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Solo traveler in search of casual (pizza/bakery, etc.) and regular dining recommendations

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Sorry for the almost vague question, tried my best to word it right and get everything in there. This is my first post on Chowhound (long-time browser) and next week I will be going to NYC for the 3rd time. I am staying on the UWS and for 5 nights/6 days, so plenty of time to eat at a bunch of good places.

I did some searching on the board and found a ton of recommendations, but still wanted to create a question based on my factors. Almost anywhere in Manhattan is fine, I'm not limited ... and price isn't really a concern, as long as it's not something outrageous.

In my first 2 trips to NYC last year, I ate at some good places so I have a few in mind, but this time I'm looking to have a somewhat clearer view of my dining itenerary. I don't feel as if my eating selection was very organized last time around.

As I said, I will be traveling by myself. And I might be living here soon enough. I won't be wearing anything too fancy, just a presentable look of jeans/good t-shirt. I'm not opposed to eating at some sit-down restaurants, as long as I wouldn't feel too uncomfortable. I saw that some of these recommendations have bar areas to dine at.

Mostly what I'm looking for is delis, bakeries, pizza shops, etc. That's up my alley. Diners also. Where do I begin? I suppose I would be best served by just discovering on-the-go, but knowing the can't-miss places would help. I have a somewhat basic knowledge already having been here before.

I am going to eat at the Oyster Bar. Am I best served making a reservation ASAP?

To narrow it down, some of my favorite areas and places I'll be in the most are the Union Square area, UWS (Morningside Heights also), Battery Park, and a few other neighborhoods. But open to anywhere.

Thanks, hope I came through clear enough.

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  1. -Seems lots of good-food places now have for customer eating a narrow ledge counter or high seats w/ tiny table (presumably to discourage long-term sitting), so think if this would be sufficiently relaxing and maybe ask posers about it.
    -example UWS: Grandaisy - bakery with distinctive "pizzas" sort of flatbread w/ zucchini, potato, baked goods, good coffees; sleek interior, crowded non-table seating.

    -----
    Grandaisy Bakery
    176 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023

    1. Hi PDFierro! Welcome. A few quick questions:

      1. Where have you eaten before and which places were your favorite?
      2. Your dress code should be fine although I might consider bringing a single button down shirt and/or a jacket. Sometimes my husband will wear his "cool" jeans with a button down just to be a little fancier.
      3. Do you already have any must-visits on your itinerary, outside of Grand Central Oyster Bar?

      For deli:
      Katz's(pastrami) and 2nd Avenue (matzoh balls, chicken in a pot) are my favorites. Sarge's is good, too.
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/2145...
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/708591

      For bakeries: I find it's highly dependent upon what you're looking for as many bakeries can be hit or miss. Are you looking for bread like items or sweet items?

      Sullivan St or Pain d'Avignon for baguettes. See also:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/780158

      Grandaisy or Sullivan St for Roman style pizza (more like a flatbread served room temperature). MIlle-Feuille for croissants.
      Bosie Tea Parlor for macarons.
      Doughnut Plant for cake doughnuts.
      Amy's Bread for cake.
      Butter Lane, Two Little Red Hens, or Sage (sold at Dean & Deluca) for cupcakes.
      City Bakery for pretzel croissants, peanut butter cookies (for some reasons the other cookies aren't as good), and their baker's muffin (made out of leftovers from other items).
      Bouchon Bakery for TKOs and bouchons.
      'wichcraft for sticky buns.
      Balthazar for their chocolate bread, fruit foccacia, canelle, and sticky buns.

      See also:
      http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2011/0...
      http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2011/0...

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

      Two Little Red Hens
      1652 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028

      Sullivan Street Bakery
      533 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036

      Bouchon Bakery
      10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

      Grand Central Oyster Bar
      89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

      City Bakery
      3 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

      Doughnut Plant
      379 Grand St, New York, NY 10002

      Balthazar
      80 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

      'wichcraft
      269 11th Ave, New York, NY 10001

      'wichcraft
      11 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018

      Grandaisy Bakery
      73 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

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

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

      Amy's Bread
      75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

      Amy's Bread
      250 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

      Butter Lane
      123 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

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

      Pain D'Avignon
      120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

      Doughnut Plant
      220 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011

      Mille-feuille
      552 LaGuardia Pl, New York, NY 10012

      1. As for PIZZA! Your first challenge will be deciding if you want slices or pies. Naples style places will have pies small enough for 1 diner. Other places, not so much.

