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Oct 2, 2011 03:46 PM

First NYC visit freak out - going to Midtown; need help

This board and NYC seem overwhelming. We will be staying 6 nights at the southern edge of Central Park. There are 4 people and I am the real chowhound but all 4 of us like good food though ideas about what is good varies as do adventure levels. A major focus will be the usual art museums, some shopping and at least a couple Broadway/off Broadway shows. I need some guidelines to search the site so I can ask decent questions. Cost is not a real issue but I can do with my spouse complaining about prices at every meal. Thanks

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  1. Can you give us a LITTLE more detail?

    Do you like fancy or casual?

    You write "adventure level varies" - ummm, from what to what?

    Where are you from, and what's good there? If we know what's good in your hometown, we'll recommend other stuff.

    How much time do you want to spend eating?

    Is there any cuisine you are looking forward to exploring a little?

    Do you want recs for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or all three?

    Are you wine-lovers?

    "Cost is not a real issue" - well that's a BIG range in Manhattan. Shall we presume you don't want $500 per person meals?

    6 Replies
    1. re: plf515

      More details:

      Casual better. My wife does not like raw fish, my son is not big on vegetables; none of us are big on offal. Asian options are fine. We live in northern California and eat in Monterey, San Francisco and Sonoma wine country frequently. (So I like Passionfish near Monterey, Boulevard in San Francisco and Syrah in Santa Rosa).Time duration is not a huge factor and we can eat late since 10 PM east coast is 7 PM west coast. We would like some "only in NYC" options like the local pizza style and the Druze place I saw. Lunch and dinner are main interests. 2 of 4 are interested in wine. I don't mind 1 or 2 nights at $100 for food/person hopefully with a reasonably priced winelist to buy a bottle or two to share.

      1. re: Tom Hall

        OK, there's a huge amount of material here on pizza. Searching will find it. I happen to like Patsy's Pizza.

        Another probably "only in NY" or "better in NY" idea is smoked fish, usually a brunch thing. If you are going to the Museum of Natural History, then Barney Greengrass isn't too far, and on a weekday is relatively relaxed. Or, if you are headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it's across town on the M86 bus, or a walk of about a mile. I'd suggest getting a big platter of mixed stuff and sharing (my own favorite is sable).

        If it's nice when you visit, you can go to Russ and Daughters and order some stuff, but AFAIK they have no seating.

        Delis are another "NY thing". There have been multiple threads on delis.

        Since you have limited time in NY, and are from the west coast, I'd probably skip anything Asian - we have some differences, but probably not worth it to you, unless you are seeking a particular kind of Chinese that we have and you don't (not sure what that could be).

        Barney Greengrass
        541 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

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

        1. re: plf515

          I like Patsy's, too, but especially for out-of-towners, we have to clarify that we (i.e., I presume you, too) mean only the genuine Patsy's in East Harlem. I've never been to any of the other ones, which merely pay to franchise the name, but I certainly can't vouch for their quality.

          Patsy's Pizzeria
          2287 1st Ave, New York, NY 10035

        2. re: Tom Hall

          > Lunch and dinner are main interests.

          Brunch (every day not just Sunday) is a big NYC thing.

          > I don't mind 1 or 2 nights at $100 for food/person hopefully with a reasonably priced winelist to buy a bottle or two to share.

          You can eat very well at under $100pp here, sometimes even well under that.

          Only in NY foods:

          Best bagels in NYC:

          Summary: the freshest bagels are the best; bagels don't age well at all.

          I'm fond of red onion, capers, regular cream cheese, and tomato on mine. Try a few smoked salmons before you settle on one, they're surprisingly different (and lox is not the same as smoked salmon, because lox is salmon cured in salt brine, and most people actually prefer the more modern, Nova-style smoked salmon). You can get a mini-sized bagel sandwich at Russ & Daughters, too, if you wish. Takeout only.

          Best breakfast/brunch in NYC:

          It is (IMO) at the Breslin, Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., or Minetta Tavern.

          Best pizza:

          Really, it depends what you're looking for: gas oven style, coal oven style, Naples style? A slice? A pie? Takeout? Sit down? Or is standing up OK with you?

