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Jun 13, 2012 12:08 PM

NY Food Itinerary - Do you Agree?

Im coming in town for 2 nights for my 30th birthday and after some research I have planned the following. For foodies, do you agree with the choices, or have any other input?

Friday Dinner- Buddakan
Wanted asian influenced, trendy hot spot with good food

Saturday Brunch - Cafe Mogadar

Saturday Dinner - Mercer Kitchen

Sunday brunch - Lavo

Sunday Dinner - Spotted Pig

Do you feel any of these should be replaced?

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  1. I think it's interesting that you have two of what I'd consider the worst major restaurants in New York on your list: Mercer Kitchen and Lavo.

    Replace Mercer Kitchen with, I don't know, ABC Kitchen (if you're intent on staying in the Vongerichten organization). Or The Dutch if you want to eat in a cool place in Soho.

    If you're going to Lavo for the food and not just to be in the presence of drunken douchebagettes dancing on the banquettes -- and believe me, I understand that has its appeal to some -- replace it with, well, ANYTHING. Brunch at Balthazar is really good. Or better yet, from my perspective -- I'm incapable of writing a post without recommending it -- Minetta Tavern.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Sneakeater

      Wow, ok - good to know...Sometimes you can't trust people's opinions! So here were some other options, would you replace with any of these? Please add more!! Just want to stay away from pre-fixed menus, but want the more popular places, but they HAVE to have to great food!
      Beauty&Essex, Extra Virgin, WD-50, Spice Market

      1. re: tampa eater

        I'd give WD-50 my highest recommendation. I'd advise against Spice Market (which IMO hasn't been good for years). Beauty & Essex is fine -- although it's past its highest cool point. Extra Virgin isn't bad, but there are dozens of places in its price range that are MUCH better. (Dell'anima, just to pick one at random.)

          1. re: tampa eater

            I agree that the food at Lavo is really bad. But you should know that the "trendy" nightclub is a separate entrance. So if you are in the restaurant or bar area, you have to wait on a separate line and try to get into the club. Not the easiest place to get into. As far as your other choices, Buddakan I think is a good choice, make sure you have a reservation.

        1. It occurs to me that the ideal replacement for Mercer Kitchen -- IF YOU CAN GET A RESERVATION -- is Acme. It's what Mercer Kitchen was when it opened years ago -- and more.

          Get to work on that right away!

          When are you coming?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Sneakeater

            I am now rethinking every place on the list! I am coming July 20th - July 22nd so a little time for reservations...One dinner will now be WD-50, need two brunch spots and two dinner spots. Sundays dinner can be more casual versus trendy. Staying around Flatiron district, but will travel anywhere for dinner 40s and below. What would be the best area for Friday night for the birthday dinner then drinks closeby afterwards. Same thing for Saturday a good restaurant/area for dinner then somewhere nearby for good drinks.

            1. re: tampa eater

              I really DO think you'd like Acme (IF you can get a reservation). Plenty of places to drink in the East Village, which is the next neighborhood over. (Actually, Acme is a GREAT place to drink as well.)

              A place I'm loving these days for dinner is Empellon Cocina, which is sort of inauthentic modern Mexican (I know that makes it sound bad -- but imagine it's being done by a genius chef, and you can see why it's actually kind of great). That's IN the East Village, so near lots of good places to drink. (It's also a good place to drink itself.)

              I'd say you HAVE to try Minetta Tavern, either for brunch or dinner (another very tough reservation, though -- for dinner, best thing to do is to try to walk in, late [like 10 or later]).

              Otherwise for brunch, I'm far from a brunch expert, but really like the brunch at Maialino (which also has the advantage of being fairly near where you're staying). It isn't particularly cool, though, if that matters to you. People also say good things about the brunch at Loconda Verde.

              1. re: Sneakeater

                Getting a reservation at Minetta Tavern for brunch is actually and pleasantly quite easy.

              2. re: tampa eater

                Cocktails within a few blocks of Acme:
                Saxon and Parole's bar - restaurant bar
                Madame Geneva - small list, though, and all gin based
                Peel's bar - restaurant, note that it has 2 floors and there's a bar on each floor
                The Daily - small cocktail list that changes daily
                Experimental Cocktail Club - newly opened

                Second the recommendation of Empellon Cocina. Excellent, creative, modern Mexican, from a chef who used to be at Alinea and WD-50. Great cocktails as well, as Sneakeater mentioned. All tequila and mezcal based, with some esoteric ingredients. If you like spicy cocktails you'll also be pleased.

                Empellon Cocina has a bonus in that Death & Co is literally one block away, it is one of the best cocktail bars in the city. D&C doesn't take reservations -- it is first come, first served. For a Friday or Saturday night, I would go there first, around 6:00pm, as the wait can be rather long post-dinner (if you get in at all). Sunday night is easier. Because it is primarily a cocktail bar, it can be difficult for the staff to gauge when a table might be available. Some people drink just one round, others drink five or six. They'll call people until the place shuts down, but if they don't get to your name you won't hear from them. The atmosphere is speakeasy.

