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Jan 23, 2012 01:44 PM

Toronto Foodie Visits Manhattan - Recommendations Please!

Hi All,

My BF and I are visiting Manhattan in early March, and are looking for some dining suggestions. While we don't have our hotel booked yet, we're happy to travel anywhere that's a reasonable cab ride from the centre of the city.

I'm looking for suggestions for any meal (brunch/breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, etc). Our favourite types of cuisine include fusion, steak, Italian, gastropubs, pizza, etc. Our budget for dinner is preferably < $100 per person including tax and tip, but are open to spending more for any "once in a lifetime" meals.

Additionally, I found this deal on OpenTable which would allow us to get a 30% discount off our meal:

Would you recommend us checking out any of these? (The only one I've been to is Kittichai, which I found to be quite enjoyable overall.


Thanks so much in advance - if you're ever in need of Toronto suggestions, I'm happy to return the favour :)

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  1. Nothing really jumps out to me from that OpenTable list, especially as I assume you're not in town for very long. For your trip. I would recommend you focus on things that are either unique to NY, feel very New York-y, or that you can't find in Toronto.

    Only in NY type foods: bagels and smoked salmon, pastrami on rye, hot dogs & papaya juice, black and white cookies, cheesecake, egg creams, pickles, halal carts.

    Are you interested in street food, too? 

    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.

    IIRC Toronto has pretty good Asian food. BUT we have some of the harder to find Chinese cuisines: Shaanxi (Xian Famous Foods) and Fuzhou in Manhattan, and many more in Queens and Brooklyn (Shangdong/Qingdao, Henan, and Dongbei to name a few).

    Most of these are easy on the wallet, too, which is nice.

    My favorite unique places in NY serve Xian (Chinese) food, Issan (Thai) food, organic/local/sustainable Japanese BBQ, authentic Basque (Spanish) tapas, creative diner food, pretzels, hot dogs, halal food, steak, upscale rustic Italian, Italian subs, creative Italian-American, high end non-sushi Japanese (like kaiseki), creative desserts, molecular gastronomy, mixology/creative cocktails, and upscale brunches (brunch is served every day here, sometimes even for dinner).

    My favorites are here:

    Of course I'd skip Scarpetta as there's one in Toronto now.

    Also I'm not sure what is available in Toronto, but do you have good Southern food? BBQ? How about New England style lobster rolls? 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, etc.

    Don't leave NY without eating these foods

    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:

    2 Day NYC Tour focusing on eating, please help with suggestions...

    Restaurant Advice for 2 day trip to NYC

    For non-Western European/American

    Foreign Street Grub

    totally obscure, odd, and intriguing menu items

    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

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

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

    Minetta Tavern
    113 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012

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

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

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

    32 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

    328 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003

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

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

    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

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

    349 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003

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

    47 W 20th St, New York, NY 10010

    5 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Wow, thank you SO much for all of your recommendations, I truly appreciate it. We will go through your list and build our itinerary from there. :) I forgot to mention that we're both big sushi fans, so if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!

      Thanks again.

      1. re: team_eater

        If you're thinking a proper sushi omakase at the sushi bar, your options will be limited only by your budget. What are you thinking of spending, per person, before tax, tip, wine/drinks?

        1. re: kathryn

          I'm not sure if we want to do omakase or a la carte - we're open to either option. I'd like to stay within the $100/pp range but if it's a bit more for an exceptional meal, then that's not a problem at all. (I just don't want to be spending $500 per meal.) We hear a lot about Nobu up here, is it worth the hype?

          BTW do you know if there's a list somewhere of NYC Michelin star restos? I'd love to check out a few.

          1. re: team_eater

            I would trust the New York Times' restaurant reviews more than Michelin, which hasn't been in NYC very long.

            Nobu is a chain and known more for their cooked dishes; I'd try to go somewhere with more of a local feel.

            105 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013

      2. re: kathryn

        thanks kathryn! (researching for a far-off trip).

      3. Sho Shaun Hergatt at 30% off is the best deal on that site, I think. It will still push your budget if you drink a bunch, but would be worth it.

