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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

                    2. Coming closer to travel time and I have the below itinerary. It has changed quite a bit, so please let me know your thoughts this round :)

                      Dinner Friday Night: Scarpetta in Meatpacking (I want an uppidy atmoshere, but do you think the food here is worth it?)
                      Bar: TBD

                      Brunch Saturday: Public then going to Frying Pan afterwards to sit outside with a view and have some cocktails

                      Dinner Saturday: Reservations at the Nomad with drinks at the Library first
                      Saturday Bars: PDT and Death & Co

                      Sunday Brunch: Reservations at Minetta Tavern

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: tampa eater

                        The atmosphere at Scarpetta is not especially "uppity" but it is a nice restaurant. The food is excellent. Don't miss the housemade potato chips at the bar, the excellent bread basket with three spreads, the short ribs, the polenta, the spaghetti, the duck & foie ravioli, the black cod.

                        Regarding the Frying Pan, make sure you have a rain plan.

                        Also make sure you have reserved at the NoMad (capital M) at 28th and Broadway, and not the restaurant downtown in the East Village (Nomad, lowercase M).

                        For both PDT and Death & Co, if you go there after dinner at the NoMad, you may never get in, the line is usually very long. They'll take your name and hopefully they'll call you. Both places are very small.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Thanks Kathryn! I am still on the fence about Scarpetta. This is probably the only spot I am wavering about (besides the bars.) I am looking for good food, with a fun atmosphere (not quiet and stuffy) and away from tasting menu only places. I guess it doesnt have to be uppidy. I have positives about Rouge et Blanc and Hundred Acres. Do you have any feedback on those places? Or would you suggest any others?

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Some others I have read about with positive reviews and menus that sound interesting to me to possibly replace Scarpetta: Recette, Hundred Acres, Hearth or Marc Fiorgione? I know the cuisines are different but any input on them?

                            1. re: tampa eater

                              Recette has good food but is not a "fun" place. Balthazar or Pastis is fun, Pulino or Rubirosa is fun, DBGB can be fun, Ippudo and Robataya are fun, Osteria Morini has good food and is a fun place, Katz's is "NYC"

                              1. re: tampa eater

                                None of your choices strike me as especially fun. Good food, yes. Loud, fun, raucous, hip, crowded? No. For that try some of the places here:

                                Foodwhisperer has some good choices as well. Balthazar, The Dutch, Pulino's, etc.

                          2. If you want fun/trendy/club atmosphere, you should try STK Rooftop. The menus are limited and straightforward American for both brunch and dinner but the food is really good. The biggest plus is the view. If anything it's worth checking out the bar scene (so you get the backdrop view)..

                            You might really like Catch also. It's Asian-inspired and seafood-oriented and trendy but (imo) expensive i.e. overpriced. The cooked seafood and fish dishes are pretty good.

                            1. Now that we are the day before here is the final Itinerary:

                              Friday Dinner - Norhtern Spy Food Company - East Village
                              Bars: PDT, Death & Co and the Beagle

                              Sat brunch: I have reservations at Locande verde and HUndred Acres?

                              Sat Day: Frying Pan drinking on the water

                              Sat Dinner: the Nomad
                              Bars: the library at the hotel, and not sure others?

                              Sunday brunch: Minetta Tavern

                              I will report back afterwards and let you know how it went!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tampa eater

                                Where did you go, and how was it? I would have said Hundred Acres is nothing amazing, and Scarpetta is worth it, though not my favorite Italian restaurant in New York (that, so far, is Ai Fiori, but that's definitely not a "fun" place).