        Really, it depends what you're looking for: gas oven style, coal oven style, Naples style? A slice? A pie? IMO, Grimaldi's is actually not as good as other places in town (too soggy/wet). Takeout? Sit down? Or is standing up OK with you?

        There are a few distinct styles of round pizza found in NYC: New York style (gas-oven), Neopolitan style, and a hybrid style of the two (usually coal oven). And Di Fara is kind of out there, Dom at Di Fara is definitely doing his own thing with the olive oil drizzle and multiple kinds of cheeses and lots of fresh basil. Then to throw another wrench into things, some places are known more for square pies (like Artichoke).

        Note that lot of famous places like John's of Bleecker, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are pies only. John's, Grimaldi's, and Lombardi's are famous, a bit touristy (and most likely suffer from inconsistent oven temperature and oversaucing), and I think some newcomers are kicking their butts lately. Keste has a lot of hype but I found the crust to be too soft and dense. I don't mind a chewy or slightly wet pie, but this was overkill.

        My favorites in Manhattan are:

        Motorino in the East Village (pies only, but they do takeout and delivery now too but only to a very very limited range). Neopolitan style. Tasty, beautifully charred crust. Very flavorful. Light, airy. Really nice service. Love their spicy soppressata pie (what pepperoni aspires to be) as well as the white pie. The sausage with crimini mushrooms is excellent. The brussels sprouts one with pancetta is no slouch either. Make sure you ask for the specials of the day, too. For example, during weekend lunch, they do one with egg on it! There's a Brooklyn branch, too, but it recently closed due to structural problems with the building.

        John's of Bleecker (pies only, takeout, coal oven). A classic in NYC and rightly so. Try not to go on weekends or busy nights, when there's a line, as I find they undercook the pie. But if you go: ask for at most a single topping, and ask for your pie to be WELL DONE. The crust is slightly thicker than others but they get a really nice char on the bottom when well done. My favorite topping there is their green bell peppers -- I think they must marinate them in something. SKIP THE TIMES SQUARE LOCATION.

        Patsy's of East Harlem (117th street location only, pies and slices, there is a dining room and takeout area). Coal oven. A NY classic. Their toppings aren't that great but when the crust is good, it's heavenly. It's much less nouveau/hip than the other two options I listed above. SKIP ALL OTHER PATSY'S LOCATIONS.

        For slices:

        Artichoke (I recommend the square slice only, takeout only). Tasty, they are from Staten Island, but I feel like they are kind of doing their own thing since the crust is VERY thick for NY pizza. DON'T get the artichoke slice or regular slice. Repeat: DON'T get the artichoke or regular slice. Please. And they have no seating or atmosphere to speak of. It's a slice joint, really. Lots of drunk fans late at night who eat on the street standing up. It can be hit or miss dependent upon which location you go to.

        Joe's. Slice joint. Not as good as their previous location on Bleecker and Carmine, as they have moved down the street to Carmine. I think they are very hit or miss, but when they're on, it's pretty damn tasty. I like a slice with fresh mozzarella. Though right now, I do think that Best Pizza in Williamsburg is the better slice joint. You might want to try South Brooklyn Pizza (now in the EV and WV) as that is supposed to be one of the best in town right now as well.

        My favorites outside Manhattan are Di Fara and Totonno's Coney Island. Look them up on the Outer Boroughs board.

        Di Fara is extraordinarily popular/chaotic/there is no line system/also no AC in the summer and who knows if Dom will actually be open over the New Year (he's an old man who makes ALL the pies himself and has sometimes odd hours). IF you go, AND they're open, show up first thing when they open (noon...ish), and guard your place in line carefully. If you're lucky, you get to witness a line fight as a regular who lives in the neighborhood tries to cut.

        Totonno's is more organized as it's a much bigger restaurant with table service, but they tend to close early. What I love about the crust is that you get that classic NY large pie and the crust is both fluffy in the center and crispy on the outside. Really nice texture. But it's pretty far from Manhattan. SKIP the other Totonno's locations except the Coney Island one.