        SHO Shaun Hergatt
        40 Broad St, New York, NY 10004

        1 Reply
        1. re: nmprisons

          Thanks, it looks great! Do you know if they have an a la carte menu or it is just tasting menus? I've noticed that a lot of NYC restos only offer the latter, whereas in Toronto, tasting menus are few and far between.

        2. The Opentable list is just linking to - but oddly, some of the restaurants on Savored aren't on the Opentable list. I'd say go directly to Savored if you were to want to book one of those, there'll be more resto options.

          Of the Savored choices - SHO Shaun Hergatt and Aquavit are both excellent, for fancier fine-dining kinds of places. They're good deals even at full price - $89 for 4 (Aquavit) or 5 (SHO) courses, and both have been excellent of late. Note that many courses at SHO carry a supplement, though, and unfortunately they never list those supps on their website. They'd probably break the $100 barrier once you included wine, but not by much depending how much you drink - the booze is also discounted, so you could certain work a couple glasses of wine in.

          As to other non-Savored places...

          For Italian, have lunch (weekdays only) at Del Posto. It's an astounding deal given the quality of the food - $29 for three courses, or for and extra $10 you can add a pasta course to make it a "proper" Italian meal of four courses. Between the amuses, mignardaises, and bread service (which is almost a course of it's own) for $39 you're getting a heck of a meal.

          Also for lunch, check out the all-duck lunch at Momofuku Ssam Bar. The duck over rice is amazing, especially slathered in the ginger-scallion duck fat sauce they leave at the table. There are number of other duck-centric dishes worth trying as well, but one of the ones to be sure to get is the DOR.

          Xi'an Famous Foods is a can't miss. They have a few locations - the two in Chinatown are probably the least busy. You'll find no lack of gushing love for Xi'an on these boards. It's not like any Chinese food you've had before - it's Western Chinese, a completely different flavor profile than Cantonese or Szechuan or your more familiar types. Heavy on cumin and spice, with lamb and pork being the main proteins, the food is cheap and delicious. The "burgers" are wonderful, spicy braised lamb on sweet-ish rolls, kind of like Portuguese bread, and the hand-pulled noodles (with a number of different toppings) are excellent.

          For brunch on the weekends, one of the best (and most creative) in town is at Public, one of the few "fusion" restaurants where the fusion really works. He's doing some really creative takes on traditional brunch fare - i.e. tea-smoked salmon with yuzu hollandaise, a smashing venison burger with a miso-glazed bun, and (if you're the sort who can handle it) blood pudding waffles with foie gras butter. All pretty reasonably priced, too. Public is also a great place for dinner, doing similar adventurous fare - entrees are all under $30, IIRC.

          I generally don't recommend visitors do steakhouses here. at least not if they're coming from another large city. While we have a couple good ones - Keen's and Peter Luger's, of course - it's not exactly something showing any creative chef's flair. The ambience may be "only in NYC" - but a well-cooked steak is not something you can only get in NYC. Perhaps they're marginally better than any in Toronto, but I wouldn't use my limited dining $$ on it.

          65 E 55th St, New York, NY 10022

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

          Momofuku Ssam Bar
          207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

          Del Posto
          85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

          210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012

          SHO Shaun Hergatt
          40 Broad St, New York, NY 10004

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

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

          Xi'an Famous Foods
          67 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

          7 Replies
          1. re: sgordon

            Aquavit looks interesting! We definitely don't have any Nordic restaurants in Toronto that I know of. Those are good prices for tasting menus...and the 30% off doesn't hurt either. :)

            There's a Momofuku opening up in Toronto in a few months, so perhaps I'll wait and try it then.

            Thanks for all your suggestions. I never would have thought about trying Chinese in NYC since we have an abundance of it here, but now I think I might! :D

            1. re: team_eater

              You've got an abundance of excellent Cantonese. We have an abundance of all the other cuisines. Soup dumplings, hand pulled noodles w/ cumin scented lamb, etc. We also have lots of PR & DR food that's hard to find in T.O.