          There are a few distinct styles of round pizza found in NYC: New York gas-oven style, Neopolitan style, and a hybrid style of the two that is also unique to New York (usually coal oven). 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. Hard to make a recommendation without knowing what you're looking for: whole pies or slices, gas oven vs. coal oven.

          If you are limiting yourself to only Manhattan, my favorites, agnostic of oven type:

          John's of Bleecker, if you ask for it well done. Get it plain or with one topping, max. I'm partial to their green peppers. This is classic coal-fired NY-Neopolitan hybrid style pie. They do sometimes undercook/under char it, though. Whole pies only.

          Motorino for Naples style. Delicious but not really historically "New York" style. Crimini and sausage, spicy soppressata, or whatever their special pie is. Wonderful crust, quality toppings. Whole pies only.

          For both you may have to wait in line. I have also enjoyed Patsy's in East Harlem (coal oven) in the past but it is a bit far uptown dependent upon where you are starting from, and I've not been very recently. Whole pies OR slices if you want.

          South Brooklyn Pizza or Joe's for a slice (gas oven). Joe's is a bit less crisp/more chewy and on the more cheesy sied and has a more uniform appearance. South Brooklyn is more crispy and has an interesting cheese blend (mozzarella, grana padano, and fontina) with fresh basil, and the cheese and sauce are more scattered, which you usually don't see at slice joints.

          Here is my list of what I consider to be 'unique' to NYC: in addition to pizza, bagels, and brunch, you can try Xian (Chinese) food, Issan (Thai) food, organic/local/sustainable Japanese BBQ, authentic Basque (Spanish) tapas, creative diner food, pretzels, hot dogs, halal carts, steak, high end Italian, Italian subs, creative Italian-American, high end non-sushi Japanese, creative desserts...

          Some restaurateurs & chefs who are very "New York"-y are also worth a look: Danny Meyer, Mario Batali, David Chang, April Bloomfield, etc.

          Much will depend upon your budget, if you can afford, say WD-50 or Takashi (which has great non-offal dishes too though many focus on the offal there I love the kalbi, ribeye, etc), vs. Zabb Elee or Xi'an Famous Foods.

          But you can easily balance out the more expensive meals w/ cheap eats.

          50 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002

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

          Minetta Tavern
          113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

          Locanda Verde
          377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

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

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

          349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

          47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

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

          Percy's Pizza
          190 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10012

          1. re: kathryn

            Never had east coast pizza and have been advised that the left/west coast is the wrong coast for pizza so I probably need to try all kinds but it is a fact that coal cooked pizza is not available anywhere in the west half of the country.

      2. New to the Manhattan Board? Read This First

        Don't freak out!

        I think you first need to decide:
        - what museums you want to visit (The Met Museum of Art, Natural History, MoMA, others?
        )- where you want to go shopping (Rock Center vs 5th Ave vs Soho vs Macy's/Herald Square)
        - what shows you wish to see (will they all be in Midtown?)

        Then once you do that, make some decisions.

        Figure out how much you want to pay (ballpark the line where your spouse will start complaining - is it $20pp? $40pp? $80pp).

        And decide what cuisines you want to focus on. American? Italian? Mexican? Chinese? Etc.

        Once you know location, price range, and cuisines, it's much easier to narrow things down. Also try to plot areas on a Google Map or something to organize your thoughts.

        Some common tourist inquiries:

        Near MoMA:

        Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and Whitney and Guggenheim, ish):

        Near the American Museum of Natural History:

        Near Macy's/Herald Square:


        5th Avenue shopping:


        2 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          THAT is an amazing and helpful post. Many, many thanks.

          1. re: kathryn

            Agreed. Thank you for the list! Outstanding info!

          2. I like Blue Ribbon Sushi (which has plenty that is not sushi) and that is at 308 W 58, facing the Time Warner building. Also near where you are staying, a Pain Quotidian, always handy for breakfast or lunch, just south of CPS on 7th Avenue.
            Study one of those sites reviewing food carts -

            Blue Ribbon Sushi
            119 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012

            1. I'm but a visitor to NYC, and I'd say it can be overwhelming first time out. I'd say its like making love for the first time - something you'll remember, but something you can't quite re-create 100% afterwards. So, freak-out or not, savor and enjoy.

