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Coming to NYC and had a few questions about reservation systems and brunch/lunch

My wife and I are planning to grab a dining spot for lunch at EMP. I know that their reservation system opens at 28 days out inc. the current day. What I'm not sure of is if this is set in stone or could I luck out by calling them earlier?

What experience has the board had with EMP reservations and other well known an popular places?

What are some places that take reservations but don't require them (i.e. still a good idea)?

Lastly, if you had to eat brunch/lunch at just one of the following.. what would be your choice?

ABC Kitchen
The Breslin
Minetta Tavern
DB Bistro Moderne
Del Posto
Another option...

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  1. Places that have such policies tend to set them in stone (that's why they HAVE such policies). I've seen some such places make rare exceptions for future meals if you're actually in the restaurant, but almost never on the phone (OT, of course, is inflexible by design).

    Lastly, JG or Minetta Tavern, depending on your mood and preferences.

    1. From your list, I'd choose Jean Georges. However, Tocqueville is our favorite place for lunch on Saturday (not open on Sunday).


      14 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        Yes I follow uhockey's blog alot and saw you tagged along and so followed your blog and going down the favorite sweets (since I bake that is my thing). Btw I hope you had a great Pesach. Thats the last time I was in NY.

        Thanks to you and Sneakeater for your replies.

        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

          Thanks for letting me know that you've been reading my blog and for the Pesach wishes. I hope you had a "ziesen Pesach." :)


          1. re: RGR

            Yeah as actually in NY for it. For shame around great food but alas forbidden to have any. Got to see Newsies though..

            NY a never ending bucket list for food.

            1. re: uhockey

              Price and location is seeming to be the issue. I've created a map as a bucket list of sorts. We are doing EMP lunch on Thursday with rain in the forecast. We may try to go up to theatre district and get TKTS tickets before doing a dinner (maybe the Plaza Basement with lady M and Lukes lobster in them). The problem is that so many of the places I want to hit are in downtown and LWS and LES but otherwise we aren't going to be in that area. A little arm twisting may be in order. The places I'd like to get to are Dominique Ansel, Handcut Noodles, one of the Momofuku Milk Bar locations and maybe Yakitori Totto (which is just south of the park and now thankfully does take reservations). We hadn't planned to be in the city too early but given news that we'd be awaken each day at 8am that may change and if that is the case. I'd look into Balthazar, Buvette, Ceci Cela, . The lunch deals I know of or seen recommended are Del Posto and JG's. I won't be in town Saturday or Sunday as I'm going to New Brunswick, NJ for a wedding and trying to convince my SO that we should do a trip to Harold's Deli over in Edison for the experience alone. I'd also grab lunch at Parm or Otto since it is lower cost than Torrisi. It all just depends on where we are at eating times.. of course I could graze my way across the damn island. Thanks for the reply. I enjoy living vicariously through your blog.

              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                The problem that you have is that the New York dining scene is very much concentrated downtown (and in Brooklyn) at this point.

                1. re: Sneakeater

                  Ha! Unrelated to the post but... I just noticed you are the "Sneak" eater, and not the "Snake" eater. Enjoy your posts very much, I'm surprised I just noticed that. I was curious as to why you were apparently so keen on eating snake, what with your otherwise refined taste and all...

                  1. re: BrettLove

                    I have, in fact, eaten Snake. But I don't make a habit of it.

                    (Thanks, BTW.)

                2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                  Bouley's lunch is a deal, though it is certainly not in the theater district.

                  I'd skip Balthazar and focus on Buvette, Bosie, Cici Cela, and Dominique Ansel.

                  If you want an "experience," do Shopsins'


                  1. re: uhockey

                    Agreed on Bouley and Shopsins. Two of my favorites (even though obviously on totally different ends of the spectrum!).

                    1. re: uhockey

                      If we are in that area, I'll definitely try to convince my wife to give Shopsins a try. I hope I'm not someone who'd get thrown out. I'm definitely not the uppity or yuppy type. More laid back if not a bit indecisive having seen his menu items. I'm making Ansel my top choice just based on things he's doing and Cici Cela next if we are there. Trying to convince my wife that eating my way through is just as good a way of exploring it as going to its museums. That and well I'm trying to taste things I can't get here in the Southeast and also I bake so gaining an idea of how something should feel and taste helps too.

                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        In case you need to search for it, the place is called Ceci Cela and means "This and That."

                      1. re: kathryn

                        Thanks for the feedback. Still thinking we will be in the city more for lunch/snack and dinner times. Definitely no late nights for sure.

              2. I like Tocqueville as well. Jean Georges is also great.

                Also consider Bouley.