              1. re: GoodGravy

                Not xiaolong bao. Where's there an abundance of good ones?

                1. re: Pan

                  In Manhattan? I like the xlb at Shanghai Cafe although I've heard there are better ones. Search CH for your options. In Toronto, I still don't know where to get good xlb.

                  Shanghai Cafe
                  100 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                  1. re: GoodGravy

                    I'm a New Yorker, Good Gravy. I've tried the various Shanghainese places in Manhattan's Chinatown, and I have yet to have any really good xlb at any of them.

                    1. re: Pan

                      I thought you meant there wasn't any xlb in Toronto. Anyways, what I meant was there's other Chinese cuisines here besides Cantonese. And I like some of the xlb places here. I didn't say it was really good, just that I liked it. If you find a place that's really good let us know.

                      1. re: GoodGravy

                        Oh, certainly. But I think I'll have to go to the much-loved Shanghainese place in Flushing for that purpose. In Manhattan, I usually stick to Sichuan, Cantonese, and Xian-style.

          2. Go to St. Marks Pl for the yakitori places (Oh Taisho & Yakitori Taisho), Japadog, and some other places that aren't available in Toronto. Actually, that whole neighborhood has some places you won't find in Toronto like Chikalicious, This Little Piggy, NYC's Porchetta, Pommes Frites, Paul's da Burger Joint (bigger than Burger's Priest burgers), Xi'an Famous Noodles, etc.

            Pommes Frites
            123 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

            Yakitori Taisho
            5 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

            Oh! Taisho
            9 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

            131 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

            203 E 10th St, New York, NY 10003

            110 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

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

            This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef
            149 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

            30 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

            4 Replies
            1. re: GoodGravy

              Thanks for all the suggestions, I appreciate it! I'm impressed that you know about Burger's Priest too :)

              1. re: team_eater

                I find the quality of the St Marks yakitori places to be only OK.

                Skip Pommes Frites -- they need better quality control. Good sauces but sometimes you get a pile of French fry stumps. They're also cut slightly too thick for my preference. If you're really into fries, it's better to go somewhere like The Breslin, whose thrice fried fries are much tastier.

                Never went back to Paul's after a dry burger. Eh.

                Also unless you can't get a good burger in Toronto, I'm not sure I'd spend the stomach space.

                Pommes Frites
                123 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                131 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

                1. re: kathryn

                  Other than maybe BP, Moe's and Goodys, you really can't get a good burger in Toronto. Also, Toronto doesn't have any yakitori places so the scene around the St. Marks area is novel.

                  1. re: GoodGravy

                    I guess that explains why my Toronto friends always insist on going to Shake Shack. Sightseeing at Madison Square Park + burgers all in one go.

                    I'd still recommend Yakitori Totto over the St Marks places, although a stroll down St Marks itself can be fun.

                    Yakitori Totto
                    251 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

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

            2. Please consider my advice. You and your BF should purchase 7 day unlimited metro cards and use the subway to get around instead of cabs. It is a way to get a real feel for the city and you will save a crazy amount of money. You like steak? Go to Peter Luger in Brooklyn. Italian? Go to Esca and order 2 pastas. They will split them into half portions for you and BF and serve them in 2 courses. Its awesome. And the bread is so great too.

              402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

              3 Replies
              1. re: AubWah

                That's a great suggestion about the metro cards, I assume we can get them at any of the subway stations? I'll check out the restaurants you recommended as well - I like the idea of the splitting the pastas. :) Thanks!

                1. re: team_eater

                  At the risk of transgressing chows food-only rules, yes, you can get a metrocard from a machine (or booth) at any subway station - but not necessarily at every entrance to every station (at smaller stations some entrances may not have machines or 24 hour booths - this will be noted on the sign at the top of the stairs).

                  1. re: tex.s.toast

                    Also, the metrocard doesn't have the bizarre rules the TTC metropass has. To keep it food related, If you find yourself transferring from the F at Broadway-Lafayette St. to the 6 at Spring St., stop in at Pinche Taqueria for a taco or two.

                    Pinche Taqueria
                    333 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012