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Looking for budget conscious, but great-tasting non-intimidating options for eating alone in lower Manhattan/midtown.

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Hello fellow foodies across the atlantic! I would so appreciate your advice to enjoy every morsel of the big Apple during my upcoming trip. I like strong, clean flavours, i would love to taste, in no particular order of priority, your finest recommendations for:
Hot chocolate and cupcakes in a friendly café
Hamburger in an authentic diner
Mexican
Thai, sechuan or other spicy ethnic
Hot dogs
Breakfast with great maybe organic ingredients
Off the beaten track & quirky
Food with a view

I'll be staying for 4 days in the Bowery.

Do you recommend food tours?

Thanks in advance & bon appétit,

Foodie in france

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  1. Hi there!

    Hot chocolate or cupcakes is easier than hot chocolate and cupcakes - many of the places that are known for hot chocolate (Jacques Torres, City Bakery) don't do cupcakes. Cupcakes are undergoing a bit of a backlash now...avoid Crumbs and Magnolia (both are popular and produce pretty cupcakes, but can be dry and inconsistent - I work across from Crumbs and although they are creative in flavors, the cake itself is not great). I think that Sugar Sweet Sunshine is good and near where you are staying, and would also have hot chocolate; also, Cakeshop (a music place on the Lower East Side, not too far from where you'll be staying) carries Robicelli's Cupcakes (the maker is located in Brooklyn but supplies some stores in Manhattan - very interesting, unique flavors). Also, Buttercup Bakery has very good cupcakes, but is located in Midtown East. AMy's Bread has several branches in Manhattan, and also has good cupcakes.

    Breakfast: Sit-down: Peels (on the Bowery), Bubby's (in Tribeca) - Southern style breakfasts (Peels in particular has excellent pastries); Prune; Locanda Verde

    Breakfast - quick: Abraco (coffee and baked goods); Tarallucci e Vino

    Mexican: Itzocan Cafe; Mayahuel (tequila bar, with food, no seating); Casa Mezcal.

    As a note: I dine out alone very frequently, and waitstaff are typically very cordial; I think they see many solo dinners and I've never been made to feel strange about it. At worst, you may be seated at the bar if it's very very busy, but that's typically my preference anyway, especially if it overlooks the kitchen.

    -----
    Jacques Torres
    350 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

    Magnolia Bakery
    401 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

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

    Tarallucci e Vino
    163 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

    Bubby's Pie Co.
    120 Hudson St, New York, NY 10013

    Amy's Bread
    672 9th Ave, New York, NY 10036

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

    Itzocan Cafe
    438 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009

    Buttercup Bake Shop
    973 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10022

    Sugar Sweet Sunshine
    126 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

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

    Cake Shop
    152 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002

    Mayahuel
    304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

    Locanda Verde
    377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

    Peels
    325 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

    Casa Mezcal
    86 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

    2 Replies
    1. re: firni

      Thank you firni for these great suggestions and for reassuring me about eating alone! I will take your advice & split the hot chocolate& cupcake tastings.

      1. re: firni

        I had Buttercup Bakery cupcakes a while ago and thought they were really bad: crumbly, dry, chalky. No one at the party I was attending wanted them. They were from the now-closed 72nd St shop though.

        Mayahuel has seats. Not sure what you mean by that. Both booths and barstools downstairs, and a wraparound banquette upstairs.

        -----
        Mayahuel
        304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003

      2. > Hot chocolate and cupcakes in a friendly café

        The best hot chocolate I've had in NYC is actually flown in FROM France at La Maison du Chocolate! Although City Bakery is also quite good (and you can get a giant marshmallow with it). I would avoid MarieBelle, 'wichcraft, Vosges, as they are not as good as La Maison and City Bakery. Grom also has hot chocolate though I've not tried it yet.

        Also a lot of hot chocolate here is make with milk and will probably seem too milky/weak if you are used to European style.

        Agree that you need to go to separate places to find hot chocolate vs cupcakes.

        2nd Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Also if you walk to Dean & Deluca in Soho, they carry Sage American Kitchen cupcakes, which are quite tasty. I also like the stuffed cupcakes at 'wichcraft (closest to you would probably be the 8th and Broadway location). They are more reminiscent of a hostess cupcake. I also like the cupcakes at Butter Lane in the East Village -- they use a lot of organic ingredients.

        > Hamburger in an authentic diner

        The best burgers these days not served in diners, unfortunately. What matters more to you, the burger, or the location it is served in? Veselka does a good burger, and it is more of an upscale diner, but again, it's not the best of the best in the city. You'll find those more in restaurants these days (BBQ, steakhouse, etc).

        Shake Shack might be interesting to you as it is upscale American fast food, and their burger is a thin patty with special sauce.