                1 Reply
                1. > What experience has the board had with EMP reservations and other well known an popular places?

                  For EMP, call exactly 28 days (aka 4 weeks) in advance, at **EXACTLY** 9am NYC time, while you are also refreshing OpenTable. They are very popular.

                  > What are some places that take reservations but don't require them (i.e. still a good idea)?

                  Many restaurants will take walk in customers in addition to reservations, and in fact, a good number of them set aside tables for walk-in customers in the main dining room. Often, though, the walk-in tables will not be as desirable or well-located, and you might have to wait to be seated... It really depends on what time you want to eat (is this flexible or set in stone?) and how long you're willing to wait for a seat.

                  Almost every restaurant in NYC will serve you food at the bar. In some cases this isn't the exact same menu as you would get at a table (i.e. a la carte vs prix fixe), but they won't deny you the ability to eat there if you want to sit at the bar.

                  > Lastly, if you had to eat brunch/lunch at just one of the following.. what would be your choice?

                  What day of the week? Do you want breakfast foods or lunch foods?

                  Are you willing to wait a bit for a table (like at the Breslin)?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: kathryn

                    No probably not going to want to wait. I mean I have no problem with doing great/cheap Asian like the supposed buns in Chinatown but my wife is somewhat particular about what she eats. She wants to do the EMP lunch so that is my first goal. I just like good food which is very broad but the names that I see tossed up regularly are what I"m curious about. I'd look into Txakito if they do a good lunch. I think between breakfast and lunch items we are looking more at the lunch side of things, but I'll go hogwild on pastries or baked items that are good.. Like I may not eat a proper breakfast but if I know I"m near X bakery.. I'll go to town. Plus it is about time I try a damn canele. The problem with postin on the board as it stands right now is I don't know where I'll be at any given time. Usually I let the place of dining dictate where I'll be and then find stuff aroudn there to check out.

                    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                      What days of the week will you be here?

                      EMP lunch is only weekdays, as is Del Posto's.

                      JG lunch is daily, with Sundays starting in a week or so.

                      Not sure db bistro moderne is worth going out of your way for for brunch/lunch.

                      Only go to The Breslin on a weekday if you don't like to wait.

                      ABC Kitchen and Minetta Tavern take reservations, I would highly recommend them to avoid a wait.

                      Minetta Tavern has the bonus of being able to go to Payard, Mille-Feuille, and/or Dominique Ansel before or after.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        For whatever it's worth, the Breslin is a hotel restaurant, which in turn means that they open earlier than many other places do for breakfast/brunch - 7 a.m. as opposed to the usual 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. If you get there on the earlier side, you can often get in without a wait... I live nearby and get in around 9 or even 10 without a wait on Saturdays and Sundays. If you're looking for more traditional lunch hours (or certainly for dinner), you may find yourself with more of a wait.

                        Totally off-topic but has anyone else had bad luck with their coffee? Last couple of times I've been there it's been chemically and almost undrinkable. I'm not all that particular about my coffee though I like a good cup, but theirs is so bad I'm tempted to skip coffee altogether and get something else.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Minetta is great for brunch and surprisingly easy to get reservations on OT. Their prime rib (although not bone-in) is incredible. I had a real gut busting brunch there earlier this year which started with their thick cut bacon, followed by the enormous prime rib that comes with delicious roasted carrots,onions, and mushrooms and the most delectable popover. Oh and I threw in a side of duck confit hash for good measure as well. That was one of the most delicious meals of my life and I waddled out of there a happy man.

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Unfortunately Minetta only does lunch on certain days which I won't be around to do.

                        2. Pardon if I digress for a moment, but I wonder if you ever took that trip to Spain that you were planning, and if so, if you ever wrote up your experiences here on CH. Thanks.


                          4 Replies
                          1. re: erica

                            Sorry yes I did go and I'll write up what I can remember over the weekend. Didn't mean to be rude.

                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              Thanks..I'd love to hear about where you ate and what you thought. I guess some of us got invested in those very long planning threads and wondered how you fared.

                              1. re: erica

                                Yeah I tend to ask a lot and then I go and then when I come back I'm worn out and mean to recap ASAP and it just kinda slides away as reality grabs on.

                                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                  Imagine if everyone here did asked a ton of questions, in your case receiving a virtual tutorial on eating in Spain, not to mention specific restaurant picks, and then never bothered to report back about their experiences. I guess you get my drift by now. Not in the spirit of what this board is about.

                          2. Has anyone eaten at Kyotofu or Brushstroke? Any other lunch deals I should know about? Feelings on baohaus or Golden Steamer for good cheap eats? X'ian Famous in Chinatown?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                              Xian Famous Foods is a small chain. I haven't tried any branch but St Marks, and I find it consistently excellent and highly recommend it.

