'll check out the menus and locations; thank goodness everything's open late.

            I hadn't heard of Modern Bar Room or Lady M, and just saw a note for Kefi on another thread. Not sure if we have modern Japanese sweets in San Francisco; the places I can think of for mochi and tea are quite old-fashioned.

            And I eat everything. My boss is an easygoing vegetarian; so I imagine our midtown lunches will be takeout from Middle Eastern carts, assorted sandwiches, and maybe Murray Hill Indian.

            I've been looking for an excuse to go to Hangawi for a long time, although the menu at Francia seems just as appealing.

            505 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024

            1. re: Windy

              The Bar Room at the Modern is their front room, which is more casual than the formal dining room. It serves small plates and is a la carte. The Modern's web site is here:


              1. re: kathryn

                Thanks for the link. The Modern looks too formal for this trip.

                Do they still have the cafe on the ground floor by the sculpture court? My grandmother loved going there and admiring the Henry Moores.

          2. Not in midtown but a roast beef sandwich worth investigating is at DeFonte's, a brooklyn institution with a location on 21st and 3rd. All of their sandwiches are legit, but they are known for the roast beef, fresh motz and fried eggplant, but its just as good without the extra toppings. Also highly recommend the pepper and egg hero.

            Defonte's Sandwich Shop
            261 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010

            1. I second HanGawi.

              For Greek, I'd recommend Avra Estaiatorio, not far from Grand Central on 48th. Doesn't get mentioned much here, but seafood there is great.

              12 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016

              141 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017

              1 Reply
              1. re: Elizabeth E.

                Great looking menu. I really miss Greek food.

              2. You might want to add on Pearl Oyster Bar if you're looking for bar seating and a different take on the lobster roll. BTW Luke's has a roving truck now, too, as does the Red Hook Lobster Pound.

                Scarpetta is a definite yes.

                If you're interested in macarons, Boise Tea Parlor is new and very good, and also boasts an alum from Ladurée.

                Even if you're not interested in coffee, you might want to try the "buzzed" (caffeinated) frozen yogurt from the Joyride Truck.

                I believe Isaan Thai food is less common in SF so you might want to try Zabb Elee.

                Working near Grand Central you're not terribly far from Sarge's or 2nd Avenue Deli's new location.

                No fried chicken, burgers, steaks, gastropub, BBQ, or American comfort food (like Blue Ribbon or Prune), then?

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

                Sarge's Delicatessen
                548 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016

                Second Avenue Deli
                162 E 33rd St, New York, NY 10016

                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                Bosie Tea Parlor
                10 Morton St, New York, NY 10014

                Zabb Elee
                75 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck
                New York, New York, NY 10001

                2 Replies
                1. re: kathryn

                  Thanks! How can I miss the Joyride Truck? Maybe we can order lunch from 2nd Avenue Deli.

                  Is the Sweets truck still around? I remember getting amazing blondies and raspberry bars a few years ago, at a street fair by LaMama.

                  I think I've been to Pearl Oyster Bar. Yes, fried chicken, burgers, steaks, and comfort food are well represented here, as are pizza and macarons (but what's a beautiful cookie or two?). There's even finally great pastrami on the West Coast, although it's in Portland.

                  In the past, I've found Thai and Laotian food much better in California than in NY; glad to know that's improving. Better in LA than here.

                  But lobster rolls and Greek food...I can't wait.

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

                  1. re: Windy

                    The "Street Sweets" truck renamed itself Sweetery a little while ago:

                    There's also the a bunch of other dessert trucks around:

                    I should also mention that the Joyride truck also carries Ceci-Cela croissants, Danny's macaroons (the coconut kind), and some interesting creations with espresso & MarieBelle chocolate.

                    55 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

                    484 Broome St, New York, NY 10013