              With that said, just 2c from a dumbass visitor.
              Make a rough plan; choose a few lunches and a few dinners where you really want to go. This gives at least some basis of structure and helps keep the freak-out demons at bay. Remember its a *rough* plan - you might get to all your places, maybe not, but it allows for "free" time and just winging it, which is plenty fun too (you might have the most memorable evenings from a joint thats off the radar. Going in without preconceived notions is highly intoxicating as opposed to, say, expecting the meal of your life at Babbo only to be let down a bit. But I'm just saying. And don't get me wrong - ifn you can eat at Babbo, do so).

              Not far from your place is Salumeria Rosi. Small plates of in-house Italian charcuterie. I really liked this place.

              If in the neighbourhood, stop in Grand Central Station, take in the sights, stop in Grand Central Station Oyster Bar for snacks (oysters/chowder) or lunch. A great visit, but not really worth a full blown dinner.

              Pizza. Different styles and everyone has their favorites. After reading about the various landmarks, narrow it down and see how your plans run out. Just a suggestion - take a cab, or even better, a subway ride just into Brooklyn to Grimaldis under the Brooklyn Bridge. Enjoy a pie and walk back to Manhattan on the bridge. Its a pizza destination wrapped up in a tourist adventure (weather dependent of course).

              Lower East Side.
              Theres an old thread about a walking culinary tour of LES somewhere on Chow. Interesting and informative. Whether you follow the guide or not, a leisurly walk through Chelsea, the Villages, Soho, Little Italy, and Chinatown (all or seperately) is really worth the effort.

              Times Square/theater district.
              Daytime: be prepared to be amazed.
              Nightime: be prepared to be enchanted.
              Food/drink wise, its hard to find good stuff here, but there are gems amid the fluff. Your first instinct might be not to care where you eat, you just want to be near the vibe of Times Square. This may lead you to spend BIG bucks at Bubba Gump or Hardrock. Perhaps more interesting is a couple of blocks west to 8th or 9th streets in Hells Kitchen. Also quite a few Irish joints for cheaper drinks here.
              Maybe read-up on this section of town so you have a backup to Bubba Gump....
              Speaking of which "Thats about all I have to say on that..."

              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

              Salumeria Rosi
              283 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023

              47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

              13 Replies
              1. re: porker

                You give some terrific advice (except I don't see the charm or reason to be in Times Square). The Oyster Bar for lunch is a very good idea.

                1. re: serious

                  I dunno, perhaps if I lived there, maybe I'd be jaded about Times Square.

                  I do live a stones throw from a pretty large town, travelled a bit, but I find theres something about Times Square thats different. Maybe its growing up with Times Square as a backdrop to so many nostalgic movies, maybe its seeing the ball drop every new years on TV, maybe its listening to Letterman's intro as "The crossroads of the world", maybe its seeing the landmark theaters and other buildings in the area.

                  All these things, and more, make it somewhat famous and tend to attract visitors.

                  I feel that on one hand it can be the epitome of NY, but on the other, its not NY at all, but really only a manmade disneyland, pulled from the depths of 1970s despair.

                  I admit that I *wanted* to be jaded about Times Square as I first stepped foot there, not too many years ago. Knowing it has some of the highest tourist numbers in the country and perhaps the world made my skin crawl.

                  "Its too cliche, and with this many tourists in one place? We ain't staying long, maybe a quick stop, see the sights, then off to more quintessential NY experiences for me, baby..."

                  But the throng of so many (and different) people is weirdly attractive, seeing the theaters is a nice thing, the lights impressive, the feel of frenetic energy ...

                  True, as a food destination, it has a lot to be desired, but as a visitor, I had to have my fill of sights and sounds (I still like to drop into Jimmy's Corner bar when in the neighborhood). Living 6 hours away, I have the "luxury" of visiting a few times a year. We don't spend much time there now (we had our fill some time ago), perhaps a stroll before going to the theater or so.