                              I went to Kyotofu once and found their not-very-sweet desserts odd and overpriced for my taste.

                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                I personally love desserts at Kyotofu - especially the different anmitsu they change up every so often. I also love their miso chocolate cake, sweet tofu, soy milk soft serve, etc. I think they have some of best "Asian-influenced" desserts in town. I've never had any savory food though.

                                1. So it seems like The Breslin is going to be off the list given no reservations. Minetta may as well be taken off as it is only open for lunch Wed-Fri and Friday we will be doing things with the family and I'm looking to grab a spot for dinner at WD-50 (guess it is still good even with menu revamp) for Monday or Tuesday dinner.

                                  Good recs for lunch with 3 or 4? I'll keep JG in mind given their $30 +15 to add a course though what are some less upscale places that you like? Do any of the tapas places do a good lunch (i.e. txikito, casa mono, soccarat)? My wife won't do spicy (or mexican). Thus the reason I asked about X'ian. How about a Dim Sum rec (NOT in Flushing)? I guess Red Egg is always a possibility. Anyone have good experiences with Red Cat or Little Owl? I don't know that I'm tied to a location. I recall that Gramercy Tavern or USC use to have a good lunch deal. I am also well aware of 7th street area as a possibiity.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                    I'd do Casa Mono for lunch as their menu is the same all day. Txikito's lunch menu doesn't have a lot of variety compared to the dinner menu.

                                    Pearl Oyster Bar, Joseph Leonard, Spotted Pig, Momofuku Ssam, as well as the Breslin can be good for weekday lunch as the wait is typically much longer for dinner.

                                    Xian Famous Foods can be pretty spicy. Or at least strong tasting due to the cumin.

                                    For dim sum try Chinatown Brasserie (dim sum and Peking duck are the strongest dishes) or Red Farm (no reservations).

                                    What days of the week are you here?

                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      Good to know on all accounts. I'm more apt to hit up Milk Bar for some treat than Ssam but I can be tempted to be whimsical and waffle a bit.

                                      I'm in the city Thurs, Mon and Tues. Thursday lunch is secured at EMP. I'm toying with the idea of grabbing a dinner res at WD-50 but thats not set in stone. Other than that. I think we are usually open to ideas and most of the time, what we do is based entirely on where I want to food explore. Like maybe I want to check out Economy Candy (why I don't know)... well then I'll see whats nearby and choose a place or two or a bakery I've not touched yet. I do plan to try and hit Dominique Ansel's (though if it is overhyped I won't bother).

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        Along those lines who does best traditional Paella? My wife really e njoyed hers in Spain and if we are having one or two other join us for a lunch it may be a cost effective dining solution.

                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                          It doesn't get a lot of love here, but I like Soccarat for paella. I've never had it in Spain but its better than most places that serve it in NY. At least it comes in a proper pan with a crust instead of a giant pot that looks more like risotto. I'm not sure how economical it will be though. They charge by the serving size with a minimum order for two. Depending on how much you eat and the tapas you order, for four people, you could probably order a paella for 3.

                                          1. re: Bkeats

                                            I wanted to like Soccarat, I have been twice, but the food is so salty I had to keep drinking water the entire night! Never again.

                                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                        I think Xian is kind of pointless for people who don't like spicy food. I also found dinner at Red Cat to be merely good, overpriced, and a kind of anonymous buttery upscale cuisine. There will be those who argue that if we had only ordered their favorite dishes, we might have loved the place, and while they may be right, I don't expect to be back any time soon.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          FWIW, I agree with you completely about Red Cat.

                                          1. re: Sneakeater

                                            Thank you both. My wife also likes the restaurant Butter but outside of chefs who have eaten there the majority of reviews seems middling at best.

                                      3. Looking at Wd-50 new menu. What is the advantage of doing from the vault tasting menu vs. a la carte at the bar if I order 5 dishes? I'm getting what I want and coming out $5 ahead right?

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                          Basically yes. Except you can't reserve for the bar, so it's not like they are guaranteeing you a seat at a certain time. The bar isn't huge. And the vault is all their older/classic dishes.

                                          1. re: kathryn

                                            Yes, when we went a few weeks ago, we waited a couple of hours for the bar. (Although ended up at a table...)