        Other pies:

        In Brooklyn, Lucali is quite highly rated (I haven't tried yet). Roberta's pizza is excellent but the waits can be very long and the other cooked food isn't quite as good at dinner (haven't tried brunch yet). Wonderfully creative toppings, though. Franny's is good, too. More traditional toppings but the crust is a bit too thin sometimes (though that pizza bianca is great), but the flavor of the crust is quite good, but frankly the apps/pastas are better than some of the pies there (no offense to Franny's, I really do like it there, but the appetizers, pastas, and sides can outshine the pies). So I love Franny's but for more of a well-rounded meal. The pie is good but not as good as others. I've also tried Forcella which does a very interesting and tasty deep-fried pizza!

        In Manhattan, there's also Co. aka "Company" (pies only, no takeout). Neopolitan-ish style with nouveau toppings, similar to Mozza in LA but less broad/puffy crust. My last meal there was only OK, I think they are inconsistent dependent upon when the head chef Lahey is there (he's a baker known for Sullivan Street Bakery and a no-knead bread recipe you may have seen in the New York Times). And I think they try to rush you in and out.

        There's a new place in the West Village called 900 Degrees that is doing interesting pies like a tomato pie (very sauce heavy) and an American style pie (think an upscale Domino's, very cheese heavy). I wasn't impressed by newcomer Veloce either (too heavy/buttery, gets too soggy too quickly). Luzzo's is pretty good, but I always felt it needed to be a little more well-done and needed some more salt/flavor in the crust, but they have a new spot in Chelsea that's supposedly really good. Arturo's is nice but I find their crust a little too thick, and the bottom a bit too charred, but my husband really loves it (I think it's because they put some herbs in the sauce that remind him of his childhood place -- anise, I believe). I also didn't include Otto or the Vezzo/Spunto/etc. family in here because their pie is way too crispy/crackery for my taste.

        TL;DR? Go to Motorino, John's of Bleecker. Maybe South Brooklyn Pizza or Joe's for a slice or up to Patsy's of East Harlem. In the other Boroughs: Totonno's in Coney Island, Di Fara (but research so you know what to expect).

        See also:
        http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...
        http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

        -----
        Sullivan Street Bakery
        533 W 47th St, New York, NY 10036

        Luzzo's
        211 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

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

        South Brooklyn Pizza
        122 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009

        Grimaldi's
        47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

        900 Degrees
        29 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014

        1. Unless I missed it no one answered your question about The Oyster Bar @ Grand Central:

          it's best to sit at the Oyster Bar. No reservation needed. Keep it simple. Order a variety of oysters and some type of chowder and you will be thrilled.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Motosport

            I appreciate all the tips, I was worried my question would be too vague or I wouldn't be coming through clear enough. I realize most questions are more specific, but I am looking to cover a broad range of dining here.

            I will answer the questions and provide more info.

            1. Where have you eaten before and which places were your favorite?
            I ate at so many pizza places I forgot some of the names. Nothing I did too much research on, but I would like to hit Lombardi's this time. Only that you have to order a whole pie, but I'm a big eater.

            Bouchon Bakery was mentioned, I went there and Tom's Restaurant by Columbia. And some others that aren't coming to my head right now.

            3. Do you already have any must-visits on your itinerary, outside of Grand Central Oyster Bar?

            No other must-visits I don't think, but a lot of 'oh yeah, I'm going to eat there for sure' places. I have a good idea of some places I'm going to eat at maybe, but looking to hear of places I'm not really familiar with. Mainly some diners come to mind on my list as maybes, such as Persching Square Cafe and some places in Union Square. I just researched a bunch of places that sound like a yes.

            For bakeries: more into sweet items, but like bread also. I'm trying to start working in a bakery soon, so eating at quality NYC bakeries is a must.

            Really, it depends what you're looking for: gas oven style, coal oven style, Naples style? A slice? A pie? IMO, Grimaldi's is actually not as good as other places in town (too soggy/wet). Takeout? Sit down? Or is standing up OK with you?

            Standing up places are more than fine. There is this wonderful hot dog place in Chicago where that's the only option. I love all kinds of pizza, but my favorites (other than the typical style) would be sicillian and wood fired.

            Good to know about not needing a reservation at the Oyster Bar. I thought I did, but only if you get a table? I'd be fine eating at the bar for a weekday lunch?