        Maybe go to Williamsburg and try the burger at Diner, where you get to eat inside an old dining car?

        > Mexican

        Hecho en Dumbo is very close to where you're staying (interior Mexican, nicer), as is Pinche Taqueria (takeout/count service, taco focused).

        I like Itzocan but it's French-Mexican more than traditional Mexican.

        Also Tacos Morelos has a truck in the East Village.

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

        > Thai, sechuan or other spicy ethnic

        Zabb Elee is nearby and serves excellent Issan style Thai food.

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/774798

        Grand Sichuan St Marks is also very close: order the wontons in red oil, cumin beef, dan dan noodles. The tea duck is good as are the soup dumplings, but neither is terribly spicy.

        See also Legend and Szechuan Gourmet for excellent Sichuan in Manhattan.

        > Hot dogs

        You'll be pretty close to Crif Dogs. They are New Jersey style deep fried (without batter) hot dogs.

        > Food with a view

        Good food with a view is going to cost you quite a bit of money. You're better off paying for Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building observatory decks, and going elsewhere to eat. Especially if you're on a budget!

        > Breakfast with great maybe organic ingredients

        Not sure about the organic ingredients part but we do some GREAT breakfast & brunch here.

        None of it is super expensive but it can add up if you're not careful. Not sure what your exact budget is.
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8093...

        > Off the beaten track & quirky

        Since you're from London, why not also focus on uniquely New York or uniquely American foods?

        Only in NY type foods: bagels and smoked salmon, classic coal-fired NY-Neopolitan hybrid style pizza, pastrami on rye, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts.

        How about American cuisines like Southern or BBQ? How about New England style lobster rolls? Or huge American style breakfasts? These foods might be fun and interesting for you to have while in the US.

        I might look into Pies 'n' Thighs, the Redhead, Blue Smoke, Hill Country, Pearl Oyster Bar, Luke's Lobster, in addition to classic NY places like Russ & Daughters, Katz's Deli, John's of Bleecker, brunch places like Locanda Verde, Shopsin's, Clinton St Baking Co., or Minetta Tavern, and obscurer Asian places like Takashi, Zabb Elee, Xian Famous Foods, etc.

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

        I highly recommend RGR's self guided Lower East Side Gustatory tour but sub in Pickle Guys for Guss' Pickles and note that Economy Candy's address is incorrect:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/493333

        2 Day NYC Tour focusing on eating, please help with suggestions...
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/809852

        Restaurant Advice for 2 day trip to NYC
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8050...

        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

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

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

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

        Pickle Guys
        49 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

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

        Vosges Haut-Chocolat
        132 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

        Shopsin's General Store
        120 Essex St, New York, NY 10002

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

        Minetta Tavern
        113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

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

        La Maison du Chocolat
        30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10020

        Veselka
        144 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

        'wichcraft
        60 E 8th St, New York, NY 10003

        Szechuan Gourmet
        21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

        Grand Sichuan
        23 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

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

        Blue Smoke
        116 East 27th Street, New York, NY 10016

        MarieBelle
        484 Broome St, New York, NY 10013

        Itzocan Cafe
        438 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009

        Sugar Sweet Sunshine
        126 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

        Pinche Taqueria
        227 Mott St, New York, NY 10012

        Crif Dogs
        113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009

        Economy Candy
        108 Rivington St, New York, NY 10002

        Grom
        233 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

        The Redhead
        349 E 13th St, New York, NY 10003

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

        Locanda Verde
        377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

        Clinton Street Baking Co.
        4 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002

        Xi'an Famous Foods
        81 St. Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

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

        Hecho en Dumbo
        354 Bowery, New York, NY 10012

        Takashi
        456 Hudson St, New York, NY 10011

        Legend
        88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

        Tacos Morelos
        2nd Street and Avenue A, New York, NY 10009

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

        1 Reply
        1. re: kathryn

          Thank you Kathryn for all these excellent suggestions & links. I can't wait to try these!

        2. hecho en dumbo is great but if you're looking for something on the cheaper end i would definitely try pinche taqueria (i recommend the carnitas tacos). it's more of a takeout place but there are places to sit.

          xi'an famous foods is cheap, spicy, and delicious.

          crif dogs for hot dogs.

          breakfast: maybe do peels? you can sit at the counter, so you won't feel uncomfortable being alone. same for locanda verde. i personally prefer locanda verde but i think peels is cheaper.

          there are frequently a number of solo diners at these places and i've eaten at the majority of them alone and never felt uncomfortable. then again i'm not entirely sure i know what you mean by budget conscious so these might be a little more lowbrow than you're looking for.

          1 Reply
          1. re: morisaur

            Hello morisaur, cheap & good, and as lowbrow as you like are fine by me, i may live in France, but i am no food snob & hate places where the staff or customers are too snooty.