                                        2. Anyone have recent experiences with Balthazar, Red Cat, Morgan Library, Parm, Hagi (I think it is a Sake Bar), Heidelburg, Eisenbergs or Mile End.. Looking primarily at a lunch. Though if they don't serve lunch a dinner option is possible.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                            Relatively recent, mediocre experience at Red Cat, but it was for dinner. Not so recent at Balthazar - Labor Day brunch (but, considering what I ate, more lunch, really) at least 2 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

                                            1. re: Pan

                                              There seems to be more than one Balthazar? Or maybe they have a separate bakery?

                                              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                Balthazar Bakery is next door to Balthazar the restaurant.

                                                1. re: kathryn

                                                  Ah that helps. Mapping out my list on google maps makes things a little confusing. I think I stunned my wife into silence with as many things that I put up there.. until I said that it is a to do list for the future not just this coming 2 days in the city.

                                          2. Alright so I've gotten back and suffice to say.. I didn't even get around to scratching the surface of places I'd like to eat or asked about mostly due to time and somewhat due to having a companion (my wife in this case).

                                            Here is the run down to the best of my memory

                                            Weds - Landed at LGA and was picked up en route to picking up dinner. Dinner for that evening would be a branch of Ben's Kosher Deli which I have no qualms with since you can't get half their stuff in my area of Carolina. I had a knish and a tongue sandwich.

                                            Thursday - small breakfast and then a train into the city to walk around Madison Sq. Park and watching the line at Shake Shack (where I had at least wanted to try something frozen). Knowing that EMP dining time was 90 mins away I sat down and just people watched. At EMP we did the 4 course lunch, which is probably one of the best bangs for the buck. Everything was very tasty and nicely presented. I'll post photos in a later post. Suffice to say a few other things we enjoyed about the meal were that we were seated next to each other facing outward (back toward the entrance) and the service was friendly and didn't hover over you like some other establishments. The natural light was wonderful too.

                                            Leaving EMP, I was still hoping to get a shake from the shack but the line hadn't dwindled at all and so I retired that notion and instead went with the more immediate gratifying Waffles and Dinges post just on the other side of the Flat Iron building. It was tasty and reminded me of the many waffle/ice cream stands that line Las Ramblas in Barcelona (of which I need to uphold my promise and write about on another thread). I had my waffle with speculoos and strawberries after being told that speculoos and maple syrup would be too similar.

                                            The evening plan was to hit up TKTS and see what was playing and choose from Once, One man 2 guvnors or Peter and The Starcatcher. After getting through the non-existent line, the decision was made to see 1 Man, 2 Guvnors. At this point, I wasn't extremely hungry and wanted to grab a snack from Momofuku Milkbar. However, the map I had created wrongly listed Ma Peche as Momofuku and we instead jaunted up to the recently redone Plaza Food Hall.. my wife made a small purchase at Sushi of Gari and didn't even finish it and I got the Taste of Maine plate from Luke's Lobster as well as Lady M Crepe Cake and a few macarons from Payard's. I really liked the Luke's Lobster rolls. They were all bright and clean tasting and not drowning in mayo. The Lady M crepe cake was a treat this one was chocolate and banana was it my favorite dessert ever? No but something worth trying. The macarons were a bit disappointing though as only one of them really had a great flavor and I had about 5.

                                            Friday - I had hoped to go into the city with the wife and meet the parents at our pre-arranged show, The Best Man. However, with a contractor coming every weekday by 8am.. we were a bit wiped and decided to just chill and make a day of running errands with FIL. I got two bowties out of it so I won't complain. We were going to try and do dinner at Marseilles but they were booked up and seemingly too far for my MIL to walk (she has plantar facitis) and so we would wind up returning to Blu Fin. This was the first restaurant in the city I had eaten with my in-laws way back around '07. It's not a bad restaurant at all considering it is in Theater District, but I seem to remember the menu being longer than what we had. Regardless, I went with a Gazpacho soup to start and then had their special which was a crispy skinned king salmon over a bouillabaisse with potatoes and mussels. I opted out of dessert there though shared my wife's sorbet trio and stated I was going to get a slice from Juniors which is exactly what I did.. a Strawberry Shortcake cheesecake to be exact. I must admit though that the chocolate chip cookies at Blue Fin looked great.