                  A visitor from California might not have the ability to visit too often, but like me, maybe will want to stick around Times Square for a bit, taking in the sights and sounds. This was the reason for my words in my post above (perhaps a subtle type of warning): sure Times Square can be enthralling, but if you don't have lots of time, take it for what it is and go on to more interesting food (and perhaps New Yorkish) destinations.

                  Thats my take on it anyhow... )

                  Jimmy's Corner
                  140 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

                  1. re: porker

                    I know this thread is at danger of going off topic, but Times Square while perhaps a NY experience is not NY. Its totally artificial and packed full on non-NYers. Most NYers will avoid the area if at all possible and if there, will move through as quickly as possible. I’ve had the misfortune of working in the area for several years and I get out of there as quickly as possible after work. Tap the shoulder of a random person in Times Square and ask where they live. Heavy odds that it isn’t NYC. It was at least more real when its was full of peep shows and bars.

                    Please don’t send anyone to Grimaldi’s. It’s a tourist trap now. Loved the place when it was called Patsy’s and you would be greeted by Patsy Grimaldi when you came in. He knew the regulars. The he lost the legal battle on naming rights, changed the name and sold the place and its never been the same. Much better pizza in the city. If you want to eat by the bridge, there are better options without the wait.

                    1. re: Bkeats

                      "...Times Square while perhaps a NY experience is not NY. Its totally artificial and packed full on non-NYers....Tap the shoulder of a random person in Times Square and ask where they live. Heavy odds that it isn’t NYC. It was at least more real when its was full of peep shows and bars."

                      - I thought thats what I said...

                      Thanks for the tip on Grimaldis.

                      47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

                      1. re: Bkeats

                        I think it's perfectly natural that first-time visitors to NYC want to see Times Square. As fooder said above, it is the backdrop of so many movies, television shows, what NYC means and looks like to most people. I know most visitors I've had want to visit and have fun taking photos and whatnot. So what? I took a picture at Piccadilly Circus when I first went to London. What locals like to do and what tourists like to do are different. I've never been to Empire State Building or Ellis Island, but I'm sure most tourists like to do those things.

                        Sticking to the discussion of chow though - NEVER EAT IN TIMES SQUARE!

                          1. re: porker

                            Ha, ha, ha... Sorry, it was getting late!

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          I never thought I'd be defending Times Square (especially because part of me dies inside when I realize a tourist doesn't ever know to leave that area and experience uptown and downtown or the outer boroughs), but Times Square is one part of NY, just like every other neighborhood is one part of NY. It's certainly a unique experience that can't be had in too many other places. Also, just because it's not full of NYers doesn't mean it's not "real NY". Part of what makes the city is that it attracts so many visitors, so I think they're part of NY, too. When I have to go there now, I try to make the best of it by looking at all the tourists experiencing the sensory overload and remembering when I first moved to NY and was overwhelmed in a good way by all of it. Sort of nostalgic for me.

                          1. re: MiriamWoodstock

                            Nicely put.
                            Hey Tom Hall, didja go yet? How was it? Freak or non-freak?
                            Curious hounds want to know.

                          2. re: porker

                            funny story (I think) i had a friend visiting from Fla and we spent a couple of hours waiting on line for TKTS early in the day and as we prepared for the way home, she said the one thing she'd really like to experience would be times square! BTW TKTS is smack in the middle of times square!

                            1. re: betsydiver

                              Do you mean she was in times square, but didn't realize it?

                        2. re: porker

                          You mean 8th or 9th Avs. 8th St., of course, is not in Hell's Kitchen at all. And I would amend your point by saying that if you're staying near Times Square (which I would generally not recommend), it's best to walk to 9th or 10th Avs.; 8th Av. is not far enough west to get out of Tourist Trap Land.

                        3. Not sure you need advice on shows but Memphis if fabulous, Jersey boys and war Horse are all good. For brunch Normas in the Peninsula is unusually good and not touristy like sarabeths. I'm from Jersey and for seafood The Redeye Grill never disapoints.For a splurge Grammercy tavern is my all time favorite. Always special.

                          Redeye Grill
                          890 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10019

                          118 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: brisman

                            Norma's is in the Parker Meridien Hotel, not the Peninsula. I enjoy the food, but it's not everyone's cup of tea.

                            118 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019