                Another nearby speakeasy is PDT but it suffers from the same problem. Tiny place. They take reservations only on the same day, at 3pm, via phone, and book up very quickly as they only have 4 booths and 2-3 tables. The bar is first come first served. This place works better as a pre-dinner destination given how popular it is. I've been turned away, even on a Tuesday, early. So don't expect to get in after dinner on a Friday or Saturday, unless it's closer to midnight.

                But if you want to grab a cocktail somewhere that is easier to get into Death & Co or show up and find a long line, try these, all a very short walk away:
                Amor y Amargo - bitters specialists, great housemade vermouths, tiny bar, excellent Negronis
                Mayahuel - tequila/mezcal specialist, two levels so there's usually not a wait
                Gin Palace - just opened, gin focused, they are supposed to have Ramos Gin Fizzes on tap
                Cienfuegos - rum punches, wonderful atmosphere, lots of pastels and old tables and chandeliers
                Black Market
                Lovers of Today
                Bar at The Toucan & The Lion - newish Asian themed gastropub

                Slightly further away (still not a long walk):
                Booker & Dax - avant garde/molecular gastronomy
                The Beagle

                And that's going no further east than Ave A or further west than 2nd Ave. I'd bring this list with you so you have options and can change destinations on the fly.

                For the best brunch in town, purely based on food:

                Breslin - lamb burger with thrice fried fries, deep fried PB&J, full English breakfast, grilled 3-cheese sandwich (with cheese on the outside), excellent bacon, great pastries

                Clinton St Baking Co - blueberry pancakes with warm maple butter, biscuit sandwich with cheddar, egg, tomato jam, and bacon

                Prune - dutch baby, deep fried monte cristo, "prune juice" (lemon, orange, lime, and grapefruit)

                Shopsin's - sliders, sneaky pete, mac and cheese pancakes, maple glazed donuts, blisters on my sisters, slutty cakes, swine blues pancakes (blueberry bacon), orange julius, milkshakes

                Minetta Tavern - black label burger, ham baked in hay, shirred eggs with morels or truffles, latkes with poached eggs, brioche french toast, duck hash

                Locanda Verde - "tre-stelle" juice (pomegranate, blood oranges and valencia oranges), sheep's milk ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast, pastries, poached eggs with cotechino hash, spinach and tomato hollandaise, shaved porchetta sandwich

                Of the list I provided, Minetta Tavern & Locanda Verde take reservations, the others don't. If you simply must have a reservation for brunch, do MT or LV. Other good options that take reservations are ABC Kitchen, Union Square Cafe, and North End Grill.

                Go to Clinton St at 8:30am or Prune at 9:30am to avoid a wait. If you don't mind waiting, The Breslin, Joseph Leonard, Public, and Spotted Pig are some of my favorites. Wait times can vary greatly, but if you dislike waiting, it is better to get there about 20-30 minutes before they officially open. The wait time at Public isn't usually too bad and the bar typically isn't packed, so you can also choose to dine at the bar if there are no 2-tops available.

                Shopsin's also doesn't take parties larger than 4, everyone must order a meal, no allergies/substitutions, but they do have some vegetarian options on the menu. Cash only.

                1. re: kathryn

                  I agree with the brunch recommendations on Minetta Tavern (prime rib, duck hash, thick cut bacon, black label burger), Breslin (lamb burger and thrice cooked fries), Clinton St (any pancakes, sugar cured bacon, biscuits with raspberry jam), Shopsins (too long to list but everything is incredible), and LV (french toast).

                  You can't go wrong with MT and the Breslin for dinner either.

            2. Another Mercer Kitchen replacement, in a slightly different way, would be The NoMad.

              It's more Uptown than Acme, and more "young professional" cool as opposed to Acme's "model" cool. So depends on what you want. It's very good, though.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Sneakeater

                I've seen really positive reviews about the The Nomad and thinking about adding it to the list...Thanks for the recommendation.

                1. re: tampa eater

                  If it came down to a choice between them, I'd personally recommend Acme over The NoMad.

                  But about ten million other people here will tell you that I'm wrong about that.

              2. Just a comment on Mogador: It's very good and I'm a longtime regular there, but I prefer to go for brunch on weekdays because it's just too crowded on weekends, and most of their brunch menu is available every day, anyway. If you have reservations, fine. Otherwise, expect to wait up to 1-2 hours for a table, unless maybe if you show up really early.

                1. What is your recommendation for an Asian Inspired trendy restaurant for dinner?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tampa eater

                    How about one of the Momofuku restaurants?

                    1. re: tampa eater

                      Lots of great options, more on the casual side:
                      Red Farm - no reservations
                      Wong - on OpenTable
                      Fatty Cue - on OpenTable
                      Momofuku Ssam - no reservations
                      Mission Chinese Food NY - limited reservations via email
                      Kin Shop - on OpenTable