                                            Saturday and Sunday were spent in NJ. Saturday we headed out and to my luck was told that we could go to Harold's Deli in Edison after all due to the fact that the rehearsal dinner was going to be a very laid back affair with a fiesta theme and with Mexican food (which my wife will no touch.. in this case it was the faux mexican of Moe's). We arrived at Harold's noon and I was surprised by how crowded it was in the dining area but sans line outside. I had built up this moment having been once before and had forewarned my wife that we either get one item and share it (like most normal people) or we get our own thing and make a meal out of it for the next 2 days. We went the latter route mainly because I eat more meat than she does. I ordered up a pastrami reuben and since I knew she likes Kasha Varnishkes a side of that for us both. She ordered the Tuna Melt and when I said 'oookaayyy', she retorted 'how big could it be?' As we both made trips to their pickle bar and watched over items come out of the kitchen, I caught a glance of our server with my dish and told her 'here it comes' I think I saw her eyes roll into the back of my head and I'm almost sure a few expletives came out under her breath as she saw the monstrosity that was put before her. I gave her an 'I told you so' grin and went to work on getting through half my sandwich, which I did. She made it maybe 1/5 of the way through hers and we each had plenty of kasha before we made the smart decision to throw in the towel. We'd go at these items again on Sun and Tues.

                                            Sunday was the wedding and so there were no highlights as far as food. It was held at a place called Steakhouse 85 and that night we had some leftover from Harold's.

                                            Monday was our last day in the city . Originally I had planned for us to do the Tenement museum and then hit the tasty treats all around that area, but tours were too late in the day and I had friend I wanted to meet around 5pm and so we opted to visit the WTC memorial. That lead to us walking toward the water front and grabbing a snack at Cosi and me grabbing some goodies at Financier Patisserie (an opera cake and a florentine). I had thought it was Patisserie Bruno but once again the map lead me astray. I did however make the mistake of not checking the food trucks that were on the other side of the building as one of them was the TAIM truck which I was sorta upset at myself for missing. Oh well. We continued walking past Rockefeller park and the piers on our way toward 7th Avenue. I was trying to convince my wife to stop by L'Arte Gelato but she was like you just had pastries.. since when is that an excuse? In any case, we walked by Payard's store.. on Houston if I recall and I go a hazelnut roule. We then started heading toward Greenwich in order to go to Le Pain Quotidien to pick up the Brunette spread for coworker (why I have no idea). Getting late we hopped a train to times sq and met my friend who corrected my wife about no Broadway shows on Mondays and to her delight we scored Peter and the Starcatcher tickets and wound up eating at TreColori right next to the theater. The meal there was fine and nothing to exclaim about but it was casual and fun and we had bar seats. That essentially was my trip to NY food wise. I wish I had more to exclaim about but maybe that will be the case the next time.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                              > Leaving EMP, I was still hoping to get a shake from the shack but the line hadn't dwindled at all

                                              At some of the other Shake Shack locations (but not Madison Sq Park), I believe you can get shakes in the separate "C" line.

                                              > However, the map I had created wrongly listed Ma Peche as Momofuku

                                              I'm confused by this statement. Momofuku Milk Bar is connected to Ma Peche; you actually have to pass through Milk Bar to get to the Ma Peche host station.

                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                I thought you could do that at MSP as well. I always used to go up to the "B" line and order a concrete to split with my fiance while we waited in the line, but have been gone for 9 months so things might have changed.

                                                1. re: nmprisons

                                                  Pretty sure it's concretes yes, shakes no in the B line at Madison Square Park. Never been clear on the distinction but that's been reason enough to always get a concrete and never a shake when I've visited.

                                                  1. re: nmprisons

                                                    Couldn't tell there was just one long line from what I could see that started at the stand and made its way toward the Flatiron building. No worries I can get several similar products here compared to the waffles stand.

                                                  2. re: kathryn

                                                    ....I was going to say the same thing.

                                                    And...wow...I'm glad my plans worked out better on my visit.


                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                      I'm glad that you reported back. Thank you, and better luck next time.

                                                      Look forward to the report about the Spanish trip!

                                                    2. re: kathryn

                                                      So it listed momofuku milk bar as being on Columbus but the point was on something like 50 something street just a few blocks south of The Plaza. I didn't realize that momofuku milk bar was in the same location. Oh well there will be another time.

                                                    3. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                      Loved your description of Harolds. We go there sometimes and the huge servings always leave me speechless. The desserts are humongous.

                                                      1. re: Riverman500

                                                        This was only the 2nd time I had been there. Out of the way for most of us but the rehearsal dinner was to be "tex-mex" and my wife won't go near any sort of Mexican type food and so she made the agreement to go to Harolds. I was gitty to see the look on her face. She ordered a tuna melt and thought how big could it be... I told her.. alllrighty and it was just funny to see her expression.

                                                      2. re: burgeoningfoodie

                                                        Nicely detailed report. Sorry that you missed out on some anticipated food experiences.

                                                        We haven't been to Steakhouse 85 in quite a long time. But the food was always excellent when we went, so I hope it was for the wedding dinner.


                                                        1. re: RGR

                                                          It was small past items and carving station. It was a very small.. if not unique wedding. Now to grab the photos off my wife's camera.