            My only disappointment with my prior trips to NYC was that I didn't even scratch the surface of the food options the city has to offer. I'm looking for this trip to be well-planned in that aspect. I suppose the best thing to do is start making a list and narrow it down by category and such and then for the sit-down type of places such as Oyster Bar, figure out a day/time for those. Instead of having all these maybe places in my head, given that my options here are limitless. It would be easy to get overwhelmed.

            -----
            Bouchon Bakery
            10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

            Grand Central Oyster Bar
            89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

            Grimaldi's
            47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

            1. re: PDFierro

              Skip Pershing, it's nothing special.

              1. re: PDFierro

                > I ate at so many pizza places I forgot some of the names. Nothing I did too much research
                > on, but I would like to hit Lombardi's this time. Only that you have to order a whole pie, but I'm
                > a big eater.

                It's worth a try but just to keep your expectations in check: I find Lombardi's pies to often be on the wet and under-cooked side, so I've given up on them. If you go perhaps ask for less cheese and sauce than usual and/or for it to be well done. There's also probably a bit too much cheese and sauce than the crust can handle. I'm not sure it's worth the wait for a tourist but your mileage may vary.

            2. You mention you might be living here soon... if that is the case I would recommend that you take the time to check out some of the markets such as:

              Fairway and Zabar's (both on UWS)

              Union Square Green Market

              Trader Joe's (locations in UWS, Union Square and Chelsea)

              Kalustyan's (an excellent spice market on Lexington Ave in the upper 20s)

              East Village Cheese (3rd ave just north of St. Mark's)

              -----
              Kalustyan's
              123 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

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

              Zabar's
              2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

              Fairway Market
              2127 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

              East Village Cheese
              40 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003

              Trader Joe's
              142 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

              Trader Joe's
              675 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

              Trader Joe's
              2075 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

              5 Replies
              1. re: iluvcookies

                I absolutely loved the Union Square Green Market, but thanks for letting me about the others. I love markets.

                1. re: PDFierro

                  If you're on the UWS, there are other (much smaller) greenmarkets as well, if you want a quick stop. Check out locations here: http://www.grownyc.org/ourmarkets .

                  I agree that a stop at Fairway and Zabar's is always fun. And Fairway has a pretty good cafe upstairs as well.

                  -----
                  Zabar's
                  2245 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

                  Fairway Market
                  2127 Broadway, New York, NY 10023

                  1. re: PDFierro

                    You might also like Eataly and Chelsea Market.

                    Also look into New Amsterdam Market to see if it's going on while you're here:
                    http://www.newamsterdammarket.org/

                    There's also Hester St Fair and Smorgasburg but those focus more on prepared foods:
                    http://www.brooklynflea.com/smorgasburg/ - over 100+ food vendors every Saturday in Williamsburg
                    http://www.hesterstreetfair.com/ - mix of other items and food

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

                    New Amsterdam Market
                    South St Peck Slip, New York, NY 10038

                    1. re: kathryn

                      I'm here Wednesday-Monday of next week, so New Amsterdam Market looks interesting.

                      Any recommendations on delis outside the usual suspects? I ate at Charlys and that was good for the type of deli it was.

                      All these suggestions have helped greatly, now I have a better idea.

                      -----
                      Charly's
                      110 Trinity Pl, New York, NY 10006

                      New Amsterdam Market
                      South St Peck Slip, New York, NY 10038

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Just a quick trip report here, I didn't even make it to the Oyster Bar and a few other places because of the hurricane. A little disappointed that I couldn't make it to some of the places I wanted to go to, but I was satisfied and your suggestions most certainly helped with dining on my trip. Ate at a more variety of places before.

                        For bakeries, made it to Grandaisy and Bouchon. Pizza ... Motorino and Inatesso in Battery Park. And a few other slice joints. Motorino was good. Shake Shack, and a few others that were on this list.

                        Would have liked to have gone to New Amsterdam Market and a few others, but I will be here again this year. So next time for the places I missed.

                        -----
                        Bouchon Bakery
                        10 Columbus Cir, New York, NY 10019

                        Grandaisy Bakery
                        176 W 72nd St, New York, NY 10023

                        Inatteso
                        28 West St, New York, NY 10006

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